In this episode, Father Despósito reminds us that it’s necessary for Catholics to practice the way of life that can bring us to unity with God. In condemnation of the Protestant doctrine that claims Original Sin caused the loss of free will, the Catholic Church continually maintains that we are called to become saints. Such perfection can’t be achieved unless we practice the mortification that purifies the will.
The will resides in our intellect and we unite to God therein also. Father Despósito explains, “The body is what we have in common with animals and doesn’t correspond to knowing God. We cannot see God with our corporeal eyes and we must mortify them so that we can arrive at an intellectual knowledge of God… that is a higher vision.” Taking this into consideration we begin to understand that it isn’t a casual recommendation Saint Teresa is making when she instructs us to close our eyes in prayer: “Those… in prayer, nearly always have their eyes closed; and it is an excellent custom for many reasons, because it is doing oneself violence in order to turn one’s eyes away from the things of the earth.” Given that Christians are called to pray ceaselessly there’s no question of how often we are to guard our gaze on the way of perfection.
Father Despósito reminds us that unity with God during our lives on earth still doesn’t mean that we can fully see Him, but neither can we see, hear, feel, taste or smell any part of God at all when our bodily sensations are left to interrupt our intellectual pursuit of Him. Father cites Saint John of the Cross who says, “The sense can’t be capable of knowing God as God is. Neither can we smell a perfume as His perfume.” Our senses are designed for us to experience the external world... We also have internal senses including the imagination and sensitive memory. To free the internal senses for Godly contemplation, then, one grace for which we might pray is to forget things quickly.
Mortification is the active, continual restriction and reduction of our sensory experience to exclude things that aren’t godly. To ‘reduce’ and ‘restrict’ also means to narrow. Let us recall the words from the Gospel of Saint Matthew: “… narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Think of how it’s said that a person will “narrow his eyes” in the physical sense, or “narrow his gaze” in the metaphorical sense (that generally means to focus on something intellectually). How does one narrow his gaze to focus on God? Father Despósito tells us that in Father Marin’s “Theology of Christian Perfection” there are Seriously Sinful Glances, Dangerous Glances and Curious Glances that threaten to interfere with our attempts to achieve purity. Being able to distinguish between them will help us execute the patience and self-control necessary to reach the Higher Vision that is God. We want to mortify our sight so that our souls won’t be denied the grace that prevents us from falling, and allows us to see Him not as He is, but as much as He allows.
Father explains that failure to mortify is one of the main reasons for the spiritual mediocrity of Catholics who are otherwise devout in their frequent Mass attendance and regular confessions. The main problem lies in their inability to restrain the tongue in conversation. These Catholics are addicted to socialising generally and let their conversations degenerate without any good object. The “good object” to which he’s referring is holiness. With regard to socialising generally, it’s helpful to remember that Saint Thomas Aquinas eventually had no need to socialise, not even with his fellow monks, and that we ought to mortify our time spent in recreation with others until it’s no longer necessary for us, either. As Father Desposito says, “The true life comes in the next, in Heaven.” By mortifying our desire to talk idly we create more of the silence through which God's voice can be heard, and we sanctify our conversations for the benefit of others’ salvation as well as our own. It’s more than edifying to consider Father’s definition of what constitutes a “holy conversation”... "A discreet, well-timed collection of words offering sweet encouragement to unite our hearts to God." Clearly we have participated in one such holy conversation ourselves, listening to this interview. Deo Gratias.
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