From the notebooks of Annie and Tommy

July 14th, 2014

This morning we all shared our confirmation names before Maggie taught us about boundaries. The four boundaries are physical, psychological (mental and emotional), sexual, and spiritual. A boundary is a limit and they are very important in our relationships, especially intimate relationships where one gets more vulnerable the deeper the relationship gets. Some examples of physical boundaries are hitting, driving too fast, disrespecting of personal space, and so on. You can inadvertently cross someone’s boundaries or you can do it on accident. There are rigid boundaries and flexible boundaries. Boundaries exist to protect your dignity. Crossed boundaries feel uncomfortable and invasive, guilty, shaming, confusing, etc. God will never cross our boundaries. Human relationships can get stronger when boundaries are crossed and you learn more about the person and how to respect him or her. Secure relationships will survive new boundaries whereas insecure relationships will not. Some examples of mental boundaries are ignoring someone, talking over someone, ridiculing, and being condescending, reading someone’s text message on emails etc. Invalidating someone’s feelings is crossing an emotional boundary. When discerning your boundaries, you must look at how you feel in the relationship. In the afternoon session, we did skits displaying examples of crossed boundaries.

From the notebooks of Annie and Tommy

July 15th, 2014

To start off the day, Margaret continued a bit on boundaries, but then landed on the main topic for the day: abuse. She gave three stages of abuse that is the order in which a bully or someone will start to get into your head and hurt you. The first stage is attacks on one’s identity. This is any form of being scrutinized, how you dress, your family history, past mistakes, gender, and others. Scrupulous people will try to dominate you and zoom in on key aspects of your identity. They will then proceed to pick you apart. The next stage is self-betrayal, turning on yourself. In this stage, you begin to agree with the things people are saying about you. You agree that there is something wrong with you and if you don’t admit there’s anything wrong with you, then that’s proving the bully’s point even more. This is a bad stage to get to because once you start scrutinizing yourself, you become shaky on the inside. The final stage is bonding with the bully. Slowly, you will start to align yourself to the bully. You have accepted all these things that have been said about you and now you are seeing all these things wrong with other people. This is a very dangerous stage to be in because you are no longer able to set boundaries.

Often the bully is projecting his/her insecurities and problems on another person. This is the opposite of self-awareness. It is also important to not think, “I’m not fit for the Catholic church. I don’t believe x, y, and z and don’t understand almost anything about its teachings.” If you don’t know the truths about the church, go out and find them. You have to claim your development and keep developing.

“Every day go out and preach the gospel. Only use words if necessary.” –St. Francis
You do not become saints by studying sin, you become saints by studying and practicing virtues.
The one who bullies is actually telling you what he or she fears is wrong with them.

From the notebooks of Annie and Tommy

July 16th, 2014

The morning began with a great talk from Fr. Darragh about confession. He gave a great analogy linking confession to a visit to the doctor. If you don’t tell the doctor what all your ailments are, he won’t be able to give you the proper treatment. Likewise, if you don’t confess what is really on your mind, what is really troubling you, it makes it difficult to be fully healed. We distinguished the differences between venial and mortal sin.

“Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law.”

“Venial sin allows charity to subsist even though it affects or wounds it.”

For a sin to be mortal 3 conditions have to be met. It must be a grave matter, the sinner must have full knowledge he/she is sinning, and he/she must also be completely consenting to the sin.

Next, we talked about how a priest should be interacting with us and what qualities are essential for the priest to have. The priest should have proven knowledge of Christian behaviour, have experienced human affairs, have respect and sensitivity toward the sinner, must love the truth, be faithful to the magisterium of the church, must lead the sinner toward healing and full maturity with patience, and must pray and do penance for the sinner; he must entrust the sinner to the Lord’s mercy.

In terms of examining one’s conscience for confession, one who is feeling guilty about something may not actually be guilty of it. Temptation is not a sin. Sitting on a temptation and thinking about it more and more can lead toward sin. We then ended Fr. Darragh’s talk with some language for confession. Sometimes people can’t say their sins in a blunt, straightforward way. We came up with a few things to make confession a little smoother.

