In honor of the Society of Jesus founder, here again is the link to "St. Ignatius and Memory," an excerpt from my book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints that first appeared online in May.
In honor of the Society of Jesus founder, here again is the link to "St. Ignatius and Memory," an excerpt from my book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints that first appeared online in May.
"[Coming] to believe is a process that goes on all our lives and is never completely finished. No matter how deeply we believe, we can always believe more deeply, and God will lead us to a steadily more profound faith through the experiences of our lives, if we will let Him. But what is of immediate interest to us here is the coming to believe of the person who has little or no faith in God. "Acting as if” is the way in which he begins the process of coming to believe. ...
"We go through our entire lives "acting as if." No one would ever marry, or have children, or choose a career, or sign a contract if he insisted on certainty in advance. "Marry in haste and repent at leisure" is a salutary warning, but it does not mean putting off marriage until we are absolutely certain that we are marrying the right person. That kind of certainty is not to be had in this world, and insisting on having it means choosing to remain single.
"The same is true of our approach to God. We cannot begin if we insist on beginning with certainty. "Blessed are those who have not seen and have yet believed," said our Lord to doubting Thomas (John 20:29). Instead of waiting until all questions are answered and all doubts removed before we begin our quest for God, the better course is to do something—say a prayer, for instance."
— Francis Canavan S.J. (1917-2009), "Acting as If," from The Light of Faith, available from the Calix Society
Click the image to watch the newsreel in a new window.
From the British Pathé archives comes this fascinating newsreel of Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton's beatification by Pope John XXIII in 1963.
Like the holy people I write about in My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, St. Elizabeth, who would be canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975, is a patron for those who seek healing from the effects of childhood trauma.
Born in New York City, Elizabeth suffered the loss of her mother when she was only a toddler. Soon after, her father remarried and had seven more children by his second wife. By the time Elizabeth was in her mid-teens, her father had separated from her stepmother and moved to England, leaving her with an uncle. Since the stepmother was not interested in maintaining closeness with Elizabeth, the future saint effectively lost a mother for the second time. Depression and even thoughts of suicide plagued her during her mid-teens, making her conscious of the God-shaped vacuum in her heart. That longing would eventually lead her to the Catholic Church and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
What I find particularly inspiring about Elizabeth was that, lacking the example of a mother, she was yet able to embody the beautiful mystery of spiritual motherhood to the many young people under her instruction. Here is how she saw her vocation, in her own words:
"I am as a Mother encompassed by many children of different dispositions—not all equally amiable or congenial, but bound to love, instruct, and provide for the happiness of all, to give the example of cheerfulness, Peace, resignation, and consider individuals more as proceeding from the same Origin and tending to the same end than in the different shades of merit or demerit."
Read more: "The Inspiring Legacy of Life: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton."
"How does one get out [of evil]? In short, one must begin by seeing the hazard, the wickedness of the thing. It is difficult, in part because we live in a lonely, individualistic milieu that tries to trick us into denying the relational aspect of humanity. We are lulled into believing that we answer only to our own desires and objectives, denying that we are not individuals in isolation but rather individuals born into a great chain of relationships.
"With those relationships come duties, such as those to parents, brothers and sisters, extended family. Later on, duties to schoolmates, teachers, coaches, employers, coworkers, etc. Absent all of those relationships, however, and therefore most central, we are children of God, made in His image and likeness; in our relationship to Him we recognize that we owe duties to Him as well, to be grateful, to love Him, and to love ourselves for His having made us. We come to see that the so-called 'victimless crimes' of libertarian fantasy, such as prostitution, and 'solitary pursuits' such as substance abuse and pornography are grave violations of our own dignity, with consequences that deeply affect our abilities to relate to one another."
Pat Gohn's latest "Among Women" podcast features an interview with me about my book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. You can listen to the podcast or download it from Pat's website (interview begins about 24 minutes into the show). That link will also take you to images of the windows from Georgetown University's Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart that I describe in My Peace.
Many thanks to Pat for giving me an opportunity to share my book's message. I'll soon be sharing that same message in San Diego, Los Angeles, and New York—see my latest tour itinerary.
