Thursday, August 16, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. 20 Michael Dubruiel

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



(20) To hold one's self aloof from worldly ways.



If you are like me, you can readily come up with a list of what "worldly ways" means, but too often this list have very little to do with what most spiritual masters mean when they use the term.



St. Benedict, again is writing these counsels for monks. Monks take a vow of obedience to an abbot. The abbot, a term that could be translated "father", watches over the monks and assigns them various tasks for the good of the monastery.



About a year ago, I visited a monastery where the abbot invited me to join the monks for dinner. During the meal taken in silence, while a monk read from one of the Fathers of the Church, several monks had to kneel in front of the abbot's table. They were being punished for some infraction of the rule that they had committed during the day (one monk told me that he had forgotten to put his napkin back in its holder).



As I sat there, in my forties, and witnessed the grown men who were around sixty years old, I momentarily thought of the ways of the world and how foolish this all seemed. But then, I remembered the counsel of Our Lord, "Unless you become like a child, you can not enter the Kingdom of God."



All of us must be like children in God's kingdom. Worldly ways might best be defined as acting in a way of a "self made man."



There is a story of a man's employer coming to the man's home for dinner one night. The employer was brash, rude and made inappropriate comments throughout the meal. All the while the young son of the employee stared at the man. Finally, the boy spoke, "my dad says that you are a self-made man."



The employer beaming, said, "Well, yes son I am."



"Why did you make yourself so bad?" The young boy asked.



Keeping aloof of worldly ways, means leaving behind any notion that we are ultimately in charge of our lives. It requires total surrender to God.



Jesus lays out the best commentary for this counsel in Matthew's Gospel, "do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and body more than clothing?…So I do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil, (Matthew 6:25, 31-34)."





I like to carry the image of those monks, all dressed in black, sitting and silently eating and drinking while they listen to someone proclaim the Kingdom of God to them, as I go about my dealings everyday--never allowing myself to be drawn away from our true purpose here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Feast of the Assumption - August 15

The Feast of the Assumption is today, August 15.   The Assumption is, of course, one of the mysteries of the Rosary, and so it's appropriate to talk about the Rosary as we contemplate the feast. Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  Click on the cover for more information.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

St. Maximilian Kolbe - August 14

Today is the Feast of St. Maximillian Kolbe



From a letter he wrote, from theOffice of Readings:



It is sad to see how in our times the disease called “indifferentism” is spreading in all its forms, not just among those in the world but also among the members of religious orders. But indeed, since God is worthy of infinite glory, it is our first and most pressing duty to give him such glory as we, in our weakness, can manage – even that we would never, poor exiled creatures that we are, be able to render him such glory as he truly deserves.


Books by Michael Dubruiel

Monday, August 13, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. 20

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 twentieth step:



(20) To hold one's self aloof from worldly ways.



If you are like me, you can readily come up with a list of what "worldly ways" means, but too often this list have very little to do with what most spiritual masters mean when they use the term.



St. Benedict, again is writing these counsels for monks. Monks take a vow of obedience to an abbot. The abbot, a term that could be translated "father", watches over the monks and assigns them various tasks for the good of the monastery.



About a year ago, I visited a monastery where the abbot invited me to join the monks for dinner. During the meal taken in silence, while a monk read from one of the Fathers of the Church, several monks had to kneel in front of the abbot's table. They were being punished for some infraction of the rule that they had committed during the day (one monk told me that he had forgotten to put his napkin back in its holder).



As I sat there, in my forties, and witnessed the grown men who were around sixty years old, I momentarily thought of the ways of the world and how foolish this all seemed. But then, I remembered the counsel of Our Lord, "Unless you become like a child, you can not enter the Kingdom of God."



All of us must be like children in God's kingdom. Worldly ways might best be defined as acting in a way of a "self made man."



There is a story of a man's employer coming to the man's home for dinner one night. The employer was brash, rude and made inappropriate comments throughout the meal. All the while the young son of the employee stared at the man. Finally, the boy spoke, "my dad says that you are a self-made man."



The employer beaming, said, "Well, yes son I am."



