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Dominican to lead novena participants to greater ‘spiritual health’

September 28, 2017
Christina Gray

08 9.28.17_Emmerich.op1 THUMBDominican Father Emmerich Vogt believes the unhealed wounds of original sin and personal sin can lead the rich, the famous, and yes, even the faithful into sinful, self-destructive behavior.

The former director of the St. Jude Shrine in San Francisco and preacher for the annual St. Jude Novena at St. Dominic Parish Oct. 20-28 told Catholic San Francisco that this year’s novena on “Spiritual Healing” can help participants find “that peace which the world cannot give,” which is the peace that comes from a life lived in union with Christ.

“I will try to make people aware of how they contribute to their own misery,” he said. “I hope to open their eyes to the necessity of growing morally and spiritually.”

In a flyer for the novena on the St. Dominic website, Father Vogt, a priest of the Holy Name Province of the Dominican Order in residence at St. Albert’s Priory in Oakland, asks more than a dozen questions intended to identify the “spiritual wounds” of potential participants.

“Do you work or eat compulsively?” “Do you freeze up emotionally when you are in conflict?” “Do your good feelings about yourself depend upon being liked by others?” and “Does your fear of rejection determine what you say and do?” are some of these questions.

The preacher has led retreats for the priests and sisters of Missionaries of Charity in Mexico, Poland, Guatemala, Lithuania, Africa and India for the past 35 years. He said that he hopes the novena in San Francisco will help those who answered “yes” to even some of his questions find “peace beyond all understanding” through a practical, spiritual program he will share over nine days.

The St. Dominic St. Jude Novena will conclude on Oct. 28 with a Mass following the annual 5.3-mile St. Jude pilgrimage sponsored by the St. Jude Shrine.

“As Catholics, we view the human person in his totality, a physical and spiritual being who would not be human without this physical and spiritual nature. And what a person does to himself physically and emotionally affects him spiritually, and vice versa,” he said. “Anytime we default on our humanity we suffer terrible psychological consequences which leave a person vulnerable to addictive and codependent behavior.”

Father Vogt offered a long list of names – actors, singers, athletes, musicians and other “successful” people who have died of drug overdoses, alcoholism or suicide.

“Why do some people who have every imaginable form of giftedness and success drink or drug themselves into oblivion and failure?” he said.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, he noted, was a rich, Academy Award-winning actor with small children to care for who “died with a needle in his arm.”

He believes individuals who lack “moral and spiritual antibodies” in their system find it more difficult to resist the dehumanizing influences of an addiction-prone culture.

But being faithful or devout does not necessarily provide immunity from spiritual dis-ease and unsaintly behavior, said Father Vogt.

There’s an old saying, he said: “Mr. Business went to Mass, he never missed a Sunday. Mr. Business went to hell for what he did on Monday.”

A spiritually healthy person knows and loves God and demonstrates that by their love for others.

“A genuine spiritual life manifests itself in compassion, mercy and forgiveness,” he said, in short, a genuine love of neighbor. “Otherwise, it’s what St. Frances de Sales called a ‘pharisaical phantom of virtue.’”

For more information on the St. Jude Novena, Pilgrimage and Mass visit stdominics.org.

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