Saturday, August 31, 2019

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.

Friday, August 30, 2019

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).

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Beheading of John the Baptist - August 29


From the Office of Readings:
"He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptised in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptise the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.
Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ's name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ's gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us."
Homily of St. Bede
More about Michael Dubruiel

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Feast of St. Augustine August 28

From The Confessions:
To Carthage I came, where there sang all around me in my ears a cauldron of unholy loves. I loved not yet, yet I loved to love, and out of a deep-seated want, I hated myself for wanting not. I sought what I might love, in love with loving, and safety I hated, and a way without snares. For within me was a famine of that inward food, Thyself, my God; yet, through that famine I was not hungered; but was without all longing for incorruptible sustenance, not because filled therewith, but the more empty, the more I loathed it. For this cause my soul was sickly and full of sores, it miserably cast itself forth, desiring to be scraped by the touch of objects of sense. Yet if these had not a soul, they would not be objects of love. To love then, and to be beloved, was sweet to me; but more, when I obtained to enjoy the person I loved, I defiled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I beclouded its brightness with
the hell of lustfulness; and thus foul and unseemly, I would fain, through exceeding vanity, be fine and courtly. I fell headlong then into the love wherein I longed to be ensnared. My God, my Mercy, with how much gall didst Thou out of Thy great goodness besprinkle for
me that sweetness? For I was both beloved, and secretly arrived at the bond of enjoying; and was with joy fettered with sorrow-bringing bonds, that I might be scourged with the iron burning rods of jealousy, and suspicions, and fears, and angers, and quarrels.

About Michael Dubruiel 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 34

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

Saturday, August 24, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 33

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 32

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 32th step:



(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.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Queenship of Mary - August 22

Today is another Marian feast - the Queenship of Mary.  It's also 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 20, 2019

August 20 - St. Bernard

Happy feast day to my son Joseph, as he would say Bee-nard

From Asia News Italy:

The effectiveness of St Bernard, said the pontiff, lay in his ability to “put forward truths of the faith in a manner so clear and incisive that it fascinated the listener and prompted the soul to meditation and prayer.” But this was the fruit of a personal experience of “divine charity, revealed fully in the crucified and risen Christ”. The pope continued: “The echo of a rich inner experience, that he managed to communicate to others with amazing persuasive ability, is found in each of his writings. For him, the greatest strength of spiritual life is love.”

Benedict XVI also recalled a text that the saint dedicated to Pope Eugene III, his pupil and spiritual son, the De Consideratione, based on the fundamental theme of “inner meditation”. “One must guard oneself, observed the saint, from the dangers of excessive activity, whatever the condition and office covered, because many occupations often lead to ‘hardness of heart’, ‘they are nothing other than suffering of the spirit, loss of intelligence, dispersion of grace’ (II,3).” It is likely that Benedict XVI was making this emphasis with himself in mind, being so taken up by countless commitments of his work. He said: “This caution applies to all kinds of occupations, even those inherent to the government of the Church.” And he cited Bernard’s “provocative” words to Eugene III: “This is where your damned occupations can drag you, if you continue to lose yourself in them... leaving nothing of you to yourself.”

To reaffirm the primacy of prayer and contemplation, the pope suggested praying to St Bernard himself and to the Virgin Mary. “We entrust,” added Benedict XVI, “this desire to the intercession of Our Lady, who he loved from childhood with a tender and filial devotion to the extent of deserving the title of “Marian Doctor”. We invoke her so that she may obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the whole world. St Bernard, in a celebrated discourse of his, compared Mary to a star that navigators gaze upon to avoid losing their way:

‘Wading through the events of this world, rather than walking on land, you have the impression of being tossed about among billows and storms; do not turn your eyes away from the splendour of this star if you do not want to be swallowed by the waves... Look at the star, invoke Mary… Following Her, you will not lose your way… If She protects you, you have no fear, if She guides you, you will not get tired and if She is propitious towards you, you will reach your goal’ (Hom. super Missus est, II, 17)”.


