Father Jairo Yate, priest and Investigating Judge in the diocese of Ibagué, Colombia, offers this article entitled “Sound Mind in a Sound Body,” which includes the challenges in the life of Christians expressed by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, as well as advice for a sound and spiritual plan of life.
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Mens sana in corpore sano (sound mind in a sound body), has been one of the Latin maxims that has accompanied the process of humanity’s thought and anxiety, regarding both the physical and mental health of each one of us.
At the beginning of Juvenal’s thought, who was a Latin poet of the 1st century in history that wished to correct a religious attitude regarding prayer and the essence of prayer. That phrase soon continued to evolve in the Greek and British worlds.
Men and women continue to be anxious about the way to lead a healthy life. The answer from medicine, psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, ethics, morality, sociology, religion, theology, etc., is not long in coming.
As the subject interests me, I collected a series of notes and appreciations of authors that offer their line of thought, their opinion, their recommendations, so that each human being may find a way proper to his circumstance.
Train the Mind Against Pessimism
Brazilian psychiatrist and psychologist Augusto Cury suggest that the mind should be trained to oppose pessimism. Taking as his basis the theory of multi-focal intelligence, the eminent psychiatrist proposes ”A Brilliant Mind, A Trained Mind.”
It has to do with the construction of thoughts, the transformation of psychic energy, the formation of the ‘I” and the organization of the conscious and unconscious history of the memory. Cury holds that, to develop the most important functions of intelligence, we must “train our capacity to protect the emotions to avoid disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and pessimism.” The objective is to have a healthy life and a sound mind.
Taking as the pivot of his reflection the person of Jesus of Nazareth, Cury succeeds in showing how the Saviour of the world was concerned about the mental health, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, astuteness, emotions of those that would be His Apostles. From the field of psychology, it’s a welcome contribution to the preparation and availability of men and women preparing themselves to fulfill the mission to proclaim, attest, and give witness to the Teacher of teachers.
Suffice it to read some of the author’s works, to let one’s thought wander and discover how an excellent teacher, a profiled pedagogue, a man of God, a very human person but with God’s Spirit prepares the apostles of the future. In his works, Cury shows that the “Teacher of teachers” teaches that wisdom is carved in failures and tears. That the “Master of emotions” may teach him to contemplate simple things and navigate in the waters of sentiments. That the “Master of life” may teach him not to be afraid to live and to overcome the difficult moments of his history. That the “Master of love “ may teach him that life is the greatest spectacle in the theatre of existence. That the “unforgettable Master may teach him that the weak judge and desist, whereas the strong understand and have hope. We aren’t perfect. Disappointments, frustrations, and losses will always happen. But God is the craftsman of the human spirit and soul, so, do not be afraid.
Healthy Life in the Spirit
From Theology’s point of view, interest has focused on people’s life. God as Creator and Sustainer of life, marked the starting point for a healthy life: “Do good and avoid evil” (cf. Genesis 2:17).
As an excellent communicator of divine messages, Moses invited the world to correct a disordered life, which doesn’t please God or produce well for society. The Commandments are the Golden Rule for a healthy life, a healthy mind, a balance in social life (cf. Exodus 20: 1-21). The basic principle is love, always trying to do good. Whoever obeys the Commandments will have eternal life (Cf. Matthew. 19:16-22).
The Saviour of the world poses the Kingdom of the heavenly Father: His proposal is to save the world, to save the soul, for us to learn to live as brothers in society. All His preaching points to a healthy life in the Spirit; a sound mind, common sense. The lines of action lie in morality, justice, and virtues. Thus goodness imposes itself on any sort of harm that can be done to another person. The Beatitudes (Cf. Matthew 5:1-12), are an excellent model for those who wish to organize their life so that it is pleasing to God and useful to society.
