Success: Full Thinking by Fr. Justin Belitz O.F.M
The symbol of a heart often is utilized to express love, yet we recognize that this is a mere sign pointing the spiritual reality we know and experience as love. So Fr. Justin Belitz O.F.M begins by admitting that expressing the spiritual is, ultimately, inexpressible, but like the mystics before him, he is certainly going to continue trying.
This is the second (to date) of three books by Fr. Justin, the first being Success: Full Living and the latest, Success: Full Relating. On the surface, one might be tempted to think this triptych to be yet another in a long line of mass-produced self-help books. They are much more than that. Belitz goal is accessibility, simplicity and clarity in his psychology, science, cosmology, philosophy, and ecumenical, mystical theology. Considering the tendency towards dense language often employed in those arenas, Justin’s “right here, right now”, earthy approach is as fresh as the clear mountain spring water that he occasionally writes about.
As much as Fr. Justin writes about those things we identify as spiritual, in the theological sense, he also writes extensively of nature, space, music, art and we are reminded that Gustav Mahler, while grasping for the infinite in his existential language, was also a mountain man. I suspect there is a bit of a Gustav Mahler mountain man in Fr. Justin. This may also be why I prefer listening to Herbert von Karajan’s recording of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony while reading Belitz. Shortly after a life-threatening surgery, Karajan approached the famous adagio finale with zen-like optimism, as opposed to cataclysmic pessimism. This much-lauded recording puts me in a similar world to the one I inhabit while reading Belitz.
“I and the Father Are One”, Jesus said in an attempt to express oneness with spirit and even Jesus had difficulty expressing this, writes Belitz. Often, expressions are feared and or labeled. When earlier cultures spoke of “Sun God” or “Earth Spirit” they were not used to identify the Earth or Sun as “God”, but were used to point to the divine as expressed in the Earth or Sun and, later, when one group expressed their understanding of the divine contrary to another group’s style of expression, the result was, of course, charges of heresy. Belitz writing resonated when, in the Criterion (local Catholic newsletter) an article reported that Pope Benedict would be commemorating the anniversary of his predecessor’s interreligious prayers service at Assisi. Of course, some representatives, from all sides, are advising “caution”, lest someone be praying to the wrong God.
Belitz channels the simple Cure of Ars, the Little Flower, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Teresa of Avila, Ghandi, John XXIII, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, not as plaster saints or heroic facades, but as examples of the servant leader. Belitz applies what he has learned from the Silva Life System Method (founder: Jose Silva) and filters it through his own sensibilities, personalizing it with shared stories , along with reflections on everything from Matthew Fox, Deepak Chopra, the Quantum Theory to reflections on the music of Beethoven, no doubt influenced by an education in music.
Belitz critics have accused him of subscribing to New Age agendas, but, as the author points out, no one can really define what exactly qualifies New Age. When pedestrian attempts are made to define New Age, what is often described could actually be described as quite Old Age, dating back to Hildegard of Bignen, St. John of the Cross and Meister Eckhardt. Essentially, when addressing business ethics, espousing healthy living, positivism, left-brain/right-brain balance, mantling a co-creator attitude towards Earth and Nature, adherence to a true catholic (universal as opposed to uniform) spirit, Belitz speaks as one of the mystics, “Religion is big business; spirituality is your connection with God. Organized religion should be dispensing spirituality, but I don’t think that is necessarily true today.If you look at the person of Jesus, you will find that he had very little, if any, structure. He was involved almost totally in spirituality.”
As a Franciscan priest, Belitz contemplates often on Vatican II and Roncalli’s call for a return to the spirituality of Jesus. That was a call that echoed the matriarchal spiritual movement, the creation model as opposed to the patriarchal institute’s fall/redemption model. In many ways that call was modeled on the creation centered, aged Augustine of the Retractions, rather than the earlier patriarchal Augustine of Confessions.
Unfortunately, Roncalli’s call began to shift into reverse before the pope’s corpse was cold, such was the fear generated by the winds of change. Remarkably, Belitz, an advocate for that call, does not resort to judgemental pronouncements, and he mantles a matter-of-fact assessment that a true movement takes a generation or so to take hold. Belitz, like that Karajan performance of the Mahler Ninth, stubbornly subscribes to zen-like optimism. Once that call does take hold, the possibilities for nothing less than a mystical revival, are boundlessly expansive.
This, and Fr. Justin’s other books may be purchased at: