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church ceiling painted with Angels

You're No Angel, But Neither Am I  

January 31, 20236 min read

You're No Angel, But Neither Am I

Church ceiling with paintings of Angel

Let nothing disturb you. 
Let nothing frighten you. 
All things are passing away. 
God never changes. 
Patience obtains all things. 
Whoever has God lacks nothing. 
God alone suffices.

This short prayer/poem by St. Teresa of Avila hits the nail on the head as she reveals the reality of God's providence and pervasive presence in our lives. In it, she encourages us to recognize that no matter what, all truly will be well and that all we truly need is God - the only One who never changes. 

These ideas - these spiritual realities - can be easy to intellectually connect with.

Spiritual Truths Often Fail to Transform Us

We can hear and think about the idea intellectually because our spiritual nature and the intellectual part of our personhood are real. Our ability to think abstractly and connect to abstract ideas is possible because we have a spiritual dimension.

So you can read those words and - in this present moment - think “Yes! This is it! This is True, this is Good, and this is Beautiful. All I truly need is God. I can let go of my fears and rest in His presence.”

But after you finish reading this article and go back to your life, preparing dinner or taking care of your kids or finishing your work, or talking to a friend ... what happens? 

Have the words changed you?

Do you now have complete trust in God because you read and understood as true the words that you need never let anything disturb or frighten you again? 

Unfortunately, probably not. And I’d bet that you’ve probably experienced this at other times in your life too.

Maybe after hearing an inspiring homily or returning from a wonderful retreat, you’re surprised to discover it doesn’t translate into your daily life. 

Why don’t the spiritual realities you read about or hear about ... change you?

There's a reason, and it has something to do with the fact that you and I are not angels.

Let’s unpack this.

Catholic Mindfulness Virtual Retreat course, less anxiety, peaceful mind

Pretend for a moment that you are an angel. Do you know that as a 100% purely spiritual being, you could abstract a spiritual reality and it would immediately change you?

But the fact is…you’re no angel. Neither am I. We aren’t just spiritual beings. Rather, we’re human beings, which means we have both a spirit and a body

So an abstract spiritual reality on its own isn’t enough to change us; it has to be implemented and integrated into our bodies!

At this point, you may think “Got it, Dr. Greg. I may not be an angel, but I’m no Cartesian Dualist either. I know I have both a body and a soul.”

But hang with me here. 

Because even though we're not Cartesian Dualists, we've drunk the “Kool-Aid” of a dualistic culture and implicitly believed the lie that all that matters is what we say and believe and what is true spiritually or intellectually for us. 

In my particular expertise, I look at a very specific part of the body: the brain. In the brain, we have neurological dimensions and hormones and biochemical processes that are happening which cause certain pathways to develop over time. 

It's one of the reasons why you can read a beautiful prayer, hear an inspiring homily, or go on a wonderful retreat… and then not have it actually be effective in your life.

It's why it can feel like you're banging against the same doors, confessing the same sin, struggling with the same burdens - over and over and over and over again.

We're completely ignoring our bodily reality!

Body-Spirit Integration

If we don't put into practice the things that can change our brains, then no matter what we're doing to change our spiritual life, it’s going to be ineffective in helping us “let nothing frighten or disturb" us - in feeling safe and in trusting that "God alone suffices."

If we want to actually grow and change and experientially feel the peace that Christ has promised us, we can’t continue to ignore our bodies.  

The fact of the matter is that God has infinite mercy and compassion for us. 

And He wants us to take that in - all of us - in our body and spirit. But because we've over-spiritualized our human reality, we are missing out on experiencing the actual compassion and love and mercy from God.

God entered into our humanity, taking on flesh so that He could give us His love and meet us where we are - in our humanity. Not as angels but as humans, body and spirit. 

The only way to truly receive the mercy that He has for us is through our humanity!

The whole project of integration is bringing together the psychological realities of what's happening in the brain, what's happening with our hormone systems, understanding the anxiety response, why we start ruminating and fearing what's going to happen later, or the negative narratives that are in our brains that we end up ruminating over in our minds - all those things are happening as a result of an interaction between our spirit and our bodies. 

This is exactly why I wrote the book The Mindful Catholic! It’s what Catholic mindfulness is actually all about: changing our brains so as to increase our peace and trust in God.

The ultimate culmination of Catholic mindfulness is a way to understand how we are not yet fully receiving the mercy of God, and how we are not yet actually, fully living in love. 

The only way to actually experience healing is through an integration of our spirit and our body. The spirit matters! But also, the body matters. Biology matters. This is why you don’t just need to go to confession or just need to have a spiritual director or just need to pray more to actually feel better about yourself and your life.

It's never been either/or in the whole history of the Church, and we need to heal the rift that’s been created by a dualistic culture between our spirit and our body. 

This is what all of our services and resources are geared towards! And it’s just one of the fruits of a truly Catholic anthropology. 

So whether it’s reading The Mindful Catholic, taking part in the Catholic Mindfulness Virtual Retreat, or working with one of the Mentors in our IDDM program, you can be assured that everything we offer is grounded in this Catholic anthropology and blueprint of the human person!

Catholic Mindfulness book by Dr. Greg Bottaro founder of CatholicPsych Institute

If you like this article check these other related posts

catholic psychologydr. greg bottarocatholic mindfulnessSt. Teresa of Avila's PrayerSpiritual Truthsbody-spirit integration
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