Introduction: When I went to see the Passion of the Christ movie 22 times in the big screen in 2004-2005, I still could not get a clear reason for doing it. Of course, it seems obvious now that I had to go to a theater in order not to be interrupted by phones or tiredness or sleepiness, etc. As I have reported before, I never became bore; at one point I was even learning some Aramaic words, but the reason for being sent to see it so many times, was unclear. At times I took notes to discern later any possible teaching. Eventually, I realized that all the Saints who were passionate about meditating on the Passion of the Christ claim that this contemplation gives us so many fruits…After the 22 times, I only was left with His words at the Garden of Gethsemane à “Watch and pray.” This month I realized that sure enough, I had to watch… to see, to investigate, to remember, to understand parts of the history of the human race, using these fruits obtained while meditating 22 times in this “killing” of our Lord and King. I guess that I am still collecting such fruits!!!
But what do I have to watch? Of course, I have dealt with the story of Satan many times. What I was leaving out were the other two parts: the flesh and the world… These three are the motors behind our sins, personal and communal. But it was this past month when we celebrated The Resurrection and Divine Mercy Sunday’s that things finally got clear in my mind. It is a very interesting subject, and I suspect that it comes anew because we are about to celebrate another Pentecost Sunday.
I have talked to you about neuroplasticity in general (Blog of December 10, 2008). This will be a more scientific look of this theme. Our brains are very malleable. Our flesh which includes this organ called brain, is the most sophisticated computer ever made possible. Yet, we as persons, as a society, as a Church, ignore the POWER of this piece of flesh…Jesus was clear about it and He warned us that what it is important is what is within us, what comes out of us!… And words, thoughts, actions, everything is processed in the brain! In these past days, I even received very interesting verses that reminded me of my little understanding of this topic:
Sirach 4: 26; 28. “Be not ashamed to acknowledge your guilt, but of your ignorance rather be ashamed. Even to the death fight for truth, and the Lord your God will battle for you.”
Of course, part of the Truth is to know ourselves, our flesh, how it works, but I never really put it together until now and out of ignorance… So, in this blog I will reveal highlights of how we know that our brains can change so fast… and why… Besides, you will be surprised how it will reveal the way the world can change our flesh (brain)… It will be a long blog as I transcribe these ideas and add the divine science that can re-wire our minds, but the more I prayed and prayed to find a shorter way to do it, that more I was convicted over and over to expose this brain science for all of us to use it in ourselves, and to show mercy on those who fell under the transforming force of the world over their brains. Obviously, Satan is always around helping to arrange the circumstances for us to be exposed to what will change them to send us to Gahanna. In the other hand, this is one of the most important subject matters that I could pass on to you in a summarized way, since this is a subject generally ignored by most of the world’s population, including the medical industry in general, and I say it because I practiced medicine for 40 years and we never had any inkling of these changes in our brains, ever… I practiced neuro-anesthesiology and was exposed to literature about this organ, and yet, I had to come to the West coast in 2008 just to be exposed to it via PBS’s multiple programs on the matter!!! Amazing grace!
This information comes from a 2007 book by Norman Doidge, MD, titled, “The Brain that Changes Itself.” They are just highlights since the book has more than 300 pages. Also, please know that I have no permission from the author to post the contents of his book; so, none of this material could be reproduced in any form or shape without mentioning his name and never to make money, like part of a book without his permission. And who is Dr. Doidge? He is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and researcher on the faculty of Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research in New York and the University of Toronto’s department of psychiatrist, as well as an author, essayist and poet.
Opinions about this book:
1. “Superb. Brilliant. I devoured it. “ V.S. Ramachandran, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Brain Cognition, UCSD.
2. “…You do not need a PhD to benefit from the wisdom imparted here.” Barbara Milrod, MD, Psychiatry, Weil Medical College of Cornell University.
Before I start quoting highlights of this book, please be reminded that everything in our body works through electricity. In general, we never hear this and so many mistakes due to misinformation or ignorance have been made in all cultures about this subject. I practiced acupuncture, and I know that this science is based on balancing electrical currents in our body and I saw the results. For example, since 2002, I am allergic to 60 foods by blood test (due to mercury and fluoride intoxication associated with my genetic predisposition to a poor “natural” detoxification), and when I eat something to which I am allergic, I get pain in parts of my body. So, I immediately use a hand held electric acupuncture device and stimulate my “chakras”.
But here is an example of confusion plus ignorance of its science. I know that many people think that chakras are “new Age”… Wrong… Chakras are 9 specific areas in our body that are like the “transformers” that we have in our streets, which regulate the electricity coming into our homes. They regulate the electricity for the entire body. If I stimulate them for 2 minutes each, the pain disappears… and stays away… So, be opened to think of electrical routes in our whole body as you read this information on neuroplasticity. Unfortunately, this science of the chakras has been abused by “new agers” and made a new god out of it. The name is ancient because thousands of years ago, the wisdom of old cultures understood the energy of these points, and yes, there is energy since it is the electricity that makes our body parts function according to their DNA specific code for each organ.
Here, let me tell you something neat that will proof to you something about our body’s electrical circuits… How can you know if you are allergic to some food? It is very simple. You extend both arms to the sides of your body, Then with one hand, hold the item you think you are allergic to. Have a friend try with his/her both hands to bring yours arms down with equal force… If you are allergic to the item, the arm holding it is totally weak and have ZERO resistance. However, the arm which is not holding anything, offers normal resistance. If you are not allergic, your left and right arms offer identical resistance… Why? Because the presence of the item to which you have acquired electrical rejection mediated by your immune system, totally interrupts the current to your muscles of the arm that holds the item and it cannot offer resistance… I have played this game with many of my friends in past years… It is amazing but it is pure science… Try it!
“For four hundred years, mainstream medicine and science believed that brain anatomy was fixed. The common wisdom was that after childhood the brain changed only when it began the long process of decline; that when brain cells failed to develop properly or were injured or died, they could not be replaced. Nor could the brain ever alter its structure and find a new way to function if part of it was damaged.
