Part 3: Detachment from Things that are Good (or seemingly so)

Continued from Part 2: Jesus and the Saints on Detachment

It is sad to talk to people who are totally immersed in a worldly life. “I’ve been living for 20 years with a man who was married for 30 years before his divorce before we met. I believe abortion is fine because an unviable fetus isn’t a baby. I believe birth control is fine, and it’s hypocritical of the Church to oppose both abortion and birth control. I have the right to do whatever I want with my body. You have no right to tell me what to do. I was told by priests in the 1960s that it’s my freedom of conscience. I think people have the right to make as much money as they want.” The hiss of Satan echoes behind words like these, and it’s sad when people are so brainwashed and think they are “free.”

It is equally sad when people don’t realize their attachments to “goods.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen said one of the greatest errors is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

We can be come improperly attached to our loved ones, which the psychologists call co-dependency. “My son *needs me.*” “I have to love X in spite of his/her behavior, so that means complete tolerance.’

“God *needs me* to be in full time pro-life work. I’m too important to be a lowly parish priest.” “God *needs me* to go around giving speaking engagements. I’m too important to be a lowly parish priest.” “God *needs me* to bring down Planned Parenthood by whatever means necessary because no one else will.” “God *needs me* to ______.” “I’m too important.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola once had a vision of being surrounded by a profound light. He began to think how blessed he was to receive this vision, and how God must have been confirming his sanctity. He realized these thoughts were prideful, so he realized it was a vision from the Devil, made the sign of the cross and renounced the vision, and it went away.

Odds are, in most situations, if you’re faced with two options that are equally meritorious, or morally neutral, then God’s preference is for you to choose the one that’s less desirable to you, since the whole point of our life is to overcome our disordered inclinations, to achieve spiritual detachment (now, “detachment” really means “non-attachment”; even “detachment” can be an “attachment” if taken the wrong way, like, “I’m too detached to care about anyone else”).

It can be difficult to realize that we are “attached” to holy things, like particular forms of prayer. Some people are so obsessive with the Dominican Rosary, for example, that they judge other people harshly for using other prayer forms, or they even prevent their own spiritual growth by forcing meditation when God is trying to move them on to contemplation (see my post from a few months ago about “When God Tells You to Shut Up”)

It is even possible to be “attached” to the Sacraments. For example, a scrupulous person has an unhealthy “attachment” to Reconciliation. Someone who demands Anointing of the Sick for a cold (and doesn’t have an underlying condition that makes the cold life-threatening) has an unhealthy attachment to that Sacrament. We can be too attached to a particular priest or parish community, to particular liturgical choices or artwork. Maybe we are too habitual and need to appreciate the Mass more. Maybe we’ve come to take Communion for granted or over-justify ourselves in potentially sacrilegious Communions. Maybe we use some lay ministry, or even dressing up for Mass, as a source of pride. As C. S. Lewis writes in one of his _Letters to An American Lady_ (mandatory clarification that the “American Lady” was NOT JOY), sometimes God wants us to miss Mass (by giving us legitimate reasons).


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