Spirituality Running to God

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Larger Spiritual Gems

E-mail Print PDF

Larger Spiritual Gems

(scroll down for the latest updates, new this month)


Putting Your Mouth Where Your Money Isn't!

(Dear reader: this was an article I wrote that wasn’t published, but I thought it was really important. See what you think. Ronda)

How to turn left-overs into delicious pseudo-French potage for your family or community.
by Ronda Chervin

On one of those nights when you wake up and tune in K-Hell on the radio of your brain, I starting thinking about how when I have to add lower dentures to my uppers I just could be left with a diet of Ensure!  My guardian angel raced to my aid with the memory of once reading that before dentures were popular old folks in Europe lived on those scrumptious potato soups such as I had enjoyed in France.

I called an old friend originally from Belgium and asked her for a recipe for potage. She send me not only the recipe but a vintage 1890 Amish metal grinder. You boil potatoes and grind them up with sauted scallions and, voila, a lovely soft soup.

I soon noticed that scallions are a little pricey and it occurred to me that there was no reason I had to obey my friend’s recipe since I am just as much a gourmand as a gourmet. Why not put in with the potatoes any left-overs hanging around, such as scraps of chicken left on the bone, rejected peas and carrots and then add herbs and spices. Each one would have a different flavor and… I won’t be throwing away that famous garbage that social justice people say could feed the whole world!

Well, grinding up left-overs in that old-fashioned metal grinder takes a long time. Eventually I realized that if I first cooked the whole mess for a half hour and then blended it, I could make it still finer, without the type of lumps that would repel my diners, by a last go through the grinder.

I jokingly boasted to my guests about my garbage soup. That resulted in lots of soup left-over for me – a whole week’s worth! So now I tell them about my French potage: the first course. About 50% of them actually like it. And of those, about 5% become pseudo-French chefs like me.

Putting my mouth where my money isn’t enables me to have more left-over cash to donate to favorite causes such as the Missionaries of Charity and pro-life.

Let me know if you try it and like it…. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 


'God, our Father,' - by Diana Bowring

As my baby is weaning from my bed, and me this milestone is met with sorrow and mixed with a bit of hope and joy.  It is not my will to wean him, but it is his desire, which he has shown in various ways.  I must release to his needs.

I watch as he has learned to comfort himself to fall asleep after I have bid him goodnight and given him many kisses.  As he settles in, he turns away from me, but still turns around to look and see if I’m still there.  And in the night when he cries for me, I turn comfort him to let him know I am not far away.  I know this is the first in a series of “letting go’s”and some will be easier than others.  I hope he will always look and check to see if I’m there and I pray that God will allow me that joy to be there for him.

God is so loving in His Wisdom and sends us our children to be the messengers of His message.  The little ones are the ultimate example of “how to” when it comes to trusting Our Father.  I learn from my own baby that God too releases to my needs.  My Father in Heaven too experiences “letting go’s” in my life… always waiting for me to check and see if He is still there.  And when I cry out to Him, He lets me know that He is not far away.

What a comfort to my baby to know that I am there…  What comfort to us as God’s children to know He is there.

 

 


Who is he?

What sort of animal is this?
He’s as black and white as a skunk
Or a Ladder-backed Woodpecker.
He’s meek then he’s not.
He’s tame and he’s fierce.
A sheep and a panther.
A laughable penguin . . .
When provoked he’s an orca.

Don’t let him fool you,
That befuddled old pastor,
That countrified cleric.
Skin deep he’s a mortal
And not the best specimen.
His diet’s a wreck;
Having no wife’s made a mess of him.                    

But the Lion of Judah
Lurks there in that chest
Great-maned and wise-eyed.
Clueless, you say, but crazily blest.

Like our Creator in chains
Constrained on the Cross
Who while flaccid and moribund
Still had teeth and strong jaws.                               

To seize death as He did
And Satan and sin
The flesh and the world
For the salvation of men.

He caught them all by the throat,
The Lion of Judah
In death dealt Death death.
That great vice of a jaw
Those merciful teeth
Didn’t ungrip, didn’t slacken
Till all lay in defeat.

Who is this man?

He’s the cub of the Lion.

A presence of the Pantocrator.
The hands of the Theandric Actor.

Restorer of nations in his stuffy confessional.
Creator of his Creator at the altar each morn.

Who is this man?
He is slime and sublime.
Clay and Christ-bearer.                                       

No wonder he dresses like that, like a skunk,
Black and white.
Contradicting all logic,
All meek and all fight.

 

- Fr. Antonio Anderson, S.O.L.T.

 


Resting in Love - by Pat Feller

Here I am again, my Jesus,
encompassed in Your arms,
cuddled oh so warmly,
protected from the world.
Like a child am I!

My body no longer young,
my life is close to o’er,
but in the cosmos of Your love,
I’m still just very small.  

You indulge my many whims,
speak to me of future life.
You let me taste the love You have
for Your Father and mine,
And His for You in return.
The Holy Spirit whispers
of the love in the Trinity
awaiting me with open arms.

 

 


 

“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; breath forth, O mountains into singing. For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones." (Isaiah 49:13)

Money and success do not make us joyful. I fact may earthly and successful people are also anxious, fearful, and often quite somber. In contrast, many others who are very poor laugh very easily and often show great joy.

Joy and laughter are the fits of living in the presence of God and trusting that tomorrow is not worth worrying about. It always strikes me that rich people have much money, while poor people have much time. And where there is much time life can be celebrated. There is no reason to romanticize poverty, but when I see the fears and anxieties of many who have all the goods the world has to offer, I can understand Jesus’ words: ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

Money and success are not the problem, the problem is the absence of free, open time when God can be encountered in the present and life can be lifted up in simple beauty and goodness.” - Henri Nouwen




“The second of the great commandments charges us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is what is meant by fellowship: that there is not one of these individuals whom an ill-named chance thrusts in our path and offers to our scrutiny who is not our brother and with whom, as children of God, we are not the coheirs of a certain joint legacy.
Yes, this peasant with his leathery face, this cringing and surly alcoholic, the image of the concierge’s fat dog, this storekeeper, with her mean scowl, repainting her ancient lips: these are our brothers and sisters; Jesus Christ died for them. There is a star embedded in the heart of this tormented flesh, deeper than the redeeming drachma in the belly of the carp of Gennesaret.

Loving our neighbor means something altogether different from courtesy, or a doubtful and meager forbearance. It springs from the awareness of this universal summons, this interrogation that will not tire of knocking until the door has been opened; somewhere, some debt is owed by us that we cannot remove until it has been discharged.
The day has come when it is absolutely necessary that we learn to get along with this brother who is thrust forcibly, whether we want him or not, into our arms." - Paul Claudel


 


 

Ronda’s daughter Carla wrote this letter to her mother-in-law to be read at her father-in-law's funeral. Though parts of the letter only pertain to Richard, lots of it is universal and constitutes to Ronda’s mind an incredible larger spiritual gem:

“I saw a picture of Richard when he was young: a gloomy Heathcliff sitting on a beach, handsome as the devil. When I met him, illness had worn him down to a charming elf instead of a lonely devil: well, time and illness can do that and sometimes it is a kindness and sometimes it isn’t. No one can know at what cost another person has earned their face... (Note from Ronda: This last line seemed to me an incredible insight)

I knew he knew he was dying when we last met. I do not think either of us knew how long or how painful it would be. I tried to pray but I don’t know how to pray. There was a channel of pain traveling all the way from England to North Carolina and I sent what little I possess of faith and hope along it, feeling it was useless.

The day before he died, Richard visited me (in spirit) stood behind my shoulder in the kitchen and commented on a meal I was making, wanted to try some. It was a whimsical moment full of warmth and it felt real. I have no right to speak of faith, but maybe this IS what it is made of: a few sunny moments strung up like rosary beads, a leap of faith, a skip of hope and finally a giant hop off the crucifixes that are prepared for us at the end of our lives. Believe in these moments because what else can you do?

 



The Garbage Collector - by Ronda Chervin

This an old story told in many different versions about  a man who was informed one morning that Jesus was coming down to earth to visit his home at sundown for dinner.  All day long the poor man tried to prepare for his unique visitor.  First he weeded the garden in front of the house. Then he hosed off the front porch.  Finally he helped his wife fix a banquet for the guest. When all seemed ready, the farmer ran down the road, hoping to greet Jesus even before he arrived at the house.  After the sun had fallen beyond the horizon, the farmer returned home in sadness.  No sign of Jesus!  Imagine his surprise and dismay to find that Jesus had already come by the back road and was busy hauling the garbage cans out of his cellar!  

What are we to learn from this story?  Most often  we are eager to earn the admiration of
Jesus because of all we have done for him.  But maybe he is interested in doing something
else. He might want to usher me down to the cellar of my soul so that we could clean out
whatever is attracting the rats. 

What might he want to clear out of my soul: Resentments from past hurts?  Unconfessed
sins?  Envy of those who seem better than me or just more attractive?  Distrust of his
Providence?

 



 

 

Spring Cleaning - by Paul Damian

It’s  springtime; mother has become a white tornado flitting about, cleaning the
house from top to bottom. She has Dad fixing all those little repairs that waited for months.
The children are having fun raking winter and fall’s left over leaves and tree debris. Now
they are catching the spirit of neatness and the spirit of charity that follows and they
voluntarily offer to share their worn clothing and toys with the poor. Soon the whole family
seems so happy just to work hard on a united and uniting project of spring cleaning.

In the spiritual life we need periodic house cleaning that spares no attachment to old
and worn out toys like self-centered time wasting, or unnecessary shopping on Sunday,
the Sabbath.   When we take decisive small steps toward Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us the
wisdom and insight to eliminate the big stumbling stones.

If you are having difficulty getting started on a thorough spiritual house cleaning,
it may be that you need to catch the enthusiasm of that family described above.   A good
place to find this “spirit”  is a quiet but well directed retreat center, where you will be given
the direction and motivation you need.

 


 

New: May 31st, 2011

 

My Children Are…. - by Marjorie Russo


My children are:
A garland of roses
To wear around my neck,
A bunch of daisies blooming in pots,
A chain of summer forget-me-nots.

My children are:
Swift-winged swallows
Soaring high above me and then
Returning to roost in their beds.

My children are:
Long-legged gazelles hopping and
Leaping great distances beyond me.

My children are:
Open hearted loving beings,
Prisms of tremulous light
Reflecting energy bright.

Swathed in sunlight,
They sit at the breakfast table
I look at them and see…
Bits of immortality.



 

 

New Wine in Old Wine Skins - by Fr. Paul Griesgraber

Developing a personality full of loving qualities is not a one-time, instantaneous event.  We prepare our wineskin, step by step.  Preparing a well-developed character makes us suitable for precious experiences.
Caring and sharing in exquisite ways is what the fine wine of the parable is about.  This is God’s intention for us. Our ultimate human fulfillment, as God intends and designed, is for true love, holiness and lasting happiness.

The decision to be a force of good for the world does not happen in a drifting or in a neutral way.  With Christ, I choose to become an active agent of change in the world.  If my wineskin was unprepared it would burst under the stretching challenges of love of God and neighbor that includes my enemies.

It is ironic that when I move directly to satisfy my egocentric pleasures, I actually fail to maximize them.  When I fail to look out for the good of other people with whom my heart and life are connected, their hurt diminishes my well-being.

I can be renewed by dying to self in choices and practices of discipline, with Christ, especially with the cleansing sacraments, . . . again and again.  I may then, progressively, receive and share the exquisite wine of heightened experience – without bursting the skin of arrested human nature – and God’s love may increasingly dwell within a renewed human nature.  This is an ongoing, transforming work.

 


 

Which Restaurant Did We Eat at Today? - By Barbara Vittoria

(Note from Dr. Ronda:  Barbara Vittoria is one of the leaders of a charismatic prayer group at St. John’s Church in Middletown, Connecticut. She will give this as part of a talk soon.)

TODAY, WHAT TYPE OF FOODS DID WE PUT INTO OUR BODIES?   DID WE FEED OUR PHYSICAL BODY NUTRIENTS OR JUNK FOOD TODAY?  BUT THE MORE IMPORTANT QUESTION I WOULD LIKE TO ASK US IS WHAT DID WE FEED OUR SPIRITUAL BODIES WITH TODAY?

EACH DAY WE WAKE UP AND HAVE OUR THREE MEALS THAT NOURISH OUR PHYSICAL BODIES.  BUT HAVE WE EVER THOUGHT OF WHAT WE ARE DAILY NOURISHING OUR SPIRITUAL BODY WITH?  WHEN WE EAT POORLY AND CHOOSE THE WRONG FOODS OUR PHYSICAL BODIES SUFFER AND WE CAN BECOME WEAK. THIS ALSO HAPPENS WHEN WE DINE AT THE WRONG SPIRITUAL FOOD RESTAURANT.

SO, I WOULD LIKE TO INVITE YOU TO TWO RESTAURANTS THIS EVENING  SO WE CAN VIEW THE MENUS AND SEE WHERE WE HAVE BEEN DINING TODAY AND IF WE STILL WANT TO PATRONIZE THE SAME RESTAURANT AGAIN TOMORROW.

MY TALK IS ENTITLED WHICH RESTAURANT DID WE EAT AT TODAY? YOU CAN FOLLOW ALONG WITH ME WITH THE MENUS I’VE HANDED OUT.

SATAN’S RESTAURANT AND GOD’S RESTAURANT ARE ON THE SAME STREET, SIDE BY SIDE, SO IT WILL BE EASY TO CHECK OUT BOTH MENUS. LET’S TAKE A WALK DOWN THE STREET AND SEE WHAT IS ON THEIR MENUS.

SATAN’S RESTAURANT MENU STATES- TO STEAL, ROB AND  DESTROY. SCRIPTURE (JOHN 10, V: 10) WE CAN SMELL THE AROMAS THAT TEMPT US, SEE AND FEEL THE DISPLAYS THAT PLEASE THE FLESH AND ARE EVEN OFFERED FREE SAMPLES.  HIS RESTAURANT IS OPEN 24 HOURS EVERY DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

GOD’S RESTAURANT MENU STATES- TO GIVE US LIFE ABUNDANTLY, AND ETERNAL LIFE. SCRIPTURE- (PS. 91, V:16) AND (JOHN 6, V:47) WE CAN FEEL THE PEACE IN THE ATMOSPHERE, SEE THE BEAUTY BECKONING US TO COME AND REST AWHILE AND DINE WITH HIM. GODS RESTAURANT IS ALSO OPEN 24 HOURS EVERY DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

APPETIZERS OF SATAN - LIES AND DISCOURAGEMENT
APPETIZERS OF GOD - HIS WORD AND PROMISES
SATAN’S DRINKS - ANYTHING IN EXCESS THAT WILL ROB OUR HEALTH AND LIFE
GOD’S DRINK - THE LIVING WATER - (JESUS)
SATAN’S MAIN COURSE - (YOU MAY ORDER AS MANY ENTRES AS DESIRED) ..ANXIETY, FEAR, DOUBT, HOPELESSNESS, LONELINESS, DEPRESSION…  BAD ATTITUDES, JEALOUSY, ENVY, HATRED, LYING, AND UNFORGIVENESS, LAZINESS,… GLUTTONY, LUST, PERVERSIONS, TEMPTATION, GUILT, DRUGS, ALCOHOL, ADDICTIONS, AND DEATH.
GOD’S MAIN COURSE - (ARE FREELY GIVEN FOR THE ASKING TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE, NO LIMIT)GOD OFFERS LOVE, JOY, PEACE, FAITH, HEALING, STRENGTH, HOPE, TRUST, GUIDANCE, WISDOM, COMPASSION, HUMILITY, MERCY, FORGIVENESS, COMFORT, SALVATION, HIS WORD, HIS PROMISES AND ETERNAL LIFE.
SATAN’S DESSERTS - SUGAR COATING MAIN COURSE TO BELIEVE WHAT HE HAS SERVED US IS JUST THE WAY LIFE IS OR EVERYONE IS DOING IT.  (FOR SATAN IS A DECEIVER.)
GOD’S DESSERTS - PEACE, TREASURES IN HEAVEN AND ETERNAL LIFE
SATAN’S BILL - PAID IN FULL BY US WITH SUFFERING, ANXIETY, FEAR, DEPRESSION, DISCOURAGEMENT, BAD ATTITUDES, ANGER,  JEALOUSY, ENVY, HATRED, UNFORGIVENESS, TORMENT AND THE LIST GOES ON AND ON AS TO WHAT WE HAVE EATEN OFF HIS MENU FOR THE DAY.
GOD’S BILL - NO CHARGE.  PAID IN FULL BY JESUS
NOW IF THERE ARE ANY LEFTOVERS SATAN WILL GLADLY GIVE YOU A DOGGIE BAG SO YOU CAN HAVE ALL THE LEFTOVERS YOU WILL NEED FOR THE DAYS THAT WILL FOLLOW TO CONTINUE ON HIS DIET OF SPIRITUAL STARVATION.

GOD WILL ALSO GIVE YOU HIS DOGGIE BAG BUT IT WILL NOT BE WITH ANY LEFTOVERS BECAUSE HE FEEDS US HIS WORD AND HIS PROMISES. PSALMS 103 V3-18


WHAT GOD DOES FOR US:

HE FORGIVES ALL MY SINS.  HE HEALS ME, HE RANSOMS ME FROM HELL. HE SURROUNDS ME WITH LOVINGKINGNESS AND TENDER MERCIES.  HE FILLS MY LIFE WITH GOOD THINGS!  MY YOUTH IS RENEWED LIKE THE EAGLE’S.  HE GIVES JUSTICE TO ALL WHO ARE TREATED UNFAIRLY.  HE REVEALED HIS WILL AND NATURE TO MOSES AND THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL. HE IS MERCIFUL AND TENDER TOWARD THOSE WHO DON’T DESERVE IT; HE IS SLOW TO GET ANGRY AND FULL OF KINDNESS AND LOVE.  HE NEVER BEARS A GRUDGE, NOR REMAINS ANGRY FOREVER.  HE HAS NOT PUNISHED US AS WE DESERVE FOR ALL OUR SINS, FOR HIS MERCY TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR AND HONOR HIM IS AS GREAT AS THE HEIGHT OF THE HEAVENS ABOVE THE EARTH.  HE HAS REMOVED OUR SINS AS FAR AWAY FROM US AS THE EAST IS FROM THE WEST.  HE IS LIKE A FATHER TO US, TENDER AND SYMPATHETIC TO THOSE WHO REVERENCE HIM FOR HE KNOWS WE ARE BUT DUST, AND THAT OUR DAYS ARE FEW AND BRIEF, LIKE GRASS, LIKE FLOWERS, BLOWN BY THE WIND AND GONE FOREVER. BUT THE LOVINGKINDNESS OF THE LORD IS FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING TO THOSE WHO REVERENCE HIM; HIS SALVATION IS TO CHILDREN’S CHILDREN OF THOSE WHO ARE FAITHFUL TO HIS COVENANT AND REMEMBER TO OBEY HIM!...”

NOW WE KNOW WHAT IS BEING SERVED AT EACH RESTAURANT SO TOMORROW WHICH RESTAURANT’S MENU WILL WE CHOOSE TO EAT FROM?

1.    SATAN’S DOGGIE BAG-YOU’RE NOT SAVED
GOD’S DOGGIE BAG- FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. (JOHN 3 V:16)

2. SATAN’S DOGGIE BAG-YOU DIDN’T RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT
GOD’S DOGGIE BAG-IF YOU KNOW HOW TO GIVE GOOD GIFTS TO YOUR CHILDREN HOW MUCH MORE WOULD THE HEAVENLY FATHER GIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT TO THOSE WHO ASK  (LUKE 11 V:13)

3. SATAN’S DOGGIE BAG- GOD DOESN’T LOVE YOU
GOD’S DOGGIE BAG- I LOVE YOU WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE (JER31 V:3)

4. SATAN’S DOGGIE BAG-GOD CAN’T FORGIVE YOU
GOD’S DOGGIE BAG-CONFESS OUR SINS FOR HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST TO FORGIVE US OF OUR SINS (1 JOHN 1 V: 9)

5. SATAN’S DOGGIE BAG- YOU WEREN’T WANTED
GOD’S DOGGIE- HE CHOSE US IN HIM BEFORE CREATION (EPH. 1 V: 4)

6. SATAN’S DOGGIE BAG-YOU’LL NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING
GOD’S DOGGIE BAG-I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME (PHIL. 4 V:13)

7. SATAN’S DOGGIE BAG-GOD’S WORD DOESN’T WORK
GOD’S DOGGIE BAG-GOD HAS GIVEN US BOTH HIS PROMISE AND HIS OATH. THESE TWO THINGS ARE UNCHANGEABLE BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO LIE (HEB. 6 V:18)

 


 

New: June 10th, 2011


Stations of the Cross For Widows - by Ronda Chervin
(from Walk with me, Jesus, Simon Peter Press, 2008)

The First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death

Mary…

Your Son, who was to be judge of all the living and the dead, stood before a Roman judge and received an unjust sentence. Though you knew He was the ‘suffering servant’ prophesied by Isaiah, did you wonder why He had to suffer this humiliation and in this way?

As widows, we sometimes question God’s providence – and His love for us.

Why did that drunk driver who killed my husband survive?
Why did God permit that doctor’s mistake?
Was there anything done – or left undone – that hastened the day or the hour?
Why did my husband have to die instead of me?

Holy Mary, pray for us … now and in the hour we cry for justice.

Jesus: You are the Lord of my life. I know that You permit only those things from which You can bring good. Help me to trust that even the day and the hour of my husband’s death was known to You, and that he is enfolded in Your Sacred Heart now as then.


The Second Station: Jesus Accepts the Cross

Mary …

Many of us spent long hours at the bedside of our husbands, anticipating the separation that would come. Others of us experienced the tragedy of our spouse’s sudden, unexpected death.

Just as nothing you could have said would have persuaded Jesus to evade the cross, we had no choice but to accept what we could not change.

The heaviness of that cross drained us, even as we persevered in hope.

Holy Mary, pray for us, that with each passing day this temporary separation will lead to everlasting joy.

Jesus, You endured all the trials we face, up to and including that final, wooden cross. You are with us every moment, in the pain and up to those final moments of our husband’s earthly life.Then and now, You want us to rest our weary heads in Your lap so that you can console us …  but we are too busy coping to come to You. As we look upon the second station and see You accepting Your cross, let us also see that You were holding us up through the intensity of our pain and loss.


Third Station: Jesus Falls for the First Time

Mary …

You saw your strong, manly son fall under the terrific weight of those beams. As you watched helplessly, waves of weakness filled your own body. Did those feelings remind you of the grief you felt when Joseph died?

Watch over us, as our own physical strength dwindles slowly. Stay with us after the funeral, when we can hardly rise from our beds.

We, too, have felt those times of weakness that threatened to overtake us. Sometimes they linger still. Watch over us and lend us your strength and help us to move forward in hope.

Jesus, when widows collapse under the strain of early widowhood, You never chide us for failing to take up daily life tasks with our usual efficiency. Instead You remain at our side each day, and hover over our solitary beds, sending invisible graces. May we never doubt Your love for us as You bring new strength to our new state of life.


Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother

Mary …

As I meditate upon this station of the Cross, I am struck by what an unforgettable encounter this must have been between you and your Son. It reminds us that deeper even than shared joy is shared agony!

Pray for us now. Some of us looked into the eyes of our husbands as they left this world. Some had no chance to say goodbye – he died far away or instantaneously, without warning.

Pray for us, your abandoned daughters.

Jesus, You knew Your mother’s heart inside out. Though it comforted You to receive her last touch and glance, it also must have grieved You to be the cause of her pain.
Thank You for the family and friends, priests, and parishioners who stayed with us as we made our way of the cross with our husbands. Even if no one walked with us, You, Jesus, Your mother, our angels and the widow saints were there.

Let us never be so frantic in our widowhood that we push away the love of those who reach out to us.


The Fifth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

Mary …

You wished you could carry that cross for Your Son. You must have sighed in relief to see Simon bearing the weight.

As widows, even after many years, we can feel lonely, overwhelmed, and hopeless, desperately wishing for help.

Holy Mary, pray for your daughters in our hour of need.

Jesus, You are the God-man, yet You let another help when You were unable to keep going. Why, then, should we be too proud to beg? So often a cry brings assistance that does not come to those who hide their weakness.

In the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit promises rewards to those who aid widows. Show us who can help us in our neediness … and, when there really is no one, let us always fall back on You, the Second Bridegroom of widows. Strengthen our backs even as the cross still weighs us down.


Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Mary …

Most likely you knew this valiant disciple, and saw the imprint on your Son’s face on that cloth long after His ascension.

Did you wipe the face of St. Joseph, just as we wiped the brow of our beloved husbands in their final moments? Did the image of your husband’s face remain with you long after? When words can do little, gestures can do much.

All of us treasure the image of our husbands, if not on a cloth, then in photographs. Holy Mary, pray for us as we remember.

Jesus, we hope our husbands asked forgiveness for their sins before their deaths, even if we did not witness this. We believe that they are either in purgatory of heaven. The fully resurrected body will not be theirs – or ours – until the Last Judgment. Yet, as we struggle along without our husbands, we like to imagine their faces looking down on us with compassion and, often, humor.


Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time

Mary …refuge of sinners …

More than any other witness , you understood how the cross of Jesus was part of the Father’s plan of salvation.

As your Son fell again, did you think of us sinners, through the centuries, coming to repentance? In your great distress, did your heart rejoice to see us repenting as we prayed these very stations?

During our long widowhood we have ample time to remember how often we fell from grace, when our own faults and sins hurt our spouses.

Mother Mary, pray for us your daughters, as we look to God for mercy.

Jesus, give us courage to confess the major sins of our married lives in the sacrament of reconciliation. You want us to have peace. Help us to believe that, in eternity, our husbands have repented of their sins against us. They do not judge us harshly now, for the are participating in the compassionate love of Your Sacred Heart for themselves and for us.


Eighth Station: The Women Console Jesus

Mary …

Were the women who braved the jeering crowd to console Jesus on the way of the cross, the same women who surrounded you when Joseph died? Surely they would not have left the mother of Love alone at her hour of need!

When we first became widows, more seasoned widows came forward to comfort and inspire us with their survival skills and their trust in you and in Jesus.

Holy Mary, pray for us with the compassion of your mother’s heart.

Jesus, deep is the consolation you wish to pour into our frazzled and forlorn widowed hearts. You would have us know that we are never, never, never, alone. But we need much grace to stretch ourselves beyond our senses to know You now in an even more intimate spiritual way than before. Only You can settle us down in the peace that comes with Your presence.


Ninth Station: Jesus Falls Again

Mary …

Despite your unique and exalted privileges as Mother of God, you must have felt your status in the world fall when you were no longer “Joseph’s wife” but only a poor widow.

In our times, most of us grieve our new state each time we fill out a form and are forced to check the “widow” box instead of the “married” box. Sometimes our social life falls because we are not part of a couple. Often, our income falls as well.

Mother Mary, pray for us your daughters as we feel our place in the world diminish.

Jesus, throughout Scripture, Your people were exhorted to honor needy widows. Purify the minds of all widows from negative images of widowhood. Show us if You want to provide us with second husbands. In Your new covenant, we are offered a new consecrated state, living to serve Your church. If our new vocation is to have You as our Second Bridegroom, show us how. 


Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped

Mary …

Did you keep any of your Son’s things after His death? Perhaps, you even kept some of Joseph’s belongings. We cannot know for certain. What we do know is that Jesus was parted from his clothes by force, an act of violence.

After the death of our husbands, it was a painful process to go through their possessions. As we stripped away those clothes, we felt the memories connected to those clothes slip away as well.

In another sense we feel stripped of everything our husband’s presence meant to us, especially on anniversaries, birthdays, family holidays and religious holy days. Holy Mary, pray for your daughters as we struggle to place all our losses into the hands of God.

Jesus: You wept at the death of Lazarus – and though it is not recorded, no doubt You cried when Joseph died, too. Even so, You also told us not to grieve as unbelievers do. Grief takes many forms; some of these forms are surprising, such as mourning over and article of our husband’s clothing. We beg You to turn each experience of loss into gratitude for the good times.

We hope for that day when our resurrected bodies will be clothed in unimaginable splendor, and we will be reunited with our loved ones. In the meantime, give us grace to be glad to  be stripped of what we no longer need, and to help those who have less especially the starving and homeless.  


Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Mary …

You had to watch your Son endure one of the worst deaths ever devised. You saw the nails, blood, wounds, and his horrible, agonizing pain. At the crucifixion, you reflected the pain and strain your Son was experiencing. You became a mirror of His crucifixion.

Many widows recall having witnessed the awful, gut-wrenching miseries of a husband’s suffering Like you, Mary, we became mirrors of that suffering. Our faces, previously ore often expressive of light hearted joy, now manifest the heavy sadness of death.

Jesus, through our baptism each of us is incorporated into the pachal mystery. This means that, like You, we will all experience the passion, death and resurrection. Seen in this light, the loss of our husbands writes us to You in a profound way. Your mother shows us how to endure our cross and how to unite it to Yours. Help us to use our suffering and grief as a conduit of redemptive love that can lead others to You. Mary, our Mother, pray for us now and at the hour of death.


Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Mary …

How often the ways of God must have surprised you, from the Annunciation on through all the mysteries of your life. Perhaps as Jesus was being crucified you waited expectantly for another miracle, hoping that somehow the resurrection would occur right then.

But that did not happen. Instead Jesus gave you another unexpected gift: the gift of spiritual motherhood. You were to become mother of His Church, symbolized in the person of John, the beloved apostle.

Jesus, even in the last moments, we prayed for our husband’s healing and health. Even when they died suddenly, without warning, we prayed over their bodies helping that they, like Lazarus, could be raised from the dead. We wanted them to remain with us here on earth.

As we pray for the souls of our husbands, we are reminded that there is still work that You have for us to do. As we mourn, let our tars never blind us to the need for love in the people around us. 


Thirteen Station: Jesus is Taken from the Cross
Mary …

Great artists and sculptors have depicted the tender moment when you held the body of Jesus for the last time. Did you also remember holding the body of St. Joseph for the lat time? How often we wish that we could see our husbands again in the flesh, and embrace them in love.

Pray for us, O Holy Mary, that we might offer these longing back to God. Turn our grief into powerful seeds of prayer.

Jesus, You want us to grieve but not to beg for what is not Your will. Instead of physical contact with our husbands, bodies, You want to stretch us to make contact with them through prayer. Please wean us from wanting what is gone and help us to want what we can have in a spiritual way now, and in eternity. Some widows experience the souls of their spouses with them always, and others, rarely, if at all. Help us to trust in the signs of eternal life You choose for each of us as individuals. Many of us have found healing races through groups each of us as individuals. Many of us have found healing graces through groups each of us as individuals. Many of us have found healing graces through groups on bereavement and grief. If we could benefit from such ministries, help us to overcome our desire to hide our pain. Let us not reject what would bring hope.


Fourteen Station: Jesus Is Buried

Mary …

Some who write about you believe that Jesus first appeared to you, his mother privately. We do not know how that was, but we do know that you understand how we feel at the burial of those we love. Even with the numbness that often comes with a death, the farewell at the gravesite is always poignant.

Jesus, You want to increase our faith in life eternal. In the meantime, You teach us to believe in Your mystical body, experienced in its highest form on earth at Holy Mass and in the reception of Holy Communion. Help us to believe that our communion with You at the sacred rites is also a communion with the one to whom we were joined in the sacrament of marriage. You have made saints of some widows, known to us, or hidden from the public eye. What more can we pray for than that, like them, our hearts be free from doubt, bitterness, anxiety and despair and be filled, instead, with the joys You send us (even as we suffer) and with love, love, and LOVE.

 


 

New: June 30th, 2011

 

New Way

(This is a big adventure in the Spirit that Dr. Ronda is trying with different individuals and groups. It is designed to help us get out of denial of negative traits that drive other people crazy!)

1.    Pick out one negative trait you would like to improve on such as talking less, being less upset about trivial annoyances, smiling more at family, friends and people at work and Church. If you think you are perfect, ask those closest to you what little thing they wish you would do differently.
2.    Collect general and personal insights about the negative and  positive of this trait such as
a.    talking too much vs. listening better; 
b.    upset about trivia vs. overlooking it or working around it;
c.    grouchy or withdrawn vs. smiling and friendly.

3.    Consider what is the pain from past and present that you compensate for through your negative trait. For example, 
a.    About talking too much the pain from the past could be feeling inferior when others dominated conversations in the past, so I want to be the speaker even when it is inappropriate. The present pain would be feeling that if I don’t make the conversation interesting to me I will be slightly bored or feel that everything is meaningless unless discussions of important things take place.
b.    On upset about trivial annoyances – a past pain would be feeling out of control as a child when parents or siblings did annoying and hurtful things to me. A present pain would be not being able to coerce others to act better concerning daily trivial matters. 
c.     On grouchy or withdrawn vs. smiling, friendly – the past pain would be parental role models of these negative traits. The present pain would be wanting to withdraw after a hard day or before the day gets harder – being grouchy or withdrawn usually keeps others away.
4.     Make a promise such as this:  God, I truly want to change, not just to please others, but to get closer to you by becoming a more loving person.  I realize that Your grace cannot penetrate my denial mechanisms if I justify every negative trait by excuses. (In my, Ronda’s case, well, if I don’t dominate the conversation no one will learn my God-given wisdom!) I accept the sufferings, small and large, that I will have endure in order let your grace operate more in my life with respect to this trait. 
5.     Write a personal prayer to Jesus to say whenever you are tempted to exercise the specific negative trait you are working on now such as:

a.    Jesus, please pour your love into my heart so that feeling happy about myself I can listen to others instead of trying to dominate all conversations.
b.    Father God, thank you for all the blessings of this day. Help me laugh at this trivial annoyance and get on with the rest of my day without over-reacting .
c.    Holy Spirit, spouse of the Virgin Mary, show me how to be friendly so that everyone I meet today feel better because they met me, just as I believe people must have felt who met Mary in Nazareth.

(For all of these say a prayer such as this: “I rebuke the spirit of (talkativeness, annoyance at trivia, unfriendliness or whatever you are working on, and lay it at the feet of Jesus to do away with. If you are in a Church with confession, you could make a general confession of any sins you have ever committed related to the negative trait you are working on.)

6.    (Optional)  Write a journal of your experiences.

7.    (Optional but best)  Choose a person who sees you often or whom you can call at a set time each day or evening to share victories of grace. One victory a day is a lot if you multiply by 365 days a year!  This call should not be analytic, but rather prayerful as in:
“Heh, pal, guess what?  Today I had lunch with friends and I let someone else dominate the conversation, by asking friendly questions instead of delivering long speeches myself. “
“Gee, Ronda, praise the Lord. Today I smiled at the kids as they went out the door to school instead of muttering – stay out of trouble kids.”
“Have a blessed day tomorrow being not Grouchy Dad but Friendly Dad. I’ll be praying for you.

It may seem tiny but could it be worse than being stuck with traits everyone finds difficult but puts up with because they have given up hope we will ever change, grace or not?????



Dancing with Jesus - by Ronda Chervin

I woke up one night with an image before my mind.  It was of myself dancing with
Jesus.  We were doing the fast rhythmic Israeli hora.  This is danced by two people,
with the four hands clasped tightly in a locked position.  The hand-hold enables each
person to lean far backwards while the feet move in a 1,2,3 slide then kick motion
faster and faster in a circle.

Considering the image of dancing the hora with Jesus it seemed to tell me: “If you
hold on tight enough to Jesus, life can be for you a dance instead of mostly a burden.”
New Way by Dr. Ronda Chervin



Dancing with Life - by Betty Brownlow

Dance, Christian, dance,
feet responding
to cadenced melody.


Your partner - the loved
and the unloved.


Follow with confidence
the dance of new hope.

Dance, Christian, dance!

 


 

New: July 15th, 2011

 

Posture Practice - by Paul Damian

Sometimes a person holds out a hand in greeting, but you don’t really feel like
extending yours. Generally you overcome your reluctance and often the warm hand-to-
hand contact leads to warmer feelings toward the initiator of the exchange.

Some spiritual writers suggest the same about prayer postures. For instance they
find that when you do not feel like praying at all, if you will go to a sacred place, (it could
be a corner of your bedroom where you have a little shrine, or a chapel or even a quiet wood
or field), and kneel erect, you will soon feel like praying. In reality the act of the will to kneel
erect  and at attention is a very powerful prayer of adoration to the Almighty, who often
answers your willingness to assume this pose by giving the desire to pray.

What is a posture that images your relationship to God? Kneeling in front of the blessed Sacrament? Lying flat on the floor face down with arms out in the form of a cross? Walking without encumbrances? Picturing Jesus by your side?

If you are having difficulty getting into the mood to pray, try a posture at a definite “sacred space”, where you can go on most days, preferably at the same time.


Dancing with My Hero - by Pat Feller

He causes me to dream
That makes me seem
Important to Him,
He is my life inside
Making me see who I am
And who He is to me.

He lifts me high
Telling me
He can do everything,
He is my hero…
Greater than all…
ALL-important to me.

He whispers quietly
About my schemes,
Giving me courage
To reach out and achieve

Whatever He knows
I am meant to be.

He holds me close
When I fear
And guards me
In His angel’s care,
He cautions me
In harm perceived
To protect me.

He is my knight
In shining armor
He dispels my tears
Cares for all my needs,
Making me feel perfect
Just like Him

Can anyone
Not understand?
He is like
All other men…
Like any other
Yet…
Not of fairy tales.

He is real...God!
Who makes me compete
The hero
Of my dreams.


New: July 31st, 2011

 

Mary’s Dance - by Ronda Chervin, S.O.L.T.

If Jesus is our only mediation, why do you Catholics pray to Mary? is a question many Protestants ask. I provide the usual theological answers such as: we don’t pray to Mary but rather ask her to pray for us, much as Protestants keep beg their pastors to pray for them; if the angel greeted Mary as full of grace, why can’t we? etc. But then I like to help them expand their imagery in this way. One could think of our journey to Heaven as like single horses in a race, placed in stalls with barriers between; then moving ahead in a straight line – a solitary course to the finish, where Jesus awaits us – no detours! Or you could imagine it more like a dance where each of us gets to circle upward with different partners, and sometimes a whole chorus line of saints up to Heaven. My duet is with Jesus, my Redeemer, but He doesn’t mind if I take a turn with His beloved Mother.

 

A Pathway of Blessings - the author prefers to be anonymous.

 

This past year I learned about applying the concept of blessings from the Bible to my family and friends. It all started in July when my friend who gave me rides to classes in Level II Healing Prayer (a DVD each week taught by Francis and Judith MacNutt of Christian Healing Ministries) came over and told me all about the conference she went to in late June that the MacNutts led at Mt. Snow, Vermont. She was so excited to tell me about blessings. She shared with me her notes and asked if I had ever been blessed. I said no, so she said a blessing over me right then.

Some of my children and families were visiting me in August from out of state. So I said to myself, “I’d better take advantage of the opportunity to bless them in person.” I was very nervous, for I had never done this before. I thought, “Who am I to bless anyone. That is God’s job”. I wrote out the blessings ahead of time, not trusting myself to thinking on the spot. I wrote a short paragraph for each family member, even grandchildren. It began something like this: “I bless you ________, in God’s Holy name that God may continue the good work begun in you (Philippians 1:6). Your dedication as a loving (wife or husband and mother or father). Your love of work, music, nature, and healthy eating. Your caring and sharing spirit. God will richly bless you with good health and joy.” I held their hand.

I didn’t think much about it afterwards, but within a week after my son got home he called me on Labor Day to say that in the past week he had found out about 4 job opportunities in his specialized field. One was on the West coast, another in Spain, the third in upstate New York and the fourth a promotion in his current job. I was so happy for him because 8 months ago there was only 1 job possibility. I didn’t put the blessing together with this until the next morning when I was watching a Jewish Voice program on Trinity Broadcast TV Network. The program was all about blessings. The author, Dr. John Garr, has written a book: “Blessings for Family and Friends”. I was so excited. It was like God saying to me personally, “See how important blessings are.”

I am a member of the Blue Star Mothers (Mothers and grandmothers of men and women in the military). I was sharing this story with them. They were so encouraged that right on the spot they asked me to bless them, so I did. We all held hands around the table.

The best part is that 6 weeks after I blessed the above son, he told me that he had invited Jesus into his heart on October 6th. I was overjoyed. I am still “pinching myself to believe that it is true”. The Holy Spirit had been prompting his pastor to have a personal talk with him. The pastor answered his questions and said you have to take it on faith. I thank him profusely. This is a miracle for I brought up my children as Unitarians while I was an agnostic. I came to know the Lord late in life, the same age my son now is coming to the Lord.

My other son, who I blessed by mail found a second home after the blessing arrived, that is closer to the kids’ school. My daughter, who I blessed in person, is in the process of moving to another state and buying a much larger home with a lot more land.

I encourage you to bless your family and friends for you will be blessed too.

The Aaronic Blessing from the Old Testament: Numbers 6:24-26 is so powerful and can be said over anyone.

Numbers 6:22-3 NIV The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ’This is how you are to bless the Israelites say to them:

Verses 24-6: “ ‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ‘

Three months after I blessed my children, I was giving part of the sermon in chapel and one person asked me if I would tell her more about blessings which I did about 6 weeks later, plus baptizing her in the Holy Spirit. She told me later that that same day of the blessing she got a long distance phone call from an old friend that she hadn’t talked to in 50 years. They had occasionally written. It was a very affirming phone call.

A month after that, I was teaching on blessings in a small Bible study/prayer meeting that had just started in my town. I personalized a blessing for each one and printed it on pretty paper and placed it in a clear plastic protector. I read it to each one individually with my hand on their head (after asking their permission). I anointed them with Holy Oil and Holy Water on their forehead and hands. The next day I got a call from one of the ladies that our prayer meeting will be blessed with a visit from a lady who lives an hour away who is close to Father Di Orio who has a wonderful healing ministry. So the blessing is returning to us. Praise God.

A family member came over to celebrate my birthday in March and I blessed her again that afternoon. I got a call from her 3 hours later that her son had just left to church and the young people’s group afterward. He hadn’t been a regular church goer.

The next day I blessed my brother and sister and her husband as I said table grace and they gave me a blessing back.

5/1/211 I came home from my grandson’s birthday party, at which time I read and gave him his blessing on pretty paper in a plastic protector. When I got home there was a wonderful message on my answering machine from my first son, that he had word that he was asked to come to a second interview this time they flew him across the country. His first interview was by phone. A few weeks later, I made two blessings for grandchildren that were graduating from college. Around that time, my son got offered the job. This good news brings to mind what I heard and experience that the person giving the blessing gets blessed too.

God is so awesome. Try it yourself. You’ll be blessed and be a blessing.

 

Watch, by Dean Kirk

Out of the Shadows come the strangest things, a past from Shadowy Glen, from out
of a Painful Bin. Even in the Light there are shadows. Many have hardly seen that Great Light, only
reflections. Never discussed with Savior their needs, thinking, Oh, how would He know?

 

We’ve witnessed, tapped on One’s heart’s door. We’ve accepted His greatest gift
of forgiveness of errors, guilt, sin, and shame. It’s exciting. Let Him come in, sit at your table
to discuss the ugh. . .critters, things so well hidden under great shadows of your spirit, heart
and mind, body too, so fearfully and yet wondrously made.