I (The author) began a series of travels and met brilliant scientists, at the frontier of brain science who had in the 1960s and 1970s, made a series of unexpected discoveries. They showed that the brain changed its very structure with each different activity it performed, perfecting its electrical circuits so it was better suited to the task at hand. If certain parts failed, then others parts could sometimes take over. They began calling this property “neuroplasticity.” Neuro for neuron or cells in our brain and nerves. Plastic is for “changeable, malleable, modifiable.”
One of these scientists even showed that thinking, learning, and acting can turn our genes on or off, thus shaping our brain anatomy and our “behavior,” surely one of the most extraordinary discoveries of the XX C. In the course of my travels, I found:
1. A scientist who enabled people who had been blind since birth to begin to see.
In 1969, Nature, a Europe’s premier science journal published an article about Paul Bach-y-Rita, who created a device that enabled people blind from birth to see. All had damaged retinas and had been considered completely untreatable. This now forgotten machine was one of the first and boldest applications of neuroplasticity. (Bach-y-Rita is described as a completely unassuming man, from Spanish and Jewish descent who grew up in the Bronx. He was a physician and researcher.) His own father, the Catalan poet and scholar Pedro Bach-y-Rita had a disabling stroke in 1959, now a widower and 65 years old. Another son of Pedro, George, who was studying medicine at the time, took time off to teach his father to walk. First, Pedro had to crawl like a dog for months, and he was trained to talk again without impediment.
At age 68, Pedro’s recovery was complete and went back to teach at City College, in NY. He retired at 70. Moved to San Francisco to teach again, got married and lived well for 7 more years until he died of a heart attack. His son Paul ordered an autopsy which showed that the major stroke had disabled the brain stem… the part of the brain closest to the spinal cord and 97% of the nerves that run from the cerebral cortex to the spine were destroyed. His father’s story was first hand evidence that a “late” recovery could occur even with a massive lesion. At this point, Paul discovered that in 1915 an American psychologist, Shepherd Ivory Franz, had shown that patients who had been paralyzed for 20 years were capable of making late recovery with brain-stimulating exercises.
(This explanation is in the book but I am using my own words to summarize it: several of these scientists have asserted that these changes that come with these brain-stimulating exercises are based on a universal principle: “when neurons fire together, they wire together.” So, these exercises are conducive to make neurons that are involved in memorization, for example, fire together in order to wire together, to talk to each other, to readily re-establish communication. This may give you a little window into what these special exercises are all about).
2. Another scientist enabled the deaf to hear
3. There is evidence that is possible for 80 y/olds to sharpen their memories to function the way they did when they were 55. Dr. Michael Merzenich is behind scores of neuroplastic innovations. He has been described as “the world’s leading researcher on brain plasticity.” He was born in the State of Oregon of German stock (at present he is 63 years old and resides in a nearby city from my home and is Professor of Neurology at UCSF). Years ago and for his specialization, he was accepted at Harvard and John Hopkins and chose the latter for his PhD in physiology, and under one of the great neuroscientists of the time Vernon Mouncastle. Dr. Merzenich claims the following:
a) Brain exercises may be as useful as drugs to treat diseases as severe as schizophrenia.
b) Plasticity exists from the cradle to the grave
c) Radical improvements in cognitive functioning – how we learn, think, perceive and remember – are possible even in the elderly
d) Unlike a computer, the brain is constantly adapting itself. He says that the “cerebral cortex – thin outer layer of the brain – is actually selectively refining its processing capacities to fit each task at hand. It doesn’t simply learn; it is always learning how to learn.
e) Merzenich’s current plasticity work helps with learning for disabled students to improve their cognition and perception. His series of plasticity-based computer programs (Fast ForWord), have already helped hundreds of thousands. In some cases people who have had a lifetime of cognitive difficulties get better after only 30 to 60 hours of treatment. Unexpectedly, the program has helped a number of autistic children.
f) When you are 85, there is a 47% change that you will have Alzheimer’s disease. Merzenich laughs and says, “So we created this bizarre situation in which we are keeping them alive long enough so that on average, half of them lose their memory.” There are many drugs on the market and scores of drugs in the pipeline designed to block these processes of mental decline and raise levels of falling chemicals in the brain. Yet, Merzenich believes that such drugs, worth billions in sales, provide only about 4-6 months of improvement. The main stream approach, he argues, is based on no real understanding of what it takes to develop a new skill in the brain, never mind to sustain it. He adds, “The main stream approach doesn’t take into account what is required to maintain a sharp memory. A major reason memory loss occurs as we age is that we have trouble registering new events in our nervous systems, because processing speed slows down, so that the accuracy, strength and sharpness with which we perceive, declines . If you can’t register something clearly, you won’t be able to remember it well.
4. Neuroplasticity teaches us about sexual attractions and love.
Human beings exhibit an extraordinary degree of sexual plasticity compared with other creatures. But sexual plasticity goes further still. Some people seem to be attracted not so much to people as to complex sexual scripts, where partners play roles, involving various perversions, combining sadism, masochism, voyeurism and exhibitionism. The current porn epidemic gives a graphic demonstration that sexual tastes can be acquired. Pornography, delivered by high speed Internet connections, satisfies every one of the prerequisites for neuroplastic change. The addictiveness of Internet pornography is not a metaphor. All addiction involves long term lifelong, neuroplastic change in the brain.
5. People can rewire their brains with their thoughts through the science of imagery, to cure previously incurable obsessions and traumas and/or disease.