The Theological Virtues, Point of Support
Theology also proposes a healthy life taking as a point of support for the theological virtues. They are the foundation, animation, and characterization of a Christian’s way of behaving. They inform and vivify all the moral virtues. They are infused by God in the soul of the faithful, to enable them to act like His children and to merit eternal life. They are the guarantee of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.
There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1813). Faith is a virtue that enables one to know and to do God’s Will. People learn to be just and live by their faith (Cf. Romans 1:17). The virtue of hope corresponds to the desire for happiness, placed by God in the heart of all men; it assumes the hopes that inspire men’s activities; it purifies them to order them to the Kingdom of Heaven; it protects them from discouragement; is a support in all weakness; dilates the heart in the hope of eternal blessedness. The impulse of hope preserves one from egoism and leads to the happiness of charity (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1818).
Charity is Jesus’ new commandment (Cf. John 13:34). Loving His own ‘to the end’ (John 13:1), He expresses the love of God He has received. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus, which they also receive. Hence, Jesus says: ‘As the Father loved me, so I also have loved you; remain in my love’ (John 15:9). And also: ‘This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15:12; Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1823).
Saint Paul the Apostle proposes charity as an effective means to have a healthy life, which takes others into account, which purifies thought, which orients the reason, which focuses on what is just: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Love is the greatest of the virtues (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13).
Pope Wants a Church That Is Spiritually Sound
Speaking of the call to holiness of life, in his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate of March 19, 2018, the Holy Father Francis highlighted six attitudes that are contrary and harmful to be able to lead a healthy and spiritual life: the challenge cannot be lost: a healthy life and a sound mind.
I think we must recognize Pope Francis’ effort in his apostolic task of wanting a spiritually sound Church. He himself has indicated it in his addresses, homilies, and allocutions. The Holy Father wants us to be a Church of the “periphery,” of the poor, of the needy.
He wants us to reach the level of being God’s apostles in the world, with a healthy and exemplary life, which connects directly with what we proclaim and preach. Hence, the Pope insists repeatedly that each one of us must be conscious of the need to have what we believe coincide with what we do, or with what we preach.
Suffice it to mention two homilies in Casa Santa Marta, in which the Pope stressed our behavior as men and women of faith. A person that believes or preaches the Gospel and at the same time does the contrary with his fellowmen, does not have a healthy life.
Bear True Witness
The Pontiff points out that, in matters of faith, scandals must be avoided. “A Christian is not one who commits himself to be better than others, but who knows he’s a sinner as we all are.” Jesus taught the prayer of the Our Father, distancing himself from two groups of His time: the hypocrites and the pagans. And He alerted Christians to live fraternity and to avoid scandals. “How often we see the scandal of those people that go to Church, are there all day or go every day, but then they live hating others and speaking badly of people, this is a scandal. Better not to go to church, live like an atheist, but if you go to Church, live as a son, as a brother and give true witness, not anti-witness” (Cf. Homily in Casa Santa Marta, January 2, 2019).
In the same vein, the Holy Father alerted that the life of a believer, a healthy and exemplary life, must have its concretion in faith: “the second Commandment is also concrete.” “To love, to love one another – concrete love, not fantasy love: ‘I love you, I love you so much” and then I destroy you with my tongue, with gossip. No, no, no. Concrete love, in other words, God’s Commandments are the concretion, and the criteria of Christianity is concretion, not beautiful ideas and words. Concretion and this is the challenge.”
Referring to the Apostle Saint John, who was “passionate about the Incarnation of God,” the Pontiff stressed that “the life of a Christian is concretion of faith in Jesus Christ and in charity, but it’s also a struggle because we always receive ideas or false prophets who propose a ‘soft’ Christ, without flesh, and a love of neighbor that is somewhat relative . . . ‘Yes, these are on my side, the others are not’” (Cf. Homily, Pope Francis, Casa Santa Marta, January 7, 2019).
