Sunday, September 30, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 54

This is a continuation of the the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruielthe previous posts are available in the archives to the right. This is step 54.



(54) Not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter.



Benedict has a great concern for the choice of our speech, reflecting Our Lord's injunction in the Gospel to "let you no mean no and your yes mean yes." Most of us suffer from an endless chatter that means little and lessens the effectiveness of our speech in general. There is a further clarification here and we are warned not to "provoke laughter."



Is Benedict condemning humor or is this a warning not to appear silly to others? I think it is the latter.



Someone who talks endlessly might make others laugh at him or her but they probably will not be taken seriously. The danger here is that speech exists to communicate the truth and when it is not used specifically for that we misuse this great gift.



Benedict warns us not to use "useless words." Words are powerful weapons and gentle comforters if they are used correctly. But when speech is misused it lessens its effective use at anytime.



Another way of stating this maxim might be, "choose your words carefully and sparingly."





The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the "Word made Flesh." There is a connection here with all the words that come from our mouth too. We should ever be mindful of The Word when a word comes to our lips.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 53

This is a continuation of the the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel, the previous posts are available in the archives to the right. This is step 53.



(53) Not to love much speaking.



Recently while a guest at the monastic table of a monastery I was privileged to be there on a night when talking was allowed in celebration of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Normally meals are taken in silence at this monastery, while a monk reads from the Rule of St. Benedict, the martyrology and usually a book that would be of interest to the monks (this final selection could be a current bestseller).



So on this night, after the blessing was said and we were seated there was a few minutes of silence while the lector read from the Rule and the martyrology before the abbot rang a bell signaling that we could speak. The one line that was read from the Rule was "not to love much speaking."



I was seated with a monk who I had meant several times before, Father Louis, in his late 70's he still leads a very busy life wearing a number of "hats" at the monastery not the least of which is to entertain guests. He told me that two of his heroes were fallen and that made him sad.



"Who were they?" I asked.



"President Clinton and Archbishop Weakland." He responded.



He went on to say that Clinton had been for the poor and for the life of me I can't remember what Weakland had done that enamored him to Father Louis, although Weakland was also a Benedictine monk so that probably had something to do with it.

We carried on a conversation about current projects that I was working on and Father Louis weekend parish work. It was an ironic visit, because we were both doing the very thing that Benedict counsels the monk not to do "to love much speaking."

Why? Too often when we speak much we say things that might better be left unsaid. If Benedict were writing today, he might also add not "to love too much blogging" which could easily be a modern equivalent to "too much speaking." Bloggers know that writing what you are thinking can come back to bite you sometimes.



God first, everything else second. We are to pray always, even before we speak. "God is this going to build the person up?" "Lord is this your will?" All should proceed what might flow too quickly from our lips and not be according to God's will for us.



The flip side of course is that someone who loves to talk will hardly make a good monk. Since monks thrive on silence (and we should nurture ourselves with this too), someone who loves to talk obviously would be miserable in such a setting.





But the counsel is beneficial to all of us. "Think before you speak," becomes "Pray before you speak."

Friday, September 28, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 52

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 52:



(52) To guard one's tongue against bad and wicked speech.



This counsel will be followed by another which was read while I was recently a guest at the monastic table of the monks at Saint Meinrad Archabbey-namely "not to love much speaking," which solves much of the problems that we might encounter with this counsel. Guarding one's tongue, catching oneself before one speaks, is a valuable maxim especially if you are an extrovert who speaks whatever crosses your mind. The same might be said for introverts who are apt to do the same in writing (and in the days of blogs, instant messaging and email--the dangers are plenty!).



What is "bad" and "wicked" speech?



If we look to the Gospels for an answer we might be surprised at what Jesus identifies as such--vows:



"Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply `Yes' or `No'; anything more than this comes from evil", (Matthew 5: 33-37).



It seems like this says pretty well what we are to avoid. Yet isn't it strange how this basic teaching of Jesus is ignored? How we still speak vows before God and man?



The teaching of Jesus is pretty clear that we are not God and we do not know what the future holds--God alone knows this. So any attempt on our part to declare that we will do something forever is actually rather unchristian--I know that this will be misunderstood so let me clarify. God is the source of our existence and our life. Every act that we do throughout the day should be dependent upon His Will for us. Anytime that our attitude is that we can do anything without his help we are as Jesus says doing something that "comes from evil."

