Inner Peace and the Encyclical

I am inspired today to say something about the need for deep inner peace in relationship to Pope Francis latest Encyclical, Fratelli tutti. See: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-10/fratelli-tutti-pope-fraternity-social-friendship-short-summary.html for a brief summary which contains a link to the original document.

In conjunction I would like to share a Spiritual Exercise one can pray by themselves or with others written by Fr. Michael Hansen, S.J. of Australia. I have been sharing these Exercises on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Let-God-In-One-Ignatian-Journey-108638330545262. I credit Fr. Hansen and the FSE Field Hospital for the adapted picture and text.

Praying this Exercise will help you breathe in deep inner peace which is needed to understand Pope Francis’ Encyclical.

John Cooper, Tuscaloosa, AL

THE CPR OF PEACE                            First Aid

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Col3:12-16

See, Open my mouth; the tongue in my mouth speaks.

My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely. The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:2-6

I touch the Heart of Peace.

I take a slow breath, in and out-a breath in to receive the Spirit of Peace, and a breath out to breathe out all the anxiety, agitation, fears and burdens I carry within me. This breath of body and Spirit, is life in every sense. I repeat, feeling peace settle in me.

I remember a small story of someone who gave me deep peace when I was afraid and lost in the demands of ever-changing distress. If praying alone I hold that memory, if I am praying in a group, I share it with them, listening in turn to their stories, feeling touched by the Spirit of Peace … I begin to understand how such peace

is so desirable in these unsettling times.

I desire the Gift of Peace.

I slowly and prayerfully read the prayer texts above.

I name all the places in my life where I desire the gift of peace …

I ask the Spirit for peace, serenity and harmony in my heart, and for the breath that gives me Life.

I breathe in the Spirit of Peace.

I imagine and feel the Spirit of Peace breathing deep, harmonious peace into me. I breathe it in deeply, wait, then breathe it out to into my agitations and worries, into my spiritual life, desires and relationships. And I pray this peace spreads far.

I repeat as desired – breathing, peaceful, in harmony …I conclude in thanks, considering two questions. Firstly, if possible, how might I make contact and reconnect with the one who brought me great peace? Secondly, to whom and how do I pass on this exercise – who urgently needs peace now?         ·

PRAYER TIME: Go gently, using the generous time you have put aside for this prayer.

The three dots … indicate the places to pause.

If you are specially moved at any of the steps, remain there for the rest of the prayer.

 

FSE FIELD HOSPITAL © Michael Hansen SJ

Contact: field-hospital@fsecloud.life    •  www.fsecol ud.life  •  JISA ministries www.jisa.org.au

19th Annotation Spiritual Exercise

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens

Warning: Taking this Exercise effectively requires your willingness to give up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. One must commit to 34 weeks of prayer and discernment each day for about one hour or more each day. Do not undertake this matter lightly. You are likely to suffer loss, even of the self. You may need Spiritual Companionship. To join a small group to take the 19th Annotation or to arrange for monthly Spiritual Companionship via Zoom, email jcooperforpeace@gmail.com

(This Exercise is available in Spanish, Arabic, and other languages. See links for details.)

To preview the 19th Annotation 34 week Spiritual Exercises review the links below: https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/RetreatintheRealWorld/

https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/cmo-retreat.html

Contemplation on the Mystical Roots of Unconscious Prejudice

(Pix: Public Domain)
Contemplation on the Mystical Roots of Unconscious Prejudice…

(A Spiritual Exercise)

  1. I make a gesture of reverence like a bow, folded hands in prayer, or the Sign of the Cross.

2. I enter a two minute period of silence and meditation.

3. I think about what I desire, that I desire to discover and be healed of prejudice.

4. I take an item or symbol of my ancestors and hold it in my hands.

5. I enter into silent meditation for two minutes, holding the item and if I am in a group, sharing the item I am holding with others.

6. I read the Prayer Texts below:

Gen 1:31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (NRSV)

Gal 3:28 So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. (GNBDK)

1 Cor 12:12 Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. (GNBDK)

Lev 19:32 “Show respect for old people and honour them. Reverently obey me; I am the LORD.

