HOW GOD SPEAKS TO ALL OF US.

How does God speak with us? In the Old Testament, the Prophets gave us insights into what God wants of us. In the New Testament, Jesus gives us how to love others by doing what he does for us. The Holy Spirit speaks directly to and through the Apostles. And finally, he speaks through each one of us. But there is a problem. How do you know it is the Holy Spirit speaking and not Satan putting thoughts in your mind. The answer for me comes in the form of using three filters or measures of whatever I say to ensure I am not speaking for God when all I am doing is trying to listen to God as He communicates through contemplative prayer and practices.

FIRST: Any communication from the Holy Spirit through Christ in any Lay Cistercian practices (Lectio Divina, Reading Scriptures, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Forgiveness, and Mercy) must be consistent with Sacred Scripture. Remember the reason for Scripture at all? John 20:30-31. Scripture, according to Brother Michael, O.C.S.O., our Lay Cistercian instructor, gave us a retreat and said that Scriptures are the love letters God had different people write down for us so that we might follow God’s will and not our own. God knows all too well that humans live in a condition of Original Sin, the effects of the sin of Adam and Eve. He does not leave us orphans, floundering on a sea of relativistic opinions about who God is.

SECONDLY: Anytime God speaks to me, I must look to my spiritual heritage, won at the price of the blood of martyrs and those who live their lives with Christ as their center, to be consistent with the three Creeds of our Faith: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed. https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04478a.htm; https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2711.htm

IN THE THIRD PLACE: God speaks through the Church Universal. As an individual, I can receive inspiration and grace through the Holy Spirit but it must be consistent with the traditions and heritage that come down through each age. The Church is the fiery crucible in which extraneous practices and theories must withstand the heat of the way, the truth, and the life. The Ecumenical Councils are examples of how Faith flows down to us (not the other way around).

My personal thoughts are purified by running the gauntlet of time and heritage.

God speaks to us in many ways, on tablets of stone, in the burning bush, in dreams, in the writings of the Prophets and New Testament authors, and through those who wear the Shoes of the Fisherman. Ultimately, Christ is the beginning and the end (Alpha and Omega), the one measure that all measures must agree, the one principle from which everything flows, the one center that is folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews.

In Baptism, I was given adoption as a son of the Father, a gift undeserving of me but won at the price of Christ’s supreme act of love by dying and rising from the dead. The Holy Spirit does speak through and to me, but, lest I become swollen by the false thinking that I represent the Church Universal in my thoughts, I must constantly remind myself that I must “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 2:5) I am a member of the living Body of Christ, but I am not the whole Body.

Does God speak just to those who are Catholic? How about the Holy Spirit? If you think so, then you and Adam have something in common, pride. I don’t worry who the Spirit speaks to, I only worry that I might be open to what the Holy Spirit is telling me and through others.

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SLOW DOWN! lISTEN TO YOUR HEART

I use photos to help in my focus and concentration as I do Lectio (Philippians 2:5.) meditation, prayer and, hopefully, contemplation. This photo has significance for me because it comes close to describing what I think contemplation might be.

Contemplation is sitting on a bench in the dead of winter, snow covering everything, cold as can be, and I am waiting for Christ to sit next to me. The bench is silence and solitude. The snow is the cold of the effects of original sin (forgiven at Baptism), still producing its effects on my life as I seek God daily as I am and where I am. I realize after a time that Christ may not be coming to sit on my bench, and then it hits me. He has been here all along and it is I who must choose to sit on His bench and wait for whatever He wants to share with me.

Look at the photo above for several minutes, then close your eyes. Slow down! Listen to your heart. Listen to the heart of Christ. What say you?

SHARING INTERNET SITES I USE

Every so often, I look around my house and think about all the nice but not necessary THINGS I have accumulated over the years. It seems I am a functional hoarder and not a dysfunctional one. Every so often, my wife says we should dump some clothes and unused furniture and appliances, so I guess that means we are not dysfunctional. I have accumulated Internet files that I have saved in the same way. Every so often, I must purge the list of those which I never use. This blog is a list of those sites that have remained after my Internet cleaning. Here are a few that I find compelling and which I use or have used in my blog. You may also find of interest and want to bookmark them in your Contemplation files.

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Rule of St. Benedict | Benedictine | Chicago | Catholic Universities

Catechism of the Catholic Church – Expressions of prayer

Church promulgates new decrees for Causes of Saints – Vatican News

19 June 1535 – 3 Carthusian Monks Hanged, Drawn and Quartered – The Anne Boleyn Files

Strong’s Hebrew: 1350. גָּאַל (gaal) — to redeem, act as kinsman

Catholic Saints, Blesseds, and Venerables Index -C

Notable Monks & Nuns | Cistercians of the Strict Observance

Revised Grail Psalter Conception GIA

Egyptian prayer to Virgin Mary—Aleteia

Hand pressure points: Chart and uses

Anticipating the Glorified State | Trappist-Cistercian Order

Rabbi – Biblical Cyclopedia

Amazon.com: Dr. Michael F. Conrad: Books

The Love of Solitude and Silence — Catholic Sacramentals

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Angels

Chapter 4: The Tools for Good Works – Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert

TOP 25 QUOTES BY THOMAS AQUINAS (of 335) | A-Z Quotes

The Screwtape Letters Quotes by C.S. Lewis

contemplation research

The Ideal of the Monastic Life Found in the Apostolic Age – Germain Morin – Google Books

PARADOXES

Handel – Messiah – by London Philharmonic (Complete Concerto/Full) – YouTube

quo vadis – Dictionary definition of quo vadis | Encyclopedia.com: FREE online dictionary

“The Mystery of God” – Sample Lesson – YouTube

Catholic Rites and Churches

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

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Youtube clips that have helped me in contemplation

In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I have found that, when trying to seek God each day wherever I am and as I am, I try to look at the reality in front of me with the love of Christ in my heart and let what comes, be. One day, I was looking at Youtube, that forum for vlogging the best and worst of us, and had the following thought: How have all the Youtube clips that I have seen helped me to move from self to God.

THE DEVIL — I have always had a problem visualizing what the Devil looks like. Although this is not theological, I think the Devil looks a lot like me, when I fail to love others as Christ loves us. I have always loved the movie, The Little Prince, having incorporated several ideas that have led me to a deeper understanding of myself. Not that I am there, yet, but I am daily trying to seek God where I am and as I am. The next two Youtubes excerpts I found in the Movie, The Little Prince. This first clip looks at the Devil as portrayed by one of my favorite choreographers, the late Bob Fosse. Make sure you listen to the words very carefully Just look at the clip one time, then think about one thing that stands out for you, then look at it the second time. What do you see? Ask yourself how what you saw reminds you of our idea of the Devil?

THE DEVIL AS SNAKE IN THE GRASS

ALLOWING GOD TO TAME US

A profound thought from Youtube is this next clip. It is a visualization of the process of contemplation, how Christ prepares our hearts to receive love. We must be tamed, which takes time and struggle. Look at this clip and ask yourself what happens when Christ tames you. How does that happen?