Alvaro Pascual-Leonel born in Valencia, Spain, and who heads the center for magnetic brain stimulation in a hospital associated with Harvard, uses trans cranial magnetic stimulation to make neurons fire. He used this technique to study the way thoughts change the material structure of our brains. One reason why we can change our brains simply by imagining is that, from a neuroscientifc point of view, imagining an act and doing it are not as different as they sound.— (My own example: 1) If I close my eyes and imagine that I am cutting a lemon, I start salivating, just like if I were truly cutting the lemon… 2) A PhD in Education imagined twice per day for 10 minutes how he was destroying his liver cancer cells and he did… and I met him 10 years later (1985) perfectly healed, even that he had been diagnosed at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation as having a few months to live. Even more, he was the brother to one of the surgeons in this institution and whom I knew 5 years back when I worked there…)
6. The culturally modified brain.
Culture is not just produced by the brain; it is also by definition a series of activities that shape the mind. What is culture? The development of the mind, faculties, manners, etc. and improvement or refinement of the mind, tastes and manners.
Neuroplastic research has shown us that every sustained activity ever mapped – including physical activities, sensory activities, learning, thinking and imagining – changes the brain as well as the mind. Cultural ideas are no exception. Our brains are modified by the cultural activities we engage in– be they reading, studying music, or learning new languages. We all have what might be called a culturally modified brain.
7. A vulnerable brain – how the media reorganize it.
From Dr. Michael Merzenich – 2005 – “The Internet is just one of those things that contemporary humans can spend millions of “practice” events at, that the average human a thousand years ago had absolutely no exposure to. Our brains are massively remodeled by this exposure, but so, too, by reading, by television, by video games, by modern electronics, by contemporary music, by contemporary “tools, etc.”
Television watching, one of the signature activities of our culture, correlates with brain problems. A recent study of more than 2,600 toddlers shows that early exposure to television between the ages of one and three, correlates with problems paying attention and controlling impulses later in childhood. For every hour of TV the toddlers watched each day, their chances of developing serious attention difficulties at age seven, increased by 10%. (However, this study did not perfectly control other possible factors influencing correlation between TV and later attention problems).
Video games, like Internet porn, meet all the conditions for plastic brain map changes. A team at Hammersmith Hospital in London designed a typical video game in which a tank commander shoots the enemy and dodges enemy fire. The experiment showed that dopamine – the reward neurotransmitter, also triggered by addictive drugs – is released in the brain during these games. People who are addicted to computer games show all the signs of other addictions; cravings when they stop, neglect of other activities, euphoria when on the computer, and tendency to deny or minimize their actual involvement.
Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian who founded media studies in the 1950’s and predicted the Internet 20 years before it was invented, was the first to intuit that the media change our brains irrespective of content. He argued that each medium reorganizes our mind and brain in its own unique way and that the consequences of these reorganizations are far more significant than the effects of the content or “message.” McLuhan’s insight was that the communication media both extend our range and implode into us. His first law of media is that all the media are extensions of aspects of man. The telegraph, radio and telephone extend the range of the human ear; the television camera extends the eye and sight; the computer extends the processing capacities of our central nervous system. However, the implosion of the media is less obvious.” (I add: as it quietly re-wires our brains). END.
This science of our brains explains the following:
1.The “culture of death” as it works in our brains.
a) In the 1990’s, Dr. Kevorkian was killing people who asked for it in the area of Detroit, MI, as they exercised the right to “choose.” This was happening as I was doing a temporary job in anesthesia at a small hospital in the same State and in a past blog I already told you the story with details. The consensus even of “religious” women in this town where I was giving anesthetics, was to see euthanasia as a gift for a patient to accelerate their painful imminent passing, months of weeks later. So, they euthanized my patient who was doing great after surgery and who had six months to live. But we still keep at it… Right now, the cable channel HBO is about to air a program with the story of “Dr. Death” (Kevorkian), and played by great actor Al Pacino with other very important Hollywood actors. Apparently and according to recent reports, Dr. Death is portrayed in a kinder way… Ouch! He just came out of jail. I wonder if he will move to a State where euthanasia is permissible…?
The instigators of the euthanasia case that I was present to were ICU nurses who worked on her two sons to accept the killing of their mother in the name of “comfort care.” So, the culture of death keeps organizing our thoughts with the word “choice” and freedom of speech and action, regardless of the consequences. And some cultures have killed many (genocides), as governments used neuroplasticity to brainwash their subjects to kill others, and I reported much on this subject in my last blog.
b) On April 23, 2010, there was a discussion in television about the secondary effects of birth control. A female executive editor of Time Magazine spoke about the 50 years of contraception and how birth control pills had little to do with the 1960’s, since only married couples could obtain a prescription for them. However, soon women saw in birth control a way to plan their lives, so that their careers would not be derailed by an unplanned pregnancy…! Women then started postponing motherhood and realized that infertility was very common, because in the late 20’s it starts diminishing and sharply happens after 40. But again, women then found that in vitro fertilization would solve their problem… (So, now we have embryos in freezers all over waiting to be destroyed or implanted…Ouch!) A CNN medical expert came to say that in general, birth control pills have little negative effects…! (This is false…)
2. This culture modifying the brain also explains racism.
a) In my own country, I grew up thinking that blacks were inferior… My capital city where I was born was in the middle of the country up in the mountains and as a primary school girl walking with classmates to school, if we saw a black person, we would sing: “It is going to rain” since when it rains, the sky turns black. Why? Blacks from the port of Limon in the Atlantic Ocean (those who had come from the Caribbean Islands to live in my country many years back ), were not allowed to come to the capital city without permission from authorities until much later when this law was repealed, and this is a very democratic country also known as the Switzerland of the Americas… Somehow, we ended up having a substantial amount of so called white citizens, even with little mixture with the local Indians, and of course, no blacks… Therefore, we had been wired to believe you did not want blacks around. To this date, racism is prevalent in Latin America, although much less now, just as it is in the U.S.
