The best of intentions

How often do you examine your conscience? I was taught to do so every day as a constituent of my night prayers. So there I was in the dormitory at school thinking of all my sins. And there was good reason – for, prior to bedtime, we were led through the night prayers to be found in the “Manual of Prayers for Youth”. Do you remember it? It was strong on the possibility that one might die in one’s sins during the coming night, and “if you die ill the loss is irreparable”. Whether this was good psychology for developing the spiritual life of a nine-year old is questionable, but it certainly provided motivation.

I address the subject for this is the time of the year when we may decide on good resolutions. To do so effectively we need to examine our conscience for the previous year. But here we are unlikely to focus on individual incidents for we are looking at tendencies to vice or virtue which we can identify. You may notice that I use the word “virtue”. Although the emphasis of my youth was on recalling vice, this was bad spiritual psychology.

John Paul II was quite right to suggest that sins “breed”. What he meant was that once we allow ourselves to, say, become slack about telling the truth, it becomes gradually easier. Thus what has been a habit of minor lies can grow into deeper falsehoods. But similarly our good deeds lead to better deeds. So we need to reflect primarily on what, in our judgment, we have done well. And experience shows that we are most likely to rid ourselves of what we do badly by promoting what we do well. In fact our resolutions should ideally build on increasing the virtues where we have already made progress. As a result our vices begin to feel neglected, and they crawl away.

I have written before on practical ways to setting about improvement, so my reminder will be brief. The first principle is to be concrete. Thus a global intention to be more considerate to one’s spouse should be replaced by, say, “when my spouse says something with which I disagree, I will delay answering back until I have understood all the reasons why he/she made the statement.” That has the advantage of being measurable and of course it will promote the greater consideration which I want to show.

Secondly, only pursue one resolution at a time. We do better by focussing on one resolution for one month than by three resolutions for three months. If you want to, apply the next resolution in the following month. With three resolutions you could have four cycles during 2015. Of course, as the year goes by, you will find the resolutions easier to master. The virtues (and vices) are habits, and habits deepen with use.

By January 2016 you will have become a saint!

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Moral judgment, Quentin queries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

85 Responses to The best of intentions

  1. John Nolan says:

    ‘By January 2016 you will have become a saint!’ Hope not. Don’t you have to die first?

    • overload says:

      If you are not a saint here-and-now then it is debatable whether you can sincerely call yourself a Christian here-and-now. St Paul referred to the saints as the community of believers constituting the Church.

      Pop star saints as defined by the RCC may be inspiring models, however on the other hand this also gives us a stilted view of ourselves, since for nearly all such model are believed to be unattainable or very rare — superhuman. But Christ foremost came to redeem us (and thus make us saints) in the weakness of our humanity. Perhaps there are many saints who are never recognised because they have not performed conventional ‘miracles’, and/or because they live marginalised lives.

      Apparently St therese of lisieux spoke against ‘exaggerating’ the the lives of the saints.
      Personally I find it very questionable the reason that Paul II was given sainthood was in response to mass popular opinion and demand. This suggests that the opinion of the RC populace is a reliable voice-piece for the holy spirit.

      What’s wrong with dying?

      • overload says:

        Corrections to my last comment:

        If we are not saints here-and-now then it is debatable whether we can sincerely call ourselves Christians here-and-now.

        Sorry, I meant John Paul II.

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload
        You ask ‘Whats wrong with dying?
        I think there is nothing wrong with dying, we have to die!
        How we die if we think- it probably would concern me
        Although when I was told I had 8 to 9 weeks, after getting over the shock I began to think about my soul,my past life, all that I ought to have done, and what I did..
        Darkness came into my life, and doubts, like the dark night of the soul.
        I wanted to live as I thought I felt closer to God here in the Church and the Blessed Sacrament and my family!
        If I died I might lose all that and not exist.
        I realised then how little faith I had of Eternity and God’
        Thank God and Our Blessed Mother that soon passed and then perfect Peace,
        Now 6 months on and with everyones prayers and Holy Masses.Also SS I am not afraid to die.
        It is what we all look forward too. I think I was being tested!’

    • Quentin says:

      I have always assumed that the concept includes all those in a state of grace, and therefore holy — indirectly from sanctus. Am I wrong?

