© 2010, Father Kevin Michael Laughery, Holy Cross Parish, Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, USA, Roman Catholic Church
Last update and upload: Friday, February 19, 2010

The Dr. Margarett Schlientz Notes

SPRINGFIELD CLERGY CONVOCATION 1990
Notes taken by the Rev. Kevin M. Laughery
Revised November 29, 1992
Revised for HTML February 27, 1997
Further revision December 8, 2008
Reproduced with permission of Dr. Schlientz

There is a big difference between our CALL and the ROLE(S) we fulfill. Your call is unique. Roles are interchangeable. Charisms are not meant to compete. Holiness is a paradoxical struggle.

Anything we repress or deny will come to the surface! "Take up your cross" means to embrace the conflicts within. Wholeness happens.

There is a heresy called SELF-HATRED. The notion of holiness as "perfection" is a misreading of the Gospel of Matthew (5:48). Most of us struggle to be more than human. This is wrong. Sexual acting-out in the Church is the result of repression of feelings. Holiness is a process of development which requires becoming myself. Irenaeus: "There is nothing more glorious than man fully alive." Self-confrontation is required.

Medical-moral issues: Medicine moves faster than our prayer lives do. Our prayer lives must develop faster!

The Fathers integrated theology and spirituality. The 12th century split the two. The Vatican II documents represent a LIVED SPIRITUALITY.

You look out at your parish ... you see so much pain ... it can lead you to grief. Jesus was tired at Jacob's well. Did you ever see a doctor admit his vulnerability?

You can tell everything about a priest by how he celebrates liturgy. Does God get prime time? What do you do with the stresses of everyday life? Let's put stress in a theological perspective! Stress is a universal. The reason people are not entering religious life is because the prayer life of religious communities is not deep enough. Seminaries did not allow creativity. Laypeople were simply expected to pray, pay and obey.

What you hear in your heart is who you are. You're not lacking anything but trust. We squander great amounts of energy on NOTHING. We have to learn how to bargain -- to listen. Most of us have a child within us. We are poor planners of the future. Miracles happen all the time. BOREDOM in prayer means that the mystery has died. "I didn't bore you; you came in here bored."

Eustress and distress come from the same event. It's a choice. For "nothing can chain the human spirit." (Schlientz attributes this to St. Paul; KML's examination of Paul reveals that the closest approximation to this is 2 Timothy 2: 9, "But the word of God is not chained," in the context of St. Paul's frequent mentions of his chains.) How do you deal with the significance of an event? How do you take it to the Lord? Tension and division: We lack sensitivity. Do we hear each other's pain? We can discover a great deal about ourselves through our responses to stress. Learn to listen to yourself ... when your body is tired, do what's right for it. You need to find the right amount of tension to do your work. There is a difference between the stressor (event) and the stress. You can't change the event. But, "Lord, how do I respond to the event?"

FEAR. Know what your fears are. Enter them. Let the Lord transform our fears. Be transfigured.

What happens when we are fearful?

1. There is a refusal to develop receptivity. Compulsion; competition; workaholic (a workaholic is a person who has fallen out of love). Prayer is learning to waste time with God.

2. There is an attitude of addiction: clinging behavior; control; resentment; guilt.

When you have to say, "I'm the pastor," you're not so sure. The difficulty of preaching: There is no bad preacher who preaches out of his heart.

3. There is projection: a refusal to "let be"; one is not at home with his deepest self.

4. A fear-attitude is a refusal to let pain be pain: pain is evil (victim vs. healer). Embrace pain; enter into it; let it go; let it become energy.

Grief is a distress originally; it becomes a eustress.

Discovering our spiritual journey: We are not survivors but thrivers. We are by nature spiritual. Our spiritual self is a powerful healing resource. We journey within to our deepest self. Have an unconditional self-love (priests tend to be very hard on themselves). There is such a thing as a healthy narcissism! Discovery: Who are the significant people in my life who have called me to holiness? Patience, gentleness and trust. Teachers and teaching. Play as a vital companion.

STRESS IN RELATIONSHIP TO GRIEF. Example: Fr. Ed Adamski's death last night. Grief and bereavement: in regard to LOSS. (We as church people try to deny this.) Have I appropriately grieved over my losses? You don't become a real man until you cry!

Grief is not a clinical problem. It is a normal state of life. In a grief situation, simply trust the quality of your presence. There's no "trick." It's an insecure situation. We want to play God, but we can't do it. We mustn't try to play God. Grief is a health-restoring experience. Jesus was attractive because his compassion was alive. Have we super-spiritualized grief? If you view grief as a negative, you're blocking your feelings, and your feelings are the most precious part of you. Heart disease in a young priest: John Lynch, Broken Heart.

