Long summary of Guilt


The most striking characteristic of the age in which we are living is not material or physical suffering, but psychological suffering.

Materialism over the last 300 years has led man to avoid using his soul.

Psychological suffering is a result and it is causing pain.

Pain is a good thing when it serves as a warning that there is something wrong.

As pain is to the body, so guilt is to the soul ~ Peter Kreeft

Psychological suffering points to the fact that man has a soul.

This book is written for a group that suffers psychologically & even more so spiritually… the ego-neurotics. 

Ego-neurosis is a disease of the soul, a spiritual rather than a pyschological ailment… it is grounded in self love.  The ego-neurotics are not happy, feel an inexplicable guilt feeling, frustrated, embarrassed, bored, but most of all they feel an emptiness in their lives.

Ego neurotics are considered normal people

The un-normal people (the insane, neurotics, psychotics) serve a tremendous purpose b/c they force the enquiry into the nature of man… “for in the neurotic and even psychotic states we see the so-called normal, including ourselves, under the magnifying glass”.

The ego-neurotics should not accept the ache of self.

He can cure himself if only he can realize the delight that awaits him, the joy that he could know, the fullness of life that could be his, he would make the effort required to cure himself.

Ch. 1 Some Peculiarities of the Guilt Feeling

The outstanding characteristic of the guilt feeling is its bewildering inconsistency.

People who lead blameless lives are often overwhelmed by the sense of guilt (think St. Paul calling himself the worst sinner in the world), while those who lead guilty lives may as easily be devoid of it.  The more guilty we are, the less guilty we feel. 

Perhaps the most curious of all the manifestations of the guilt feeling is to be found in the saints.

While criminals are often free from it, the saints never are, they are more aware of the sense of guilt than any other people. They too, like the over scrupulous pietist, frequently declare themselves to be the greatest of all sinners, but there is this enormous difference between them—the pietist says this in an attempt to find a formula that will relieve her of suffering, but the saint says it as an invitation to the suffering of the whole world. St. Teresa of Avila, with her tremendous “To suffer or die,” spoke for all the saints. While the guilt feeling disintegrates all others, even those who manage to escape the actual pain of it, it integrates the saints [with Christ & humanity].


I do not see that we can possess the light of intelligence without the pupil of the holiest faith which is inside the eye, and if this light is darkened or clouded by self-love the eye has no light and therefore cannot see, so not seeing cannot know the truth.” ~ St. Catherine of Sienna

Due to the inconsistency of the feelings of guilt, there is a popular inclination to think that guilt is not a reality at all, but something purely subjective.

Widespread faith in psychology encourages this view. People now have faith in psychotherapy.

Escape is a keyword in the study of guilt. 

If the feeling of guilt is no more than a psychological disorder, not only can we hope to be rid of all individual responsibility for sin, but even of the guilt feeling. Yet this unreality surrounding the feeling of guilt points straight to the reality of guilt.

We cannot face our own guilt.

We will not, and, spiritually devitalized as we are today, cannot, face our own guilt, that terrible force of age-long evil and suffering which is the inheritance of every descendant of Adam, of every man who comes into the world.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that guilt is a reality, that we feel guilty because we are guilty, but that the feeling has been misplaced, dislocated from its true cause, and is seeking some cause to which to attach itself.

Those who do not feel guilt at all are usually the most corrupt.

Can we really avoid the conclusion that there is something within us all which responds immediately to the suggestion of guilt? Clearly human nature is fertile soil for this suggestion. The sowing of good seed in human nature is always precarious, It may take root, it may not. It may come to flower, it may wither away. But the sowing of the bad seed of synthetic guilt is never precarious: that always thrives in our fetid soil. It always bears its Poisonous flower, taking a thousand grotesque shapes and colours, like evil, luminous fungi, in dark undergrowths swamps and cellars.

Adam’s fault – The immediate result of the first sin was psychological suffering. 

that kind of suffering which can be experienced only by human beings, who have minds and souls as well as bodies. In the penetrating light of God, self-knowledge became unbearable to Adam. Bitter, inescapable conflict had entered his nature and divided him against himself. God was the source of his joy, but now he was constrained to hide from God. Now, instead of keeping its unhindered capacity to delight in good, his whole nature lurched downwards and dragged him towards evil.

Psychological suffering is our portion & we are in war with ourselves. 

Self-knowledge is unbearable to us, unless we have the rare courage that is willing to be purified by fire. We are in conflict with ourselves. We long insistently for happiness, yet our inclinations drag us, remorselessly and always, towards the things which ultimately destroy even the capacity for happiness. We cannot get, let alone keep, the simplest good thing without waging war on self, without irksome self-discipline and self-denial. Like Adam we must wrestle continually with the elements, our vast cities do not save us from them, and the forces which scientific discovery could have harnessed for man’s healing and good threaten his very existence.

The human race is bound together by a solidarity of guilt.

personal strife and personal sorrow are a debt which we owe to one another.

We have a double obligation which at first sight seems paradoxical, both to accept suffering and to wrestle with it. The suffering of the whole world is the concern of each one of us. 

Christ chose to use suffering and death as the means of our redemption… through taking all the suffering of guilt on himself.


In the Church there are three great safeguards against self-delusion: [1] an infallible moral teaching, [2] the sacrament of Penance, and [3] the doctrine of Purgatory.

And all 3 the Reformers let go & with them the means by which men would know what sin is, would know their own sinfulness, would be kept in the continuous awareness of sin’s enormity, and the means of its healing. Many protestants began to assume that they would go straight to heaven. 

Escape religions that have been evolving since the Reformation = all escape from self-knowledge.

Freudianism = offer an escape from responsibility of guilt & even from responsibility of being human (body no soul)

Psychoanalysis, claiming to help men know themselves, most frequently has the opposite result.

“From ceasing to know what he is like, man has ceased to know what he is.”

In his attempt to escape from self-knowledge, man loses his knowledge of God.

For three hundred years men have been blinding themselves to God, and with each attempt to escape from guilt their conception of God has become more negative or more distorted. The result is, as we have seen, that today the majority of people have either no conception of God at all, or one that is vague and negative, or even one that is repellent—: and this is the tragedy of modern man, because, while he is aware that he is a psychological failure and seeks desperately for a remedy, he turns away from the only remedy that can save him—namely, the response of his whole being to God.

He tries to accept a wholly material explanation of himself, because his misconceptions of God lead him to an instinctive fear that any surrender of his mind to him would interfere disastrously with his life. He feels that contact with God, even if not positively disastrous, would be depressing.

While he wants to live fully and to be a complete human being, man does not know that God is the Source of Life, and that the fullness of his own human life depends wholly on his response to God. He does not know that in the uncreated Light of God, the drabness of his personality would be changed to rich and brilliant colour, as everything is coloured when the light of the sun shines on it. Rather than risk the cost of surrender to God, he forgoes everything outside the little shell of his materialism—not only the mysteries of the world of the spirit, but the wholeness and beauty of the sacramental life of soul and body living in harmony with God and with all creation.


