Sonja Corbitt is a vital Catholic voice – a best-selling author, speaker, and broadcaster – who produces high-impact, uplifting multimedia Bible studies.
A Carolina native who was raised as a Southern Baptist, Corbitt converted to Catholicism and served as director of religious education at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Gallatin, Tennessee, and as executive director of Risen Radio in Lebanon, Tennessee.
Sonja is the riveting weekly host of the Bible Study Evangelista Show on CatholicTV and radio. She is a regular guest on EWTN; writes for The Great Adventure Bible Study Blog; Catholic Digest; Catechist Magazine; and Magnificat magazine; and speaks around the world.
Sonja is in formation as a Third Order Carmelite, a columnist at The Great Adventure Bible Study blog, a regular contributor to Magnificat, and a best-selling author who also wrote for the Gallatin News Examiner and Oremus, the Westminster Cathedral magazine. She lives in Tennessee with her husband, Bob, with whom she home schools two sons.
In this episode, Sonja talks about her latest book, How to Pray Like Mary, and how Mary led her to write this beautifully insightful book, soaked in Scripture and other Catholic documents. She gives us a prayer method called LOVE the Word, a modern-take of Lectio Divina, that models Mary’s way of praying. Sonja also gives intimate details about how her conversion journey, while holding Mary’s hand, has helped her overcome deep-seated wounds and impulses while lighting the fire of evangelization in her heart.
The dictionary defines happiness as contentment or joy that life is how it should be. Therefore on a human level, we can infer that happiness can mean any number of things. The meaning of happiness can be as unique as each individual. Happiness can then be a subjective thing that’s impossible to pin-point.
According that definition, happiness is a thing or scenario like many of us like to think. Sometimes we’ll find ourselves saying things like, “I’d be totally happy if my car wouldn’t break down all the time,” or “I’d be totally happy if only my kids would clean up their messes,” or “I’d be totally happy if only my husband, wife or boss, would see things my way, or “I’d be totally happy if I found and married the perfect person for me.”
But worldly happiness is relative. For example, if I were raised in upper Manhattan with nannies and housekeepers, which I wasn’t, that’s all I’d know. That’s how, for the most part, I would feel life was meant to me and I’d probably strive, throughout my adulthood, to maintain and/or enhance what I currently know to be reality. If I, then were to find myself in a small apartment in a poverty-stricken area of south Texas with no money, no housekeeper or nanny, plus having to do my own laundry, I more than likely would not be happy. Why? Because my life is not how I would have imagined it.
However, if I were raised on an island with no running water or electricity, but then came to live in a small apartment in a poverty-stricken area of San Antonio WITH running water and electricity, I may be grateful to be able to do my own laundry. I’d be a happy camper because I would’ve met or enhanced my definition of how life should be.
It is human nature to want to define happiness using the most obvious point of reference, our current circumstances, all that we see with our eyes, and feel with our emotions. However, in order for happiness to be true and real, it must be constant, infallible, and objective, not subjective and relative. And guess what? We don’t have to go searching for the REAL meaning of happiness, the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1718 defines it for us as that of divine origin…
“God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it: We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated. How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you. God alone satisfies.”
I’d like to point out that, according to this definition of happiness, nothing in this material world can satisfy us. All passes away. Therefore, it can be said that the source of our misery stems directly from our attachments to our relationships, things, accomplishments, physical body, and so on. “God alone satisfies.”
God alone matters. When we remind ourselves daily of this fact, we slowly realize our dependence on God, our poverty of spirit and the first beatitude. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To be “poor in spirit” does not necessarily mean materialistic poverty. What the CCC paragraph 2547 clarifies the essence of what it means to be truly “poor in spirit”:
“Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow. Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.”
Therefore, poverty of heart is complete abandonment and trust in God. That is all. It’s more about the heart than about the materials. There are plenty of people living in poverty and people living in abundance who squander that blessing by trusting in their own capacities or those of others instead of totally trusting in God.
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, where do we go to find true happiness? Leave behind your anxieties and worries and take refuge in the depths of your heart where Divine Providence dwells.
Let’s pray together the Prayer to Divine Providence from the Precious Blood and Mother Prayer Book…
O Sweet and Tender Providence of God, into Thy hands I commend my spirit, to Thee I abandon myself, my hopes, my fears, my desires, my repugnancies, my temporal and eternal prospects. To Thee I commit the wants of my perishable body, to Thee I commit the far more precious interests of my immortal soul, for whose interests I have nothing to fear while I withdraw it not from Thy bosom. Though my faults are many, my misery great, my spiritual poverty extreme, my hope in Thee surpasses all. It is greater than my difficulties, stronger than death. Though temptations should assail me, I will hope in Thee, though I should sink beneath my weakness, I will hope in Thee still, though I should break my resolutions a thousand times, I will look to Thee confidently for grace to keep them at last; though Thou should slay me, even then will I trust Thee, for Thou art my God, my Father and my Friend. Thou art my kind, my tender, my indulgent Parent, and I am Thy loving Child, who cast myself into Thy Arms and beg Thy blessing, who put my trust in Thee, and so trusting, shall never be confounded.