      • Brendan says:

        Quentin, I believe you are right in your assumption of subjective saintliness/state of grace from the Churchs’ point of view about its members and that Overload is a little too ‘Jansenist ‘ in his view of grace as gift. Ref., CCC. 2003 – ” Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. ” This is the point in Saint Paul using the word ‘ saint ‘ in the early Church with reference to its members – those cleansed of sin by God and can stand before Him , therefore made holy. Not for nothing did Christ give us the sacrament .. ” whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven etc…. ” – through the sacerdotal priesthood , knowing that we will fall into sin on a regular basis. However, aware or not that one is worthy of forgiveness one can know that one is forgiven – and is justified and made holy. Supernatural grace of Confession does confer overtime sainthood and is not ” unattainable ” . By concentrated on our failings/ sins, we and society can only benefit in time from this path to sainthood of which Saint John Paul 11 is a modern example proclaimed by the Church.
        As a boy I accented to being told to examine my conscience regularly – principally to please God. As a man I now know on examination WHY I want to please God.

      • overload says:

        Brendan, with ref. to ‘Jansenist’, I think you are talking specifically about predestination? If so, this is not what I was trying to say, hence my reference to here-and-now. ‘Christian’ means follower of Christ.

        St Joseph, thanks for your bits of testimony.
        You mention ‘perfect peace’, which surely we cannot receive/enter until we “know as we are known”. I think you mean to say ‘perfect’ in the sense of ‘true’? For instance, I was reading a Christian’s blog recently about ‘perfect faith’ vs ‘dead faith’: “’Perfect Faith’ doesn’t mean that we act perfectly all the time, but it merely means that we can see the faith of someone by how they live their lives.” (He talks similarly about what does it really mean to ‘believe’ in Christ.)
        — So comparatively, I wonder if by “perfect peace” you mean to say you have found/received a real measure of peace (trust and acceptance) in Christ, as opposed to merely “feeling” religiously (or otherwise) peaceful?

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        This is something you will have to discover for yourself.
        One can not find words to express this Peace in Christ
        . When you do- you will have found it.!
        .

  2. overload says:

    Quentin, my PP in collaboration with the parish community is starting this month a programme similar to what you describe. This month focus is prayer.

  3. Iona says:

    My understanding is that anyone in a state of grace is a saint (possibly only temporarily) whereas those named as saints by the Church, i.e. canonised saints, are put forward by the Church as “worthy of imitation” – and are necessarily dead, and permanently saints.
    Apparently Joan of Arc was asked if she was in a state of grace, and replied, “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God keep me there”.

  4. overload says:

    Does someone who dies in a state of grace necessarily go straight to heaven? Doesn’t St. Paul talk about the dead in Christ waiting (“asleep”) for the Final Judgement: the resurrection of all the dead, some to eternal life, some to ‘eternal'(?) damnation? There seem to be contrary beliefs in the Church (and in Scripture) on this matter.

    • Vincent says:

      Not a problem. The concept of time has no meaning in eternity. There are processes such as cleansing the soul, but they do not take place in time. We do not even understand the word eternity. ., we merely use it because we have no other.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I can not even imagine (although eyes hath not seen etc;)what it will be like at the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day!
        A priest once said he would come back with a head of black hair and no specs,
        Obviously he was not too serious just wondering.
        Our bodies will be Glorified as Jesus was when He Rose from the dead- we know He (I think) He ate fish with the Apostles.
        What I wonder is ‘if this world will exist in a material sense’?,
        Our Blessed Mother went to Heaven Body and Soul, and appears all over the world.
        We live in the world but not of this world Scripture says (dont know where)So we must let this world go-even when we are alive here on earth to prepare ourselves for the next.
        Just thoughts!

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, have you ever tried to re-read your thoughts to see if they make sense when you put them down on the computer screen? I know when we are thingking in our mind this is very difficult to do, but on the computer screen I find it easier (although even then I can still be blinded to what I am actually saying and how it will read and understood by others.)

      • overload says:

        Vincent, according to Buddhism ‘rebirth’ into the “realms of depravity” (hot or cold hell’s) is a cleansing process, and a very, very, very long period of time.
        Very disturbing the idea of being frozen alive in a block of ice or burnt alive for a trillion years. Impossible to imagine. So perhaps we cannot make a comparison, in considering ‘time’.
        Perhaps hell is, as you suggest, somehow “outside of time” — as the Bible says, “eternal damnation”. However, how can this be, do Catholics not believe that only God is eternal/infinite (without beginning and without end, and unchangeable)?

        I’m not convinced that we can authentically try to think about ‘purgatory’ in the same way, as eternal or outside of time.

      • overload says:

        From the Bible, apparently suggesting that hell is not eternal:
        “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matt 5:25 and Luke 12:58)

    • milliganp says:

      The Church teaches that the souls of those in heaven have a direct unmediated experience of God. After the general resurrection and final judgement the saints will experience God fully in their humanity. It’s all a bit difficult to understand but no doubt it will make sense when it happens.

  5. St.Joseph says:

    overload.
    No I havent tried that- I find if I write it down I end up not sending it.
    I apologise to you most sincerly if it does not make sense to you,
    I find that with yours sometimes!

  6. St.Joseph says:

    Overload’ To take you out of your quandary!
    Let me begin again. I have written it down for you,as I presumed you woyld understand.
    Perhaps yhat is why Jesus spoke in Parables.
    1. Eyes hath not seen nor ears harh not heard the wonders that God has prepared for those that love Him.1 Corinthians 2:9.
    We can not imagine – what it will be like at the resurrection ,however we can think God gave us that much.!
    2. The Priest who said he would come back with back hair (he was bald) and spectacles.
    He was saying-‘when he came back in his resurrected body it will be as we are now’ (maybe).
    3. Our bodies will be Glorified like Jesus’s when He ros from the dead before He Ascended into Heaven.He cooked fish for the Apostles and ate it Him too.
    4..We live in this world but not of this world.2.Corinthians 10:3. We as I said Spiritual people when we die we leave this world behind. We do this whilst we are here- not live like Hermits-however not like the rest of the world..

    To add to . If you remember the woman who had seven husbands and all died- she asked Jesus which husband she would be with when she died- He answered It ‘ You do not understand etc
    overload look it up.
    I hope this make sense to you!
    .

    • St.Joseph says:

      PS. Excuse spelling mistakes, writing it down,this is what happens, I get tired and my eyes dont work too well.
      I always thought that you had a lot of knowledge of Scripture so therefore would read between the lines.

      .

    • Quentin says:

      St J, your theology is spot on of course. A fuller explanation is provided in the Catechism, starting at 1042.

  7. St.Joseph says:

    overload.
    Just looked it up ; It was the Sadducees,
    I am going to rest now, !!!

  8. Brendan says:

    Overload – your last piece has me confused in that you seem to contradict yourself regarding free-will and grace as gift. Other than that I do not follow you reasoning.
    ‘ Predestination ‘ is a complex theological term , but in the Catholic sense it is the belief simply , that God predestines some to be saved while others are not. However, He allows us ‘ free-will ‘ so that through grace ( sacramental and actual ) given freely to us we can choose to accept or refuse salvation. By Saint Paul’s measure we are already saved by Christ’s redemptive act and therefore made ‘ saints ‘ by supernatural grace . Henceforth we have the complete freedom to accept or reject the many graces ( actual ) offered to us ‘ here-and- now ‘. Justification is therefore by ‘ faith ‘ but NOT just by ‘ faith alone ‘.
    ‘ Jansenism ‘ in contrast is a heresy which was rejected by the Church, in that it contends that one does NOT have the freewill to accept or reject Gods’ grace ( favour ). Virtually then , resembling Calvinistic Protestantism.

    • Quentin says:

      Worth noting — if you use a different email, the blog does not recognise, and it goes for moderation. This email is cleared now. I like to avoid the chore of moderation if I can.

    • Quentin says:

      Although the term is used, predestination does not apply. God does not foresee the future — past present and future are immediately present to him. We are no more predestined to an action than you would be predestined to that action if I happened to be watching you when you did it. Boethius solved the problem in the early 6th century (and maybe others before him). We need to catch up!

      • Brendan says:

        Thank you for that Quentin, I’ll look into that . Thank you for pointing out your difficulty with different e- mails, I’ll be more careful in future. We live and learn in our IT world!

      • Alan says:

        I see what appear to be current criticisms of the solution Boethius offered. I would be interested in seeing how those criticisms are addressed. One being that – viewed from a timeless perspective – the choices that we make and will make exist and are perceived by an omniscient God. It would seem that either He must also perceive real alternatives in that timeless existence/creation or there are no alternatives.

      • Quentin says:

        The lack of alternatives does not seem to me to be a difficulty. I am able to see you closing the door. And in closing the door you are inevitably closing the door – no alternative. But me seeing you closing the door is not the reason that you are closing the door; on the contrary, it is you closing the door which is the reason that I am seeing you doing so. So with God for whom your future act is in his present, for he is outside time.

      • overload says:

        Quentin, you imply that God is trapped outside of time (not in control of his creation).

