3 Stages of the Christian Spiritual Life


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 10,  2019.


The spiritual life for the Christian is not a mere horizontal path, but rather vertical and likened to a ladder— consisting of different levels of progression. Thus, the spiritual journey for the Catholic-Christian is composed of three steps being the interior, religious, and spiritual.  In this post, I will focus on individuals from St. Luke’s Gospel who exhibit each stage.

Stages of Christian Spirituality

Stage 1— The Interior Life

First, the “interior life” refers to the initial level of the spiritual path for Christians. At this stage, a person demonstrates the ability to be self-aware (self-autonomous) and shows the capacity to utilize their imagination. This stage is necessary for a Christian to increase and deepen their spirituality. However, it is possible to have a profound interior life without being spiritual.  A pragmatic instance of this is a secular artist painting a picture. They exercise their imagination without contemplating the mysteries of God. Nevertheless, normally the more powerful the imagination is, the greater potential a person has to power their “spiritual engine”—the mind.

Example of the Rich Young Man

Jesus and Rich Young Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two instances of the “interior life” within the Gospel of Luke include the Rich Young Man 18:18-30 and the centurion at the Crucifixion 23:44-49. Regarding the former, the Revised Standard Edition refers to the Rich Young Man as a ruler who initiates contact with Jesus by posing a query: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(v. 18).  An analysis of this statement shows the ruler demonstrating the “interior life” on a twofold manner: he knew Jesus was a good, informative teacher (he probably heard about the previous work and preaching of Jesus from others) and the question asked was of metaphysical nature, which thus required imagination and intellect to ponder.

Jesus responds by telling the man to adhere to the Decalogue. The man then tells Christ that he diligently follows the commandments. But Jesus required more, he wanted the Rich Ruler to give away his material goods to the poor. But the man was unable to do so.  While he exhibited an “interior life” by asking the right question, the Rich Young Man was not spiritual due to failure to move past material wealth (v.23). Augmenting this point the narrator tells the reader that the man was sad to give up his possessions and thus shows why he cannot move past the interior level.

Example of the Roman Centurion

A second case of someone having the interior life in Luke comes at the close of the gospel. After hanging upon the cross for several hours, darkness came over the land and the veil of the temple split in two and Jesus uttered his final breath. During this a centurion proclaimed “Certainly this man was innocent!” (v.47). The centurion saw the curtain torn and perhaps remembered Jesus’ premonition that the Temple would be destroyed. Such recall shows intellect and imagination. In fact he had such a powerful imagination, that the centurion “praised God” in v.47. Because of this, he had a profound “interior life”.

Stage 2—The Religious Life

Defined as the level where one is focused on concepts of rituals and/or sacraments, the “religious life” is the next stage in Christian spirituality. To put it another way, this phase denotes an experience of contact with the Transcendent deity via religion.

Two prime examples of this are the Pharisees in Luke 6:1-5 and Peter in 9:28-36. With the former, the Pharisees badgered Jesus and his disciples for gathering grain on the Sabbath. Their query in v. 2 shows that they are primarily concerned with Jewish ritual practices, which exhibits a sign of being in the “religious life” phase. The narrator gives a further clue that this is a case of the “religious life” because Jesus corrected them by showing that David set a precedent in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. The Pharisees were thus being nit-picky about the Sabbath law.

Example of the Transfiguration

Transfiguration

 

 

 

 

The second incident of a person existing in the “religious life” level of spirituality occurs a few chapters later at the Transfiguration. Upon witnessing Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah, Peter utters a seemingly perplexing statement, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths…” (9:33). Knowledge of the main Jewish celebrations is needed to ascertain Cephas’ point. Peter is referring to the Feast of Booths which recalls Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their wandering in the desert for 40 years. Although Peter is being an astute Jew by wanting to follow that ritual custom of erecting a tent, his missed the true purpose of the Transfiguration and hence he is at the “religious” level of the spiritual life and not yet at the final stage.

Stage 3—The Spiritual Life

The final phase of the spiritual journey is at the level of the “spiritual life”. The phrase “the spiritual life” is delineated as the level where mankind’s spirit and the Holy Spirit connect— it also presupposes and fulfills the latter two stages in the spiritual excursion.