Providence did provide. Providence can provide. Providence will provide. O loving Providence of God we commit this cause to Thee.
You’ll find the transcript to this episode at TheCatholicServant.com/Catholic-happiness and please share it with someone who may need today’s message. And, also continue to send me your prayer requests to Alexandra@TheCatholicServant.com so we can lift you up in prayer during our next family Rosary.
Mandi-bre Watson is a devoted wife, mom of 4 amazing children and a small business owner of Veiled in Love, where she creates handmade veils, signs and inspirational gifts.
Mandi-bre is very active in her parish at St. Francis of Assisi and the ACTS community, where she serves as a spiritual companion. She is also a public speaker, and part of the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s speaker team where she shares the mission and inspiration of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s evangelization apostolate.
Her passions include sharing the love of Jesus Christ, as well as sewing, writing, reading and spending precious time with family and friends. She and her husband Seth are currently writing a series of children’s books.
In this episode, the lovely Mandi-Bre shares the inspiring story of how and why she started veiling for the Lord, why she named her business Veiled in Love, obstacles she’s faced running a business, and her loving words to those considering wearing a veil for the first time.
I want to talk about this topic because there’s a lot of misconception surrounding what it means to truly forgive and three ways Mary herself practiced a deep and abiding forgiveness of heart.
What does our Lord mean by “forgiveness?”
Forgiveness is much like Love. It’s not a feeling, it’s a decision to release the offender of the “debt” that may be owed to you.
Forgiveness, like Love, is a muscle that if we neglect to engage it, it will shrivel up until rendered useless. We are born with an innate ability to love and forgive because we were created in the image and likeness of God. Children are notorious forgivers. Even as they are being abused, they will just as quickly forgive given a word of kindness or loving gesture. Then eventually as children grow older, painful episodes will cause them to yield to instinctual self-preservation – sometimes choosing not only to defend themselves, but to hit back. Many of us are taught to “hit back” and in our culture, we’re considered spineless for not making someone pay for what they’ve done to us. But Jesus teaches us to release debts.
What does it mean to release debt?
Firstly, let’s define debt. Debt is what we perceive an offender has taken from us.
An abused husband or wife may perceive their spouse has taken the “best years of their life,” their dignity, respect, and abused of their love.
An abused child, once in their adulthood, may feel an adult offender stole their innocence and childhood.
A parent offended by their child may feel the child has thrown away their love and wasted their time after everything they’ve done for them.
Releasing debt means…
-not holding the person by the throat per se to make them give us back what they have taken from us,
-not wishing for them to face the same evil as a punishment, and
-not interfering with natural consequences by enforcing our own vengeance.
We can find a great illustration in The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35.
Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
To whom does this parable apply to?
It applies to…
The one who self-harms for the regret of a past mistake.
The battered wife of an abusive husband.
The heart-broken parents of child lost to addiction.
The daughter or son of an abusive parent.
The parents of a murdered child.
It applies to us all.
Now, let’s talk about what forgiveness is NOT.
Forgiveness is not allowing yourself or others to continue to be abused.
Forgiveness does not mean to forget about the incident as if it never happened.
Forgiveness does not mean you will no longer feel the pain of the harm done to you.
Forgiveness does not mean you have to keep an unrepentant abuser in your life and trust them again.
Forgiveness is not something to be withheld until the offender says “I’m sorry” or demonstrates regret. Forgiveness should be dispensed even to the unrepentant offender.
Forgiveness is not a feeling.
So we know we must have a forgiving heart to get to Heaven, it’s a requirement, but how do we cross that bridge when we’re haunted by pain?
Here’s where I will reveal 3 Ways our Blessed Mother can help us form a forgiving heart. I was listening to a lecture by Father Chad Ripperger on Healing Spiritual Wounds and he eloquently talked about some of these ideas as I observed them while meditating on Mary.
Like Mary, consider the truth about the offender and ourselves despite how we feel. Even as Jesus was being scourged at the pillar and nailed to the cross, Mary, who desired the Will of God more so than the relief of her own pain, could clearly see us, humanity, as the broken and frail individuals that we are. Each of us is broken, each of us is frail. The truth is that, if it weren’t for God’s grace, there is no evil that each of us would not be capable of committing ourselves.
Let us ask ourselves…
How often do we forget our own sinfulness and capacity to hurt others and adopt a judgmental and self-righteous attitude?
Focus on Jesus and give yourself to God’s service as Mary did. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He asked his Mother to look outside of her own suffering and focus totally and completely on Him and His mission in John 19:26.
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’” (John 19:26)
Jesus’ Will was for her to adopt, not only John, but humanity as her own. In spite of her own pain, Mary was to look outside herself to be of greater service to God. Even with all our frailties and capacity to crucify her Son over and over again with our sinfulness, Mary was to continually pray for our healing as our Mother.
We are also asked to look outside ourselves to focus on Jesus and His mission. By doing so, we bring about healing for ourselves and mercy for our offender. That’s the great example of true forgiveness from our grace-filled Mother.
Let us ask ourselves…
How many times are we so focused on ourselves and our own pain that we fail to see and do God’s Will?
3)Fall into prayer and ask for Mary’s intercession to help us heal from our wounds. Sometimes, when we’ve had to bear unimaginable pain, it is easy to become obsessed with painful memories and feelings. The psychological or physical trauma can be so severe that the primitive parts of our brain burn these painful events in our minds as a form of self-preservation to avoid future pain – like when we don’t forget to be cautious of a hot stove after touching it once. To replay a traumatic event in our minds is a natural occurrence, but when we become obsessed with replaying it in our minds or obsessed with the painful feelings, it becomes unnatural and stumps our ability to heal and forgive. Father Ripperger has many great points on this. As we pray for Mary’s intercession:
– ask for the grace to stop recalling the wound, stop reliving it,
– ask for the grace to release the offender of the debt owed to us, and
– ask for the grace of vicarious suffering – the ability to offer up the pain to God for the person who injured you so that you may gain some merit in Heaven.
Let us ask ourselves…
Do we obsess over the wrong done to us? How often do we pray for the healing of those who have caused us the most pain? How often do we refuse to pray for our debtors?
To conclude this talk, I’d like to challenge you to do 3 things:
Pray for Mary’s intercession when you are confronted with past, present, or future offenses.
Remember that forgiveness is not a feeling but releasing the debt of the other.
And ask for the grace to stop recalling the wound and focus on Jesus.
Also, seek spiritual guidance and/or professional assistance if necessary. There are some situations we cannot or should not handle on our own.
Let’s pray together… Glory be…
You’ll find the transcript to this episode at TheCatholicServant.com/Catholic-forgiveness and share it with someone who may need today’s message. And, please continue to send me your prayer requests to Alexandra@TheCatholicServant.com so we can lift you up in prayer during our next family Rosary.
Greg and Julie Alexander founded the The Alexander House Apostolate – a ministry dedicated to creating courses/resources and offering services to assist marriages, families and relationships by offering hope and bringing healing. TAHA is the result of Greg and Julie bouncing back from the brink of divorce 19 years ago. After living most of their married life by the prescriptions of the world, they hit “rock-bottom” and concluded that divorce was the only way out of the pain and misery they were causing each other.
After an attempt to find resolve through their parish priest and a Catholic therapist, they realized that a divorce was inevitable and called their two kids into the room, Chris – 9 and Lauren – 7, and explained that they were going to get a divorce.
As they continued to go to Mass every Sunday, they befriended a visiting priest who filled in for their pastor for the summer. This new friend just happened to be the Tribunal Vicar for their diocese and after learning about their struggles, suggest that they go back and discover God’s plan for marriage as opposed to their plan.
Let’s just say that the rest is history and Greg and Julie felt called to create an apostolate to share with others what they discovered!
In this episode, Greg and Julie generously answer:
How can single people prepare themselves to have a beautiful Catholic marriages the way God intended?
How do both of you keep the flame going and stay-connected in the day-to-day with jobs, kids, and household duties?
What advice do you have for married couples who are unequally-yoked in the Catholic faith?
What advice do you have for married couples who feel their love for their spouses is slipping away or they are at a place where the connection is lost?
As I see it, reversion or conversion is a life-long process. It’s like walking on shores of a sandy beach looking into the beautiful blue ocean illuminated by the rising Son, S-O-N. You want to walk into the water but you’re afraid so instead, you sit and build grandiose castles in the sand. All is well and good until a gentle wave comes and melts it all away. This “melting away” happens when we face trials and carry our crosses. Their purpose is to reveal moments when we have turned our focus away from God and towards things that are temporary and fleeting. Trials reveal our attachments. Every time our worlds are shaken, we are called to turn our gaze to Truth Incarnate, Jesus our Lord.
These are the times we realize that what’s most important is the soothing ocean that gets its beauty and brilliance from…the Son. You see, sometimes we get so consumed building sand castles that we forget to love and appreciate the beauty and depth of the ocean…our Mother Church. Conversion is God calling you ever so gently into the fullness of Truth, into the deep waters, not to drown in despair and loneliness, but to walk on water as you steadfastly cast your gaze upon the Son of God.
Saint Monica, the patroness of conversion, alcoholics, married women, and mothers, reveals to us the recipe for true conversion. She is well noted by St. Ambrose for her piety, detachment, and determination. Her son Saint Augustine, doctor of the Church, names her as, not only the woman who bore him from her own flesh and blood, but also the mother of his spirit. Saint Monica watered the seed of love of Christ and the name of Jesus in Augustine with her own tears. In Saint Augustine’s Confessions, he said his mother mourned and cried for him more than some women cried over their child’s dead bodies.
