in the Catholic Mystic Tradition
love for God and healthy self-love
Rejoice and be glad!
Our God is a loving God, free of anger and full of mercy!
Yet always remember that love is an earnest matter.
The Mandate |
A Basis both Ecclesiastical and Psychological |
Christianity is simple: love. Yet in this simplicity,
complicated problems can spring up like weeds, for we more often than not
use “love” as a mere excuse for
self-indulgence. In the modern world
especially—although it has been a problem throughout Church history—we
commonly scorn real love. We scorn the suffering, self-sacrificial love with
which Christ loved us to save us from our sins. And even though Christ commanded
us to love each other “as I have loved you,” we scorn this love
because we have so perverted and sentimentalized the concept of “love”
that we even condone sin today in the name
of Christ. Today, many of us believe that Christianity amounts to an unconditional
acceptance of anything, even to the point of unconditionally accepting
sin—and we do it in the name of “Christian
Most so-called Christians today give
Christianity a bad name. They have allowed themselves to be duped by cultural
brainwashing to the point that they have renounced
real love. Instead of dedicating their lives to holy purity, they welcome moral
corruption into their hearts as they go about seeking social acceptance from a
So, before explaining the spiritual
counsels that can assist your healing, the development of your love for God, and your
protection from evil influence, let’s consider the practical
framework of a Christian life, reduced to its own simplicity: before we can enter into
the pure love within the Kingdom of Heaven, we must be purified of all that is not genuine
Therefore, our mortal life should be a life of spiritual refinement, whereby
Therefore, a life of genuine
Christian faith and love must
be directed to doing everything we can to fulfill the Christian mandate
and to avoiding anything that contradicts this mandate.
A Basis both
Ecclesiastical and Psychological
Through its Tradition and laws,
the Church is able to “guarantee to the faithful the very necessary
minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of
God and neighbor” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2041). Now,
in this context, the very necessary minimum means that salvation is
not possible with anything less than what the Church
But can it be advisable to do
more than what the Church minimally requires?
Well, remembering how easy it
is to pervert love into something it isn’t, it is just as easy to make
“the very necessary minimum” into a mere intellectual performance.
If we do that, we end up deceiving ourselves—and that, sadly, is far
from what is really needed. Even at its very necessary minimum, love must be
more than a surface scratch—it must cut deeply into the heart.
Now, in the realm of psychology,
when attempting to heal emotional wounds that block spiritual growth, we
need to go far deeper than surface appearances. We need penetrating psychological
insight to get to the roots of the weeds that choke our spiritual
The best way to develop
psychological insight and spiritual development is to turn away from social
“outsight”—that is, attachment to social identifications that
merely cover over our inner confusion and turmoil with a surface feeling
of acceptance by others. So, considering that unconscious psychological
more often than not lead us away from complete trust in God and right
into spiritual disobedience, and
considering the consequences of disobedience—all the temporal misery
of purgatory, or, even worse, the unending misery
in hell—it would be prudent to make certain
that “the very necessary minimum” is not just an intellectual
Therefore, seek true
love—the true and single ecclesiastical and
psychological goal—at any cost. Aim high or you will miss
the mark altogether. It is necessary to do everything we can to remain aware,
at every moment of our lives, from the very depths of our hearts, that we are
totally dependent on God’s love for us.
Believe it or not, all the counsels
that follow derive from pure love as exemplified
by the Catholic mystics through the ages. There is nothing arbitrary, or
artificial, or puritanical about them.
My love so delights
the soul that it destroys every other joy which can be expressed by man here
below. The taste of Me extinguishes every other taste; My light blinds all
who behold it . . .
—as told to Saint Catherine
Spiritual Doctrine, Part III, Chapter VII
Yet, sadly, most everyone
who reads these counsels will balk.
“I can’t do that,”
they say. “I’ll die if I have to give up television, Facebook,
video games, cigarettes . . .”
“I’ll die if I have to stop wearing sexy clothes.”
“I’ll die if I have to give up the emotional and financial
security of living with my boyfriend.” “I’ll die if I
can’t watch football every Sunday.” “I’ll die if I
have to wear a chapel veil.” Well, maybe you get the
idea. We claim that we want to follow Christ, but, like the rich young man of
the Gospels, we all have something we refuse to do because we’re
afraid that life will be dull and empty at the foot of
Christ told us, however, that
in order to follow Him we had to take up the cross and die to our social
identities. What is Christianity but death to this world and birth to a new,
ineffably delightful spiritual life? And what is the basis for this new life?