Modern man, having succeeded in blinding himself to the reality of guilt, and lost or numbed his sense of sin, is intent upon ridding himself of the misplaced feeling of guilt. Every one of them reveals an attempt to escape from one, or all, of three things. They are:

1. self-knowledge

2. suffering

3. responsibility

Escape from self-knowledge:

psychological fancy dress –  The psychological fancy dress worn by the guilty must do more than the ordinary fancy dress; it must not only give the wearer confidence and hide what shames him from others; it must also hide it from himself. It must not only justify his conduct, it must glorify it. Guilty man is not content merely to excuse himself; he needs to boast; he craves the support and reassurance of his fellow men; he wants their flattery and applause, and he wants it exactly in proportion to his misgiving about himself.

Escape from suffering:

Avoid. Through drugs, etc.

Escape from responsibility:

Group think – Of all the attempts to escape personal responsibility for the suffering of the world and for individual guilt, none is so dangerous as the loss of their own individuality which countless people seek by identifying themselves with a group.

There is a mysterious magnetism which unites them, and if they are organized into a group which identifies itself with an ideal that replaces the individual’s sense of responsibility and his sense of his own littleness by an inflated idea of the mission and power of the group, he becomes more and more unaware of the evil in himself.

Scapegoats — Moreover, that which he refuses to recognize in himself, he projects onto others, whom he makes his scapegoats.

The “Shadow”

It is the evil in man and his proneness to evil, the persistent downward lurch in every one of us, the potential as well as the actual sin which is in us all. “It is certainly better to know that your worst adversary is right in your own heart” ~ C.C. Jung

The enemy is within:

Thus by losing his individuality, in order to rid himself of his first responsibility—namely, to fight the evil in himself—man adds a sinister aspect to personal guilt, not only for the individual concerned, but for mankind as a whole.

Because he is afraid to look into his own soul, lit up by the searching beam of the Uncreated Light, he does not realize that the enemy is within himself. Only in himself can he come to grips with the evil which threatens to destroy humanity. He is afraid to look inwards, and so he is aware of little but that which is outside of himself, He is aware that the threatening tide of evil is always gathering strength, but not that its relentless and seemingly uncontrollable force is streaming out of his own heart. 

Everyone who fails to realize and to come face to face with the enemy in himself will always seek and always find an enemy outside of himself.

We are safe only when we are consciously at war within ourselves.

This is one meaning that we may discover in those paradoxical words of the Prince of Peace, “I bring not peace but a sword.”

Hilter example

This is Jung’s description of Hitler and his relationship to his people: “With the rest of the world they did not understand what Hitler’s significance was: namely, that he was a symbol of every individual: he was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities, He was a highly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic individual, full of empty childish fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or gutter-snipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree—and this is another reason why they fell for him.


God’s reaction to our guilt is the same – There is not only a pattern running consistently all through man’s reaction to his guilt, but there is also an equally consistent pattern in God’s reaction to it, which begins with Adam and persists all through time to this day. It is an attitude of the tenderest fatherhood. Ex – Adam & Eve, Cain. 

The homing toad – In the heart of every fallen man there dwells a homing toad. The homing toad has an undefeatable drive in him to go back to his home.

Now man, however evil he becomes, however twisted and grotesque—however far away guilt takes him from God, from his home, the environment in which he can regain the true shape of his manhood—always reveals the struggle, innate in him, to get back. He really wants to be in the Light of God, in his proper home, and even in the twists and contortions that he goes through in his abnormalities, even in his insanities, it is obvious that he is striving without his knowledge, even without his will, to get back.

In every manifestation of his mind working in ignorance-but sincerely—man shows his desire for God’s light. In all his psychological mistakes and oddities, he shows a wish to be what God wants him to be, though he is often showing it unconsciously and by making his pseudo-self into a caricature of his real, God-made self.

As the whole object of this book is to show that it is man’s destiny to be “a Christ”.

Since “we are lifted into the mysteries of this endless life stream only by a free act of God’s overpowering love”, (Tyciak 22), no wonder the Homing Toad triumphs in man, dusty and pathetic though his triumph is!

The struggle to get back home

The instinct to hide – psychological fancy dress & self-delusion.

Solution – To put on Christ. Deep in the heart of man there is a longing to be as God created him: to be a man made in the pattern of Christ. St. Paul speaks of “putting on Christ.” That is man’s real need, to “put on Christ” like a garment, covering himself not with a disguise, a falsehood, but with the humanity of Christ, for which he was made.

The desire to be swamped, to be lost, carried away by something stronger than one’s will, or one’s own self.  It shows itself in many ways—it drunkenness, lust, passions of anger, mob emotion, in religious hysteria, especially group hysteria with such practices as “testifying” and “conversion.” It has some outlet in singing, especially hymn singing and community singing, and is one reason why several people when they are drunk together, usually sing and often sing and dance.

Solution – There is an answer to this; man was made to be caught up into the immensity of the Life of God, of the Blessed Trinity, the Life which is the cause of all other life and power. In God, man’s individuality is not swamped and submerged, but it is marvellously released from its limitations, set free in the infinite life of Love and borne along on its eternal torrents of beauty.

–> The mechanisms of escape are so close to being sources of union with Christ.


Relief from guilt most often sought through two ways:

1. self-accusation

2. confession

The compulsion to confess:

rooted in a real necessity of human nature, and is a manifestation of the Homing Toad struggling to get back to his own place of happiness.

Confession (outside Sacramental Confession) and self-accusation

when used to escape from guilt, disintegrate & destroy personality because they are acts of self-love.


The man who fosters self-love is indeed his own executioner, for self-love grows like fungus in a dark, damp place, and the bigger it becomes, the smaller is that which causes suffering to the one who fosters it.

Sacramental Confession – The Sacrament of Penance. 

is vital to man’s happiness & essential remedy for real guilt, a gift given to man by God. 

Compare psychoanalysis and sacramental confession (two completely different things).

[1] Psychiatry is an experimental science for the treatment of mental, nervous and functional disorder. It is the work of the psychiatrist to restore an unbalanced, disturbed personality to the sweetness of order that is true to human nature, and so to prepare the whole man for the inflowing of grace.

The ideal psychiatrist is a St. John the Baptist in the wilderness of the modern world, whose mission is to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

[2] The Sacrament of Penance has a purpose wholly different from that of psychiatry and one which far transcends it.

It is one too which can never fail unless the penitent himself deliberately frustrates it by an act of sacrilege. It is not limited to a certain kind of person, but is for every one; it does not depend on the personality or the skill of the priest; it fulfills its purpose whether he is a man of the deepest understanding of human nature or of none at all. It is not something experimental which may or may not be effective in a given case, but something absolutely certain which will be effective in every case.

It is never an experiment; it is always a miracle.

The purpose of sacramental confession is atonement—atonement—with God.

The Sacrament of Penance is the sacrament of joy… it is also a sacrament of joy for the eternal Father. He rejoices as the father of the Prodigal Son rejoiced.

Sacrament of Penance & suffering

The purpose of sacramental Confession is to remove sin, not to remove suffering, though sometimes it does that too. But always it does something far more, and for all suffering, not only psychological suffering: it gives it a meaning, a purpose, and a power. It changes it from being destructive to being creative. By giving Christ’s life, the sacrament gives the redeeming, healing power of Christ’s love to the suffering that the forgiven sinner must experience.

Sacrament of Penance as cure for ego-neurosis

For ego-neurosis, the disease of self-love, the sacrament contains everything necessary for a cure. This is not surprising, because this great remedy for guilt is not something which man has discovered, but something given to him by divine Wisdom, by him who “knows what is in man’s heart.”

Examination of Conscience:

When concentrated on self more than on God, confession gets complicated.

The problem of feelings as a guide = never good. 

The prayer for the light of God is the beginning of real self- knowledge.

Examination of conscience should not be turning our minds inward to our feelings, but flinging them out to God—it should be, as it were, a going out from ourselves to God, to look back at ourselves only from his side, through his penetrating light.

The “informalities of Confession” are rulings of Divine Mercy

The informalities that some people see surrounding Confession, the “almost extreme measures used by the Church to make it easy for the weakest. For example, that any words expressing sorrow suffice for the act of contrition, that venial sins need not be Confessed at all, that forgotten sins are included in the forgiveness anyway, that it practically never happens that a confession made in good will need be, or should be, repeated”…  these are the rulings of divine mercy. They are the balm poured into the wounds, the calm and rest insisted upon by the divine physician.

Change works in us secretly in confession:

It may be, however, that the change which takes place in us as the result of surrendering our will to God in many Confessions will not be visible. Christ grew secretly, imperceptibly, in Mary, and he grows secretly in us. The sign that he is growing in us is not that life becomes effortless, but that faith, which we live by, grows brighter, and hope and charity increase in us.

Repentance and the Sacrament of Penance are then the remedy for guilt.

In this remedy, short and simple and often almost formal as going to Confession is, is contained the whole psychological process by which fallen man can be restored to God and live in the fullness of his nature.

Confession summarized:

In contrition he admits himself a sinner. In the examination of conscience he knows himself in God’s light. In his purpose of amendment he surrenders himself to God and discovers the power of his own will—but in absolution more than all that is achieved. In that stuffy, dark little box we call the confessional, every one of the ceaseless drift of human beings of every kind and description who kneel uncomfortably, listening to the whispered words of absolution, is made one with God.



The key to human nature is Christ.

He is the pattern in which man was originally made, and by becoming one with him, man can be restored to that pattern and become whole. The human nature of Christ was the absolute fullness and perfection of human nature, human nature as God wanted it to be, for it was made for a person who was God. Therefore it was the design, the idea, the origin of every man whom God would create. Looking at Christ’s human nature, we know what God wants ours to be.

Why Christ came:

He came to redeem, and he came to show men how to become whole again, he came to show them how to cope with guilt, he came to give them back his life, the life that was to illumine theirs and to be the fulfillment of their humanity.

He took our humanity in order to give us his, and since guilty man must, as a very condition of his own ultimate joy, and even for his fullest measure of earthly joy, “make” his soul through expiation, through personal atonement, Christ chose to atone for mankind as each man must do for himself: through suffering. “He who was without sin was made sin for us.”

Modern psychologist approach vs. Christ’s Way of “childhood”

Modern psychologist — The modern psychologist thinks that it is he who has discovered that the way back to mental peace is the way back through childhood, that man must become a little child again and re-live his earliest experiences with his father and mother to discover the cause of his present suffering, and that some must even go through something like a psychological rebirth in order to overcome the fear of life, and incidentally the fear of death.

Christ — But it was Christ who first taught these things. He who said that the way back to Heaven is the way back through childhood, that man must become a child again to know God through a child’s response to an infinitely loving Father. The one cure for anxiety, for humiliation, for fear, is the trust of an unspoilt child in the Fatherhood of God. To the uncontaminated child’s heart, the secrets of divine Love are given.

Being fathered by God

Everything discovered by science or by psychology can be tested by the words of Christ. It is quite true that a man’s life can be crippled by some flaw in his earliest relations with his father and mother; this is because the father and mother stand in the place of God to the little child, he forms his first emotional —and usually unconscious—conception of God from them. Their love for him must be God’s love for him. If it is not, if it is selfish love, or if they disillusion him or betray him, his conception of God will be awry. His journey back through all the confusion and conflict of adult life and experience as well as through the broken, cynical, unchilded childhood will be a long and difficult one; but he must go back to the true childhood that finds the perfect Father and is restored by him to a child’s trust. This is the absolute condition for him to possess the Kingdom of Heaven.

We have seen that in general guilty man has, through trying to escape from guilt, formed a false conception of God. Everything Christ said or did on earth was designed to show men what God is really like, and especially to show them his Fatherhood and their Childhood.

Awareness of God & reality of guilt

The touchstone of the effect of guilt upon man is his awareness or unawareness of God—or again whether, even when he realizes that God is present to him, this makes him more conscious of God or of himself.

And the more aware he becomes of himself, the less aware he becomes of God; the more he loves himself, the less he loves God.

The beginning of human happiness, and even of human sanity, is to begin to know God.

It is a commonplace now with psychologists that it is a psychological necessity for a child to know his father as great and good, and if his father is not what he longs for him to be, he will go in search of a “father-substitute”.

The most profound secret of psychological healing for guilty men is to know the Eternal Father.

Christ, who knew everything that is necessary to man, and that only what is real is necessary to him, knew that the most profound secret of psychological healing for guilty men is to know the Eternal Father: “Eternal life is knowing thee, who art the only true God; and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17.3). The gospel is woven together from beginning to end by Christ’s continual awareness of the Father and his continual awareness of his own Sonship.

Adam & Jesus

Adam was the first sinful man, and he tried to repudiate guilt; Christ was the first sinless man, and he accepted the guilt of all sin. Adam was the first man to hide from God; Christ was the first man to expose his soul, covered in the wounds and ugliness inflicted by guilt, to the fierce blaze of God’s light.

In Christ every opposite is reconciled.

This principle of paradox and reconciliation runs all through his teaching, in all that he does, in what he is. The only thing that Christ taught must be cast out of the whole man is sin.

Christ’s whole teaching is love & men have lost this power. 

Men are beginning to discover now that they have largely lost the power to love, and in this is their failure as human beings. In Christ is the whole secret of love. Only by living Christ’s life can men find the way to love, and so to the fulfilling of their human nature again. 

Christ’s love is creative, it is the love which transmits life. It is love which puts no limit at all on self-giving, which excludes no one, includes everyone; it reaches to the ends of the earth, it is communion with everyone. It is the love which even in a world of suffering can fill up the life of each one with its full measure of joy.

Man fulfills his human nature through love:

This is the secret of man’s capacity to fulfill his human nature through love, to atone for guilt by his suffering, to experience joy in a world that is overburdened by sorrow. He has been given back the life of Christ—Christ’s mind to adore with, Christ’s love to love with, Christ’s sacrifice to atone with.


The great repression of our age is the repression of Christ in man.

When we repress Christ we repress self.

In the merely natural effort to be more fully himself, to be all that he should be, he collides, so to speak, with Christ, not knowing what he is in contact with, but stirred, all the same, by shadowings of that unrealised Presence. Feeling his own imperfections, he is in fact feeling the defects in his resemblance to Christ: trying to imagine himself restored, it is Christ that his imagination is feeling for, though he does not know it.

Man represses Christ for 2 reasons:

Man represses Christ in himself because

[1] he is ignorant of the fullness of joy in this mystery of Christ-life, and

[2] still more because he is afraid of “the shadow.” He is afraid to face the reality of his individual share in the guilt of the world, but naturally even more afraid to accept the limitless sorrow and shame of the agelong guilt of all mankind.

To accept, surrender, abandon to our destiny at “other Christs” = only way to embrace suffering and love like Christ 

It is only the full flowering of Christ in a man that can give him a willingness to suffer strong enough to lead him out, as Christ was led out by the Spirit, to face the shadow: to be tempted and to wrestle with temptation, to be afraid and to overcome fear, to see the world and all the “glory” of it challenging him, and to overcome the world. it is only his surrender to his destiny of Christhood that can enable any individual to dare those experiences in life which lead to the fulfilling of his human nature, and only this that uninhibits his capacity for love, so that through the power of love his life may bear fruit and be a communion with all other men.

To accept, to abandon ourselves to our destiny as “other Christs,” is not only to allow all the grief and suffering of the world to flow through us, but also eternal love, love that has no beginning in time and does not end in time: love that has no limitation of place, or act, that does not depend upon the accidents of our lives, though it can be expressed through them too.

Surrender to his destiny of Christhood must include both these. There is no way of discovering, except by surrender, that in accepting the darkness we also accept the light: that in accepting the universal experience, the collective experience of all men, through our surrender to the one Man in all mankind, we accept simultaneously all the loves of all men, and all their power of love: that in accepting the burden of the earth, we accept the joy of Heaven.

To attempt to repress Christ in ourselves is to attempt to hold back the river of life, to stop the bloodstream of the Son of God that is the life-stream of all mankind.

The man in whom Christ is not repressed is a channel through which the life and love of all humanity flows back to God.

My notes = when you accept the burden of guilt, you are given the power of love.

Christ and the body of Christ

Deep in the heart of everyone living is the longing to be in communion with other men.

Here is a description of the union between Christ and those who belong to his Mystical Body:

  • “Thus our relation to Christ is closer than the natural relation of brothers to a brother or even of children to a parent. It is that of cells in a body to the person whose body it is. It is therefore closer than any natural relationship that one human being can have with another. By membership of the Mystical Body we are more closely related to Christ Our Lord than our Lady is, simply as his mother in the natural order… Each one of us is more closely related to every other member of the Church by this life of grace than to his own mother by the life of nature. ‘And you are Christ’s body, organs of it depending upon each other’ (I Cor. 12.27). This is easy enough to say. But if we were ever to let ourselves look squarely at it and really try to live by it, its immediate effect would be a remaking of ourselves so thorough that nature shrinks from it; and the ultimate effect would be to renew the face of the earth.”* [F. J. Sheed, Theology and Sanity, pp. 27 1-2.]

It means that nothing whatever that one member of the Church does is without its effect on all the others.

The responsibility of all sin is upon the shoulders of each Christian man.


The saint is the only person who makes no attempt whatever to resist his destiny as a human being, the destiny to be a Christ.

It explains the saint’s attitude to his own sins. The saint has become one with Christ. His sense of sin is Christ’s sense of sin. Christ took all sin upon himself, from the first sin of Adam to the last sin of the last man to live in the world. “Him, who knew no sin, God has made sin for us” (II Cor. 5.21).

Christ & Suffering

Christ came to give life to humanity. For answer, humanity gave suffering to Christ, and Christ accepted it and gave suffering the power of his love. Suffering is the means by which Christ chose to redeem sin; logically so, since it is the direct result of sin. For this reason Christ and suffering are inseparable for so long as there remains one jot of unredeemed sin, or one sinner on earth.

Christ has given suffering a sacramental quality (dependent upon effectiveness of whoever receives it).

Humanity & Suffering

suffering is a man-made thing, it is in fact the only man-made thing that there is. Suffering is not only something we have given to one another, it is also something we have given to God, in the person of Christ.

The misuse of suffering is sacrilege, a misuse and violation of something in which the redeeming power of Christ’s love is hidden, not unlike a sacrilege committed against the Sacred Host, in fact a sacrilege against the Mystical Body, against Christ in man.

Saints & Suffering

The saint, who is in fact a sinner and the natural heir to original sin, stands before God covered in his own guilt, but he also stands before God as Christ, covered by all guilt. He knows each sin as all sin, and himself responsible for it all. Christ in him is the explanation of the saint’s attitude to suffering, both of his willingness to suffer and his desire to suffer.

This means that in surrendering himself without reserve to his destiny of Christhood, the saint surrenders himself to suffer all the suffering of the world, he takes all the sin of the world upon himself as his individual responsibility.

The saint’s desire to suffer is Christ’s desire to heal.

The suffering which a saint seems to choose for himself will often be one which is a direct answer to some tremendous sin which is either characteristic of his own generation or yet to come.

The self-inflicted suffering of a saint, which seems unreasonable, fanatical and even repellent, is in reality an absolute necessity if the whole world is not to perish, a necessity springing from the crucifixion.

I have spoken of the suffering which a saint seems to choose, because in fact the saint very seldom chooses anything: he merely surrenders to his destiny, which as often as not he understands as little as we do.

it is also the saint’s willingness to suffer which measures and liberates his capacity for love. The saint has the capacity to love with Christ’s love. He has exchanged his heart for the heart of Christ, his will for the will of Christ: in that is the secret of his tremendous surrender to his destiny as man—Christhood.

The diversity of the saints reveals more about Christ

It need hardly be said that the diversity among the saints is without limit, for Christ wills to utter his love for men and to enter into communion with them through every possible kind of human creature. It follows that it would be very difficult to like all the saints.

In spite of the fact that Christ lives in them all, they retain their own characters, and they are even more varied than other people, because whilst other people are limited by anxiety, and fear and self-love, the saints, driven as they are by the spirit, 104] have no limitations other than their natural Ones; they are not hindered by fear, or any form of self-love, from living fully, from any experience offered to them.

St Therese of Lisieux example –  He imagines that he is scandalized by her, but the fact is that he is scandalized by Christ, for choosing to become Teresa Martin, because Teresa Martin had a suburban mind, and was true in every detail to what she was, a very sentimental little French bourgeoise.

Extra quotes

  • “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.” ― C.S. Lewis
  • “The Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the word to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age. Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what people want, but rather what the people need… Therefore it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.”  ~ GK Chesterton


Suffering is the result of guilt.

for guilt means that we have broken the law of our being, we are in collision with reality, and suffering follows inevitably. 

A man’s attitude to suffering is therefore an estimate of his attitude to guilt.

The widespread neurosis of our days is largely caused by the attempt to resist suffering, because it involves an attempt to resist the redemptive love that is in it.

It is quite impossible to suffer anything, no matter what it is, and not be affected by it.

Yet suffering can be a creative thing, not only a destructive one. Man’s readiness to suffer is part of the Homing Toad in him. 

In the degree in which the willingness to suffer, which is innate in normal men, becomes un-self-seeking, it unites men with one another and is the beginning of the communion which is fully realized only in the saints.

On the whole, it can be said truly that even though the most widely professed creed of mankind today is to seek for personal happiness and to avoid suffering, nearly everyone who professes this creed takes upon himself a good deal of voluntary suffering, and admires other men for their powers of and willingness for endurance. Even when a man’s values are all wrong and his ideals are awry, he wants his money or his power to be got by his own struggle.

No one ever lived who has not at some time or other the possession of suffering; it is the one thing man possesses by his own right, and it is certainly essential for any achievement or success that he desires. It seems, too, that he cannot have anything else essential to his happiness, unless he has suffering with it—above all that greatest essential of all, to be able to love. Directly a man loves, he suffers.

A man’s strength and his power to strengthen other men can be measured by how much he can suffer well.

Christ has given value to suffering. 

Evil is sufferings cause, but because Christ has given it the power of his redemptive love, it can redeem evil.

In itself, suffering is without value; worse than that, it is destructive. But Christ used suffering to redeem the human race. He did not try to escape it, though he could have redeemed man without it. On the contrary, he gave himself to it from his birth to his death; he gave his body and mind and his soul to it; he literally took it to his heart; he sowed it with the seed of his redemptive love. That is the germ of life in suffering.


Ego-neurotics always complain that life has frustrated them.

There are two words which are always hovering on their tongues—”Fulfillment” and “Satisfaction.” They are obsessed by the idea that they have been prevented by an unkind fate from “satisfying” their deepest emotions, “fulfilling” their humanity.

Above all, they think, they have been denied the opportunity to love.

Ego-neurotics have actually frustrated life.

Their real tragedy is not that life has frustrated them, but that they have frustrated life. Not that love has been denied to them, but that they have denied themselves to love.

Ego-neurotics “self-protect” because they have a profound doubt of his own potency as a human being.  He prefers to forgo the fullness of life, rather than risk the final humiliation of knowing himself as a failure for certain.

He is afraid to know himself and to be known. To this fear love is the ultimate challenge. For the first condition of love is the total surrender of the secret of self. To love is to know and to be known.

While his craving to be loved grows, his power of loving shrinks.

The will to accept suffering is the primary condition of the psychological life & liberates our capacity to love. 

** The real cause of frustration, of the lack of fulfillment and the failure of human beings as human beings, is the will not to suffer.

In proportion to our willingness to suffer we succeed as human beings; we fail in proportion to our will not to suffer. This, because it is the will to accept suffering which liberates the capacity to love, and on the capacity to love, and on that alone, our fulfilment as human beings depends.

This seems to suggest that the will to accept suffering, far from being a symptom of morbidity, is the primary condition of psychological life.

The surrender of the secret of self is the condition for the potency of every kind of human giving and taking of love.

The tremendous challenge of love, the challenge to surrender to the stripping of Christ, to know and to be known, comes on other planes as well as the emotional; it is equally the problem of the celibate and the dedicated artist, the contemplative, and everyone else.

Accept suffering to accept joy & love

Even a mediocre person may come to realize that willingness to suffer, to make efforts and to overcome self-consciousness, is a condition for joy, so that to accept one is to accept the other; similarly, the saint’s willingness to suffer includes his acceptance of joy. He in no way resembles the morbid type of pious person who tries to exclude the joys of religion from his life; on the contrary, life for the saint means welcoming both the fasting in the wilderness and the feast with the bridegroom.

St Therese of Lisieux example at Christmas.

How well this illustrates the difference between the ego- neurotic and the saint. The ego-neurotic really means, “I want only what I can have without suffering”; but the saint means, “I will accept everything, the suffering that is inseparable from the joy, and the joy that is the crown of suffering.”

The complaints of discouraged people are never heard on the tongues of the saints; not one of them has ever exclaimed that life had cheated or frustrated him, however much it may have seemed that it had to the onlooker. Circumstances do not frustrate saints. The universal circumstance of guilt does not frustrate them. Different though they have been in every external detail, there is no saint in Heaven who did not fulfill his human nature on earth.

That which countless millions of unhappy, frustrated people long to achieve and cannot, every saint has achieved, and for every broken human failure, there is a saint like enough to himself to show him his own way to glory.


Saints accept the realization & responsibility of guilt b/c they have a complete surrender of self. 

The saints continual awareness of God is the reason for their different attitude towards guilt.

This acceptance allows them not to be broken by it.

By a curious paradox, the willingness to suffer is the key to natural happiness and balance in a world of universal, suffering and neurosis.

The suffering that twists are warps others have precisely the opposite effect on the personalities of the saints. That which contracts the selfish man’s heart expands the heart of the saint. That which enslaves the selfish man sets the saint free, that which humiliates the selfish man dignifies the saint, that which embitters the selfish man sweetens the saint, that which hardens the selfish man is the source of the saint’s gentleness. That which drives the selfish man in onto himself in lonely isolation is the saint’s communion with all other men.

The willingness to suffer is not the explanation of sanctity, but it is the explanation of the sanity of the saints.

The saints’ willingness to suffer results in [1] an integrated, balanced personality; [2] it is the doorway to a limitless variety and magnitude of experience; [3] it liberates the capacity for love.

Sanctity is the only cure for the vast unhappiness of our universal failure as human beings.

Ego-neurotics do not accept the realization & responsibility of guilt. 

 Their resentment of suffering swells to exactly the size of their self-love, for self-pity measures self-love.

The bigger a man’s self-love is, the smaller is the thing which can make him suffer.

The three commonest results of the will not to suffer are these: [1] it produces an unbalanced, sometimes even a disintegrated personality: [2] it impoverishes life by limiting and narrowing experience; and [3] it paralyzes the capacity for love.


There is no type, no pattern, which predisposes to sanctity. 

The saints are and have always been people of every imaginable type and character, born with every possible heredity and temperament into every possible environment and circumstance. The saints have exactly the same problems as everyone else.

The lover of self’s love is subjective. 

The lover of self loves those who love him, those who belong to him, or give him pleasure or security.

Everyone is known to the self-lover only in relation to himself (“my husband”).

The self-lover lives in fear of everything that is a threat to self – disease, poverty, death.

The person who really loves self exclusively almost invariably suffers from an unresolved guilt conflict, guilt which he has never faced squarely, never admitted to himself, done nothing at all to expiate; and consequently guilt seeps into all his emotions and poisons them.

Self-lovers can be very charitable b/c they want to not to heal suffering, but to disinfect it.

Even love in these materialist days is utility for the self-lover.

If he can derive the immense satisfaction of seeing results, it repays him for his efforts, and he will go on, but where there are no results, he soon finds he cannot go on, for he has nothing to give. For those whose suffering is incurable, the only thing anyone can give is compassion—the self- giving which is entering into communion with another by sharing his passion.

The one essential for sanctity is the capacity to love.

The capacity to love God and neighbour.

it is on the degree of his capacity for objective love, and on nothing else, that the fullness of any man’s life depend.

 It is the one thing all saints have in common = the capacity to love. 

The only thing that distinguishes a saint from other people on earth is his capacity for love.

But the saints’ capacity for love, while never growing tepid in its natural expressions, reaches out beyond them, perhaps radiates from them, and we find them loving the unlovable and the repulsive.

The one exclusion from the saint’s love is self.

The saint’s love is objective. 

The saint’s love is objective, he does see others as themselves, and he sees them as equally important as himself, or more so. But he too has a certain kind of subjectivity in his love for them, for he sees one thing about them which he realizes as part of himself. He sees his own guilt as a contributory cause of the suffering of the race, and so cannot see any man’s suffering as no affair of his.

Christhood is man’s destiny.

But also it is Christ that he loves in them. Man’s soul is created by God in his own image and likeness. But within the Godhead, the Son is the image and likeness of the Father, so that man’s soul is created by God in the pattern of ‘his Son. Not only that, God the Son became man, not merely a human soul, but wholly man. Because he is the perfection of manhood, the manhood of all men can but be modelled upon his, so that his image is woven into our very being as men. Our destiny is to preserve that image and to develop it into the closest possible resemblance to Christ.

Saints see Christ in others. 

The fact that the saints do relieve such suffering as can be relieved, that they clothe and nurse and feed and illuminate and shelter, is incidental; it is the overflowing of love, and its inclusiveness and dauntless quality is that they go to suffering people because in these people they see Christ and must be with him. When they cannot relieve a man’s suffering they must suffer it with him. That is illogical, it is foolish, it is improvident, it is fanatical—precisely—but that is love.

This is why in contrast to the lover of self, who seeks only the company of those who help him to forget his debt to mankind for his own sins—the prosperous, the outwardly attractive, the healthy—the saint is constrained to seek those who are disfigured by the suffering that guilt has brought into the world and who bleed with Christ’s wounds. It is the comfort of the saints to comfort Christ in man. It is precisely because of the character of a saint’s sorrow for sin that his love for the suffering Christ is strong and lasting.

Wherever human misery is, the love of the saints finds it.

From the love of the saints all the mercy and healing in the temporal world has sprung—hospitals, orphanages, shelter for old people, help for the wounded in battle. From their love all mercy has come, and from it too the spiritual healing of mankind.

Saints cannot see men primarily as sinners; in sinful men they see Christ on the cross.

As we have seen again and again, subjective sorrow for sin, the sorrow of self-love, turns a man’s eyes away from God, but the saint loves God objectively, with Christ’s love, and his sorrow is not because of a wound inflicted on himself, but because of a wound inflicted on Christ. He does not turn in to himself to apply healing balm, but he turns to Christ and pours out his sorrow on his wounds. And instead of being dragged down and devitalized by the aching misery of his own sin-consciousness, the saint is lifted up into self-forgetting by the knowledge of Christ’s joy in receiving his sorrow and the saving of his soul, as his own crown.

“I was thirsty and you gave me not to drink. . .“ When we refuse drink to the thirsty, we are not consciously refusing it to Christ; we do not see Christ in them. The saint does.

It is the vision of Christ in man that enables the saint to do what the lover of self can never do—devote himself to those whose suffering he cannot relieve


Modern man’s lack of knowledge of God is the reason he doesn’t know himself. 

He thinks that his bewilderment is caused by lack of knowledge about himself, but here man is wrong; the real source of his bewilderment is lack of knowledge about God.

Modern man longs to realize himself as a complete human being, but he does not know how to achieve this.

The ordinary man has ceased to know what he is, or why he is.

It is true that in order to achieve an integrated personality man must have some true knowledge of himself, but he cannot get this knowledge by introspection, or self-analysis. Indeed the more an individual concentrates on himself, gazes into himself, the less does he know himself as he is. The only way in which any man can learn to know himself sufficiently to begin to achieve integrity is through coming to know God. It is only through his response to God that a man can begin to know what he is and why he is, and how to become whole, and only when he has become whole can any man fulfill his destiny as a human being.

Man considered in 3 aspects, or 3 elements: the child, the man, the soul. 

By saying there are these three elements in man, I mean that he remains the child of God when he is a man, and he has the character, the instincts and the needs of a child all through his life. He has, at the same time, the character and maturity and powers of a grown man, the potential or actual lover, husband, worker and father. And he has an immortal soul, with its own imperious needs.

The harmony of these three is the secret of man’s integrity.

Each of them must come to its own fullness of being; the child to the full flower of childhood; the man to the maturity of manhood; the soul must radiate the Spirit of God.

The child in man exists because there is a father in God, because God is a father. Man’s childhood is the answer to God’s fatherhood, it is the father’s love in God that is the cause of the child’s being in man. The child in man grows to the loveliness of complete childhood, just in so far as it responds to the father in God.

The man—that is, the adult—in every human being becomes mature only in the measure in which he lives in God the Son, and because God the Son became man, and is the very incarnation of love, the mature man is essentially a lover; man’s maturity is love.

Neither the child in man nor the lover could live, as they do live, with God’s life, were it not that the Holy Spirit, who is, in himself, the sign of unutterable love between the Father and the Son, breathes life into the dust to be the soul of man; only in the response of man’s soul to the Holy Spirit in God can his childhood flower, his manhood bear fruit, his soul illuminate his personality.

The 3 elements must work in harmony or else personality is destroyed.

Not one of the three elements in man is there by chance; they are dependent upon each other, and as we have said, on their harmony with one another man’s integrity depends. The reason for this is perfectly simple; the oneness of these three restores man to his likeness to God, and that and that alone is man’s wholeness.

The neglect of one of the three persons in man, or the repression or inhibiting of one of them, or the overdevelopment of one at the expense of the others, is the most usual cause of the unbalanced, lopsided personality which is the characteristic of our generation, as it must necessarily be of any generation that does not know God.


When a man fastens this craving (the Homing Toad… to be what we were made to be…crave to be loved) onto some other being, either because he does not know God, or because he does not know that only God, who created his need, can fill it, the result is neurosis.

Neurotics crave to be loved… exactly what they were made for!

What is it that the neurotic invariably demands? It is to be loved inordinately, to be the absorbing and exclusive object of someone’s love, to be loved unreasonably and in fact illimitably, and for himself alone! Again, he asks to be treated like an irresponsible child, one to whom everything is given and from whom nothing is asked in return.

It is only because his desires are not centred upon God that they wreck a man, for what the neurotic asks is exactly what man was created for; to be loved illimitably (without limits or an end), to be loved not for any particular quality or act of his own, but because God made him only that he might love him with infinite, inexhaustible love. The only meaning and purpose of his existence is to be loved. The neurotic is broken, but he is broken on the rock of truth, for he is in fact infinitely loved. If he were not, he would cease to be.