Because God tames us, we can love others, as Christ loves us.

TEARING DOWN DESTROYS BUT MAKING ALL THINGS NEW CREATES

If you tear down the laws of humans or the laws of God with what will you fill the void? Yourself? Read this clip from Robert Bolt’s play and movie, The Man for All Seasons. If you will, read this blog three times. The first time just look at it and listen in silence. Then, read it again, this time write down the values that are talked about in the clip. The third time, read it with the viewpoint of fill up the void with God (love others as Jesus has loved us).

TRUE CONFESSIONS

Just relax.

Part I
Part II

WHAT DEFINES US IS NOT OUR SKILLS BUT OUR CHOICES

That we have the ability to choose what we want does not make us free. What defines us is what we choose that which will enable us to live forever. We have two fundamental choices: what the world says is meaningful and what God tells us is meaningful.

We are defined by our choices.

Think about the choice that Adam and Eve had. Think about the choice that Jesus had to make in the Garden of Gethsemani (at least the human nature side of him). Think of the choice you made at Baptism to respond to the Holy Spirit to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father. Each day, each and every day, I try to seek God wherever I am, as I am, in the silence and solitude of my heart through Eucharist, Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, Reading Sacred Scripture. Some days are better than others. My choice, confirmed each and every day, must be to love others as Christ loves us. I am not there yer, nor do I ever expect to be.

SILENCE AND SOLITUDE AND THE LEAP OF FAITH

I seek God every day in whatever setting I find myself, not always consciously, but always as my North on the compass of my life. Silence and Solitude help me sit on a park bench in the middle of Winter waiting for Christ to sit down next to me. As I sit there, I realize that Christ has been there all along but it was I who did not show up. The language of contemplation is Love from one Being to another being. The product of this transformation is Love of Christ overshadowing me in silence and solitude; it is the Peace of Christ that slowly whiffs over me, a peace that the world cannot give, a peace that is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of Love; it is the slow release of everything that ties me to the world, language, thoughts, my personal agendas, trying to tell God what Faith and Love is; it is the abandonment of all my defense mechanisms that I have erected to keep Love from hurting me and making a fool out of me; it is totally throwing myself on God’s mercy, not as I know mercy but waiting for God to come into my mind and heart and sweep away all that the world says is meant for something much deeper; it is being in the presence of Being and just sitting there. Do I always attain this supreme feeling of being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit? No. But I do always try to seek God each day in the hopes that I can learn to love God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength, and my neighbor as myself. (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:36)

Here is a clip from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusader which helped me with my Faith.

The leap of Faith.

REMEMBER, THAT YOU ARE DUST AND INTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN

The penitent man or woman realizes who they are compared to God. In humility, they seek nothing more than to sit in the back bench of church with their eyes lowered, slowly repeating over and over the ancient Jesus Prayer:Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Here is a Youtube that I use frequently in my blog to help me see just how important my attempts at success and power are in my lifetime.

Sic transeat gloria mundi

KNOWING JESUS DEPENDS ON WHO YOUR JESUS IS

Here are some Youtube sites for you to access. They are from Bishop Robert Barron. I find all of them very compelling. https://www.wordonfire.org/

TEARING DOWN RATHER THAN MAKING ALL THINGS NEW

Here are some thoughts to ponder.

  • When we tear down something rather than reform it, we have nothing to replace it with except our self. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2a2fAEQaGo
  • Any reform based on justice without mercy is not only doomed to fail but will fail its supporters.
  • You can have hatred for a system without looking at the human faces that populate it, whatever side you are on.
  • Those iconoclasts who think that they improve anything by destroying it are doomed to worship at the Golden Calf of their own failures.
  • Any movement, any religion, any constitution that does not include all the people will eventually be overthrown by the weight of its own failure to love others.
  • In the heat of hatred and fear, the tyranny of a few can overthrow and seduce the many.
  • Only love can heal the human heart. When those who hate everyone turn all their energies to helping people to love as Christ loves us, then we can move forward.
  • Causing factions (Galatians 5) will not allow those with hatred in their hearts to banish justice. “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkiZuu79N_I How do you tame your own heart in relationship to God? isn’t this called contemplation, sitting on a park bench in the midst of winter, waiting for Christ to stop by?
  • Making all things new is only possible with Christ so doesn’t it stand to reason that humans must seek mercy and forgiveness and try to heal those wounds that cause cuts in our hearts. To heal the cuts love is the only cure that lasts.
  • The Devil has surely convinced people that they are correct in following the choices of Adam and Eve rather than of Christ (“Love others, as I have loved you.”). The Devil seduces us with the promise that breaking down will cause a building up. See the sssseducation of the snake in this video clip from The Little Prince. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUTEhEPONgc We don’t even realize what is going on because we measure truth by our own feelings and not from God. What has God got to do with this anyway?

In the larger sense, all that is going on in today’s world, or any period of time, is a reflection that humans have still not learned to love and that we need Christ to help us make all things new.

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STRENGTH TRAINING FOR BECOMING MORE LIKE CHRIST

One of the ways to approach the Sacred is to follow a daily routine. Some people call it a habit. Here is a challenge. Try to do these practices for 30 days, then sit down and think about it. If you are unable to do so, you might want to consider if your spirituality needs to go to the gym.  Here are some exercises that I do nearly every day in my quest to seek God in daily living.

DAILY PRACTICES

Place this aide on your mirror. When you wake up in the morning, offer everything you do today as glory to the Father and for the grace to do God’s will, through Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Monday: In reparation for my sins and those of the Church, those on my prayer list

Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers, classmates from St. Meinrad Seminary, those on my prayer list

Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Joseph, those on my prayer list

Thursday: For all Lay Cistercians, Monks of Holy Spirit Monastery, Monks of St.Meinrad Archabbey, priests and religious of Diocese of Evansville, Monks of Norcia, Italy and  those on my prayer list

Friday: For an increase in grace to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and my neighbor as myself.

Saturday: For all deceased, an increase in my faith through the Holy Spirit and for those on my prayer list.

Sunday: To give praise, honor, and glory to the Father through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit, the God who is, was, and is to come at the end of the ages

FIDELITY TO THE LIFE OF ONE WHO IS SIGNED WITH THE SIGN OF FAITH

In my life, it is important that I have a schedule to follow. I refuse to be used by a schedule (feeling that I have sinned if I don’t adhere to it perfectly) but would rather use it to help me seek God where I am and as I am, each day. I share with you my daily practices. I must emphasize the word “daily”. It is such a simple word but has crushed me more times than I would like to admit. These habits are what I do daily and I do not wish to impose them on you. You may wish to try some of them or none of them. If you do try them, do them daily and feel the struggle that it takes to be worthy of being an adopted son or daughter of the Father.

