What's the Little Way got to do with detachment?

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Monument to St. John of the Cross in Frontiveros, Spain.

You can’t read the Carmelite saints for long without encountering the idea of detachment. We find it in the writings of John of the Cross, of Teresa of Avila, and even of St. Therese. Detachment for Catholics is not the same as mere  penance. Detachment, like the entire spiritual life, begins and ends with love.

St. John of the Cross is the master teacher about detachment. Here is his famous passage on detachment from The Ascent of Mount Carmel:
Endeavor to be inclined always:
not to the easiest, but to the most difficult;
not to the most delightful, but to the most distasteful;
not to the most gratifying, but to the least pleasant;
not to what means rest for you, but to hard work;
not to the consoling, but to the unconsoling;
not to the most, but to the least;
not to the highest and most precious, but to the lowest and most despised;
not to wanting something, but to wanting nothing.Do I detect a few sighs?

If we read this passage out of context, the spiritual life appears dry, difficult, and even impossible. We are tempted to give up before we even begin. We reject John of the Cross and move on to another saint whose teaching appears less demanding.

What if I told you that St. Therese practiced perfect detachment? What if I told you her Little Way makes the same demands as John’s Ascent? Let’s look at the passage again in light of the life and teaching of St. Therese.

Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

The Transfiguration teaches us detachment

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Last week’s Gospel was about the Transfiguration of Jesus. As you recall, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up Mt. Tabor. Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Him about His coming Passion. Hearing the Gospel, I was struck by what it teaches us about detachment in the spiritual life.

Moses represents the Law. Elijah represents the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets together form the basis of the Old Testament.

From the good to the perfect When Peter saw Moses and Elijah, he said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” He suggested building booths or tents in which the three religious figures could stay. No doubt he wanted to speak with Moses and Elijah and hear their wisdom in person.

But this was not God’s plan. God the Father spoke to the Apostles from the cloud. Then they looked up and saw Jesus standing before them alone.

The Law and the Prophets prepared the way for Jesus. But now that Jesus had come, they had to give way. They were good, but the Gospel is better. Moses and Elijah served their purpose in pointing towards Jesus. As St. Paul said, “When the perfect comes, the imperfect passes away” (1 Corinthians 13:10).

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Pizza and disordered attachments

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On Sunday I made pizza for supper. Herbed crust, thick, garlicky sauce, uncured pepperoni, black olives, and two cheeses. Is your mouth watering yet? Is pizza among your disordered attachments?

As you may know, I’m focusing on being more truly detached from everything except God this year. Before you read the rest of this post, you may want to read or review these:

What is detachment in the Catholic spiritual life?Why is detachment necessary?How can you know what your spiritual attachments are?Why do you have inordinate attachments?I can’t work on every possible type of spiritual detachment at once. I have to slice it into small pieces. Here is an easy way I’m trying to start. Every time I experience pleasure or enjoyment, I am immediately turning my thoughts towards God.

As I’ve said before, we are not Puritans. We don’t reject the goodness in God’s creation. The world was damaged by Adam’s fall, but not destroyed.

Enjoying pizza, a good movie, splashing in the rain, or time with your spouse is not sinful. But when we dwell on these pleasures we take them out of their proper context.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Why do you have inordinate attachments?

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The Golden Calf by Tissot


Have you discerned what you are too attached to? Are you ready to begin working on those inordinate attachments? Let’s take the first step together, by looking at the reasons we are attached to things other than God.
 Why am I doing this?
This week I sent family members a copy of the family tree I created for my dad. Genealogy is a favorite hobby of mine. One relative emailed back that he was too bored with it even to finish the first page. “Can you explain to me why this interests you?” he asked. “I just don’t get it.”

We emailed back and forth a bit as I told him how I loved family and history. I still don’t think my answers satisfied him.

I would not have written about this, except that the genealogy bug hit me again. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at my mom’s family, I thought. I’ll just do a quick search to see if there’s anything new. Before long, I had spent all the time I should have been writing my book (and more) researching my ancestors. I began asking myself the same question. Why am I doing this? What am I really getting out of it?

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.