Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Nobody but Jesus. A meditation on a grief observed. | Archdiocese of Washington

My Father died a little over five years ago, and except for essential papers related to his estate, I simply boxed up most of his papers and stored them in the attic of my rectory for future attention. At long last I am sorting through those papers. Among his effects were also many papers of my mother, who died some seven years ago.

I must say that there are many moving things I discovered, as I read through their papers and I was reminded that many of us never really know the pain and grief that some others bear. I particular I was struck at the poignant file that was simply labeled, “Mary Anne.” (Picture of all of them at right)

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Can I Trust My Own Eyes?

Français : La Conscience (d'après Victor Hugo)

Français : La Conscience (d’après Victor Hugo)

I have a peculiar type of Juvenile Macular Degeneration that does not get worse but is hereditary. It is interesting in that I never knew that I had this condition in my right eye until 2007. I was sitting in a sales conference room and noticed that a chart that had horizontal lines all appeared to be wavy lines though I knew that they were straight lines. Thinking that I might have had a mild stroke I first went to an eye doctor and then to a retina specialist where I was diagnosed.

I was told that I had probably had this all of my life. Now that is interesting because I had never experienced this abnormal vision before. The doctor says that our brains will compensate for this and give us a view that matches our memories and our preference. I apparently was taking information from my good eye and rejecting the information from my bad eye.

Sure enough as soon as I quit worrying about the eye problem, I once again was seeing as I always had: normally without wavy lines. Now this brings up an interesting question in the real world and in the spiritual realm as well: can I believe my own eyes?

Well obviously if I knew that my eye was giving incorrect vision, I would say no. But if I thought it was a sound eye I would say yes. However, now that this eye condition is known to me, I see how even if the eye is conveying to my brain the information that it is actually seeing, the brain, completely on its own, is modifying the information to meet my expectations and not the reality that is being given to it.

Now isn’t that like a poorly formed conscience? We know deep in our souls that we have sinned and that we are engaged in things that are not healthy spiritually. But we find ways to cope with our guilty conscience by rationalizing that the sin is not really a sin or that it is completely in accord with the standards of the world. We no longer see reality as it is. We have played mental games to make our reality fit the True Reality which Christ has placed in our conscience; or which He is willing to place in our conscience if we would only let Him.

This, I think, is a very great problem that we face when we do a normal examination of conscience. We tend to block out things that we have been able to compensate for with some pretty fancy mental gymnastics. We get up and say, “Great! No mortal sin on my soul.” Maybe you can trust your inner eyes and your brain but maybe you can’t.

This is why it is so very important to deepen our prayer life to the extent that we examine ourselves, not with our eyes, but with the Light that comes from the Eyes of Christ. How else will we ever truly know ourselves?

If I can’t trust my own eyes in the real world, what makes me think that I can trust my inner eyes in the spiritual realm?

Maybe we all have a hereditary form of Juvenile Macular Degeneration of the Spiritual Order and we have brains that fictitiously manufacture good images to alleviate any anxiety or guilt. I think it’s called the hereditary effects of Original Sin. I’m just saying . . .

The Health and Care of the Human Soul

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, t...

The human person is a creature that combines a material body and a divinely created spirit soul in a union that is unique among all living creatures. One cannot survive in this life without the other. Our nature is almost a metaphoric union that mimics the union man seeks with God: the gross with the sublime, the common with the divine, the earthly with the heavenly. It is therefore surprising how much care we take for the health and well-being of the body while we almost entirely neglect the soul.

We get up every morning and clean our bodies and our teeth. We shave or we put on makeup or face creams to enhance our appearance to others. We get our hair neatly cleaned and combed, we feed ourselves the best food we can afford, get exercise if possible, see the doctor when we’re ill, take medicines to keep us from getting ill and literally spend hours every day of our lives in caring for our bodies that will someday fail and turn to dust.

Yet the soul is given so little time by most of us. We hardly ever think of her. She is to be the tabernacle within our bodies where Christ might come and abide with us in this life and we let her get covered in sin and impurities which is the spiritual equivalent of dirt and grime. When our souls are sick we do not always seek a physician for its health. If we do, we may not take the prescribed medicine as often as we should if we take it at all. That is simply negligence of the soul.

If we treated our bodies as we treat our poor souls, how long would we survive? So it strikes me that one should pay more attention to the soul and treat her as well if not better than we treat the material body to which she is bound.

What does our soul need for its health and well being? Simply put the indwelling of Christ. How can we create a soul wherein Christ will be sure to take up His dwelling there: by thoroughly cleansing the soul through contrition, penance and prayer. It is only then that our Communion of Christ in the Holy Eucharist has its greatest effect and He will remain in a soul that is pure and will give us divine assistance in keeping our souls in this condition. In this way He is with us throughout our day giving us all the graces needed to attain the virtues we need to combat our weaknesses; virtues that will prevent us from falling into sin and the grace to gain the moral and spiritual habits that will exercise the soul to her great benefit.

The next time we go for a run, lift weights, or eat health foods, we might think to ourselves, what have I done for my eternal soul today? You may want to find at least as much time to accommodate her needs as you have put aside for taking care of the physical half of our human makeup.

We are what we eat and the Body and Blood of Christ is what the soul needs most for her nourishment. Make sure you have done all that is necessary to receive this Heavenly food in a way that will afford the soul its maximum benefit.