Monthly Archives: July 2016

On Van Gogh, Lewis, Koontz, Autism and the Afterlife

Here’s a thought process: I’ve long believed that part of what we take to be “mental illness” is the brain perceiving reality differently, particularly in the case of schizophrenic disorders, hallucinations, etc.: that whatever connection there is between the soul and the mind is overactive, so the person is extra-ordinarily aware of the ordinary spiritual activity that surrounds us. St Anthony of the Desert was once given a view of the angels and demons simply fighting at that moment over his soul, and asked not to be shown it again lest he go insane.
Now, I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple days about sensory overload. If you dare, here are a couple videos that simulate sensory overload experiences:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oe7yNPyf2c
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcS2VUoe12M
Tonight, I saw an interesting video on Vincent van Gogh and physics. The article and video can be found here.  Van Gogh’s painting’s, particularly Starry Night, accurately depict the motion of the stars according to the phenomenon called “turbulence,” and Hubble Telescope researchers found that patterns from the Hubble telescope match van Gogh’s work.  That’s the nutshell version of the physics: the articles leave open the question of *how*, but at one point the video touches on the neurological side of things, and that’s what inspired this blog post.  Now, if I understand what they’re saying, all the Impressionists depicted light in a way that’s revolutionary and matches with things scientists discovered later.  They all seemed to intuit or access perceptions of light that most people aren’t aware of, but our brains can still process.
Van Gogh, however, was the only one to do it with such detail and scientific/mathematical precision.    He did all this during the same period of  “mental chaos” that led to both cutting off his own ear and painting his greatest works.  They’re stopping at “apparently, by depicting the chaos in his mind, he accurately depicted the chaos in nature.”
What if the chaos in his mind was caused by perceiving the chaos in nature?
What if van Gogh was what  we call “severely autistic,” and hyper-perception turned to sensory overload?  If you have no idea what “sensory overload” means or is like, and think it means “ate too much sugar” or something, please watch (and listen to) the videos I posted above. The closest possible experience is migraine, and that’s not even half of it.
Imagine: for some reason, van Gogh went into complete sensory overload.  He could see light so well he was seeing turbulence.  He could hear every sound around him in a deafening cacophony.  That’s why he cut off his ear-to try and stop the sound.  He channeled the visual overload by painting things the way he actually saw them.
Now, the theological side of this discussion.  My wife has been reading Dean Koontz‘s books, particularly the Odd Thomas series.  If you don’t know Koontz, and are looking for someone other than the usual litany of ChestertonEliotLewisTolkienO’Connor, read him.  I started with Brother Odd, and was hooked when, within a page, he referred to Batman, Odysseus, and nuns who think they’re “social workers who don’t date.”  Anyway, as she’s told me about different Koontz books, we’ve discussed what things struck me as reminiscent of Lewis, Eliot and O’Connor.  I suggested she read The Great Divorce next, so while she’s read that, we’ve been discussing how Lewis depicts part of Purgatory being the soul’s adjustment to the sheer Reality of Heaven: grass, for example, that feels like walking on knives because it’s so REAL.  St. John Bosco had a dream where he saw a stage of the afterlife that wasn’t even the beginning of the farthest outskirts of what we call “Heaven.”  St. Dominic Savio, who greeted him there having already died years before his teacher, said that “No one can see Heaven and live.”
Perhaps it’s because Heaven is so overwhelmingly real.
Now, if you haven’t, go back and look at the sensory overload videos.
If the phenomenon/symptom that was originally called “autism”–catatonia, retreating into oneself, etc.,–stems from a brain that is so aware and so full of information that the person can’t handle it, and has to find some way of dealing with all that information that shoots in and out constantly–if Vincent van Gogh, as I’m speculating, had such an experience and was so overwhelmed he cut off his ear–if my son can have a meltdown because he suddenly keenly remembers some incident from when he was 2 or 3 years old like it just happened–imagine being suddenly confronted with the ability to instantly remember everything that happened in your life: every good memory, every bad memory.
Imagine being suddenly able to, if you and God will, see or hear anyone, anything, anywhere in time or space, at a level of detail that you cannot possibly imagine now.  That’s to say nothing of the Beatific Vision.
If you were to die after reading this, do you think your psyche (both in the modern and original senses of the word) would be truly prepared for such an overwhelming crash of reality?   It’s what Plato described with his allegorical man from the cave who suddenly goes from seeing nothing but 2D shadows his entire  life to seeing three dimensional people and objects in full color, in the sunlight.  Do you not think that you’d need to at least let your eyes adjust?  Like jumping into a swimming pool, you’d need to adjust a moment to the drastic change in your surroundings.
That adjustment is Purgatory.

