Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Breaking Free from Attachments to the World

Msgr. Pope gives clear teaching on how we are to be detached from worldly things and values.

What Attachments Are and What They Are Not

 • January 22, 2018 
This past Sunday, we read St. Paul’s almost ominous words about our need to break free from attachments to this world:
I tell you, brothers, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away
 (1 Cor 7:29-31).
In this passage St. Paul speaks about what is, for most of us, the struggle that most hinders our spiritual growth. The great majority of the spiritual life is a battle about desire, worldly attachments, and the answer to this fundamental question: “What do you want most, the world and its pleasures or God and His Kingdom?” This world gets its hooks into us so and we easily become attached to it. It is hard to break free from inordinate desires.
But what are attachments and what are they not? Are there ways we can distinguish attachments from ordinary and proper desires? What are the signs that we are too attached to someone or something?
To address questions like these I turn to a great teacher of mine in matters spiritual, Fr. Thomas Dubay. Fr. Dubay died more than seven years ago but left a great legacy of teaching through his books, audio recordings, and programs at EWTN. I would like to summarize what he teaches in his spiritual classic, Fire Within, a book in which he expounds on the teachings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.
Here then are some excerpts (pp. 133-135). Fr. Dubay’s teaching is shown in bold, black italics, while my lesser remarks are presented in plain red text.
I. WHAT ATTACHMENT IS NOT:
Sometimes it is easier to say what a thing is not than what it is. In doing this Fr. Dubay disabuses us of incorrect and sometimes puritanical notions that are neither biblical nor Catholic because they reject as bad what God has made as good. Scripture says, God created [things] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:3-4).
  1. First of all, attachment is not the experiencing of pleasure in things, not even keen, intense pleasure. The complete avoidance of pleasure is neither possible nor advisable in human life … There is no doubt that the pleasures of the five senses easily lead to a selfish clinging to them for their own sakes, but nonetheless, the pleasures themselves are not blameworthy. God made them, and they are good.
The remarks here are very balanced. Of itself, taking pleasure in what God has made is a kind of thanksgiving and surely an appreciation of what God has created and given.
Yet, due to our fallen nature, we must be cautious that our experience of pleasure, like all our passions, does not become unruly, improperly directed, and/or take on a life of its own. If we are not mindful, pleasures can divert our attention from the giver (and His purpose) to the gift.
Consider that a husband properly enjoys intense pleasure in his intimate experiences with his wife. Correctly understood, there is little way he can fail to enjoy this, other things being equal. These intimate moments, however, have a meaning beyond themselves: They summon him to greater appreciation and love for his wife, and ultimately for the God who created her. Further, they draw him to share his love and appreciation through an openness to the fruit this love will bear in his children.
The gift of intimacy is wonderful and to be enjoyed to the fullest, but it is not an end in itself. When it becomes its own end and exists in our mind only for its own sake, we are on the way to attachment and idolatry.
  1. Nor is possessing or using things an attachment to them.
We must all make use of things in this world to accomplish what God has given us to do. God is surely pleased to equip us with what we need to do His will: to build the Kingdom and to be of help to others.
  1. Nor is being attracted, even mightily attracted, to a beautiful object or person an unhealthy attachment. As a matter of fact, we should be drawn to the splendors of creation, for that is a compliment to the supreme Artist. Saints were and are strongly attracted to the glories of the divine handiwork and especially to holy men and women, the pinnacles of visible creation.
We should pray for the gift of wonder and awe, wherein we appreciate and are joyful in God’s glory displayed in the smallest and most hidden things as well as in the greatest and most visible things. We are also summoned to a deep love of, appreciation for, and attraction to the beauty, humor, and even quirkiness of each person.
Here, too, these things are meant to point to God; they are not ends in themselves. Sometimes that we fail to connect the dots, as St. Augustine classically describes, Late have I loved you, O Beauty, so ancient, and yet so new! Too late did I love You! For behold, You were within, and I without, and there did I seek You; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty You made. You were with me, but I was not with You. Those things kept me far from You, which, unless they were in You, would not exist” (Confessions 10.27).
So once again, to be attracted by beauty is of itself good, but it is not an end. It is a sign pointing to the even greater beauty of God and His higher gifts.
