Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Novena to St. Therese

The Novena to St. Therese continues.  It's included in this pocket-sized book.




When Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his Apostles to stay where they were and to "wait for the gift" that the Father had promised: the Holy Spirit.  The Apostles did as the Lord commanded them. "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1:14). Nine days passed; then, they received the gift of the Holy spirit, as had been promised. May we stay together with the church, awaiting in faith with Our Blessed Mother, as we trust entirely in God, who loves us more than we can ever know. 

"michael Dubruiel"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God - 73


This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God. The previous postings are found in the archives to the right. This is the 73rd Step:



(73) And never to despair of God's mercy.



We fall, time and again after numerous resolutions that we won't ever sin again. In a matter of seconds we are passing judgment on someone or even worst--once again falling into sin.



The tool that we most overlook in this great toolbox that we have been given to grow in communion with God is trust. Most of our acts of conversion are feeble attempts when we turn to God and ask Him to trust in us, but this is not what the spiritual life is about. Rather it is about knowing that we cannot be trusted but that God can be.



Turning to God is what the spiritual life is all about. It begins and ends with an act of trust in God's love and His mercy. There is nothing more tragic than when someone ceases to believe that God could ever love them or when they feel that they have done something that God could never forgive. Despair and closing ourselves off from God's mercy is the only act that can keep us from receiving it.



The devotion to the Divine Mercy that swept the Catholic world in the late 1900's and continues to thrive today is a great way to keep our focus on God's love and mercy by daily at 3:00 P.M. calling to mind God's mercy. The revelation to St. Faustina by Our Lord was that His death on the cross was for our sins, nothing new here, but He lamented that people were not availing themselves to His mercy and that she would become His Apostle of Mercy. "Jesus, I trust in you" is a powerful antidote to the many other voices that seek to destroy our lives. Focusing on the crucifix and meditating on the Passion of Christ as the supreme sign of God's love and mercy is powerful way to remind ourselves of how much God loves us.



Through the many counsels that we have looked at this is the most important--to remember God's mercy. God is our savior. Jesus we trust in you!

Monday, September 26, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God - 72

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God. The previous postings are found in the archives to the right. This is the 72nd Step:



(72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.



We should always strive to remain at peace with everyone. One wonders how different life would be if everyone were to embrace this counsel and practice it in their daily life. Would there ever be another war? Would anyone have reason to live in fear anymore?



But such is not the case and I cannot live with my focus on what others are or are not doing. I can only put this counsel into practice myself. Do I allow the sun to set without making peace with those who I'm either angry with or those who are angry with me.



I have worked with people who practice this counsel and it can be rather tiresome when they come up to you to make peace and you weren't even aware that you were at "war" with them. But in the long run it is much better to have these summits of peace than to have people around you stewing about some slight that you have committed against them.



And what of us?



Are we aware of the control that others have over us by their actions and words?



Really this is a counsel to make sure that any time God is Lord over you. When we make someone an enemy we are in danger of making them an idol that we worship and serve. They and the actions that they commit against us are not all-powerful and do not deserve the time and emotion that we often waste on them. Making peace with our adversaries means making peace with God first, asking God to empower us to forgive and acknowledging that God is the judge over all. We let go and let God be God in our lives.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God -71

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with GodThe previous steps are found in the archives. This is step 71:



71) To pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ.



"Father, forgive for they know not what they do," are the words that come to mind when we reflect on this counsel to "pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ." Jesus not only preached this counsel of Benedict's but He also left us an example of how to do it. Yet it is pretty tough to do when we start putting faces to the word enemy.



We could start by those who personally affront us and pray for them. Do we believe that they really didn't know what they were doing when they hurt us? I'll be that if you share the incident with an objective person they would offer you some insight into the ignorance that probably was at work on the other end. Perhaps our enemies are insane, misled or plain stupid and this is the evil that we live with in the world that things are not quite what they could be or should be at any given time.



Even those who are moved by greed and dispense with poisons that injure and kill thousands daily (many of whom are quite respected in our communities) should be prayed for because could anyone really know what they are doing--and still do it if it had such horrible results. One can easily look at the insanity of a Hitler or Stalin but what of those who market items that kill (feel free to fill in the blanks with all known cancer and disease causing products that one can still buy at the local convenience store).