-Michael Dubruiel 

Monday, August 19, 2019

How to get more out of the Catholic Mass

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

Saturday, August 17, 2019

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.

Friday, August 16, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 29

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 29th step:



(29) Not to return evil for evil (cf 1 Thes 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9).



St. Benedict references two Scripture passages with this counsel. The first is from Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians, "See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all," (1 Thess. 5:15). The next is from the First Letter of Peter, "Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing," (1 Pet. 3:9).



The motivation for this is clearly stated in Peter's letter when he says that the Lord is against those who do evil. Get it?



If we return evil for evil, then we are evildoers.



If we are in God, then we will only have love and peace to give. Like Christ we will forgive our enemies, we will return their hatred with God's love.



Doesn't it sound humanly impossible to do this? It is, but for God all things are possible.



These steps continually make us aware, like a mega examination of conscience that we need to pray continuously. Prayer is essential because in order to live out the Gospel message, God must be in our every breath.



Our prayer should always be for the other's good.



Is there anyone that could make heaven hell for you? Then you'd better pray for that person. Pray that good will happen to them, that their heart will be touched, and that in the process your heart may also be changed to accept them.



Often love and hate are flip sides of the same coin.





Our Lord's cross is for a sign of victory, for the world it is a sign of defeat. Jesus told his disciples that he has overcome the world, how we respond to evil in our lives shows who we belong to---Jesus or the world.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 27 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 27th step:



(27) Not to swear, lest perchance one swear falsely.



To "swear" in this case means to take a vow. St. Benedict warns in this counsel that we should not take oaths out of fear that we might do so falsely. Why would this be the case?



Jesus commanded his disciples not to swear. In the Gospel of Matthew, he says, " 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 5:34-37).



Our Lord knows well that we do not know ourselves very well. When He told his disciples that one of them would betray him, they all denied it. Peter spoke the loudest and Our Lord warned him that he would betray him before the cock crowed twice. Notice what Peter does at the crucial moment:

"Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, 'I do not know the man.' And immediately the cock crowed," (Matthew 26: 74). He swears falsely.



Unfortunately people continue to swear oaths that they may humanly incapable of fulfilling. It is interesting that within Christianity this command of Jesus has slowly been abrogated. But the truth of what Jesus said and here St. Benedict counsels remains.





None of us knows what the future holds. None of us knows if we will be able to fulfill any vow five or ten years from now. We can promise, ask God's blessing upon our promise and go where God leads us. But as Jesus says anything else is from the evil one.

Monday, August 12, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 26

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 26th step:





(26) Not to forsake charity.



There are times when our hearts can grow cold and we can close ourselves off from either accepting love or giving it. Often this is because of some evil that we have either had done to us or have experienced in some way.



No matter how bad it gets, St. Benedict here wisely counsels us to never forsake charity--love.



When our hearts grow cold, we need to open the door to the Lord's love and ask him to burn away anything that keeps us from being vessels of his charity both to ourselves and to others. It is His Love that conquers all and it ultimately is His Love that heals all wounds.



If we feel at anytime that we really do not feel like being loved or loving--we need to examine ourselves and to see what has crept into our lives and is taking the place of God. A coldness of heart is always an indication that we have put something else in God's place in our lives.



"Not to forsake charity" applies in all circumstances in life. Charity as a translation for caritas, which can also be translated "love", is a good way to remind us that love is always requires "giving." When we do not wish to give, it is often because we feel we have nothing to give. But if we allow ourselves to be filled with God's love, we will always have more than enough.



One need only think of a Mother Teresa, frail and old, walking and greeting all that cross her path. Or a Pope John Paul II bent over with age, ignoring no one. It is not physical strength that allows a person to act in this manner but Divine Love.



It is available to you, in the same way as it is available to them.





Do not forsake this great gift that God wishes to give you, nor to share it with all who cross your path this day.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

How to Pray at a Catholic 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. 