 EACH DAY, READ CHAPTER 4 OF THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT. NO EXCEPTIONS! — the Rule contains practices offered to his monks by St. Benedict (c. 540 AD). Most of the chapters contain practical guides on how to organize the daily lives of monks of his time.  If you go to this site, you will find a wealth of information about St. Benedict and also a tutorial from the Abbott on the meaning of each chapter of the Holy Rule. The key here is asking God to become what you are reading. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict Here are some of the Chapters of the Holy Rule that I use to take up my cross daily and follow Christ.

  • Prologue
  • Chapter 4 Tools for Good Works
  • Chapter 5 Obedience
  • Chapter 7 Obedience
  • Chapter 19 The Discipline of Psalmody
  • Chapter 20 Reverence in Prayer

I read and try to practice these Chapters as one who is a professed Lay Cistercian of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) in Georgia, always mindful of the lifetime promises I made to Christ through the Abbott, Dom Augustine, O.C.S.O. I am not a monk living in a monastery. My monastery is the limits of my world in which I seek to find meaning. I am challenged to adapt the Rule to help me seek God daily where I am and as I am. Some days are better than others. I have discovered that it is the time I take trying to calm myself down so as to present myself to God properly, that is also a prayer.

EACH DAY, RECITE THE OFFICE OF READINGS, THE MORNING PRAYER, AND THE EVENING PRAYER. These prayers are prayers of the Church Universal. Somewhere in the world, the faithful are reciting these prayers in praise of the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit. They are public prayers of reparation for the sins and shortcomings of the Church and all members. It is praise and thanksgiving to the Father for considering us as adopted sons and daughters. Since before c 540 (St. Benedict), holy men and women have been praying these prayers seven times a day, 365 days a year, continuous prayer for all of us to the Father that He grant us mercy, sinners all. These Hours are not limited to “just Catholics”.  There is no such thing as Catholic prayers. Our Catholic heritage contains prayers that have been part of our tradition for twenty centuries. Anyone can pray these prayers because we don’t pray to the Catholic Church or any Church. Prayer is our communication with Christ, mind to mind, heart to heart, and also to love others as Christ loves us. No one can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Ecumenical groups also pray the Liturgy of the Hours together and are linked together by the Universal Prayer of the Church.

Watch the example of one of the Hours from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), in Georgia.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbE92dFGG50  What did you notice about this prayer? I was struck by how slow the monks sang hymns and prayed the Psalms. It was like walking on honey. 

EACH DAY, READ OR LISTEN TO SACRED SCRIPTURE — Some people read the Scripture to prove they are better than anyone else. How far away are they from the Kingdom of Heaven. St. John writes about why we have the Scriptures in John 20:30-31 when he says: “Conclusion.*30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s31But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”t

The biblical quotation is from a website you should bookmark under CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL. It is the website of the Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) http://www.usccb.org/

EACH DAY, IN FACT, SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, DO LECTIO DIVINA.– When I first began doing Lectio Divina on June of 1963, I was very scrupulous to follow Guigo II’s Ladder of Contemplation. As I approach the end of my life on earth, I am much more forgiving of following the steps of Guigo II.  I pray Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) without realizing that there are steps.  Even seven years ago, when I first became interested in applying to be a Lay Cistercian, I have found myself having one, long session of Lectio. Now, my Lectio sessions total one, sometimes two hours per day, but I spread that out over three or four shorter sessions. My daily schedule is flexible, yet strict enough, that I pray at least once a day at 2:30 a.m. (twenty minutes), then do my Lectio Divina at my computer at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., after Compline. This is how I do it. Interestingly, during my self-imposed house quarantine, I have found more emphasis on contemplation and silence and solitude. Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Morning Prayer, collective recitation of the Rosary, are virtual or via on-line services.  I appreciate trying to seek God every day as I am and where I am.  If you are looking for a challenging read, open this URL, and read about the four steps of the Ladder. http://www.umilta.net/ladder.html

The transformation from self to God is not stopped by the COVID 19 virus, nor by hateful people wishing to destroy what they cannot control. 

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THE MYSTERIOUS WHY QUESTION

Humans differ from other species because we have reason (some more than others) and the ability to choose good or evil (no one chooses what they think is bad for them). The problem comes when humans think something is good for them but don’t realize the unintended consequences of their choice. Scripture tells us “the wages of sin in death”. We don’t always choose what is good for us. Case in point, Genesis 2-3 where the archetype humans, Adam and Eve, choose what they think is good for them, even though God tells them “don’t do it'”.

The fact that we have reason for a reason means we can ask questions. Have you ever asked your dog or cat a question, such as “What is your gender?” Why is it that we can answer that question and animals can’t?

I even bring up this topic because it was the result of my most recent Lectio Divina (Philippians). I was thinking, not of the usual WHY question, such as “Why are humans the only ones who know that they know?” I actually thought of Philippians 2:5, the very center of my reality, and asked, “Why did St. Paul write this passage? Where did it come from? Was there a template for him to use, like the Hero myth format of ancient Greece and Rome, that tells the life story or a person and how he had to overcome obstacles but rose up to conquer them? What went before St. Paul that would give him the linkage with ideas from the past, one on which he could build?” As I thought of all this, I realized that much of the new testament, although linked with the old testament prophets, was new material. Where did the writers get it? Some of those who espouse the historical Jesus approach think his disciples made up all of this stuff. Maybe so, but how could they come up with all these new ideas that fit some well together? Were these early disciples a Ph.D. in religion, or a religious fanatic that believes in just one aspect of the divine economy of salvation (e.g. end times)?

Not even the lofty thoughts of the Romans or Greeks of Christ’s time thought of such a well-developed system of how to love others as Christ loved us. The fact that this fledgling movement began with twelve terrified men who did not fully comprehend how Christ loved us is, in itself, amazing. St. Paul develops a rationale for the Messiah, the one who is to come. Remember, most of these letters were read and reread in the Jewish memorial of their deliverance from slavery, the Last Supper. These teachings of the Master spread quickly. Why is that? Belief is key in this early Church, but that belief was in someone who was rumored to have died and was seen afterward by many different groups of disciples. There is just too much collaborative writing and belief from various groups to think that all of this happened by chance. St. John, in his Gospel 20:30-31 tells us WHY many different scribes and disciples wrote down what Jesus did. “John 20: 30-31 NRSVCE – The Purpose of This Book (NRSVCE)The Purpose of This Book30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah,[b] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

  • Remember this! Our believing, the believing of anyone in the Church Universal does not make something true.
  • Rather, because it comes from God (Faith) we believe it is true. Some will choose to believe and some will not.
  • The reason WHY we have reason is to discover the kingdom of heaven. The reason WHY we have reason is to be able to discern good from evil.
  • The reason WHY we have the freedom to choose is to be able to choose that which is good. God tells us what is good.
  • The reason Christ took on our nature was to show us WHY God loved us.
  • All the writings from Scripture and the early Church tell us that God loves us and that we should love others as Christ loves us.
  • There are actually only two choices we have to make: I am God and the center of my universe; and, God is the center of all reality and I choose to do his will.
  • Choose God and live now and forever.
  • Choose yourself as god and die, eventually hoping that God has a sense of humor and did not mean what he said.

