Detachment

I know that detachment is a good thing but can one be attached to something that is a spiritual good but that the attachment so great that it ends up being a bad?

There is a story of St John of the Cross and one of the brothers. This brother owned nothing except for a cross made of palms from Palm Sunday. The brother carried this cross everywhere, even slept with it. St John saw that there was an attachment here and ordered, under obedience, the brother to surrender the cross to him. St John saw this as a spiritually good thing to do.

How does one know if they are attached to something in such a way?

I had a similar attachment to a rosary that had been blessed in Fatima, Portugal on a pilgrimage I attended there.

Well, the Lord ended that attachment finally, and in a rather dramatic way.

One day I received a phone call at work that my father had just had a stroke, was in the hospital, might not make it through the night, and could I drop everything and get on the fastest plane to see him? So on the plane, I took out my favorite rosary and began praying it. To my horror, the cross broke off!

Having no idea how to interpret this, I asked that if God wanted to take my father’s life at that point, to take my dad to heaven.

Well, fortunately my dad survived. And when I was still bemoaning the loss of my favorite Fatima rosary, some kindly man smiled and wisely said, “Well now, that’s not a bad trade … a father in exchange for a rosary.”

~~ the phoenix

I think one has to examine one’s relationship to the practice or to the thing itself, whatever it is, and if one can see, quite soberly and plainly, that one’s involvement with the practice or thing is being used as a substitute for standing naked before God, then it is not a good thing and should be given up.

In other words, anything that is used to push God away, to hide oneself behind, or to assure ourselves that we are doing something “useful” is something that is being substituted for the primary relationship one must have with God.

Utter and complete dependence on him and him alone is the test. If the practice or thing does not damage that relationship, then it’s not an attachment. That’s my view, anyway.

ThisOne

The attachment becomes disordered when the object becomes the center of your life.

I heard a story of a nun, who had a holy picture that she loved and she had carried it everywhere she went, for 30 years. When a novice nun commented on what a beautiful picture it was, the older nun, immediately surrendered the picture to the novice.

This is a level of detachment that I know I haven’t reached yet.

Jim

I am very attached to my wife. We have been together since we were 17. She is my friend and has saved my life a few times. When I was sick with cancer, I had to tell her to move on if I didn’t make it. That was the hardest thing I have ever done. Now that I have recovered and have seen how much she cared for me when I was sick, I love her even more. I don’t know if I could detach and leave her in death. I know we are to completly trust in Jesus at our time of death and that includes leaving our loved ones in His hands, but I don’t know if I could do it again. Tim

What a beautiful story of your attachment, LOG. I don’t think God wishes detachment from your wife. I think he would see that as a good.

When I was in college I had two sturdy, pretty mugs I like, with a folk motif - one with ducks and one with deer. My roommate knew I liked them. One day she came to me, stricken because she broke one of them. I quickly said “Thats okay! Its only a mug!”, wanting her to feel better, and also realizing her importance over the mug. Then for some reason I didn’t leave it at that. I reflected on how I liked the deer one best, and said, “I’m so glad you didn’t break the deer one. I really like that one!”

Well, my roommate wasn’t accident prone, but you know what? Shortly later she came to me stricken again - she broke the deer mug! My first thought was: “What are the odds of that?” And then I realized it must have been God’s will. I was able to tell her its okay - its only a mug - and God must have not wanted me to have it.

I felt He was telling me to never forget people are always more important that things.

I had a difficult marraige but with my working as a professional while we waited for my husband to be ready to have children, we were able to buy a home, which over the years I carefully made so homey. In spite of my efforts, my marraige was sorrowful but efforts put into making and keeping a home were fruitful. I carefully painted woodwork, stripped and painted doors, carefully choosing paint colors and wallpaper and doing all the work myself, as well as planting thousands of bulbs and creating gardens and beds. I shopped at garage sales and flea markets and refinished and reupolstered furntiture. By the time my son was born, the house was pretty much “done”, aa well as organinzed, with a place for everything. I loved “home” and it was much a part of me. Something I could count on. Then when the unexpected unavoidable divorce came, with all its unforeseen loss, was also the loss of our home.

