A nice look about people of different faiths and how they manage during the pandemic to prayer together while apart. The pandemic has restricted some religious public worship and has limited other ways we can come together, but we can still pray and we can still pray for each other. With social distancing, we can also within the various religious traditions still come together in safely despite the dangers.
The article, “Staying Apart but Praying Together” by James Estrin looks at how religious groups are remaining spiritual and strong despite covid. He states,
“The sanctuary at The Jewish Center accommodates more than 500 people but only 60 are now allowed inside at a time. Attendees must preregister online, answer a coronavirus exposure survey and have their temperature taken at the door. When weather permits, shortened services are held outside on the rooftop.”
The article covers other faiths as well. To read the entire article, please click here
Despite shutdowns, or restrictions, the faith remains strong during the pandemic and people will find a way to pray to God, whether privately or in public via safe measures. God does not wish his creation to test him but to respect the safety measures for all. This does not make one’s faith less but makes one logical. God can protect us from any plague, but we cannot as his creation test him and do foolish things that promote its spread.
Pastors, Priests, Ministers and Pastoral Caregivers can all face burnout. It is human nature to burnout if over worked, or bombarded with other needs. It is important to also care for oneself and ensure enough sleep, rest and spiritual retreat is given. It is also important to identify signs of burnout and how to properly deal with it. God’s grace can go a long way but our human bodies need an occasional spiritual and physical retreat.
The article, “Pastoral Burnout and Spiritual Direction” by Kelly Edmiston looks at how pastors can identify burnout and deal with it. She states,
“I spent years ministering out of an empty tank. As a car can only coast on fumes for so long, I was puttering out. And this puttering took years. In this season of “puttering”, I embraced a “fake it until you make it” philosophy in the name of being “faithful” to the calling on my life. But the truth was, it no longer felt like a calling. It felt like a burden. I know now that I was suffering from pastoral burnout.”
The forced confinement due to Coronoavirus is a crisis for many. It locks them away from the necessary physical interaction. For those with mental health and addiction issues, it can also play havoc upon their lives. The quarantine can become a nightmare for many but it can also be an invitation among the chaos to find peace and guidance. It can be if applied become a retreat from the world that can help individuals discover the quiet of God among the materialistic world.
The time for prayer and spirituality can be found in the quiet and isolation for those who seek it. Mystics and saints have reminded humanity throughout the centuries that a turn to God involves quiet. While social prayers and ceremonies are essential to our social nature, we are also individuals and must feed ourselves spiritually through meditation and quiet prayer.
In more normal times, it is healthy to turn to God to prayer daily and if possible once a week in an hour retreat from the world. This retreat allows one to re-access, re-focus, and discover what truly matters in life. That purposeful break or short spiritual quarantine from the world can allow one to hear God. One cannot hear God’s will or God’s demands in the loud of the world. Competing false ideals and distractions emerge. Satan looks to keep one busy as to avoid God and his message.
An hour retreat totally given to God as gift is a time to hear God. St. Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, St Benedict and St. Ignatius all speak of this quiet. The quiet where God is heard through meditation and total giving to God.
In that time, the phone is set away, social media ignored and television turned off. It is a time for God where we separate from the world to hear God’s desires and will. It is a quiet time that heals the soul from the isms of the world and refreshes the spirit to face it.
This time of physical retreat from the virus is a bad thing but it is also a time where we can spiritually retreat and find ourselves again. It is a time where the business of the world can allow one to work on oneself. Spirituality should not be something we neglect in this scary time. We can turn this time of fear into a time to re-access our own spirituality and take the opportunity to re-emerge from the quarantine as better Christians, people and followers of God.
If you would like to learn more about Christian Counseling then please review the program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and leads to a four year certification.
In the meantime, be safe and allow this time of uncertainty to help cultivate better spiritual practices through the time honored instrument of silence. Through silence we can filter out the noise of satan and find God.
Whenever evil, plague, war, death and disaster befall society, various reactions emerge spiritually within the community; From the secular atheist, a cynical mocking of the all good God; From the doubting faithful, a existential dilemma of faith and reason; From the faithful, a twofold reaction, one of faith supplied with reason and prayer, and the other, fueled with a faith devoid of reason and careless actions.