"Why did you make yourself so bad?" The young boy asked.



Keeping aloof of worldly ways, means leaving behind any notion that we are ultimately in charge of our lives. It requires total surrender to God.



Jesus lays out the best commentary for this counsel in Matthew's Gospel, "do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and body more than clothing?…So I do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil, (Matthew 6:25, 31-34)."





I like to carry the image of those monks, all dressed in black, sitting and silently eating and drinking while they listen to someone proclaim the Kingdom of God to them, as I go about my dealings everyday--never allowing myself to be drawn away from our true purpose here.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 19 by Michael Dubruiel

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



(19) To console the sorrowing.



Those who sorrow at the loss of a loved one can often seem inconsolable. In fact the Scripture passage related to the slaughter of the innocents comes to mind, "A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more (Matthew 2:18)."



It is important to remember that death is not part of God's original plan. When God creates Adam and Eve, he warns them not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or they will die. Death, is the result of original sin and indeed there is nothing that could console Rachel at her loss when the knowledge that death was eternal separation.



But for the Christian--there is Christ!



Death no longer is the final word. Jesus has overcome death and has opened up the possibility that all of us, if we believe in him, can share in his resurrection. The key, it would seem then to consoling the sorrowing, would be to remind them of the fruit of salvation and to point them to the mercy of God.



Yet having been there, many times, during the sad losses that people suffer--this is seldom the case. Instead, what usually occurs is the arrival of many well meaning people who announce loudly that it was God's will that the child or adult die.



It is never God's will that anyone die! Death entered the world because of sin-separation from God. God desires the salvation of all people. The angel of death that passes over the Egyptians is not a "good" angel but one who reaps the evil crop that had been sown by the Egyptians in the Book of Exodus.



Francis MacNutt and his wife Judith once presented a more accurate picture of God's place in someone's death. Speaking of how to console a sorrowful mother who has lost her child, they counseled the consoler speaking the following truth, "Death has taken your child, but God will take your child from death!"



To console, we need faith. Faith that in Christ, death is not the end.





Old churches still show forth the truth of the communion of saints, those who have died but are still very much alive and present. Most people intuitively grasp that their loved one is still alive, though not physically present. To console is to bring God's truth to the situation, God's message of salvation to the horror of a world steeped in sin.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel - 18

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 eigthteenth step:



(18) To help in trouble.



St. Benedict counsels us to be “helpers” something that no doubt was implanted in most of us from our youth. How can we best help others and what might keep us from reaching out to others?



When Our Lord was thirsty he asked the woman at the well for a drink. Jesus needed help. The woman rather than just giving him a drink gave him a lot of excuses. First it was racial—“You’re a Jew.”



Funny how little our reasons for not helping others changes. Our excuse might be, “You’re not family” or “You’re not Catholic” or “You’re not American” or “You’re not the same race as I.”



If God is “Our Father” who is not our brother and sister?



Saint Benedict’s counsel is simple and indeed it is the Gospel message that we are to help those in trouble. If we use excuses as a buffer to exonerate us from our duty then we risk missing out with an encounter with Our Lord who comes to us often in the guise of the poor.





The Samaritan woman’s excuse, might have kept her from meeting Jesus, had Our Lord not persisted in his desire. If our desire is to help those in need, we will not miss meeting Our Lord throughout the day.

Friday, August 10, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 17




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 seventeenth step:



(17) To bury the dead.



The most vivid memories I have of monastic life are actually those dealing with how the dead our buried. I have witnessed these events at several types of monasteries and while the particulars differ, they all share the common denominator of being terribly comfortable with a dead body.



I remember visiting a Trappist Monastery with a friend once who had never witnessed a dead body before. Somehow she had spent over 40 years on this earth without ever having been to a funeral or grave site. Protected from death by her parents, she had not bothered to confront it as an adult either. Until the fateful day when she stumbled upon it, on a visit for Evening Prayer at the monastery. Talk about shock therapy!



We were sitting toward the back of the Abbey Church with the rest of the non-monks. The monks themselves were gathered at the door awaiting the arrival of the body of their brother monk. Upon its arrival it was placed on a flat surface (no coffin) and brought forward a few feet, with the help of several feeble monks to stop a few inches from where my friend and I stood.



The pallor of the dead body, its lifeless shell spoke of the finality of the event. I’m sure my friend still wakes up in the middle of the night with the vision of that moment.



I had seen death many times before. I had even been blessed to be with several people at the moment of death, hearing their last breath escape, watching their eyes go up and out their head, giving me an understanding of why the ancients believed that the soul came in from the top of the head and when it left a body escaped from the same portal.



In some ways the moment of death can be likened to something of a whimper. It seldom is the drawn out affair of the actor who tries by their exaggerations to communicate the tragedy of what is unfolding. While birth may take hours, death often needs only the hundredth of a second.



The Trappist bury their dead by dumping the body into a grave and throwing some lime over the corpse to aid in the decaying process. The Benedictines that I have known, use a simple pine box. Both end their funeral rites by individually throwing dirt either onto the corpse or coffin—thereby fulfilling this counsel of St. Benedict to bury the dead.



Two images come to mind. The first of my friend who for over forty years had never witnessed a dead body. The second of the monks throwing dirt on the remains of their dead brother. I wonder what is the effect on both.



My friend is symbolic of those who in our present culture seek to keep death at a distance. Someone dies, we cremate the body and someone scatters ashes in the same way that a past generation might have emptied an ashtray.



This same culture visualizes death constantly in its movies and music. It seems that if we do not bury the dead that the effect on us is that we will endlessly be haunted by them.



The monks are not haunted by the dead but they are not abandoned by them either. They see in the brother who has passed from this life leaving behind the shell of their body and example. It reminds them of their purpose and the shortness of the opportunity to fulfill this purpose. They are reminded by death that ultimately all that matters is God!



Burying the dead may be as simple as attending the funerals of our friends and families. Praying for them and asking their prayers. The uneasiness that we feel is due to the inner knowledge that this to will be our end but like every unpleasant truth in life we can either face it or try to ignore it.





If we face it, we will prepare for it. If we ignore it we will be haunted by it. Burying the dead will help to put the ghosts to rest, while at the same time allowing the saints to intercede for us

Thursday, August 9, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 16 by Michael Dubruiel

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



(16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).



The difficulty in visiting the sick is usually not their illness but rather something within ourselves that likes to hide from our own mortality. The sick too often remind us of the shortness of our own life and the transitory nature of our pilgrimage on this earth.



I remember as a young man that I would visit a young woman in a nursing home and bring her communion once a week. She was a few years older than I was at the time but was dying of terminal cancer. All of her hair had been shaved and she often wore a wig to hide the fact.



At first the smells of the nursing home and the lingering feeling of death, made the short trip to the nursing home a very difficult one for me to make. I would often speak to the young woman, whose name was Pearl, about the possibility of healing etc.—I realized all of which made me feel better—she just brushed off these comments.



Our conversations were often one sided even though we spoke to each other. She confessed that until she had been ill that she had not thought much about God, and claimed to have been a magnificent sinner. Once she even pulled out a photo of her before the cancer, only a few years before, that showed a vivacious beautiful woman laughing with her friends. Now clutching a crucifix, her constant companion in her bed of pain she smiled and said that she had accepted death.



I will never be able to measure the effect that my weekly visits with Pearl have had on my life or for that matter what continued influence she has on my life even now. Only in Heaven can I hope for a true accounting of this. But I do know that the image of her in her bed of pain clutching that crucifix remains with me even now. Like a mirror held up to the moments of my life—each event is measured by how well I use my time here.



I have visited the sick many times in my life, usually out of obligation. The reluctance, and hesitation to set out on those journeys remains. It seems that we are reluctant to meet a side of the other that we fear to meet within ourselves. We fear seeing ourselves as we really are.



Visiting the sick is a holy activity. We should bring the healing of Christ to those who are ill, and we should commend them to our prayers, as well as asking their prayers.