So, many of our anti-Christian unjust ideas come to us through the past without us even knowing it. And what did God do about it in my case? After three other marriage proposals by a librarian and two doctors, which I was led to decline even that I knew as a nine year old that I would never become a nun nor ever wanted to, and that I wanted marriage and children as my ultimate goal, I ended up marrying a person with mixed ancestry. In hindsight, there is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit guided this process…
b) These culture modifying changes in our brains also can explain all the cases of racism, from the Holocaust to the acts of Sanger, to the position of women in certain cultures as subservient to men, etc. I was amazed to hear this past month from the actual person and as he said it, of how humans with mental handicaps should be gassed…George Bernard Shaw spoke of his desire to make a special mask to kill these people without them suffering much! Ouch… This is the best example of a brilliant brain where re-wiring went too far!
3. Beauty in women has to do with extreme thinness and for men, huge muscles and multiple tattoos. Sex is at the center of almost every “make believe” story in movies and television. My own cable channel has “pay per view” erotic movies.
4. Instant gratification is an expected feeling created by the media.
5. We have a tendency to hear opinions and more opinions since television lives out of passing on opinions to no end. Yet, messages to solve the problem are rare. Example: on April 20, the news brought the story of teenagers who send 3,000 to 5,000 text messages per month. The headlines read: “addiction and text messaging.” In a particular case, a mother related how her daughter had sent 6,300 in just half a month. Two psychologists were brought to opinionate on what to do. One said that: “If it is available, they will use it.” The other, “It is part of their upbringing to be in communication all the time.” In other words, they offered no solution.
I suspect that in the spiritual life we do the same. We enter into serious discussions and learning of the Truths of the Bible, but never organize ourselves to call on each other to a serious obedience to what we have learned! The TV instant news culture of sound bites keeps us busy and not determined to change at all cost with the use of prayer asking for help to do so, plus a serious effort to spiritually reform.
6. Commercials are geared to create needs in our brains and these are just a few: 1) The need to have money put aside to have a “happy retirement” which includes the need to travel to see the world. 2) The need to be talkative and therefore unable to be silent, since the media has wired us to constantly hear noise of some sort. 3) The need to eat every form of food without being hungry and just because commercials are replayed in our brains over and over. 4) The need for power, possessions and prestige. Our brains have been wired to have a strict “worldly” idea of success! à JOY, PEACE AND HAPPINESS can only be obtained via the 3 “P’s”… 5) The need to be eternal: the vast majority of the world’s population wants to live eternally on this earth and without aging. …Somehow, we have created a monster where survival for as long as possible is the norm and I truly wonder, why?
7. Addiction to sports corresponds to neuroplastic changes that bind us to have fun as often as possible. And so, we have become dependent on watching a ball that moves from here to there… There is nothing wrong about it if sports do not control our own private lives all year round.
Here is something interesting to emphasize because God is into everything. For the recent Augusta Masters Golf tournament, huge numbers of people walked and walked with the golfers. I could not do it ever! But, I must add here that I never liked golf, ever, ever, ever. The Lord truly pushed me to watch part of this event and to “pray” for mercy for all of them… It was a trial because I do not know the game. Birdie, par, eagle, etc. are still Chinese for my brain. I looked it up in the Internet and it was very difficult to figure out these terms. I suspect that I need a human being to teach me… Yet, this tournament was another show of the mercy of our God… The winner was the perfect picture of a “family” man…just like it happened at the Super Bowl… Instead of the golfer who was the talk of the day because of his sexual indiscretions, God rose up a man whose young wife is recuperating from breast cancer, and she appeared with their three children even that she had been bed ridden due to the effects of the treatment… I realized then why I had to watch this game which I did not even understand… Many cried at the end. Hmm! It was God’s “show and tell.” In other words, God was trying to re-wire our brains in what matters most, the Truth of family values.
8. We want to keep everything in pictures or experiences, regardless of its importance for our lives, like family pictures are. Just a few days ago, when a stadium in Dallas, Texas was imploded, 20,000 people showed up to see it and to be part of history…! Ouch!
9. How much of this re-wiring of our brains with the abundant violence in many TV programs and songs, are responsible for the violence we see? Probably 100%. I recently saw parts of an old movie (1950’s) with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, and there were several moments of overt destruction of human life. On April 24, 2010, they reported in ABC’s Good Morning America that X-rated movies are very easy to access by teens. Studies have proved that these movies encourage them via undercover images to smoke and drink alcohol. Since teens cannot get into movie theaters for these movies, getting to see them in DVD are as easy as getting a “coke” by using vending machines, and of course, via Internet, pay per view or not.
A psychologist came to give opinions about it… He advised to block these Internet sources on demand and that parents must do their homework… Since these teens have a lot of peer pressure from other teens, he advised to keep an open dialogue and to have a good relationship with their kids… Notice how nobody mentions the power of prayer… and self conversion as methods to win these battles through the mercy of God. We are totally wired to use pagan solutions, which most of the time are bound to fail. And I have proof of the power of prayer. I had four sons and a very busy career and I used nannies… In order to have dinner together as a family, we had a custom: we went on Sundays after Mass to have lunch in their favorite restaurant … Of course, I never placed God aside by pure grace because I did not set to do it but it was done to me…
So, these four men were holy small children and holy teens. I never once had to fight with one of them about any vice or time to come home at night. I have to say and for the glory of God, that I never knew what it was to raise a teen ager…! And to this date, they are holy sons at least in how they treat me. God did it all since for Him everything is possible! And of course, I now have two holy grand kids… But the latter statement is bragging on my part because I have had not part of it, although I am sure God is mediating as well the sanctity of these two small children…!
10. The new philosophy that the media has ingrained in many goes like this:
a) I am in charge of my life. I will do whatever it takes to do it.
b) You have to re-invent yourself and make your own choices.
c) This is another chilling example: because public education has become a way to re-wire our kid’s brains (even if we did not call it such), of the 20 million children in school, for 1.6 million, parents have opted for “home schooling” and some States have accepted it. However, 10% of this 1.6 million are opting for “un-schooling” their children. The children stay home. They do not study or read or have any formal education. Their parents have clearly stated (just a few days ago in national TV) that they want their children to be free to choose to do what they want and that this is a way of trusting on their kids to do the best… They said, “There are no rules, no hierarchy, no judgment, and no punishment.” One of the teens (17 y/o) said this, “If I want to go to college, I’ll pick up a book and learn!” (Ouch!)
