Saturday, June 24, 2017

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 15

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the fifteenth step:





(15) To clothe the naked...



For some reason the first thing that comes to mind when confronted with this counsel of St. Benedict is something that I read some years ago in a work by Peter Brown in a book entitled The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity -a book that among other things, looks at early Christianity’s view of the body. Brown speculates that the Church’s view of modesty in the Roman World is colored by the fact that nudity was the privilege of the wealthy.



Another thought that comes to mind, is the way in which Baptisms were done in the early church. The catechumen would strip naked leaving the clothing they entered the church with behind, as they entered the Baptismal pool and then as they emerged from the waters and had oil poured over their heads, they would be clothed in a new garment.



The young man in Mark’s Gospel (Mk 14:52) who fleas the scene of the arrest of Jesus naked, is another image that comes to mind. Whereas the apostles had left everything to follow Jesus, now at the crucial moment of decision this young man (thought by some to be the writer of the Gospel--Mark) leaves everything behind to get away from Jesus.



But it could be that this young man’s presence in the Gospel is also an indication of the early Church’s Baptismal practice. When you understand how Baptisms were done, and also what entering the waters of Baptism symbolizes (entering into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus) you will see the connection between the young man leaving his clothes behind and then reappearing after the Passion in the Empty Tomb, (in place of the Angels who are there the other Gospels).



I have worked in a clothing closet before. Handing out clothing to the homeless. They would come in on Saturday mornings about 30 minutes before the soup kitchen would start serving food and would tell you what they needed.



“I need a shirt, extra large. Something in dark colors.”



I would go to the rack of men’s clothing and look for something that fit that description. Often the item would be an expensive shirt donated by someone who no longer felt it fashionable enough for their taste. Hardly ever was the clothing in any form of disrepair.



The poor man would usually snatch the piece of clothing from my hand and look at it before grunting and moving onward toward the kitchen. Some would thank me, many would avoid looking at me in the eye—embarrassed, only once did someone ask for the shirt that I was wearing—which I wish I could say that I had given to them.



None of the people I handed clothing to were ever naked.



So who are these “naked” that we are to clothe?



Are they the rich who in their warmth, security and pleasure filled lives, find in their nudity a way to recreate Eden without God?

Friday, June 23, 2017

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 14

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the fourteenth step:



(14) To relieve the poor.



I find the wording of this counsel of Saint Benedict rather interesting. In fact I felt that I had better check the translation to see if the one I was using was correct. What I found is that the word Benedict uses, that is translated as “relieve,” is “recreare” which literally means “to create again” or to “revive.”



With that in mind we see that the counsel that Saint Benedict is giving applies to a variety of the poor. The material poor as well as those who are poor in spirit.



While attending school at Saint Meinrad College I worked several work study jobs. One of these jobs was a weekend one where I assisted the Guestmaster at the Guest House. I greeted people who came to the guest house usually to inquire about the Monk’s schedule or the history of the monastery. But another group, that often made their appearance on a regular basis, were those looking for help--the poor.



Some of these were looking for food. The monastery had tickets, that I gave to those who asked for them, and they in turn would go to the monastery kitchen where food would be given to them. No questions were ever asked apart from how many members they had in their family which was a determining factor in how many tickets I would hand them.



A few of these poor souls, I recognized from my visits to the local pub in town. I did not judge them or deny them the tickets even though I knew that they had some money (at least some to buy drinks). One reason for my lack of judgment, was due to the fact that giving the monks food away, did not cost me anything. I wonder though, if the money had been coming out of my pocket, if I would have been as understanding.



Others came to the door looking for food of a different sort.



Thomas Merton in Bread in the Wilderness speaks of the psalms as God’s manna, given to feed the soul in the desert of life. The monk’s prayer, made up almost entirely of praying the psalms, provided that nourishment for many who had suffered loss or hurt from great struggles of faith.