“I sinned against X commandment”
“It was a sin of impurity…”
“I committed a sexual sin with myself/others.”
“This is hard for me to say, but…”
“I’m really embarrassed about…”

After a short break, we reconvened and Anne spoke to us about the four vocations: the consecrated single life, religious life, married, and clergy. She emphasized that we are not a church of “in” and “out”. Everyone has a place for them in the church. She then touched on how we should not underestimate the single life. Chastity is a gift and celibacy is a gift that a man or woman gives to the church.

Next, we had a little interactive time where we all named things we had seen in good marriages. A few of them are sharing responsibilities, friendship, being at ease with each other, being light-hearted, having a sense of humour, and mutual respect. Some others are having good communication, trust, common beliefs, discipline, willingness for sacrifice, resiliency, and maturity. While all these things are helpful in creating great marriages, it must be understood that no marriage is perfect and all marriages require sacrifice and hard work.

From the notebooks of Annie and Tommy

July 17th, 2014

Fr. Darragh opened the class this morning with the fifth spiritual practice of the apostolate. “We will follow the example of Jesus Christ as set out in the holy scripture, treating all others with his patience and kindness.” He continued by saying that the mission of the church is universal and while we do not always receive kindness from others, we must be able to absorb a certain amount of unkindness. We must examine our hearts, our wounds; self-awareness is key. Intentions are important.

Anne spoke afterwards about evangelization. We talked about the two different types of evangelization, indirect and direct, and how we act around others affects how they experience Catholicism and the church. The next part of Anne’s talk was about the undefended life. While we are definitely allowed to feel hurt and be offended at distortions spoken to us about the church, we shouldn’t care what others think about us. We must keep our eyes on the will of the Father. Other people have distorted the church, let’s not be one of them. The undefended life is a free life and it is the kind of life Jesus lived

The ending of the class session was an activity where we picked one or a few of our favourite things about the church and put them creatively on display on the front porch of a house. The front porch of a person’s house is a great place for people to congregate. We wanted our front porches to be welcoming with our favourite parts of the church. Some of the important things we put on our front porches were visual representations of saints, confession, joyfulness, miracles, angels, love, learning, simplicity, scripture, community, Heaven, Our Lady, music, mercy, passion, and the Eucharist.


From the notebooks of Annie and Tommy
July 11th, 2014

Dr. Mark Miravalle was our first speaker. There was a radio commentator who said, “Life down here is a double tennis game, you and Jesus against the rest of the world.” Mark found this inaccurate, because it discounts the rest of the Church, that is to say the Father, the Holy Spirit, Mary, the Angels, the Saints, and the lay people of the Church. The Church is a massive family and we have many spiritual resources at our disposal. Our team is far larger and far more powerful than that of evil. He went through the four dogmas and the fifth doctrine about Mary. The first dogma was that Mary is the mother of God. She gave flesh to the word; she gave birth to our creator. The second dogma is stating her perpetual virginity before and after the birth of Christ. The third is the Immaculate Conception, Mary was conceived without sin. The fourth dogma is Our Lady’s assumption into Heaven, body and soul. The fifth doctrine is that Mary is our spiritual mother because she pleads for, suffers for, and nourishes her children.

Dr. Mark then spoke to us about Joseph, the foster father of Christ. Because of his great holiness on earth, the intercessory power of St. Joseph is almost omnipotent. St. Joseph is the guardian, protector, and spiritual father of Jesus and of us all. St. Teresa of Avila poses a challenge to us: go to St. Joseph with our greatest needs. He is the patron of the universal church and the patron saint of a happy death.