The primary and first question deals with evil and a good God. The cynical atheist will mock the faithful for believing in a God that allows disaster and plague to befall creation. The atheist will offer a false two fold conclusion that either God is not all good to permit evil, or not all powerful to prevent it. What is being ignored is the fundamental fact that humanity through its own choice lives in a fallen world. Free will chooses evil, not God. The price of being autonomous is evil. It is something that God in his all omniscient mind found well worth the price of evil. The price for His sentient life forms to choose good or evil.
This choice of free will plays a key role why evil exists. God did not create evil nor does He will it, nor does he not have the ability to control it. God permits it for a greater cause, humanity’s autonomy and overall eternal life outside the temporal world. While this does not address the day to day hardships of disaster and plague, it does illuminate a path beyond this valley of tears.
In Christianity, God does not abandon His creation. Instead, God Himself, takes upon human nature, binding to His Divinity the the Person-hood of Jesus Christ. Jesus accepts the cold of the temporal world and opens Himself to the pains of disaster and plague. Jesus allows Himself to be the sacrifice for all sin and bears its ugly face, but before that, He also endured the pains of this world and the suffering of loss, grief, death and tragedy.
Christianity presents an excellent answer to the problem of evil. It presents a God, who does not watch from a distant throne, but one who enters into the human condition and suffers with His creation as an act of free will and love.
While this question will not answer the disbelief of an atheist it at least answers the supposed riddle of a good God and evil. God is clearly good and His reason for permitting evil is clearly understood.
The doubting faithful represent the second response to spirituality and disaster and plague. The doubting faithful question why God permits them to suffer. Some may understand the theological response listed above, while others may not, but the doubting faithful, begin to doubt God Himself, His existence, and even their own faith. When plague or disaster strikes humanity, they wonder if God is there or if even God can hear their prayers.
They doubt the value of prayer. They begin to doubt if God can perform a miracle and save others from disaster. They question their prayer’s worth. Why pray if God will not act? The doubting faithful see prayer as a contract not a covenant. If prayer is not answered, then either God is not there or their prayer is insufficient. This leads to a poor understanding of suffering and grief in Christian spirituality.
Prayer when offered as petition definitely has a request but when the end of that request becomes the only driving spiritual force then the prayer is open to only one’s will and not God’s will. One should pray with the fervent attitude of deliverance, but if that physical deliverance does not come, one should not doubt God’s presence or one’s lack of one’s own spirituality. Instead, prayer while seeking one’s desired end, should also seek God’s end. It may seek conclusion but must be open to a conclusion that is not what one desires. Prayer must seek God’s presence to help carry one through grief, disaster and plague, whether cure or deliverance is given or not.
If a prayer is not answered according to one’s will, it does not mean God cannot perform miracles, or that God does not care, but it means that God has a different path and will than one’s own. One must instead believe that God knows best despite the suffering. One must instead, imitate Christ, who accepted the Father’s will even if it meant His own death. One may rejoice in the miracles that can occur, but if they do not, one must rejoice silently in God’s plan, no matter how painful or confusing it may be.
Ultimately, the spiritually doubtful, must re-evaluate their own spiritual life and the true essence of prayer, if they wish to understand why God answers and not answers some prayers.
Finally, in disaster and plague, one can see the two responses from the faithful whose faith is not suppressed but strengthened in times of chaos. The first response is one of prayer and reason. The second, is a prayer and faith devoid of reason and careless action.
The first response is the response of the church faithful. It understands the theology of good and evil, one’s role in it and the role God plays in answering prayer. The faithful pray in covenant with God, knowing that God will always be present physically and spiritually in their lives. The faithful believe miracles can happen but are also prepared to suffer and offer suffering through Christ to God the Father. They are willing to prayer but are also equally willing to carry their cross.
The second response though is devoid of reason. It challenges reason and in many ways tests God. Like those who handle serpents as a testimony of faith, these individuals will disregard precautions in time of plague in the name of faith. They will congregate together in Jesus name despite a contagious virus and will question the faith of others for believing bad things can happen. While the bible and church history is full of stories of God preserving individuals from illness or disaster, there are also equally many stories of disaster.