Some of us may not know the lives of Saint Monica and Saint Augustine but I’ll gladly give you a brief overview.
Saint Monica lived between the years 330 and 387 in Tagaste, her hometown in North Africa. Tagaste is present-day Algeria. She was from a Christian home but her parents arranged her marriage to a local magistrate from Tagaste, a pagan Roman named Patricius. She had 3 children – Augustine was the eldest, followed by Nagivius and Perpetua.
She confided in Augustine that when she was young she fell into the path that would lead her to alcoholism. She would go down to the cellar to get wine for her father and started taking little tastes, then a few drinks, then after a while big swallows of wine. One day, a servant commented to her about how this little habit she was entertaining was wrong and not suitable for one such as she. Instead of becoming rebellious and defensive, Monica allowed herself to be corrected and decided to act in contrition and leave that worldly habit. I could imagine Saint Monica told Augustine this story for a reason. Many of us parents often tell these kinds of stories for one reason alone – to give our children the hope of true conversion. My sisters-in-Christ, Saint Monica had good reason to tell this story – her beloved Augustine had a dying soul as he fell into worldly living and the Manichaean heresy. Her heart wasn’t torn by her other two children, Nagivius and Perpetua. They eventually entered the religious life. But it was her beloved oldest son, her first born, who tore her heart to shreds.
As if the pain of her beloved Augustine wasn’t enough, her married life was also fraught with conflict with her husband and mother-in-law. Monica was alone amongst enemies with her husband having a long-time mistress and her mother-in-law, having turned the servants against her, made her life miserable. Does anyone know what that’s like? I could imagine that in those times, a woman leaving her husband was not an option. One couldn’t just dispense divorce papers like people do now – sadly, we see people call for divorce the moment the honeymoon period is over. “It doesn’t feel good anymore so let’s tear this family apart and pursue the next thrill. Besides, the kids will bounce back, they’re so resilient.” No, whether the situation is worthy of an annulment or not, divorce causes hurt that can scar and last a lifetime, especially to children involved.
If leaving a marriage was impossible for Monica, where could she have taken refuge? I could think of one place. She could have taken refuge in the one addiction Satan planted in her youth – alcoholism. But to this saint’s credit, she did no such thing. Instead, she steadfastly stayed the course in growing in faith, hope, and love, through relentless piety,detachment and determination.
In summary, it was Saint Monica’s weaving of piety, detachment and determination, throughout her life that brought about great fruits beginning with the conversion of her beloved mother-in-law and the entire household. A year before her husband Patricius’ death, he joined his mother and also converted.
But to her dismay, her beloved Augustine was yet to be converted. How could it be that such a devout and faithful mother had a son so spiritually lost? Early in his childhood it was obvious that Augustine was a special boy. He had a profound intellect and the gift of being a great orator in his time. An “orator” is another word for public speaker. And even through his troubled youth he had a deep love for the name of Jesus – a seed of faith that his mother planted and watered with her own tears. Yet, he had a son out of wedlock and embraced the heresy of Manichaeanism.
How many of you are mothers? Good Catholic mothers have a unique fear that an agnostic, atheistic, or protestant mother does NOT have. It is the fear that our children will fall away from the ONE true Church established by God himself. As mothers, we want the best for our children and we know in our hearts that this is it. There are many ways that lead to God, but our Catholic faith is the surest and safest way to the fullness of Truth, Love, and eternal Happiness. Isn’t that what we want for our children? The greatest gift we can give to our children is God himself in the Holy Eucharist and we KNOW, there is no other way for our children to be ONE with the creator of the universe week after week than through the Catholic faith.
Before she died, Saint Monica witnessed the conversion of her beloved Augustine as he became a Catholic Christian. She had already arranged a marriage for him thinking he may not be able to handle celibacy but to her surprise, Augustine abandoned worldly pleasures to pursue the religious life.
Monica’s heart was full as she lay dying in her final days. But God rewarded her even more abundantly after death. Augustine went on to become a bishop and doctor of the Church. Maybe Monica’s prayers were even more powerful as she peeked over the walls of heaven to see the fruit of her worldly labor for Augustine.
Saint Monica laid a path and the foundation that fosters true conversion. This saint is not only for mothers, wives, and alcoholics, but she is also for you if you are in need of conversion. Ask her to pray for you. If you don’t have a husband or children but have a friend, sister, brother, niece, nephew, mother, father in need of conversion – pray for her intercession. Whether you have children or not, you can always be the mother of someone’s spirit, as Monica was to Augustine, and go through spiritual and emotional labor pains for their conversion. I suggest you spiritually adopt some one in need of a spiritual mother.
Saint Monica’s life is marked by 3 overarching qualities…piety, detachment and determination.