When I left to go to school, Pearl often wrote to me in the months before she died. She called me her “angel,” saying that I often appeared to her by her bedside. The fact was that she was my angel, a messenger from God pointing to the truth of the fleeting nature of this life and to the crucifix that she clutched to like a life preserver, to the Savior who has the power to save us

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Feast of St. Dominic - August 8

Today is the Feast of Saint Dominic

From the Office of Readings:

Frequently he made a special personal petition that God would deign to grant him a genuine charity, effective in caring for and obtaining the salvation of men. For he believed that only then would he be truly a member of Christ, when he had given himself totally for the salvation of men, just as the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of all, had offered himself completely for our salvation. So, for this work, after a lengthy period of careful and provident planning, he founded the Order of Friars Preachers.

In his conversations and letters he often urged the brothers of the Order to study constantly the Old and New Testaments. He always carried with him the gospel according to Matthew and the epistles of Paul, and so well did he study them that he almost knew them from memory.

Two or three times he was chosen bishop, but he always refused, preferring to live with his brothers in poverty. Throughout his life, he preserved the honour of his virginity. He desired to be scourged and cut to pieces, and so die for the faith of Christ. Of him Pope Gregory IX declared: “I knew him as a steadfast follower of the apostolic way of life. There is no doubt that he is in heaven, sharing in the glory of the apostles themselves”.


Books by Michael Dubruiel

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 15

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





(15) To clothe the naked...



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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

Monday, August 6, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 14

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



(14) To relieve the poor.



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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





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

Sunday, August 5, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 13

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



(13) To love fasting.



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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





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

Friday, August 3, 2018

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

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



(12) Not to seek after pleasures.



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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





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

Thursday, August 2, 2018

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, August 1, 2018

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, July 31, 2018

St. Ignatius Loyola - July 31 by Michael Dubruiel

He says it all right here...

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this
means to save his soul.
And the other things on the face of the earth are
created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he
is created.
From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help
him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as
to it.
For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created
things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not
prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness,
riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short
life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive
for us to the end for which we are created.

Michael Dubruiel 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Solanus Casey - July 30

From 2004 by Michael Dubruiel
 
Taming the Wild
 
 
 
Solanus had also been cultivating a patch of wild strawberries which he told the friars he was "taming."
 
Father Solanus: The Story of Solnus Casey O.F.M. Cap. p.174




I had been making my lunch time pilgrimage for several months when I read a chapter from Cathy Odell's book on Solanus' time in Huntington. I had literally walked the fields and woods throughout but had never come across any wild strawberries. They must have perished when some of the land was plowed, I figured.


It was a beautiful sunlit day, not a cloud in the sky and very low humidity. I started out walking the perimeter of the property, as was my usual route, and began to pray the rosary. Normally this meant finishing the joyful mysteries by the time I reached the far forest where an Eagle Scout had cleared a trail through the woods. There I would begin the sorrowful mysteries reaching the Capuchin graveyard about the time I reached the third sorrowful mystery (the Crowing with Thorns) where I would prostrate in the direction of the simple wooden cross at the head of the graveyard and pray the prayer of St. Francis, "We adore thee O Christ and we praise Thee because by thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world." Then I would pray the third sorrowful mystery on my knees for the Friars and others buried there, at the same time asking for their intercession for my many needs.


Then I would retrace my steps backward in a slightly different path along the woods rather than through them. At about the same spot where I had discovered an apple tree left over from the orchard that Solanus had blessed, I looked down and spotted something red blooming. At first I thought they were small red flowers that had some how resisted the mowing the lawn had received recently. But on closer inspection I found wild strawberries almost ready to be harvested.


I thought of the irony of my discovery on the very day that I had first read about Solanus' "taming" of wild strawberries, then I thought of the whole aspect of "taming" the wild.


Looking over the property of what had once been a flourishing center of Catholic spirituality, I could not help but be struck by the apparent failure. What had been tamed here and once again become wild.


It struck me as an apt symbol for the state of Catholicism in the United States at the beginning of the Twenty-first century. The in-roads that the Church had made in converting and bringing Catholic Christianity to this country seemed to have reverted back to its wild state. Those who call themselves Catholic pick and choose what they believe and how they practice their faith. In many ways they mirror the environment they live in with very little to distinguish them from their non-Catholic neighbors.


Of course it also struck me that I suffered from this as much as anyone.


Picking up the wild strawberry, I saw how immature it was. No doubt Solanus' taming of the "wild" strawberries had resulted in them growing into substantial fruit that was enjoyed by the Huntington Capuchins. Now without that taming, the wild strawberry had once again returned to a small pitiful caricature of what it might have been.


Sadly this is what we also have become. Our influence in our culture is weak and we risk giving scandal to those who look to us as representatives of all that is Catholic. We are "wild" Cathlolics, in great need of being tamed by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

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.



Friday, July 27, 2018

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

Thursday, July 26, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 7 Michael Dubruiel

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 6

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 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.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 5

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.

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.

Monday, July 23, 2018

73 Steps to Communion With God: 3

The Third Step of the 73 by Michael Dubruiel



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.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion

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.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Spiritual Reflections for Catholics

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 40th step:



(40) Not to be a detractor.



The Christian is to be someone who builds people up, not someone who tears others down. Often detraction is a sign of our own insecurity or feelings of inadequacy.



Someone who puts God first in their lives will recognize their own self in an entirely new light as well as all others.

If we see someone who seems less in our eyes, it is we who have the problem not them.



This of course does not mean that we turn our eyes from those who commit grievous sins against others. They should be confronted, and if personal confrontation does not work as Jesus said, the matter should be brought before the whole Church, and if that doesn't work they should be treated like a tax collector. Of course Jesus--welcomed tax collectors, so there is irony in the last part of his counsel.





Christianity is not a religion of castes. In Christ there is neither Greek or Jew, male or female--all are one. In order for that to be a lived reality we must see the importance of each individual and seek to build them up. In doing so we are aiding the Holy Spirit's work of building the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How to Pray by Michael Dubruiel

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 by Michael Dubruiel 



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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Novena to St. Anne





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, July 17, 2018

Michael Dubruiel Reflection




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 seventeenth step:



(17) To bury the dead.



The most vivid memories I have of monastic life are actually those dealing with how the dead our buried. I have witnessed these events at several types of monasteries and while the particulars differ, they all share the common denominator of being terribly comfortable with a dead body.



I remember visiting a Trappist Monastery with a friend once who had never witnessed a dead body before. Somehow she had spent over 40 years on this earth without ever having been to a funeral or grave site. Protected from death by her parents, she had not bothered to confront it as an adult either. Until the fateful day when she stumbled upon it, on a visit for Evening Prayer at the monastery. Talk about shock therapy!



We were sitting toward the back of the Abbey Church with the rest of the non-monks. The monks themselves were gathered at the door awaiting the arrival of the body of their brother monk. Upon its arrival it was placed on a flat surface (no coffin) and brought forward a few feet, with the help of several feeble monks to stop a few inches from where my friend and I stood.



The pallor of the dead body, its lifeless shell spoke of the finality of the event. I’m sure my friend still wakes up in the middle of the night with the vision of that moment.



I had seen death many times before. I had even been blessed to be with several people at the moment of death, hearing their last breath escape, watching their eyes go up and out their head, giving me an understanding of why the ancients believed that the soul came in from the top of the head and when it left a body escaped from the same portal.



In some ways the moment of death can be likened to something of a whimper. It seldom is the drawn out affair of the actor who tries by their exaggerations to communicate the tragedy of what is unfolding. While birth may take hours, death often needs only the hundredth of a second.



The Trappist bury their dead by dumping the body into a grave and throwing some lime over the corpse to aid in the decaying process. The Benedictines that I have known, use a simple pine box. Both end their funeral rites by individually throwing dirt either onto the corpse or coffin—thereby fulfilling this counsel of St. Benedict to bury the dead.



Two images come to mind. The first of my friend who for over forty years had never witnessed a dead body. The second of the monks throwing dirt on the remains of their dead brother. I wonder what is the effect on both.