Excerpt:

U R T H E R E L P S

1. Keep Your Focus on Jesus
Whenever you desire to “control” what happens in the Eucharist, or suffer because you sense someone else is hijacking the liturgy,
    Think of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.
    Think of Jesus telling his followers to take up their crossand follow him.
    Think of Jesus saying that he did not come to be servedbut to serve.
Keeping your focus on Christ will prevent the devil in his attempts to distract you from the purpose of the Eucharist.
2. Learn from the Blessed Virgin Mary
Following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary we declare ourselves at God’s service. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38) was Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel’s
announcement that God would become incarnate within her. When we come to the Eucharist, God desires to continue the incarnation within us, and Mary teaches us how we should approach so great a gift.
Mary’s reaction to the angel’s message gives a supreme example of the sacrifice we can bring to every celebration of the Eucharist. When confronted with anything that does not go according to our plans,we need to open ourselves up to what God might be asking of us.
3. Foster an Attitude of Service
When Joshua realized that he was being confronted by a messenger of God, someone who at first he was not sure was a friend, he asked, “What does my Lord bid his servant” (Joshua 5:14)?
When we have the right stance toward God in our worship this is the question we will ask when confronted by anything that disturbs us: “What does my Lord bid his servant”?
4. Developing a Eucharistic Spirituality
Empowered by Christ, we should seek to serve God and anyone God places in our path throughout the day. “How may I serve you?” should be the question ever on our lips, whether at home, at work, or in recreation. We can find concrete ways to serve Christ in the many guises in which he comes to us in the poor and the weak.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict

by Michael Dubruiel...from 2007





I think with the release of this book (which I got yesterday and read straight through) the pope is positioning himself to be the St. Thomas Aquinas of our age. How or why do I say this? Because like St. Thomas who answered the objections to the Faith in his day, this pope is doing the same.
A few months ago someone asked me what book I would recommend that they give to their adult children who no longer practiced the faith, without hesitation I named this book as the one. At the time I had only read some excerpts available online from Germany and Italy. It was an act of faith then, now that I have the book I know that my recommendation was justified.
This is a great book, magisterial (even though the pope doesn't want it thought of in that way). It is not just another book about Jesus, it a revolutionary book about Jesus...in that it recaptures why people have had their lives changed by their belief in Jesus for over 2,000 years.
What makes this book so special? It is like a modern Summa (those who know St. Thomas Aquinas will understand me here) in that it answers modern questions of doubt, skepticism and even inquiry on not only who Jesus is, but why Jesus is the most important person anyone has ever or can ever know.
The pope's methodology is to take a scene from the Bible, like the Lord's baptism and then to draw on that scene from the entire Bible, to show what modern scholarship has done to help us to understand the historical context of the scene, tell us how the early Church fathers interpreted the scene, how would it have been viewed in Judaism (he uses the reflections of a Rabbi when discussing the Sermon on the Mount) and then to give the reader the meaning of this event for them. Along the way he answers questions to the many objections modern people bring to their encounter with Jesus.
As someone who has studied theology for a number of years and been exposed to every screwball theology out there, I found this book to be a corrective lens to refocus and correct my vision of who Jesus is and what following him means. What impresses me (and I'm not easily impressed) is that the Pope takes on the "screwball (my term, not his)" theologies in such a way as to making them seem silly (although he is incredibly charitable in his approach).
This book will have a great effect on renewing the Church and centering it on an image of Christ that is Biblical and credible, erasing years of poor and faulty preaching and teaching.
If you are not Catholic, but a Christian you will love this book too. In fact I predict you will be come a big fan of Joseph Ratzinger and will want to read his many published works to encounter someone rooted in Scripture and conversant with modern attacks on it. If you are a non Christian I think you will find in the book an excellent introduction to what Christians believe about the God-man from Nazareth. To all you parents out there who sent your kids to Catholic schools and now wish they would practice their faith, give them this book and reintroduce them to Jesus of Nazareth.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

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

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 25

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 25th step:



(25) Not to make a false peace.



This may catch us by surprise. We might reason, wouldn't some semblance of peace be better than war. But, again if we think about the ramifications of someone who we think is at peace with us but really isn't, we can see how damaging this "show" of peace can be in the long run.