33 “Do not ill-treat foreigners who are living in your land. 34 Treat them as you would a fellow-Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (GNBDK)

Deut 5: 9 I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. 10 But I show my love to thousands of generations of those who love me and obey my laws. (GNBDK)

“…so much is hidden in the unconscious…Below all this is the vast unknown world of corporate memories inherited from our families, our culture and our race…However there is a time for amassing information and a time for letting it go into the hands of God to allow him to illuminate, draw out and bind together what we already know…the works of the memory become in some way divine if they are controlled by the Holy Spirit.” (Door Through Darkness: John of the Cross and mysticism in everyday life, pp. 104-105, 133, Sister Eileen Lyddon, New City Press).

7. I meditate in silence, thinking about the prayer texts above.

8. If doing this exercise in a group, I gently share my thoughts in confidence and confess my sins of prejudice and unconscious inheritances I may have received of which I am now aware.  I speak aloud my pain, my grief, how I have been hurt and how I have hurt others.  If I am privileged, I resolve to give something back, love, prayers, money, or what I may be inspired to pay forward for my future generations.  If I am exercising privately, I write these matters down in my Journal when I am finished for future reflection and action.

9. I am silent for two more minutes, this time hoping to enter a state of thoughtless contemplation, allowing God to do His work silently and passively in my heart and mind.

10. I and others, if I am in a group, moan as if we were dying, perhaps even crying out loudly, AGHH! I grieve. I moan…

11. I recite the Lord’s Prayer myself or in my group together in communion with others.

12. I enter silence for 46 more seconds, making a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence and resolve to pray in silence about these matters at other times and the exercise ends without comments or additional discussion, but I will discuss what I have experienced with my Spiritual Director, Pastor, or counselor or friends and I resolve to take this exercise again as often as needed.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Cats Go To Heaven

Cats go to Heaven!

This short essay is inspired by my friend, Rennie Jones’ post where he shared a link, https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/do-dogs-go-to-heaven.html about dogs going to Heaven.

Some know of my fondness of St. Francis, who urged nonviolence and the love of all of creation, and that I am a Spiritual Director and promote Ignatian Spirituality, one of whose core tenants is “finding God in all things.” See: https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/ignatian-spirituality/finding-god-in-all-things.

Recently our beloved cat, Ossie, passed away. He had quit eating and we took him to the Vet after he had not eaten much for several days. It was found he had a problem in his gall bladder the Vet thought was gall stones, but when we took him to the animal hospital in Starkville, MS, he ended up having E-coli in his gall bladder. For three days he was on intravenous IV and seemed to be doing better and one time seemed to be his old self again and he was released after three days and sent home with plenty of medicine to continue his recovery. We began giving him the medicine but in about a week or so he lost his appetite again. I thought I knew what was happening and begin to make a cat casket for him, although I did not tell Wink until after he died what I was making.

 

We took him to the Vet again and the Vet worked with him and gave him more medicine and we ordered more from the Mississippi hospital for his little gall bladder, but it was too late for him. His time had come to die. When he got home from the Vet, he was so weak. I took him out on our deck where he used to love to be, but he wanted to come back in the house and lay behind one of our sofas. When he came out to go down the hall, he was so weak he walked a little then sat down to rest. He ended up under my Great-Great Grandfather’s chest of drawers which he had made during the civil war period. It came time to give him his medicine and while Wink was preparing the medicine, I went in to get him out from under the chest of drawers. He groaned and rolled over when I awakened him and rolled over again and groaned. I knew he was dying. I called Wink in and I gently slid Ossie out from under the chest and Wink and I watched him die, both of us crying. I told Wink he is dying, but she held out hope to the end. “Watch out.” I said, “Sometimes a dying animal will bite you.” But little Ossie was always so gentle. “He is still breathing,” Wink said. “He is dying,” I said. Ossie let out one last “Ahhh?” as loud as he could and groaned loudly and his little spirit went to heaven. “His eyes are still open,” Wink said. “That’s the way it is after one dies,” I said.

We are still grieving, especially Wink, and we have not yet put his ashes in his casket. Bill Remmert is to come and bless him and the casket when we are ready to experience more closure. Here is a link to where he will rest:

Notice the oil painting of Ossie Janelle Avery did before Janelle died. Both Janelle and Ossie are gone way too soon, but I believe God knows every sparrow which falls to the ground and he can do all things, including reuniting all our loved ones in Heaven.

Rest in Peace,

John Cooper

Let God In: One Ignatian Journey

My book, Let God In: One Ignatian Journey, is to be printed on October 30th.  If you are wondering about the afterlife, Ignatian Spirituality, or the Spirituality of inner peace, consider reading my book.

It may be ordered at: Amazon

Or from the publisher: Austin Macauley

Thanks!

