Monthly Spiritual Exercise Group
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A Taste Of Heaven/Healing The Senses: Spiritual Exercise 03/13/23

Please join us for our upcoming session with Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT. It takes place Monday 03/13/23 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm MDT. Please click the link below for automatic entry. God Bless you.

Click on Zoom:

Opening Prayer: The Memorare

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.


A Taste of Heaven/Healing the Senses

During Lent, we humbly acknowledge that we are broken and need deep healing. The Church gives us remedies to apply with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, concrete exercises of Jesus’ directive to deny ourselves, pick our Cross, and follow Him.

One of the critical focuses in Lent is on the proper use of our senses. We first perceive reality through our senses, through seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, and hearing. This then demands a decision regarding how we want to respond to that information. The catechism (#319) says: God created the world to SHOW FORTH AND COMMUNICATE HIS GLORY. That his creatures should share in his truth, goodness and beauty – this is the glory for which God created them.

Everything that comes to us through the senses then should reveal something about the mystery of God and His creation. In their broken state, the senses do not move at this level. Nor do they do well in a culture that seeks to constantly overstimulate them with imagery both good and bad, with music, noise, incessant babble, touch focused on one kind of pleasure only, fragrances and aromas engineered to be temptations, and an infinite variety of foods and drinks which encourage gluttony and intemperance.

Here’s what should happen when our senses operate the way they’re supposed to. They should serve the spirit in us and lift us to God and thoughts of God. When we are integrated (more and more healed, holy), our senses will move us so that when we see beautiful things:  sunsets, grand mountains, beautiful people, we will recognize God’s love made visible. When we hear beautiful sounds, waves lapping the beach, birds singing, a baby laughing, we will be able to recognize God’s love made audible in those sounds. When we experience the healing or life-giving touch of another, we will recognize God’s love made tangible. When God delights our sense of taste with one of the magnificent foods he’s provided for us, we can go beyond it to experience God’s love made edible. And in the rich aromas and beautiful smells of the created world, we would experience the fragrance of God’s love. 

This comes from the gradual divinization of our senses through prayer, mortification, and the passive purifications God sends to us. St. Francis is an example of this. He understood the mysteries of creation at such a deep level he could even communicate with the animals. St. Anthony is also remembered for preaching to the fish and the birds when people would not listen to him. Their radical practice of mortification and penitential disciplines helped to reform and reset their desires and attractions toward sin and selfishness and redirect them to the greatest good. It enabled them at the same time to penetrate into the deeper mysteries of creation and God’s goodness because their senses did not enslave them to immediate pleasure.

Jesus tells us that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We really do desire more. But when the senses become intoxicated with the earthly, they fail to rise above to the source of that delight. When we practice denying them their pleasures and don’t allow them to indulge themselves as they are inclined to do, our senses normalize over time and become more spiritual and more robust.

A scene from The Wizard of Oz captures this whole dynamic well. As Dorothy and her companions approach the Emerald City, they must walk through a beautiful field of poppies. The wicked witch has poisoned the flowers to drug Dorothy and make her fall asleep indefinitely so that she never arrives at the eternal city.   We, too, are presented with innumerable temptations of the senses for the same reason. We can become drugged by sensory pleasures and, in a very real sense, unable to move forward. It is no accident that the original temptation involved all the senses.  

Interestingly, only the dew of grace (in this case, an out-of-season snow sent by the good witch) is able to rouse Dorothy and the cowardly lion, who also ends up fast asleep. It is the same for us. The grace offered to us during this time has potent capabilities to rouse us from our spiritual torpor, heal our soul-sicknesses, and inspire us to overcome ourselves so we can reach the eternal city God has prepared for those who love Him! Our senses can aid us greatly, but only once they are restored to their original purposes.

Questions for silent reflection:

1.    The purpose of mortification is said to sharpen the heart’s desires and to deepen the longing for God. Have you experienced the special graces that come from mortification or spiritual disciplines or suffering in general?  

2.    Often our illnesses and/or treatments affect our physical senses in various ways. Do you think there is a difference between mortification and the things we suffer when we’re sick?  Or is the end result the same for both?

3.    Have you had any special experiences of the iconic?  Art, music, architecture, etc., is considered iconic when it lifts you through itself and past itself to God or a consideration of God.

4.    Asking God to open the eyes of our hearts, to open our ears that we may hear Him, to make us instruments of His loving touch and care and love to others, often means consciously trying to redirect our focus.  At the level of our senses, what are some of the distractions that keep you from using your senses in a more fruitful way?

This entry was posted in: Monthly Spiritual Exercise Group


Facing Our Immortality Cancer Ministry Facing Our Immortality is a cancer outreach ministry for those affected by cancer, either directly or indirectly. We desire for you a sense of community and renewal through Christ, supported by monthly virtual support groups as well as specialized retreats. Future retreats will take place at Domus Trinitatis Peace and Grace.

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