Loss of: security; relationships; safety (you were safe in your ROLE); love (being a victim of gossip or criticism -- I will still risk loving); expectations (we set ourselves up for disappointment); reputation (Does priesthood have any credibility? It's all right that it's been shaken. My faith is not shaken by unfortunate human things. We had almost created a false credibility).

Have you claimed celibacy every day as your choice? As a charism? "Making you more available" is a workaholic notion.

Loss of fantasy: fantasy being the ability to dream the impossible dream and see it come true.

GRIEVING STEPS.

1. Shock and denial: "I can't believe it!" When we've been betrayed, that's what it's like to meet Calvary.

2. Emotional: "The gift of tears." Where do these good thoughts come from? It's the Holy Spirit! Trust the inspirations within! (Anecdote about a woman who thought she was becoming senile because it took her an hour and a half to pray the rosary: "That's not senility -- that's contemplation!") You can't teach gentleness. We have taught repression as a norm! Acting-out behavior shows us that repression doesn't work.

3. Anger: The least workoutable anger is anger at God. We deny it so emphatically. There are many images of God. The image represents our particular struggle. Anger is a tremendous, holy gift of God.

4. Sickness: "Dis-ease."

5. Panic: "Who am I?" Said to the wall.

6. Guilt: Taking personal responsibility for the loss. IFs and SHOULDs.
Normal guilt is what brings one to the confessional.
Neurotic guilt is failing to let our forgiving God touch us.

7. Depression and

8. Loneliness: Going to the grave every day. Self-pity.

9. Re-entry: Any time we withdraw, it's harder to get back into things.

10. Reconstruction: Building a new world out of the ashes.

"I'm not so sure we've experienced Pentecost. We're still waiting for something to happen." Priests are much too passive re vocations. Do we let the Gospel sear the heart of youth?

A stressor called GROWTH: There are tremendous variations in growth. We can't grow all the time; it's too exhausting. But when we stop growing, we're dead. Saints are the tested heroes of time. Ignatius of Loyola got excited about Francis and Dominic. Epigenetic process: Weaving our way through previous levels of experience, in order to strengthen the ego. St. Thomas Aquinas says that celibacy is a process for having space for God (need for the transcendent). Kids have an existential anxiety: a loneliness needing to be filled up. If no one listens to them, their creativity plummets, and they may never rise again! It's very sad when that happens because of church. The hardest thing for us to embrace is our freedom.

Developmental stages:

Ages 17-21: "Breaking loose." Testing relationships; peer groups.

Ages 22-28: "Building the nest." A search for personal identity; selection of intimate friendships. In the Church, we crush creativity. Can we recover it? Yes. Mentoring: someone 10 - 25 years older.

Ages 29-34: "Looking around." Questions. Losing vocations at this point. ORDINARY TIME. Is this all there is? "Limit experience." Is prayer REFLECTION or RUMINATION? Realizing dryness and desolation. Ministry becomes the focus, without prayer. Anger is beginning to grow. I have some painful limitations. Marital satisfaction declines. Seven-year crisis. The Lord is asking, "Are you growing or stagnating?" LONELINESS within a good marriage is a call from GOD! But spouses try to make their spouse their god. The loneliness is for the Lord. Look out for activity for the sake of activity. Also beware of the gathering of possessions. (There is no heart that can rest without God -- paraphrase of St. Augustine.) My freedom will be in my settling in.

Ages 35-45: MID-LIFE REBIRTH. What have I really accomplished? This is a very important time spiritually; DEATH becomes real. There can be great turmoil. Mentors are cast aside. There is a difference in celibacy. Different in men and women. A hysterectomy includes GRIEVING. You grieve over the loss of generativity; then you re-commit yourself. Retreats and spiritual directors become vital. There is a somewhat environmental discomfort. There is a call to poverty -- total dependence on God. Often there is anger and resentment. Independence -- NO instead of YES -- is really withdrawal. Resentment of young people. One can become a functionary, ignorant of feelings and relationships. The AGE OF ATONEMENT. Everything is right; it's just painful.

Ages 45-55: INVESTING IN LIFE. "Mellowing" starts.

Ages 55- : DEEPENING WISDOM. Senior people fully alive -- having the right attitude.

THE HOLY GIFT OF ANGER. What does anxiety do for us? Anxiety is very much misunderstood. Anxiety is a pervasive feeling of tension. Am I putting a burden on myself? "Free-floating" anxiety: Going to a meeting where one person is negative ... and soon everybody is negative. We are a society that is not responsible with words. WORDS KILL. What do we do with anxiety in the Church? Process it in prayer.

Anxiety (a feeling of powerlessness) leads to anger (a feeling of power).

The best therapist is a good honest friend.

What happens to you intrapsychically when you identify your anxiety? When you are in a state of anxiety, your perception (i.e., your powers of observation and interpretation of reality) narrows; your cognition becomes rigid (getting "stuck" mentally); your reasoning becomes dulled; and (in a clinical state of anxiety) your sensations become numbed.

It's OK to say: "I'm glad to talk to you, but this is not my best time."

Clinical levels of anxiety: MILD (got you to this meeting); MODERATE (the beginning of the above-mentioned "narrowings"); SEVERE (needs treatment or leads to acting-out); PANIC. Grieving is a state of moderate anxiety. Grieve now; don't delay!

John Bradshaw: Bradshaw on the Family; Healing the Shame Within.

Family background: Self-deception: We have never taught people to be emotionally honest. ("How are you?" "Fine.")

Who defines who you are? If you have to be defensive, you've got some work to do.

In a constructive response to anger, you may be blocked by FEAR OF REPRISAL, FEAR OF LOSING FACE, FEAR OF DAMAGING OR LOSING A RELATIONSHIP, PROJECTION ("He wouldn't be able to handle it"), or FEAR OF LOSS OF CONTROL. The result of the block is STORED RAGE.

What brings anger forth? When progress toward a goal is blocked -- a person can really overreact. When someone highly valued fails to meet expectations. Hidden agendas.

We have taught people to be passive-aggressive. We have marketed emotional dishonesty.

[Here there should be diagrams about feelings. I still have to figure out how to present diagrams on a web page. In the meantime, words work! See: Feelings; Anger; Fear; Love.]

Priests compete even for PAIN; this is a demonic process. Ignatius says that three things kill us: power, honor and riches. If power is your mistress, it would be better if you went to bed with a woman. Timidity is an attitude of "I can't do that." (Whittaker: Healing the Child Within.) PRODUCER IS NOT YOUR ROLE. The question of discernment is: not what needs to be done but Lord, what do you want ME to do? We allow people to play on our generosity; enablers contribute to the dysfunction in the Church.

Every single day, in my prayer, I have to discern the consolations and desolations of my heart. Ignatius of Loyola checked this every hour. Logical analysis emphasizes the head at the expense of the heart. We need to be willing to change our thought processes.

Constructive expressions of anger: Child's temper tantrums, play, rebellion of adolescents, plays and movies, sports, crying, hobbies/art/music, hard physical labor, physical exercise, temporary distance or "cooling it" (e.g., "Let's not discuss this now. You're too angry and I'm not ready"), journal keeping, creative labor/gardening/baking. "Tears bathe the wounds of the soul." Any time you have to mock someone's behavior, you're into fear. "I will forgive and REMEMBER WITH GRATITUDE" (not forgive and forget).

Destructive expressions of anger: Withdrawal and silence (big in convents -- passive-aggressive -- "a dog who licks your palm while he's peeing on your leg" -- we do avoidance rather than conflict resolution); ridicule -- the hardest to heal; rejection and abandonment; "no time" as opposed to "let's find time"; gossip (breaks down our trust levels); frustration (instead of calling the feeling "disappointment" or "hurt," call it ANGER -- call it what it is!); negative humor; authoritarianism (identifying with the aggressor); leniency (an attitude of not caring about people in your care -- "You just do the best you can"); indifference (this is what is truly the opposite of love); cynicism; resentment (the most corrosive, the most destructive, the most hidden destructive expression of anger).

A passion is a frustrated power to act.

Resentment is a clinging sentiment: clinging to someone you dislike. "The power of intercessory slander."

Resentment is a PARALYZED COMPLAINT.

Resentment is destructive and deteriorating. Why? It prevents us from asking for forgiveness and for making a healing space for God.

Resentment is crippling to my spiritual growth.

The remedy for resentment:
Be aware of the disease and admit we're affected by it. Adam resented that he was not God. We tend to be authoritarian; this shows our insecurity. We need a conversion to gratitude.

RESENTMENT VS. GRATITUDE.

Resentment prevents action. "Nobody will come to the meeting."
Gratitude allows action.

Resentment makes us cling to our negative feelings and inhibits us from moving forward.
Gratitude opens new possibilities, hopes, expectations.

Resentment makes us prisoners in our own doubts and ambivalence.
Gratitude helps us rise above our bad binds and follow our calling.

Resentment exhausts us by complicating jealousies and a draining desire for revenge.
Gratitude takes away our fatigue and gives us new vitality.

Resentment entangles us in endless conspiracies of the world, often pulling us down to preoccupations.
Gratitude anchors our deepest self beyond this world, and allows us to be involved without losing ourselves.

Resentment takes and "mis-takes."
Gratitude gives and forgives.

Being "poor in spirit" means growing in creative weakness.

How do I handle my anger? Name it, claim it, tame it, aim it. Give myself permission to feel it. Get it under control -- use an acceptable way to release it. Share your feelings and hurt with a close friend. Pray it through with the Lord. Assess the outcome: relief and peace or turmoil and hurt? If possible, return to the scene to work out feelings with the person involved.

-- Take the "I" position.

