Power, Love and a Sound Mind

Creation of Adam (detail) by Michelangelo

If you analyze any human problem – any human sin – any human negativity–any human perversion – any violence or lust or greed or self pity you will find beneath them all the foundational fear.

The beauty of a dynamic Catholic faith is that “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). This particular verse reveals an understanding of human psychology which is so profound and wise that it confirms the inspiration of Scripture. Who could have seen the depths of these few words?

This Spirit we have received – if we yield to it completely and live within the life of faith – will bring us into the graced condition of living with power, love and a sound mind. Without the Spirit we decline into the spirit of fear and we live with the opposite of these three gifts. If we descend into the ever deepening and ever narrowing spiral of life without the Spirit then we will live in weakness not power; hatred not love; and madness not a sound mind.

However, if we live within the Holy Spirit day by day, then we will, bit by bit, discover a new kind of power, a new kind of love and a new clarity of thought and vision. We will be truly powerful because the Divine power is growing within us. We will be truly and genuinely loving – not trying hard to be nice, respectable people, but truly concerned and compassionate and loving towards others. We will be truly amazingly and dynamically of sound mind.

This is what we witness in the lives of the saints. They are not just good people. They are not just pious people. They are not just energetic or intelligent people. Instead they manifest in their lives a supernatural power, love and sanity.

Those, on the other hand, who refuse to move further into this Spirit of God – into the power, the love and the sanity – will move further into helplessness, hatred and insanity.

I have seen the saints. I have met them so I know this is true. I have also seen those who refuse the life of the Spirit and descend further and further into the dark. I am thinking not of the depraved and wicked sinners who have done so – even though they do show us the descent of the human spirit into the dark – but I am thinking of the “nice” respectable Christian people who, despite their Christian profession and practice, do not live in the Spirit, but live by the standards of the world.

They too, ever so gently but surely, descend into increasing helplessness, hatred, distrust and insanity. I have seen them disintegrate. I have seen their worlds collapse. I have seen them act in desperation as the money they trusted disappears, as the friends they have trusted betray them and as the worldly mindset they have accepted without question has proven to be ephemeral and empty.

We can only watch in dismay as the disintegration happens. To be lifted we can contemplate the lives of the saints, for they radiate the glory and light of eternity – which far outweighs the narrow alleyways and the ever decreasing downward spiral of those who live without the Spirit.

How is this transformation accomplished? It is done simply and surely through the sacramental life of the church. To attend Mass with a pure heart, to go to confession for forgiveness of sins, to read the Sacred Scriptures, to discipline the flesh, give alms to the poor, visit the poor and helpless. Through this regular, simple and studied life we open the very depths of our soul to the Divine Mercy – for if the sickness was a primal fear – a nameless and inchoate fear at the deepest level, then the remedy is to receive unconditional and totally supernatural love for “perfect love casts out fear.”

When this infusion of the Divine Love – the Divine Mercy fills our souls, then we begin to be transformed from the foundation level up. It is as if the foundations of the house were weak and rotten and the Master Builder drills down to the depths and pours in the solid concrete of unconditional love. Once this transaction takes place the soul is set to receive the continued graces that bring about conversion of life.

This is what the Christian religion is about – all the prayers, all the works, all the faith, all the activity of study and worship is to bring about this internal conversion and eternal transformation.

Fr Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and the author of many articles and books on the Catholic faith. Visit his blog and website at www.dwightlongenecker.com

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About the Author

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He conducts parish missions, retreats and speaks at conferences across the USA.

His latest book is The Romance of Religion - Fighting for Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Visit his blog, listen to his radio show, and browse his books at dwightlongenecker.com.

Catechesis teaches us what to believe and how to behave, but Catholics also need down to earth advice for putting their faith into action. For help in your practice of the Catholic faith sign up for FaithWorks! -- Fr Longenecker's free, weekly newsletter on the practical practice of the Catholic faith.

Visit Fr. Longenecker on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/frlongenecker.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. Fr Dwight was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson.

Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA.

Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of English conversion stories called The Path to Rome - Modern Journeys to the Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son - a daily Benedictine devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and thought of two of the most popular saints.

In the field of Catholic apologetics, Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from 'Mere Christianity' to 'More Christianity'. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now an Evangelical Episcopalian.

Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He wrote Christianity Pure&Simple which was published by the Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008. His latest books are The Gargoyle Code - a book in the tradition of Screwtape Letters and a book of poems called A Sudden Certainty, Adventures in Orthodoxy and The Romance of Religion.

Fr. Dwight has contributed a chapter to the third volume of the best selling Surprised by Truth series and is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine, St Austin Review, This Rock, Our Sunday Visitor and National Catholic Register. Fr. Dwight has also written a couple of children’s books, had three of his screenplays produced, and is finishing his first novel. He’s working on a book on angels and his autobiography: There and Back Again.

In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted a post as Chaplain to St Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, South Carolina. This brought him and his family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible belt, and hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He is the Administrator of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and an oblate of Belmont Abbey.

Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a chocolate lab called Felicity, cat named James and various other pets.

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