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Sending Books to the Future

July 7, AD2017 18 Comments

mary, jesus, cross, marian, altarTwenty-five years ago, I started unknowingly sending to my parents, from one thousand miles away, the actual books I would use for my future spiritual renewal.

The New Evangelization

At that earlier time, my intention was simply to share with Mom and Dad the beauty and majesty of the New Evangelization fermenting within the Catholic Church. The Church had come a long way since the extensive pre-Vatican II era, the period in which my devout parents had been raised.

I was fascinated, then and now, with the person and philosophy of St. Pope John Paul II, and others, like St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Maximillian Kolbe, and St. Louis de Montfort. I had great hope for the future of the Church because of these Christ-like men and women whose saintly witness took root in a post-modern era when many were predicting the Church’s demise. I believed these writings would enrich the already-strong faith of my parents, which had been the bedrock for my later ordination to the married permanent diaconate.

As if to test God’s infinite reach and desire for me, I subsequently moved further five-thousand miles away from my parents’ home to the remote and distant Big Island of Hawaii. We had lost an adult child in Kansas City and our remaining children wanted to be as far away from Kansas City as possible.

Fact: There is no place in the United States so distant to Kansas City than the Big Island.

My wife and I later followed our children to Hawaii to maintain the familial bonds that had been strained by the death of our son. The imagery and words of Psalm 139 would have presciently applied to me in that remote and distant place:

“Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? …If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea, even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast” (Psalm 139: 7, 9-10).

Then, in God’s mysterious plan, and at the epochal age of 65, I experienced an inner call to return home. My ninety-year-old Dad, in the middle stages of dementia, needed someone to care for him. I was available, so I arranged with my wife and children the possibility I might be gone for several or more months, and took a one-way flight to the East Coast.

When I arrived at my parents’ house, I discovered all of the books I had earlier sent now carefully collected by Mom in a bookstand by my bed.

Even though I had read these same books twenty-five years ago, some even two times, I voraciously gorged on them once again. I found concepts and ideas which I had entirely missed in earlier readings.

True Devotion to Mary

The most compelling of these overlooked concepts concerned St. Louis de Montfort’s theological comparison of the Blessed Mother’s origin as the pure and shameless new Garden of Eden. I had never understood the sublime and mystical origins of our Blessed Mother within such an expansive and mystical theological framework.

According to de Montfort in True Devotion to Mary, Jesus Christ was conceived within this garden of the “paradise” of Mary’s immaculate personhood. This sense of awesome conception stood in stark contrast to the misconceptions of Adam and Eve in the “original” Garden of Eden. Jesus was thus the real Fruit of Life that had existed from all eternity through the true Tree of Life.

Intriguingly, St. de Montfort also postulated that the dreaded Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the purveyor of death and darkness as originally expressed in Genesis 3, became in the paradise of Mary, and through the merits and grace of Jesus, the ultimate harbinger of true light for the entirety of creation and all humankind (True Devotion to Mary, sec. 261).

I was stunned. I had never before understood this “Tree business” in the Book of Genesis. I had even considered it to be symbolic of some ancient Semitic archetype, perhaps even Jungian or psychological, in derivation.

I knew that we were all originally intended to partake of the Tree of Life through Adam. But Adam first had to be formed in obedience to God and NOT eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so that he and Eve (and the rest of us) would not have to “taste” death.

Could this be really the pivotal insight that I had been so desperate to understand in my flight from home, in my tortuous depression and in my fixation on the banality of blaming and judging others? I had tasted the fruits of death and sin, and could not abandon my search for the knowledge of evil by surrendering myself fully to the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus.

Question: Could I fully accept that I no longer needed to understand and know evil?

Follow-up Question: Could I thereby opt-out of my implicit and compulsive participation in “knowing evil” in the rampant culture of death expressed by darkness in the current world situation?

I found myself compelled by grace to stop reading the book and to think carefully about what this meant for me. Not only did the Book of Genesis as envisioned by St. de Montfort reveal the pivotal role of Mary in my relationship with Jesus, it also illuminated God’s original plan for me, through Jesus and Mary, and for each one of us.

I had previously accepted and even pretended that my lifelong compulsion to know and understand evil was essential to my spiritual life.

Absurd (but real) Question: How could I know the truth if I did not know evil?

I could see now that my compulsion derived from disobedience, the original sin of all humankind, and from distancing myself from my true home. Moreover, this particular sinful perversion, which had corrupted my personal will, had even obstructed me in my desire to live a more holy and true relationship with Jesus!

Ah-Hah: I suddenly realized I had been compromised! I felt that I had let the demonic master of deceit burrow like a mole deep into my dignity and personhood to taint my every desire and action with a web of lies. Even in what I thought were my purest motives, I had let myself be sidetracked by spiritual ambition and pride.

I remembered that this very topic had formed the starting point for St. John Paul’s collection of talks given to Blessed Pope Paul VI and his papal co-workers as part of their Lenten retreat in 1976 (entitled Sign of Contradiction). Without the proper understanding of our origins in Genesis, then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla explained “….it becomes extremely difficult – if not impossible – to understand man and the world” (p. 24).

Right on! I had been researching relentlessly my family history for intergenerational sins and bondages. I had traced a family history of depression and suicidal ideation extending back five generations.

But I did not need to obsess about that so much anymore now that I had uncovered my true origin in the new Garden of Eden of Mary. In that Garden, the Tree of Life bears the sensational fruit of Jesus, true God and true man, Wisdom and Knowledge incarnate.

And why is this so important in this current era for the Church and world?

Cardinal Wojtyla noted:

“Perhaps because humanity as a whole is uncovering and clarifying with ever greater thoroughness the origins of man’s existence on earth. And perhaps, too, because today we are on the threshold of a new eschatology (pp. 24-25).”

That new eschatology is, without a doubt, the New Evangelization, prophesized by St. de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Pope Paul VI and St. Pope John Paul II. This New Evangelization has been pre-ordained to transform the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil into a light for all the nations.

According to St. de Montfort, this transformation is imminent and available to us all, particularly in Jesus through Mary.

I can now rethink how I will approach the remainder of my life. In this light, the words of the dishonest but prudent steward praised by Jesus in Luke 16: 3-4 seared into my thinking: “I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do.”

What I shall do is to care for my family and God’s little ones, the poor and needy, with a spirit of humility and as a merciful steward of peace and joy. I will not pursue what is beyond my understanding, what is evil in Your sight, O Lord.

Books to the future are like prayers. They enter eternity through the Incarnate Word of Life and return to us in God’s plan when we need them most!

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Deacon Jim Dougherty is a married permanent deacon for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) serving in the Diocese of Honolulu. Dougherty has a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies. For 27 years, he served as executive director of the DeLaSalle Education Center in Kansas City, Missouri, a national model of excellence in education for central-city high school students. Dougherty has recently published a spiritual memoir about his son’s death entitled: A Place for Us to Meet. The book is available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1549858076/ He and Karol have been married 43 years and have four children and six grandchildren.

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