      • Quentin says:

        Not trapped. It’s his infinite nature wot does it.

      • Alan says:

        The blending of ideas about time and the timeless feels quite awkward to me. God does not foresee the future because foresight is a clearly time-bound concept and thus not applicable to a timeless being? But then in what sense can God’s knowledge and its impact on free will be likened to someone seeing an act, like closing a door, in the present? I see you closing the door, I saw you close the door, I see you close the door tomorrow. All relate to time but one appears to have implications for your choices … or my eye-sight.

      • Quentin says:

        No adequate answer here, I think. The original issue stems from the claim that God can see the future. And so I have answered within those terms. While the concept has meaning of a kind, we have no experience of such a thing. I am doing no more than to say that observing an action does not oblige that action to happen. My knowledge that Caesar crossed the Rubicon in no way impugns his free choice to do so.

      • John L says:

        My personal picture may be worthless, but here it is anyway.
        God’s timelessness can only be expressed in our human terms by the word “now”. God exists in a permanent “now”. His gift to us of free will is made extant by his creation of time, so that we have a “now” (which is our only actual point of contact with God), but also a past and future, neither of which we can influence directly. Our life moves along a time-line, if you like, our “now” slides from past to future, but remains in contact with God’s permanent “now”. If you close the door “now” and I see it “now”, as does God, there is no puzzle. I may be told that you closed the door yesterday, but have only your word for it – I cannot experience it. However, if you did so, for both you and God is was “now” when you did it. The truth must remain the same if you choose to close the door tomorrow. Inevitably,God must “foresee” our actions, because the word “foresee” only makes sense on our timeline, but the actual event is “now” for the protagonist and for God. I feel that part of our difficulty lies in the meaning of the word “predestination”. As you have already explained, closing the door or not remains the choice of your free will. God does not compel that choice. If the choice is still in your future, it still lies within God’s “now”, and as such he knows it. If our understanding of the word “predestination” implies compulsion, then it is our understanding of the word that is at fault.
        Does this make sense to anyone?
        How to we discuss the infinite within the limitations of a language forged by the experiences of lives bound by time?

  9. Iona says:

    Re the priest who was going to be resurrected with a full head of black hair and no need for glasses: Our PP once said we will all be aged 33 in heaven, this being the ideal age (and the age at which Jesus died); at 33 you still have all your youthful strength and beauty, but rather more sense than you did in, say, your 20s.
    More seriously, I sometimes try to imagine what heaven can be like; and retire, defeated. Concepts such as time, and sequences of events, and change, and causation, seem to be absolutely fundamental to the way we think, yet none of these can apply in heaven (can they?) People used to think of purgatory in terms of time (so many thousand years “off” if you join a Crusade). Do we still think in this way? Does having a Mass said for someone who has died shorten their “time” in purgatory, or what does it do?

    • milliganp says:

      My mum always said that she hoped she would get a different body in heaven, I tried to explain that, perhaps, in heaven she would be happy with the body she had. As for “time off purgatory” what we do know is that it is good to pray for the souls of the dead – how the souls experience the grace of these prayers is ultimately known only to them and God.(in my opinion)

      • overload says:

        Milliganp, perhaps you mean to say that your mum will be happy with her current body whilst it is still imperfect (ie. here), with new-life (the full grace of baptism) in Christ?

      • Singalong says:

        Yes, it is certainly a very firm teaching of the Church that we must pray for those who have died, with the offering of Masses and in our private prayer. They do depend on our help, as we hope those we know will pray for us in our turn. Many indulgenced prayers and devotions can be offered for those in purgatory if we choose. If a particular person is purified and completely with God in heaven, then our prayers will help someone else, so they will never be “wasted.”

        We are all part of the mystical body of Christ and we do all depend on each others prayers, saints and sinners, which is a big responsibility, consoling and sometimes quite worrying because it is so open ended. St, Teresa of Lisieux was especially fervent in her prayers for sinners and aware of their vital need.

        Perhaps that will bring me back to good resolutions, or one particularly as Quentin suggests.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Singalong.
        Some Churches have boxes for offerings for the Holy Souls,and Mass’s were offered up for them Monthly. I dont go to a Parish Church so I dont know if they still have them.

        My mother used to say that on all souls night, the Holy souls were released to roam the earth to visit their loved ones! I dont know where she got that from, probably one of those Irish legends, have you heard it? It didn’t worry me at the time-rather excited me,although I did not know any one to visit me.

