Devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary: Its Origin and History
by Alliance of Two Hearts & Immaculate Mediatrix

In Sacred Scripture

The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are mentioned explicitly only briefly in the text of the New Testament. Nevertheless the many references to the love and compassion of Jesus and Mary, as well as implied references to their Hearts, provide a vivid revelation of the Two Hearts. It is remarkable that the few explicit references all bear upon the work of redemption. Some of the more important references are:

Matthew 11:25 — "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart."

This passage refers to Our Lord's invitation to imitate the dispositions and virtues of His own human Heart, reflecting upon His ineffable humility in becoming man and being born in a stable; His remarkable patience in living a hidden, obscure life for 30 years; His unsurpassed charity in preaching, teaching, working miracles, healing the bodies and souls of believers and unbelievers; His perfect obedience to the Father in enduring without complaint the bitter agony and infamy of death on the Cross.

Luke 2:19 — "Mary kept in mind all these things, pondering them in Her Heart."

This passage refers to the visit of the shepherds to the Child Jesus in His crib at Bethlehem. It refers directly to what they reported regarding the heavenly host of angels that came to announce the birth of the Messiah, and how all marveled at what the shepherds had reported.

Luke 2:51b — "His Mother kept all these things carefully in Her Heart."

This passage refers to the events surrounding the loss of Jesus for three days during a visit to Jerusalem, and how Mary and Joseph found Him teaching the doctors of the Mosaic Law in the Temple, to the amazement of all who heard Him.

Luke 2:35 — "Your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

This passage is spoken by the old man Simeon on the occasion of Mary bringing Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer Him to God according to the custom of the Mosaic Law. In it Simeon prophesies that Mary will share in the salvific sufferings of Her Son.

John 7:38b — "From His Heart will flow rivers of living water."

This reading is based on the most reliable texts of the Gospel of St. John. It refers directly to the Heart of the Messiah, and recalls the prophesies of Isaiah (Isaiah 12:3) And St. John goes on to explain in verse 39, that Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit, which He Himself will give, from His Heart, to those who believe in Him. The reading which is found in most translations-referring to the hearts of believers-is a variant believed to have its source in a textual mistake by Origen, a famous theologian who complied a multi-lingual edition of the Bible in the Third Century, A. D..

John 19:34 — "One of the soldiers opened His side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water."

This passage refers to the piercing of Christ's Heart as He hung in death upon the Cross. The blood and water have always been seen by Roman Catholics to mystically symbolize and effect the origin and the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. It was at the piercing of Christ's Heart in death that Mary's Heart was pierced in spirit, thus fulfilling Luke 2:35 (cf. above), and exemplifying the profound mystical union of the Heart of Jesus with the Heart of Mary in the work of our redemption. This union began when by the power of the Holy Spirit Mary conceived the Heart of Jesus beneath Her own Heart. It is consummated when at one and the same time these Two Hearts are immolated for our salvation. And now in heaven it continues forever as the sole source of mankind's salvation and sanctification.

Each of these passages are very significant, for they clearly indicate that Admirable Alliance of Hearts, which worked the salvation of the whole world: the Heart of Jesus, which suffered to the point of being pierced so as to pour forth upon all who believe in Him, the grace of the Holy Spirit, which makes them partakers of the Holy Eucharist in the communion of fellowship in the Catholic Church; and the Heart of Mary, always focused on Her Divine Son, which was predestined by God to suffer with Him for the salvation of mankind.

In the Fathers of the Church

"The holy Fathers, true witnesses of the divinely revealed doctrine, wonderfully understood what St. Paul the Apostle had quite clearly declared; namely; that the mystery of love was, as it were, both the foundation and the culmination of the Incarnation and Redemption. For frequently and clearly we can read in their writings that Jesus Christ took a perfect human nature and our weak and perishable human body with the object of providing for our eternal salvation, and of revealing to us in the clearest possible manner that His infinite love for us could express itself in human terms. (from Hauretis Aquas by Venerable Pope Pius XII, n. 44)

Likewise these same Fathers of the Church often meditated and praised the singular love and faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who so generously offered Herself to God to fulfill His plans for our redemption, and who so steadfastly persevered with Her Son Jesus Christ in His ignominious crucifixion and death.

In both these approaches the Fathers of the Church laid the foundation for true devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary by clearly indicating the union of charity which bound Them both in the work of redemption.

In the Writings of the Saints

Chief among the saints of the Catholic Church who fostered devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are St. Bonaventure and St. John Eudes.

St. Bonaventure, a Cardinal and Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, was a learned theologian and bishop of the Franciscan Order in the 13th Century. He wrote extensive theological works and is considered by the Papal Magisterium to be one of the two primary Doctors of the Catholic Church since the patristic era. St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican priest and contemporary of St. Bonaventure, is the other.

St. Bonaventure's writings on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are scatter throughout all his works, but a passage on the Sacred Heart that is particularly poignant is found in his devotional work The Mystical Vine, a description of the Passion of Jesus Christ. This passage is found in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in June.

St. John Eudes (1601-1680), however, is the founder of the modern public devotion to the Two Hearts. It was his mission to organize the scriptural, theological, patristic, and liturgical sources relating to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and to popularize them with the approbation of the Church. His chief writings on this topic were: The Admirable Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God, The Admirable Heart of the Mother of God, the Life and Kingdom of Jesus, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, The Admirable Heart of Mary. Included among his works was a mass and office for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and one for the Admirable Heart of Mary. He was the first to dedicate churches in the world to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

St. Albert the Great, St. Gertrude, St. Catherine of Siena, Bl. Henry of Suso, St. Peter Canisius, and St. Francis of Sales also did much to propagate and promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and Eckbert of Schonau, who wrote the first extant prayer to the Heart of Mary, St. Mechtild of Hackeborn, St. Gertrude the Great, St. Bernard, St. Herman Joseph, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Bernadine of Siena and St. Francis de Sales also did much to promote devotion to the Heart of Mary.

In the Nineteenth Century the Abbe Desgenettes consecrated his parish church, the Notre Dame des Victoires, in Paris, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and founded the Archconfraternity in Her honor. Later Father William Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, as well as St. Anthony Mary Claret, the founder of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, did much to promote devotion to Mary's Heart.

In the Liturgy

Even before the beginning of private revelations of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in modern times, St. John Eudes had obtained permission from the ecclesiastical authorities to celebrate the Feast of the Heart of Mary liturgically. This was done for the first time at Autun, France, on May 8, 1648 A. D.. In 1799 Pope Pius VI permitted religious societies in the archdiocese of Palermo, Sicily, to celebrate a similar feast. In 1805 Pope Pius VII extended this permission to all religious societies and dioceses throughout the world. On July 21, 1855, the Sacred Congregation of Rites approved for the universal Roman Catholic Church an Office and Mass in honor of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. It was Venerable Pope Pius XII who had the joy to institute the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the universal Church in 1945 A.D..

St. John Eudes also obtained permission to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the liturgy. This was done for the first time at the Grand Seminary of Rennes, France, on August 31, 1670 A. D.. This liturgical commemoration of the love of the Redeemer began just two years or so before Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alaqoque, asking her to reveal His Heart to the world. These celebrations thus served Divine Providence, for they drew down upon the world a new era of Mercy and Grace. Spurred on the Revelations to St. Margaret the liturgical celebration of the Sacred Heart gradually grew in popularity throughout Europe. At the request of innumerable petitions, in particular that of the entire Polish hierarchy, Pope Clement XIII requested the Sacred Congregation of Rites to examine the devotion. On January 25, 1765 A. D., devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was formally approved. Venerable Pope Pius IX extended the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the entire Catholic Church in 1858 A. D.. And Pope Leo XIII approved the litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Consecration to the Two Hearts in Papal Teaching

In 1864 A. D. Cardinal Gousset of Rhiems, supported by Archbishop de la Tour-d'Auvergen of Bourges, Bishop Mermillod and other bishops of France and Spain petitioned Venerable Pope Pius IX to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Archbishop of Bourges renewed this petition at Vatican I. During the council Father Pere Henri Ramiere, S.J., the great promoter of the Apostleship of Prayer, presented a request to consecrate the whole Church to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This petition was supported by 272 Bishops, but was not acted upon due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. In 1874 A. D. Cardinal Desprez, the archbishop of Toulouse, France, wrote to all the bishops of the world to promote once again the petition of Father Ramiere. By April of 1875 A. D., Father Ramiere was able to present this petition to Venerable Pope Pius IX along with the names of 534 Bishops and 23 superiors general of Religious institutes. In response to this petition, the pope had the Sacred Congregation of Rites compose and publish an "Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus" and he himself invited all the faithful to consecrate themselves on the 200th anniversary of Our Lord's apparition to St. Margaret, June 16, 1875 A. D..

In 1891 A. D. the archbishops of Milan and Turin led a movement to consecrate the dioceses of Italy to the Most Holy Heart of Mary. In September, 1898 A. D., the Marian Congress of Turin, at the promptings of Pope Leo XIII, unanimously approved to petition Pope Leo XIII to this effect. On December 12, 1989 the Sacred Congregation of Rites approved a formula for diocesan consecration to the Heart of Mary.