Mark’s next talk was on angels. Angels are spiritual persons without bodies. To be a person you need an intellect and a will. The intellect of angels is direct and immediate because their intellect doesn’t pass through material. They can’t sin and be forgiven like we can; their decisions are permanent. Angels move by exerting their influence in a particular location. They had to pass a test given by God before receiving the beatific vision. The test was the revealing of the plan of the incarnation. The angels who rejected this test went with Lucifer to Hell and are known as the fallen angels. The angels who said yes to God received the beatific vision and remain with God in Heaven forever. Each angel is a species unto himself. They are radically unique beings. There are three hierarchies of angels and each hierarchy has three choirs. The first hierarchy consists of the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. These angels are dedicated to the adoration of God. The middle hierarchy consists of the Dominions, the Virtues, and the Powers. This hierarchy is dedicated to the governance of the universe and the cosmos. The third hierarchy consists of the Principalities, the Archangels, and the guardian angels. These are principally concerned with the affairs of humanity.

The practice of goodness is accompanied by spontaneous spiritual joy and moral beauty. Likewise, truth carries with it the joy and splendor of spiritual beauty. Truth is beautiful in itself. ~ CCC 2500

From the notebooks of Annie and Tommy

July 14th, 2014

This morning we all shared our confirmation names before Maggie taught us about boundaries. The four boundaries are physical, psychological (mental and emotional), sexual, and spiritual. A boundary is a limit and they are very important in our relationships, especially intimate relationships where one gets more vulnerable the deeper the relationship gets. Some examples of physical boundaries are hitting, driving too fast, disrespecting of personal space, and so on. You can inadvertently cross someone’s boundaries or you can do it on accident. There are rigid boundaries and flexible boundaries. Boundaries exist to protect your dignity. Crossed boundaries feel uncomfortable and invasive, guilty, shaming, confusing, etc. God will never cross our boundaries. Human relationships can get stronger when boundaries are crossed and you learn more about the person. Secure relationships will survive new boundaries whereas insecure relationships will not. Some examples of mental boundaries are ignoring someone, talking over someone, ridiculing, and being condescending, and so on. Invalidating someone’s feelings is crossing an emotional boundary. When discerning your boundaries, you must look at how you feel in the relationship. In the afternoon session, we did skits displaying examples of crossed boundaries.


From the notebooks of Tommy and Annie

July 8th, 2014

    Margaret gave the first talk of the morning. The focus of her talk was on increasing self-awareness and challenging negative beliefs. It is necessary that a child fall while learning to walk; the same is true of relationships and life experiences.Mentally framing things positively rather than negatively, accesses the more mature part of our brains. This helps us to relate to others from our secure selves rather than our wounded selves.  Contemplative prayer is neuroscientifically proven to make us more compassionate towards ourselves and others.. Self-awareness involves undersandign  your wounds and thereby creating authentic relatiionships . Self-awareness involves three A’s: awareness, acceptance, and action. To be self-conscious is not the same as being aware because it is not grounded in self.


From the notebooks of Annie and Tommy

July 9th, 2014

    Margaret opened with a recap of yesterday’s lesson on self-awareness and went more in depth on the topic. The first part of self-awareness is awareness in which the individual must tune into their body and their thoughts and feelings. The second part is acceptance. When you know what your feelings are, you have to accept that you have them. Two ways that we fail to accept our feelings are denial and judgement. The third part is action. You have two choices on how to respond to your emotions once you are aware and accepting of them. Self-awareness helps you to challenge your distorted beliefs and make different choices.


