|Fr Benedict Groeschel greets members of the IPS staff.|
The Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS) welcomed one
of its long-time supporters on October 1, 2009. Father Benedict
Groeschel, CFR, who teaches at the Institute, spoke at the
institute’s 10th anniversary celebration.
IPS is a distinctive Catholic graduate school
that integrates the study of psychology with theology and philosophy.
The Institute is located in Arlington, Va.
Father Groeschel is the
host of the television talk program Sunday Night Live with
Father Benedict Groeschel, broadcast on the Eternal Word Television Network
(EWTN). He is the author of over 30 books and
has recorded more than 100 audio and video series. He
is the director of the Office for Spiritual Development for
the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and, in addition
to being an adjunct professor at IPS, is a professor
of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph´s Seminary in New York.
He is one of the founders of the Franciscan Friars
of the Renewal.
Priest’s life is a miracle
On January 11,
2004, Fr. Groeschel was struck by an automobile while crossing
a street in Orlando, Florida. He received a head injury
and broken bones, and had no blood pressure, heartbeat or
pulse for about 27 minutes. A few days later, the
trauma triggered a near-fatal heart attack. He was able to
recover from his injuries, which many consider a miracle, and
returned to do his show on EWTN on October 24,
He told the New York Times nearly four years
after his accident: “They said I would never live. I
lived. They said I would never think. I think. They
said I would never walk. I walked. They said I
would never dance, but I never danced anyway.” Today he
remains a much sought-after teacher, counselor, preacher, retreat master, author
and spiritual director.
Father Groeschel told his audience at IPS that
the idea of Catholic psychology is nothing new. Its roots
go back to the ancient Greeks, Plato and Aristotle.
oldest psychological theory of human behavior is about spiritual development,
centuries and centuries before contemporary psychology at the end of
the 19th century,” he said. He quoted the famous passage
from St. Paul questioning the mystery of human behavior from
Romans 7:19 - “For I do not do the good
I want, but I do the evil I do not
Augustine’s teaching makes major contribution
But Groeschel was mainly interested
in talking about the teachings of one of his own
major influences in the field of psychology – St. Augustine.
Groeschel said Augustine made contributions to almost every aspect of
human thought – and that he profoundly affects both Christian
and secular philosophers even today.
Father Groeschel asked his audience to
consider the question: “How are you being a good Christian,
a good person now, and how can you be doing
He then discussed Augustine’s teaching on human spiritual development in
three stages -- purification, illumination, and union with God. “They
are also called the purgative, illuminative, and unitive way,” Father
In the first step, purification, Groeschel explained that people must
have a moral conversion. “You cannot grow spiritually unless you
have decided to live a moral life and avoid doing
things that are wrong,” he said. Acknowledging that because of
human weakness, all fall into sin sometime, he said one
must decide to do God’s will and then make a
continual effort to improve. He said this stage is often
as far as some people ever get in this life.
The second step involves developing a mature faith that “accepts
the mysteries of God.”
We must have a sense of God’s
A mystery is a reality you can perceive but cannot
understand, said Father Groeschel, quoting Albert Einstein. Father Groeschel explained
that according to Einstein, “if a person does not have
sense of mystery about life and wonder about the things
of God, he might as well be dead.”
The third step
involves placing one’s trust in God and acceptance of Divine
Providence. “That is where we separate the men from the
boys, the women from the girls,” he said.
A person who
is seriously trying to grow in the spiritual life must
take the step toward trusting God more and more, and
Groeschel said this effort can take decades.
“It’s easier to trust
when you get old, because you know you are going
to get outta here,” he quipped. “Life can be scary
and challenging. That is when you must go on –
Spiritual darkness brings compassion
Father Groeschel mentioned that the souls
who do reach this point may well be given by
God the “help of darkness.” According to Groeschel, this spiritual
darkness was suffered by St. Teresa of Calcutta for 35
years, and only ended just before her death. Such spiritual
suffering aids one in having compassion for others who are
suffering, said Groeschel, explaining that the word “compassion” means “to
After this point, Father said, souls can reach the
unitive level. “Very few people arrive there in this life,”
He called such people living saints, and said
that if you meet such a person, you will know
it. “A saint is someone who lives in the very
presence of God.”