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Novena to St. Therese

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




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

"michael Dubruiel"

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 51

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 51:



(51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.



Having a trusted person to share our spiritual journey with is a fundamental aspect of the spiritual life. Catholics do this when they celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance to a degree, but it is done more completely when one chooses a spiritual director to guide them along their path to Christ.



This is no easy task for either the one giving direction or the one receiving it. It requires trust and openness. Above all it requires being open to the action of the Holy Spirit. There is always the danger in this process for abuse and one should never allow their "director" to lead them away from Christ.



But what if we are scrupulous and not trusting in the mercy of Christ? Then we should allow our spiritual mentor to direct us to the Gospels to encounter the Christ who forgives seventy times seven.



But what if our problem is a sin that we commit over and over again?



Then we should allow our spiritual father to point out to us that our trust is to be placed in God's power and not in our own ability to reform.



A trusting relationship with a spiritual father can greatly aid our spiritual growth, but we should never allow this "advice" to become anything more than that. Too often people have fallen greatly because they made their spiritual father into their "god" rather than as a means to grow closer to God.



Sinful thoughts can grow in the dark. By bringing them to the light to someone who is wise in the spiritual life we shed light on our darkness. This has the effect of causing the cockroaches to scurry back into their hiding places. Naming our demons makes exorcising them a possibility.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God - 50

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 50:



(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one's heart.



St. Benedict's counsel is wise. Our Lord gave his disciples "power" and that same "power" is available to us, we should avail ourselves tof this powert when we most need it. We need it most when evil thoughts are at their very infancy within our emotions, when they "rise in one's heart." At that moment we should run like a little toddler to Our Lord.



Being a disciple of Our Lord requires this child like faith. In fact the greatest evil thought that can arise in our hearts is to start thinking that we are finally "mature" enough in the spiritual life and don't need to do this. As Our Lord said when his disciples returned from a very successful missionary journey, "I saw Satan fall like lightning!" Pride over the gifts that we have been given can quickly cut us off from the source of our salvation.



So with child like faith we move through life ever vigilant over our thoughts, scrupulously turning to Our Lord at every moment where evil seems to lurk.



Benedict's image of 'dashing against" calls to mind a clutching disciple, grabbing hold of Our Lord's garment lest we fall. It is a good image because the desparation that it suggests is what we are faced with in our daily lives. As St. Paul said, "Examine yourselves, lest you fall."

Wednesday, September 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



"michael dubruiel"

73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God 49

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 49:



(49) To hold as certain that God sees us everywhere.



Almost all of us were raised with this notion, which was a useful tool that parents could use to insure that when they weren't around there was another, bigger and far meaner parent in the sky. The last part is the most unfortunate part of this. God is not meaner but far more loving than any human could ever be toward us.



Again because most of us were taught this as children it tends to immediately make us think of whether we are good or bad. But really another way to think of it is God is always there looking out for us. Always ready for us to call upon His name. That he watches over us and protects us.



Reflecting on this counsel, I think you can see is colored by your image of God. Does that image reflect what Jesus Christ showed God to be like or does it reflect what your parents, or some other religious figure revealed to you that God was like. More importantly, does whatever I was taught match to what the Gospels reveal about Jesus?



This is the "type" of God who sees us no matter where we are, a loving God. One who is not up there waiting to strike us dead and send us to Hell, but one who is willing to come down and become a man and walk in our midst and to suffer and die when we reject Him--and then to come back again to offer us forgiveness. "His mercy endures forever."





Today, and everyday be mindful of the presence of God, always with you no matter if you believe or not. In the words of an old Latin saying, Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit, "Bidden or not bidden God is present."

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 41

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 41th step:



(41) To put one's trust in God.



As if to remind us what all this is about, in the middle of these counsels, Saint Benedict gives this counsel that refocuses on the real issue here. Going through the counsels we can lose sight again that almost everything that is negative, not to do this or not to be this is all about a positive to "do this," to put our trust in God.



Most of us probably would say that we put our trust in God. But our reaction to all of these counsels of Saint Benedict is like a giant mirror that reveals whether we really do or not.



There is a story that I have heard so many times that it has lost it's punch for me, but perhaps not for you-so here it is. A man is walking along a mountainside when suddenly he hits some lose soil and goes tumbling over a steep precipice. Luckily he grabs on to a tree branch as he falls down.