John Cooper

From Formation to Action

From Formation to Action

I came to Ignatian Spirituality via the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  The 19th Annotation and my Jesuit based studies for a Certificate in Spiritual Direction at Spring Hill College have formed who I am.  I came as I was, with prior life formation already in place.  Although new formation has occurred, I also bring to the equation and to the Catholic Church to which I returned who I was and who I am.  One of the prior formation events that I brought to the table was my prior formation in nonviolence.  I became a conscientious objector to war at about 20 years old and left the Catholic Church to join an historic Peace Church.  I did not know at that time that Vatican II allowed for such matters of conscience.  In my studies of Ignatian Spirituality I have found links to nonviolence and social action.  See note 98:

(098)

Eternal Lord of All Things

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life[1]

 

The bearing of all wrongs, all abuse, and all poverty is the heart of a nonviolent lifestyle.  Seeking to align our personal desires and discerning our choices only for God’s service and praise is the heart of Ignatian discernment.

Although some might attempt to change who they are to fit the constituency of a particular organization, Church, government, or group in order not to offend that group, or to be popular, the giving of the self (kenosis) to live only in the love and grace of God requires one consider what is the most loving thing to do and what will bring greater glory to God regarding one’s own birth, formation, life, burial, and resurrection.  To be popular, approved of, to value in essence riches, honor, and pride is diametrically opposed to the discernment which leaves one absolutely free to choose and do only what God wants and do what brings God greater glory.

The third degree of humility of which Ignatius speaks allows for one’s recognition of particular gifts, although not for one’s own conceit, pride, and vanity, but for service and praise to the Lord our God. See note 167:

(167) The Third Kind of Humility

This is the most perfect kind of humility. It consists in this. If we suppose the first and second kind attained, then whenever the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty would be equally served, in order to imitate and be in reality more like Christ our Lord, I desire and choose poverty with Christ poor, rather than riches; insults with Christ loaded with them, rather than honors; I desire to be accounted as worthless and a fool for Christ, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in this world. So Christ was treated before me.[2]

 

Fr, Joseph Tetlow has this to say about the Third Degree of Humility:

The lover in this case is made greater by love. The Beloved chose to empty himself, taking on the ways and characteristics of a servant. He did not mind being told that he was seriously mistaken about God and the people. He did not mind being considered mad. And his way led to great suffering and death. The person who wishes to be meek and humble as Jesus was can say to the Father honestly, “Treat me as you treated your own Son.” Such a prayer has nothing to do with negative self-image or despising the gifts of the Spirit. On the contrary, heroic love is meek and humble, but it is also glorifying. Just look at what happened in the end to Jesus of Nazareth.[3]

 

It is possible one might be considered a little crazy, a little radical, and that one may be viewed simply as mistaken, but sometimes one’s particular gifts may not perfectly fit the spiritual needs of others.  In this case, it is better to let the Creator deal directly with the creature. In the end, all will be well.

In my case, I am not led to accept everything as is in the Catholic Church.  I am somewhat of an activist who desires change in some areas of the Church, like Women being Deacons, like Communion shared especially with non-Catholic mates of members, like something being done about the sex abuse scandal, like perhaps a married Priesthood, like a commitment to non-violence in Catholic cultures all around the world.  No more war. No more Catholics killing and bombing fellow Catholics because Catholics will be encouraged not to kill at all. I am feeling the most loving thing to do, and what will bring greater glory to God, is to not accept everything as is in the Church and try to “fit in,” but to promote Ignatian Spirit led change and improvement in the Church.  I have been able already to effect some minor changes.  I don’t think I am being prideful; I think I am being realistic that this may make me looked down upon by some.  Good.  I have made some mistakes already on this path, and I am sure to make more, but I am willing to submit to correction and supervision and to realize that the time may not be right yet for such changes.

I am writing this essay as part of my discernment process concerning what to do with my CSD (Certificate in Spiritual Direction) degree.  I am led back to one of my Consolations without prior cause, which was to write a book which is now titled Let God In: One Ignatian Journey, and is soon to be published.  For Consolation without prior cause, see note 330:

(330)

God alone can give consolation to the soul without any previous cause. It belongs solely to the Creator to come into a soul, to leave it, to act upon it, to draw it wholly to the love of His Divine Majesty. I said without previous cause, that is, without any preceding perception or knowledge of any subject by which a soul might be led to such a consolation through its own acts of intellect and will.[4]

 

My consolation without prior cause was to write this book and to promote Ignatian Spirituality.  I think I need to stick with that consolation for now, and to wait to see what happens and where these matters lead.  If other consolations arise, and are like water dripping on a sponge, I remain open to considering them.  If they splash like on a rock, then no.  Getting too many things going, too many balls bouncing at once, could be thoughts of my own after the consolation without prior cause and such thoughts need to be carefully discerned.