    • John L says:

      Iona, The “time” spoken of in connexion with Purgatory, was not “time off” Purgatory but was the penitential equivalent of a period of time spent in one of the Church’s old Canonical Penances, such as standing at the church door in sackcloth and ashes, begging for prayers for forgiveness.
      Owing to lack of understanding, not least amongst our Protestant brethren, the Church has ceased to use the term so many days in connexion with ndulgences. They are now only spoken of as either Plenary or Partial.
      My personal view, not necessarily endorsed by the Church, is that the timelessness of eternity applies as much to Purgatory as to Heaven and Hell. That is to say that the pain of Purgatory is more likely a question of degree rather than time.
      When I stand before God with the guilt of my sin about me I will “burn” with shame until His love overwhelms me. Mass, or prayer for the dead, is a request for that love and forgiveness. If you take on board my previous remarks on God’s “now”, such prayers are effective at the point of death.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I have a Mass offered up for my parents on my mother’s anniversary as it is to me a sort of thanksgiving and remembrance of them.And maybe they will pray for me,even if they are in purgatory.My mother died in 1976 my father 1992.
        I was told the souls in purgatory prayed for us as they will enter into their Heavenly Home sooner.
        I was also told that Hell is seeing the loss of Heaven..
        Then my parent’s were Irish and in those days it was passed on from generation to generation.
        When I have a Mass said for someone who has died it is also for the comfort of their relatives.
        It is usually through the Society of the Little Flower to help their Missionery for Priests.

      • milliganp says:

        John L, my understanding of the “time” element of indulgences is similar to your own.
        One of the analogies to Purgatory used in the Bible is the fire which purifies Gold. The duration of the fire depends on the quantity of base metal alloyed to the gold; similarly it is probably the attachment we have to our sins which needs cleansing rather than the severity of the sin itself, however, like yourself I believe the idea of time in purgatory is inappropriate despite my simplistic analogy. I also like your explanation of how prayers apply, I’d hate to think my mother was trapped in purgatory purely because I’ve said insufficient prayers for her.

  10. Iona says:

    (By the way, St. Joseph, I have no trouble reading between your lines. Have a good rest).

  11. overload says:

    St Joseph

    2. the Priest; I thought you meant to ask is he whole-heartedly serious about following Jesus? — ie. he thinks he will be reincarnated/reborn (hindu/buddhist terminology) as another human in this world. (Note: when apostles eating fish with the resurrected Jesus, Jesus implied that St John — unlike Peter who was to martyred— would “tarry until I come again”. Surely this does not mean that John was not whole hearted; what does this mean?)

    3. Yes this was Jesus’ resurrected body. I’m not sure this was his glorified body.
    Does He eat fish in heaven?
    I think His resurrected body signals to us the resurrection. What about when He rose up into the sky to disappear behind a cloud? — ie. I don’t think we any longer believe that the skies are literally the heavenly realms. If we really believe in angels, do we really believe they are human-like bodies floating/flying around along with other debris in space, visible to the human eye?

    • John L says:

      Overload, I am not sure about how one would distinguish between Our Lord’s resurrected and/or glorified body. The Gospel accounts do give us some clues – a main one being that close friends did not recognise him until he dropped a hint.
      E.G. Mary M thought He was the gardener until His familiar loving voice said “Mary”.
      The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not even know His voice until he broke the bread.
      When He cooked breakfast at the lakeside, it is only when He repeated the well-remembered command “let down the nets again for a catch” that St John suddenly realised “It is the Lord!”
      I don’t think He was playing games with them, even when he entered through closed doors. He proved the reality of His body well enough to St Thomas as well as eating fish.
      It seems to me that one might argue that in the earlier meetings the lack of recognition was a lack of expectation, believing He was dead. Later, it is clear that He displayed a real human body, but one which was no longer inhibited by space or time, that is, existent in God’s “environment”. In our environment he came and went at will. I feel that the Ascension was no more than a demonstration within the disciples’ understanding of where he was destined to be in their future.
      He was recognised, and/or present when He chose to reveal himself, much the same as is His presence with us today.

      • overload says:

        John L, “Later, it is clear that He displayed a real human body, but one which was no longer inhibited by space or time, that is, existent in God’s ‘environment’.”
        I’m wondering if you are referring to John’s description of his vision of the glorified Christ in Revelation 1:13 — ?
        “and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”

      • John L says:

        Overload: Frankly, I don’t know. I find the Apocalypse very heavy going. Taking it literally is beyond me and trying to extract what it is meant to teach us, I find, is not much easier. My earlier remarks were concerning only the Gospels’ account of the risen Christ.