We are to pray for these people--those who hurt us and threaten us personally and the same for those who we fear in a more global way. In doing so we also are made aware of our own ignorance and how we too are responsible for the pain and hurt we cause others.



In praying for our enemies we change them into our brothers and sisters. We recognize their frailty. We bring them back down to earth where we are. We destroy our idols (albeit idols that we fear). In the process God almighty is restored to His rightful place in our lives as the Supreme Being who should be our one concern.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel - 70

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous posts are found in the archives. This is step #70:



(70) To love the younger.



Benedict's advice to love the junior monk is a counsel that may not mean as much to us in a culture that prizes youth. There was a real danger in a culture where wisdom and age are seen as equal to see youth as foolish and of little significance.



Of course in the Gospel Jesus had told his disciples that "out of the mouths of babes" comes wisdom. The Christian realizes that there is a wisdom that comes not from years and reflection but directly from God.



The idealism of youth often carries with it a wisdom that can be lost with age. The high ideals that we both strive for and expect from others when we are young can grow into disillusion and cynicism with age. Having youth around whether at home, in the work place or in the church can greatly enhance our lives.



What is lost on modern man is this exclusion of youth from its midst. Modern people do not love "youth" meaning "others" as much as they love the idea of '"youth" for themselves.



There are many applications to this counsel for non monks. We should welcome children into our lives. We should see them as having much to offer in helping us to understand the ways of God in this life.



It should also be added that the abuse of children shows why this counsel is so important. If we see children as precious beings who must be protected and cared for, i.e. truly loved, then we will stand up and defend them whenever they come under attack from those who would use their innocence to use them sexually or damage their young souls in any way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 69

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous posts are found in the archives. This is step # 69:



(69) To honor the aged.




Life that has been lived long has acquired wisdom that can not be learned in books. The idealism of youth often finds quick solutions to problems that the person with wisdom will merely smile at. They have seen it all and have grown to appreciate what is of the utmost importance and what is trivial in a way that those of us who are still learning have not.



There is nothing more valuable in a culture than those who have been around for a long time and can provide this perspective to life. I was blessed to live near my grandparents and to enjoy their wisdom as I was growing up. There is a perspective to life that they can give that younger parents can not.



Benedict's counsel encourages us to honor the gift of life that has been bestowed upon our elders; to hold them in high esteem, to seek their counsel. To learn from them when we disagree with them.



Our culture unfortunately has not followed this counsel of late. We present youth as the ideal. Older people are made to feel that their time is past. This is a tragedy and the lasting effects are yet to manifest themselves in our culture.



Honoring anyone is a sign that we recognize the value that they possess not only to us but also to all. Honor the older people you encounter today. Take time to say hello, take time to learn from them. Allow yourself to receive their blessing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

RCIA Resource on the Mass




Michael Dubruiel
The How-To Book of the Mass not only provides the who, what, where, when, and why of the most 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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Jesus Prayer

Since the time of early Christianity, there have been forms
of prayer that use breathing as a cadence for prayer. The Jesus
Prayer and the Rosary, along with various forms of contemplative
prayer, are all variations of this type of prayer. The real prayer
behind all of these methods is the prayer of surrender: “Into
your hands I commend my spirit.” This was the prayer that Jesus
prayed to the Father from the cross.

Though confession alone does not remove the temporal penalty
of sin, healing still is possible by God’s grace. Prayer, reading the
Scripture, giving alms, doing good works all are acts that have
had indulgences attached to them by the Church. By obtaining
an indulgence, the Christian receives healing from the temporal
penalty of even the gravest sins, reducing or eliminating altogether
the time of purification needed in purgatory (CCC 1471).

Ideally, the Christian is motivated to perform these spiritual
exercises not from fear of punishment but out of love for God.
As we read in the preceding passage, St. Paul tells the Ephesians
to offer themselves as a spiritual sacrifice with Christ, who has
paid the debt of our sins. Seeing Christ on the cross and meditating
on his love for us should help us to understand how much
God loves


"michael dubruiel"

Saturday, September 17, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel - 68

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous steps are in the archives to the right. This is the 68th step:



(68) Not to love pride.



A direct translation of the Latin for this counsel would be to "flee" pride. Yet it would be fair to say that I think few people actually flee pride these days. There is a reason it is a vice and sadly there is nothing worst than a vice that is presented as a virtue.



"Looking out for #1" became something of a slogan starting in the 1970's and with it an explosion of the love of pride. Pride for many is no longer a sin but a sign of psychological maturity. This is sad because pride always mask a secret belief that deep down I really know that I'm not all that good and that is a tragedy!



We all can relate to a person who constantly is blowing their own horn and how tiresome this can be. But imagine for a moment that the person who is doing this is your child. I think if you asked yourself why they were doing it and tried to enter their skin you would see that sadly they really don't believe it and they are proclaiming it hoping that someone will affirm it.



Unfortunately such pride merely leads to people heaping scorn upon the individual in unsuccessful attempts to bring them back down to earth. And the sad individual becomes mired in an ever deepening pool of self-pity.



Contrast this individual with the saints. Although esteemed by others they hold themselves in low esteem. They realized their faults and they realize their gifts. Their gifts they realize are just that, presents from a God and they thank God continuously for them.



The saints are truly those who look out for #1, and they manifest this in their lives. They live in reality and know that God is number one and seek Him in the poor, in others and most of all constantly in prayer.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Our Lady of Sorrows

In northern Ohio there is a church dedicated to Our Lady
of Sorrows; in the basement is a room containing signs of
weakness that have been left behind by those who have experienced
the power of God at that shrine. Among whiskey bottles,
cigarettes, crutches, and leg braces is a mat that once
carried a paralyzed man there—who left empowered by God
to walk again.

I suspect that the most powerful stories of healing, however,
come from those who were unable to leave anything behind.
Their weakness, whatever it was, remained with them; however,
they had been empowered to carry their weakness in the power
of God. This type of healing often goes unnoticed. Even so, it is
the greater healing, because it enables us to share in the cross of
Christ, to embrace our weakness in the power of God. For the
follower of Christ, weakness need not mean defeat!




"michael dubruiel"

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel - 67

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous steps are found in the archives to the right. This is step 67:



(67) Not to love strife.



Another way of translating this counsel of St. Benedict's is "not to love confrontation." There is not a counsel here to avoid it, but simply not to "love" it. There are some who literally love to pick a fight; who are entertained by creating an environment of unease.



The model must be Christ who was no stranger to confrontation or as our Lord say, "bringing the sword." His attitude is one of repairing the damage that has been inflicted or is in the process of being created by others. We should love the imitation of Christ at all times and seeking to do what Christ would do in any situation, mindful that we are in Christ.



This necessarily means confronting evil wherever we encounter it. But it does not mean loving that confrontation. There comes a point and it is a fine point where good people can become evil. Critics of Christianity often point out the damage done by "good" Christians. What they are highlighting is not the work of good Christians but rather the work of evil people who have allowed their love of strife to overtake their love of Christ.



The goal is never to destroy a person but rather to seek their salvation. Christ alone can save the person, not us. We can merely point out the way, most of the time painfully risking the loss of friendship from those who prefer darkness to light. This should grieve us too and move us to prayer.



Whether we live this counsel or not can be judged by our reaction to the way we deal with confrontation in our lives. Does it give us a feeling of satisfaction or sorrow? Our Lord was moved to tears when He approached Jerusalem because they did not know the time of their visitation. Is our response the same?

Monday, September 12, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 66

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous postings are available in the archives to the right. This the 66th step:



(66) Not to be jealous; not to entertain envy.



Perhaps the saddest of sins both of these arise from a failure to acknowledge and give thanks for tall the ways in which God has blessed us. Our focus is not on our own giftedness but rather on someone else. God has blessed us, and we are blessed right now. Looking at someone else as more blessed or focusing on their gifts as something that we want for ourselves is a waste of time.



This is especially true in the quest for sanctity. We do not become holy by becoming someone else. We become holy by being fully who God created us to be. Saints are as varied in their gifts as are people.