 

Oh, wait for now He calls those wild creatures who infected your soul. Yes!
They have to make an appearance, be identified, seen, and then summarily dismissed. That
helps you a lot. You can start over to build an identity. So profound it works to bring truth,
fulfillment. It has to be worked, it requires constant cultivation like a good garden,
productive, finally mature, to have a fine mission is all right!

 

Called to Love, Truth and Life, by Michael Meaney, Ph.D., Corpus Christi, Texas

"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14, 6) is a divine challenge so rich and so multi-splendored that even an outline of his/its essential elements must be quite long: really and fundamentally understanding what "being called to love, truth and life" means requires us to explore intimately and ultimately inter-related questions in four areas: "Who and what are we?" "Who or what calls us?" "How and when are we called?" and "What is each of these great realities?"

The most essential and important question we can ask about ourselves is "What is a human being?" Our answer to every other question depends on our answer to it. In each stage of our lives, the most crucial question is "What is a fetus?", "What is an infant?", "What is a child?", "What is an adolescent?", "What is a youth?", "What is an adult?", "What is an old person?" All these questions have been asked and answered by mature adults using themselves as models of perfection and adult achievements as the most essential human characteristics. Quite naturally, humans in all other stages become imperfect approximations of adult maturity.   For many, humans in the early first stage and late last stage become doubtfully human or expendable beings.

For the last 2,500 years the most common definitions of man have been definitions of the adult human being. Man has been defined as a "political or social animal," a "conjugal or historical animal," a free or "pleasure-centered" ("Homo ludens") individual, a "worker, maker or 'Homo faber'" or a "wolf to other men" ("Homo hominem lupus" of Hobbes). One of the earliest, most enduring and most influential definitions is "Man is a rational animal." In all these definitions of the adult human being, human experience in all stages of life has meaning and value almost entirely in relation to whatever adult characteristic is emphasized in the definition.

Because of its origins in ancient Greek and Roman culture, western civilization has most often defined man as a "rational animal" whose greatest natural achievements consist in either speculative or practical reason. Whether it is our speculative understanding, science and wisdom, or our practical reason in technology, commerce, trade and industry, or in our social, political and moral life, reason is "what is most distinctively and profoundly human." Our moral or prudential life is "right reason in acting" ("recta ratio agibilium"), our art "right reason in making" ("recta ratio factibilium"). Quite naturally, our religious faith is related above all to reason: "Faith seeking understanding" ("Fides quaerens intellectum") and "I believe in order to understand" ("credo ut intelligam") became the medieval leitmotifs of western culture's positive response to divine revelation.

Trying to define man in an abstract or essential way without adequately taking into account the concrete or existential situations within which we live each of the stages of our lives naturally tends to de-emphasize all but one stage and one characteristic through which we are fully human. Has anyone ever described a newborn infant in terms of any of these definitions? Obviously, many years will have to pass before the newborn becomes independent or free or is able to work or fulfill social and political functions. Yet he or she is already undeniably a member of the human species and is already having experiences that will decisively influence the rest of life.

This leads us to: "Is it possible to reach a definition of man which describes human beings in all their stages of life in both an essential and existential way?" This seems to be what is done in the first, most unique and most profound of all definitions of man: "And God said, 'Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves'". (Gn 1,26) In these few words, our Heavenly Father began to reveal that we are made by the Trinity, like the Trinity and for the Trinity, and that our ultimate fulfillment consists in the various natural and supernatural ways in which we share in the wisdom, life and love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Who or what calls us to love? How and when are we called to love?

God calls us to love in two distinct but intimately inter-related ways: through nature and grace. We are all called to receive and pursue the greatest natural goods in their three main varieties: 1) in all forms of natural learning: touching and tasting, seeing and hearing, intuitive understanding and reasoning as well as intellectual and artistic creativity in all their endlessly different personal and social realizations in all stages of life, 2) in all forms of natural life: in receiving and generating life, in nourishing and fostering ourselves and others, in acting, co-operating and leading, in working and recreating, in growing and helping others to grow within the family and other social groups, and 3) in all forms of natural affection, tenderness and love, in friendliness, friendship and association, in our love of nature and of country, our love of ourselves, of others and of God.

God also shares his wisdom, life and love with us through giving us his supernatural gifts that radically transcend and transform natural corollaries. They begin with and culminate on earth with grace, bringing faith, hope and charity as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, leading towards inspired understanding, heroic life and leadership, both beginning with and culminating in sacrificial love meeting our greatest needs and constituting our highest perfection in our personal and social lives. Members of Jesus' Church share in them through receiving, believing and responding to Holy Scripture and Tradition, i.e., the People of God following the Holy Spirit and the Church's Magisterium in understanding and living divine Love.

The original divine plan - offering angelic and human creatures perfection through living in the perfect harmony of nature and grace - ended with the revolts of Lucifer and of Adam and Eve. The second and even greater divine plan is the eternalvSon of God the Father becoming the Incarnate Son of the Father and of Mary or Jesus, who offers sinners union with him in his Church through love growing towards perfect love of God and neighbor as well as perfect docility to his will. God gave one human being a unique role in that plan: Mary alone was preserved free of original as well as all subsequent sins and given fullness of grace in order to become the fitting mother of Jesus and, by the gift of Jesus (Jn 19: 26-27) our spiritual mother as well. She helps us both in our highest objective vocation - priesthood and religious life - in which "You did not choose me, no, I chose you" (Jn 15:16) to directly serve him with total dedication, and as lay persons living the theological, evangelical and moral virtues prudentially and above all on the level of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Lay persons and religious live the divinely perfect Beatitudes as "either acts of the gifts or acts of the heroic virtues insofar as they are perfected by the gifts." (S. Thomas, Super Evang Mt 5, 2, #410)

We are called by God and our created nature as well as by God's grace and Church to life-long and life-wide love, truth and life. In the divine plan, our love-life begins not by our loving but by our being divinely and humanly loved from the first moment of our conception. At conception, God directly creates and lovingly infuses an immortal soul into our tiny, receptive body prepared by the first instruments of his love, our parents. Their act of conjugal love is one of the summits of love, an eminently personal union prepared by the sacramental union of husband and wife.

While we have always known that infants and young children urgently need to be loved, it was only through the decisive demonstration of 20th century maternal deprivation studies that everyone now clearly understands that unborn babies, infants and small children have so great a need to be loved that to the extent they are not personally and warmly loved, they suffer tremendous, long-lasting, even irreversible physical, psychological and social damage, sometimes even death.

To understand this, we must begin from the beginning. The most striking first characteristic of newborn infants is their utter and total helplessness. They have a life and death need for being cared for in immediate and constant, tender and enduring ways long before almost anything can be known about them or expected of them. They may eventually turn out to be talented, average, or retarded, industrious or lazy, healthy or sick, heroes or scoundrels, but they must be loved here and now unconditionally and as persons. That greatest initial need of infants frustrates the essential thrust of our love of qualities and calls for a nurturing wife and husband, mother and father whose marriage and family are based on unconditional love.

In the beginning, God directly founded the family as a community and school of growth in love for life. In his plan of salvation, Jesus Christ made the family one of the seven sacraments of his Church. In his most explicit and solemn statement about salvation, Jesus describes how our being saved directly depends on our helping to savevothers: "Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me." (Mt. 25,34-37; cf Mt. 25, 31-46)

Because of our first experiences in the family, each of us can say: "From the earliest moments of my life, before even my mother knew that I existed, she was already nourishing me with her own blood, warming me with her own body and attending to all my needs. Then, when she first became aware of my existence, she began to care for me as a willing instrument of divine love. She welcomed her little stranger, fed me when I was hungry or thirsty, clothed me in her warmth and visited me when I was sick. Finally, when I had grown so much that her gentle womb became a prison for me, she liberated her little captive by giving birth to me. Hardly was I born when she began again to welcome and nourish me, clothe and take care of me in new ways, endlessly new and tender ways as those first days turned into months and years. She was co-operating with Jesus in her salvation and mine." (Excerpt from my as yet unpublished manuscript, Good News of Great Joy)

The community in which our mothers lived that love was (hopefully) the Christian family, which we enter into and live unconditionally: Christian spouses take each other "For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part."   That unconditional conjugal love is the best of all preparations for rightly loving our infants and children, who have an uncanny ability to detect latent indifference or hidden ambivalence. Their need for authentic, tender and unconditional love is unique and urgent. Their first experiences are all entirely centered around interpersonal love. Adult eating may be solitary or social, silent or conversational, meaningful or meaningless.  Breast-feeding, on the other hand, involves mutual caressing and fondling, pleasurable body contact, tenderness and affection. This fusion of love and eating, of giving and receiving is an immensely important tenderly-loving interpersonal experience. Adult bathing is solitary, quick and efficient. But for infants, being bathed is an easily prolonged experience of caressing and fondling, a smiling and laughter-filled harmony of communion and communication, of being-loved and loving. Adult travel at its best is mechanical and efficient. Infantile travel at its best is being-carried in loving arms. In pre-rational but immensely and enduringly profound ways, infants appreciate and hunger for love. All their early development, relationships and learning, all their earliest explorations of the surrounding world and first movements towards independence are inseparably linked to love.

As an infant, each of us learns to respect and obey, imitate and identify with our parents because of their love for us and our love for them. As an infant, I seek out, cling to, and unite myself with my mother, live in her presence, share her attitudes, moods and feelings, and have no life apart from hers. I "talk" to and listen to her, "ask" her for whatever I need or want, learn to thank her and ask her pardon, and show by my feelings, gestures, actions and words how much she means to me. I am constantly interacting with her, giving her my attention, presence, needs, affection, looks and smiles, giving her what I am, for I have nothing of my own.

Whereas both friendship and conjugal love typically involve independently existing persons of similar age, temperament, talent and activity who contribute differently but more or less equally to the relationship, there is a dissimilar complementarity between infant and mother that mysteriously resembles the relationship between saints or mystics and God. Since both infants and mystics are more loved than loving, and are wholly dependent on merciful love, they alone can rightly and perfectively be predominantly receptive or responsive. For them alone is life almost entirely a matter of love rather than skills, of being rather than having, of being possessed rather than possessing, of personal communion rather than talkative communication. They alone legitimately place nearly exclusive emphasis on love of persons over love of ideals and things.

Since we are persons created in the image and likeness of the triune God and of Jesus, the Incarnate God, our love, hope and faith are eminently personal, familial and communal shares in God himself. Our lives become transcendent realizations of being loved by and loving God. If we are above all images of God, then our first as well as best qualities and virtues will be God-gifted and God-centered rather than reason-induced and reason-centered: in infancy and early childhood, we are loved before we love; receive before we give; and trust before being trustworthy. We can be obedient before we can be prudent; pious and religious before we can be just; patient and persevering before we can be courageous; friendly and merciful, humble and capable of little sacrifices before we are capable of really virtuous temperance. The first and best sources of information on this are the carefully gathered, precisely dated, sworn testimonies of first-hand witnesses cited in theologically examined enquiries leading to the beatification and canonization of saints - all of which begin with the family origin and infancy of each of the servants of God being investigated.

Our early family life of being loved and learning the greatest religious truths, such as God's love for us all, especially children, greatly influences whether we first live theological and evangelical virtues, first grow in moral virtues, or first become neurotic or delinquent. Anyone convinced of or actually experiencing Jesus' love for us responds. But, appreciating the immense importance of being loved by their parents, small children respond to God's love for them much more readily than adults do. In small children, their discovery and response becomes personal prayer as well as early move towards holiness.  In fact, extensive studies of growth in prayer point out that best period in the entire human life-span to learn to pray is from 3 to 6 years of age. It is when awareness of the importance of being loved is strong and conscious that we first experience what deserves to be known as the "age of understanding."

Moralists, religion teachers and parents have long assumed that since we cannot love what we do not know, our first personal living of moral, theological and evangelical virtues comes after the "age of reason" - usually assumed to be at about 7 years of age. Yet if we observe carefully, we find that infants and small children already have a pre-rational, profoundly experiential, personal, intuitive and affective understanding arising out of their being loved. This is based on beatification and sanctification procedures; those who do not reject its possibility can find it in the everyday lives of many of our children. This very early "age of understanding" enables the small child to respond to being loved by God at a much earlier age than a reason-centered culture would expect.

For example, during the bicentennial celebrations of the French Revolution, my wife and I visited the Chateau de Breteuil near Paris with my sister-in-law and her children. Due to the art treasures, the younger children were in our arms for the hour long visit, which was well-illustrated by an avalanche of words. Half-way through the tour, the not yet 27 month old Antoine said "Manque Jesus!" - "What is lacking here is Jesus!" In two words, he gave the finest lecture on the French Revolution I had ever heard! When I mentioned that to his mother, she said, "That sounds like Antoine," and went on to describe how, when carried around the home at as early as 10 months of age, he would point a tiny finger at a crucifix, and excitedly say "Jesus!"

As small children learn to please, obey and help their parents, they can easily be encouraged to please, obey and serve God - which is the heart of profound Christian life and direct path to sanctity.  St. Theresa of Lisieux said "If you want to be a saint...have only one goal: to please Jesus, to unite yourself more closely to him."

Given the pre-school age at which we most readily learn to pray, our parents are or should be our first teachers of prayer. They are able and willing to do that only if they are prayerful and if they know their Christian doctrine and lives of the saints well enough to share them. If most parents were prayerful teachers of prayer, our families and churches would be transformed and our society renewed. Heartily welcoming their indispensable experience of being loved, children increasingly learn to love in return. Their early living of theological and evangelical virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit safeguards them from dangers and is the best introduction to Christian moral and social virtues - which at their finest are incarnations of spiritual and mystical gifts.

Through their early discovery and love of friends, children explore the earliest beginnings of healthy independence and maturation by venturing out of the home. The influence of peer-groups, play and schooling, goals and ideals greatly need the family and Church. When serious problems arise, it is almost always in adolescence, "for, while adolescence is naturally an age of hope, it can also be one of despair. Adolescents are susceptible to despair for many reasons. They have great expectations -which are hard to fulfill. They are full of potential, but empty of achievement. They are idealists in a graveyard of ideals; they are hero-worshipers in an age of the anti-hero. They have rigorous, high standards of perfection, but cannot see how anyone can rise to those standards. They are in pursuit of honesty and authenticity in an age of propaganda, advertising and ideology. They want peace, but are unstable, simmering cauldrons of conflicting emotions and drives in a world at war. They want to be where the action is, but are too often passive spectators. They must be themselves, and yet cannot survive outside of their group. They want their satisfactions now, but are unwilling to sacrifice their future, and unhappy with compromise. They disguise their fear and anxiety with bluff and bravado. They need guidance but are afraid to ask for it. They are looking for unity of truth and life, but are pulled in all directions. They can be seduced by easy pleasure but unconsciously realize that that is the death of both effort and hope. They are capable of dreaming great dreams but may settle for drugs. They hunger for hope in a world of despair. If that is life, they may think that death is better." (From the Preface to Family Seminar on Adolescent Sexuality, Corpus Christi, Texas, Jan 14-16,1983, Michael Meaney Editor, p. 9)

All life in a materialistic and relativistic world, above all that of childhood, adolescence and youth, is especially in need of inspired understanding and heroic examples of sacrificial love. The most important decisions in life - that of responding to our vocations and preparing a way of life - come at an age when our individual resources most need the help of the understanding, life and love that the Church and Christian family best help us to have.

What is love?

No word is so differently used, no reality so desired and so often abused as love. This already becomes clear in analyzing the ancient and arguably the most common definition of natural human love ever given: to love is "velle alicui bonum,""to will someone a good." (St Thomas, Summa Theologiae, la-IIae, Q. 26, a. 4, quoting Aristotle, Rhetoric II, 4) That definition became the most common of all throughout the Middle Ages and into modern times. Since every conscious act pursues some good for someone, all of us are always loving. But, depending on whether the good we pursue is real or apparent, trivial or sublime, for self or for others, and how it is willed, our love is virtuous or vicious, exemplary or commonplace, altruistic or selfish, radically perfect or imperfect.

Compared to natural human love, the supernatural, properly divine reality of love is Simple rather than complex, One rather than a collection of many, Personal rather than concrete or abstract, Perfect rather than imperfect, Eternal rather than temporal or successive, Infinite rather than finite, Absolute rather than relative, Uncreated rather than created, and identified with Supreme Being rather than an aspect of being. (Cf St Thomas, op. cit., la, Q 3-20) Through the gratuitous gift of grace fostering holiness, we share in such love. Other inspired expressions of this include: "God is love," (1 Jn 4: 8 & 16) and "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." (Jn 14: 6)

When Jesus became man, countless human societies already existed. But, except for the divinely founded family and Chosen People, all of them were promoting (at best) natural human welfare in its cultural, political, social and economic needs and goals, but were unable to share divine gifts they did not have. So, just as God had founded the first family and the Chosen People, Jesus founded the Church and the sacramental family as communal instruments divinely designed to help us receive and respond to divine gifts. Through incarnating the theological, evangelical and infused moral virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we become images of Jesus, the supreme Incarnation of the Spirit.

Love in the Christian family is not only uniquely unconditional, faithful and exclusive, but is uniquely personal as well, that is, essentially based on the mutual gift of self and only secondarily on the sharing of feelings, qualities and other goods. Compared to all other associations and friendships, conjugal love is naturally and essentially life-creating. Compared to other associations and friendships, the family is uniquely life-wide: while social, economic, cultural or professional organizations restrict themselves to the particular purpose for which each was founded and are confined to a particular age group, the family is concerned with almost every aspect of life from beginning to end - from food, clothing and shelter to basic convictions, ideals and religion. It is a completely human, physical and spiritual, day and night relationship for all seasons because it is a man and a woman unconditionally loving each other and their children as persons.

Compared to other associations and friendships, the family is a loving relation "until death do us part." Even more so, since Christian life is unending growth in love, it normally reaches its finest earthly perfection in old age and at death. Our natural independence, health, strength, endurance, sight, memory, reason, leadership and work possibilities all decline in old age and end in death. On the other hand, God offers us throughout our lives and above all at its two earthly ends, the eternal gifts of his Love, Truth and Life. Since these gifts are called to grow throughout life and we are called to respond with gratitude and adoration, docility and self-giving, old-age and death should encourage us towards our greatest experience of sacrificial love. Despite their many gifts, previous stages of life all too rarely included the total gift of ourselves to God. Naturally and supernaturally, more than any other period or moment in life, old age and death call everyone to give ourselves totally to God, to obey more perfectly than ever before the first and greatest of all commands to love: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mk 12, 30) For those who fully respond to such love, old age and death are the transition from the imperfections and trials of temporal life to eternal, beatific union with God, our first beginning, transcendent Exemplar and Ultimate Perfection. In heaven, we will be definitively and endlessly transformed by our simultaneously-whole or perfectly-unified Beatific Vision of God.

St. Paul reports that he was "caught up into paradise and heard things which must not and cannot be put into human language." (2 Co 12: 4) St. Augustine and St. Thomas (In 2 Co 12: 2-4 # 451-4) agree that he literally experienced the Beatific Vision and returned to earth. He comments "we teach what scripture calls: the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Co 2: 9; cf Is 64: 3 and comm. of St. Thomas)

 

 



New: August 10th, 2011


Djinna Gochis

Unemployment: A Loss Becomes Opportunity
- Chapter 1

About seven or eight years ago, I was on jury duty at the criminal court building which in Los Angeles is only about a block from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.  I found myself gravitating toward Mass during the long lunch hours, with time to spare for browsing the gift shop. On one foray, I bought a pretty calligraphic print, in the style of medieval illuminated manuscript, with the well- known words of Saint Teresa of Avila, “Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, all things are passing; patient endurance attains all things: one whom God possesses wants nothing for God alone suffices.” 

I displayed the print by my desk in my office where I worked as a lawyer who handles misconduct by other attorneys.  I was immersed in reading complaints of consumers, listening to their often angry rants. I certainly failed to implement St. Teresa’s  gentle exhortation of patient endurance, time and again. I had been taking Christ under my roof in the Eucharist on Sundays and making prayerful promises about my week to come. Yet, my world was my office and its peregrinations. I did not act as if God alone sufficed.  I did not feel it much either.

I had a good long run in my career—twenty-five years—about a third of a statistical lifetime. I comprehended hypothetically the dangers of being a long term manager in the midst of constant cyclical organizational renewal. And, although I saw the signs of professional danger, with several of us similarly situated, since I and they had survived before, I could again. This time, however, it was not to be.  The organization was going, we were told, “in a different direction.”   We were not going with it. 

They say that losing a job is one of the most traumatic events in an individual’s life.  In the first week or so, I went through the five stages of grief in succession and in overlap. Acceptance was not coming easy.

No one is indispensable to a work place.  But I would be lying if I were to say that I was not horribly hurt to have experienced how readily dispensable I was, without regard to the passion and commitment I had brought to the work of lawyer regulation.  I was both disturbed and frightened to find myself unceremoniously severed from that extended part of my life.  While my colleagues and I surely did good work, as our evaluations over many years would show, henceforward, we will never receive extrinsic validation again. In fact, what I felt was that the implicit future and transient message of our release cannot but be other than that we somehow failed.   If they did not value me in that forum, I had no value.

I retrieved little from my office, my diplomas, a poster, and my print of St. Teresa’s words, which now is displayed on my bedroom desk.  I find myself noticing it a great deal.  I find myself meditating upon those words, “all things are passing; God alone is enough” in a way heretofore uncharacteristic of me.

I am re-discovering words of similar import by other human beings who experienced the crucible of the secular and the spiritual and were irrevocably transformed, leaving us their guidance for our time. Thomas a Kempis wrote, “On the day of Judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done, not how eloquently we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.  Tell me where are now all those Masters and Doctors whom you knew so well in their lifetime in the full flower of their learning? Other men now sit in their seats and they are hardly called to mind.  In their lifetime they seemed of great account, but now no one speaks of them.  Oh, how swiftly the glory of the world passes away. . .He is truly great who is great in the love of God. . .”

Oh, the tug of praise and recognition by my peers, by my bosses, by an institution!  The tug still is there. It will likely always be there. But finding past praise to be objectively meaningless and being severed from the possibility of future praise, at least from the worldly source, has set me in a direction of my own, fitfully indeed, but certainly.

I woke up the other day.  As has been the case for nearly a month, I remembered that the thirty years of my niche legal career, painstakingly cultivated, was gone.   But something conjoined the memory.  I was momentarily ready to accept, without fear, the closing of that door and the opening of another, where God alone suffices.  Now, I must pray for the grace of patient endurance as I embark on this last phase of my life.

I will be updating my progress on Spirituality: Running to God from time to time. Look for me.  If you want to write to me about your story of unemployment and search for hope, I am at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Here is another wonderful writing from Michael Meaney, Ph.D. about some of the Commandments. Even if you think you are very familiar with the meaning of these, you might need something fresh. (Note CCC in the text refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which you can find on line for free.)


The Ten Commandments, Part 1: 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Commandments

Many persons react to "church," "religion," "piety," "commandments," as well as "law and authority" ambivalently or even negatively: all these seem to be at best difficult, long-term goods which require more immediate discipline, patience and good will than we feel we have. Or we even react to them as medicines which we take in order to reach other goods or avoid evils. To some of us, they are like paying taxes: difficult, even painful and annoying experiences which take up our time; take away our money and seriously interfere with our freedom and our lives. We can console ourselves that taxes are necessary if we are to have schools and hospitals, streets and roads, fire and police departments: they are "bad news leading to good news."

In stark contrast to this, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, (which does not cancel out but fulfills the Old Law), is not entitled "bad news leading to good news," but simply The Good News of Jesus Christ. This brings us to the question "Are divine law in general and the Ten Commandments in particular good news - and if so, why and how?"
Seeing divine wisdom and law as one reality, the Jews summed up their Scriptures as "the Law and the Prophets" and called the first five books the "Torah," which means both the "Teaching" and the "Law." The Jews were acutely aware of their special relationship to God; the covenants marking that relationship involve two main elements, divine law and revelation - both directly coming to them from God with predilection and both celebrated by them as their greatest gifts. For them, "the Law of Yahweh is perfect, new life for the soul, wisdom for the simple, joy for the heart, light for the eyes, more desirable than gold, sweeter than honey" (Ps 19,7-10).  In fact, the most lyrical praise and enthusiastic love for the Law ever written, Psalm 119, states:

“Explain to me how to keep your precepts, that I may meditate on your marvels.  Your commandments fill me with delight, I love them deeply. I have noticed limitations to all perfection, but your commandment has no limits at all. Meditating all day on your Law, how I have come to love it! By your commandment, ever mine, how much wiser you have made me than my enemies! How much subtler than my teachers, through my meditating on your decrees! How much more perceptive than the elders, as a result of my respecting your precepts! Yes, I love your commandments more than gold, than purest gold. Your decrees are so wonderful my soul cannot but respect them. I hate, I detest delusion; your Law is what I love. Seven times daily I praise you for your righteous rulings.” (verses  27,47,96-100,127,129 & 163-164)

Unfortunately, the Jews were not always faithful to God or his Law -about which they regularly made several catastrophic mistakes.  For example, the Scribes and Pharisees, the Jewish "professional specialists" or "experts" in understanding, living and teaching the Law, felt that the Law was the unique and efficacious source of salvation, for it is, they said, a kind of mutually-binding legal contract through which meticulous obedience to all the details of all of the tremendous number and variety of different laws contained in the Law exacted salvation from God. Or in other words, they followed the letter of the law rather than its spirit and therefore fell into the seamless garment type of mistake:  they emphasized everything without adequately recognizing or appropriately emphasizing the greatest commandments. That lack of unique emphasis on the love of God and neighbor perverted the Law and caused them to fall into the extreme pride and selfishness that merited the most eloquent of all condemnations - that of Jesus in Matthew 23.
Even though we are saved by God, not by legalistic obedience to the Law, God wants us to co-operate or participate in our own salvation and in that of others, which we do by following his will and law in a loving way. Thus, when asked how we are saved, Jesus answered "keep the commandments" (Mt 19,17) - while pointing to acts of love and the greatest commandments of love. Thus God saves us through our preferring his will and law to our own, and sanctifies through our following his commandments of love in a total and heroic way. In order to understand divine law, we must first understand what law is and what the different kinds of law are.
In general, law is a regulation of human acts, a rule of reason ordering us to do or not do something: "pay your taxes" orders us to do something, "do not kill innocent people" orders us not to do something. In a more complete sense, "law is an ordinance (or rule) of reason for the common good promulgated by one in authority" (St. Thomas, Summa Theologica. 1-2, Q 90, a 4). A law is a law only if it authoritatively orders us to do something because of its being fundamentally reasonable and for the common good: if a law is not promulgated or is not presented by those having social authority or if it orders us to do something immoral or to serve a private good as if it were the common good, it is not just bad law, but no law at all.

God is the supreme law-maker, for he is supremely intelligent, knows perfectly what our common good is, has supreme authority over his creation and can promulgate his law in our hearts and through both oral and written promulgation. Since God is eternal, his law is usually called the eternal law; since we are temporal, our law is usually called temporal law. Temporal law is of two kinds: natural law, i.e., that law which we know to be such in an immediate, interior, spontaneous, quasi-instinctive, evident way: on seeing a huge brute mercilessly beating a small child, everyone immediately thinks "this is evil." Natural law is a law written in our hearts. The other form of temporal law is positive law, i.e., law that is written out and formally enacted. This is sometimes divided into divine law (the Old and New Law) and human law, both ecclesiastical and civil.

The Ten Commandments are a resume directly made by God of all his natural moral law revealed in the Jewish Scriptures. Since these Ten Commandments are both written by God in our hearts and written on two tablets, they are both natural and divine positive law. As an expression of natural law, they apply to everyone and for all time. Other parts of the Old Law, such as the ceremonial rituals, kosher foods or circumcision, did not carry over into the New Law. Everyone calls these the "Ten Commandments" or "Decalogue," and divides them into those directly related to God and those related to neighbor. Since the two texts (Ex 20, 2-17 & Deut 5, 6-21; Cf CCC, pp 496-497) reveal them without precisely numbering or dividing them, various interpreters have divided them differently -with either 3 or 4 related directly to God and 7 or 6 related to neighbor. Following St Augustine and St Thomas, the CCC divides them into 3 and 7. We are concerned now above all with the first three related to God.

The apparently simple question, "What are the first and second commandments?," is not easy to answer. Moses records the first commandment as "You shall have no Gods except me" (Ex 20:2) and the second "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain."(v 20:7) On the other hand, when asked "Which is the first of all the c ommandments ?", Jesus replied, 'This is the first "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mk 12:30 & Dt 6: 5) The second is this: "You must love your neighbor as yourself." (Mk 12:31) There is no commandment greater than these.' (Mk 12, 29-31)
Why aren't the two statements of the first and second commandments the same?

In order to answer that question, we have to see what natural law is, for the Ten Commandments are a divinely revealed statement of natural moral law. (Cf CCC #2071&n.32) The first and most general principle of natural law is "do  good and avoid evil." The whole natural moral law is implicitly contained in that first principle. The next most common principles of natural law are "love God" and "love neighbor" - best expressed in the two texts cited by Jesus. (Cf St Thomas, ST,1-2,Q100,a3,ad1) The first is made explicit in the first three commandments, and the second in the last seven. Thus Jesus, seeing and revealing the common principles of natural law, shows that they are, in a very profound sense, the first and second commandments of the law. One reason that we have ten rather than thirteen commandments is that the first principle of natural law is too well known by all to need a special commandment, and the commands to love God and neighbor (which are so closely related that they are treated almost as one by Jesus) are not only very well known but are also to be found elsewhere in both the Old and the New Law. But in the ten, God gave us invaluable instruction on the priority and order of the most important elements of natural moral law.

God himself directly gave the Ten Commandments to Moses as part of an alliance or covenant which was not just a legal contract or treaty between himself and the Jews, but an interpersonal, sacred bond like a marriage vow. His gift to Moses was preceded by the whole providential history of the Jewish people up to that point in time and space, especially God's leading them out of bondage in Egypt and towards the Promised Land. Following and implementing the most striking divine interventions yet seen on earth, Moses and the Chosen People came to the wilderness of Sinai, where they pitched their camp facing the mountain. Moses alone was called by God to listen to him and to be his intermediary with the people. After two days of dialog and prayerful preparation,
Now at daybreak on the third day there were peals of thunder on the mountain and lightning flashes, a dense cloud and a loud trumpet blast, and inside the camp all the people trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the bottom of the mountain. The mountain of Sinai was entirely wrapped in smoke, because Yahweh had descended on it in the form of fire. Like smoke from a furnace the smoke went up, and the whole mountain shook violently.  Louder and louder grew the sound of the trumpet. Moses spoke, and God answered him with peals of thunder. Yahweh came down from the mountain of Sinai, on the mountain top, and Yahweh called Moses to the top of the mountain; and Moses went up.(Ex 19,16-20) He went up the mountain, and stayed there for forty days and forty nights. (Ex 24,18}

Having set up such a striking theatrical setting within which to give the Law and Ten Commandments to his people, God gave them to Moses within a unique mystical experience or expression of divine love. God revealed the Ten Commandments in the best possible way: by first loving the Jews greatly, and by showing them the greatness of his love for those who would follow these precepts towards him. His personal love for us is our greatest possible incentive to respect and obey his will. He then states the ten in the best possible order of presentation. Our whole moral lives depend on two relationships of love, the first to God and the second to neighbor. We might think that someone is left out here: ourselves. Loving ourselves, however, is so natural that we do not ordinarily have to be commanded to do so. Furthermore, we are commanded elsewhere to love our neighbor as ourselves - which shows how natural, strong and primordial self-love is. Our first and most important activity must be loving God in a way which corresponds to what and who he is. Since God is absolutely unique and completely transcendent, he begins to reveal his law and will with his absolutely unique name previously revealed to Moses: "I am," which he immediately links to the latest and most extraordinary sign of his love: "(I am) the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." By then saying "You shall have no other gods before me" he shows that the perfection of our love lies above all in respecting and adoring God, the greatest of all goods, in the unique way he alone deserves. We must worship God alone, for anything else is infinitely inferior to him, is not our supreme good and final end, and if taken as such becomes a false god or idol. This directly flows out of "the greatest commandment" stated in Deut., 6,5 and cited by Jesus in Mk 12,28. The next commandment shows that our adoring love of God immediately and necessarily implies "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." Since God's name is absolutely unique, it deserves absolute respect: our using it disrespectfully shows that we have no idea what and who God is. We must rise from respect to docility and adoration rather than degenerate through disrespect to disobedience, vice and stupidity. In order to persevere in adoration, time must be set aside for it regularly. That time must not be insignificantly short nor infrequent, nor decided solely by our inclination or disinclination. In order to worship God as we should, God set up one day out of a seven day week to be devoted in a special way to him, to be his day, a day of rest from work, and leisure for God: hence "Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy." This command to worship shows us not only what God is but also what we are: we are not primarily workers, administrators, organizers or citizens but above all sons and daughters of the God who loves us and calls out to us to love and worship him in return. The importance of everything else depends largely on what we hold to be primary. This first part of the Decalogue then returns to God's love for us expressed in the discipline he imposes and the rewards he gives - which are inherently linked to all the precepts, but need to be pointed out where the utility of the precept is not always evident, as in the case of our relationship to God.

Having stressed the importance of our responding to God's love for us by loving him with our whole heart, whole soul, whole mind and all our strength, God then goes on to stress our second strongest duty: to love our neighbor. Just as our first duty is to respect God, to whom we owe the most, our first duty towards our neighbors is to respect the ones to whom we owe the most. Hence the first of the commandments related to neighbor is "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you." Since we owe everything to our parents, we should respond to them accordingly. This implicitly recognizes the great importance of the family in our lives: socially speaking, we do not first of all respect, honor, love and obey the State or Society, but our parents, the heads of our family.

The precepts are stated in a descending order of seriousness of sin: in descending order, the most serious sins involve 1) deeds, 2) words and 3} thoughts or desires. The worst deed we can commit against our neighbor is to kill him or her. Hence "You shall not kill." The next worst deed against our neighbor is violating, stealing or alienating his or her spouse: "You shall not commit adultery." After that comes depriving our neighbor of exterior goods. Hence "You shall not steal." The next most serious way we can wound our neighbor is through words: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." After deeds and words come thoughts or desires, the most serious of which, in terms of damage to our neighbor, is expressed in the precept "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife." Less serious but still very important is "You shall not covet your neighbor's goods." Why does God command us not to covet these two realities rather than killing or lying, for example? One reason is that we do not naturally enjoy killing or lying, and do not ordinarily have to be dissuaded from them with special prohibitions. But since we are naturally prone towards sexual pleasure and wealth, we do need those added prohibitions. Sexual pleasure and the pursuit of goods "indispensable" or highly desirable to our survival or well-being, on the other hand, are so instinctively strong and often so socially acceptable and even honored that they merit special attention in a law-giver. Hence God tells us in these last two precepts: "Don't even think about doing that!" Human history from antiquity and perhaps above all in the present provides ample confirmation of the wisdom of God's selective emphasis. Many, however, have criticized the Catholic Church for following that divine emphasis through its very strong pastoral condemnation of all forms of sexual immorality. They point out that sexual sins are not as intrinsically grave as pride, injustice or hatred of God. This fails to see the fact that sexual sins seductively promise the greatest pleasures and are arguably among the most dangerous, most destructive and most common of faults: since they all too easily lead many of us away from God, they deserve special pastoral attention.

Jesus shows us that the Ten Commandments are divinely revealed natural law calling us towards the total or perfect love of God and love of neighbor as ourselves - in that order. The first principle of the natural law does not vaguely encourage us to try to do some good sometimes, and try to avoid some evils from time to time, but is a clear, unqualified command to do good and avoid evil. There is already, therefore, in all law a clear, complete and absolute dedication to goodness and rejection of evil. Since this is realized in temporal beings called to eternity, it is a process of growth in which we gradually go from the temporal pursuit of many limited, relative, participated goods towards the simultaneously-whole and perfect eternal experience of the one, unlimited, absolute source, model and end of every pure perfection.

Seen as a whole and above all in its greatest perfection, this process is not simply an improvement in the way we love, but changes us so greatly that we become a "new creation," become through grace what Christ is by nature, and love God with divine love, whose highest mystical realization is ineffable or incommunicable. What "doing good and avoiding evil" means first and above all is loving God and neighbor as they deserve to be loved. This answers the first and greatest need of persons and societies: to discover what the greatest good or ultimate end is in order to tend towards it above all, and what the greatest evil is in order to avoid it most of all. Even though we are surrounded by a great proliferation and variety of goods, we cannot hope to possess them all nor even pursue them equally, but must concentrate on or choose the ones we consider best and try to avoid those we consider worst. Since these choices and judgments are difficult to make, crucially important and begin early in life when we haven't yet acquired much wisdom, God helps us with his natural law or Ten Commandments and with the inspirations of the New Covenant of love lived in the divinely formed People of God and family. In the Ten Commandments, God teaches us that the best way of doing good and avoiding evil is by loving God totally and our neighbor as ourselves, as well as by avoiding all opposing evils. We do good and avoid evil best when we respond to goods to the extent of their goodness and reject evil to the extent of their evil. Hence our total love of the greatest good or God, our similar love of neighbor, and our complete rejection of the worst evils - those most opposed to the greatest good - are both our highest perfection and our most perfective contributions to society -the greatest gifts we enjoy and give to others.

The first and greatest commandment, Jesus tells us in many places and ways, implies not only our recognition of the absolutely unique, transcendent greatness of God, but ultimately challenges us to the perfection of humility and faith, hope and love as well. Since God is the supremely good source, model and end of all goodness, the only fitting way we can love him is whole-heartedly. Since he is the eternally and supremely living source and end of all life, we must love him with all our souls. Since he is infinitely wise and generously shares his wisdom with us, he deserves to be loved with our entire minds. Since he is the omnipotent source of all strength, we must love him with all the strength he gives us. Anything less than that kind of total and perfect love falls short of recognizing and responding to what God is. What God is telling us in the first and greatest commandment is that what persons and societies need above all is adoration. What best recognizes and responds to what God is in relationship to what we are is adoration or worship. What most profoundly realizes and responds to what we are in relationship to God is humility. Since God revealed himself to us, our best knowledge of him comes from faith in his Word and inspiration from his Spirit. Since Jesus is our Savior, our greatest hope is trust in him. Since God is love, our highest perfection lies in responding to his love for us through loving him with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.

All these essential elements of adoration are not only inherently most perfect, but most perfective or fruitful as well. Many masters of the spiritual life have said that if we want to progress quickly towards perfection, we should examine our lives, determine which are our worst faults, and concentrate on the virtues most opposed to those faults. While there is much reason to recommend that, the greatest mystical theologian in the history of the Church, St. ".John of the Cross, took a different approach: we should" concentrate not so much on the virtues most opposed to our worst faults, but on the greatest of all virtues: the loving adoration of God.

The following story illustrates this point of view. Some years ago, Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, OP, was asked by the abbot of the Cistercian Abbey of Notre Dame de Citeaux to give a retreat to the Trappists there. Dom Belorgey then recounted the story of his life. He was a young, thoroughly non-religious veterinarian in the army when he met a T rappist lay brother on a train & eventually responded to his warm invitation to spend a few days at the monastery. That visit led to others and eventually to his entering as a novice. After receiving many graces of prayer and finally making his solemn vows, he suddenly and clearly realized that his monastery was not filled with contemplatives, as he had assumed, but with workers. When he frankly and vigorously complained to God that he had tricked him, God answered that he should become a contemplative even if others were not.

After years of contemplative life, he was shocked to find himself elected abbot of the monastery. Once again he complained to God that the monastery was a group of workers, not contemplatives. This time, God told him to call every single monk into his office individually and ask each one to set aside seven moments every day dedicated exclusively to a short but warmly loving adoration of God. That would bring about a conversion in their lives. Dom Belorgey objected that since the Trappists of Citeaux had not become contemplatives even though they spend many hours every day in church praying and chanting the divine office, adding a few more prayers would not seem to offer any significant hope of change. When God told him that short, fervent, personal prayers could bring much more grace than long periods of mechanical recitation of prayers, Dom Belorgey implemented the request - and found, to his surprise, that in six months, the monastery was transformed! Fr. Marie-Dominique, who later founded the now flourishing Congregation of St. John, went on to point out that this approach is eminently fitted to helping laypersons grow in prayer and perfection.


 

New: August 27th, 2011


Unemployment:  Loss Becoming Hope, By Djinna Gochis

Chapter II:  Forward and Back and Forward Again!

I am used to a linear approach to my life, grammar school to high school, high school to college, college to law school, law school to first job, and until July, a long career as a prosecutor—the equivalent of police internal affairs, except against  miscreant lawyers.

While I always harbored a creative streak and have expressed it in limited ways, I have not been much of an explorer. For the first couple of weeks of enforced liberation (being “let go”), I jumped on updating my resume and posting it on various sites. I agreed to go on an interview for a job I realized immediately afterward I did not even slightly want—being part of some company that sells annuities and long term insurance to retirees. I could not imagine telling the elderly that after paying oodles of bucks, they might not be entitled to payout.  I cancelled the interview, with apology.  Besides, I was trying to force myself back into a daily structure that frankly no longer fits particularly in light of my hope to cultivate my Catholic spirituality. 

In an attempt to investigate my more “artistic” being, I began taking voice over classes. I am now going down a potential career road I could not afford to wander when I was young and new to California.  What fun indeed, if only thirty years later! It is allowing me to get out of my head, where my legal career required me to be, into something more relaxed and unguarded. This is not to say that I am never going down the traditional legal road again, but if I do, on my own terms and schedule. 

I wrote a short, short story and submitted it to some contest. The self-addressed envelope I received back had nothing it in, so I do not know if it was rejected or accepted for consideration.  No matter.  It was action, progress. I promised myself to do more than the yearly oil painting.  A blank canvas sat outside in my little patio ready to receive the first brush strokes and finally I made the first splash of color.

I began planning to work more regularly with charities to which I have heretofore been only sporadic help.  The involuntary separation from my linear life was offering a truly new direction. Perhaps this was God’s plan indeed! Two steps forward!

But then, in the early morning on the day I received my last official payroll check fell again into a sense of loss and fear, almost with as much intensity as at the first slap of termination.  I was feeling again like the abandoned wife still surprised that her husband did not really love her. Oh, oh, three steps back! You know what happens. The negative thoughts pry their way into your mind and soul.  I was sad anew.  I was in narcissistic mode, the opposite of what is our mandate as Catholic Christians.

Robert Barron points out in his book “The Strangest Way”, that if we are truly following Our Lord we know that our lives are not about us.  I found it easier to accept that I am a sinner (one of the other truths of our faith) than that my life is not about me! 

My habitual tendency has been, alas, to brood and to obsess on endless, “what if’s”.  What could I do in order to short circuit this cycle?

I said the rosary; it being a Friday, the Sorrowful Mysteries.  I admit to distraction throughout the decades, but I came back again and again to the beads and the prayers. The calming thoughts of God and His plan were before me.  And then, newly available on weekdays I went to the daily 12:10  Mass at my parish. 

After Mass I had lunch with another parishioner and friend and enjoyed the fruits of fellowship.  Good.  A temptation to despair was averted, with God’s help. Two steps forward again! 