  12. Iona says:

    Overload: Jesus didn’t say that John *would* tarry until the Second Coming, – “Yet Jesus had not said to Peter ‘He will not die’, but, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come’. “.
    I thought that he ate with his disciples in order to demonstrate that his resurrected body was indeed physical, not a ghost or a mere appearance. Not that he actually needed to eat.

    • overload says:

      Iona, I know He didn’t say “would” — and I said “implied would”. Otherwise, was Jesus joking about, or what was he doing/saying about John?

      • Iona says:

        I think perhaps He was saying to Peter “mind your own business” – or, in C.S. Lewis’s words in one of the Narnia books, “No-one is ever told anyone’s story except his [or her] own”

  13. overload says:

    With reference to purgatory, my thought being that the most likely possibility (perhaps there is more than one form of purgatory — I’m not sure I know what I think about what others say, if I understand correctly), is as I have mentioned in respect of rebirth/reincarnation…
    One man who dies and is not swallowed up into the full likeness of Christ might be re-born into poverty, for instance, and purified through that or another kind of life of persecution, where such a one has been “honoured” by God (James 1:9) — purified in circumstance where one is propelled by God in a way of humility and suffering.
    Another man might be born over and over again, backsliding here and there, yet making slow progress, or at least holding ground. If such a one does not arrive at martyrdom beforehand — and is not pure enough to be a part of the assumption of the Church / “the rapture” (if there is to be such a thing before the Apocalypse) — then in that case they will be purified (if they stand firm) by the purgatory (hellishness and/or persecution) of the End Times.
    These are some of my thoughts, anyway.

    • milliganp says:

      Christianity specifically rejects reincarnation so I’m not sure where it fits on a specifically Christian blog. We have to be careful not to synthesise other faith systems into Christianity. We get one life and one final judgement.

  14. overload says:

    St Joseph; about hell being the loss of heaven, I largely agree with this.

    Julian of Norwich apparently said that — according to the insight Christ had given her — “there is no greater hell than sin”.
    What would I prefer? To be living a lie cut off from God — perhaps leaving behind a tragic decision/action where I could (or fear and imagine that I could) have made another choice and walked another way, with God — and moving further away from Him with each moment and action I am alive — towards mass murdering, misleading others away from God, possessing delusionary power/control/sense of self/pleasure/purpose (ie. like Hitler or some such).
    Alternatively, to be burning in Hell where I cannot spiritually harm myself or anyone else anymore, I cannot offend God anymore, my suffering is what it is, I am cut off from God, with no perceivable prospect of relief: and thats that.
    I certainly would not want the suffering and abandonment of Hell, however, in darker moments in my own heart/mind/soul, I have felt to agree with Julian’s words (although I heard them later)… terrified by the idea/reality of being cut off from God and seeing all love, relationships and that is good in my life murdered; and thus to be condemned to pure fear, hatred and envy, and to be powerlessly faced with the prospect / gravitational-pull towards living a lie of great magnitude.
    Such a hell can be in itself worse than Hell (and also it leads to Hell!), and yet one in weakness might choose the delusion at the critical moment simply because it proposes no immediate intense suffering, and has a ‘natural’ flow, as opposed to the prospect of immediate fear and pain of being thrown into fire.

  15. St.Joseph says:

    overload.
    I said Hell is ‘seeing the loss of Heaven’!! Looking at it from afar for all Eternity.
    What can be worse than that?

    • St.Joseph says:

      We must remember that we stand before God at Holy Mass,therefore we stand before Him at the reception of His Body and Blood when we receive Him at Holy Communion
      It wont be any different when we meet Him when we die.
      We must always be prepared. The Kindom of Heaven is close at hand
      The thief will come in the middle of the night. So we stay awake at all times.

  16. overload says:

    All this talk about Purgatory and Indulgences reminds me that the Church’s corruption in respect of Indulgences, and particularly paying money for Indulgences, was the prominent factor which lead to Luther’s 95 Thesis; and the fact that this Thesis was ignored, and Luther’s subsequent schismatic reaction, was perhaps the predominant instigation for the Reformation (although I think Zwingli and others had already begun to take significant steps in that direction).

    John L, you say Revelation is hard to relate to. The bit I mentioned (the first 3 chapters) is a good start; it does not talk about the Apocalypse directly, rather it is a letter from Jesus, apparently addressed to 7 Churches in that time in what is now Turkey; however we might consider how this letter speak to us now, and what relevance it has to us; we should not assume that it was intend specifically for those Church’s at the time it was written as more true than the likelihood it is given prophetically for us to read.

