16 episodes

Join Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, Mystical Doctor of the Church. Saint John of the Cross is the Church's premier teacher on contemplative prayer. Catholic tradition even calls him the Mystical Doctor. The sixteenth-century Carmelite priest not only wrote four massive treatises on the spiritual life, along with some of the finest poetry in the Spanish language, but also worked alongside Teresa of Ávila in renewing the Carmelite order. Thérèse of Lisieux claimed she found no other spiritual reading that could satisfy her soul like John of the Cross.



Yet the volume and intensity of Saint John's work can make his teachings seem daunting, even to trained theologians. Father Donald Haggerty, author of The Contemplative Hunger and Contemplative Enigmas, offers listeners a unique step-by-step introduction to the way of contemplation as Saint John understood it and taught it—a burning, transformative intimacy with the God who made us.

St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast Discerning Hearts

    • Religion & Spirituality

Join Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, Mystical Doctor of the Church. Saint John of the Cross is the Church's premier teacher on contemplative prayer. Catholic tradition even calls him the Mystical Doctor. The sixteenth-century Carmelite priest not only wrote four massive treatises on the spiritual life, along with some of the finest poetry in the Spanish language, but also worked alongside Teresa of Ávila in renewing the Carmelite order. Thérèse of Lisieux claimed she found no other spiritual reading that could satisfy her soul like John of the Cross.



Yet the volume and intensity of Saint John's work can make his teachings seem daunting, even to trained theologians. Father Donald Haggerty, author of The Contemplative Hunger and Contemplative Enigmas, offers listeners a unique step-by-step introduction to the way of contemplation as Saint John understood it and taught it—a burning, transformative intimacy with the God who made us.

    SJC16 – Longing for God’s Love – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    SJC16 – Longing for God’s Love – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    SJC16 – Longing for God’s Love – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.

    An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 







    The ease with which contemplation can take place when a soul is accustomed to approach God with a deeper surrender of itself is evident in this passage. The great obstacle to the soul at this time, on the other hand, as mentioned already, lies in an excessively conscientious approach to prayer that resists adaptation. And in a real sense, this involves a lack of surrender to God. The conscientiousness to “do prayer” as taught in one’s training is not necessarily a virtue; it actually can be a fault that makes a soul reluctant to alter its ways. The person may have become accustomed for many months, sometimes for years, to fill a silent time of prayer with an imaginative gaze on the Gospel or in searching for spiritual insights. The familiarity of the method has trained the person to seek satisfaction in the acquisition of new thoughts or in the enjoyment of some felt sense of loving God. The virtuous resolutions that may conclude such prayer give the time of prayer a sense of a purposefulness. For many souls, it becomes very hard to accept that a prayer less active, less searching, a prayer more inconclusive, more open-ended, can be an advancement in prayer. The suggestion to remain quiet seems to invite the laziness of non-activity into prayer and to yield fruitless results.

    As we have mentioned, these souls, if they are receiving contemplative graces, are the fervent and dedicated people of the spiritual life. They are people who do give themselves generously in charity and to the will of God. They work hard and spend themselves. Otherwise, the grace of contemplation would not be occurring. But it is precisely this conscientiousness that can work against them at this time. They are not acclimated to a more receptive acceptance of subtle graces from God. If the person can trust inwardly and allow the soul to follow its deeper instinct of love, as described in the fifth sign, then the door opens to the graced inner desire to seek nothing but to love God in prayer. Unfortunately, an active mentality may tend for a time to resist the “apparent” abandonment of concrete fruits from its prayer. Such a soul may prefer, as Saint John of the Cross comments, to do over and over again what has been done and completed already. The aversion can be strong to doing what is thought to be doing nothing. Yet how mistaken this may be. Saint John of the Cross employs a striking image: removing the rind from a piece of fruit, so that it is ready to eat, and then trying to peel it once again…

    Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 196-197). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.





    For more episodes in this series visit Fr. Haggerty’s Discerning Hearts page here







    You find the book on which this series is based here

    • 29 min
    SJC15 – Receptivity to God’s Presence – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    SJC15 – Receptivity to God’s Presence – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    



    SJC15 – Receptivity to God’s Presence – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.

    An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 







    The whole matter is nonetheless very delicate in description. The beginning of contemplation is not just a passive drifting with an interior current of grace that carries the soul away easily into the presence of God. A soul must learn to give itself to a quiet, loving attentiveness and discover that in the silence itself the mystery of God is hidden. There is a need to learn that nothing is lost in relinquishing active, reflective thought, as long as one’s attentiveness remains turned toward the mystery of the divine presence. Letting go in this way, so that God himself permeates the inner “activity” of prayer, requires a gradual adjustment to a new attraction felt inwardly in the soul. Receptivity is certainly the key word of advice. The soul must receive the inclination of quiet and respond to it with surrender, without seeking to grasp at an experience that it can claim as its own. It has to trust that God is mysteriously near and strive to be receptive to his hidden, drawing action. Saint John of the Cross offers this description: The proper advice for these individuals is that they must learn to abide in that quietude with a loving attentiveness to God and pay no heed to the imagination and its work. At this stage, as was said, the faculties are at rest and do not work actively but passively, by receiving what God is effecting in them. If at times the soul puts the faculties to work, it should not use excessive efforts or studied reasonings, but it should proceed with gentleness of love, moved more by God than by its own abilities. (AMC 2.12.8)