(Stay tuned at the end of August for Chapter 3: Working on Forgiveness)

 



(Note from Ronda: This is the first part of a long article by Michael Meaney, Ph.D. More of this article will be in September entries.)


Christian Prayer and Mystical Experience
I.  Introduction
In order to understand Christian perfection, we might well study prayerful union with God.

A. What is prayer?
1. "An appeal for good things made to God by devout people" - St. Basil
"Asking somehing of God," "A petition" - St. Augustine
These define prayer in the narrow sense of petition. Prayer is also thanking God, asking his forgiveness and above all praising or adoring him.
2. "Raising the mind and soul to God" - St. John Damascene
"Raising the mind and heart to God" - popular definition

These definitions stress our, not God's role in prayer. They don't separate meditation from prayer.  Meditation is thinking about God devoutly; prayer is conversation with God.

3. "Friendly conversation with God who - as we know - loves us" - St. Teresa of Avila, Life, ch. 8. This defines "mental" rather than vocal prayer. Mental prayer is personally talking to God in our own words. Vocal prayer is saying already composed prayers (like rosary, creed or gloria) which we make our own through faith, hope and love in talking to God. friendly, i.e., an exercise of mutual love or friendship; conversation, i.e., personally speaking with God as well as listening to him - largely through Holy Scripture & faith, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Tradition & providence, lives of the saints, Church directives, experience and conscience; with God - such a friendship relates us to God through faith, hope, love, adoration & humility:
One friend is a creature and child of God, the other is our Creator and Father
One friend is a sinner, the other is our divine Savior
One friend is a temple of the Holy Spirit, the other is the Holy Spirit who loves us.

God's love for us is adequately appreciated only by saints and mystics: St.Teresa of Avila mentions God's love for us twice in her seven word definition of mental prayer. Her reason is that God's love for us is the greatest, most wonderful, most touching, most moving, most transforming of Good News as well as our greatest incentive to pray. Learning to pray is largely a matter of learning to believe, live and respond to God's love for us. Mystical prayer is profound supernatural faith, hope and love experiencing and responding to God's love for us by loving God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, all our strength, and others as Jesus loves us.

B. What are the most important elements of prayer?
Since prayer is union with God, its main elements are those that directly unite us with God: the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, as well as the evangelical virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit closely related to the theological virtues.

1. Faith. Since prayer is a friendly conversation with God, we must believe that He is present to us, eminently worthy of being listened to and followed as well as eager to listen to and speak to us. Believing that God is our merciful Father, our crucified and risen Savior, our Holy Spirit of love, we respond by praying with faith.

2. Hope. Prayer places us in the presence of God, sharing in his wisdom, life and love in the hope that we will all be definitively united with him in heaven.  In order to do any of this, we have an absolute need of divine help: "Cut off from me, you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5). Our dependence on God is total: from him we have our being and well-being, both in nature and in grace. To the extent that we realize and respond through faith, hope and love to our total dependence on God, our Supreme Good, we pray.

3.    Love.  God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love us. We respond to being loved in many different ways (enjoying it, thinking about it, talking about it), but our most natural and most perfect response is loving in return. Our responding to God's love for us by loving him and others is the source and heart of prayer and the contemplative life. Our responding to his love by loving others is the source and heart of the active and apostolic lives.

4. Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Since we grow in prayer through growing in faith, hope and love, we must tend towards the perfection or heroic level of these virtues. We do this best by responding to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

a) The seven classical gifts of the Holy Spirit - wisdom, science, understanding, counsel, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord (Is 11:1-2) are divine gifts coming with grace to everyone in the state of grace enabling us to love, adore and serve God and others more and more perfectly. They are related above all to charity: they come with charity, in¬crease with charity and, to the extent that we respond to them with docility and generosity, enable us to reach the highest levels of love of God and neighbor. St. Thomas points out that there are three different ways of being good: 1) through natural virtues (prudence, justice and moral virtues), 2) through faith, hope and love lived pru¬dentially, and 3) through faith, hope and love lived on the level of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts are different ways that the Holy Spirit touches and moves us, inspires us and gives us not simply a belief in but a grow¬ing experience of divine nature and life, wisdom and love. Perfect prayer is faith, hope and love brought to an heroic level of perfection through the mystical experience of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

b) The charisms are gifts of the Holy Spirit that help us serve others well. One of St. Paul's lists of them is: preaching with wisdom (about the greatest Christian truths), preaching instruction (about elementary Christian truths), faith (an especially intense faith or unusually convincing and powerful confidence in God), healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues and interpretation of tongues (1Co 12:4-10 & 27-30; also Rm12: 6-8). The charisms (which are sometimes mistakenly taken to be the only gifts of the Holy Spirit) dif¬fer from the seven classical gifts in several extremely important ways: They do not necessarily come with grace and are not signs of holiness (there can be natural or even evil as well as spiritual charisms): diabolical possession, for example, sometimes involves "tongues" "miracles" "prophecy" and so on. No spiritual person has all of them, in fact, seldom more than one. They are mostly for the sake of others. They come with & increase in us to the extent of our faith, and in turn greatly strengthen and inspire our faith and that of others so as to build up the Body of Christ.

5. Adoration and humility are so essential to prayer and so inherently related to each other that they need to be seen in relation to each other immediately after the theological virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

Adoration is the most perfect way we appreciate and respond fittingly to what and who God is.  It is divinely inspired worship of God - who is so unique and so transcendent that no finite mind can adequately imagine or conceive him, much less respond to him adequately.  On earth our least inadequate way of appreciating and responding to God is faith, hope and charity enlightened, enlivened and divinized by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Heaven is above all the divine gift of eternal, perfect adoration.  Humility most perfectly expresses what we are in relation to God.  It most directly, effectively and perfectly destroys pride, the worst of all sins. Whereas God resists the proud, he gives grace to the humble (Jm 4:6 & 1 P 5: 5-6). Grace is the ori¬gin and substance of the entire spiritual life. The inspired prayer which best sums up the relationship between adoration and humility is "Abyssus abyssum invocat" "Deep is calling to deep". (Ps 42:7) The abyss of divine perfection (infinite, eternal, perfectly unified Wisdom, Life, Love, Sim¬plicity, Goodness, Power and Mercy) lovingly calls out to us, both creatively transforming us and eliciting our responding call of abysmal imperfection to his perfective Abyss of absolute, infinite and eternal divine Perfection.

The evangelical virtues - esp. love of neighbor, humility, spirit of sacrifice & poverty listening to, depending on our Savior and incarnating his Spirit in day to day life - all powerfully help us to live Christian perfection and prayerful union with God.

(More will follow each 2 weeks of Spirituality: Running to God)

 


HERE IS THE LAST SEGMENT OF DR. MICHAEL MEANEY’S ARTICLE ABOUT MYSTICISM AND PRAYER . (The first 2 parts you probably read in the above sections for August.)

What most helps us to pray?
Acceptance of,
Conformity to,  the will of God           is most important to spiritual life and prayer.
Obedience to,
a)    the way we are saved is preferring the will of God to our own will
b)    the way we are sanctified is total abandonment, complete conformity, perfect docility to the will              of God.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are di¬vine ways of our being perfectly doc¬ile to the will of God. 
"This is what loving God is - keeping the commandments" 1 Jn 5:3. "If you love me you will keep my commandments" Jn 14:15.
Faith. After love, what promotes prayer most of all is faith, above all belief in God's love for us. Jesus often insisted on how crucial faith is to prayer: "If you have faith, everything you ask for in prayer you will receive" (Mt 21:22; Mt 8:13; 9, 2, 22 & 28-29) . One can see the importance of faith by the fact that lack of faith or weak faith was the greatest complaint of Jesus concerning his apostles.(Mt 8:26) Through faith we accept divinely revealed truths which teach us a hierarchy of values involving our understanding, living and lov¬ing through believing, hoping in and loving God. The greatest single statement of this is the Sermon on the Mount. Its spirit of poverty values the spiritual over the mater¬ial, the eternal over the temporal, persons over things and God over everything. Its spirit of sacrifice is an eagerness to please God in every way. Its spirit of docility is an eagerness to follow God's will over our own. That divine spirit ensures growth in spiritual life and prayer.
Hope. Christian faith naturally leads to hope and dependence on God. For hope is confidence that Jesus, because of his goodness and merci¬ful love, will save us - providing we co-oper¬ate with him in our own salvation and in the salvation of others. An important part of that hope-filled co-operation is prayer.
Spirit of sacrifice and of poverty. In order to begin pray¬ing, we have to be willing to sacrifice time for it. In order to grow in prayer, we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for it, sacri¬fice all alternative evils impeding it and all alternative goods distracting from it. To be¬come a Christian, we must meet one condition: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross ev¬ery day and follow me" (Lk 9:23). To become a saint, our self-sacrifice or detachment must be total: in a famous passage, St John of the Cross writes that just as a bird cannot fly if it is tied down with a stout cord or by a thin thread, so we cannot become perfect if we are attached to anything, however large, small or insignificant. (Ascent of Mt.Carmel, Book 1, ch.ll, # 4)
Mercy.  Loving others as Jesus loves us is the one commandment of Jesus. He loves us with merci¬ful forgiveness. The importance of forgiving others is shown by the fact that Jesus included it in the Our Father, making it part of a uni¬que agreement according to which God forgives us as we forgive others. Everything in our lives and in our prayer changes radically de¬pending on whether we receive what we deserve in justice or benefit from the merciful for¬giveness of God. Jesus further emphasized for¬giveness by making it the one part of the Our Father about which he immediately commented . (Mt 6:7-15) Our merciful generosity in meet¬ing the needs of others is nothing less than the way we are saved: Mt 25: 31-46. Our en¬tire active and apostolic lives center around doing the spiritual and corporal works of  mer¬cy. Prayer helps us enormously to do them well, and they in turn help us to pray. They are even a divine condition for prayers being answered. (Is 58: 7-10)
What are the greatest obstacles to prayer?
1. What most destroys spiritual life and prayer is mortal sin, or preferring our own will to God's will in serious matters , thus removing grace from our souls, separating and alienating us from God. Mortal sins committed out of weakness are great evils but can lead to repentance, prayer and conversion. Habits of repeated mortal sins gradually change us into vicious per¬sons whose perspective goes from "I was weak in doing evil" through "Everybody does it!" to "X 'evil' is really good, and I'm good at it!" Attachment to sin causes us to avoid God, the just Judge, rather than believe in his love for us and seek him out in prayer. To the ex¬tent that we prefer our own will to God's will in some things, we become "cafeteria Catholics" pick¬ing and choosing so as to live a brand of "Christ¬ianity" adapted to our likes and dislikes. This easily degenerates into a self-centered, self-reliant , self-confident humanism bearing no resem¬blance to Christianity.
2. The great temptations against union with God have always been listed as "the world, the flesh and the devil." Today what most effectively leads us away from prayer and towards preferring our own will to God's will is a whole range of worldly alternatives to faith, hope and love of God as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For centuries, our civiliza¬tion has increasingly pursued purely natural goods and truths. This process of secularization has in turn degenerated into a secular humanism which pow¬erfully promotes the unlimited pursuit of freedom, independence, pride, wealth, pleasure and power as absolutes, highest goods and ultimate ends - di¬rectly and aggressively substituting them for re¬ligious goods, truths and ends. Recently over 900 dioceses around the world studied the reasons for shortages of priests and religious - and gave as the No. 1 cause:  the secularization of culture and its influence on Catholic families.  Does not secularization have an equally powerful impact on prayer?
3. In a war to the death with Christianity, secular humanism tries to direct all human life and solve all human problems through reliance on purely nat¬ural understanding and purely natural resources -without, even in opposition to, divine inspiration and help. In talking recently to the bishops of France, Pope John Paul II spoke of this as the greatest of all temptations, a "meta-temptation":  to live as if we have no need of a Savior.
4. Pleasure-pain principle. One of our strongest natural instincts is pursuing pleasures and avoid¬ing pains. An immature person remains on this lev¬el. Maturing involves being willing to undergo presently painful training and preparation in or¬der to attain future goods great enough to justify the sacrifice of present satisfactions. An imma¬ture person wants to please self; a mature person wants to please others as well as self; a saint wants to please God: "If you want to become a saint—have but one goal: to give pleasure to Jesus, to be united more intimately with him". The Collected Letters of St.Therese of Lisieux, Lon¬don: Sheed and Ward, 1949, pp. 314-5.
5. Natural justice. Whereas divine goodness is a merciful, creative overflow of goodness, natural human goodness is at best a just or calculating response to goodness. It is moral virtues and above all justice, which gives to each what each deserves. Even natural love is a kind of justice: it responds to various goods according to the ex¬tent of their goodness, or in other words, gives each good or person the response each deserves. Even in natural ethics, God deserves a maximum response from human beings. What cripples any eth¬ics which does not benefit from divine revelation is its uncertainty about or denial that God is interested in us. Aristotle, for example, assumes that the only object worthy of God's attention, love or interest is God him¬self. Prayer consequently has little role to play in such an ethics. And prayer is rejected entirely within a natural ethics such as secular humanism. To the extent of their influence on us, these non-Christian and anti-Christian ethics will lead us away from prayer.
St. Teresa of Avila on Prayer
In Spain, a land of saints, St. Teresa is known as "The Saint." Not only is she one of the Church's greatest saints and mystics, but she is, with St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa of Lisieux, one of only three women Doctors of the Church. Her Life or Autobiography. her Interior Castle and her Way of Perfection are among the greatest mystical classics. Her Interior Castle is a great reference book; her Life and Way of Perfection ideal introductions.
St. Teresa begins the Way of Perfection by submitting it to the Church and its learned men for correction (or burning), adding that her intention was merely to "Suggest a few remedies for a number of small temptations." She contrasts "the imperfection and poverty of my style" with "other books which are very ably written by those who have known what they are writing about". This great saint even describes herself as a "wicked woman" who could well serve as a warning to the other sisters! She wrote it for them after one of her fellow sisters asked her "How can I become a contemplative?" At any rate, The Way of Perfection is divided into two parts, 1) the best conditions for learning to pray, and 2) growing in prayer through the Our Father, the perfect prayer and perfect school of prayer.
A. The Conditions for Learning How to Pray
1. St. Teresa's three conditions for learning how to pray, especially the first, are surprising. Few of us would expect a great contemplative to say that love of neighbor should be our first priority in learning how to pray. Given the importance of the love of God in prayer, we might expect that to be the first condition. Or placing ourselves in an environment favorable to prayer. Christian life is ordinarily divided into the active and contemplative lives, and if one wants to be a contemplative, one chooses a con¬templative rather than an active environment, avoiding chatter for silence, living to love and serve God and people in solitude. Of course, writing for Carmelite sisters, she assumes that. Contemplatives are known for living in peaceful, quiet places far from the hustle and bustle, the rush and tension, the aggressive competition of where the (social) action is. While many things help us to pray, for St. Teresa, the first condition for learning to pray is love of neighbor, which is the source and heart of the active life, as well as the one commandment of Jesus, "Love one another as I have loved you". (Jn 15:12). The contemplative life is mostly one of living the greatest commandment of the Law, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30). The active life is mostly one of living the second commandment of the Law, "You must love your neighbor as yourself". (Mk 12:31) At first glance, Jesus' one commandment seems to be a profound re-statement of the second commandment. But Jesus can hardly be saying to us, "The Old Testament commands the love of God and neighbor; I command you to love neighbors." By saying "love one another as I have loved you," Jesus points out that divine love for us is the source and model of our love of neighbor. Since God's love for us is creative or fruitful by its very nature, it makes it possible for us to love both our neighbor and God in return. St. John best states this: "We are to love, then, because he loved us first. Anyone who says 'I love God', and hates his brother, is a liar, since a man who does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen. So this is the commandment that he has given us, that everyone who loves God must also love his brother". (1 Jn 4: 19-21) Jesus also says "Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well". (Mt 6:33)  Among the many meanings of this text is that with love of others comes everything else: it is because of loving others that we are saved (Mt 25:31-46), that we live the moral virtues and attain social and pol¬itical goods, and that we learn to pray. St. Teresa tells us that prayer is not a tech¬nique or an art that can be learned and exercised in itself apart from the rest of life, but something that we live anytime and anywhere. Just as the working environment prepar¬ing us to learn science is a laboratory, that preparing us for a game is an athletic field, and that preparing us for intellectual learning is a library or university, so the environ¬ment preparing us for prayer is love of neighbor, or an active Christian life.
2.    St. Teresa's second condition for learning to pray is equally surprising: de¬tachment from everything that is not God. When we want to pray, our first concern is usual¬ly that of finding the environment for prayer: we ordinarily look for a nice, quiet, beautiful place, neither too cold nor too hot. We must have some free time, not be too hungry, thirsty or well-fed, not be sleepy or tired. A good spiritual guide or at least a good book, the example of others praying devoutly, beautiful hymns, great preachers and teachers would all help: the list goes on and on. While St. Teresa accepts the utility of all that, and even assumes it, she rises above all of it with her second condition, which is of course primarily addressed to Carmelite nuns living their vow of poverty in a life of poverty. Laypersons interested in growing in prayer might well take detachment especially to heart. For, while our concern for and work to¬wards satisfying our needs is natural, mature and virtuous, our lives can all too easily evolve into satisfying our wants, pursuing wealth and independence, influence and power, pleasure and fame as our main real goals. These interesting and popular goods soon become captivating, seductive alternatives to spiritual life in general and prayer in particular.
The main reason that detachment from everything that is not God is so important for prayer is that prayer is union with God, who is utterly different from all created things: not only more unlike than like them, but is even their opposite. Whereas God is infinite, uncreated, supernatural, eternal, divine, spiritual, invisible, simple, absolute and nec¬essary, they are finite, created, natural, temporary, physical and human, material, vis-ible, complex, relative and contingent. Since love makes us like what we love, we need to love God above all and everything else in relationship to God. In the Confessions, (Bk 10, #29) St Augustine says "Too little does any man love thee, who loves some other thing together with thee, loving it not on account of thee." And in his City of God, (Bk. 14, # 28) he writes "Two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self
Clearly and profoundly, St Thomas Aquinas gives the ultimate metaphysical reason for detachment when he points out that whereas our minds bring known realities into us, thus raising the material and lowering the spiritual to our level of understanding and being, our wills carry us to the level of being of the realities we love. Hence it is better to love than to know what is above us, and better to know rather than love what is below us. He also says that all virtue is conversion to God along with radical detachment, sub¬ordination or even aversion for everything else; all vice is an aversion for God together with a conversion to anything else. Revealing one aspect of these great mysteries, Jesus teaches in the Gospels:
If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me can¬not be my disciple. (Lk 14: 26-27)
3. St. Teresa's third condition for learning to pray - humility - is surprising because of the extent of the emphasis she places on it. She says that it is "the most im¬portant of the three (conditions) and embraces all the rest" (ch.4). She calls it "the principal virtue which must be practiced by those who pray." (ch. 17)
On the other hand, most of us would place greater relative emphasis on the importance of our persevering effort to pray, for example. We tend to look on prayer as our gift to God rather than a co-operative work or his gift to us. It is, in fact, all three: after a first stage of effort and mostly self-directed activity, there is a transitional, less-effortful, co-operative stage, followed by a final stage in which God inspires, guides and works in our souls. These correspond roughly to the classical purgative, illuminative and unitive stages of mystical perfection. Another classical description of all this, Opus dei, literally means "Work of God" rather than "Work for God," although it is of course both. Since we are more familiar with the earlier stages of prayer, we spontaneously assume that prayer will always be as it has been for us: hard work on our part. And, generally speak¬ing, when our work doesn't succeed, it's usually because "we didn't work hard enough". So we say, "Let's work harder at prayer and we will pray better."
While St. Teresa realizes that prayer requires persevering effort, her third and most important condition for growing in prayer is humility. For her, prayer is not a work or effort, an art or a skill but a friendly co-operation with God which, to the extent that it becomes perfect, requires less and less rather than more and more effort on our part. Hence, after responding to God's love for us by loving others and God, and after detaching ourselves from everything that is not God in order to attach ourselves completely to God, we need to recognize what we are in a relationship to God that is best expressed by humil¬ity. Just as love of neighbor - like detachment - changes everything in our lives and brings all other goods, including prayer, with it, so also and even more-so, humility changes everything in our lives and brings all other goods, including prayer, with it. On the other hand, the prouder we are, the more we love and affirm, value and honor only our¬selves, the more we are attached only to ourselves, surrounding ourselves with the greatest possible quantities and qualities of goods of all sorts.
It is extremely important for our humility to be authentic, for as the ancient adage has it, "corruptio optimi, pessima," "the corruption of the best is the worst." False humility claims that we are wretches who don't amount to anything, never have, never will and shouldn't try. Authentic humility is far-seeing truth that sees how naturally insignifi¬cant we are compared to God and believes that we are nothingness brought into being and sustained in being by our Creator, but also believes that God created us in his own image and likeness in order to share his own nature and life, wisdom and love with us - which is how we become the saints he is calling us to be. We are beggars enriched by great divine gifts, including that of prayer. Since God resists the proud and lavishes his gifts on the humble, we had better be humble.
In order to pray well, what we need is love, love and love, i.e., God's love for us, our love for neighbor and our love for God, as well as humility and its inseparable twin virtue, adoration.
B. Growing in Prayer.
God will not ordinarily unite himself with us in contemplative or mystical prayer, St. Teresa tells us, until we make a serious effort to acquire all the virtues, especially the theological, evangelical and moral virtues. We do that best through following the will and law of God, which is summed up in the command to love God and neighbor. Prayer, above all contemplative prayer, challenges us to live fervently the first and greatest command¬ment through which we give God everything that we are and have: our whole heart, i.e., our will, our hopes and desires, our affection, friendship and love, our whole mind, i.e., our intelligence and our prudence, our understanding and its application to our lives, our whole soul, i.e., our entire lives and all its activities, and all our strength, i.e., all our abilities, talents, associations and relationships, all our effort and work. The reason God asks this of us and makes it the cornerstone of his law is that he loves us and wants to share with us everything he is and has. And in order for him to do that, we must give him everything we are and have. What he proposes to us is a co-operative relationship, a friendship in which he gives fully to the extent that we give fully, and forgives to the extent that we forgive.
God leads different people in different ways. All people (even in a contemplative Carmelite convent) are not called to contemplative prayer. St. Teresa men¬tions her own experience: for over 14 years, she was (though a Carmelite nun) unable to pray or even meditate without the help of a book. If you remain that way all your life, she says, but pray as well as you can, are humble, detached and self-sacrificial, you can become as perfect as if you were a mystic. If you remain humble and detached, God will give you mystical graces. And even if he doesn't in this life, he will in the next!
Our true treasure consists in profound humility, sincere mortification and perfect obedience. In Christian life in general and in religious life in particular, we will never become contemplatives or even good active persons so long as we are not really and fully obedient. Growth in prayer is co-operative, brought about by both God and us, not some¬thing we do. What we do in prayer is more evident to us; what God does is often hidden. So we tend to be more impressed by and concentrate on what we do than by what God does in prayer. What God does in us is incomparably more effective, more powerful, wiser and better in every way than what we do. But we have to show our good will by doing everything we can. When God sees that we are doing that, he helps us powerfully. St. Theresa said that prayer is like a very small child at the bottom of a stairs trying to climb up to her father. Seeing her efforts and loving her, her father comes down, takes her into his arms and carries her to the top of the stairs. However poorly we pray, we must still try to pray so that God will have pity on our efforts and do his work in our souls.
In a now famous comparison, St. Teresa (in her Life, ch 11) symbolizes growth in prayer by four different ways of watering a garden:
by taking the water from a well, which costs us great labor; or by a water-wheel and buckets…it is less laborious than the other and gives more water; or by a stream or a brook, which waters the ground much better, for it saturates it more thoroughly and there is less need to water it often, so that the gardener's labor is much less; or by heavy rain, when the Lord waters it with no labor of ours, a way incomparably better than any of those which have been described.
The more perfect our prayer, the less effort on our part and the more God does in us. Growth in all the vir-tues and gifts greatly encourages us to pray, which in turn greatly helps us live the virtues and gifts better. John of St.Thomas also points out that the early stages of prayer and virtue are characterized by hard work and little progress - like a person rowing a boat - whereas through the gifts of God the later stages accomplish much more with much less effort on our part - like a person sailing a boat in a good wind.
St. Teresa comments on the "living waters of contemplation" of the Samaritan woman text (Jn 4:7-30) by pointing out that the living water 1) cools down (our feverous desire for temporal things, 2) cleans or purifies us (of our faults) and 3) quenches our thirst (for earthly things). Mystical and ascetical theology outlines three stages in our growth towards spiritual perfection. The first or Purgative Life, is centered around over¬coming all our sins by growing in all the theological, evangelical and moral virtues. The second stage, or Illuminative Life, presupposes and continues everything that went before, but does so in a much more positive, receptive and inspired way marked by a new awareness of God's role in prayer and our co-operation with Him. The third stage, or Unitive Life, continues everything that went before and is above all the great love of God for us touching, moving, inspiring and transforming us  in incomparable ways that elicit our enthusiastic, total, perfect love for God in return. We imagine this happening to saints who lived long ago and far away, but since we are all called to be saints, it should and at times is happening to us also. As it happens, the beloved of God find themselves newly able to love God with their whole heart, whole soul, whole mind and all their strength. Up to the unitive life, everything is a feeble, imperfect effort to love fully, perfectly, totally.  Only great, unitive graces can enable us to do this, graces which God is inclined to give us to the extent that we do everything we can first -which is all of the spiritual life up to the unitive life. In order to reach that unitive life, we must first pass through the previous two stages, which is a long road that can take a lifetime or only a short time. One in whom that process took only a short time is Anne de Guigne, whose cause of canonization has been introduced even though she died (in 1922) when she was less than 10 years 9 months old. One day when she was less than 9 years old, she was in a line of schoolchildren returning from receiving holy communion and was followed by her cousin (the future Fr Emmanuel of the Congregation of St. John), who pulled her pigtails. Her answer "Behave: I'm Jesus now" is one indication of her early and rapid spiritual progress.
Since growth in prayer is a very long one involving many obstacles and dangers, we need above all 1) a firm resolution to continue to pray as long as we live - a faithful gift of a certain amount of time in prayer every day for our lifetime, and 2) great courage without which we cannot hope to overcome all the obstacles, problems and challenges facing us.
Vocal prayers are very helpful and can lead us to perfection - if we really meditate on what we are saying, i.e., think about what we are saying and to whom we are saying it. When we do that, vocal prayer becomes mental prayer. We cannot go on to say that mental prayer turns into contemplation, for contemplation is a special gift of God who gives it to whom he wills and when he wills.
The Our Father
The first two things we need to do in prayer is place ourselves in the presence of God and think about how much he loves us. The opening words of our Lord's prayer places us in the presence of our heavenly Father and show us how great a love Jesus has for us in saying "Our Father". In identifying himself with us, Jesus places us in the best possible relationship with God the Father. Hearing himself addressed as "Our Father", he sees us in and through his only divine Son and treats us as a father treats his children - only incomparably better in every way. Here St. Teresa spon¬taneously bursts into prayer: "How good it is that you are the Father of such a Son - and he is the Son of such a Father! May you be blessed forever"! These initial words are an even greater gift by coming at the very beginning of the prayer. By situating ourselves between such a Son and such a Father, the Holy Spirit is with us as well. Our Father is in heaven, but he is within us too. Thinking of him as living within us, thinking about what and who he is, relating to him as our Father, being shown by him how to please him, asking him for everything - all this is the best introduction to prayer.
Since prayer places us in the presence of God and heaven is where God is, prayer in¬troduces us to heaven, or is a beginning of eternal life. With one foot in heaven, we do what everyone else does in heaven: we begin praising, worshipping and adoring God: "hallow¬ed be thy name". The environment of prayer within which we adore is the kingdom of God on earth preparing the kingdom of God in heaven: "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Only Jesus and Mary have perfectly lived this greatest of all gifts: Jesus divinely and Mary in her fullness of grace. But Jesus also inspires all his followers to aspire to this pinnacle of holiness.
One of the main goals of prayer is becoming good and avoiding evil. What helps us most to do that is discovering what the highest good is so that we can pursue it, and what the greatest evil is so that we can avoid it. By identifying loving union with God our Father as our highest good and separation from or opposition to him as the greatest evil, Jesus shows us how to begin our growth in goodness. The best good news about our growth in goodness is that the greatest growth in the greatest goodness is no longer the unaided pursuit by a few of a distant, abstract, difficult ideal, but a friendly co-operation ¬with a present, personal God who helps us to be divinely good by sharing his nature and wisdom, life and love with us. All this we believe and hope for by saying "Our Father".
When one of her Carmelite sisters asked St Teresa how to become a contemplative, she gave a long answer - the Way of Perfection - and a short one: "Say the Our Father, but take an hour to say it"! Another sister never seemed able to practice mental prayer or do anything more in prayer than say a few meditative Our Fathers, which always took her a very long time to say. So she approached Teresa, described herself as a total fail¬ure in prayer and asked for help in learning the ABCs of mental prayer. Teresa soon dis¬covered that this "failure" in prayer had, totally unknown to herself, reached the perfect¬ion of contemplative prayer. Another modern example is that of an Italian housewife who went to the nearby Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC for help in her total in¬ability to pray. When Fr. Walter Farrell, OP asked her to explain, she said that every morning after getting her husband off to work and her children off to school and doing a little house-cleaning, she liked to go to the neighboring church to pray. But now no sooner did she begin to pray by saying Our Father than she saw that it was already time to return home to prepare the noon meal. She was convinced that she must have committed some terrible sin because of which God was punishing her by preventing her from praying. Enquiry into her state of soul soon revealed that she had in fact attained a level of prayer in which the words Our Father regularly plunged her into ecstasy.
The Our Father is the best and fastest way to the gateway of contemplative prayer, the prayer of quiet, which is a radically new and surprising divine gift so different from every other experience of peace and quiet that it strikes a person as the first real peace and quiet  ever experienced. It is not just an absence of noise or an interior calm, but a silence of soul, a profound peace flowing out of a divine presence and a divinely produced detachment. In trying to pray, we usually do a series of many things oriented in two main directions: 1) separating or detaching ourselves from everything that is not God, and 2) attaching ourselves to or uniting ourselves with God. We look for a quiet place, close our eyes, place ourselves in the presence of God, direct our imagination and memory, will and attention to God. The prayer of quiet accomplishes all this so much more quickly and so much more profoundly that a person experiencing the prayer of quiet spon¬taneously tends to say "It is God who does everything in prayer"! While this is true in a way, we still have to do our part. For St.Teresa, one of the most important truths of the spiritual life, one on which she places great emphasis, is the fact that "God does not give himself to us completely so long as we do not give ourselves to him completely"! For "The Lord cannot act freely in the soul until he finds it detached from all creatures, and entirely his" (Way, ch 30). It is up to us, therefore, to do everything we can to prepare ourselves for what God can do incomparably better. We need to unite ourselves with God so that God will unite himself with us. If we do our part, we can depend on God to do his. She goes on to describe (ch 33) how a person new at exper-iencing the peace and joy, silence and quiet of the prayer of quiet, often doesn't want to move a muscle or do anything for long periods of time for fear that this might detract from the experience or break the spell. What such a person doesn't realize, she says, is that the prayer of quiet (like all the other stages of prayer) is a whole range of experiences that can lead up to total absorption in God while leading an active life. And it is not in our power either to bring it about or to keep it once we experience it.
All of the counsels of this treatise on prayer, she says, have only one purpose: to lead us to give ourselves completely to God, i.e., to give our will to him and detach our¬selves from creatures, or "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"! When we say this generously, with our lives and not just with our lips, God grants our prayer and unites himself with us. Giving our wills to him entirely is our part in the pursuit of holiness - which is God's gift to us. When we make every effort to be humble, God often shows us in an instant what we could not realize in many years of effort: the profundity of our nothingness and the incomparable majesty of God, or humility that is both authentic and heroic. She adds "I want to give you some advice: don't think that you can arrive at that state by your own efforts and zeal...what you need to do is say with simplicity and humility (for it is humility that obtains everything): "thy will be done". Meditating on the one who conform¬ed most perfectly to the will of God, she states that God reserves many of his greatest graces to those who have voluntarily suffered much. She adds that persons raised to a very high degree of contemplation may still have imperfections in other areas, but not in for¬giving others. If they have the latter, their supernatural state is false.
Prayer is an act and gift of piety relating our lives to God our Father. The first half of the Our Father relates our lives to God in adoration. The second half relates our present, past and future lives and their needs to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Since the Father is our Creator and in his providence provides for all our needs, we re¬late our present life to him by asking for all we presently need: "Give us this day our daily bread"!  Bread includes all our physical and natural needs as well as all our spirit¬ual needs. Our three forms of spiritual food are the will of the Father (Jn 4:34), the word of God (Jn 4:4) and the Eucharist or Body and Blood of Christ. (Jn 6: 51-58 & Mt 26: 26-28) We relate all our past to the mercy of God the Son, our divine Savior, through "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". For, at the re¬quest of Jesus and our agreement in that request, God the Father, because of his goodness and love, joins the Son in forgiving all the sins of our past - providing we also forgive. We then relate all our future to the merciful, transforming love of the Holy Spirit when we say "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil". We ask him to give us the grace to overcome all temptations, that we constantly choose good over evil and better goods over lesser goods. In that way we will be delivered from all evils, especially from the evil one, or Satan, and will grow towards definitive union with God, or heaven.
St. John of the Cross on Prayer
Among orthodox Catholic theologians, St. John of the Cross is the greatest spiritual authority, one who is to mystical and ascetical theology what St. Thomas Aquinas is to dog¬matic theology. For many years, however, Catholics have become accustomed to two other types of teachers: unorthodox ones who say and write almost anything - provided it appears to be original and seems to be popular, and orthodox but often not very inspired ones who see where we are and what we are willing to accept, and try to lead us slowly from there. St. John, one of the greatest of mystics, extraordinarily gifted on many different levels, and extremely perceptive in understanding St. Thomas, is uniquely well suited to guide us on the way to mystical perfection. Since his writings were in answer to requests by fervent Discalced Carmelites for guidance towards mystical perfection, they start from a very advanced lev¬el and are so different from what we are used to hearing that in order to understand them, we must first appreciate a number of mutually-related spiritual truths which mystics experience with unique profundity and on which they place unique emphasis. This introduces us to our need for an on-going conversion in faith, hope and love.
1) The importance of the love of God for us.
The relationship of God with us is obscure to reason, clear to faith and experiential to mystics: out of love for us, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit create, save and sanctify us. One would expect this to be the most generally and greatly emphasized of all Christian truths. While all Christians are aware of it, mystics alone fully emphasize and respond to it; others tend to neglect it largely because of emphasizing almost everything else. The world in which we live is extremely rich and varied in goods attracting our attention, arous¬ing our interest, and mobilizing our efforts in many ways, both natural and sensory, econom¬ic, social and political, practical and speculative, artistic and intellectual. The good life tends to be a rich combination of the greatest possible quantities, qualities and varie¬ties of attainable and enduringly satisfying goods. In such a context, God's love for us is one of many beliefs, truths or goods, a rather unusual thought from which we are distracted by a thousand alternative goods which are all highly visible, readily attainable and extreme¬ly popular. For mystics, on the other hand, the love of God for us is not just one of many goods, beliefs and hopes, but a unique, life-transforming experience from which they are not easily distracted. Our appreciating and responding to divine love can lead us as it did them towards transforming union. How often and how fervently do we pray for such graces?
2)    The unique transcendence of God.
Since God is infinite, but our minds, wills, vocabularies and concepts are finite, he is far more difficult to know & love than anyone but mystics realize. The theologian who knew him best and wrote extremely extensive, incomparable treatises on him - St. Thomas Aquinas - said quite simply (in introducing all the rest of the Summa after the questions on sacred doctrine and the existence of God - la, Q 3, a 1) "we cannot know what God is, but rather what he is not". The reason for this is the fact that we have no direct intuition of God, but know him by an indirect process of human knowledge which begins with sensory observation of the world around us, grows through imagination and memory, and is perfected through both reason¬ing and intuition. This process produces abstract concepts of such realities as goodness, wisdom, justice and beauty, which we then rightly attribute to God, saying, for example, that "God is good"! We then complacently assume that this describes what God is. But what we fail to realize is the fact that all the goods we experience are not only not godlike, but are even in many ways the opposite of God. As we have seen, they are temporal, visible and complex, but he is eternal, invisible and simple; they are finite, created and natural, but he is in¬finite, uncreated and supernatural; they are relative and contingent, but he is absolute and necessary. None of our concepts positively express what God is: some are explicitly neg¬ative - "infinite," "uncreated," "invisible" and "unlimited;" others, such as "eternal" or "simple" are derived from negative concepts - "un-ending" and "non-complex;" still others, such as "good" or "wise," are true enough but fall short of describing what God is.  In order to apply to God, concepts like these must be purified of all ontological imperfections,  personalized, absolutized and infinitely expanded: God is not so much "good and wise" as in¬finite, absolute personal goodness and wisdom. Even this does not positively describe him, for he is not a collection of infinite realities, but an absolutely one, undifferentiated reality completely transcending all our concepts. We know him best through faith and adora¬tion. How often and how fervently do we pray for growth in faith and adoration?
3)    The unique immanence or presence of God in our lives.
God has been present throughout history in many different ways leading up to the Incar¬nation of Jesus Christ, who remains among us through grace and the sacraments, through his Mystical Body the Church and his real presence in the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Spirit is among us through his gifts and charisms, his graces and personal indwelling. Everyone in the state of grace is united with God, lives to some extent at least in his presence and is oriented to¬wards God as ultimate end. God is present to us far more than we are to him. It takes Mary, the mystics and the saints to show us how perfectly we can be united with God and how pro-foundly he can be present to us and we to him. Their lives should inspire us and give us hope that our efforts to unite ourselves with God and live in his presence will please him and incline him to unite himself with us in wonderfully profound ways. We need to become admirers and friends of the saints and above all of Our Lady, joining our prayers with theirs for the graces to live more and more in the presence of God.
4)    The profundity of Christian perfection.
On an individual level, because of following the crowd, depending on ourselves and judging our future by our past, we often despair of any real improvement in our lives - and then go on to re-enforce that expectation by fulfilling it. On a collective level, many per¬sons look on Christianity as a Social Gospel which proposes to improve human life and save society through raising its level of moral virtues and improving the justice of its social institutions. Those who follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, go far beyond this by believing that Jesus is not merely a human reformer, but the Son of God become man who shares his divine nature and wisdom, life and love with us through grace, thus offering us eternal salvation and transcendent perfection: becoming through grace what he is by nature. Given this, we cannot casually dismiss mystics as astonishingly perfect but impossible to imitate and therefore irrelevant to us. For God loves all of us far more than we realize and calls all of us to sanctity, or the perfection of love. Everyone not on¬ly loves but is called to love perfectly through the first and greatest of the commandments of the Law: loving the Lord our God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind and with all of our strength. Let us do that rather than pretend to know and dare to limit what God can or will do in our lives and prayer. The transforming union to which God calls us is so profound that, like God himself, there is no adequate human way of describing it. St. John and St. Thomas go so far as to call it "deifying" and a "deification" - for through it we live on a divine plane and become sharers in the divine nature, sharers in the trinitarian relation¬ships, or "god-by-participation". We need the example and inspiration of Mary, the mystics and the saints to strengthen our faith and hope in God as well as to motivate and encourage us to co-operate with God in our salvation and sanctification.
5)    The profundity of the conversion needed to attain Christian perfection.
Since we ordinarily have almost no real understanding of how great Christian perfec¬tion is, we consequently have just as little appreciation of how profound a conversion is needed to dispose us towards it. More than anyone else, St. John of the Cross perfectly realizes both and presents them with a clarity, profundity and authenticity which cry out to be heard in our time. It is difficult to imagine anything more needed by our so-ciety and by us. He not only exhorts us powerfully towards such perfection, but is the master guide in leading us towards it - providing, of course, that we are interested and willing to follow him. How aware are we of our need for conversion? How often do we pray fervently for our own conversion? What do we do to bring it about?
6.    Our guide is Holy Scripture through which the Holy Spirit and Jesus speak to us.
Holy Scripture is the revealed, inspired word of God: through it the Holy Spirit and Jesus speak to each and all of us in incomparable ways.  It is one of the three divine foods we need as well as the unerring authority with which we are to judge the authentici¬ty of all doctrines and tendencies. We should respond to it accordingly. RCIA team mem¬bers who comment on the readings at Sunday Mass often prepare them well by study, medita¬tion, prayer and application to everyday life - with the result that they are amazed at the richness and profundity of these passages. If we all did this regularly, we would all be amazed at the results.
7.    The environment of Christian perfection is Tradition and the Church.
Christian perfection is a share in divine Wisdom, Life and Love - which no human society is able to offer or even to understand.  It was necessary, therefore, for Jesus to found the Church and include priests and the family in her sacraments. We need to study and appreciate, love and follow Jesus' Church rather than the secular world or the false prophets inside and outside the Church that are so many and so popular today.
8.    God alone created us, God alone is our Supreme Good and Final End, God alone saves us, God alone sanctifies us, God alone teaches us how to pray.
We have one Creator and Final End, the Father (with his Son and Holy Spirit), one Savior, Jesus Christ, one sanctifier, the Holy Spirit. Our role is to stop impeding and begin co-operating less imperfectly in their work in our souls, to appreciate that work and become receptive to it. We do that through the theological virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are different ways of being docile to and moved by him.  Such direct contact with God is the source, substance, strength, encouragement, inspiration and perfec¬tion of our prayer. In his now classical work, The School of Jesus Christ, the great 18th century French Jesuit, Fr. Jean-Nicolas Grou has ten chapters on prayer, of which five are entitled  "God alone teaches us to pray" and one is entitled "The Lord's Prayer."
Anyone casually encountering the writings of St. John for the first time is likely to be most impressed by his tenacious honesty in describing obstacles on the path to perfec¬tion as well as shocked by his totally uncompromising ways of overcoming them. Because of an assorted mix of currently popular unexamined assumptions, misinformation and seculariz¬ed lifestyle, such initial impressions easily lead the unwary into completely unjustified negative judgments which attempt murder but commit suicide. One solution is to begin again with what we most need and what mystics most emphasize: God loves us.
Like Holy Scripture itself, St. John's writings on prayer are first and foremost lyr¬ical enthusiasm and eloquent praise of God's love for us. Jesus himself tells us that the path to holiness as well as holiness itself consist above all in the perfect love of God and neighbor. (Mt 22: 34-40) But how do we grow in love, especially such love? The many ways that human love grows are well known to us. As babies experiencing the crucially im-portant warmth, dependable presence and affectionate care of our mothers, we responded with loving delight and peace.  In early childhood, our experience and response to being loved within an affectionate and caring family developed and extended our love. As we grew up, we began to like an increasing number of playmates and friends whose companionship and personal qualities we found attractive and enjoyable.  Cared for and helped, we learned to care for and help.  Learning to love by being loved, we increasingly became like the caring and self-sacrificial persons we first learned to love.
On the other hand, the best ways of growing in divine love of God and neighbor are less widely known. Purely natural philosophies, sciences and methods seldom have motivated anyone to love God or neighbor. And it takes more than a commandment or two for us to gen¬erate much love for an invisible God or a troublesome neighbor. What we need for that is for the greatest ideal to be incarnated in a person who loves us profoundly and thus great¬ly moves us by example and by word, a person who changes our nature and our nurture, making us into new persons living a new life in new societies. This utopian dream of heroes and ideologies is the inspired realization of Jesus. For no hero or ideology ever united & incarnated such an ideal - the divine nature and a divine person - with humanity as Jesus did. No hero ever loved us so greatly or sacrificed so much for us. No hero ever moved so many so pro¬foundly. No hero ever exemplified or spoke of divine love as he did. Jesus alone healed the wounds of sin by grafting divine nature and life onto humanity. No hero transcended space and time or united himself with humanity as he did. No hero ever gave us divine wis¬dom, life and love or incarnated them in sacred societies - the Church and the Christian family - designed and instituted by God to help us live and grow in divine gifts, especial¬ly love.
Jesus alone could share his divine nature and life, his divine wisdom and love with us through grace. Moved by divine love for us, Jesus made those absolutely unique, abso¬lutely incomparable gifts to all of his followers, but in tremendously different levels of greatness. After Jesus, it is above all in Mary and the saints that we can see and believe in the greatness of God's love for us. Having been most moved, most inspired, most trans-formed by God's love, saints and mystics like St. John speak most clearly, profoundly and eloquently of the transcendent importance of God's love for us.  Such love and our response to it is the inspired and inspiring beginning, middle and end of the whole mystical and ascetical theology of St. John.
Nurtured and warmed, molded and inspired by a maternal and paternal love in the image of God's love for us, infants and small children in a loving Christian home experience be¬ing loved as the greatest of all goods. Because of the richness of that experience and the poverty of their other experiences, small children, when told that Jesus really and tender¬ly loves them, believe this far more readily than adults do. While everyone spontaneously responds to being loved by God, small children do so in ways that resemble saints more than adults. In fact, Jesus presents small children to us as models of perfection: "I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the king¬dom of heaven"  - and so, "the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven".  (Mt 18:3-4)
Our path towards salvation and sanctity is so important, so beyond our unaided under¬standing, capacity and natural inclinations that only Jesus and the Holy Spirit could effectively present this to us. In learning from them, we above all need strong faith and fervent love as well as docility or receptivity towards the gifts of the Holy Spirit. With this in mind, let us look briefly at Holy Scripture.
Judeo-Christian revelation teaches us the first as well as the last of all truths: that the beginning and end of everything is God. The first beginning of time and of all creation is, as described in the first statement of the first book of the Bible, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth". (Gn 1:1) The last book of the Bible describes God as the ultimate, eternal, definitive End. The Way our coming from God re¬turns to God is the Word described in the heart of the New Testament, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God". (Jn 1:1).
Since God is love and we are made in his image and likeness, love is the beginning and end of life, both natural and supernatural, both personal, conjugal and social, both active and contemplative. If love is the beginning and end of everything, it is especially and eminently that for prayer. The single most important initial difference between the mystic and the non-mystic is the mystic's experience and appreciation of the love of God for us. What follows from that is an ascetical and mystical response to being loved that may seem spontaneous and natural in the mystic but is unintelligible and astonishing to others - even though it is nothing other than fervently obeying the first commandment of the Law. In fact for St. John, contemplative prayer is defined as loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. For him, this is the essence, beginning, middle and end of contemplative prayer and of spiritual perfection. Extraordinary, highly interest¬ing spiritual phenomena in the lives of saints - ecstasies, visions, miracles, levitations, locutions and so on - have often been strikingly described and emphasized by biographers, with the natural result, of course, that many think that sanctity consists in them. St. John follows St. Thomas in emphasizing that perfection consists in love rather than in ex¬traordinary signs and wonders. St. John is even famous for warning us of the dangers of be¬coming too interested in extraordinary phenomena. Here, as always, discernment is needed, for rejecting all visions, prophecies and miracles sometimes places us in opposition to God and would deprive us of the spiritual benefits of Lourdes, Fatima and Our Lady of Guadalupe as well as those of St. Margaret Mary and devotion to the Sacred Heart, St. John Bosco, St. Maximilian Kolbe and many others. St. Paul says, "Do not stifle the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies". (1 Th 5:19-21)
Living the first commandment, St. John insists, is crucially important, for at each of the crossroads in the path to perfection, at each obstacle we encounter, we are confront¬ed with choices that have to be made - and the criterion we have determines the choice we make. For some spiritual authorities, the best way to perfection is to practice the virtues most opposed to our worst faults, responding to impatience, for example, with patience. For St. John, the best way at all times and circumstances is living the most perfect of all virtues: loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. This commandment is not only the first principle and final end or perfection of spiritual life, but the moment by moment, choice by choice way we go from one to the other. It ex¬plains how we become perfect and why we don't. Thus, through the love of God lived in many different ways, i.e., through grace and the sacraments, through goodwill in following the Gospel and the Church, through prayer and the duties of life, many Catholics become highly virtuous and pious - but extremely few are canonizable. St. John suggests that we grow spiritually by loving God more and more totally or perfectly - which leads up to a grace, a conscious choice and voluntary commitment to love God totally and give ourselves to him com¬pletely. If we say yes to total love, we receive tremendous graces and are swept by God towards transforming union. If we do not, we fall back into the same process which leads us again towards that same perfect and divine love. Most of us are not saints because we were never quite ready to accept the implications of total love: giving everything we are and have to God, our Lord and Master, giving up every attachment in order to will whatever he wills for us - even if it turns out to be martyrdom. This requires a leap of faith and confidence in God which we are afraid to make, an heroic trust, hope and love of God that we never seem to be quite ready for. Actually making that commitment or dedication - and keeping it - changes everything in our lives.
For most of us, goodness consists in exercising prudential control over our lives and goods, generously giving some of each to God - while retaining ownership and control of both. There is, of course, an enormous difference between giving God some or even most and giving him all, which entails a death of self and a re-birth. Hence the idea of giving God everything, or giving him ourselves completely, makes us hesitate and inclines us to say "Perhaps we'll do that a little later"! Loving God totally is a grace of God for which we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All this illustrates once again the three levels of goodness according to St. Thomas:  1) prudence and natural moral virtue, 2) faith, hope and charity lived prudentially, and 3) faith, hope and charity lived on the level of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength is a formidable challenge, one that is so great that it is full realization is eternal life or heaven. Boethius gave the classic definition of eternity as "the simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of unending life" (Consolation of Philosophy as quoted by Saint Thomas, ST, Part 1, Q 10, a. 1, obj. 1) or simultaneously-whole and perfect experience of God. In time, on the other hand, our ordinary experience of everything is successive and partial. To the extent, therefore, that we really and finally do love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, we are initiated into or introduced to eternal life. This transforms our lives, changes our attitudes and perspectives, activities and habits, changes our per¬sonalities and character, and makes us into different persons: "I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me" (Ga2:19) and "I am Jesus now." At best, this usually takes a lifetime, but can be brought about in an instant by God. For example, in 1935, Andre Frossard was a 20 year old atheist who followed a friend into a church in Paris. Seeing nuns adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a few minutes later, he came out "a 5 year old child" and "member of the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church" who was "lifted, taken up and rolled over by a wave of inexhaustible joy." He found himself completely trans¬formed, his sentiments, ideas, tastes, psychology, even his habits totally changed. His whole subsequent life has been a living-out of the rich implications of his instantaneous conversion. Shortly after his conversion, he said "There is no task in this world more worthwhile, more sweet, more necessary or more urgent than to praise God, to praise him for being, and for being what he is," and "Of all the gifts of God, the first and most as¬tonishing is his love for us, who are much in relation to the material world, but nothing before him." (Cf Dieu existe, je 1'ai rencontre, and Il y a un autre monde, Paris, Fayard, 1969 & 1976, the former translated as I Have Met Him: God Exists, New York, Herder & Herder, 1971)  In 1842, Alfonse de Ratisbonne, a young, worldly, pleasure-loving, non-religious Jewish banker, walked into a church in Rome and was totally transformed in one ecstatic instant. He described that change by saying
"I did not know where I was; I did not know if I was Alfonse or someone else: I experienced such a total change that I believed myself to be another self - I tried to find myself and could not. Everything happened within me, and those impressions, a thousand times quicker than thought, a thousand times more profound than reflection, not only moved my soul but turned it around and directed it elsewhere towards another end in a new 1ife."
He goes on describing his abrupt transformation by imagining the reaction he would have had to a person saying to him:
"Alfonse, in a quarter of an hour you will adore Jesus Christ, your God and your Savior, and you will be prostrate in a poor church and you will beat your breast at the feet of a priest in a house of Jesuits where you will spend the carnival prepar¬ing yourself for baptism, ready to immolate yourself for the Catholic faith; and you will renounce the world, its pomps, its pleasures, your wealth, your hopes, your future, and if you must, you will renounce even your fiancee, the affection of your family, the esteem of your friends and your attachment to the Jews...and your only desire will be to serve Jesus Christ and to carry his cross until death—" I say that if some prophet had made such a prediction about me, I would have judged only one man more insane than he: the one who could believe in the possibility of such madness! And yet it is that madness which today is my wisdom and my happiness." (Cf _Il y a un autre monde) .