II. WHAT ATTACHMENT IS: St John of the Cross [observes] that if anyone is serious about loving God totally, he must willingly entertain no self-centered pursuit of finite things sought for themselves, that is, devoid of honest direction to God, our sole end and purpose. St. Paul makes exactly the same point when he tells the Corinthians that whatever they eat or drink, or whatever else they do they are to do all for the glory of God … (1 Cor 10:31)
St John of the Cross explicitly states that he is speaking of voluntary desires and not natural ones‚ for the latter are little or no hindrance to advanced prayer as long as the will does not intervene with a selfish clinging. By natural desires the saint has in mind, for example, a felt need for water when we are thirsty, for food when hungry, for rest when fatigued. There is no necessary disorder in experiencing these needs … to eradicate these natural inclinations and to mortify them entirely is impossible in this life.
Of course even natural desires can become unruly and exaggerated to the point that we seek to satisfy them too much and they become ends in themselves. St. Paul laments that there are some people whose god is their belly and who have their mind set only on worldly things (cf Phil 3:19).
[More problematic and] especially damaging to normal development are what John calls, “habitual appetites,” that is, repeated and willed clinging to things less than God for their own sake.
Here we come to some critical distinctions.
[W]e may ask when a desire becomes inordinate and therefore harmful. I would offer three clear signs.
  1. The first is that the activity or thing is diverted from the purpose God intends for it.
This is common today with sex, food, drink and with many diversions.
  1. The second sign is excess in use. As soon as we go too far in eating, drinking, recreating, speaking, or working, we show that there is something disordered in our activity. We cannot honestly direct to the glory of God what is in excess of what He wills. Hence, a person who buys more clothes than needed is attached to clothing. One who overeats is clinging selfishly to food.
A couple of beers is gratitude; ten is a betrayal. God certainly gives in abundance, but He does so more so that we can share with the poor than that we should cling to it selfishly as though it existed as an end of itself.
Sharing spreads God’s glory. St Paul says, All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Cor 4:15). You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God (2 Cor 9:11). Thus the abundance of God is directed to the spreading of His glory and to an increase in thanksgiving, not as an end itself that we should hoard. God’s gifts point back to Himself.
  1. The third sign of attachment is making means into ends. We have one sole purpose in life: the ultimate, enthralling vision of the Trinity in glory, in our risen body. Everything else is meant in the divine plan to bring us and others to this final embrace with Beauty and Love … As soon as honesty requires us to admit that this eating or that travel, this television viewing or that purchase is not directly or indirectly aimed at Father, Son, and Spirit, we have made ourselves into an idol. We are clearly clinging to something created for our own self-centered sake.
This is often the hardest of the three signs to discern, but the main difference between a thing becoming an end rather than a means is the question of gratitude. How consciously grateful are we to God for the things and pleasures we enjoy? Do they intensify our gratitude or do they merely distract us from thinking about God? Further, do they help us in our journey upward to God or do they merely root us more deeply in this passing world?
Another scary question is this one: How easily could we give a particular thing up if it was hindering us from God or if God no longer wanted it in our life? This is difficult because we really enjoy certain things and situations, but the important thing is not that we enjoy them but that they lead us to God. We must be honest in answering this question, avoiding puritanical notions as well as self-justifying ones.
An important gift to seek from God is not merely the strength to give things up (while displaying a sour face and poor attitude) but to begin to prefer good things in moderation to distracting things in excess. If we let God go to work in us, the good begins to crowd out the bad in an incremental way.
[Therefore:] an attachment is a willed seeking of something finite for its own sake. It is an unreal pursuit, an illusory desire. Nothing exists except for the sake of God who made all things for Himself. Any other use is a distortion.
A final observation I would add about attachments is that they are a complex aspect of self-mastery. We are not easily rid of them, especially in certain areas. The areas that are difficult vary from person to person. We do well to ask God for help humbly A particularly clear sign of an attachment is excessive worry about the loss of particular things, persons, or situations. In such cases, we must run to God like a child and cast such cares on Him, trusting that He can restore us to a proper and free joy in His gifts, a joy increasingly free of the fear of loss.
Grant us, O Lord, to rejoice in your gifts free from the possessiveness that incites the fear of loss. We cry to you, for only you, O Lord, can heal our wounded hearts. Amen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Warm Christmas - Down Under

For Kiwis, we have warm Christmases. We are heading into summer while the northern hemis see snow and freezing temperatures.