Pray for me,

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

 

[1] The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Louis J. Puhl, SJ translation

[2] Spex, 167

[3] https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/the-third-degree-of-humility/

[4] SpEx, 330

We are Not Alone

We are Not Alone

I went to Mass today, Wednesday before Psalm Sunday, 2019 and experienced what I believe to be a consolation without prior cause.  As a little background, I pray with the daily readings each morning (See: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041019.cfm) and condense what I think is most important to me for this day into a short phrase to remember throughout the day and try to live out in daily life.  My condensations for the last three days are:

I am not alone!

Again, I AM, is in ME, I am not alone.

I am not alone in fiery trials!

            These phrases stem from parts of the readings from April 8th, 9th, and 10th, 2019,

“And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid,
because I am not alone,
but it is I and the Father who sent me.” [1]

“”When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,”[2]

“”Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”
“Assuredly, O king,” they answered.
“But,” he replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt,
walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.””[3]

 

We often feel alone, even in our own families which may be experiencing times of alienation and stress.  We often feel alone in our national identities when rampant unchristian injustices like racism, nationalism, prejudice against immigrants and asylum seekers and peoples of other faiths, such as the Muslims, which desolations rear their ugly heads against our deep desires for peace and harmony and our deepest desire for God.  We can feel all alone in our own church groups, even with hundreds of people surrounding us, some of whom we know by name but with whom we may have only a superficial spiritual relationship.  We can feel alone when vices of financial or health difficulties tighten around us.

I wanted to tell someone at church today about this matter, to go out to eat with someone and to just talk about spiritual matters, but the occasion did not arise so I thought I would come in and tell you, the reader, about this matter:

We are NOT all alone!

We may be facing religious Pharisees, who want to judge and condemn us, but God is with us, and in us. Even if we face our death, our little daily dying’s, or walk in fiery trials, we are not alone!  To begin with, God is in everything, we can find Him in all things, so we are never far from God in whom we live and breathe and have our being.[4]  If we are Roman Catholic we may believe God is in the Eucharist in a special way, so God is with us and is in us in that way also, as well as in all in the congregation and in the Communion of Saints with whom we are also joined in a special and mysterious way. We are NOT alone!

I am a Spiritual Director in the Jesuit tradition and it is my job to help others connect directly to the Creator, who will work directly with the Creature, you, that is.  A big part of being a Spiritual Director is to listen, not just to the directee, but to listen to God too.  Let us listen for God in each other, in the wind, in the trees, in the birds, in animals, in children, in those we have been told are our enemies, in those of other Faiths, and in refugees and asylum seekers, in the poor, and in those of other races besides our own.  There are plenty of places NOT to be alone if one can listen like this.  Listen and silence are spelled with the same letters.  Maybe a little silent reflection on the daily readings will help us to listen to God speaking to us, to hear His voice, His call and His cry from the Cross where even the human side of Jesus thought he was all alone and forsaken, but it turned out He was not all alone, at least not for long.  No man is an island.  No man is all alone.

 

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

[1] http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040819.cfm

[2] http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040919.cfm

[3] http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041019.cfm

[4] 1 Cor 8:6; Acts 17: 28-30

Grace and the Middle Voice of Spirituality

Grace and the Middle Voice of Spirituality

 

As a little cradle Catholic boy, I think the first prayer I learned was “Bless us oh Lord, and these thy guests, which we are about to receive, Amen.”  I thought I used to hear that around our farmhouse table.  I always wondered, for a long time, “When are the guests coming?”  We did not have any guests yet, but we were about to receive them.  They never seemed to come.  We called this saying Grace.  Those who know me know that I am very hard of hearing.  I began to wear hearing aids in my early 40’s.  I don’t think God disparaged my prayer of blessing the way I understood such a “simple” prayer.  Actually, the words are “Bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, Amen.”  Either way, the prayers we do, whether “simple” “verbal” payers in the Mass or at your worship service, or even deep contemplative prayer, should never be disparaged.  God receives us where we are, and loves us as sinners as he gazes upon us as a mother gazes upon her nursing child at her breast, or as an eagle takes its babies under its wings.

