St. Thomas Aquinas’ 5 Remedies Against Sadness

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On certain days we have all been sad, days when we have been unable to overcome an inner torpor or depression that weighs down on us and makes it difficult to interact with others. Is there a trick for overcoming sorrow and recovering our smile? St. Thomas Aquinas suggests five remedies against sadness that have proven surprisingly effective (Summa Theologiae, I–II, q. 38).

The first remedy is granting ourselves something we like. It’s as though the famous theologian had already intuited seven centuries ago that “chocolate is an antidepressant.” This might seem a bit materialistic, but no one would deny that a tough day can end well with a good beer. It’s hard to refute this by citing the Gospel, since our Lord took part joyfully in banquets and feasts, and both before and after his Resurrection enjoyed the noble and good things in life. One of the Psalms even says that wine gladdens the human heart (although the Bible also clearly condemns getting drunk).

The second remedy is weeping. St. Thomas says “a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: whereas if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened” (I-II q. 38 a. 2). Our melancholy gets worse if we have no way to give vent to our sorrow. Weeping is the soul’s way to release a sorrow that can become paralyzing. Jesus too wept. And Pope Francis said that “certain truths in life can only be seen with eyes cleansed by tears. I invite each of you to ask yourself: Have I learned how to cry?”

The third remedy is sharing our sorrow with a friend. I recall here the friend of Renzo in Manzoni’s great novel The Betrothed. Finding himself alone in his deserted home ravaged by the plague and mourning his family’s horrible fate, he tells Renzo: “What has happened is horrible, something that I never thought I would live to see; it’s enough to take away a person’s joy for the rest of his life. But speaking about these things with a friend is a great help.” This is something we have to experience in order to understand it. When we are sad, we tend to see everything in tints of gray. A very effective antidote is opening our heart to a friend. Sometimes a brief message or phone call is enough for our outlook to once again be filled with light.

The fourth remedy against sadness is contemplating the truth. Contemplating the “fulgor veritatis” St. Augustine speaks of, the splendor of truth in nature or a work of art or music, can be an effective balm against sadness. A literary critic, a few days after the death of a dear friend, was scheduled to speak at a conference about the topic of adventure in the works of Tolkien. He began by saying: “Speaking about beautiful things to people interested in them is for me a real consolation …”

The fifth remedy suggested by St. Thomasis perhaps something we wouldn’t expect from a medieval thinker. The theologian says that a wonderful remedy against sadness is bathing and sleeping. It’s a deeply Christian viewpoint that in order to alleviate a spiritual malady one will sometimes have to resort to a bodily remedy. Ever since God became Man, and therefore took on a body, the separation between matter and spirit has been overcome in this world of ours.

A widespread error is that Christianity is based on the opposition between soul and body, with the latter being seen as a burden or obstacle for the spiritual life. But the right view of Christian humanism is that the human person (both body and soul) is completely “spiritualized” by seeking union with God.

“No one thinks it strange to seek out a physician who cares for the body as a guide for a spiritual illness,” says St. Thomas More. “The body and soul are so closely united that together they form a single person, and hence a malady of one can sometimes be are malady of both. Therefore, I would advise everyone, when confronted with a physical illness, to first go to confession, and seek out a good spiritual doctor for the health of their soul. Likewise for some sicknesses of the soul, besides going to the spiritual physician, one should also go to a physician who cares for the body.”

From a conference given by Carlo de Marchi, vicar of Opus Dei for Central-South Italy, at the National Ecclesial Congress in Florence. Originally published at the website opusdei.us and reprinted here with kind permission.

3 Convictions that make us ready for Christmas

By Bishop Robert Barron

The prophet Micah says that Bethlehem-Ephratha is “too small to be among the clans of Judah” but “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2). Micah is himself one of the minor prophets and so it is only appropriate that he speaks of a small city, little Bethlehem, from which the great Messiah would come.
How common this is in the Bible: the reversal of expectations, the little giving rise to the great, wonderful things coming where you least expect them. The stuttering Moses speaks up to mighty Pharaoh, the slaves face down the Egyptian army, tiny David kills the giant Goliath.
And this last connection is the important one here. Bethlehem is the city of David, the city of the shepherd King. When Samuel came to that town to find the new king, he went through all of Jesse’s splendid sons and then was told there was one more, little David out in the fields. And it was this overlooked one whom God anointed.
This just seems to be God’s way, and that’s why the Messiah would be born in that tiny town, in an out of the way cave under the earth, because there was no room for him in the inn. Yet, through God’s amazing grace, great things can happen, including the birth of the Messiah.
Looking at the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem teaches us three great messages: greatness comes from smallness, never give up hope, and trust always. With those three convictions in our hearts, we’re ready for Christmas.