St. Benedict isn't saying that we shouldn't be at peace with everyone, he is telling us not to make a "false" peace with anyone.



We are to be honest, as the previous counsel has instructed us. We are to make peace with our brother or sister that is genuine this step counsels us.



But what if we find ourselves incapable of being at peace with someone?



We must bring our warring heart to God.



People, from a distance, often are amazed at how certain groups of the same people can foster hatred toward one another over so many years. Sometimes it is religious belief (in the case of most religions, it is against the very belief that they fight over) that keeps people enemies. Military might is often used, sometimes by a third party to keep the peace. But as history proves time and again such peace is no peace at all. Soon the parties are warring with one another again often with a conflict that has inflamed while it was dormant.



What then?



If we hold peace with each other as a goal, then we must use every means to achieve that goal. Most of the time peace is achieved by simply acknowledging the others right to exist with dignity and to acknowledge their right to believe differently. What this requires for both parties to reach this goal mutually, is for both of their egos to die.



For the follower of Christ this is not an option.



"Love your enemies." "If they press you to go one mile, go two." "If they strike you on one cheek, offer the other." "Forgive seventy times seven."



Amazing how anyone who follows Christ could ever set out to make anything other than true peace.



Our Lord's parting words to His disciples was, "My peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give." He was probably referring to the fact that at the time (and even today in Israel) that people didn't say "Goodbye" but rather they said "Peace." The Romans said Pax Vobiscum, the Israelites said  Shalom.



But did they mean it? It was a convention and very well often was said with no conviction.



Our Lord's peace is not a convention, it is true. We should follow His example and make true peace with all we encounter.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Transfiguration - August 6

The Cross of Christ Unites. . . the Temporal and Eternal


 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 PETER 1:16–19 

And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” MATTHEW 17:4–7

  Last year my wife and I were in downtown Cleveland when the power suddenly and inexplicably went out all over the city. It was a Thursday afternoon, at the height of rush hour; as we listened to the radio, we discovered that the blackout had affected much of the northeast, including Boston, Ontario, New York, and Detroit.

That night, the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, we had planned to attend the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Dormition of Mary at a Byzantine Catholic Church in the city. As we gathered at the church with a few other hardy souls, the darkness heightened our awareness of the smoking incense, gleaming candlelight, and jangling bells. Attentively we listened to the reading from the Book of Revelation, “A great portent appeared in the heavens.” Back outside, darkness.

 The highway was a ribbon of light, streaming both ways, but once we got off the interstate and made our way to the hotel, all was dark again, save a few candles that the hotel staff had placed on some tables. Everyone at the hotel that night was outside. There was a nervous air to the conversation; everyone wondered when the lights would come back on—and why we were sitting in the darkness in the first place. Finally the hotel staff closed the pool area, and everyone went back to their stuffy hotel rooms. There was no air conditioning, and when I opened a window the air outside did not offer any real relief. Standing by the window, I peered into the night sky and searched the horizon futilely for signs of light. The bustling city of Cleveland was silent and still, and the darkness continued through the night and into the early morning, a few hours before the natural light of the sun would rise once again.

That experience of darkness brought to mind other images of light and darkness— particularly the Light of God versus the darkness of the world. Peter in his second letter pointed to the Transfiguration of Our Lord as a defining moment, “a light shining in a dark place.” Typically, it is only when the lights go out in our lives that we realize how much we need them.

 Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ depicted Jesus’ Passion and death with overwhelming violence. As gripping as the imagery was, however, it brought to mind scenes I had witnessed on the nightly news that same week. A Jerusalem bus blown up by a terrorist, leaving the streets covered with blood and body parts. An explosion in Iraq that had left bloody bodies everywhere. Three-year-old Lebanese boys slashed with a sword, their foreheads a bloody mess, as their parents proclaimed a willingness to give up these children to die for their cause. All the violence in our world shrouds it in darkness.

