The Inner Struggle

Penitence as a way of life …

Mother of Sorrows”, Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent At Ephesus”, (2014)

I started this yesterday and posted the beginning  at the end of yesterday’s post. Nothing here is “Real Joe”, just a brief quote from “Divine Intimacy” and a rather long, but extremely important and moving excerpt from Father John A. Kane’s “How To Make A Good Confession”.

Gentle Reader’s mileage may vary if you are not in this head-space … I wouldn’t have given this much thought a few years ago, but when one is ready, then it speaks.

“… This is a sign of real fidelity, to persevere even in the darkest moments, when all seems lost, and when a friend, instead of triumphing, is reduced to defeat and profound humiliation.

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D

It is easy to be faithful to God when everything goes smoothly, when His cause triumphs; but to be equally faithful in the hour of darkness, when, for a time, He permits evil to get the upper hand, when everything that is good and holy seems to be swept away and irrevocably lost — this is hard, but it is the most authentic proof of real love. (Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. from the book “Divine Intimacy” meditations on the interior life for every day of the liturgical year.pp 400).

And from Fr. John A. Kane:

“Repentance (from the Greek: Metanoia) is the mind itself changed and transformed. It is the supernatural conquering the natural. It is the assumption of the spirit of Christ according to the words of St. Paul: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. (Phil. 2:5)  Thus it is evident that penitence, in its entirety, is perennial.

It has not always the same quality, however. It assumes different phases, and in this respect it is like a lifelong grief. The first outbreak of sorrow will subside. The wilderness of desolation will bloom again with fragrant flowers. In resignation to the divine will, the soul will be flooded with light, peace, and joy. Then it will glory in the consciousness that it is suffering with Christ.

Fr. John A. Kane

Fr. John A. Kane, 1912 – 1962

Its sorrow is now more abiding; it has taken root in the very depths of the soul’s consciousness; it clings to the soul far more tenaciously than the first convulsive paroxysm of grief. Without any external evidence, sorrow has silently transfigured the soul’s life, uniting it more fully, more consciously with its God. A calm and permanent sorrow, which at first terrorized the soul, now lovingly embraces it and gradually sinks into its extreme depths, while externally there may have been no sign of its existence.

Penitence acts likewise. The initial expression of grief will cease; the tears will by degrees diminish; the would inflicted by sin will gradually close. The first instinctive feelings of disappointment with self, loathing, and remorse will quiet down and become more reasonable. But the awful realization of the soul’s spiritual state, the one all-absorbing thought of the horror of sin, will be more vivid, immeasurably truer, and will assume a more disciplined form.

And as the interior spirit of repentance grows and at the same time becomes calmer, gentler, and more enlightened, the sense of the meaning of sin will intensify, and the thought of God’s mercy to sinners will rouse the soul’s hope and dispel the mists and shadows of that first anguish of somewhat unrealistic sorrow and remorse. The soul’s powers, thus renewed, will now live their life in the eternal sunshine of the mercy and love of God.

Peter Paul Rubens - Vision of Ezekiel

Peter Paul Rubens – Vision of Ezekiel

To the superficial observer, repentance may then appear to have ceased. It has, however, only sunk deeper into the soul. It is invisible because it has rooted itself in the soul’s innermost being. Its very hiddenness robs it of all external assertiveness. It has thoroughly intermingled with the soul’s deepest source of life, like food completely assimilated by the body.

It has made the soul far more responsive to grace; it has sensitized the soul’s faculties; it has silently and secretly developed the soul’s realization of God’s most wondrous prerogative: mercy;  it has bound the soul irrevocably to Christ and revived the soul’s adoption by Him who “desires not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Cf. Ezek. 33:11) thus it has become the impetus of the soul’s advancement in virtue, the inspiration of its power for good, and its daily shield in its struggle for eternal life.