I guess I am still not over that. I don’t see how I could have kept it with all its lawn and driveway, and also be out in the country all alone, anyway. But still, I guess I was not yet detached from it. Neither was my son - he misses it, and I wish I could fix his missing it. But it represents a hope for a life that never was and never could be realized. So leaving it represents reality and also, I do think God wanted me to detach from what I probably loved too much. Because I guess he wanted me to love and rely on Him more. I am not sure I am succeeding, but I do think its what He wants for me.

Tim,
glad to hear your OK.

Don’t confuse"love" of a person with “attachment,” they are not the same. Love is giving. Attachment is taking and hanging onto, for the sake of self. Love means allowing the person to be free to grow, attachment means depriving them of freedom and stifeling their growth.

What you described is love, not attachment as I describe above.

Jim

Hello, ByzCath,

I see you are very attuned to the Carmelite saints, and I also remembered the chapter you spoke of from St. John of the Cross.

My feeling is that anger would surface when we have our desired object, devotion, custom, taken away from us. Do you remember the incident when St. Therese was irritated when her materials for painting were missing or jumbled up? She recognized the source, but then she was so sensitive to interior motions of her heart.

To be honest, I sometimes think that we are overly sad or outright angry when change occurs, (and I’m sure you can think of several incidences) — it signals attachment. I remember a beautiful lesson my pastor taught me when I was mourning over his transfer to another parish. Since I love music, he found the perfect counsel that fit my understanding. No melody is going to be beautiful if it is stuck on the same note. He asked me to be free enough in spirit to let God play the next notes in a new measure, so the symphony of my life would not stagnate. :harp:

I just remembered something else. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son of promise, Isaac, he was ready to obey, though I’m sure his heart was mortally heavy. God stopped him once He saw that Abraham put God above his own son. Sometimes, that’s all He needs to see from us, the willingness to follow His will. It’s testy to find out what’s really in our heart. For this reason, I could not speak the Prayer of St. Ignatius for a long time, because there were things I just couldn’t give up, if God asked for them.

One day, I prayed it from the heart, and the blessing that followed is best left unsaid. God is so good!

carole

As a soon to be Carmelite novice (June 10th) I better be! :smiley:

My feeling is that anger would surface when we have our desired object, devotion, custom, taken away from us. Do you remember the incident when St. Therese was irritated when her materials for painting were missing or jumbled up? She recognized the source, but then she was so sensitive to interior motions of her heart.

To be honest, I sometimes think that we are overly sad or outright angry when change occurs, (and I’m sure you can think of several incidences) — it signals attachment. I remember a beautiful lesson my pastor taught me when I was mourning over his transfer to another parish. Since I love music, he found the perfect counsel that fit my understanding. No melody is going to be beautiful if it is stuck on the same note. He asked me to be free enough in spirit to let God play the next notes in a new measure, so the symphony of my life would not stagnate.

I have been thinking on this, I think I am attached to something and the thought of the lose of it or being asked to give it up do make me angry and sad.

This Saturday we had a morning Mass as we had a workshop in the House. We do not normally have a Saturday Mass as that is our free day, except when we have a workshop.

The Homily was about detachment and this is where the story from St John of the Cross was brought up. I felt as if the Holy Spirit was speaking directly to me though by formation director. My formation director do not know anything about my thoughts on this.

I see my spiritual director this Thursday and will bring it up to him.

That is the lesson I learned from the experience. I was possesive. Now because of my uncertain future, my wife has received degree’s and is working on her third. She now has freedom in our marriage and our love has grown as a result. It took alot for me to see that my wife and family aren’t mine, but the Lord’s. The Lord had to break me to fix me, if you know what I mean. Tim
P.S. I was just reminded of something. I have never been alone and one day I will stand alone before the Lord to give an account of my life. It is what He is preparing me for.

I would have thought that this would be a big thread here.

Guess detachment isn’t as big an issue as I thought it would be.

It’s a huge issue. But, who wants to look at it. You might have to give something up. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m attached to novels, certain television shows, my time on CAF, my time to myself, a certain level of comfort in my life, daydreaming, diet sodas…oh the list goes on. I have shelves of spiritual books that I’m keeping for the day when I might want to read them. Just seeing them on the shelf makes me feel good.