While it is possible that during reception of communion that Christ would preserve a person from a contagious virus, it is also possible that the virus still could infect. This is based on multiple issues regarding the person’s spiritual state but also the will of God. It is unadvised to tempt God unless God Himself has appeared to oneself. To boldly take dangerous actions within the spiritual community is not only unsafe and illogical but also not Christ centered.
In some cases, one has seen saints survive disease in care of others, while in other cases, history has witnessed saints who have died for those they cared for. Hence, acts of faith against logic and reason cannot be presumed to be immune to natural consequences. Yes, God can miraculously prevent the transmission of a virus during Communion, but it does not necessarily happen. This is why in times of plague, the Church while optimistic, always errors on the side of caution. Services, masses and gatherings are closed during times of plague because the Church does not wish to tempt God. This is not a lack of faith. If God so chose to command faith, He would, but if He does not, following reason and safety in no way invalidates faith.
Instead, God expects obedience. Obedience to ecclesiastical and civil authority over one’s own ideas.
Hence, prayer and reason is the proper response to any disaster or plague. It is measured with faith and believes in miracles but it is also measured with reason and obedient to authority in time of crisis and disaster. Prayer in times of crisis is not a useless endeavor but carries great merit and can produce great things, but ultimately is tied to the will of God and not one’s own will. It is a prayer of covenant and not contract that seeks to imitate Christ.
Bad things can happen to the most devout, even in one’s most deepest prayer, so one should not take heart that one’s prayer was not answered. Instead, one should understand that like Christ, miracles can occur, but when they do not, one must be ready to suffer like one’s Master. Christ suffered, He grieved and He offered His will to the Father. Christians and followers of Christ are asked to accept no less. The world denounced Christ and Christians can expect no less than their Master.
During disaster and plague, pray, pray and pray more. Expect great things but also expect suffering if it is God’s will, but know no matter the outcome, Christ will be with the suffering in this fallen world.
If you would like to learn more about Christian Counseling Training, then please review the certification program offered through AIHCP. The program is online and independent study and offers a four year certification for qualified professionals.
Lent is an excellent time for Christians to find a spiritual retreat. A retreat from the loud and noisy material world. Lent allows the Christian the time to self reflect and re prioritize things in life. Many utilize Lent as a time to give something up but learning to rediscover one’s Christian life is the primary point of Lent. Lent gives one the opportunity to rediscover one’s cross and to follow Christ to Calvary and later rise with him.
Silent prayer can play a large role in helping Christians find their spiritual nature. Silent prayer can help one hear the voice of God and help the soul find a deeper connection. Silent prayer removes one from the noise of materialism and realigns the soul properly to its primary end which is God.
The article, “Lent: Silent prayer in a noisy digital world” b y Sr Nancy Ussellmann looks at the value of silent prayer and its place during Lent. She states,
“Lent offers us a time to take stock of our lives, question our motivations, examine our relationships and pray more attentively, opening ourselves to God’s actions in our lives. The ashes on our face remind us that we are not gods, we will not live forever and this life has a purpose.”
Lent is a critical time for sacrifice but also self reflection and spiritual growth. Silent prayer and Christian meditation can play a large role in helping one grow one’s faith and re-connection with God. It allows one to rediscover their Christian vocation and refocus on what matters most in life.
The sanctify of life has always been championed by the Christianity. Stemming from the 5th Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, or more properly interpreted, murder, Christianity and the Church has taught it is sinful to take a life without serious applications. There is a big difference between killing and murdering obviously. The fact that this distinction is made, in no way lessens the Church or Christianity’s teaching on the sanctify of life, but only saddens the Church when killing becomes necessary. This brings one to very complicated situations that needs addressed.
First and foremost, revenge killing, murder, abortion and euthanasia are always morally wrong. It is murder to willingly without sufficient cause to take another human life. All Christian Churches, especially the Catholic Church, has made numerous condemnations against abortion and euthanasia. Numerous documents exist that condemn these atrocities. Pope John Paul II himself referred to today’s culture as the culture of death in which the value of human life has been removed.