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THE SIXTY-SECOND CATHOLIC

Here are some thoughts for Dads on their secular holiday.

FIVE YES’S AND ONE NO

THE BEGINNING Creation began as a YES (Let it be) from God. That which is created takes on the characteristics of the person creating it.

THE BEGINNING OF HUMAN LIFE (ADAM AND EVE) Everything living is a creation of the owner of the Garden; Adam and Eve were made to be gardeners of creation, not creators. Adam and Eve were the first creators of other humans. Those created by humans take on the characteristics of the one creating them (DNA). Adam and Eve chose to be god and lost their original purpose of being a gardener. Human life began with a YES from God and end up at NO from Adam and Eve. NO is a blocking word.

THE BEGINNING OF NEW LIFE (CHRIST and the CHURCH) Christ comes into existence with a YES (Let it be) from Mary. Jesus restores us to new life with Baptism and the Holy Spirit to help each of us.

CHRIST WAS TEMPTED IN THE DESERT (temptations about his divinity and humanity) BUT ALSO IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANI (temptation testing his resolve to face the price of reconciliation with the Father). His human side was like us but his divine side was God. He had to make a choice of YES or NO. Christ chose to redeem us (YES).

GOD CREATED HUMANS WITH THE ABILITY TO REASON AND TO CHOOSE WHAT THEY REASONED. Each and every one of us must make a profession of faith in God as God (YES) rather than ourselves as god (NO). Christ tells us he has chosen us, we have not chosen Him. When we are Baptized, we are given the grace of being adopted sons and daughters of the Father and member of his Body, the Church Universal.

LECTIO DIVINA: ENHANCEMENTS

During my Lectio Divina, I sometimes use enhancements to my lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. I don’t know what else to call them. Some people use a mood to create an ambiance that will provide them with the best way to use their silence and solitude. most of the time but not always, when I do Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). This works for me.

ACCUPRESSURE– I know, it sounds way out there. I don’t always use acupressure in my Lectio, but I have just recently begun some research on the effects of certain simple acupressure points on my Lectio. It is too soon to give you the results. I share with you the website I use for the pressure points. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324699#do-pressure-points-work You can judge for yourself if this is effective.

SITTING STILL– I have always been impressed by photos of monks or nuns sitting by themselves on a bench, cowl over their heads, just sitting there. I try to imagine myself doing the same thing during my Lectio Divina sessions before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration. The stillness of the heart opens me to the ontic possibility of the manifestability to all being (Being) I encounter. Stillness, as I use it, works best for me in Eucharistic Adoration rather than in front of Trader Joe’s Market waiting for my wife to come out. I think it is the lack of movement that helps me to focus on Christ.

TEETERING ON THE EDGE OF SLEEPING– The Late Father Anthony Deliese, O.C.S.O. told us to pray as we can, which may mean you find yourself falling asleep. That is part of prayer. Of course, that mysterious land between keeping oneself awake and drifting in and out of the focus on Christ sitting next to me on a park bench in the depths of winter, is part of prayer, also. As of ten months ago, I keep waking up to go to the bathroom around 2:30 a.m., then wash my hands vigorously for twenty seconds, as per Covid19 protocols, and then lay down again. Some people tell me that they can’t get back to sleep once they get up. Thanks be to God, I don’t have that problem. What I have been doing is beginning to do Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) and await what comes. I have been asking my guardian angel (St. Michael) to join with me in asking the Father for mercy and reparation for all my sins through the mediation of Jesus in union with the Holy Spirit. I ask Holy Mother to join St. Michael and me in praying for mercy to the Father for those who have died and await purification for their sins. What seems like a long procedure actually happens in seconds. I have a golden book in which I have written the names of those I have met in my lifetime and for whom I pray that they are loosed from their sins. I am not a big fan of “one text” proofs, but I measure this against all the Ecumenical Councils through the ages to see a pattern. 2 Maccabees 12:46 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA) 46 It is, therefore, a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. I share just a few of the people for whom I lift up my prayers to the Father through Christ, those who have gone before me with the sign of the cross and those who are still living, that they learn the meaning of how to love others as Christ loves us.

  • My mom and and and family
  • My wife’s mom and family
  • My teachers and classmates at St. Meinrad School of Theology
  • Those whom I have promised to pray for
  • All Cistercian monks and nuns, especially those at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist)
  • All Lay Cistercians living and dead
  • All Chaplains, prisoners in prisons, their victims, and those who volunteer their time to share Christ with them

STARING AT A MY FAVORITE PHOTO — Sometimes I use a photo to help my mind focus on moving deeper into my inner consciousness, the place no one wants to go. My favorite photo is the cup in a darkened window frame with the glass just blurred enough to identify shapes and a color or two.

LECTIO WITH MY DOG, TUCKER (When at home) I have learned a lot about contemplation from my dog. Mind you, I am treating my dog as an I-Thou being and not an I-It. http://www.angelfire.com/md2/timewarp/buber.html#:~:text=According%20to%20Buber%2C%20human%20beings,having%20a%20unity%20of%20being.

That means, although I am human, I let the dog be its own nature and speak to me from those constraints. I have learned that this is all part of my seeking God where I am and as I am. This has helped me with the humility that comes from realizing that in everything, God is to be glorified. –St. Benedict

MUSIC– I don’t use music in my Lectio Divina because, at least so far, it is distracting for me. Some people find that it helps them very much.

Like all of the practices (Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule) we use to move from self to God, remembering that all of these enhancements and prayers are to allow us to become more like Christ and less like us. They are not ends in themselves.

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THE TRINITY: ARCHETYPE FOR FOREVER

When was the last time you consciously thought about the Trinity? For me, it was at 2:40 AM this morning, when I got up to use the bathroom. Usually, when I try to go back to sleep, I do a mini-Lectio Divina in order to prime myself for day ahead. I don’t know what the day will bring, but it does not matter. I just try to seek God daily where I am and how I am. In silence and solitude, I just let the Holy Spirit talk and I listen. This morning, what poped into my head was the Trinity.

Let me tell you a story about a young boy in 1963, who was studying theology and faced the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. I have never been one to have good grades (either because I was not smart enough or because I over-thought the questions). One Saturday afternoon, while other students of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, were out playing softball, I trudged up five flights of stairs to our chapel. I was very hot and stuffy in that chapel and everything inside me kept telling me to get out of there. What I had come to do was try to comprehend the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity. I sat there in silence and solitude and kept repeating to God that I believed but asked that he help my unbelief (St. Thomas Aquinas). I thought that, since God was everywhere, He would hear my plea and answer my prayer. As I sat there, I began to look around that chapel. There were no lights on but the sun was shining through the high stained-glass windows. I thought, “How can there be but one nature in God (divine) but three separate persons, each distinct. What would that look like?” Thinking that this was a waste of time, I turned to leave and gave one last glance to the altar. On it showed a rainbow of colors, a light that had passed through the clear window pain and refracted into various wavelengths. At that very moment, two things happened to me: a) I stopped trying to cram the divine nature of the Trinity into my poor, broken-down, Temple of the Holy Spirit. b) I experienced a profound sense of wellbeing and peace that I did not need to understand what could not be understood fully by any human, just ask for God’s mercy on me, a sinner. The Trinity is the mystery of Faith.