All of us are poor. It is arrogant to think that I am somehow better than anyone else. If there is anything that I have hated throughout my life, it is those who look down on others. Sadly, it is also the part of myself that I hate the most—and the part that I know could ultimately condemn me if I do not let go of it.



Saint Benedict did not leave counsel to “help” the poor, even though we could interpret this counsel as concretely doing this. He told them to breathe life into them.



I could feed the poor with food, but if I made them feel like I was doing them a great service, I could leave them with their bellies full but still feeling very poor. If on the other hand, I fed them in the way I might some friend who I hoped to impress and win favor from, how might that leave them?



The famous, the wealthy and those in power often find that doors are opened for them and everything provided for them, although they usually have done nothing to deserve it. We may not have a “royal” family in this land of ours, but some are treated that way nonetheless. Why should some be treated that way and while others are neglected?





I can not change the way the world around me acts toward the poor, but I can change the way I act. I also cannot tell, from outward appearances, who the poor are by the way they appear. This counsel of Saint Benedict’s does not apply to one or two individuals but rather to everyone that I meet.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 13

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the thirteenth step:



(13) To love fasting.



Most of us are not familiar with fasting, but we are with dieting. They are not the same thing. Dieting has to do with vanity, fasting has to do with a higher good. We all feel so many needs that are not real but remain unaware. Fasting is a traditional means of gaining the wisdom of what we truly need.



Notice that St. Benedict’s counsel is not simply to “fast” but rather to “love” fasting. He wishes that the monk’s desire be-- to do without.



I am reminded of an old distinction made by Archbishop Fulton Sheen on his Life is Worth Living series. We have little choice over what we like, but love is an act of the will. We can choose to love something and we usually do learn to love both things and people that initially we may not have liked. We can also learn and choose to hate.



In a society such as ours fasting happens often enough but not for it’s own sake. People traveling or involved in work regularly skip meals for the sake of whatever has their focus. The problem is that in the long run we tend to be like camels and when we do sit down to eat, we gorge ourselves in case it might be awhile before we set down again.



What if we choose rather to only eat what we need? This has been suggested in numerous weight loss books as the most effective way of losing weight. It seems simple and reasonable. Notice that it essentially involves an act of will—but also notice that it is based on another truth that we tend to take more than we need.



What we need is the issue here. We seem totally out of touch with what we need to live healthy and productive lives versus what we are constantly being told we need to be happy.



It perhaps is wise in this environment to modify St. Benedict’s counsel to a more moderate course of action. We should love to fast from all excess. Since most of us are so caught up in a life of excess and are bombarded with messages that seek to convince our wills that we need more in order to survive, perhaps what we need to do first is to simply convince ourselves that we don’t need as much.



A simple meal will suffice. Does something in the back of my mind tell me that I need more?



Yes, I tell myself I need God. God is the "more" that I need and desire at all times!



Yes, I need the Bread of Life, but thank God this meal has given me the nourishment that my body needs and now I am ready to go on to the next part of my day.



I am not talking about dieting here, but I am talking about an attitude adjustment. A metanoia, “a complete turning around”, is what is necessary here. Years of being told we need more and more have left us unsatiated no matter how much we have acquired or have placed before us.





To "love" fasting is to fall in love with the feeling of incompleteness that only God can fill.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 12 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the twelth Step:



(12) Not to seek after pleasures.



This is not a popular counsel in our culture. We may be the most pleasure seeking culture that has ever existed. Indeed it may well be that of all the maxims that St. Benedict gives us, this is the hardest. I suspect some will find it nearly impossible to accept even intellectually.



St. Benedict here is not counseling and individual to reject pleasure when it is experienced but rather he is saying that one should now seek after it.



Most of us actively look forward to experiences that we believe will give us pleasure based on our past experiences. As a child we looked forward to Christmas each year, because at an early age when gifted with presents that we had not expect, we were filled with pleasure. But something strange happens, when we start expecting the pleasure and actively seeking after it, the reality never seems to live up to our expectation.