St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan in the 4th century, was instrumental in helping Augustine convert. St. Monica had a great affection for him because of this and he also had a great affection for her. Ambrose would break-out in praise of Monica at times he’d run into Augustine noting her extraordinary piety. She went to Mass twice a day, morning and evening, offered sacrifices, prayed without ceasing, and helped anyone who needed it.
In the CCC #1831 says that piety is one of the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit and comes in the form of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer.
Pope St. Gregory taught that, “Through fear of the Lord, we rise to piety.” The basic definition is “to give filial worship to God precisely as our Father and to relate with all people as children of the same Father.” Piety allows us to see rightly, who we are in relation to God and creation. We have a child-like willingness to make sacrifices in order to please God and fulfill our obligations to each other as brothers and sisters of Christ.
Practicing piety should foster humility when we realize our littleness in relation to the great, almighty God. We are able to see with great clarity, the frivolousness of worldly pleasures, honors, and materials. Piety coupled with humility and fortitude pushes us through pain and adversity.
The CCC #1808 says that, Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Pope Francis teaches that “Piety, therefore, is synonymous of authentic religious spirit, filial confidence in God, of the capacity to pray to Him with love and simplicity which is proper of persons who are humble of heart. The gift of piety makes us grow in our relation and communion with God and leads us to live as His children; at the same time it helps us to pour this love also on others and to recognize them as brothers.”
Let us ask – what more can we do to practice extraordinary piety focused, not to be seen by others as good and religious, but to glorify God and better serve him and those in need – the sick, the lonely, and all those far from God?
Extraordinary Determination to Persevere
There is no doubt that St. Monica’s determination to persevere and embrace her suffering led her to the conversion of those who seemed hopeless. Her mother-in-law and the household, her husband, and ultimately, her son. She was willing and able to endure emotional suffering, verbal abuse, infidelity, and rejection. This allowed her to dive deeper and deeper into the recesses of her heart to find relief in the interior castle with God. It’s a tragedy how, as time goes on, finding ways to numb our pain and suffering has become easier than ever. At the moment of discomfort we’ll go eat a sweet treat, work a little longer, play music or a movie, or just pick-up our cell phones to get on social media to distract ourselves. If this generation doesn’t assimilate the art of graceful and grace-filled, redemptive suffering into their lives, it’s in danger of never happening. The determination to persevere is best taught through example.
CCC#1637 says that, In marriages with disparity of cult the Catholic spouse has a particular task: “For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband.”138 It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this “consecration” should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian faith. Sincere married love, the humble and patient practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the non-believing spouse to accept the grace of conversion.
Let us reflect: Do I embrace suffering or do I try to avoid it with little comforts or distractions throughout the day? Instead of persevering, do I give up too easily and take the easy way out?
The CCC#2544 tells us that, Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone, and bids them “renounce all that [they have]” for his sake and that of the Gospel. Shortly before his passion he gave them the example of the poor widow of Jerusalem who, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on. The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven.
Saint Ambrose helped Monica amid her every growing piety, to detach from things of this world – particularly from her wanting conversion for Augustine. The more she tried to push and push and push him to change, the less likely it would happen. She was too attached.
What is an attachment?
In order to understand detachment, it would be good to understand what an attachment is. According Fr. Ripperger, an attachment is when the faculties, such as the appetite, emotions, intellect, and will, are so focused on a thing that moving away from it causes pain. We’re fixed on certain ideas, objects, foods, even people and ourselves.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that faith initiates the purification of the Will because we learn that God is the center of the universe rather than ourselves or other creatures and things.
What is detachment?
Detachment is a process where we recognize the things that we can’t move away from and begin to look away towards God. So how can we tell that we’re not attached to something? We can tell if we’re detached when it makes no difference to us whether or not that created thing is in our lives or not. For example, if I love buffalo wings dipped in ranch dressing and all of a sudden I have one last wing to eat and there’s no more dressing, I’m attached if I get upset about it. Being detached would mean it wouldn’t make any difference to me whether or not we had dressing or wings or anything else. We can also have an attachment to our ways of thinking or take pride in our own intellect and knowledge. If someone tries to present a different idea and we’re resistant to it or get angry because someone doesn’t agree with our ideas, then I have an attachment to my intellect. If I were detached to my intellect, I would remain calm and not get irate about someone wanting to do things differently than me. It’s also possible to be attached to spiritual objects. Let’s say I have a blessed statue of our Lady and my kid accidentally knocks it over and breaks it, my anger is a great indicator of how much I was attached to this created thing. If I were detached, I’d have the grace necessary to be charitable towards my child instead of going into a rage over the broken statue.
One of easiest ways to detect a detachment to something is to observe if you have and emotion that comes with the presentation or thought of the thing. It could be pleasure, anger, sorrow, or bitterness.