After the letters of Mother Mary of the Divine Heart (1863-1899) requesting, in the name of Christ Himself, that Pope Leo XIII to consecrate the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Father commissions a group of theologians to examine the petition on the basis of revelation and sacred tradition. This investigation was positive. And so in the encyclical letter Annum Sacrum (May 25, 1899 A. D.) this same pope decreed that the consecration of the entire human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus should take place on June 11, 1899 A. D.. In this encyclical letter the Pope attached Later Pope Leo XIII encouraged the entire Roman Catholic episcopate to promote the devotion of the Nine First Fridays and he established June as the Month of the Sacred Heart. Pope St. Pius X decreed that the consecration of the human race, performed by Pope Leo XIII be renewed each year. Pope Pius XI in his encyclical letter Miserentissimus (May 8, 1928 A. D.) reaffirmed the importance of consecration and reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Finally Venerable Pope Pius XII, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Pope Pius IX's institution of the Feast, instructed the entire Catholic Church at length on the devotion to the Sacred Heart in his encyclical letter Haurietis aquas (May 15, 1956 A. D.)

It was Venerable Pope Pius XII who first consecrated the Church and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 31 and again, solemnly on December 8, 1942 A. D.. In recent times, moved by millions of petitions and by the occasion of the attempted assassination of his own person on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II consecrated the world and every nation to the Immaculate Heart in 1982, and repeated this act in union with all the Catholic Bishops again in 1983 A.D.


The Catholic Origins of Manliness
by Michael P. Foley

In his fascinating book Manliness, Harvey Mansfield identifies Achilles as a paragon of virility. He is right to do so, for the rash and rebellious, boasting and body-dragging Homeric hero is not only an unforgettable Western archetype but the quintessential he-man, the larger-than-life warrior that is sung in virtually all cultures and climes. We Christians should not forget Achilles, for he inversely reminds us of a paradox that comes to light only when we compare such a man to the central figure of the New Testament: sometimes, the one thing greater than the he-man’s heroism is the decision to reject it. Our Lord could have easily humiliated His foes the way Achilles did Hector, but He chose instead to be humiliated by them, a move that took real courage. When Christians call Christ the New Man (or Adam), they mean it in more ways than one.

Christ’s manliness transformed man’s understanding of manhood, and it is this transformation that, through the development and mediation of the Catholic Church, became a new Western ideal. This is obvious when we consider two areas typically associated with manly life: chivalry and sports.

Chivalry began as an attempt by the Church to curb the anarchy and bloodshed of feudal conflict in the Middle Ages, but it ended as something much more. The so-called Truce of God limited violence by prohibiting, on pain of excommunication, armed engagement every Thursday through Sunday and during the holy seasons of Advent and Lent. This pious restraint was sharpened by the Crusades, which upheld a new code of knighthood aimed not at personal glory (Achilles again) but the protection of the weak and oppressed. When a knight was consecrated or “dubbed,” the bishop prayed that he would become a defender of “churches, widows, orphans, and all those serving God.” This was obviously the instantiation of an important biblical virtue (Judas Maccabeus, the Old Testament prototype of the medieval knight, is described in II Maccabees 2:38 as providing for the widow and orphan), as was the care extended to another group: women.

Though the chivalrous regard for the welfare of women would later become subject to all sorts of romantic distortions (hence the parodies of love-stricken knights in Chaucer and Cervantes), even here there lies the kernel of a uniquely Christian insight. When St. Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph. 5:25), he is essentially telling them to put the welfare of their spouses high above their own, even to the point of death.

Today the concept of “ladies first” is more often than not condemned as quaint or chauvinist, but when it is properly understood and practiced it reflects this Christ-like conversion of male power and aggression to the selfless service of others. It presupposes that if a Christian man is designed to rule, he is to exercise that rule paradoxically by serving, just as Christ exercised his lordship paradoxically by humbly washing the feet of his apostles (John 13:4–16). This insight is well-reflected in the famous medieval legend of the Holy Grail as told by Chrétien de Troyes. When Perceval the knight is about to part from his mother, her last words to him are: “Should you encounter, near or far, a lady in need of aid, or a maiden in distress, make yourself ready to assist them if they ask for your help, for it is the most honourable thing to do. He who fails to honour ladies finds his own honour dead inside him.”

Over time, several customs developed from this transfiguration of male honor. Simple gestures such as opening doors or pulling out a chair for a lady bespeak a gentleman’s humble respect for women and a recognition of his responsibilities. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is the practice of tipping one’s hat to a lady. Given that a man’s hat is a traditional symbol of his rank and authority, the gesture is essentially a ritual acknowledgment of the fact that his position is in some crucial respects ordered to the service and regard of women.

It is generally not the function of a religion to create new forms of competition, yet the Judeo-Christian proclamation of the sanctity of human life led to far-reaching changes in the way that Westerners played games. After the Roman Empire embraced Christianity, a successful war was waged against the old athletic festivals and gladiator games, all of which were inherently tied to death cults, animal sacrifice, and even human sacrifice. But the Church never opposed athletic competition per se, and so the field was cleared for new and more wholesome forms of sport to emerge. Of course, this is not to say that the games were more effete. The proto-Christian Duke in “The Knight’s Tale” by Chaucer turns a battle into a tournament in order to prevent the loss of life, but this does not stop bones from being “bashed” and “bursts of blood in streams of sternest red” (l. 1752).

In some countries, Catholic life played a discernible role in shaping specific athletic tastes. My favorite example is Switzerland’s popular schützenfeste. These shooting competitions began as training exercises for marksmen who were to protect the procession of the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi from violent Protestants! In the same feisty vein is the humble sport of bowling, believed by some to have begun as a religious ceremony held in the cloister of a church. As far back as the third or fourth century, peasants may have placed their clubs (which, like the Irish shillelagh, they carried with them at all times) at the end of a lane. The club was called a kegel in German and was said to represent the heathen, to be toppled, we conjecture, by the rolling stone of the Gospels. Over time the clubs developed into pins, but the association lingered: to this day, a bowler is sometimes referred to as a kegler.

Finally, mention should be made of the motto of the modern Olympic games. Citius, Altius, Fortius (“Faster, Higher, Stronger”) was coined by Dominican friar Henri Didon, prior of Albert-le-Grand College in Arceuil, France. A well-known educator with a penchant for sports (he himself had won many a prize in his youth), Didon encouraged athletic competition at his school as a way of building character. It was at a sports meeting in 1891 that he ended a speech to his pupils with the stirring admonition: Citius, fortius, altius. The motto was eventually adopted by the father of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, with one exception. While Fr. Didon had placed the word fortius, or “stronger,” in the middle of the phrase to stress the moral significance of athletics, Coubertin ominously changed the word order to stress the “freedom of excess,” which he praised over and against “the unnatural utopia of moderation.”

Coubertin’s misappropriation of Fr. Didon’s motto is also fairly emblematic of the plight of Christian manhood in the modern age, which is one of the reasons why we even need to speak of the Catholic contribution to manliness as if it were something forgotten. Nevertheless, the testimony of Our Lord shall not be effaced. Jesus Christ the New Man gave us a counterintuitive yet ultimately greater model of manhood, one that has the chutzpah to beat down one’s own vainglory for the greater glory of God and for the sake of defending His most helpless creatures. The result is a blend of solicitude, gentleness, and toughness that makes Achilles’ egotistical bravado look puerile. And for that we can be profoundly grateful.

Michael P. Foley is an Assistant Professor of Patristics at Baylor University. He is the author of Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday? The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

© Catholic Men's Quarterly


Filling the Psychological Void With Charity
Jesslyn McManus on Replacing Hatred With Love

ARLINGTON, Virginia, SEPT. 9, 2006 ( The cultivation of Christian charity in the wake of forgiveness can go a long way to improving mental health, says a Catholic doctoral extern therapist.

So says Jesslyn McManus, of the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, who presented her research on forgiveness therapy for the Society of Catholic Social Scientists at its last national meeting. In this interview with ZENIT, McManus shares her views on working through hatred and resentment in order to build a sense of self rooted in love.

Q: Many would agree that it is good to forgive one's enemies, and that forgiveness contributes to mental health. So why is it sometimes difficult to let go of anger or hatred toward those who have hurt us?

McManus: In recent years, forgiveness has come to be seen by many as an effective means to bring about psychological healing to those who are suffering from the effects of an injustice.

Anger, whether outwardly expressed or defensively denied, is a reoccurring theme in psychotherapy.

Forgiveness therapy models, such as those offered by Robert Enright and Richard Fitzgibbons; E. Worthington; and F. DiBlasio, offer an alternative to common methods for dealing with anger and resentment, which rely primarily upon _expression and/or the use of medication.

Forgiveness therapy is used in order to help people gradually let go of resentment and hatred, which causes stress and psychological pain.

After working through each of the phases in the "forgiveness model," the client is able to make a moral response of goodness toward the offender.

However, when anger and hatred come to take on a central role in one's life, problems may arise even when one has successfully worked through the forgiveness stages and the dispositions are abandoned. These difficulties, which may become apparent in "post-forgiveness therapy," need to be addressed with empathy, genuine care and skillful guidance.

Given its vivacious quality, hatred has a powerful attraction which is difficult to resist. Although forgiveness contributes to mental health, it is sometimes difficult to let go of anger or hatred toward those who have hurt us because of the psychological "benefits" these emotional states provide.

Pain or hurt is usually underlying anger or hatred. Therefore, hatred can be seen as a way to protect oneself from damage to one's self-image or concept. However, these "rewards," which are associated with egocentric gratification, only perpetuate hatred and impede psychological and spiritual health.

Q: What kinds of psychological benefits does hatred provide on a short-term basis that makes it difficult to let go of?

McManus: As psychologists Paul Vitz and Philip Mango point out, hatred can be used to defend against painful memories and emotions.