    • John L says:

      Paying money for an indulgence, or for any other spiritual benefit, is the sin of Simony, and the Church is well aware of it. Receiving an indulgence for performing a good work, such as offering money towards a good cause, is not a sin. It is a pity that Luther and his followers could not distinguish the difference. Perhaps the fault lay with those priests who “peddled” the indulgence for financing Church building?

      • overload says:

        Regarding Luther, I think perhaps you misunderstand the 95 Thesis, which was written while he was still a Roman Catholic priest, with the intention of starting discussion, “out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it”. Reading this I could not help feeling that he was yearning to speak out against Indulgences outright, but somehow could not bring himself to do so, and in instead he actually did the opposite. (Something demonic at work here.)
        I feel there is a distinction to be made between the disturbed Luther who wrote the 95 Thesis, and the self-righteous Luther who emerged after he was ignored by the Church.

      • John L says:

        Fair Comment. One can sympathise with his disturbance. The only true path to reform of the Church is from within, rather than forming a new ‘club’. However, those who try it are frequently ignored. So often the mildest criticism is treated as a challenge to authority.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    overload.
    unfortunately and sadly there will alway be some one now tomorrow and in 500 years time to bring up the subject of the Catholic Churchs supposedly faults, Even speaking in 500 years time about the clergy child abuse.
    The Church belongs to Jesus Christ and will stand firm throuh all the trials She faces.

    • overload says:

      St. joseph, have read and prayed and meditated on the letter?
      What about also the Orthodox Church’s faults, or C of E’s faults, or the other Protestant/Evangelical Church’s faults?
      The letter is not just one of criticism (although it does criticise and challenge us, for the sake of correction/repentance and warning), it is also about encouragement, and applies to all Christians. (And I mean applies to us personally, not just to Church leaders.)

      • St.Joseph says:

        overliad.
        Let us consider our own failiungs ‘ Our best of intentions’ and how we can move on to make our soul presentable to God the Almighty.

      • overload says:

        “Let us consider our own failiungs ‘ Our best of intentions’ and how we can move on to make our soul presentable to God the Almighty.”
        Amen. In a sense perhaps this must come first, so that we can love our neighbour as our self (ourself as belonging to Him, whom we love first and formost).
        But we must also consider the Bride of Christ, our mother, of whom we are collectively a part of and joined together in. And so we also seek to give ourselves to one another in Her (in Him).

      • St.Joseph says:

        I believe The Holy Father is doing that now Let us pray for Him.
        However we can not oversee our differences for the sake of a false unity..

    • overload says:

      The problem is if the Catholic Church was corrupt, and refused to listen to legitimate protest, and if this was the fundamental reason for the Reformation, then what hope have the Catholic and Protestant (and Orthodox) Church’s of being reconciled if the Catholic Church admits no error? (I do not mean to suggest that the Protestant/Orthodox Churches are without error in respect of the two Schisms.)
      If we are still haunted by the past we may have to bring it up so as to confess ‘our’ collective sin, be exorcised, and so let go of the past to move forwards anew.

      • overload says:

        We are One Body.
        Either Christians are One Body only the Roman Catholic Church?
        Or we must become One Body with all the other parts of the body which we are joined to, since we share the same blood pumping through us. Until we do so we are cursed — how could it be otherwise, if we are One Body at war with itself?

      • Singalong says:

        The Council of Trent was convened to deal with the Issues which helped to bring about the Reformation 1545-63, and there has been much discussion since as to its effectiveness. The Church certainly recognised and admitted at the time that there were many shortcomings to address.

  18. St.Joseph says:

    I believe the Holy Father is doing that now. Let us pray for him.
    However we can not oversee our our differences for the sake of a false unity.

    • St.Joseph says:

      My comment is made for overload @ 7.41.

      • Singalong says:

        St. Joseph, your question at 12.58, there is no reply label. I had not heard that legend, but it is a lovely thought. I always understood that All Saints Day is a celebration for all the uncanonised saints through the ages, which includes our family and forbears, and one day, with the grace and mercy of God, we will be there with them. I still think of the grandparents I never knew, as well as, now, of my parents, and many other relations and friends

    • overload says:

      Yes, we need to pray for Pope Francis.

  19. Singalong says:

    John L, thank you for your recommendation of Rock Crystal. It is indeed a delightful, beautifully written and haunting tale. I managed to order it online and it arrived in the post an hour before we set out to visit family who live very close to snow covered mountains in Switzerland, a perfect place for us and them to read it.

