By Charlie Johnston
I have come to believe that when an eternal heavenly decree becomes operative in time, it does not usually change things all at once. Rather, it sets a process in motion which will accomplish what God intends. As it is written in Isaiah 55:10-11,
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Crops are sown on what appears to be barren land. Through wind and rain, sun and soil, sweat and mud, in time they become real food, ready for harvest to give life and strength to the one who sowed them and to many besides. We often look for some immediate transformation. The problem is that an immediate transformation changes events but does not change us. The processes God sets in motion in time have the capacity to change us, to grow our capacity for wisdom and make our hearts capable of genuine love. Spiritually, we often want the fruit while neglecting the process that will give us fruit that will last and grow. I understand. I love a spectacle as much as the next guy (well, maybe not quite as much…get enough of them and they can be rather nerve-wracking).
The mastery of any discipline comes through a process. Whether it be carpentry, masonry, judo, or any other discipline, the practitioner gains his mastery through years of study, error, sweat and toil. This changes him – and the process, itself, helps ensure that the mastery he wields is responsible, disciplined, and restrained.
One of the things that often frustrates me is that people who believe, as I do, that I receive divine instruction fitted for these times, is that they think I get the equivalent of a step-by-step instruction manual. I do not. My perception is that I get very broad direction, even if it is sometimes very specific about unfolding events. That is NOT the end of it, but the beginning. Then I must go and do tons of research, apply every gift of my mind to verifying or refuting what I have already seen, and then decide, myself (with prayer and supplication), how best to proceed, taking full personal responsibility before God and man for what I do. It sounds like an arduous process – and it is. But it is a great – and divine – safeguard against satanic deception. It also helps, over time, to give some shadowy idea of how God thinks – which is dramatically different than how we are inclined to think.
People often get enthused – and even puffed up – if they think they are receiving mystical messages. I have had over a hundred cases where people have told me that God gave them specific instructions on how I am to live my particular mission – and they know it came from God and not the devil. How could they know that? Is it not written that the devil often appears as an angel of light? Do they believe themselves to already be a greater saint than Sts. Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Padre Pio and many more who quite candidly admitted that they were deceived by the devil for a time?
I have been aware for almost 60 years that many of my daily experiences are mystical. Over 50 years of that experience has been mainly training, jerking me from pillar to post, slapping down my false assumptions and enthusiasms, and forcing me to use all the faculties God has given me to engage in active discernment – and take full responsibility for whatever I conclude, regardless of where the original inspiration came. For five full years I was given over to be sifted by the devil. It was brutal. Yet I have come to be profoundly grateful for this process. I do not go jumping down every passing rabbit hole; I am aware of how easily I can be mistaken under the best of circumstances; and it has made me largely immune to transient enthusiasms – with a deep awareness of the necessity of the prime directive that the medical profession has largely abandoned: first, do no harm.
Some imagine that I must chafe at being under the yoke of spiritual direction or subject to the overt authority of my Bishop. If you knew the reality of how things are, you would know what a relief and a comfort it is. A few years back, my Bishop gave me a tart rejoinder in a private communication. It stung a bit but was just what I needed. In the stinging aftermath of my major error, I was creeping into trying to justify myself. If you give yourself to service to the Lord, you can certainly defend yourself, but you are not to try to justify what the Lord has either decreed or allowed. He, Himself, will justify you – and if He does not, then you are to accept the opprobrium until He decrees otherwise. The legitimate spiritual authority of those I am actually subject to form the indispensable guard rails on my perilous journey.
To receive actual ongoing mystical direction is less gift than it is awesome burden. Again, you are not allowed to say whatever pops into your head and blame God for it. You must take full responsibility for it, yourself. This often means being silent on things you want to speak on and being forced to speak on things you would desperately rather be silent on. On several occasions with my director Priests, they would venture into areas that, if I was entirely candid with them, would cause them to share responsibility with me for the decisions I would make. In each case, I informed them of the danger area, noted that I would tell them if they had thought through the consequences of it, and let them decide. Thankfully, they were each sober and serious men and understood that this was not a matter for idle curiosity. In one case, a Priest and I decided that it might be best for particular reasons for him to know a certain thing. But we waited a week, so that he could discern if he could deal with it in a fully responsible and charitable manner. That was the only occasion.