Challenges in Gaudete et Exsultate
Now let us think of the challenges in the life of Christians that Pope Francis proposes in his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate:
*Egoism or interest: “The justice Jesus Christ proposes is not like the one the world seeks, marred by petty interests, manipulated in favor of one side or another” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 78).
* Consumerism: It can play a trick on us because, in the obsession to have a nice time, we end up being excessively concentrated on ourselves. It will be difficult to be concerned and dedicate energies to give a hand to those that aren’t well unless we cultivate a certain austerity unless we fight against that fever that the consumer society imposes on us to sell us things, which ends by turning us into poor dissatisfied people who want to have everything and taste everything (Gaudete et Exsultate, 108).
* Success and pleasures: “Then, let us no fall into the temptation of looking for inner security in successes, in empty pleasures, in possessions, in dominion over others or in a social image: ‘I give you my peace, but not as the world gives” (John 14:27’; Gaudete et Exsultate, 121).
*Media bombardment: “(. . . ) The consumption of superficial information and virtual ways of communication can be a factor of folly that takes all our time and distances us from our brothers; from suffering flesh” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 108).
*Verbal and virtual violence: “Christians can also be part of networks of verbal violence on the Internet and of the different forums or areas of digital exchange” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 115).
*Injustice: “We cannot have an ideal of holiness that ignores the injustice in this world, where some celebrate, spend happily and reduce life to the novelties of consumption, while at the same time others look from outside as their life passes and ends miserably” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 101).
A Life Project Towards Holiness
We must think of a life project towards holiness. The modern world doesn’t offer areas for a holy life, which are pleasing to God and useful for society. It’s a world that is controverted in its ideas, in its ethical and moral approaches, in its behaviors. Our life project must include the following precautions, according to the Pope’s same text.
*Not to be ignorant of what we are. When there is no acknowledgment of our limitations as human beings, this hinders God’s grace from acting in us. Historically and ordinarily, grace takes us and transforms us progressively. Hence, if we reject this historical and progressive way, we can arrive in fact at denying it and blocking it, even if we exalt it with our words” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 50).
* We must be vigilant in face of spiritual corruption. Pope Francis also speaks of spiritual worldliness. “Spiritual corruption is worse than a sinner’s fall because it’s about a comfortable and self-sufficient blindness, where everything ends seeming illicit” (Gaudete et Exultate, 164-165).
* Vanity and pride, greatly harm the path to holiness of life. “A saint isn’t someone strange, distant, who becomes unbearable because of his vanity, his negativity and his resentments” (Gaudete et Exultate, 93).
*To be satisfied with oneself, could be like having a stone in one’s shoe when trying to achieve a life of holiness. “When the heart feels itself rich, is so satisfied with itself it has no room for the Word of God, to love others, or to enjoy life’s greatest things” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 68).
*Duplicity, lies, and falsehood are opposed to a healthy personality. “The heart must be kept with all vigilance” (Proverbs 4:23; Gaudete et Exsultate, 84).
*Sadness and ingratitude aren’t signs of holiness. ”We receive so much from the Lord, ‘for us to enjoy it’ (1 Timothy 6:17), that sometimes sadness has to do with ingratitude, with being so closed in oneself that one is unable to recognize God’s gifts” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 126).
*The absence of silence hinders meditation, personal reflection and contemplation. “All is full of words, epidermal enjoyments and with ever speedier noise. Joy doesn’t reign there, but dissatisfaction of one who doesn’t know what to live for” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 29).
*Mediocrity, as something of little value or done with the minimum effort. Pope Francis says: “No one endures if he opts to stay in a dead point if he is satisfied with little or ceases to dream (. . . )” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 163).
*To absolutize free time denatures spiritual experience. To use limitlessly modern devices, networks, etc. (Gaudete et Exsultate, 30).
*Criticism and gossip. People that dedicate themselves to criticize, to destroy others, to change the content of what they hear, to exaggerate others’ situations, that type of life, which is so common in our culture, is not a means for holiness of life (Gaudete et Exsultate, 87).