My Lectio this morning brought four examples of how the Blessed Trinity is a paradigm on how to look at reality and see the whole picture. Let me share these with you now.

I. THE MYSTERY OF DIVINE NATURE : One God but three persons

There are some ideas that humans could not reason without some hints or help in the form of revelation. The Blessed Trinity is one such dogma (dogma means teaching from Christ). Other major religions teach that God is One in Divine Nature, but there are not three persons in the form of a Trinity of Persons. Remember that each individual human being has the ability to reason for a reason and also the capability to choose what they think is good for them. Not all humans reason that there is a Trinity so they are not able to choose this way of thinking. It would be like taking a hike in the Grand Canyon and coming upon a great rift between one side (The World) and the other (The Spirit). You are not able to exercise this option. Your life will be spent on one side of the rim and not the other. Then, all of a sudden, a very young man comes up to you and tells you how to get across and what is on the other side. In this example, this would be Christ who tells you that He is the Pontifex Maximus (The Great Bridge Builder) and that on the other side of the gap is His Kingdom where he invites you to be an adopted son or daughter of the King. He tells you that all you have to do is walk across the gap (Baptism) and have Faith(Acceptance of Christ as Lord). The problem is, you must have faith in the words of the young man because this gap does not seem to have any bridge over it. Remember the movie of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? There is a scene in the movie that I always think about when I am faced with what seems like an impossible task. Here it is! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFntFdEGgws

God is one in nature (divine) and three in persons. You can’t make this stuff up. We would not know about the Trinity unless Christ revealed it. We would not be able to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven had not Christ redeemed us and paid the price of that reconciliation of human nature with the divine by His passion and death. (Philippians 2:5-12) Remember, nothing about the Mystery of Faith or the Kingdom of Heaven makes sense with the measurements of the World, or without the revelation from Christ, and Christ does not make sense without the Resurrection. And the Resurrection does not make sense without Faith. And Faith does not make sense without Love. And Love does not make sense without the Trinity who is the paradigm of Love.

Here are some of the other “one and three” paradoxes that came to my mind during my Lectio.

II. THERE ARE THREE HUGE QUESTIONS THAT CHALLENGE YOUR REASONING AND FREE CHOICE BUT ONLY ONE ANSWER

Here are three questions I asked myself about the reality that I see about me, questions that may not have answers in just two universes (physical and mental) but which are reasonable in a reality with three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).

  1. WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE? I had to look it up on Google (see below) but the wonders of science always bring us such inspiring objects. Needless to say, if humans ever got close to a hypernova or magnetar, we would not survive. We are not made for exposure to outer space with its radiation, so why do we exist on a precarious rocky platform of gases? https://encrypted-vtbn1.gstatic.com/video?q=tbn:ANd9GcRHHUjn8MzlTSfOyvEbFSbFX-s3NJlKLxb60rE6QKHuhfGxKY3-
  2. WHY, OF ALL LIVING THINGS ON EARTH, ARE HUMANS THE ONLY SPECIES THAT KNOWS THAT IT KNOWS? Humans have two qualities that make us different: the ability to reason and the ability to choose what they reason is good or bad for them. The problem comes when what a human chooses is bad for them but they still choose bad over good. So, what is normative (good) for humans?
  3. HUMAN CHOICE MEANS WE ARE NOT LOCKED INTO A NATURAL ORDER, SUCH AS ANIMALS. WHY IS THAT? You and I have the ability to know what is good for us and then to choose which option is good for us. There are two places where we find the measuring stick against which we choose this or that. The first place inside ourselves. The Book of Genesis points out that Adam and Eve are poor measuring sticks. The second place we can choose to look is outside of ourselves. God had to prepare his people, Israel, to receive one against whom all reality would be measured, Jesus the Christ, (Philippians 2:5). Christ is the measuring stick. But there is a catch, you must use God’s measurement and not the World’s. We enter the Kingdom of Heaven at Baptism and continue to learn what it means to love others as Christ loved us. We are not destined for this World but the next one, where there is only God, and God is love. This is what the catch means. The measuring stick of God is the opposite of what we think of when we use our reasoning (Science, Philosophy, Literature) and the freedom to choose. It does not make sense unless we use God’s measuring criteria. We had to wait for Christ to give us the fullness of grace through the Holy Spirit which provides us with the Faith and energy to survive in the World with all it false enticements. We are free to choose between two alternatives: God is God or I am god. The difference is not always apparant but we have the living tradition in the Church, the Scriptures and prayer to keep us grounded in humility. Lay Cistercian spiritual is one way to open up the mind and heart to sit and soak up the Divine Being through Christ under the inspiration of the Spirit of Truth. You just can’t make this stuff up.

II. THERE ARE THREE SEPARATE UNIVERSES BUT ONLY ONE REALITY

Another of the “one yet three” paradigms is that of three separate and distinct universes. They correspond to the three questions you just read above. I recommend you read this section then go back and re-read sections I and II. Here is what I wrote about three universes in a former blog. I think it applies to the Trinity.

First, in the physical universe, the one in which we share with all other matter, energy, time, rocks, and those who have life, there is both resonance and dissonance. These qualities are part of the natural order of reality which we call the natural law. For example, if animals would, all of a sudden stop procreating, that would not be a part of the natural order of things. It would be dissonance. Keeping the natural expectations of reality is called resonance. All things living are a part of the physical universe and subject to its Laws. It is the object of study and inquiry of the next universe, one in which only humans live.

The mental universe are those gifted with human reasoning and the ability to choose what they reason. Only humans are part of this universe. They can act outside the Laws of Nature if they choose. In this universe, the individual is the center of all reality. The languages of Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Logic helps humans to discover the physical universe and find out what makes it tick, why it ticks, and how it ticks. Humans, as well as all reality, has a beginning and an end, 70 or 80 years, if we are strong as humans, then we die. We hand off what we have learned to the next generation. In doing so, we humans try to find meaning and purpose for why we are here at this particular time, in this particular space. Individual persons try to find security and stability by adopting various ways to see reality and answer the six questions each person must ask and answer before they die (these are my six questions):

  • What is the purpose of all life?
  • What is the purpose of my life within that purpose?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does everything fit together?
  • What does it mean to love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die, now what?

Granted these are the six question each of us must ask and answer, but where do you find the answers? This is a big challenge for humans. They try to answer questions with different philosophies or no ideas at all. This is the reason you have reason and the ability to choose something or someone that is invisible to your usual pattern of thinking. Where do you go for the truth? Science and the empirical way of thinking, to its credit, has tried to objectify the answers to questions of Why, Where, When, How, and What. It looks at the physical universe of matter, time, and energy and proposes solutions using the languages of Science. What is real is where you find ourselves and what you have learned from the past.