    The essential adjustment into this new stage of prayer is thus twofold in nature. The four earlier signs demonstrate a need to relinquish meditative prayer because it no longer works. If a soul perceives itself at fault for the inability to meditate, it tends to impede and block the desire it feels delicately for a silence alone with God. It has to fight off, if necessary, an anxious concern that it is failing in diligence if it no longer pursues meditative prayer. The advice to trust one’s heart and its deeper desire at this time is apt. The choice to leave behind meditation happens more easily to the degree a person is more docile to the deeper inclination. Nonetheless, there remains the dilemma what to do now in a quiet and solitary state, without giving thought and imagination to any subject. This is the second aspect of a necessary adjustment. A soul almost always finds itself initially in a transitional state of some confusion. It needs to cross a bridge not knowing what it means to be on the other side of a silence without thought. The recommendation to embrace a “loving knowledge” of God is not refined sufficiently in most lives to be identified clearly as a target of desire.

    The soul may be subject to gentle waves of intermittent desire and feel an inclination drawing it. When it abandons meditation and gives way to the desire “to remain alone in loving awareness of God” (AMC 2.13.4), forsaking considerations, it is possible that it may soon find a new satisfaction. “Interior peace and quiet and repose” (AMC 2.13.4) may now gradually permeate it, without any need to respond with acts and exercises. A preference to stay in that quiet and peace may be gently felt, without realizing so well that it is being drawn to a deeper love for God. At the same time, a lack of perception is often experienced because a painful aridity is also felt. The aridity can be strong despite the obscure desire to enter into a greater love for God.

    • 30 min
    SJC14 – Graces from Contemplation – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    SJC14 – Graces from Contemplation – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    



    SJC14 – Graces from Contemplation – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.

    An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 







    The more a soul in responding to contemplative grace becomes “habituated” to the calm that is drawing it from within, the more likely that a “general, loving knowledge of God” rises up from within the recesses of the soul. In time, it can be expected that this loving knowledge will pervade the soul’s awareness more distinctly and more appealingly. Nonetheless, it would seem clear that this last sign is in a certain way the most difficult to discern. The previous four signs exhibit strong negative reactions. This last sign is subtle always in its beginnings and delicate in its attraction, and to answer to it means to respond to a grace that may not seem so assured. In many cases, it may be that a soul gives itself to this inclination quite unknowingly. It is led by God and surrenders to the calm and loving knowledge without thinking much about what it is doing. This may certainly be true in the lives of simple souls who are not so analytical and intellectual.

    As Saint John of the Cross comments: “It is noteworthy that this general knowledge is at times so recondite and delicate (especially when purer, simpler, and more perfect), spiritual and interior that the soul does not perceive or feel it even though the soul is employed with it” (AMC 2.14.8). The last phrase seems to make clear that souls often initially enter into the graces of contemplation without realizing that they are doing so. The general loving knowledge that descends on the soul is accompanied by a deep interior calm and draws the soul like the fragrance of newly baked bread for a hungry man. The man in hunger simply moves in the direction of that bread, not thinking so much what he is doing. And this is precisely what can happen in prayer. The more a soul finds itself following the deeper inclination to enter this inward calm and quiet peace, the more likely it is that the soul begins to be attracted to the simple desire to love that it is receiving in grace. The movement forward to contemplation is a response to this grace: “The more habituated persons become to this calm, the more their experience of this general loving knowledge of God will increase. This knowledge is more enjoyable than all other things because without the soul’s labor it affords peace, rest, savor, and delight” (AMC 2.13.7).

    Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 192-193). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.





    For more episodes in this series visit Fr. Haggerty’s Discerning Hearts page here







    You find the book on which this series is based here

    • 30 min
    SJC13 – The Incipient Signs of the Grace of Contemplation – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    SJC13 – The Incipient Signs of the Grace of Contemplation – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    



    SJC13 – The Incipient Signs of the Grace of Contemplation – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.

    An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 







    We turn our attention now to one of the most important contributions to spirituality in the writings of Saint John of the Cross. This concerns the signs that indicate a need to discontinue the practice of discursive meditation and shift to a prayer of contemplation. Two things might be stressed before providing an extensive treatment of these signs. One is that a soul’s practice of meditation as a daily method of prayer is presumed in this teaching. A person has a regular commitment to silent prayer and is employing some method of reflective consideration on the Gospels or other parts of Scripture, as spoken of previously. The signs that Saint John of the Cross will identify make no sense except as a trial and struggle that enter into the prayer of meditation.