I am always befuddled by the certainty of people who have had a mystical experience, wherever it came from, or have just recently begun having mystical experiences, without having gone through the brutal gauntlet of a lifetime of training, that their call now is to instruct me on what I should REALLY be doing. Some of it is objectively good. But don’t you know that in the pious, the devil proposes genuinely good things to seduce them to depart from what their authentic call is? He is not clumsy. Over the years, I developed a set of protocols that must be met before I will even consider a mystical experience to be from God – protocols that I have never said out loud, even to my Priests. Almost all such instructions from others include several major red flags that even a serious amateur should recognize. But the thrill of hearing an outside voice too often trumps any sort of prudent discernment. I will tell you this: if what God tells you is simply what you already believe, it is not God speaking to you. When God works with you, He breaks down your many false idols and comfortable assumptions, and regularly knocks you on your rear end. My son once told me (many years ago) that he was praying to have a touch of what I experienced. I begged him to stop, got so emotional I was near tears. It shook him up. I later explained that it was not that I disdained the gifts given to me, but they were the sort of gifts you accepted in prayerful hope that none you love would ever have to accept them. Dealing with mystical experiences, you come to have a great love and desire for the ordinary. The ordinary you can examine and critique, prod and poke. This is why, whatever the source, extraordinary or mystical, I am not comfortable speaking about the subject until I have fully subjected it to the ordinary means God has given each of us in such abundance, if we would only use them. That means I sometimes speak of hard things I would rather not and remain silent about things that I am initially enthused about. But wisdom will stand the test of examination – and if it will not stand examination, it is best left alone, no matter how superficially soothing.
The point is that the processes God use transform us – and unless we are first transformed, having what we think are the answers are of no avail. It would be like giving a 16-year-old kid a Corvette. It is just asking for a catastrophic crash because that sort of power is dangerous to any who have not learned how dangerous it is and how quickly it can turn on you.
It is our hearts in which God is sowing His seed now. The terrors around you, the trials so many of you are undergoing, the brutally hard work of finding some hope in the midst of an old culture collapsing around you, these are just the manifestations of God preparing the ground (your heart) to receive His word, be healed, and bear fruit that will last. Don’t you know that when it seems all is lost, you take the next right step anyway, and then God delivers you that it builds real trust in Him? Or that when He allows one of your cherished notions to be blasted to smithereens that He is calling you to let Him increase in you as your reliance on yourself decreases?
We are launched on a great pilgrimage now, a pilgrimage that will transform us if we are willing. If we accept it with all its vicissitudes, neither lording over others with what we learn nor shrinking from the stark demands it makes of us, we will be transformed – and that is the way that the Lord will transform and renew the faith and face of the earth. Pray not that God will ease the burden, but that He will strengthen our hearts to meet it. If you put away all malice and turn your face determinedly towards the Lord, doing the little you can that is right in front of you with courage and fortitude, “The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My delight is in her…” (Isaiah 62:3-5)
Let us go forth with humility, charity, patience, fortitude and resolve to bear fruit that will last – and the Lord will make us His heralds of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart and the Renewal of the world.
I hit the road later today for the next round of meetings and talks, this time mainly in the western part of the country. My next talk will be in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Wednesday, June 1. For more information or to RSVP, go here. I hope to see you there.
If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.
Find me on Gab at Charliej373 or at the CORAC group.
Find me on Twitter at @Charlie62394802
The Corps of Renewal and Charity (CORAC)
18208 Preston Rd., Ste. D9-552
Dallas, Texas 75252