Human life through abortion has been commercialized and human beings have been reduced to objects. Human life through euthanasia has reduced life to a choice instead of a gift. These social movements have eroded the moral sense of right and wrong in regards to life. While society hopes to cloud the moral objectivity of murder, Christianity has stood strong in condemning these actions.
Yet, despite the Church’s condemnation of murder, Christian social teaching does not forbid necessary killing. There is a large difference between justified killing and murder. Let us first look at war itself.
The Church, especially in the West through St Thomas Aquinas, has taught Just War Theory. This theory does not praise war but laments the unfortunate necessity of it when evil forces arise. Aquinas pointed out that war can only be justified when defensive in nature. Furthermore, certain codes of conduct were necessary. These codes are reflected today in how civilized nations conduct war. Use of extraordinary weapons without sufficient cause are forbidden, as well as weapons that can cause massive death and torture. Furthermore, attacks on civilians, as well as unarmed soldiers and prisoners of war are regulated. It no longer becomes killing, but murder when the enemy is captured or disarmed and then killed. This is reflected in Aquinas but also again in modern law regarding war crimes.
Self defense of a nation justifies killing in war, but only to the extent of defense and destruction of evil. The same ideal is applied to individual self defense. One who uses deadly force because it is the only alternative in preserving one’s life does not break the 5th Commandment, but instead preserves one’s own life. Again, this is because the 5th Commandment forbids murder not killing!
Sometimes, one can look to the Old Testament and see the many sanctions of God being very warlike. These motifs are human words describing the divine in the sacred texts. It does not mean to interpret a God who has blood lust. God as the author of life and death can strike down an evil king, for God’s vengeance is justice. Yet, we see God very much involved in Israel’s history, helping Israel strike down her enemies in war. We also see in the books of laws, many codes that demanded death for certain offenses.
Interpretation of spiritual or physical death can always be argued, but it is without a doubt, that before Christ, the world was indeed more dark. God did not magically become different after the coming of Christ, transferring an eye for an eye to turn the other cheek, but God was always the same. It was the time and the interpretation that differed.
In fact, an eye for an eye mentality found in scripture was actually utilized to minimize violence not condone it. It looked to prevent excessive revenge and only justice. Yet, those before the time of Christ, during the fallen era of Satan, were more inclined to sin without the abundance of available grace through Christ’s death. This does not mean barbaric actions ceased to happen after Christ, but it does point that Satan had a greater grasp on more souls than he does now. God, before the coming of Christ, through the commandments hoped to guide fallen humanity through the prophets as best he could, but until the coming of Christ, without grace, humanity was at a greater risk of evil influence. Attempting to curb Israel’s inclinations was the best the prophets could do during these times. In fact, Christ even pointed out regarding marriage laws, that Moses permitted certain evils only because of the stubborn nature of the people. This applied to all cases in morality. It would be through Christ that the fullness of law could understood and enacted.
Hence when we review many of the old ways regarding killing in the Old Testament, it must be understood under those lights. God never sought the death of innocence, but in fact, like with Abraham and Isaac, rejected human sacrifice or death. Yet, when we see God push forward just punishment upon the wicked, as in the case of the plagues upon Egypt, we cannot associate His justice, as the author of life and death, as wrong. We cannot apply justification in war and defense towards our own actions, the way God did in the Bible.
Yet, we see many Christian extremists misuse Scripture, especially the Old Testament, to justify killing, when in reality they are committing murder. One classic example of this is the Book of Leviticus and its condemnation of homosexuality and the proposed punishment of death. These old laws are not justification for Christians to murder homosexuals, but with misuse and wrongful interpretation of ancient laws can lead to evil outcomes.
Hence, defense that is appropriate to the action is the only time the taking of another life is justified. This may appear on a larger scale such as a battlefield, or in individual self defense. These issues again are only a last resort.
The final social issue that clouds the morality of killing and murder is capital punishment. The idea as whether the state has the right to deny a person of life is debated in Christianity. While there does exist a historical tradition for the state’s right to execute, these ideas need to be understood in the context of the time period it was developed in. The largest concern in regards to capital punishment is the right of the state to defend society from harm. When this is taken into account, in the past, did sufficient prisons exist to defend individuals from dangerous criminals? Also, was the person a persistent threat? For self defense to exist, there must exist immediate threat or potential for that threat to continue.