THE BIG QUESTION:
How to treat this malady of others owning our brains? Have you ever thought about it? How to become saints as we should for the sake of the Church especially in times of turmoil? Let me first give you some Bible hints. As we remember, the 12 apostles chosen by Jesus Himself, lived with Him traveling constantly; they also saw many miracles and healings performed. Yet, at the time of His Passion when He needed them the most, they disappeared. Worse, one of them sold Him for 30 pieces of silver and Peter, the rock of the group, denied Him three times. After His death and resurrection (Acts 1), Jesus presented Himself to them several times during forty days. He instructed them not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the “promise of the Father,” about Whom He had spoken to them before. The apostles even asked Him this, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They had no clue of what was going on even then. Finally, Jesus ascended and they took refuge in an upper room.
(Acts 2 and following). It was there where the Holy Spirit came and these men were totally transformed. Peter became a great preacher. On Pentecost day and because of his preaching, 3,000 joined them…! They were persecuted and even incarcerated and all the more they kept proclaiming the Gospel. They were bold in everything they did and say. Most of them died violently but they were never afraid or intimidated. Doesn’t this smell like their brains had been re-wired by the Holy Ghost?
SO, NOW, LET ME WRITE ABOUT THE DIVINE SCIENCE THAT WILL CURE our negative neuroplastic changes. We all know about the Holy Spirit. Yet, we do not seem to live by the Spirit, and I suspect that it has to do with our inability for us laity to comprehend how to do it. There is a classic book written by a very holy man, an Archbishop of Mexico City, and someone that I met in pictures and stories in Mexico (I believe in Puebla) when I visited in 1992. Yet, at the time, I had no idea about his incredible writings on the Holy Spirit. It took me some 5 years more to find his book translated in 1957 into English. After I quote him, then I will add some other ideas of how to combine in our lives these two sciences: neuroplasticity and the Holy Spirit.
The science of the Holy Spirit in our souls – The triumph of love!
From the book, “The Sanctifier” (350 pages) written by Archbishop of Mexico city, Luis Maria Martinez, and who died in 1956. He was for many years the spiritual director of Venerable Conchita Cabrera de Armida. (I have in my hands 2 CD’s in Spanish where a Nun from her Order, reads the content of a retreat given by Archbishop Martinez to Conchita in 1926!… What a treasure and all because of the technology that allows it…)
“Devotion to the Holy Spirit must be given its proper place, the place that rightfully belongs to Him in Christian life and Christian perfection; something not superficial and intermittent, but constant and profound…
The Christian life is the reproduction of Jesus in souls; and perfection, the most faithful and perfect reproduction, consists in the transformation of souls into Jesus. This is the doctrine of St. Paul set forth in his letters.
2 Cor 13:5 – “Do you not know yourselves that Christ Jesus is in you?”
Gal 3:27 – “For all you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.”
2 Cor 3:18 – “But we all, with faces unveiled, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His very Image from glory to glory.”
Now, how will this mystical reproduction be brought about in souls? In the same way in which Jesus was brought into the world. The Holy Spirit conveyed the divine fruitfulness of the Father to Mary and this virginal soil brought forth in an ineffable manner our most loving Savior. That is the way Jesus is always conceived. That is the way He is reproduced in souls. He is always the fruit of heaven and earth. Undoubtedly, the Holy Spirit and the most holy Virgin Mary sanctify us in different ways. The first is the Sanctifier by essence because He is God, Who is infinite sanctity. The Virgin Mary, for her part, is the cooperator, the indispensable instrument in and by God’s design.
These two, then, are the indispensable artificers of Jesus, the indispensable sanctifiers of souls, for the Holy Spirit pours charity into our hearts, makes a habitation of our soul and directs our spiritual lives by means of His gifts. The Virgin Mary has the efficacious influence of Mediatrix in the most profound and delicate operations of grace in our souls. Finally, the action of the Holy Spirit and the cooperation of the Virgin Mary are constant; and without them, not one single character of Jesus would be traced on our souls, no virtue will grow, no gift be developed, no grace will increase, no bond of union with God will be strengthened in the rich flowering of the spiritual life.
1Cor 3:16 – “Do you know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
Rom 8:9 – “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ.”
And the Holy Spirit does not come to us in a transitory manner; infinite Love is not a passing visitor who pays us a call and then goes away. He establishes in us His permanent dwelling and lives in intimate union with our souls as their eternal Guest. Jesus promised this to us on the last night of his mortal life:
John 14: 16-17 – “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him or knows Him. But you shall know Him because He will dwell with you and be in you.”
The true Director of souls, the intimate Master, the soul of the spiritual life, is the Holy Spirit. As we have said, without Him there is no sanctity. The perfection of a soul is measured by its docility to the movement of the Spirit, by the promptness and fidelity with which its strings produce the divine notes of the song of love. A soul is perfectly holy when the Spirit of love has taken full possession of it, when the divine Artist finds no resistance or dissonance in the strings of that living lyre, but only celestial strains coming forth from it, limpid, ardent, and delightfully harmonized. Consequently, the Holy Spirit is truly the soul of our soul and the life of our life.
We possess God because he gives Himself to us, but his first Gift is the Holy Spirit. Our first intimacy, then, is with the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that we can possess one divine Person without possessing the other, because they are inseparable. But according to the order of appropriation, we possess the Father and the Son because we possess the Holy Spirit, Who is the first Gift of God.
This is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit in souls: to bring to holy maturity, to happy plenitude, that germ of life which He Himself deposited in them. The spiritual life is the mutual possession of God and the soul, because it is essentially their mutual love. When the Holy Spirit possesses a soul completely and the soul attains the full possession of the Gift of God, this is union, perfection and sanctity. Then the soul participates in such a way – in the divine Word and in the Love that proceed from the Word – that it can freely know God with an intimate and true knowledge, and love Him with a true and profound love.
St. Thomas Aquinas: “The soul is made like to God by grace. Hence for a divine Person to be sent to anyone by grace there must be a likening of the soul to the divine Person who is sent, by some gift of grace. Because the Holy Spirit is Love, the soul is assimilated to the Holy Spirit by the gift of charity. Hence, the mission of the Holy Spirit is according to the mode of charity.” The peak of this divine ascension of the soul is transforming union (the highest degree of union possible on earth between a human person and God), and is characterized by a very intimate relation with the Word of God, through a transformation into the Word Incarnate.
It is the “practice of charity” that specifically develops the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for these precious instruments are deeply rooted in this virtue. Prayer, recollection, the spirit of mortification, all the most efficacious and necessary recourse for advancing in perfection, have their fecund roots and powerful stimulus in charity. But why go on analyzing the principles of the spiritual life? In order to understand the importance of charity, it is sufficient to dwell on the consideration we have already stated: the more we love with the love of charity, the more we shall possess the Holy Spirit and the more we shall be possessed by Him, the Sanctifier, the supreme Director of all our supernatural activities.
This does not mean that we need not to exercise all the virtues carefully and constantly, for they prepare the soul for perfect love and later produce works of love. But we should give charity the importance it deserves in the work of sanctification. There is another interesting point of the spiritual life. Frequently souls lack the guidance of a clear ideal, the impulse of a powerful force in the constant struggles, vicissitudes, and sacrifices of the spiritual life. They recognize the needs. They know the remedies and they are, imperfectly at least, the path they must follow. But they are so weak, their courage fails at each step, they let time slip by without taking advantage of it; and they sadly behold the years passing with no personal progress in spite of their good desires and holy intentions. What do they lack? A precise ideal, an impelling force. (perfect diagnosis) — (treatment) à If they would love, they would have an extraordinary power. More than this, charity joins us closely to the Holy Spirit. It puts us in contact with the divine flame, the unique source of holiness. Who could not burn if led into a glowing furnace? Who can escape being sanctified if he throws himself into the very essence of sanctity?
But people have so many preoccupations, fruits of a narrow spiritual criterion and of inaccurate conceptions of divine things. All these concerns are, no doubt, encouraged by the devil to prevent souls from attaining their proper good. (I would add – plus the work of the world wiring our fleshy brains not to love, not to forgive, not to be servants of others). The answer is that loving God is not only a most precious right that we all have, but also a most happy duty. Is it not the first and principal commandment? The fact that we are wretched and imperfect does not diminish His incomprehensible beauty, His infinite goodness, His boundless mercy, or any other of the titles that He has. Rather, our imperfections are a stimulus to love, because they cry out to us that we must look outside of ourselves for that which our heart desires; that we must lift our eyes and our soul to merciful Love, to the only One who can take pity on our miseries and tenderly cure them.
How is it that God loves us are we are? Because His love is not like ours, poor and indigent, seeking in the beloved what is lacking in us. God’s love is love of infinite fullness, and looks for nothing except a voice to fill, for poor beings to make happy, for miseries to cure, because He is infinite Goodness and infinite Mercy. After speaking of suffering and dying for love, He remains in the tabernacle asking for our love; even as, at an earlier time, He sat on the curb of Jacob’s well and said to every soul coming into this world what He said to the Samaritan woman, “I thirst. Give me to drink!” (John 19:28; 4:7)
For worldly people, the will of God is often a tragic hardship; for souls beginning their spiritual journey, it is a motive for resignation; for saints, it is heaven. Why so many diverse effects from one thing? Simply because each soul receives the will of God according to its relations with the Holy Spirit. ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN INFUSE IN OUR HEARTS SUCH PASSION FOR THE DIVINE WILL, FOR ONLY HE CAN BRING US TO KNOW THE FATHER AND TEACH US TO LOVE HIM, BY TRANSFORMING US INTO JESUS.
How to increase the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: first, in proportion as charity increases, the gifts also increase and develop. The second means to develop them is by growing in virtue. The third way is to be responsive to His inspirations.” End
Note: these are a few highlights of this extraordinary book that I have enjoyed for several years. Amazon carries it and it is very cheap ($12)…
How to connect these two sciences: our brain and the Holy Spirit?
After knowing how our brains are exposed to so many messages, which are re-wiring the electricity of our brains according to our genetic code and plasticity, there is a conclusion: we must re-wire our brains back to normalcy and according to the Truth. Of course, this is simply impossible at a human level… and probably some 50 years from now there will be software to re-wire our brains according to different needs. For example, pedophiles could be treated accordingly. Possible by then, the Internet, TV and excessive communication of all kinds will have to be classified for what it is: the handing over of our brains to strangers to accept their lies, immorality, indifference, or “good things,” etc. By then we ALL will know without FEAR of being wrong that whether we agree or not, whether we know that is happening or not, ever so quietly, we are being changed and most of the time NOT from glory to glory.
For us, Baptized/Confirmed members of the Church, the work will be much easier if we open our eyes, get informed about the Holy Spirit, do what the Church has clearly preached, and start the work of re-wiring our brains by looking first for His help and the powerful intercession of Our Lady. He can do the re-wring and sanctify us at the same time, just like He did to the original11 Apostles… Yes, we need faith in this statement, but if we just start by loving others at all cost and trying hard to submit to God’s will, faith and hope will grow, and our sanctity can be left to the grace of the Holy Trinity through the power of the Holy Spirit… Then, our Church will truly have a NEW PENTECOST… And I mean an action of the Holy Ghost, and not just a concept as we do now, where we say prayers and call Him but not really getting attached to Him by our love… Slowly but surely, we will be bold in taking Jesus to others, and the Holy Spirit will prepare our hearts to receive Jesus in every aspect of His teaching, plus will give us the power to obey it.
I must report here that my TV viewing has diminished year after year for several years. I could not watch a whole baseball game anymore, except may be for the World Series. I could not watch basketball and football games in their entirety. I cannot stand the evening weekly programs of any kind. Commercials have become an insult to my brain and I mute them. Yet, I never tried too hard to diminish TV viewing because I was never too bad, but now I have a sense of being a waste of time… which I did not have 10 years ago… More than that, I feel nausea at times when watching “make believe” stories. I am sure that this is a re-wiring of my brain by the Holy Ghost. Also, I have gone from understanding my need to evangelize but never thinking much about it, to having this sense that I am always ready to do this work according to His direction, and it happens very often.
When nowadays I see the turmoil going in the Church, I am sure that many souls ended up abusing others because they opened their hearts and minds to excessive exposure coming out of this communication media everywhere, and suddenly, they could not stop themselves. I am sure that the intricate knowledge of this science of neuroplasticity did not get into their spiritual formation to let them know what they were getting into without even trying. Personally, I have found out this knowledge very consoling. What they have done constitutes a horrible crime to these children, and yet they were victims as well of a culture where spiritual genocide is alive and well everywhere. How many of us could have ended up doing the same thing? All of us have the potential while living under the umbrella of this powerful culture and with brains so plastic to be transformed in a negative way. I wonder at times if the warning to Pope Leo XIII about Satan to be present in the XX C was a hint of this culture of death’s manipulation of our brains by the world through technology. Most likely so…
In the same way in these modern times, the preaching in our Masses and retreats has failed to a certain point in making us saints because the audiences had already been re-wired since the 1950’s when TV sets came into our homes, and later with the Internet. We saw it happening and it coincided with the end of Vatican II and the popularity and relative cheapness to buy television sets, as well as the Internet becoming a chief communicator. So, we sought to have liturgies that entertained more than sanctified. Our prayer became more ambitious due to our rewiring for instant gratification, and boldly tended to ask for an immediate change of the will of God for our lives, versus to beg for God’s mercy to invite the Holy Spirit to help us to do His will!
Silence to hear the Holy Ghost became a chore; at times it is almost impossible to do because our brains have been re-wired to process at great speed constant sound bites. We have also been trained to multi-task. As we see any news or game, down in the bottom of the TV screen we also can read a passing summary of the latest news, and therefore, we are being trained to pay attention to both. To quiet such minds just to enter our temple within to adore God and to keep all ideas and images out in order to hear Him, seems a very difficult spiritual discipline. Yet, if we know why we do it, asking God for help to be re-wired is simple… But of course, we have to be clear that it is the “practice of love of God and neighbor” that ultimately will allow the Holy Spirit within to re-wire our brains!
In other words, all attempts to bring changes to our parishes through preaching are going to be impeded by brains that cannot change with just words, except for those times when the Spirit of God does it in a particular individual. The Catholic culture of forgiveness, peace, love, humility, has no space in our brains. Some have created programs on how to raise kids, how to relate in a marriage, etc, but re-wiring our brains need a method with images and concepts worth 30-60 hours of our time. Only God can do the work in a much shorter time, and in some instances, in seconds. Yes, we should not stop trying with words, but at the same time we have to do more…
The “more” is to love God and neighbor as our primary occupation with the best denial of self possible, and this path usually brings multiple crosses. Once we constantly remember what our primary occupation is and why, the Holy Spirit can take over our words, Bible teaching and ministries of all sorts; we can then become instruments of sanctification because His Love through our servanthood (just like the example of Our Lady), can change others through His Power from the inside out. On our own efforts, He would not be directing the evangelization effort at hand, and we could spend centuries saying the same things with “no evidence” that we are making a difference in a large scale! And the worse scenario is that we become re-wired to accept mediocrity and lukewarmness as the norm… Ouch!
Again, the first twelve chosen Apostles had their brains re-wired at Pentecost. And also remember that just before He ascended, He sent them to the ends of the world to Baptize and all men in the Name of the Holy Trinity… He wanted to be sure that we would receive His Holy Spirit. But more: He had preached much on the subject matter hinting what we need to understand:
He was adamant that we had to love God and each other… (Precisely to bond the Holy Spirit to our souls at Baptism in order to keep our sanctification going and the re-wiring needed in order to become the best servants possible as He was…)
John 13: 35. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another…
John 15: 7-10. If you remain in Me and My Words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples. As the Father loves Me, so I love you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” (Since the Holy Spirit is the Love between Father and Son, His words make so much sense!)
So, what to do to change our Church from the inside out? I hope that by now I do not have to answer this question. The diagnosis is that our brains have been re-wired by the extraordinary power of the communication technology (the world) and our flesh is very plastic to this action… If we tell parents to educate their children in all kind of virtues, many of these parents are already re-wired incorrectly to do so (example of those who have chosen à un-schooling for their kids). If we tell a pedophilic not to molest any more, we should NOT expect him/her to change since it has to occur inside or their brains have to be re-wired. Oprah Winfrey just had her third recent program where she asks pedophilic men and women why they could not stop themselves. The answer was the same: “We just could not do it…” Their brains had been re-wired by the excessive use of pornographic images, added to changes going on since birth coming from the world around them of indifference, hedonism, modernism, paganism.
On April 23, 2010, God in His wisdom woke me up precisely to hear interesting news. It was reported that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s employees, at least twice per day on average and while at work, will use their computers to watch pornographic sites…!!!
Psychotherapy has proven to be effective in re-wiring brains but for long periods of time (6-8 months) and with specific scientific methods aimed to change the electrical circuit among neurons… Therefore, this method may never be of use for the general population. So, what am I trying to say? I am saying that we should re-wire our brains with the science of the Holy Spirit first… and as we pray for the Church to receive a new Pentecost as well… Satan will be there. The flesh (our brains so plastic to be changed with lies versus the Truth) will fight us, but God will win those battles when we ask the Father to give us His Holy Spirit in a new way. And Jesus said that the Father would. He also went up to send the Holy Spirit. Hello! What are we waiting for? There is no question that this combination of the Holy Ghost and Our Lady still can re-wire our brains and souls… for the glory of God… So, LOVE is key to engage the Holy Spirit within, plus we have to call Him often and cooperate with faith that He will find ways to direct us. And He will!