Example of Mary

At the outset of Luke’s Gospel, Mary’s fiat in 1:26-38 is the most perfect expression of obedience to God and a person having the fullness of the “spiritual life”.  First of all, when the angel Gabriel came to her, Mary although initially concerned did not flee. Rather she listened to the message. After hearing the news of her future pregnancy, Mary asked “How can this be since I have no husband?” (She pledged her life to remain a virgin). Gabriel responded by telling her that Jesus will be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s reply in v. 38 displays her complete surrender to God’s will and shows why she exhibits the “spiritual life”.

Example of the Repentant Sinful Woman

The next case of the “spiritual life” in Luke also is of a woman. In 7:36-50 a sinful woman wept at Jesus’ feet, because of her sins, and cleansed them with her tears and expensive ointment. Luke juxtaposes this woman with Simon, Jesus’ Pharisaic host. He scorned the woman due to her sin. Jesus quips back by saying that the woman washed his feet without him asking. Simon failed to welcome Jesus with the same hospitality (v.45-47). Verse 48 shows the climax of this passage, “Your sins are forgiven”.  She desired forgiveness and Christ is pleased to forgive. For this reason, she is an example of having the “spiritual life”.

St. Francis de Sales quote

 

 

 

 

 

St. Francis de Sales declared, “All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be.” Our reflection on St. Luke’s Gospel proves that God meets individuals at various places and times. Whether you are at the beginning or more advanced path to holiness, the key to “climbing” the spiritual ladder is to let Christ carry you— cooperate with Divine Providence this week! I challenge you to plunge yourself into the Scriptures this week and mediate on how you can better encounter Jesus.

Related Links

The Three Ways or States of the Spiritual Life

Three Stages of the Spiritual Life by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P

St. Teresa of Avila Pray for Us!


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Book Review—Finding God in the Mess

Wintertime is the perfect time for beginning the Lenten season. Cold blustery winds remind us of the harsh tactics of the Devil. Barrenness across the land  represents an outward appearance of humanity’s destiny without Christ in our lives.

Lent is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Time to draw closer to the Mystery of the Cross. One great way to help draw yourself closer into conversation with God is through meditation on the daily events in your life. How do God work in the ordinary? The book Finding God in the Mess: Meditations for Mindful Living is a great simple book to prepare your heart and mind for God. Co-authored by Jim Deeds and Brendan McManus S.J., this published by Loyola Press focuses on St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spirituality.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

The book is divided into four themes: process of life, pain, struggle, and growth. Each section begins with a quote by St. Ignatius. Meditations are concise which are great for daily reading and reflection questions follow each reading.

Scattered throughout the book are meditations that implement lectio divina (divine reading)—a traditional Catholic way of reading scripture to draw closer to God. Passages of the Bible are referenced or quoted and the reader is asked to ponder the characters, actions, and scenes.

No matter your mindset this book will be an invaluable resource this Lent. According to Deeds and McManus, “Wounds are important sources of our stories” (p. 70).  Lent is a time to prepare for the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Sin separates us from God and others. But this is hope. We can always repent. Ask for forgiveness.

Finding God in the Mess provides short meditations based on Ignatian spirituality. Reflection questions coupled with  beautiful pictures  help to draw the reader deeper into the mediation. I suggest getting this little book for yourself or as a Confirmation gift

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Why Salt Water is the Cure for Everything

By: Deacon Marty McIndoe

I have lived almost all of my life on an island, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Long Island Sound.  I feel very blessed by that.  The sea part of me. Every year my wife and I usually try to escape to warm weather for the months of January and February.

Two years ago we spent the time in the southwest traveling around Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and inland Southern California.  We absolutely loved it and appreciated the beauty of the southwest.  However, I really felt like I was out of place.  I was no where near any large body of salt water.  It just didn’t seem right to me.  I was out of place, literally.

This year we did our winter getaway in the south and in Florida and stayed almost all of the time in timeshares that were on the beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.  I felt so much more at home than I did on our desert trip.  There is a real comfort and awe when we look out on the ocean.  For me, I see and feel God in the beauty and immensity of the ocean.