Loving God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind and with all of our strength is divine wisdom for us because God is everything and we are nothing in comparison to him.
This resume of St. John of the Cross and the mystical tradition is, of course, total¬ly rejected by secular humanists and a large part of the human race - who use it to accuse Christians of insanity, but succeed only in pointing out that Christians are insane if it is false and they are insane if it is true. Just as a crucified Christ is a stumbling block to Jews and insanity to pagans (cf 1 Co 1:23), total love of God is a pivotal challenge calling out for the most profound insights and responses, the clearest explana¬tions and most powerful commentaries - which is a description of the writings of St. John. It is obvious, however, that all we can do here is outline a few of the reasons why this statement is true rather than false, wisdom rather than insanity.
Judeo-Christian revelation teaches that nothing whatsoever except God originally ex¬isted, that he brought the entire universe into existence from absolute nothingness through his creation, and that he continues to sustain it in existence or prevent it from reverting to its original and inherent nothingness. God is the "I am who am" (Ex 3:14), the identity of essence and existence, or the One whose nature is to exist. His infinite being is the whole of being: our finite, relative, contingent being depends totally on his infinite, absolute, necessary being and adds nothing to it, for the finite cannot add to the infinite.
St. John expresses the absolute transcendence of God and relative nothingness of everything else in many different and striking ways:
All the creatures of heaven and earth are nothing when compared to God, as Jeremiah points out. (Jr 4:23)  Cf. The Ascent of Mt.Carmel, Bk. 1, ch. 4, #3.
We just asserted that all the finite being of creation related to the infinite be¬ing of God is comparatively nothing, and that, therefore, a man attached to creatures is nothing in the sight of God, and even less than nothing... Ibid, # 4.
All the beauty of creatures compared with the infinite Beauty of God is supreme ugliness. As Solomon says, "Comeliness is deceiving and beauty vain"(Pr 31:30)
Now all the goodness of creatures in the world compared with the infinite goodness of God can be called evil, since God alone is good. (Lk 18:19).
As St. Paul writes, "The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God". (1 Co 3:19)  So also, all the sovereignty and freedom of this world compared with the freedom and sovereignty of God is utter slavery, anguish and captivity; all the temporal delights and satisfactions of the will in the things of this world compared to all the eternal beatitude that is God is intense suffering, torment and bitterness; all the wealth and glory of creation compared with the wealth that is God is utter poverty and misery in the Lord's sight.
God is not only incomparably greater, more transcendent, more separated from us than we realize, but, paradoxically, he is incomparably more immanent, more present to us, more united with us than we realize. In the natural order, the presence of God in our world and in our lives is a hidden and invisible fact which is denied by many and confidently affirm¬ed by extremely few. For most of us, goodness is a moral and social, prudential and tempo¬ral effort to further our own well-being without harming, and perhaps even helping, that of others. In that context, the only presence we really appreciate is that of interesting and enjoyable, loving and lovable friends and associates whose complementarity and compatibil¬ity with us enable us as social animals to survive and prosper in all of the ways that our society values.
Outside of Christianity, religion is a way of going to God. For Christians, relig¬ion is God coming to us, uniting himself with us and leading us back to definitive union with him. Only in Christianity did God become incarnate. That incarnation came about through the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the one divine Person of Jesus Christ - a union so unique, so intimate, so profound that every other form of union, even that between God and the angels, is complete separation compared to it. Through his union with us, Jesus leads us towards a transforming union with him that completely trans¬cends our ordinary understanding. In heaven, that union is an incomparably greater beatific vision and union with the triune God that transcends our comprehension even more.
If both the transcendence and the immanence of God are so great, so also is the per¬fection, the transforming union, to which Jesus calls us. Our ordinary expectation of "im¬provement in goodness" is so low that "perfection" is not even a part of our working vocab¬ulary - just a rarely encountered term used by a few very unusual people to describe some¬thing others may or may not have experienced. We ordinarily think of "improvement in good¬ness" in terms of a little moral progress in our attitudes and behavior, a few steps to¬wards a distant and difficult, elusive and doubtfully possible moral ideal. It is no won¬der, then, that we ordinarily live in a "religious coma" as far as any real understanding of the profundity of Christian perfection is concerned. St. John of the Cross is the ideal person to bring us out of that coma: the example of his life, the poetic beauty and mysti¬cal profundity of his writings, the uncontested authority of his wisdom are so great that he has become the spiritual guide in mystical and ascetical theology. Through our prayers and devotion to him, he can also become our heavenly friend: he is even far more willing to be our friend, model and teacher than we are to be his friend and disciple.
What St. John tells us about Christian perfection is that it is incomparably more than moral improvement, incomparably more even than human perfection, for it is a share in divine perfection. Since we become through grace what Jesus is by nature, our union with God or transformation in him carries us into not only a degree but a kind of perfection that totally transcends our vocabulary: mystical union is so ineffable that mystics, even someone like St. John, cannot precisely describe it. The closest that he comes is a "transforming union", a "deifying union", an "identification with God", a "mystical marriage". The first of five graces given to the soul in the state of spiritual marriage, i.e., "the breath or spiration of the Holy Spirit from God to her and from her to God," is described as follows:
By his divine breath-like spiration, the Holy Spirit elevates the soul sub¬limely and informs her and makes her capable of breathing in God the same spiration of love that the Father breathes in the Son and the Son in the Father, which is the Holy Spirit Himself, Who in the Father and the Son breathes out to her in this transformation, in order to unite her to Himself. There would not be a true and to¬tal transformation if the soul were not transformed in the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity in an open and manifest degree. (Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 39, # 3)
And this kind of spiration of the Holy Spirit in the soul, by which God trans¬forms her into Himself, is so sublime, delicate, and deep a delight that a mortal tongue finds it indescribable, nor can the human intellect, as such, in any way grasp it. Even that which comes to pass in the communication given in this temporal trans¬formation is unspeakable, for the soul united and transformed in God breathes out in God to God the very divine spiration which God - she being transformed in him -breathes out in Himself to her. Ibid.
Anticipating the difficulty many of his readers might have in accepting this, he goes on to add:
One should not think it impossible that the soul be capable of so sublime an activity as this breathing in God, through participation as God breathes in her. For, granted that God favors her by union with the most Blessed Trinity, in which she becomes deiform and God through participation, how could it be incredible that she also understand, know and love - or better that this be done in her - in the Trin¬ity, together with it, as does the Trinity itself! Yet God accomplishes this in the three Persons in power and wisdom and love, and thus the soul is like God through this transformation. He created her in His image and likeness that she might attain such resemblance.  Ibid, # 4.
He adds that
No knowledge or power can describe how this happens, unless by explaining how the Son of God attained and merited such a high state for us, the power to be sons of God, as St. John says. (Jn 1:12) Citing Jn 17: 20-24, he comments that
The Father loves them by communicating to them the same love he communicates to the Son, though not naturally as to the Son, but, as we have said, through union and transfor¬mation of love. It should not be thought that the Son desires here to ask the Father that the saints be one with Him essentially and naturally as the Son is with the Father, but that they may be so through the union of love, just as the Father and the Son are one in essential unity of love. Ibid, # 5.
He then goes on to say
Accordingly, souls possess the same goods by participation that the Son possess¬es by nature. As a result they are truly gods by participation, equals and compan¬ions of God. (cf 2 P 1:2-5)  Ibid, # 6.
Only mystics fully and experientially realize how great a conversion is needed in or¬der to appreciate and prepare ourselves for God's greatest graces and gifts. Even though St. John is justly famous for many other aspects of his teaching, he is probably best known for the absolutely uncompromising, clear and profound conversion he proposes to us. For him, Christian conversion is 1) attaching ourselves to or loving God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength - which involves loving one another as Jesus loves us, and 2) detaching our¬selves from everything else - except insofar as they are gifts of God leading us to him.
Although it is not a problem often found among non-mystics, some mystics have gone too far in detachment. St. Teresa of Avila, for example, was advised by some mystics that she should be detached even from the humanity of Jesus - but soon discovered how profound and dangerous a mistake that is. Complete detachment from all reward, even that of heaven, was advocated by a number of spiritual leaders including Master Eckart, Martin Luther, jansenists, Molinos and Fenelon. Such a teaching is abundantly and eloquently contradicted by many biblical texts, especially those of Jesus and St. Paul, as well as by papal and conciliar pronouncements.  For a systematic study of these, read "ciel", Dictionnaire de Spiritualite. Some guides have used various texts of St. John warning against excessive emphasis on signs and wonders to try to justify their rejection of all extraordinary phenomena.
Is St. John's view of detachment extreme? He has been interpreted by some as advocat¬ing a "pure-spirit" or ultra-supernatural ideal whose ultimate thrust is living solitary, semi-naked and almost starving in some particularly barren desert - a kind of "supernatural" equivalent of Thomas Hobbes' "life of man in the state of nature," which Hobbes described in his famous phrase as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" (Leviathan, 1, 13). There is no doubt about the fact that great emphasis on abnegation and spirit of sacrifice is his most distinctive characteristic strikingly expressed in his famous "todo y nada" - "everything and nothing". Whether or not this is extreme depends on what it means and how we understand it. This is neither metaphysics nor Zen Buddhism, for St. John does not claim that all finite reality is illusory rather than real; he is clearly realist, fully accepting the metaphysi¬cal reality of finite entities. Nor is he a Platonist but a follower of St. Thomas. His "everything and nothing" has to be understood in an analogical rather than univocal sense: while finite realities are not absolute nothingness, they are nothing compared to God. Mys¬tics often express this vividly because they experience it so profoundly. For example, Andre Frossard's conversion abruptly changed his perspective from "physical reality alone exists" to "physical reality is only the pale shadow of God, who alone fully exists". Non-mystics, on the other hand, without direct experience of this, and influenced by all those who empha¬size the great importance of everything but God, are not likely to appreciate or even under¬stand the relative nothingness of the created.
Commenting on "everything and nothing" as a rule of conduct for those aiming at mystical perfection, St. John says that
In order to have pleasure in everything, desire to have pleasure in nothing.
In order to arrive at possessing everything, desire to possess nothing.
In order to arrive at being everything, desire to be nothing.
In order to arrive at knowing everything, desire to know nothing. Ascent, Bk 1, ch 13,#11
Thus what leads us away from God is desiring anything else without relating it to God. Fulfilling the first commandment, or loving God with our whole heart, whole mind, whole soul and with all of our strength means loving God not simply as a good, however great, but as the only absolute, infinite, creative good from whom all other goods derive their goodness. Our de¬tachment from everything that is not God does not mean that we love God alone, but that we subordinate the love of everything else to him, the only supreme and absolute good. As a result of not trying to create our own pleasure, possession, power, being and knowledge, but accepting them from God if, when and however he chooses, we end up receiving them from him in abundance.
In order to understand the sort of detachment which St. John speaks of, we must see it in the lives of the saints, including that of St. John. Has anyone ever doubted St. Francis of Assisi's detachment? And yet, has anyone ever loved nature more than he? St. John also greatly loved nature and often took his friars on excursions to the mountains for rest, relax¬ation and prayer. His sensitivity to the beauties of nature helped make him one of Spain's greatest poets. His compassion for the destitute and the desolate was no less than that of other saints. Their love for created goods is real, even great, but subordinated and ordered to the ultimate good, or God. Christians tend to look on this as one of many legitimate but distant goals; for mystics, it is a proximate rule of life, their moment by moment way of living the first commandment.
Our difficulty in appreciating St. John's detachment stems from our different under¬standing of what the ideal is and how it is achieved. We need to learn that sanctity may be rare but it is not essentially extraordinary: it is not the vocation, privilege or profess¬ional specialization of an elite, but a challenge to us all; it is not extraordinary signs and wonders, but great love of God and neighbor. It does not result from our ever-increasing effort, but from ever-increasing divine gifts - which God is inclined to give to the extent that we are humble and effectively appreciate his gifts by thanking, adoring and generously responding to him.
St. John's level of detachment seems so difficult to reach that we may suspect it to be based on a view of great goodness as above all difficult and painful to attain. It is undoubtedly true that lesser goods are easy and great ideals difficult to achieve. But for virtually all the saints, holiness is not above all difficult and painful. The earliest or purgative stage of growth towards holiness certainly does involve great discipline and sacrifices at a time when our awareness of God's help is at its lowest level. This greatly challenges our faith and humility, our courage and willingness to sacrifice:  "If anyone wants to become a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me". (Lk 9:23) However, growth in holiness passes through a second, illuminative stage involving much greater faith in and cooperation with divine love for us, and above all culminates in a third, definitive stage of holiness which is not called "intense effort and suffering" but "union," for it is above all a gift of God rather than our achievement.  Since holiness is union with the incarnate, suffering and risen Christ, union with the Holy Spirit, union with God our Father and union with one another, it completely transcends our ease-difficulty, pleasure-pain categories.
Growth in love always increases our joys and at least our capacity for suffering: we greatly cherish and enjoy the lives of our parents, spouses and children but grieve most of all at their deaths; on the other hand, we seldom have much more than good will towards strangers - whose obituary columns leave us unmoved. Growing in authentic love transforms us and our perspectives as well as what and how we enjoy and suffer. All these inherent fruits of love reach their maximum in holiness: St. John suffered tremendously but describes the joys of spiritual marriage as "beyond all exaggeration," and the joys of heaven as "incomparably more precious" even than that. (Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 39, # 10) After experiencing both heaven (2 Co 12: 1-5) and persecution (2 Co 11: 23-30), St. Paul writes that the beatific joys of heaven are "out of all proportion" to the worst temporal suffering. (2 Co 4:17) St. Teresa of Avila described mystical prayer as "the greatest happiness that one can taste on this earth even if one could unite all the joys and pleasures of the world". (Conceptions of the Love of God, ch. 4) Commenting on how worldly people center their lives around wealth, plea¬sures, honors and feasts, she writes
Even supposing (which is impossible) that they could enjoy all these goods without suffering the disadvantages inseparable from them, they would never arrive in a thousand years at tasting anything like this joy which, in a single instant, inundates the soul which the Lord raises to this state. If St. Paul said that "What we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us", (Rm 8,18) I say that they do not and cannot merit one single hour of the joys, pleasures and delights which God gives to the soul in this state. Conceptions of the Love of God. (loc. cit)
Our union with Jesus is a share in his great roles as Prophet, King and Priest through which he brings divine wisdom, life and love to us. Papal and hierarchical ways of sharing in these great roles through teaching and guiding, ruling and leading the whole Church towards perfect union with God and each other are widely recognized and appreciated, but we should also realize that all the faithful share in them through the great divine treasures of faith, hope and love. We become through them what Jesus is by nature. To the extent of their perfection in us, they also engender the greatest natural blessings -inspired understanding, heroic leadership and sacrificial love - which are our finest human resources meeting our greatest natural needs. Thus, through union with Jesus and in his image, faith, hope and love incarnate divine wisdom, life and love in understanding and teaching, in family life and work, in moral and social, political and economic activities, in physical and spiritual works of mercy so as to transform our lives, invigorate our societies and build up the Mystical Body of Christ.
It is above all the Holy Spirit who brings this union to perfection. In one especial¬ly powerful and justly famous text, St. Paul first points out that "if you are guided by the Spirit, you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence" (Ga 5:16). Af¬ter listing fifteen striking results of self-indulgence, he says "What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentle¬ness and self-control". (v 22) Then he concludes that "You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires". (v 24)
Christian conversion and detachment as outlined by St. John are not as impossibly perfect as some make them out to be, for he does not expect anyone to attain a level of holiness entirely free of all sins and imperfections. Even St. Ignatius at the end of his life and height of his sanctity was capable of slamming doors. What he does urge is that a Christian on the path to holiness will not knowingly consent to any sin or imperfection:
I say "knowingly," because he will fall into imperfections, venial sins and the above-mentioned natural appetites without having advertence or knowledge or con¬trol in the matter. It is written of these semi-voluntary and inadvertent sins that the just man will fall seven times a day and rise up again. (Pr 24:16)
He explains
Yet some habitual voluntary imperfections that are not completely mortified are not only an impediment to divine union but to spiritual progress as well.
Some examples of these habitual imperfections are: the common habit of chatter; a small attachment one never really desires to conquer, for example, to a person, to clothing, to a book or a cell, or to the way food is prepared, and to other trifling conversations and little satisfactions in tasting, knowing and hear¬ing things. Any of these habitual imperfections, and attachment to them, causes as much harm to an individual as would the daily commission of many other imperfec¬tions. Sporadic venial sins and imperfections that do not result from habitual prac¬tice having evil dimensions will not hinder a man as much as his attachment to some¬thing. As long as he continues this attachment, it is impossible for him to make progress in perfection, even though the imperfection be very small. Ascent, Bk. 1, ch. 11.
St. John goes on to illustrate this striking doctrine with his best-known, striking¬ly vivid example:
It makes little difference whether a bird is tied by a thin thread or by a cord. For even if tied by a thread, the bird will be prevented from taking off just as surely as if it were tied by cord - that is, it will be impeded from flight as long as it does not break the thread. Admittedly the thread is easier to rend, but no matter how easily this may be done, the bird will not fly away without first doing so. This is the lot of a man who is attached to something; no matter how much virtue he has, he will not reach the freedom of the divine union. Ascent, Bk. 1, ch. 11, # 3 & 4.
Another of the most impressive aspects of St. John's teaching is how fully centered it is in Holy Scripture. Since he is not merely one of a crowd of theologians speculating about what others may have experienced, but a saint talking about a spiritual itinerary all of whose stages he has fully experienced - he always depends entirely on the word of God to lead us towards perfect union with the Word of God. Because it is divine revelation about God as well as about us, our origin in and return to God, Holy Scripture has incomparable authority and value for us; St. John greatly helps us in the difficult challenge of appreciating this as we should.
And since the word of God comes to us through the Church or Word of God in us, sacred Scripture, Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church are all -"so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls". (Vat. II, Dei Verbum , ch 2, #10)
After his inspired and inspiring Pentecostal sermon, St. Peter answered the most fun¬damental of questions, "What must we do?," with "You must repent...be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Ac 2: 37-38). Thus membership in the Church founded by Christ and sanctified by the Holy Spirit as "the fellowship of life, charity and truth" is purely and simply the di¬vine way of salvation and sanctification. (cf Lumen Gentium, ch 1, # 9 and #2-5) Our en¬thusiasm should be for the Church rather than for techniques and numbers, programs and or¬ganizations, materia l resources and institutional changes.
Mystical experience is unique, for it is the fullness of direct contact with God, or union leading towards transforming union with him. Moral virtues, social relationships, intellectual, poetic and artistic gifts enrich our lives and understanding, directly relating us to each other and to the world we live in, but they only indirectly relate us to God. On the other hand, the theological virtues have God as their direct object and do bring us into direct, immediate contact with him. But since theological vir¬tues are our earthly share in divine wisdom, life and love, they are so uncomfortably above and beyond our human wisdom, life and love that we naturally tend towards a human compromise with them, or prudential exercise of them. We better appreciate, live and love the mysteries of the faith through understanding them: "fides quaerens intellectum", or "faith seeking understanding" is one famous medie¬val expression of this. Hence medieval Christendom constructed theological systems and creeds, used symbols and concepts, analogies and images in an effort to make the mysteries of the faith accessible to us. All these precious and impressive intermediaries can be very helpful, but they are not the theological virtue of faith and they can even became dangerous alternatives to faith: we may find ourselves cherishing understanding over faith, accessible images over mysteries, or understandable ideas over divine mysteries. All these intermediaries lead us towards God but do not, like faith, bring us into direct union with him - which is not a human construct but a gift of God ordinarily coming to us in succes¬sive stages of profundity.
Just as each stage of human life ordinarily grows out of and adds something precious to the previous stage without renouncing everything characteristic of it, so our spiritual lives ordinarily grow in successive stages. According to St. Thomas, the goodness of nat¬ural wisdom, life, love and natural moral virtues should be followed by a stage in which we live faith, hope and love in a prudential way, which should in turn grow into living them on the level of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Or in terms of the classical tripartite division of mystical and ascetical growth, a purgative or ascetic life is a necessary preparation for the greater graces of the illuminative life, which in turn is a necessary stage on our way to the unitive life in which alone we fully live the divine riches of faith, hope and love.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 


 

New: September 30th, 2011

Unemployment:  Loss Becoming Hope - By Djinna Gochis

Chapter IV:  Restlessly Seeking the Lord


I had my usual once a week breakfast with another of the long time managers who shared the experience of being “let go”.  We had been work buddies. We are now firmly friends.  Perhaps it is that we also share Christian belief, she being one of our Lutheran sisters. We have been struggling with a similar tension between “world” and “God”, as it relates to our late professional lives.  And we talk about it.

It was a longer than usual breakfast, and although I usually go to Mass after we meet, I was across town and the traffic was its usual Los Angeles terrible. I did not make it. 

I had my travellin’ rosary (kind of poorly made, so if lost, I have others) with me and I sat in the back of the church, with daylight through the stained glass giving everything a soft amber hue, and began praying the decades. One of the parishioners who appears to have such serenity about her faith passed by to say a brief hello. She said as she walked on, “It is good to see you resting in the Lord”. 

Watch out when you think, presumptuously, that you have accepted and moved on from a rejection merely because you have prayed and momentarily feel better.  As a commentator I like very much, Dennis Prager, often used to remind his radio listeners, God is not a “Celestial Butler”.  “Ask, and you shall receive” is about our seeking to know and to abide by God’s plan.  My feeling better is neither the goal, nor the point of prayer.  Sometimes it happens that I might feel better, but that, it seems, may be more a taste of the Paradise to come than a solution to trials.

As I was driving home after a frightful encounter with gardening fencing at the 99 Cents store, a check of my e-mail revealed that the interim new boss had been chosen for my former employer.  It was someone I knew, and respect, who had left our office to escape the management morass, but now was willing to take on the entirety of the trial organization.  I knew she had been considering it, although it seemed wildly unwise to me. 

Yes, dare I return to the feelings of Chapter 1 of this still unfolding tale?  Well, I want this rendition of my journey, (however long it takes and however long the reader will bear with me) to be true, not painted with clichés, even if they are truly virtuous religious ones.  So, here it is.  I regressed to the panoply of resentment, hurt, and anger.  There may even have been some blue-ish words about bureaucracies. I engaged in “I like her but. . .” monologues in which I sought to justify myself and highlight the unfairness  of the conclusion to my career demonstrated by the choice of a far less experienced  but politically savvy manager to run the whole darn place!  What about merit? What about meritorious (from my point of view) me? 
So much for this resting in the Lord, eh?

Even as I write this and know it is wrong, I want to prevail.  I want justice (the human kind).  I still want an apology that I know will never come. I want vindication.  I want the opposite of that which is the portion of true humility. I am, if I really look close, refusing the very modeling of Jesus Christ Himself.  And then I get angry about that, too.

I poured myself a soda and went outside, with two pieces of reading material. The first was the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I have promised myself I will read from cover to cover now that I have some time, rather than in fragments to refresh some area of teaching.  The second item was the inaugural copy of my fresh two year subscription to the Magnificat. 

There was an editorial by Fr. Peter Carr, on the meaning of God’s call to follow Him, in relevant part to my then prevailing mood, that He wants us, always.  He wants me as I am, sometimes optimistic, often cranky, unsure of what is next and on what I should focus my energies.  If God wants me, what else can I possibly need?

I found myself resting again in the Lord, a touch of the Paradise which He bought back for us by His ultimate sacrifice as the God-Man.

And I leaned back and watched some birds, a favorite thing of late.  I love watching their frenzy as darkness begins to fall, flitting from one tree to another, chirping wildly.  I was delighted to learn, also courtesy of the Magnificat, as another priest detailed the symbolism of a 15th century painting of “St. Jerome in His Study”, that since ancient times birds of the air have been a symbol of the elevated soul. 
He is talking to me, isn’t He? Do I hear Him, perhaps, saying something like, “Belonging to some job, Djinna, this is not what you need.  The accolades of some men and the rejections of others mean nothing if only you are steadfast in the belief that I value you whom I created “.  The only vindication I need is that which God provides to his creatures to repair the original sin of Adam and Eve.

I know, Lord, I am so fickle.  But you never give up on me. Good thing.


 

Excerpts from To Kindle a Fire: A 21st Century Approach to the Seven Deadly Sins by Dr. Ross Porter. (For more about Ross see  the New button above.)


(The seven deadly sins: Pride vs. Humility; Anger vs. Meekness; Envy vs. Charity; Lust vs. Chastity; Gluttony vs. Moderation; Greed vs. Generosity; Sloth vs. Zeal.)
“…Rarely will one find people who have intentionally set out to ruin their lives and the lives of those around them. More typically, we slip away from God’s will in stages…we seek distractions … we try to cover our tracks by failing to take responsibility, or make amends for our actions. We try to cut corners, telling ourselves that “it’s just this once”, “I’m only human”, or  “I know people who do far worse.”

Pride vs. Humility


“With pride, Satan distorts healthy self-esteem. The sin of pride can be understood as inordinate esteem of oneself. Healthy self-esteem does not seek to challenge the authority of God, or demean others, but pride does. It is characterized by selfishness, self-deception, and an insatiable need for attention and approval. It dethrones God and enthrones ego.
“Humility asks us to get our priorities straight, and then helps us live them out. God is Lord and nothing else … humility slowly but surely uproots the old self, the self that insisted on being important, and noticed, and awarded … Christ living in us nurtures a new self, a self that truly is significant because it is wedded to Him. And under the influence of such perfection we can do beautiful things.”

Anger vs. Meekness


“’Parking Lot Rage’ tells the story of a 77 year-old man being assaulted by an 86 year-old man over a handicapped parking space…(in another story) 2 drivers disagree about the speed limit, pull over to the side of the road and begin fist-fighting as traffic slows to watch the spectacle…Every two hours a youth is killed by gun-fire… ”
“The deadly sin of anger enthrones vengeance … to punish the real or perceived offender… (Meekness is not weakness). Weakness is wed to internal confusion and fear, and leads to unrest with self, others and God. Meekness is an enduring gentleness, willing to suffer for the Good in peace.”

These excerpts give you an idea of the pungent insightful style of this book. The reason I, Dr. Ronda,  highly recommend it is that it provides much help to those who want to understand the psychological causes of our negative traits and also how to pray our way to victory in love.

You can purchase Dr. Porter’s book through Daybreak Publishing www.daybreakpublishing.com.

 


 

COMMUNICATION - by Barbara Vittoria


WHY WE COMMUNICATE THE WAY WE DO WITH PEOPLE AND GOD

WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF COMMUNICATION - TO EXCHANGE IDEAS THROUGH SPEECH, WRITING, OR SIGNALS.
HOW WE COMMUNICATE WITH GOD HAS MUCH TO DO WITH OUR PERSONALITY, WHAT WE’VE INHERITED AND WHAT LIFE HAS DEALT US.  WE RECEIVED NATURAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS GIVEN BY GOD WHEN BORN.  WE SMILED, CRIED OR SCREAMED TO COMMUNICATE OUR FEELINGS AND NEEDS.  OUR PARENTS OR CAREGIVERS TRIED TO FIGURE OUT IF WE WERE HUNGRY, IN PAIN OR A DIAPER NEEDED CHANGING. ONCE THE NEED WAS MET WE BECAME CONTENT.  ONCE A TODDLER WE BECOME SELF-CENTERED NOW WANTING OUR OWN WAY.  A TODDLER MIGHT COMMUNICATE WITH A TANTRUM OR SCREAMS BECAUSE THEIR VOCABULARY ISN’T DEVELOPED ENOUGH OR THEY JUST WANT SOMETHING NOW AND CAN’T WAIT.  IF A PARENT GIVES IN EVERY TIME TO THESE EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS THE TODDLER UNDERSTANDS COMMUNICATION AS, “IF I SCREAM I CAN GET WHAT I WANT”, WHICH COULD BIRTH A SPOILED ADULT.  ONCE OUR REASONING AGE IS REACHED OUR FAMILY, SCHOOLING, FRIENDS, SPOUSE AND CAREERS ARE OTHER FACTORS THAT WILL NOW INFLUENCE OUR WAYS OF COMMUNICATING  WITH OTHERS AND GOD.  ALSO OUR EMOTIONS, INHERITED TRAITS, PERSONALITIES AND WHAT KIND OF AN UPBRINGING WE HAD WILL ALL NOW COME INTO PLAY IN ADULTHOOD.

FIRST, OUR FAMILIES BEHAVIOR IN THE HOUSEHOLD WHILE GROWING INTO ADULTHOOD CAN INFLUENCE OUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS.  IF WE WERE EXPOSED TO POOR COMMUNICATION LIKE THE RAISING OF THE VOICE, BODY OR FACIAL JESTERS, BEING PUT DOWN, CRITICIZED OR COMPLAINING THAT WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT, WILL EFFECT HOW WE COMMUNICATE AS ADULTS.  ALSO, THE SILENT TREATMENT, SLAMMING THINGS, VERBAL OR OTHER ABUSE, AND EVEN ACTING HELPLESS ARE OTHER FORMS OF COMMUNICATING WITH INTIMIDATION AND CONTROL. THESE TYPES OF COMMUNICATION AREN’T USED TO COMMUNICATE BUT ARE USED TO MANIPULATE, SEND FEAR, OR GUILT.  INSTEAD THEY WILL BUILD UP WALLS OF RESENTMENT AND STRIFE IN A FAMILY.  THOSE WHO USUALLY USE CONTROL AND WANT THEIR OWN WAY ARE POOR LOOSERS, AND SELFISH.  MOST LIKELY THEY WILL NOT COMMUNICATE WITH GOD EITHER.  OTHER FORMS OF POOR COMMUNICATION ARE WHEN ONE ASSUMES THEY KNOW WHAT THE OTHER PERSON IS THINKING AND WILL INTERRUPT A CONVERSATION.   THEY FEEL THEIR THOUGHTS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THEN WAITING UNTIL THE PERSON SPEAKING IS FINISHED.  ALSO, IT MIGHT BE HARD TO COMMUNICATE WITH SICK OR OLDER PEOPLE AS THEIR BEHAVIOR TO COMMUNICATE COULD BE MOODY, SNAPPY, DEPRESSED OR QUIET, DUE TO THEIR AGE OR SICKNESS.  PEOPLES SOCIAL STATUS CAN ALSO INTIMIDATE US TO NOT COMMUNICATE WELL IF WE HAVE LOW SELF ESTEEM DUE TO OUR UPBRINGING.

OUR PERSONALITIES AND INHERITED TRAITS ALSO START TO SHAPE US AND HAVE A VERY BIG INFULENCE ON WHY WE COMMUNICATE THE WAY WE DO.  TAKE INHERITED TRAITS LIKE PRIDE, JEALOUSY, ENVY, SUSPICION, AND REJECTION, BEING TIMID, SENSITIVE, MOODY, DEPRESSED, AND NEGATIVE.  WE MIGHT EVEN BECOME ENVIOUS OR JEALOUS BECAUSE GOD APPEARS TO BE BLESSING OR USING OTHERS AND NOT US.  THIS COULD LEAD US TO BITTERNESS, AND RESENTMENT CAUSING US TO GET AN ATTITUDE WHICH MAY CAUSE US TO TALK ABOUT THAT PERSON AND EVEN BECOME ANGRY WITH GOD.  WHAT ABOUT LYING TO GET APPROVAL OR TO MAKE US FEEL IMPORTANT FOR WHATEVER REASONS?  GOD WOULD THEN COMMUNICATE BY A NUDGING IN OUR SPIRIT THAT THE ABOVE EXAMPLES, GIVEN IN BOTH SITUATIONS, WERE DISPLEASING TO HIM.  GOD WOULD WANT US TO REPENT AND IF WE CONTINUE TO IGNORE THE NUDGING WE COULD BECOME LESS SENSITIVE TO GOD COMMUNICATING TO US THROUGH THE SPIRIT.

NOW IF WE WERE BLESSED TO BE BROUGHT UP IN A POSITIVE HOME WE WOULD BE AFFECTED DIFFERENTLY.  THE FAMILY THAT PRAYED TOGETHER, WENT TO CHURCH, WERE GOOD LISTENERS, LET US EXPRESS OURSELVES, ENCOURAGED US,  WOULD HELP US TO LEARN TO BE MORE OPEN TO OTHERS AND GOD.  I BELIEVE WE WOULD ALSO HAVE A BETTER SELF -IMAGE ENTERING SOCIETY.

A GOOD EXAMPLE OF GOOD COMMUNICATION IN THE BIBLE IS IN GENESIS CHP 3 V:8.  WHERE IT SAYS, “GOD APPROACHED ADAM AND EVE IN THE COOL OF THE EVENING”,  BEFORE HE SPOKE TO THEM.  I FEEL GOD WAITED UNTIL THE COOL OF THE EVENING BECAUSE HE KNEW IT WAS NOT GOOD TO APPROACH THEM AS SOON AS THEY HAD SINNED.  FOR I’M SURE GOD’S HEART WAS BROKEN AND ANGERED OVER THEIR DECISION TO EAT THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT.

NOW WITHOUT SPEAKING ANIMALS ALSO COMMUNICATE TO US.  CATS PURR, RUB AGAINST OUR LEGS, DOGS BARK, FOR FOOD, OR PLAY, AND TAILS GO UP TO EXPRESS WAVES OF HAPPINESS AND CONTENTMENT.  PEOPLE ALSO CAN COMMUNICATE WITHOUT SPEAKING.  LOOK INTO SOMEONES EYES WHICH MIGHT TWINKLE WITH JOY OR SHOW LONELINESS, PAIN, DISCOURAGEMENT OR SORROW.  TENSED SHOULDERS, JAWS OR FROWNS MIGHT SHOW STRESS OR DISAPPROVAL.  HUGS, KISSES, AND  SMILES, ALSO SPEAK TO US BUT IN A POSITIVE WAY.

SO NOW HOW WILL POOR COMMUNICATION I SPOKE OF EARLIER EFFECT OUR COMMUNICATION WITH GOD?  WELL, IF WE WERE REJECTED OR DIDN’T FEEL LOVED WE MIGHT THINK THAT GOD FEELS THE SAME TOWARD US.  IF WE COULD NEVER PLEASE OUR PARENTS, SPOUSE, ETC. WE MIGHT THINK WE ‘RE NOT ABLE TO PLEASE GOD AS HARD AS WE TRY AND FEEL GUILTY.  IF WE WERE NEVER ABLE TO SPEAK OUT HOW WE FELT THEN WE MAY NOT FEEL GOD CARES ENOUGH TO TAKE THE TIME TO LISTEN TO US OR WE MIGHT BE AFRAID TO EXPRESS EXACTLY HOW WE FEEL.  BAD COMMUNICATION COULD ALSO CAUSE US TO GO TO THE OTHER EXTREME.  WE COULD BECOME SO HARD AND BITTER THAT IT COULD MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR OTHERS TO COMMUNICATE WITH US BECAUSE WE ARE ALWAYS ON THE DEFENSE.  NOW IF WE’VE LEARNED NOT TO REALLY LISTEN TO WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING AS THEY SPEAK OUR TENDENCY WILL BE NOT TO TAKE THE TIME TO QUIET OURSELF AND LISTEN TO GOD. WE SHOULD NEVER FORGET THAT GOD LOVES US SO MUCH AND HE DESIRES THAT WE HAVE AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.  HOW WOULD HE KNOW IF OUR LOVE FOR HIM IS GENUINE UNTIL WE DESIRE TO SPEND TIME WITH HIM DAILY?  

NOW COMMUNICATION IS NOTHING NEW.  THE MCDONALD’S GOLDEN ARCHES POINTS US TO DINNER, GEESE FLYING SOUTH TELLS US WINTER IS APPROACHING, FLASHING NEON LIGHTS TELL US WHAT TO BUY OR EAT. TAKE A MARKETING FIRM.  THEY HAVE GREAT COMMUNICATION SKILLS WITH US WITHOUT US EVEN KNOWING IT.  THEY PROGRAM US WITH ADS, AND T.V. COMMERICALS, MANUFACTURING PRODUCTS USING COLOR AND POSITIONING ON SHELVES TO ATTRACT US TO BUY. THEY EVEN PUT MILK AND EGGS AT THE BACK OF THE STORE TO MAKES US WALK THROUGH THE STORE.  WHETHER IT’S FOOD, CLOTHINGS, OR MEDICINES THEY ARE COMMUNICATING THAT WE NEED THEIR PRODUCTS AND SHOULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT THEM.  THEY HAVE SPENT TIME STUDYING OUR BEHAVIOR SO THEY CAN COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY TO US.  WE NEED TO ALSO DO THE SAME AND STUDY THE PEOPLE GOD HAS PLACED IN OUR PATH.  THIS WAY IT WILL HELP US TO BE OPEN TO THE SPIRITS LEADING AND COMMUNICATE TO THEM THE LOVE OF CHRIST AS THE LORD LEADS.

BUT, GOD’S COMMUNICATION IS BETTER THEN A MARKETING FIRM.  HE HAS PLACED SO MANY SIGNS AROUND US TO COMMUNICATE HIS LOVE AND MAKE US THINK OF HIM.  JUST LOOK AT A RAINBOW AND WHAT DO YOU THINK OF?  WHAT ABOUT THE BEAUTY AND SMELL OF FLOWERS, TREES DURING THE FOUR SEASONS, SOOTHING SOUNDS OF OCEAN WAVES CRASHING UPON THE SHORE, MAJESTIC MOUNTAINS, SINGING BIRDS, TWINKLING STARS, THE GLOW OF A FULL MOON, BEAUTIFUL, CLOUDS AND THOSE BREATHTAKING SUNSETS?  THE LIST GOES ON AND ON.  OTHER WAYS HE COMMUNICATES TO US IS THROUGH HIS WORD, OUR FEELINGS AND CIRCUMSTANCES.  THIS IS WHY IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO READ THE BIBLE SO WE WILL KNOW HIM AND HIS WILL.   HE ALSO SPEAKS TO US THROUGH BOOKS, MUSIC, CHURCH, AND JOURNALING.  IF WE WANT TO HEAR GOD COMMUNICATE TO US THEN WE HAVE TO MAKE TIME TO HEAR HIM AND SLOW DOWN.  ELIJAH HEARD GOD IN THE WHISPERS.  WE MIGHT THINK HOW ARE WE ABLE TO DO THIS WITH OUR BUSY SCHEDULES AND BEING DISTRACTED, IN SO MANY WAYS, THROUGHOUT OUR DAY.  WE MUST MAKE UP OUR MIND THAT WE WILL SET ASIDE SOME TIME EACH DAY AND FIND A QUIET PLACE.   WE SHOULD SHUT OFF ANY PHONES, RADIO, T. V.  AND MAKE SURE PETS OR KIDS ARE TAKEN CARE OF AND ANYTHING ELSE THAT WOULD INTERRUPT OUR QUIET TIME.  WHEN GETTING QUIET BEFORE THE LORD LET THE RACING THOUGHTS IN OUR MIND DO THERE THING BECAUSE OUR MIND WILL EVENTUALLY QUIET DOWN.  AS WE’RE MORE DETERMINED TO COMMUNICATE WITH GOD THE EASIER IT WILL BECOME TO HEAR THE HOLY SPIRIT.  MAKE SURE WE WAIT TO HEAR FROM GOD.  HOW DO WE FEEL WHEN SOMEONE DOESN’T WAIT TO LISTEN TO US?  IMAGINE HOW GOD FEELS.  BE WILLING TO LEARN TO BE A GOOD LISTENER.  IT WILL BECOME EASIER TO COMMUNICATE GODS LOVE TO OTHERS ONCE WE OURSELVES EXPERIENCE GODS LOVE.  GOD’S WORD SAYS IN PS 46: V10 “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD”.  STILLNESS IS VERY IMPORTANT WHEN COMMUNICATING WITH GOD.
BEFORE CLOSING I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU SOME WAYS PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE YEARS HAVE COMMUNICATED.  SMOKE SIGNALS AND BEATING DRUMS, PONY EXPRESS RACING WITH THE MAIL THROUGH THE BAD LANDS, TELEGRAPH, MORSE CODE, TELEPHONE, RADIO AND MOVIES, RECORDS, 8-TRACKS, CASSETTES, CD’S, DVD’S, I-PODS, COMPUTORS, E-MAIL AND FACEBOOK,  CELL PHONES, TX. MESSAGING, TWITTER,  BLACKBERRIES, AND EVEN A  G.P.S. FOR OUR VEHICLES.  ONLY GOD KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUES WILL BRING.  COMMUNICATION MAY KEEP CHANGING BUT THANK GOD, GOD’S WAY OF COMMUNICATING REMAINS THE SAME.  IN HEBREWS CHP 13 V:8 SAYS, “ JESUS IS THE SAME, YESTERDAY, TODAY AND FOREVER”. 

IN CLOSING THERE ARE TWO IMPORTANT COMMUNICATION SKILLS WE SHOULD ALWAYS REMEMBER.  THE FIRST IS IN JAMES CHP 1 V: 19  WHERE IT SAYS, “TO BE QUICK TO LISTEN, SLOW TO SPEAK AND  SLOW TO GET ANGRY”.  AND THE LAST ONE WE MIGHT WANT TO ASK OURSELVES BEFORE WE SPEAK IS, “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO OR SAY,” IN THIS SITUATION OR CONVERSATION?



A student of Dr. Ronda at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Jared Silvey , wrote this paper for a course in Masculine/Feminine in a Christian Perspective, co-taught with Rev. Dennis Kolinski of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. I am including it here because I thought some of the ideas are provocative and because it is a topic in spirituality we haven’t dealt with much yet on spiritualityrunningtogod.com. Here are excerpts:

“This paper provides my thoughts on the topic of femininity as presented in our class.  I will first reflect on my outlook of the feminine as it was before this class, while concurrently examining my experiences with women and the foundations from which my own views of the feminine emerged.  I will finally assess material presented in class and in the book (by Dr. Ronda Chervin) Feminine, Free, & Faithful.  Being a man, my response will be from a male viewpoint.

The phenomenon of the feminine has been of interest to me for many years, emerging from my experience of two counter-models of woman: one in the traditional feminine mold, and the other more or less influenced by the radical feminist movement and/or sexual revolution—let us say those who reject their authentic womanhood.  As for this latter group, we could say that it is roughly divided into two groups, those being the women who abuse their femininity and those who throw it off to become a man.

Those women who abuse their femininity are those who, while retaining their feminine qualities, treat them in a manner out of keeping with virtue, order, and common senses.  Such is the woman who aspires to be “sexy,” and to ensnare all men who pass her by.  Of course, given the environment I have grown up in, this image of woman has surrounded me since my earliest days.  It is found in the women who wear skimpy shorts, skirts, and swimsuits, and in those who wear low-cut shirts and submerse their face in a sea of makeup.  It has spread to the sport stadiums (cheerleading), the dance hall, to writing on the rear end of pants, and even to young girls.  It finds its ultimate expression in the pornographic epidemic which is killing our society. 

The interesting thing about the women in this group is that, though they are feminine, they provide a source of temptation for men, and thus mar the joy and beauty that men should experience from encounter with the feminine.  Men who frequently encounter such women often become either scrupulous or lax. Scrupulosity may result from a fear of anything feminine, given that a man’s encounter with the feminine was often linked with temptations to purity which the woman’s loose dressing brought with her.  Or a man may become lax, choosing to lower his outlook on women and become their plaything.  In either case, such a model of woman is set upon a man’s destruction.

During my early childhood, before I really understood what sexual morality was all about, these women threatened to distort my view of the feminine.  I remember being a tiny child and being fascinated with the swimsuit magazines in the store.  I didn’t know why I was fascinated, being at an early age, but nevertheless such things started to form a view of women in my impressionable mind.  If it weren’t for the Godly, feminine women in my life, this model of women probably would have established itself permanently in my mind, as it has for many men today.

Now for the other negative group, being those women who become overly masculine.  Some of these dress in business suits and are as career-driven as any man.  In some cases, they lose all sense of tenderness, softness, and affection, and become stiff, commanding, and direct.  I remember taking my first driving test with a female officer.  She had short hair, the look of an army general, and a direct, commanding way about her.  I found it somewhat repulsive.  With all due respect to her, she came across as being much more of a man than a woman. 

So, my experience of women has included those influenced more or less by radical feminism and the sexual revolution.  These two groups provided counter-models for me.  But, thank God, there was the other group, who dramatically shaped my belief of what a woman should be.  These are the women who combine embrace of their femininity with virtue.  They stand as a shining light among the darkness of the women I earlier described.  Now I wish to turn to these influences, which have rescued me from the counterfeits presented above.  As I said above, I speak from the point of view of a man, which is important given that men have in them a God-given attraction to the feminine “other,” and are thus in a unique position to offer insight into what it means to be feminine.
My mother can be credited with planting the seed of my later outlook on the feminine.  She is a devout Catholic, wife, and mother.  Early on she gave up plans for a career to be a fulltime stay-at-home mom.  Later on, she made the decision to home school her five children.  My experience of her maternal warmth and presence was key to my human growth and spiritual development.  From her, I came to know the feminine qualities of maternal love, tenderness, care, gentleness, and devotion to the home and the family.  This instilled in me a sense of security and trust, which were key to my masculine development.
Another important turning point was when my mother and sisters started wearing dresses and skirts most of the time.  Before that, they always wore pants.  Now, I am not asserting that women can never wear pants and be feminine, but there is something uniquely feminine about modest dresses and skirts.  This change in my mother and sisters’ attire affected a profound psychological change in how I perceived them.  Their God-given femininity came out to a greater degree than it had before.
Having attended the Latin Mass for some years now, I have also been influenced by many of the women and girls I find there attending.  Many devotees of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite are sincere Catholics who take seriously their obligation to follow their faith.  For many of the women and girls, this includes a movement toward dressing in a modest, feminine manner as a way to provide a fertile ground for chastity.  Many of the women and girls I know who attend the Latin Mass go to great lengths to dress in a woman-worthy manner.  Many wear long skirts and dresses which are both attractive and modest.  To me this is a great representation of woman, because it captures the feminine in a way that skimpy skirts and masculine pants don’t.  It both covers the mystery and sacredness of the feminine body, but at the same time reveals the feminine attributes of beauty and grace.  As I said before, this has a profound effect on the masculine mind.  It is at once attractive—because it is distinctively feminine—yet it also demands respect, because it covers the sacred.  In the end it leads a man to a sense of reverent joy as he considers God’s creation of woman as his other self.

Because of the influence of these women, I have come to believe strongly in women being women in the Image of God.  Such entails dressing and acting in a distinctly feminine way, yet also preserving the integrity and sacredness of the feminine body and spirit.

I will now move on to give my assessment of the material we have covered in class and in our readings.  In our first couple of classes, we discussed masculine and feminine traits.  To me these are both a mystery and yet a distinct reality.  Mystery, because many of the “typical traits” of one sex should be present to a degree in the other sex, yet it also seems legitimate to label them either masculine or feminine, as each set seems to particularly correspond to the nature of its respective sex.
The traits we designated in class as feminine embody in a profound way the mystery of woman.  Of the list we had in class, I would choose affectionate, caring, delicate, faithful, gentle, intuitive, nurturing, pure, soft, sweet and warm as positive traits that particularly strike me as feminine.  We can see in these traits an ordering of woman both as a complementary partner to man, as well to motherhood—either physical or spiritual. 

As mentioned in the book, there is a connection between feminine traits and the woman’s body.  One could say that the female body “embodies” these traits, or that the traits are an expression of the feminine construct on the spiritual level.  Of course, given the profound union that exists between the human body and soul, it is no surprise that there would be such a “mirroring” of biological and spiritual traits.  Man, as we know, is a unity, and many aspects of him have both a corporeal and a spiritual presence.  The book links a woman’s softer skin with maternity (pg. 25).  I would extend that to say that the skin also embodies the traits of softness and delicacy we had in our list.

Thus, to sum up I find that the material presented in class is very much in harmony with my experience.  A woman is a special creation, and she should cherish the gift of her unique femininity.  Men likewise should listen to Nature, which moves them to a respect and defense of the feminine.  It is time to recapture the idea of Woman in the Image of God, an image which has been caricatured by the “sexy model” woman, and turn-upside down by the masculine woman.  I hope that this class will better equip me to carry on this fight, which has repercussions into eternity.

(To get a copy of Feminine, Free and Faithful, go to www.rondachervin.com and click on books for purchase.)

 


 

New: October 15th, 2011

Unemployment Becoming Hope by Djinna Gochis

Chapter V:  Trusting God Amidst Change and Ambiguity

As I began this entry, I was uncertain of how exactly to describe my physical, emotional and spiritual state two months and one week post career. Bear with me.  Maybe some of you are having a similar phase and maybe this will all make some sense. Or be of some help.

As you remember from previous posts, I wrote that my life had heretofore taken a linear path, professionally, lots of education, becoming a lawyer, rising in the ranks until my long time services were no longer wanted. Now, it’s all rather “free form”.  When you have a regular job, you have a routine—get up in the morning, go to work, engage in the organizational mission, get promoted if you can, stay there encountering and solving problems, socialize, go home start all over again the next day.  It’s all more or less pre-set. It almost does not require any thought. The residual of the old me, the linear me, says not only should I be doing something meaningful but whatever that is ought to be fully articulated, regularly scheduled and have a clear outcome of which I am in full control. 
Letting go of this need control my day means trusting God. Whenever a priest has asked in a homily to the congregation whether we trusted God, I have always hesitated. And yet, without that trust, our ability to cooperate in the work of salvation is compromised. It prevents us from saying and acting upon words of assent, “Yes, Lord, I come to do your Will”.  And our failure to trust has us rather bargaining with God about what kinds of task or challenge we will accept from Him, and under what circumstances we’ll accept them.

My uncle had a stroke a couple of weeks ago and was hospitalized. He has a wife and one adult daughter who have been very engaged with him. But, my cousin works and cannot necessarily always be available. I have assisted here and there, pick-ups, visits to the hospital, food shopping. But then he was coming home.  My cousin could not be there on that day or time for the discharge. The natural default was to me. I offered to fill in, though I was admittedly not particularly eager. I will not detail the difficulties my aunt and I encountered and the extended time it took for discharge, getting my uncle home and upstairs in a walk up (we did have the help of a male friend of theirs in that portion of things). I will say that my initial reaction to those difficulties was an old impatience and barely contained irritation at my uncle, the patient, my aunt, who seemed to me to be unnecessarily complicating the situation and the hospital’s need to dot and cross all the bureaucratic I’s and t’s. The lawyer in me wanted to take charge, move everyone along.  I suppose I did a little of that. I made plenty of interior complaint (and I admit to one smart phone e-mail to a friend, which I now regret, complaining that my aunt was talking too much and not listening to the doctor). But when I was sitting quietly in a chair watching my uncle, a once strong man, struggling with his very limbs, it occurred to me that today at least, this WAS what I was supposed to be doing.  I even said to my aunt, that, in a way, my losing my job was Providential to my being available to them that day, that moment in time. This was the task that God set before me.  I realized, despite myself, that this was what it meant for me today to be a disciple of Christ doing good.

I found a note in my car after I left them, from my aunt. It said, “Thank you for all ALL you do and have done.  You are a God send in our regard. New “beginnings” are a challenge as you already know.”

Yep, I know indeed about new beginnings. Now, if I could only do what God sets before me without the irritation and complaint! If I could do that, and it is no small part of the challenge, there might be a chance of holiness. And I bet I’d be more relaxed-- a bonus!

I could be writing these blog entries a very long time while this work progresses!

 

From Dr. Ronda:

“I am assembling excerpts of the Spiritual Classics for an anthology for teaching. When I come upon something I think Spirituality Running to God readers would like I will add it here:

St. Gertrude the Great is one of the most famous Benedictine mystics of the Church. Here is a little about her:

Gertrude the Great (c.1256-1302)
Gertrude was given to a Benedictine monastery at Helfta, Germany when she was 5 years old, as was a custom among some devout Catholic families in those days. It was a monastery influenced by Cistercian spirituality. She was there first as a student and ward but, then, Gertrude joined the order as a young woman, still spending most of her time in studies of Latin and rhetoric.  In 1281, as a young woman she had a spiritual experience which convinced her to spend the rest of her life on religious studies. She became a renowned and loved counselor of other nuns. She became highly influential because of her autobiographical writings, especially because of the way her spirituality is permeated by the liturgy of the hours, and also because of her experience of the Sacred Heart.)

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 22 which illustrates how mystical the liturgy can be! For many years I read such mystical writings and they encouraged me to yearn for more than I had in my somewhat faith is enough way of being a Catholic. When, later on, God graced me with mystical gifts, the knowledge of experiences such as those of St. Gertrude helped me not to think I was just "losing it."

Chapter 22 Revelations of Divine Love

I should be unjust in recalling the gratuitous gifts which I have received from Thy charitable clemency, if I ungratefully passed over what was granted to my unworthiness, by Thy most loving clemency, during a certain Lent. For on the second Sunday, as they sang at Mass before the procession, the response which commences Vidi Dominum facie ad faciem, a marvelous and inestimable coruscation illuminated my soul with the light of Divine revelation, and it appeared to me that my face was pressed to another face, as St. Bernard says "Not a form, but forming; not attracting the bodily eye, but rejoicing the heart; giving freely gifts of love, not merely in appearance but in reality."

In this most enchanting vision, Thine eyes, bright as the solar rays, appeared opposite to mine, and Thou alone knowest how Thou, my dearest Lord, affected not only my soul, but even my body and all my strength. Grant, therefore that as long as I live I may prove myself Thy humble and devoted servant….

When Thou didst display Thy most adorable Face - the source of all blessedness, as I have said, embracing me, unworthy - a light of inestimable sweetness passed through Thy … eyes into mine, passing through my inmost being, operating in all my members with admirable power and sweetness: first it appeared as if the marrow were taken from my bones; then, my flesh and bones appeared annihilated, so much so, that it seemed as if my substance no longer had any consciousness save that Divine Splendor, which shone in so inexplicable and delightful a manner that it was the source of the most inestimable pleasure and joy to my soul.

Oh, what shall I say further of this most sweet vision, if I may so term it? For all the eloquence in the world, if employed daily to persuade me, could never convince me that I should behold Thee more clearly even in glory, O my God, the only salvation of my soul, if Thou hadst not taught me by experience. I will dare say that if anything human or Divine, can exceed the blessedness of Thy embrace in this vision, as I consider, I may truly say that, unless Thy Divine virtue possessed that person, the soul would never remain in the body after a momentary taste of this blessedness.

I render thanks to Thee through the union of mutual love which reigns in the adorable Trinity, for what I have so often experienced, and that Thou hast deigned to favor me with Thy caresses; so that while I sat meditating, or reading the Canonical Hours, or saying the Office of the Dead, Thou hast often, during a single Psalm, embraced my soul many times with a kiss, which far surpasses the most fragrant perfume or the sweetest honey; and I have often observed Thou didst look on me favorably in the condescending caresses Thou didst give to my soul. But though all these things were filled with an extreme sweetness, I declare, nevertheless, that nothing touched me so much as this majestic look of which I have spoken. For this, and for all other favors, whose value Thou alone knowest, mayest Thou rejoice forever in that ineffable sweetness surpassing all comprehension, which the Divine Persons communicate mutually to each other in the bosom of the Divinity! …

 

LOVE DISSECTED by Barbara Vittoria

GOD IS LOVE.  “LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE”.  SO AS A BABY SENT FROM HEAVEN GOD’S LOVE IS IN US.  OUR HEART IS FORMED WITH THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.  BECAUSE OUR HEARTS WERE MADE TO LOVE, RECEIVE LOVE AND GIVE LOVE OUR LIFES CIRCUMSTANCES NOW HAVE A BIG IMPACT ON WHAT OUR HEART WILL HAVE TO ENDURE.

THIS HEART GOD PLACED IN US HAS MANY FACETS.  LIKE A DIAMOND   IT REFLECTS LOVE, BUT ALSO THE PAIN THAT WE’VE EXPERIENCED IN LIFE.  THROUGHOUT OUR LIFE WE CAN’T AVOID BEING HURT, REJECTED, OR ABUSED IN SOME FORM.  WE MAY EVEN COME TO A POINT OF NOT EVEN LOVING OURSELVES.  SO HERE WE HAVE A PERFECT HEART THAT GOD CREATED FULL OF LOVE AND, LITTLE BY LITTLE, OUR CIRCUMSTANCES IN LIFE START CHIPPING AWAY AT IT.  WE CAN EVEN BECOME INDIFFERENT THROUGH THE PAINFUL LOVE WE’VE ENDURED. THIS MAY TEND TO MAKE US WITHDRAW OUR HEAD IN LIKE A TURTLE SO WE WON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH OUR PAIN OR LIKE AN OSTRICH AND BURY OUR HEAD IN THE SAND SO WE WON’T HAVE TO BE HURT OVER AND OVER AGAIN. 

NOW, WHAT HAS REALLY HAPPENED ALONG OUR LIFES JOURNEY TO INJURE OUR HEART?  WHEN GOD LOOKS INTO OUR HEART AND DISSECTS IT HE FINDS THAT HIS PERFECT LOVE HAS BEEN INVADED!  PAIN HAS NOW ENTERED AND IS CHIPPING AWAY AT IT!   WHERE FAITH AND TRUST DWELLED – FEAR AND DOUBT STARTED CREEPING IN.  WHERE THERE WAS LOVE - HATRED SAW HIS OPPORTINITY AND MADE HIS MOVE.  WHERE KINDNESS RESIDED – MEANNESS BECAME AN UNWANTED GUEST AND HIS BROTHER RUDENESS WAS COMFORTABLE ENOUGH TO MOVE RIGHT IN WITH HIM.   THE AREA REJOICING OCCUPIED – JEALEOUSY AND ENVY TOOK UP RESIDENCE AND HUMILITY WAS SLOWLY BEING PUSHED OUT BY PRIDE.  WHERE JUSTICE WAS – INJUSTICE SHOVED HIM ASIDE.  THEN THE TWINS BITTERNESS AND RESENTMENT TOOK AWAY JOY AND PEACE.  THE SCENE IS NOW SET FOR UNFORGIVENESS AND HE COMFORTABLY SETTLES IN AND STARTS TAKING CHUNKS OF OUR HEART.  BUT UNFORGIVENESS IS NEVER SATISFIED AND IS ALWAYS GREEDY WANTING MORE AND MORE OF OUR HEART.  HE THEN BIRTHS STUBBORNESS WHO KEEPS RECORDS OF ALL WRONG DOINGS.  HOPE DOESN’T FEEL LIKE HE HAS A CHANCE SO DISCOURAGEMENT SAW HIS OPENING AND JUST WALKS RIGHT IN.

SO, HOW CAN WE TRULY LOVE WHEN PAIN STARTS CHIPPING AWAY AT US?  WE CANNOT TRULY LOVE UNTIL WE ARE ABLE TO LOVE IN THE PAIN, FOR ONLY IN HEAVEN WILL WE FIND PERFECT LOVE WITHOUT PAIN. CHRIST PERFECT LOVE TO HUMANITY INCLUDED THE PAINFUL LOVE HE SUFFERED FOR US ON THE CROSS.  CAN HIS CHILDREN EVER REACH THIS LEVEL OF LOVE?  YES, BECAUSE HE UNDERSTANDS.  JESUS UNDERSTANDS OUR PAIN BECAUSE HE ALSO WAS AFFECTED BY PEOPLE HE LOVED WHILE ON EARTH.

.  .  HE WAS BETRAYED BY JUDAS, HE WAS DENIED BY PETER, HE WAS REJECTED BY HIS TOWN, RELATIVES AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS, AND HE WAS WRONGLY SPOKEN OF AND MOCKED.  HE WAS LIED ABOUT; HE WAS INNOCENT YET CONDEMNED TO DIE.  HE WAS TORTURED AND EVENTUALLY CRUCIFIED AND WILLINGLY FORGAVE ALL TAKING UPON HIS SHOULDERS THE CROSS WITH OUR SINS AND PAIN.  OH, HE UNDERSTANDS!  THIS IS TRUE LOVE IN PAIN!

BECAUSE OF THE PAIN GOD SUFFERED WHILE ON EARTH HE KNEW OUR PERFECT HEART WOULD COME UNDER ATTACK.  OUR HEAVENLY FATHER WANTS TO HEAL OUR HEART AND REMOVE ALL THOSE INTRUDERS WHO HAVE INVADED IT DURING OUR LIFE.  IT IS NOT GOD’S WILL FOR US TO STAY IN THIS (CONDITION).  GOD WANTS US TO BE AN OVERCOMER BECAUSE JESUS GAVE US THE PERFECT EXAMPLE BY FORGIVING US ON THE CROSS.  SO, FORGIVENESS IS ONE OF THE EVADERS THAT GOD WANTS TO REMOVE.  GOD KNOWS TO GROW IN HIS LOVE, WHICH IS HIS WILL FOR US THAT THIS IS A VERY NECESSARY STEP.  DON’T LET STUBBORNESS, WHO LIKES TO KEEP RECORDS FOR UNFORGIVENESS, BE A STUMBLING BLOCK IN OUR GROWTH TO LOVE.  LOVE IS NOT A GOOD FEELING ALL THE TIME BUT A DECISION.   OUR FEELINGS CAN BECOME VERY FICKLED AS TO WHEN WE WILL LOVE, WHO WE WILL LOVE, AND WHY WE SHOULD EVEN LOVE.  WE MUST TRUST GOD AND LET HIM CHIP AWAY THE PAIN AND DEFECTS THAT AFFECT OUR HEART SO HIS LOVE CAN START SHINING ONCE AGAIN IN US.  GOD SEES ALL THE PAIN INSIDE OUR HEART   JUST LIKE MICHAEL ANGELO SAW DAVID IN A BLOCK OF MARBLE.  GOD WANTS TO BE OUR SCULPTOR AND LIKE MICHAEL ANGELO HE WANTS TO START CHIPPING AWAY AREA’S THAT THE INTRUDERS INVADED.  WE MUST ASK GOD WHAT PIECES OF OUR HEART NEEDS TO BE REPAIRED BECAUSE LIKE THE OSTRICH WE STILL MIGHT HAVE OUR HEAD BURIED AND NOT WANT TO DEAL WITH OUR PAIN.  IF WE ASK, HE WILL LET US KNOW SO HE CAN START EVICTING THE INVADERS.  HE WILL NOT GIVE US A LIST SO LONG THAT WE WILL FEEL OVERWHELMED OR AFRAID.  IT IS NOT GOD’S WILL EITHER FOR US TO RETREAT AND RUN AWAY FROM THE NECESSARY HEALING. THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT GOD SENT HIS SON WHO IS LOVE TO MEND, HEAL AND FILL US ONCE AGAIN WITH HOPE AND LOVE.  WE CAN LOVE LIKE GOD INTENDED IF WE GIVE THE (BROKEN PIECES) OF OUR HEART TO JESUS.

NOW WHEN WE GET A CUT CLEANING IS NECESSARY AND CAN STING BUT IF WE DON’T IT WILL BECOME INFECTED.  AFTER DISINFECTING THE WOUND WE PUT SOME MEDICINE ON IT AND BANDAGE IT SO HEALING CAN BEGIN.  IF WE ONLY PUT A BANDAID ON OUR WOUND WITHOUT   DISINFECTING IT THEN IT WILL BEGIN TO FESTER AND BECOME INFECTED.   THE SAME IS TRUE OF OUR HEARTS.  AS WE SEEK TO RESTORE LOVE AND HEAL THE PAINFUL AREAS IN OUR HEART THE GOD OF MERCY AND LOVE WILL BRING ONE PAINFUL SITUATION AT A TIME TO THE SURFACE.  IT MAY STING AND HURT FOR AWHILE AS HE RELEASES HIS HEALING BALM ON IT.  THIS IS NECESSARY FOR HE DOES NOT WANT IT TO RESIDE AND CONTINUE TO FESTER IN OUR HEART ANY LONGER.  HE WANTS TO HEAL US AND RESTORE HIS PERFECT LOVE ONCE AGAIN IN OUR HEART.  HE IS WAITING AND WANTS TO EVICT THOSE UNWANTED GUEST WHO HAVE TAKEN UP RESIDENCE IN OUR HEART SO DON’T DELAY.  LET’S GIVE OUR HEART CONDITION TO THE BEST PHYSICIAN IN THE WORLD TO PERFORM SURGERY AND REMOVE WHAT IMPERFECTIONS THAT HAVE INVADED OUR PERFECT HEART.  THE SURGEONS NAME IS “JESUS.”  HIS OFFICE IS OPEN 24 HRS. A DAY AND NO APPOINTMENT IS NECESSARY.  ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS ASK AND HE WILL START THE HEALING PROCESS IMMEDIATELY!
IN CLOSING-
I WOULD LIKE TO PLAY A SONG FOR YOU.  PLEASE CLOSE YOUR EYES AND CONCENTRATE ON THE WORDS.  THE SONG IS CALLED, “THE GREAT I AM”  (PLAY SONG)

THE GREAT I AM

I OPENED UP THE BIBLE TO SEE JUST WHAT IT SAID WHEN I WAS HURTING DESPERATELY AND THIS IS WHAT I READ.  HE IS THE GREAT PHYSICIAN WHO KNOWS OUR EVERY NEED WITH JUST A MUSTARD SEED OF FAITH HE SAYS TO JUST BELIEVE.  FOR HE’S THE GREAT I AM THE GOD THAT HEALETH ME WHO OFFERS TOTAL HEALTH IF WE WOULD JUST RECEIVE.  SO OPEN UP YOUR HEARTS, RECEIVE YOUR HEALING NOW, REFUSE TO DWELL IN DOUBT, IN FAITH REACH OUT.

SOMETIME WE GET SO FEARFUL BUT GOD DIDN’T GIVE US FEAR AND SOMETIMES WE FEEL ALL ALONE YET GOD IS ALWAYS NEAR.  SOMETIMES WE HURT SO VERY DEEP THAT OTHERS NEVER KNOW THE STRUGGLE RAGING ON IN US BECAUSE WE CAN’T LET GO.  BUT HE’S THE GREAT I AM THE LORD THAT HEALETH ME WHO OFFERS TOTAL HEALTH IF WE WOULD JUST RECEIVE.  SO OPEN UP YOUR HEART, RECEIVE YOUR HEALING NOW REFUSE TO DWELL IN DOUBT, IN FAITH, REACH OUT.

SO DON’T GIVE UP, THE BATTLES WON, THE ENEMY MUST FLEE BECAUSE IT WAS WON THE VERY DAY CHRIST DIED ON CALVARY.

COME LIFT UP YOUR HANDS IN FAITH AND PRAISE HIS HOLY NAME.  HE IS THE GREAT I AM FOREVER HE’S THE SAME.  YES, HE’S THE GREAT I AM THE GOD THAT HEALETH ME WHO OFFERS TOTAL HEALTH IF WE WOULD JUST RECEIVE. SO OPEN UP YOUR HEARTS RECEIVE YOUR HEALING NOW, REFUSE TO DWELL IN DOUBT, IN FAITH, IN FAITH, IN FAITH, REACH OUT.

 

Adoration: the Greatest Need of Our Time by Michael Meaney, Ph.D.

[Note from Dr. Ronda: If you are not presently a Catholic who comes to Church regularly, you may not know about this marvelous devotion. In most Catholic Churches there is a small chapel set aside with a large monstrance. Inside is a large host we believe to be the Body of Christ since Jesus held up the bread at the Last Supper and said “This is my Body.”  In some Churches there is a designated time outside of the consecration at the Mass, where this Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the monstrance so that people Catholics, or others, can pray in deep silence. In some Catholic Churches this takes place 24 hours a day with that chapel open even when the rest of the Church is closed. You can look on search on the web for the name and place of any Church in your area and check in the on-line bulletin for times of Eucharistic Adoration.]

Since the first reason that we adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the fact that we believe in his real presence, the first thing that we naturally do on coming into his presence in the Blessed Sacrament is express our belief by genuflecting, by our silence, attitude, kneeling, as well as by acts of faith and speaking to him. All our subsequent adoration is based on faith or is an exercise of faith - which is our acceptance of the truths of divine revelation on the authority of God revealing.

Faith is the most fundamental Christian virtue, one of the most emphasized by Jesus to his apostles, whom he repeatedly called "men of little faith." We should put the same emphasis on faith but in fact tend to de-emphasize it in favor of reason and other natural goods.

One of the greatest spiritual authorities in the history of the Church, Fr. Louis Lallemant, SJ, once asked a group of Jesuits preparing for ordination (after almost 12 years of austere religious life) why there are so few canonizable religious. Despite giving up possessions, families and free control over their own lives, despite years of austerity, prayer, sacraments and living in the state of sanctifying grace, most are good and pious but not saints.

His answer was the reason why we are so slow in arriving at perfection,
or never arrive at it at all, is, that in almost everything we are led by nature and human views. We follow but little, if at all, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to whom it belongs to enlighten, direct and animate.

The generality of religious, even of the good and virtuous, follow in the guidance of their own conduct and in the direction of others, only reason and common sense; and in this many of them excel. The rule is a good one, but it is not sufficient in order to arrive at Christian perfection. (1)

Of course both under and over-emphasis on reason are possible: much of our emphasis on reason is fully justified by the fact that a great deal of our growth towards maturity is an educational process in which, through great effort over a long period of time, we grow in reason and intellectual virtues.

In order to achieve a right balance and harmony of faith and reason, we need constant divine help and wisdom, which are especially available to us in adoration.

Over the last-three centuries various forms of secular humanism have denied all reference to God and have brought about an all-pervasive, ever-increasing secularization of culture, education, literature, art and entertainment. This has made overemphasis on reason and natural qualities more common, a right balance of faith and reason harder to achieve, and has made it harder than ever for Christians to rise above human views to a level of faith inspired and enlightened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Often we are unaware of how secularized we have become: recently a woman in southern France answered the question "How is the parish doing?" by saying "We have a new pastor and he's just perfect: intelligent, musically gifted and sociable - gets along well with people." Had she been an American talking about her pastor, she might have said "He's hard-working, reliable, levelheaded, well-organized and helpful in many ways." Both describe admirable persons, good pagans in the best sense of the term, but neither is identified in any way as Christian.

The best way we can de-secularize ourselves so as to grow in supernatural life and faith is adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Adoring Jesus helps us towards a strong, inspired and living faith which not only overcomes our unbelief but corrects our false and weak faith as well. It is a divine remedy for those who cleverly select what they would like to believe, who follow the fashions of the moment or who reduce faith to a means of social progress, material prosperity or personal fulfillment. It is a divine remedy for those who assume that "All faiths are good" and "One faith is as good as another." That is clearly impossible precisely because Jesus is either divine or he is not, and if he is, those churches which deny his divinity are false and treacherous on this all-important truth and its endless consequences.

Since the truths of revelation are great mysteries, they challenge us not only to serious study, but above all to adoration, which is an assent of faith, hope and love, an inspired understanding, heroic trust and sacrificial love through which we share in the wisdom, life and love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Since divine revelation presents Jesus to us above all as our Savior, our faith in him as Savior becomes hope in him our Savior. Hope is confidence and trust that Jesus will save us because of his divine goodness and love, providing we cooperate with him in our own salvation and in the salvation of others. (Mt 25, 31-46) Hope is confidence that God will help us not only to reach heaven, but all along the way as well. God alone gives us hope in otherwise hopeless situations.

The pro-life movement, for example, faces immovable opposition from the Supreme Court, Congress, the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the media, secular humanism, radical feminism, Planned Parenthood and many other powerful organizations and movements. From a purely natural point of view, respect for human life in all its stages can seem to be a hopelessly under-powered, lost cause facing thoroughly immovable objects.

Supernatural hope in God, on the other hand, depends on a loving, omnipotent God who can easily move these and all other immovable objects. Whether he will or not depends on the extent of our cooperation and conversion, hope and faith, appreciation of and confidence in his transcendent goodness, power and love. Our best way of growing in all these virtues is adoring Jesus in-the Blessed Sacrament.

Authentic and vigorous supernatural hope in God is one of the most perfect as well as most desperately needed virtues of our time. Just as our natural growth towards maturity involves a long, effort-filled growth in reason, it also involves a similar growth from the total dependence of infancy towards the relative independence and self-reliance of maturity. .Hence a good deal of emphasis on self-confidence, self-reliance and hope in ourselves is fully justified. But by leading us entirely away from hope in God towards complete confidence in our own powers of creating heaven on earth, secular humanism powerfully arouses presumptuous hope in ourselves - which turns into despair beneath the debris of ideologies, utopias and fantasies in ruins. Our best way of avoiding false hope as well as the despair generated by it is to live inspired faith and true hope in God through adoring Jesus, our one true Savior.

If faith and hope are essential to Christian understanding, life and prayer, the love of God inspiring divine wisdom and love of others is their perfection. All too easily, however, we tend to understand "the love of God" first and foremost as our own love for God rather than his love for us. We realize how imperfect we are, don't feel very important or lovable and find it hard to believe that an infinite and transcendent God really and personally loves us. One of the reasons God the Son became man in Jesus was to show us through his life and teaching, his passion and death, how much God loves us. Because of his creative and transforming love, we are lovable.

To one of his mystics in France in the middle of the 20th century, Jesus said "Each soul is my favorite." (2) Mystics and saints with the greatest experience of being loved by God insist the most on the fact that God's love for us is the beginning, perfection and end of our lives, the most touching and moving, the most beautiful and creatively powerful of all truths and goods. His love for us is what we are hungering for most of all, often unknowingly.

What we need most of all in prayer and particularly in adoration is to believe in, appreciate and respond to God's love for us so as to love him in return and love our neighbor as God loves us all. Adoration is one of the favorite ways Jesus uses to help us discover and appreciate how much he loves us. His love and our responding love thoroughly transform our prayer and our lives: with their associated virtues and gifts, they unite us with God and each other, and lead us all towards definitive union with him, or heaven. They also keep us from separating ourselves from God and each other through indifference, rejection or even hatred - which lead toward definitive separation from him, or hell.

If being loved by God, together with loving him and neighbor in return, is our greatest need, best treasure and highest perfection, alternative forms of love, to the extent they contradict that love, are the worst of evils: "corruptio optimi, pessima." Divine love thus protects us from romantic and erotic loves as well as from following 20th century ideologies towards the pursuit of wealth, pleasure and power as our greatest goods and final ends.

Coming into the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament naturally brings to mind what he is compared to what we are. Nothing expresses what God is compared to what we are better than adoration. Nothing expresses what we are compared to what he is better than humility. Hence adoration and humility are two of the most essential and fundamental of all the virtues. To the extent that we neglect either or both of them, our Christian life and prayer cannot be fully authentic and pleasing to God. What most encourages us to appreciate and grow in both is adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. For the great limitations of our human knowledge, goodness, love, power and other natural qualities stand in utter, begging contrast to the infinite wisdom, goodness, love, power and other perfections of God. Hence our spiritual lives in general and our adoration in particular could be summed up by "Deep is calling to deep" - "Abyssus abyssum invocat." (Ps 42,7)

Adoration and humility are also among the greatest of all the virtues. The greatest wisdom and goodness, for example, consist in appreciating the really best good as our greatest good and then giving it the response that it deserves. Adoration rightly identifies God as our greatest good and responds with the unique worship that he alone deserves. This greatest wisdom and goodness protects us from the worst stupidity and evil: adoring anything but God as our highest good and final end. For if any other good is greater than God to us, then not only that but everything else in our lives is ultimately disordered and falsified. But if we adore God as our highest good and final end, everything else in our lives falls into place as a good according to the divine plan.

Humility is an essential part of adoration: since Jesus clearly sees us as we really are, we must constantly admit how far we are from being what we ought to be. One example of this is the fact that we often find ourselves praying for real trust and confidence in Jesus. But what more could he have possibly done to win our complete confidence and trust? He walked on water, stilled the storm, healed the incurable, raised the dead to life, preached the Sermon on the Mount, pardoned sinners, gave us everything he could give us, including his wisdom and example, a share in his own divine life through grace, his continuing presence in the Blessed Sacrament and in the Church, his own mother, his passion, death and resurrection, and then sent his Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Our many shortcomings in life and prayer are humbling experiences which lead to our asking Jesus for the help that we need to please him. Our receiving that help depends most of all on humility, which St. Thomas Aquinas calls the greatest of all the virtues in removing obstacles to receiving the graces of God. (3) For God rejects the proud but gives grace to the humble: "You save a people that is humble and humiliate eyes that are haughty." (Ps 18,27; 1 Peter  5,5) To the extent that it removes pride from our lives, humility liberates us from the worst of sins and relates us to God in the best of ways.

Since adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament takes us away from all our other activities and is neither useful nor practical, it challenges our priorities, our system of values. What effectively encourages us to adore, and is in turn greatly developed by adoration, is a true hierarchy of values which prefers divine and spiritual over human and material goods, eternal over temporal realities, persons over things and God over everything. Such a spirit of poverty totally contradicts our contemporary culture's great love and pursuit of wealth, and thus keeps us from becoming contaminated by worldliness and ruined by over-estimation of useful and material things.