Whether we are “saying” grace before we eat or are receiving the “gift” of the Eucharist, we are all in God’s grip of grace.  Grace has a lot to do with Spirituality of any type, whether one is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.  Even Atheists have to face Grace, although they may deny it or call their spirituality “mindfulness.”  Still, grace is involved.  My intention for linking the two, grace and the middle voice of spirituality, comes from my studies of Ignatian Spirituality during the Fall Semester of 2018 as I study for a certificate in Spiritual Direction via Spring Hill College.  One of the statements that got my juices flowing is from the book, Candlelight, by Susan K. Phillips.[1] Dr. Phillips states:

Linguistically, we have lost the middle voice that lies between the active and passive voices.  In using the active voice, one speaks of initiating an action.  In the passive, one receives the action that another initiates.  … In the middle voice, the person actively participates in the results of an action that another initiates.[2]

 

In Spirituality in the terms of the English language, one thinks of contemplation as “active” contemplation where we mentally think thoughts about God, Scripture, etc. actively in our minds.  We think this contemplation can slip into what is called “passive” contemplation whereby we are supernaturally given thoughts to think by God, or perhaps given no thoughts at all and slip off into a thoughtless state of unknowing, or a state of union with the Divine Presence.  What if we thought of spirituality and contemplation in terms of the middle voice, which we do not possess in the English language?  This spirituality would be a participation in a gift that God has already given to us, a gift of Grace.  Referring to Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address at the looming of the Civil War where Lincoln urged Americans to heed the “better angels of our nature,” Phillips states:

 

It is, rather, siding with the “better angels” of a person’s nature, his or her middle-voice willingness to participate in God’s grace.[3]

 

I think back to the creation story, where God made mankind in His image and likeness, placing in mankind a Divine essence, a spirit in man that was the action of God, that gave mankind a receptor, a sixth sense, or a taste for God.  This image came from God and is set to autopilot back to God upon our death.  It is in fact, eternity set in our being.  It is an act of God’s grace with which we should long to participate, in a middle-voice way, the action that another, God in us, in whom we live and breathe and have our being, initiated.

Another book we have read in our studies, Moving in the Spirit, by Richard J. Houser, S.J.,[4] refers to this grace and essence of God within us from an Eastern point of view:

The Western or Pelagian model is clearly at odds with Scripture, misunderstanding the origin of our inner desires and movements toward good.  In this model all inner experiences moving toward the desire to love and serve God and others are seen to flow from ourselves apart from the grace of God within us.[5]

 

Below is a wonderful illustration that pictures what Hauser is speaking of:

 

Scriptural Model: Self in God:

Houser Divine Union cropped[6]

God initiates: Self Responds

Grace and the middle voice of our participation in the gift of the Spirit that God has initiated are absolutely critical to beginning to understand Ignatian Spirituality.  Let us keep the illustration above in mind as we proceed.

Hauser states:

Those of us living with this Western understanding of the self and God will never appreciate the all-pervasiveness of the presence of grace in our life. … they do not acknowledge that the initiative toward the good comes from the presence of grace.[7]

 

Ignatius was a product of the period in which he lived.  The Western Church as a whole may have understood grace in a proper manner but errored in some parts of the Church concerning Pelagianism.[8]  An attempt, at the Council of Trent, in the general period of Ignatius’ lifetime, tried to solve the problem of Pelagianism, or semi-Pelagianism.[9]  Ignatius himself speaks of the grace that is crucial in Ignatian Spirituality:

 

When one is in desolation, … He can resist with the help of God, which always remains, though he may not clearly perceive it.  For though God has taken form him the abundance of fervor and overflowing love and the intensity of His favors, nevertheless, he has sufficient grace for eternal salvation.[10]

 

Even from the very start of Ignatius’ Exercises, it is very clear that the crucial understanding is that it is God who first calls us and it is God’s grace that first initiates the acts of God in us, in which we participate.  The human Spiritual Director is to keep his or her “teaching” short and allow God’s grace to work directly with the directee.

The one who explains to another the method and order of meditating or contemplating should narrate accurately the facts of contemplation or meditation.  Let him adhere to the points, and add only a short or summary explanation.  The reason for this is that when one in meditating takes the solid foundation of facts, and goes over it and reflects on it for himself, he may find something that makes them a little clearer or better understood.  This may arise either from his own reasoning, or from the grace of God enlightening his mind.[11]

This may remind us of one of God’s first intentions for mankind, spoken of us in the Garden of Eden, that we are to be dressers and keepers of the earth, which by extension would include each other.  We are like a tree, planted in the garden, planted by the water.