Love. Pure, simple love. And what are the things that
obstruct pure, holy love? Well, how about entertainment,
and lust, for example—the very things to which you
cling in order to preserve your social life
as you think it should be.
So how do these things obstruct
love? Well, in trying to preserve what now seems to you to be
“life”—that is, in defending your pride
of feeling accepted by the world—you in effect prevent yourself from
doing what Christ told us all to do: give up everything for Him, from the
very depths of your heart, so as to serve Him with every aspect of your being.
To do what He asks is love, for it is to value the holy life He offers through
Himself more than your own illusions
about how you think life should serve your own
present time is very precious. Now are the safe days. Now is the acceptable time.
But how sad that you do not spend this time well while you have strength to gather
the merit which will allow you to live forever! The time will come when you will
wish for one day or one hour for changing your ways, and I do not know whether
you will get it. . . . Learn now to place Christ at the center of your life,
that then you may begin to live your life with Christ. Learn now to let go
of all things that stand between you and Christ . . . . Do, do now, dear
friend, whatever you can do, because you do not know when you will die, nor
do you know what will happen to you afterwards. Gather everlasting riches
while you have time. Think of nothing except your eternal well-being. Care
only for the things of God. . . . Keep your heart free and lifted up to God,
for this world is not your permanent home . . . .
—Thomas à Kempis
The Imitation of Christ, 1. 23
(Trans. by William Creasy)
Right now, with all your illusions
wrapped around you, you are dwelling in blindness, even though you deny it.
Of course you can’t see it. Without deep spiritual scrutiny, who could see
Just remember, for example, that many
individuals caught up in addictions, such as alcoholism, will, while in a state of
intoxication, claim that they are doing nothing harmful to their lives.
It’s only when they get into a sober state of mind that they can perceive
how close to death and total destruction they really were. And so it is in
the spiritual realm. When you’re caught up in all the attractions of
the world it’s literally impossible to see how
much of your life is a refusal to serve God and
how close to spiritual ruin you really are, even if you already claim to
be a devout Catholic.
I have seen this in myself,
for from time to time I have found many natural
desires destroyed within me which had previous
seemed to me very good and perfect; but when they were thus removed I saw
that they had been depraved and faulty, and in accordance with those spiritual
and bodily infirmities which, being hidden from me, I had not supposed myself
to possess. And this is why it is necessary to attain such a subtlety of
spiritual vision, in order that all which at first appears to us perfection
may in the end be known as imperfections, robberies, and woes: all this is
clearly revealed in that mirror of truth, pure love, in which all things
appear distorted which to us had seemed upright.
—Saint Catherine of Genoa
The Life and Doctrine of St. Catherine of Genoa
Therefore, if only you would
now do what I tell you here, in true imitation of Christ, you would soon
discover for yourself an experience of holy love so palpable and real that
every unconscious resistance will dissolve
into oblivion and only pure love will
Instead of seeking
your own pleasure, seek to do God’s will. Instead of defending your
pride, defend the Faith.
Instead of serving your self-interests, serve others with real love, as Christ
Himself commanded us to do.
To Develop Love for God and Healthy Self-love
The greatest commandment is this:
to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your
strength. If you really loved God, all the things you do and all the things
you refuse to do—that is, all the behaviors of your life—would
express your love for God. Although many various behaviors characterize this
love, the mere performance of such behaviors is not an act of love. Still,
practicing behaviors that characterize love can help to lead you into an
understanding of divine love. Therefore, the goal of these counsels is not
to strive to perform them perfectly; the goal is to perform the counsels
in the hope of growing in love.
There are four basic aspects
to this growth process: prayer, abstinence from defenses,
charity, and self-encounter.
the course of the work, make prayer the basis
of your emotional stability. Prayer has its foundation in formal prayers, but it
derives its power and efficacy from constant moment-by-moment quiet communication
with God. Some persons, however, cannot achieve a moment-by-moment quiet communication
with God until they have developed a daily practice of formal prayers, so be gentle
with yourself as you learn to pray. Just cling to the desire to reach the depths of
Note that prayer is not about bribing some cosmic magician to
get rid of your problems, it’s about doing the hard work of facing your problems
and overcoming them through trust in God’s guidance.
Maintain a constant awareness of the
presence of God by practicing gratitude throughout the
day. Also, teach yourself to pray the Jesus Prayer
as a moment-by-moment ongoing practice. Interspersed with this prayer, add constant
prayers of supplication for guidance and protection. State what you are feeling,
and then ask for the guidance to work through your experiences. such as the following:
“God, I feel so helpless; teach me how to do this.” “God, I’m so
alone; give me strength and courage to continue.” “God, I don’t know
what to do; show me what to do and help me.” “God, I’m overwhelmed with
temptation; help me to resist.”