As long as one hates, he or she does not have to confront or experience the underlying pain and suffering caused by the offender. It also keeps one from recognizing that one's self is flawed and that others have positive attributes.

In addition, hatred may become so pronounced that it comes to provide a sense of meaning or purpose in one's life and makes one feel alive and powerful.

In cases where intense hatred persists over a long period of time, it may also come to serve as a means of self-identification.

A person may come to define himself in a negative way, by contrasting himself with the one he hates. Those who find themselves in this situation may experience an existential crisis and psychological pain manifested in the form of profound feelings of emptiness, upon letting go of the hatred.

Q: What is it about our postmodern culture that leads people to latch onto hatred for a sense of identity, and how can a person move toward an accurate sense of self devoid of negative attitudes?

McManus: In its forms of deconstruction as well as its rejection of universal truths, postmodern culture produces a society in which "knowing oneself" proves to be a difficult task.

The absence of tradition and shared meaning and values characteristic of postmodern society has resulted in a fragile, empty sense of self. This condition leads people to turn to such things as consumerism to fill the vacant self as Phillip Cushman states.

This lack of rootedness, combined with a fragmented sense of reality, makes it difficult for one to establish a firm sense of where one came from and who one is today.

This sets up a context in which self-identification through hatred will flourish.

A person can move toward an accurate sense of self devoid of negative attitudes by fulfilling their vocation as relational beings, who are made for love.

Q: What is the next step, after letting go of anger and hatred? What is the significance of "filling the void"?

McManus: As was previously stated, successful removal of the hatred may produce an existential void and the loss of sense of self.

The hatred must be replaced with something engendering self-worth, namely, altruism -- that is, living a life of true Christian charity.

The next step after letting go of anger and hatred, therefore, is to redefine oneself as a person who loves rather than one who hates, through acts of self-giving. The significance of "filling the void" is to provide the person with newfound meaning in their lives and a source of identity through love.

Q: In what sense do you equate altruistic activities with the virtue of Christian charity, or love?

McManus: Both altruism and Christian love involve self-giving, moving away from the self and toward others. This love was perfectly exemplified in Christ Jesus.

Q: How has altruistic behavior proven successful in improving mental health?

McManus: Many studies have shown that altruistic emotions and behaviors are associated with psychological health and well-being. In his article "Altruism, Happiness and Health: It's Good to be Good," Stephen Post provides a summary of the literature in this area.

Some of the factors which have been found to help bring about these psychological benefits are enhanced social integration, distraction from the agent's own problems, increased perception of self-efficacy and competence, and enhanced meaningfulness.

Q: On what level could secular psychology adopt this theory, and how does our Catholic faith imbue it with a deeper dimension?

McManus: This theory may be formalized in a clinical program in which self-giving love is actualized in overt altruistic acts. This therapeutic program may be implemented once the forgiveness process is under way.

The program would resemble the following:

The client would be encouraged to choose a person whom the client feels is having a difficult time and is need of care, and to do specific acts of kindness for him or her. This may consist of running an errand, cooking a meal or simply calling the individual often to see how they are doing.

In addition, the client will be asked to choose a secondary group or organization to which he can offer his time. For example, the person may choose to volunteer at a soup kitchen, visit the elderly in a nursing home, or work with disabled children.

They will keep a journal in order to track their progress in their altruistic activities. They will record what each act was and for whom each was done. They should also include the feelings they experience and any feedback they receive.

While these acts may not be altruistic in the true sense of the word in the beginning -- since they are done as part of a therapeutic program -- they will lead the client to understand the merit of living selflessly. This will, in turn, lead the person to do truly altruistic acts on his or her own initiative as time goes on.

Theologically, the idea that people are fulfilled in and through community with others is based on the idea that we are created in the image and likeness of a triune God whose very being is self-giving love.

Therefore, this type of program would not only be effective in that it would bring about psychological benefits for the client. It also would enable people to fulfill their vocation as persons made for self-giving and relationships with others.

Furthermore, in helping others to cultivate the virtue of charity, the therapist plays a role in bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth.


Thinking About Heaven
Interview With Father Z. Kijas, Author and Dean

ROME, SEPT. 3, 2006 ( The dean of the Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure has written a book on heaven, inviting readers to have a fresh vision of a central mystery of the faith.

Polish Father Zdzislaw Kijas, dean of the Seraphicum, wrote "Il Cielo, Luogo del Desiderio di Dio" (Heaven the Place of the Desire for God), published by Città Nuova and now available in Italian bookstores.

ZENIT spoke with Father Kijas, a Franciscan Conventual -- who has been professor of systematic and ecumenical theology at Krakow's Pontifical Academy of Theology -- to understand how heaven appears today to the eyes of the believer.

Q: Let's begin with the central question: What is heaven?

Father Kijas: First of all, as seen with the eyes of faith, heaven exists as union with God, a union that must be seen from the point of view of the sacred texts, specifically, with the help of the Old and New Testament.

However, heaven is something more profound than this union. Its characteristics can be deduced from the biblical data and also from our experience, from the special moments of life, when we experience tranquility, serenity, [and] absence of evil desires and fear.

Heaven is not a material or geographic place, it is more than a state of spirit, it is our interiority, our spirit which is at peace with itself; it is to experience authentic peace, to live the joy of the richness of life with peace of heart.

Q: Are you saying that every one has his heaven?

Father Kijas: Every man has his personal heaven because he is like a microcosm; he has been created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus died and resurrected for each man; each man has his own richness, his own desires.

Believers should tend to personal enrichment, in the search to fulfill their own lives, plans which are essential in the life of each one, of each couple, of the consecrated and of communities.

Basing oneself on the biblical data and on one's own vocation, on the universal call to holiness, with the help of God and of his grace, each one is called to this optimum state of his life, to a more perfect, personal union with God.

Here is heaven itself: the holiness of God personalized, embodied in one's life. A personal union that leads to full development of the likeness with him.

Every age has its challenges, its appeals. Art, music and literature as expressions of one's state of life; they reflect in visible and figurative language one's state of spirit and the characteristics of one's union with God. So the way of expressing oneself, of making art, becomes a mirror of the relationship between the artist and God.

Q: How can one respond to this "desire" for heaven?

Father Kijas: In my book I speak of responding to the desire for heaven, of reviving it -- not by limiting oneself to look for heaven on earth in relationships we experience in the world even if they are fundamental.

These relationships are important, as it is important to make an effort to read the seeds of the paradisiacal state now here in this life. But what counts is to understand that here on earth there are only pale reflections of those to which we are really called.

The strength to change the everyday, the courage to face problems, the desire to live more profoundly our human vocation, our work, human relationships, does not come only from the freshness of the desire of union with God which for us, believers, is heaven.

Herein lies daily creativity in relation to paradise. Without being separated from the earthly reality, efforts must be made to change everything with the force of the desire for heaven, to shape our daily reality in view of paradise, transforming the earth with the desire for heaven.

Q: What is your idea of heaven?

Father Kijas: Heaven is not something static; even our own imagination does not understand it as something static. It is a continuous happening, a growth that advances with our call, our desires, our deficiencies themselves.

The idea I have, common to many, is that of a reciprocity made up of dialogue, a never feeling well alone but in dialogue, a reflection of the life of the Trinity, a communion of people who love one another and give themselves abundantly.

This is the paradisiacal state, never to possess, but to be open to the other's need, to his good -- a response of love to someone else's request for love.

Heaven and paradise are as synonyms, a being well together, a consequence of being well with God, convinced that he alone makes us be well in community. Heaven is communion of friends, never a boring reality, a richness enriched by others. The Church invites us to open to this dialogue that gives a foretaste on earth of the taste of the joy of heaven.


On the Sacred Heart as Antidote to Pride
Interview with Jesuit Cardinal Albert Vanhoye

ROME, JULY 17, 2006 ( Devotion to the Heart of Jesus is a lesson in humility, complete renunciation to violence and generous love which speaks to the men of today, says Jesuit Cardinal Albert Vanhoye.

In this interview with the Apostleship of Prayer, the new cardinal, 82, professor and rector emeritus of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, explains why Benedict XVI has re-launched this "essential" devotion for Christians.

Q: You have placed in your cardinal's emblem the motto "Cordi tuo unitus" (United to your Heart). Is there a special reason?

Cardinal Vanhoye: There are two reasons: one personal and one apostolic. The personal goes back to my childhood. I was educated in a Sacred Heart institute from 4 to 11 years of age, and later in the minor seminary of the diocese of Lille, in northern France, where they did the daily offering of the Apostleship of Prayer. Precisely in this period began my devotion to the Heart of Jesus which later was reinforced with the vocation to be a Jesuit.

When I studied philosophy I was part of a small group that reflected on the different aspects of the same and at the end of the formation this orientation was further consolidated. Then there is an apostolic reason in the choice of motto: to suggest the same spiritual attitude to all who read it.

"United to your Heart" expresses at the same time an intention and a prayer. The intention to live united to the Heart of Jesus in thought, action, affection and word and at the same time a humble and confident invocation because we can't give ourselves this union, but it is a very desirable grace.

Q: After a great dissemination between the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, devotion to the Sacred Heart has been considered by many to be surpassed. Does this objection have a biblical foundation?