The gift that we beg for arrives and quickly is seen for what it is--"a false advertisement". The elusive relationship is finally gained but the reality never lives up to the fantasy.



The wise person learns this at an early age, but most of us become more creative in our explanations as to why our plans for pleasure are failing to pleasure us.When we seek after pleasure it become unattainable. Nothing ever lives up to our expectation. The act of seeking is a guarantee that we will not achieve the pleasure that we desire.



The longed after vacation, when it arrives, moves to quickly and is destroyed by the delays in travel, the lousy weather, etc.



If we are wise we will find that pleasure comes when we do not desire it but simply are present to the events of the present moment.



Our expectation is that God can come to us at any moment and this expectation will lead to pleasures and joy that we can not dream of.



The seeker lives in the past. He or she is trying to recreate the unplanned moment when everything seemed to be right. If only the moment could be recreated the pleasure would once again be experienced. But the reality is that that moment is past.



The reality is also that the future is ahead with all of its unexpectedness. “Seek first the Kingdom of God!” is the counsel of Jesus. Everything else is secondary. Everything else is illusion.



If I make it my goal to be totally present to the reality of the moment, rather than to be focused on some illusory happiness that lies in the future, I will find true joy right now.



The radical nature of this claim will find it’s confirmation when I am stuck in traffic or sitting in the waiting room of the doctor or dentist and I thank God for the extra time I have been given to relax, to read a magazine that I usually don’t have time for, to gently reflect on where God has led me in the past and how futile our my plans for anything without God’s co-operation.





“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the labors labor.” The future is ours only in so far as it is the Lord’s also. The pleasure seeker, seeks pleasure because they feel none in the present moment. In the seeking they suffer from their want.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 11

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the eleventh Step:



(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).



I work out in a gym about five times a week usually on my way home for work. There are a few regulars who are always there, both when I arrive and still there when I leave. They push their bodies to the absolute limit and their bodies show the results. Most people envy them but few are willing to put their bodies through the rigors required for such results.



I begin with this example for obvious reasons. When it comes to spirituality most people react negatively to the thought of monks beating themselves with flagelants or wearing hair shirts and I think rightly so, but as often happens when we reject a faulty interpretation, we seldom replace it with a correct one.



About a year ago I was giving a tour of a Benedictine Monastery, where I had attended college almost twenty years ago, to some visitors. Being a curious soul I know the place inside and out. Among the visitors was an author that I had worked with and her friend, along with another Benedictine Nun, all who were attending a conference at a nearby convent.



In the course of our tour we came upon the Chapter room of the monastery. The walls and ceiling of the Chapter Room were illustrated beautifully by a Swiss monk who had lived at the monastery in the early mid-1900's. The ceiling contained the signs of the zodiac illustrating the whole of life, the walls illustrated some of the steps that St. Benedict mentions in his rule (the subject of this series).



He illustrated this step by showing several monks flogging themselves. I mentioned that this was from the rule and the Benedictine sister immediately said that it wasn't. I mildly protested but she insisted. Later when we arrived at the bookstore, I openned the Rule of St. Benedict to the page and pointed out to her where it was. She was undetered, "It's a poor translation."



She mentioned another translation, but here again the wording was the same. Finally, she said,"well who believes that anymore?"



"Bodybuilders," I answered.



Chastising our flesh is a way of mastering our bodies and our wills.



One of my favorite soon to be saints, Father Solanus Casey, jogged. I think I read somewhere that he did so to punish his flesh. Chastising the body can be a healthy enterprise.



A famous Franciscan friar, who is a little overweight and has had numerous heart problems, told me recently that he was finally taking care of his body since he saw hopeful signs in the church.



A recent country song perhaps gives us this point best in modern language, "She treats her body like a temple, I treat mine like a honky tonk." If we believe that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then we will maintain it in a way that show that we treasure it.