It was 1908 when, in the wake of a serious economic crisis, Rome renounced hosting the Olympic Games which were eventually celebrated in London, England. In the same year Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, sought help from the Vatican to support the Games, and Pope St. Pius X in person offered him his support. ...Perhaps some of the facts from Stelitano's interview got lost in translation, because I found in the Google News archive a story that places Pius X's meeting with de Coubertin in 1905. The New York Tribune reported at that time the Pope recognized the importance of physical exercise in cultures that made increased mental demands of their citizens:
That moment at the beginning of the twentieth century is described in a book entitled "Pio X e lo sport" by Antonella Stelitano. At that time "less than one per cent of the population practised any sporting activity, ... and sport was used only as a form of military training or as a pastime for the upper classes", the author explained in an interview with Vatican Radio.
However "St. Pius X ... was aware of the educational potential of sport". He saw it as a way "to approach young people, and to bring them together while following certain rules and showing respect for adversaries. I believe", the author explained, "that he understood that it was possible to bring people together simply, without any problems of race, religion or differing political ideas".
At that time in history many people did not understand the importance of exercise, said Antonella Stelitano who concluded her interview by recalling an anecdote whereby Pius X told one of his cardinals: "All right, if it is impossible to understand that this can be done, then I myself will do exercise in front of everyone so that they may see that, if the Pope can do it, anyone can do it".
Pius X accorded to Baron Pierre de Coubertin a private audience and conversed with him at length about the Olympic games, and said that the Church throughout the world ought to take eager interest in athletic culture, and help in promoting physical progress among the boys and girls of the rising generation. The Pope expressed the opinion that healthful open-air sport was the surest means of compensating for the ever-increasing strenuous mental work required of all—women as well as men—who take an intelligent share in the everyday tasks of contemporary civilization.St. Pius's affirmation of the mind/body connection is deeply Thomistic—which is not surprising, given his promotion of the Angelic Doctor's thought.
Pius X believes there is a certain correlation between broad chests and broad minds. Himself a man of robust physique, and hardy temperament, he puts his faith in exercise and oxygen, and considers a few moments of brisk muscular action with elastic straps or dumbbells as the best preparation and incentive for concentrated brain work.Pius X's influence was all the more impressive, the reporter says, because it was not so with the early Church, which condemned the ancient Olympic games for their promotion of paganism:
The Pope dwelt upon the significance of the favor now bestowed by the Church upon athletic sports, which is the more interesting because it was originally the Church's influence that interfered with the sports of old, and it was the Church that urged the Emperor Theodore [Theodosius I] to stop the Olympic games. Pius X has thus initiated a new era in regard to physical culture, and the importance of this step will soon be felt throughout the Roman Catholic world, especially in the schools, seminaries, and universities under Roman Catholic auspices.Reading about Pius's clear-sighted understanding of the value of exercise at a time when its promoters were few, I'm happy to have one more reason to wear a medal of my birthday saint.
St. Ignatius of Loyola's feast day isn't until next week, but today I felt like it arrived early, as I had the great pleasure of meeting one of the saint's spiritual sons, Father James Kubicki, S.J., national director of the Apostleship of Prayer. The apostleship promotes the spirituality of the Morning Offering, which, since I entered the Church in 2006, has been a fundamental part of my growth in Christ.
Father Kubicki and I first connected by e-mail this past spring, when we both had books published by Ave Maria Press and noticed that our books' topics were complementary. My book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, gives a Catholic spirituality of redemptive suffering. Father Kubicki's A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus gives a deep, theologically rich, and eminently readable account of how our sufferings—as well as all our prayers, works, and joys—gain profound meaning when we offer them to God in union with the crucified and resurrected Christ. He and I were able to meet in person for the first time today because he was in nearby Rockville, Maryland, to record talks for Now You Know Media, a Catholic audio and video company.
I had imagined that Father Kubicki would have a serene and joyful spirit, and he did not disappoint. You can catch a bit of that spirit in this video he made in 2008 that outlines the spirituality of the Morning Offering, which is the foundation of the work of the Apostleship of Prayer.
Looking at a news-analysis piece on the Aurora tragedy, a quote from modern British philosopher Colin McGinn jumped out at me. "We are all familiar with that sense of entrancement that accompanies sitting quietly in the pierced darkness of the movie theater. The mind seems to step into another sphere of engagement as the images on the screen flood into our receptive consciousness."
It read like an augmented version of an observation made by an Italian scholar in 1936: "The motion picture is viewed by people who are seated in a dark theater and whose faculties, mental, physical, and often spiritual, are relaxed."
That Italian scholar was none other than Pope Pius XI, the first pope to devote an encyclical to the motion picture. In the wake of the tragic shooting, and the questions it raises—including how society could come to a point where many parents routinely take their children to films filled with potentially traumatizing violence—now is as good a time as any to review the Church's teachings on Catholics' moral responsibility when it comes to media choices. These teachings are remarkable for their depth and consistency over the past eight decades.
It is, in fact, urgently necessary to make provision that in this field also the progress of the arts, of the sciences, and of human technique and industry, since they are all true gifts of God, may be ordained to His glory and to the salvation of souls and may be made to serve in a practical way to promote the extension of the Kingdom of God upon earth. Thus, as the Church bids us pray, we may all profit by them but in such a manner as not to lose the goods eternal: "sic transeamus per bona temporalia ut non admittamus aeterna."Note that the Latin quote, which comes from a Sunday collect, recognizes films as bona temporalia—temporal goods, which is to say that they are potentially valuable things of this world. The basis of the Church's position on the motion picture, as with other forms of art, has always been that it is not evil by nature, but it must be created and marketed in a manner that points the consumer to what is truly good.
Thalberg justified the adaptation of Ursula Parrot's best-selling novel "Ex-Wife" as a response to public demand for treatment of the subject: it "presents divorce in the light of the growing evil it is looked upon to be, but ... with less suspicion than it was looked upon before."Although Father Lord's simple contrast of "immoral" versus "moral" reflects the language of the theology manuals of his time, his underlying point regarding the intentionality of art is not so much different than what John Paul II said in more nuanced fashion in his "Catecheses on Human Love":
Lord cast the producers as much more influential social agents: they "set the pattern and pace for all entertainment in general; you set standards; you inculcate an idea of customs; you create fashions in dress, and you even go so far as to create fashions in automobiles." For Lord, it was the audience that was passive: "people go to the theatres; sit there passively—ACCEPT and RECEIVE; with the result that they go out from that entertainment either very much improved or very much deteriorated; and that depends almost entirely upon the character of the entertainment which is presented." According to Lord, the morality of art was inscribed in the intentions of its creator and emanated outwards: "... all art has a decided tendency to be either immoral or moral, dependent upon whether it comes from a human mind which is either good or bad, and in the same way, of course, it reaches human minds and affects them either for good or for evil." Divergent understandings of audience behavior thus underlay the disagreements over the presentation of "immoral incidents" and "compensating moral values," and the distribution of responsibility for movies' effects.
It is well known that through all these elements the fundamental intentionality of the work of art or of the product of the respective media becomes, in a way, accessible to the viewer, as to the listener or the reader. If our personal sensitivity reacts with objection and disapproval, it is because in that fundamental intentionality, together with the concretizing of man and his body, we discover as indispensable for the work of art or its reproduction, his simultaneous reduction to the level of an object. He becomes an object of "enjoyment," intended for the satisfaction of concupiscence itself. This is contrary to the dignity of man also in the intentional order of art and reproduction. By analogy, the same thing must be applied to the various fields of artistic activity—according to the respective specific character—as also to the various audiovisual media.Father Lord's concern that audiences took in motion pictures "passively," and so were at greater risk of negative influence, presages Marshall McLuhan's placing cinema among the "hot" media and highlighting the audience's "passive consumer role in the presence of film." (McLuhan, incidentally, was a Catholic convert via Chesterton.)
