"Without any understanding of man's deep-seated urge to self-transcend, of his very reluctance to take the hard, ascending way, and his search for some bogus liberation either below or to one side of his personality, we cannot hope to make sense of our own particular period of history or indeed of history in general, of life as it was lived in the past and as it is lived today. For this reason I propose to discuss some of the more common Grace-substitutes, into which and by means of which men and women have tried to escape from the tormenting consciousness of being merely themselves. .... human beings have felt the radical inadequacy of their personal existence, the misery of being their insulated selves and not something else, something wider, something in Wordsworthian phrase, 'far more deeply interfused'." (Aldous
Huxley, "Appendix" from The Devils of Loudun, Penguin Books, 1971, 313f.)

Michael Whelan SM

Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 7. Eucharist: Bread of Life

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) goes to the heart of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist:

The sacrificial nature of the Mass, solemnly asserted by the Council of Trent in accordance with the Church’s universal tradition, [Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session 22, Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, 17 September 1562 : Enchiridion Symbolorum, H. Denzinger and A. Schönmetzer, editors (editio XXXIII, Freiburg: Herder, 1965; hereafter, Denz-Schön), 1738-1759.] was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which offered these significant words about the Mass: ‘At the Last Supper our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, by which he would perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, thus entrusting to the Church, his beloved Bride, the memorial of his death and resurrection.’

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 6 – Eucharist and Forgiveness

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

“That by the Eucharist are remitted and pardoned lighter sins, commonly called venial, should not be matter for doubt. For whatever the soul has lost through the ardour of passion, by falling into some slight offence, all this the Eucharist, cancelling those same lesser faults, repairs, in the same manner .... Justly therefore has it been said of this heavenly sacrament by St. Ambrose, ‘That daily bread is taken as a remedy for daily infirmity’.” (Part II, Chapter IV, Question L The Eucharist remits Venial Sins. T A Buckley, The Catechism of the Council of Trent, London: George Routledge and Co., 1852, 239.)

“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 5 – The Grace of the Present Moment

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

“I will be with you!” [Exodus 3:12]

“What does it profit if you gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit your very self?” [Luke 9:25]

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not worry about your life’” [Luke 12:22]

The French Jesuit, Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), writes: “God speaks to every individual through what happens to them moment by moment.... The events of each moment are stamped with the will of God... we find all that is necessary in the present moment. If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.” [Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence, Image, 1975, 10.]

This is a particular – and very practical – example of the Catholic understanding of sacramentality: in and through time we encounter eternity, in and through the material we encounter the spiritual, in and through the human we encounter the divine.

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 4 – Four Practices

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

The primary question – and ultimately the only question – God asks of us is, “Will you let me love you into freedom?” Jesus is the embodiment of that question. There is a graciousness about people who have heard that question in their depths. Their lives are liberated and liberating.

The Dominican priest, Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), writes:

“This above all else is needful: you must lay claim to nothing! Let go of yourself and let God act with you and in you as He will. This work is His, this Word is His, this birth is His, in fact every single thing that you are.”

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 3 – The Jesus Prayer

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

In Psalm 6:2 we hear the psalmist cry out: “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak.” In Luke’s Gospel we hear the blind man cry out: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (see Luke 18:36-43); in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians we read: “God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name ... at the name of Jesus every knee should bend” (see 2:5-11); St Paul urges us to pray without ceasing (see 1Thessalonians 5:16-19).

These words from Sacred Scripture prompted the early Christian communities to develop a brief and practical approach to prayer. Perhaps the best known of these prayer forms is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”.

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 2 – Breathing as a way into Contemplation

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

In the Book of Genesis we read: “then the LORD God formed man (adam) from the dust of the ground (adamah), and breathed into his nostrils the breath (nâshamah) of life; and the man (adam) became a living being (nephesh)”. (2:7) (In Hebrew thought, there is no “body” distinct from “soul”. Nephesh means literally “a being animated by the breath of life”.)

The “breath of God” is also referred to by the Hebrew word ruah and is generally translated as “spirit” – see for example Genesis 6:3, Psalm 104:30 and Job 33:4. Ruah – meaning either wind or breath – is generally used in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures when speaking of the Spirit of God. In Greek the word becomes pneuma and in Latin spiritus.

In the Gospel of John we read: “(Jesus) breathed on (the disciples) and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”. (20:22) This is the new creation!

We breathe because of God’s breathing.

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Ordinary Pain

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JPain

1. Pain can have its genesis and manifestation in any or all of three dimensions:

Physical – eg back pain, headache, toothache, arthritic pain etc
Psychological – loneliness, grief, feeling abandoned, depression, anxiety, fear etc
Spiritual – longing, despair, guilt, dark night etc

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 1 – Listening to what is going on

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

We can speak of emotion (feeling, affect) as a reaction that tends to move us in a certain way. It is reaction not response, a matter of reflex not choice – initially at least. The English word emotion comes from the Latin word movere meaning to move.

The movement involves the whole person, though it may be more focused in the body – eg as physical pain or satisfaction – or in the psyche – eg as anxiety or anger – or in the spirit – eg compunction or ecstasy. It is important to discern the source of the emotion. For example, “feeling depressed” might have its roots in the body, the psyche or the spirit.

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Euthanasia: Some Questions & Issues Arising

Michael Whelan SM

JEuthanasia

Euthanasia is well and truly on the agenda in Australia and it is becoming increasingly difficult to sort out the fact from the fiction. Claims and counter-claims are made. Yet, the subject demands reasoned conversation and finely nuanced thinking.
To begin with I will indicate four factors that make the reasoned conversation and nuanced thinking difficult in our culture:
1. Because the issues and questions concerning euthanasia arise in the context of suffering and death, it is not surprising that the discussion of euthanasia sometimes raises strong emotions. This can make it difficult to maintain a focus on what is really at stake here. Read more

Marist Presence 8: Mary as inspiration

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

The work to be done is Mary’s work. Fr Colin used that phrase frequently – “Mary’s work”. Marist presence is therefore motivated and shaped by Mary’s presence. Fr Colin did not focus on Marian devotions or pieties. Jean Coste SM writes:

Here we touch on what I am prepared to call the Marist paradox which must be grasped if there is to be understanding of the way that the role of Mary is lived in the Congregation (ie the Society of Mary) at the present time.

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Marist Presence 7: Instruments of mercy

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

Michael Fitzgerald SM writes:

Mary’s presence in the Church is not seen as a remote, nebulous, contemplative one, but rather Mary is in the Church with a particular mission: she is the gentle and merciful face of the Church, the open and welcoming door of the sheep-fold .... She extends the welcome of a merciful God, of a merciful, welcoming community of disciples. ....

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Marist Presence 6: Taste for God

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

Fr Colin was reflecting one day on just how he would approach the formation of young men who were being formed in the Marist way. He said he would speak with them individually twice a week. Interestingly enough, he said:

.... for the first two or three months I would not take the initiative in making any observations to them. The Rule says that in the beginning they must be treated consideratius et attentius (‘with great care and attention’). I would just let them speak, replying to what they said, and indicating the way they might correct the faults they have noticed in themselves and pointed out to me. (A Founder Speaks, 63:2)

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Marist Presence 5: Unknown and hidden

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

“(Marists) desire to breathe (Mary’s) spirit .... They seek inspiration in the traditional phrase, ‘hidden and unknown in the world’. For Jean-Claude Colin it best captured, in the light of his spiritual and pastoral experience, Mary’s presence in the Church. They learn from him and like him from Mary, how to approach the work of evangelization so that Gospel may be received in all its power and charity. .... While Marists are willing to undertake any ministry that will help build up the Church for the sake of the world, they work in such a fashion that no one, as it were, notices their presence.” (Constitutions (1988), #9, #22, #23 & #25).

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Marist Presence 4: One heart and one soul

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

Fr Colin said when he was Superior General:

My dear confreres, may the closest bonds of charity unite us always, may we truly be but one heart and one soul. The Society of Mary must make present once again the first times of the Church. (September 21, 1846, in A Founder Speaks, 115,5.)

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Marist Presence 3: Nazareth

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

In December 1967 – about a year before Thomas Merton was accidentally electrocuted by a faulty fan while attending a conference in Bangkok – he gave a retreat to a group of contemplative nuns at the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. What he said in that conference nearly fifty years ago is as fresh and relevant now as it was then:

Presence is what counts. It’s important to realise that the Church itself is presence and so is the contemplative life. Community is presence, not an institution.

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Marist Presence 2: The Church-being-born

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

A good place to start is with the statement that lit the fire in Fr Colin’s heart. Fr Jean Claude Courveille shared with Colin and some other seminarians words he said he had ‘heard’ on 15 August 1812 in the cathedral of Le Puy: ‘Marie dans l’église naissante et à la fin des temps’. He attributed those words to Mary. The French is generally translated as “Mary in the newborn Church/the Church at its birth and at the end of time.” There are various versions. We should note, however, that ‘lÉglise naissante’ literally means ‘the Church in the process of being born’.

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Marist Presence 1: Background

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

At the heart of presence is spirituality. The word “spirituality” is used here in a very specific sense: living relationships. All human beings live in four sets of relationships:

· with the “Absolute” – however we name that
· with oneself
· with other human beings and
· with events and things

To speak of Marist presence and therefore spirituality, is to speak of a specific way of relating with God, self, other people and the world.

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Sexual Abuse and the Catholic System - Clericalism

The Third of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan"To the pastors alone has been given the full power of teaching, judging, directing; on the faithful has been imposed the duty of following these teachings, of submitting with docility to these judgments." (Cited in The Catholic Weekly, September 19, 1993, quoting The Freeman's Journal, September 12, 1885.)

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Sexuasl Abuse in the Catholic System - Docetism

The First of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelanOne of the indispensable tasks of any .... formulation [of Christology] will surely have to be a convincing vindication of the thoroughgoing humanness of Jesus, a humanness which the classical Christology formally and officially defended, but practically and effectively undermined. [Donald P. Gray, "The Incarnation: God's Giving and Man's Receiving," Horizons, 1 (1974), 1]

 

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Sexual Abuse in the Catholic System - Moralism

The Second of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan"Chuang Tzu's concern with the problem that the very goodness of the good and the nobility of the great may contain the hidden seed of ruin is analogous to the concern that Sophocles or Aeschylus felt a little earlier, in
the west. ... the hero of virtue and duty ultimately lands himself in the same ambiguities as the hedonist and the utilitarian.

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