The healing of mankind begins whenever any man ceases to resist the love of God. 


The child element in man is the least understood:

It is the child, who, of the three elements in man, is least understood, who meets with the most inconsistent treatment, and not unnaturally becomes troublesome; sometimes not merely troublesome but terrible.

The first step towards adult integrity is to restore the child in man to the primal loveliness of essential childhood.

Perhaps the most decisive fact about the character of any individual child is his attitude to life and to other people.

But in most cases, his attitude to life and to other people has been largely imposed on him, long before he was able to defend himself.

There are three kinds of children resulting from wrong emotional education: the humiliated child, the cynical child, the negative child.

1. The humiliated child

is the result of being spoiled growing up.

Spoiling makes a child helpless… He is dependent on other people, he is unable to make the efforts of will necessary to become independent or to achieve happiness for himself. Inevitably, he must grow into a humiliated human being.

2. The cynical child

who becomes actually hostile to God and to all authority and order, is usually the child whose parents have betrayed him, the child of the broken home, the faithless marriage.

3. The negative child

prevails in our society.

The negative child is the one in whom childhood remains buried, so that it never becomes a power in his life. His emotional education has been colourless, and so limited as to be almost negligible.

The only really effective way in which anyone can educate a child is by educating himself.

The only really effective way in which anyone can “form” a child is by forming himself. If a man is whole, his wholeness can be his gift to his child. If he has integrity, he can give that to his child. An integrated person is one who has become whole, and wholly himself, through oneness with Christ, and through Christ’s response to the Father. He, and we have it on Christ’s word, is a light, “the light of the world.”

It is in the light of God radiating from his parents that a little child can develop the perfection and power of childhood.

The child is formed from the mother. 

For very much longer than most people realize, the child is one with his mother, for long after birth has severed the physical union the child’s psyche (which means all the invisible parts of his nature) is united to his mother’s soul. The mother’s soul is the natural environment of the little child’s psyche, in which, given the right conditions, the loveliness of essential childhood can unfold from the seed and grow towards its flowering.

The child who was loved growing up. 

All through his life, if in the beginning he was loved intelligently, from the depths of his unconsciousness reassurance will come to him in his need, and he will know in secret the security of the strong arms that first encircled him and of the first love that fostered his life.

He knows very little of himself, and though he is vaguely unhappy, he often has a tragic resignation to the aimlessness and mediocrity of his life. It is the men and women in whom real childhood is not developed at all who fill up the ranks of the great unfulfilled. It is impossible to contemplate them, this great multitude of nerveless, defeated, unchilded children, and not to echo St. Teresa of Avila, speaking from the passionate heart in which love had defeated compromise: “I think I should like to cry aloud and tell everyone how important it is for them not to be contented with just a little.

“the refusal to allow yourself to be grounded down in mediocrity” ~ JP2


“One secret at least had been revealed to her, that beneath the thick crust of our actions the heart of the child remains unchanged, for the heart is not subject to the effects of time.”—François Mauriac on Thérèse,

The child:

he walks every day in a world of mystery and wonder, and receives the loveliness of it into his soul and into his senses.

He is in fact like Adam, a new man, for whom the whole world is made, because he himself is new.

But the child inhabits more worlds than one; he lives not only in the world of nature with all its mystery, but in the world of myth and fairy-story ** Link to Chesterton’s Orthodoxy **

The Hero:

In his inner world of fairy-story there is a central figure, a redeeming and saving figure, and with him the child will identify himself. This is the figure of the Hero.

The Hero stands radiant at the heart of every fairy-story.

Observe in what detail the Hero, with whom the child inevitably identifies himself, or rather with whom he is already identified by his destiny, parallels the story of Christ.

It is the story of Christ clothed in the fantasy and symbol that the child’s heart creates for it, but the deepest meaning and purpose of it is more than fantasy and symbol. It is reality; and it comes, without any beginning, from Christ in eternity.

Now we see why all the fantasies and symbols, the fairy lore of all children in all ages, is so alike as to be practically identical. The story of Christ told in the symbols of the human mind is in the heart of every child, because every child is made in the image of the child Christ. Just as it is man’s destiny to be a Christ, so it is the child’s destiny to be a child-Christ, and Christ is, from his first human breath to his last, the lover.

But what is the function of this extraordinarily aware and beautiful and brave thing, childhood, in the integration of the whole man?

2 functions of child in man:

1. to trust in God the Father. 

The only way in which anyone can learn to trust is by knowing the Father, and the only way to know the Father is to foster the Christ-child in us, since only he knows the Father’s love through the direct experience of his own littleness.

The secret of childhood is knowing the Father, and knowing the Father is the secret of trust, the remedy for anxiety, the overcoming of evil. And this is because to know the Father is to know ourselves loved and possessed by the power of the Trinity.

2. to be made new. 

At the root of at least half of man’s discouragement is his staleness and his inability to rid himself of the old sores and miseries of his old sins and sorrows. Everyone longs to be made new, to be young, to be born again —not merely to be patched up, or made to look young.

The child is always new, childhood is new, and to the child the world is new every day. He has no past, except the ever present past of all childhood; he has no apprehension about the future: he lives in the eternal—now. Old sin does not remain in a child; he has the humility that confesses and knows the immediate joy of the Father. By his very nature he is new. The Christ- child in man is the continual renewal of life, of joy, of the capacity for joy, of trust.

Detachment & living in the present moment for children:

There is a certain strange detachment peculiar to children which is always baffling and sometimes shocking to adults; but it is grounded in the child’s consciousness of the eternal world and his certainty of the Father’s love. He does not analyze it, he could not explain it, but there it is. He is not upset by poverty or concerned about the next meal or what he will wear; he is confident that somehow all he needs will be given, and pathetically content with whatever it is when it comes, He is curiously indifferent even about the deaths of people he knows and is fond of; death itself has no finality for him, Eternal life, the unfailing love of the eternal Father, the new world of loveliness that it gives to him daily, these things are real to him.


All this nervous tension is bound up with the boy’s relationship to his parents, and in particular with his relationship to his father, which is perhaps the most vital thing in his life.

The young man who has been given no conception of God the Father, and who has been compelled by the fact that he is made according to the pattern of the Son of God, to seek for God, however blindly, in his earthly father, and to look to this earthly father for the confirmation of his own Christhood, can hardly escape the fate of deep inward humiliation and shame, of a sense of his own inadequacy for life, and of being a failure from the beginning, through compromising on both sides, trying to serve God and Mammon.

To nearly every normal small boy his father is unique among men. In fact, he is God. The boy worships him in secret, perhaps even secretly from himself, In a way, he is sorry for all other boys, and feels superior to them because his father is thus and thus, and he identifies himself with him. In that identification is all his pride, all his self-esteem. There is nothing about his father that is ordinary, he is different to all other fathers; even his movements, the way in which he swings his hand round to look at his wrist watch, his manner of walking and sitting, and the way he draws his breath in when he is smoking his pipe, are uniquely his own. The smell of him is magnificent too, the particular tobacco he smokes and the tweed of the old coat that he wears when he is at home, He is the essence of manhood, and he is God.