St. John of the Cross says that we must aim to have perfect detachment from created things in order to be perfectly attached to God and go to Heaven. In heaven, souls have perfect detachment, where as in hell, we have constant attachments… no exceptions, no middle ground.
Therefore, it’s great to practice mortification. Mortification is a way of being proactive and dying to self, particularly with taming the physical senses and appetites. There varying degrees of mortification but it’s a process of replacing the pleasure you get from the created thing you are attached to with pain. Therefore, mortification is, in a sense the antidote to what you are attached to. It’s replacing the pleasure we’re seeking with pain. Unfortunately, many people today do all they can to avoid pain and discomfort.
Now think of something in your home you really love. Let’s say it’s a more expensive than other things in your home and you worked long hours to be able to buy that thing. Let’s pretend someone you love accidentally broke it, threw it away, or misplaced it. Well of course you’d just look at him or her and say, “oh don’t worry about it, it’s ok!” Or would you probably fly into a rage and let that person have it? I don’t know about you, but I know I would have a hard time getting over it. You see, a problem with attachments is that it clouds our intellect and triggers us to behave disproportionately angry or sad. The broken or lost thing is not worth destroying a relationship or belittling someone, but our attachments don’t allow us to make right decisions.
Attachments of the Will are broken by simply turning away from the thing you want to do. It’s difficult in the beginning but as you turn away from the thing, and focus on God, the pain of not having it dissipates until you have perfect detachment from it.
Another way to break from attachments is, of course, prayer. When we pray we turn our focus to God. The more we pray, the greater our focus. But it’s important to pray with intention of connecting with our Creator, not for our own selfish pursuits. For example, we may have a routine to pray at a certain hour of the day. If something comes up with your family and it breaks your routine, do you strike in anger because your plans were ruined? Or you know you’re time is limited and you race through the Rosary with not even a single gaze upon the Lord in your heart? Did you say it for the sake of checking it off your to-do list? If so, then the prayer was empty and you might as well have been doing something else.
We must detach ourselves from all created things including our identities, what we think about ourselves, our homes and other things, and even our children and our loved ones.
St. Ambrose’s message to Saint Monica about detaching herself from Augustine was not just for her but for all of us.
It is through the determination to persevere in detaching from created things that we can find true charity and purify our intentions. We have all felt pain at the site of watching our loved ones fall into sin…especially our children. Until we reach a greater degree of detachment, will be able to realize the correct order of praise. By relating to God in this way we are able to practice true charity.
Does detaching from family and loved ones means we’ll turn cold or indifferent?
The answer is no. As a matter of fact, this greater union with God as your priority in life will bring about graces. You will be more loving than ever before because the Lord is taking residence in your heart. You will also be more compassionate, understanding, patient, and kind. You will grow in piety and reverence for God.
And these are the great lessons that St. Monica taught us. The secret to leading our children, spouses, and others to true conversion begins with us.
What a blessing that St. Augustine took up the art of journaling his conversion story. The translators noted that his book Confessions, was not an autobiography. It’s his testimony of how God transformed his heart through the love and tears if his beloved mother Monica and the great Ambrose.
I’m going to read a short excerpt from Confessions:
Then my mother said: “Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath answered this more than abundantly, so that I see you now made his servant and spurning all earthly happiness. What more am I to do here?”
I do not well remember what reply I made to her about this. However, it was scarcely five days later–certainly not much more–that she was prostrated by fever. While she was sick, she fainted one day and was for a short time quite unconscious. We hurried to her, and when she soon regained her senses, she looked at me and my brother as we stood by her, and said, in inquiry, “Where was I?” Then looking intently at us, dumb in our grief, she said, “Here in this place shall you bury your mother.” I was silent and held back my tears; but my brother said something, wishing her the happier lot of dying in her own country and not abroad. When she heard this, she fixed him with her eye and an anxious countenance, because he savored of such earthly concerns, and then gazing at me she said, “See how he speaks.” Soon after, she said to us both: “Lay this body anywhere, and do not let the care of it be a trouble to you at all. Only this I ask: that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you are.” And when she had expressed her wish in such words as she could, she fell silent, in heavy pain with her increasing sickness.
These were the last words of a dying woman who had done all she could to attain detachment from created things and perfect attachment to God. She had not a care for earthly pleasures, she did not wail in sadness for not having more time with her newly converted son, and she grieved that her sons would be concerned over the earthly cares of her body.
With this, I challenge you to take stock of the things that cause you pain and ask God for the grace of detachment. I also urge you to listen to our Lady of Fatima and pray the Rosary with your family daily. We want to be proactive in strengthening your family prayer life and safeguarding your children from the forces of evil by praying the Rosary as a family. This will deepen your spiritual life and help you and your children love God with all your hearts, minds, and souls. Like someone said, “A house is no home unless it contains food for the soul as well as for the body.”