These considerations [on the morality of motion pictures] take on greater seriousness from the fact that the cinema speaks not to individuals but to multitudes, and that it does so in circumstances of time and place and surroundings which are most apt to arouse unusual enthusiasm for the good as well as for the bad and to conduce to that collective exaltation which, as experience teaches us, may assume the most morbid forms.In John Paul II's magisterium, with the Congregation for Catholic Education's "Guide to the Training of Future Priests Concerning the Instruments of Social Communication" (1986), we see the same acknowledgment that the danger of film and television media lies in the way they are passively received. By that point, however, the Church's concern has moved beyond merely trying to steer people from morally bad films to morally good ones. She still advises custody of the eyes, but now—perhaps recognizing that, since the demise of the Production Code, the media's moral messages are no longer so black-and-white—she is additionally trying to educate consumers in viewing media critically.
The motion picture is viewed by people who are seated in a dark theatre and whose faculties, mental, physical, and often spiritual, are relaxed.
As reflections of the dark side of a human nature marred by sin, pornography and the exaltation of violence are age-old realities of the human condition. In the past quarter century, however, they have taken on new dimensions and have become serious social problems. At a time of widespread and unfortunate confusion about moral norms, the communications media have made pornography and violence accessible to a vastly expanded audience, including young people and even children, and a problem which at one time was confined mainly to wealthy countries has now begun, via the communications media, to corrupt moral values in developing nations.Those words are from the 1989 document "Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A Pastoral Response." With words that sound eerily prophetic in light of the Aurora shooting suspect's use of an "adult" website, the pontifical council goes on to speak of the potential that people who are obsessed with media pornography and violence will seek to imitate what they consume:
Frequent exposure to violence in the media can be confusing to children, who may not be able to distinguish readily between fantasy and reality. At a later stage, violence in the media can condition impressionable persons, especially those who are young, to regard this as normal and acceptable behaviour, suitable for imitation.Message for the 41st World Communications Day. Speaking of those who would expose children to media violence, he calls out such exposure for what it is—abuse:
It has even been said that there can be a psychological link between pornography and sadistic violence, and some pornography is itself overtly violent in theme and content. Those who view or read such material run the risk of carrying over such attitudes and behaviour into their own relationships and can come to lack reverence and respect for others as precious children of God and as brothers and sisters in the same human family. Such a link between pornography and sadistic violence has particular implications for those suffering from certain forms of mental illness.
Any trend to produce programmes and products—including animated films and video games—which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray anti-social behaviour or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programmes are directed at children and adolescents. How could one explain this 'entertainment' to the countless innocent young people who actually suffer violence, exploitation and abuse? In this regard, all would do well to reflect on the contrast between Christ who "put his arms around [the children] laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing" (Mk 10:16) and the one who "leads astray ... these little ones" for whom "it would be better ... if a millstone were hung round his neck" (Lk 17:2).It would seem that, where the intersection of mass media, violence, and sexual exploitation is concerned, the Church saw our present dark night rising a long time ago.
O Jesus, King of Love,To accompany the prayer, she also drew a picture of the Child Jesus, which you can see on Father Mark's blog, along with much more information about her life of faith, love, and service.
I put my trust in thy loving mercy.
As the author of My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, one of my favorite parts of the book is something I didn't write. It is a quotation from Seek That Which Is Above, a book of short reflections published in 1985 by Joseph Ratzinger, in which the future Pope Benedict XVI writes about how "memory awakens hope":
In one of his Christmas stories Charles Dickens tells of a man who lost his emotional memory; that is, he lost the whole chain of feelings and thoughts he had acquired in the encounter with human suffering. This extinction of the memory of love is presented to him as liberation from the burden of the past, but it becomes clear immediately that the whole person has been changed: now, when he meets with suffering, no memories of kindness are stirred within him. Since his memory has dried up, the source of kindness within him has also disappeared. He has become cold and spreads coldness around him. In other words, it is only the person who has memories who can hope. ...I was rereading that passage the other day and realized that there was something about it that was very familiar. This idea that calling to mind the past was necessary for building hope in the future ... where had I read that before?