In today’s prisons, the chance of escape is very low. The idea of an immediate threat is also almost none existent in a modern system. The only possible situation may be if the criminal is a mobster who can order hits from within prison. Yet, if the person is imprisoned, no longer a threat to society, can that person be morally executed by the state?
Whether the action was heinous or not is not the question. The question is does the person pose an immediate threat to society.
Some would contend this is not an issue and that the state has legitimate authority to execute dangerous criminals who commit the most heinous crimes. Unlike vengeance which is carried out with emotion from the party injured, the state is a legitimate authority that presents justice. Does the state hence represent God in someway in carrying out sentences? This was definitely a medieval ideal where kings and queens were ordained by God to rule. Yet, many states are far from pure and just. Communist nations murder its own citizens everyday in the name of justice.
Yet if a state has legitimate authority and is utilizing its authority in a just way for the protection of society, does it have an authority from God to execute a dangerous criminal? Is the sentence of death, even if the person can no longer hurt anyone, justified? Whether revenge or justice, is it condoned?
Ultimately it comes down to whether one believes the state has authority from God to execute criminals. This is somewhat still a debated issue, especially since in the modern era, incarcerated criminals are usually no longer a threat to society. I would contend that, while the state is a neutral and just authority void of vengeance, it still cannot in good conscience take a life within the modern ability to confine criminals. Of course culpability is lessened for those involved in the legal process than a street mob, but the ultimate price of taking a life is forbidden by anyone.
If the state cannot show proof that the execution is for the defense of society, then it truly has no grounds to execute from a Christian perspective. The only authority to execute for the sake of execution is God. God alone is the author of life and death not the state.
Again, this is taking into account, modern prisons and the ability of the state to protect the people through the prison system itself.
When the state does execute for the sake of execution, it takes the role of God. Furthermore, this removes the chance of a person to live a life of repentance while in prison.
Many Christians dismiss this type of murder by the state as not important because the individuals are criminals and evil. They would rather focus on abortion and the innocents who die. Both issues are important because both involve murder. Life must be preserved at all stages and situations. Also bear in mind, many times, innocent men and women can also be executed.
So while state execution does have a history and may be justified even in the past, it is very hard to foster a Christian defense of its application today. Still be it, the state, as a neutral voice of justice, must ensure that the execution is humane and without torture. Of course this is after the fact that it remains an immoral action regardless of circumstance surrounding it.
It is indeed difficult to defend the wicked, but the value of life must be protected for all. God is author of life alone. Only in cases of self defense is killing permitted in Christianity and that applies to everyone.
If you would like to learn more about Christian dogma or morality, please review our blog. Also, if you are interested in becoming a certified Christian Counselor, then please review The Christian Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.
The redemption by Christ is referred to in Theology as Soteriology. Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice which gave humanity a second change and a rebirth. It opened the founts of heaven once again. The blood of Christ energized the channels of grace to humanity. It reconnected the life of humanity with the Creator.
The historical incident, where the perfect man represented humanity as its high Priest, as a perfect sacrifice, being God as well, allowed humanity to repay the infinite debt of the sin of Adam. Where Adam said no, Christ said yes. Jesus hence offered reparation for our sins and brought humanity salvation.
The article, “5 Ways the Death of Jesus Saves You” by Lesli White looks at how the death of Jesus plays a pivotal role in our salvation. She states,
“To be saved, or born again is to accept the plan of salvation that Jesus offers us. In order to understand salvation, it’s imperative that we understand the death and resurrection of Christ which points to our salvation. The son of God was made human, and during His earthly life, he lived a perfect life, and died not because He wanted to but because we needed salvation”
Hence the sacrifice of Christ was a necessity. A sacrifice was needed. One that was perfect and offered atonement for the infinite debt of sin. Only a person could represent the offending party, but only a God could cover the infinite price. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity becoming man, or as scripture says, the Word became Flesh was the moment in history when God and man became unified in one person. Two natures that existed in perfect harmony.