Looking down, he sees that if he hadn't grabbed the branch he would have fallen to a certain death. But looking up he can see no way to reach the safety of the path again, and he realizes that he can't hold on forever. He yells for help, "Is anyone up there?"



A voice booms, "I'm here, it's God."



The man says, "Thank God! Can you save me?"



"Of course," God says, "but you have to do exactly what I tell you."



"Okay," the man says, "what do I need to do?"



"Let go," says God.



"Is anyone else up there?" The man screams.





Putting our trust in God means more than just giving lip service to Him. It means, "letting go," and whether we do or not ultimately decides whether we live or die-forever.

Monday, September 17, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 40 by Michael Dubruiel

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.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 39

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 39th step:



(39) Not to be a murmurer.



I like how the dictionary defines a murmur, "a confidential complaint." Of course the complaint being offered confidentially is never directed at the person who is responsible for the complaint.



There are murmurers in the Gospel. When Jesus says to the paralytic "your sins are forgiven" the people present begin to murmur amongst themselves about what they perceive to be the presumption of Jesus to do something that is reserved to God alone, (this brings to mind the modern tendency for everyone to forgive sins or at least dismiss them as not really all that serious). Jesus hears the murmurs and addresses them directly.



If you have ever been caught murmuring by the person you are murmuring about--you probably know how they felt.



We should not murmur because we are not addressing the people that should be addressed. We should however speak out "unconfidentially" against injustices, against wrongdoing that harms others. But sometimes the things we complain about in whispered tones hardly rise to that level.



If God is God for us, there is less to murmur about. Many of the events of life that we might normally complain about will be seen to be part of a plan that is much larger than us. What we might perceive as the "wrong way of doing things" might actually lead to "God's way of doing things" being done in the long run.



Again the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis provides an excellent meditation for us on this issue.



Feel like complaining, go to the chapel instead and complain to the boss. He can do something to remedy the situation while your co-worker will only add to your misery.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Our Lady of Sorrows - September 15

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

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




-The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel
"michael dubruiel"

Friday, September 14, 2018

Exaltation of the Holy Cross - September 14

Michael Dubruiel

Here's a link to a page with a free download of Michael Dubruiel's book The Power of the Cross.

It's in .pdf format.

Also on the page is a link to a series of interviews Michael did with Catholic radio station KVSS on the book.

St. Francis of Assisi taught his followers to reverence Christ and
his cross wherever they might find themselves. The prayer attributed
to St. Francis that begins, “Lord, make me a channel of your
peace,” was in fact not composed by St. Francis; it was misapplied
to him in a prayer book. The true prayer of St. Francis was one
he taught his friars to pray whenever they would pass a Church
or the sign of the cross made by two branches in a tree. They were
to prostrate themselves toward the church or the cross and pray,
“We adore you Christ and we praise you present here and in all
the Churches throughout the world, because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world.”

The cross reminds us of the true Christ, the one in the
Gospels who was constantly misjudged by the religious figures
of his day. If we are not careful, he will be misjudged by us as well.
We need to worship him alone.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 38

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 38th step:



(38) Not to be slothful (cf Rom 12:11).



The scripture passage that St. Benedict quotes from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. I expected it to be the passage "if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat," but its not that. The passage he quotes is "Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord."



Again, like in all previous counsels the motivation to not be slothful is to be animated by God's Holy Spirit. How do we receive this Spirit, by serving the Lord (I like to think of this as "working for the Lord").



Just as one might take a job with a certain company and enjoy certain benefits that the company offers, so too for the person who "works" for the Lord. The chief benefit that God provides to those who serve Him is that He gives them the power to fulfill the job. He also fills His workers with the desire and zeal to do the work.



Being lazy, or slothful is a sign that we have turned in on ourselves again; that we are "serving" ourselves and our own desires. So it is easy to see how this would stop us from being in communion with God.



What then of all the lazy Christians? Remember Benedict wrote these counsels for monks, men who had left everything to follow Christ in the life of the Monastery. But as Jesus prophesied the the "love of many will grow cold," so too in religious life, people can lose sight of the great need that they have for God and start slacking off in prayer.





Which brings us to the greatest danger of being slothful--neglecting prayer. Communicating with God is essential if we are to live--we must never give up prayer.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 37

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 37th step:



(37) Not to be drowsy.



Several years ago, Amy and I attended the Easter Vigil Mass at a monastery. We arrived at the Abbey Church on Holy Saturday night at 9 when it began. The Blessing of the Fire was done, the Easter candle carried in procession, the Exsultet sang, and the readings began. Then they stopped after the fourth one.