The mental universe (reason and the ability to choose) allows humans to ask questions about who we are. The answers come from science, logic, deduction, probability, historical precedent. Each individual must address what is real according to certain criteria that they, themselves, choose as being true. Collectively, these individuals form tribes, gangs, groups of like-minded thinkers, such as churches, societies, nations, and ethnic attachments that form who they are.

The problem that I have with just a physical and mental universe is that is does not provide me with the answers that answer these six questions. Like the presence of dark matter in the universe, there is part of the equation that is missing. When I use my reasoning and freedom to choose what I reasoned, I look back on reality, both present and in the past to inform me of what is true. I use the languages and tools that we have developed so far to separate fact from fantasy. Is this all there is? Are we just condemned to live for seventy or eighty years, then die?

WHY ARE WE?

The Church Universal is a collection of those marked with the sign of Faith and who are alive. Those in Heaven are called Saints or saints, those on earth still practicing what is means to love others as Christ loves us are called by the name Church Militant, and those who have been judged by God to need purification before they enter the kingdom of heaven are the Church Purgative. All are alive. Christ is the head and we sinful members make up the Mystical Body of Christ. There is a danger that Christ warned us about and St. Paul confirmed, when the Church becomes keeping rules alone (the Law) without using The Law to allow us to love others as Christ loves us, then we have a group of people with the Church as their center. As humans, we all have the ability to reason, then to choose to do what we have reasoned is true.

The Spiritual Universe. We humans have always been an inquisitive lot. Perhaps why we evolved physically, mentally as well as spiritually is to be aware of a reality larger than our physical and mental universes, which St. Paul termed The Spirit. As good as reason is to make sense out of the World in which we live, it alone is not enough to approach the next universe, that of the Spirit. We must choose to enter the spiritual universe freely and we need to be lifted up to do that. By lifted up I mean God lifts us up from the Garden of Eden to the Kingdom of Heaven through Baptism. We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through Faith (God’s energy to gather all things to Himself). The reality now becomes what it was intended to be before the Fall of Adam and Eve from grace (Original Sin). These three universes complete the cycle for all humans and answer the question, Who are we? Why are we? What is our future? What is our purpose? How does love fulfill the longing heart? and We know we are going to die, now what? To inherit the kingdom, God’s playground, we must use what He taught us through His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, And what was that? Simply put, it is to love one another as He has loved us. The spiritual universe uses the opposite of what the World says is good to provide us with a path to walk through the minefields of life without getting blown up. We must renounce our false selves (the World) to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). We must make room for Christ in our hearts by using the Tools for Good Works listed in Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. Each day, we must seek God where we are, and as we are, taking up whatever cross we bear that day as Christ carried his cross for the sins of the World.

I realize that I am just hypothesizing with three universes, but this way of breaking down reality has been helpful for me to tease out what had heretofor baffeling. I like to put things together and see where they fit. This all leads me to think about the Trinity and why there is one God but three separate persons.

III.THERE ARE THREE LORDS BUT ONLY ONE REALITY

There are three persons yet one nature in God. That is not something humans could reason to but it took Christ to tell us that it is so. You either believe that or you don’t.

THE FATHER AS LORD OF FAITH CREATION AND ALL REALITY: We reaffirm our Faith each Sunday when we recite the Creed as part of our Eucharist. Before we approach the ultimate, timeless sacrifice of Christ in Eucharist, we must ask to receive the grace to even say, “Abba” or “Father”. Christ told us that no one can approach the Father but only the Son. The Father is the source of energy. This energy is the power of love, a love which created all the heavenly choirs of angels (and demons), a love that unleashed it DNA on matter, time and energy to propel it towards an end time, a desire to share all of this with humans by giving them the ability to reason and the freedom to choose good or evil. Everything we know of has a beginning and an end, galaxies, black holes, earth, all living things, all humans. Why is that? There are four Epochs of time:

a) From the beginning of time to the creation of Adam, b) from the creation of Adam to the creation completion of the mission of Christ, c) from Pentecost to the second coming of Christ, d) from the creation of each one of us as adopted sons and daughters of the Father until we die and live forever. Each person in the Blessed Trinity has a mission and plays a key role to help us fulfill our human destiny.

THE SON AS LORD AND MEDIATOR OF LOVE FOR THE FATHER: God did not leave us orphans at the mercy of Satan and his minions. He shared his own self, in the form of Jesus, Son of David, to set us free from the slavery of self and to give us forgiveness of Original Sin (the sin of Adam and Eve). Christ told us only to love one another as He has loved us. How simple! How difficult it is without Christ as the Way. Philippians 2:5-12 tells us that His name is above every other name and that every knee should bend at His name to the glory of the Father. Contemplative (Trappist) prayer gives me the opportunity to seek God every day, in all that I am, in all that I do. These charisms and practices are not just empty prayers but are transformative to all who are gentle and humble of heart. Christ is as present to us in my life as he was to the lives of the Apostles and his disciples if I have humility and obedience to His will. To move from self to God takes focus, purpose, and trial and error. Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict provides a wonderful guide to measure ourselves again. Jesus is the personification of the Trinity to show us how to love others and to make it possible for us to join him in Heaven…Forever. He is the Real Presence for each age in the Last Supper (Eucharist) as he takes us along with Him as He gives fitting honor and glory to the Father in union with the Holy Spirit.

THE SPIRIT AS THE LORD OF HOPE AND TRUTH: If you look again at the epochs of time (above), then you realize that something is missing in this divine economy without a Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit of truth that overshadowed Mary with the Immaculate Conception, the same Spirit that overshadowed the Apostles in the Upper Room, the same Spirit that overshadows each one of us at Baptism and in our daily prayer to have mercy on us, sinners all. The Holy Spirit is the Real Presence of God in the Church, which is why we say the Church is Holy. It is certainly not because of the people in it who must continously strive to love others as Christ did.

A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON THE REALITY OF THE TRINITY: The Archetype to Forever.

In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), it all came down to this.

  • God did all these epochs of the Kingdom (Christ), the Power (Holy Spirit), and the Glory (the Father).
  • Christ told us to love others as He loves us.
  • Christ is both divine and human for a reason.
  • The human side of all of us must learn how to love.
  • The human side of us must trudge our way through the minefields of Original Sin.
  • Humans have human nature that has been redeemed (raised up) by the Father through the love of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • Christ saved us from having just ourselves as a god.
  • The Holy Spirit guides the Church through the ages. That doesn’t mean that what sinful leaders do is correct but that, as Christ pointed out, the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
  • We are not left orphans in each age.
  • Each person is offered a chance to accept Christ as Son of God, Savior.
  • The Holy Spirit overshadows each of us in Baptism.
  • The Holy Spirit enables those with Faith to say Jesus is Lord.
  • The Holy Spirit tells us not to worry and don’t be afraid of the future.
  • If we are friends with Jesus, our Brother, and use the power of the Holy Spirit, our Power, and praise the name of the Lord in Honor the Glory, we will be saved.
  • Jesus is the only way to the Father; giving glory and praise to the Father through Christ is the only life; and being present to Jesus sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter through the Holy Spirit is the truth.
  • The Trinity of One God being three distinct persons is a mystery of Faith. Humans don’t have the capacity nor the capability to know the mind of God, only that what does not make sense to the Gentiles and is a stumbling block to the Jews, makes perfect sense in God’s playground.
  • Each of us received a tattoo on our spiritual self, the cross, both a sign of contradiction and a paradox when we were Baptized into adoption and the care of the Holy Spirit to lead us to Heaven…Forever.