 

7“But I will bless those

who put their trust in me.

8 They are like trees growing near a stream

and sending out roots to the water.

They are not afraid when hot weather comes,

because their leaves stay green;

they have no worries when there is no rain;

they keep on bearing fruit.[12]

 

We are to bear the fruit first nourished by the water of God’s image and Spirit, given us by God, not of our own doing, it is by grace.  We are created by God’s grace, we are sustained by His grace, and we are renewed by His grace, bear fruit by His grace, and are saved by His grace for good works.  We take of God’s grace, of his sustenance, and give back the fruits of His grace.

 

In the season of fruition, there may be the experience of enhanced night vision.  Suffering may render the world dark, and certain forms of suffering include losing the sense of God’s presence.  …  We are to bear fruit by loving our neighbor, setting the captive free, giving food to the hungry, sheltering the homeless, loosing bonds of injustice, clothing the naked.  By doing so, we will be light in the darkness, well-watered gardens, and pilgrims guided by the Lord.[13]

 

As we consider our years, what we have done, and what we have failed to do, we think back to the Sabbath, also initiated by God in the Garden, when God rested.  Are we not called to rest with God too, to rest our egos as he works by grace in us?

 

28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”[14]

 

Are we not called to give up our ego, to reject the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, to be a tree of life, to bear fruit for our fellow humans, for God, and all the angels and saints?  We are pilgrims on this earth.  We are just passing through. We are aliens to earthly kingdoms and citizens of a Kingdom to come.  This Kingdom lives in us, a Kingdom for and in which we participate by bearing fruit, by grace, the middle voice of spirituality.

So… Why should we be concerned about this matter?  See:

 

3I thank my God for you every time I think of you; 4and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy 5because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now. 6And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.[15]

 

Try doing a computer search of an online Bible, using the words, “Christ in you,” and you will soon find that any spirituality we may claim to possess was because God began the work in which we participate.  In other words, I may serve my friend, or I may have been served by my friend, but I also take service in a middle-voice way as I share actively in the service that another, God, first initiated.  He placed His Image in us, and continues to sustain this image.

Even a little Catholic boy or girl can receive and participate in this grace.

 

John Cooper

[1] Candlelight: illuminating spiritual direction, by Susan Phillips, Morehouse Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8I92-2297-8 (pbk.)

[2] Ibid, p. 168

[3] Ibid, p. 169

[4] Moving in the Spirit, Becoming Contemplative in Action, by Richard J. Hauser, S.J., Paulist Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8091-2790-3 (pbk.)

[5] Ibid, p. 26

[6] Ibid, p. 27

[7] Ibid, pp. 26,27

[8] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pelagianism

[9] http://pauliscatholic.com/2009/07/canons-of-the-council-of-trent/

[10] The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, a New Translation Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph, Ludovico Puhl, S.J., Loyola Press, 1951, ISBN 978-0-8294-0065-6. P. 143, – 320. 7. (emphasis mine)

[11] Ibid, p. 1, 1. 2. (emphasis mine)

[12] https://www.bible.com/bible/431/JER.17.GNBDK

[13] Candlelight, p. 172

[14] https://www.bible.com/bible/431/MAT.11.GNBDK

[15] https://www.bible.com/bible/431/PHP.1.GNBDK

Moods

Moods

            A few years ago one of my nieces lost her little boy, Cole, to brain cancer.  It was a terrible time for all seeing little Cole suffer.  He was only 5 or 6 years old but he put up his bravest fight, and the best attitude he could, only to lose in the end as we all will one day.  At his funeral his mother, right before they closed his little casket, somewhat impulsively rescued one of Cole’s little teddy bears from the little casket to save in for her memory.  I can’t imagine the desolations and moods she was feeling.