Sit in silent prayer and accept your
helplessness before God. Admit that you cannot make others act as you would like them
to act. Admit that you cannot save the world from its insanity. Admit that without
God you are nothing. Feel the nothingness and accept it. Accept that only in your
helplessness and nothingness will you ever receive a mission from God to do anything
meaningful. When we try to flaunt our greatness—whether it be physical allure,
athletic prowess, military power, social celebrity, intellectual finesse, philosophical
reasoning, or whatever—we push God out of our lives. A life of
humility, however, keeps us oriented toward God’s
Oh, the depth of the
riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments and how
unsearchable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His
counselor? Or who has given Him anything that He may be repaid? For from Him and
through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be glory
around your neck at all times as a seal upon your heart; the chain, therefore,
should be long enough to keep the medal over your heart, rather than over
your throat. Say its prayer (“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for
us who have recourse to thee.”) many times a day.
Like the angels, Mary had
free will, and in her conception she was given the grace, like the angels, to be free
of the desire to commit sin. Unlike Mary, the rest of humanity, in its state of
original sin, is afflicted with the desire
to commit sin, and so, for the sake of our salvation, we must endeavor always to renounce
that unholy desire which lurks deep in the heart of our fallen being. Keeping the medal of
the Blessed Virgin over our hearts gives us assistance in our battle of renouncing sin and
Mass every Sunday (if not daily) and on every
holy day of obligation. Be careful to arrive
on time (before the priest enters the sanctuary), and do not leave before the
dismissal. Dress modestly and reverently. Women,
cover your heads with a scarf or chapel veil.
If you have a family, read the
Scriptural texts for the next day’s Mass in the evening as a family activity.
Spend time reflecting on the meaning of the texts. If you need help interpreting
the texts, then use the book A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture
as described on the Reading the Bible page of this
Also, if you have young children, teach them at home how to sit quietly in prayer so
that when you take them to Mass they will not be unruly and noisy. Unruly children at
Mass are an indication that the parents have an unruly prayer life.
Litany of Humility daily.
Every noon (and at 6:00am and 6:00pm also if
possible) stop what you are doing and pray the Angelus
(or the Regina Coeli during the
Endeavor to pray the
Rosary every day.
If you have a family,
pray the Rosary every evening after dinner with your family, in lieu of watching
Endeavor to pray Morning Prayer and
Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.
If you have a family,
pray the Evening Prayer each day as a family activity, to the extent possible.
always for all the souls in Purgatory (and know that they will be praying for you,
the course of the work, you can encounter your inner brokenness by
abstaining from all self-indulgent defenses that serve only to distract
you from your brokenness. These defenses do nothing to lead you to spiritual purity
and do quite a bit to seduce you into spiritual impurity. Have you ever affirmed a vow
to renounce the works of Satan? Well, think carefully. The things that follow
are—either directly or indirectly—all works of
activity. Sex is not love,
so outside of its procreative function in
it serves only the narcissistic purpose of making ourselves
“feel good.” Learn, therefore, to place your trust in
God, not in your own body or in the body of a
“partner”—that is, a “partner in sin.” To learn to
trust in God, it is important to face your
emotional emptiness directly,
without defenses. Therefore, to develop a love for God,
live in chastity and abstain from eroticism: no fornication, no
masturbation, no pornography;
in general, no lust.
If you are struggling to
overcome an obsession with pornography or masturbation, keep in mind that following
the other counsels on this page will aid your struggle against sexual temptations. Also, add
the Litany of Chastity to your dailiy prayers.
both men and women, immodesty is a grave opening to sin. Avoid
tight or revealing clothing, sports insignia, piercings, and
tattoos. (If you have an existing tattoo,
cover it in sorrow for having defiled your body, the
temple of the Holy Spirit.) For women, do not wear
leggings, jeans, or slacks, and cover your head with a chapel veil
when praying, especially in church. To learn true
humility, set aside all
As popular as they may be in contemporary culture, social media
(such as Facebook and Twitter), are an evil breeding-ground for anger, rudeness,
hostility, hate, and bullying. Note carefully that these behaviors, as Saint Paul warned,
will exclude a person from the Kingdom of Heaven (see Galatians 5:19–21). It’s that
Most entertainment, such as TV, movies, social media,
sports, electronic gaming, gambling, and secular music, distracts you from a prayerful
focus on holy things. Entertainment, in general, not only squanders your time and
talents on frivolities, but it also infects you with
the anti-Christian values (such as lust, pride, avarice, vanity, self-indulgence,
competition, hostility, etc.) of contemporary society. Furthermore, these things
incite you to idolize (that’s a mortal sin, remember) social acceptance, to
neglect constant prayer, and, ultimately, to
dilute the holy presence of God in your life. So, instead of turning to a corrupt
social world for emotional satisfaction, turn to God in
contemplative silence and prayer.
one who remains enslaved to any addiction, including
smoking, can fulfill Christ’s command
to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). To be
addicted to anything means, by definition, that you love the addiction more
than anything else—more than the welfare of your own soul and, therefore,
more than God.
small glass of wine can be a legitimate part of a meal, and an occasional glass
of beer or a cocktail can be a part of a festive celebration, but any
habitual use of alcohol is nothing but a way to soothe
yourself when you should be turning to God in
Recreational drugs, especially marijuana, cause you to let down your guard against
evil. Marijuana—even “medical marijuana”—deceives you with the
false belief that you can function competently even though your brain is scrambled,
and this self-deceived state opens a hellgate to
demonic influence, making you the plaything of
is for atheists (those who reject the idea of God) and for Satanists (those who reject
God). Self-induced altered states of consciousness are all a fraud, in the spiritual
sense, because recreational drugs have no place in real love
and devotion to holy things; instead, they manifest a hatred for
“Junk” foods and
“fast” foods. If you really
believed that your body is the
temple of the Holy Spirit, you would eat a healthy
diet, not “bad for you” foods. Avoid white flour, and eat
fatty foods and sugars sparingly. Eat only foods baked with whole grain flours. As
much as possible, avoid eating meat, because meat is an expensive luxury. Eat simple
avoid a regular use of restaurants; and gather up the money you’ve saved and give it
to the poor—and lose excess weight in the
soft-drinks. Drink water. Our bodies need water for
but soft-drinks are just self-indulgence: empty sweetness with no nutritional
or spiritual value.
Avoid coffee or tea that is not a part of a legitimate meal (i.e., breakfast, afternoon
tea, and dinner). Coffee and tea, like wine, can aid digestion, but taken
repetitively throughout the day coffee or tea becomes a harmful addiction. Drink
water throughout the day instead.
Avoid magazines, books, newspapers, etc. not necessary for professional purposes.
Read only spiritual texts that will help you understand the true Faith.
(You can begin with the recommended readings from this
For many, as
I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves
as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is
their stomach; their glory is their “shame.” Their minds are occupied
with earthly things.
the course of the work, you can learn to minimize your sense of self-importance
and pride by treating others with charity.
Avoid swearing, whether aloud
or silently. Train your thoughts to be as calm, peaceful, and prayerful as
possible. Avoid all hostility. Do not engage in protest
or seek revenge, and do not make arrogant, angry threats.
When injured, give a silent blessing to the person who
injured you and pray the Chaplet of The Divine
Mercy for the sake of that person with the intention that he or she will
come to recognize and repent such hurtful behavior.
But now you must
put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out
of your mouths.
If anyone who
does not control his
imagines that he is devout, he is self-deceived; his worship is
For the judgment
is merciless to one who has not shown mercy.
Avoid all gossip and
competitive behavior, including
sports. Learn to focus instead on your own
Do nothing out
of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more
important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but
everyone for those of others.
To every beggar who asks you for money,
give a silent blessing—along with money, if it’s clear he or she is not an addict, and
if the beggar has a reverent attitude and asks politely. Learn to feel the enormity of the
world’s need and your inadequacy to provide for it. Moreover,
you don’t have to be concerned with whether the beggar is a fraud; just give a silent blessing
for his or her spiritual enlightenment.
Give to everyone
who asks of
the course of the work, you can learn to encounter your unconscious
fears and conflicts by
entering into the scrutiny of
Healing and the Four Steps
keeping a nightly log of your
interpreting your dreams;
keeping a personal journal of
reading spiritual texts and setting
aside time for contemplative prayer.
Study the books on the
Recommended Readings page of this website. Begin with
the Imitation of Christ. Read it straight through once, quickly, but
thereafter open it at random and read bits of it in depth, as a sort of daily
guidance, while reading the other books, including the
Bible, and keeping the Liturgy
of the Hours.
, the mystics did all these things,
and more, not just for three months, but for their whole lives, out of pure
love and reverence for God. The martyrs gave
their lives out of faithful love for Christ.
The prefect Rusticus
said: “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and
urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods.”
Justin said: “No one who is right thinking stoops from true worship
to false worship.” The prefect Rusticus said: “If you do not do
as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy.” Justin said:
“We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand
before the more terrible and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and
—From the Acts of the martyrdom
of Saint Justin
and his companion saints
Office of Readings, June 1:
Saint Justin, martyr
Ultimately, you may
do what you want—that is, no one can force
you to live a holy life, because if your actions are not based in love, then
they are all worth nothing, as Saint Paul said (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
And the spiritual awareness that our lives, without grounding in divine love,
are worth nothing, is the justification for these counsels. So, having
successfully encountered the challenges of this work, you just might have
a changed outlook on Christian mysticism and morality, and
Now I occupy
and all my energy in His service;
I no longer tend the herd,
nor have I any other work
now that my every act is love.
If, then, I am no longer
seen or found on the common,
you will say that I am lost;
that, stricken by love,
I lost myself, and was found.
of the Cross,
The Spiritual Canticle,
The Poem, Stanzas 28-29
Keep in mind this analogy: fire does not burn itself—only that which
is not fire is burned by fire. Thus, in the spiritual realm, God’s
love burns and torments whatever is not love. The fire of Purgatory
is God’s love purifying and burning out of repentant souls every worldly
attachment that is not love, until those souls become pure love. And the
fire of Hell is God’s love that burns and torments
unrepentant souls who are “not love” because in this life they
have chosen lifestyles defiant of love, thereby refusing the opportunity
to become love.
A conflict refers to the psychological fact that one part of your
unconscious mind wants healing and health and another part of your unconscious
mind resists healing. This resistance usually derives from two things. First,
because you have been so mistreated by others, in the depths of your mind
you secretly believe that you are worthless and
don’t deserve anything good. Second, because you are so
angry with others for having mistreated you, you
experience a certain unconscious satisfaction in remaining a victim so that
you can “throw your pain back into their faces” in
Just as Christianity “began,” so to speak, with the Blessed Virgin,
so your spiritual healing should begin with her guidance.
But please understand that the Miraculous Medal is not
“magic.” The graces that flow from
its use, through the hands of the Blessed Virgin, depend entirely on your
willingness to open your heart to them totally, free from
superstition, with a deep yearning to have
your life profoundly changed by them.
In this sense, then, the Miraculous Medal is a
sacramental. Tangible things such as medals and scapulars, and intangible
things such as blessings are all sacramentals. Sacramentals, says the
Catechism of the Catholic Church, “signify effects, particularly
of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the
Church. By them, men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the
sacraments, and various occasions in life
are rendered holy” (§ 1667).
Thus, whereas sacraments in and of themselves produce
graces for those who are properly disposed to receive them, sacramentals
inspire us to desire divine grace.
In lieu of sexual contact, try practicing non-sexual emotional and physical
intimacy such as cuddling, holding hands, and
Please understand that I’m speaking here of vanity (from the Latin
vanitas, meaning “emptiness” or “worthlessness”).
We all need to go shopping at times, but some persons make shopping into
a self-serving hunger for materialism. We all must keep our fingernails trimmed,
but wasting money on having them painted is, well, wasteful. We all have
hair that must be groomed, and premature gray hair is sometimes more attractive
if it is returned to its natural color, but some persons change the color
of their hair just to project an illusory sense
of identity. The point here is that personal grooming shows a necessary respect
for the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, whereas
self-indulgence and vanity—both sins of
pride—impede not only
humble service to Christ but also true
love to others and are therefore spiritually
Marijuana is an evil substance. “Medical marijuana” is a demonic
deception. No matter what your reason for using it, marijuana opens you to
demonic influence. If you use marijuana you are playing with hell fire. If you
don’t want to believe this, then do what you want to do. And if you don’t
learn the truth until you get to hell, then have no doubt the demons will be
roaring with laughter at you.
Don’t be rigid about this, however. The point here isn’t to punish
yourself or make your life misery; the point is to introduce
simplicity to life. Even though simplicity is a core value of Christianity,
there is nothing wrong with eating special foods once in a while or of feasting
In general, one glass (8 oz—or 250 ml) of pure water per hour is recommended
for good health. Be advised, though, that exceeding the maximum recommended
water intake—½ qt/hr (500 ml/hr) in moderate temperatures and easy
work load—can lead to a medical condition called water intoxication
“If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also
guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are
so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder
wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue
is a small member and yet has great pretensions” (James
in the Catholic mystic tradition
How to turn the
of daily life into
for our cultural
The Struggle for
about the spiritual depth of