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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I’m not certain I could live up to the standards of living you have mentioned. I’m wondering if you have to be born inherently good in order to live that righteously. (That feels like too strong a word, but the only one that comes to mind.)

Outline of the Answer
• Desiring to Learn
• Saints are Made, not Born
• Wounded by Family Dysfunction
• The Spark of Hope and Love
• With Trials as a Teacher

 
Ie are all born inherently good. That’s a truth fundamental to Catholic theology. In order to live righteously, all we have to do is keep before ourselves at all times the desire to learn to live righteously. God does not ask us to be perfect; He just wants us to dedicate ourselves to learning how to live a holy life.

If you make this simple decision to learn from everything, even your mistakes, you will not be be afraid of making mistakes, and you will find that in due time you will want to do anything it takes to live in holiness. Make your best effort, then God will guide you.

Do your best and let God do the rest.

The process is like tending a garden—in this case, the garden of baptismal grace—lest it go to weeds. The process begins with a humble willingness to learn from your mistakes without blaming others or hating yourself. Then it continues by your resolving to cherish the sacraments, to detach yourself from the impiety of the social world around you, to care for your body and clothe it with chaste modesty, to pray constantly for your good and the good of others, to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of the presence of God, and to be grateful for all that God gives you. With these resolutions in place, you will receive the grace to be aware of temptations to commit sin and the courage to resist them.

 
Saints are Made, not Born

Keep in mind that Christ chose tax collectors, zealots, and unsophisticated fishermen for his Apostles to prove to us that even the most wretched of sinners can become saints.

Saint Paul, before he became a Christian, was a murderer. He murdered Christians, and still he became a saint, one of the greatest of all saints.

This points to the great mystery of God’s love for us: in spite of what we deserve, God does not condemn us to what we really deserve. A murderer like Saul, a tax collector like Matthew, and a proud, sluttish vamp like Mary Magdalene all became saints to prove that no one has to be perfect to open the heart to God’s love and step onto the path to sainthood. Such is the awesome depth of God’s mercy.

Saints, therefore, are not born holy. Moreover, sinners are not born evil. Our social experiences in the womb, in infancy, in childhood, and throughout life shape our personalities. 

 
Wounded by Family Dysfunction

Sadly, many persons have been so wounded as children by family dysfunction that they have come to believe they are garbage and deserve nothing but condemnation; however much they might intellectually want growth and healing, deep in their hearts they fear any change and resist it. Moreover, behind this resistance to change is an unconscious resentment at their parents for having failed in real love, and this resentment works unconsciously to obstruct any spiritual growth. 

  

Remember, anyone can do anything for the love of God; the question, therefore, is not whether you can do it, but whether you want to do it. When you’re angry at God, you won’t want to do anything. And why would you be angry at God? Well, you’re angry at your parents for being hypocrites, and you’re angry at God because, in your opinion, He didn’t stop your parents from being hypocrites.[1]

So, when your parents fail in their faith, you will hold secret grudges against both them and God. Any disobedience you show your parents will be your revenge on them for their parental failures. Similarly, a lack of spiritual growth is a form of revenge on God. Essentially, your continued psychological dysfunction and your lack of spiritual progress is your secret revenge at everyone.

Many persons claim that they don’t have any anger at their parents, but their lack of spiritual growth proves otherwise; they are saturated with unconscious anger. A common reason for this dilemma is a child’s hiding the anger by not wanting to see it or talk about it so as to protect the parents; that is, the child sees that the parents do some good, so anger at the parents’ failures seems unjustified, causing the child to feel guilty and bad for even daring to say that the parents have failed in love. The sad irony is that hiding the anger doesn’t heal it; it only keeps the anger alive in the shadows where it feeds resentment and self-punishment.

  

 
The Spark of Hope and Love

Still, in spite of this unconscious fear and resentment, a small spark of hope and love can always be found in every soul. Do whatever you can now, according to your present capacity for love. Any attempts you make will allow some healing water to nourish your soul. Be patient, and don’t try to do everything at once. 