Let’s pray together… Glory be…
You’ll find the transcript to this episode on TheCatholicServant.com/Saint-Monica-lessons and please share it with someone who may need today’s message. And, please continue to send me your prayer requests to Alexandra@TheCatholicServant.com so we can lift you up in prayer during our next family Rosary.
Judith Pfeifer is a single person dedicated to serving the Catholic Church by responding to her call as a Lay Missionary of Charity, founded by Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Judith was born and raised in a devout Catholic Family. She is the youngest of 11 children in her family. She has two brothers that are Oblate Missionaries : one is a Catholic Bishop (Most Rev. Michael D. Pfeifer from the Diocese of San Angelo , Texas) and one deceased brother, Father Ted Pfeifer who served the indigenous people of Quiechapa, Oaxaca for over forty years.
Judith is promoting her brother’s story of his missionary work with the poorest of the poor. Father Ted Pfeifer was considered a “living martyr” for the strong efforts he made to protect the poor from the vicious attacks of the drug cartel. In his efforts to protect these vulnerable people, he was targeted for assassination at least three times. His memoir, ”When the Wolves Came“ is a lived experience of the injustices done to these people.
This book can be purchased through Judith and requested through email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Kindle version of the book is also available through Amazon. There is also a film documentary on the life of Fr. Ted Pfeifer, “When the Wolves Came“ in DVD format and can also be purchased at the same email address. The book and DVD are in both Spanish and English.
Visit WhenTheWolvesCame.com at the link below to watch video footage of Father Ted Pfeifer and learn more about his story.
I can’t express enough how grateful I am for all your support on this podcasting journey. I can’t believe I’m only 3 months “in” since my soft-launch in May. We have thousands of listeners in 34 countries and growing every week. It’s all because of your taking the time to listen, share and subscribe. I praise God for each and every one of you.
Although I launched only 3 months ago, this journey was actually started 3 years ago, it just took me 3 years to actually launch the first episode. It was 3 years ago when this “idea” came into my heart while having a chat with my dear friend, author, speaker Lisa Mladinich. I mentioned it to her briefly and she was excited for me to move forward with it. The idea was that once I got it together, I’d interview her on her latest book.
In my heart I was like, “No, no, no! I can’t do this!” I’m not very techy, I don’t have any money to buy equipment, and I’m not a very articulate person. I have a foggy brain as many of us stay-at-home moms do and there’s no way I’ll have enough quiet time to record anything.
I’m reminded of The Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32). I said “no, no, no” but later changed my mind and did it.
For the next year, I tried to put the idea out of my head. Honestly, I didn’t even pray to God in discerning because I just flat out didn’t want to do it. Nevertheless, he sent me signs through people and circumstances that this is what he wanted me to do.
Our Lord had also led me to start evangelizing through presenting Catholic talks on a variety of topics. Did I mention I’m not very articulate? That, combined with being awkward in social situations and in front of groups of people was very difficult. The only way for me to prepare was to thoroughly research, write everything down, and practice.
But it started with being asked by one group, then referred and asked by another, then another. Then I became part of the speaker team at the Pilgrim Center of Hope here in San Antonio through God’s Providence. Now I’ll be speaking at the Catholic Women’s Conference in September, praise God!
Two years ago, I bought a good quality microphone and professional headset. Didn’t know how to use it. I knew I’d need editing software and began recording my Catholic talks and editing them on a free program called Audacity. This gave me the basics for audio editing that allowed to transition into Adobe Audition. By this time, I was working full-time.
It’s hard for many to believe I was a quiet and utterly shy child growing up. Come to think of it, I was an utterly shy and quiet adult most of my life and in many ways I still am. But I get out of my comfort zone for the Lord. I don’t do it perfectly and I probably make a fool of myself more times than not. But God has given me a calling. He was generous in leading me to podcasting because it is a highly flexible medium for evangelization. It gives me the opportunity to share the stories of my very saintly guests and give them a platform to reach more souls.
Of course, it’s still a work in progress but I don’t have to do it alone. This podcast was consecrated to our Blessed Mother. She holds my hand and leads me to the guests whom She wants me to reach. It’s all her. And when I don’t know what decision to make, She leads me to her Son and says to me, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)
And for the technical stuff, I prayed for a good mentor and found John Lee Dumas who has a course that teaches everything. From interviewing guests to recording, editing, to building the website, monetizing, and much more. I would never have been able to afford him without the Lord’s help.
This has become our family apostolate because I couldn’t put out a single episode without the support of my husband and children. We’ve discovered our family culture to be one of evangelization in witness to Christ in the modern world. My guest Patrick Sullivan, founder of Evango, speaks about the importance of identifying and developing a family culture in Episode 22: The Secrets of Fruitful Evangelization at Home and Beyond.
This journey hasn’t been without challenges, but I believe it is God’s way of testing us to see if we would just abandon the idea and give up. We’ve had financial challenges, time challenges, space challenges, but the biggest delay in launching the first episode was during my difficult pregnancy with Baby Gigi and her subsequent 2 month-stay in NICU. That, along with all the medical appointments needed for a baby with down syndrome and who feeds through a g-tube, an entire year passed before I was able to get back to working on the podcast.