The Apostle Matthew and Angel (Rembrandt, 1661)

The Apostle Matthew and Angel (Rembrandt, 1661)

The soul now serves God more freely and more lovingly because it realizes the contrast between its past sinfulness and its present holiness, and the marvelous way in which the mercy of God has affected the change. This perennial penitential state, because of its hidden and profound depth, is all the more real. It is a creature of intelligence and calm confidence, not of blind instinct and selfish sorrow for sin. It transcends the natural because it is born of faith.  A pious legend states that even to the day of his martyrdom, St. Peter, whenever he heard the crowing of the cock, wept anew.

The mighty flood of sorrow still flowed that broke forth within him when, on the night of his denial, he went out and wept bitterly (Matt. 26:75). In his epistles, penitence is not mentioned. But no other letters are more replete with soul stirring pleas for humility, watchfulness, and fear.

St. Peter

St. Peter

“Be ye subject therefore,” he says, “to every human creature for God’s sake.” (1 Pet. 2:13)  In like manner, ye young men, be subject to the ancients. … Insinuate humility one to another, for God resisteth the proud, but to the humble He giveth grace. Be you humbled, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in the time of visitation, casting all your care upon him, for He hath care of you. Be sober and watch, because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Pet. 5:5-8) “Be prudent therefore, and watch in prayers.” (1 Pet. 4:7) “Fear God.” (1 Pet 2:17) “Converse in fear during the time of your sojourning here.”

St. Paul’s letters, on the contrary, are striking for their tone of repentance. The great apostle cannot forget the sins of his youth. “I am,” he says, “the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” (1 Cor. 15:9)

Saint Paul The Apostle, probably by Valentin de Boulogne

Saint Paul The Apostle, probably by Valentin de Boulogne

“A faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief. But for this cause I have obtained mercy, that in me first Christ Jesus might show forth all patience, for the information of them that shall believe in Him unto life everlasting.” (1 Tim. 1:15-16)

Penitence deserving the name, then, is not a mere passing act but a permanent state — a supernatural sorrow not fitfully but continually welling up within us, a condition of soul lasting until death. At no stage of the spiritual life may we dispense with it. It is necessary for the one who has advanced in virtue, as well as for the hardened sinner.

King David Playing the Harp - Gerard van Honthorst

King David Playing the Harp – Gerard van Honthorst

We are reminded of this in Confession. When slight imperfections form the subject matter of our accusation, the priest may well ask us to recall, in a general way, some former mortal sins, if any, or other venial sins, and to include them in our act of contrition. This is done to enliven our sense of sin and to increase our repentance.

Wonderfully retentive is the sinner’s memory. The reason is that the remembrance of past guilt and of God’s grace, which raised the sinner from spiritual death to spiritual life, can coexist in the soul.

God’s own eternity seems to be stamped upon the sinner’s conscience, that he may not be without fear for forgiven sin, that the abiding knowledge of former sin and the punishment thereof may, all his days, wring from him the wail that will finally remove the last vestige of both sin and punishment. “Wash me yet more from my iniquities and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps. 50.4  Ps, 51:2)

St John the Apostle

St John the Apostle – Pieter Paul RUBENS – Flemish (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp) – ca. 1611 / Prado Madrid

As in the physical order, there is no light without its shadow, so , in the moral order, although the light of grace illumines the soul, the dim reflection of the hated past still remains.

The God who assumed our flesh so that sinners might “have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  the God of infinite compassion who came “to seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10) would have us ever reflect on our past sinfulness — not to weaken our confidence in His unspeakable mercy and to fill us with despair, but to enliven our sorrow and to strengthen our love of Him, so that “where sin abounded, grace might more abound.” (Cf. Rom. 5:20)

The habitual thought of former sin will invigorate present repentance. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) True self knowledge will beget “the sorrow that is according to God,” which “worketh penance steadfast unto salvation.”

