Glass is pretty. Glass can be used for art. Glass can be used for windows. Glass is not meant to be eaten, and if I told you I enjoy eating glass, you would rightfully be distributed and tell me I shouldn’t eat glass because it’s neither safe nor is it food. My attachment to glass is disordered because I use it for reasons that are against its purpose and are very harmful to me.
I can think of a few things in the last several years that I think were disordered attachments that I managed, with God’s help, to detach from, and continue detaching from. One is that I was very attached to the past. I would constantly be thinking about the past, various memories, while not really sinful things that I did, it was just like I was consumed with the past. I have a lot of struggles in the present so it was like I was using the past as a crutch to help escape from my present struggles. I had never read that this was bad but it just seemed to me that it had to be an attachment because I would get all these warm feelings inside when I would go back in time. It was almost like I was idolizing the past. I began praying for the grace to stop doing that and to stay in the present moment. I also started to try to discipline my mind to say a prayer or something when I felt the urge to go back. And I have to say, I no longer feel the need to do this as much as I was doing. It still happens here and there if I hear an old song or something, but I don’t allow myself to dwell on the memories. And I don’t feel the overpowering need to do that anymore. Ultimately, I’m happier now that I don’t do that.
Another thing is when we first moved into the house we currently own, I was really not happy with it. We had to leave our other two story house because I needed to have a house on one floor because of my physical disabilities. This house is all on one floor and it’s really a good fit and it was the only one available at that time for us. But it’s older and continues to need work and it’s just not what I was hoping for. For the first couple of years, I was consumed with other houses and was always looking up houses on the internet and wishing I could have this or that house. I finally realized I had to stop doing this and began praying for the grace to be content with our house. In time, I began to become more content and now, about 4 years later, I have to say I don’t really think too much about other houses. There are some things I have to do to keep this in check, like refusing to look up other houses online and not watching home shows on TV and things like that. And I continue to pray for the grace to be content. So far, so good. I’m much more content now.
These were two examples that seem to have been true disordered attachments and the fact that I have a lot more peace now after battling them seems to confirm that they were indeed disordered. However, there are other things like watching too much TV and news which only fuels my anxiety and which I haven’t had too much success in detaching from yet. And there are other things which I’m still not even sure if they are disordered attachments or not. I think in these examples, in my own life, it was offensive to God because he wants us to rely on him alone to get through our daily lives and not be seeking warm and fuzzy feelings in thinking about things that are not reality for us anymore, like the past or other houses. These examples seem almost akin to addictions because of the way they were making me feel. (Good at first, but then ultimately miserable) However, I am no expert on this and I still have a of questions myself on all the ways we can be attached to created things.
Attachment, from Modern Catholic Dictionary is “An emotional dependence, either of one person on another, or of a person on some real or illusory object.” For spiritual progress we need to exercise mastery over inordinate attachments. Sin is inordinate and it is possible to be attached to doing sinful things.
They offend God in the sense that they prevent us from giving ourselves fully over to Him. It can be a dependence on material things, but as many of the Saints documented their struggles, it can be attitudes that are even harder to give up such as a love of drama, or propensity for revenge, or even being overly sensitive. All those things can hamper our Christian response in daily life.
I was recently reading a story from St Therese of Lisieux’ autobiography and her struggle against tantrums.
“Another time I was working in the laundry, and the Sister opposite, while washing handkerchiefs, repeatedly splashed me with dirty water. My first impulse was to draw back and wipe my face, to show the offender I should be glad if she would behave more quietly; but the next minute I thought how foolish it was to refuse the treasures God offered me so generously, and I refrained from betraying my annoyance. On the contrary, I made such efforts to welcome the shower of dirty water, that at the end of half an hour I had taken quite a fancy to this novel kind of aspersion, and I resolved to come as often as I could to the happy spot where such treasures were freely bestowed.”
It’s not that we all need to respond in that way, but because she was aware of how her tendency to tantrums was a self indulgence, that was her way of countering that.
If you personally think it’s better for you to leave goth or this fashion trend or thoughts about death behind, that’s fine. For you, perhaps it was unhealthy or is just something you prefer to leave in the dust bin of when you were young or less mature.
But just about every Catholic prayer I say involves death: our eventual death (the Hail Mary, the Hail Joseph); the death of others (prayers for the Poor Souls, the Eternal Rest prayer for the deceased); the discussions of death and Jesus’ triumph over it in the Scriptures; prayers and devotions for a happy death; various other kinds of death like our trying to “die to self” and focus on Jesus. In a few minutes I need to say the St. Bridget 1-year prayers, a set of 15 prayers that I am trying to say every day, and just about every one of them mentions our eventual death. Not to mention all the skulls and bones that crop up in Catholic imagery. My everyday rosary has skull pater beads - I didn’t even pick it out myself, it was sent me as a “Random Rosary” clearance item from Rugged Rosaries.
