Once a month, I host a book reading club for Catholic homeschooling moms in my home. I like to use these monthly meetings as an excuse to try out new recipes on those gathered under my roof. If the response is favorable, I then make the dish for my family.
Several weeks ago, we gathered around my dining room table to discuss a book entitled Christian Self-Mastery while shoving Moussaka into our mouths and drinking coffee that was so strong it could wake up the dead.
We wanted to read a book that would help us in the area of the thought life, since some of us in the group were having a hard time in this area. Truth be told, there are times when my own thought life can be an absolute mess. If I think two positive thoughts in a row, my brain gets a cramp.
Christian Self-Mastery was written by a Fr. Basil Maturin. Father Maturin was convinced that in order to master one’s life and bring it under subjection to God, one had to learn how to master one’s thoughts.
He taught that the life of man is, above all things, a mental life. He counseled that we can never rid ourselves of our thoughts, for our thoughts are the constant companions of our mind. Unlike animals, we are not mere creatures of our outward circumstances; we are the creatures of our thoughts, for our thoughts are far more closer to us than any external thing.
Our outward circumstances are not what affect us; it is the thoughts that we entertain in the midst of those circumstances that will determine if we will rise or fall. Father Maturin insisted that our outward circumstances do not touch the soul, but our thoughts do.
According to Fr. Maturin, each time we find ourselves in certain circumstances, whether good or bad, the thoughts of our mind quickly gather around the soul, hoping for entrance. But we are the ones who choose which thoughts will enter the sanctuary of the soul and which ones will be rejected and sent away.
For example, using Father Maturin’s analogy, let’s suppose that some sort of trouble or difficulty arises in your life. As soon as the hardship hits, an invisible door to your soul opens up through that trouble. As soon as the door is opened, a huge crowd of negative, unhealthy thoughts all gather around the door: anger, rebellion, bitterness, resentment, discontent.
Lost in the Crowd
At the same time, thoughts of penitence, acceptance, and the example of Our Lord and Our Lady also surface in the crowd of thoughts. All of these thoughts (good and bad) swarm around the soul and clamor for a hearing, desperately hoping for entrance into the soul. Entrance into the soul is very important, for once there, those thoughts will guide us and determine our behavior, outlook on life, and which path we will take.
The soul must choose among this crowd of thoughts which ones it will receive and which ones it will reject, and by that choice, the soul rises or falls. One person chooses thoughts that heal, encourage, inspire, and strengthen him; another chooses thoughts that stir him to bitterness, anxiety, fear, or revolt.
According to Father Maturin, the contrast between our outward circumstances and the inward thought choices that we make is often startling: the circumstances which we think will produce good results sometimes produce the very reverse, and the circumstances that we consider evil or unpleasant are sometimes the source of great spiritual blessings. It all depends upon which thoughts we chose to allow into the soul when we found ourselves in those circumstances.
Whether we want to accept this truth or not, our thoughts are the secret, unseen companions of our soul. They affect our whole view of God, men, and the things which take place around us. Everything that we experience or that goes on around us is interpreted by these invisible companions. If our thoughts aren’t right, this will create a lot of problems.
Let’s suppose that you send an email to someone on a Monday. By Wednesday, you still haven’t heard from them. Immediately, a crowd of thoughts rush out of your mind and gather before the open door of your soul. Some of the thoughts are negative: So and So is mad at me; I must be insignificant in the life of So and So; it’s nice to see where I rate in So and So’s life; So and So is getting tired of receiving emails from me; I’m through with So and So! But there are also healthy thoughts in the crowd as well, thoughts that counsel patience, understanding, and concern that perhaps something is wrong with So and So, which is why he or she has not been able to get back to you right away.
Did you ever receive the wrong thoughts and then, to make matters worse, act on those wrong thoughts? Imagine firing off an angry email to the person who did not respond to you, only to find out one week later that his or her computer had broken down, or that he had been ill and wasn’t able to go on the computer for a week. Open mouth, insert foot.
This is a simple, yet powerful, illustration of the power of our thoughts in interpreting what goes on around us, what we experience, and most of all, how we will respond to those experiences.
The thoughts that we choose as our companions in life are the key to the way we interpret life all around us. By simply learning how to change our thoughts, we can change the entire course of our lives. It’s not about changing our circumstances; it’s about changing the companions that we walk with on the road, and those companions are our thoughts.
In his letter to the Philippian Church, St. Paul counseled them as follows: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” [Php 4:8]
St. Paul knew the power of the thought life. The mind never rests; it is constantly working. The mind will feed upon whatever food is given it.
Father Maturin insisted that a poor thought life is the result of a lack of discipline. He counseled that a mind that is constantly fed on healthy and nourishing food will turn away from poison, no matter how daintily served.
Many who profess to be followers of Christ give no thought whatsoever to what they expose themselves to in the way of music, literature, movies, or television programming. These things affect the way that we think; they mold our outlook on life, and even cause us to become desensitized to things that are offensive to God. Therefore, we must be careful about what we allow to enter our minds, for when situations occur in our lives, the mind will unleash every unhealthy thought that entered it through that music, literature, movie, or TV program.
The lives that we are living today are the result of thoughts that entered the soul yesterday.
- 2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 chopped onion
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup oil
Cook the onion in ¼ cup oil in a skillet until golden brown. Add the meat, half of the salt, the pepper, and the paprika. Fry until the meat gets brown. Pour the meat mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the potatoes, the other ½ tablespoon of salt, and mix well.
Pour the remaining ¼ cup olive in a casserole pan. Add the meat and potato mixture to the casserole. Bake uncovered about 40 minutes at 425 degrees.
Mix the eggs and the milk. Pour on top. Cook for another 15 minutes until the top turns brownish.