This is an excerpt from my book on how I came to become a priest. St. John of the Cross is a saint who I tell people “saved my life”, not because I was going to kill myself or anything like that, but because his teachings helped me move past a very dangerous spiritual mindset that afflicts most people today – the mindset that if God is working in my life, I ought to feel it, and it ought to feel good.
St. John of the Cross
“It must be known that even though these apprehensions can come to the bodily senses from God, one must never rely on them or accept them.A person should rather flee from them completely.”
St. John of the Cross
The Ascent of Mount Carmel.
At the beginning of my second year of seminary, I happened to be in the bookstore buying my books for the year.The bookstore at St. Meinrad is a very dangerous place for me.The bookstore has tons of books that are not required for class, and a lot of them are titles that interest me.I can hardly go into the bookstore without walking out with a few books under my arm, and my wallet 50 dollars lighter.That fall day, however, a book caught my eye that really impacted me in a tremendous way.
The book I picked up that day was The Collected Writings of St. John of the Cross.I was drawn to it because I remembered from George Weigel’s Witness to Hope that Pope John Paul II learned Spanish so that he could read St. John of the Cross in its original language.I was pretty impressed that a person would learn a language for the purpose of reading the writings of one saint.The book in our bookstore was actually St. John’s two famous works together, The Dark Nightof the Soul and The Ascent of Mt. Carmel.I decided that I would read a bit of the book to kick off my holy hour each day.
So it was that St. John of the Cross began to lead me into a much deeper spirituality than I had ever dreamed of for myself.St. John gave me two priceless gifts.The first gift he gave me was an answer to my question about my conversion experience a few years ago when I was teaching at Chatard.As recounted in an earlier chapter, I had a profound vision that lasted intensely throughout the night, and then began to fade over the course of about a week.Something that had bothered me from that point on was the question of what I had done wrong to make those feelings go away.I felt like either I had done something wrong, or, on the other hand, I had done something right that I should be doing again to help trigger the same sequence of events, so that I could rest in that vision again.
I knew God had directed me to St. John of the Cross, when, as I was praying a holy hour early in the school year, I read the following from St. John, “The safest and most suitable method of procedure is to oblige souls to flee prudently from these supernatural things.” (The Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Book Two, Chapter 20).St. John goes on to say that:
The more importance one gives to these communications the further one strays from faith, the way and means.Furthermore, persons receiving these apprehensions often develop secretly a special opinion of themselves – that now they are important in God’s eyes.Such a view is contrary to humility…these sensory things are an impediment to the spirit because they detain the soul and prevent the spirit from soaring to the invisible.
Such a burden was lifted off of me, and I felt like I could spiritually breathe again.It was such a gift to know that I wasn’t doing something wrong, and that I just had to move on from my experience of the vision.Related to the grace of finally being able to understand what was going on with the vision I had a few years ago was the second gigantic gift that I felt like the Good Lord blessed me with through my reading of St. John of the Cross.The main point of St. John’s two books are very simple: religion isn’t something that has to be felt.If Christians today were familiar with St. John of the Cross, so much of the garbage that passes as spirituality would die out instantly.Today, it isn’t even up for discussion – religion has to be entertaining.When Catholics are asked why they don’t attend Mass they most often note that it is boring.The Rosary, because it is repetitive, seems to most psychologists today (Dr. M. Scott Peck among them) as not a sign of devotion but as a mental illness.It is taken, as the Gospel today, by many people that religion has to be felt.That’s why we have the pyrotechnics at church, the Starbucks in the narthex, the screaming preachers, the slide show PowerPoint presentations, etc.
Elsewhere, St. John of the Cross talks about meditation as prayer.He notes that this is really only a stage for beginners, and that we are called to move beyond this.About trying to conjure images and have experiences in prayer St. John notes a person must,
Leave this sense in darkness if it is to reach divine union.For these images, just as the corporeal objects of the exterior senses, cannot be an adequate, proximate means to God…These considerations, forms and methods of meditation are necessary to beginners…yet these means must not be so used that one always employs them and never advances.
St. John, in The Dark Night of the Soul, also speaks this when he talking about people receiving Communion.I know I resonated deeply with having tried to do exactly what he warns against for many years.St. John says,
In receiving Communion they spend all their time trying to get some feeling and satisfaction rather than humbly praising and reverencing God dwelling within them.And they go about this in such a way that, if they do not procure any sensible feeling and satisfaction, they think they have accomplished nothing.
The dark night of the soul is essentially the stage where a person is moving from needing consolations and needing to have experiences in prayer to a point where none of that is needed.St. John spoke to me in the following passage noting the transition from one to the other.He said,
Spiritual persons suffer considerable affliction in this night, owing not so much to the aridities they undergo as to their fear of having gone astray…they believe there will be no more spiritual blessings for them and that God has abandoned them…if there is no one to understand these persons, they either turn back and abandon the road or lose courage.
St. John essentially saved my life, in a spiritual sense.Growing up in the American ethos dominated by Protestantism, the idea that I was supposed to feel something in prayer was ingrained in me.St. John really showed me a Catholic understanding of prayer and of what my little “vision” experience was really all about.
Father John Hollowell – So most of you are aware by now that Kermit Gosnell, the man who was accused of killing countless children after they were born in the most horrendous ways was convicted yesterday on three counts of murder (Or, as some news outlets phrased it “killing fetuses”…sigh…deliver us Lord from all evil)
NARAL, a collection of washed up sixties protestors clinging to the notion that a woman is more free if she can have her child chopped up in her womb, issued a statement yesterday saying that the Gosnell murders were the fault of the pro-life movement making abortion harder to get.
As a follower of NARAL and Planned Parenthood (the Axis of Evil) on Twitter, they ACTIVELY FIGHT every attempt to somehow regulate the abortion industry and make it safer. They tweet out screams for their followers to either a) contact their congressman and fight the proposed bill of the day or b) get prepared to live in the 1800’s again.
The Axis of Evil makes EVERY law that is proposed sound as if it will be an attack on women and will prevent them from being truly liberated.
On the flip side, the pro-life movement has been pushing for restricting and regulating the abortion industry, and such regulations would have made the Gosnell much less likely. However, as it currently stands, the abortion industry is one of the least regulated industries in our country. You should expect more regulatory hurdles to maintain a lemonade stand in the USA than you should expect if you hope to chop up children in mother’s wombs.
The other reason NARAL’s comments yesterday betray the insanity and lunacy to which they have fallen is that no REASONABLE person would read the accounts of how Gosnell tortured and murdered children born alive and say, “if only abortion were more accessible, this wouldn’t happen.” Gosnell was a psychopath, and his crimes had NOTHING to do with the fact that abortion “is not available enough.”
NARAL is on the run, and the dinosaurs who run NARAL know that no young people are coming forward to join their washed up cause, and as someone who considers NARAL the demonic made flesh, I personally enjoy seeing statements like the one they made yesterday because it is the equivalent of watching a house divided against itself crash in on itself and burning to the ground amidst a see of insanity and madness.
By, Fr. John Hollowell – “Hey Father, what’s up with annulments?” One of those dreaded questions but also something that is just another opportunity for a priest to suck it up and say to himself, “Uncomfortable – yes, but is this also an opportunity to bring healing and grace to people – definitely a yes as well!”
Let’s first of all turn to the perception of the annulment process. The Church, so it goes, has taken Jesus, a pretty cool laid back guy who talks mostly about loving everyone and bashing and breaking rules, and then along came the Church, which suddenly set up a gigantic bureaucracy and erected gigantic hurdles and unnecessary rules, laws, and regulations, all of which make Jesus seem a lot more difficult to
approach. The annulment process is often viewed as the most obvious example of Church bureaucracy, and, so it goes, this could NEVER have been what Jesus intended, and so if I had a divorce and remarried, then God understands.
First of all as a response, I think it is important to read a past post on this topic by clicking here. Secondly, let’s look at Jesus’ words on the topic in Matthew 19: “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” Notice Christ’s words – divorce and remarriage = adultery. He doesn’t blink. His Apostles follow up with basically, “wow, that’s hard.” Jesus doesn’t blink or back down.
What we need to ask ourselves is this – is the stereotype of the Church true, or is it perhaps actually the case, as G.K. Chesterton noted, that the Church actually SOFTENS the words of Jesus in certain key situations?
Often times, in order to dismiss the Church, people use the “bureaucracy” argument to justify their decision to not go through the
process, but I think people need to be steered in the direction of Matthew 19:9 and spend some time really praying over that passage and asking themselves if the stereotype of the Church as the dictatorial gatekeeper to “cuddly Jesus” is based in reality.
The annulment process, contrary to perception, is actually ALL about healing. People often tell me “I’m over her or him since our divorce” but I just don’t think that is usually the case. There is a BIG difference between Saying “I’m over so and so” and actually BEING over so and so.
The process seems intimidating as well because it is often lengthy. However, it takes a lot to gather all the necessary information. Some people especially bristle at the idea of having to get written statements from exes and their families and so forth – people say that they’d just rather not go through that and open up old wounds. Sometimes, when a wound is infected and never properly healed, it must be reopened in order to be authentically healed, and that is the case with the annulment process as well.
The Church also teaches that those who have remarried without first getting an annulment are not in a state in which to receive the sacraments. That is also perceived as very harsh, but it is something that should hopefully be an impetus to couples to first get right with God.
Let us pray for all of the families out there who are wrestling with the annulment process! Also, those who are going through
it should know that it is EXTREMELY inspiring to priests to see couples who have remarried but are working on an annulment stepping aside from the Sacraments for a time while they get right with Christ and His Church through the annulment
Catholics that have divorced and remarried prior to receiving an annulment can still work towards an annulment and, upon receiving one, can have their new marriage blessed by the Church and thus resume receiving the Sacraments.
Finally, here is a great essay from a young adult on her sometimes rocky but ultimately worthwhile experience with the annulment process.
Click here to read.
Some have asked for my thoughts on the tragedies of today, and so I share them for what they are worth.
It seems like a line was crossed today that, in our country at least, has never been crossed to date. Columbine was horrendous and was a paradigm shift for the nation, but given our collective experiences as teenagers growing up, and given the fact that most everyone still carries scars from teenage hazing and bullying in some form or another, I think most people at least could fathom the source of the hatred, the evil, and the revenge that we saw in Columbine. From Stephen King’s “Carrie” to Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”, we’ve grown up knowing that bullying does real harm and pushes people to the breaking point.
But a classroom of little children…it doesn’t register on any level, nor should it.
So now the carousel of blame starts spinning – people pointing at things external to fix…”better gun laws”, “better mental health care”, “better health insurance”…give me a break! I could care less, one way or the other, on gun control, but anyone who thinks that these types of measures would have prevented today is really hoping to avoid the issue that really matters.
The dignity of the person.
In our culture, the dignity of the human person has been spat upon, mocked, and destroyed. There is no “dignity of the human person” to speak of anymore. Anytime someone stands up to speak about “the dignity of the human person” they are shouted down in the public square and mocked for using words from an archaic culture that we have, so we’re told, moved beyond and surpassed.
A human person today only has dignity if others will it to be so – a child grasping for breath on the abortionist’s table is granted dignity solely based on the wishes of the mother. The abortionist, and our President, like the emperors in the Colosseum of Rome, wait for the thumb up or down of the mother to decide whether the child lives or dies.
Embryos sit in freezers across the country, parents have their reproductive systems mangled in order to have pleasure without the burden of children, wars are now fought, like video games, through the lenses of drones, we tell third world countries that “children are the problem” and so if you want any of our food to eat, you are going to have to stop having children…
Today, in Connecticut, a big fat mirror was held up to our nation, and a monster from the depths of Hell illustrated and showed us exactly what we don’t want to see in ourselves…we hate children, we hate life, and human dignity is on life support in this country.
The Joker in “The Dark Knight” utters a seriously frightening, and seriously prophetic line about us:
“Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”
We’re accustomed to the plan of 4,000 abortions a day, it has become part of our character as a nation, and it has faded away into being simply “a part of the plan.”
The dignity of the children lost today did not come simply from the fact that their parents happened to want them!! Their dignity came from the fact that God wanted them, and willed them into existence…that is the sole source of human dignity, and we are meant to marvel at the dignity of such miraculous creation, the miraculous nature of it all only amplified by the fact that all of us have been blessed with a role to play in nurturing and bringing into existence the miracles that are human persons!
We have been anti-life and anti-child and anti-human dignity for a long time in this country, and it is time to stand up and say ENOUGH!!!
We must rise up and demand a return to respect for the dignity of the human person!!!! We must rise up and say that a child is not a choice, a child does not derive his/her dignity from the choice of another human person, a child does not derive his/her dignity based on whether they are born into poverty or not…we must rise up and say every human person has an unassailable dignity, and that dignity is given to each human person by God, with a capital G,…and if we refuse to do that, if we refuse to acknowledge how utterly evil and depraved this nation is becoming, and if we fail to acknowledge how putrid “the plan” has become that we call every day life in America, and we keep blaming guns and health care insurance, then we should never expect a return to sanity.
Please hit your knees for the families and the loved ones left behind in Connecticut and say a lot of prayers for our country. Today, a new line was crossed; what remains to be seen is whether we will wake up because of it, or if we will continue to bury our heads in the sand and act like we don’t know what is going on.
Catholics Must Increase Their Prayers And Penances!
“With such force will Babylon the great city be thrown down, and will never be found again. No melodies of harpists and musicians, flutists and trumpeters, will ever be heard in you again. No craftsmen in any trade will ever be found in you again. No sound of the millstone will ever be heard in you again. No light from a lamp will ever be seen in you again. No voices of bride and groom will ever be heard in you again. Because your merchants were the great ones of the world, all nations were led astray by your magic potion.” (Rev. 18:21-23)
Father John Hollowell-Of course this gospel talks about the end times, destruction, persecution, the end of the world, flames, etc.
I think there is a temptation for Catholics who try their best to follow Christ and live out the Catholic Faith to get excited when we hear about “Babylon the great city” the country whose “merchants were the great ones of the world” being razed and burned to the ground.
The temptation: “finally, all the wicked people will see I was right, all the people who hated me, who spat on me, who lied about me, who slandered me, who cursed me, they’ll all finally see I was right!!!” There is a temptation to see ourselves as above this fray, above Sodom and Gomorrah, to hold our noses at the stench and filth that exists in our world and say “well, I told you so.”
But neither the saints nor the Church have ever taken that stance. We don’t live in the first society that morally speaking is going down the toilet. The Church was just coming online as Rome was plummeting towards its glorious destruction and pillaging by the “barbarians” (which side were the “barbarians” is open to interpretation), and the Church has seen lots of other civilizations and nations rise to the top before gloriously and triumphantly imploding into a dung heap.
The saints and the Church call us not to aloofness but to do something radical…to try to call out to people EVEN as they spit on you, even as they mock you, just as they did with Jesus. The saints before us and the Church both ask us to not disengage, but to redouble our efforts in fasting, penance, almsgiving, etc.both for our own continuing conversion and for the conversion of those we live with.
We may live in Babylon the Great, and it may tire us, and we may be tempted to throw our hands up and say, “LATER! I’m out of here, I’m going to go get a good book to read as I watch this country burn from a safe distance.”
However, disengaging and waiting for the sky to fall isn’t an option for any true Catholic. Until the sands of time expire, we are asked to see every person as a member of the Body of Christ, and to work like heck to help every last person attain salvation, ourselves included.
Father Has A Pertinent Question For Catholics
I always want to ask Catholics who merely view the Catholic Faith as a handy dandy coping mechanism that just happens to suit them but isn’t right for everyone:
“You seem to believe that the only virtue in the world is “to be nice.” Do you think anyone, in the history of the world, has ever or will ever be thrown in jail or persecuted for being nice?”
Fr. John Hollowell’s talk “Secrets to Evangelizing Your “Homosexual-Agenda-Friendly” Family, Friends and Acquaintances” was an amazingly grace-filled moment.
In case you missed the special live event, here is the recording. Warning: this will only remain up for a few days.
Father John Hollowell Wants You Be Part of Something Special.
What Fr. Hollowell is doing is really unheard of. He saw a problem with the lack of good material which truly addresses the misconceptions involved in evangelizing our “Homosexual-Agenda-Friendly” Family, Friends and Acquaintances. Not only is he addressing it, he is creating a professional DVD calledUnnatural Law: What the Catholic Church Really Teaches about Homosexuality. When it comes to defending the truth against the “Homosexual Agenda” the old poor-quality tapes that you used to give out to your friends won’t work.
Why? This homosexuality issue is different. They are looking for any reason to discredit you. And why should they believe you? “You’re not an expert.”
What Father has done tips the scales to give you a fighting chance for effective evangelization. Honestly, here’s how simple it is. When you get that cookie-cutter attack, you charitably answer the question and give them the DVD Unnatural Law. And while you are at it, throw in a Miraculous Medal. The seed is planted.
You see the DVD will do of the work for you and you get to keep your friends in the process. Now that’s a win, win, win!
And Father cannot produce this game-changing DVD without your help. Having something truly professional done costs real money, to the tune of $70,000.00. Call him crazy, but Father is giving FREE online access to the DVDs. He wouldn’t have it any other way! This means you can email it, Facebook it, Tweet it, watch it on YouTube… all for free. The only income will come from the people buying the physical product. That’s not the way to run a business, but Father is in the business to save souls.
May I humbly ask you, in the name of Lord Jesus, to support this work consecrated to Our Mother, Mary?
First and foremost, this work requires major prayer and fasting. Remember homosexuality is one of the devil’s strongholds. In scripture, this is what Jesus calls a “this kind” of battle, one which requires BOTH prayer and fasting.
So, here is what you can do.
As a special thank you and a way to support Fr. John Hollowell’s heroic endeavor, Courageous Priest and Blackstone Films are offering a special evangelization package just for you. The best part about the special offer is that this is your chance to help evangelize your friends and family while receiving some major benefits in return. Note: The CourageousPriest apostolate receives no financial gain from this special offering.
I thought it would take some arm pulling, creative negotiations and, I confess, some outright begging to compile a Courageous Priest exclusive, but no Father sooo desires this that he instantly agreed to “Fr. Hollowell’s Unnatural Law Special Donation Package” for everyone who donates through Courageous Priest.
All donations of any amount will receive Bonus Package #1
For those who donate any amount of money, you will be jointly enrolled in a five-year membership with The Association of the Miraculous Medal for free.
A member shares in three novenas of Masses and 30 additional Masses every month–a total of 57 Masses monthly. This comes to an astounding total of 3420 Mass intentions dedicated to supporters of Unnatural Law. Members also share in other Masses offered for them and in the daily prayers and Masses of the Vincentian community in the western United States. A member shares in all the grace benefits of membership for a period of 5 years.
Fr. Hollowell’s 6 part Homosexuality Class: That’s over 120 minutes of pure content revealing the true teachings of the Church. Father invested countless hours to compile this class, weeding out the myths from facts.
Homosexuality Class PowerPoint Lecture Notes: Perfect for a quick read, use for your own class, or give to a youth minister or RCIA coordinator. Downloadable.
Fr. Hollowell’s 6 part Homosexuality Marriage Class: Even people who are appalled at the sin of homosexual sex, for some strange reason, think allowing two guys to marry is perfectly fine. Strange, but true. Discover the difficulties Father had teaching this most important class. Approximately 60 minutes.
Homosexuality Marriage Class PowerPoint Lecture Notes: Again it’s perfect for a quick read or reference. You can also share with a teacher, friend, etc… Downloadable.