At the Transfiguration, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to the top of Mount Tabor to pray. While they were praying, Our Lord’s appearance changed, becoming luminous, and the Scriptures tell us: “And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.”(Luke 9:30–31) Luke’s Gospel alone tells us what Jesus talked about with Moses and Elijah: his impending journey to Jerusalem, and his “departure”—that is, his crucifixion—that would be accomplished in that place.

Good Friday brought about the first true power outage in recorded history. Long before there was electrical power, we are told, “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45). This darkness wasn’t caused by an incoming thunderstorm; men caused the darkness when they tried to extinguish the Light of the World!

Yet at the moment of his Transfiguration, as he anticipated in prayer the Good Friday that was to come, Our Lord’s face was made as bright as the sun. St. Peter’s response to this miracle was, “Lord, it is well that we are here!” As they journeyed with Jesus in prayer, every moment of the disciples’ lives was an epiphany, an encounter with the Divine. May we, like them, experience that the “light has shone in the darkness.”

Prayer That Transforms Life 


If we want to learn anything about the Paschal mystery of Jesus’ Passion, death, and resurrection here on the mountain of the Transfiguration, we must approach these mysteries on our knees. It all begins with prayer. Jesus climbed the mountain to be alone with the three disciples, to pray with them. Every effort of prayer begins with an invitation to “come aside.” Just as Our Lord called Peter, James, and John to come with him up the mountain, he beckons to us today. When we feel that inner nudge, that desire to pray, we must pay attention to God’s call. It may be difficult to respond to the invitation at times. We need not climb a mountain, at least not literally. However, we do need a place to “come aside.” It may be a special corner of our room, or a nearby chapel; no matter where it is, the trip to put oneself into God’s presence may seem like scaling the side of a precipice at times. This is to be expected: We are entering a different realm. As Peter, James, and John discovered, in leading them up the mountain Jesus had taken them higher than the geological summit; he had transported them to heaven itself. They were able to witness Moses and Elijah, conversing with Jesus in prayer and blinding light!

As we contemplate the face of Jesus in this “mystery of light,” God’s purpose for us is revealed. We receive light to illumine our  darkness, and strength to persevere as we face our own Good Fridays, when it seems all has been lost. But as we pray before the cross, the Master opens our eyes, enabling us to see the light. Jesus himself comes to us and says, “Rise and have no fear!” When we receive this foretaste of the kingdom, where “the righteous will shine like the sun” (Matthew 13:43), may we say with St. Peter: “Lord, it is good that we are here!”


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"

Monday, August 5, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 24 b

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 24th step, part 2




(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.


St. Thomas Aquinas argued that the natural purpose of speech is to communicate the truth. Can you imagine a bird warning of an intruder to another bird , if in fact there is no intruder? A dog barking out lies to another dog?



Yet we humans can abuse this gift of speech that we have at our disposal.



Ultimately, it is a choice to reject God and to make something else a god in our lives. Whatever we feel is more important than telling the truth is what we really believe in. Our reputation, our pride or our sins all can keep us from fulfilling this counsel.



The confessional, then is a good place to begin. Opening our hearts to God and not even entertaining the thought of deceiving Him. As St. Paul says, "God will not be mocked."





God not only can handle the truth about us, He can teach us the truth about ourselves. Something usually hidden from the deceitful person.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 24 a

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 24th step:



(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.



Our Lord is the way, the truth and the life. Anything that tempts us toward falseness is not of Him. Again, St. Benedict warns us not even to "entertain" the idea of deceit in our emotions, symbolized by the heart.



Everyone deserves the truth. As Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and it shall set you free."



Unfortunately many people do not believe that the truth is helpful to others. To quote a phrase from the movie A Few Good Men, that was a favorite of students that I once taught Ethics to, "You can't handle the truth," seems to be most people's guiding principle.



Doctors are not honest with patients who come to them expecting honesty. Parents, sometimes keep the truth from their children, leading them to search for it elsewhere. Even bishops now are not known for standing for the truth but rather hiding and trying to conceal it.