Cardinal Vanhoye: The objections refer above all to a certain sentimental devoutness, but I don't think they are founded, especially if one speaks of true worship which is stimulation for the spiritual and apostolic life. However, in a certain sense it isn't mistaken to say that this devotion does not have sufficient biblical foundation, though deep down it is false. It is correct to affirm that the New Testament does not speak much of the Heart of Jesus. It is mentioned only once, in Matthew 11, when Jesus says: "learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart."

The phrase, however, is very important because it is the only moment in which Jesus describes the very qualities that we find in numerous episodes of his life, and because it is in relation with a verb of the Gospels, used only by Jesus, derived from the Greek word which means "core" and that we can translate as "my heart is troubled." It is an important allusion to human compassion and to Jesus' great sensitivity.

John the evangelist does not speak of the pierced heart but of the pierced side, though it is quite evident that through the side the heart is reached. On the other hand, if we take the whole of Sacred Scripture into consideration, the foundation of devotion to the Sacred Heart is very wide. The Old Testament highlights the importance of the heart for the relationship with God, that is, of the human person's interiority: memory, understanding, affectivity and will.

Q: Of what importance is this devotion at present?

Cardinal Vanhoye: Precisely in the union with the Heart of Jesus. It is not a surpassed devotion; on the contrary, it is timely and also essential if it is well done. Without this union we cannot live fully the love that comes from God or succeed in being humble. On the contrary, we run the risk of fuelling our pride and arrogance.

On the other hand, it is the Gospel itself that presents to us a religion of the heart, far from exteriority. It must be said that devotion to the Heart of Jesus has a popular form that does not always correspond to this orientation, but I think that much can be done to make it even more significant.

Q: Benedict XVI's message to Father Kolvenbach, general director of the Society of Jesus, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Pius XII's encyclical Haurietis Acquas on the Sacred Heart, has re-launched this subject.

Cardinal Vanhoye: The Pope wished to underline the anniversary forcefully precisely with a message because the Society of Jesus was always active in promoting this fundamental devotion, above all thanks to the Apostleship of Prayer and to its proposal of spirituality not at all sentimental but which involves the whole of human existence.

Now in the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI speaks several times of the pierced side and of the Heart of Jesus, true source of love. It is clear also in the Pope's words that the devotion to the Sacred Heart cannot stay only with the humanity of Jesus, precisely because the latter is _expression of the love of God for the world that can be experienced and therefore witnessed only by looking at that pierced side.

In this connection, in France, Jesuit Father Glotin has finished a profound and extensive study on devotion to the Heart of Jesus that will come out next year, to confirm the importance of calling people's attention to this spirituality.

One cannot do without a relationship with the Heart of Jesus.


A Vow of Simplicity for Young and Old
By Stephen Hand

Blessed are the poor in spirit---Jesus

Sketch of Dorothy Day, artist unknown to us Money and things. We can't take them with us. The rich or well-to-do who give alms to the poor, however, are surely blessed, a blessing to the poor, and to the Church. Humility, which is true self-knowldege, makes it imperative never, ever, to think oneself better than anyone! The very idea is repugnant to the true Catholic mind.

One person not long ago wrote to me scornfully "...and you can tell the Houston Catholic Worker there is no such thing as 'lay monks'!" The person was referring to an article she completely misunderstood. When my wife, Diane (Dee), who has for 32 years been my spiritual teacher, and I were first married we both started reading Dorothy Day, Sojourners, and the Catholic Worker in earnest, though we had yet to fully return to taking the Catholic Church seriously. It was Dorothy who turned us from being 'Jesus Freaks' back home to the Catholic Church.

Under Day's influence, we were determined to try not to live for the pursuit of money, to the extent possible, while meeting our responsibilities and not relying on spiritual teachers in simplicity, Anna Hand, Diane Hand, Lena Martin the State and its welfare to take care of us, but working with our hands and heads to feed, clothe and house our children, striving for the same kind of dignity we had observed in our grandparents.

My paternal grandmother, Anna Hand, was the true saint in the family, equalled only by Dee, my wife. All her life she lived, worked and suffered without complaint in a relatively small apartment in utter simplicity and worked serving the very sick at a state hospital. But her home had such a clean and holy dignity to it that my wife and I were both charmed and inspired. My grandmother was not ashamed to put up a crucifix and holy pictures. My maternal grandmother, Lena Martin, though not as religious by any means, also seemed to utterly disregard the materialism of the time. She was more concerned with keeping you warm, loved, and well fed (too well fed!)

Living simply so that others may simply live. You can do worse than to take a vow of simplicity which refuses, without judging others, to make a life of chasing after angel teacher, 1980 superfluities, we came to see. You can do worse than refuse to sell your soul for the Gross National Product and the wars required to buttress it. You can do worse than to wear older clothes as a protest against the slave labor of the sweatshops abroad where we recruit new poor persons at woefully inadequate wages to maximize profits for our CEO's, all the while saying the workers over there "never had it so good," as has always been said of "them", ad nauseum. It was these influences which inspired us to think hard about what it meant to live. We knew that whatever we chose to do in life would define who we wanted to be. The Catholic Worker's Gospel simplicity, rooted in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, filled in so many other philosophical and theological reasons. Choosing simplicity (again, this is not the monks vow of utter poverty) does not make anyone good or righteous or---God forbid---better than your neighbor. It simply is a conscious effort to try not to contribute to the idolatry of materialism which sustains a world of wars and keeps us running helter skelter for all the things we must inevitably surrender when it is time for God to call us. 'Living simply so that others may simply live' is the beginning, not the end, of a radical spiritual life. It does not require us to be canonized saints, but only caring persons.

The way of simplicity can take many creative forms, tailored to our cicumstances and abilities. Dorothy Day never bought new clothes. That is quite a witness (surely all can buy less and when necessary). She wore clean clothes which were donated or bought them at Thrift stores. She and Peter Maurin served the poor, the down-and-out, the dysfunctional. Peter, the great philospher of the movement, was often thought "a bum," such was his self-emptying (Phil 2:5-10, Mark 2:13-17) in imitation of Our Lord. They saw Christ in all, and urged all those who could to reserve a 'Christ-room' in their homes to serve as temporary shelter in the parishes for those in need.

But it is not easy. Some will always secretly think you are nuts, or a fake, or a self-righteous 'loser' trying to compensate for your financial inadequacies with lofty religious sentiments. Such has it always been, and, will be. So it takes courage too. The following teaching of Our Lord is not a teaching of exclusion, but a positive reminder of inclusion, inverting the way of the powers.

    Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." ---Luke 14:12-14

The last shall be first in the Kingdom which is present now among us. We cannot dedicate ourselves to the works of greed, war ---and to the works of mercy at the same time, Dorothy and Peter reminded us. We must choose. To share in solidarity with the poor, the marginalized, the "imperfect" (like ourselves), because we are all God's children is a blessed call. That is the essence of the joy of simplicity.

St. Francis Peace Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy;

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love; for it is
in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life.


Importance of Devotion to the Sacred Heart
Interview With Director of the Apostleship of Prayer in Italy

ROME, JUNE 22, 2006 ( This Friday's feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII's encyclical "Haurietis Aquas," on this devotion.

Benedict XVI has written a letter for this occasion to Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, superior general of the Jesuits.

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Massimo Taggi, national director of the Apostleship of Prayer in Italy, talks about devotion to the Sacred Heart as an effective means to counteract secularization.

Q: What is the meaning and importance today of devotion to the Sacred Heart?

Father Taggi: In a world that, on one hand, is characterized by marvelous positive aspects, both at the scientific as well as the technical, cultural and social level, with a strong desire for justice, peace and solidarity, but which, on the other hand, seems terribly ambiguous and confused, in a crisis of values, essentially materialistic, devotion to the Sacred Heart offers a fundamental indication to capture the true image of God and the profound meaning of life.

If what a French thinker says, wonderfully, that "the quality of life depends on the quality of sentiments," a return to the heart -- understood in the biblical sense, as a person's center, where thoughts, decisions and sentiments find their existential point of synthesis -- and specifically to the Heart of Jesus, Word incarnate, is the royal road to "draw with joy the waters from the sources of salvation."

As the Holy Father Benedict XVI says in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est": "Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift. Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow. Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God."

Q: Why has this devotion been lost over the past 30 years?

Father Taggi: It hasn't really been lost altogether. Even in the post-conciliar period, devotion to the Sacred Heart continued to exist, especially at the level of popular religiosity and in very widespread devotional practices, such as the daily offering prayer, promoted by the Apostleship of Prayer, hours of adoration on the first Friday of the month, etc.

At the same time, it is true that it has been questioned and marginalized by the quite well founded criticism of falling prey to "devotionism," or with the assumption, much less founded, that after the Second Vatican Council there was no room for such things.

The real reason for the crisis is that it was not understood that it is not a question of an optional, minor devotion, but of a spirituality, a devotion whose foundation, as the Holy Father Benedict XVI has written in his message to Father Kolvenbach on May 15, is as old as Christianity itself.

Q: Why and in what way will the 50th anniversary of Pius XII's encyclical "Haurietis Aquas" be observed?

Father Taggi: We have decided to hold a national congress of the Apostleship of Prayer, for the 50th anniversary of "Haurietis Aquas" for two reasons: because that encyclical was an important document, which addressed in a complete and profound way the subject of devotion to the Heart of Jesus, taking into consideration the objections that were already arising and giving them an authoritative answer; and because we are convinced that today's world is in great need of discovering that God is love, that affectivity and not sentimentalism, is an essential component of an authentic relationship with God in Jesus Christ; that an attitude of mercy, accepted and given, is the foundation of authentic peace at all levels, from the family to interethnic and international relations, as clearly seen in the teachings of John Paul II and now of Benedict XVI.