In our lives we all live with streams of consolations and desolations like the birth of one’s child or the death of a loved one.  We also die our own little bitty deaths each day, offset by good moods and attitudes.  I transferred my business to someone else about a year and a half ago and this person has decided to move out of a smaller building my office has been in for over 40 years.  I am still a consultant, but my office will now be in another building. I am feeling a bit driven.  I quote Margaret Silf, “Did we say yes because we felt we really, deep down, wanted to do it, or did we go along with it to please someone else or to avoid conflict, but against our deeper inclinations?” … “If we are feeling driven, then the prompting that gives rise to it is not from God, but from the force fields of our own (or other people’s) kingdoms.” [1]

It is human that we face challenges and turmoil.  “We all know that we are subject to moods.”[2]  There are “good” moods and “bad” moods, “consolations” and “desolations.” It is likely that feelings of turmoil are “not of God but has to do with our own kingdoms.”[3]  Chapter 7, Tracking our Moods, of Inner Compass speaks to evaluating our moods in Examen prayer.  Desolations and Consolations, Examen Prayer and discernment in relationship to The Spiritual Exercises have been the focus of our classwork.  I will speak primarily to this chapter, yet keeping in mind some of Silf’s foundational thoughts in other chapters of Inner Compass.

How can we know which are consolations and which are desolations?  Silf recommends centering ourselves in stillness, (p. 79) reviewing our moods in prayer.  Turmoil, fear, and apprehension are indicators of desolations that draw us away from God.  Periods of peace, insight, and stillness of heart are indicators of consolations.  We Examen our moods daily, making a “review of consciousness” (p. 81) our prayer priority.  Silf lists indicators of consolation and desolation (pp. 84-85).  Moods that are inward driven, or downward driven, or selfish, are likely to be desolations and lead us away from God.  Visions and moods for greater good, uplifting and joyful thoughts, are likely indicators our moods are motivated in consolation to draw us closer to God.

However, we might just be tired and need a good night’s sleep.  We can’t be happy all the time.  “Consolation is not the same as happiness.”[4]  I spoke with a woman today whose mother had 7 children and a Doctorate degree, teaching at Loyola University.  She was also a Spiritual Director.  She discovered she had cancer and joyfully faced her death.  In her latter stages, when she would wake up, she would smile and be happy until she discovered she was still alive.  She was looking forward to death, but this is an exception…  Or is it?

We can choose how we react to pain (p. 89).  We can focus outward and Godward.  “When this begins to happen, we may experience a real breakthrough, leading to the discovery that God is actually drawing us closer to him through the very event that appears (at the Where level of ourselves) to be so destructive.”[5]  It is possible to joyfully face death, to have our bags packed and believe all is well, but it is not guaranteed that this is what is going to happen.  An indicator that we might die well may be how we die daily.  “Every day of our lives will bring its own share of little dyings, and in the sense we are called to rebirth every time we react by turning toward God instead of in upon ourselves.  To be born again is truly a continuous process.”[6]  Maybe we should consider how we face our daily dying, how we address all the little losses, how we age and if our moods are turning inward upon ourselves.  Even in daily death we can garner up a smile, opening our arms to the God of our consolations.  Maybe memories of all our past consolations and good moods where we felt we were in the arms of the God of unconditional love are stored up for the times of desolations.

If I were a mother or father who had lost a little boy to cancer, If I had clinged to his little teddy bear pulled from the casket, maybe I would know more about these things.  If I were God, and lost even one of my beloved children to eternal death, maybe I would know His moods and feelings.  If I were my little bitty great-niece looking down from heaven, maybe I could be glad and rejoice in the trials I have had, even death.  Maybe Cole, my great-nephew, could tell me more about facing death each day, which I need to know, and how it is to live in heaven.  An inner compass points us in the stillness of our hearts, centered in and pointed in prayer, to God who loves us to and awaits us. The compass is the Spirit in us, (p. 102) who knows how to connect us and lead us to the Divine Mystery, three-in-one.

John Cooper

[1] Inner Compass, by Margaret Silf, Loyola Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8294-1366-9, p. 86.

[2] Ibid. p. 79

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. p. 86.

[5] Ibid. p. 89.

[6] Ibid.

Deception and Discernment in Christian Living

Deception and Discernment in Christian Living

(An Essay regarding The Screwtape Letters,[1] by C.S. Lewis and St. Ignatius’ Rules of Discernment[2])

            A key to discernment in the life of a Christian per The Screwtape Letters, is understanding humility and pride… “All virtues are less formidable to us [Satan and demons speaking] once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility” (Letter 14, p. 81).  Satan wants us to take false pride in our humility whereas God wants us to accept our areas of giftedness and give the glory to God alone, using our giftedness in service for His greater glory.  Turning away from self to God’s desires, letter 14 continues, “The Enemy [God] wants him, in the end, to be so free of any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents…” and “to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things” (Letter 14, p. 84).