Knowing ourselves is not always self-evident. Many times everyone around us seems to know who we are better than we know ourselves. And often we know others better too and are able to admire the gifts that others possess more than the ones that we do ourselves. This is the crux of the problem.



Jealousy and envy should be treated in the same way we would treat a rash on our body--as an indication of a problem. The answer to jealousy and envy is to thank God also for the gifts that He has given to others. We need to look upon others not as a threat but as a blessing.



We need to thank God for the gifts that he has given us. Like the steward who took the gifts left with him by the master and multiplied them a hundredfold we need to focus on what God has given us and how it might benefit others. Our one goal should be that we use our gifts in accordance with His will.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 65

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous entries are found in the archive to the right.



(65) To hate no one.



Christianity introduced a radical concept into the world that has seldom been lived out--to love everyone as God loves him or her. Our Lord counseled his disciples to "love their enemies" and to "love one's neighbor." When asked by one of His hearers who their neighbor was, Jesus used the example of what undoubtedly would have been the questioners idea of an enemy--a Samaritan as the good who was "neighbor" to the unfortunate fallen soul along the roadside.



Benedict's maxim almost takes this a step further in counseling us in the first place to "hate no one." This may seem impossible to do but only if we are convinced that we ourselves have been set up as the supreme judge over all people. Every person that we might "hate" is an invitation for us to turn to God again and to acknowledge that God alone knows what His designs have for both the person and us in question.



We should pray for those who abuse and mistreat us. We are to try to understand those who "hate" us. Hatred by its very nature is evil.



The example that usually drives the point home is to imagine that the person in question is your child. Could you hate your own flesh? Would you not wish for their salvation? If they are doing wrong would you not do everything in your power to help them to do right so that they might be saved?



In the Kingdom of God we are all brothers and sisters, God's children.



The genius of St. Benedict's counsel is that it does not play the game of saying that you can love someone but not like them--which I have always found rather ridiculous. We are to hate no one and to see "hate" as an obstacle to love.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 64

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with GodThe previous entries are found in the archive to the right.



(64) To love chastity.



St. Benedict's counsel to "love" chastity applies to every Christian regardless of their state of life. The monk will be chaste in a way that is different than a married person but both are required to be chaste in their dealings with all people. Chastity is an attitude toward the other that sees the beauty of the person but does not wish to take or consume the other.



Being chaste means never making an object of anyone. While we think of this in sexual terms, sex is really just the tip of the iceberg. Seeing a person as a person and not making an object of them helps us to truly be reverent toward the person. Being chaste means being open to seeing others as God sees them. We desire to be in a good relationship with all people but we do not seek to enslave the other.



Some were shocked some years ago when Pope John Paul II stated that even a married man could commit a sin of lust with his own wife. What the Pope was pointing out was that even marriage does not give a man or woman the license to treat the their spouse like their property. In the same way we are called to treat all with respect.



In Latin this counsel is made up of two words, "love" and "chastity." In reality the two are equal. We are called to love all people chastely, in imitation of God who loves all of His creation.

Friday, September 9, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel - 63



This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God. The previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the right. This is the 63rd step:



(63) To fulfil daily the commandments of God by works.



Most of us think of the commandments as "something" not to do, but this is not Benedict's take. He sees them as something that requires action on our part daily. The type of action required is either to "fight" against the urges that keep us from fulfilling God's commands or to "flee" the devil as we run toward God.



Fighting or fleeing are the actions demanded of the disciple of Christ. Most of us may find that we are moved to do neither. It could be that in our complacent lifestyle that following God's commandments doesn't seem to ask much of us. We peer out of the windows of our house or car and see the world outside of our selves and are quite unmoved by the plight of those who live down the street or in another neighborhood. We somehow listen to the Gospels and confuse Jesus with someone who "didn't care" and wouldn't have lifted a finger to help anyone.



If this definition hits close to home, then you know what you must "fight" in order to fulfill God's commands daily--indifference. If on the other hand this definition makes you angry and you don't like the mean guy saying that perhaps you aren't a "good" Christian after all, then you need to flee the devil who has taken hold of your life (coming no doubt as an angel of light) and run to God who will empower you to fulfill His commands.



This counsel is against complacency. It is against thinking that we have ever arrived and now all we need to do is sit back and relax. It is a warning against the riches that can blind us to the truth of the Gospel which can neither be lost by the gnawing of a moth or the rot of rust. Works are demanded of us daily in order that God's will might be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God - 62

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with GodThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the right. This is the 62nd step:



(62) Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called.



Holiness comes from God's grace. One's desire should be to be in a good relationship with God and not to be well thought of by others. In fact Our Lord declared that "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account," Matthew 5:11. It would matter little then, if people thought of us as vile and pagan if that were not the truth.



There was a group of holy men in Russia who sought to live this out quite literally, to no avail. They are know as the "holy fools of Russia" and would do everything humanly possible to be thought of us vile and "unholy" to the point of publicly fornicating with prostitutes, walking naked through the public squares and uttering every kind of vulgarity loudly. But the populace knew that this was all so that they would not be well thought of and so they revered them anyway!



We do not have to go to such lengths to avoid being well thought of by others but we shouldn't lose the point of their witness--that holiness is something to be rather than something that others think we are. Holiness is not an act but rather is the result of a relationship with God. Our motivation should always be to seek the Kingdom of God in our lives first and sometimes that will lead to others thinking poorly of us. But Jesus tells us that we are blessed and that is what matters.



The civil rights leaders of the late 1950's and early 1960's were religious people. They were motivated by their belief in God to reject the way black people were being treated in this country. They sang praise to God as they marched in front of State Capitals, sat at lunch counters or entered school buildings. Other so-called "Christians" reviled them declaring them to be atheists, troublemakers and Communists. But they were blessed and now we look upon them as saints and martyrs.



When we are gone from this earth, then we hope people will think of us as holy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God 61

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God. The previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 61st step:



(61) To obey the commands of the Abbot in all things, even though he himself (which Heaven forbid) act otherwise, mindful of that precept of the Lord: "What they say, do ye; what they do, do ye not" (Mt 23:3).



The Abbot is the head of the monastery, and even though you and I may not be in a monastery we all have human authorities that we should respect and obey. Like the previous counsel where St. Benedict taught us to hate our own will, here we are taught to obey those whom God has placed over us even if the person in authority isn't the most God-like person.



Benedict quotes Our Lord injunction to obey the Pharisees who He says sat in the seat of Moses. A quick survey of the Gospels will find that Jesus often condemned the behavior of the Pharisees but in this passage says that they should be obeyed anyway because God had put them in their positions of authority.



We also have the example of Our Lord's journey to the cross where He is handed over by the High Priests and then made subject to Pilate. He tells Pilate that Pilate has no authority over Him unless it were given from above from God. So Our Lord accepts Pilate's authority to put Him to death.



This way of looking at authority should lead us to pray for those who God has placed over us that they too will seek to do God's will. The person who truly believes in God will trust that even a corrupt authority will unwittingly do the will of God. The Scriptures are filled with examples of evil kings doing the will of God even though they were unaware of it and might have had evil motives at the time.



The example of Joseph in Genesis, sold into slavery by his brothers who later bow before him imploring his mercy stands as the premier example of this trust that we all should have that God works through whoever He wills. Joseph faced with his brothers says, "what you did to me you meant for evil but God meant it for good to bring about the salvation of many."



Being obedient but without following the example of bad authority allows us to worship God alone.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God 60

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with GodThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 60th step:



(60) To hate one's own will:



Someone who seeks to be in communion with God has to learn to subject themselves entirely to God's will. Jesus who was the Son of God still prayed in His humanity that "not his will be done but the Father's." We all have "our way" of looking at life and "our way" of doing things and the Scriptures are quite clear that "our way is not God's way."



We all suffer because we believe that happiness lies in fulfilling our will. But if we have the gift to reflect on our past, we quickly come to the realization that much of what we "will" does not bring us happiness and in fact is quite fleeting and arbitrary--changing with the wind.