The Apostleship of Prayer was born in Vals, near Le Puy, in France, on December 3, 1844, at the initiative of Jesuit Father Xavier Gautrelet.

The activity began as a proposal of spiritual life for a group of seminarians of the Society of Jesus, and it spread immediately, like an oil stain, to the different strata of the Church.

This development was given great impetus by another Jesuit, Father Henry Ramiere, so much so that at the end of the 19th century there were, both in and outside of Europe, 35,000 local centers -- parishes and religious institutes -- with over 13 million registered devotees worldwide.

It was very soon introduced in Italy by the Barnabites. In Naples, specifically, it was widespread through the work of Blessed Caterina Volpicelli.

The charism of the Apostleship of Prayer may be defined as living "baptism consciously and actively, especially the common priesthood which is proper to all the baptized."

It is lived through the daily offering of all one's personal experience, in union with the Eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus and for the special intentions that the Pope indicates every month at the universal level; the spirit of reparation, which is translated also in concrete actions at the social level; and with acts of consecration -- personal, of the family, etc. -- to the Heart of Jesus, as a specific _expression of baptismal consecration.

In regard to followers, recent and reliable estimates indicate at least 50 million people in all the continents follow the Apostleship of Prayer.


Character-Centered Families and Schools
Interview With Psychologist Tom Lickona

CORTLAND, New York, APRIL 8, 2006 ( The goal of Catholic character education is to form children in the character of Christ, says a developmental psychologist.

Tom Lickona is a professor of education at the State University of New York at Cortland, where he is the founding director of the Center for the 4th and 5th Rs (respect and responsibility).

He is the author of seven books on character development in the family and school, including the co-authored "Smart and Good High Schools."

In this interview with ZENIT, Lickona speaks about the role of parents and educators in helping children to flourish and become persons of character.

Q: What is the reason for the growing awareness of the need for character-education programs for children?

Lickona: I think there are at least six factors that have driven the current character education movement:

One, the weakening of the family; as families do less character formation, more kids arrive at school without social skills and a sense of right and wrong, and schools have to take up the slack;

Two, the rise of the mass media and the popular and marketplace culture as a powerful, largely negative influence on the values and character of youth;

Three, the perception of widespread moral breakdown in society; in one recent poll, for example, nearly three of four American adults said they believe people in general "lead less honest and moral lives than they used to";

Four, troubling youth trends suggesting that societal moral breakdown is particularly reflected in the values and attitudes of the young;

Five, the conviction that non-directive, relativistic approaches to values education -- notably "values clarification" -- have been part of the problem instead of part of the solution; and

Six, the recovery of the belief that there is common ethical ground even in our intensely pluralistic society -- that there are basic qualities of character such as honesty, hard work, justice and caring that virtually all people agree we should teach in our schools, families and communities.

Without the recovery of shared ethical wisdom, the first five factors would not have been sufficient to bring about the renewal of character education.

Q: What are the most important strengths that you suggest forming in children and adolescents?

Lickona: One of my recent books, "Character Matters," identifies 10 "essential virtues" that are affirmed by nearly all philosophical, cultural and religious traditions: wisdom; justice; fortitude; self-control; love; positive attitude, including hope and humor; hard work; integrity; gratitude; and humility, which motivates us to strive to be a better person.
In a recent report, "Smart and Good High Schools," Matt Davidson and I suggest that it's helpful to think of two big parts of character: performance character -- those qualities such as self-discipline and perseverance that enable us to give our best effort and do our best work in any performance context; and moral character -- those qualities such as honesty, justice and caring that enable us to have successful relationships, live and work in community, and assume the responsibilities of democratic citizenship.

Bringing performance character into the picture helps schools see that character development is essential for academic achievement.

Q: What are some ways that the Catholic faith shapes our ideal of character education?

Lickona: Our Catholic faith would say that to be a good person, we need to develop the 10 essential virtues such as wisdom, justice, fortitude and so on.

These human virtues then give us a foundation for seeking to become not only good but holy.

As St. Gregory reminded us, the ultimate goal of a virtuous life is "to become like God." At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

The goal of Catholic character education is not simply "good character" but the character of Christ.

That means developing not only the cardinal virtues of wisdom, justice, etc., but also the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the supporting spiritual virtues of prayer, frequenting the sacraments, and a radical obedience, in imitation of Christ, that surrenders our will to God.

These theological and spiritual virtues are essential for our transformation in Christ -- our life's purpose as Christians.

As we become transformed in Christ, our task is to transform the world -- into what John Paul II called "the civilization of truth and love," God's Kingdom on earth, as we pray in the Our Father.

In a Catholic school, that begins with creating a moral and spiritual community in the school that is a living incarnation of Christ.

Sister Mary Carole Gentile describes beautifully how the award-winning St. Rocco Catholic school in Providence, Rhode Island, does that through a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; an annual school theme -- one year it was "We are God's family of peacemakers"; a Good Deeds Journal in which children made daily entries; community service; a partnership with a sister-school for the deaf that pairs every St. Rocco student with a hearing-impaired child for varied activities over the school year; "school families," which group children across grade levels for special events and promote a strong schoolwide sense of community; and a peer-mediation program.

Many Catholic schools, sadly, are miles from this kind of intentional and comprehensive character education.

A father told me of his ninth-grade daughter entering an area Catholic school, being frozen out by the girls there, walking the halls alone at lunchtime, and wanting, at year's end, to go back to her old public school.

Q: In a culture where the medication of children for depression or behavioral problems is becoming more prevalent, where does character education fit in?

Lickona: In some cases, medication for depression, hyperactivity, ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder], etc., may be helpful or necessary, but even those children also need character education.

A simple definition of becoming "a person of character" is "becoming the best person you can be."

How do we help every child do that -- in their families, schools, and communities? By providing loving relationships, good models, high expectations, firm and fair discipline that holds them accountable to those expectations, and concrete regular experiences to develop and practice the virtues.

No matter what a child's biology or handicapping conditions, they need these supports for character building.

Q: How can the practice of excellence and ethics contribute to mental health and the good of the person as a whole?

Lickona: When we strive for excellence, we develop our God-given gifts, the talents that enable us to become fully the person God means us to be and to contribute to the human community.

When we strive for ethical behavior, we exercise our God-given capacity for goodness, and love each other in a way that reflects God's love. In both these ways, we are being fully human -- the best way to be mentally healthy.

Q: What advice would you give to parents with busy schedules and educators with academic priorities, so as to not lose sight of the importance of forming these character strengths in their children?

Lickona: For both families and schools, time can be the tyrant that keeps us from living out our deepest values.

Deep down, most parents want their children to be moral people who use their talents to help others.

Deep down, every educator wants to touch the lives of students in a way that makes an enduring difference and that helps to build a better world.

If we keep these goals in mind, we will organize both family life and school life to be character-centered. To see how to make this happen, we can look to families and to schools that have made character development a high priority. All of us learn from example.

There are now abundant good examples out there -- in books, Web sites, curricular resources, and the regional and national organizations that are providing leadership in character education.


On Prayer and the Magisterium
Father J. Castellano Gives an Overview

ANCONA, Italy, DEC. 5, 2005 ( In a congress on mysticism, a priest pointed up the concern of the Holy See's magisterium for prayer.

"In the course of history there have been few authoritative interventions of the magisterium on this topic, said Discalced Carmelite Father Jesúús Castellano Cervera. He noted, however, a shift that started in 1989.

The Spanish priest noted three key documents that illustrate the link between prayer and the magisterium.

He cited "Orationis Formas," the Oct. 15, 1989, letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a document he contributed to. He also cited the fourth section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul II's letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte."

For Father Castellano, the "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation," or "Orationis Formas," must be taken into account in order to understand the "criteria to guide Catholic faithful in the face of the new methods of meditation, as is the case of the techniques of the religious East."

Von Balthasar

In his address on Saturday to the congress on "Christian Mystical Experience, Non-Christian Mysticism and New Religiosity in the West," Father Castellano, a professor at the Teresianum in Rome, revealed details about the development of this document.

"After several re-elaborations the text remained essentially as the fruit of the mind and style of Hans Urs von Balthasar, with suggestions from other experts," he explained.

The text tries to clarify what is specific about Christian meditation, given the invasion and fascination of some Eastern meditation techniques.

For Father Castellano, it is important to highlight the originality of Christian prayer linked to the structure and content of Christian revelation, as well as "the criteria to guide an authentic exercise of Christian meditation which involves the whole person praying, including his body and feelings."

"It was not a letter censuring or condemning the well-integrated Eastern methods in the Christian praxis of meditation," he said. Rather, it is a document that offers "doctrinal criteria for an authentic guide and for the discernment of current praxis of meditation."

An awakening

According to this consultor of several Vatican dicasteries, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "The Eastern techniques applied to Christian prayer have cause an awakening of Christian meditation itself."

In the congress on mysticism, organized by the East-West Center of Studies, the expert in spirituality pointed out that the East has contributed to Christian prayer "an appreciation of silence, greater attention to the body in prayer which leads to a sensitivity for harmonious integration and openness to a spiritual guide."

Father Castellano added that "Christian prayer is meditation which tends to communion, not fusion, with the Triune God."


Temperaments and the Call to Holiness
Interview With Art and Laraine Bennett

BRISTOW, Virginia, NOV. 27, 2005 ( Hippocrates defined the four temperaments hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, classifying a pattern of personal inclinations as choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic.

