Thursday, June 30, 2016

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.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

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.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 9

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 ninth Step:



(9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).



The Golden Rule is well known across cultures. At an early age we are taught to treat others in the same way that we wish to be treated. Has this rule fallen on deaf ears though in our time?



Could it be that we no longer think about others or care about them? What is it that has desensitized us from the needs of others?



Forty years ago people marched upon the towns and villages of the south to protest the way people of color were still being treated; almost a century since the cessation of slavery. Something of the Golden Rule motivated those marches and when television cameras broadcast those images to the rest of the nation soon others changed their opinions too.



But forty years later it seems that the multiplicity of those images along with the dramatization of similar images has lessened the impact of reality. Like a collective hypnosis we seem not to be affected by the plight of our fellow human anymore. Like a callous that develops from constant friction, the flood of images of suffering and hurting individuals has dampened our ability to care.



I suppose that recognizing this, is the first step to diagnosing it as a problem that is destroying us as a society. St. Benedict’s maxim can serve as a corrective. The first step is to really feel, what it is that I feel.



How do I feel when someone smiles at me? It feels good, I feel important or at least that this person is well disposed toward me which is also a good feeling. If this is so I should offer a smile to those who life cast in my path today.



How do I feel when someone treats me in a manner that makes me feel that my existence is inconsequential to them? Probably not very good, then I need to even in a small way acknowledge everyone as an important part of God’s plan for me today.



We tend to be a society in touch with their feelings. It is a small step to return back to a more civil manner of existence where I believe that there is not just “me” but us on this planet. Everyone is important in God’s plan. My feelings are the key to defining how I should treat others in the way that God wants me to do.





Monday, June 27, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 8

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 Seventh Step:



8- To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17).



Often honor is confused with adoring or worshiping someone. For example when the commandment to honor one’s parents is rejected, what is usually rejected is the concept that I have to worship my parents, but that is not what honor means.



To honor someone is to respect them as an individual who is part of the whole. I honor you if I acknowledge the uniqueness that you bring to the human race. I honor you as a fellow human being, giving you all of the rights and respect that every human deserves. Added to this, is a deep respect for your person, your individuality.



Too often our problems with other people is rooted in our inability to see them and accept them as different from ourselves. The other is more introverted or extroverted—we want them to be like us. The other is too right brained or left brained—we want them to be like us.



Honoring an individual means first and foremost that we accept them as the unique individual that God has created them to be.



One would think that monks in a monastery would have little individuality. But in reality the monks I have been privileged to know in my life have exhibited the greatest individuality of any people that I have known. They all dress alike, their lives follow a similar ritual everyday, but their personalities and who God has created them to be shines forth.



The “true self” as Thomas Merton termed the individual who is not trying to live up to the expectations imposed outside of the self can only be freed up by a deep trust in God. We can nurture the "true self" in others by honoring them as unique individuals with a mission from God.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 7

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 Seventh Step:





7. Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20).



Lying about what we witness in life, is one of those sins that always has the appearance of not being all that serious, until it continues to escalate like a snowball growing bigger and bigger; until we are no longer sure of what the truth is. It is not in our interest or anyone else’s to not tell the truth.



Jesus identified himself with the Truth. If we are in communion with Jesus then we too will be fountains of the truth. But the temptation to choose other than the truth is a large one and it almost always has as an underpinning the sense that to do so is in our best interest.



It is not.



Many times our inability to tell the truth reveals a deep spiritual void within. We bear false witness because somehow it will make us appear better, which at it’s heart means that we feel that there is something wrong with us to begin with. The temptation to bear false witness about another or an event I have witnessed is an invitation for me to ask, “What do I feel is wrong with myself?”



Why do I feel the need to speak about an event or a person in an untruthful way? The answer is more self-revelatory than illustrative of any real happening outside of myself? My answer allows me to peer into the hole within my soul.



Oh God help me to see myself as a valuable part of your creation. Allow me to see that the life I experience is alive with your presence and that others will always benefit from it.



But what about the other reasons, like, I don’t want to hurt someone?