We still have Catholic celebrations but our decorations look a little different. A standout is our New Zealand Christmas bush my wife's favorite. I have to admit it's a stunner. We have a bit of a lie in on Christmas Day after going to Midnight Mass. Then we are up and tending animals and preparations to have Christmas lunch on the barbie in the backyard where I do a smoked ham and veg. We have to have our mince pies and puddings too that my wife and daughters have made in the days before. A lot of Kiwis go to the beach for their Christmas lunch of sausages and burgers but we stick to the back yard.

Boxing Day on December 26 and sometimes a few days more is a shopper's holiday of sales with some very good discounts. This is the day we take to resupply our necessities. Things like socks, shoes, linens and some farm items can be had for a steep cost reduction. We give the electronics a miss because we do not use them.

We pray for a peaceful Christmas that is holy and full of family love and fun for all. God bless you all.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Holiness for Housewives And Other Working Women

One book that is recommended time and again for Plain Catholic women is Holiness for Housewives and Other Working Women by Dom Hubert van Zeller. This is not a dated "housewives guide for better housekeeping". This is a small book loaded down with timeless common sense, wisdom and helpful spiritual advice for maintaining meaning and the presence of God in the most tedious of work each day.

Van Zeller writes with a gentle sense of humor, perspicacity, and brevity: in other words he gets to the point with clarity and without long-winded metaphors. It's one of those books that can be read repeatedly with fresh insight each time. Christmas is coming up and I recommend this book as a gift. It will be welcomed especially for the upcoming Lenten reading. Sophia Institute Press has it in print for a reasonable price. Here is the link to this wonderful little gem.
Holiness for Housewives and Other Working Women by Dom Hubert van Zeller



We've been busy with spring planting and the calving of our Scottish Highlands here in New Zealand so we haven't posted much. That's right, our seasons are upside down to the northern hemis. We wish a huge G'Day to all Plain Catholics the world over and may everyone have a blessed and peaceful Christmas Holy Season.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cult of Celebrity

This is a phrase that's making the rounds these days. People chase after celebrities to somehow have a claim to fame themselves. You can even find this in Catholic circles. Catholics that rush to be a follower of this alleged holy person or to be the first to recognize a "new movement". The Plain Catholics have encountered a few people like this. We try to encourage them to put God first and develop a personal relationship with God in order to be better Catholic disciples of Jesus.

It is not hard to deepen your relationship with God. Pray. Read the Bible. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Go to Mass. Do these things regularly.

Pray many times a day and not just when you want something. Praising and thanking God is prayer too.

Read the Bible and reflect on how the reading impacts your life for 20 minutes every day and really pay attention to it.

Go to Reconciliation at least once a month but it's better if you go once a week. If you have a besetting sin that repeats or an addiction, more than once a week may be necessary.

Go to Mass every day if you can. It's a Catholic's "Power Source".

Focus on God and you won't need 30 seconds of fame to feel better about yourself.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Is the Noise of the World Making Us Deaf to God?

That's a really good question. Even on our Plain Catholic farms without telly, we hear about the political din from politicians cursing, shouting and trying to serve themselves instead of constituents. They want to make people angry to be re-elected. They want to be the center of attention.

It's everywhere. Every time we go into town there's telly in stores and doctor's offices, airports and bus stations vying for our attention.

Then there's the incessant noise from purveyors constantly trying to sell us something. Even in our parishes there's a great deal of noise instead of quiet worship and Adoration.

Cardinal Sarah wrote an excellent book called The Power of Silence. He speaks of the damage to our souls and discipleship from the "dictatorship of noise". For the sake of sanity in an insanely noisy world, read it. Please.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pope Francis tells parents to stop competing with their teenage children instead of educating them.

I've seen it. You've seen it. Parents trying to be "cool" and their teens' best friends. As parents we're given the responsibility of teaching our children, not chumming around with them. Morality and good judgement come from the example of parents.

We do have the right to steer our children away from dangerous relationships and acquaintances.
We do have the right to monitor how they spend their time and with whom they spend it.

We can't be afraid to say no to bad influences and dangerous situations. The number of missing children, murdered children, and abused children should be a klaxon warning to us all. Parents please be adults instead of wannabe teens.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion

Gospel   John 18:1—19:42

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley 
to where there was a garden, 
into which he and his disciples entered.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place, 
because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards 
from the chief priests and the Pharisees 
and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, 
went out and said to them, "Whom are you looking for?"
They answered him, "Jesus the Nazorean."
He said to them, "I AM."
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, "I AM, " 
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So he again asked them,
"Whom are you looking for?"
They said, "Jesus the Nazorean."
Jesus answered,
"I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go."
This was to fulfill what he had said, 
"I have not lost any of those you gave me."
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, 
struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear.
The slave's name was Malchus.
Jesus said to Peter,
"Put your sword into its scabbard.
Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?"

So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus,
bound him, and brought him to Annas first.
He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, 
who was high priest that year.
It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews 
that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus.
Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, 
and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.
But Peter stood at the gate outside.
So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, 
went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.
Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, 
"You are not one of this man's disciples, are you?"
He said, "I am not."
Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire
that they had made, because it was cold,
and were warming themselves.
Peter was also standing there keeping warm.

The high priest questioned Jesus 
about his disciples and about his doctrine.
Jesus answered him,
"I have spoken publicly to the world.
I have always taught in a synagogue 
or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, 
and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me?
Ask those who heard me what I said to them.
They know what I said."
When he had said this, 
one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, 
"Is this the way you answer the high priest?"
Jesus answered him,
"If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; 
but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?"
Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm.
And they said to him,
"You are not one of his disciples, are you?"
He denied it and said,
"I am not."
One of the slaves of the high priest, 
a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, 
"Didn't I see you in the garden with him?"
Again Peter denied it.
And immediately the cock crowed.

Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.
It was morning.
And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, 
in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.
So Pilate came out to them and said, 
"What charge do you bring against this man?"
They answered and said to him,
"If he were not a criminal, 
we would not have handed him over to you."
At this, Pilate said to them, 
"Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law."
The Jews answered him, 
"We do not have the right to execute anyone, " 
in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled
that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.
So Pilate went back into the praetorium 
and summoned Jesus and said to him, 
"Are you the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered,
"Do you say this on your own 
or have others told you about me?"
Pilate answered,
"I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?"
Jesus answered,
"My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world, 
my attendants would be fighting 
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here."
So Pilate said to him,
"Then you are a king?"
Jesus answered,
"You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world, 
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

When he had said this,
he again went out to the Jews and said to them,
"I find no guilt in him.
But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover.
Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?"
They cried out again,
"Not this one but Barabbas!"
Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.
And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, 
and clothed him in a purple cloak, 
and they came to him and said,
"Hail, King of the Jews!"
And they struck him repeatedly.
Once more Pilate went out and said to them, 
"Look, I am bringing him out to you, 
so that you may know that I find no guilt in him."
So Jesus came out, 
wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
And he said to them, "Behold, the man!"
When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, 
"Crucify him, crucify him!"
Pilate said to them,
"Take him yourselves and crucify him.
I find no guilt in him."
The Jews answered, 
"We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, 
because he made himself the Son of God."
Now when Pilate heard this statement,
he became even more afraid, 
and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, 
"Where are you from?"
Jesus did not answer him.
So Pilate said to him,
"Do you not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have power to release you 
and I have power to crucify you?"
Jesus answered him,
"You would have no power over me 
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin."
Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, 
"If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.
Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar."

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out 
and seated him on the judge's bench 
in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews,
"Behold, your king!"
They cried out,
"Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!"
Pilate said to them,
"Shall I crucify your king?"
The chief priests answered,
"We have no king but Caesar."
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, 
he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, 
in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others, 
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
It read,
"Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews."
Now many of the Jews read this inscription, 
because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; 
and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, 
"Do not write 'The King of the Jews,'
but that he said, 'I am the King of the Jews'."
Pilate answered,
"What I have written, I have written."

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, 
they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, 
a share for each soldier.
They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, 
woven in one piece from the top down.
So they said to one another, 
"Let's not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, " 
in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says:
They divided my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.

This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."
Then he said to the disciple,
"Behold, your mother."
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

After this, aware that everything was now finished, 
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, 
Jesus said, "I thirst."
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop 
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
"It is finished."
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, 
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken 
and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first 
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, 
they did not break his legs, 
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, 
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; 
he knows that he is speaking the truth, 
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, 
secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, 
asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus.
And Pilate permitted it.
So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, 
also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes 
weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus 
and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, 
according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, 
and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.
So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; 
for the tomb was close by.

Matthew 5:16 So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

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