I agree that the lack of willingness to part with something is a good indicator of excessive attachment.

I do think it is better to look at your attachments and work on them one at a time or in degrees. I’ve cut my tv watching way down, but not eliminated it. I no longer read certain types of novels such as romance or those that glorify immorality, but try to read nonfiction or spiritual books.

Exactly! I realized I was very attached to worldly things. I have been working on it hard. Due to several circumstances that we feel were sent from God, we sold our brand new house that I loved, and moved to a very old house that needs so much work. Ugh. That has been huge for me. We also got rid of a lot of ‘stuff’ when we moved, but I realize there is still so much ‘stuff’ left! I want to simplify and detach, but it is hard work. I am reading a lot of Franciscan books right now, and it is really driving home the need to let go. But it is a process. I have at least stopped buying new stuff, now just have to weed out what is already here. I know we can get by with a LOT less than we have.

You might like the book *Happy We Poor *by Fr. Thomas Dubay.

I too think attachments are are huge problem… Speaking from a woman’s point of view there is alot of pressure to look attractive to the opposite sex and when I was younger I use to go the whole 9 yards with manicures, full makeup and coloring my hair.

I think makeup to many women is like an armor they put on to hide behind. All attachments in the end have “fear” at their core. At about age 25 I got fed up with trying to look attractive for others and was not happy at all. I stopped the manicures…went with clear nail polish… and toned down my makeup to some powder and cherry chapstick. :stuck_out_tongue:

I had to admit that I was afraid that if I stopped caring so much about my looks I would never find anyone who would be interested in me. God forbid they should see how I really look without all that makeup and perfectly manicured nails. :eek: And it is ironic that as women we want a mate who will love us as we are and yet many of us will hide behind the armor of makeup. :shrug:

That’s why so many people get angry and mad when they lose something they have an attachment to…out of fear. Fear of not being accepted…fear that if we lose a prized object we somehow will lose a piece of ourselves…

“Earthly fear” = the devil’s best weapon to keep our focus away from heaven… If I would have more of a daily fear of losing heaven I would stop being so attached to my own looks and objects.

Now I try to look at things from a different perspective in that all Earthly things are temporary while heaven is for all eternity. The operative word is “TRY”… I still am attached to alot of my ego issues, objects and whatnot.

God bless

But what about an attachment to something that is a spiritual good. Can one be overly attached to such a thing?

St John of the Cross, just to name one saint, thinks so.

In pondering your words… I decided to open a book that I have read many times at a random page (Letters from the Desert by Carlo Caretto) which I highly recommend for Contemplative prayer and came upon Chapter 5 “Purification of the Heart”. Carlo Carreto was a “Little Brother” in Charles de Foucauld’s Order…In this chapter he says:

It is clear we are made to love. The difficulty is to establish what to love and how.

Equally characteristic is the so-called blind devotion in which the human heart attaches itself exclusively to another, losing its peace, its serenity, its balanced vision of things and in the worst cases its purity.

I am speaking of the selfishness of good people, devout people, those who have succeeded through spiritual exercises and self-denial in being able to make the proud profession before the altar of the Most High, “Lord, I am not like the rest of men.” Yes, we have had the audacity at certain times of our lives to believe we are different from other men. And here is the deepest form of self-deception, dictated by self-centeredness at its worst: spiritual egotism. This most insidious form of egotism even uses piety and prayer for its own gain.

This becomes a form of insult to the altar itself. It is when the very desire for holiness itself is turned upside down. It is not love and imitation of Christ Crucified, it is the desire for glory.

The love of God is by nature, pure, balanced and holy. Whoever is dominated by it lives in deep peace, has an ordered biew of things and knows the meaning of true freedom.

If the soul does not free itself by way of the cross it can never be free.

I don’t know why but this to me seemed to fit why we get attached to spiritual objects. Another Carmelite Saint “Saint Teresa of Avila” has stated that to even seek “Spiritual Consolations” from God is itself a type of Spiritual Egotism.

