MARCH 30, 2020, FEAST OF ST. JOHN CLIMACUS. [PHOTO ABOVE: PIXABAY]
NewWalden was featured in an article over at a relatively young website called Clarifying Catholicism. The website is run by Catholic college students. Here is what they have to say about us:
Specialty: Catholic Transcendentalism
Description: This blog focuses on the essence of being. It has many articles on Catholic interpretations of the philosophical movement of transcendentalism. Its layout is quite pleasing to the eyes . Their commentaries and articles are full of knowledge and practical advice.
Article of Interest: The Catholic News Agency Misrepresented Key Amoris Text
While I’m certainly pleased with the positive publicity, I also realize that readers of NewWalden may be puzzled by the author’s characterization of the website as specializing in “Catholic Transcendentalism.” Yes, Catholic Transcendentalism is a real thing with roots in Sacred Scripture and medieval theology. But to find that focus here at NewWalden, you need to go back to earlier articles when I was promoting my first book. It is in chapter five of that book, “The Journey of the Mind to God”—thank you, St. Bonaventure!— where I discuss the transcendental nature of Christianity. The most familiar theme of this transcendentalism is the battle of flesh and spirit, depicted dramatically for us in Michelangelo’s “Atlas Slave.” And an indispensable Bible text for budding transcendentalists is Col. 3: 1–17:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scyth’ian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. —RSV
Genuine transcendentalism teaches that the spiritual life is meant to change you. It’s a transformation of your very nature, as the passage above says. It’s a change that is so deep that Jesus describes it to Nicodemus as being “born again” (Jn. 3: 3–5).
And it should go without saying that such a profound spiritual rebirth is a good thing! The point of my book was that this transcendental dimension of our faith is a fundamental key to happiness, well-being, and flourishing. And it represents an important counterargument to popular materialist theories today:
It’s a central tenet of Christian transcendentalism, namely, that happiness and mental well-being are connected to spiritual well-being. Dostoyevksy explored this idea in Crime and Punishment, as I discussed in my book. And over the past 30–40 years, the medical field has consistently found a close connection between spiritual practice and improved mental health. The evidence is so solid that even atheists like Sam Harris acknowledge it. He even wrote a book on the subject, Waking Up.
Spirituality As a Prescription for Corona Lockdown Cabin Fever
In light of the present crisis, it is not surprising that reports are coming in all around the world of a noticeable spike in cases of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Religious people need to understand, especially in difficult times like the present, that it is a respectable scientific theory that spirituality is an effective coping mechanism for psychological trauma. Many new therapeutic techniques are based on ancient spiritual practices. Ever heard of MBSR? It stands for “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” and it is derived from Buddhism. But research has demonstrated that Christianity confers the same mental health benefits, as I described in my book and in many articles. Thus, even science agrees that the practice of our Christian faith can be an important key to our sanity in times of crisis.
Sanity from Psalmody and Lectio Divina
And the very center of a Christian’s spiritual universe is the Word of God, as Colossians above says:
Traditionally, the Bible has always figured prominently in the spiritual life of Christians. Psalmody and lectio divina are two examples. Psalmody is the chanting or recitation of the psalms. Lectio divina is a slow, meditative reading and rereading of any spiritual text.
For the past twenty years, I’ve practiced a form of Catholic spirituality that is equal parts Marian and Benedictine. Psalmody, for example, is a central feature of Benedictine, and, really, all monastic spirituality. Following the desert hermits who prayed the entire book of psalms daily, St. Benedict devised a schedule in his Rule that cycled through the psalms in a week. It takes me a month. But because the rosary is also a giant part of my spirituality, especially the Scriptural rosary, I decided to organize the psalms according to the four sets of rosary mysteries: joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious. This has proven to be a truly fruitful balm over the years. To have a list of joyful and glorious psalms at one’s fingertips can be powerful medicine when one is going through a rough time. So I offer them to you in the hope that they will provide you the same spiritual nourishment that they have given me over the years. Stay well!
Directions for the Lists of Psalms
They are available on my website under “Christianity.” The links here will take you directly to the lists, which are downloadable and printable!