But the time will come when he will know that his father is not God. 

Parents seldom know when the child is disillusioned, for children are passionately reserved about that which afflicts them. One, who was quite inarticulate at the time, told me years afterwards when he was a grown man, how one morning he went into his father’s dressing room and saw the smeary tooth glass on the washstand, and knew that his father was just like other men and other fathers. He could not have spoken to anyone of the sense of personal humiliation that he experienced. No child can speak of or understand his own bewildering shame that comes with the discovery that his father is as ordinary, as sordid and embarrassing as all other fathers.

But from the time of this discovery, conflict begins in the boy’s emotions, because it is not simply a matter of vanity to him to want a Father whom he can worship; it is an instinct at the root of his being, the fall of his idol threatens his own being. In some hidden way, to him inexplicable, the development of everything positive and vital in himself seems to depend upon his response to the perfect father whom he himself has created out of his inner necessity—his own manhood that is shut in the small hard bud of his childhood needs the sun of his father’s glory to open it. In the negative mood that follows disillusionment, it begins to shrivel in bud.

The inclination of the boy to make his father a god, and to cling to the idea that on his father’s approval his own manhood depends, is much more than a delusion; it is an instinct with a hidden purpose, which is necessary for the defence of his personality.

It is an innate instinct which makes the child seek perfection in his father, and build his own father-idol in his heart. Even the child who does not know his father or who is orphaned creates an ideal father in his own mind, for he is driven by the same necessity, and his fantasy father is a reality to him that has a profound influence on his development. Again, some children who have had brutal fathers, or who have lost their natural fathers through death, seek for a father-substitute in some other man. This applies to girls as well as to boys, and again and again we find women who have literally idolized an old father, and when he dies, or soon after, they marry an old man—who is really a father-substitute.

The son wants the father’s influence to foster and develop what is best in himself. But it happens only too often that to fulfill his father’s ideal for him would be a degradation for the son,

The earthly father who loves and approves the Christ in his son, will give that son the greatest help to being a success as a human being, even if he does not give him much help to being a success as men ordinarily estimate success.

If every earthly father gave to his son the love of which he is trustee, the eternal Father’s love, every son should be able to go from his boyhood to his maturity as Christ did, with his father’s spirit resting upon him and his father’s voice, telling his joy in him, ringing in his ears—with his own pride and glory in his identification with his father.

Chapter 18 – The Measure of Joy

WE TURN at last from the pitiful figure of man broken and twisted by guilt, and by his futile efforts to escape from the suffering of guilt, to man restored to the image of God in which he was created—the miracle of man inlived by Christ and given the power of his love.

But now, God takes him and quietly turns his face back to the earth; very lovingly he reminds man that he cannot love God without loving his fellow men.

Through the ages Christ lives on in man, and because Christ is love itself, mature man is a lover, his maturity is love.

The meaning of man’s life on earth is to transmit life through love.

To give life is the meaning of love, and the deepest compulsion of love is for the lover to give not just life, but his own life, his own body and blood, his own heartbeat; his giving of life to the beloved must be his giving of self.

The life which men are to give to one another on earth is the risen life of Christ.  It is the life which has overcome death, the life in which self-love has died, and to which the lover has been born again, made new.

That is the miracle of heaven on earth, that the love of God men give to one another is hidden—but hardly hidden—in ordinary, common things.

Therefore God has given him the Church and its ritual, that the invisible world may be visible to him, the intangible tangible, the soundless music audible.

Just as the condition of natural life is the balance of light and darkness, of movement and rest, of winter and summer, of birth and death, death and resurrection, the condition of psychological life is the reconciliation of opposites. Guilt must be reconciled with innocence, the shadow with the light. Since sin has made suffering part of all human experience, and man was created for happiness, joy must be reconciled with grief in him, and pain with pleasure.

The only principle which can bring about this reconciliation in human love is redemption. The unifying principle of redemption is nothing else but Christ’s love. In Christ on the cross the opposites meet and are reconciled. Guilt becomes inseparable from innocence, suffering from joy. It is necessary to find a new name for these two fused into one, and the only descriptive name is redeeming love. Even life and death became one, when the Lord of life bowed his head and died, when the seed of his blood was sown in the dust and the whole world was pregnant with God. In the consummation of Christ’s love on the cross, all love was consummated. The loves of all men in all time converged, flowing 207] backwards and forward to that single timeless point of consummation.

Christ has consummated all our loves.

In every human love the drama of the crucifixion is repeated, every surrender to love is a dying to self, every dying to self is a resurrection. 

When a man has joined his own will with Christ’s and surrendered it to the Father’s will, his life is no longer frustrated by his withdrawal from suffering, he has accepted all human suffering; he is no longer crippled by anxiety, for the labours he must undertake, the sorrows he must accept are all means by which he will transmit life; the suffering of the world is integrated into his joy, he lives now in the life of love that has overcome death, and in communion with the whole world.

In his Christhood, restored to God, man’s love integrates him through an ever-growing mystery of joy—the joy of knowing his own life to be the experience of the joy of God,

But the joy of the saint transcends that of all other men. Inevitably, he is as his divine Lord was, a man of sorrows. But the joy of all other men, and the glory of all other loves, is as pale as the flame of a candle in the sunlight, beside the joy of the saint on earth. For his life is the experience in his own soul of the unutterable bliss of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in their knowing and loving one another.

The shame and sorrow of Christ with the guilt of the whole world upon him had been seen by the eyes of the world, but the exquisite secret of the first breath of his risen life was kept. 

He went up to his Father and sent the Paraclete to flood the heart of man with his risen life.

When the saint wakens from that dark night of love in which self has died, he too comes forth, he too knows the wonder of the Trinity in himself. Christ has risen in him, Christ is formed in him, the Holy Spirit descends upon him and his life is the breath of the Spirit of love.

Sanctity is man’s integrity, the fullness and the wholeness of his humanity; in it suffering and joy are one thing, love; and love is Christ.

The four great arms of the cross do not only reach outwards, pointing to the four corners of the universe; they do not only reach up beyond the stars into heaven, and down into the tangled roots under the earth; they do not only fling wide the great arms that embrace the width of the world; they also point inwards, lead inwards, meet, converge and become one at the centre of the eternal mystery of consummated love, the heart of Jesus Christ.


IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to write a book about psychological suffering in any form, without referring again and again to Teresa Martin. What Benedict Labre did for the victims of the war, she did for the victims of civilization, the neurotics of our generation—for the neurotics and mentally suffering people that are now in such great majority. She sanctified that worst of all suffering in herself, and without realizing the vast significance of what she did, entered into it in her acceptance of her father’s mental affliction as well as of her own suffering.


  1. […] My long (1-2 hour) summary of the book with extensive quotes (click here) […]

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