I always wanted to be a counselor. I imagined myself in my office with clients seeking my “valued wisdom” and me encouraging them to the point of healthy mental status. I had some lofty dreams. When I studied psychology and sociology in college, I did well (grade-wise) and even went on to begin two different masters programs in different areas of the field. Yet, some element always seemed to be missing and so twice I withdrew from the program of study.
By day, I was already a counselor for a state office and while dealing with hundreds of clients on a very large caseload, I had hit an invisible wall and felt ineffective. I thought the masters programs I had been choosing weren’t quite the right fit for me, but deeper down I knew there was a missing peice that was bigger than that.
Shortly after I gave birth to my first child and returned to work, I was assigned the “severe mental health” caseload. On one particular day while interviewing a client who was exceptionally exasperated, she picked up the picture of my newborn baby that I had sitting near my desk and threatened both my baby’s life and mine. As shocking as it may sound to my reader, this was not particularly out of the ordinary in my job. I knew she was struggling and hurting. But now that a peice of my heart was emplanted in another tiny human being that I loved more than myself, I felt more vulnerable and frustrated than ever. I knew the answer had to do with my growing inclination to pray over and with my suffering clients. Where was their spiritual life in their suffering? Was anyone asking? Needless to say the state offices even at that time would not encourage overt prayer.
I used to volunteer for a friend who was a youth minister and he and I still talked. I called him and related my struggles. He encouraged me to apply to the diocese for a youth ministry position. Soon after, I made the transition to employment at a wonderful parish who embraced me warmly as their new youth minister. Now I had found a place where it was my job to teach others to take care of their spirits. I didn’t know I could be so happy working for a living.
While working with the kids to pay attention to their souls and spirits, I realized what was missing in my endevour to be a counselor. At no time in my paid training and college education did anyone teach or discuss the spiritual element of the human being. Our emotions, intellect and physical body are all parts of the human being, but the spiritual component is the ETERNAL human. The WILL of a human resides within its spirit and is connected to its Creator and is what continues on to eternity.
“In the depths of every person, there is a sense of the true (reason) and the good (will), acting together and striving to incorporate our emotional world to choose the good. When these three dimensions (reason, will, emotions) are not integrated, the person can be enslaved.”Fr Martin Connor; Reclaiming Love: Connecting the Head and the Heart p. 21
Enslaved. A great word to describe what I noticed when trying to address a suffering human being without considering their spirit. But how does this relate to love?
Looking at the Complete Person and How it Relates to Love: A Book Club Study
“Reclaiming Love: Connecting the Head and the Heart” by Fr Martin Connor LC is the book we (as friends and prayer warriors) decided to read to understand authentic love and the human person. We discussed love through the eyes of our Creator, and how we love others is all wrapped up in our humanness: reason, will and emotions.
With warm balmy breezes under the starry skies of Nashville, we gathered around a crackling fire and kicked off our first ten minutes chatting with the author, Fr. Martin (via zoom from meetings in New Orleans.) He introduced the genesis of the book and his plans to expand this ministry to vocations directors, formation directors, and anyone who can use it. He began to guide us toward our evening of discussion with this quote:
“In the dusk of our lives we will be judged on love alone.”St John of the Cross
Some of my favorite notes from the evening were these gems:
- We can’t reclaim love if we don’t have silence.
- The difference between guilt and shame (guilt is “I did something wrong” while shame says “I am bad.” p. 47)
- Gratitude CALMS
- PPR: training ourselves to Pause, Process and Reflect
In his years of experiences of working with married and dating couples, Fr Martin conveys that the church has always valued emotions (even if some particular teachers of the faith have not.) They are indeed a gift to the human being, but managing them through our will and intellect is important. He discussed the importance of something called “Emotional Chastity”: the habit that harmonizes the head and the heart, and directs them toward the good of the other, in order to love authentically.
One of the most tremendous things about the book is the appendices on helpful tips for silence and thought management, as well as definitions and small group discussion questions.
As if that wasn’t helpful enough, Fr Martin has short videos to explain sections of the book. He is also receptive to requests to speak and present on the topic of love, relationships and emotions. He has a new book coming out early 2021 for those who are dating and may desire guidance as to good kinds of relationships.
“Whatever you take away from tonight, there is no greater reflection for you to pray with than this: HOW CAN I LOVE BETTER? How can I love as Christ loves?”Fr Martin Connor LC
For more information more about Fr Martin Connor LC and his writings at: