The Way to Inner Peace
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
©Catholic Online 2005
On Dec. 14, 1989, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.”
This document, approved by Pope John Paul II, recognizes that some Christians, experiencing a “spiritual restlessness arising from a life subjected to the driving pace of a technologically advanced society,” have investigated certain Eastern techniques of prayer, seeking “a path to interior peace and psychic balance.”
Eastern methods of prayer often depart from Christian principles by “abandoning not only meditation on the salvific works accomplished in history by the God of the Old and New Covenant, but also the very idea of the One and Triune God.”
Instead, inner peace and union with the Absolute is attained by “immersion ‘in the indeterminate abyss of the divinity’”; hence, a person can lose his identity by being “swallowed up” by the Deity.
Contemporary Catholics seeking inner peace need not dive headlong into Eastern mysticism. A host of Catholic writers has advocated ways by which spiritual happiness may be realized.
One of the best but least recognized guides is Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751), a Franciscan friar known for his preaching in defense of the Immaculate Conception. He offered four “rules” to help achieve peace of soul.
1. To be attached only to God. Status and wealth may be beneficial, but to be overly concerned about them is to invite inner spiritual havoc. The soul’s primary need is communication with its Creator. One needs to view objects and persons in reference to God and His will if peace is to reign. To be “dead” to the world and creatures is paramount.
2. To surrender to Divine Providence. All Catholic spiritual writers are unanimous on this point: Sanctity and inner peace are attained only when God’s will holds sway. The Lord knows best. Humbly accepting His will is vastly different from reluctantly putting up with it. When a person yields to the divine plan, he demonstrates a belief that God will sustain him—come what may.
3. To welcome suffering and hardship. Human nature tends to resist difficulties. Yet, spiritual perfection entails carrying the cross of Jesus. Scorn and rejection from others—while hardly pleasant—must be seen as an opportunity to experience solidarity with the suffering Christ.
4. To undertake only that which our situation in life demands. Often a person takes upon himself too many activities at once. “The more, the better” does not necessarily apply in the realm of good works. Prudence dictates what one can accomplish. Inner turmoil may spring from a plethora of activities, even when they are morally good acts. Prayer and counsel will determine what to undertake and what to forego.
When thousands are turning to Eastern methods of prayer in search of peace, Catholics should take heed of the advice offered nearly three centuries ago by this Italian preacher.
Happiness of soul occurs when a person conforms himself to Christ through acceptance of the Father’s will. Only then may one experience the peace which the world cannot give (cf. John 14:27).
(Slightly adapted from an article originally published on page 4 in the July 15, 1990 issue of the "National Catholic Register.")
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Inner Peace; Sanctity
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