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Small Miracles

On Saturday night, we went to a “Healing Service,” the third time I went to what I’d call a “Charismatic” healing service, with a fellow named Damian Stayne, and the first with a laymen and no sacramental aspect. I went because, though I accept my just suffering and try not to test God or seek out consolations, I so desperately want to sing again. I made the usual promise to seek the diaconate if God granted me my voice back, or for greater healing for Mary and me so we could bear another child. Of course, nothing dramatic happened. There were some apparent healings that took place–I saw many leaving very downcast, though.

I was deeply troubled–not by God. I understand how God works. I was troubled by the event. The fellow was deeply admired and recommended by people I admire. I was invited the last time he came through Augusta, and I declined.

What bothers me about Charismatic spirituality besides the consolation hunting that goes against the recommendations of the Carmelite Doctors–yet I also know some amazing Carmelites who are also Charismatics–is that they never make room for the importance of suffering, or the fact that God answers prayers in His own time. One thing that really impressed me was how Mr. Stayne pointed out that the man Sts. Peter and John heal in Acts (the chronologically last mention of the Beloved Disciple in Acts) has been laying outside the temple *his whole life*, and Jesus passed him by. At the same time as insisting that God has this “big bowl of healing” or some such and that He doesn’t pick and choose whom to heal, Stayne touched on the most important point.

Little Therese says that one of the reasons Jesus says “faith the size of a mustard seed” is that He works miracles to nourish small faith–people with no faith will ignore miracles (“your doctor was an idiot and read the test wrong,” “we mixed up the records,” etc.) For a person with a seed of faith, a miracle will water it. But for a person with a lot of faith, God tests them. She points out that Our Lord allows one of His best friends to die so He can work a greater miracle because He is testing the faith of Sts. Mary and Martha, and showing everyone else God’s glory.

Think about Mother Angelica: first, she was told she’d never walk. Then she prayed that if God let her walk, she’d start a monastery in the deep South–and she walked again *but with braces*. Forty years in braces. Then the time she was speaking in Florida, and a woman came up and said “Mother, your talk changed my life.”
“Really? What did I say that touched you?”
“I didn’t hear a word you said.”
“Uh, then how did my talk change your life?”
“Your braces. I have to wear leg braces, too, and all my friends tell me it’s because I don’t have enough faith. I saw you in leg braces, and I know you’re a woman of faith, so I know my friends are wrong.”
Of course, a few years later, she was healed of needing her braces. Then a couple years after that she had a massive stroke.

To someone with a fully formed understanding of suffering, and God’s purpose in showing His glory through miracles, Mother Angelica is a perfect example.

I wish a “healing service” would include those insights, so that people aren’t left with their faith devastated by empty promises.

It is wonderful when people are healded, and I believe Mr. Stayne is sincere and filling a role God has made for him. He said sometimes people come out of his services and something good happens days later. Maybe tomorrow morning will be that morning I’ve prayed for for as long as I can remember that I wake up and don’t need my glasses. However, in the meantime, I accept God’s will. I felt sorry for people who left seeming discouraged. I feel sorry for the fellow who prayed for me–he was really desperate to get me “total healing.” He was worried about *my* faith, and I tried to say how God has worked many healings in my life.

So, we were concerned about our kids’ reactions to the whole thing, and we were talking to them, and our son said, with a big smile, “He cured my asthma!” We were more concerned about the “big things,” and here he was joyful that, when he got bored with the 3+ hour service, and went running around in the front hall of the convention center, he could run without gasping for air.

Those are the little miracles that we need to see.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Evening Prayer II

If you are a brother or sister in Carmel, or a member of a parish or town named for Our Lady under this title, happy Solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel! If you are not, happy optional memorial! (A little humor)

You can find the Carmelite “Propers” (the parts of the Liturgy of the Hours specific to different feasts; as opposed to the Ordinary and the Commons) at this site http://carmelcanada.org/liturgy/office.pdf.
If you can find a way to access the site, please make a donation to them for their service. It is a tragic injustice that the liturgy, which is supposed to be the common prayer of the Church, is copyrighted. I understand in one sense why, but I wanted to provide a convenient blend of the texts, since, though praying online is helpful, flipping between screens or apps can be distracting and cause things to refresh.
So I’ve provided links to different sites, and reflections on each passage to fall under “fair use,” while providing a guide to deeper prayer. Again, please donate to the people who provide these great services for free.

God, come to my assistance.
Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

[Hymn]

Flos Carmeli, vitis florigera,
Splendor cæli, virgo puerpera, singularis.
Mater mitis sed viri nescia
Carmelitis esto propitia, stella maris.
Radix Iesse germinans flosculum
Hic adesse me tibi servulum patiaris.
Inter spinas quæ crescis lilium
Serva puras mentes fragilium tutelaris.
Armatura fortis pugnantium
Furunt bella tende præsidium scapularis.
Per incerta prudens consilium
Per adversa iuge solatium largiaris.
Mater dulcis Carmeli domina,
plebem tuam reple lætitia qua bearis.
Paradisi clavis et ianua,
Fac nos duci quo, Mater, gloria coronaris.

