Thursday, February 13, 2014

1) Private Revelations and St. John of the Cross: Introductory Post

There are so many websites and blogs out there focusing on current events and hot-button issues of our day that I like to look at issues of spirituality, especially through the writings of the saints.  If we spend all of our time with a singular focus on select areas of interest, or activism, things can go out of balance.  Charitable works and activism, must be balanced with a continuing study of Catholicism itself, and a deepening of our understanding of the prayer life and spirituality.

As a secular Carmelite, I'm drawn in a particular way to the works of St. John of the Cross (Doctor of Mystical Theology) and St. Teresa of Avila (Doctor of Prayer), along with other Carmelites.

Since I am laid up while undergoing tests and treatment for an abdominal problem, I have been getting in more reading time.  I've found a somewhat comfortable position in which to use my lightweight laptop so I can blog and use social media in between resting.

I hope you will find this topic of interest and enlightening.  I will leave the comment box open, but it is moderated and because I have doctor and testing appointments, there could be delays at times.

New Post Series

I thought I would focus a series of posts on what St. John of the Cross has to say about things like visions and locutions.  I'll give the series it's own label, mindful that blogs work in reverse chronological order.  I will call it Private Revelations and St. John of the Cross.

In an era so filled with alleged apparitions and other claims of mystical phenomena, I thought it would be good to look at it through the lens of the Doctor of Mystical Theology.  He has written extensively on this subject, breaking it down into many pieces spanning a multitude of chapters in the Ascent of Mount Carmel. Once we have a grasp of it, we will see that there are some alternative pastoral issues of a spiritual nature that Holy Mother Church is concerned with when it comes to these kinds of claims.  While many are brought to the door of the Catholic faith, or back to it after a long absence, through claims of apparitions, there are many spiritual dangers that await those who become attached to these - even those which are approved.  What are those dangers? That is something we will look at more closely.

Before getting into the heart of the subject, there is some background that needs to be understood.

Public revelation versus private revelation

It might help if readers of this post series, understand the difference between public and private revelations.  For this, you can read this brief article at EWTN and this page from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  There are no short cuts to learning. There is no sense in me summarizing a summary, which is provided in the links.

The Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Book Two

The Ascent of Mount Carmel is broken up into three books.  It is in Book Two of the Ascent, as I call it in it's abbreviated form, that St. John of the Cross deals extensively with things like visions and locutions.

I use The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross by the Institute of Carmelite Studies, but I don't know enough about the book from other publishers to say if there are differences.  You can find it online. This version at the Catholic Treasury site, has hyperlinks for each of the chapters, which will make it easier to follow.  However, I already see language differences. I just happen to have a bias towards the ICS translation.

Using Kindle

In this post series, I'll be quoting from the Kindle edition, which I have on all of my electronic devices, including this Macbook Pro and my Galaxy Note 10.1, where I do most of my reading.  That's one of the good things about Kindle, is that you can download free apps to your various devices and once you purchase a book, it will be accessible on any of them. You don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books since there are both PC and Mac versions of the reading software.  For IOS and Android devices, just go to your app store and download it for free from there.

A note about appetites

St. John of the Cross talks a lot about appetites and it is good to have a proper understanding about them.  We all know of the appetite for food, but there can be other appetites, such as the appetite to watch TV or be on the internet, among many other countless things.

Appetites need to be ordered to the good, so an appetite for stealing is not something to which we can yield.  Sexual activity, in the context of Sacramental Marriage, is good when unitive and open to life. But, even in marriage, lack of control can lead to lustful or even abusive activity which treats the other spouse as a mere object.

We must eat, but if we don't control our appetite for food, we become obese. If we don't control our appetite to watch TV, play sports, or be on the internet, we neglect other things in our lives including people and responsibilities.  Even one's appetite for work can be immoderate, for example, when the quest for power and money allows someone to have a big house and toys, but no time for Sunday Mass or prayer.

In the spiritual life, there can be appetites for consolations in prayer, or for signs and visions.  The Doctor of Mystical Theology gives us a proper understanding of these things, their role in the spiritual life, and how to moderate what must be moderated.

You can read much more on the appetites in this piece by Fr. Jerome Lantry, OCD: Those Pesky Appetites

In the next post

That is it for this introductory post.  In the next one, we will look at the subject of faith in darkness which is another area we must understand before looking at what St. John says about certain mystical experiences and visions.

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