At the end, I will share here how I am praying for Mercy for the Church at every Mass, and as I had mentioned before. But now, I am bringing her to be healed and through His mercy to receive a new Pentecost. Yet, this time Pentecost means that I am praying for a re-wiring of the brains of our members as it happened during the first Pentecost. And for this coming May 23, Pentecost Sunday, let us celebrate it with a new awareness of His Holy Spirit as the healer of our souls for the work of evangelization, just as He did to the Apostles. Also, this time let us call our Mother in heaven to help us become pregnant with her Son, so that we can go and visit others to bring Him to their souls, and precisely through the power of the Holy Ghost. It so happens that on May 31 we will celebrate the Feast of the Visitation when we are called to take Jesus to others. But…. it is also the Feast of the Virgin Mary, under the title of Mediatrix of all Graces…!!! So, both dates, May 23 and 31 can be the start points for a NEW PENTECOST for each of us!
Also, let’s enter these two days as solemn days of rogation for GOD’S MERCY to re-awaken His Holy Spirit in our brains and hearts, now aware of how He wants us to receive Him. As we do that, let’s ask for a new Pentecost for each soul who has been baptized. Plus, let’s pray also for the Holy Spirit to seek every soul in the world who is not baptized, just like it happened to Cornelius who received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized with water as it appears in Acts 10: 45-46. “The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.” This is a battle of battles, but His Mercy can do it! And by the way, “yes we can” because FOR GOD NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!
And Satan will not cease to be there for us. Example: on April 23, 2010, AOL reported a study titled “No IQ Boost from Playing Brain Games.”
Report from England: “More than 8,600 people aged 18 to 60 were asked to play online brain games designed by the researchers to improve their memory, reasoning and other skills for at least 10 minutes a day, three times a week. (Total of 9 hours) They were compared to more than 2,700 people who didn’t play any brain games, but spent a similar amount of time surfing the Internet and answering general knowledge questions. All participants were given a sort of I.Q. test before and after the experiment. Researchers said the people who did the brain training didn’t do any better on the test after six weeks than people who had simply been on the Internet. On some sections of the test, the people who surfed the Net scored higher than those playing the games.” Notice how astute the Devil is… The study was just for 6 weeks, 10 minutes per day and 3 times a week, too short for re-wiring the brain. Plus, this was a commercial to spend more time surfing the Net in order to increase one’s I.Q! Ouch! Worse, these were just games, and not actual scientifically constructed brain fitness exercises.
I want to close this blog with the recent message given by Our Lady in Medjugorje, and please notice what she is saying to us. This comes from an Internet newsletter written by Sr. Emmanuel, someone I know well… (Understand that these apparitions are not yet officially recognized by the Church or as coming from the Virgin Mary).
On April 2, 2010, Mirjana received her monthly apparition at the Blue Cross. After the apparition, she gave the following message:
“Dear children! Today I bless you in a special way and I pray for you to return to the right way to my Son – your Savior, your Redeemer – to Him who gave you eternal life. Reflect on everything human, on everything that does not permit you to set out after my Son – on transience, imperfection and limitation – and then think of my Son, of His Divine infiniteness. By your surrender and prayer, ennoble your body and perfect your soul. Be ready, my children! Thank you.”
My prayer for all of us:
Lord, through Your mercy, help us to become sanctified and sanctifiers! Come Holy Spirit and enlighten our hearts to see the things which are of God. Come Holy Spirit into our minds so that we may know the things that are of God. Come Holy Spirit into our souls that we may belong only to God. Sanctify all that we say, think and do, that all may be for the glory of God. Amen.
Offering the Mass for the Roman Catholic Church
Sign of the Cross. I enter the Presence of the Holy Trinity.
Penitential Rite – 1) I ask the Church to forgive me for anything said against her. 2) I forgive her sinfulness/ negative effects on me. 3) I ask God for pardon of our sins as the Body of Christ and I beg for His mercy for all of us.
The Gloria – This sacrifice of Praise I offer to the Lord for the Church to open her members to healing of mind and spirit.
Let Us Pray – I present her to my loving Father for healing.
Liturgy of the Word – I expect healing of the Universal Church through the power of the Word of God, which will change, nourish and energize her members, in order to take Christ to others but through the example and conversion of our own lives.
Homily – I look at the goodness of God in leaving us His Church and His Priests, keeping alive His Sacraments to nourish us. I thank God for this spiritual mother.
Creed- I become deeply united with God through my faith and belief in His mercy, and I open the Church to all spiritual blood lines of His healing Presence.
Prayer of the Faithful – I agree to be intercessor and channel of God’s healing flow for the Church, which I can do with His grace and mercy and the common prayer of the Body (Congregation).
The Offertory — 1) I make a personal re-dedication of the Church as the vehicle of the redemptive work of Jesus. 2) I offer her to the Father in union with Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. 3) I give her brokenness to Jesus.
The Consecration – 1) I see the white light of the love of the Father soaking her heart like a river. 2) I imagine the Blood of Christ touching and melting the heart of all her members and freeing them from attachment to the world, flesh and Satan. 3) I see His Mercy like a white dove flying over the altar and coming from Jesus’ Sacrifice. 4) I bless her in Jesus’ Name.
The Lord’s Prayer.1) I now break in the Name of Jesus all psychic negative heredity of her members and/or any demonic hold that impedes their conversion. 2) I pray: “deliver us from temptation and the evil one” on behalf of all members of the Church: Priests, Religious, Laity.
Communion At this time I formally offer the Church and all her sins to Jesus, those never acknowledged, repented or amended, and I ask for God’s mercy for a new Pentecost.
Concluding Rite– I focus on my Father’s goodness blessing us through the Church despite all our sins.