My Holy Mother taught me my first lesson that, although this Catholic podcast is good work pleasing to God, taking care of my spiritual health and my family were my first responsibilities. Our Lord will iron out everything else if we leave anxiety and worry behind.
Speaking of my spiritual health, this was also something I had to increase my commitment to. I took on additional spiritual practices, prayer, and meditation to support me on this journey. But just as importantly, I did-away with wasting time on needless entertainment. I used to use entertainment to relax and sometimes I still do a little. I love watching funny videos. But I’ve made the conscious decision to use meditation as my primary way of relaxing – resting my heart on the Lord is way more fruitful. Plus, I’ve had to make the decision to set clear and hard boundaries from toxic and abusive family members while continuing to pray for their spiritual and emotional healing. I realized that I can’t “fix” people. Only God can heal and fix people. My job is to cooperate with His Will.
Well, the most recent challenge is having been laid off from my job a few weeks ago. Three years-ago this would have devasted me because it was a good-paying job directly related to what I studied for. With a Bachelor’s in Instructional Design, I was an Instructional Design Manager. Most recently, having the job was such a burden on my soul. I knew God would see my family through this sudden turn of events and He has most definitely blessed us.
I’ve learned so much on this journey but if I could pick two more, the second would be that, there’s no amount of money or worldly gifts and glories that could replace the Lord’s peace of mind and heart. That’s where the real treasure lies. And the third is that joy comes from our steadfast commitment to live in cooperation with God’s Will.
Please don’t think I’ve learned these lessons perfectly. God gives me plenty of opportunity to dive deeper and learn more about myself and my personal path to Holiness. More lessons to come and I’m grateful for the continued opportunity to share them with you.
Let’s pray together… Glory be…
You’ll find the transcript to this episode on TheCatholicServant.com/three-lessons and please continue to send me your prayer requests to Alexandra@TheCatholicServant.com so we can lift you up in prayer during our next family Rosary.
Matthew Chicoine is a free-lance writer, a life-long Catholic, and an avid truth seeker. He is the father of four children and has a stellar wife. Matthew earned an M.A. in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2014 and enjoys binge reading Tolkien, Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Fulton Sheen and comic books. Matthew’s personal heroes are Saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and John Paul II to name a few along with the rest of the saints. Visit his blog at https://thesimplecatholic.blog/ to learn more about his pilgrim pursuit of a joyous life following the truth of the Gospel.
In this episode, Matthew Chicoine shares valuable insights on the power of empathy at home, work, and within the spiritual realm.
If you’ve spent any time on social media, you’ll quickly realize how volatile the political climate is right now. There’s hatred coming from all sides. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not immune from having the most uncharitable thoughts about the political views of others. Sometimes it takes everything I have to not respond to certain posts although I’ve gone down those rabbit holes in the past. It’s a challenge for me to keep my cool and debate logically, especially when it comes to pro-abortion posts. We all have our challenges, whether it’s on social media, an ex-husband or wife, a rebellious child, an estranged parent, or politician.
God doesn’t pick and choose whom to love, but we, imperfect human beings do and constantly fail to recognize Christ in the eyes of the unlovable.
Let’s take a closer look at who are the unlovable in our lives. Let’s think of the person or persons who need the most compassion. Who is that one person who needs the most forgiveness? Who is that one person or persons who have failed and fallen many times over? Who is the one who has been an oppressor at times and has done their share of breaking hearts? Who is the one that, had it not been for the grace of God, would be capable of committing the most horrendous sins? Who is that person or persons in your life?
Chances are, you thought of those who have done you the most harm. The ones who have broken your heart many times over. Perhaps the ones who have no regrets for what they have done to you.
We all like to think of ourselves as loving, kind, and forgiving people, who have no prejudices and judgments of others. But let me ask you, when you were thinking of the most unlovable people you know, did you include yourself?
One of the reasons we fail to recognize Christ in the eyes of the unlovable is our lack of humility.
A key virtue that allows us see Christ in the eyes of the unlovable is humility.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” And I would like to add, that if we are busy putting ourselves on a pedestal, we also have no time to love others.
So what’s the answer to this spiritual desolation of pride and prejudice? Our Mother Church brings to us all the tools we need to take care of it – the Sacraments, Mass, the Examination of Conscience, the Works of Mercy, Mother Mary, the many forms of prayer, and countless more. But most importantly, it is spending time in prayer and silence with God that will give us more clarity about who we are, our littleness, our frailty, and our human limitations. Plus realizing how, despite our brokenness, God chooses to love us and continually invites us to commune with Him through His endless Love and Mercy.
“They are to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another. But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, God is asking you here and now to love the unlovable, beginning with ourselves, and do the same.