St. Luke The Evangelist - Claude Vignon

St. Luke The Evangelist – Claude Vignon

Thus, the prayer of the publican — “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13) we can never repeat too often; his humility we can never assimilate too well. The yearning to return to the God whom he had outraged, the conscious recognition of his sin, which convinced him that he was utterly unworthy of pardon, justified him fully in the in the sight of the divine majesty. “I say to you, this man went down into his house justified.” (Luke 18:14)

Realizing that we are sinners, we must have a godly, and thus a deep, humble, sincere, perennial, and efficacious sorrow for our sins, a sorrow that forces us to quit the broad, rough road of sin and, with renewed spiritual strength, to advance in the way of God.

If we evade the stern obligation of repentance, we shall be lost. “Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3) Sorrow for past sin is the infallible means of avoiding future sin. Penitence is, then, the rock foundation of a virtuous life. We must clothe ourselves with the penitential garb here, if we would escape the terrors of the judgement hereafter. “If Thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities, Lord, who will stand it?” (Ps. 129:3 (RSV = Ps. 130:3)

Cheers

Joe

“If Thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities, Lord, who will stand it?” (Ps. 129:3 (RSV = Ps. 130:3)

 

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The Inner Struggle

Humility … and the cultivation of same …

Mikoto”, by Kobudo, from the album “Ototabi”  (2013)

The only thing for which you will not be envied, is the lowest place; therefore, the lowest place place  is the only one where there is no vanity and affliction of spirit.” (Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as Saint Therese of Lisieux, 1873 – 1897)

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as Saint Therese of Lisieux, 1873 - 1897

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as Saint Therese of Lisieux, 1873 – 1897

One of the great stumbling blocks to receiving God’s mercy is to live in the past. I am coming to believe that is what Jesus means when he states, in the Gospel of St. Luke, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

St. Therese of Lisieux in her “Little Way” understood this very well. She thought that we focus too much on our dark side, our ugliness, and not enough on God who is the Light of Light. She believed that we needed to have confidence in the consuming furnace of His Love for us.

Shortly before her death, St. Therese stated, “You may truly say that if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence; I would feel that this multitude of offenses would be like a drop of water thrown into a flaming furnace. All possible crimes, a multitude of offenses, a drop of water in an immense furnace; that is the proportion”.

The Pool Of Worship

The Pool Of Worship

As I remarked in a previous post, I have finally realized that it is impossible for a proud man to give himself humility … it is impossible for an impoverished man to give himself wealth … it is impossible for a sick man to give himself health.

Therefore, to be truly humble, that is genuinely humble, I have to apply myself first of all to humility of heart and continue to deepen the sincere recognition of my nothingness, my weakness. An important part of that recognition is a sincere acceptance of responsibility for my thoughts, words, and deeds. Isn’t it funny how accepting responsibility shows up as the foundation of every attempt to know oneself.

I must acknowledge and accept my faults and my failings without trying to assign any other case or cause for them than my own miserable failings. There are no reasonable excuses for bad talk, or bad behaviour, or bad thinking. My bad is just that … my bad. I cannot slough off responsibility for myself and my conduct by blaming others, or the situation I find myself in, or the actions or faults of others now or in the past. I am responsible and I am to blame for what I do, or think, or say.

In a brief aside, a little wandering off the path, but on point regarding responsibility as a part of humility, is the occurrence of one of the greatest injustices, even tragedies, of the 20th century, namely the development of the cult of “repression” amongst Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and the cult continues to this day, alive and well, even amongst those who have become practitioners known as mental health counselors, sometimes known as a Registered Clinical Counsellor (at least in B.C.).

Katherine K. Young, 2015

Katherine K. Young, 2015

The cult of “repressed emotions” arose in concert with the development of psychoanalysis, which grew out of the theories Sigmund Freud.  A more current phenomenon related to important aspects of Freud’s “repressed emotions” theory has been the “modern”  Western teaching of contempt for men in our popular culture, known as Misandry.

A very lucid analysis of the impact of this “feminist” religious dogma can be had in “Spreading Misandry” (2001) and “Legalizing Misandry” (2006) by Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young. they have since come out with a third book which unfortunately I have not read, maybe I will get to it this year … just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

It is also interesting, and amusing,  that Paul Nathanson doesn’t get a mention in most search engines. It is affirming for one, like myself, who believes in a “left bias” in our culture to find again that anti male, anti conservative, bias in action in the “Wikipedia” search engine which I mentioned in another previous post. Katherine K. Young must have broken through the filters because she is a female PhD.