There is nothing disordered with thinking about our death, knowing it will come eventually, and making preparations for its eventual occurrence. In fact, there have been threads on here praising a sister for making a social media page encouraging young people to think about death more, like it was a new concept to them. When I pointed out (thinking about the goths and death metal heads and other groups of young people I knew) that young people already think quite a lot about death, somebody told me I was incorrect.
Bottom line is that there’s nothing inherently disordered about being a goth or thinking about death. If it becomes an occasion of sin for someone, like they use drugs, neglect their schoolwork/ family, or think about suicide, then that particular person should step away. But a lot of people don’t fall into sin from following a fashion trend or even thinking about death.
It’s been my experience that after someone decides to follow God more closely that their habits are the first things they focus on to change. Habits can run from anything to cutting back on smoking to quitting bullying someone. Next may come a change in focus on material things - do I really need those expensive clothes, couldn’t I give more away. Then, as you’ve said of the Saints, later in spiritual development and more difficult to root out are those personal shortcomings that we all have, and sometimes seem to be part and parcel of us, a thorn in the side so to speak.
Disordered attachments is maybe of a more narrow scope, though it still is part of these things.
It is for me something to be rid of as it leads me to thoughts, ruminations and obsessions with death and being in sympathy for lost souls but staying stuck there in the depths of darkness.
For me, it really did promote a culture of death and despair, the exact opposite of Christ just as you say. My priest wants me to cut ties with all of this, and to clean up my life…from the inside to the outside.
My internals will then match my externals, as Father Ripperger says in many of his talks on behaviors and actions on Youtube.
I am so happy to hear from so many on CAF and all the different perspectives on this issue.
@tradntru, Yes, we must offer it up! But agreed, to not stay stuck there either. I have had to clear out my computer of images of all things goth and get rid of some very much depressing and dark music as well.
It led me to terrible places in my soul.
For you, is being Catholic your entire life?
I have the time and energy now to make Him all of my life.
But slowly, so that I can take it all in, otherwise its too much.
The spiritual life is to be slowly built up, one brick at a time, yes?
There is a superior part of the soul (reason) and inferior parts of the soul (appetites and emotions/heart-felt). When the inferior parts are subject to the superior parts, there is order from which the fruits of the spirit can come forth. When the inferior parts rule the soul (no reason), the soul becomes disordered and bears no fruits of the spirit. Virtue and prayer can put things in order.
It has to do with the many ways we become “extra”, usually in pursuit of happiness in one way or another. Gluttonly reflects a disordered attachment to food, lust to sex, materialism to possessions, pride to exceeding glory that we want for ourselves. Another term for this is “concupiscence”, aka “disordered desire”.
The desires are considered to revolve around those three concepts mentioned: pleasure, wealth/material possessions, and pride They amount to idolatry, over-attraction to lesser, created things above the Creator. St John refers to them in 1 John 2:15-17. They’re generally those things that we “drool over“, things we only want but think we must have, even while they never bring real lasting satisfaction and only serve to highlight our brokenness more than anything else. They sometimes drive people to sin, to do harm to self or others in their foolish pursuit.
“Inherently” means it’s disordered regardless of who does it.
What you just said above means it’s subjectively disordered for certain people who are led into sin somehow by doing it.
Which is pretty much what I said.
Any culture can send some people into despair. I’ve seen people who were sent into despair by working respectable professional jobs because they got too caught up in the secular emphasis on success, money, “winning” or drinking and having affairs with their coworkers. Other people can work the same job and be fine.
An “inherently disordered” subculture is one that revolves around sinful behavior. If you are in a porn subculture or a prostitution/ drugs subculture, that’s disordered for everybody. If you are in a goth subculture or a lawyer subculture or a bodybuilding subculture, it’s not inherently disordered for everybody; it’s subjectively disordered for some.
Then it’s subjectively disordered for you yourself and you’re doing the right thing for your own soul by stepping away from it.
For you, is being Catholic your entire life?
I’m honestly not sure this is healthy. If you said “is God your entire life” or “is Jesus your entire life” then that would make sense; people can indeed make God or Jesus their entire life, or the center of their life.
But “being Catholic”? People generally have some healthy interests and activities in their lives in addition to just doing Catholic things. Even priests I know have hobbies like cooking or being a fan of a certain sports team. They live their Catholicism when they’re doing their hobby, like they are kind to others and don’t spend excessively on their interest, etc., but they have more going on in their life than just “being Catholic” and doing things at church.