Free download of Fr. Hollowell’s National Teleconference with Courageous Priest:“Secrets to Evangelizing Your “Homosexual-Agenda-Friendly” Family, Friends and Acquaintances”
1 Hour with Fr. John Hollowell, A One on One Teleconference Call with Fr. John Hollowell: Anyone who donates will be given 1 hour of Fr. Hollowell’s time in a question and answer format. He has agreed to spend the time answering your questions and your questions only. He has never done this before. So here is your chance to actually ask the good Father a question. This will be over the same conference line and the details will be given to you after your order is complete. Transcripts may be available (sorry no guarantees on transcript.) Date to be given on the thank you page. This will be schedule in a month or so depending upon circumstances.
Fr. Hollowell’s Ultimate Bonus Package #2
Our Lady and Father Hollowell need some people to have their hearts open to contributing larger amounts. $70,000 is a lot of money. Will you please consider making a larger than normal contribution? We have some really cool bonuses to make the decision easier.
$100 gets 5 FREE DVDs of Unnatural Law: What the Catholic Church Really Teaches about Homosexuality plus all of the bonuses included with package #1
$500 gets 25 FREE DVDs plus all of the bonuses package #1
$1000 gets 50 FREE DVDs plus all of the bonuses package #1
This bonus package offer is good until December 6th. Sorry for the limited time, but Father must have the money by December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (His rules, not mine).
(Insert any amount and you will automatically be given the correct bonus package)
Mail a check to (must indicate Courageous Priest to get your bonus DVD’s) …
19 North Alabama
Brazil, IN 47824
From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU! Whether your support is prayer, penance and/or fasting I am confident Our Lady will richly reward you.
John Quinn & Jeff Gares
P.S. Don’t forget that 100% of the proceeds go directly to creating the DVD “Unnatural Law: What the Catholic Church Really Teaches about Homosexuality.”
P.P.S. Larger donations get up to 50 free DVDs. Remember the bonuses are for a limited time. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but it is not our choice. So, I encourage you to go ahead and donate now before you honestly forget or time runs out.
“Discovering the Real Truth about Homosexuality: How To Evangelizing Your Friends, Family and Acquaintances” with Fr. John Hollowell
Here are the details needed for Fr. John Hollowell’s Boot-camp
DATE: Wednesday, November 28th – That’s toinght!
9:00 PM Eastern
8:00 PM Central
7:00 PM Mountain
6:00 PM Pacific
Who: Fr. John Hollowell, hosted by John Quinn co-founder of Courageous Priest
Where: Over the phone on a conference call
Cost: FREE, depending on your phone plan.
Why: Kick-off for Fr. Hollowell’s launch of his new DVD “Unnatural Law? What the Catholic Church Really Teaches About Homosexuality”
Phone Number: 1-712- 432-3066
Pin Code: 578616
Arrive early. The call is limited to 1000 telephone lines.
Call the number: 1-712-432-3066
Enter the pin code: 578616
To mute your line press 4*
You can introduce yourself, if you desire. The host will direct you. First name is sufficient.
You will want to stay till the end, as Father has some special announcements to make.
How Many People will be there? You can call us crazy, but we expect full capacity. With over 1000 dedicated phone lines this could be Fr.Hollowell’s single biggest live presentation ever. We can’t wait!
Here Is What You’ll Get When You Join the Free Teleconference Boot-Camp:
3 biggest mistakes made when talking to your family, friends and acquaintances
The vital importance of understanding attractions and the real battle everyone must engage
Nature versus Nurture: The final answer
The critical mistakes made by the far left and far right
The key to unlocking the beauty of the teachings of the Catholic Church
Verified facts that the mainstream refuses to publish or are unwilling to accept
Overcoming the most common objections like:
“But they love each other.”
“They were born this way!”
“I don’t see any reasons why 2 loving people can’t adopt.”
“It’s not my place to tell others how to live.”
“Why listen to some out-of-touch, celibate old man.”
“I personally don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to marry.”