To fight "our will" does not mean going off into another direction but rather facing reality. Our "will" often pulls us away from what most needs our attention. We often will to be somewhere other than where we are, to be doing something other than what needs to be done and to be with someone other than the one we are with at the present moment. These are exactly the moments when we are to "hate" our own will and seek to do the will of God.



God had placed us where we are right at this very moment. He has also placed us in a situation that demands our attention at this moment. The person who is before us has been placed there by God. Being attentive to all that God has placed in our midst will bring a contentment that we will never find if we are constantly seeking to flee from the cross.

Monday, September 5, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God 59

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with GodThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 59th step:



(59) Not to fulfil the desires of the flesh (cf Gal 5:16).



This counsel of St. Benedict's is a quote from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh," (Galatians 5:16). St. Paul saw the flesh and the Spirit at war with one another and one would suspect that so would St. Benedict. The flesh for Paul was an obstacle to being the person God had created us to be.



But less we project all of our own ideas about what the "flesh" means, let us look at what St. Paul means when he speaks about the "flesh": "Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God," (Galatians 5:19-21). If one peruses the list one will find that the "desires" of the flesh are all the ways that our desires can go mad and lead to our own destruction.



Contrast the works of the flesh with the desires of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," (Galatians 5:22). Notice the first three are all what the "desires'" of the flesh are motivated by, the desire to experience love, joy and peace, but of course they never lead to that, so we should strive to live by the Spirit.



How can w do it? St. Paul tells us, "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit," (Galatians 5: 24-25). We need to subjugate ourselves to Jesus and to trust in the Holy Spirit at every moment of everyday, so that we seek to fulfill the will of God and not of our flesh.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God 58 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with GodThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 58th step:



(58) To confess one's past sins to God daily in prayer with sighs and tears, and to amend them for the future.



One of the areas of spirituality, which has been under attack for the past forty years, is the "emphasis on sinfulness" that seems to have dominated spirituality of all religions from the beginning of time. Those who have bought into this notion have found that after awhile God seems to slip further and further from the picture.



Sin essentially is anything that breaks my relationship with God. Remove sin from the picture and you are essentially removing God from the picture--because you are admitting that it really doesn't matter if you are offending God or not. It would be like being in a relationship with your spouse and refusing ever to admit any wrongdoing or to even consider that you are ever wrong (I've been accused of this before but I humbly submit that I am almost always wrong when it comes to my faults in my relationship with my wife), one would expect such a relationship to be in grave trouble.



Admitting that we are not living up to our part of the relationship is a healthy practice of constantly trying to stay in communion with God. Doing it with "sighs and tears" means that we are not just doing some per forma but rather are emotionally feeling what we are saying. St. Ignatius of Loyola would have retreatants pray for the gift of tears when they meditated on their sinfulness and this is a practice that should be restored.



I remember during a pilgrimage to Medjugordje in what is now Bosnia in the late 1980's standing in a confessional line and watching people emerge from the outside confessional stations (a chair with a priest, while the penitent knelt beside him) wiping tears away. It was touching, because it gave me the sense that these weren't just a listing off of faults but a heart felt conversion from a life without God to a life that the penitent truly wanted to live with the help of God. We should all pray for the gift of tears for our failings.



My great-grandfather would always be wiping tears away when he returned from receiving communion. I found this deeply significant as a child and it is something I've never forgotten. Involving our emotions in our relationship with God is a great grace that we should strive to have in our relationship with Him.



The final part of Benedict's maxim is to amend our lives. Real contrition for our sins involves a firm resolve to involve God in those parts of our lives that we have excluded Him in the past. By being aware of God's presence at all times we likely will amend our lives in the future.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Michael Dubruiel: 73 Steps to Communion with God 57

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with GodThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 57th step:



(57) To apply one's self often to prayer.



The word that is translated "to apply" can also mean to fall down in adoration (prostration). It is worth mentioning because if anything has been lost in modern Christianity it is the sense of adoration that preceded or indeed was a part of prayer in previous ages. One can still see the ancient method most noticeably in the prayer or Moslems who fall down bowing their heads to the ground whenever they pray.



