Podcast 6: Consoling the Heart of Jesus
A Spirituality of Trust
In podcast 6, Peter Land and Malcolm Schluenderfritz discuss the Fr. Gaitley’s book Consoling the Heart of Jesus and the spirituality that underlies it: the great love that Jesus has for each of us, despite our sins and failings, and the great importance of absolute trust in his mercy. We also discuss The Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux and Pope Francis’ call to go to the peripheries. Other topics mentioned include: scrupulosity; an outward focus; pride; “performance orientation;” Pelagianism; the Good Thief; St. Paul; attachments and addictions; the danger of self-sufficiency; the danger of agendas; the Prodigal Son; C. S. Lewis; detachment; A.A.; St. Faustina; St. Margaret Mary; Eucharistic Adoration; Pharisees; Jansenism; and St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
(All transcripts edited for clarity and readability.)
I’m really enjoying finding this podcast and site and working my way through both.
My one bone to pick, and it might be with Fr Gaitley but I think that is a mischaracterization of Jansenists and unfair to Cornelius Jansen who’s name the heresy bears. Ultimately, what is most strongly condemned were ideas supposedly found in Jansen’s work on St Augustine and the “five propositions” were practically Calvinist doctrines (irresistible grace, that divine law is impossible to follow even with God’s grace, etc.).
I think one of the worst ideas to have crept into the modern Catholic mindset is that rigorism = Jansenism. How often have we heard “Irish Catholicism was infected with Jansenism”, but the universal call to Gospel poverty is certainly a call to rigorism. Fr de Montfort was hardly a Jansenist but his Letter to the Friends of the Cross is certainly rigorous.
Keep up the great work though!
Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast!
As far as the Jansenist issue; I’m pretty sure Fr. Gaitley was aiming at “popular” Jansenism, both what the movement eventually became associated with and what the word now means in the popular imagination, rather than at the doctrines found in Jansen’s work on Augustine.
Fairly early in Jansenist history, the movement because associated with a certain sort of (unhelpful) rigorism; for instance, Arnauld, a noted Jansenist author, argued that anyone who was “not yet perfectly united to God alone, or, to use the words of Scripture, who are not entirely perfect and perfectly irreproachable” should not receive the Eucharist. This doesn’t fit with the Gospels, the Early Church, or the later reforms of St. Pope Pius X.
I think this example can help me explain my position on rigorism. As Christians, we should proclaim the truths of the Gospel, including such difficult commands as Gospel Poverty. On the other hand, we should always be merciful and considerate toward those who fall short, just as Christ was. Above all, we should never let a focus on works, whether of poverty or charity or chastity or any other virtue, obscure our focus on Christ. Jesus wants us to come to him as we are; he will perfect us, but we can’t perfect ourselves. If we wait till we are perfect to approach Jesus, whether in the Eucharist or in other ways, we’ll never come.
It is interesting to note that “Jansenist” rigorism can actually produce a sort of practical Pelagianism among non-intellectuals. (This is really ironic since the Pelagians were Augustine’s great opponents.) We can end up seeing the Christian life as a contest of self-improvement with Beatitude as a reward for good performance, instead of seeing the Christian life as consisting in humbly asking for God’s mercy.
I really struggled with this growing up; I felt that real intimacy with Christ was impossible for me due to my repeated failings. Fr. Gaitley really helped me out of this by showing me how loving and merciful Christ really is and how ready to receive us. What we call this spiritual problem is a secondary issue; maybe the label “Jansenist” isn’t helpful and should be dropped. It is even possible that Cornelius Jansen himself wouldn’t have approved of the rigorist attitudes of later “Jansenist” authors towards the reception of Holy Communion. You probably know a lot more about that than I do, since I haven’t read Jansen.
Anyway, let me know if that answers your question or if you have further comments.
Thanks for the reply, I think it clarified for me a bit more what you meant in the podcast.
Failure in the spiritual life and failing to meet the standards I try to hold myself to when I know God is holding me to higher ones is something I struggle with as well. Reading Pascal’s Pensees was helpful for me to reorient myself away from a type of Pelagianism or intellectualism (“I know all the right things about the faith”) that can creep into “more traditional” expressions of the faith.
A few things it oriented me back towards were a good heap of “grace as an unmerited gift from God”, that faith itself is a gift of grace that we shouldn’t take for granted or look down upon people for not having, an awareness of the limitations of natural reason, and (one of my favorite lines) “Begin by pitying unbelievers; their condition makes them unhappy enough. They ought not to be abused unless it does them good, but in fact it does them harm.”