Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
This Sunday we celebrate May Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Let us honor our Blessed Mother, and seek all from Jesus through her and the prayers of St. Joseph.
The month of May is dedicated to increased devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us ask Jesus and St. Joseph to teach us to practice great love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary! This weekend I share with you a reflection on a certain power each of has been given by God: the power of Imagination. I encourage you to read it through a few times this week!
“The Imagination - Interior mortification needed for supernatural life: The Gospel of John (3:1-8) tells us of the intimate dialogue that took place one night between Jesus and Nicodemus. This man is moved by the preaching and the miracles of the Master and feels the need to know more. He shows great respect towards Jesus: Rabbi, Master, he calls Him.
Nicodemus asks Jesus about His mission, perhaps still uncertain whether He is just another prophet, or if He is the Messiah: Rabbi, he says to Him, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do, unless God is with him. And Jesus replies in quite an unexpected way: Nicodemus asks about His mis-sion and Jesus reveals to him an astonishing Truth: a man must be born again. He is speaking of a spiritual birth by water and the Holy Spirit: a whole new world is unfolding before the eyes of Nicodemus.
Jesus’ words also open up an unlimited horizon for the spiritual advancement of any Christian who allows himself to be led with docility by the inspirations and motions of the Holy Spirit, because interior life does not consist solely in acquiring a series of natural virtues or ob-serving certain pious practices. It is a question of a complete transformation - of, in fact, being born again, which Our Lord asks from us: you must rid yourselves of the old self according to which you lived your past life (Eph. 4:22), St. Paul said to the faithful of Ephesus.
This interior transformation is, above all, a work of Grace in the soul, but it requires our collaboration also by way of mortification of the intellect, of memory and of imagination, so as to purify our potencies in order for the Life of Christ to develop freely within us. Many Christians don’t make any progress in their dealings with God in pray-er because they neglect interior mortification, without which exterior mortification loses its foundation.
The imagination is undoubtedly a very useful faculty, because the soul, which is united to the body, cannot think without the help of images. Our Lord spoke to the people by means of parables, express-ing the most profound truths by means of images, and we have seen how He follows this same procedure with Nicodemus. In the same way the imagination can be a great help in the interior life, for con-templating the Life of Our Lord or the mysteries of the Rosary. But for it to be beneficial and useful, the imagination has to be directed by right reason illuminated by Faith. Otherwise it could become what has been called ‘the lunatic of the house’; it takes us away from the consideration of Divine things and draws us towards those that are vain, frivolous, fantastic and even prohibited. Even in the best of cases it can lead us to day-dreaming, from whence arises sentimentalism,
which is so opposed to true piety. (R. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life)
Given our condition after Original Sin, the subjection of the imagination to reason can usually be achieved only through mortification, with the result that it ceases to be the lunatic of the house and confines itself to its own specific purpose, which is that of serving the intelligence enlightened by Faith. (ibid.)
Mortification of the imagination: Allowing our imagination to roam freely means in the first place wasting time which is a gift from God and part of the inheritance left to us by Our Lord. Get rid of those useless thoughts which, at best, are but a waste of time (J. Escriva, The Way, 13), is the advice of the author of The Way. Besides, the imagination which is lost thus in fantastic and sterile dreams is a fertile field in which a great number of voluntary temptations are sure to appear to convert our useless thoughts into a real occasion of sin. (J. Escriva, Furrow, 135)
When this interior mortification is lacking, the dreams of the imagination are often centered upon our own talents, on how well we performed a particular action, on the admiration - unreal too, perhaps - which we provoked in certain people or in our own environment… And so what started out as a useless thought evolves into a loss of the rectitude of intention which up to then had been intact. Then pride, which is always at the ready, takes shape from something that appeared at first to be totally innocent, and if it is not stopped in time it destroys anything good it finds. In particular, it destroys a large part of that attention which is due to others, preventing us from noticing their needs and practicing Charity. The proud person’s horizon is terribly limited: it stops at himself. He can see no further than himself, his qualities, his virtues, his talent. His is a godless horizon. Even other people have no place on this cramped horizon: there is no room for them. (S. Canals, Jesus As Friend)
At other times the imagination entertains itself by judging other people’s way of acting, and often makes judgments that are negative and lacking in objectivity, because when one does not look upon others with understanding and with the desire of helping them, one takes an unjustly partial view of them. When one examines somebody with-out the Charity of understanding, one judges his behavior coldly without taking into account the motives he may have had for acting in that way, or one gratuitously attributes something bad or something less good to another’s action without any foundation for doing so. Only God can penetrate hidden things, and read the heart’s truth and give their true value to all circumstances. Through a blameworthy superficiality these useless thoughts lead to rash judgment, which springs from a heart with little rectitude and no presence of God. Interior mortification in regard to these useless thoughts would have avoided this interior lack of Charity which separates a person from God and from others. The reason for so many rash judgments is that they are considered to be of little importance; nevertheless, if it is a question of grave matter, they can lead to the committing of grave sins. (St. John Vianney, [The Cure d’Ars], Sermon on Rash Judgment)
It often happens, if we are not alert in cutting off useless thoughts and offering this mortification to Our Lord, that our imagination will rotate around ourselves, creating fictitious situations that are little or in no way compatible with the Christian vacation of a son of God who should have his heart set on Him. These thoughts cool the heart; they separate from God and afterwards make it difficult to maintain the right climate of dialogue with Our Lord in the midst of our affairs.
Let us examine ourselves today in our prayer as to how we are get-ting on with this interior mortification which helps so much to keep the presence of Our Lord in our lives and which avoids so many inappropriate things, temptations and sins. It is worth our while to meditate seriously on this, in a deep fashion and with the desire to make effective resolutions.
Making good use of our imagination in our prayer: Mortification of the imagination brings with it countless benefits for the soul. It’s not just a matter of a purely negative task, nor does it lie on the frontiers of sin but in the area of presence of God and of Love. In the first place, it purifies the soul and disposes it towards living presence of God better; it causes us to make good use of the time dedicated to prayer, because it is the imagination and its fancies that often inhibit dialogue with Our Lord, and which distract us when we should be more attentive - for example, in Holy Mass and Communion. Mortification of the imagination permits us to make better use of our time at work, to do it conscientiously and sanctify it.
In the area of charity it facilitates our being attentive to others instead of being wrapped up in ourselves and immersed in dreams.
The imagination that is purified by means of constant mortification, in which useless thoughts are promptly rejected, has an important role to play in the interior life, in our dealings with God: it helps us mediate on the scenes of the Gospel, accompanying Jesus in His years at Nazareth with Joseph and Mary, in His public life with the Apostles. In particular, it is of great help when contemplating the Passion of Our Lord and the mysteries of the Rosary.
Make it a habit to mingle frequently with the characters who appear in the New Testament. Capture the flavor of those moving scenes where the Master performs works that are both Divine and human, and tells us, with human and Divine touches, the wonderful story of His pardon for us and His enduring Love for His children. Those foretastes of Heaven are renewed today, for the Gospel is always True. (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 216)
If at times you don’t feel strong enough to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, say a few loving words to those who knew Him well during His life on earth. To Mary, first of all, for she it was who brought Him to us. Then to the Apostles. ‘And there were certain Gentiles who approached Phillip, the man from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request of him: ‘Sir’, they said, ‘we desire to see Jesus’. Philip came and told Andrew, and together Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus (John 12:20-22).’ Don’t you find this scene encouraging? Those foreigners didn’t dare to approach the Master directly, so they looked for a good intercessor…
My advice is that, in your prayer, you actually take part in the different scenes of the Gospel, as one more among the people present. First of all, imagine the scene or mystery you have chosen to help you
recollect your thoughts and meditate. Next apply your mind, concentrating on the particular aspect of the Master’s Life you are considering
- His merciful Heart, His humility, His purity, the way He fulfills His Father’s Will. Tell Him then what happens to you in these matters, how things are with you, what is going on in your soul. Be attentive, because He may want to point something out to you, and you will experience suggestions deep in your soul, realizing certain things and feeling His gentle reprimands. (idem., 252-253) And so we shall imitate Our Lady, who kept all these things - the events of the Life of Our Lord - and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)” From In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez
Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God bless us with great love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary!
In Christ through Mary,