Now, modern Christians can use that ancient knowledge coupled with Christ's call to perfection in understanding themselves and their unique path to holiness.

The husband-and-wife-team Art and Laraine Bennett -- a marriage and family therapist, and writer, respectively -- outline this Christian view of personalities in their book, "The Temperament God Gave You: The Classic Key to Knowing Yourself, Getting Along with Others and Growing Closer to the Lord" (Sophia).

The Bennetts shared with ZENIT the importance of Christians knowing themselves, and how the knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses can help in their spiritual growth and personal relationships.
Q: What are the four temperaments?

Art: The four temperaments were originally proposed by Hippocrates -- the "father of medical science" -- 350 years before the birth of Christ. Hippocrates used them to explain differences in personality, based on the predominant bodily fluid; hence the rather unappealing names: choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic.

Even today these same terms are still used to describe temperament, by which we mean the pattern of inclinations or a tendency to react in certain ways that form a recognizable pattern over time.

For example, the choleric tends to react quickly and intensely, and to take action immediately and decisively. The sanguine is your classic "people person"; quick to react, but quick to forget; known for their cheerful optimism.

The melancholic is deeply thoughtful and analytic, slow to respond, skeptical, sensitive and idealistic. The phlegmatic is slow to react, with far less intensity, and is generally calm, cooperative and reserved.

Q: How important is it for Christians to recognize their own personality traits, even as they strive to lose the "old man" and put on Christ?

Laraine: Teresa of Avila wrote in the "Interior Castle" that we should always pursue self-knowledge. In fact, without self-knowledge, we tend to be like the fellow mentioned in Matthew 7:3 with the wooden beam in his eye, who is forever pointing out splinters in others'.

Self-knowledge leads us to true humility, without which we cannot begin to grow in holiness. As Christ pointed out in Luke 14:28-33, who would build a tower without first calculating the cost? What king would go into battle without first taking an inventory of his troops?

Understanding our temperament is like taking a personal inventory of our natural strengths and weaknesses. We need to know what our weaknesses are, so that we can "calculate the cost": what skills should we develop and what virtues should we grow in, so that we can more effectively serve Christ and his Church.

Q: How can knowing your temperament help you grow in your spiritual life?

Laraine: Study of the temperaments has a long and venerable tradition within Catholic spirituality.

Many of the great saints, such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis de Sales, have written about the temperaments, and great spiritual theologians, such as the late Reverend Adolphe Tanquerey -- author of the spiritual classic "The Spiritual Life" -- and contemporary theologian, Dominican Father Jordan Aumann, all write about temperament and the spiritual life.

Understanding one's temperament gives us a clue about where to begin in our quest for holiness.

Art: When we understand our temperament, we can identify our own personal tendencies to react in certain ways. The temperaments tell us which strengths to appreciate as gifts from God, and those areas in which we need to prayerfully grow.

For example, if I am a melancholic, I discover that I am tempted to focus on difficulties, and have a tendency to be judgmental. Knowing this, I will endeavor to combat my timidity, build confidence in God and in his instruments, and try not to "sweat the small stuff." I will try to focus less on myself and grow in the virtue of supernatural hope.

A very peaceful and cooperative phlegmatic may find that he does not need to work on the virtue of docility -- for he is naturally so -- but perhaps should develop the virtues of audacity, fortitude and lack of dependence on human respect.

Q: How does temperament play into marriages and families?

Art: The temperaments are extremely helpful in marital and familial situations. With more than 20 years experience as a marriage therapist, I have seen how understanding temperaments can help us grow in our interpersonal relationships by fostering empathy, mutual appreciation and admiration for the unique gifts of our spouse and children.

This mutual appreciation is vital in fulfilling the critical task of creating the "communion of persons" in our family as John Paul II so eloquently stated in "Familiaris Consortio."

Once we understand our temperament's strengths and weaknesses, we can begin to appreciate our loved ones' special gifts and learn how to encourage them in their weaker spots.

Laraine: I found the most beneficial use of the temperaments in understanding -- and motivating -- our own children. When parents understand how temperament governs their kids' instinctive reactions, then we become much more capable of dealing with each child individually instead of applying a "once-size-fits-all" parenting style.

As the Pontifical Council for the Family wrote, "Each child is a unique and unrepeatable person and must receive individualized formation." Armed with knowledge of temperamental differences, we can provide this individualized formation.

For example, our phlegmatic child never reacted well to strong challenges. This only discouraged him. Instead, he required gentle, confidence-boosting encouragement all along the way.

Our choleric child, at the other extreme, always loves a challenge or a contest, and her confidence is rarely shaken, even with setbacks.

Our melancholic needed help initiating projects, but perseverance is never an issue; on the other hand, our sanguine can come up with a hundred new ideas, but needs encouragement in follow-through.

But each of them blossom, with individualized motivation and support.

Q: Are people ever tempted to use the temperament paradigm as an excuse for their shortcomings?

Art: Any personal inventory can be used improperly, as an excuse.
For example, a choleric might say, "I'm just naturally argumentative and controlling. Everyone else is going to have to learn to deal with it." Or, "I'm just naturally impulsive. I'm a sanguine!"

What actually happens is that understanding the temperaments becomes a springboard for growth. Knowing our human frailty, Christ told us, "Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect." Christ calls each one of us to holiness and the perfection of charity.

So, too, the temperaments can greatly help us by identifying our natural tendencies -- both strengths and weaknesses -- and we can then use this knowledge as a jumping off point for growth in virtue.

We also remind our readers that our temperament does not constitute the totality of our person. There is also our character -- which can be formed through our upbringing, our education, and our own free choices -- and, of course, grace.

Q: Does every Christian's call to imitate Christ mean a loss of individuality? How can we all be Christ-like but different?

Laraine: If we become more Christ-like, will we lose our individuality? What about those peculiarities or quirks that seem to make us uniquely who we are?

It is true that the saints are precisely those individuals who have practiced heroic virtue to the point of becoming Christ-like. As St. Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, "Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me."

St. Ignatius of Loyola was considered to be passionately choleric, yet became so meek and so humble that those who just met him thought he was phlegmatic, And St. Thééréése of Lisieux had been a lively, impulsive and strong-willed child, yet many of the sisters who lived with her never guessed what heroic struggles lay hidden beneath her gentle, humble mien.

However, the famous axiom of the spiritual life is that grace never destroys nature, but perfects it. Remember the story about St. Francis converting the wolf of Gubbio. As Flannery O'Connor pointed out, even after his conversion, the wolf was still a wolf.

Dominican Father Thomas Dubay wrote, "God takes our humanness seriously." A talkative, lively, sanguine may not need to become a cloistered monk with a vow of silence in order to grow in holiness and the perfection of charity. On the other hand, a sensitive, deeply thoughtful melancholic may very well be drawn quite naturally to contemplative prayer.

Thus, although we will always retain our unique personalities, we should continually strive to grow in holiness and virtue.

In our book we offer tips for spiritual growth, based on the four temperaments.

For example, if you are a very active choleric, you will want to make sure you have set aside time for prayer each morning. If you are a melancholic struggling to overcome despondency, you will want to meditate frequently on God's personal love for you, and for the many blessings he has given you.
Q: How is this book different than just another self-help book?

Art: Though we address personal growth, motivation, and problem resolution, this is not a Pelagian "pull yourself up by your boot straps" book.

The purpose of understanding ourselves and others is not merely to achieve self-improvement on the natural level, but -- most importantly -- to be better able to fulfill God's will as a loving and joyful spouse, parent, friend and disciple.

Understanding temperament not only helps us become more capable of controlling our emotions and moods, it helps us identify the most effective means to grow in virtue and obedience to God's will, which are not typical self-help themes.


Everybody has a vocation

“Holiness is not the sole domain of those called to religious life or priesthood. While everyone is called to be a saint, all of us have a specific vocation through which we live out that call to holiness.”

Fr Anthony Denton STL, Director of Vocations writes.

AS YOU READ THIS, HUNDREDS of thousands of young people from around the world are making their way to the city of Cologne, Germany for the twentieth World Youth Day. Among the throng will be some 400 youths from the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Our pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Cologne (which houses the preserved relics of the three Magi) might serve as a useful metaphor for the pilgrimage of life that we celebrate during National Vocations Awareness Week (NVAW). As the three Magi set out from a distant land to adore the Christ-child 2000 years ago, so today are we called to imitate their journey to come and worship Jesus and to become His true disciples.

NVAW takes place over two Sundays. The first serves as a reminder that everybody has a vocation, and so on 7 August the theme is the general Christian Vocation. On this Sunday the specific vocations of marriage and single life, as well as the ministries of married and single people, are affirmed and emphasised. On the second Sunday, 14 August, parishes are encouraged to reflect upon and affirm the specific vocations of consecrated (religious) life and the vocation to the Holy Priesthood, inviting young people to seriously consider the possibility that God may be calling them to be a priest, brother or sister.

A lot has been written in the last four decades about the Universal Call to Holiness: everyone has a vocation to be a disciple of Christ in virtue of our baptism. Baptism is the distinguishing mark of Christianity: it wipes away original sin, it sets people apart as members of the Church and makes them children of God, within whom the Holy Spirit dwells. The Second Vatican Council rightly re-emphasised a perhaps-overlooked reality that all Christians are called to the heights of sanctity – “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) Holiness is not the sole domain of those called to religious life or priesthood.