The result of such deceit lives with us for years. It destroys our capacity to trust. One can see how it could destroy a tight knit community like a monastery, but we should not let that excuse us.



A meditation on the effects of deceit that we have been on the receiving end might help us to appreciate why as St. Benedict counsels us, we should not even entertain the idea of being that way to anyone.



Everyone deserves the truth. The truth is a good and valuable commodity. Whatever perceived good we might think that hiding the truth from someone might bring, usually back fires.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 23

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 23rd step:



(23) Not to foster a desire for revenge.



One of the genius' of St. Benedict's steps is that he teaches the monk to pay attention to what it in his heart. In the previous step it was anger that he counseled we should not give "way to, now it is revenge that we should not "foster a desire" for. If you have been hurt by someone you have a choice how you will respond to that hurt. Our Lord counseled us to forgive, forgive, forgive.



Forgiveness is more than just saying, "I pardon you," to those who hurt us. It also requires an act of the heart that we actually wish the best for our enemy--who may very knowingly and willfully have hurt us.



This usually shocks people.



"Why should I?" "Isn't doing so, making what they did to me right?"



No, in doing so you are not making them or what they did "God" in your life.



Too often we are motivated by anger and desires that have nothing to do with God but everything to do with what other people have done to us. We are not free as a result, but merely puppets of those who have hurt or harmed us in the past.



Not fostering a desire for revenge may seem impossible in some cases--but everytime that we are faced with a task that seems impossible to us--there is a new opening to our great need for God.



That's why these are "steps" toward communion with God, because they make us face our great need for Him at every twist and turn of our lives.





In the same way that "lust" can lead one to commit acts of infidelity--so too in this case fostering a desire for revenge can only lead to the victim becoming the perpetrator of an evil act themselves. Better to cut the growth of something evil at the very roots and "fostering the desire" of something evil is the root of an evil act.

Friday, August 2, 2019

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 22

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 22nd step:



(22) Not to give way to anger.



Whenever Christians think of anger, they usually think of Jesus cleaning house in the Temple. If Jesus got angry, then why is anger a bad thing, most reason? I could add a few more scenes from the Gospel. When Jesus' disciples awaken him during a storm, he stills the storm and then reacts in anger--rebuking his disciples for their lack of faith (this should not be lost on anyone who has ever been awaken from a sound sleep--which obviously Jesus was enjoying and is a sign of his deep trust in God). When Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the religious leaders of the time, he does not refrain from reacting angrily to what they say and do.



So it is obvious that anger has a place in the perfect human life of which Our Lord's is an example. There are times when anger is the right reaction. When we see someone being abused or misled it is appropriate and even holy to be angry--as long as we do something about the anger. It should motivate us to act out in a righteous way.



But "to give way" to anger is another way of saying "to let it fester," or "to let it take over". We do nothing about it, but rather let it eat away at us. We allow it to grow into resentment and skepticism. This is neither healthy nor spiritual.



There is a certain school of spirituality that often counsels us to remain silent. Not to speak out but rather suffer silently. Of course, there is some truth to this and Our Lord's example before Pontius Pilate is an example of when such a practice is right. But there are other times when such silence would be sinful, not spiritual.



The early Christians called their movement not Christianity but "the Way." Jesus had given his followers a new path to walk. This path is a way of truthfulness and life. Reflecting on the previous step, "to prefer nothing to the love of Christ," in this step we reject making "anger" the way.



Anger has a place in creation, it was created by God for a purpose, but it's purpose is not to control us but to motivate us to act.





The imitation of Christ is the sure "way" to making sure that we do not give "way" to anger.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Free Catholic Book

When we look back over our lives, we often find that every
event is intricately interwoven with another, and then another,
with bright spots of serendipity when we “just happened” to be
in the right spot at the right time at key moments. This realization
will deepen the mystery that is life; regardless how long or
short our life, our mission and purpose is God’s. If he seems slow
to respond, look to the cross of Christ, which illumines even the
lag time between the promise and the fulfillment.
Michael Dubruiel
"michael dubruiel"