SJC8 – The Will’s Capacity for Love – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

SJC8 – The Will’s Capacity for Love – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.

An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 

For Saint John of the Cross, it is not simply the pleasures and enjoyments of the senses in themselves that are the crux of the problem. The human experience of sense satisfaction is unavoidable. Even the desert monks of the early Christian centuries, who took on extreme physical hardships, no doubt preferred the taste of one cooked leaf to another or found one cool spring of water a better choice over another. The Gospel recounts that Saint John the Baptist, in his desert, along with his consumption of the unpalatable locusts, survived also on honey. The Christian perspective in this matter, when it is healthy, advocates a balanced approach. It does not propose a denigration of bodily life to the point of destroying or damaging it. We are an inseparable unity of body and soul as human persons, and bodily life has a sacred dimension, a truth that has far-reaching consequences in morality. But that unity of body and soul is precisely the point and the issue of importance in asceticism. Nothing of bodily life can be lived as though detached from the soul’s existence.

Even more to the point, bodily pursuits inevitably engage the will. The will and its desires remain always in a kind of dynamic consort with bodily, emotional, and intellectual activity. At the same time, the will is a primary reality in our lives by the manner in which it cooperates with or rebels against the graced invitations of God. Seeking union with God demands a deeply rooted determination of our soul to give our will fully in love to God. This cannot be accomplished without the desires of the will aligning themselves with the goal of a union with God’s will in all facets of bodily, emotional, and intellectual life. Most importantly, the will is the faculty of love in the soul. The will must be empty of desires for gratification if by a great love it is to seek for God as a primary desire. All that touches and enters into the desires of the will is crucial for the possibility of a union with God by means of love. It remains now to explain how the will in its capacity for love is affected by the principles of self-denial and asceticism. These two statements from book 2 of The Ascent to Mount Carmel in effect define the nature of sanctity and at the same time express the essential importance of the will’s purification in sanctity.

Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 107-108). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


You find the book on which this series is based here

SJC7 – Asceticism: Recovery of a Neglected Value – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

SJC7 – Asceticism: Recovery of a Neglected Value – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.

An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 

In this chapter we take up a subject planted more firmly on the ground, namely, Saint John of the Cross’ instructions in book 1 of The Ascent of Mount Carmel on asceticism and self-denial. This teaching will make better sense now after we have seen his understanding of the great role of purification in the human faculties for the sake of union with God. Unfortunately, asceticism is a largely forgotten word in contemporary spirituality, despite its importance in the Catholic tradition. In truth, it has never been a treasured topic or a popular Catholic pursuit. It has always been subject to exaggerated notions that distort it and empty it of value. Today another reason may exist for its virtual disappearance from spiritual teaching, which is the excessive focus on the inward path of silent meditative practices that has lately preoccupied spirituality. Writings on the quest for God through methods of meditative mindfulness typically ignore self-denial or bodily discipline as a prerequisite for spiritual growth. This is not to say that these writings encourage moral laxity, but simply that a need for some commitment to asceticism and to real practices of self-denial is nowhere to be found in them. Frankly, this is not a good sign of their value as a teaching for souls seeking a closer relationship with God. The neglect of an ascetical element in the pursuit of God leaves unaddressed the retention of indulgent tendencies in a life. The effort of seeking God ends up then often as a self-absorbed quest, instead of a pure and sacrificial pursuit in response to Jesus’ own words in the Gospel and in imitation of saintly lives.

Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (p. 101). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


You find the book on which this series is based here

SJC6 – Intense Certitude of Love – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SJC6 – Intense Certitude of Love – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.  In this episode, they continue their conversation on that which leads to the experience of the Dark Nights often associated with St. John of the Cross

An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 

The initial insecurity of a darkened experience in faith, advancing by unknowing, surely requires some adjustment and an assimilation. However, the insecurity need not continue interminably. The deliberate refusal of satisfaction for the intellect in prayer may be for a certain period of purification a radical austerity for the intellect. But the result in time can be to sense a door opening into a purer encounter with God himself. He who is infinite mystery in his being must be approached in the unknown truth of his infinitude as Someone known and loved. Intensity of faith accompanies the more intense love that unites us personally to God. As heard earlier in this chapter and worth repeating: “Only by means of faith, in divine light exceeding all understanding, does God manifest himself to the soul. The greater one’s faith, the closer is one’s union with God” (AMC 2.9.1). A pure, naked faith will come to know the presence of God in a more intense certitude of love. Every other sense of understanding God must be subjugated in prayer to the truth of God as the exceedingly Almighty One who is loved. In the following passage, Saint John of the Cross insists on the vigor of an intense desire needed for the pursuit of God precisely when our intellect in faith is submerged in an incomprehension of God’s ultimate mystery. This longer quotation conveys how narrow and serious is the road into the night of contemplation where a blessed contact with God awaits the depths of a soul in its prayer.

Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 78-79). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


You find the book on which this series is based here

SJC5 – Mystery of Believing – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SJC5 – Mystery of Believing – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.  In this episode, they continue their conversation on that which leads to the experience of the Dark Nights often associated with St. John of the Cross

An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 

The urgent need of the soul in prayer must be, as such, to adopt a radical exercise of pure faith in its approach to God. At the point in the spiritual life when contemplative graces are beginning to stir, it is time to lift anchor, as it were, and plunge into deeper waters of faith: “Those who want to reach union with God should advance neither by understanding, nor by the support of their own experience, nor by feeling or imagination, but by belief in God’s being” (AMC 2.4.4). The last phrase “belief in God’s being” may seem ordinary enough. Is that not simply what faith is—to believe in God? But quickly we should recall the real demand in the deeper act of faith—a pure faith—that must take place in contemplative prayer. We must believe in God precisely as One who is beyond our measure or grasp or comprehension. We must adhere to him, search and seek for him, as infinite mystery and as a personal presence of love immediately engaged with us in the current hour of silent prayer. In short, we must enter into faith itself, into the mystery of believing, to approach the personal mystery of God. We believe in him in the prayer of contemplation as we surrender our being into him. We give way to him and allow him to abide in us: “For God’s being cannot be grasped by the intellect, appetite, imagination, or any other sense; nor can it be known in this life. The most that can be felt and tasted of God in this life is infinitely distant from God and the pure possession of him” (AMC 2.4.4).

Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (p. 76). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


You find the book on which this series is based here

SJC4 – Pure Faith in Contemplative Prayer – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SJC4 – Pure Faith in Contemplative Prayer – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.  In this episode, they continue their conversation on that which leads to the experience of the Dark Nights often associated with St. John of the Cross

An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 

In this case, under the influence of deeper faith, the cooperation involves a mortification by the intellect: an emptying of the desire for spiritual gratifications that can be enjoyed by the intellect in the life of prayer. These can be sought in a way that becomes an impediment to the pure pursuit of God for himself alone. A “complete pacification of the spiritual house” (AMC 2.1.2) is required that will “quiet down” the impulse to pursue experiences of an intellectual or imaginative satisfaction in prayer. This “ascetical” task for the intellect in the interior life of prayer entails, in a telling phrase, “the negation through pure faith of all the spiritual faculties and gratifications and appetites” (AMC 2.1.2). What this “pure faith” will mean as a virtue of the intellect in contemplation needs to be explained with some care. For the intellect must cooperate in its own purification precisely through this exercise of pure faith. Taking us farther along in explanation, and referring to the stanza of his poem, Saint John of the Cross comments: “The soul, consequently, affirms that it departed ‘in darkness, and secure.’ For anyone fortunate enough to possess the ability to journey in the obscurity of faith, as do the blind with their guide, and depart from all natural phantasms [images] and intellectual reasonings, walks securely. . . . For the less a soul works with its own abilities, the more securely it proceeds, because its progress in faith is greater” (AMC 2.1.2, 3).

Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 67-68). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


You find the book on which this series is based here

SJC3 – Contemplative Faith: Certitude in Darkness – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SJC3 – Contemplative Faith: Certitude in Darkness – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.  In this episode, conversation leads to the experience of the Dark Nights often associated with St. John of the Cross

An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 

What can be the reason for this experience in prayer? Saint John of the Cross affirms that supernatural faith, inasmuch as it places us in an immediate contact with God, affects the intellect in a strangely painful way with the onset of contemplative graces. The truths of revelation that the intellect embraces in faith now seem to surpass comprehension in a manner unlike any previous experience in prayer. A deeper understanding of theological faith can explain why this occurs. It is inadequate to conceive of our faith as simply an assent by our mind to truths that are then held securely with personal conviction. This is not at all the full picture. On a very personal level, in our relations with God himself, faith is a kind of real conduit into the actual mystery of God. As a theological virtue, it unites the intellect quite directly and immediately to the mystery of God. The effect of this union, depending on a soul’s closeness to God, is to stretch the intellect beyond what it can assimilate in its natural capacity. The result in the time of interior prayer is a painful experience of obscurity within the intellect toward the God of ultimate mystery known personally in faith. This is not an experience of dark doubts about God. Rather, it is as though a light has begun to shine too brightly, preventing our eyes from seeing what is there in front of us. The closer we approach the light of God, the more his presence blinds us. The ordinary act of comprehension in regard to natural objects of knowledge does not function in this way. But when the knowledge is of God himself in his immediate personal presence to the soul, the consequence is vastly different.

Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 67-68). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


You find the book on which this series is based here

SJC2 – Caverns of Longing within the Soul – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SJC2 – Caverns of Longing within the Soul – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.

Here is the excerpt from the The Living Flame of Love by St. John of the Cross that Fr. Haggerty references in the podcast:

Songs of the soul in the intimate communication of loving union with God.

1. O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

2. O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.

3. O lamps of fire! in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.

4. How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.


We encounter the importance of seeking a contentment with nothing other than God in many places in Saint John of the Cross’ writings. Shortly after introducing the image of the faculties as “deep caverns of feeling” in The Living Flame of Love, for instance, he affirms that a primary impediment to contemplation occurs when attachments cling to us and are repeatedly sought instead of our seeking God himself. These attachments are always contrary to accepting a contentment with having nothing: “Any little thing that adheres to them in this life is sufficient to so burden and bewitch them that they do not perceive the harm or note the lack of their immense goods, or know their own capacity” (LF 3.18). The words are a strong admonition. It takes very little to upset and block the proper dynamism of a holy pursuit of God in or out of the life of prayer. We can end up living unaware of the harm inflicted by very common tendencies that, in effect, keep us from being content with having nothing, that is, nothing but God. We have a capacity for greatness, for being filled with the love of God in our prayer. Yet we may live our hours of prayer like restless marauders in a search for prizes or enjoyments worth very little, seeking for delights that satisfy us only in negligible and fleeting ways. Without an awakening by which God becomes a passionate pursuit engaging our life’s entire intensity, our soul can descend easily to a dull caricature of its actual potency. As Saint John of the Cross writes:

It is an amazing thing that the least of these goods is enough so to encumber these faculties, capable of infinite goods, that they cannot receive these infinite goods until they are completely empty, as we shall see. Yet when these caverns are empty and pure, the thirst, hunger, and yearning of the spiritual feeling is intolerable. Since these caverns have deep stomachs, they suffer profoundly; for the food they lack, which as I say is God, is also profound. (LF 3.18)

Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 48-49). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


You find the book on which this series is based here

SJC1 – The Hiding Place of the Beloved – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SJC1 – The Hiding Place of the Beloved – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

In this introductory episode, Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.  Fr. Haggerty helps the listener understand the nature of mystical contemplation and more specifically “What or who is a mystic?” He also helps us understand the dwelling of God in our souls and how can we enter into contemplative prayer.

Here is the excerpt from the Spiritual Canticle by St. John of the Cross that Fr. Haggerty references in the podcast:

SONG OF THE SOUL AND THE BRIDEGROOM

I
THE BRIDE

Where have You hidden Yourself,
And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved? You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.

II

O shepherds, you who go
Through the sheepcots up the hill, If you shall see Him
Whom I love the most,
Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.

St. John of the Cross

III

In search of my Love
I will go over mountains and strands;
I will gather no flowers,
I will fear no wild beasts;
And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.

IV

O groves and thickets
Planted by the hand of the Beloved; O verdant meads
Enameled with flowers,
Tell me, has He passed by you?

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;


I went out calling you, but you were gone. This initial stanza of “The Spiritual Canticle” unlocks the bolt of a door, allowing us a first glimpse at the soul of Saint John of the Cross and his intense love for God. In these opening lines of a lengthy poem, we hear the agonized voice of a lover tormented by her solitude, in a terrible suffering after the departure of her Beloved. The piercing lament of the bride, wounded in the depth of her soul, is an image of the lover of God who seeks for his return after earlier enjoying his close presence. The mood of loneliness in the poem will shift over the course of its forty stanzas to a recognition of the Beloved’s presence even in his concealment. But for now, as the poem commences, the pain is strong and irremediable. Many of the stanzas of this exquisite poem, full of lush natural images, were composed by Saint John of the Cross without pen or paper, the stanzas kept in his memory, while he was locked in a windowless, six-by-ten-foot converted closet, with only a thin slit of light high up in a wall. That room served as a makeshift prison cell in the Calced Carmelite Friars’ monastery in Toledo, Spain, for nine months of his life, from December 1577 until August 1578. Only in the very last period of the nine months did he receive pen and paper from a sympathetic friar serving as his jailer and write down verses. He later recounted to Carmelite nuns that another important poem, “The Dark Night”, was completed before he left that prison cell.

Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 18-19). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

 


You find the book on which this series is based here