I came across a quote from Isak Dinesen (also known as Tania Blixen author of “Out of Africa”) from her “Seven Gothic Tales” which consisted of the following dialogue:

An old seaman says to his unhappy foster-son, “I know of a cure for everything: Salt water.”

“Salt water?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said, “in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”

History of Salt

I couldn’t help but to see the truth in that statement.  The cure for everything is “Sweat or Tears or the Salt Sea”.   It’s interesting to see the history of man’s use of salt.  The Hebrew Scriptures (The Old Testament) value salt so much that it was considered to be able to be used as a gift to God as a “covenant of salt” (Lev. 2: 13; II Chron. 13:5; Num. 18:19). It was also used in sacrifices by the Israelites (Ezek. 43:24 and Gen. 31:54).  Belief in its preservative and healing properties led to its use to dry and harden the skin of newborns (Ezek. 16:4) and to prevent umbilical cord infection.

The Egyptians and the Persians considered it such a special commodity that it could only be handled by their royalty.  The ancient Romans paid their soldiers their wages in salt (Latin word is “sal”) from which we today get the word “salary” and the expression, “worth his weight in salt”.

Salt Preserves

Salt had been used for over 3500 years as a preservative for meats and a flavoring for food.  It is still seen as a sign of hospitality and friendship in the Middle East. In Mark Chapter 9, verse 50 Jesus says, “Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”   St. Paul’s tells us in Col. 4:6:”Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  Jesus also called His followers to be the “salt of the earth”.   Salt is all about preservation, healing, and peace.

The Church has a special prayer for the blessing of salt.  After the blessing, the salt is often placed in Holy Water, or sometimes used by itself.  This prayer, from the Roman Ritual says,

 Almighty God, we ask you to bless this salt, as once you blessed the salt scattered over the water by the prophet Elisha. Wherever this salt (and water) is sprinkled, drive away the power of evil, and protect us always by the presence of your Holy Spirit. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 Salt is also seen as a means of driving away evil or preserving one from evil corruption.

Salt is found naturally in the sea, in our tears, and in our sweat.  All three of these can help to heal us.  As motivational speaker Rita Schiano tell us, “Tears are God’s gift to us. Our holy water. They heal us as they flow”.  Tears come to us from our very being.  They are responses to hurt and loss as well as happiness and gain.

Soothing Tears

Tears can be shed from earthy stimuli such as movies and can also be shed from spiritual stimuli such as God’s Word or the touch of Christian love.  They are an expression that sometimes can speak louder and clearer than words.  They bring us healing in so many ways.

Sweat of our brow

Sweat is a result of our hard work.  The Catholic Church has always stressed the importance of work in our lives.  The Protestant Churches are also known for their work ethic.  Work is not only necessary for civilization to flourish, but it brings a sense of purpose and often healing to the individual.  It also helps us to accomplish our dreams.  Colin Powell tells us, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.

We find our happiness in working hard for our dreams whether it be as simple (yet profound) as a man or woman working hard to support their family, or a researcher finding the cure for cancer.  Work, and sweat, are part of who we are called to be.

God’s Gift of Water

The Sea is a special gift to us from God.  Our scientists tell us that life itself originated there.  For us, it is a place to enjoy in so many different ways whether it is swimming and fishing or simply gazing out towards its majesty.  As John F. Kennedy told us, “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”  The Sea can truly be a healing influence in our lives.

In writing this article, I hope to make you think and pray about the healing influence of the Sea, Sweat and Tears.  I am including some quotes for you to think about and pray about and see how the Lord may be speaking to you.  I hope that you find some quiet time to pray and think about these quotes.  May our good Lord bless you and bring you His healing love.   May you come to better realize the healing gifts given to us in Salt Water: the Sea, Tears or Sweat.

About the author

Deacon Marty McIndoe is a Roman Catholic permanent deacon in the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, NY. He was in the first class of deacons for the diocese and was ordained on October 4th, 1980. Marty also follows Franciscan spirituality as a member of the Society of Franciscan Deacons.
He has done numerous speaking and teaching events within the Long Island area, as well as published articles and blogs, and is currently working on his first book. He has been actively assigned to St. Francis de Sales in Patchogue New York since his ordination.
Deacon Marty prides himself in following the teaching Magisterium of the Church and in his commitment to obedience to his bishop. He also tries to follow his call given to him on his ordination day when his bishop handed him the Gospel book and said, “believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.” Deacon Marty, a former Methodist, converted to the Catholic Faith in 1972.

Related Links

Are You a Salt or Sugar of the World

Discipleship, Holiness, and the Gospel Of Matthew Part 3


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Bonus: Check out our guest blogger’s website at: http://deaconmarty.com/ to learn more about his service of the Church as a deacon.

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An Advent Reflection on Finding Gratitude in the Stressful Season

By: Jonathan Hicks

On the first Sunday of Advent, our parish priest gave a homily about how during this season the world tends to speed up and get “busier,” but the Church is actually calling us to slow down and spend more time in prayer. My wife and I both left Mass that Sunday with a high resolve to “slow down” this season and not let the usual culprits get the best of us.

too busy meme

First Part of Advent

We got off to a great start. I joined an Advent Meditation group that I was invited to. I committed to some new service opportunities. My wife, Kate, took up extra prayer devotions and made a commitment to go to Confession regularly throughout the season. She went on a retreat. We both decided not to get too crazy with parties, and shopping, and all the usual suspects. We got our kids involved in some new Advent traditions. Things were looking fantastic.

The first week went really well. We worked everything into our already existing routine. We held each other accountable. It seemed like this was going to be the best Advent ever for our family spiritually. However, once Kate left for her retreat, we got a series of unexpected circumstances that through us way off track.

Our Series of Curveballs (or Snowballs)

Once Kate left for retreat, our two year old son got sick with a fever. He couldn’t go to daycare. The illness was prolonged by an ear infection. This was quickly passed to his older and younger brothers and the illness took a week and a half for our family to recover from.

My ability to work during this time was severely limited. Fortunately, my wife and I are both self-employed so it was somewhat manageable. However, ironically during this time I began to generate some new leads and was getting into the thick of a re-vamped marketing plan that I was trying to pick up some steam on before Christmas break.

just keep swimming gif

Nobody was getting a good night’s sleep in our house for about two weeks. Finally, once we thought it was over, then came the stomach virus that afflicted everyone in our family including myself. Suddenly, I found myself stressing out over the season because I was backed up on work and we weren’t ready for Christmas. My prayer routine had gone out the window as I was just trying to stay above water.

God Has a Plan

An Advent prayer

Despite my best plans, my ideal Advent had been de-railed. I had to accept that my prayer life was not going to be perfect, and that I needed to focus on my top priorities for work and possibly save the other tasks until after the New Year.

I’m called in my vocation to love my wife and children. Sometimes that means I cannot commit to a regular routine prayer life and fruitful time of deep contemplation. Sometimes it means holding my five year old while he watches Star Wars until he feels better, or making sure the house is in order because our six month old is sick and just wants to be held by his mom.

The Advent Meditation Group that I joined is looking at Advent through the eyes of St. Joseph. My two biggest takeaways from this group so far in how I am preparing during Advent are:

  • St. Joseph lived his life in humble service to his Creator
  • St. Joseph had a prayer life that was organic.

The Best Prayer is a Humble Prayer

Although I am having trouble getting out my prayer materials at the same time everyday to find fruitful prayer in my routine, I have been seeking God in humble service (to my family) and trying to live a more organic prayer life.

My prayer life has not included things like regular Adoration and Scripture study like it usually does, but I have been taking time regularly throughout my day to thank God for my wife, my kids, the ability to work from home, and the people that have helped me in different facets of my life. It has left me with a more grateful, and simpler attitude.

My marriage has blossomed this Advent as Kate and I both practice gratitude, and I am learning to see God in everyday moments in a special way.

Encouragement

Wherever you are spiritually this Advent, whether your Advent hasn’t gone as planned, you didn’t plan anything special, or it is going better that you thought, I encourage you to stop and consider what God is calling you to in this next week.

Our individual call is just as unique as our set of circumstances. There is always a way to “roll with the punches” and discover our infinite God in new and exciting ways. God meets us where we are. Right in our glorious messes!

The Nativity story is the perfect example of finding God’s will and rolling with the punches. If you are finding that there is “no room at the Inn,” I challenge you to look around you and find your manger where you can slow down and sleep in heavenly peace.

Advent joy


Jonathan Hicks is a husband and father of 3 boys, ages 5, 3 and 6 months. He works as a grant writing consultant and has a passion for Catholic causes, particularly those that serve the poor. Originally from Scranton, PA, he currently resides in Grand Rapids, MI.

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What I am, My Church Will Be: An Examination of Conscience for the Laity

By Meg Naumovski

The Catholic Church Needs the Laity Now More than Ever

If you are a parent, teacher or have any authority over anyone in a job, then you may understand the cross you must carry at times when called set down the parameters for success. As we enter the following examination of conscience as members of the church in light of recent events in our Catholic church, let us consider the responsibilities of our leaders, and take on the mindset of child being guided by a loving (and human) parent, or a docile sheep following his trusted shepherd.

As with any confession, this is not the time to confess the sins of others in excuse for our own sins.  This is a time to take a serious and deep look into our hearts and where we have failed to abide and participate in the well-being of our beautiful Mother Church.

Have I been praying for our leaders? Especially, priests, bishops and cardinals?

“When people want to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priest; for when there is no priest, there is no sacrifice; and when there is no sacrifice, there is no religion.”

— St. John Vianney.

While many of us sit and read the newspaper and watch our screens in horror at the sins of some of church leaders, we must ask ourselves in earnest, how many times have I honestly prayed for them in the past year? Month? Week? Today?

We should be praying for our church leaders. Every. Single. Day. Not only that, we need to be offering sacrifices and fasting.

If the millions of Catholics all over the world prayed for our leaders’ protection, the Holy Spirit would have listened and prevented many of the Enemy’s attacks on the clergy.

Over the years, my faithful group of Sisters in Christ have done some of the following weekly ideas:

  • A Holy Hour of Reparation
  • A rosary for our church leaders
  • Fasting on Fridays, even just from lunch
  • Offering your Sunday mass intention for them
  • A hand-written note reminding him that you appreciate the fact that he gave up his life to serve God and all of us.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. The smallest prayer and sacrifice can make a difference when we remember what God can do with the little we offer Him.

Do I understand that God works His will through my obedience to His authority?

Our priests are not supposed to be entertainers. I have heard people complain about the way he talks, the way he sings or doesn’t; his homilies are too long, too short or too “preachy” (really?) Maybe we didn’t like what he said or the way he said it. Maybe he told us something that challenged us or took away our favorite “toy” (Harry Potter Books, Yoga, Ouija, etc.) because he proclaimed the dangers it posed to our souls, and like a rebellious son or daughter, we reacted with an offended attitude of pride, and a sharp word for him and his failures.

Did we consider he is responsible for our sanctification? Sins of omission are when we hold back from telling the truth because of our own fear of rejection. He is responsible for the entirety of his parish in this way.

If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. 19 If, however, you warn the wicked and they still do not turn from their wickedness and evil conduct, they shall die for their sin, but you shall save your life. –Ezekiel 3:18-19

Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you. –Hebrews 13:17

Do I share in the priestly mission of the church by making my own holiness a priority?

What is the priestly mission of the church?

To understand the “priestly mission of the church”, we refer to CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI (POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II ON THE VOCATION AND THE MISSION OF THE LAY FAITHFUL IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD.)

The lay faithful are sharers in the priestly mission, for which Jesus offered himself on the cross and continues to be offered in the celebration of the Eucharist for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity. Incorporated in Jesus Christ, the baptized are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities (cf. Rom 12:1, 2).

How can I help the priestly mission of the church?

By offering my prayer, work, struggles, suffering and joys each day.

Speaking of the lay faithful the Council says: “For their work, prayers and apostolic endeavours, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labour, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life if patiently borne-all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pt 2:5). During the celebration of the Eucharist these sacrifices are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord’s body. Thus as worshipers whose every deed is holy, the lay faithful consecrate the world itself to God”[23].

I recently stumbled upon a post on social media by a priest who is the new pastor of my home parish from years ago. He had posted a prayer that I found remarkably inspiring and it is the attitude we should all assume since each and everyone of us IS THE CHURCH.  Pick up your yoke, give thanks to God and learn from this holy attitude that he has each mass pray together after communion each week:

Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for our parish, St Mary’s Delaware. My parish is composed of people like me. I help make it what it is. It will be friendly, if I am. It will be holy, if I am holy. Its pews will be filled. if I help fill them. It will do great work, if I work. It will be prayerful, if I pray. It will make generous gifts to many causes, if I am a generous giver.

It will bring others to worship, if I invite and bring them in. It will be a place of loyalty and love, of fearlessness and faith, of compassion, charity and mercy, if I, who make it what it is, am filled with these same things. Therefore, with the help of God, I now dedicate myself to the task of being all the things that I want my parish to be. Amen. Sylvester Onyeachonam; pastor St Mary Church Delaware Ohio

 

Let us as laity follow the example of this loving shepherd and remember:

What I am, my church will be.


Megan Naumovski is a writer, teacher of the Catholic Faith, speaker and blogger at The Domestic Church of Bosco boscoworld.blog with a mission to form laity in the Church, support priests, and bridge Christian friendships beyond the borders of denominations. Formerly a youth minister, teacher of religious education and apostolate leader for youth, she now works in leadership with Catholic women and writes in her sleep because she can’t help it.

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St. Teresa of Avila Pray for Us!

saint-teresa-avila

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among my favorite saints is the Spanish Carmelite nun Teresa of Avila. Her spirituals works bring peace and comfort to my life. I discovered a simple, but powerful prayer, a poem Teresa wrote, that brings comfort in distressing times.


Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.


We thank God for the wonder witness of the life of St. Teresa of Avila. May we look to her as a faithful spiritual toward Jesus Christ. St. Teresa pray for us!

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How Movies Can Affect the Soul and Our Relationships

By: John Tuttle

Human beings remain utterly unique among the living entities of God’s created hierarchy. We have bodies like the members of the animal kingdom as well as immortal spirits, the same substance of the angelic beings, which instill life in us. The human soul exists as the spiritual dimension of who we are.

In a positive atmosphere, developing youth get inspired and spurred on to greater achievements by the ideal that they are individually, intrinsically special. Loving caregivers pass this notion onto the next generation. But why is every human person unique? What makes you special?

You are Special

One of the key elements in the shaping of one’s soul is simply relationships. A soul’s uniqueness lies in its relationships with other people, our brothers and sisters in Christ. The soul, though spiritual and unseen, acts as a crucial part of who we are. The inner movings of the soul affect our entire well-being. Likewise, the actions of the body have an impact on the soul. In this wonderful and intimate association between the body and the soul, the senses of the body have a big role to play.

Senses—Windows into the Soul

The physical senses relay information to us about our surroundings, especially about the people we interact with. We learn about other people through the senses. We see them and how they act. If we’re good friends, we’ll listen to what they have to say. This impacts the shaping of a soul. And the condition of our soul affects how we, in turn, react to those around us.

When a great deal of sin taints the soul, the relationships the soul may have are often damaged. In other words, the standing of one’s soul is going to have an effect on the friendships, bonds, and meetings a person has with others.

Eyes

Since we gain knowledge via the physical senses, the senses have to filter through a lot of information. Today, much of the information generated by media has become sensualized or sexualized. Again, the senses feed through to the soul. When the senses intake garbage, the soul is on the receiving end of the deal. When you take in impurity, the soul is the eventual dumping ground.

Temple of the Holy Spirit

The soul, intended on a temple and home to God, does not deserve to be a junkyard. Digital imagery, graphics, and movies have been employed to provide porn and suggestive visuals, invading the mind and soul of the viewer. This is certainly one of the most dangerous capabilities of the media—especially movies . But movies, in their frequently damaging portrayals, offer numerous threats to viewers’ mentalities and interpersonal relationships.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Movies are not merely a brilliant product of man’s ingenuity and a splendid medium for artistic expression, but they have the potential to be moving—to touch us emotionally, speaking to us on a deeply personal level. More than this, when built up by relatable characters and a good soundtrack, films have the power of making their way into the fondness of our hearts. Movies and video content are simply more memorable than many other forms of media. They become ingrained upon the minds of their fans. As you can imagine, movies have a significant capacity for influencing people on a cultural level as well as a more subtle and psychological one.

Sexual License in Movies

One of the most commonly addressed dilemmas that the moviegoer faces is indecent exposure, which modern society softens and dubs as “entertainment” or some raunchy excuse of “fine art.” Pornography on the screen deserves neither title. While the problem has been discussed at length in numerous Christian circles, it remains an element of so much of today’s so-called entertainment industry. Thus, it merits mentioning yet again.

Interestingly, it is this very issue – that of sexual indecency – that plagued the art of cinema in its earliest and humblest of beginnings. The reason vivid sexual representation is so dangerous to the soul is that it subjects the eyes to a frame of potential temptation, the mind to a very specific memory. There is no imagination in many of the clips I’m alluding to. What’s there is there. The eyes, the windows to the soul, have just gotten a graphic image slapped against their transparent panes.

As mentioned earlier, when the soul is damaged, its relationships with other souls are also damaged. A saddening yet common real-world example of this is the effect of porn on the male mindset. When a porn addict experiences sexual attraction toward a woman, he begins to see her as a mere icon, an object, a thing of momentary pleasure. This type of content wreaks so much unhappiness and pain in society.

Catholic Impact on Movie Ratings

Catholics who were aware of what early cinematographers were doing realized something had to change. The Catholic Church was key in helping to purge film-making of its obsessive pornography and other suggestive imagery. During 1930s, less than  two decades after cinematic theaters’ inception, a portion of the American Catholic population constructed and supported the National Legion of Decency. This group called for the censorship of Hollywood productions. They desired a moral standard for movies. Inevitably, it was these foundational steps taken by American Catholics that paved the way to the MPAA rating system of modern day!

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Yet, even with the MPAA system in place, risqué content and outright nudity are common inclusions in today’s cinematic works, and the youth are more than welcome to come experience it. It’s something, like pornography in all its forms, that has to be battled by the entire faithful Christian community.

Watch but do not become the Characters

However, immodest sexuality is only one element which often gets drug into films. Many movie characters, good and bad alike, are portrayed as having rather immoral lifestyles. It’s this inclusion that often makes it possible to bring in some context of a sensual nature. Beyond that, immoral characters produce a toxic atmosphere around themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes these questionable characters appeal to the audience at large.

The personalities and attitudes of fictional characters can begin to affect the mannerisms and mentalities of moviegoers. Just as one’s sight is deeply impacted by sensual depictions, so are many of the senses affected by the on-screen characters and their behavior.

Movies are unique in that they can show a person for who he or she is. It stands as the only art form which captures a genuine living, breathing, talking person. A movie is an expression which falls just short of conversation – conversation with the viewer. But because of its realistic medium, film provides characters that can interact with us, at least in part, like real people.

Be Careful in Your Moviegoing

Similar to how those around us shape who we become, the characters in films and on TV can begin to leave their mark on our own mode of interacting with others. A fictional character can actually have an effect on how we enter into relationships— and how we treat them.

Keep Calm and Stay Safe

Inevitably, the cinematic entertainment industry provides a general good, but a lot of its fruits must undergo our scrutiny and selection. Not every film deserves to be watched. Not every apple deserves to be eaten. The Catholic wishing to keep a conscious clear and a heart and mind in purity is called to be more judgmental in what he or she views.


John Tuttle is a Catholic man who loves discovering and preserving truth and beauty. His work has been featured by Those Catholic Men, Love Thy Nerd, Movie Babble, Publishous, Tea with Tolkien, Catholic Journal: Reflections on Faith & Culture, and elsewhere. He is the founder of the web publication Of Intellect and Interest. He can be reached at jptuttleb9@gmail.com.

Thank you for sharing!