Sigmund Freud (sitting left), Sàndor Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs (standing) Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Ernest Jones.

In Studies in Hysteria (1895) Freud proposed that physical symptoms are often the surface manifestations of deeply repressed conflicts. At the time Freud attracted many followers, who formed a famous group in 1902 called the “Psychological Wednesday Society.” The group met every Wednesday in Freud’s waiting room.

As the organization grew, Freud established an inner circle of devoted followers, the so-called “Committee” (including Sàndor Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs (standing) Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Ernest Jones). At the beginning of 1908, the committee had 22 members and renamed themselves the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

So thanks to Freud and his true believers in the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society every bad actor in the 20th century could get a “get out of jail free” card just by showing up and getting psychoanalyzed. Gee, I wish I had been psychoanalyzed … maybe then I would not have to suffer all this guilt for not being humble …

But, and it is a very BIG “but” (no dietary pun intended), Freud’s theory is good at explaining but not at predicting behavior (which is one of the goals of science). For this reason, Freud’s theory is unfalsifiable – it can neither be proved true or refuted. For example, the unconscious mind is difficult to test and measure objectively.

Overall, Freud’s theory is highly unscientific …  most of the evidence for Freud’s theories are taken from an unrepresentative sample. He mostly studied himself, his patients and only one child (e.g., Little Hans).

The main problem here is that the case studies are based on studying one person in detail, and with reference to Freud, the individuals in question are most often middle-aged women from Vienna (i.e., his patients). This makes generalizations to the wider population (e.g., the whole world) difficult.

However, Freud thought this unimportant, believing in only a qualitative difference between people. Freud may also have shown research bias in his interpretations – he may have only paid attention to information which supported his theories, and ignored information and other explanations that did not fit them.

Annnnd back to humility … seriously folks, I have to recognize that the good that is in me is a pure gift from God and never claim it for my own. Jesus Christ taught “responsibility” not “It’s not your fault, sweetheart.”

I suppose that it is normal to desire to  be humble, and I also suppose that it is normal not to desire humiliation. I pray for God to make me humble but I resist mightily any occurrences and events which I find humiliating. So, I figure that the self (my “self” anyway) started out life very proud, in fact the exact opposite of humble. I started out absolutely convinced of my own superiority. I loved myself with an absolute love.

Life seems to have been a more or less steady grinding away of that feeling of superiority. Now I ask myself, my “Self”, how is it possible to become humble without enduring humiliation? Today, this seems like a reasonable question, and looking back over the years I wonder why it never came up before?

And I think that the reasonable answer is that it’s impossible to achieve humility without experiencing and enduring humiliations. And it is probably reasonable to assume that the sturdier my self regard, the more extreme and enduring are the required humiliations to effect a change in my self regard.

Saint Teresa of Avila by Peter Paul Rubens

Saint Teresa of Avila by Peter Paul Rubens

Humility is truth, and and the practice of humility is sincere recognition of truth. If I was sincere in recognizing this truth I would find it very just to be humiliated and scorned and treated without consideration.

So the pain I feel when treated unjustly and without consideration is a sure sign that I have not embraced true humility.

I have read that the saints were so firmly convinced of  this truth that they never found the humiliations which came to them too painful. The saints always considered these humiliations less than they deserved.

I never heard anything bad said of me which I did not clearly realize fell short of the truth. If I had not sometimes  — often indeed — offended God in the ways they referred to, I had done so  in many others, and I felt they had treated me far too indulgently about these” (Teresa of Jesus, also known as Teresa of Avila, 1515 – 1582)

More coming on humility, and also on judgement, of oneself, of others, and Final Judgement …

Oh Joy

Joe

If it looks proud, and walks proud, and talks proud, it must be proud, right?

Humility are not us …

 

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