While everyone is called to be a saint, all of us have a specific vocation through which we live out that call to holiness. The Church assures us that God calls every single one of us to serve Him and our neighbour through our particular state in life: marriage, religious life, priesthood or single life – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jer 1:5) Unless we truly see our state in life as a vocation willed by God, then the quest for holiness can seem to be a mere abstraction.

Married people are called to serve God and neighbour through the generous gift of themselves to each other. This is why human sexuality is at the heart of Christian marriage as reflected in the high demands that Christ places on Catholic spouses. There is much debate on the status of single life as a vocation. However, understood as a genuine commitment to communion with God, a single person may discern that God desires him or her to choose neither married nor religious life, and indeed, there are many examples of people who have lived fruitful lives of service as single people.

A priest is called to be a man of God for others. He has a special call to live out pastoral charity; that is, to bring the knowledge and love of God to the souls entrusted to his care. Religious men and women stand out among the four states in life for their special vocation to sanctity. This is one of the great gifts of the Church: that some men and women are chosen by God to dedicate themselves to what we might call “the art of holiness.” By that I mean that through the grace of the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) the world is given concrete examples of total dedication to God that will be the reality of life in Heaven, our true home.

This year as we celebrate NVAW we are joined in prayer throughout the Archdiocese specifically for vocations to the priesthood (See: Where there is a strong sense of the importance of priestly vocations there follows naturally a greater awareness and appreciation of the other vocations. Pope John Paul II never tired of reminding us that we all have a vocation to be saints. Do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium – Christ is counting on you to be His witnesses in the world.

By Fr Anthony Denton


Anger Management Infused With Faith
Ronda Chervin on Ways to Gain Peace

HARDY, Arizona, JULY 6, 2005 ( Anger problems often can stifle growth in the life of virtue, preventing the peace that Jesus promises.

So says Ronda Chervin, professor of philosophy at the College of Our Lady of Corpus Christi and HREF="">author of "Taming the Lion Within: 5 Steps from Anger to Peace" (Café Press/FrancisIsidore).

Chervin shared with ZENIT how a self-help group and a strong faith life helped her heal -- and how others with tempers can move from anger to peace.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

Chervin: Many devout Catholics have problems with anger.

We overreact when we are right, or burst out peevishly when we are frustrated or hold onto unforgiving resentment when we have been hurt -- not forgiving our debtors.

We also try to avoid engaging in the sarcastic ridicule that Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:22 can land us in hell. In spite of our efforts, our progress toward Christian virtues such as meekness and peacefulness is slow, if at all.

After years and years of struggle with anger issues, I ran into a self-help group for anger, fear and depression that provides intriguing and successful techniques for overcoming angry impulses. For the first time in 57 years I was able to smile instead of sputter, laugh instead of yell, excuse rather than accuse -- at least most of the time.

It became clear to me as I practiced the new strategies that these methods were closely related to our Catholic understanding of life. Undergirding the self-help group's psychological insights with the sacraments and prayer provided me with a synthesis in thought and practice I found even more helpful.

"Taming the Lion Within: 5 Steps from Anger to Peace" was written to reach out to other angry Catholics. In the year and a half the book has been released, I find that the Holy Spirit seems to be using my five-step approach with good results.

Q: What are the five steps from anger to peace?

Chervin: The five steps are these: admitting I am an angry person; identifying my type of anger; understanding my anger; taming the lion day by day; the lion lies down with the lamb.

The following are key questions an individual could ask based on these steps.

Am I in denial that I am an angry person even though other people tell me to lighten up or seem a little afraid of me? Could cold, unforgiving resentment be just as bad as fits and rage are?

Does having an angry vs. a laid-back temperament absolve me from having to improve? Do I think it is outrageous if anyone crosses me, as if I were a kind of king or queen who everyone else should cater to?

Are there situations where I have to let go of trying to win even if I am right -- choosing peace over power? What fears are underlying my anger -- such as fear of seeming to be a failure or of being rejected? Does roaring like a lion attempt to hide my real lamblike weakness and powerlessness?

Q: How do an individual's faith, prayer and sacramental life play into healing anger problems?

Chervin: In Scripture we have many instances of God being angry; Jesus is occasionally depicted as angry, as in the famous instance of whipping the moneychangers in the temple. St. John Chrysostom wrote, "He who is not angry where he has cause to be, sins."

Nonetheless, the preponderance of passages in the Bible about human anger -- such as Ephesians 4:29-32 -- are about the evils of anger for our victims and for ourselves.

Our natural impulse when thwarted is to retaliate. Of course, we should always try to bring about justice, but in many cases there is no way to achieve this goal. The greater our faith in our destiny with God's forgiveness and grace for an eternity of happiness, the more we can forgo vengeance -- hot or cold.

Frequent reception of holy Communion and the sacrament of confession are essential. Also necessary are two main types of prayer -- instant bringing of our daily emotions to the heart of Jesus so he can comfort and direct us, and long periods of quiet contemplation in a Eucharistic adoration chapel, at home or on solitary walks.

Given the busy schedule most of us have, we are in desperate need of times alone with Jesus where we can let his love permeate our frenzied, angry or hard hearts. It is not possible to sustain anger when we are immersed in God's love -- known in a leap of faith or in an experience of grace-filled peace.

Q: What are some practical ways to change the attitudes that prevent personal peace?

Chervin: In the self-help group that inspired this book, the members are given tools -- phrases to repeat to ourselves that lurch us out of angry attitudes. Here are a few: "Expect frustrations every five minutes, you won't be disappointed"; "It's not a 911" -- the number called in the United States for emergencies; "Self-control is self-respect."

Central to the process of moving from anger to peace is overcoming perfectionism. Wanting everything to go smoothly and well all the time is unrealistic. In a Christian perspective, after the Fall most people are broken, not perfect.

Serene people expect life to be difficult and work around the average obstacles of each day without undue stress and fuming. They don't grunt, rave, curse or withdraw every time someone or something holds them up. Saintly people accept crosses and try to bring God's love to those whose actions and words are annoying or hurtful.

Q: How have you seen these steps bear fruit?

Chervin: Changing life-long attitudes and opening our angry little hearts to peace-loving ways is a long haul. Many think, "I can't help being angry most of the time because everyone else is so obnoxious."

When we begin to see that it is not just others or life, but our own attitudes that feed our anger, we are surprised and interested in learning more. We realize that God can only help us become more peaceful if we are willing to accept his permissive will in surrounding us with imperfect people and situations.

How much better would it be for us and the world if there were more tamed felines and benign lambs than lions roaring at each other?


On the Origin and Meaning of the Rosary

A Powerful Prayer, Says Archbishop Sorrentino

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2004 ( The rosary is an "intensely contemplative" and powerful prayer with a long history, says a Vatican aide.

"Personally, I have seen miracles with the rediscovery of this prayer," said Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, in an interview on Vatican Radio.

He recalled encountering "people who have found in this prayer food for the soul and a reason for conversion."

At last Wednesday's general audience, John Paul II invited the faithful in this "month of the rosary" to make the Marian devotion "your daily prayer."

The recitation of the rosary began "in a very modest way in the first centuries of the second millennium," Archbishop Sorrentino said in his interview.

"At that time, the Psalms were recited in their liturgical organization, the Psalter with lauds and vespers, but there were many who could not pray ... in Latin, and the Psalms then began to be replaced by the 'Pater' and 'Ave' prayers, which little by little were given a certain organization that varied according to circumstances," the archbishop explained.

"Then, gradually, meditation of the mysteries was added," he continued. "The prayer grew until it took on the typical form that we are used to reciting, and this occurred in particular with St. Pius V, when he instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was then linked to a special historical circumstance: the Christian victory over the Ottoman menace."

"The Pope believed that this victory was due to the insistent prayer of Christians, through the intercession of the Mother of God," Archbishop Sorrentino noted.

Since then, the rosary "has been recited by the Christian community following this scheme, until John Paul II, two years ago, with the Year of the Rosary," altered this prayer, "focusing more on its Christological and biblical aspect, in particular, by adding the 'mysteries of light,'" the archbishop said.

"If it is well understood," it "is a prayer that says much," he said. The rosary is intensely "contemplative. The repetition, which often from a distance might seem to be mechanical, in fact serves as a breath of the soul which, gazing on Jesus Christ, assumes a contemplative attitude through Mary's eyes and heart."

If understood from this perspective, one can appreciate how this Marian prayer "can really give tone to the Christian spirit, it can help a Christian in his daily living to remain well anchored in the mystery of our salvation, especially in Jesus Christ, who is the heart, the center of the life of a Christian," the prelate said.

"Sadly, sometimes this prayer is recited in the least of its possibilities," he said. "It would be good if the People of God became conscious of the potential of this prayer by following closely the suggestions made by the Pope."


Satan's Strategy of Confusion

Interview With Father Mendoza Pantoja of Archdiocese of Mexico

MEXICO CITY, SEPT. 16, 2004 ( Satan exists and his strategy is to confuse, says the exorcist of the Archdiocese of Mexico.

Father Pedro Mendoza Pantoja was one of the organizers of Mexico's first National Meeting of Exorcists and Auxiliaries of Liberation, held Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at the headquarters of the bishops' conference. The meeting drew 500 participants.

Father Mendoza Pantoja coordinates the work of eight exorcists, one for each of the territorial vicariates of that diocese. He spoke of his work with ZENIT.