Through the Incarnation, humanity was open to redemption. It is through Christ, and his mother Mary’s yes, that Adam and Eve’s curse was removed from the human race. Through the fonts of Baptism which are fueled through the Blood of Christ, original sin would be removed from the world one person at a time. Through one’s faith realized through Baptism, all are born again in Christ and put on Christ.
If you would like to learn more about theology or would like to learn how to become a Christian Counselor, then please review our Christian Counseling Training program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.
Grief in its deepest times can force us to question our very existence. We can question why and how one’s life has lost so much. We can question if there is a God, or a divine being. We can question our own moral code and way of living. Grief has the strongest ability to shake one to his or her very core.
Existentialism has for years questioned the how and why of existence. It has mourned over the fear of what is beyond the grave and what truly matters in this life. When torn by grief, many Christians may look feel this philosophy and its emptiness matches their current emotional state. The thought of nothingness and the fact that acts of loss or violence are merely random can in some ways maybe soothe the conflict within. The conflict that sees a contradiction between evil acts and a good God.
The temptation of existentialism to create one’s own code of existence and live by it alone may be strong in grief. It may be a way to get back at God and to create one’s own subjective reality based on one’s own existence. Or as existentialists proclaim, to bravely put aside pre-ordained moral paradigms and to venture into the unknown and to bravely create one’s own existence. It may seem attractive to dismiss all cares when in the pit of despair.
However, God is a loving father. He knows our grief. His Son, Jesus Christ, and his holy Mother Mary, all experienced this deep grief. Christ on the cross even in his deepest agony, questioned the Father, and mournfully cried out, ” My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me”.
We all come across grief and its darkness. We face the existential question and all the unknowns behind it. We question how evil can exist while a good God rules, and we can question why God would “punish” a loyal servant. We can mourn like Job but ultimately like Job not allow our own emptiness to lead us astray. We can follow in Jesus, who while mourning and isolated, still remained loyal to the father.
Grief disrupts life. It disrupts the very existence of our day to day plans. One needs to be able to understand how to incorporate grief and loss into one’s existential narrative without dismissing God or his plan. It is the most difficult cross but one Christ himself did not deny himself. He should serve as our example when we fall into the depth of agony and loss.
Tests can be difficult times. Grief is a test. Grief is a time when our loyalty to God can be tested at the highest level. We can question our existence or give it to God. It is ultimately our choice.
Spirituality is very lacking in the modern world. Excess narcissistic behaviors and materialism are abound. Spirituality is key in leveling one’s child and balancing him or her to the true reality. A healthy balance is important. The child needs to understand what is most important.
The article, “7 Ways Parents Can Help Foster Healthy Spirituality with Their Child” by Lindsay Elizabeth discusses how to instill spirituality in our children. She states,
“Parents spend time, money, and effort to make sure that their children are brought up to the best of their abilities, but, as a society, are we lacking the influence of spirituality in their young lives?”
Please also review both our Spiritual as well as Christian Spiritual Counseling Programs and see if they match your academic, spiritual and professional needs. In the meantime, realize that part of parenting is instilling good morals and spiritual values in our children. Neglect of a child spiritually is as negligent as any other temporal need.
A strong spiritual life involves prayer, detachment from the world and union with God. The world attempts to block this union through illusions and distractions. Grace from the Holy Spirit helps produce virtue within our lives that lead towards better habits in developing union with God.
Virtue is a good quality, or internal disposition towards good. It is habitual in nature and becomes part of one’s character. It guides one’s actions and leads one to a closer spiritual life with God. Virtue rejects the vices of the world and focuses on the good. In many cases, virtue are supernatural in nature or moral. Some virtues deal with one’s relationship with God while others direct one in proper relationship with others. (1)
The three theological virtues are faith, hope and love and direct one to God. The four moral virtues are prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. While virtue can exist naturally in humanity, grace alone infuses them at a supernaturally level and allows one to utilize virtue towards the action of good. Without grace, one cannot earn virtuous merit. So while, one may cultivate virtue in one’s daily lives, it is only through co-operation with the grace of the Holy Spirit, that such endeavors can ever produce the fruit of a healthy spiritual life. (2)
Hence, it is critical to in spiritual life to cultivate virtue. Virtue and its natural disposition and habitual nature, allows the person to maintain a constant relationship with God and a healthy relationship with one’s neighbor. Grace is essential in feeding virtue. In this, one must cooperate with grace and indulge in spiritual practices that allow virtue to grow. One’s spiritual garden can become neglected without the Word of God, the sacramental life, and daily prayer.