Does the truth ever hurt? The answer is a loud and thunderous, yes it can hurt terribly. But is that bad?



Pain is a fact of life and to try to avoid it only delays the pain. Confronting it and accepting it leads to resurrection. The cross is a daily visitor to everyone. The choice is often whether we love people enough to be honest with them not hurt them but to help them to face reality in life.



Perhaps there is nothing more definitive about salvation than the one word--reality. A person who experiences the saving grace of God lives in reality, the world as it is.



The unsaved person lives a lie, perhaps it is a world of their creation. It is their fiction. It is impossible for others to be invited into this world of theirs because it is a non-existent place that they themselves do not even exist in. There is nothing sadder then to experience this firsthand, but it is the lot of those who refuse to accept the pain of daily life.



There is the obvious consequence of bearing false witness that I have purposely left to the end. Consequences are of little matter here, but for many they are the guiding force of their daily actions. St. Benedict did not counsel in his maxim—“consider the end when giving a witness.” He did not do so because he has already laid out for us what the end-(the consequence of every action is)—it is God.



God is the consequence for anyone who sets out on this path. My concern is for doing what God commands. True compassion results.



All of our excuses and reasons for not doing so—usually rationalized from a concern for consequences, are derived from a lack of respect for others (Benedict’s second maxim). We do not believe in our neighbor’s right to “handle” the truth. This is very sad.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 6

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



6. Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).



St. Benedict attaches a scripture passage to this maxim which in many ways points to where he has obtained the previous four. In Romans 13:9 the Apostle wrote, “The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself, (Romans 13:9, NIV).”



The simple rendering not to covet is intriguing. We probably are used to the formulation that we should not covet our neighbor’s goods or our neighbor’s wife, but here there is just the simple injunction not to covet. There is nothing more difficult in the culture that we live in than to rid ourselves of desire.



Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha (enlightened one), based an entire religion on ridding ourselves of what he discovered was the source of all ill. In his four noble truths he stated, that all life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, the way to rid the world of suffering is to extinguish desire, that experience is Nirvana.



I remember teaching basically the same truth to teen boys in high school, and receiving a predictable response—“if you rid yourself of desire you wouldn’t move—you would just lie on the couch.” They, mirroring the culture that we live in, saw desire or coveting as a good thing. It is the very fuel that propels one to have great goals and to achieve great success.



But is it?



Doesn’t our desire or coveting rather blind us to achieving our goals, creating a false sense of what is needed to make us happy? What if we were to live each day with a sense of purpose but instead of being concerned about our plan we primarily were focused on God’s will for us.



This may seem too idealistic and we might retort, “How can I know God’s will for me today?” The spiritual writer Jean-Pierre De Caussade in his great spiritual work Abandonment to Divine Providence gave a simple guide to answering the question. The will of God can best be discerned by a simple acceptance of whatever the day brings and to a focus on that.



My spiritual director Benedictine Father Lambert Reilley once mirrored this thought when I complained about all the distractions that I was suffering from. “People keep showing up and interupting the work that I am trying to get done.”



“Why look at them as distractions?” Father Lambert asked me. “Instead see them as people that God is sending to you.” What Father Lambert (who now is Archabbot Lambert) was saying to me was mirrored in the Rule of Saint Benedict’s injunction that the monks were to welcome the stranger as though Christ himself were arriving at the monastery.



So this notion of coveting, covers not only material things and the relationships that others have, it also covers are very time and the way we view it. Time is the biggest culprit in the whole business of ridding ourselves of coveting. We want and desire to have _______________(fiill in the blank) right now rather than waiting until it comes our way.



If it is our health, we want to feel better now, so we take drugs that in the long run ruin our immune system. If we are trying to lose weight, we want it now so we may injure our health seeking a quick solution. If we want material items why wait, put it on credit. All in all, coveting is a rejection of the world that we live in as it is, and the message of the Gospel is just the opposite, the world is not changed by wishing it to be otherwise, but rather by confronting the world as it is and dealing with it.



Why would we not sit around on the couch, if we rid ourselves of desiring? Because we would realize that we have work to do and it needs to be done now! The very act of coveting if we conceptualize it is that of a dreamer, not someone who is immersed in reality.



The opposite of coveting is acceptance.


Friday, June 24, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 5

Step # 5 of the 73



5. Not to steal...



It may seem strange that stealing is so high on St. Benedict’s list, but there is nothing more destructive in communal living than mistrust and there is nothing that can destroy trust like living with thievery. Once something no matter how insignificant is stolen everyone around becomes the potential thief.



There is a story I have heard so many times and so many versions of that I am not even sure where it is originally from but it goes something like this: An abbot of a monastery had become very disenchanted with the way the monks in his monastery treated one another. He ventured off to seek out the advice of an holy monk who lived as a hermit deep in the woods.



After the holy monk had listened to the abbot’s concern, he raised his hand and asked the abbot to wait while he prayed about this situation. Several hours passed and finally the hermit reappeared in the cell and made his solemn announcement to the abbot. “When you go back to the monastery tonight gather all of the monks into chapter and then announce to them what I have to tell you.” He then revealed what he had learned in prayer to the abbot.



That night the abbot did as the holy man had instructed, when the last of the monks had taken their place in the room, the abbot arose and announced to the gathered assembly, “The holy hermit has announced to me and asked me to inform you that God has revealed to him that the messiah is in our midst.” Afterwards the monks treated each other with great respect, wondering and not knowing if the monk they were dealing with might be the messiah.



The way we treat others and their property is largely based on how much we respect and hold them in awe. If we had a deep sense of love, respect and awe of each and every person we would never take anything from them. But too often we lack this basic sense of dignity that others deserve from us.



We reason that someone is wealthy and they won’t miss this or that item so we take it as though our attitude about someone else is reality. We reason that we have paid a just fee and that entitles us to more than what we know it does. All of our reasons are aimed at justifying something that we know is wrong and the very act of trying to rationalize our behavior makes us less not in God’s eyes but in our view of ourselves.



It is useful to remember that the men nailed next to Jesus on the cross are often referred to as thieves. The so-called good thief acknowledges that his sin has merited so horrible a death. There was something of the presence of Jesus that made him realize that. If we put ourselves into the presence of God we will come to the same conclusion that taking what does not belong to us is wrong.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 4

Step 4 of "73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God"



4. Not to commit adultery...



Sex and worship are bedfellows. It is not without reason that those concerned about the spiritual life are the same people who seem to struggle the most with sins of the flesh. Both are fueled by passion and the goal of the spiritual life is to channel that energy in the right direction. Every thing has it's rightful place in life.



The first question that arises in regard to this injunction, is why would St. Benedict feel a monk needed to hear this? The answer of course, is that no one is beyond the realm of the temptation of any sin. In this case a monk who left the monastery to be with another was committing adultery.



But a wider application of this maxim is that at the heart of adultery is a search for something that no human being can offer us, that sense of deep satisfaction that we truly belong.



The desire that we all feel to be loved and to belong is something that we will live with our entire lives. The connection that we feel with another human being or community is capable of giving a foretaste to the communion that we seek, but incomplete at the same time. A person who confuses the incompleteness of this sought after communion, and believes that it could be gained by going off in search for it somewhere else, is deceived.



The effect of this sin is all too evident, if we but reflect on it. Jesus said that a person who “lusts in his heart after another” has already committed adultery. It has been said that given that definition, that we all have sinned in this regard. So how then is it possible to put this maxim into practice?



The truth that underlies this injunction is perhaps best illustrated by the story in John’s Gospel of the Woman at the well. Jesus who finds himself alone at the well asks the woman for a drink. The conversation that ensues ultimately comes down to a question of satisfying the thirsts that we experience in life.



The woman had been married five times and was living with a sixth man at the time she spoke with Jesus. He points this out to her and if fits into the context of the “I thirst” and Jesus’ claim to be the source of water that will satisfy that thirst. There is something about this encounter with Jesus at the well that leads the woman to go into her village and to evangelize leading many others to Christ.

Examine her motive for setting out to bring others to Jesus, she says, “He told me everything I ever did.”