Ignatius wants us to see God in all things and recognize Him in all decisions and desires.  Ignatius understands the wiles of the enemy, Satan.  Satan is likely to use reverse logic on us, just as Screwtape advises Wormwood.  Rules of Discernment I, (Note 314. 1.) states, “In the case of those who go from one moral sin to another, the enemy is ordinarily accustomed to propose [tempt] apparent pleasures.”  Satan rewards for our sins.  On the other hand, Ignatius advises that if we are in a good spirit, Satan reverses his logical method on us and “Then it is the characteristic of the evil spirit to harass with anxiety, to afflict with sadness, to raise obstacles” etc. (note 315 2.).  Forgetting the self is a key to discernment.  Attention must turn outward, away from “self” and ego for proper discernment.  Both Screwtape Letters and The Spiritual Exercises advise that we have an enemy (n. 314.1).  The enemy’s desire in the Screwtape Letters to alter our awareness of the self.

One of the temptations of our enemy can be false consolations which counterfeit God’s true consolations.  Temptations can be matters of the mind, or of our imaginations, just as well as physical feelings.  Pleasure may come from actual infidelity or from imaginary infidelity.  Deep and lasting love is justified by decisions of chastity, poverty, and obedience, whether married or not married.  In the contemplative spiritual life, spiritual chastity, spiritual poverty, and spiritual obedience bring depth, width, and height to the practice of discernment in Christian living.  Our enemy would like it otherwise because he does not like such transcendental relationships (Letter 18, p. 108) lived in lasting humility, filled with love.  Life in the practice of discernment is not only about transcendent theories of love, or worship.  This life involves a type of dying, of giving up everything to live only in the love and grace of God.  Everything is brought to light in Examenation for discernment.

C.S. Lewis speaks of “ownership.” “The sense of ownership in general is always to be encouraged” says Screwtape (Letter 21, p. 125).  Mankind is to think he “owns” his body, to do with as he or she pleases.  Ownership and attachment are to be valued for everything – “my” house, “my” wife, “my” country, etc. until we are completely addicted to possessions (Letter 21, p. 126).  Pride and clinging to ownership without consideration of how “things” are to be used to praise, reverence, and worship our Lord is a way of deception.  God already “owns” everything and desires us to be “stewards” of all things given to us for His greater glory. Demanding that things are “ours” brings destruction to all, just as Satan wants.

One area I find C.S. Lewis himself may not have properly discerned is the ethics of war.  Does he to think that the death of humans in battle guarantees their place in heaven?  Screwtape says, “Or do you not realize that the patient’s death, at this moment, is precisely what we want to avoid?” (Letter 28, p. 165).  What about the Christian German soldiers, and Jews, killed and cooked to ashes in German prison camp ovens?  Are they going directly to heaven?  Are German prison camp guards sending these Jews directly to heaven?  Is Screwtape mad at Hitler too?  Perhaps C.S. Lewis has been triple tricked by the enemy in this one area.  In Letter 29 Screwtape asks, “Are we to aim at cowardice – or at courage, with subsequent pride – or at hatred of the Germans?” (Letter 29, P. 171,).  Screwtape is confused.  “There is here a cruel dilemma before us.  If we promote justice and charity among men, we should be playing directly into the Enemy’s hands; but if we guide them to the opposite behaviour, this sooner or later produces … a war or a revolution, and the undisguisable issue of cowardice or courage awakes thousands of men from moral stupor” (Letter 29, p. 173, 174).  The Myth of Redemptive Violence continues.

How are Christians to practice discernment?  When presented choices about loving or killing, following Jesus to the cross, or not following Him, dying daily to the self or feeding the self, what are we to do?  What are we to do with the choices between two or more good things?  Proper discernment is crucial.  It is crucial not to be deceived by the ploys of Satan as are imagined in The Screwtape Letters and spoken of in The Spiritual Exercises where Ignatius warns us about the trickery and false consolations of Satan.

For a Christian in the practice of discernment, there are always choices.  The first choice may be between humility and pride.  Another choice may be between love and hate, or war and peace.  Always discerning, always choosing, hopefully always in view of what is best to love, reverence, and praise our Lord, for His greater glory!

John Cooper

[1] Ltd. Annotations copyright, 2013, by Paul McCusker, ISBN 978-0-06-202317-9

[2] From The Spiritual Exercises, by Ludovico J. Puhl, S.J. ISBN-10 0-8294-0065-6