Creation of Adam (detail) by Michelangelo

If you analyze any human problem – any human sin – any human negativity–any human perversion – any violence or lust or greed or self pity you will find beneath them all the foundational fear.

The beauty of a dynamic Catholic faith is that “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). This particular verse reveals an understanding of human psychology which is so profound and wise that it confirms the inspiration of Scripture. Who could have seen the depths of these few words?

This Spirit we have received – if we yield to it completely and live within the life of faith – will bring us into the graced condition of living with power, love and a sound mind. Without the Spirit we decline into the spirit of fear and we live with the opposite of these three gifts. If we descend into the ever deepening and ever narrowing spiral of life without the Spirit then we will live in weakness not power; hatred not love; and madness not a sound mind.

However, if we live within the Holy Spirit day by day, then we will, bit by bit, discover a new kind of power, a new kind of love and a new clarity of thought and vision. We will be truly powerful because the Divine power is growing within us. We will be truly and genuinely loving – not trying hard to be nice, respectable people, but truly concerned and compassionate and loving towards others. We will be truly amazingly and dynamically of sound mind.

This is what we witness in the lives of the saints. They are not just good people. They are not just pious people. They are not just energetic or intelligent people. Instead they manifest in their lives a supernatural power, love and sanity.

Those, on the other hand, who refuse to move further into this Spirit of God – into the power, the love and the sanity – will move further into helplessness, hatred and insanity.

I have seen the saints. I have met them so I know this is true. I have also seen those who refuse the life of the Spirit and descend further and further into the dark. I am thinking not of the depraved and wicked sinners who have done so – even though they do show us the descent of the human spirit into the dark – but I am thinking of the “nice” respectable Christian people who, despite their Christian profession and practice, do not live in the Spirit, but live by the standards of the world.

They too, ever so gently but surely, descend into increasing helplessness, hatred, distrust and insanity. I have seen them disintegrate. I have seen their worlds collapse. I have seen them act in desperation as the money they trusted disappears, as the friends they have trusted betray them and as the worldly mindset they have accepted without question has proven to be ephemeral and empty.

We can only watch in dismay as the disintegration happens. To be lifted we can contemplate the lives of the saints, for they radiate the glory and light of eternity – which far outweighs the narrow alleyways and the ever decreasing downward spiral of those who live without the Spirit.

How is this transformation accomplished? It is done simply and surely through the sacramental life of the church. To attend Mass with a pure heart, to go to confession for forgiveness of sins, to read the Sacred Scriptures, to discipline the flesh, give alms to the poor, visit the poor and helpless. Through this regular, simple and studied life we open the very depths of our soul to the Divine Mercy – for if the sickness was a primal fear – a nameless and inchoate fear at the deepest level, then the remedy is to receive unconditional and totally supernatural love for “perfect love casts out fear.”

When this infusion of the Divine Love – the Divine Mercy fills our souls, then we begin to be transformed from the foundation level up. It is as if the foundations of the house were weak and rotten and the Master Builder drills down to the depths and pours in the solid concrete of unconditional love. Once this transaction takes place the soul is set to receive the continued graces that bring about conversion of life.

This is what the Christian religion is about – all the prayers, all the works, all the faith, all the activity of study and worship is to bring about this internal conversion and eternal transformation.

Fr Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and the author of many articles and books on the Catholic faith. Visit his blog and website at

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