(NOTE: This transcription has been automatically generated through an AI program. Consequently, this transcript may not match everything you hear in the podcast episode, and it may contain errors such as spelling, grammar, word choice, etc., due to the limitations of current AI technology.)
Hi everyone. Welcome to the first episode of Midnight Carmelite. This show is about the doctrine of St. John of the Cross, the broader Carmelite tradition and we’re taking it through the lens of personalism, that would be philosophy of the human person. So you might also be wondering about the name of the podcast. Well, first of all, it’s a reference to St. John of the Cross’s tripartite division of the Dark Night. So Saint John divides the dark night into three parts. It’s evening, midnight, and dawn.
Faith is the only thing the person has. It’s the darkest part of the dark night in the dark night of the soul. You know, with this tripartite division, there’s phases, and I felt that the deep night, the midnight is where I felt he really spoke to me, that I think that John really shines the most in that deep dark night. I also find myself in joy because we often today lack hope. One of the goals of this podcast is to give people hope through insights into the Carmelite tradition, specifically St. John of the Cross, Carmelite saints, their doctrine, their lives, what they suffered and I feel like this is something that we really need, Maybe just me.
But I doubt I’m the only one. But if I am, so be it. So this faith that St. John talks about at midnight is a description in this stage of the human person’s journey up Mount Carmel, and it blinds the person’s reason and removes from the perspective of the person God’s presence. This person feels that God has abandoned them. You know, you think of Jesus on the cross. You know, Father, Father, why did you abandon me? That’s what this person is experiencing, and God never removes his presence.
When I saw that insight, when I was reading all of St. John’s writing, it really struck me that God never removes his presence. He is merely the excess. And as a philosopher, that really struck me. You know what? What does it mean by excess? You know, that we often throw that word around. There’s a you know, excessive paper towels. I don’t know. The point is, is is we throw the word around a lot today, and excess is greater than that, which is the measure. That’s a good way of understanding, excesses, the reality that something is beyond a thing, the measure or one and we see in this excess.
We see in this struggle, that God is really loving the soul, not taking himself away from it. So I found that very powerful, very, very powerful. And it was it’s obviously a very, very deep thing to meditate on something I still do. It’s amazing when you meditate on the things of God, you’ll never find a bottom. So introductions are in order.
I am your host, Andrew Gniadek. Over a decade ago, I began a journey into philosophy that started when I realized that I needed to know more about the “why” of things and I wasn’t getting an answer from other fields, and I ended up pulling basically a Joseph Campbell for those who don’t know has, he said, I went into the woods and read.
That’s pretty much what happened, and I was fortunate, and I was also it was a cross, you know, but I needed it. I knew I needed to do this and my delving deeper into philosophy and the question of why brought me back to the church and really helped me realize that it’s not a question of “why” it’s a question of “who” and that truth is not an idea. The Gospel John Pontius Pilate, you know, what is truth? Something I meditate on pretty much every Lent because I just find it such a powerful moment when we see that truth isn’t an idea.
Truth isn’t a thing like some creature. Truth is a person, and that person is Jesus Christ. So this realization of Jesus as the person really brought me to understand the philosophy of the human person better. So I ended up writing my thesis on the subject of the human person and unity. Metaphysics is an area of specialty of mine. From that I studied the problem of the one and the many in relation to the human person, faculty, psychology, things of that nature and ultimately connecting the dots backwards.
What ended up happening was is I noticed people in my own life were asking me questions and you know, both Catholics and non Catholics. And they were asking me these questions about life about being a person, and I realized I feel called to discuss and dive into these questions, but I didn’t have the framework was being called to discuss and to dive into these questions of the human person just by necessity. And two years ago, I had my first real encounter with Saint John of the Cross through Karol Wojtyla, his dissertation on the subject, and I found myself voraciously reading this work.
I again I had never encountered Saint John of the Cross before. And he really through Karol Wojtyla’s dissertation really struck me. And the story of St. John the Cross was trying to tell me a story about the human person that I had not seen before. The idea of mystical theology up until that point for me was, you know, someone thinks pixie dust from the sky falls down. Someone has, you know, sense images of Jesus with, you know, talking about the future. And for me, I generally felt that was nonsense.
I felt those people I knew, even at that point, that Jesus sightings of Jesus and make it sound like a UFO. Visions are rare, and I felt that you know, people who were saying that they were seeing it generally my first, you know, instinct was skepticism. It was Yeah, okay. I don’t know if I believe you. And plus, since today I would imagine someone, you know, a counter argument can be made to my point of view or my mindset. And they could say, Well, you know, this is a skeptical age, and, you know, you’re just a product of this age and you’re skeptical.
You know, there may be tons of visions of Jesus, and these people may be telling the truth. And I guess it wasn’t until Saint John of the Cross that I realized there was someone telling the truth about it. And it was him. It was in his writing. I immediately read it, and I was like, “This guy has pardon the pun been up the mountain and he’s come back down the mountain to tell us what he found and what he saw, how he got there, what it took.”
And he’s a guide. And he was a guide I sorely needed. I didn’t go into his work after that. I don’t know why I put the book down. I just think other things in life came up. You know how life is, and I came back to him. I think I want to say six months, maybe more than that, maybe a year. And I came back to his writings because I felt called towards understanding the Carmelite tradition of prayer. What I found in St. John’s writing was someone who had an experience with God, which he described clearly enough for me to see that it conforms with a philosophical understanding of the human person without faith in God.
So everything I had done up to this point with my thesis, all this work Saint John conformed with all that. He was like the crown. And then I knew I had someone in front of me who had an experience with God. I realized this is a story of the human person meeting God. And this was a story of someone who had experience with this the story Saint John of the Cross told me in his, in his own words, in his works clearly conformed, connecting the dots backwards with all my thesis work that I’ve done all my philosophy work, and it actually gave me a way to see beyond reason to faith in a way that I understood better.
He helped me to see again that truth is not an idea. Truth is a person and that you can encounter this person and there’s a way to encounter this person. In fact, one of the major issues in discussing the human person is the nature of knowing. And so, you know, we asked the question, What do we know and what, man or not, whether can we know things and really boils down to that Knowledge is begotten in two ways. First, by abstraction. You know, you look at a fire hydrant conceptualization.
You understand the form of a fire hydrant. What this particular fire hydrant is as well as the nature of the fire hydrant, meaning its operation. But you also know all those things by love. So when you love something, you’re not abstracting when you know it’s by going out to the thing that you love by reaching out with your heart, with their affection through choosing through your will through choosing the good of the other loving self gift that you learn about that thing and you learn things through the manner of love that you can’t know through abstraction.
And that’s our way of contact with God is through love. Can’t say you know God’s in a tree or God’s in here. You know, God is infinite, but you can be as a person and you can love a person. So that means you can know God right now and that’s hope. You know, again, it goes back to hope. You know, we miss it. We don’t pay a lot of attention to it today, and I hope mild pun intended that this podcast gives you some hope.
So throughout the show, we’re going to dive deep into Saint John of the Cross and his doctrine, other Carmelite saints philosophy, the human person, scripture, reflections and all this is grounded in Carmelite tradition. And like I said, my hope is that this will provide you with insights and hope, because hope requires three things to exist. First tribulation, second perseverance and three testing.
So thanks for listening. And welcome to Midnight Carmelite.