Ant. 1 I am the Handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you have said.”
Psalm 122I rejoiced when I heard them say: “Let us go to God’s house.” And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built as a city strongly compact. It is there that the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. For Israel’s law it is, there to praise the Lord’s name. There were set the thrones of judgment of the house of David. For the peace of Jerusalem pray: “Peace be to your homes! May peace reign in your walls, in your palaces, peace!” For love of my brethren and friends I say: “Peace upon you!” For love of the house of the Lord I will ask for your good. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: — as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. – See more at: http://divineoffice.org/xmas-0101-ep2/#sthash.vQumIqyC.dpuf

How does this speak to us as Brothers (and Sisters) of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel?

Ant. 2Mary heard the word of God and kept it; she pondered it in her heart.
Psalm 127
If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat, when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. Truly sons are a gift from the Lord, a blessing, the fruit of the womb. Indeed the sons of youth are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. O the happiness of the man who has filled his quiver with these arrows! He will have no cause for shame when he disputes with his foes in the gateways. Glory…
See also http://www.athanasius.com/psalms/psalms5.html

this is one of my favorite Psalms. It speaks particularly to the vocation of the secular, but also to the spiritual fatherhood and motherhood of the Friars and Nuns. The first historical Carmelites were former soldiers who laid down their physical arms for spiritual warfare. The Scapular is both our shield and our token from Our Lady.

Ant. 3The Apostles were constantly at prayer together, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Canticle – See Revelation 19:1-7
Alleluia.
Salvation, glory, and power to our God:
(Alleluia.)
his judgments are honest and true.
Alleluia (alleluia).

Alleluia.
Sing praise to our God, all you his servants,
(Alleluia.)
all who worship him reverently, great and small.
Alleluia (alleluia).

Alleluia.
The Lord our all-powerful God is King;
(Alleluia.)
Let us rejoice, sing praise, and give him glory.
Alleluia (alleluia).

Alleluia.
The wedding feast of the Lamb has begun,
(Alleluia.)
and his bride is prepared to welcome him.
Alleluia (alleluia). Glory…

See also http://www.liturgies.net/Liturgies/Catholic/loh/mary/eveningprayerii.htm
How are we preparing ourselves to welcome our spiritual Bridegroom?

A Reading from the Letter to the Galations (4:4-6)

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5
to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. 6 As proof that you are children,* God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. See http://www.usccb.org/bible/galatians/4

To be brothers of Our Lord, we must humbly accept the mantle of obedience, as He did.

Responsory
I will cry out with joy to the Lord;
my soul will rejoice in my God.
–I will cry out with joy to the Lord;
my soul will rejoice in my God.
For he has clothed me with the garment of salvation and robed me in a mantle of justice.
–My soul will rejoice in my God.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
–I will cry out with joy to the Lord;
my soul will rejoice in my God.
“Receive, my beloved son, this habit of your Order. This shall be to you and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire.”

Canticle of Mary
Ant. Today we received the Virgin Mary as our mother. Today, she has taken pity on us. Today, all Carmel rejoices in the solemnity of the Blessed Virgin, whose name we bear.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my Spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant. From this day forward, all generations will call me blessed, for the almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation. He has shown the strength of His Arm; He has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things; the rich He has sent away empty. He has come to the help of His servant, Israel. For He has remembers His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham, and his children, forever. Glory . . .

The privilege of the Scapular is neither a symbol nor a superstition, but to die clothed with the Scapular, the garment of work in a religious habit, is to die doing God’s work.

As we honor the holy Holy Mother of God, under whose name and patronage we live, let us pray with confidence to Christ our Lord and say:
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”;
–may we stand with Mary among the poor and humble of the Lord, so that you may be our only wealth.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”;
–in following the Immaculate Virgin may we come to live that purity of heart which makes us eager to see the Father’s Face.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe”;
–with Mary at our side, may we never cease to trust in the love You have for us as we journey in this night of faith.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “You ought to pray always and never lose heart”;
–teach us to pray like Mary, treasuring Your Word in our hearts and proclaiming it in our lives.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

You said, “A new commandment I give you; love one another as I have loved you”;
–united in heart and mind, may we be ready to spend our lives for our brothers and sisters and share with Mary in Your work of redemption.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

Dying on the cross, You said to John, and through him to all disciples, “Behold your Mother”;
–may all those who trusted in Your everlasting mercy [especially ____] rejoice one day with you and Mary in our Father’s house.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.

Here list your own intentions.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Carmel, hear us, O Lord.
Our Father .. . .

Prayer
Lord God, You willed that the Order of Carmel should be named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Your Son. Through her prayers, as we honor her today, bring us to your holy Mountain, Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

May the Lord bless us, protect from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.


St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the malice and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Power of God, cast into Hell Satan, and all the other evil spirits, who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Click here for my Litany to Carmelite Saints