Adoring Jesus always involves some and often much sacrifice - even at first. By placing us in the presence of Jesus and reminding us of what he has done for us, adoration challenges us to sacrifice for him in return. This spirit of sacrifice is in fact the condition for our becoming his followers: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mt 16,24) By contradicting our tendency to pursue pleasure as one of the greatest of goods, a spirit of sacrifice helps us avoid some of the most dangerous sins, and helps us overcome some of the most crucially decisive obstacles to our spiritual growth towards sanctity. (4)

Adoring Jesus begins by our regularly giving him our undivided time and attention. As time passes, our attentiveness discovers that he wants to become our Lord and Master, our God in some new way. Our assent becomes a spirit of growing generosity and docility through which we give him possession and control of what we are and have. In exchange, he increasingly enables us to know and believe, live and love with his wisdom, life and love so as to become more and more identified with him. Our generosity and docility multiplied by his divine gifts best dispose us towards receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which perfect all the virtues and powerfully help us become the saints, the other Christs, we are called to be.

Without all these elements involved in adoration, our lives are characterized by nothing more than common sense and natural reason, independence and self-confidence, self-reliance, self-fulfillment, self-satisfaction and self-esteem searching for prosperity, pleasure and power. With supernatural life and adoration, we fully appreciate all authentic natural goods and work hard to acquire many of them, but appreciate, praise and thank God much more for the incomparably greater goods of himself, his graces and his gifts - the greatest of divine treasures. The greatest wisdom we can attain in this life is a share in divine wisdom through faith inspired by the gifts of the greatest need is definitive union with God which comes to us from God through faith greatest perfection is transforming union perfection of being loved by and loving God….

Our first need is to adore: "Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well." (Mt, 6,33) Adoration is therefore the first and greatest need of our time.

Michael T Meaney
3360 San Antonio St
Corpus Christi, Texas 78411

1. The Spiritual Doctrine of Fr. Louis Lallinant, Fourth Principle, Of the Guidance of the Holy Spirit, and Docility Thereto, ch. 2, a. 2, #1; cf. op. cit., Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1955, p. 116.
2. Gabrielle Bossis, He and I, Sherbrooke, PQ, Canada: Editions Paulines, 1969, p. 55. The original Lui et moi was published in 6 volumes by Beauchesne, Paris, beginning in 1948.
3. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q. 30, a 4, & Q. 157, a   
4. He also says "The whole New Law consists of two things: gentleness and humility. Through gentleness, man is rightly related to his  neighbor. (Ps 131,1) Through humility, he is rightly related to himself-  and to God. (Is 66,2) Therefore humility makes man capable of (receiving) God." Super Evancielium S. Matthaei Lectura, Rome: Marietti, 1951, # 970.
5. Cf. "Abnegation", Dictionnaire de Spiritualite Ascetigue et Mystique, a commentary on the self-renunciation of Matthew 16, 24.

 


New: October 30th, 2011

 

Prayer of Dedicated Widows of the Holy Family

God the Father,
I offer you the rest of my time on earth
that I may serve with love
and come to eternal life.
May my husband be blessed
on his journey in eternity
and everyone in my family be saved.

Holy Spirit, be a comfort to all widows,
especially the newly bereaved.
Jesus, my bridegroom, savior of my soul, delight of my heart, help me.
Mary, exalted widow, mother of the Church, my model and intercessor; pray for me.
St. Joseph, protector of Mary and the child Jesus, and helper of widows,
guide me in the trials of daily life.
As a widow may I be a spiritual mother to all I meet today.

All you widow saints, pray for me:

St. Monica, pray for me
St. Paula, pray for me
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for me
Bd. Angela of Foligno, pray for me
St. Elizabeth of Portugal, pray for me
St. Bridget of Sweden, pray for me
St. Rita of Cascia, pray for me
St. Frances of Rome, pray for me
St. Catherine of Genoa, pray for me
St. Jane of Chantal, Francis de Sales pray for me
Bd. Marie of the Incarnation, pray for me
St. Louise de Marillac, pray for me
Bd. Marguerite d’Youville, pray for me
St. Elizabeth Seton, pray for me
Servant of God. Praxedes Fernandez, pray for me.
Ven. Conchita of Mexico, pray for me.
All other widows now in heaven,
pray for me.

 

STATIONS OF THE CROSS FOR WIDOWS - by Ronda Chervin

(from Walk with me, Jesus, Simon Peter Press, 2008)

The First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death

Mary…

Your Son, who was to be judge of all the living and the dead, stood before a Roman judge and received an unjust sentence. Though you knew He was the ‘suffering servant’ prophesied by Isaiah, did you wonder why He had to suffer this humiliation and in this way?

As widows, we sometimes question God’s providence – and His love for us.

Why did that drunk driver who killed my husband survive?
Why did God permit that doctor’s mistake?
Was there anything done – or left undone – that hastened the day or the hour?
Why did my husband have to die instead of me?

Holy Mary, pray for us … now and in the hour we cry for justice.

Jesus: You are the Lord of my life. I know that You permit only those things from which You can bring good. Help me to trust that even the day and the hour of my husband’s death was known to You, and that he is enfolded in Your Sacred Heart now as then.


The Second Station: Jesus Accepts the Cross

Mary …

Many of us spent long hours at the bedside of our husbands, anticipating the separation that would come. Others of us experienced the tragedy of our spouse’s sudden, unexpected death.

Just as nothing you could have said would have persuaded Jesus to evade the cross, we had no choice but to accept what we could not change.

The heaviness of that cross drained us, even as we persevered in hope.

Holy Mary, pray for us, that with each passing day this temporary separation will lead to everlasting joy.

Jesus, You endured all the trials we face, up to and including that final, wooden cross. You are with us every moment, in the pain and up to those final moments of our husband’s earthly life.
Then and now, You want us to rest our weary heads in Your lap so that you can console us … but we are too busy coping to come to You. As we look upon the second station and see You accepting Your cross, let us also see that You were holding us up through the intensity of our pain and loss.


Third Station: Jesus Falls for the First Time

Mary …

You saw your strong, manly son fall under the terrific weight of those beams. As you watched helplessly, waves of weakness filled your own body.

Did those feelings remind you of the grief you felt when Joseph died?

Watch over us, as our own physical strength dwindles slowly. Stay with us after the funeral, when we can hardly rise from our beds.

We, too, have felt those times of weakness that threatened to overtake us. Sometimes they linger still. Watch over us and lend us your strength and help us to move forward in hope.

Jesus, when widows collapse under the strain of early widowhood, You never chide us for failing to take up daily life tasks with our usual efficiency. Instead You remain at our side each day, and hover over our solitary beds, sending invisible graces. May we never doubt Your love for us as You bring new strength to our new state of life.


Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother

Mary …

As I meditate upon this station of the Cross, I am struck by what an unforgettable encounter this must have been between you and your Son. It reminds us that deeper even than shared joy is shared agony!

Pray for us now. Some of us looked into the eyes of our husbands as they left this world. Some had no chance to say goodbye – he died far away or instantaneously, without warning.

Pray for us, your abandoned daughters.

Jesus, You knew Your mother’s heart inside out. Though it comforted You to receive her last touch and glance, it also must have grieved You to be the cause of her pain.
Thank You for the family and friends, priests, and parishioners who stayed with us as we made our way of the cross with our husbands. Even if no one walked with us, You, Jesus, Your mother, our angels and the widow saints were there.

Let us never be so frantic in our widowhood that we push away the love of those who reach out to us.


The Fifth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

Mary …

You wished you could carry that cross for Your Son. You must have sighed in relief to see Simon bearing the weight.

As widows, even after many years, we can feel lonely, overwhelmed, and hopeless, desperately wishing for help.

Holy Mary, pray for your daughters in our hour of need.

Jesus, You are the God-man, yet You let another help when You were unable to keep going. Why, then, should we be too proud to beg? So often a cry brings assistance that does not come to those who hide their weakness.

In the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit promises rewards to those who aid widows. Show us who can help us in our neediness … and, when there really is no one, let us always fall back on You, the Second Bridegroom of widows. Strengthen our backs even as the cross still weighs us down.


Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Mary …

Most likely you knew this valiant disciple, and saw the imprint on your Son’s face on that cloth long after His ascension.

Did you wipe the face of St. Joseph, just as we wiped the brow of our beloved husbands in their final moments? Did the image of your husband’s face remain with you long after? When words can do little, gestures can do much.

All of us treasure the image of our husbands, if not on a cloth, then in photographs. Holy Mary, pray for us as we remember.

Jesus, we hope our husbands asked forgiveness for their sins before their deaths, even if we did not witness this. We believe that they are either in purgatory of heaven. The fully resurrected body will not be theirs – or ours – until the Last Judgment. Yet, as we struggle along without our husbands, we like to imagine their faces looking down on us with compassion and, often, humor.


Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time

Mary …refuge of sinners …

More than any other witness , you understood how the cross of Jesus was part of the Father’s plan of salvation.

As your Son fell again, did you think of us sinners, through the centuries, coming to repentance? In your great distress, did your heart rejoice to see us repenting as we prayed these very stations?

During our long widowhood we have ample time to remember how often we fell from grace, when our own faults and sins hurt our spouses.

Mother Mary, pray for us your daughters, as we look to God for mercy.

Jesus, give us courage to confess the major sins of our married lives in the sacrament of reconciliation. You want us to have peace. Help us to believe that, in eternity, our husbands have repented of their sins against us. They do not judge us harshly now, for the are participating in the compassionate love of Your Sacred Heart for themselves and for us.


Eighth Station: The Women Console Jesus

Mary …

Were the women who braved the jeering crowd to console Jesus on the way of the cross, the same women who surrounded you when Joseph died? Surely they would not have left the mother of Love alone at her hour of need!

When we first became widows, more seasoned widows came forward to comfort and inspire us with their survival skills and their trust in you and in Jesus.

Holy Mary, pray for us with the compassion of your mother’s heart.

Jesus, deep is the consolation you wish to pour into our frazzled and forlorn widowed hearts. You would have us know that we are never, never, never, alone. But we need much grace to stretch ourselves beyond our senses to know You now in an even more intimate spiritual way than before. Only You can settle us down in the peace that comes with Your presence.


Ninth Station: Jesus Falls Again

Mary …

Despite your unique and exalted privileges as Mother of God, you must have felt your status in the world fall when you were no longer “Joseph’s wife” but only a poor widow.

In our times, most of us grieve our new state each time we fill out a form and are forced to check the “widow” box instead of the “married” box. Sometimes our social life falls because we are not part of a couple. Often, our income falls as well.

Mother Mary, pray for us your daughters as we feel our place in the world diminish.

Jesus, throughout Scripture, Your people were exhorted to honor needy widows. Purify the minds of all widows from negative images of widowhood. Show us if You want to provide us with second husbands. In Your new covenant, we are offered a new consecrated state, living to serve Your church. If our new vocation is to have You as our Second Bridegroom, show us how.


Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped

Mary …

Did you keep any of your Son’s things after His death? Perhaps, you even kept some of Joseph’s belongings. We cannot know for certain. What we do know is that Jesus was parted from his clothes by force, an act of violence.

After the death of our husbands, it was a painful process to go through their possessions. As we stripped away those clothes, we felt the memories connected to those clothes slip away as well.

In another sense we feel stripped of everything our husband’s presence meant to us, especially on anniversaries, birthdays, family holidays and religious holy days. Holy Mary, pray for your daughters as we struggle to place all our losses into the hands of God.

Jesus: You wept at the death of Lazarus – and though it is not recorded, no doubt You cried when Joseph died, too. Even so, You also told us not to grieve as unbelievers do. Grief takes many forms; some of these forms are surprising, such as mourning over and article of our husband’s clothing. We beg You to turn each experience of loss into gratitude for the good times.

We hope for that day when our resurrected bodies will be clothed in unimaginable splendor, and we will be reunited with our loved ones. In the meantime, give us grace to be glad to be stripped of what we no longer need, and to help those who have less especially the starving and homeless.


Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Mary …

You had to watch your Son endure one of the worst deaths ever devised. You saw the nails, blood, wounds, and his horrible, agonizing pain. At the crucifixion, you reflected the pain and strain your Son was experiencing. You became a mirror of His crucifixion.

Many widows recall having witnessed the awful, gut-wrenching miseries of a husband’s suffering Like you, Mary, we became mirrors of that suffering. Our faces, previously ore often expressive of light hearted joy, now manifest the heavy sadness of death.

Jesus, through our baptism each of us is incorporated into the pachal mystery. This means that, like You, we will all experience the passion, death and resurrection. Seen in this light, the loss of our husbands writes us to You in a profound way. Your mother shows us how to endure our cross and how to unite it to Yours. Help us to use our suffering and grief as a conduit of redemptive love that can lead others to You. Mary, our Mother, pray for us now and at the hour of death.


Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Mary …

How often the ways of God must have surprised you, from the Annunciation on through all the mysteries of your life. Perhaps as Jesus was being crucified you waited expectantly for another miracle, hoping that somehow the resurrection would occur right then.

But that did not happen. Instead Jesus gave you another unexpected gift: the gift of spiritual motherhood. You were to become mother of His Church, symbolized in the person of John, the beloved apostle.

Jesus, even in the last moments, we prayed for our husband’s healing and health. Even when they died suddenly, without warning, we prayed over their bodies helping that they, like Lazarus, could be raised from the dead. We wanted them to remain with us here on earth.

As we pray for the souls of our husbands, we are reminded that there is still work that You have for us to do. As we mourn, let our tars never blind us to the need for love in the people around us.


Thirteen Station: Jesus is Taken from the Cross
Mary …

Great artists and sculptors have depicted the tender moment when you held the body of Jesus for the last time. Did you also remember holding the body of St. Joseph for the lat time? How often we wish that we could see our husbands again in the flesh, and embrace them in love.

Pray for us, O Holy Mary, that we might offer these longing back to God. Turn our grief into powerful seeds of prayer.

Jesus, You want us to grieve but not to beg for what is not Your will. Instead of physical contact with our husbands, bodies, You want to stretch us to make contact with them through prayer. Please wean us from wanting what is gone and help us to want what we can have in a spiritual way now, and in eternity. Some widows experience the souls of their spouses with them always, and others, rarely, if at all. Help us to trust in the signs of eternal life You choose for each of us as individuals. Many of us have found healing races through groups each of us as individuals. Many of us have found healing graces through groups each of us as individuals. Many of us have found healing graces through groups on bereavement and grief. If we could benefit from such ministries, help us to overcome our desire to hide our pain. Let us not reject what would bring hope.


Fourteen Station: Jesus Is Buried

Mary …

Some who write about you believe that Jesus first appeared to you, his mother privately. We do not know how that was, but we do know that you understand how we feel at the burial of those we love. Even with the numbness that often comes with a death, the farewell at the gravesite is always poignant.

Jesus, You want to increase our faith in life eternal. In the meantime, You teach us to believe in Your mystical body, experienced in its highest form on earth at Holy Mass and in the reception of Holy Communion. Help us to believe that our communion with You at the sacred rites is also a communion with the one to whom we were joined in the sacrament of marriage. You have made saints of some widows, known to us, or hidden from the public eye. What more can we pray for than that, like them, our hearts be free from doubt, bitterness, anxiety and despair and be filled, instead, with the joys You send us (even as we suffer) and with love, love, and LOVE.

 


New: November 15th, 2011

 

Djinna Gochis: Unemployment Becoming Hope - Chapter VII:  The Remainders of a Past Life


We Catholics certainly do not believe in reincarnation, but our single and only life does have its chapters. And, thus, in a sense, what occurred before is like a past life, particularly if the daily routine has changed radically, as has mine.
Today though I was emphatically reminded of the past work life. For one thing, one of the lawyers with whom I worked and who I think would agree I mentored for several years was promoted to my job and will run the department that was my last posting before I was “let go.”  In a way, if it is true that I was one of his guides to the work and he learned from me, a little piece of me remains in my old unit. I like that.  I am happy for him. He worked long and hard to rise to this position of authority and he is not unaware of its fragility.  He has to continue working at least for a few years and he needs challenge, which he will have in his new role.

We met in a group of four for a celebratory lunch. Through one of the group I was handed one small box and a larger one with a small note from another friend and former colleague who has taken over the running of the entire place.  I knew what they were immediately. Had I survived into December as those of you who have been reading these entries know, I would have received public acknowledgment of my 25 year career. In the smaller box was a pin, representing the public service organization for which I had worked. In the larger, the watch (cliché, I know) that I had chosen as my “gift” for the service. These would have been given to me over food, and speeches. I had been looking forward to it as it would have represented evidence of my long effort amid my peers.  These two boxes, and a certificate in writing, acknowledging the lifetime that was my career, would have been handed to me with all respect and polite applause.  They would have been engraved too, with some reference to the organization which I served.

I received them without engraving, and without ceremony, in those two boxes, though from friends left behind to toil in the still roiling field that is an organization always in crisis. My entire career reduced to these boxes. Lord, you know the humility which I need to advance in holiness.

I was pleased that there was only a slight and passing anger. All that prayer to the Lord to take it away, along with resentment and fear, He must have heard as I am not capable of relinquishing them myself.

I put on the watch for a while. But once home I took it off. I have a feeling it will go to the back of the jewelry box where all the others watches go that I do not wear. And the pin.  The meaning they once had has dissipated. It is part of something now behind a closing door.  Anticipating what would be my career’s fate on July 6, I had written a note to my staff thanking them for the good fortune of working with them. One of them e mailed it to me a few weeks later. So I have it. I bought a new calendar for 2012. In recognition of passing through one door to another not quite yet open, I pasted my note into the front cover. Its last words will serve as a reminder to me going forward.

“I am sad, but I am also hopeful that God has plans for me.  I have always noticed, looking back, that things worked out as they should.  You will all be in my heart and prayers, always.”

I think I will attach the pin to that space as well. What I was then is gone. What I will become remains to be seen, and hopefully in conformance with God’s Will.  Pray for me.

 

Hit and Miss, by Khoi Do

Khoi is a Korean seminarian at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. This is an excerpt from his web www.lovehopeculture.com. It has a surprising image at the end that Ronda especially found fresh.

St. John Damascene teaches us that: “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” (CCC, a 2559) Prayer is the search for God. But it is God who seeks us out first; otherwise, we don’t know how and where to search for Him. Our end in prayer is the goodness of God and is God himself. …

Today, we will speak of prayer in reference to one particular biblical verse:  “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Mt 6,21)

Prayer is like the art of the hunter who is determined to reach his object aiming for a target to be hit. In the end of the day, whether he walks away with joy or disappointment depends on whether he harvests anything out of his game. ..

If the hunter is paid just to carry a bow and arrow,  then it doesn’t matter if the target is hit or not, for his end is secured which is his salary—no further goal for what he does, much less passion. He might deploy arrows in an empty void without the determination to hit a target…

To expound further, two important words that need to be explored further in their relation to this biblical text, “treasure” and “heart.” Most of the time we have a treasure chest in which to put our most valuable things like precious stones or money. It is meant to be hidden from the sight of others so that we feel safe when we are leave our homes.

In a different case, if a mother has to leave home a few days to run her business, she would worry when she has her little child in the care of a babysitter. She would worry if her child is having enough sleep or eating properly. So the “treasure” here could be anything that we value the most, money, diamonds, or our loved one. Our heart is set on them in the way that we would keep them untouched and unharmed as much as possible.

From these examples, we would have to ask ourselves: what is the most valuable thing in our life? Theoretically, we would say, eternal happiness, which is union with God. The answer is valid and true. Another question arise is how to search for it so that after finding it we will keep it save and fix our hearts on it always as the archer fixes his eyes on the target, not letting it go?

In the nature of our prayer we get an answer to this question. We need to find out whether we set our hearts on God properly in prayer, for this would answer whether our prayer to God is effective and our union in God occurred.

Very often, we come to prayer to request something from God. But this is not what we want to focus on here. Our attention here is on the fruitfulness in prayer over a long time, the joy that we could have attained after strenuously overcoming obstacles: the weakness of senses, the faults of passion, and the errors of our minds.

In certain times of our life, we would have experienced  peacefulness and restfulness in prayer. But this experience, as we reflect, has not been consistent. We often times discover that we have more struggle in prayer than peace. We are confused because of this inconsistency. Why would it not have been what it was? Why were we full and now we thirst, we hit and now we miss?

We have to remember that our fervent prayer has something to do with our passion with a determination and with a fixed goal that is God and only Him. That is so because we are able to single out one target from many choices. That would make a great harvest. If we place God first, we are to deny all other things. And this is a great sacrifice. It is a charity to God. And this will ignite our passion driving towards its object in its determination. The heart moves itself to God by denying other things, the things that would have been our greater concern but now are not.

With this passion for God, in prayer, we become transparent to all suffering and worriedness. It is like all suffering and heaviness pass through us by the front end and disappear by the back end of our heart. For by our determination in casting away worldly concerns, we open the back door to them and the front door for God. Our heart now has space for God and becomes the channel of His grace.


 


New: November 28th, 2011

 

Djinna Gochis: More on her Unemployment Saga

It is now four months, and change, since my career as an ethics prosecutor was ended. I could practice law again, and I will keep my license active, I think, but for me, being a lawyer was synonomous with where I chose to hang my vocational hat for 25 years.  I had, and continue to have a prosecutor's disposition.  I saw private practice when I was young. It is worse now. I would not go back to that whirlwind (where the wise old timers tell you that you have to stretch your ethics to survive in the average practice) for a million dollars or whatever is equivalent value for the one percenters in today's economy!

It sometimes seems that what I considered my mission in life, as it were, attempting to hold the line on ethics (which I have often likened to Sisyphus and the boulder that rolls on him for eternity) was important only to me and it is done.

The enforced turn of events has left me plenty of time to consider the nature of success and its extrinsic and intrinsic measures. On Maslow's scale of the hierarchy of needs, there are five levels. The first is physiological, food, shelter, and the like. The second is safety, of body, resources, like employment, health. The third is family, friendship, the intimacy stuff. The fourth is esteem, achievement, confidence, respect of others, respect by others and last, that pinnacle, self-actualization, acceptance of the reality, morality, solving the problems before you, creating. I guess some of the measures of success and our needs have common ground at least from a psychological and societal point of view. I have a number of these needs met, and I am grateful for it. Achievement?  I am not sure.  I certainly self-actualized there. I came across the country. I passed my second bar, while working full time as a secretary with no time off to study.  I found my niche. I moved up in the ranks and managed large numbers of people. I taught. I studied psychology at night for a number of years. I even interned as a supervised therapist on nights and weekends for a couple of years. You know that old saw, does a falling tree make a noise if there is no one to hear it?  If it is about the doing, and the accomplishing, then I do not need anyone to say, "yes, you did good." Back to the old intrinsic motivation. But extrinsically, well, let's just say, of late, I've taken a hit or two, and it would appear that investing in that 25 year career (30 if you count the five years before as lawyer in New York and secretary and lawyer in California), was a bit like buying a "pig in a poke".  Did I get what I bargained for?  As you can imagine, I swing back and forth on this subject.  If this was the right place and right mission for me, then yes, I achieved that mission. If I was looking for public acknowledgment of my efforts, I was a fool.

Believe it or not, this is all preamble for a quote I ran into last night, when I could not sleep. Some of this consideration overlaps into the spiritual realms for me. You know, the why am I here, what was I meant to do bailiwick. I have no idea what the name of the EWTN show was (yes, Catholic Television, 370 for you Directv subscribers), but I find lately in particular that when I am having a debate in my head and heart, God speaks to me in these little encounters (I can't prove it, but I believe it, which I guess is the essence of faith) with the TV and happily also with real people!  Up goes a picture of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, not exactly a slouch in the self-actualizing category, with the statement, "It is not our job to be successful, it is our job to be faithful".

I think it might be said that Mother Teresa sought neither her own self-actualization nor did she seek extrinsically granted esteem. She simply was a faithful Christian.  Naturally, I have been focusing on the wrong things.  From my perspective as a Catholic Christian, I am actually overcomplicating things. It is really simple. And it will be liberating, if I allow it. Success, extrinsically or intrinsically measured, should not be my direction. It probably never should have been, but even the dear sisters of my old grammar and high school talked in terms of worldly success and I was geared to it as well by a very persistent parent, my long late mother.  Nothing wrong with it, but perhaps in time, I let it all overtake me.

The thing about what is truly simple? We don't find it so. I don't find it so. I resist the obvious because it is counterintuitive in the world around me.

Even as I write all this I don't think I have sorted it out. But that quote, that direct piece of purity, that has hit a mark.

Has it advanced me in my search?  Do I need a few more months. Maybe. God willing.



 

 

New: December 15th, 2011


The Storm of War Our Test - by Lorraine VanDenburgh


Those words: “It is I, do not be afraid” so simple and so powerful.  The words of Jesus just
come right to your heart.  He knows how to give you peace.  “It is I, don’t be afraid.”  So
many of us have been in those situations and what brings you in to the presence of the Lord. 
Is it saying a prayer?  Or is it saying words like these from scripture?  Or a lot of you I
know like the verse, “Be still and know I am God” and just say that over and over and over
until you finally get it.  Or is it singing?  For me, it is singing.  If I am so tense, I can’t think
and I can start to sing and immediately the calm just settles in on me.  That is what we are
called to do.  Put ourselves in the presence of God, because we always are.  And when we
receive him in communion today, it will just be another reminder that He has always been
with and He is with us again and will continue to be with us.

Also I was thinking of this storm going on in the middle east and something occurred to me. 
It is very easy to judge the persecutors, of course they are wrong, of course they are not
obeying their God.  How can this be a religious item, neither side believes that kind or
horrendous behavior.  It is medieval, they haven’t grown up.  We don’t do those kinds of
things today.

But then I was reminded when Mary had been appearing in Medjugorje in that section of
the world.  She said, — “Wars can be stopped if you will pray and sacrifice for the sinner.” 
The reason that war is going on is because we are not doing what we are called and made by
God to do.  That is our mission in this world to change the sinner.  And we do not have to go
up to his face.  We can stay right here in our own world, our own comfort, our own
bomb-free Sedona and we can pray for them.  And pray for them as you would a friend, not
an enemy; for God to love them, for God to bless them, for God to give them peace.  We can
ask for their evil plans to be frustrated and confused.  That is permissible.  But you don’t
pray for God to get them.  He doesn’t want to get them.  That is not why Jesus came: “I did
not come to condemn, I came to forgive.”  “I want you to turn around.”  You pray for them
to turn around.  If you are not offering up all your good works today and not offering up all
your sacrifices and you are not making sacrifices, you are not doing enough to end this war. 
That’s your power.

And if you are receiving the thought that my prayers are never answered, you have played
right into the hands of the enemy.  He knows that wars are stopped with prayers and
sacrifices.  And how can he get you from participating in that, by weakening your faith and
weakening your confidence in prayer and in God.  He will have succeeded.  This whole thing
is a test.  A test for us as well as a test for them.

“It is I, do not be afraid.”



 

 

New: December 29th, 2011

 

Prayer for Dedicated Widows, by Dr. Ronda Chervin

God the Father,
I offer you the rest of my time on earth
that I may serve with love
and come to eternal life.
May my husband be blessed
on his journey in eternity
and everyone in my family be saved.

Holy Spirit, be a comfort to all widows,
especially the newly bereaved.
Jesus, my bridegroom, savior of my soul, delight of my heart, help me.
Mary, exalted widow, mother of the Church, my model and intercessor; pray for me.
St. Joseph, protector of Mary and the child Jesus, and helper of widows,
guide me in the trials of daily life.
As a widow may I be a spiritual mother to all I meet today.

All you widow saints, pray for me:

St. Monica, pray for me
St. Paula, pray for me
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for me
Bd. Angela of Foligno, pray for me
St. Elizabeth of Portugal, pray for me
St. Bridget of Sweden, pray for me
St. Rita of Cascia, pray for me
St. Frances of Rome, pray for me
St. Catherine of Genoa, pray for me
St. Jane of Chantal, Francis de Sales pray for me
Bd. Marie of the Incarnation, pray for me
St. Louise de Marillac, pray for me
Bd. Marguerite d’Youville, pray for me
St. Elizabeth Seton, pray for me
Servant of God. Praxedes Fernandez, pray for me.
Ven. Conchita of Mexico, pray for me.
All other widows now in heaven,
pray for me.

 

This sermon by Fr. Douglas Mosey, Rector of Holy Apostles Seminary was delivered on October 2, 2011. Dr. Ronda  found it one of the most motivational I ever heard:

“Brothers and Sisters, IN OUR WESTERN CULTURE THE WOLF HAS APPEARED WITH A VENGEANCE AND HIS NAME IS SATAN!

Between 1965 and 1970 (before most of you were born), the traditional Judaic-Christian moral code of western civilization was shaken to its core. The natural moral law of great philosophers and the 10 commandments given by God Himself to Moses were largely ignored if not summarily dismissed. Christian prayer and religious art were banned from the public square.

This front assault by Satan and the other evil spirits who roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls resulted in a powerful cultural tsunami of relativism, greed and loss of self-restraint, especially with regard to human sexuality and the accumulation of material goods. Too many priests, sisters, seminarians and laity were not immune!
A nursery rhyme: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again!
We, too, in the West, have had a great fall! But unlike Humpty Dumpty, Our King through the power of the Holy Spirit not only can – but is and will – through His Body the Church continue to bring His faithful people back together again!

The new Pentecost, the springtime of the Church, hubs of hope, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, youth, dynamic and faithful young priests and sisters, the culture of life, though proportionally not too large, is alive and well!! You and I are witnesses of this, and all of us are being prepared to serve at just the right time; and you have been assigned to just the right place!

Today is Respect Life Sunday in the United States – marking October as Respect Life Month!

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo on behalf of the USCCB  (US Conference of Catholic Bishops) has issued an import statement … I will refer only to a few key statements…

1. By following Jesus’ new Commandment of unselfish love, our lives can be richly fulfilling, and marked by joy and peace. In contrast, treating others as either means or obstacles to one’s self-serving goals, while never learning to love generously, is an impoverished way to life.

2. We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life.

3. The same forces, aided by advertising and entertainment media, promote a selfish and demeaning view of human sexuality, by extolling the alleged good ofhuman sexuality, by extolling the alleged good of sexual activity without love or commitment.

4. Contraceptives are promoted even to young teens as though they were essential to women’s well-being, and abortion defended as the ‘necessary’ back-up plan when contraceptives fail.

5. The Department of Health and Human Services’ recent decision on the ‘preventive services’… mandates in virtually all private health plans under the new health care law … will include surgical sterilization and all FDA-aproved contraceptive drugs and devices – including the abortifacient drug “Ella,” a close analogue to the abortion pill RU-486.

6. …Catholic institutions providing health care… to the needy could be forced to … stop all health care…

7. John Adams expressed this conviction, stating ‘We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

IT IS IMPORTANT THAT NONE OF US BE SILENT!!  Remember, the one thing that evil needs to triumph is that many good bishops, priests, deacons, sisters, seminarians the laity remain silent!!

Twenty-five of our seminarian brothers are spending an hour praying outside the abortion mill – the place of Calvary in our day – for the conversion of the doctors, nurses, staff, parents, grandparents who have been caught up in the great sin of our time! …

Continue to stay actively involved in this most important battle of your lives. Walk the Walk as well as Talk the Talk!”

(Note from Dr. Ronda: These seminarians go out even when it is 20 below zero to pray in front of abortion clinics.  There are many others ways to help such as hot-lines for organizations that help pregnant women with all kinds of financial, and emotional help to keep their babies or give them for adoption. If you are reading this check the web for pro-life help groups even if you can’t be a public protest prayer presence.)

“It is I, do not be afraid.”



 

New: January 3rd, 2012

 

Mary undoer of knotsNovena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots


(Note: A novena is a prayer said for nine days)

Unfailing Novena To The Virgin Mary Untier of Knots

How this devotion started?

To show us the mission granted to the Virgin Mary by Her Son, an artist Johann Melchior Georg Schmittdner painted Mary Undoer of Knots with great grace. Since 1700, his painting has been venerated in the Church of St. Peter in Perlack, Augsburg, Germany. It was originally inspired by a meditation of Saint Irenaeus (Bishop of Lyon and martyred in 202) based on the parallel made by Saint Paul between Adam and Christ. Saint Irenaeus, in turn, made a comparison between Eve and Mary, saying: “Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it”.


But what are these knots?

There are the problems and struggles we face for which we do not see any solution … knots of discord in your family, lack of understanding between parents and children, disrespect, violence, the knots of deep hurts between husband and wife, the absence of peace and joy at home. There are also the knots of anguish and despair of separated couples, the dissolution of the family, the knots of a drug addict son or daughter, sick or separated from home or God, knots of alcoholism, the practice of abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, solitude…Ah, the knots of our life! How they suffocate the soul, beat us down and betray the heart’s joy and separate us from God.

Day after day, more and more Christians kneel to pray to Her as soon as they meet the Mother of the Fair Love.  Many families have become reconciled! Many diseases have been healed! Many spouses have returned to the Church! Many jobs have been given! Many conversions have taken place! Many Catholics have been on their knees praying and giving thanks for graces received from our sweet Mother. For that reason, Mary Who undoes the knots, Who was chosen by God to crush the evil with Her feet, comes to us to reveal Herself. She comes to provide jobs, good health, to reconcile families, because She wants to undo the knots of our sins which dominate our lives, so that – as sons of the King – we can receive the promises reserved for us from eternity. She comes with promises of victory, peace, blessings and reconciliation.

Then, free from our knots – filled with happiness, we can be a testimony of the Divine Power in this world, like pieces of God’s heart or small bottles of perfume exhaling mercy and love to our neighbor. Like ambassador of Jesus Christ and the Virgin of the fair love, we can rescue those who cry without any consolation, those who are lonely, tied with knots, who have no God, no Father nor Mother.

Mother of the Rising Sun, Immaculate, our Advocate, Helper in moments of affliction, Mother of God and made by Him our Mother, this is how Mary, Undoer of Knots is presented. Above all, She comes as the Queen of Mercy, the one who knows all about us, who has compassion for us and hurries to rescue us, praying for each one of us to Her beloved Jesus.
(source: http://www.maryundoerofknots.com/history.htm)

For more information on this beautiful devotion:
http://www.desatadora.com.ar/titulo-i.htm
http://www.mariequidefaitlesnoeuds.com/GB/index


The Novena has the Cardinal ecclesiastical approval, receiving the "NIHIL OBSTAT and IMPRIMATUR
Imprimatur Paris Archdiocese

Novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots - Day 1

1. Make the sign of the cross

2. Say the Act of Contrition. Ask pardon for your sins and make a firm promise not to commit them again.
Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell. But most of all, because I offended you, oh my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen

3. Say the first 3 decades of the Rosary.  [if you don’t know how to say the rosary check on line. If you don’t have a rosary, just use your fingers.]

4. Make the meditation of the day (to be posted each day)

5. Say the last 2 decades of the rosary

6. Finish with the Prayer to Our Lady the Undoer of Knots


Meditation for Day 1

Dearest Holy Mother, Most Holy Mary, you undo the knots that suffocate your children, extend your merciful hands to me. I entrust to You today this knot....and all the negative consequences that it provokes in my life. I give you this knot that torments me and makes me unhappy and so impedes me from uniting myself to You and Your Son Jesus, my Savior.
I run to You, Mary, Undoer of Knots because I trust you and I know that you never despise a sinning child who comes to ask you for help. I believe that you can undo this knot because Jesus grants you everything. I believe that you want to undo this knot because you are my Mother. I believe that You will do this because you love me with eternal love.

Thank you, Dear Mother.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

The one who seeks grace, finds it in Mary's hands.


PRAYER TO MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS (Closing Prayer)

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot...I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me


Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots - Day 2


1. Make the sign of the cross

2. Say the Act of Contrition. Ask pardon for your sins and make a firm promise not to commit them again.

3. Say the first 3 decades of the Rosary.

4. Make the meditation of the day (to be posted each day)

5. Say the last 2 decades of the rosary

6. Finish with the Prayer to Our Lady the Undoer of Knots


Meditation for Day 2

Mary, Beloved Mother, channel of all grace, I return to You today my heart, recognizing that I am a sinner in need of your help. Many times I lose the graces you grant me because of my sins of egoism, pride, rancor and my lack of generosity and humility. I turn to You today, Mary, Undoer of knots, for You to ask your Son Jesus to grant me a pure, divested, humble and trusting heart. I will live today practicing these virtues and offering you this as a sign of my love for You. I entrust into Your hands this knot (...describe) which keeps me from reflecting the glory of God.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

Mary offered all the moments of her day to God.

PRAYER TO MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS (Closing Prayer)

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot...I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me


Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots - Day 3

1. Make the sign of the cross

2. Say the Act of Contrition. Ask pardon for your sins and make a firm promise not to commit them again.

3. Say the first 3 decades of the Rosary.

4. Make the meditation of the day (to be posted each day)

5. Say the last 2 decades of the rosary

6. Finish with the Prayer to Our Lady the Undoer of Knots


Meditation for Day 3

Meditating Mother, Queen of heaven, in whose hands the treasures of the King are found, turn your merciful eyes upon me today. I entrust into your holy hands this knot in my life...and allthe rancor and resentment it has caused in me. I ask Your forgiveness, God teh Father, for my sin. Help me now to forgive all the persons who consciously or unconsciously provoked this knot. Give me, also, the grace to forgive me for having provoked this knot. Only in this way can You undo it. Before You, dearest Mother, and in the name of Your Son Jesus, my Savior, who has suffered so many offenses, having been granted forgiveness, I now forgive these persons...and myself, forever. Thank you, Mary, Undoer of Knots for undoing the knot of rancor in my heart and the knot which I now present to you. Amen.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

Turn to Mary, you who desire grace.

PRAYER TO MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS (Closing Prayer)

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot...I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me


Novena to Mary Undoer of Knots - Day 4

1. Make the sign of the cross

2. Say the Act of Contrition. Ask pardon for your sins and make a firm promise not to commit them again.

3. Say the first 3 decades of the Rosary.

4. Make the meditation of the day (to be posted each day)

5. Say the last 2 decades of the rosary

6. Finish with the Prayer to Our Lady the Undoer of Knots


Meditation for Day 4

Dearest Holy Mother, you are generous with all who seek you, have mercy on me. I entrust into your hands this knot which robs the peace of my heart, paralyzes my soul and keeps me from going to my Lord and serving Him with my life.
Undo this knot in my love...., O mother, and ask Jesus to heal my paralytic faith which gets down hearted with the stones on the road. Along with you, dearest Mother, may I see these stones as friends. Not murmuring against them anymore but giving endless thanks for them, may I smile trustingly in your power.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

Mary is the Sun and no one is deprived of her warmth.


PRAYER TO MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS (Closing Prayer)

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot...I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me


Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots - Day 5

1. Make the sign of the cross

2. Say the Act of Contrition. Ask pardon for your sins and make a firm promise not to commit them again.

3. Say the first 3 decades of the Rosary.

4. Make the meditation of the day (to be posted each day)

5. Say the last 2 decades of the rosary

6. Finish with the Prayer to Our Lady the Undoer of Knots


Meditation for Day 5

Mother, Undoer of Knots, generous and compassionate, I come to You today to once again entrust this knot...in my life to you and to ask the divine wisdom to undo, under the light of the Holy Spirit, this snarl of problems. No one ever saw you angry; to the contrary, your words were so charged with sweetness that the Holy Spirit was manifested on your lips. Take away from me the bitterness, anger and hatred which this knot has caused me. Give me, o dearest Mother, some of the sweetness and wisdom that is all silently reflected in your heart. And just as you were present at Pentecost, ask Jesus to send me a new presence of the Holy Spirit at this moment in my life. Holy Spirit, come upon me!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

Mary, with God, is powerful.

PRAYER TO MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS (Closing Prayer)


Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot...I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me


Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots - Day 6

1. Make the sign of the cross

2. Say the Act of Contrition. Ask pardon for your sins and make a firm promise not to commit them again.

3. Say the first 3 decades of the Rosary.

4. Make the meditation of the day (to be posted each day)

5. Say the last 2 decades of the rosary

6. Finish with the Prayer to Our Lady the Undoer of Knots



Meditation for Day 6


Queen of Mercy, I entrust to you this knot in my life...and I ask you to give me a heart that is patient until you undo it. Teach me to persevere in the living word of Jesus, in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Confession; stay with me and perpare my heart to celebrate with the angels the grace that will be granted to me. Amen! Alleluia!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

You are beautiful, Mary, and there is no stain of sin in You.


PRAYER TO MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS (Closing Prayer)


Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot...I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me


Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots - Day 7

1. Make the sign of the cross

2. Say the Act of Contrition. Ask pardon for your sins and make a firm promise not to commit them again.

3. Say the first 3 decades of the Rosary.

4. Make the meditation of the day (to be posted each day)

5. Say the last 2 decades of the rosary

6. Finish with the Prayer to Our Lady the Undoer of Knots



Meditation for Day 7


Mother Most Pure, I come to You today to beg you to undo this knot in my life...and free me from the snares of Evil. God has granted you great power over all the demons. I renounce all of them today, every connection I have had with them and I proclaim Jesus as my one and only Lord and Savior. Mary, Undoer of Knots, crush the Evil One's head and destroy the traps he has set for me by this knot. Thank you, dearest Mother. Most Precious Blood of Jesus, free me!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

You are the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of our people.


PRAYER TO MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS (Closing Prayer)


Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot...I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me


Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots - Day 8

1. Make the sign of the cross

2. Say the Act of Contrition. Ask pardon for your sins and make a firm promise not to commit them again.

3. Say the first 3 decades of the Rosary.

4. Make the meditation of the day (to be posted each day)

5. Say the last 2 decades of the rosary

6. Finish with the Prayer to Our Lady the Undoer of Knots


Meditation for Day 8


Virgin Mother of God, overflowing with mercy, have mercy on your child and undo this knot...in my life. I need your visit to my life, like you visited Isabel. Bring me Jesus, bring me the Holy Spirit. Teach me to practice the virtues of courage, joyfulness, humility and faith, and, like Isabel, to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Make me joyfully rest on your bosom, Mary. I consecrate you as my mother, Queen and friend. I give you my heart and everything I have (my home and family, my material and spiritual goods.) I am yours forever. Put your heart in me so that I can do everything Jesus tells me.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

Let us go, therefore, full of trust, to the throne of grace.


PRAYER TO MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS (Closing Prayer)


Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot...I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me


Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots - Day 9

1. Make the sign of the cross

2. Say the Act of Contrition. Ask pardon for your sins and make a firm promise not to commit them again.

3. Say the first 3 decades of the Rosary.

4. Make the meditation of the day (to be posted each day)

5. Say the last 2 decades of the rosary

6. Finish with the Prayer to Our Lady the Undoer of Knots



Meditation for Day 9


Most Holy Mary, our Advocate, Undoer of Knots, I come today to thank you for undoing this knot in my life...You know very well the suffering it has caused me. Thank you for coming, Mother, with your long fingers of mercy to dry the tears in my eyes; you receive me in your arms and make it possible for me to receive once again the divine grace.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, dearest Mother, I thank you for undoing the knots in my life. Wrap me in your mantle of love, keep me under your protection, enlighten me with your peace! Amen.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.


PRAYER TO MARY, UNDOER OF KNOTS (Closing Prayer)


Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot...I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me


“It is I, do not be afraid.”



 

New: January 29th, 2012

 

Concepts of the Unique Self by Dr. Ronda


In 1961 I wrote an M.A. thesis about the nature of selfhood under the direction of Dietrich Von Hildebrand. The topic has fascinated me every since. The following article is the summary of a talk I gave a few times on this subject.