My friend is symbolic of those who in our present culture seek to keep death at a distance. Someone dies, we cremate the body and someone scatters ashes in the same way that a past generation might have emptied an ashtray.



This same culture visualizes death constantly in its movies and music. It seems that if we do not bury the dead that the effect on us is that we will endlessly be haunted by them.



The monks are not haunted by the dead but they are not abandoned by them either. They see in the brother who has passed from this life leaving behind the shell of their body and example. It reminds them of their purpose and the shortness of the opportunity to fulfill this purpose. They are reminded by death that ultimately all that matters is God!



Burying the dead may be as simple as attending the funerals of our friends and families. Praying for them and asking their prayers. The uneasiness that we feel is due to the inner knowledge that this to will be our end but like every unpleasant truth in life we can either face it or try to ignore it.





If we face it, we will prepare for it. If we ignore it we will be haunted by it. Burying the dead will help to put the ghosts to rest, while at the same time allowing the saints to intercede for us

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Book By Benedict Groeschel



The genesis of this book was inspired by a set of talks that Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R., gave several years ago in the Diocese of Manchester, NH. At the time while researching material for a project I was working on I came across an advertisement for the talks and found both the title and topic striking. The topic seemed to fit Father Benedict's lifetime of working among the poor and raising money to help their plight. I approached him, shortly after listening to the tapes and asked him to consider doing a book version. He liked the idea but was reluctant to pursue the project alone due to the shortage of time available to work on it.

"Michael Dubruiel"

Unwilling to let go of the project, I approached another friend of the poor, Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Diocese of Charleston. I knew that Bishop Baker's priestly ministry had been devoted to finding Christ in the poor and with a wealth of experience he had in this area that if I could join his thoughts with Fr. Groeschel' s we would have a book that would be of great benefit to the rest of us. After approaching Bishop Baker with my request he agreed and then Father Benedict agreed to collaborate on this book.


While the Bishop and Father Benedict were working on the written text of the book I came across a stunning work of iconography one day while visiting an Eastern Catholic church. On the back wall of the church was an icon of the Last Judgment taken from Matthew 25. I found that the great iconographer Mila Mina had written the icon. I immediately contacted Mila and asked if the icon might be used as an illustration for this book, her response was "anything to make the Gospel known!" Thanks to Mila and her son Father John Mina for allowing Joyce Duriga and David Renz to photograph the icon at Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church, Clairton, PA.

Fr. Groeschel has written the introductory text that begins each section as well as the final "What Should I Do?" at the end of the book, and Bishop Baker has written the individual meditations and prayers contained in each of the six sections.


While this book was being written, Father Benedict was involved in a horrific accident that nearly took his life. At the time of the accident the text he was working on was in his suitcase. He had just finished the introduction to "When I was a stranger..." as you read over the text for that section you might sense that he was having a premonition of what was about to happen in his life-where he would soon be in an emergency room under the care of doctors, nurses and as well as his family and religious community.


You will find that this book provides you with keys to finding Our Lord in the poor, and to overcoming the fears and obstacles (represented by the seven deadly sins in each section) that prevent you from responding to His call.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

How to Prepare for Mass by Michael Dubruiel

How to Prepare for Mass by Michael Dubruiel

What will we say when the messengers of Our Lord come to us
and tell us that the time is at hand, and the Lord wishes for us
to prepare for his Passover? Will we open the door of our hearts
and welcome him?
Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori method of
learning, wrote a book in the early twentieth century about the
Mass for Children. She began by describing the inside of a
church: candles lit, altar cloths set on the altar. Something very
special must be about to take place here, she said. Just as the disciples
prepared for the Passover, the Last Supper of the Lord, so
we must prepare to welcome the Savior before we approach his
banquet.
Being prepared for Mass is essential to the disciple and follower
of Jesus Christ who wishes to be enriched with his teaching
and be fed with his Body and Blood. St. Paul’s admonition
to examine ourselves is paramount if we are not to eat and drink
judgment upon ourselves—but rather partake in the Way, the
Truth, and the Life.
 
From The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel available as a free download by clicking the cover below:
 
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