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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

Does nakedness of spirit mean no pretension or motivation other than God’s will? Does spiritual purgation mean to take out of motivation or understanding all things of self-motivation?

Actually, Saint John of the Cross answers this one:

Oh, who can tell how impossible it is for a person with appetites to judge the things of God as they are! If there is to be success in judging the things of God, the appetites and satisfactions must be totally rejected, and these things of God must be weighed apart from them. For otherwise one will infallibly come to consider the things of God as not of God, and the things that are not of God as of God.

—St. John of the Cross
The Living Flame of Love, 3.73

That’s pretty clear. So why is it so hard for anyone to accept it? And why do people say, in defensive rebuttal, “If you did that it would be no different than sitting around all day contemplating your navel. How will you ever have food to eat? You’ll never accomplish anything that way.”

Does denial of self
mean denial of one’s humanity?

Well, the persons who say this are the persons who have turned secular humanism into a pseudo-religion to replace their lack of belief in God; they have raised the psychological “self” to the status of a god and can’t see a thing beyond human reason. These are the persons who literally care more about the welfare of their stomachs than about their souls, because they simply care little, if anything, for God.

Sadly, even well-intentioned individuals can be misled by the insidious social influence of pragmatism and humanistic psychology that have infiltrated our entire society. This is why a holy life must be detached from the world, so as to be freed from the unconscious slavery to social desire.

Consider, then, what Christ told us:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

—Matthew 6:31-33

To die to yourself, then, does not mean that the psychological self must be obliterated, because that is simply impossible. To die to yourself means to dedicate your “self” to the service of Christ, seeking always to do good for the love of others, and paying as little attention to your own self-satisfaction (i.e., pride [1]) as possible.

And you can rest assured that if you ever do die to yourself as Christ commanded and as Saint John of the Cross describes, God will give you so much work that you will be up hours past midnight trying to get it all done—and this is even after you have thrown away your television.

But please, for the sake of your mental health, and for the sake of your soul, keep in mind that all human accomplishments will pass, and that no matter what you do, someone will praise you for it and someone will attack you for it. What really matters, then, is not the task itself but your spiritual progress in the growth of your faith as you struggle with any task. You will experience joys and consolations; you will experience obstacles, trials, and persecutions; you will experience temptations; endure all of these things anyway with humility and grace. Never let anything cause you to commit mortal sin, no matter how important the accomplishment might seem to human eyes.

What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

—Matthew 16:26


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1. In fact, to say, “If you did that it would be no different than sitting around all day contemplating your navel. How will you ever have food to eat? You’ll never accomplish anything that way,” is itself an act of pride, because it places human reason above total trust in God.


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