Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Ideas-Healthy, Harmful
 & Holy Ones

Father John J. Lombardi

"Ideas have consequences." -Leo Strauss

Item: A drug addict just said to me after a relapse-"I have to get my head on straight," and, he added: "I gotta get away from negative, evil people." Translation-think healthy, get out of harms way and hang with right-thinking-people.

Item: In his landmark book, "Emotional Intelligence," Daniel Goleman writes about the need to integrate ideas and emotions: "The emotions, then, matter for rationality. In the dance of feeling and thought the emotional faculty guides our moment to moment decisions working hand in hand with the rational mind, enabling-or disabling-thought itself. Likewise the thinking brain plays an executive role in our emotions-except in those moments when emotions surge out of control and the motional brain runs rampant." Translation: Blend reason and passion-be balanced.

Item: In her fascinating book, The Female Brain," Louann Brizendine discusses the genetic difference of men's and women's brains and thinking (and feeling) patterns. Upshot: women speak more while men act more; ladies are more communal, men more competitive; females are more sexually relational while men are more assertive. Note: while men and women are not determined by these generalistic behaviors, patterns or ways of thinking, we are influenced by them.

Item: Brave New Thinking-In a fascinating New York Times magazine article (Jan. 21), a Christian lady who had an abortion is now nobly helping women be healed of the adverse affects of abortions, while others (as depicted in the article) are claiming there is no post-traumatic abortion syndrome. Translation: healing comes from right, un-repressed thinking and, Be Brave--help heal others!

Item: I just read in The Baltimore Sun (Jan. 26) about two new movies, now showing at the glitzy Sundance festival in Utah, which depict sexually-explicit scenes (a man and an animal in one film and the other a child-rape and other transgressive behaviors-all "in the name of art". As the wise editorial opined: today's corruptive culture and degenerating ideas, and some filmmakers-like not only to push the envelope but also to shove it in the name of "realism" and "enlightenment". As you may or may not know, there are harmful films based upon bad ideas (just mentioned) which vie for your attention-and money. A friend recently-- and wisely, said about some "aggressive" films: "There are some images I think God doesn't want us to see." That was a liberating thought as much as it was true!

What do all these items above have in common, you may be (im) patiently asking? These past weeks we've been thinking about thinking, and we conclude, esp. by reviewing, this week, how much ideas affect us. Some ideas are harrying, some are holy and healing-which ones are you choosing?

In this Sunday's Gospel (Lk 4:21-30.), Jesus Christ is not accepted in Israel-and is rejected by Jews--because He does not fit their thought and idea of Who the Messiah should be. Oppositely Jesus gives the examples of the Gentiles--the widow of Zarapheth and Naaman the Syrian-"outsiders"-who accept God and, thus the Lord implies, pagans are more thankful than Jews .Because of Jesus' ideas and actions, He was almost killed Some of the Jews weren't just ready yet for Jesus' ideas-which had consequences beyond their controlling circumstances-such as embracing the poor and prostitutes and other sinners before the "established class" and rich and elite; or making service and humility so predominant over priestly vestments and behaviors; and making morality and relationship with God more "personalist" (a loving relationship) than a "Pelagian-performance-act" (what we do and perform). So, although controversial, Jesus' ideas are compassionate, healing and holy-but: are they for you?

To think aright, as we have seen these past weeks, we often need correction of mind and healing of heart. So: as our two-thousand year old new Catholic Church and Tradition suggest, spend time in meditation and contemplation (silence and stillness of mind and body): this will fertilize and liberate your soul, memory and intellect to release repressed or hidden truths or thoughts which are otherwise unreachable or inaccessible. Read Jesus' controversial compassionate counsel in St. Mk. 6:31 for a liberating, confrontative thought. But, you say, it may be scary to stop and be still-not only because you are always in control when "on the move," but also because you may see skeletal, ugly and sinful thoughts or memories, or fear may arise in this seeming "inward ghost-host theatre". Okay, two options: 1-God may want you to see this "dark matter" and learn from it-this is called "purification of memory"; or, 2-if it is an obsessive or unhelpful thought-pray (and practice) these words: Remove the Trace, lace with grace ;and Let it go; and Release it now. You need to surrender the bad thoughts and embrace the good ones-continually, repeatedly. Practice makes perfect.

Now, here some common healthy and harmful ways of thinking (and solutions):

"Stuck in his head" means we are over-intellectualizing-using our "heads" and intellects too much…We need balance with intuition and pre-reflective thinking or balance with our heart. Allow your emotions to influence you more; go with your gut; don't intellectualize everything w/the KISS principle: Keep it simple.

"Not thinking clearly" (or "fuzzy thinking"): herein we are not intellectualizing rationally-perhaps some passion or other thought is disturbing our minds. Then calmly analyze the situation and use proper reason. Everyone knows that when we are under pressure, when stressed or overly giving into our passions, we do not think clearly. Then: let the dust settle and think thru things, or with another person to help you see and think objectively.

Another problem we humans have is mistaking reality for the "sign". Remember: thoughts are like "mental bridges" which bring us to the "other side"-the reality-once we use the "thought bridge" we should enter the reality. In other words-don't be "intellectually straight-jacketed" by words which point to reality but which do not equal or totally en-grasp reality. Translated: when someone points to a lovely landscape don't get stuck on his finger: view, experience the reality itself. Or: when reading a map of, say, roadways leading to the Grand Canyon (or the Grotto!), don't confuse the paper with the reality of the Grand Canyon, go into it! Leave the map behind once it's served it's purpose and embrace the "real deal". A weather forecast is not the weather itself: experience God's climate as it presents itself--catch a snowflake on your tongue-like a little child!-and leave behind the Doppler radar screen.

"Dominating thoughts": like when someone is talking to you, and you cannot "hear" them because you are thinking about, say, a football game, your shopping list or the Super Bowl. Then: be mindful to the person speaking or the activity you are doing and enjoy the revelation of God in each unique way. Be present mind-fully to each situation as if anew, not askew.

"Projecting his thoughts": means we may have a thought which we "throw on to others"-whereby we actually see a person thru the negative thought which prevails in our minds. Now: analyze your thoughts, clean them and innocently, clearly see "the other" purely without "throwing your business on them".

"Judgmental thoughts": means we unjustly are the district attorney, the judge and hang-man in making inordinate attack-judgments about others without knowing the total picture or person's heart. Now: suspend judgment, give the person the benefit of doubt, think of your own failings, stop the chattering-critiquing mind and relax.

Another (funny) confusion of thinking: Sometimes people say to me (and priests), not wanting "to steal our precious time, "You're probably busy and must be somewhere (else)…" Yes, true: I must be somewhere, in the-here-now, of the present moment-I cannot be somewhere else. They're forgetting I must be there with them--I must manifest my being by being with them in that singular, unique present moment! Yes, I know I will have to be somewhere else later that night-but I'm usually attempting to be in the present moment-with each person. Oh well…PS: God is the only Infinite Being Who can be in all places at one time and thus be with all persons at one time (called: Omnipresence). PPS: By special grace and in mystical conformity with God, Padre Pio and other bi-locators could be in two places at one time. My dad and others remind me that I haven't mastered that surreal action so, they say, don't stress out in multi-tasking!

Next, let us consider: there must be a balance between reason and intuition: we need to think thru some things (stem cell research and other complex moral issues), and yet some things we need not think about (saving a child on the proverbial railroad tracks). God gives us a brain and intellectual capacity to rationally arrive at truth or action; and He gives us "insight" and enlightenment ("flashes" of wisdom and truth) to also immediately act-without-thinking. In the West reason is highly praised and yet can go overboard whereby rationalism becomes dominant, and Faith and intuition get rejected or neglected. Oppositely, the East prizes intuition and enlightenment, and reason may sometimes get neglected. Upshot: as the Latin-maxim wisely counsels, "In the middle lies virtue"-reason and intuition should be blended and we need wisdom to know this-which is lived knowledge tried and tested thru experience.

Pope John Paul II reminded us often of this "blending", esp. in his encyclical "Fides et Ratio"--we need a balance between reason and Faith-they are "brothers" in our bodies and souls, not enemies-and so this should be true in our public lives and culture.

Now, let us think about thoughts about God: Another maxim is that the little we know about Him must be balanced by the more we cannot know about Him: He is Infinite, after all. This should not create confusion or doubt or anxiety but, rather, awe, worship and love of the Lord's Divine Attributes-immensity, infinity-- they should "intellectually stretch" us both into His knowable Being and also into His Unknowable Being-He always escapes what we can know about Him -a kind of "Cloud of Unknowing" whereby we fall into worship because He is always beyond our grasp-ing limited thoughts. So, rather than "boxing Him in," worship Him-you don't have to "force" your mind to try to totally understand Him and thereby grow frustrated. Remember; God is the Infinite Being in Whom there will always be more to love. Now, while God is way above and beyond us (transcendent) He is also within us (the meaning of Emmanuel; cf. Lk 17:21), so make it a practice to receive and perceive His Love by praying/saying: God Within Me: Radiating Divinity. Now it is one thing to think this, another to know; and it is another to "taste" it (cf. The Psalm: "Taste and see how good the Lord is" -Ps.)

Thoughts about persons: we can know a lot about (finite) people, but we can never totally know them. So don't pigeon hole them and box them in and make illicit judgments about them. Accept what you cannot know about them-as a kinda' exciting mystery to be more fully revealed. Also learn from what you do know, and know the difference between these kinds of "knowings".

To Responding and Do: Balance your head and heart -are you too intellectual or emotional? How can you counter balance and correct thru conscious, loving effort? Make a "morning aspiration" and get off thinking with the right foot (and thought!): Lord, let all my thoughts, words and deeds be for your glory this day,…Meditate on Phil 4: 6. Developing intuition: you are given knowledge and wisdom to use and integrate into certain actions instantaneously-without thinking thru things - so use it!...Cultivating reason: learn by knowing the truth thru intellect, by study of the Bible, Catechism and saints' writings-thoughts fed to the mind and intellect fuel it as natural as intuition in proper ways.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi