spirituality

Arise and Walk

November 16, 2014

SS. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man at the Beautiful Gate, 17th century, Bolognese painter

SS. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man at the Beautiful Gate, 17th century, Bolognese painter

A forty year old man, lame from birth, sat on his mat just outside the Beautiful gate of the temple of Jerusalem. This way of life, begging for daily sustenance, was nothing new to him, nor to those who passed him regularly on their way into the temple. Depending on friends to transport him to and from his home was also nothing new. But it probably was never easy to humble himself like that just to live, yet he persevered because he had no other choice.

One day he saw two men, Peter and John, about to enter the temple at the ninth hour (3 o’clock) and asked them for alms. That encounter changed his life forever. Acts 3: 3-8 tells us what happened.

He, when he had seen Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked to receive an alms. But Peter with John fastening his eyes upon him, said: Look upon us. But he looked earnestly upon them, hoping that he should receive something of them. But Peter said: Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise, and walk. And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up, and forthwith his feet and soles received strength. And he leaping up, stood, and walked, and went in with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

Some things that struck me about this passage as I was meditating on it are:

  • This occurred at the 9th hour, the same hour Jesus died on the Cross, the hour of mercy, the hour of freedom from the chains of all evil. Today countless Catholics all over the world recite the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3:00, pleading mercy for sinners everywhere, including themselves, that we all may arise and walk in the way of the Lord as this man did. At three o’clock I will forever think now of that lame man and what God is telling me through that healing.
  • Peter instructed the man to “Look upon us.” The first step in healing is to ask for it. The second step is to look with earnestness and hope upon Christ, who in this case used Peter as His instrument. Anyone who visits Adoration chapels where “favors granted” binders are left for adorers to write of the blessings they have received will immediately know the healing that comes from looking upon Jesus with earnestness and hope. I always find myself humbled and awed at the daily miracles Jesus does for others simply because of their earnest prayers before Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Silver and gold would not fix the man’s lameness but the name of Jesus not only cured the man, but gave him the strength to go out and support himself. He received a new life entirely instead of money. He received much more than he asked for, way beyond what he could have imagined when he begged Peter for money. How powerful that name is! God is so generous that when we ask for all we need in the name of Jesus, He gives us much more than we ask for in terms of grace and blessings even if we don’t get exactly what we want or if it takes time for Him to answer our plea.
  • Peter, as did Jesus sometimes when He healed, touched the man, even though he could have healed him without touching him. Peter was the hand of Christ just as we are to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to others. Living like Christ we are to allow God to use us to heal the broken hearted, bind up spiritual, psychological, and physical wounds, and bring joy to those in grave circumstances starting with our own families and reaching out to others.
  • Peter seized the man’s right hand. The right hand signifies ownership, power, and control that the person exercises, and can stand for the entire person. In an instant, the lame man went from powerlessness to being able to exercise more control over his life. He was no longer at the mercy of his lameness. He was more free than at any other time of his life to go places and do things, but most especially he was free to adopt all the body postures the rituals of the temple followed in worshiping God. When God heals us from our spiritual lameness, we are able to pursue Him with complete freedom of heart. We receive the grace to exercise more control over our unruly flesh and to resist the false charms of the world.
  • In a way, this man who went into the temple leaping and dancing and praising God is a sign of resurrection. On that final day when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, those who have been faithful to Him will be resurrected with our bodies unto life and will enter into an eternity of joy of which the lame man’s situation is a pale imitation even if it’s a foretelling of what is to come. I look forward to leaping and dancing in the praise of God with my new body some day.
  • We encounter Christ in the confessional where we ask God for the alms of forgiveness and make a firm resolution to “sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.” He gives us a new life every time just as He gave the lame man his legs. Huge weights of sin, making us lame and causing us suffering, are lifted from our shoulders. We can breathe again. The joy of His mercy makes our hearts leap and dance and the lame man did in the temple. Countless penitents have testified to this. We can look at our being freed from our sins as mini-resurrections from the poverty of sin that allow us to testify to the glory of God to fellow sinners who may be hesitating to ask for the alms of forgiveness. The words of the Church, some of the most beautiful of all in the sacred liturgy of this sacrament, send us sinners on our way:

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Perhaps we might ask ourselves,

What do I need to be freed from so as to begin a new life of spiritual wholeness and joy?

Am I humble enough to lay even my most complicated situation in front of the priest and ask for the healing grace of Confession?

Looking back on my life, when was it that I begged God for help and he answered me with far more than what I asked for?

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Sunday, November 16th, 2014 Sacred Scripture, spirituality 6 Comments

The Right Food

November 12, 2014

Still life with Fruits, Nuts, and Cheese, 1613, Floris Claesz van Dijck, 1575 - 1651,  Oil on panel, 49 x 77 cm, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem

Still life with Fruits, Nuts, and Cheese, 1613, Floris Claesz van Dijck, 1575 – 1651,
Oil on panel, 49 x 77 cm, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem

As Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays approach, a lot of people start obsessing over weight gain. Many of us overindulge on goodies during this time, while those attending Weight Watcher meetings discuss ways of controlling eating behaviors during this season. I own up to the fact that having been very hungry, though not starving, during some years of my childhood, I have something of an obsession with food as do many of those who attend the WW meetings. I actually fear being hungry.

While WW has a great psychology to its eating program, being a secular organization it lacks something indispensible to me. That’s God. We can’t overcome our obsessions without the grace of God, and learning to discipline ourselves in sensible ways is possible only by His grace. I’ve found that instead of focusing on a weight loss goal as the only marker of success, which is something WW cautions against, what’s more helpful is to bring in the spiritual perspective along with the other types of goals WW encourages.

Beyond focusing on the body as the temple of the Holy Ghost and behaving in ways that support good health within the limitations we may each have such as my fibromyalgia, it’s helpful to return to another basic truth. God is the source of all our food and He gives it to us to sustain ourselves to do His will. Now I can approach the table with the question, am I ready to eat for the greater honor and glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) and to be better able to do His will?

St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215) adds another facet to the crystal of self-discipline in the area of food, one that helps us when in times of feasting.

We are not, then, to abstain wholly from various kinds of food, but only are not to be taken up about them. We are to partake of what is set before us, as becomes a Christian, out of respect to him who has invited us, by a harmless and moderate participation in the social meeting; regarding the sumptuousness of what is put on the table as a matter of indifference, despising the dainties, as after a little destined to perish.

“Let him who eats, not despise him who eats not; and let him who eats not, not judge him who eats”(Romans 14:3). And a little way on he explains the reason of the command, when he says, “He that eats, eats to the Lord, and gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks” (Romans 14:6).

So the right food is thanksgiving. (Instructor 2.1)

Perhaps meditating on the traditional Catholic table blessing, “Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive through Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen” can help us keep a right perspective in the upcoming days and whenever we enjoy celebrations.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 spirituality 5 Comments

Thinking and Speaking According to the Mind of God

November 3, 2014

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

At the recent synod on the family we saw how language was used to promote a secular agenda on certain topics rather than supporting God’s will for His people. In The Language of the Devil I wrote about how ambiguity in language serves the purpose of confusing others and leading them away from truth. Clarity in language is only one aspect, though, that we must adhere to in order to bring others to Christ no matter how difficult their life situations may be, without compromising with the world.

How we think is reflected in how we express ourselves. If we are thinking according to the mind of God, we will engage the world on His terms, not on its terms. Our language will reflect this. Make no mistake, strengthening families is an evangelization challenge that must be thought and expressed according to the mind of God.

One of the most compelling speakers who sets evangelization challenges in language from God’s perspective is Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church. On October 17, 2014 he addressed the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in a speech titled: THE THEOLOGY OF FREEDOM. CHRISTIANITY AND SECULAR POWER: FROM THE EDICT OF MILAN TO THE PRESENT. The talk is quite long and worthy of being read in its entirety because we can learn a lot about how the Church engaged the world and how we must do it today.

My purpose isn’t to present a history lesson here, but to show the framework we need to use in thought and word if we are to address the challenges families of today face in acting as a leaven of Christ and a spiritual force in the world while fulfilling the duty to join God in heaven one day. Here are some paragraphs from the speech, my emphasis:

Thanks to the Edict of Milan, Christians were faced with the necessity of thinking not only of their own salvation and the welfare of their small community. Their new position in society obliged them to think of the quality of this society, of their role in it – the role of active citizens, of men of prayer for their homeland and people of good will.

Contrary to widespread opinion, Christianity did not simply become a substitute for the decayed paganism of the Roman Empire; it entered its life and structure as something principally new. It was not subject to the dictatorship of secular authority, it influenced this very authority, at times embarking upon an unequal conflict with it. [Do we see our mission today like this?]

In other words, the Church, upon entering the structure of state power, did not merge with it….

In my view our era – the era of the Church’s revival [he is speaking of the Russian Orthodox Church post 1988] – has something in common with the era following the publication of the Edict of Milan.

The link in time is the concept of freedom. The principle of freedom of conscience proclaimed in the Edict of Milan lies at the foundation of the new attitude of the authorities to its subjects. The Edict of Milan presaged sixteen centuries ago that which was possible in full measure only in the twentieth century after hundreds of years of wars and discrimination. In a whole series of international documents at the basis of the modern legal world (such as, for example, the International Bill of Human Rights and the European Convention on the Defence of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms) the freedom to confess one’s faith and live according to it – the main idea of the Edict – is postulated as one of the most important freedoms of the human person….

Certain events in the Church’s history cannot be explained other than as a divine miracle. Such a miracle was the era following the Edict of Milan in 313. No less a miracle happened in our country at the end of the 1980s. Could people, who only a few years before this risked their welfare for their faith, and in some instances their lives too, evaluate the freedom that had unexpectedly fallen on their heads as anything other than a divine miracle? Could they have hoped that the godless ideology would collapse and be replaced by another worldview in which the Good News of the Church again will be viewed as one of the foundations of society and the pledge of its success in the future? Numerous believers, who had gathered at the festivities in July 1988, would be able to repeat the words once uttered by Eusebius of Caesarea on the occasion of the general church festivities that heralded a new era: “All the fear in which our tormentors had held us hostage has evaporated. Now the joyful and triumphant days of popular festivities have come: all has become filled with light.”

In both instances it is precisely the gift of religious freedom that preceded the gift of other civil liberties, viewed in our time as one of the main achievements of a democratic society. And it is not fortuitous, for it is in the Christian system of values that the concept of freedom acquires its special content. We Christians believe that the gift of life is a gift from God, and that human life is not under the power of anyone other than the Maker of the human race. This belief renders Christians free from the oppression of any political power and any ideology. It makes them capable of being martyrs and confessors when the Church is persecuted; and witnesses to the truth and heralds of the Kingdom of God when the Church is recognized. No other religion or ideology characterizes such a reverential attitude towards freedom. The great Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev said that “freedom, above all freedom, is the soul of Christian philosophy and this is what cannot be granted by any other abstract and rationalistic philosophy.”

Christian freedom does not tear us away from our families, from our social ties or from our country. On the contrary, within the Christian understanding of freedom, in the recognition of an absolute and living connection of the human person with God there is embedded a moral potential of great strength. [This is the mindset we need as we consider how to build strong families and resolve problems that have arisen today because of injustice, wanton hedonism, and rejection of reason.] 

Being the creation of a beneficent God, sons and daughters of the Maker, we are called upon to plow the garden that has been entrusted to us, thereby bringing the Kingdom of God closer to humanity. It is precisely this moral potential, rooted within the free human person, that the emperor Constantine saw in Christianity when he allowed this powerful positive creative energy to be released and act upon all of society….

In recent times we have more often been able to observe how in the West another type of freedom has been proclaimed: freedom from moral principles, from common human values, from responsibility for one’s actions. We see how this freedom is destructive and aggressive. Instead of respect for the feelings of other people, it preaches an all-is-permitted attitude, ignoring the beliefs and values of the majority. Instead of a genuine affirmation of freedom it asserts the principle of unrestrained gratification of human passions and vices remote from moral orientation…. [Sounds like Pope Benedict XVI, doesn’t he?]

That which is happening today in the West is the gradual restoration of the Pax Romana, of global international hegemony.

Along with this, if Roman power at certain periods was indifferent towards immorality, then today that immorality is being proclaimed as the norm. The modern-day democratic state is even viewed by some as the role of guarantor of the legal status of immorality, for it protects citizens from the encroachments of “religious sanctimoniousness.” The role of religion, as in Rome, is seen in an exclusively utilitarian light – it is the servant of the state without any claims to truth, the “personal affair of each individual.” And yet the state must be recognized unconditionally and we must obey its laws, including those that undermine its foundations.

Nevertheless, Christianity in its very essence cannot renounce its claim to truth – that is her eschatological nature, to seek out the City of the age to come. The Kingdom of God, as preached by the Church, fills the contemporary secular state with fear and is a threat to the kingdom of men that cannot bear competition….

To possess freedom for the Church means to be the “salt of the earth,” the yeast of the Gospel, a spiritual force and the conscience of the people. [This is precisely why the Church is hated by those who want to kill their consciences and keep them dead.] To realize freedom means to act and use those opportunities that the Lord has given us for serving and preaching. The world is so constructed that freedom is the condition of a decisive, yet well thought out action. Freedom is the means, the condition of creative work. And creativity is engagement in the life of society with all of its inner contradictions. [Lack of divinely inspired creative work is at the heart of compromises with the world as we saw among some at the synod.]

We have been judged to live in times when in our hands, in the hands of Christians, is the precious gift of freedom – the same gift which Christians received in the era of emperor Constantine the Great. This gift of Divine Providence opens up before us great opportunities. The ability to dispose of the gift of freedom demands from the older generation of people in the Church a special wisdom, and from the young workers in God’s field colossal self-sacrifice…. [Self-sacrifice is necessary, the colossal kind, to preserve and heal the family. This is the message we have to adhere to, not instituting practices that make a slide into hell certain.]

The freedom to confess Christ as Lord and live according to his commandments will remain constant in the life of the Church and the life of every Christian until the moment when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3: 10).

I would like to wish you all, and in your person the future generation of Western Christians, to preserve the spirit of the Christian freedom which considers as vanity all that which does not incline its head before the living God and the Saviour of the world Jesus Christ. 

In preserving this freedom, do not be afraid of creativity, do not be afraid of the risk of creativity. For God calls us to be his co-workers in this world and co-workmanship cannot but be creativity in the loftiest sense of this word. [Each Christian is in a partnership with God to bring about His kingdom. Do we discount His grace to help us and those we are seeking to bring to Him to act in accordance with His will?]

And there is another wish which I would like to convey to you all: in bringing into the world the word of Christ, let us not forget that the best testimony always has been and always will be the example of our own lives.

Often when I read Metropolitan Hilarion’s talks, I feel deeply the schism between Rome and the Orthodox, so obviously the work of Satan. Both in the words of our Eastern rite brethren and in the Orthodox we see a godly spiritual orientation that lights the way for a decadent world, more so than what we too frequently hear from the USCCB and other Church leaders. We must keep our purpose in mind, as Hilarion expressed in many ways here, as we go about bringing the Good News of Christ to a world bent on self-destruction. If we do not frame the issues in relation to God, we can never find the solutions we need based on truth. Can you imagine what would have happened at the synod had Hilarion been a participant? Fortunately we had Cardinals Burke, Pell, Napier and others.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Monday, November 3rd, 2014 Catholic culture, spirituality 1 Comment

Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Benignity

October 9, 2014

St. Gregory the Great, Titian, via Wikimedia

St. Gregory the Great, Titian, via Wikimedia

In a recent post, Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Continency, I opened the door to discovering a deeper meaning than self-control for continency. Today I am opening the door to considerations on benignity, which is frequently translated as “kindness”.

St. Paul tells us in Galatians 5: 22:

But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity.

I favor the translation of the Douay Rheims Bible because it forces us to look beyond the mere word, “kindness”, which limits the true meaning of the Greek chrestotes (khray-stot’-ace). The Greek means “usefulness, i.e. morally, excellence (in character or demeanor) — gentleness, good(-ness), kindness” according to Strong’s.

Chrestotes is different from the next word, agathosune  (ag-ath-o-soo’-nay) in the same passage: meaning goodness, i.e. virtue or beneficence, translated as “goodness” in many Bibles, which we will take up in the future. The Latin Vulgate translates chrestotes as benignitas, from which we get the English word, “benignity”.

In today’s world moral excellence in character or demeanor is not prized, nor do we see much goodness and kindness from public figures who have the most influence on our lives whether in government, media, sports, etc. I am not sure whether teachers preparing children and adults for the sacrament of Confirmation are delving into the meanings and application of this fruit of the Holy Spirit either. Therefore, in the spirit of living the Gospel, let’s walk a little way with the Church Fathers and learn a fuller meaning of benignity.

The Fathers invariably use this word in the context of a person of power exercising this fruit with regard to someone of lesser stature in the social order of things, or someone who possesses something generously giving it or its use to another regardless of stature.

The benignity of rulers

St. Gregory the Great in his letter to Romanus, Guardian (Book IX, Letter 26):

Although the law with reason allows not things that come into possession of the Church to be alienated, yet sometimes the strictness of the rule should be moderated, where regard to mercy invites to it, especially when there is so great a quantity that the giver is not burdened, and the poverty of the receiver is considerably relieved.

And so, inasmuch as Stephania, the bearer of these presents, having come hither with her little son Calixenus (whom she asserts that she bare to her late husband Peter, saying also that she has labored under extreme poverty), demanded of us with supplication and tears that we should cause to be restored to the same Calixenus the possession of a house in the city of Catana, which Ammonia, her late mother-in-law, the grandmother of Calixenus, had offered by title of gift to our Church; asserting that the said Ammonia had not power to alienate it, and that it belonged altogether to the aforesaid Calixenus, her son; which assertion our most beloved son Cyprian, the deacon, who was acquainted with the case, contradicted, saying that the complaint of the aforesaid woman had not justice to go on, and that she could not reasonably claim or seek to recover that house in the name of her son; but, lest we should seem to leave the tears of the above named woman without effect, and to follow the way of rigor rather than embrace the plea of pity, we command you by this precept to restore the said house to the above-named Calixenus, together with Ammonia’s deed of gift with respect to this same house, which is known to be there in Sicily—since, as we have said, it is better in doubtful cases not to execute strictness, but rather to be inclined to the side of benignity, especially when by the cession of a small matter the Church is not burdened, and succor is mercifully given to a poor orphan.

To John, Archbishop of the Corinthians St. Gregory the Great writes (Book V, Letter 52):

Yet, inasmuch as it is fit for us to incline to mercy more than to strict justice, it is our will that the same Euphemius and Thomas be restored to the rank and position, but to that only, from which they had been promoted to sacred orders, and receive during all the days of their life the stipends of these positions, as they had been before accustomed. Further, as to Clematius the reader, I appoint, from a like motive of benignity, that he is to be restored to his rank and position.

We can see in both of these cases, benignity is associated with both justice and mercy.

The benignity of God

The Fathers often refer to the benignity of God. St. Cyprian of Carthage in his treatise on the Our Father says:

He who made us to live, taught us also to pray, with that same benignity, to wit, wherewith He has condescended to give and confer all things else; in order that while we speak to the Father in that prayer and supplication which the Son has taught us, we may be the more easily heard.

Saint Irenaeus.jpg

St. Ireneaus, engraving, public domain

St. Irenaeus in Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 24) writes about those who bring in false doctrines:

Wherefore they also imagine many gods, and they always have the excuse of searching [after truth] (for they are blind), but never succeed in finding it. For they blaspheme the Creator, Him who is truly God, who also furnishes power to find [the truth]; imagining that they have discovered another god beyond God, or another Pleroma, or another dispensation. Wherefore also the light which is from God does not illumine them, because they have dishonored and despised God, holding Him of small account, because, through His love and infinite benignity, He has come within reach of human knowledge….

Daily life illustrations

From these examples we can see that benignity is always exercised in the context of relationships, whether they be between ourselves and others or God and ourselves. Parents, bosses, owners of property, government officials, civic leaders all have the chance to show this fruit in their everyday actions. Whenever we use our power or authority in favor of someone without causing harm to others, we exercise benignity.

For an example, a company’s policy says that hourly workers are to be docked wages to go to doctor appointments. However, hardworking single parents struggling to make ends meet who need to take sick children to the doctor cannot afford to be docked. A supervisor who offers make-up time to the employee rather than docking wages is exercising benignity. The company loses nothing because the time off is made up doing work that needs to be done. The employee gains by keeping wages that would otherwise have been lost, and the boss gains from greater commitment on the employee’s part. Whether the supervisor will escape punishment for acting with benignity is another story, depending on the atmosphere of management. Clearly, though, St. Gregory the Great shows us by his actions that in small things the exercise of benignity is warranted.

Another example would be of a parent who has established a family rule that everything in the house must be picked up and put away – toys, clothes, etc. before going to bed. But Johnny has taken sick. Benignity and common sense says that he take medicine and go to bed without regard to toys strewn about. When Mom, Dad, or a sister or brother picks up Johnny’s things, benignity is shown.

Then there’s the farmer with a small grove of fruit trees. He has no use for the fruit so he allows a friend to gather it for his own use. Nothing obligates the farmer to permit someone to come on his land and take what he owns, but benignity governs his permission.

Whenever a judge exercises discretion in sentencing, he may show benignity. A criminal may deserve a life sentence, but a judge, considering circumstances, chooses to hand down a lesser penalty. As custodian of the law, he shows benignity. The same applies to the police officer who lets a speeder off with a warning ticket.

Benignity can never be such when a ruler allows a situation destructive to the common good of the people he is responsible for to continue unabated. Allowing illegal immigrants to pour across a nation’s borders may look like benignity, but the ruler has no duty or obligation to the illegals. He does, however, have a duty and obligation to the citizens of his country to protect them from diseases and violence brought in by illegals. He has an obligation to maintain order in the economy and daily life of citizens which is disrupted when people willy-nilly flood across borders. Moreover, he is enabling the governments of illegals to get off without practicing benignity to the people they are obligated to care for.

A parent who fails to enforce house rules and lets Mary Sue get away with all kinds of laziness, disrespectful language, sarcasm and bullying of siblings is not exercising benignity but raising a horror, abdicating a God-given responsibility to raise righteous children for the kingdom of God. Such a parent is not behaving in a morally upright manner.

Let us ask ourselves these questions:

What do I have power/authority over and how can I use it with benignity?

Do I conduct myself in a morally upright way with excellence of character and demeanor, or do I fail in justice and mercy towards others?

Do I rationalize sins by telling myself that nobody is getting hurt from my secret actions, thus going in the opposite direction from benignity into malignity?

If someone offends me, can I cut him slack without falling into the enabling category? Not make a mountain out of a mole hill?

God exercises constant benignity towards us in the graces He continually gives us; graces we neither merit nor deserve. Should not benignity be one of the ways we pattern ourselves after God, bringing the light of Christ into our world?

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Thursday, October 9th, 2014 religion, sacraments, spirituality 6 Comments

Living in Todays Chastisement

September 27, 2014

Winged demon, Exterior Relief, Catedral Nueva de Vitoria-Gasteiz. Wikimedia Commons

Winged demon, Exterior Relief, Catedral Nueva de Vitoria-Gasteiz. Wikimedia Commons

It seems likely that every demon in hell has been loosed upon this world. How else are we to make sense of the hatred and chaos all around us and the unconscionable suffering of our fellow man but to recognize the hand of the evil one stirring hearts against one another and the Lord? Make no mistake about this; we are in a major chastisement for the sins of all nations. Moreover, we delude ourselves if we think we will be spared the consequences of the sins of the world and our own nation just because we are personally doing our best to follow Christ.

A couple of years ago someone asked me where in the Bible does God show us that wars, bad weather, plagues, etc. are His punishment on us. After all, a lot of good people are hurt by these events. I gave the answers in a simple way, not going into much depth, but this past week I read an excellent post by Rich Maffeo explaining it all, complete with Bible quotes. Please read his commentary because it’s quite clear and convincing and then come back here for my thoughts.

No Escape

We gain nothing and garner greater pain by denying what is right in front of our eyes and in our own back yards. The beheading this week, and not a one off case, of an employee at Vaughn Foods in Oklahoma City by a follower of Islam who reportedly shouted the Muslim cry repeatedly as he attacked her is a prime example of the bloodshed coming our way unless we as a nation perform a Nineveh (Book of Jonah) and embrace the Lord. But how likely is that to happen? The murder of innocents is enshrined now not only in Roe vs. Wade, it’s in the Obamacare laws, and I’m speaking not only of abortion, but the denial of care to those most in need, especially the elderly, that has and will have the effect of their premature deaths if not outright murder. We could show many more examples of laws and rulings touching our everyday lives that not only produce evil effects materially, but also violate our freedom to choose God before mammon.

We are not going to be able to escape these evils any more than most Jews were able to escape Hitler’s death camps because the depth and breadth of personal sin results in deathly harm to all. When enough people push an ungodly agenda it inevitably becomes law, and the law is used to justify expanding the sin by force. St. Paul minces no words in Romans 1:28-32 in describing the sins and the fate of those who persist in them:

And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are disgraceful; Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers, detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy. Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.

What to do

Unfortunately, living in a nation where these evils are now forced upon us shows how personal sin tortures the corporate body of society. So what shall we do, given that we who follow Christ are the anawim Zephaniah speaks to in Chapter 2:3? St. John Paul II gives us a hint in his General Audience of May 23, 2001 where he expounds on Psalm 149:

5. There is a second term which we use to define those who pray in the Psalm:  they are the anawim, “the poor and lowly ones” (v. 4). The expression turns up often in the Psalter. It indicates not just the oppressed, the miserable, the persecuted for justice, but also those who, with fidelity to the moral teaching of the Alliance with God, are marginalized by those who prefer to use violence, riches and power. In this light one understands that the category of the “poor” is not just a social category but a spiritual choice. It is what the famous first Beatitude means:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The prophet Zephaniah spoke to the anawim as special persons:  “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of wrath of the Lord” (Zep 2:3).

First, we must embrace the suffering that comes from living in a Godless world the same way that Christ embraced His suffering for the sins of the world. Why? Father F. J. Remmler tells us in his book, Why Must I Suffer? that

Public and national sins must be expiated in this world for the very simple reason that they cannot be expiated in the next. In the world to come families, cities, provinces and nations will have no continued corporate existence. There, men and women will exist merely as individuals, without being united by those social, civil, political, and national bonds which are necessary in this life for the welfare and preservation of the human race. In eternity, they will individually enjoy the fruits of their life on earth – the good will possess the kingdom of God in Heaven, while the wicked shall suffer for their evil deeds in the unquenchable fire of Hell. But public sins require public expiation, and as this expiation cannot be made in this next life, it is clear that it must be made on this side of the grave….

The sufferings endured by the good have a much greater atoning value than those endured by the wicked. Hence, the more good persons there are to join in making the required atonement, the more quickly will it be made. Besides, God is easily moved , out of consideration for the sufferings of the good, greatly to mitigate His punishments, and sometimes even to cancel them altogether.

Such sufferings afford the good an opportunity of making full atonement for their personal sins. For there is no one so holy and so confirmed in grace that he has not committed some sins, such at least as are venial. “Even the just man shall fall seven times,” i.e., frequently. But it is an unchanging law that every sin, even the smallest, must be fully expiated either here, or hereafter in Purgatory. But expiation made here is vastly more profitable than that which is made after death.

Second, we must constantly study God’s teaching in the Bible and its truths in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Knowing and accepting God’s truth gives us the power to call out and refute evil. It enables us to speak and live as a good example to others according to our state in life.

Third, we must frequent the sacraments and nurture the grace from them just as the good servant made the talents the Lord gave him grow from five to ten (Matt. 25). The Sacrament of Confirmation strengthens us through the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit to do what we ought and not shrink from necessary controversy.

Fourth, we must prepare ourselves to weather the onslaught through prayer, fasting, and self-denial, performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. If we are to die directly from the evils we face, we must make sure that we are in the state of grace and the confession of Christ is on our lips.

Finally, we must trust in God’s mercy and care for us personally, always seeking to see as God sees and to love others as He loves them. These are the ways that we can bear victoriously the onslaught of evil and join our King for eternity.

Psalm 149

Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: let His praise be in the church of the saints.

Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him: and let the children of Sion be joyful in their king.

Let them praise His name in choir: let them sing to Him with the timbrel and the psaltery.

For the Lord is well pleased with His people: and He will exalt the meek unto salvation.

The saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their beds.

The high praise of God shall be in their mouth: and two-edged swords in their hands:

To execute vengeance upon the nations, chastisements among the people:

To bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron.

To execute upon them the judgment that is written: this glory is to all His saints. Alleluia.

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Saturday, September 27th, 2014 Catholic culture, penance, psalms, spirituality, suffering 9 Comments

Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Continency

September 19, 2014

Fresco of Basil the Great in the cathedral of Ohrid. The saint is shown consecrating the Gifts during the Divine Liturgy which bears his name. Wikipedia

Fresco of Basil the Great in the cathedral of Ohrid. The saint is shown consecrating the Gifts during the Divine Liturgy which bears his name. Wikipedia

The other day I stumbled upon a letter St. Basil (329-379) wrote to a monk about continency. We know from Gal. 5:22-23 that this is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity

The root of the word comes from Latin; con, meaning “together” and tenere, meaning “to hold”. In today’s sex saturated society, continency is most often taught to mean refraining from indulgence of the sexual appetite, especially from unlawful indulgence. Certainly that is true, but it is also much more. The CCC(1832) calls it “self-control” in the English translation. But what exactly is self-control? To what does it extend or what does it encompass?

St. Basil, one of the great Fathers of the Church fleshes out the meaning of continency for us and in doing this causes us to examine our lives for areas where we may not be exercising self-control to the extent that we should.

You do well in making exact definitions for us, so that we may recognize not only continency, but its fruit. Now its fruit is the companionship of God. For not to be corrupted, is to have part with God; just as to be corrupted is the companionship of the world.

Continency is denial of the body, and confession to God. It withdraws from anything mortal, like a body which has the Spirit of God. It is without rivalry and envy, and causes us to be united to God.

He who loves a body envies another. He who has not admitted the disease of corruption into his heart, is for the future strong enough to endure any labor, and though he have died in the body, he lives in incorruption. Verily, if I rightly apprehend the matter, God seems to me to be continency, because He desires nothing, but has all things in Himself. He reaches after nothing, nor has any sense in eyes or ears; wanting nothing, He is in all respects complete and full.

Concupiscence is a disease of the soul; but continency is its health. And continency must not be regarded only in one species, as, for instance, in matters of sensual love. It must be regarded in everything which the soul lusts after in an evil manner, not being content with what is needful for it.

Envy is caused for the sake of gold, and innumerable wrongs for the sake of other lusts. Not to be drunken is continency. Not to overeat one’s self is continency. To subdue the body is continency, and to keep evil thoughts in subjection, whenever the soul is disturbed by any fancy false and bad and the heart is distracted by vain cares. [Today we could specify, not to give in to drugs, pornography, being a shop-a-holic, inordinate watching of television regardless of the subject, being a work-a-holic, excessive expression of emotions such as anger are all continency.]

Continency makes men free, being at once a medicine and a power, for it does not teach temperance; it gives it. Continency is a grace of God….If only there be a little continency in us, we are higher than all.

We have been told that angels were ejected from heaven because of concupiscence and became incontinent. They were vanquished; they did not come down. What could that plague have effected there, if an eye such as I am thinking of had been there? Wherefore I said, If we have a little patience, and do not love the world, but the life above, we shall be found there where we direct our mind. For it is the mind, apparently, which is the eye that sees unseen things. For we say “the mind sees;” “the mind hears.” I have written at length, though it may seem little to you. But there is meaning in all that I have said, and, when you have read it, you will see it.

We can see the fruit of continency in our detachment from all earthly things except what is necessary for living and for loving our neighbor, especially those closest to us. Our purpose of doing all for the honor and glory of God requires a daily crucifixion of inordinate desires opposed to continency. It means not throwing away this fruit God has generously given us. Rather, we should bite into it and taste its sweetness – the companionship of God as St. Basil tells us.

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St. John Chrysostom on Understanding Scripture

August 18, 2014

Mosaic, St. John Chrysostom, Hagia Sophia, via Wikipedia

Mosaic, St. John Chrysostom, Hagia Sophia, via Wikipedia

“There really wasn’t a real Adam and Eve.”

“Noah? I don’t believe there was a Noah. Way too far-fetched.”

“Jonah and the big fish? Hah! Could never have been.”

“Jesus didn’t really mean it when He said ‘This is My Body’. He was just speaking figuratively.”

These are typical comments I’ve heard from fellow Catholics who easily dismiss Old Testament characters as fictitious inventions of the writer to tell a story, and difficult passages in the New. However, this attitude points to something we all need to be aware of. That is, humility in our approach to Scripture study. If any one part of the Bible isn’t true, then doesn’t that call into question every part? Would it not be better to start with the premise that everything in the Bible is true since God can’t lie? I may not understand what God is telling me, or I may be confused about certain passages. That is the fault of my limited intellect, not God’s Word. Then, should I not seek understanding by following Jesus’ instruction to ask, seek, and knock?

We have one no less than the great St. John Chrysostom to tell us a thing or two about seeking understanding of Sacred Scripture. He was not only the bishop of Constantinople, he is revered as both a Father and Doctor of the Church and is one of the four great Doctors of the Eastern Church. Born in 349 in Antioch, he earned the appellation Chrysostomos, “golden-mouthed”, because of his eloquent preaching, especially on Holy Scripture. In Discourse Three of his Four Discourses he contrasts the worldly scholars with the straightforward exposition of the truth by apostles and prophets.

3. For those without—-philosphers, rhetoricians, and annalists, not striving for the common good, but having in view their own renown [I naively thought this phenomenon was restricted to our times]—-if they said anything useful, even this they involved in their usual obscurity, as in a cloud.

But the apostles and prophets always did the very opposite; they, as the common instructors of the world, made all that they delivered plain to all men, in order that every one, even unaided, might be able to learn by the mere reading. Thus also the prophet spake before, when he said, “All shall be taught of God,” (Is. 54: 13.) “And they shall no more say, every one to his neighbor, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest,” (Jer.31: 34.) St. Paul also says, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the mystery of God,” (1 Cor. 2: 1.) And again, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” (1 Cor. 2: 4.) And again, “We speak wisdom,” it is said, “but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to naught,” (1 Cor. 2: 6.) For to whom is not the gospel plain? Who is it that hears, “Blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart,” and such things as these, and needs a teacher in order to understand any of the things spoken?

But (it is asked) are the parts containing the signs and wonders and histories also clear and plain to every one? This is a pretense, and an excuse, and a mere cloak of idleness. You do not understand the contents of the book? But how can you ever understand, while you are not even willing to look carefully?

Take the book in your hand. Read the whole history; and, retaining in your mind the easy parts, peruse frequently the doubtful and obscure parts; and if you are unable, by frequent reading, to understand what is said, go to some one wiser; betake yourself to a teacher; confer with him about the things said. Show great eagerness to learn: then, when God sees that you are using such diligence, He will not disregard your perseverance and carefulness; but if no human being can teach you that which you seek to know, He himself will reveal the whole.

Remember the eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia. Being a man of a barbarous nation, occupied with numerous cares, and surrounded on all sides by manifold business, he was unable to understand that which he read. Still, however, as he was seated in the chariot, he was reading. If he showed such diligence on a journey, think how diligent he must have been at home: if while on the road he did not let an opportunity pass without reading, much more must this have been the case when seated in his house; if when he did not fully understand the things he read, he did not cease from reading, much more would he not cease when able to understand. To show that he did not understand the things which he read, hear that which Philip said to him: “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts 8: 30.) Hearing this question he did not show provocation or shame: but confessed his ignorance, and said: “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (ver. 31.) Since therefore, while he had no man to guide him, he was thus reading; for this reason, he quickly received an instructor. God knew his willingness, He acknowledged his zeal, and forthwith sent him a teacher.

