What is phenomenology?
What is phenomenological devotion to St. Joan and St. Thérèse?
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Phenomenology, to borrow Martin Heidegger’s definition, is “to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself.” To be less technical, phenomenology is about receiving the world around us as it truly is rather than as we interpret it through our pre-conceived ideological frameworks. In relationships with others, this requires empathy. Understanding in the phenomenological sense involves receiving the world in openness and a sense of honest discovery – to investigate “the other” that we might understand “the other” as “the other” shows itself from itself. Phenomenology receives who and what is given by setting aside one’s presuppositions and judgments. It frees us from closed ideologies that claim to know all the answers and opens us to the possibility of a revelatory encounter. It allows us to receive truth as astonishment. Phenomenology is a gift to our Catholic faith when integrated with our traditional metaphysics. Phenomenology and metaphysics bring together the meaningful experience of God - allowing us to receive God as God gives Himself from Himself in our intimate interior - with our limited and fragmented understanding of God through theology and philosophy. In My Vocation is Love – St. Thérèse’s Way to Total Trust, Jean Lafrance develops a vivid portrait of how the phenomenon of God profoundly complements the metaphysical theology of God.
The goal of spiritual theology and Christian experience is one and the same, which means that theology is useful to those who have already felt the impact of the thunderbolt of mercy
This is precisely the gift St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, brought to us as the future saint and patroness of Europe. Edith Stein was modern without being a modernist by reconciling her background in modern phenomenology with medieval Thomist Scholasticism.
Our Catholic metaphysics are transcendent. Phenomenology opens us to “being” transcendent. We are drawn to Truth, Beauty, and Goodness by receiving these heavenly forms as God desires that we receive them. Rather than demand that Heaven prove itself to us, we allow Heaven to show itself to us that we might journey toward our homeland. The metaphysics, magisterial teachings, and lives of the saints form the guardrails between which we travel safely on our way of phenomenological discovery in the company of these saints. Pope St. John Paul II, a phenomenologist himself who canonized St. Edith Stein, developed a kindred understanding in his encyclical Fides et Ratio.
From the teaching of the two Vatican Councils there also emerges a genuinely novel consideration for philosophical learning. Revelation has set within history a point of reference which cannot be ignored if the mystery of human life is to be known. Yet this knowledge refers back constantly to the mystery of God which the human mind cannot exhaust but can only receive and embrace in faith. Between these two poles, reason has its own specific field in which it can inquire and understand, restricted only by its finiteness before the infinite mystery of God.
Seeing “the other” in the way they see themselves from themselves and empathically receiving them as they give themselves constitutes what we call phenomenological lived experience. In this way, phenomenology makes truth more accessible to our consciousness and then constructs meaningful relationships among these phenomenological lived experiences. It helps us make meaningful inferences about how our lived experience correlates to what we know. Phenomenology harmonizes the principles governing these emerging self-evident truths in our lives and guides us between the guardrails of metaphysics as we attempt to make sense of our experiences.
Phenomenological devotion more specifically focuses on receiving the self-evident truths revealed to us by Divine Providence in our contemplative lives and harmonizes their governing principles with metaphysics in a hermeneutic that clarifies their meaning and purpose. It helps us make sense of the truths revealed to us. Most importantly, phenomenological devotion opens us to receive, and then share, God’s love. In this way we are “released from ourselves” to be captivated by God.
Released from herself, from her impressions and her anxieties, Thérèse can sing the mercies of the Lord. She is truly humble because she is captivated by the face of God’s tenderness.
Phenomenological devotion begins with a point of inquiry. That point of inquiry given to me was St. Joan of Arc as revealed through the heart and Jehannian hermeneutic of St. Thérèse.
St. Joan of Arc is the Dove. St. Thérèse is the Rose.
Check out the Heroic Hearts podcast on Substack, Spotify, or Apple. Heroic Hearts is a podcast about healing, enchanting, and elevating our hearts through the stories and spirituality of St. Joan of Arc and St. Therese of Lisieux. Co-hosted with Amy Chase.
 Heidegger, Being and Time, 79. “Thus ‘phenomenology’ means ἀποφαίνεσθαι τὰ φαινόμενα—to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself. This is the formal meaning of that branch of research which calls itself ‘phenomenology’. But here we are expressing nothing else than the maxim formulated above: ‘To the things themselves!’”
 Lafrance, My Vocation Is Love - St. Thérèse’s Way to Total Trust, 19.
 Pope St. John Paul II, “FIDES ET RATIO - On the Relationship between Faith and Reason,” para. 14.
 Lafrance, My Vocation Is Love - St. Thérèse’s Way to Total Trust, 29.