This reflects the way Christians would have prayed during the time of Mohammed. It has been noted in several biographies of Pope John Paul II that when no one is around that he also prays using this posture. Yet most Catholics have been taught that "standing" is the ancient method of prayer (which quite frankly is nothing short of a lie).



Anyway, "applying" oneself in this manner involves the body in a way that forces one to "pay attention" to what you are doing (also causes the blood to flow to your head). The early Church Fathers recommended this posture whenever anyone was having trouble praying and later St. Ignatius of Loyola instructed pray-ers to find some way to acknowledge that they were in God's presence at the beginning of every prayer period.



To pray continually was an injunction of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, "pray constantly," (1 Thess. 5:17) and if we understand that prayer is communicating with God, we can see that there is nothing more important if we are to be in communion with God.



Every moment of our day is an opportunity for prayer. There is nothing that we do in life that can not be brought to God. But it is important also to set aside time where we are not active and God is the focus of our undivided attention. Ideally this will happen as least seven times a day. Traditionally this would be when we arise in the morning, in the mid-morning, at noon, in the mid-afternoon, in the evening, when we retire and in the middle of the night. Of course the last one, in the middle of the night may seem the hardest but if you find yourself awakened in the middle of the night-there is perhaps no time when you can give God more of your undivided attention. The early Fathers felt that in the night (vigils) the spirit world was more visible and there was less to distract us.



Be creative in finding ways to pray throughout the day. Take the Scriptures with you wherever you go. While waiting in traffic read a few verses, standing in line recite prayers, turn idle moments into opportunities for spiritual growth.

Friday, September 2, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God 56

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with GodThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 56th step:



(56) To listen willingly to holy reading.



Another translation of this counsel has "to listen intently," both are correct but for a culture where "will" is a weak term, "intent" probably communicates the sense of the counsel better. St. Benedict was referring to the daily table reading that would be done and the fact that one has to be counseled to "listen intently" shows that even a monk's mind isn't freed from the clutter that we all find our minds filled with.



We all listen to holy reading every time that we attend Mass and there perhaps is no better counsel then to listen intently to the reading of the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures are "living word" unlike much of what we read which consists of words that communicate a truth and usually little more. The Scriptures have the power to transcend their original purpose and to speak to us directly--if (and this is a big IF) we listen.



Listening is a lost art. I often think of myself as a good listener (my wife would disagree and she is right about most things, so I will defer to her on this manner). Truly listening requires an effort on our part. Too often we are planning our response while someone speaks, like the Prodigal Son who rehearsed his lines on his way home to the Father. God's word cuts through our speeches and goes right for the heart.



If we want to hear God speak to us, there is no surer way for this to happen than to listen intently to the word of God proclaimed at Mass. Perhaps we are afraid of what God might say to us--so we intently do not listen. That is a shame if it is the case.

If you want to be in communion with God listen intently to what He has to say to you when the Scriptures are read.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

73 Steps to Communion with God - 55

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with GodThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 55th step:



(55) Not to love much boisterous laughter.



Written in the context of rules for monastic living this one is easily understood by anyone who has ever visited a good monastery. There is an atmosphere of silence that permeates the monastic environment and loud boisterous laughter would destroy such an atmosphere.



The maxim is not to "love much" explosive laughter. Again there is no prohibition against humor here but rather there is a caution of making a show of it. If one has ever been around someone who regularly explodes with loud laughter there is something rather unsettling about it--making one wonder about the sanity of the individual displaying it.



Loudness of any sort displays an excessive ego, "look at me I'm laughing." A good laugh is good for everyone, but the one who explodes in laughter is someone who is overdoing it. Parents often have to caution their children against this, it is even more embarrassing in an adult.



The obvious fault with this type of loudness is that it intrudes upon the space of those outside our immediate circle. The joy that we feel and those we are speaking to may share may not be shared by those who are loud laughter will inflict itself upon at a distance.

To not love explosive laughter can save us from much embarrassment and also preserve the decorum of respect of the people we live with.



There are those who will think that this injunction is not in keeping with the New Testament but read what the Letter of James says: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you," (James 4:7-10).



The genius of the maxims of St. Benedict is that they embrace all of Scripture, while most of us choose to only exchange a handshake with the word of God.