But, you say, Philip is not present with us now. Still, the Spirit that moved Philip is present with us. Let us not, beloved, neglect our own salvation! “All these things are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come,” (1 Cor. 10: 11.) The reading of the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin; ignorance of the Scriptures is a great precipice and a deep gulf; to know nothing of the Scriptures, is a great betrayal of our salvation. This ignorance is the cause of heresies; this it is that leads to dissolute living; this it is that makes all things confused.

It is impossible—-I say, it is impossible, that any one should remain unbenefited who engages in persevering and intelligent reading. For see how much one parable [The rich man and Lazarus] has profited us! How much spiritual good it has done us! For many I know well have departed, bearing away abiding profit from the hearing; and if there be some who have not reaped so much benefit, still for that day on which they heard these things, they were rendered in every way better. And it is not a small thing to spend one day in sorrow on account of sin, and in consideration of the higher wisdom, and in affording the soul a little breathing time from worldly cares. If we can effect this at each assembly without intermission, the continued hearing would work for us a great and lasting benefit.

I can truthfully say that every time I have asked God to help me understand particular verses of Scripture He has eventually given me the light. Sometimes it is in a sermon I hear, sometimes in a conversation, and sometimes it comes from reading a commentary such as Discourse Three or the notes in my study Bible. In all cases, I had to do something to receive the understanding. I had to ask, seek, and knock, sometimes for quite awhile. But when the flash of light came, it was worth all the trouble.

We can never sit back and complain that it is too hard, or dismiss what we don’t understand as fictions, or say we don’t have time to seek the truth. If we do we will never be as holy as God wants us to be because we won’t be letting Him completely into our hearts.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Falling For the Pomps of Satan in Entertainment

August 16, 2014

Tertullian, woodcut, via Wikipedia

Tertullian, woodcut, via Wikipedia

Is the entertainment of today as depraved as that of the times of the early Christians? I never gave this much thought as I often avert my eyes from billboards, newspaper and computer ads, and the sight of women and men walking around in broad daylight obviously influenced by the clothing and mannerisms promoted in books, movies, plays, sports events, video games, etc. Then, in reading daily meditations from A Year with the Church Fathers by Mike Aquilina I saw that what we battle today regarding the promotion of impurity and violence is nothing new. There’s just a lot more of it available to a lot more people.

The level of perversity is pretty much the same as Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160-225) condemned in his sermon On the Shows. However, the saturation of our culture with foul language, behavior so perverted and violent that we make ourselves lower than the beasts, and the dissemination of all kinds of non-Christian thinking tends to deaden our consciences and blind our eyes to the fact that we are often stepping into a spiritual sewer that is likely to carry us to a final collection pool we will never get out of. We are not being the Christian witness we vowed to be when we made our baptismal promises if we attempt to dance around in this miasma of depravity.

Tertullian contrasts the heathen, as he describes the non-Christians of his time, with the Christian in chapters 21, 22, and 24 of On the Shows.

The heathen, who have not a full revelation of the truth, for they are not taught of God, hold a thing evil and good as it suits self-will and passion, making that which is good in one place evil in another, and that which is evil in one place in another good. So it strangely happens, that the same man who can scarcely in public lift up his tunic, even when necessity of nature presses him, takes it off in the circus, as if bent on exposing himself before everybody; the father who carefully protects and guards his virgin daughter’s ears from every polluting word, takes her to the theatre himself, exposing her to all its vile words and attitudes; he, again, who in the streets lays hands on or covers with reproaches the brawling pugilist, in the arena gives all encouragement to combats of a much more serious kind; and he who looks with horror on the corpse of one who has died under the common law of nature, in the amphitheatre gazes down with most patient eyes on bodies all mangled and torn and smeared with their own blood; nay, the very man who comes to the show, because he thinks murderers ought to suffer for their crime, drives the unwilling gladiator to the murderous deed with rods and scourges; and one who demands the lion for every manslayer of deeper dye, will have the staff for the savage swordsman, and rewards him with the cap of liberty. Yes and he must have the poor victim back again, that he may get a sight of his face— with zest inspecting near at hand the man whom he wished torn in pieces at safe distance from him: so much the more cruel he if that was not his wish.

What wonder is there in it? Such inconsistencies as these are just such as we might expect from men, who confuse and change the nature of good and evil in their inconstancy of feeling and fickleness in judgment.

Everything Tertullian describes we can attest to in today’s world. Whether it is merely a drama or night club act, or whether it is in fact events actually occurring such as those ISIS and Hamas exult in and broadcast to all, we can’t say that most of what passes for entertainment today is all that much different from his day.

In how many other ways shall we yet further show that nothing which is peculiar to the shows has God’s approval, or without that approval is becoming in God’s servants? If we have succeeded in making it plain that they were instituted entirely for the devil’s sake, and have been got up entirely with the devil’s things (for all that is not God’s, or is not pleasing in His eyes, belongs to His wicked rival), this simply means that in them you have that pomp of the devil which in the seal of our faith we abjure.

We should have no connection with the things which we abjure, whether in deed or word, whether by looking on them or looking forward to them; but do we not abjure and rescind that baptismal pledge, when we cease to bear its testimony? Does it then remain for us to apply to the heathen themselves. Let them tell us, then, whether it is right in Christians to frequent the show. Why, the rejection of these amusements is the chief sign to them that a man has adopted the Christian faith. If any one, then, puts away the faith’s distinctive badge, he is plainly guilty of denying it. What hope can you possibly retain in regard to a man who does that? When you go over to the enemy’s camp, you throw down your arms, desert the standards and the oath of allegiance to your chief: you cast in your lot for life or death with your new friends.

Those of us baptized in the pre-1969 liturgy renounced “Satan and all his pomps.” Tertullian gives us a good idea of what some of those pomps look like regarding the theater and today’s manufactured theater we witness in the exercise of politics. What we could rightly ask ourselves is the following:

  • Have I become blinded and accepting of the entertainment, manner of dress, and conduct of what passes as OK in the judgment of today’s world?
  • If I have, is it because “everybody else” is going along with it and I don’t want to be viewed as different?
  • In setting priorities and managing my time, how much do I allocate to developing a deep relationship with God versus passively feeding myself with worldly entertainment? In the first instance we must move out of ourselves toward God, such as making an hour of Adoration, going to Confession, attending Mass, studying the Bible, doing spiritual reading, meditating, etc. That all takes effort on our part as we reach out to the hand God extends to us. In the second instance we amuse ourselves by wandering through shopping malls for no real purpose, parking ourselves in front of the TV, sitting in dark movie theaters not discriminating what is dished up for us, or heading off to night clubs with ribald entertainment. It’s equivalent to lying on a hospital bed with a poison IV drip in our arm. We don’t need to put forth any effort. We just take it in.
  • Would people who meet me or those who know me have any idea that I am a Christian by how I live my life?

Living in this world while not being of this world is our daily challenge. With the grace of God we can always do better defying the pomps of Satan.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Summer Vignettes

August 12, 2014

Sharing the Harvest

Between a wonderful two week vacation staying with my sister in northern Michigan and managing the garden, this has been a busy summer. God has been very good to us with our harvest of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers and beans. Best of all, a neighbor and I have gotten together a couple of times to make salsa and tomato sauce. The conversation over chopping, scraping, mixing and seasoning has been joyful and grace-filled. The secular world would never understand how freeing it is to be able to thank God directly and out loud when we get news that her daughter and husband have arrived safely from a day long drive home. It would not appreciate our acknowledgement in conversation of how God has been so generous this year with the harvest. Most people would think we are stupid Bible beaters. But somehow I think the kitchen is filled with angels and saints rejoicing over the praise and good example we are giving her children.

Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible

A trip with the Bible

On the way up to Michigan and on the way home my husband and I listened to Steven Ray and Scott Hahn Bible presentations. I particularly liked Hahn’s discussion of the “Our Father”, and how it is a prayer we offer within the context of being members of the Father’s family. Moreover, his comments about how we are not home until we join God and the rest of our family in heaven highlighted for me the fact that we are surely in exile here.

I also took my Ignatius Study Bible with me on vacation so I could keep up with the online New Testament study I’ve been doing. Both the Bible and the sacred liturgy of the Church are God’s ways of continually drawing us to Himself and making us long for the day when we can leave everything behind and come to our true home.

Hell in Africa and the Middle East

With those ideas as a backdrop, consider the plight of the many Iraqi Christians and Yazidis driven from their earthly residences by ISIS. Consider that both Iraq and Syria, also in turmoil with ISIS, have been the home of continuous Christian communities since the beginning of Christianity. Facing the choice of converting to Islam (the ISIS version of it), paying the penalty tax for being Christian, or dying, these Christians made a fourth choice – to flee and affirm Christ. How many of us could abandon all we have and leave with only the clothes on our backs to go to a strange place, not knowing where we will eventually end up? This forced detachment can only be met with peace of heart by understanding that heaven is our only home. Not minimizing the hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and illness that people are suffering in the heat of the desert, only by focusing on our final destination can we survive should the same thing happen to us here. Let these events and the suffering of those affected by war be a lesson to us. Meanwhile, those of us who are temporarily exercising stewardship over what God has given us must pray fervently for all those courageous Christians in the Middle East that they will be cared for and remain steadfast in the Faith, and that all the others will find Christ amidst the chaos.

It’s tempting to make political comments as to how the world got to where it is today, but I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll say that I know that God has blessed those of us who are not being driven from our homes, sold as sex slaves, beheaded, crucified, and mowed down with bullets as our fellow men are. His gift of our being unmolested at this point carries with it a heavy responsibility to live up to our calling as Christians, behaving morally responsibly and unhesitatingly speaking God’s truth when we are called upon to do so.

The atrocities in Africa and the Middle East have distracted me from writing this blog. I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that things aren’t as awful as they really are. Because I feel connected to all on earth and see every person as someone Jesus died for, I feel guilty about writing on spiritual matters when men, women, and children are being killed right and left by a satanically inspired bunch of completely degraded people. This is not what God has called us to be as human beings. This is the 21st century. Aren’t we supposed to have advanced beyond all this? But today’s comments here are to acknowledge the uproar and devastation so that I can move on and return to my spiritually oriented writing. I’ve learned that it’s easy to get side-tracked by the violence and lose focus on my mission. Wars will always be with us because men will always be motivated by greed and power to set themselves up in the place of the one, true God and to act as though power exists so as to destroy all who won’t submit to it rather than serving, as Jesus said at the Last Supper, all. It is in faithfully serving that we make ourselves last and thus be made first in the kingdom of God. So now I will get back to posting more often. Jesus rules and that will never change.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 Catholic culture, jihad, spirituality 4 Comments

Inside the Cloister

June 27, 2014

Every now and then when we were children our Mother would exclaim in exasperation, “I should have gone into the convent!” It was always because our behavior had gotten her to the breaking point of frustration. I’m sure every mom reading this can identify with that. Whenever this happened all of us would break out in peals of laughter because Mom didn’t become Catholic until she met and married our Dad. We would say, “But Mom, you couldn’t have done that because you weren’t even Catholic.” Her point was well taken, however, and we immediately amended our conduct.

The rigor of convent/monastery life must be experienced, be lived, to fully appreciate it, yet for those of us called to live in the world but not of the world, the lure of the cloister often beckons our hearts. We are fascinated by the mystery of silent living in prayer and work, and not a little curious about how people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and continents can manage to live under the same roof without becoming dysfunctional as so many families are today. Of course the answer is the integration into the culture and charism of the particular institute without losing the individuality of each member.

In 1999 Bishop Slattery of Tulsa welcomed 13 Benedictine monks from Fontgombault in France to establish a priory in his diocese. In an astonishingly short period of time, the flourishing priory became a full-fledged abbey. This latest video from Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek gives us an insight into the cloister. In the interest of promoting religious vocations I am posting it here.

Also, as is usual since St. Benedict began establishing monasteries, wherever Benedictine monks are flourishing cloistered nuns are sure to follow. In 2005 Bishop Slattery approved the foundation of the Benedictine Sisters of Clear Creek and the Mary Queen of Angels Convent. If anyone has daughters considering contemplative religious life with the Benedictine charism, this convent, which has taken over the grounds where the Clear Creek monks first lived, is worth contacting. They accept applicants up to age 35.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Friday, June 27th, 2014 religion, spirituality 8 Comments

Corpus Christi Sermon from Fontgombault Abbey

June 19, 2014

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/Mrzezyno_Corpus_Christi_procession_2010_B.jpg/640px-Mrzezyno_Corpus_Christi_procession_2010_B.jpg

Corpus Christi Procession in Mrzezyno, Poland, June 3, 2010, courtesy of Wikimedia


Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, observed in most of the world, but not in the USA which transfers it to this coming Sunday. Dom Jean Pateau, Abbot of the French Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Fontgombault delivered this sermon to the monks and visitors at Mass this morning. Thank God for the internet which makes it possible to read it the same day it was preached.

Tantum ergo sacramentum veneremur cernui.
(Hymn of the feast of Corpus Christi)
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
 
My dearly beloved Sons,
 
In the wonderful Sacrament of His Body and of His Blood, Jesus gives Himself as a food and a drink, so that we may abide in Him as He abides in us, so that we may live for Him, and that we may live forever.
 
In the tabernacle, the holy Eucharistic species receive the homage of our worship. Although the Gospel does not mention any adoration of the Blessed Eucharist, it tells us of the first Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the history of mankind.
 
In Bethlehem, whose name means “House of the Bread”, in a poor crib, a place of silence and of peace, Jesus receives the adoration of Mary and Joseph, a few shepherds and the Magi, the wise men from the East, while the angels in Heaven proclaim the glory of God and announce to men the peace which comes from God.
 
Would we not be brought back by every adoration, every Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament to the holy stable? Would Jesus perchance have been so deeply moved by the prayer of a few poor people near Him that He would have wanted to be able to receive throughout the ages the poor that we are? The sacramental Presence grants us to be associated with the worship of the inhabitants of the Crib and its visitors.
 
In the school of the shepherds, let us learn how to adore, let us renew our presence near the Blessed Sacrament. The first monstrance was a crib, because there was no room in the inn. What is a crib? What is a child? All this is small, all this is quite devoid of interest. In this place, God hides Himself. Under the figure of a little child, He awaits the shepherds. Today as well, His sacramental presence reaches us under the appearance of a bit of bread.
 
The shepherds receive the invitation from an angel. We too are invited to visit the Lord. We therefore need to be watchful. We need to take the time to encounter Jesus and to allow ourselves to be fascinated by His face. The shepherds live in the fields. They spend day and night watching their flocks. They are contemplative. As soon as the angel has spoken, they do not tarry and start for Bethlehem. They come, they find and they return, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (Lk 2:20). “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).
 
Like the shepherds and Mary, let us not tarry but let us go to Jesus. Let us gladly visit our churches, the Bethlehem of our cities. Let us gladly spend time in front of the tabernacle or the monstrance. Jesus, God with us, is awaiting us and breaks the bread of His Word and of His Flesh for us.
Amen, Alleluia.

 

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Thursday, June 19th, 2014 Catholic Church, spirituality 3 Comments

Chaplet for the Conversion of Priests

June 18, 2014

Sermon of St. Martin, c. 1490, unknown Master, Hungarian, Tempera on wood, 101,5 x 89,5 cm Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest*

Sermon of St. Martin, c. 1490, unknown Master, Hungarian, Tempera on wood, 101,5 x 89,5 cm, Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest*

 

Back in 1999 when I spent an hour in Adoration one day, I was contemplating the sad state of orthodoxy in our diocese. The bishop at that time so strongly discouraged the preaching of Church teaching against contraception that any priest who dared speak the truth in the confessional or the pulpit was moved that very week to the opposite side of the diocese, sentenced to a small out of the way parish because of vicious complaints by parishioners.

Liturgical abuse was rampant. No traditional Catholic devotions were encouraged, and at one parish, the pastor forbid his priests to attend the three hour Sunday afternoon Adoration the laity had requested. It was left to the Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers to repose the Blessed Sacrament when it was over at 3:00.

Bizarre doctrines could be heard from many pulpits on any given Sunday, such as, we can argue with God after we’re dead so as to justify our sins. Seminarians were screened so prospects who did not believe in women priests were never accepted. The lighting of the Easter fire was concelebrated with an Episcopalian “priestess” at the church next door in one rural parish, and the event was touted as great “ecumenism” in the diocesan paper. That publication was where I first learned that there were two Jesuses. The Jesus of History and the Jesus of Faith. That’s when I found out about the Bultmannian heresy.

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass was forbidden on the grounds that “it would confuse the Protestants and we Catholics had to present a united front to them because we live in the Bible Belt.” However, it was just fine with the bishop for us to drive three hours one way to attend it in nearby dioceses. And it was fine with him that we laity could educate others about the Extraordinary Form, but only because under canon law he couldn’t stop us from doing it. When Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, the bishop had no choice but to provide the Traditional Mass, but he picked the most vocally opposed priest to do the job, and we were insulted from the pulpit every Sunday for one reason or another.

Things changed under a new bishop, who is orthodox but inherited a tremendous mess. All these years since that day in Adoration when the Lord inspired me to pray a chaplet for the conversion of priests, I’ve done it quietly and privately off and on. At first it was daily, but I fell prey to discouragement over the years. Sure, things are changing for the better but it’s too slow for me. I thought maybe my prayers weren’t doing any good and prayed that chaplet less and less often. Oh me of little faith!

This week I learned that the very popular pastor of a nearby parish was relieved of his duties a couple of weeks ago for embezzling money for quite some time. That parish was almost dead before he came there, and in the past four years since he has been there, it revived with more and more people joining. Everyone knows that his personableness, enthusiastic preaching and devotion to the suffering played a big part in the revival. This priest was also one of the best confessors I’ve been to which proves that no matter how much a sinner a priest may be, God can still use him to guide us wisely in Confession. Although I am not a parishioner, his loss leaves a big hole in my heart. I did not think about how much he could need my prayers and, for the most part, I rarely hear priests ask for prayers for themselves.

Our priests are always in danger of sinning big. Satan hates them with a vengeance because he knows the Mystical Body of Christ needs them. In Zechariah 13: 7 we read, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand to the little ones.” Indeed, last Sunday when we attended Mass in that parish, we saw that many people were gone – between 1/3 and 1/2 of the congregation. It won’t be until some time in August that a new priest will be assigned to the parish.

I am now resolved to return to praying my “Chaplet for the Conversion of Priests” regularly and want to share it with readers who may find themselves drawn to doing the same.

Explanation of the chaplet

First though, in case anyone is thinking, “How dare you imply that priests need converting?!!!”, I must say that everyone of us needs conversion of heart, priests included. As Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:7, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”, and they all slunk off in shame.

To convert our hearts means to repent of our sins and be determined to follow that narrow way to the narrow door (Luke 13: 24). That narrow way is made of God’s instructions to us which we find in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, in obedience to the laws of the Church whether liturgical or canonical, in constant purification of our desires so that Christ becomes the center of our lives in all things.

David cries to God in penitence, “If thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it; with burnt-offerings thou wilt not be delighted; a sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 1: 18). “Thou wilt not despise” is a way of saying, “Thou wilt love and cherish and gather to Thyself.”

Moses said to his people, “Now, when thou shalt be touched with the repentance of thy heart – and return to Him – the Lord thy God will have mercy on thee” (Deut. 30: 1-3).

The prophet Joel tells us, “Now, therefore,” saith the Lord, “be converted to Me with all your heart in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning, and rend your hearts and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, patient, and rich in mercy” (Joel 2: 12).

Second, this chaplet also links the priests directly with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The primary purpose of the priest is to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary to the Father. He stands as an Alter Christus, a mediator in the place of Christ as Christ has ordained, and is the only one who can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, confect the Holy Eucharist. He is also the mediator in place of Christ when he administers the other sacraments. Our belief in the Blessed Sacrament is central to the Catholic faith. Without the priest, we would not have the opportunity to receive the great graces from receiving the Holy Eucharist, going to Confession, the Last Rites, etc.

Third, the Blessed Mother holds all priests dearly as her special sons. While we are all sons and daughters of Our Lady by virtue of Christ’s words in John 19: 26-27, the priests are especially dear to her. They are her children in the most danger all the time because without them the Church could not exist. (See the link above.) Satan seeks to destroy the Church any way he can.

When I pray this chaplet I am fully aware that I myself need conversion daily, and it becomes an earnest prayer not only for priests, but also for my own spiritual growth. It has no approval of ecclesiastical authority, just from my pastor at the time, but I have been thinking about seeking approval so that others may have a wide access to it.

Chaplet for the Conversion of Priests

  1. Using the Rosary, begin with the Crucifix and say the Anima Christi.
  1. Offer the next four beads for the welfare of the Holy Father and his intentions: Our Father and three Hail Marys.
  1. On the “Our Father” beads say: O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.
  1. On the “Hail Mary” beads, say: O my Jesus, truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar, I beg Thee, convert Thy priests.
  1. Continue the chaplet through the 5 decades in this manner. At the end say three times: O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.
  1. After saying this say 3 times: Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us and on Thy priests.
  1. Then say 3 times: Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us and for our priests.

*About the art: There are two related panels, painted on both sides, in the Hungarian National Gallery which once were the wings of an altarpiece dedicated to St Martin and St Nicholas. One of the wings represents St Martin and the Beggar (outer side) and the Sermon of St Martin in Albenga (inner side). The other wing depicts St Nicholas and the Daughters of the Nobleman in Pataria (outer side) as well as the scene St. Nicholas Resurrects Three Deads.

The panel represents a legendary scene from the life of St. Martin. The Bishop, having given his clothes to a needy man, celebrates mass in poor, hastily acquired garments. At the elevation of the Host angels descend to cover his bare arms.

The altar table in the sanctuary, shown in great detail, is decorated with a picture within the picture: a horizontally arranged retable with a scene of the Crucifixion. This is of special importance in the history of the development of winged altars in Hungary, for it demonstrates that this early type of retables of which very few examples have survived, was still in use at the end of the fifteenth century. Seen against the embroidered white altar-cloth the shadows are effective. The artist’s representation of the missal is most realistic; also the representation of the mitre and the Gothic style objects made of precious metals, the ciborium between two candlesticks, the chalice and the paten, the latter only just visible under the edge of the communion cloth. Realism was not, however, an end in itself; the painter introduced these details to create an atmosphere of wonder before the legendary scene. The realistic characters are also imbued with piety. The portrait-like features of the male figure kneeling on the right suggest that it was he who commissioned the altarpiece. The painter’s endeavours to represent the interior in perspective, the sharp folds shown almost in relief and the subtle colour effects all place the master of this panel among the finest Hungarian painters active in the late fifteenth century.

-          Courtesy of the Web Gallery of Art

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Performance Anxiety and Prayer

June 13, 2014

Old Woman With a Rosary, 1896, Paul Cezanne, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, UK

Old Woman With a Rosary, 1896, Paul Cezanne, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, UK

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” “Do it right the first time.” Did you grow up with these sayings? Are they possibly influencing or controlling your prayer life? Do you then criticize and accuse yourself or give in to despair and run the other way when you even think about starting a Rosary or other prayers?

The merit in these sayings is that they point toward meeting a standard of excellence parents want children to aspire to. The demerit in them is that they can be unreasonably applied and, most of all, direct us to believe that it is solely under our power and control to meet expectations defined by others. They also lead to the belief that there is only one right way to do anything. Thus it contributes to a tendency to make ourselves and our performance the focus of all that we do.

Fear of not meeting expectations leads to performance anxiety such as seen with intelligent students who freeze on every test and fail, or with people who approach even the most mundane tasks in life with trepidation. We may think that some nebulous judge is out there who will criticize and grind us into mincemeat; our stomachs churn and our brains freeze. God is not in the picture at all, yet He is the one without Whom we cannot lift a finger, think a thought, or comprehend the great spiritual mysteries He has revealed to us. The sayings exclude the trust and surrender to God’s will that we must have before starting anything, even as we resolve to do our best.

To this day these sayings occasionally pop into my mind, disturbing the peace of heart God desires for all of us. I have performance anxiety in particular areas of life, worry about whether I will get something done “right”. I catch myself secretly worrying that my prayers aren’t good enough or that I haven’t prayed enough or said the “right” prayers, although my rational mind knows that objectively speaking it is impossible for anybody to be perfect in anything, even prayer, yet we are to strive to be perfect. But who defines perfection? We or God? Of course it is God, and we have Sacred Scripture and Tradition to guide us. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, residing in our soul, is there to guide us, strengthen us, and help us in all that we do, including prayer. We are not alone, ever, in anything.

In his Treatise on Peace of Soul, Dom Lorenzo Scupoli gives excellent advice to those of us who are occasionally troubled about our prayer life:

Strive not to limit yourself to so many prayers, meditation, or readings, neither neglect nor limit your customary devotions. Rather, let your heart be at liberty to stop where it finds its God, having no misgivings about unfinished exercises if He is pleased to communicate Himself to you in the midst of them. Have no scruples in this regard, for the end of your devotion is to enjoy God and as the end is accomplished, the means have no significance for the present. [So, if we are praying the Rosary and we become caught up in the mystery of the Nativity, for instance, it is right to pursue meditation on this and not worry about whether we get all five decades completed. The point is that God is leading us, our eyes are on Him, our heart is with Him, and we are not failing in prayer. St. Teresa of Avila would concur with the good Dom Lorenzo.]

God leads us by the path that He has chosen, and if we oblige ourselves to precise execution of exercises which we fancy, we are imposing imaginary obligations on ourselves; and far from finding God, we are actually running away from Him, pretending to please Him, yet not conforming to His holy will. [In fact, we are obsessively conforming to our own will.]

If you really desire to advance successfully on this path and attain the end to which it leads, seek and desire God alone; and whenever and wherever you find Him, there stop, go no farther. While God dwells with you enjoy His company with the celestial peace of saints; and when His divine majesty pleases to retire, then turn again to the quest of your God in your devout exercises.

We are so blessed as Catholics to have centuries of saints and spiritual directors who have left us sane writings to guide us through the numerous traps our fallen nature and Satan lay for us, especially in our prayer life. In the end, we can do no better than follow these wise words which are practical applications of the many exhortations Jesus Himself gave us in the Gospels.

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Friday, June 13th, 2014 prayers, spirituality 8 Comments

Ending Verbal and Psychological Abuse in the Family

April 29, 2014

Family portrait, 1910, Zinaida Serebriakova, used under fair use principles via Wikipaintings

Family portrait, 1910, Zinaida Serebriakova, used under fair use principles via Wikipaintings

You’ve heard it. Or maybe had it happen to you, cutting “jokes” that mask hostility which the jokester denies when confronted. Sarcastic remarks. Sneers. Put downs. Then there’s ridicule of others, a poison to the spiritual life and serenity of relationships, especially the family. All are ways of abusing, dominating, and bullying. All are ways of controlling others and keeping them in line. All are dramatized in movies, on television and in the theater, presented as clever amusement rather than the soul destroying evil behaviors that they are.

Last night in a conversation with a friend, she revealed that not only did her family behave this way during her childhood and up to the present, but her ex-husband also delivered a steady stream of this kind of abuse among other ways of torturing her and the children. The children perpetuate this abuse amongst themselves and towards her. It doesn’t seem to matter how faithfully all of them attend Mass, the ugly behaviors are right there to eat away at peace and tranquility in the household only hours later. Two other friends have told me similar stories about their families, only they included childhood sexual abuse as well.

Just as virtue is a habit, so vice is also, resulting in behavior patterns that tear others down while failing to build offenders up, even though, in this case, abusers may think tyranny makes them No.1. In fact, a dominant philosophy of abusers is, “The beatings will continue until morale improves, i.e. until I get my way.” While this slogan was presented for satire and an example of how not to manage others when I worked in the corporate world, little did I realize at the time how many people went home to this reality every day of their lives.

What is particularly awful about abuse in the family is that often members grow up thinking that it is normal and that everybody lives this way. Moreover, the abusive ones may keep their evil behind closed doors while in public present an entirely different face, even to the point of carefully erecting a façade of being a righteous Christian.

Where is it written that I can have one standard of behavior at home and a different one everywhere else?  The truth is, people in the work place and casual acquaintances won’t put up with the abuse visited upon family members behind closed doors. In itself that indicts the bully and proves his/her guilt. It proves bullies know what the right way to treat others is and choose not to do so at home. They indulge their predatory behavior against the most vulnerable, those who are trapped with a father or mother, husband or wife or siblings who consistently violate their dignity. The abused are objects to be manipulated, not persons to be respected.

Need I say that deep spiritual and psychological sickness is at the root of it all? Looking closer it is likely that alcohol or drug abuse and/or pornography fuel the already disordered mentality of abusers. What to do? In his discussion on Chapter 66 of the Rule of St. Benedict, Father G. A. Simon writes:

Let the Oblate living in a family know that his true milieu is his family…. The Benedictine spirit is essentially a family spirit. To be faithful to the spirit of the Rule, therefore, the Oblate to whom Providence has entrusted the care of a family should love his home and maintain there that profound union which can come only from supernatural charity, grouping all the souls, so to speak, in one and the same search for God.

This applies to everyone who has a family or lives in a family, even if he or she isn’t an Oblate. It’s an ideal and goal to strive for.

We can say that habitual use of bullying tactics such as cutting and sarcastic remarks, hurtful jokes, and ridicule are designed for division, not union, don’t reflect supernatural charity towards family members, and don’t bind souls together in a search for God. Eradicating this behavior is not easy, especially when it is a product of generations of refinement. Yet with Christ all things are possible.

One of the first places to start is by not leaving our religion in the pew when we leave Mass. Second, practice the Ignatian Particular Examen throughout the day to direct us away from ourselves and toward God. Third, give place to God’s will. Fourth, censor entertainment. What Hollywood and other media present as the norm is designed to point us to division and disruption. Fifth, take the saints as models and study their lives. Sixth, practice The Golden Key. Make it public in the family that ugly behaviors towards one another are forbidden and arrange appropriate consequences for violations. Seventh, watch the company kept and end associations with others that are harmful to family relationships. Eighth, ask others for prayers to overcome the vice of abusiveness and break the cycle of abusiveness passed down through generations. Ninth, study the Holy Family as an example and strive to imitate them. 

Finally, confess sins regularly with a firm purpose of amendment. Ask God for a conversion of morals as St. Benedict urges.

Our families should be our treasures where our hearts reside and children are nurtured. Abusiveness handed down for generations can be stopped with the current one. It’s all a matter of choice, moving out of a comfort zone habitual vice creates, and focusing on God. Those being abused, if they are adults, have to refuse to take it, and stop enabling the abusers. Really, plenty of help is available to correct this poisonous affliction, not the least of which is God’s grace. “Be not afraid” as St. John Paul II said again and again. Although freedom from abusive behavior won’t happen overnight, without a first step and determination it won’t happen at all.

Let us pray today for all families fractured by abuse, that they will have the resolve to start anew on a path of healing and growth in the love of God.

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Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 spirituality 12 Comments

Obtaining Peace of Mind

April 26, 2014

Compassion, Bouguereau, 1897

Compassion, Bouguereau, 1897

Many people I know are enduring some great challenge or other to the point of sleepless nights and nervous exhaustion. Being by nature a Mrs. Fix-it, I would like to take all these trials apart for them, sending these friends off with a cheery “Have a good day”, but such is not to be. In fact, the best I can do apart from listening and giving solid advice is to pray for them and trust that God will help them sort things out. This is probably how our good contemplative monks and nuns approach the many troubles we bring to them. Yet I am constantly tempted to worry excessively about people I care about.

One thing I’ve realized as more distraught souls find me – and I’m not out there looking for them by any means – is that if I don’t keep my own house in order I’ll never be any good to them. I get it that God’s will is for me to be present to them and to point them in practical ways towards solving their earthly problems while helping them come closer to God. I also get it that I’m no good to anybody without constantly working on my own spiritual life, especially maintaining my own peace of mind in the heart of Christ, and that’s wherein lies the challenge. My prayer life and spiritual reading become full of distractions over concerns for others. Mrs. Fix-it just has to intrude on my quiet time with God. Fortunately a very old book of spiritual direction has become an aid.

St. Francis de Sales’ (1567-1622) favorite book was The Spiritual Combat. He carried it around with him and read from it whenever he could snatch a moment here and there from his many duties as bishop of Geneva. The author, Father Lorenzo Scupoli, gives most useful spiritual advice to those of us struggling to live a God-centered life in an increasingly abusive and murderous world and to live rightly loving our neighbor.

Father Scupoli in chapter 25 of his book remarks:

Our peace of mind when lost demands every possible exertion for its recovery. We actually never can lose it or cause it to be disturbed except through our own fault.

True. True. God is teaching me through helping others that I have to depend on His power, grace and mercy for them and never become agitated over not being able to solve their problems for them nor to be impatient with how long it takes them to act. In fact, overstepping my bounds will lead to a dangerous pride and get in the way of them learning the lessons He has in mind for them as He perfects them.

…Our compassion for sinners and sadness at their destruction must be free of vexation and trouble, as it springs from a purely charitable motive….

Making my friends’ trials my own and letting them overpower my God time is not putting God first. If God is not first I become like a man struggling in quicksand. Sooner or later I will go under because I don’t see the rope extended to me to drag me out of the pit.

These trials and events occur at the design of our Master; the severest tribulations of this life bring His will to our aid, so that we can march with a calm and tranquil soul. Any disquiet on our part is displeasing to God. For of whatever nature it may be it is always accompanied by some imperfection, and it always has a tendency towards self-love in one form or another.

Disquiet when we are concerned about friends, family, or the trend of life in general should be an alarm bell calling us to question what is behind the agitation. For myself, I inevitably find that I want more power than I am entitled to. Although I quietly pray for those I want to help and watch for the signs of God’s grace in their lives, I am often stuck in a fantasy of how I think things should be and what I think they should be doing to end their pain. In other words, I think I’m smarter than God. After reflecting on this for awhile, I saw the pitfalls and resolved to change. Now disquiet becomes a trigger for me to pray that God be with them and that they submit to His will, whatever that is.

I am convinced that, if the heart is troubled, the enemy is ever able to strike us, and as much as he wishes. Moreover, in that state we are not capable of discerning the true path to follow, the snares that must be avoided to attain virtue.

You will find it greatly advantageous to preserve a calm mind through all the events in your life. Without it, your pious exercises will be fruitless.

The enemy detests this peace. For he knows that this is the place where the spirit of God dwells, and that God now desires to accomplish great things in us. Consequently he employs his most devilish means to destroy this peace. He suggests various things that apparently are good. It is a trap; you will soon discover that these desires will destroy the peace of your heart.

The devil slithers in under the cover of us desiring to do good to others and disturbs our very necessary time with God. This is the key problem with giving in to our emotions, our feelings of fear and anxiety both for ourselves and on behalf of others. God gave us the capacity to reason and think and He means for that to rule our feelings, not the other way around. Part of our self-discipline is to be able to hold feelings at bay while reasoning things out. If we cannot do this for ourselves with the help of God’s grace, how are we to really help our friends who are in emotional turmoil?

Father Sculpoli goes on to say that even when we discover that the desires we have to do a good are truly from God, we must “deter execution until our eagerness has been mortified.” Preceded by mortification he tells us, our work is more pleasing to God.

Finally he tells us:

Let us raise our hearts to God. Whatever He wills, without exception, should be received with the firm persuasion that every cross He wills to send shall prove an endless source of blessing, a treasure whose value one may not appreciate at the moment.

After pondering this chapter I have concluded that obtaining peace of heart and practicing it faithfully is a prerequisite for helping the many people God puts in my path who have little to no peace of heart. Whereas before I jumped right in to problems without sufficient reflection on the spiritual aspect of a friend’s trials, now I am asking myself how God is blessing them through their pain. In addition to making suggestions and observations that can help them, now I ask myself how God is providing for them in their trials and ask them what they think God wants from them. Doing this helps Mrs. Fix-it to help them better and always to point them to Christ. Most of all, I now can share with them that not knowing exactly what God is doing with them is no cause for disquiet, but rather an invitation to trust in Him and place themselves in His hands while doing all that is reasonable and allowable in His eyes to endure their trials and solve their problems.

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Saturday, April 26th, 2014 Spiritual reading, spirituality 14 Comments

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