10 Great Quotes from Mother Teresa

With the announcement this week that Mother Teresa’s canonization is going forward, the team at Aleteia recalled some of the missionary’s most inspiring (and challenging) exhortations to individuals, and to society, as a whole.

1) If you are judging people, you have no time to love them.

2) The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love as there is a hunger for God (A Simple Path: Mother Teresa).

3) What is my thought? I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself,This is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.

4) Be kind to each other in your homes. Be kind to those who surround you. I prefer that you make mistakes in kindness rather than that you work miracles in unkindness. Often just for one word, one look, one quick action, and darkness fills the heart of the one we love (Love, a Fruit Always in Season.)

5) I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Ask yourself, “How has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?” Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery (Come, Be My Light).

6) A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.

7) Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; this is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor (In the Heart of the World).

8) What you are doing I cannot do, what I’m doing you cannot do, but together we are doing something beautiful for God, and this is the greatness of God’s love for us — to give us the opportunity to become holy through the works of love that we do because holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is a very simple duty for you, for me — you in your position, in your work and I and others, each one of us in the work, in the life that we have given our word of honor to God. … You must put your love for God in a living action (Where There Is Love, There Is God).

9) When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.
It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.

10) Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much is the love he has for each one of you — beyond all what you can imagine. … Not only he loves you, even more — he longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy …  (Come, Be My Light).

Of Related Interest:

What it Means to Have Been Mentored by Mother Teresa

“How Does This Happen to Me?”

Suggestions for these last days of Advent

By Bishop Robert Barron

We are an Advent people—a people who wait. Something (or better someone) is coming, and the best thing we can do is to wait in hopeful expectation.

Here is how the great prophet of Advent puts it: “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are all the work of your hands” (Isaiah 64:7).

Now does this mean that we do nothing? That we sit like lumps waiting for God to do something with our lives? No. In fact, there is something very “active” about waiting.

Do you remember how lively and attentive you are when you are eagerly waiting for someone to arrive? When you watch for every car that comes by when you are waiting at the airport? Every sense strains to take in what is happening; your mind is alive with expectation. Your spirit is jumping. This is, I think, what waiting means in the spiritual sense; this is the mood of Advent.

Here are some practical suggestions for these remaining days of waiting. First, examine your conscience on a regular basis. Realize the prevalence and power of sin in your life, being especially attentive to the recurrent problems.

Second, pray. The Liturgy, the Scriptures, the Rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the Jesus prayer—whatever works for you. But lean into God with a special fervor and attentiveness during these final days of Advent.

Third, ask for forgiveness. Seek the forgiveness of those who you have hurt because of your sin. There is no better way to access our own helplessness before God.

The “O” Antiphons from now to Christmas

During the final week of Advent (December 17-23), the Church offers us an intense time of preparation for the feast of the Nativity, and the Roman Church in particular sings a series of antiphons at Vespers that magnificently set forth the nature of the coming One.

Here is a rendering of this “season’s brightest jewels” that can help us understand more clearly how for Christians, Jesus has fulfilled the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Israel.

December 17  O Wisdom, O Holy Word of God (Sir. 24:3), you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care (Wisd. of Solomon  8:1).  Come and show your people the way to salvation (Isa. 40:3-5).

December 18  O Sacred Lord of Ancient Israel (Exod. 6:2, 3, 12), who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush (Exod. 3:2), who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:  come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

December 19  O Flower of Jesse’s Stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples (Isa. 11:10; Rom. 15:12); kings stand silent in your presence (Isa. 5:15); the nations bow down in worship before you.  Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid (Hab. 2:3; Heb. 10:37).

December 20  O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven (Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7); come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom (Isa. 42:7; Ps. 107:14; Luke 1:79).

December 21  O Radiant Dawn (Zech. 6:12), splendor of eternal light (Heb. 1:3), sun of justice (Mal 4:2):  come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:78-79; Isa. 9:2).

December 22  O King of all the Nations, the only joy of every human heart (Hag 2:8); O Keystone (Isa. 28:16) of the mighty human arch (Eph. 2:14); come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust (Gen. 2:7).

December 23  O Emmanuel (Isa. 7:14; 8:8), king and lawgiver (Isa. 33:22), desire of the nations (Gen. 49:10), Savior of all, come and set us free, Lord our God.

With thanks to http://www.zenit.org

Everyone Ultimately Wants God.

 

By Bishop Robert Barron

Everyone is, in principle, interested in repentance. Whenever that call is uttered in a clear and uncompromising way, people tend to respond. No matter how high they might seem in the society, no matter how self-confident, they ultimately want God.
And so, like those who in the time of John the Baptist, we ask “What should we do? How should we live our lives?” This question, of course, tells us something else about repentance: that it has to do with action more than simply changing our minds.
We know our lives have gone off the rails in different ways, and we want to get them back on track. This is possible only through certain things we do. The spiritual life is, finally, a set of behaviors.

 

So what does John the Baptist tell us to do? His first recommendation is this: “whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none” (John 3: 11). This is so basic, so elemental—yet so almost thoroughly ignored! In the Church’s social teaching, we find a constant reminder that although private property is a social good, the use of our private property must always have a social orientation.

 

Pope Leo XIII wrote in Rerum Novarum, “If the question be asked how must one’s possessions be used, the Church replies without hesitation that man should not consider his material possessions as his own but as common to all.” And then this startling line, very effective for an examination of conscience: “when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over.”
An early Church Father, St. Basil the Great, expressed this idea even more radically and in tones that echo John the Baptist: “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry. The cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked. The shoes you allow to rot belong to the barefoot. The money in your vaults belongs to the destitute. You do injustice to every man whom you could help but do not.”
So what should we do this Advent, we who seek repentance, we who await the coming of the Messiah? Serve justice, render to each his due, and give to those who are need.

 

 

 

What Gospel Means….

By Bishop Robert Barron

In Greek, the word “Gospel” is euangelion. Eu means good andangelion means tidings or message. This is where the word “angel” comes from, meaning simply “messenger.”

Now we automatically associate this word with religion, as in evangelization or evangelical. But at the time of the Gospels, the termeuangelion was associated especially with military victory. It was the good news of triumph in battle. More to it, euangelion was associated with the deity and accomplishments of the emperor of Rome. By Jesus’ time, it had become a commonplace that the Roman emperor was considered a god. Thus when an emperor was installed,euangelion was proclaimed. And when the emperor would write a new law or win a military victory or in any other way assert his command, it was announced as euangelion.
So can you see how dangerous it is to announce the record of Jesus as a “gospel”? This good news has nothing to do with the Roman emperor and his army. It is proposing, in effect, a new emperor. And then for good measure, the writer Mark adds that he is writing the “gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Well, those were fighting words, for “son of God” was another title reserved for the Roman emperor.
Do you wonder now why Christians were persecuted for the first three centuries of the Church’s life? Do you wonder why every single apostle except for John was martyred? Do you wonder now why they threw Christians to wild beasts? It’s because they announced the trueeuangelion.
But what, or who, was this new emperor intending to fight? And what would be the nature of his military victory? John the Baptist provides us a clue. He preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But one was coming who was greater than John, one for whom John prepared the way, and that greater man would baptize in the power of the Holy Spirit. He would take on all of human sin and swallow it up in the divine mercy.
That’s the new emperor, and that’s the dangerous good news.

 

Patience endures all

By Bishop Robert Barron

There is a permanent Advent quality to the Christian life. We wait and watch and keep vigil. St. James speaks bluntly and clearly about this kind of waiting: “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7). In one sense, Christianity is a religion of fulfillment, for the Lord has come. But in another sense, it is a religion of waiting, for we expect the second coming of Jesus in the fullness of his power.
And as James clearly suggests, this is difficult.
But what we all know is that great things take time. When a woman becomes pregnant, she has to wait nine long months before the baby is ready; when a gardener works, he waits and watches and cultivates; when an author writes a book, he has to let it come on its terms and in its own time. During any of these processes, the very worst thing you can do is pick at it, force it, or make it operate according to your private timetable. So we endure the harsh and the sweet processes that make growth possible. What James is urging us to do is to imagine our lives as processes of gestation—and not meaningless series of events.

James knows, too, what typically happens when we are impatient: we attack those around us. “Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged” (James 5:9). Perhaps those around us who bother us and criticize us were sent to us by God.
The key, as always, is how we read what is happening to us. And what is happening is that the Lord is preparing his return.

 

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