    There is no encouragement here to forgo the preliminary effort of meditation, as though one might simply enter into a more graced and intimate relationship with God by leaping ahead into contemplative prayer as a favored method of prayer. The preliminary stages must be observed. A propaedeutic period of learning to pray reflectively in silence is indispensable. We have to learn to think about our Lord and the mysteries of faith in order to enter into deeper love for our God. This effort in turn must be accompanied by a serious pursuit of virtue and of faithfulness to the will of God. A life without a clear sacrificial dimension should not expect graces of contemplation in the interior life of prayer.

    Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (p. 175). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.





    For more episodes in this series visit Fr. Haggerty’s Discerning Hearts page here







    You find the book on which this series is based here

    • 29 min
    SJC12 – Dawning Light of the Gift of Contemplation – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    SJC12 – Dawning Light of the Gift of Contemplation – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    



    SJC12 – Dawning Light of the Gift of Contemplation – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.

    An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 







    We are ready now to take up the teaching of Saint John of the Cross on contemplation. However, it can be beneficial to ease a bit into the subject, which is what Saint John of the Cross does in his writings. On a few occasions, for instance, he mentions a primary motive for him in taking up his pen. A matter of critical importance for him—“extremely necessary to so many souls” (AMC Prologue 3)—is the harm done to souls who do not recognize the initial symptoms of contemplative graces and do not adjust their approach to prayer accordingly. The failure to advance into contemplation when the grace is being offered is, for him, a great misfortune. A lack of understanding is the obvious reason and an excuse of sorts; nonetheless, this ignorance is consequential and requires remedy.

    The loss is inestimable, not just to particular souls, but to the vast fruitfulness that a contemplative soul can bear for the sake of others. Saint John of the Cross wastes no time in bringing up the issue. The first pages of the Prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel express his lament. When he refers to the “dark night” in the following passage, he is referring to the initial experience of purification that occurs as the grace of contemplation commences. What should not be missed in this passage is also the opening phrase. The initial graces of contemplative prayer do not presume the rarity of a saintly life, but a life sincerely engaged in a wholehearted pursuit of virtue.

    Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (p. 158). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.





    For more episodes in this series visit Fr. Haggerty’s Discerning Hearts page here







    You find the book on which this series is based here

    • 28 min
    SJC11 – Barricades on the Road to Contemplation, Part 2 – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    SJC11 – Barricades on the Road to Contemplation, Part 2 – St. John of the Cross with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    



    SJC11 – Barricades on the Road to Contemplation, Part 2 – St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation with Fr. Donald Haggerty – Discerning Hearts Podcast

    In this series Fr. Donald Haggerty and Kris McGregor discuss the depths of prayer as explored by St. John of the Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church.

    An excerpt from St. John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation 







    We can view this next chapter as an argument in defense of the rigors of purification proposed in the many previous instructions. It is a preparatory chapter for taking up a more concentrated examination of the prayer of contemplation in the subsequent chapters. The treatise of The Dark Night begins in book 1 with a vivid treatment of certain imperfections commonly seen in those still in the earlier stages of spiritual pursuit. Saint John of the Cross is referring here to people who have already committed themselves to a habit of spiritual exercises and daily prayer, usually in the structured context of religious life, yet among laity as well, but who typically do not understand yet the serious nature of giving themselves fully to God. They are untried in the rigors of dedicated virtue and have not faced yet the arduous interior struggles that must be withstood over some time before a depth of spiritual quality embraces the soul. There can be no tested endurance in a soul that has not had sufficient time to persevere through hard trials.

    This demand is not just a need for seasoning and maturing in the experience of the spiritual life. The essential testing is much more fundamental. As an astute spiritual psychologist, Saint John of the Cross plunges underneath the surface of lives and identifies the motivation of souls in the early period of spiritual pursuit as often sullied and impure. Almost everyone in this early period of the spiritual life professes to be seeking only God, while at the same time the person shows signs of being excessively preoccupied with self in the spiritual pursuit. Saint John of the Cross comments explicitly: “Since their motivation in their spiritual works and exercises is the consolation and satisfaction they experience in them, and since they have not been conditioned by the arduous struggle of practicing virtue, they possess many faults and imperfections in the discharge of their spiritual activities” (DN 1.1.3). In this incisive section at the beginning of The Dark Night, he uses the schema of the seven capital vices to expose seven spiritual vices that generally afflict souls in the early period of a spiritual life. It proves to be an interesting commentary on the factor of underlying self-interest in the pursuit of spiritual life. This tendency to self-preoccupation demands a clear effort of interior mortification if we are to seek God with the selfless spirit that can lead eventually to contemplative graces in prayer.

    Haggerty, Donald. Saint John of the Cross: Master of Contemplation (pp. 141-142). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.





    For more episodes in this series visit Fr. Haggerty’s Discerning Hearts page here





    You find the book on which this series is based here

    • 21 min

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