Praise be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

YOU may be ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION?

Wrong questions always lead to wrong answers. Humans differ from other species of animals because we have the ability to reason and also to choose between options of what seems reasonable to us. I have given up watching television news of any kind because of the hatred and factions that are so evident and an insult to my reasoning.

People ask the wrong question because they assume various beliefs are true, while other people can look at the same thing and have a quite different opinion. Those who hold to the relativist theory say that all opinions are correct (which means that no one is correct), while those who hold that there is only one truth say that we have reason for a reason that we have the ability to choose whatever we want. To take it a step further, it is not that anything we choose is correct because we choose it but that, because we have reason, we choose because it is correct. Ultimately, there are always consequences to whatever we choose, be it an atheist who is more fervent in his or her opinion that there is no God than some people are who actually do believe in God.

Here are five of the most controversial statements that I have encountered.

I AM FREE TO CHOOSE WHATEVER I WANT WITH MY LIFE. Well, that is a YES and a NO. The YES is that you are free to choose what you want, and the NO is that the wages of sin are death. There are consequences to every choice I make. We are, in large part, defined by the choices we make. Being free to choose doesn’t mean that what I choose is automatically correct. Choose God and live. Choose hatred and die.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH MEANS I CAN SAY ANYTHING I WANT. If you believe that, you must not know of the thousands of people who have been slandered and lied about when they say what they think. One word can sink a career or a joking remark taken out of context can shipwreck whole families. We have a double standard here.

EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO THEIR OPINION. No, they don’t! When opinions face the wall of hatred and lawlessness, humans face some choices about what their values are. The Preamble and Constitution of the United States are such principles. When some people use some principles to their own advantage but refuse to allow others the same freedom, principles go out the window. We are becoming a nation where violence and hatred have replaced the foundations of mercy and justice for all.

JUSTICE IS WHAT I SAY IT IS. That depends on who is talking and what they are saying. It is ironic to the nth degree that some elected officials want to arrest people for not wearing a mask or maintaining social distancing and we see new clips of thousands of people marching together in the peaceful but sometimes violent destruction of property. The product of hatred and rage is almost always either fatal to individuals or results in the destruction of the property of others. Justice without mercy is a limp noodle because it depends on the emotion of the moment rather than self-evident principles that all are created equal.

WE DON’T NEED GOD TO HELP US. Again, a false assumption or question. The Constitution of the United States is not the whim of the moment which waxes and wanes with each ideology. Rather, it sets forth the principles against which all of us are measured. It states that all men and women are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What riots and anarchy achieve is a replacement of principles with their own ideology. It will never result in peace nor happiness. The principles are not there. God doesn’t help us by intervening in our history as much as giving us those principles that lead to freedom and equality. Love one another, says Christ, as I have loved you.

As always, humans must trudge through the Tower of Babel to reach some accommodation that does not kill each other. Some things never change. I guess that is why we call it Original Sin and why we must rely on a power outside of ourselves to find the energy to ask the right questions and choose wisely.

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LESSONS AVOIDED

Everyone is upset about what is going on in society. Protestors want meaningful change. Law and Order folks want the Rule of Law and not lawlessness. Let’s not forget that there are consequences, some of which are unintended, with each choice. Here are some thoughts from my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5).

  • Change of any kind won’t work if it is based on hatred.
  • Justice without mercy is blind.
  • You can’t have both love and hatred in your heart at the same time.

EMAIL FROM JESUS

Michael:   Sorry for waking you up at 9:56 pm but you did ask me to help clarify all the confusion and turmoil around you. Before I begin, St. Michael wants me to tell you that he appreciates your thinking of him in your Lectio Divina at 2:30 am every day. You had mentioned in your Lectio Divina prayer that you find all the hatred and posturing for power sad and depressing. I have to tell you, Michael, it hurts me deeply to see how you humans are acting. If you remember, my tribes in the New Testament worshiped the Golden Calf even as I gave them the Commandments from Moses. It looks like you folks don’t learn the lessons of history past three generations. The Golden Calf is still alive and well and people are worshiping it, blinded to my words of caution. The key to all of this is confirmed in both new and old testaments. Deuteronomy 5:6 and Matthew 22:36.  Love God with all your mind, your heart, and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself. When you listen to any of the speeches about justice is there any talk of mercy? Can you say the Shema Yisrael and listen to the hatred of those full of rage instead of full of grace, without feeling that people have missed the mark about what I have come to tell them? I said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” That’s all folks! Tell people that any efforts to build peace on the foundations of the world are in vain and useless. If all humans measure their hearts against my heart, they will find peace and justice. This peace is not what the world gives, that is, the absence of war or conflict, but rather it is the presence of Love, my love for each person. Tell folks not to give up hope but to not place their trust in humans. I am the way, the truth, and the life, Michael. I fear that people will get a rude awakening if they stand before me in judgment with hatred, envy, and jealousy in their hearts. There is no hatred in Heaven, Michael, only Love. If you were a room in my kingdom of heaven, I would not allow you to have hatred in it. You must first sweep clean your room to prepare for my way. If you link your love for me with one other person, that means there are two of you. You know what I said about two or three who gather in my name to love me? I am in your midst. I won’t let you down, Michael. If you want, you can send this Email out to those whom you think could join you in praise to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is who was and who is to come at the end of the Ages. Be safe in all the Covid19 pandemic. Remember, you are my adopted son. See you soon.   Love, your brother, The Christ  

Jesus  

10 questions about WHAT HEAVEN will BE LIKE?

This morning, more precisely at 2:34 A.M., I did one of my three or four Lectio Divina meditations, using lasting twenty minutes or more. My Lectio is always Philippians 2:5 and this morning was not an exception. At nearly 80 years of age, my thoughts often meander towards death and what heaven will be like. This is what I thought about this morning.