From the notebooks of Annie and Tommy

July 10th, 2014

    This morning, the painting of Our Lady, Queen of the Church arrived from Poland with artist Janusz Antosz. Also, newly arrived this morning was Dr. Mark Miravalle. He spoke to us about Our Lady Queen of the Church, specifically the queenship of Mary and her role in the church as queen mother. Jesus is the king of the universe, as his mother is the queen. Her intercession is as unlimited as her son’s kingdom. The role of mother by its very nature is also the role of a mediator. Mothers mediate between God and their children. Mary mediated the mediator, Christ, to the world. As Mother Teresa said, “No Mary, no Jesus.” A good mother does three things: suffers for her children, nourishes her children, and intercedes for her children. Mary does all of these things for every one of us. She is called to be the Co-redemptrix with Jesus. She was spiritually crucified with her son. As the Immaculate Conception, she would have not experienced any effects of the fall, including pain from childbirth and did not even entertain uncharitable thoughts to her son’s killers. Dr. Mark asked us to imagine that the person we loved most in the world was in the place of Jesus during his crucifixion. Jesus gave us his mother to be our mother and the mother of His church as his last act before dying upon the cross. In this way she became the mediatrix of all graces from Christ to the world. Mary is the queen of the Atheists, of the Agnostics, of the entire world.  The symbolism of the painting was discussed and the floor opened for questions.


From the notebooks of Tommy and Annie

July 4th, 2014

This morning we had guest speaker Fr. Finbar Lynch and Eileen talk to us about prayer and spiritual guidance. In order to have a good prayer life we must have discipline and we must have an environment where:

Persons are more valued than things.
There is room for growth and development.
There is space for suffering.
There is depth.

If you spend your life trying to escape suffering, you will never have peace. Jesus enables us to take up our crosses. Prayer is right from the beginning, it has already begun within us, before we are even aware of it. There are six steps involved in the immediate preparation for prayer. The first step involves self-awareness. You can approach God the same way you approach a friend, but God knows everything, which helps you to approach yourself. Step two is presence to God, in which one looks towards God and enters into His gaze. In step three, one asks for the grace to get one’s basic focus right, which is to serve and praise God. Step four is using one’s imagination to evoke God. One composes a picture as to compose oneself. In step five, I focus my desire and ask God for what I need. In the last step, I move from reflecting to relating.

In the second part of the afternoon, Eileen guided us in a prayer experience, incorporating the bible story of blind Bartimaeus. Afterwards, we shared our experiences with each other or personally reviewed them with ourselves.

In the afternoon, after lunch, Fr. Stefan gave a presentation. We discussed the different places where we receive our ideas about God. For example: nature, our parents, the bible, culture and society, and suffering. We then discussed what our ideas of God are: omnipotent, loving, compassionate, harsh, condemning, pure, one, and many others. Fr. Stephen then talked about his own experience with coming to know God the father and used the volumes throughout his presentation.

From the notebooks of Tommy and Annie

July 7th, 2014

This morning, Fr. Darragh talked about the first spiritual practice of the lay apostolate of Jesus Christ, the Returning King. The first spiritual practice is the daily offering of the Allegiance prayer, the morning offering, and the prayer for the Holy Father. He told us to think of spirituality from God’s perspective and told a story about mother’s unconditional love for her daughter, where the mother takes delight in the daughter’s seemingly worthless gift of a stemless daisy. This was a metaphor for God’s delight with our offerings to him. We talked about the small offerings we make to God each day: fasting, doing homework, chores, small annoyances in people, illness, and so on. There is a reciprocal “attitude of gratitude” between God and us when we are offering him our sufferings. The phrase “offer it up” must be taken lovingly and not the impatient way we are prone to using. Fr. Darragh then took us through the Catechism’s passages on sacrifice and on the role of all believers as a priestly people. The highest sacrifice is a humble contrite heart, as highlighted in Psalm 51. Purity of our intentions and actions is a necessary component to our offerings. To close, Fr. Darragh had a student exercise in which everyone said the first word that came into their mind when they heard the word “purity”.

“The eyes of the slave are on the hands of the master.”