-- Ask forgiveness and give as needed.

-- Pray it through together.

FORGIVENESS IS A PROCESS.

Anger: If you're in anxiety, find your anger. Don't let fears block your creative anger response.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness is not automatic. You can't blame somebody else for your feelings of anger, guilt, etc. Forgiveness is releasing self or another of a hurt incurred. Forgiveness is not sufficiently integrated in our lives. People avoid relationships because of the burden of resentment and guilt. This is un-Christian, for Christianity is other-centered (unlike Eastern religions with focus on the self). YOUR BODY DOES NOT KNOW YOU'RE CELIBATE. Why is forgiveness so difficult? "He hurt me, and I'm not letting him off the hook." Whom am I hurting? There has to be a change of outlook. Forgiveness frees the forgiver! Forgiveness is a graced action. A part of us recoils from reconciliation. Forgiveness is not a feeling. "Lord, you need to convict my heart." Forgiveness is a concrete decision -- often we try to forgive because we feel guilty. There's a lot of false forgiveness, e.g. 1) when you deny your anger; 2) when you "fake it" -- act as if the event in question never happened. (There is no such thing as over-sensitivity -- or over-compassion.) "You're not over-sensitive; you're wounded."

When we don't forgive:

1. We are led by anger, pain and hatred. Reflex action: retaliation. When I hold on to my resentments, I have decided not to forgive. I choose to live in the anger, pain and hatred. (Anecdote of mother having fighting children wash windows -- one on either side of the pane. When you're doing that, you can't stay mad.)

2. We live in negative memories. The only way to get out of the desert is to WALK THROUGH IT. We have to be in tune with good memories.

3. We do not act freely. (St. Paul: You do not have the keys to anything that would lock up my spirit -- this appears to be a paraphrase based on numerous references to chains, especially in 2 Timothy and Acts.)

4. We keep a controlling grasp on situations and people.

5. We are pressured by lives of tension and stress.

6. We shorten our lives. John Lynch, The Broken Heart. Shattered expectations are a burden on hearts.

7. Relationships with others are strained. Relationships tend to be narrow and stifling. The oppressed become oppressors. Women religious' hatred against men is demonic.

8. Relationship with God is weakened. Your prayers don't rise. Psalms are affective (Psalm 137 and "dashing your babies against the rock"!). Kaddish: "I love you with a respectful fury!"

9. We live with feelings of little self-worth. Self-worth is born when we make ourselves vulnerable to another.

10. We feel unrelieved guilt -- we feel we owe somebody something. The hardest person to forgive is oneself. Forgive yourself every day. Real guilt is healthy -- it brings me to resolution.

FORGIVENESS IS A DECISION. Forgiveness is most needed when there's no excuse for the incident. Forgiveness is mercy (love) poured on misery. Forgiveness is accepting a person as he or she is. We have to let go of our judgments. Relationships can happen when we forgive ourselves. Forgiveness is taking a risk, making myself vulnerable. The world will mock you. You will be hurt, every day. You will learn to forgive, every day. Forgiveness doesn't mean reinstatement. The undergirding of paranoia is homicide. This is how priests are murdered. Forgiveness is accepting an apology -- not "Oh, forget it." You have to celebrate forgiveness. Someone may ask forgiveness and you don't know you've been hurt. STAND WITH THAT PERSON; accept that forgiveness and you accept the person. We have to develop a readiness to forgive. LOOK SQUARELY AT THE DAMAGE THAT YOU HAVE DONE, OR HAS BEEN DONE TO YOU. "How could you do that to me?" Most hurt is not premeditated. It's just insensitivity. I forgive you -- I love you -- but your behavior has to change. We often don't call people to accountability. We withdraw instead of moving forward. We have to risk being hurt again. Forgiveness is all-or-nothing, but it takes time. "I'm the greatest sinner in the world" is an attitude of grandiosity. Unforgiveness: the breaking of the Body of Christ. "I'm sorry" is often a glib response. The real Christian response is: I need to ask your forgiveness. Sexual abuse: Get therapy, but then get into forgiveness. God accepts the fact that a person is on the way to forgiveness. "I don't deserve forgiveness." People don't believe that they're loved. A useful image: God's grace as NIAGARA FALLS. We don't come to forgiveness because we deserve.

How do we forgive?

1. Own the hurt.

2. See yourself as having been wronged.

3. Try to restore your self-esteem. "Whisper therapy." Autosuggestion. List your successes.

4. Direct the anger away from yourself and toward the other in a constructive way.

5. Role-play it. "Lord, I ask your forgiveness, and I forgive myself too." Re-framing hurtful events in a wider perspective.

How do we listen to people?

Whom do I need to forgive on this day? Don't dispense with the image that arises in your thought and prayer. It's surfacing something to be healed (even from long ago); it's not digging up something that's buried!

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