  20. Singalong says:

    I wonder how much truth there is in the old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

  21. St.Joseph says:

    Singalong.
    That is a good question.
    I think the Church teaches that we should never do evil so that good can become of it.
    However I have often thought about this.
    There are so many who do not believe what they are doing is ‘evil’,they are not in line with the teachings of the Church- even though our human nature will tell us what is ‘good and evil’.
    We could discuss this forever- with non-christians, Governments, Wars, and many more ..
    Holy Mother Church teaches that abortion is evil, euthansia , and (divorce and re-married receiving Holy Communion- I think) it depends what evil is in relationship with wickedness doing harm to others!
    As I say this is a very large subject to discuss. God knows what is in our hearts.

  22. Brendan says:

    Without the grace freely given to us by God ( the merits won for us by Christ ) – however good our intentions – to justify us and our actions , we may well end up in Hell. Re: Ephesians 2; 8-9. Like Saint Paul we can never ” boast ” of ourselves.

  23. St.Joseph says:

    Brendan.I am not sure but can we receive Gods Grace by doing good works and good intentions.
    Will they count towards our sins.
    If Faith without good works are dead? Are good works without Faith dead.
    If we have faith -we will have good works,
    This can be confusing to me.
    I must read the CCC again on this.
    Just wondered yours thoughts!

  24. Brendan says:

    Saint Joseph just quickly as I have to take my leave. I too brush up on CCC regularly. Good works even for the non-believer can never be dead ( treasures in heaven ). But we can only be certain as St. Paul says unless ” justified by faith ” ( supernatural grace ) that our ‘ good works ‘ ( actual grace ) merit the reward that we do not deserve.Christ saved all humanity but the conditions ( onus ) is always on us . That’s how I see it ….. by the grace of god ! I believe the dispute over ‘ Romans ‘ is at the heart of the break between Catholic and Protestant ( Luther) and as I understand the current situation is very close to being resolved today by Catholics and Lutherans. Correct me if I’m wrong .

    • St.Joseph says:

      Brendan.
      Thank you.
      I dont know too much about Catholics and Lutherans.
      I wonder about the Missionery’s abroad. Married couples. They are doing good works-and if they are going against the Churches teachings on birth control especially abortifacants.
      I am not judging when I say this, but how can one justify this when they are helping the poor.
      I would like every one to go to Heaven.
      God judges the wicked! Is thst evil as the Church teaches- except of course abortifacants!!
      I pray for Fertility Awareness so all married couples can be at peace with their faith.

    • St.Joseph says:

      overload.
      We could also consider the re ordained Anglican priests or Deacons who for instance believe that by being ordained they are helping in The Lords Ministry and will use contraception and abortfacant pills.
      Also I do wonder how the Church will look on couples who use sterilisation of either sex,as a permanent contraceptive. How does that fit in with the Churches Law on the reception of Holy Communion ‘as living in sin’ like the divorced and re-married.!

      • overload says:

        St Joseph.
        Not sure I understand what you are referring to, when you talk about re-ordained Anglican’s, and the use of contraception and abortificnts?

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        As you surely know we have Anglican married clergy moving over to the RC Church They have to be Ordained again before they can become an RC priest!.

        Obviously the Anglican Church do not have the same beliefs as the RC on contraception.
        So to become a Catholic they will be duty bound to practice what the RC teaches.
        If of course their wife is still fertile. That applies to RC Deacons too!
        Did you not know that!.

  25. overload says:

    “Good works” are only good works if they are done with “faith expressing itself through love” (this, we are told, is what counts — Galatians 5:6). For instance, obeying God’s law for the laws sake was no good work for Saul. Likewise, a professional who obeys the law for the laws sake (for instance with regards to contraception or even abortion) is not necessarily doing a good work — rather to obey God’s law for God’s sake is.
    As St Joseph’s comment suggests, it may be possible that in some circumstances one may need to God-fearingly, prayerfully and faithfully submit the particulars of God’s law (as applicable in practice) to God, and get one’s hands dirty; else one may pass by ones neighbour in need, which would be the sin of failure to love Christ.
    On the other hand, a “good work” which has the appearance of compassion/mercy/justice, might in reality be a compromise and complacent disobedience in the eyes of God. If so, it is not done with true faith nor in true love.

  26. St.Joseph says:

    overload.PS
    The Contraceptive Pill works as an early abortifacant if a woman conceives.

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