The Agony of Jesus, a meditation on Our Lord's agony in the garden, by St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, an actual contemplation by one of the greatest Catholic mystics of all-time, especially potent for Lenten season but useful all year round as we attend the great mystery St. Pio so loved: the Mass. During this time when we somberly look at the life and death of Our Beloved Lord, St. Padre Pio helps us get right into the very spirit of courage and surrender. click here 



Clearly, the great commandment is love: of God, first, and most ardently, and then everyone. There is no question of that.

We will be judged, largely, on how much and deeply we have loved.

But peculiar it has always been to discern what Jesus meant when He said we are not to be attached to the things or creatures of this world. In particular, use of the term "creatures" forms a Lenten meditation.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori, in the classic work, The Twelve Steps to Holiness and Salvation (a masterpiece for Lenten reading), lays it out in a way that some of us might find nearly startling.

What is meant by not being attached to "creatures" -- including people?

"Detachment from human beings does not mean that we are to love no one on this earth, but it means that our inclinations are to be in accordance with the Will of God and pleasing to Him," wrote the saint. "Both nature and religion impose upon us the obligation of loving our parents, relatives, and benefactors. But this love becomes inordinate and bad when it leads us to offend God, and impedes our progress in a virtuous life.

"Many Christians would make great progress on the road to perfection were they freed from all earthly attachments. But because they foster some inordinate attachment in their hearts and are unwilling to renounce it, they continue in their lamentable condition, without advancing a single step on the way of virtue. St. John of the Cross says: 'A soul that is attached to any creature will never attain perfect union with God, even though that soul possess many other virtues.'"

Continued Saint Alphonsus, "To arrive at a perfect union with God, it is necessary, therefore, to be entirely detached from creatures. In particular we must renounce every inordinate attachment for our relatives. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us that he who is too much attached to relatives cannot be His disciple. And why? Because it often happens that we have no greater enemies of our souls than our relatives. 'A man's enemies are those of his household' (Matthew 10:36). St. Charles Borromeo said that as often as he visited his relatives, he returned with less zeal for the glory of God. When Father Anthony Mendoza was asked why he never visited his parental home he replied: 'Because I am aware that there is no place where religious so easily lose the spirit of piety as among their relatives.'"

Now, we should hasten to emphasize that this has nothing to do with love. It has to do with inordinate attachment, which is when we are clinging and obsessive. The deepest love is the freest love and is the highest -- the love that wants the best for everyone but does not focus on surficial manifestations of it.

This frees us from depression.

"He who has renounced inordinate attachment for his relatives will not be immoderately cast down when death claims someone who is near and dear to him," noted the famous saint. "There are many who are inconsolable at the death of a relative or friend. They weep and moan and deliver themselves up to such unrestrained sadness and impatience that no one dares to approach them.

"I wonder whom they think they are pleasing by such unreasonable sadness and such a flood of tears! Is it God? Surely not; for God desires us to be resigned to His holy Will. Is it the soul of the deceased? Again, no; for if that soul is in hell it spurns those tears and the one who sheds them. If it is saved and already in Heaven, then its greatest desire is that relatives and friends unite with it in thanking God. If the soul is still in purgatory, it ardently longs for the prayers of its friends, and perfect resignation to God's Will so that all may be reunited one day in Heaven. To what purpose, therefore, such excessive weeping and lamentation?"

It is a very interesting question.

As families, we have a mission together.

In the afterlife, we will remain important to each other -- and will be with each other forever!

This is what we need to keep in mind, when illness or death strikes. Our hearts always find joy -- in ailments, in loss, in struggles -- if they belong fully to God.

As much as anyone, we must also be detached from our "selves."

We must be detached from worldly things. We must not care about earthly riches or honors. We must detach from inordinate ambition. We must not concern ourselves at all with impressing other humans, only God. There is joy always when our hearts belong fully to the Lord.

It is very crucial. "All earthly honors," said Saint Hilary, "are things of the devil."


"Oh my God," exclaimed Saint Teresa, "what matters it whether we are loved or hated by creatures, provided we are without blame before Thee!"

"If we desire to belong to God, we must renounce all attachment to the goods of earth," added Saint Alphonsus, for our meditation, for introspection (see also today's Mass reading, 2/27/14).

"When the masters of the spiritual life speak of poverty in spirit, they generally understand it in a twofold sense," said the saint. "In the restricted sense it means detachment of the heart from worldly possessions. In the broad sense, by poverty in spirit they mean detachment from everything earthly, no matter what it may be. In this sense, poverty in spirit is necessary for all who are striving after perfection."

This is not to say that all that is of the earth is evil. No. There are good things in the world, but what we are to aspire to are the great things of God.

[Lenten books]

[Note also: Michael Brown retreats: Virginia]

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