There is something in Jesus pointing out all the empty wells, that she has sought out in her life to satisfy her thirst, that leads her to accept that he is the living water that she truly seeks.



Adultery is wrong above all because it is based on a lie which is, “The reason I am not happy or fulfilled right now is because of my situation and if I was with X or Y that would change.”



We can get so caught up in the rush of excitement that new relationships promise that we can lose all objectivity when facing temptations in life. Unfortunately we may fall into the same trap and learn the lessons over and over that what we desire is not a human connection but something that every human relationship is but a foretaste.



We have no idea what happened to the Samaritan woman after her encounter with Jesus at the well. Did she marry number six? Were there more men that followed?



My hunch is that she married number six and found in him a mate who was a helper to her and that she no longer confused the lust for more as something that anyone who was a mere human could fulfill. We too, will experience a quench to that unquechable thirst when we turn to God with all our hearts.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

73 Steps to Communion With God: 3

The Third Step of the 73:



3. Then, not to kill...





I still remember vividly an incident that happened when I was a child and my family was on vacation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On a particular day we had just arrived at the summit of the mountain where the “Old Man of the Mountains,” a natural rock formation is located (it is on the New Hampshire quarter). We were sitting on some rocks and nearby was a long haired bearded guy—a hippie.



There were plenty of hippies in New England in the 1960’s, so there was nothing novel about that, but the action of this one was very memorable. He kept brushing away flies that were surrounding him. The more they continued to land on him, the more he would gently urge them to find another place to alight. His gentle tone and the words he spoke to the pests made it clear that he did not want to harm them.



My mother bent down to say that she had figured out that he felt that it was wrong to kill even a fly. Later I would read about people of various Eastern religions that shared this belief, “that all life was sacred," which of course is what we believe too--but we usually make endless distinctions.



St. Benedict’s counsel is simple. He does not elaborate about who or what we are not to kill. He keeps it simple and allows us the simple injunction to simple “not kill.”



This counsel follows after the first two; love God and love your neighbor. Now we are told not to kill. God is the source of all life and the Scriptures make it clear from the first pages of Genesis that to take back the spirit of Life is the domain of God and that blood spilt cries out to heaven.



It is also clear that in the first pages of Genesis that our neighbor is not only the people that surround us but every being in creation. We should respect all of creation in the same manner.



The hippie who allowed the fly to live on that vacation day in New Hampshire does not remain in my memory as some nut but rather as a prototype of a holy man who understands this fundamental truth. If you and I want to grow in holiness then we must reverence the life force that God has placed in all of creation.



“Not to kill” also extends beyond physical murder. We are to be a life force in God’s creation. Building up rather than tearing down. Uplifting rather than destroying.



I remember a friend in school who was fond of bringing up in the midst of conversations that were less than charitable about others a simple question, “How is this building up the body of Christ?” It really ticked off everyone at the table but like the hippie with the fly it has remained in my memory whereas the topics of our table conversations have long passed on into obscurity.



There are many ways to kill without actually taking someone’s physical life. Unfortunately there are too many walking dead in our midst who have had their spirit killed by those who were not careful in their speech or their judgments.



Lifting up these poor souls, reversing the damage done is a way to positively live out this injunction. It is not simply a matter of what not to do but to have an attitude of doing the opposite. The person who puts God first will carry with them an imitation of God who “breathes life” into inanimate clay.



What will this day be like if in every instance I put God first, treat all those who inhabit my environment with the attitude that I want to be a life giving force, a person of affirmation? Without God this is impossible and that is why prayer is something that is a 24/7 activity. We need to constantly turn to God, at every moment, in every encounter; to be silent until God is brought into the moment and then to be life giving as God is.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God: 2

Here is the second  posting of a series that Michael Dubruiel wrote entitled 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. These steps are drawn from Saint Benedict's Rule, the reflections are his own. Originally published in 2003.

2. Love one's neighbor as one's self (cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27).



It is ironic but the way we treat our neighbor in many ways reveals what we think about ourselves. Whenever I run into a parent berating the child I always find myself equally feeling as sorry for the parent as the child. Negative views of oneself often lead to a negative view of others. This maxim follows the first that we love God above all things. It is from that maxim that a true sense of ourselves flows.



