The Trasnsformative Table: Folding the Wings of the Intellect

"Folding the wings of the intellect" is an old Russian phrase, one that was used alot by Catherine Doherty (see previous posts). I've been drawn to her stuff on this lately, from here :

"There remains this picture of the kitchen and the tea; I can even see the pattern of the cup. There is the stark electric light illuminating the kitchen. Everything is vivid. From that day on, a certain uneasiness entered my life. But don't get any erroneous ideas. I was going around having quite a few outings and dancing and having a good time. I was earning good money. I was travelling to Europe. Life seemed to be a bowl of cherries and except for my marital situation, which was developing into a personal tragedy, outwardly none of those cherries were sour.

Yet, like background music barely heard, the question asked in the kitchen was repeating itself. Barely heard, passing through my heart and mind and soul like a little shadow passes over the sun, to be forgotten the next instant. ...

A strange restlessness took hold of me. ..I was not very happy. I asked myself, “What is it?” and, as usual, opened the Bible to obtain the answer. The page fell open to: “Arise, go, sell all you possess, take up your cross and follow Me.” I closed the book and said, “This is all very fine for single people who have vocations to the priesthood or religious life, but it isn't for me. I have a son.” ...

My uneasiness increased. I cut back on my social activities. My dreams became recurrent and were filled with the poor with whom I had lived...Time went on and fear was replaced by awe. I recalled the girl who went on a pilgrimage but never finished it. There before me lay a pilgrimage of sorts, but unlike the first, this was an inner pilgrimage. I had to find out what it was that God wanted me to do. It got so that I couldn't sleep or eat very well and I had to do something...

(Through the chaos phrases would come to stand out and guide) It could happen any place, any time, in the midst of a group, in my office, at lunch in a cafeteria. Suddenly a little light, a little added word would come to me. I used to write them down on scraps of paper, on the back of old envelopes, in some diary, maybe lost or forgotten now; though some of them are still here. It was a patchy thing.

When you are subjected over a period of years to that sort of fragmented communication, as if you take a piece of meat, hack off a piece and then another and another, what are you going to do? Make a stew or what? You don't know. The meat gets chopped into smaller pieces. The words all came that way, in the confusion and noise of traffic, amidst the life of the marketplace...

(The path unfolding wasone of simplicity) To be simple is to go to the essence. I almost want to call it holy simplicity; it certainly is a gift of God. Nothing was yet clear. I was still the little girl in Russia trying to finish the pilgrimage she began. The inner me seemed to be journeying in a country without roads, or with many paths among which I didn't know which to choose.

Simplicity meant facing without rationalization the type of life I would have to undertake, and all its effects and results. I had to lay these out in utter simplicity, face them and say a fiat’ or ‘yes’ to them.

Who can always be little? A child. So therefore that sentence: “Little, be always little, simple, poor, childlike.” I had to be childlike in order to be simple and little. And because I was not a child, because I was a complex personality, I would have to become poor in another sense.

So at this point two ideas of poverty were working in my soul: one, physical and geographical; and one transcendent, very difficult to catch. I skirted around it like you skirt around a mystery, or skirt around a tower to find a door.

Being poor included inner poverty, a detachment from intellect. Not an abdication from thinking but an abdication from the tools of thinking: conversations, books, music. In the reality of daily living it meant accepting, for an indefinite amount of time — maybe a lifetime, the abdication of many things that appeared to be part of my personality and my needs. It meant a reliance on God exclusively.

I got glimpses through the Holy Spirit that it was a tremendously deep and difficult surrender that was asked of me. For I was not a little child. I was an intellectual and had other gifts. This demanded a giving over of one's inner self with a childlike trust.

That is why I coined this prayer, much later in my life: “Give me the heart of a child and the awesome courage to live it out.’... My devotion to the Child of Bethlehem helped me. He had surrendered his intellect, his God-like intellect. He had become a child. Nobody knew who he was, inside of himself.

Because God became a baby and then a carpenter, I knew that I had to surrender my intellect in some way, according to my little ability in comparison to His. It couldn't be used as it would have been if I had lived according to my real state of life...

Late one night I was home and again lying before a fireplace, much like in Russia. But this time I was very alive, not at all asleep and not hungry, except for knowledge: the type of knowledge one cannot get through books. I always believed that if you really want to know something about God, his will, or a mystery of the faith, you have to ask God very simply and then be passive. It will come.

Lying before this fireplace, I asked God to explain to me about this “Preach the Gospel with your life without compromise,” but mostly about the part ‘with your life,’ because it bothered me. In the passivity of the Spirit, I waited for an answer, for the Gospel says, “Ask and you shall receive.” I was sure that sooner or later I would receive it, because I asked it in the name of Jesus Christ and of the Father.

Clear like crystal, a thought came to me: “Listen to the Spirit, He will lead you.” Now, to a Russian, that's a perfect answer! Then I stopped thinking, for when such answers come it's best to fold the wings of one's intellect, accept them and rejoice and glorify God. (bolding my own)

Time marched on and the whole deal was lying fallow....(Then the next phrase came) : “Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.” It came out of nowhere and fitted in. (And later) “Love, love, love, never counting the cost." ...

It brought me to think about love, the kind of love he was talking about.... (As a child i remembered asking) my mother about it: “How does one love God? How does one love priests?” She looked at me and smiled and said, “Infinitely. “ I asked, “What does it mean, that love is infinite?” She said, “Without end and without measure. “ Well, I couldn't go any further than that.

Another picture comes to me. I am at the sacrament of confession in Russia. The first question this old priest asks me is, “Child, how much do you love your enemies?” I was very puzzled. I didn't know I had enemies. So he said, “Maybe now you have none but in the future you will. Always examine your conscience as to how you love your enemies. For only if you love them well are you fulfilling God's commandment of love." (Ouch!)

Here again the word love intrigued me, in an adolescent fashion. The love the Jesuit spoke of for priests, and the love for one's enemies, seemed awfully big. What my mother had said, “love without end,” seemed immense. In my early youth I had in these ways met the word ‘love.’ So when the sentence “Love without counting the cost” came, it seemed natural."

And so these little phrases, phrases born of listening and "folding the wings of the intellect" guided her (and also helped create a "little mandate" for others so drawn). Helped her find poverty of spirit, a true reliance upon God. I am just getting more and more drawn to this. Probably becuase i need it so much. Not the outer poverty, life's given that in abundance lol, but the inner poverty, the more childlike trusting of "folding the wings of the intellect". Instead, my head seems to never turn off, sentances are always buzzing around somehow. And its getting to a point where i just know deep down it has to change. "Being poor included inner poverty, a detachment from intellect." Why is that so darn hard to do? Becuase it is.

But i deeply long for it...

(Images from Catherine Doherty's books, from

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