God bless

Oh yeah, I’ve got lots of wonderful books that I am attached to.

Also, we can be too attached to people–and of course, they are a spiritual good.

It’s a small thing, but I have a policy that if someone admires a rosary, I offer it to them. And, if I “loan” out a book, I don’t ask for it back.

As for people? We have to continually “give” them to God. I love my kids. I am their steward on Earth, but they really belong to God. How many parents have restrained their children from Christian service? And, we have to be able to trust God in his care for them.

I can barely stand to type it, but if God calls them from this life, I must trust that He will give me the Grace to bear it and even eventally be at peace with it.

But what about an attachment to something that is a spiritual good. Can one be overly attached to such a thing?

Dear ByzCath,

Thanks for bumping this thread. As you wondered why it had so little attraction and response, doesn’t it suggest a motive of “because I’m just not there yet?” It’s quickly apparent to those of us who see your striving for holiness, as you demonstrate by the very posting of this thread, that you are listening to the still small voice that many are not spiritually sensitive to hear yet. As Jesus said, the narrow road is rarely traveled, and many are called but few are chosen. Your vocation is witness of that deeper call.

Regarding your quote, not until we eliminate most of our attachments in the sensual realm, will the Spirit lead us to the deeper spiritual detaching. I know you understand that from John of the Cross’s writings. Many aren’t even at that door yet, and place all their “holiness” in devout actions, such as the poster below wrote. But I think you and I have seen these same holy ones condemn others who have not their ultra devotions and “true” spirituality. :rolleyes:

I am speaking of the selfishness of good people, devout people, those who have succeeded through spiritual exercises and self-denial in being able to make the proud profession before the altar of the Most High, “Lord, I am not like the rest of men.”

Pope Benedict’s message from Zenit yesterday summed it up perfectly:

“It is not possible to make oneself like God and contemplate him simply with a rational knowledge: In order to achieve this objective, it is necessary to live according to the ‘Logos,’ a life according to truth. And, therefore, good works have to accompany intellectual knowledge as the shadow accompanies the body.”

Until our super-christians gain humility of heart, their spiritual exercises are balloons full of hot air and attachment that we know God will puncture in order to humble them. We simply need to love them where they’re at until that wonderful day, and then we’ll love them even more! :gopray2:

Byz, have you read the Ascent of Mt. Carmel in Book III yet? Ch. 13:6 has some very good counsel regarding certain spiritual apprehensions that are good to recall, particularly if a renewal of love is the result; for that is the very reason God bestowed them.

Also his counsel in Chapter 15:2 with respect to veneration of images, saying:
“Images will always help a person toward union with God provided he does not pay more attention to them than is necessary, and that he allows himself to soar (when God bestows the favor) from the painted image to the living God.”

Finally, spiritual attachments are very possible if not used in the manner he described, and it takes a lot of purification and discernment to know whether they are an obstacle — we hope to understand the difference as we grow spiritually.

yes it is possible, as in the example in OP, an attachment to an object which represents a spiritual good. One of the saints, maybe John, warns of those who must have elaborate expensive rosaries or jewelled crosses to be able to pray. An analogy would be someone who can’t “enjoy” Mass in a church that does not have stained glass windows, pews, statues etc. to his liking.

We have a guest speaker at our rosary cenacles from time to time, and one of our best is a deacon from Mexico who is a wonderful spiritual director besides. He talks about (and boy I had to be very careful on the translation from Spanish with this one!) spiritual masturbation. by this he means using spiritual works, devotions, retreats, experiences as a means of providing pleasure for oneself, not as means to praise and grow closer to God. He does not mean sexual pleasure of course, but the pleasure of ownership, of spiritual pride, of presumption, neglect of other duties, comparing one’s own spiritual “performance” with that of others. The rosary becomes boring, so we keep jumping to other devotions, or multiplying devotions, so we get the warm fuzzies back again. We commit to a third order spirituality, but when that gets old, or we become discontented with the people, we move to a new group. We parish hop for a priest who makes us feel good with his sermons and confessions. We are active in parish life and other good works, but for the praise and recognition we get, not because we want to serve Christ.

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