If I believe that God has a mission for me, then it is only a short distance of thought to believe that he has a mission for everyone else on the planet.



Daily we encounter opportunities to love our neighbor as ourselves.



The other day a woman carrying a bag of groceries bumped into me rushing to her car. She apologized and I immediately had the uncharitable thought of what in the hell is your hurry? But then I started to list the reasons for why she might have been in a hurry in my mind. Perhaps she was late for an important appointment or there was someone in dire need of something that she had just purchased at the store. In other words I strove to think of why I might be in a hurry and to afford her the same privilege.



Love our neighbor as ourselves ultimately means wishing them success. Success in their mission in life means success for us all. In the same way that loving God is foundational to the Spiritual life, so too is the love of neighbor. They all are pieces that fit into the same puzzle.



What of the most despicable people on the earth, how can we love them? What about those who ________ and __________(fill in the blanks with your favorite unforgivable sins)?



The answer is simple, we love them in the same way as we would if they were are own child.



I remember when the serial murderer Theodore Bundy was being executed in the State of Florida that his mother was interviewed. She was asked the question, “Do you still love your son?”



She answered, “Yes, I don’t like what he has done, but I still love him.”



I think it is easy to understand why she would. No matter what anyone of us do in our lifetime there is a part of us that is deeply lovable. No matter how hateful we are or what terrible things we do for whatever God known reason, there is a part of us that God has created and that is good, call it the “true self.”



The true self might be likened to that part of us that is the plan of God for each of us. It is that true self that we love in our neighbors and ourselves, because it is most truly who we are.



I remember a man who had undergone a conversion experience telling me in front of his family that he had never been that bad of a guy even before his conversion.



His daughters disagreed, as they in unison cried out, “yes your were dad, you were horrible!”



He then went on to explain how before his conversion he had “acted” in a way that he thought he had to, to be accepted; since his conversion he was truly himself.



I can think of no finer testimony of what life immersed in God’s love is like. We no longer “act” but we are who we are. It’s as simple as that.



Loving others can be difficult but doing so teaches us a lot about ourselves and who we truly worship as God.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God

Here is the first posting of a series that Michael Dubruiel wrote entitled 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. These steps are drawn from Saint Benedict's Rule, the reflections are his own. Originally published in 2003.



This is step one:



(1) In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength...



Benedict begins what will be a list of simple practices with one that is above all others, the practice of a complete love of God. A love that is one that desires only God, symbolized by the heart; a love that meditates only on God symbolized by the soul; and a love that focuses all of its energy on exhibiting this love of God symbolized by my strength.



If we are honest, this is exactly what we all fear the most, an unconditional surrender of all to God.



I remember when I taught high school theology at a Jesuit School the response that I would always receive from my students whenever I would present to them Saint Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation which teaches that the purpose of our lives is to know, love and serve God and that everything else is secondary and is here to help us attain that purpose. Most of the Catholic students would become outraged, usually a few non-Catholic students in some cases nonbelievers would say it made perfect sense to them.

The issue of acceptance of this foundational attitude in spirituality is one of trust. Do we trust that God wants what is best for us. In our fears is an agenda that thinks that God will only get in the way of our happiness. Unfortunately it takes a long time for most of us to realize that what we think we want changes almost hourly.



We need direction in our lives. Our lives need to be oriented in some direction. The question is where will we seek that guidance?

The map pocket of my car is full of maps. The maps are only helpful to me if I know what my ultimate destination is and if I know where I am at the present moment. Recently while driving in a strange city with the map opened to that city, I knew where I wanted to go but had no idea where I was. Someone in the neighborhood I was in had torn down all of the street signs. I continued to travel up the street until finally I was able to locate a street sign.



Our lives can be the same confused mess that I felt on that day driving aimlessly up and down a city street. Who are we? Why are we here?



The Baltimore Catechism gave us a simple answer. We are here because God loves us. That is the starting point of the spiritual quest is to believe wholeheartedly that we are loved. A subtle but key ingredient to the fear that we feel in surrendering to God is that we do not believe that we are loved but fear that we are hated.