  

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that if you want to acquire a certain quality, then begin by acting like others who have that quality, and eventually you will develop that quality.[2]

In the same way, if you want to climb out of your mental and spiritual stagnation and live a holy life, then start by doing the things that constitute a holy life. All that holds you back is your unconscious pride and spiritual blindness: your continued satisfaction of defending your own self-interests at the expense of others. In this pathetic state, you won’t even know what faith is.

But you don’t have to wait until you feel faith before you can follow the spiritual counsels. Just do them anyway; sow their seeds within your soul and soon you will be surprised to see some awesome new growth filling in the bare spots left by your pride. As the growth continues and strengthens, pride itself will wither and be overgrown by holiness.

  

Now, the spiritual counsels on this website aren’t really things you have to do, they are things that any soul in love with God would desperately want to do. Why? Because self-restraint helps to lift the psychological defenses that prevent God’s graces from sinking into us; with those defenses stripped away, the living waters of salvation can finally reach our thirsty souls. So it’s simple: the more you restrain your desire for self-satisfaction and complacency, the more your soul grows in holiness.

For example, if you can’t keep all of the Liturgy of the Hours, then say just the Evening Prayer when you get home from work, instead of having a glass of wine and watching TV to calm your nerves. If you can’t throw away your TV completely, then cut away one hour of viewing each day and pray the Rosary during that time. If you can’t eat simple vegetarian foods for every meal, then at least avoid meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, traditional fasting days. If you can’t do without make-up every day, then do without it at least on Sundays. And so on. Just do what you can; as your ability to love begins to grow, your ability to do things for the sake of love will also grow.

 
With Trials as a Teacher

You might wonder why some persons grow to such great spiritual heights and why others make so little progress. Well, Saint John of the Cross explains it.

  

And here it ought to be pointed out why so few reach this high state of perfect union with God. It should be known that the reason is not that God wishes only a few of these spirits to be so elevated; He would rather want all to be perfect, but He finds few vessels that will endure so lofty and sublime a work. . . . There are many who desire to advance and persistently beseech God to bring them to this state of perfection. Yet when God wills to conduct them through the initial trials and mortifications, as is necessary, they are unwilling to suffer them and they shun them, flee from the narrow road of life [Mt. 7:14] and seek the broad road of their own consolation, which is that of their own perdition [Mt. 7:13]; thus they do not allow God to begin to grant their petition. They are like useless containers, for although they desire to reach the state of the perfect they do not want to be guided by the path of trials that leads to it.”

  

—Saint John of the Cross
The Living Flame of Love, Stanza 2.27

 

Who wrote this web page?
 

Notes

1. Hearing it said that God will give us what we ask for, children tend to believe that, if they pray for it, God will control the behavior of other persons. Because they do not understand that a literal answer to their prayers would be a violation of the free will of others, the children get angry at God when He doesn’t make others change their behavior.

2. Nicomachean Ethics, II:1.

 


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The text of this webpage, integrated with other material from my websites, has been conveniently organized into a paperback book of 350 pages, including a comprehensive index.

 

Though Demons Gloat: They Shall Not Prevail
by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.

 
Though we are attacked by liberal activists from without and by apostasy from within, the true Church—that is, the body of those who remain faithful to Church tradition—weeps, and she prays, because she knows the fate of those who oppose God.
     Our enemies might fear love, and they can push love away, but they can’t kill it. And so the battle against them cannot be fought with politics; it requires a pro­found personal struggle against the immorality of popular culture. The battle must be fought in the service of God with pure and chaste lifestyles lived from the depths of our hearts in every moment.

Ordering Information

 

Healing
Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition


by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.


A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites is now available at your fingertips in book form with a comprehensive index.
 
Psychological defenses help to protect us from emotional injury, but if you cling to the defense mechanisms that were created in your childhood and carry them on into adulthood—as most everyone does unconsciously—your quest for spiritual healing will be thwarted by overwhelming resentments and conflicts.
 
Still, God has been trying to show you that there is more to life than resentment and conflict, something so beautiful and desirable that only one thing can resist its pull: hate.
 
So now, and in every moment until you die, you will have a profound choice between your enslavement to old defenses and the beauty of God. That decision has to come from you. You will go where you desire.

More information

 

 


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