Recently a counselor who spends much of his time talking with people on the verge of despair was speaking in similar terms about his own work: if his client succeeds in recalling a memory of some good experience, he may once again be able to believe in goodness and thus relearn hope; then there is a way out of despair.
The obligatory norm of renewal can only come about by a new orientation from its origin. The Church cannot be manipulated at will. The Church cannot become up-to-date according to the wishes of the times; Christ and his Church cannot be accommodated to the times and their fashions; it is the different times that must be measured by the norm of Christ. Here lies the diference between genuine and false reformation and renewal which, at first sight, may look so much alike that they are apt to be confused. ...It seems that, for the Church as well as the individual, memory awakens hope.
As the faith of the Old Testament has a twofold orientation, in terms of time: one toward the past, namely, the miracle of the Red Sea by which Israel was saved from the Egyptians and which was the founding of its existence as the People of God; and one forward, toward the days of the Messiah, in which the promises made to Abraham would be fulfilled; so the historical existence of the Church has two poles: it is referred back to its founding in the death and resurrection of the Lord, and forward to his Second Coming when he will fulfill his promise of making of the world a new heaven and a new earth.
Thus, the Church, while, and exactly because, it is based on the past, is turned toward the things that are to come "in hope." The basic attitude of the Christian is not marked by restoration but by hope. In its effort for renewal the Church sheds the entanglements of history not to restore an ideal state of the past, but to move toward the Lord, to be free for his new call. In turning to him the Church moves into the future knowing full well that the ultimate future can be no other than Christ.*
[Ephesians 1:3-14] contains the Pauline view of history that St. Bonaventure has helped to spread in the Church: all of history is centered on Christ, who guarantees novelty and renewal in every age. In Jesus, God has spoken and given everything, but because He is an inexhaustible treasure, the Holy Spirit never ceases to reveal and actualize His mystery. Therefore, the work of Christ and the Church never regresses, but always progresses.As priest, bishop, and now Pope, Benedict has been trying to deliver us this clear-eyed understanding of Christian hope—what it means to live between the "now" and the "not yet"—for a long time.
Today, after receiving an e-mail from a woman in Spain asking if My Peace I Give You was available there, I discovered that the top story on one of Spain's leading religion news sites, Religion en Libertad, is about me and my latest book.
She was mentally transported six years back in time, to when she was nineteen and her father had just died. Her family home was invaded by creditors who closed her father’s pharmacy, seized what little furniture remained, and dumped out Gemma’s purse to snatch the two lire that were all she had to her name.What is it about this story that makes Gemma's experience so meaningful to me? I think it is the fact that her extraordinary holiness did not prevent her having the flashback. It shows me that the feelings of sadness and distress that I feel from time to time, when the effects of my own past traumas rise to the surface, do not separate me from God. Rather, just as Gemma experienced her own Passion in union with that of Christ on the Cross, so too can my pain become an offering. The pain is still present, but it can no longer harm me. Instead, my open wounds, like those of Gemma as she experienced the gift of stigmata, become cracks where the light of Christ can get in.
[The] practice of preventing the faithful from receiving on the plea of safeguarding the august Sacrament has been the cause of many evils. It happened that children in their innocence were forced away from the embrace of Christ and deprived of the food of their interior life; and from this it also happened that in their youth, destitute of this strong help, surrounded by so many temptations, they lost their innocence and fell into vicious habits even before tasting of the Sacred Mysteries. And even if a thorough instruction and a careful Sacramental Confession should precede Holy Communion, which does not everywhere occur, still the loss of first innocence is always to be deplored and might have been avoided by reception of the Eucharist in more tender years.Here we have a pope effectively saying that depriving children of "the food of their interior life" is an abuse. It is a spiritual abuse, forcing children "away from the embrace of Christ," and increasing the risk that they will be prey to those who seek to tempt them.
As I prepare to speak in Cincinnati this Sunday (see details of my upcoming appearances), I am delighted to report that, thanks to Catholic Post book page editor Nancy Piccione, I have an affirmative answer to the age-old question: my book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints plays in Peoria!