Q: Who is an exorcist?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: He can be a bishop or a priest designated by him, who by the mandate of Jesus Christ and in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit recites a prayer in which, in an imperative way, in the case of diabolic possession, orders Satan to depart from the one possessed and leave him in total freedom, or in a deprecating form, that is, of intercession or supplication, asking that, by the precious blood of Christ and the intercession of the Virgin Mary, a person, place, house or object be liberated from every demonic influence, be it infestation, obsession or oppression.

Q: Can anyone be an exorcist?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: No. According to the Gospel, Christ enriched his apostles with charismatic gifts when he sent them to evangelize.

In Matthew 10:1 it says: "And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity." See also Matthew 16:17-18.

With that authority, it corresponds to bishops, successors of the apostles, to exercise this ministry of expelling demons. But, according to Canon 1172, they can designate, to exercise this ministry in a stable manner or for a special case, a "pious, learned, prudent priest with integrity of life." This is true for diabolic possessions and, therefore, for exorcism itself, also called solemn exorcism.

But every priest through his ordination participates in the priesthood of Christ and, with him, has the mission to liberate the faithful from all obsessions, oppressions or demonic influences, with deprecating prayers of intercession and supplication, with evangelization and administration of the sacraments, primarily penance and the Eucharist.

Similarly, all priests are exorcists in regard to the pastoral endeavor of liberation within their mission to evangelize, and this is true, by the command of Christ; he does not need to be designated to carry out so-called minor exorcism. Lay people cannot be exorcists.

Q: The meeting you organized also gathered "Auxiliaries of Liberation." Who are these persons and what do they do?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: Auxiliaries of Liberation are: priests who do not have the character of official exorcists; doctors; psychiatrists; religious; and lay people who help the exorcist priest in discernment or in the exercise of his ministry, either with prayer of intercession or in different eventualities.

Priests help with prayer of liberation and the laity with prayer of intercession. A priest who is not an official exorcist can carry out a minor exorcism, also called prayer of liberation, helped in turn by all the laity who support him in discernment and with prayers of intercession. The laity cannot recite prayers of liberation.

Q: If I am not mistaken, this was Mexico's first meeting of exorcists and one of the first of these characteristics in the world. It seems that in the last 40 years the figure of the exorcist was disappearing. Is this an impression that corresponds with reality?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: Indeed, it is. The causes are varied, but we could say that they are included in the great challenge that the second half of the last century presented to the Church in her task of evangelization.

In the first half, Satan attacked humanity in the field of ideas and thought: rationalism, materialism, Gnosticism, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, sectarianism, Socialism, Marxism-Leninism, etc., which separate man from God. On one hand, the negation of a personal God and also the negation of the existence of Satan as a personal being, exchanging the true God for an impersonal god that identifies itself with this material world and reducing Satan to a mere symbol.

Such an influence also infected our theologians, who in recent times no longer spoke of the devil or the angels.

But as a counterbalance, man felt nostalgia for God. His search for the supernatural, as a solution to the problems afflicting him because of his separation from God, made him fall into the clutches of the New Age, which with its deceitful spiritualities and fictitious magical and esoteric solutions has opened the doors to the manifestations of the devil in many persons who have fallen into New Age esoteric and magical practices.

For this reason, in the permanent mission of the New Evangelization the Church has found it necessary to revive something that she felt was of the past, but which is urgent in our times: to proclaim to those who have fallen away the redemption of Christ who came to liberate us from Satan's threats.

Q: It is said that in some countries the progress of Satanic sects has not been addressed adequately by the Church for lack of exorcists. Do you think there is some truth in this?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: The answer to this question is related to the previous one.

Indeed, our faithful and priests themselves have been engulfed in the sea of confusions to which the New Age leads us with its mixture of ideas, deceits and lies, manipulating Eastern spiritualities mixed with pantheism, as well as traditional medicines, which in themselves are a gift from God and have nothing diabolical, but whose efficacy is used by promoters of the New Age to give themselves credit and make one believe that everything they say is true.

It also took us bishops and priests by surprise, without knowing what to do or how to act in this sea of confusions. And some were filled with fear by the phenomenology presented in those affected by the devil. Or it led them to protect themselves in a crass skepticism in the face of these realities, attributing them to psychological problems or illnesses that are difficult to cure and so did not attend to them.

Moreover, seminaries have not given preparation to address these problems. For all these reasons, through meetings and congresses both at the national as well as the international level, we are seeking formation both for ourselves, the official exorcists, as well as for all priests and for the laity involved in the pastoral endeavor of liberation.

Q: Many, perhaps even believers, deny that there can be people who are possessed by the devil. They think, rather, that it is a question of psychological or psychiatric problems. How does an exorcist distinguish between cases of possession and disturbances of another nature?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: Canon law and the new exorcisms ritual itself, as well as the Catechism of the universal Church, establish that, before carrying out a major exorcism, there must be discernment: whether it is a question of a real possession or a simple diabolical obsession or oppression, making use also of the previous advice of doctors and psychiatrists so that they can give their diagnosis, the priest always being the one who must ultimately decide because, in addition, the ritual of exorcisms indicates which are the signs that can tell us or lead us to suspect a real diabolical possession: to speak or understand unknown languages as if they were one's own; to reveal hidden or distant things; to manifest strength beyond one's age or physical condition, to vehemently separate oneself from God, aversion to the most holy name of Jesus, of the Virgin Mary, and of the saints, to sacred images, places and objects.

Q: For many people, however, these cases of diabolical possession seem rather like Hollywood film stories. It seems that the devil's strategy is to make one believe he does not exist. As an exorcist, do you think this is true?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: In fact, as I see it, Satan uses several strategies to separate us from God.

What the devil is interested in is to confuse us, either by making us believe that he does not exist and that, as he doesn't exist, neither do hell and heaven and so we need not be afraid of being far from God.

Moreover, he manifests himself instead with oppressions and obsessions to torment terribly those who have opened the doors to him, so that they will be afraid of him and not try to close the doors to him and trust him.

This is how we can explain Satanic worship and holy death to obtain power, his favor and protection. Satan is the father of lies and deceit.

Q: All ministries in the Church are a grace of God and a service to brothers. Do you yourself perceive the ministry of exorcist as a grace for your life?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: My whole life is a grace from God: my baptism the gift that makes me a child of God, member of the Church, and co-heir with Christ of his glory; the priestly ministry, the gift that enables me to participate in his redemption and his work of salvation and service to my brothers.

The ministry of exorcist is also a gift of his grace and mercy, which in my littleness, insignificance and limitations, enables me to experience, as his instrument, his liberating and salvific power in the service of my brothers, which encourages me and impels me to adhere to him ever more to participate in his victory and, with it, in his glory.

Q: What is the service of the exorcist to the Church and to your brothers like? In other words, is there a case you can tell us about in which your ministry of exorcist enabled you to experience in fullness your vocation as man and priest?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: There are many cases in which, practicing the prayer of liberation -- over the past 24 years, also when I was not yet an exorcist -- I have seen the power in which God makes us priests participants in the service of our suffering brothers. The therapy of faith with the prayer of healing, liberation, and forgiveness, with which one succeeds in something that is impossible and not within the reach of medical and psychological science.

Now, as an exorcist for the past six years, I have attended several cases of diabolical oppressions and obsessions. Tormented and already despairing people, who after having gone to all kinds of specialists, quacks and medicine men, have worsened their situation.

They think they are diabolically possessed and ask anxiously for exorcism. In some cases, there have been signs that have led me to suspect a diabolical presence or possession and, even without being certain, to carry out the so-called diagnostic exorcism, that is, imperative prayer, to succeed in making them enter a peace and tranquility without going so far as to have a full solemn exorcism, it being enough to continue with the prayer of liberation.

It has been a great satisfaction to succeed in the liberation of my brothers, through the service of my humble ministry, by the power of the prayer of intercession and to see the growth of their faith, thanks to an evangelization and catechesis that leads to their conversion, the renewal of their faith, and their fuller adherence to the Lord, and to see them continue their lives full of love and confidence in God.

Q: What should a person do who thinks he is a victim of diabolical possession or who knows someone who might be in that situation?

Father Mendoza Pantoja: He must go to his parish priest and make a good confession so that, in the first instance, that priest can take care of him.

If his parish priest discovers that there is a demonic influence but no signs of diabolical possession, he must pray with him supported by a liberation team and insert him in a group of evangelization or growth in the faith or in some parish ministry.

If the parish priest perceives signs that make him suspect a diabolical possession or does not feel able to address the problem, he must then be directed to the exorcist of his diocese or the nearest exorcist. He must never go to medicine men or make use of magical cures.


A Tendency to Judge Is an Obstacle to Hearing God, Says Preacher 

VATICAN CITY, JULY 20, 2004 ( The temptation to judge others is the greatest obstacle in listening to God, says preacher of the Pontifical Household.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa made that comment today in reference to John Paul II's affirmation Sunday, when the Pope said at his Angelus address: "To listen to the Word of God is the most important thing in our lives."

Father Cantalamessa told Vatican Radio: "In addition to the external obstacles imposed by the rhythm of modern life, there is an even more dangerous noise: the one which impedes our hearts from listening to the Word of God when judging others."

This attitude "makes us judges who judge the whole world. This silent 'noise' of the heart must be silenced in our minds -- at times even with violence," he said.

"Enough, enough of this sort of reasoning, of complaints!" the priest said. He said people must tell themselves: "I want to read the Word of God, I want to listen to the Word of God, I want to repeat within me the Word of God."

It is an exercise that helps "to pass from useless, noisy, egoistic thoughts to thoughts that come from God," he added.