There was an announcement. The readings would resume at 4 A.M. We both looked at each other. We were staying at a hotel about a half hour away. It was already 10:30. We rushed out the door and headed back to the hotel and after leaving a wake up call for 3 A.M. at the desk went to sleep.



Like zombies we took are place in the Church again at 3:45 A.M. The monks were all there, psalms were being read. They looked well rested, alert-awake. I was not, I was drowsy.



Monks get up at 4 A.M. every morning. Most of us do not but sleep is essential for all of us. St. Benedict's counsel reflects the rigors of monastic life but applies to us as well. We need sleep in order to give our full attention to life's demands.



There also is the memory of the Apostles and their failure to stay awake at the crucial moments of Our Lord's agony, "And he came and found them sleeping," (Mark 14:37). And of course the warning that he is coming again and how will Our Lord find us, "Watch therefore-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning-lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch," (Mark 13:35).

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

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. 




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.

Monday, September 10, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 36

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 36th step:



(36) Not to be a great eater.



Food exists to nourish the body, but I think that no one would be surprised to find that St. Benedict includes this in his counsels. Too often food can become an obsession for those who want to "bury" something that makes life unbearable for them.



Saying a blessing over the food that we are about to eat. Eating slowly and allowing our bodies to be nourished is good. Eating as though nothing can satiate our hunger points to a deeper problem.



I remember that once a friend of mine who is a counselor told me that he had noticed that the most difficult people to counsel that he encountered were those who were overweight. He drew no conclusion as to why this was the case but thought it might have something to do with a displaced focus on food as a remedy to all their ills.



Putting aside genetic dispositions for a second, we should ask ourselves how we approach meals. Are we like an animal who will continue to eat anything put before us with no regard to what we really need?





We should examine the true source of our hungers in life and turn to God. We should be great pray-ers, not great eaters.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 35

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 35th step:



(35) Not to be given to wine (cf Ti 1:7; 1 Tm 3:3).



Have you ever said and meant, "boy I need a drink"? This is exactly what St. Benedict is counseling us not to be given to…needing a drink. Benedict and of course Jesus both drank wine. It was a part of the daily meals of both. But what Benedict is counseling us against is feeling that we "need" an alcoholic drink to get by. Of course if we follow this counsel than what do we do, when we are having one of "those days"?



Turn to God. The very elements of a day that leaves us stressed out, are the items that we need to let go of in our prayer. Of course we need to turn to God before our day ever gets to the point of "needing a drink" to anesthetize ourselves.



Everything is given for our use in life and has a purpose. Wine has been shown to be a very healthy part of the diet of people who drink in moderation on a regular basis. But like every good, too much is not good.



If God is the Supreme Being, then we will approach the goods of this life with the right attitude. This would apply to all beverages from coffee, colas, and beer.





In regard to wine, which in the Eucharist becomes the Blood of Christ--we should ever desire to quench our thirst from the True Vine.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Nativity of Mary - Pray the Rosary

Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  Click on the cover for more information.

"Michael Dubruiel"


The Gospels show that the gaze of Mary varied depending upon the circumstances of life. So it will be with us. Each time we pick up the holy beads to recite the Rosary, our gaze at the mystery of Christ will differ depending on where we find ourselves at that moment.

Thereafter Mary’s gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Lk 2:48); it would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross, where her vision would still be that of mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple (cf. Jn 19:26-27). On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) [Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 10].


As we pray the Rosary, then, we join with Mary in contemplating Christ. With her, we remember Christ, we proclaim Him, we learn from Him, and, most importantly, as we raise our voices in prayer and our hearts in contemplation of the holy mysteries, this “compendium of the Gospel” itself, we are conformed to Him.


Friday, September 7, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 34

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 34th step:



(34) Not to be proud...




I do not think that it is a mistake that pride is mentioned right after persecution. There are tales that at the times in the early Church, when persecution was waged against the church, that some Christians actively sought to be persecuted and martyred. This was against Our Lord's command: "When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next," (Matthew 10:23), and here St. Benedict cautions us not to be proud.



This is a fundamental principle to the Spiritual Life. You can not be proud. Once you start to gloat over the spiritual gifts that you are blessed with, or how well you are doing in prayer, or how much better you are, or how high you are up on the spiritual ladder---you are right back at the bottom of the pit. Your ego has won again and God is very distant from you.



There is a prayer to pray when you feel "proud " of your spiritual accomplishments. Not surprisingly it comes from God Himself in the person of Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples, "when you have done all that is commanded you, say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty,'" (Matthew 17:10).





We must avoid pride, because it is a great obstacle to be open to our great and unrelenting need for God. Pride at its root seeks to cut God out of the picture. It goes without saying then that pride is the greatest enemy to our communion with God, but it also needs to be said that it is a great temptation when we find our lives becoming so much better because of our communion with Him.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 33

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 33th step:



(33) To bear persecution for justice sake (cf Mt 5:10).



St. Benedict references one of the Beatitudes for this counsel, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," (Matthew 5:10). If we are just and right in what people choose to persecute us for, then we should bear it patiently.



Many people suffer persecution for doing what is right and unfortunately often at the hands of religious people. Our Lord told his disciples that, "indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God," (John 16:2). One have only to open the papers and to read of crimes against human beings committed by people of every religious belief out of conviction that they are doing the will of God.



Jesus promised his followers, " Remember the word that I said to you, `A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you," (John 15:20). Therefore, again in imitation of Our Lord we should bear persecution when we are not at fault with patience.



One of the greatest examples of this patient endurance of persecution in our own day is the nonviolent civil rights movement of the late 1950's and 1960's. There are memorials and historical markers where horrible persecutions took place in various cities through the south. The test of time has proved the righteousness of the cause, but those who stood up suffered horribly at the time. They took their example from the Scriptures.



In more recent times those who have bravely protested nonviolently in front of abortion clinics, silently praying the rosary, are great examples of the just who are persecuted for righteousness sake!





We should do the same. When we stand up for what is right and just we should not expect accolades; in fact we should be weary of the applause. What is right is seldom popular; people seem to slip into a collective hypnosis from time to time that blinds them from recognizing the truth. But God is the truth and living a lie can only distance us from Him.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Mother Teresa - September 5

The Cross of Christ Restores. . . The Image of God 


And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. NUMBERS 21:8–9

“When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” JOHN 8:28–29

 Once when my wife and child were touring a large cathedral in the United States, a famous archbishop passed us by; a high-ranking cardinal, visiting the United States from the Vatican, followed him. The archbishop completely ignored us, but the cardinal stopped and took our baby in his arms, talking gibberish to him. We were moved by the actions of the cardinal, who had taken the gospel to heart. It is amazing how often Jesus took time to notice someone his disciples had passed by or ignored. In the kingdom of God, the first are last and the last are first. No one exemplified this principle better than Christ himself: the Prince of Heaven  became a helpless infant, was raised in obscurity, and died like a criminal.

People who have seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ are shocked by the violence. What should shock us more is the idea that the all-powerful God would subject himself to being treated in such a fashion by mere mortals. Yet Jesus said in the Scripture that people would realize that he was from God when men “lifted him up” on the cross. The way of the cross is the path of humility. So often we seek perfection in how we look, the way we dress, the way we speak, or in what we possess. Jesus told his disciples not to worry about any of these things but to seek God’s kingship over them first. Jesus then showed them how to do this. Then he took up his cross and invited them to follow. It is in those who accept that invitation that the divine image is most perfectly restored.

 When Blessed Mother Teresa would visit one of her communities, the first thing she did was to pick up a broom and begin to sweep. Revered during her life as a saint, she sought no special treatment within her community; no task was beneath her. People who met Mother Teresa often remarked at the beauty of her deeply lined face. In her presence, they felt like they were in the presence of God. In the Image of the Father Jesus perfectly reveals to us what God is like. By following the way of the cross, we receive a divine “extreme makeover.” The path is not an easy one; our ego constantly tries to exert itself over us. Serpents in forbidden trees will whisper of easier paths. However, there is only one way to fulfill what God has planted in our hearts. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus warned his disciples (Matthew 18:3). Some people will go amazing lengths to retain their youth. Sadly, these same people will assiduously avoid the spiritual childhood that the gospel demands, the only sure path of eternal life.