Monday, June 19, 2017

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. - 10

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the tenth Step:





(10) To deny one's self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).



Denial has come to mean, not facing reality. This is not the type of "denial" that St. Benedict is promoting. Rather it is just the opposite, it is to deny the falsehood of the self that always feels threatened. This false "self" does not exist but is the result of Original Sin and we all struggle with it throughout our lives.



There is a part of us that feels that we must always be vigilant unless someone get one up on us. It is the part of our personality that puts up walls, that is afraid to be our true selves. Simply it is that part of us that fears being embarrassed, thought ill of or that we secretly fear is the definition of who we really are and we work tirelessly to keep everyone from learning the truth.



Of course, the truth is that this is not who we really are at all.



We are just the opposite of the Son of God. Jesus was God but as St. Paul says in Philippians, "did not deem equality with God." Jesus ate and drank with sinners, he associated with some very ungodly people.



None of us has to battle such odds. We are not God, but as the fruit of original sin we have all inherited the notion that we are supposed to be God. So most of us spend our lives not exercising the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with because we fear that we will fail to use them perfectly.



I wonder how many there are who have been graced with the gift of healing the sick but who never reach out to the sick because they fear the embarrassment that might come their way? Or how many talented leaders stand idly by while those not gifted lead?



Denying oneself means letting go of the fears that we do not possess abilities of god proportions and stepping out in faith knowing that God will provide what is lacking to our talents as we exercise them for the good of humanity.



Perhaps the most commonly told parable by Jesus about the Kingdom of God is that of the King or landowner who passes out talents before taking a trip. Those who invest in their talents are praised upon the Master's return whereas the one who buries his talents is condemned.



Why did the servant bury his talents? Because he was afraid.



Why does Jesus tell the parable? So his followers will not fall into the same predicament. Yet how many Christians will hear the words, deny yourself and immediately interpret the Lord's words as though he were advocating burying one's talents? Unbelievable!



Deny the fear of making a mistake, taking a risk of what might happen if you follow Our Lord to Jerusalem. The disciples told Jesus that if they went to Jerusalem he certainly would be killed, did he not fear for his life? Thomas often cast as the doubter but in fact probably the supreme believer says, "let us go to die with him!"



When we let go of the fear of what others think about us when it comes to using the talents and abilities that God has given us then we will truly build the Kingdom of God. Denying that part of ourselves that would bury our talents our of fear is true humility.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Feast of Corpus Christi

For the Feast of Corpus Christi:

The How to Book of the Mass  by Michael Dubruiel would be a great read.





Michael Dubruiel
The How-To Book of the Mass is the only book that not only provides the who, what, where, when, and why of themost time-honored tradition of the Catholic Church but also the how.
In this complete guide you get:
  • step-by-step guidelines to walk you through the Mass
  • the Biblical roots of the various parts of the Mass and the very prayers themselves
  • helpful hints and insights from the Tradition of the Church
  • aids in overcoming distractions at Mass
  • ways to make every Mass a way to grow in your relationship with Jesus
If you want to learn what the Mass means to a truly Catholic life—and share this practice with others—you can’t be without The How-To Book of the Mass. Discover how to:
  • Bless yourself
  • Make the Sign of the Cross
  • Genuflect
  • Pray before Mass
  • Join in Singing the Opening Hymn
  • Be penitential
  • Listen to the Scriptures
  • Hear a Great Homily Everytime
  • Intercede for others
  • Be a Good Steward
  • Give Thanks to God
  • Give the Sign of Peace
  • Receive the Eucharist
  • Receive a Blessing
  • Evangelize Others
  • Get something Out of Every Mass You Attend
"Is this not the same movement as the Paschal meal of the risen Jesus with his disciples? Walking with them he explained the Scriptures to them; sitting with them at table 'he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them."1347, Catechism of the Catholic Church

Find more about The How to Book of the Mass here.