I remember as a child whenever I would be on my way to confession on a Saturday afternoon secretly fearing that God would try to see to it that I was killed before I arrived there. Where this fear came from I do not know, but it was real and it was only much later that I finally realized that God was the redeemer not the enemy.



The attitude we have toward God is all-important if we are to love God with our whole being. We must believe that God loves us first and want what is best for us. It is hard to do anything but love God with our whole being if we believe that God loves us. In an older translation of the New American Bible the words of Jesus are applicable here, “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” The words of the supplicant must be our words also, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.”



It may seem obvious that the first step that anyone would make toward perfect communion with God is to place God at the very center, but how many times we look everywhere else for the way? If we wish to have communion with God we must enter into God’s presence and offer our entire being to God.



Most of us have given the allegiance of part of our being to God but not the whole. I can say that intellectually I have always believed in God and placed my soul in varying degrees to the love of God, but my heart well that is another story. There have been countless times that what my heart has desired has been anything but God. I have thought that this or that would make me truly happy and I have gone down many paths ignoring God in the process.



If I believe that God has created me and knows me best and what is in my ultimate interest, I will seek God above all things.

I still remember the first time I encountered the simple engraving over the entrance of the Monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemane in Kentucky. I stood there for some time looking at the simple words etched in stone that seemed bigger than life, “GOD ALONE.” There was something shocking about the simplicity of the statement, but at the same time a truth that touched me deeply.



In the end when our life is failing nothing else will matter. If we can acknowledge that at this point why not see the wisdom of putting God first in everything today? The message of Benedict’s first step is to put God first in all things and to do so lovingly.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

How to get more out of the Catholic Mass

Michael Dubruiel wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 
How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:
  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond" Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.
Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Free Catholic Book

When St. Peter heard that Jesus was going somewhere, he wanted
to follow the Lord. Jesus refused, and told the apostle that he
would follow later. Peter protested: He was willing to lay down
his life for Jesus (again something that he ultimately would do
later). Then Jesus dropped a bombshell: That very night, Peter
would deny him three times.

The final battle to following Jesus is the battle of self. No matter
how pure our motives may seem, until we trust in God more
than we trust in ourselves, we are doomed to fail. To truly follow
Jesus, we must unite ourselves with him and trust him totally.
"michael dubruiel"

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Free Religion Book

Coming to the tomb of Jesus that first Easter morning, the
women discovered an angel there, the rock rolled away. It was a
shocking and unexpected sight. The guards, who were there to

This is the power of
the cross for the follower
of Christ, no matter
what happens to us or can
happen to us we are not
defeated.
make sure that the disciples did not steal the body of the Lord,
were also witnesses to this. They were overcome with fear—to the
point of being “like dead men.”
One experience, two groups of people, two different reactions.
One group looks at the empty tomb and rushes to tell what
they have witnessed. The other group is paralyzed by the life
event. This wasn’t just something that happened thousands of
years ago; it happens every moment of every day. Those who see
the cross as the end of their life, meet death there; those who
believe and place their trust in God, find in the cross life and victory.
"michael dubruiel"

Monday, June 13, 2016

Free Catholic Book

Sometimes after the stations I would join my classmates at a function
of the public school we attended. They would ask me where
I had been. “Church,” I would tell them. They would look at me
in unbelief. In my young and very fertile imagination, I thought
of them as the angry crowd surrounding Jesus during his Passion.
Why should my being at church cause them such discomfort?
But it did.

I realize now that the simple devotion that I participated in
throughout my youth taught me a lesson that my friends did not
receive: Failure and suffering are a part of every life. Seen through
the Passion of Christ, they can be a part of God’s plan for us.

From The Power of the Cross , available as a free download by clicking the cover below:



"michael dubruiel"

Friday, June 10, 2016

Free Christian Prayer Book

How do we die to ourselves? The cross extends the invitation
again and again. We nail our failures and our successes, we make
no judgments—like Christ, we abandon ourselves in trust to the
Father. We keep “watch” with Christ and live in the expectation
of his coming at every moment. Our death on the cross with
Christ—something that our Baptism signified but we must daily
reclaim—gives us the power to love as Christ did because Christ
is within us, when we allow him to be all in all.



-The Power of the Cross 



"michael dubruiel"

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Year of Mercy

Christians are to be forgiving and merciful; we are to live out the
unity Christ died to restore. In the early church, outsiders marveled
at the followers of Christ because of their love for one another.
Sadly, the unity that was the hallmark of the early Church
has been damaged, in some cases seemingly beyond repair. We
who are called to be “merciful” stand idly by while our brothers
and sisters in other parts of the world are offered up as scapegoats.
We who are to share the Good News huddle among our own,
contented to preach to the choir. The problem is this: Jesus died
for all, so that all might be saved. We who follow Our Lord must
live to accomplish his will.

As St. Peter points out, Jesus himself is our example. The
treatment that Jesus received on the cross was worse than most
of us can even imagine but his message of forgiveness did not
change. When Jesus rose from the dead, he did not declare a holy
war against those who had put him to death. Instead he proclaimed,
“Peace,” and sent his followers to the ends of the earth
to preach the gospel, teaching all to believe and trust in him.



"michael dubruiel"Christians are to be forgiving and merciful; we are to live out the
unity Christ died to restore. In the early church, outsiders marveled
at the followers of Christ because of their love for one another.
Sadly, the unity that was the hallmark of the early Church
has been damaged, in some cases seemingly beyond repair. We
who are called to be “merciful” stand idly by while our brothers
and sisters in other parts of the world are offered up as scapegoats.
We who are to share the Good News huddle among our own,
contented to preach to the choir. The problem is this: Jesus died
for all, so that all might be saved. We who follow Our Lord must
live to accomplish his will.

As St. Peter points out, Jesus himself is our example. The
treatment that Jesus received on the cross was worse than most
of us can even imagine but his message of forgiveness did not
change. When Jesus rose from the dead, he did not declare a holy
war against those who had put him to death. Instead he proclaimed,
“Peace,” and sent his followers to the ends of the earth
to preach the gospel, teaching all to believe and trust in him.



"michael dubruiel"

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Free Catholic Book

St. Paul tells us that we are to “cast off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light”—we are to conduct ourselves as
people of light. Too often people try to escape or reject their cross;
they flee to the darkness, escape in alcohol or sex, or immerse
themselves in anger, all because things have not gone their way.
Without the grace of God, this is our fate as well. Yet when we
are handed a cross, if we abandon ourselves and trust in God as
Christ did, what seems like defeat is in fact a victory! The evil that
is done to us, God can mold into good. Then we can sing
Hosanna to God in the highest, because the light of God will live
in us and we will see everything in his light.


"michael dubruiel"

Monday, June 6, 2016

How to get more out of Mass

Eucharist means..."thanksgiving"

Michael Dubruiel wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 

"michael Dubruiel"


How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:
  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond" Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.


Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Free Catholic Book by Michael Dubruiel

In standing up for justice, we must not become tyrants.
Those who lead successful revolutions against injustice often
become the next abusive regime. The cross of Christ teaches us
a path of humility and obedience to God alone, not to any ideology
but to Christ. Standing up for what is right is the duty of
every child of God, and the Son of God has shown us the way.
We strive to be like him, not to obtain some position or false
power. The cross of Christ restores our status as children of God;
like Our Lord we should ever remember that we are children of
God and trust in Him alone.



"michael dubruiel"

Friday, June 3, 2016

Sacred Heart of Jesus



June is the month of the Sacred Heart.

The promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of
My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall
have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How to Pray

The letter to the Hebrews draws a strong connection
between the cross and prayer. Because every moment of our
earthly existence is threatened by death, and we know neither the
day nor the hour when that existence will come to an end, we,
too, need to cry out to the God who can save us. Like Moses, we
need the help of our fellow Christians to hold up our arms when
they grow tired. We, too, need the help of the Holy Spirit to
make up for what is lacking in our prayer. 


-The Power of the Cross 



"michael dubruiel"