Wandering in the desert, the Israelites complained about their lot, and God sent poisonous snakes. As people died around him, Moses prayed to God for mercy. God told Moses to make a fiery bronze serpent and to put it on a pole; all who looked upon this bronze serpent were healed of snakebite. This bronze image foreshadowed the healing tree of Christ; just as Moses had lifted up the serpent in the desert, Jesus told Nicodemus, so would he be lifted up on the cross, and all who would look upon him would be saved. We need to look at the cross of Christ to rediscover our soul’s inner beauty. God loves us so much that he died for us on that cross. As we gaze upon the cross of Christ, what really matters comes to the forefront in our lives, and we find we can let go of all the trivial pursuits that seem to dominate our time and thoughts. As the psalmist reminds us time and again, what matters is not to seek and be driven by the desire to please other people but to seek what pleases God. We will discover that not by hiding behind fig leaves, as our first parents did, but by coming to him whenever and wherever he calls us.


The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


"michael Dubruiel"

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Bishop Robert Baker



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.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 32

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. 



(32) Not to curse them that curse us, but rather to bless them.



There is an image that comes to mind when I read this counsel. It is the image of a bishop (no one in particular) walking up the aisle in procession at the beginning of Mass or at the conclusion of Mass, turning from side to side and blessing all those in attendance. What he is doing at that moment (no doubt every bishop has more than their share of people who are cursing them), is what we are all to do--at every moment of everyday.



I'm not real good at this, as anyone who knows me well will tell you, I'm more apt to criticize those who curse me, not bless them. So I certainly need God's help in this regard.



One might wonder what benefit blessing those who curse us could possibly have. Here is a hint from Scripture. In the Second Book of Samuel, when David had been overthrown by his son Absalom and is fleeing the city of Jerusalem, a man comes out and curses him. Shimei, throwing stones and "saying as he cursed: 'Away, away, you murderous and wicked man! (2 Sam. 16:7). In response to this outrage one of David's guards says to the king, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, please, and lop of his head," (2 Sam. 16:9)



David's response to this is interesting and not at all what one would expect (if you are an avid reader of the Old Testament that is). Here is David's response, "Suppose the LORD has told him to curse David; who then dare to say 'Why are you doing this?' (2 Sam. 16:10). So they went on and Shimei "kept abreast of them on the hillside, all the while cursing and throwing stones and dirt as he went," (2 Sam.16:13).



"Perhaps the LORD is telling him to curse me." An interesting thought, and again one that can only lead to a deeper relationship with God. To at least admit to seeing God's hand in all things.



Most of the curses that I receive are from those who don't like the way I drive (and they are usually right to offer a gesture of displeasure) or those who don't like what I write (again they are often right--things are seldom one way or another but grayer). May I bless them all.





A blessing is only possible when we see ourselves as blessed by God, then we share the abundance of what God has given us with those who wish us evil. We acknowledge God as the final judge and we are selves are not to quick to judge (as David wasn't in the above). Interestingly, when David is restored to the throne in Israel, Shimei (the cursing stone thrower) is brought before the king and does have his head lopped off.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 30

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 30th step:



(30) To do no injury, yea, even patiently to bear the injury done us.



Injury literally means "injustice." Giving that as a backdrop to this counsel, I think we see that it has a wider application than simply commanding us not to physically hurt someone. To do no 'injustice" and to even to bear the injustice done to us is nothing more than perfectly imitating Our Lord.



The Christian has the life of Christ within them by the grace of their baptism, but for many of us that life is dormant, asleep. We do not call on Christ at every moment of the day to aid us and to help us in our dealings with others and the way that we view our own treatment from the hands of others.



Like every counsel before it and to come--this one calls us to conversion. We are to treat everyone with the utmost respect, not injuring them physically or emotionally, nor showing treating them with any injustice. At the same time when someone treats us harshly, whether physically or emotionally, even unjustly--we are to "grin and bear it."



Our guide is Christ. Who stood before Pilate and did not say a word to defend himself even though he was being accused of crimes he had not committed. He pointed out the Pilate that Pilate himself had no power at all except that God was allowing this to happen.



Ultimately this counsel is about faith. The first part of it deals with our faith that God has created everyone on the face of the earth and they each have the image of God within them. To harm them is to harm God Himself.



The second part is faith in God's providence that whatever mortal princes can do to us--God ultimately will reign victoriously. Jesus told his disciples not to fear those who could harm our bodies, but rather to fear He who could throw us into Gehenna. By bearing injustices committed against us patiently we show our faith in God's power to overcome all evil.





The First part of the counsel also commands us to speak out and to stop the injury that may be suffered by someone else. If we are to bear wrongs done to us patiently, we are not to bear the wrongs done to others patiently--in such a case our lack of action would make us part of the problem.