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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I am having a problem with laziness in Mass attendance and this is frightening me. I start and stop in my prayer life and Mass attendance. . .
 
I have been a practicing Catholic for all my childhood and fell away in my 20-30s and ran back in my early 40s and have fallen away again! I made a deeply honest Confession in Advent but am so terrified that I will fall away again. What is this particular trait and what would be the best prayers for healing of this?

Outline of the Answer
• Lack
• An Obligation, a Duty, a Habit
• Something Real
• Reason to Rejoice
• The Desire to Love

 
Consider, for a moment, a simple comparison. Sin is the practical effect of pushing God out of our hearts, right? So we can say that the lack of God in our hearts leads us into sin, and that when we recognize that “lack” we then have the ability to remedy our predicament—that is, we can repent our sins and open our hearts to God. Similarly, in the realm of psychology, we often can learn the most about ourselves from what is lacking in the things we say. Once we recognize that “lack,” we have a good clue as to what we need to do to change our lives for the better.

Now, when you compare the two messages you sent me, you can see that, even though in both messages you try to summarize your current problems, you mentioned something in your first message that did not appear in the second message. So what is this lack? Your not attending Mass.

 
An Obligation, a Duty, a Habit

To many Catholics, Mass seems to be an obligation, something of a duty, a habit—maybe even a burden carried for the sake of guilt—that we might prefer to avoid in order to enjoy other things more immediately pleasant and satisfying. Some of this problem derives from the fact that the Church herself even states that we have an obligation to attend Mass. It’s written in the Precepts of the Church. But when the Church speaks like this, the intent is to help us understand the bare minimum of what constitutes a Christian life. It’s a bit like specifying the minimum ingredients—flour and water, for example—needed to make bread. Or it’s like saying that some sort of fluid intake is a necessary minimum to sustain life.

But when you are told these things, they often seem like abstract and dull rules.

If, however, you were lost in a desert, dying of thirst, you would drag your body through hot, burning sand to reach a water hole. Water, in that case, would be no abstraction. It would be real.

  

Have you ever read news reports about big snow storms and how churches cancel services because travel is too dangerous? Yet people will still flock to football games and shopping malls in that same, dangerous weather. Now, when people would cancel Mass but go to a sporting event, it isn’t very difficult to determine what they believe to be most real and precious, is it?

  

 
Something Real

Well, instead of thinking about the Mass as an obligation, think of it like water in the desert, something real. Think of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In the host you have Faith; you literally see the Father because “when you see Me you have seen the Father.” In the chalice you have Love, because what greater love is there than to shed your blood for another?

What greater reason is there to rejoice?

 
Reason to Rejoice

In fact, if we look at the Easter Exultet, we can see that the angelic choirs of heaven have reason to rejoice at every Mass for the same reason they rejoice at the Easter Vigil:

  

  

that the darkness of the world is scattered
 

that wickedness is put to flight
 

that sin is cleansed
 

that innocence to the fallen is restored
 

that gladness is given to the sorrowful
 

that hatred is driven forth
 

that concord is prepared
 

that haughtiness is bent down
 

that heavenly things are united to those of earth and things divine to those which are of man.
 

Once you see the reality of the Eucharist, rather than an abstract obligation, something will change. Instead of feeling pushed into doing something, you will feel drawn to your deepest desire. There is a big difference there. When we’re pushed, we either dig in our heels and resist or we become passively aggressive through laziness. That’s human pride. But when we desire something we would fly, if we could, to get to it. That’s what Catholic mysticism is all about. It’s the desire for holiness. It’s the desire to love.

 
The Desire to Love

You have within your heart the desire to love, but it has somehow been buried under fear because of what was lacking in your own childhood. When you were a child, abstract and dull rules were imposed on you, and you were left feeling empty and lazy. You did not experience religion as a matter of real love. Now, by the grace of God, you have the opportunity to embrace your faith and rediscover the love that God gave you in the beginning but that languished because it wasn’t watered properly.

 


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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.