In the afternoon, Anne gave the second talk, beginning with everyone’s reactions to the word “purity”. Purity nowadays is frequently associated with sexuality. We must worry less about sexual sins and sexual purity. Anne told a story about a young, severely autistic boy comforting a crying six year old girl and told us to think about this type of purity instead of jumping to sexual purity. She meant purity of heart and actions. She introduced dualistic thinking in which people are believed to be either good or bad, versus mature thinking where it is believed that people are both good and bad. Jesus doesn’t love you like you are an obligation, He can’t help but love you; he delights in you. You should likewise delight in others and yourself. Anne talked about our consciences as our sanctuaries as described in the Catechism and had us do an exercise in which we listed five good things we did in the past week. This was to help us focus more on what we are doing right and to do more of it, instead of getting bogged down by our sins. We must never disconnect our sins from our human natures. We must have hope for ourselves and for others. We are all involved in circles of service and must pipe Christ out to the world, just like the Hoover Dam pipes water to places that need it. In our consciences we must ask ourselves how we are impacting others. Are we offering Christ or our wounded self to others? As the final part of this class period, we got into groups and acted out skits representing what these two different scenarios would look like, presenting Christ or our wounds.

July 3rd, 2014 SOH Day 3 (Activity)

To start off our class period, we had an activity. Everyone made a sign that said, “I am imperfect.” This was to show how we can be liberated by the awareness of our imperfection. Only God can be perfect. It is an unreachable goal and we know that while we will not achieve the perfection of God, we do strive to be like Him.

The next thing we talked about was finding the right person and if we want to find the right person, we must become the right person. As a class, we made a list of qualities that we would like our potential spouses to have. At the end of the exercise, we had to ask ourselves if we possessed those same traits. Some of the qualities included trustworthy, honest, non-judgemental, conversational, humorous, joyful, patient and kind.

The second part of our class today was Maggie speaking on brain basics, part two. We explored, in more depth, the roles of the limbic system and the neo-cortex. The anterior cingulate is the part of the brain known as the inner negotiator; it negotiates between the limbic system and the neo-cortex and its function can be compromised by stress or trauma. Staying in the limbic system for long periods can lead to negative patterns in thinking and behaving. It is extremely difficult to know God while in the limbic mind-set. Maggie’s talk was interspersed with catechism quotes given by Fr. Darragh relating to the morality of the passions. In the limbic system, it is hard to moderately express desires without overexpressing or under-expressing them. This can lead to aggression, passive aggression, and anger, all of which can have serious consequences in relationships. While acting and thinking out of the neo-cortex, the passions can be governed with the intellect and will. This allows for healthy navigation of relationships. Reinforcement of negative beliefs or thoughts will lead to negative choices or actions, which lead to negative results or outcomes. This reinforces the original negative belief or thought, meaning, this can become of cycle. We need to strive for self-awareness and positivity.

The last part of class, Fr. Darragh spoke more about the passions, using the catechism as the learning tool. He spoke to us about diminished culpability. Culpability depends on three factors: how free we are in the action, the seriousness of the matter, and how much we understand what we are doing as right or wrong. The two basic emotions are love and fear and all the rest stem from these two. The catechism says that emotions are a natural component of the human psyche. Love is an attraction and a desire for goodness.

July 1st, 2014 School of Holiness  Day 1

From the notebooks of Annie and Tommy

The first talk today was given by Anne. Every time period in church history has challenges and one which we are currently facing is mind pollution. By comparison, in the early 1900’s entertainment was not readily available in the way it is today. Today, we are flooded with stimuli which distract us from our spiritual journey. Some symptoms of mind pollution can be unruly thoughts, impulsivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and also negative thinking. Just as we wouldn’t put a poisonous substance in our bodies, we shouldn’t put poisonous things in our minds. To combat mind pollution, we can make a commitment to silence and contemplative prayer in our day to day lives.

We talked about co-responsibility as described in Christifideles Laici, meaning the laity is co-responsible along with clergy. Co-responsibility, when fully integrated, will lead to renewal of the church. Pastores Dabo Vobis is an apostolic exhortation which outlines formation for priests and includes human formation, spiritual formation, academic formation and then pastoral formation. We, the lay people, if we are to become co-responsible, also need formation and we, the laity, require human development in order to effectively be formed spiritually.

The next topic we covered was “climbing the mountain” in terms of our spiritual journey. We must remember, while climbing, that the Lord takes delight in his people. As such, the Lord delights in each one of us, even though we are imperfect. We had an in-class exercise where we listed things that helped us climb the mountain such as humility, self-acceptance, fellowship, purity, love, and trust, silence, contemplative prayer. We also discussed things that hold us back from climbing the mountain: envy, hatred, addictions, fear, and shame.

Margaret reminded us that jealousy and even envy can be experienced by all of us and that gratitude is the antidote for envy.

Anne instructed us to think about our prayer lives and what they should look like. Anne finished by saying, “If you are concentrating on hating the darkness, you may grow in hate. If you concentrate on loving the light, you will grow in love.”

-Mind pollution is a serious challenge we face today.
-We must fill our minds and souls with silence and prayer, not with things that poison it.
-Co-responsibility of the laity and the clergy will lead to renewal of the church.
-The Lord takes delight in his people.
-Climbing the mountain of holiness will help us to grow in humility, acceptance of self and others, fellowship, purity, love, and trust.
-Envy, hatred, addictions, fear, and shame hold us back from reaching the top of the mountain.
-“If you hate the darkness, you will grow in hate. If you love the light, you will grow in love.”

Fr. Darragh Connolly today has referenced Gaudium et Spes (below)

§5. Today’s spiritual agitation and the changing conditions of life are part of a broader and deeper revolution. As a result of the latter, intellectual formation is ever increasingly based on the mathematical and natural sciences and on those dealing with man himself, while in the practical order the technology which stems from these sciences takes on mounting importance.

This scientific spirit has a new kind of impact on the cultural sphere and on modes of thought. Technology is now transforming the face of the earth, and is already trying to master outer space. To a certain extent, the human intellect is also broadening its dominion over time: over the past by means of historical knowledge; over the future, by the art of projecting and by planning.

Advances in biology, psychology, and the social sciences not only bring men hope of improved self-knowledge; in conjunction with technical methods, they are helping men exert direct influence on the life of social groups.

At the same time, the human race is giving steadily-increasing thought to forecasting and regulating its own population growth. History itself speeds along on so rapid a course that an individual person can scarcely keep abreast of it. The destiny of the human community has become all of a piece, where once the various groups of men had a kind of private history of their own.

Thus, the human race has passed from a rather static concept of reality to a more dynamic, evolutionary one. In consequence there has arisen a new series of problems, a series as numerous as can be, calling for efforts of analysis and synthesis.


Margaret, Psychotherapist and Human Development, notes below:

Empirically speaking those who are idealistically rigid tend towards being:


-threatened by those who do not believe exactly the same as they do


-close minded

-unable to tolerate ambiguity, mystery, or not knowing

-having negative perceptions of others

– intolerant of others beliefs, aggressive, or smug towards them




Charactersitics of less mature thinkers:


-a need for certainty and control

-limited recognition of complexity and and an inability to incorporate opposites

-a lack of openess to unconscious processes

-the Beleif that all the important information necessary to make a decision is apparent

-lower empathic abilities

-less mature psychological defences

-more denial, blame, and projection

-less humour, sublimation, and suppression (Cozolino 213:2014)



Charactersitics of Mature thinkers


-increased recognition of complexity and ability to incorporate opposites

-an understanding that not all important information is apparent

-an increased openess to unconscious processes

-more information gathering

-less concern about being in control

-an ability to tolerate personal limitations and ignorance

-more realistic expectations and forgiveness of others

-increased empathy and maintained connectedness

-more mature psychological defences

-less denial, blame, and projection…

-more humour

Ability to tolerate their strong emotions without necessarily taking action. (Cozolino, 214:2014)



-we need mature minds from which to express our spirituality

-trauma and Woundedness leads to immature thinking

-we work on developing mature thinking in which to contemplate ourselves, others, and God

-people who practice contemplative prayer are proven to be able to generate compassion in situations in which almost nobody else can

-three active relationships: 1) with ourselves (self-awareness) 2) with others-friends, family, colleagues, etc 3) with God

-we contemplate all of these Realtionships