On the experiential level a way to get to the phenomena of the unique self quickly is to consider the first time you fell in love. You might have been attracted to many people who were intelligent, deep, spiritual, funny, whatever. There were, say, 5 people in your set of friends who had those qualities. But you fell in love with only one of them. Why? Because we don’t fell in love just with qualities of personality but with the unique precious self of the beloved.
Another example: take newborn identical twins. They have the same DNA and look very much alike. However, most mothers and fathers instantaneously have a sense of the unique selfhood of each of the twins.

I like the Spanish phrase  "cada cabeza es un mundo.” It means “each head is a world in itself.”
The "I am" of no two people can be identical.

My philosophical definition of selfhood is the unique entity underlying conscious personhood.
Ideas of the human being that preclude real selfhood include total materialism. If such a materialism is true we are no more than skin, bones, cells, with a computer like brain.  The Marxist materialist concept of the human being as a kind of individual resultant of biological and sociological forces hardly leaves room for a significant unique selfhood.

On the other end of the spectrum we have the idea that  the self is only an illusion with the soul being a part of the impersonal divine.

Here are some more promising concepts of the unique self:

-    Biblical: as in Revelations (2:17)  about your mystical “name” on the white stone. Jesus said that each of us is worth more than many sparrows.
-     
The immeasurable value of the individual person presupposes that you are not just one of many coming out of a valuable mold called human nature. This sense of the unique self is exemplified in the first full autobiography by Augustine in so far as it chronicles the workings of God in dialogue with one unique person.

Other provocative concepts of the self:

-    Plotinus: the individual self as a spark of the divine - not too static because fire is
dynamic. Plotinus also writes about an apex or center of the soul, which we might choose
to call the self.

-    Boethius: he defined person as an individual substance of a rational nature. In that
concept person would seem to be considered the equivalent of self.

-    Aquinas: uses the definition of person of Boethius - an individual substance of a rational
nature, but also brings in the concept of the suppositum or foundation underlying the soul
as individuated by the body. In Thomas the soul is individuated by the body. This is
controversial. In so far as in Aquinas the human person is an embodied soul, person
might seem to be a synonym for self but not necessarily. That is tricky because an
embodied soul might not seem to be individual, whereas the self is clearly individual.
Note that for Aquinas the angels and the Trinity are also persons. We don't naturally think of calling angels and God 'selves'. Is that because self is necessarily an embodied person?

-    Duns Scotus: haecceitas - singularity or thisness - much emphasized by the poet Hopkins.
Scotus claimed that we know singulars and we are able to love them as singulars not
simply as examples of a nature. When we love singular humans are we not loving their
selves?

Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” focuses i on the subjectively known thinking self vs. the
self in the world, in communion with other beings. This can evolve into an idea of the self as a sort of isolated interior hermit vs. the person as destined for communion of persons.

Kierkegaard, in Sickness Unto Death, wrote that the self is a relation that relates itself to its own self. To explain this seemingly abstract definition consider the experience of low self-esteem. What is
presupposed in the concept of low self-esteem is that you have the whole existing self, and then a consciousness which is also part of the self and which can view the whole self approvingly or otherwise. Kierkegaard also liked to write about the real self as God's prophecy of what each of us could be if fully responsive to grace.

Less promising but still not entirely false would be the Freudian concept of self as a composite of ego, id and super-ego.

-    Jung: adds to Freud the consideration of self as including in it somehow the collective unconscious.
-    Buber’s concept of self involves the I of the I-Thou as contrasted to the I of the I-it. This distinction suggests that the self needs to be understood  not as an enclosed "lone ranger" entity. The I of the I-Thou also relates to God's Thou. The metaphysical "I" exists for the sake of love, not for its own sake.
-    Von Hildebrand: in describing love as a response to the unique preciousness of the other person, Von H. presupposes that the unique self is of the greatest value. This can be related to the over-population argument for abortion.  If the self is unique there can't be too many.
-    John Paul II: whereas in classical Christian philosophy the human being as made in the image and likeness of God is described in reference to reason and will; in the theological anthropology of John Paul II called personalism, the self exists in relation to others in the metaphysical image of the Trinity as relational. The purpose of the unique self is to give itself to others in sincere acts of love. This leads to a solidarity mirroring the unity of the Trinity.

I will welcome any comments from you on how you think of selfhood in relation to the soul, and the person.


Infinite Regress on Denial? by Dr. Ronda


When my children were little I used to enjoy finding versions for kiddies of philosophical principles. One of these was infinite regress. In formal philosophy this term would be illustrated by how you can’t go back endlessly on causes; you need a First Cause. So an example for kiddies would be something like you can’t go from “I didn’t do my laundry yesterday because I was playing baseball” to “and I didn’t do it the day before because I was watching TV, to I didn’t do it 2 days ago because you didn’t remind me. That could become an infinite regress!”  One of my kids loved finding examples to chide me with in my way of speaking.

Anyhow I have been noticing a kind of infinite regress on denial. Since I am presently in Al-Anon trying to learn how to be a better mother to an alcoholic relative, the word denial is becoming very big in my vocabulary.

Here are some examples – obvious and less obvious:

The alcoholic may be in denial of his/her problem and try to pretend it is just a question of drinking occasionally too much, but “since I’m not a street person, after all, no one should say I am an alcoholic.” I notice that this person seems to have to drink 2 martinis before dinner, half a bottle of wine during dinner, and two after dinner drinks every day and I never want to go to a restaurant at lunch that doesn’t serve alcohol.

A so-called dry alcoholic (one who has been sober for years and never drinks) may have a terrible temper but when challenged, he or she says that having given up alcohol was such an incredible grace that no one should blame me for occasionally flying off the roof in anger. After all, I am certainly right to be angry at all the obnoxious stuff that gets thrown at me.

Now here’s where infinite regress can set in. The alcoholic is in denial, but I, his/her judge am also in denial. As I learn in Al-Anon or Adult Children of Alcoholics, I deny that as a weak, fallible, person I can’t with God-like power, coerce this alcoholic or rage-aholic to change. Why not? Because he or she uses alcohol or rage to assuage deep pain. Only God can heal such pain. How is the rage-aholic dealing with pain?  If you read my book Taming the Lion Within: Five Steps from Anger to Peace, you can learn how, typically, the angry person feels weak because we cannot change unjust stuff in the world or in our immediate family, work, or Church life. But when we rage against these bad things, we feel superior, fierce lions, and this assuages the feeling of having to be a weak lamb.

Personally, I now move into a further denial regress. I am a Catholic leader. All Christians are called to holiness but it is particularly bad if the leaders are full of obvious sins, vices, defects and flaws. But angry self-righteous judgment of other sinners is, according to Dietrich Von Hildebrand, just as sinful as their sins. So, if God seems to want me to be a Catholic leader, I have to be especially careful to ALWAYS show forgiving compassion to those with other sins vs. writing others off as horrible people I need to excoriate in conversation or whom I can shun.

That doesn’t mean that I have to pretend others have no sins or faults, or make them my best friends, but I am in denial if I pretend I can be a Christian yet consider myself “holier than thou.”   Of course these others are watching me and wondering how can such an angry person consider herself to be a Catholic leader!

Kierkegaard wrote that “the sins of others should cause me to weep rather than to gossip.”  Another way of understanding it would be that I need to empathize with the pain in the sinner. The pain doesn’t cause sinful solutions or excuse those solutions but understanding the pain helps us forgive.
Here is a lighter example of regress of denial: A friend of mine was a pack-rat. His apartment was so full of clutter that there is only a tiny path to the bathroom with junk in the bathtub and on the toilet seat that has to be removed to make use of this facility. I figured, this man is just lazy. His denial excuse of his lack of simplicity of life in hoarding is that his life is so painful he needs to do pleasant things in his free time after work. I used to give him good advice on how to eliminate this problem. One hour a day throw useless stuff out. Get a dump-truck to come and pay someone to throw it out. I was in denial in that I think that rational advice is enough to change people. One day I found out that this man’s  parents had been killed in a concentration camp, probably by incineration, so he had a great difficulty walking over to the incinerator on the floor of his apartment house. Greater empathy didn’t make me think his life-style was okay, but it cut the harsh judgment.

A theologian psycho-therapist, Gerald May, points out in his excellent book, Addiction and Grace, only God’s grace can break through these patterns. Reading the truth about our faults, sins, and addictions can get us out of denial, but then we must beg God to heal us of these patterns. That is why 12 Step programs are so helpful. They help addicts to admit to being out of control and to turn to God who alone can heal them. In Catholic terms, for example, sitting for an hour a day in adoration prayer can open us to experience God's love permeating the areas in childhood where we felt rejected or not the favorite child, or abused physically or verbally.

In the case of Al-Anon for relatives of alcoholics or Adult Children of Alcoholics, the addiction that is in play is the addiction to trying to control others – not just drinking alcoholics, but anyone whose behavior is bad or destructive or unjust. We have to learn, with God’s grace, how to love the wrong-do-er, how to have compassion, and how to forgive the impact that wrong-doing has on us as victims of it. We have to come to the humility to see that, often,  we are the cause of our own unhappiness, as in living as a perpetual harsh judge is toxic and spoils the joy I could experience by loving all the good gifts God sends me – one day at a time.

Incidentally if you are one who is neither an addict or related to an addict, there is a 12 Step program called Emotions Anonymous, that helps people out of denial of the types of bad attitudes described above. Of course all these programs are by donation and even can be enjoyed on phone meetings or on-line meetings.

I am making great progress from Al-Anon. Praise the Lord.


A MORNING PRAYER


Inspired by 1 Corinthians 13

Prayer by Patricia Looper, a retired Methodist Minister and Writer

Today, Dear Lord, help me to endure whatever might come.  Help me to be patient, and kind, and keep me from being rude or selfish.  Dear God, do not allow me to be boastful, conceited, or resentful.  Please prevent me from feeling jealous or from taking pleasure in the sins of others.  My Lord, I do not want to be one who takes offense, rather I would wish to be one who is always ready to forgive.

I pray that You will find me to be a person who delights in the truth; one who always trusts and always hopes.

Lastly, Father, I ask that You give to me that greatest and most wonderful gift of all, the ability to love: to think, to feel and to give love.  For all of this, I thank You, Dear Lord, today and everyday. Amen.



 

New: February 16th, 2012

 

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry (excerpt, Jubilate Agno)

For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord's poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.


(This is from the web-site Catholics for Israel)
Why the need for an apostolate of Catholics for Israel?
What are some of the current challenges and problems in the Church and in the world that Catholics for Israel hopes to address?
Historical Background: Israel and the Messiah
The story of the Bible is primarily the story of a people: the people of Israel. Truly astonishing is the fact that this people, now better known as the Jewish people, survives to our own day, after journeying through most of its nearly 4,000 year-old history either under foreign domination or in exile from its homeland.

We read in the book of Genesis about the stories of Israel's founding fathers in the land of Canaan and about how God gave to them and their offspring this land as an everlasting possession (Gen 13:14-17, 17:7-8, 26:3, 35:12). In the opening chapters of the book of Exodus, we witness them becoming a great nation while laboring under Egyptian slavery, followed by God miraculously delivering them and adopting them as a nation set apart for Him by means of a solemn covenant and by the giving of the Torah. Some forty years later, we witness God leading His people back to the land of Canaan in accordance to His promises to the patriarchs. From there, over the course of several centuries, they slowly rise from a group of disorganized clans into a powerful but short-lived kingdom under David and Solomon, only to then suffer division, decline, destruction and exile to Babylon. The return to Zion after seventy years and reestablishment of Jewish religious life in the homeland is again portrayed in the Bible as a witness to divine faithfulness, while at the same time preparing the scene for Israel's ultimate raison d'être: the coming of the Messiah, the One who was to bring God's light and salvation to the ends of the earth and through whom all nations would come to know the God of Israel.

The Eternal Word and Son of God became flesh - and He was a Jew: Son of Abraham, Son of Israel, and Son of David. Initially, Jesus' mission was almost entirely directed to His own people, the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," in great respect and complete continuity with the Judaism of His day, and with the explicit declaration that he had not come to abolish the Law and prophets but rather come to fulfill them (Mat 5:17). It was only after Jesus' sacrificial death, resurrection and ascension that it became clear to His followers that He had not only come for the Jews but also for the Gentiles (Acts 10), who through the Messiah were now invited to be "grafted in" the olive tree of Israel (Rom 11:19-24) and to partake of the universal salvation which God had promised long ago through the prophets.
Jews and Gentiles Reconciled in the Church?

The Epistle to the Ephesians describes a kind of theological blueprint of what the Messiah was to accomplish between Jews and Gentiles: whereas previously the Jews were effectively isolated from the rest of the nations due to their special consecration to God, now the Messiah, "our peace" had come to "make both one, and broken down the middle wall of separation... so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God... thereby putting to death the enmity" so that we may "both have access by one Spirit to the Father" (Eph 2:14-18). The picture portrayed here is idyllic: Jews and Gentiles finally reconciled, both united in the Messiah of Israel in common worship of God the Father, each one retaining their distinct calling, yet no longer in a state of enmity with one another.

How was this fraternal coexistence between Jews and Gentiles within the Church to work? The original Church was entirely Jewish. As Gentiles began to stream into the Church, Jewish-Christians inevitably raised the question: should Gentiles be circumcised, and should they keep the Torah of Moses in order to be saved (Acts 15:1-5)? The apostles and leaders of the Church in Jerusalem answered a categorical no: Gentiles, like Jews, were justified and saved by faith in Christ and not through observance of the Law (Acts 15:6-11, Gal 2:16,21); they were therefore under no obligation to be circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15:18-21). This was in fact strongly discouraged: The apostle Paul forcefully exhorted the Gentile Christians in Galatia who were tempted to be circumcised: "if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing" (Gal 5:2).

On the other hand, Jewish Christians did not cease to be Jews. It would never have crossed the mind of the apostles and of the early Jewish-Christians that by accepting Christ they were forsaking Judaism and their observance of the Torah and joining a new religion. Paul, while travelling in Greece, had his co-worker Timothy, son of a Jewish mother and Greek father, circumcised (Acts 16:3). And upon his return to Jerusalem, Paul was greeted by James and the elders who enthusiastically informed him that "many myriads of Jews... have believed, and they are all zealous for the law" (Acts 21:20). However, rumors were spreading that Paul was teaching Jews "to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs" (21:21). He therefore agreed to take a vow in the Temple to prove these rumors false and to show that he also still lived in full accordance with the law (21:24).

We thus see in the New Testament how the union of Jew and Gentile within the Messiah's Church did not blur the distinct identity of each group. True, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28), yet just as the distinct identity and role of man and woman were not abolished with the coming of Christ, the same can be said regarding the distinct role and identity of Jew and Gentile within the Church.

Jewish-Christian Relations
There is only one problem with this idyllic portrait of Jew and Gentile reconciled in the Church, united in faith yet maintaining their distinct vocations: it never happened - or at least not in practice. Although the union of Jew and Gentile in the common worship of the God of Israel is theologically fulfilled in Christ and has been seen on a small scale at numerous times since the birth of Christianity to our own day, we have not yet seen the kind of large-scale reconciliation which Paul described to the Ephesians. Quite on the contrary, Judaism and Christianity soon became two separate religions, divorced from one another and often in a state of hostility and enmity with one another.

How did this happen? The problem began when the Jewish leaders and a majority of Jews rejected their own Messiah and began to persecute the nascent Church. This created a split within Judaism itself by the turn of the second century, when those Jews who accepted Jesus were expelled from the Synagogues and were no longer accepted among the Jewish fold. At the same time, with the large-scale influx of pagan converts into the Church, Jewish Christians became a minority and within a few centuries nearly disappeared. The Church founded by the Jewish Messiah which had been intended to be the fulfillment of Judaism became predominantly composed of Gentiles, many of whom had little or no appreciation for the people from whom Christ had come.

The Church fathers, almost all of them from pagan backgrounds and spurred by the Jews' rejection of Jesus and persecution of the early Church, soon began a theological and polemical offensive against Judaism as they set out to establish the theological foundations of the Christian faith. Since a majority of Jews had rejected Jesus, Judaism could no longer be regarded as the mother faith but rather was seen as a rival religion. Delegitimizing the validity of post-Christic Judaism thus became an integral part of arguing for the truth of Christianity. This was accomplished by emphasizing several recurring themes:

• The Jews have rejected their own Messiah, the Son of God. They are "Christ-killers," guilty of deicide - of having murdered God.
• Because the Jews have rejected Christ, God has revoked His election of Israel and chosen instead the Church to be the "new and true Israel." This idea later became known as "supersessionism" or "replacement theology."
• God's rejection of the Jews was visibly manifest through the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and their subsequent dispersion throughout the world. By rejecting Christ, the Jews had forsaken their God-given inheritance of the land of Israel, and they were from then on condemned to perpetually wander across the world as a sign of their unbelief.
• Jewish law, worship, tradition, and scriptural interpretation were all fulfilled in Christianity and thereby have become obsolete. All sacred things to Jews, such as the Sabbath, the biblical feasts, and the dietary laws were systematically denigrated as empty, ineffective, and outdated rituals.

As a consequence of this theology, the situation described in the New Testament where Jewish Christians did not cease to be Jews was soon forgotten. Jews who came to faith in Christ were eventually compelled to explicitly renounce their Jewish heritage, customs and traditions. This policy of assimilation accentuated the feeling among Jews that to embrace Christianity was no less than a complete betrayal and rejection of their Jewish past. Needless to say, it also resulted in the substantial failure of the Church's mission of leading the Jews to Christ.

The anti-Judaic theology of the Fathers soon turned into anti-Judaic legislation and discrimination, which in turn deteriorated into a vicious Christian anti-Semitism that endured for the larger part of Christian history and caused untold suffering to the Jewish people: forced baptisms, acts of violence and persecution, crusades, blood libels, the Inquisition, expulsions, ghettos, pogroms, and death sentences periodically marked the lives of Jews living in Christian countries until relatively recently.

Three Decisive Events
In the past century, three decisive events have had an irreversable impact on Jewish-Christian relations. The first began quietly in the late 19th century and gradually became one of the most remarkable events of human history. This was the rise of Zionism, the movement supporting the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. The second event was brutally brief, yet it precipitated the first and made its culmination possible. This was the Nazi Holocaust. The decimation of European Jewry, which shocked the conscience of the world, indirectly led to a miraculous resurrection 3 years later: the birth of the modern State of Israel, followed in 1967 by the return of Jerusalem under full Jewish sovereignty for the first time in over 2,000 years. Many saw in these momentous events another testimony to the faithfulness of God's word, who long ago promised through prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel that He would return the children of Israel to the land that He had promised to their forefathers. Whether one agrees with this interpretation of Scripture or not, the Holocaust and the rebirth of Israel inevitably forced the Christian world to rethink its theological position toward Judaism and the Jewish people. Since then, and especially following the Second Vatican Council, Jewish-Christian relations have immensely improved.

The third remarkable event of the twentieth century has been the rebirth of the Jewish-Christian (or Messianic Jewish) movement. For the first time since the first century of the Church, a large community of Jewish believers in Jesus has arisen both in Israel and in the nations. This movement has experienced significant growth, especially since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, and it now constitutes a presence in Israel that must be reckoned with.
The Balance Sheet Today

The Holocaust, the renewed existence of a Jewish state in the land of Israel and the rise of the Messianic Jewish movement have created significant new challenges to the Church of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Catholics for Israel hopes to be a forum where these problems and challenges can be discussed and addressed.

What are some of the problems that are of particular relevance today?
•    The problem of anti-Semitism in the world and even in the Church has far from disappeared. The Church, it is true, has declared that "the hostility or diffidence of numerous Christians toward Jews in the course of time is a sad historical fact and is the cause of profound remorse for Christians aware... that the Jews are our dearly beloved brothers, indeed in a certain sense they are 'our elder brothers'" (MR 5.4). The Church considers that the failure of Christians to respect and love our 'elder brothers' has constituted a grave enough offense to urge "a call to the consciences of all Christians today, so as to require 'an act of repentance (teshuva),' and to be a stimulus to increase efforts to be 'transformed by renewal of your mind' (Rom 12:2), as well as to keep a 'moral and religious memory' of the injury inflicted on the Jews. In this area, much has already been done, but this should be confirmed and deepened" (MR 5.4). How are we to positively contribute to this confirmation and deepening of the Church's sorrow for the sins of the past committed against Jews, and to a renewed respect and appreciation towards the people of the covenant? How are we to counter the new rise of anti-Semitism in the world today?

•    The problem of supersessionism (replacement theology) is still widespread within the Church. Many Christians still erroneously believe and teach, contrary to official Church doctrine, that the covenant with Israel came to its completion in Christ and in the Church, and the only remaining role of the Jewish people today is to abandon Judaism and convert to Christianity. How are we to affirm the special vocation of Israel while remaining faithful to the Church's permanent missionary calling?

•    Very often, anti-Semitism and supersessionism go hand in hand with anti-Zionism and irrational anti-Israel attitudes. Old prejudices die hard. Those who were convinced that God had forever forsaken the Jewish people were caught by surprise in 1948 when the State of Israel was founded, and again in 1967 when Jerusalem returned under Jewish sovereignty. Anti-Zionists find abhorrent the idea that God may actually be behind the return of the people of Israel to the land of Israel, despite the fact that this is one of the most oft repeated promises of the Hebrew Bible, never abolished by the New Testament. They will often go to any length to delegitimize the existence of the Jewish state, often through systematic distortion and demonization of its role in the Middle East conflict, all while whitewashing the hatred, aggression, and violence directed against it by enemies vowed to its destruction. Also, for many Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land who have personally suffered from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it has become nearly impossible to take a detached, objective approach towards the theological significance of the land of Israel today. When national identity takes precedence over Christian faith, theology inevitably becomes swayed by politics. One of the greatest problems of the Church in the Holy Land today is the politicization of the Church and the often inaccurate portrait, strongly biased against Israel, that some (Palestinian) leaders of the Church may convey to the world regarding the political and religious situation in the Middle East. How are we to consider the return of the Jews to the land which God promised to their ancestors in light of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, while remaining mindful of finding a just solution to the Middle East conflict for all inhabitants of the Holy Land?

•    In reaction to the historical error of supersessionism, the opposite error, a more modern heresy, has recently made its way to even some influential positions in the Church: this is the error of dual-covenant theology , the idea that Jews are already in a saving covenant with God and therefore do not need to come to faith in Christ in order to be saved. As a result, many Catholics have forgotten that the Gospel is the "power of salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first..." (Rom 1:16), and they have either abandoned or neglected the Church's mandate to share the good news of Jesus the Messiah to His own people. It is often said and heard that the number of Christians in the Holy Land and in the Middle East is dwindling. What is not said, however, is the fact that some of the local Church leaders actively discourage the evangelization of non-Christians (Jews and Muslims). Can we expect the Church in the Holy Land to thrive while her leaders betray the very heart of her mission? How are we to share the Gospel of salvation with the Jewish (and Muslim) people with sensitivity, respect and love?

•    The rise of Messianic Judaism testifies to the work of the Holy Spirit: probably more Jews are finding their Messiah today than ever before. Messianic Jews usually emphasize that by believing in Jesus they do not become Christians but remain Jews. This attitude is at least partly legitimate, for as we have seen, it is important that Jews who come to faith in Christ retain their special calling and vocation as sons and daughters of Israel. However, by remaining outside of the Church they forsake a significant part of the gifts and blessings which the Messiah gave to His Church (see Why Be Catholic?).

 


New - March 15th, 2012:

(from a 19th Century French book on women’s life written by a priest):


"I have often admired the courage of true Christian women, when I have
seen them struggling against the never-ceasing troubles of domestic
and social life. How much daily agitation occurs in that little lake
of home-life which might be so peaceful, - an agitation scarcely
visible on the surface, stirring so deeply down below that all seems
motionless above! What efforts have to be made to bear the ill-humor
of one, and the impatience of another, the susceptibility of some
members, and the discontent of others. This may seem a little thing to
a superficial mind , to t one who has had no experience of it; but it
is enough to stifle every good feeling in a heart condemned to breathe
such an atmosphere always, unless it be sustained by Christian
motives. And she, when she goes out into the world, what
sharply-pointed stones she will meet strewn upon her path! Wounded
vanity, sharp tongues, and venomous, unappeasable rancors, the
outbursts of jealous hearts, and the littleness of narrow minds, ever
slow to comprehend any good or generous thought, and ever ready to you
credit for all the whimsical ideas and self-interested views of their
own sordid, and sometimes depraved, mind. This is but a hasty sketch
of what is unfortunately but too true; if the portrait not be very
pleasing, it is because it bears too close a resemblance to the
original And when all this has been gone through, a woman finds she is
thrown back on herself, with all the qualities and defects belonging
to her nature, with all the aspirations of her heart, with a
capricious imagination apt to wander in every direction, with as soul
whose feelings are as deep as its desire are energetic, with her will
divided between dreams and impossibilities. A man's most dangerous
enemy is often herself; it is that ardent impetuous nature of hers
which is capable giving birth to marvels of heroism and holiness, but
which ,may also, badly directed cause the loss of the vessel and its
crew amidst the shoals of the great ocean.

What remedy can we oppose to this great evil? I know but one, patience
- the art of suffering,...Patience is a power of mind, which, while it
feels, can endure, and does not let itself be overcome by
pain...Patience is the Christian's armor.”



New: March 30th, 2012

(Note – this first one is presumably well-known but Ronda didn’t know it, so she is quoting it here)

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters


I

I walk down the street.
There is a big hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost. I am helpless
It takes forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a big hole in the sidewalk
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place
But, it isn’t my fault
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit.
My eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

 

From a lecture by Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P., a 12 Step priest (some of these may be known 12 Step sayings. I don’t really know which are Fr. E’s and which are old

sayings of the program.)

We need to lovingly detach, not amputate (regarding decisions about divorce where peace could come through detaching from accepting bad behavior out of

desperate dependency issues). Love isn’t one will dominating another.  Love is a union of wills.

Fear is the cause of most of our faults.

Any time you are miserable there is something wrong with you because God can give us peace no matter what the circumstances.

We cannot control the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails.

There can be no peace if we depend on what others do and say or think.

When something bothers you in the home, instead of raging and nagging, do something such as putting the mess in a big box.

Concerning those who make themselves into martyrs: “get off the cross, we need the wood.”

Insecure people don’t have relationships, they take hostages.

The mind is like a parachute – neither works unless it’s open.

Serenity is not freedom from the storm but peace amid the storm.

Neurosis is the avoidance of experiencing legitimate pain.

The will of God will never place you where the grace of God can’t help you.

Help us, O Lord, to take failure, not as a measure of our worth, but as a chance for a new start.

I ask God not for the grace to see what lies ahead but for the grace to accept whatever comes.

Most people don’t change because they see the light but because they feel the heat.

Don’t bother to give God instructions, just report for duty.

Repeating a slogan like, ‘Thy will be done,’ can stop a rising panic.

Don’t believe everything you think.

Self cannot overcome self; only God can overcome self.

I don’t have to like everyone to love them.

God loves you as you are but too much to leave you as you are.

(See our Useful Links section for where to find out more about Fr. Emmerich)




New - May, 2012:

Tribute to Carla De Sola (famous sacred dancer) by her niece Carla Conley on Carla De Sola’s 75th birthday:


“I pray that everyone, sitting cramped inside a pew, body lifeless, spine sagging and suffering, weary with weight and deadness, will be given space in which to

breathe and move, will be wooed to worship with beauty and stillness, song and dance--dance charged with life, dance that lifts up both body and spirit, as we will

be a holy, dancing, loving, praying, and praising people.”

—Carla De Sola– from The Spirit Moves: A Handbook of Dance & Prayer

Excerpts from Carla Conley’s Tribute Poem (the poem makes reference to pictures of Carla De Sola dancing which can be found on her web-site):

“All the pictures I could find are gray.
A slender woman flies, her every bone
a twig… A bird in flight
does not know it’s a symbol, doesn’t fight
its own calligraphy: it writes a shape
made out of who it is. It cries its name.

Every gesture is a path to prayer:
it states we aren’t statues, are not stones
with quiet voices stammering the words
we have no right to say…

Weight and deadness. Motion is the way
to charge with life, to make us not alone
but tethered by the countless swaying chords
that glorify each atom in its bright
chaotic dance …
The woman in the picture summons grace
and bids the dust to join her. El Shaddai*.

… A form that soars
may tremble downward, shaken by the night;
but an eye remembers if bereft of sight,
recalls this image’s exultant face:
the way it says I Am and not am I.
-------------------------------------

On Prayer and Ministry from Zenit web-site of a talk by Pope Benedict XVI:
Without prayer 'we risk suffocating in the middle of a thousand daily cares'
Dear brothers and sisters,

In the last catechesis, I showed that from the beginning of her journey, the Church found herself having to face unforeseen situations, new questions and

emergencies, which she sought to respond to in the light of faith, by allowing herself to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Today I would like to pause to reflect on another of these situations, on a serious problem that the first Christian community in Jerusalem had to face and resolve, as

St. Luke tells us in the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, regarding the pastoral care of charity shown to those were alone and in need of help and

assistance. The question is not of secondary importance for the Church and, at the time, it risked creating divisions within the Church; in fact, the number of the

disciples was increasing, but the Hellenists began to murmur against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution (cf. Acts

6:1). Faced with this urgent need involving a fundamental aspect of the life of the community; i.e. charity shown to the weak, the poor, and the defenseless -- and

justice -- the Apostles summon the whole group of the disciples.

At this time of pastoral emergency what stands out is the Apostles’ discernment. They are faced with the primary need to proclaim the Word of God according to

the mandate of the Lord; but even though this is the primary demand placed upon the Church -- they consider with equal seriousness the duty of charity and of

justice, that is, the duty of assisting widows and the poor, of lovingly providing for their brothers and sisters in situations of need, in order to respond to Jesus’

command: love one another as I have loved you (cf. John 15:12,17).

Therefore, the two realities they must live out within the Church -- the proclamation of the Word, the primacy of God, and concrete charity, justice -- are creating

difficulties and a solution must be found, so that both may have their place, their necessary relation. The Apostles’ reflection is very clear; they say, as we heard: “It

is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the

Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4).

Two things appear: first, that from that moment in the Church, there is a ministry of charity. The Church must not only proclaim the Word, she must also make the

Word, which is charity and truth, a reality. And the second point: these men were to be not only of good repute; they must be men filled with the Holy Spirit and

wisdom; that is, they cannot be only organizers who know how to “do”; they must “do so” in the spirit of faith by the light of God, in wisdom of heart.  Therefore, also

their role -- though primarily of a practical nature -- is still a spiritual role. Charity and justice are not only social actions; rather, they are spiritual activities realized in

the light of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, we may say that the situation is handled with great responsibility on the part of the Apostles who make this decision: seven men are chosen; the

Apostles pray, asking for the power of the Holy Spirit; and then they lay hands on them so that they might be dedicated in a special way to this service of charity. 

Thus, in the Church’s life, in the first steps she takes, what happened during Jesus’ public life, in the home of Martha and Mary in Bethania, is in a certain way

reflected. Martha was wholly given over to the service of hospitality offered to Jesus and to His disciples; Mary, on the other hand, devotes herself to listening to the

Word of the Lord (cf. Luke 10:38-42). In both cases, the moments of prayer and of listening to God, and daily activity, i.e. the exercise of charity, are not placed in

opposition. Jesus’ reminder: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not

be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42), as well as the Apostles’ reflection: “We … will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4),

demonstrate the priority that we must give to God.

I do not wish to enter now into an interpretation of this Martha-Mary pericope. At any rate, activity on behalf of one’s neighbor, for the other, should not be

condemned; however, it should be emphasized that activity must also be penetrated interiorly by the spirit of contemplation. On the other hand, St. Augustine says

that the reality of Mary is a vision of what shall belong to us heaven; therefore, on earth we can never have it completely, but a little taste of anticipation must

nonetheless be present in all of our activities. The contemplation of God must also be present. We must not lose ourselves in pure activism, but should always allow

ourselves to be penetrated, even in our activity, by the light of God’s Word and thereby learn true charity, true service of our neighbor, who doesn’t need many things

-- certainly he has need of the necessities -- but who above all needs our heart’s affection, the light of God.

St. Ambrose, commenting on the episode of Martha and Mary, thus exhorts his faithful and also us: “Let us also seek to have what cannot be taken away from us, by

offering diligent, undistracted attention to the Lord’s word: for it also happens that the seeds of the heavenly word are carried off if they are strewn along the path.

Like Mary, stir up within yourself the desire to know: this is the greatest, most perfect work.” And he adds: “may the care of ministry not distract from the knowledge

of heavenly words,” from prayer (Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, VII, 85: PL 15, 1720).

The saints, then, have experienced a profound unity of life between prayer and action, between total love of God and love for the brethren. St. Bernard, who is a

model of harmony between contemplation and industriousness, in the book De consideratione, addressed to Pope Innocent II in order to offer him a few reflections

on his ministry, insists precisely upon the importance of interior recollection and of prayer in defending oneself from the dangers of excessive activity, whatever be

the condition in which we find ourselves and the task we carry out. St. Bernard affirms that too many occupations, a frenetic life, often end in hardening the heart

and in making the spirit suffer (cf. II, 3).

It is a precious reminder for us today, habituated as we are to evaluate everything based upon the criteria of productivity and efficiency. The passage from the Acts

of the Apostles reminds us of the importance of work -- whence, undoubtedly, true ministry is born -- of  the importance of commitment to daily activity responsibly

carried out with dedication, but it also reminds us of our need for God, for His guidance, for His light, which gives us strength and hope. Without daily prayer

faithfully lived out, our activity becomes empty, it loses its deep soul, it is reduced to mere activism, which in the end leaves us unsatisfied.

There is a beautiful invocation from the Christian tradition to be recited before each activity, which goes like this: “Actiones nostras, quæsumus, Domine, aspirando

præveni et adiuvando prosequere, ut cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat, et per te coepta finiatur”, that is: “Inspire our actions, Lord, and

accompany them by your help, so that our every word and act may always have its beginning in you and in you be brought to completion.” Every step of our lives,

every action -- also of the Church -- must be carried out before God, in the light of His Word.

In last Wednesday’s catechesis I had emphasized the undivided prayer of the first Christian community in the face of trial and how, precisely in prayer, in meditation

on Sacred Scripture, it was able to understand the events it was going through.  When prayer is nourished by the Word of God we are able to see reality with new

eyes, with the eyes of faith, and the Lord -- who speaks to the mind and heart -- gives new light on the journey at every moment and in every situation. We believe in

the power of God’s Word and in prayer. Even the difficulties the Church was living through when faced with the problem of service to the poor -- to the question of

charity -- were overcome through prayer, in the light of God, of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles did not merely ratify their choice of Stephen and the other men, but “after having prayed, they laid their hands upon them” (Acts 6:6). The Evangelist

will record these acts again on the occasion of the election of Paul and Barnabas, where we read: “after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent

them off” (Acts 13:3).  It again confirms that the practice of charity is a spiritual service. Both realities must go together.

With the laying on of hands, the Apostles confer a particular ministry upon seven men, so that they might be given the corresponding grace. The emphasis on

prayer -- “after praying,” they say -- is important because it highlights the action’s spiritual dimension; it is not simply a matter of conferring a task, as happens in a

social organization; rather, it is an ecclesial event in which the Holy Spirit appropriates to Himself seven men whom the Church has chosen by consecrating them in

the Truth, who is Jesus Christ: He is the silent protagonist, present in the imposition of hands so that those who are chosen might be transformed by His power and

sanctified in order to face the practical challenges, the challenges of pastoral life. And the emphasis on prayer reminds us, moreover, that it is only through and

intimate relationship with God cultivated each day that a response to the Lord’s choice is born and that every ministry in the Church is entrusted.

Dear brothers and sisters, the pastoral problem that led the Apostles to choose and lay hands on seven men charged with the task of the service of charity, in order

that they might dedicate themselves to prayer and to preaching the Word, indicates also to us the primacy of prayer and of God’s Word, which then also produces

pastoral action. For Pastors, this is the first and most precious form of service paid to the flock entrusted to them. If the lungs of prayer and the Word of God fail to

nourish the breath of our spiritual life, we risk suffocating in the middle of a thousand daily cares: prayer is the breath of the soul and of life. And there is another

precious reminder that I would like to emphasize: in our relationship with God, in listening to His Word, in conversation with God, even when we find ourselves in the

silence of a church or in our room, we are united in the Lord with so many brothers and sisters in faith, like an ensemble of instruments that, though retaining their

individuality, offer to God one great symphony of intercession, of thanksgiving and of praise. Thank you.

[In English, he added]:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider the decision of the early Church to set aside seven men to provide for the practical demands of charity (cf.

Acts 6:1-4). This decision, made after prayer and discernment, provided for the needs of the poor while freeing the Apostles to devote themselves primarily to the

word of God. It is significant that the Apostles acknowledge the importance of both prayer and works of charity, yet clearly give priority to prayer and the

proclamation of the Gospel. In every age the saints have stressed the deep vital unity between contemplation and activity. Prayer, nourished by faith and

enlightened by God’s word, enables us to see things in a new way and to respond to new situations with the wisdom and insight bestowed by the Holy Spirit. In our

own daily lives and decisions, may we always draw fresh spiritual breath from the two lungs of prayer and the word of God; in this way, we will respond to every

challenge and situation with wisdom, understanding and fidelity to God’s will.
________________________________________
Full text of Bishop Jenky's homily at men's march and Mass
Editor's note: the following is the full text of the homily of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, at the Mass during the April 14, 2012 "A Call to Catholic Men of Faith" in

Peoria, Illinois. A podcast audio version of the homily is available at
The Bishop's Podcasts.
------
There is only one basic reason why Christianity exists and that is the fact that Jesus Christ truly rose from the grave.

The disciples never expected the resurrection. The unanimous testimony of all four Gospels is that the terrible death of Jesus on the cross entirely dashed all their

hopes about Jesus and about his message. He was dead, and that was the end of it. They looked for nothing more, and they expected nothing more.

So as much as they had loved him, in their eyes Jesus was a failed messiah. His dying seemed to entirely rob both his teaching and even his miracles of any

lasting significance.
And they were clearly terrified that his awful fate, at the hands of the Sanhedrin and the Romans, could easily become their awful fate. So they hid, trembling with

terror, behind shuttered windows and locked doors.

When the Risen Christ suddenly appeared in their midst, their reaction was shocked incredulity. They simply could not believe their own eyes.

Reality only very slowly began to penetrate their consciousness when Jesus offers proof of his resurrection. He shows them the wounds on his hands, his feet, and

his side. Jesus even allowed them to touch him. He breaks bread with them and eats with them. And only then could they admit to themselves what had seemed

absolutely impossible – the one who had truly died had truly risen! The Crucified now stood before them as their Risen, glorious, triumphant Lord.
His rising from the grave was every bit as real as his dying on the cross. The resurrection was the manifest proof of the invincible power of Almighty God. The

inescapable fact of the resurrection confirmed every word Jesus had ever spoken and every work Jesus had ever done.
The Gospel was the truth. Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel. Jesus was the Savior of the world. Jesus was the very Son of God.

There is no other explanation for Christianity. It should have died out and entirely disappeared when Christ died and was buried, except for the fact that Christ was

truly risen, and that during the 40 days before his Ascension, he interacted with his Apostles and disciples, and on one occasion even with hundreds of his

followers.

Today’s appointed Gospel reading for this Saturday in the Octave of Easter is taken from the 16th Chapter of Mark. It concludes with a command from the lips of

Jesus, given to his disciples, given to the whole Church, given to you and me assembled here today: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every

creature.”

We heard in today’s Second Reading from the Acts of the Apostles that the same Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus was amazed at the boldness of Peter and

John. Perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they recognized them as companions of Jesus. They warned them never again to teach, or speak to

anyone, in the name of Jesus.

But the elders and the scribes might as well have tried to turn back the tide, or hold back an avalanche. Peter and John had seen the Risen Christ with their own

eyes. Peter and John were filled with the Holy Spirit. They asked whether it is right “in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God. It is impossible for us not

to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

And Peter and John and all the Apostles, starting first in Jerusalem in Judea and Galilee and then to the very ends of the earth, announced the Resurrection and the

Good News to everyone they encountered.
According to the clear testimony of the Scriptures, these Apostles had once been rather ordinary men – like you and me. Their faith hadn’t always been strong.

They made mistakes. They committed sins. They were often afraid and confused.

But meeting the Risen Lord had changed everything about these first disciples, and knowing the Risen Lord should also change everything about us.

You know, it has never been easy to be a Christian and it’s not supposed to be easy! The world, the flesh, and the devil will always love their own, and will always

hate us. As Jesus once predicted, they hated me, they will certainly hate you.

But our Faith, when it is fully lived, is a fighting faith and a fearless faith. Grounded in the power of the resurrection, there is nothing in this world, and nothing in hell,

that can ultimately defeat God’s one, true, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

For 2,000 years the enemies of Christ have certainly tried their best. But think about it. The Church survived and even flourished during centuries of terrible

persecution, during the days of the Roman Empire.

The Church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of Jihads. The Church survived the age of revolution. The Church survived Nazism

and Communism.

And in the power of the resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion

industry.

The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the President of the

United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate.

May God have mercy on the souls of those politicians who pretend to be Catholic in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by

how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.

As Christians we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but as Christians we must also stand up for what we believe and always be ready to

fight for the Faith. The days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be

Catholics by conviction.

In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work – like that very first apostolic generation – we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of

Jesus Christ. We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation.
Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples

locked up in the Upper Room.
In the late 19th century, Bismarck waged his “Kulturkampf,” a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital,

convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.

Clemenceau, nicknamed “the priest eater,” tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century.

Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in

education, social services, and health care.
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a

similar path.

Now things have come to such a pass in America that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgment seat of Almighty God this is not a war

where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.

This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our

Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries -- only excepting our church buildings – could easily be shut down. Because no Catholic institution, under any

circumstance, can ever cooperate with the intrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.

No Catholic ministry – and yes, Mr. President, for Catholics our schools and hospitals are ministries – can remain faithful to the Lordship of the Risen Christ and to

his glorious Gospel of Life if they are forced to pay for abortions.

Now remember what was the life-changing experience that utterly transformed those fearful and quaking disciples into fearless, heroic apostles. They encountered

the Risen Christ. They reverenced his sacred wounds. They ate and drank with him.

Is that not what we do here together, this morning at this annual men’s march Mass?

This is the Saturday of the Octave of Easter, a solemnity so great and central to our Catholic faith that Easter Day is celebrated for eight full days, and the Easter

season is joyously observed as the Great 50 Days of Easter. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ – risen from the grave – is in our midst. His Holy Word

teaches us the truth. His Sacred Body and Blood becomes our food and drink.

The Risen Christ is our Eternal Lord; the Head of his Body, the Church; our High Priest; our Teacher; our Captain in the well-fought fight.

We have nothing to fear, but we have a world to win for him. We have nothing to fear, for we have an eternal destiny in heaven. We have nothing to fear, though the

earth may quake, kingdoms may rise and fall, demons may rage, but St. Michael the Archangel, and all the hosts of heaven, fight on our behalf.

No matter what happens in this passing moment, at the end of time and history, our God is God and Jesus is Lord, forever and ever. 

Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
Christ wins! Christ reigns! Christ commands!



New - May 30th, 2012:

The Sexual Revolution and Contraception have been Bad for Women

A Presentation by Fr. John Bullock, LC

With the advent of the Health and Human Services Mandate insisting on the obligation for religious employers to pay for their employees’ contraceptives, never has

there been so much talk about the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception in the United States.  This discussion isn’t merely in regards to the issue of

religious liberty, but a topic in its own right. This, combined with the fact that Humanae Vitae’s fortieth anniversary was only four years ago, has led to a fair bit of ink

being spent on the subject.

In a nutshell, despite tremendous public pressure, in Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI reiterated the Church’s perennial teaching on the impermissibility of the use of

contraception.   Famously, Pope Paul VI made four predictions as to what the consequences of the widespread use of artificial contraception would imply for

society.  They are:  1) increased marital infidelity; 2) a general lowering of moral standards; 3) men accustomed to contraception will consider women as mere

instrument to satisfy their desires; and 4) governments will use these methods as solutions to their problems and ‘may even impose their use on everyone.’

Forty years is a good amount of time to assess the fruits of a contraceptive society and the predictions of Paul VI.  Interestingly enough, despite solid data on

numerous levels to support the validity of those predictions, the ridicule that began with Humanae Vitae’s publication has not greatly subsided.
‘The execration of the world," in philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe's phrase, was what Paul VI incurred with that document—to which the years since 1968 have added

plenty of just plain ridicule. Hasn't everyone heard Monty Python's send-up song "Every Sperm Is Sacred"? Or heard the jokes? "You no play-a the game, you no

make-a the rules." And "What do you call the rhythm method? Vatican roulette." And "What do you call a woman who uses the rhythm method? Mommy.’’

Even recently the execration continues:
‘But regardless of how the White House-Vatican showdown turns out, the war has reminded everyone that even now, in the year 2012, some Catholic leaders are

still saying that birth control is a sin.  (We say "some" because we assume some are also using their brains and have the good sense to keep their traps shut.)This

is ridiculous. It also makes Catholic leaders look like fools. Not surprisingly, Catholics resoundingly ignore this idiotic stance. A recent study found that 98% of

Catholic women use birth control. And a majority of Catholics think insurance should cover free birth control. So even Catholics realize that the Church's position on

birth control is preposterous. Importantly, the world has changed since the Bible was written. (A silly adherence to a text written ~2,000 years ago is presumably

what is behind the Church's official position on this.) When the Bible was written, there were a couple of hundred million people on the Earth, and fewer Catholics…

But now it's ~2,000 years later. And there are ~7 billion people in the world, including over a billion Catholics. And this population growth is absolutely

unsustainable. And we now have some basic science that helps us control (or at least limit) it. And this technology also allows us to have sex a lot, which is fun.’

Therefore, this presentation wants to take a closer look at what women have gained from the contraceptive revolution.  All the data, much of it collected by non-

Catholics, indicates that women, and society as a whole, have suffered disastrously as a result. 

The structure of this presentation will be to:   1) quickly review the moral arguments regarding the Church’s teaching on contraception; 2) briefly consider some of

the physical side-effects caused by oral contraception; 3) review the four predictions of Humanae Vitae in the light of forty years of experience; 4) draw some

philosophical conclusions, 5) propose some way out.

1.    Moral Underpinnings
Now we will briefly look at the reasoning behind the Church’s stance against contraception, beginning with some general moral principles and then focusing

specifically on the moral issues related to the marital act.

a.    General Principles
b.   
Man is a moral being - that is through his decisions he either fulfills his ultimate destiny of being united to God or he rejects it.   He works towards that union with

God inasmuch as he chooses the good and avoids doing evil as dictated by his conscience.   And we must choose moral actions to bring about that good.  We

may not commit an inherently immoral act with the intention of doing good:  the ends do not justify the means.  Otherwise every evil action could be justified with

good intentions:  abortion to avoid stress, genocide to bring about a Soviet utopia, etc.

Furthermore, man’s conscience is not the arbiter of right and wrong, rather it is the tool man has to discover the natural law – or God’s moral code.   Therefore our

conscience must be formed.  And thanks to its particular task of guiding man into the truth – of faith and morals – the Church has the assistance of the Holy Spirit to

teach authoritatively on matters of morality’ (cf. Humanae Vitae, n. 4).
c.    Regarding the marital act


The nucleus of the Church’s teaching against the use of contraception is rooted in its understanding of the significance or the purpose of the marital act. There are

two purposes to the marital act:  union between the spouses and procreative.  The Church holds that these two aspects of the act have an ‘inseparable connection,

established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break.’   To separate the two meanings is to distort the very purpose of the act.  Humanae Vitae states

that, ‘respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the

Creator.’   Pope John Paul II in his theology of the Body went on to say that contraception not only hinders procreation but even the unitive meaning of marriage,

since there isn’t a total self giving. Something as sacred as the union between husband and wife and the procreation of children must be respected. More serious

still are the contraceptive methods which can cause abortions, such as the pill and the spiral.   However, if there are good reasons to space births, for physical,

psychological reasons for husband and wife, or for external reasons, the couple may take advantage of the natural cycle to engage in intercourse in the infertile

periods.

Natural family planning isn’t the same as contracepting which actively works against conception.   One thing is to act contrarily to the nature of the act, via

contraception, another is to decide not to act in the fertile moments – thus respecting the nature of the sexual act.  Remember, the ends do not justify the means.

That is why pointing to sterile couples isn’t an argument for contraception or same sex marriage.  Fulfilled naturally man is not intentionally distorting the act, even if

it isn’t fertile.
Humanae Vitae says living this teaching requires a great deal of self-discipline. But notes that this will bring many fruits: tranquility and peace, helps solve

difficulties of other kinds, makes for thoughtfulness between the spouses, repels inordinate self-love, and makes the couple more effective in educating their

children to achieve ‘a serene and harmonious use of their mental and physical powers.’

2.    Physical well-being threatened

While contraception and its dire social consequences aren’t limited to oral contraception, the Pill has a particularly dark history in regards to women’s health. 

Despite the fact that, ‘scientists had established a connection between the sex hormone estrogen and cancer as far back as 1896’ the research of contraception

for women continued.   Whereas when studies for a male contraceptive merely shrunk one man’s testicle, all testing on the male contraceptive ceased.   Women’s

lives were even sacrificed for the cause:

The ‘Combination Pill’, as it was called, containing progestin and estrogen, was tested in Puerto Rico.  One hundred thirty two women were involved.  Three died

from thrombosis, and many dropped out of testing.  Very few of them received follow-up attention.  The over-riding concern in this test, however, was not the health

of the Puerto Rican women but the effectiveness of preventing unwanted pregnancies.  Given the disturbing side-effects associated with these ‘high dose’ Pills,

such as blood clotting, disorders resulting in heart attacks and strokes, a ‘low-dose’ Pill was produced that contained smaller amounts of estrogen.’

And while there is more information out there now regarding the dangers of the Pill, it remains widely used.

‘In (one) meta-analyses, (it was) found that women who took oral contraceptive pills have a 42% increased risk of contracting breast cancer.  Another, more refined

study, showed that women under 45 who had taken oral contraceptives for four years or more prior to their first term pregnancy have a 72% increased incidence of

breast cancer.’

Furthermore, women ‘are at greater risk of contracting STDs and disproportionately suffer from their long-term consequences, such as cervical cancer and fertility

loss’  It seems like a bitter irony, bordering on the diabolical, that contraception and abortion are referred to as an issue of ‘women’s reproductive health.’

While not as dangerous as the physical consequences mentioned above, there still remain many women whose overall well-being is seriously compromised by the

use of oral contraception.   Since the pill emulates a pregnancy, women suffer from similar side-effects such as weight gain, heightened emotions, irritability. 

‘(As) a twenty-four-year-old magazine editor reported: ‘During the entire time I was on the Pill I was subject to really extreme emotional outbursts.  I felt like my body

and emotions were simply out of control… When I went off the Pill it took me a long time to feel good again, to feel in control of myself.  Now I do, and I’ll never go

back on the Pill again.’

The irony has been aptly noted by Scholar Michel Schooyans, who ‘has remarked that, in certain instances, there is less concern about the ‘hormonal force-feeding

of women’ than there is about the health of animals.’    The aberration can reach such a degree that pregnancy can be seen as the ultimate threat to a woman’s

health,

‘At a meeting of the National Abortion Federation, Dr. Fortier told her audience that ‘each and every pregnancy threatens a woman’s life’ and that from a strict

medical viewpoint ‘every pregnancy should be aborted.’

So, motherhood is now viewed as the problem and contraception and abortion the solution,  this despite the obvious risks to women -  so much for women’s health.

3.    Humanae Vitae’s predictions and their fulfillment

Now we want to reflect upon the enormous amount of evidence indicating the prophetic voice of Humanae Vitae.  To do so we will reflect upon the four predictions

Pope Paul VI made if contraception were widespread in society:  1) increased marital infidelity; 2) a general lowering of moral standards; 3) men accustomed to

contraception will consider women as mere instrument to satisfy their desires; and 4) governments will use these methods as solutions to their problems and ‘may

even impose their use on everyone.’  Interestingly enough, much of the data comes from outside the Catholic Church:
As sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox emphasized in a 2005 essay: ‘The leading scholars who have tackled these topics are not Christians, and most of them are not

political or social conservatives. They are, rather, honest social scientists willing to follow the data wherever it may lead.’

As such, any accusations of ‘cooking the books’ on the part of the Catholic apologist holds little water when data from other groups corroborates their arguments.

a)    Increased Marital Infidelity
b)   
The first of the predictions of Paul VI was that of increased marital infidelity.  This reality has grown to such a degree that, not only are marriages breaking up, but

large number of young adults are no longer bothering to get married in the first place.  ‘Less than 5 percent of births in 1960 were to unmarried mothers, compared

with roughly 40 percent today.’   However, if you simply only consider mothers under thirty years old the births outside marriage climb to nearly two-thirds of the total.

This means that the trend is towards more unmarried pregnancies, not fewer.
‘The Family of the Americas Foundation… states that hesitancy to marry due to the fear of divorce is linked to lack of commitment in marriage because of artificial

birth control, sterilization and abortion.  Mercedes Arzú Wilson of the FAF said that the solution to this problem is the adoption of Natural Family Planning (NFP) to

replace artificial means of conception regulation and abortion. Arzú Wilson points to a study carried out by sociologist Dr. Robert Lerner of the University of

Chicago who found an absolute correlation been couples who use NFP and successful and happy marriages. The summary of findings in this analysis of three

independent surveys found that NFP users have a dramatically low (0.2%) divorce rate (compared to a US national rate of about 50%).

At least part of the correlation between divorce and contraception would be the fact that,
‘couples with children have a slightly lower rate of divorce than childless couples. Sociologists believe that childlessness is also a common cause of divorce. The

absence of children leads to loneliness and weariness and even in the United States, at least 66 per cent of all divorced couples are childless.
As Janet Smith convincingly argues, when a couple may be having difficulties, the love for the child is often a very strong motivation to keep trying to work it out with

one’s spouse, but if that additional motivation is lacking, the danger of divorce becomes all the stronger.   Marital infidelity also is a greater risk since, with most

women on contraception, most women are considered ‘available’ for casual sex without the consequences of bringing a child into the world.

c)    ‘A general lowering of moral standards’

Pope Paul VI second prediction of a ‘general lowering of moral standards,’ seems quite obvious when looking at society , and yet it remains a bit difficult to pin

down as to what exactly we mean.  The lowering of standards in regards to marital fidelity is already covered in the first prediction.  The lowering of standards in the

area of sexuality per se is covered in the third.  This prediction then must refer to the moral standard above and beyond the area of sexuality.  I think there are

particularly two areas in which this can be directly related to the contraceptive mentality:  the fathers and the sons.
Many years ago I read a fascinating opinion piece in Newsweek of all places that questioned the contemporary complaint of women that men weren’t mature

enough to marry.  The article stated that it was precisely marriage which helped men mature.  For marriage to succeed, it forces self-centered people, the essence

of immaturity, to think about others.  Data seems to back this up.
‘ In another work published in the Economic Journal ten years ago, he traced the empirical connections between the decrease in marriage and married fatherhood

for men—both clear consequences of the contraceptive revolution—and the simultaneous increase in behaviors to which single men appear more prone:

substance abuse, incarceration, and arrests, to name just three. Along the way, Akerlof found a strong connection between the diminishment of marriage on the one

hand and the rise in poverty and social pathology on the other’

So the men who are absentee fathers will be more likely to continue acting as boys.
But the sons and daughters, of these absentee fathers also suffer from a much higher risk of errant behavior as well. 

‘Children from single-parent homes are: 1) More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime; 2) Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral

problems; 3) Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school; … 4)  A third more likely to drop out before completing high school…  (and) 5) three

times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30.’
So if contraception leads to a breakdown of the family, and a breakdown of the family leads to the above-mentioned behavior, then it follows that contraception

leads to ‘a general lowering of moral standards.’

d)    ‘Men accustomed to contraception will consider women as mere instrument to satisfy his desires’
The third prediction Paul VI makes is that ‘men accustomed to contraception will consider women as mere instrument to satisfy his desires.’   Alone the explosion

of pornography on the Internet, a well-known fact, should suffice to indicate that men are increasingly treating women as ‘instruments to satisfy his desires.’  Even

well-known feminists are complaining that the sexual revolution has done women a great deal of harm.

‘Germaine Greer, who once exhorted women to revel in their sexuality, after closely scrutinizing the casualties of the contraceptive revolution, now warns her

followers that sex has degenerated into a social gesture that is as trivial as a handshake.  She claims that contraceptive technology, instead of liberating women,

has turned them into geishas who risk health and fertility in order to be readily available for meaningless sex.’

Even ‘Betty Friedan, America’s elder stateswoman of feminism… after two decades of the woman’s movement,… (now declares that it is the  family which ) ‘is the

nutrient of our personhood.’
At a still darker level, some authors have shown how ‘the spread of pornography is linked to trafficking in women and children and prostitution.’  Men can now

purchase women for their pleasure – via pornography, prostitution or trafficking.  As Archbishop Chaput put it, ‘Contraception has released males—to a historically

unprecedented degree—from responsibility for their sexual aggression.’

e)    Government Coercion

The fourth and final prediction of Paul VI made regarding the consequences of widespread contraception is that: ‘governments will use these methods as solutions

to their problems and ‘may even impose their use on everyone’.  Interestingly enough the events of these days with the situation of the human rights’ activist, Chen,

who has protested China’s one-child policy, has once again brought this evil into the spotlight.   China’s ‘one-child policy has included,
forced abortions, public trackings of menstrual cycles, family flight, increased female infanticide, sterilization, and other assaults too numerous even to begin

cataloguing here—in fact, so numerous that they are now widely, if often grudgingly, acknowledged as wrongs even by international human-rights bureaucracies’

Furthermore, Chen himself has, ‘amassed evidence that 130,000 forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations were performed on women in Linyi County,

Shandong province, in a single year.’ 
Ironically enough, due to China’s one child policy and a family’s preference of having a son, many girls are aborted.  And while it is not the case of an official

government policy, India also suffers grievously from gender-selection abortions in favor of sons.

‘‘Amazingly, the U.N. admits the humanity of unborn girls: “At least 60 million girls who would otherwise be expected to be alive are ‘missing’ from various

populations as a result of sex-selective abortions or neglect.” … 96 percent of aborted fetuses in India are female. Some experts claim that there are nearly 2 boys

born for every girl since 20 million female fetuses have been aborted over the last 10 years. … Chinese researchers have predicted that there will be 40 million

unmarried men in mainland China by the year 2020. Experts report that such a surplus of unmarried men will, inevitably, mean more violence, including war,

kidnapping and rape. Indeed, China has seen a sharp rise in violent crime over the past decade.’

Yet the governmental coercion regarding abortions isn’t merely within particular countries, but exercised on an international level.  Janice Shaw Crouse, quoted

above, rightly mentions the contradiction of the United Nations trying to simultaneously promote abortions and consider gender-selection abortions as immoral.  

Furthermore, countries like the United States often try to pressure other countries to accept abortion as a legitimate means of natural family planning:
‘The American delegation tried to persuade other countries to adopt a more ‘comprehensive’ approach to development and population. By ‘comprehensive’ the

American delegation means fewer people. Their emphasis was on ‘family planning’ and access to abortion. To the Americans’ consternation, the foreigners weren’t

buying. The representative from St. Lucia asked a good question: ‘How do we get our fertility rate to rise? We were told we needed to reduce our fertility rate --

[but] now we have an aging population.’’

It is fine to promote women’s rights.  But abortion isn’t one of them.  It is particularly devious when such inhumane programs such as abortion and sterilization are

forced upon individuals and even entire populations.  The social disequilibrium which will result and its abiding consequences will be experienced for quite some

time.

4.    Philosophical Underpinnings

Now that the predictions of Pope Paul VI have been shown to be quite accurate, we want to briefly turn to the underlying logic portrayed by both views.  Because

we’re not merely dealing with distinct methods of regulating births, rather something much more significant.  ‘Pope John Paul II said in pretty straightforward terms

that the difference between a natural method and a contraceptive are two irreconcilable views of the human person.’  Perhaps that fundamental difference best be

expressed by Humanae Vitae itself:

‘Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is

consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will. But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge

that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator.’

The Catholic vision holds that man, in obedience to God, collaborates in creation’s plan for the marital act by respecting both the unitive and procreative aspects. 

Secularism, the spirit of today’s society, has a radically different viewpoint regarding the conscience and human sexuality:  both revolve around the autonomous

self.

Regarding the matter of conscience, Cardinal Pell explains the differences between the Catholic and the secular understanding:

‘For many people today, conscience suggests freedom to judge God's law by our own personal resources and the right to reject the notion or reformulate this law

as we think best. I imagine that to non-Christians this must seem rather odd: If moral and religious teachings bind only to the extent that one's individual mind and

will enthuse about them, then pretty clearly the teachings do not bind at all. What "binds" is simply the autonomous self, with all the limitations that our selves are

prey to. And to say "I am bound by me" is hardly to make a meaningful moral utterance. Rather, it is to reject the need for morality and creed and to claim that I

should be allowed to live as I choose within the constraints imposed by family, friends and society. Of course, this theory is often dressed up with the claim that

conscience is a special faculty that speaks to us, rather like an oracle. The theory may also be elevated to the status of a doctrine -- the "primacy of conscience."

But annunciating grand titles does not change moral reality. Conscience is simply the mind thinking practically, thinking morally; the mind thinks well when we

understand moral principles and apply them in clear and reasonable ways; the mind thinks badly when we ignore or reinvent moral principles, or apply them in

ambiguous and unreasonable ways.’

Conscience, then, is to moral truth, what the eye is to light.  It may perceive the reality, it is not the source.  As such the conscience must seek the moral truth, that

which informs his decisions in a proper manner.  To illustrate the point, DeMarco gives the example of a husband who is going to give his wife a medicine that he

thinks will help her,  but before doing so learns that it will do her harm.  That knowledge has informed his conscience and he won’t think it contrary to his dignity for

having learned that truth.  (cf. New Perspectives on Contraception, DeMarco, 76).

However, to fully grasp Secularism’s understanding of human sexuality, in addition to backdrop of the autonomous conscience, is its understanding of the human

body.  Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’ introduced a dualism in man: a thinking spirit that is separated from the body.  This has serious connotations for sexual

ethics, because then we think that we’re not our body but that we possess it and as such can do what we want with it.’   If that is the case, then, yes, sex, can truly be

casual – an exchange of goods.

However, the Church understands that we don’t possess our bodies, rather we ‘are’ our bodies:  the human person is both body and soul – an integrated whole.  In

a most profound way then, ‘Marriage is a communion of persons.’   Therefore, within the sacrament of marriage, the unitive act between husband and wife fits into

the broader Christian, and human vocation of love.  Or as Pope John Paul II states, ‘(the) most authentic meaning, in life, therefore, is to be a gift which is fully

realized in the giving of oneself.’ 

5.    A Path Toward Renewal

The obstacles to a renewal of society’s proper understanding of human sexuality seem almost insurmountable.  And yet the truth is like a lion, we don’t have to

defend it, we just have to let it out of its cage.   And the truth about the integrity of the marital act as being unitive and procreative in nature is coming ever more to

the fore.  Additionally, as we have seen, young people fear marriage because of the possibility of divorce, but they often still desire to be happily married.  They

must see in the example of holy married couples that this is achievable with the grace of God.  Concrete proposals for a way forward include:
a)    Marriage preparation courses that teach the ‘theology of the body’ and natural family planning.
b)    Promotion of chastity before marriage as a crucial preparation for a solid marriage.
c)    Have marriage programs with solid mentors for the newly married, even before problems begin.
d)    Offer marriage counseling to those couples in trouble.
e)    Develop and promote laws and employment practices which support family life.
f)    Promote the living of the sacraments within the families.
It is once again time for men and women to renew the sacrament of marriage within society.  It is the Church that provides the answers.  As two authors put it:
‘The feminist movement asked men for very little. We should ask them for much more… The suffering borne by women and children in the wake of the

contraceptive revolution should make us impatient to articulate that Catholic teaching is not against reason, modernity, or women. It’s prophetic, pro-woman — and

about time.’



New - June, 2012:

8 Quotes from St. John Chrysostom on How to Raise Children
1. On the Naming of Children
“So let the name of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children, to train not only the child but the father, when he reflects that he is the father of

John or Elijah or James; for, if the name be given with forethought to pay honor to those that have departed, and we grasp at our kinship with the righteous rather

than with our forebears, this too will greatly help us and our children. Do not because it is a small thing regard it as small; its purpose is to help us.” — An Address

on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children
2. On Raising Children to Be Courageous
“Let us pass to the forceful part of the soul, spirit. We must not eliminate it utterly from the youth nor yet allow him to use it all the time. Let us train boys from earliest

childhood to be patient when they suffer wrongs themselves, but, if they see another being wronged, to sally forth courageously and aid the sufferer in fitting

measure.” --An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children, 66.
3. On Teaching Your Children the Scriptures
“Never deem it an unnecessary thing that he should be a diligent hearer of the divine Scriptures. For there the first thing he hears will be this, ‘Honor thy father and

thy mother’; so that this makes for thee. Never say, this is the business of monks. Am I making a monk of him? No. There is no need he should become a monk.

Why be so afraid of a thing so replete with so much advantage? Make him a Christian.” – Homilies on Ephesisans, Homily 21
4. Raising Children Up in Wisdom is Priority #1
“Let everything take second place to our care of our children, our bringing them up to the discipline and instruction of the Lord. If from the beginning we teach them

to love true wisdom, they will have great wealth and glory than riches can provide. If a child learns a trade, or is highly educated for a lucrative profession, all this is

nothing compared to the art of detachment from riches; if you want to make your child rich, teach him this. He is truly rich who does not desire great possessions, or

surround himself with wealth, but who requires nothing…Don’t think that only monks need to learn the Bible; Children about to go out into the world stand in greater

need of Scriptural knowledge.” — Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 21
5. Raise Them to Know Psalms and Hymns
“Teach him to sing those psalms which are so full of love of wisdom; as at once concerning chastity or rather, before all, of not companying with the wicked,

immediately with the very beginning of the book; (for therefore also it was that that prophet began on this wise, ‘Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the

counsel of the ungodly”; Ps. i. I, and again, ‘I have not say in the council of vanity’; Ps. xxvi. 4, Sept., and again, ‘in his sight a wicked doer is contemned, but he

honors those that fear the Lord,’ Ps. xv. 4, Sept.,) of companying the good, (and these subjects thou wilt find there in abundance,) of restraining the belly, of

restraining the hand, of refraining from excess, of not overreaching; that money is nothing nor glory, and other things such like [...]When in these thou hast led him on

from childhood, by little and little thou wilt lead him forward even to the higher things. The Psalms contain things, but the Hymns again have nothing human. When he

has been instructed out of the Psalms, he will then know hymns also , as a diviner thing.” — Homilies on Colossians,Homily 9
6. Teaching Them about Eternal Judgment
“Wherefore, I exhort you, when we receive children from the nurse, let us not accustom to old wives’ stories, but let them learn from their first youth that there is a

Judgment, that there is a punishment; let it be infixed in their minds. This fear being rooted in them produces great good effects. For a soul that that has learnt from

its first youth to be subdued by this expectation, will not soon shake off this fear. But like a horse obedient to the bridle, having the thought of hell seated upon it,

walking orderly, it will both speak and utter things profitable; and neither youth nor riches, not an orphan state, not any other thing, will be able to injure it, having its

reason so firm and able to hold out against everything.” – Homilies on 2 Thessalonians, Homily 2.
7. Raise Them to Be Chaste
“Youth is wild, and requires many governors, teachers, directors, attendants, and tutors; and after all these , it is a happiness if it be restrained. For as a horse not

broken in, or a wild beast untamed, such is youth. But if from the beginning, from the earliest age, we fix it in good rules, much pains will not be required afterwards;

for good habits formed will be to them as a law. Let us not suffer them to do anything which is agreeable, but injurious; nor let us indulge them, as forsooth but

children. Especially let us train them in chastity, for there is the very bane of youth. For this many struggles, much attention will be necessary. Let us take wives for

them early, so that their brides may receive their bodies pure and unpolluted, so their loves will be more ardent. He that is chaste before marriage, much more will

be chaste after it; and he that practiced fornication before, will practice it after marriage. ‘All bread,’ it is said, ‘is sweet to the fornicator.’ Garlands are wont to be

worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But it captivated by pleasure

he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear the garland, since he has been subdued? — Homilies on 1 Timothy, Homily 9
8. Raising Your Child Properly Is a Greater Inheritance than Riches
In children we have a great charge committed to us. Let us bestow great care upon them, and do everything that the Evil One may not rob us of them. But now our

practice is the reverse of this. We take all care indeed to have our farm in good order, and to commit it to faithful manager, we look out for it an ass-driver, and

muleteer, and bailiff, and a clever accountant. But we do not look out for what is much more important, for a person to whom we may commit our son as the

guardian of his morals, though this is a possession much more valuable than all others. It is for him indeed that we take such care of our estate. We take care of our

possessions for our children, but of the children themselves we take no care at all. Form the soul of thy son aright, and all the rest will be added hereafter.” –

Homilies on 1 Timothy, Homily 9.
From Clutterers Anonymous (You can google this name and find out about phone groups if you have nothing near you.)
Clutter is anything we don't need, want, or use that takes our time, energy or space, and destroys our serenity. It can be outgrown clothes, obsolete papers, broken

toys, disliked gifts, meaningless activity, ancient resentments, or unsatisfying relationships. We may be selective in some areas, but not in others. Objects may be

strewn about or wedged into drawers; neatly stacked or stowed in storage.

Our clutter seems to have a life of its own, to multiply without effort on our part. We may feel overwhelmed, controlled by our possessions, and/or doomed to be

hopelessly disorganized. No matter how we deal with our clutter, it can be a source of pain and shame to us and to those we live with.

Despite this pain, we fear throwing things out. We think we might need it, fix it, or wear it again. We don't want to be wasteful or ungrateful. We don't know what to

keep and what to discard. We don't know how much is enough.

De-cluttering is not merely eliminating, but gradually transforming our space so that we surround ourselves only with things that express our purpose. It means

turning something useless into something useful; creating more leisure and space; being more honest in our relationships; eliminating distractions and simplifying

our lives in order to find our spiritual roots.

Although we may cling to our clutter, what we really yearn for are surroundings of beauty, order, serenity; a balanced life; and harmonious relationships.



New - July 15th, 2012:

Pope Benedict’s Sermon for Pentecost: This morning I want to reflect on an essential aspect of the mystery of Pentecost, which maintains all its importance in our

own day as well. Pentecost is the feast of human unity, understanding and sharing.

We can all see how in our world, despite us being closer to one another through developments in communications, with geographical distances seeming to

disappear – understanding and sharing among people is often superficial and difficult.

There are imbalances that frequently lead to conflicts; dialogue between generations is hard and differences sometimes prevail; we witness daily events where

people appear to be growing more aggressive and belligerent; understanding one another takes too much effort and people prefer to remain inside their own

sphere, cultivating their own interests.

In this situation, can we really discover and experience the unity we so need?

The account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, which we heard in the first reading, is set against a background that contains one of the last great frescoes of

the Old Testament: the ancient story of the construction of the Tower of Babel.

But what is Babel? It is the description of a kingdom in which people have concentrated so much power they think they no longer need depend on a God who is far

away.

They believe they are so powerful they can build their own way to heaven in order to open the gates and put themselves in God's place.

But it's precisely at this moment that something strange and unusual happens.

While they are working to build the tower, they suddenly realise they are working against one another.

While trying to be like God, they run the risk of not even being human – because they've lost an essential element of being human: the ability to agree, to

understand one another and to work together.

This biblical story contains an eternal truth: we see this truth throughout history and in our own time as well. Progress and science have given us the power to

dominate the forces of nature, to manipulate the elements, to reproduce living things, almost to the point of manufacturing humans themselves.

In this situation, praying to God appears outmoded, pointless, because we can build and create whatever we want.

We don't realise we are reliving the same experience as Babel.

It's true, we have multiplied the possibilities of communicating, of possessing information, of transmitting news – but can we say our ability to understand each other

has increased? Or, paradoxically, do we understand each other even less? Doesn't it seem like feelings of mistrust, suspicion and mutual fear have insinuated

themselves into human relationships to the point where one person can even pose a threat to another?

Let's go back to the initial question: can unity and harmony really exist? How?

The answer lies in Sacred Scripture: unity can only exist as a gift of God's Spirit, which will give us a new heart and a new tongue, a new ability to communicate.

This is what happened at Pentecost. On that morning, fifty days after Easter, a powerful wind blew over Jerusalem and the flame of the Holy Spirit descended on

the gathered disciples. It came to rest upon the head of each of them and ignited in them a divine fire, a fire of love, capable of transforming things.

Their fear disappeared, their hearts were filled with new strength, their tongues were loosened and they began to speak freely, in such a way that everyone could

understand the news that Jesus Christ had died and was risen.

On Pentecost, where there was division and incomprehension, unity and understanding were born.

But let's look at today's Gospel in which Jesus affirms: “When he comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to the whole truth”.

Speaking about the Holy Spirit, Jesus is explaining to us what the Church is and how she must live in order to be herself, to be the place of unity and communion in

Truth; he tells us that acting like Christians means not being closed inside our own spheres, but opening ourselves towards others; it means welcoming the whole

Church within ourselves or, better still, allowing the Church to welcome us.

So, when I speak, think and act like a Christian, I don't stay closed off within myself – but I do so in everything and starting from everything: thus the Holy Spirit, the

Spirit of unity and truth, can continue to resonate in people's hearts and minds, encouraging them to meet and welcome one another.

Precisely because it acts in this way, the Spirit introduces us to the whole truth, who is Jesus, and guides us to examine and understand it.

We do not grow in understanding by closing ourselves off inside ourselves, but only by becoming capable of listening and sharing, in the “ourselves” of the Church,

with an attitude of deep personal humility.

Now it's clearer why Babel is Babel and Pentecost is Pentecost. Where people want to become God, they succeed only in pitting themselves against each other.

Where they place themselves within the Lord's truth, on the other hand, they open themselves to the action of his Spirit which supports and unites them.

The contrast between Babel and Pentecost returns in the second reading, where the Apostle Paul says: “Walk according to the Spirit and you will not be brought to

satisfy the desires of the flesh.”

St Paul tells us that our personal life is marked by interior conflict and division, between impulses that come from the flesh and those that come from the Spirit: and

we cannot follow all of them.

We cannot be both selfish and generous, we cannot follow the tendency to dominate others and experience the joy of disinterested service.

We have to choose which impulse to follow and we can do so authentically only with the help of the Spirit of Christ.

St Paul lists the works of the flesh: they are the sins of selfishness and violence, like hostility, discord, jealousy, dissent.

These are thoughts and actions that do not allow us to live in a truly human and Christian way, in love. This direction leads to us losing our life.

The Holy Spirit, though, guides us towards the heights of God, so that, on this earth, we can already experience the seed of divine life that is within us.

St Paul confirms: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.”

We note how the Apostle uses the plural to describe the works of the flesh that provoke the loss of our humanity – while he uses the singular to define the action of

the Spirit, speaking of “the fruit”, in the same way as the dispersion of Babel contrasts with the unity of Pentecost.   

Dear friends, we must live according to the Spirit of unity and truth, and this is why we must pray for the Spirit to enlighten and guide us to overcome the temptation

to follow our own truths, and to welcome the truth of Christ transmitted in the Church.

Luke's account of Pentecost tells us that, before rising to heaven, Jesus asked the Apostles to stay together and to prepare themselves to receive the Holy Spirit.

And they gathered together in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room and awaited the promised event.

Like when it was born, today the Church still gathers with Mary and prays: “Veni Sancte Spiritus! - Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them

the fire of your love!”. Amen.

(Note: You may view these emails at the link: http://www.moynihanreport.com/.



New, July 2012:

(From Msgr. Landriot a 19th Century Spiritual Director:This excerpt is about how women get into trouble with their tongues, BUT SOME MEN HAVE THE SAME

BAD HABITS, and, in any case, if you are a
male reader, I bet you will find these quotations describe very well what you hate in the conversation of some women you know.)

"You are jealous, and these people are too brilliant to please you,
for jealousy is far readier to forgive defects than good qualities.
They enjoy a certain amount of consideration, and perhaps hold a high
position in the esteem and affections of others, and this gives birth
to a feeling of inferiority in you. And there is yet another
aggravating circumstance - the praises which you hear lavished on
these people are a veritable martyrdom for you, a turning you on the
gridiron! However, one need not be uneasy about you, for you know well
how to revenge yourself, and pay off these accumulated injuries. You
know how to find opportunities of speaking of your neighbor's faults,
and also how to make those opportunities when they do not present
themselves naturally. You know how to wound him with the keen,
envenomed arrows of sarcastic wit. .. You know how to wrap up your
bitter pills in sugared bon bons ... with insinuations all the more
treacherous that they are veiled under affected scruples and
mysterious hints. I do not mean to assert that your neighbor must be
irreproachable in your eyes, for no one is faultless... but is not
jealousy the chief cause of your rancor against them?”

And how about this description:

“At the bottom of your hearts is hidden a secret pride which urges you
to speak continually of yourself and of your own merits, real,
supposed, or exaggerated; for finding that others do not talk enough
about you, you have taken the resolution of avenging yourselves by
becoming your own advocates and pleading your own cause with an
ingenuity which, if not very remarkable in itself, excites, at all
events, much remark from others. Then flow utterances as opposed to
truth as to humility, boastful narratives, clumsy, half veiled
insinuations, words wounding to those around you…”
Remedy: “True piety will lead you to meditate often on your own misery
and weakness, and without causing sadness or discouragement, it will
teach you to have a thorough distrust of yourself; to know your own
defects; to take every means of correcting them; to consult serious
and experienced people; and to consult them in such a manner as to
show them that you are sincere in your desire to be told the truth.
After some months, perhaps some years of this constant watchfulness
over yourself, you will have humbled your pride; and, though you may
not have entirely rooted it out; it will be no longer visible, and
each day will lessen the number of its offshoots. Then your tongue
will lose the habit of talking perpetually about your own concerns.
You will neither talk of them yourself, nor draw others into talking
about them. You will cease making yourself the centre of
conversation.”

Ready for Confession?



New, August 2012:

FATHERHOOD — HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

By Christopher Stefanick

I’m a proud husband and father of five. Like the joys and pains of marriage, the joys and pains of fatherhood far outweigh what I could have expected.

I have to laugh when not-so-young adults tell me they don’t want to get married because they aren’t ready for kids.  Can one possibly be ready for a child?  I have

five and I’m still not ready for the first.

I certainly can’t afford the first!  No doubt, there are legitimate reasons for waiting to start a family. But if everyone waited until they felt completely ready,

reproduction would come to a grinding halt.

Thankfully, an overwhelming surge of love kicks in the moment a new parent looks at his child.  That love equips him more effectively than any amount of formal

training or money ever could.

In addition to realizing my ill-preparedness, fatherhood has also brought me face-to-face with my limitations.  Childbirth makes it clear at the outset that parents are

in over their heads — part of something far bigger than they are, something they can never fully control.

This is true in a special way for dad.  As much as I want to feel like we’re a “team” during childbirth, I know deep down that shouting “RUN!” from the bleachers

doesn’t make me a New York Yankee.

I’ve stood by my wife through five c-sections. (Yes, she is a saint.) But accompanying my sense of feebleness during that operation is indescribable joy.  With each

birth I’ve known that I stood in the most privileged 2-foot-square space on earth, next to my wife as she brings new life into the world, strapped cruciform to the

operating table.  I wonder if Joseph felt that way, standing at the crèche as both contemplative and sentinel.

The overwhelming experience continues when I get to carry a child from behind the safe walls of a hospital and into the world.  I always want to ask the nurse, “Are

you sure you’re letting me take it?... Out there?”

Suddenly it’s clear that everything has changed when I load the precious cargo into the car seat.  The world looks different.  All that is precious and valuable is now

in that car.  Hands on the wheel at 10- and 2-o’clock.  I hadn’t driven that cautiously since Driver’s Ed class!  But alongside the terror of driving in L.A.-traffic with an

infant and post-op wife, I found a new courage welling up in me as well.

It’s the courage of a hero willing to lay down his life; the courage of a wolf willing to kill or die if anything presents a threat to its young.  It’s the force of a million years

of evolution combined with the power that comes from the grace of office.  It’s the power of fatherhood.

The second a father takes flight with his family from the safety of the hospital into a world of sin, traffic and ever-encroaching need, he becomes the wall that stands

between that child and the world — the image of God, the protector and provider.  Despite the stark realization that I’m far from almighty, fatherhood gave rise to

something infinite inside my chest.

I’ve been on the roller coaster of fatherhood for 12 years now.  It’s tried and tested me in every way imaginable.  Before kids, I was ready to canonize myself.  I was

so patient.  Apparently it’s easier to be patient when no one is trying your patience.  Some of my friends without children are still very patient and they have

wonderful advice for me.

And as cute as they look from a distance, children are more crazy than I had imagined.  Thank God they’re small.  Add 4-feet and 150 pounds to a 2-year-old and

no one would be safe.  Imagine coming home from work and finding a 6-foot-2-inch man naked in your hallway covered in marker, angry at the world because he

can’t look up and see his forehead.  It’d be time to call the cops.

Yet in the midst of the insanity and constant noise I’ve found new steel in my soul.  It’s not as polished as it was before children, but each ounce of virtue in me has

been purified by fire.  I’m a bit charred, but I’m real now.  (No doubt, my celibate friends have experienced similar purification through their ministries!)

Ill prepared, powerless, terrified, a bit broken … overwhelmed with love, luckiest man alive, mighty protector, man of steel … that is fatherhood.

Twelve years after the first birth I’m still not quite ready for all this.  How does a 35-year-old let his preteen girl know how much he loves her?  How does he talk to

her about her crush, or bond over how awesome Taylor Swift is?  How does he ride the waves of puberty hitting his home like a tsunami?  I’ll let you know when I

have it figured out.

But I’m blessed to stand here, in over my head since day one, between her and the world.  Here I’ll always stand, as my father always will for me.  

A Different Way to Relate to the Rosary by Ronda Chervin

I love the Rosary. I have on my web, www.rondachervin.com under free spiritual books, one I wrote called Mary: Teach us how to Live: Healing Meditations on the

Mysteries of the Rosary.

But years later I got a fresh inspiration. Catholics like to meditate on different sets of mysteries during the week. Mondays and Saturdays some of us meditate on

the Joyful mysteries of Jesus and Mary in Scripture such as the Annunciation of the Angel telling Mary about the birth of Jesus. Tuesday and Friday we meditate on

the Sorrowful Mysteries such as the Agony in the Garden…through to the Crucifixion. On Wednesdays and Sundays it’s the Glorious Mysteries such as the

Resurrection…and Thursdays the Luminous Mysteries such as the Wedding at Cana and the Transfiguration. 

So I thought, why not relate our own days to these mysteries. For a year, every evening I thought about what were the joyful, sorrowful, or glorious mysteries of my

day!  For example, I had joy swimming today, sorrow because of a conflict, and glory from the Eucharist at Mass.  Because of this I had to see that there was lots of

good in the day, not only things to feel bad about.

This became a whole year of journaling. Other people tried it and liked it, too.



New - December, 2012:

Michael Healy - Silence, Recollection, and the Season of Hectic Activity
Dec. 21 at 1:12pm

Be still, and know that I am God.--Ps. 46:10
But Yahweh is in His holy temple, let the whole earth be silent before Him. –Hab. 2:2
The Lamb then broke the seventh seal, and there was silence in heaven. –Apoc. 8:1
Silence before the Lord Yahweh! –Zeph. 1:7
When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens from the royal throne, leaped your all-powerful Word. –Wis.

18:14-15
We are often reminded during the holiday season to keep Christ in Christmas.  This, of course, is a noble aim.  However, it can never be achieved via

billboards, advertisements, and public announcements, which themselves just contribute to the clutter and confusion of our daily lives.  Only if we individually build

an altar in our hearts, as the saints recommend, can we bring our Lord into our lives, families, and relationships during these holy days.
This requires that we periodically retreat from the busy-ness of the day into the world of prayer and adoration.  It is there that we find our true status, true

selves, true happiness.  As Mother Teresa said: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of

service is peace.”  Love expressed in service, which is prominent in our lives during the Christmas season in relation to family, friends, the needy, etc., will cause

frustration and burn-out if not grounded in prayer and silence.  Thus it is even more important during this time to maintain a daily prayer schedule—at least morning,

noon, evening, night—plus the Mass, a periodic holy hour in front of the blessed sacrament, etc.  These are the sources and wellsprings for keeping Christ in

Christmas.  The challenge we face is to remain in our depth and master the moment from the depth rather than let the passing impressions of the day dominate us

or carry us away.  Again, to quote Mother Teresa: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how

nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence….  We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
The problem with popular representations of keeping Christ in Christmas is that to get any attention they have “outshout” the competition: TV, radio, movies,

ads, music videos, twitter, e-mail, facebook, I-pods, gameboys, shopping trips, etc., etc.  But to outshout all this is not the way to convey the astounding truth of the

birth of the God-man to the virgin Mary in a stable in Bethlehem in order to offer himself as a whole burnt-offering for our reconciliation to the Father.  As

Kierkegaard writes: “The present state of the world is diseased.  If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply: Create silence!  Bring men to

silence.  The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today.  And even if it were blazoned forth with all the panoply of noise, then it would no longer be the

Word of God.  Therefore, create silence.”
One subtle danger is that we may become addicted to a fast-paced, frenetic lifestyle with the idea that it means we are living a “full life.”  From this

perspective, taking time out for recollection, prayer, and silence appears boring, uninteresting, and a waste of time!  Then the “solution” seems to be to throw

oneself even more intensely into activities and distractions—again, a special danger at a time like Christmas.  Yet in the end this is merely draining of our inner

strength, our ability to cope, our reserves of peace.
In response to this danger—or temptation—we have to remind ourselves of where our true peace lies, where our true depth is grounded: with our Creator

and Redeemer.  Again, Kierkegaard shows us the way with words we should take to heart during the great feast of Christ’s birth:  “What refreshment do we get

from all the busy bustle in comparison with the delicious quickening of that lonely wellspring which exists in every man, that wellspring in which the Deity dwells in

the profound stillness where everything is silent.”
Have a blessed Christmas!

Last Updated on Friday, 05 April 2013 17:26