As a child of divorce, Eden experienced sexual abuse in various settings, then as a young adult lived promiscuously to "take control" of her sexuality. But wholeness and true happiness remained elusive.Read the full review.
In Eden’s 2006 international bestseller, The Thrill of the Chaste, Eden wrote about discovering the appeal that modesty and sexual restraint offer, but had not yet come to terms with the legacy of abuse in her life.
During and after her conversion to Catholicism, Eden sees that healing from those sexual wounds is ongoing and a work of the Holy Spirit, through specific saints who provide solace on the journey.
As she writes to the many who are childhood sexual abuse victim, "I want you to know you are not alone, you are not forgotten, and you have more friends in heaven than you realize.”
My Peace I Give You is part memoir and part meditations on what the saints can teach us about wholeness of body, mind and spirit, even in the face of searing memories and experiences.
"For the love of Jesus, I pardon him, and I want him to be with me in heaven." That was Maria’s response when her parish priest, before giving her what she knew would be her final Communion (known as viaticum, when the Eucharist is given as "food for the journey" to heaven), asked if she could imitate Jesus' forgiveness of the penitent thief and forgive her attacker.I also seek in My Peace to correct inaccurate notions of why martyrs of chastity such as Maria are saints. Speaking of her and another such martyr, Blessed Laura Vicuña, I write:
Maria's forgiveness reveals that she embodied chastity on a eucharistic level. Chastity finds its highest expression in mercy: forgiving from a wounded heart makes the body most like that of the risen Christ. Those who evaluated her cause for beatification found it no coincidence that Maria's heart poured out its pardon on the day the Church marks as the Feast of the Most Precious Blood.
The life stories of these "martyrs of chastity" speak deeply to victims of childhood sexual abuse, offering inspiration, guidance, and hope for healing. Yet, many Catholics do not understand why the Church honors them, as their legacy has been misrepresented both from within and without the Church.Learn more about My Peace I Give You at the Patheos Book Club.
Maria Goretti in particular has suffered from bad press. On one side, critics of the Catholic faith, particularly those opposing its sexual ethic, assert that her canonization proves the Church values a woman's physical intactness more than it values her life. On the other, some upholding her as a model of purity unwittingly reinforce the critics' view by implying she is called a martyr of chastity because she was not violated. The truth is that the term "martyr of chastity" does not refer to whether the saint died physically intact, but, rather, whether the saint died resisting an attack on his or her purity. This teaching goes back at least to the time of St. Augustine, who wrote that Christian virgins who were raped before being martyred were still virgins.
The more I learn about Maria and Laura, the more I want to shout to their detractors and supporters alike: These holy ones are not caricatures. They do not exist to satisfy an agenda. They are real young women. It is worth taking the time to unearth their shining witness from beneath the politics and pious myths.
On Tuesday, a surprise came in the mail: an envelope from the Apostolic Nunciature containing a Benedict XVI souvenir rosary, a photograph of the Holy Father, and, best of all, a beautiful letter from the Holy See's Assessor (click to enlarge):*
Please accept this copy of my new book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints with my deepest gratitude for all you have done to help the wounded find healing in Christ, and particularly for your sensitive outreach to those who have suffered childhood sexual abuse.
I was born in a Jewish home and was myself abused. My healing came through encountering Christ in the Church. In My Peace I Give You (which carries an Imprimatur from my ordinary, Donald Cardinal Wuerl), I seek to bring Christ to my fellow victims through the lives of those whom Your Holiness has so beautifully called “translations” of Christ: the saints. I also hope to show pastoral caregivers that there is much more they can do for the abused than merely refer them to therapists. Not all victims need therapy, but all who have suffered any evil need to know the love of their heavenly Father.
I believe that people who have suffered trauma as a result of the abuses that are widespread in secular society—the sins committed against the family and against the dignity of the human person—are going to be vital members of the next generation of Christian witnesses. Their witness will be particularly powerful because, having experienced their own Passion, they have risen to new life through faith in Christ.