Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Friday, April 16, 2010

Emotionalism

In my last post, I mentioned the Emotionalization of Love. After a day of reflection (and reading Thomas Merton), I realized that this Emotionalism applies to almost every aspect of our lives. Every action can be emotionalized. Although there is also an "intellectualization" of actions, where the intellectual aspect overrides the will and emotions, my focus tends to be on emotionalism, since I kind of suffer from it more.

Very specifically, our Faith can suffer from Emotionalism. When we pray, we can sometimes want to experience a "feeling" of faith. Something like "I feel like God is with me, everything is alright and I have never been closer to God." If we want this every time we pray, we will be sadly disappointed. It then ends up being a desire for the feeling instead of a desire for real closeness to God. This is similar to the abuse of "Joy" in C.S. Lewis's definition. Lewis speaks of a burning sometimes painful desire for something that is not quite attainable. However, this is often at first combined with an intense feeling, and eventually, it can become merely a desire for the feeling and not the transcendent thing which is actually desired. This emotionalism is a wide spread disease.

Sometimes, you just have to do rote prayers, read spiritual reading that you don't feel like reading and that doesn't inspire you. Because it's the Right Thing to Do. Heaven and the fulfillment of closeness to God will be better than any feeling of closeness. In fact, it will be the fullest feeling that is possible. Such a feeling is impossible for us humans to experience in our current state.

I think I suffer from emotionalism.

5 comments:

Mike Brennan, CC-ITMS Coordinator said...

You are quite the mystic for an 18 year old and Merton is a highly reliable guide. Your zeal for "defending the Church against onslaught of all kinds" can be idealistic as well as egotistical. You might read Robert Johnson's "Owning Your Own Shadow" and also recognize that the Church itself, in its members and leaders, can have a shadow side that we need to understand and come to terms with. Hans Kung has written a prescription for doing so in this open letter to the world's bishops: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0416/1224268443283.html. Persecution of the Church is real but most insidious when we fail to see that it doesn't always come from outside. Read how St. Ignatius of Loyola was hounded by the Spanish Inquisition, for example, or how Hildegard of Bingen suffered because of her compassion for allowing an excommunicate to be buried in the convent cemetery. He had received last rights, but the authorities ordered the body exhumed. She refused. The convent was placed under interdict but eventually the authorities relented. There are countless such stories in the Lives of the Saints.

It is good to start from a strong, conservative place, but harden not your heart!

Mike Brennan, CC-ITMS Coordinator said...

That should have been "Last Rites" - I didn't proofread carefully.

Nate said...

Thanks for the comment. If being a mystic is a good thing, then thanks for the compliment. I know many saints were mystics, but I'm a far cry from saintly.

I'm not sure where you're going with this. Did I ever say that "onslaughts of all kinds" didn't include internal problems?

I am an orthodox Catholic, and if that means "conservative" to you, then fine, that's what I am. I think it would be really hard to say whether or not I'm "hardening my heart" about anything. What specifically that I've written tends toward a hardening of heart? Is it my insistence on the Absolute Truth? The list of saints I have in the sidebar?

Mike Brennan, CC-ITMS Coordinator said...

Yes, I think being a mystic is a very good thing, and no, you never said that 'onslaughts' did not include internal problems, though to me it seemed to suggest a siege mentality - mainly attacks from outside. That was just my impression. The saints in the sidebar are all terrific. I love all the saints. I apologize for sounding critical or suggesting a hardening of the heart - that's something we all have to guard against. It's good - it's very important indeed - to know what you believe and to have a firm foundation and to deepen your faith. I had not read through all your posts. I was reflecting on a period in my life when I aspired to being something of a "super-Catholic." I had a great interest in apologetics and it seemed like I could only see things from a Catholic prism. At that point I had not read very deeply into church history. I began to realize that some of my desire to "defend the Church" was more a defense of my positions, my convictions, my righteousness. That's where the ego came into play. That may not be an issue with you at all. However, it strikes me that often, those who are all about defending the Church would benefit from listening with charity to its critics (external or internal) and being open to the possibility that the Holy Spirit continues to bring about remarkable transformations in both people and institutions, which is a beautiful thing. Some seem to cling to the past or certain customs thinking that it is disloyal or even evil to "dissent." The tension between obedience and conscience is something we all have to grapple with eventually. My only concern for you is that you don't adopt a siege mentality, an us vs. them perspective. Does that make sense? I think it's wonderful and good to be orthodox...but it bears some exploration what we mean by that. For some, it's the way they remember the Church growing up in the 1950s, with the Latin Mass and a deeper sense of reverence. I would say that those are very nice memories but more nostalgia than orthodoxy. Your writing suggests to me a very gifted and insightful and well-balanced approach to your faith, and I don't mean to diminish that in any way.

Michael said...

I thought you might be interested in this: “The Glory of Catholic Architecture: Shadow, Image and Reality”: conference with author/professor Denis McNamara, April 30, $60, includes lunch, for priests, church building committees, Bible study groups, liturgy committees, architects, and all who love beauty, hosted by the Liturgical Institute at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary conference center, Mundelein, for questions, call (847) 837-4542.