Never have we lived in a world with so much information, and with that, such easy access to almost any information that we desire. Such information can be the most sublime and noble, but on the other hand, it can be the most dirty and degrading. On par with the plethora of information is the amount of confusion.
Given this reality, it is incumbent upon all of us, and especially parents in their role as educators of their children, to strive to provide a beneficial climate where our minds can grow in a wholesome manner. If you like, the ideal is Jesus after Mary and Joseph found Him in the Temple following a sorrowful search. “For His part, Jesus grew in wisdom, knowledge and grace before God and man.” (Lk. 2:52)
With the great gift that God has given to us, may we, like Jesus grow in wisdom, knowledge and grace before God and men. The mind that God has freely given to us, we must perceive as a real treasure, the pearl of infinite price. However, the devil, the flesh and the world are indeed fierce competitors always on the prowl in their attempt to tarnish, pollute and corrupt the mind that God has bestowed upon us.
This being the case, let us offer a few concrete suggestions on how we can cultivate our intellectual gifts.
1. Vigilance of the Eyes
There is a very appropriate maxim: “The eyes are the mirror of the soul.” Along the same lines: “The thought is the father of the deed.” Both of these maxims have a common thread—namely: how we make use of our eyes can have a huge impact on the formation of our mind. The Holy Job asserted with determination: “I have made a pact with my eyes not to look upon a maiden.” Job, even before Jesus was born, had an ardent desire to live out the Beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart; they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)
Wandering, curious eyes, undisciplined eyes will will put chastity in jeopardy, while also jeopardizing the uplifting of one’s mind. If you are uncertain as to what should be allowed through your eyes, then imagine that you are sitting with Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph and consult them to see if they approve of what you’re doing and there you have the answer.
We should never lower the bar, cowing to worldliness but always be ready to be counter-cultural, be ready and willing to do what is most pleasing to Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph. Let us keep the bar high and keep raising it!
2. The Bible: the Word of God
For followers of Christ, it should go without saying, that we should have an ardent desire to read the Bible, the Word of God. As well, we should strive to understand it, memorize key passages, and learn to live out the Word of God. The noble and virtuous actions that we perform are simply fruits of noble and holy thoughts arrived at through reading Holy Scripture, activated by the grace of God and put into action.
Indeed, we should have a more voracious appetite for the Word of God for our mind than the food that we put into our stomachs. Jesus expresses this concept with the utmost clarity when rebuffing the temptation of the devil after fasting forty days and forty nights: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4)
3. Read the Spiritual Classics
As mentioned above there is a plethora, a vast sea or ocean of information, but at the same time there are the classics that can be read at any time and any place. In passing, I will mention only three: The Confessions of Saint Augustine, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis, and The Summa Theologica by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Obviously, there are many more classics, but you’ll have a good start with these three.
A suggestion: before reading, pray to the Holy Spirit that your mind will be a fertile ground in which these classics, these most noble ideas can sink into your mind, take deep root, and surface during the course of your day while at prayer, during conversations, as well as a light to orient all your thoughts, actions and decisions. Then, every day spend 15 minutes to half an hour applying your mind to reading prayerfully, with a truly open mind, one of the classics.
It may be such that you feel motivated to read another classic. This can be a very good topic for spiritual direction if you have a spiritual director.
4. Find Friends in Christ
At the Last Supper Jesus called His Apostles, “His Friends.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took three of His Friends to be with Him in His mortal, lonely, and excruciating agony. Jesus desired not only their presence, but also their friendship.
In our pursuit of cultivating the mind, discovering true friends and cultivating that friendship can have a value that goes beyond words. In my experience, maintaining an intelligent conversation with a friend or a group of friends is a most powerful motivation to hunger more and more for the truth.
One important note: there is a Hidden Friend in the conversation. When Jesus becomes part of the conversation, either explicitly or implicitly, then the conversation will always have depth. Jesus is the Word of God, the Word made flesh, and He gives perfection to all we say, do, and think. Indeed He can purify, ennoble and perfect our minds by His mere Presence!
5. The Mind of Christ & the Eucharist
Our conversation would be incomplete if we did not repeat the words of Saint Paul: “Put on the mind of Christ… You have the mind of Christ.” (Phil. 2:5; 1 Cor. 2:16) The Apostle uses the imperative, put on the mind of Christ, and then states the reality—right now, you have the mind of Christ. How then do we pass from the Imperative, the Command to the actual reality of having “The Mind of Christ?” The response could not be clearer and more unequivocal: the fervent reception of Jesus in Holy Communion.
It is undeniable that, in the worthy reception of Holy Communion, we actually receive the true Mind of Jesus Christ. Upon receiving and assimilating the Host, the Body of Christ, you are actually assimilating Jesus’ Mind. That means you receive into your inner person His Mind with His Memory, His Understanding, His Imagination.
In Holy Communion you now have the true Mind of Jesus Christ, the Word of God Made Flesh, the Wisdom of God the Father!
In conclusion, Saint Paul states: Put on the mind of Christ! Let us strive with all of our being to accept this challenge.
First, let us control what goes into our eyes keenly aware of the fact that a good part of our thought process depends greatly upon what we put into our minds.
Second, may the Bible, the Word that comes from God Himself to us as a Letter of love, take deeper and deeper root in our minds, and blossom and flourish a hundred-fold.
Third, let us immerse ourselves in good reading of some of the classics. Time, energy and serious pondering upon the classics can truly purify and ennoble the mind.
Fourth, good friends! If we associate, converse with and share noble ideas with friends, our minds will be elevated on high.
Fifth, and of greatest importance, is to put on the mind of Christ and to have the mind of Christ by the reception of the most Holy Eucharist. How true the saying: You become what you eat. By nourishing ourselves with the Body of Christ, we conform ourselves to the Mind of Christ—His memory, understanding, and imagination.
Lord, grant us the grace to have our minds lifted up on high. May our thought world be transformed into noble decisions, and such decisions into holy actions, and holy actions into virtues, and virtues into our transformation so that we can say with Saint Paul: “Put on the mind of the Christ; you have the mind of Christ; and it is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Phil. 2:5; 1 Cor. 2:16; Gal. 2:20)