The devil and the world have a way of eroding one’s spiritual garden with a variety of weeds and drought when one does not cooperate with grace and feed the soul the many graces the Holy Spirit affords the soul. Too many times, individuals become distracted from what matters most and the temporal illusions of this world and their false promises of happiness, lead good Christians away from God.
St Teresa of Avila refers to this in and out of one’s spiritual life as the first mansion with God. In this mansion, the individual discovers God and realizes there is more to this world than temporal things. While this is only an invitation to spiritual life, it is an essential mindset. In this mindset, the individual begins to seek out God. So many individuals walk and in and out of this mansion, regaining fervor only to lose it months later. Many spiritually are in this mud of the temporal world, escaping, only again to fall. (3)
This constant tug of the war of the soul between the world and God is a natural state of humanity’s broken nature. The scars of Original Sin, lead one to one’s lower flesh. The will identifies lesser goods as superior and in some cases, bad consciences identify evil ends as good. Without prayer, virtue and grace, the soul sputters into bad habits, or vices. The soul falls to the seven capital sins, of pride, envy, anger, lust, greed, gluttony, and sloth. (4)
In some cases, the spiritual war that leaves individuals in between the first and second mansions of spiritual union is a back and forth conflict, until one master emerges victorious over dominion of the soul. In this struggle, the soul eventually chooses a life of virtue or vice, God or the world, good or evil.
While Christ the Good Shepherd, will always run after the stray lamb, the lamb still must wish to be found. In this, Christian Counselors, pastors, spiritual advisers and confessors find the most common soul. This type of soul is neither truly saintly or evil, but is inherently good, but lost. These souls wish entrance into the first mansion of spiritual life, but falter. Virtue is far from a habit, prayer life is inconsistent, and the love of the world is still too high of a priority. Yet, the desire to be saved remains.
It is important in developing spiritual development in one’s spiritual children to help direct these souls to sources of grace and better habits. A confessor or spiritual mentor must be patient with the conflict. Habits, especially bad habits are difficult to break and one must gradually move from them and seek God. More frequent prayer, scripture and for Catholics, sacramental participation are essential to opening oneself to the graces needed to convert to a more spiritual orientated life.
As a spiritual mentor, one does not merely direct the soul to better choices and habits, but also teaches the soul how to better discern. Forming a good conscience that is based on the absolute moral law of God. One’s conscience must reflect the Ten Commandments and mirror virtue. It cannot be subjective, or worldly, but must be aligned firmly with God’s law. Only through this can a conscience be of any service to a soul and help it find a more healthy and balanced spiritual life.
What spiritual directors, mentors and pastors must also present is the image of God as a loving father. In this, God’s love is so intense, so passionate, that he seeks out the soul. Even beyond this analogy, God’s love is so strong, it even bypasses any of our most intense relationships. God is so passionate, He awaits our call, our time. It pleases Him so greatly to receive even the smallest token of our love or even our smallest effort to do good. As Christ taught, the Father rewards ten fold for even the soul’s smallest endeavors.
However, there is a very thin line a spiritual director must walk with a troubled soul when preaching God’s mercy and love. While it is infinite, one cannot over emphasize it at the expense of God’s justice. God demands change from the soul. Christ Himself forgave the sinners but also instructed them to sin no more. While the soul may falter, it still must look towards perfection. It must try despite the struggle and understand that change is necessary for union and salvation. Only a spiritual director who knows the soul in question can truly discern if mercy or justice needs to be emphasized at a given time.
In conclusion, spiritual life and union with God is a conscious decision. It is habitual and its ultimate end is God for the sake of loving Him. Grace fuels the soul’s broken ability to enter into this union. Prayer is the language and virtue is the map. The soul is fed through the Word of God and the sacraments in maintaining a healthy relationship. Through these tools given to the soul by God and the direction of a spiritual adviser, a soul is able to enter beyond the initial mansions and begin to enter into true union with God in the later stages of spiritual life.