  • How would God, the center of all reality, unapproachable to human nature, communicate to us that He gives us an invitation to join Him after we die? In the Old Testament, He tells us through the prophets and the Law. In the New Testament, He shows us by sending His only begotten Son to give us directions (Scripture). He could have sent us an Email invitation but sent his own Son to show us what to pack for the journey. That Son was and is a sign of contradiction to the Gentiles and a stumbling block for the Jews. Do you know what to pack for the journey?
  • God doesn’t walk the path of salvation for us but is with us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit activates this spirit of adoption so that we keep our eyes focused on our heritage. God always gives us help (grace) to face whatever challenges we have but He won’t take this cross from us, as Christ asked Him to do the Garden of Gethsemani. Do you know what the simple response is to God’s mercy? It is “be it done unto me, according to your word.”
  • If Heaven is God’s playground and we want to play in his sandbox, we must play by His rules, not ours. Christ tells us there is only one rule: love one another as I have loved you. Have you tried that lately?
  • The Son tells us that there are three persons but only one nature in God. Humans have only one nature, that of a human being. Christ, being our brother, has both divine and human nature, much like someone who has dual citizenship. We would not know about the Trinity except through direct revelation.
  • Heaven must be consistent with human nature. Read Philippians 2:5-12. God became our nature so that we could begin to prepare on earth for what is to come in heaven. There are a few questions that I have about heaven, in terms of our human condition. Did you see the launching of SpaceX to eventually dock with the Space Station? Our human nature is limited to a certain time (70 or 80 years, if we are strong), and is dependent on our atmosphere to sustain us. Were humans to go into space without artificial help, we could survive. Why is that? We are held hostage by our nature to its limitations, one that says there is a beginning and ending to everything. When Christ comes, he tells us we have a natural beginning, but there is also a deeper reason for our existence, we have an invitation to live beyond death. Now invitation simply does not make any sense with what we know of reality. We call it Baptism, a gift from God for every single human if they want it.
  • How will every one fit in heaven, if they don’t all fit on earth? If we have an assumption about heaven that it is just like on earth, then there is a problem. Heaven is not a place with 3Dimensions as much as it is a Divine Nature and it doesn’t exist in space, time, or energy that we know about. Christ came down to tell us in person not to worry about it, that we will be just fine, to trust in God that He knows what he is doing. Christ also showed us what to pack in our bag to Forever. Read Matthew 25:36ff. He told His Apostles to pass on to the communities of believers what He had shown them in this life with them. Read John 20:30-31 to find out why the Scriptures were written.
  • Grace builds on nature and so does our interaction with the world around us. We find what is meaningful through our senses. Animals also do that, but we have two things they don’t have. 1. The Ability to Reason and 2., We are free to choose what we reason. Heaven, it would seem, would have to be consistent with our nature for us to appreciate what awaits us in Heaven. Here are some seeming problems, if we are transported from our world to the Kingdom of Heaven.’
    • We don’t have clothes in Heaven like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.
    • Will there be seasons of hot and cold? We are used to these atmospheric changes.
    • There is no marriage in Heaven. If you have married two or three times, who will be your spouse?
    • John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is going back to the Father as our mediator and friend to prepare a place for us. There are many mansions in heaven, according to Jesus. Do we pay rent for these? Is there someone to cut the grass?
    • Do we have hospitals in Heaven?
    • What do we eat in Heaven? Humans can’t exist without food, or more importantly water.
  • While we prepare to go to heaven while on earth, God’s grace is sufficient. God gives us what we need to survive. In Heaven, will that be the case?

Cistercian spirituality has helped me in this terminal stage of my time on earth, but it has also provided me with focused opportunities to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, attend Eucharist, read Sacred Scripture daily, practice forgiving others and asking for God’s mercy, and Lectio Divina, to name a few ways. I suspect I will continue to do that after I die. Mainly, I trust that the words of Christ to those who love him are true and the eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has waitingfor us. Faith sustains us while we await the next portal, Hope maintains us while we suffer the temptations to abandon Christ, but it is Love that propell us forward towards our true destiny as a human being.

While at Starbucks for a cup of delicious coffee, an agnostic friend of mine asked me what I would do if I knew that an asteroid would hit the earth in one hour and end all life? I looked at him, smiled, and told him, “I would ask for another refill of coffee.”

Relax! Trust in God! In the silence and solitude of your heart, give praise to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

HERE IS A TEMPTATION FROM SATAN YOU MAY NOT SEE COMING

My Lectio Divina never happens in a vacuum. In the process of seeking God in my daily life, where I am and as I am, certain events impact my consciousness and I takes those experiences with me as I try to focus on my only Lectio Divina I have had since 1962, Philippians 2:5. As an example, may I share with you one such incident in a recent Lectio session that impacted the outcome of my meditation.

It came to my attention that one of my dear relatives was exhibiting symptoms of paranoia. Having only a cursory familiarity with this condition, I usually don’t say anything and let it slide off to other topics. In this case, the person in question was a very devout Catholic, who, up to this time, did not experience anything radical about their belief. It turns out that this person is in a great deal of pain, both physically, mentally, and spiritually. The condition is one that afflicts many Catholics these days, the realization that the Church is imperfect and that you have placed all of your hope on the Church is the way, the truth, and the light. What happens when your world collapses? It must be the fault of the Church, being so hypocritical and imperfect. The Church betrayed you with all it lofty and high expectations that you be perfect and yet it is so imperfect. As a result, you leave the very Church that has the answers to all your vexing problems. You are not prepared to receive grace from God. You are spiritually depressed and don’t know where to find peace and security of mind and spirit.

In this context, I began my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) and, sure enough, this situation somehow worked its way into my Meditatio (Meditation). Instead of trying to banish these disturbing thoughts, I decided to embrase them as part of my Lectio and see where the Holy Spirit would take me.

What follows are my ideas stemming from that encounter with Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter.

Although I don’t subscribe to the notion that all life is but a series of problems to be solved, in this case, I thought about what was behind all of this pain and anguish with the Church being the focal point of the hatred, mistrust, and anger. There are three dimensions to this so called problem.

First, in the physical universe, the one in which we share with all other matter, energy, time, rocks, and those who have life, there is both resonance and dissonance. These qualities are part of the natural order of reality which we call the natural law. For example, if animals would, all of a sudden stop procreating, that would not be a part of the natural order of things. It would be dissonance. Keeping the natural expectations of reality is called resonance. All things living are a part of the physical universe and subject to its Laws. It is the object of study and inquiry of the next universe, one in which only humans live.

The mental universe are those gifted with human reasoning and the ability to choose what they reason. Only humans are part of this universe. They can act outside the Laws of Nature if they choose. In this universe, the individual is the center of all reality. The languages of Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Logic helps humans to discover the physical universe and find out what makes it tick, why it ticks, and how it ticks. Humans, as well as all reality, has a beginning and an end, 70 or 80 years, if we are strong as humans, then we die. We hand off what we have learned to the next generation. In doing so, we humans try to find meaning and purpose for why we are here at this particular time, in this particular space. Individual persons try to find security and stability by adopting various ways to see reality and answer the six questions each person must ask and answer before they die (these are my six questions):

  • What is the purpose of all life?
  • What is the purpose of my life within that purpose?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does everything fit together?
  • What does it mean to love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die, now what?

Granted these are the six question each of us must ask and answer, but where do you find the answers? This is a big challenge for humans. They try to answer questions with different philosophies or no ideas at all. This is the reason you have reason and the ability to choose something or someone that is invisible to your usual pattern of thinking. Where do you go for the truth? Science and the empirical way of thinking, to its credit, has tried to objectify the answers to questions of Why, Where, When, How, and What. It looks at the physical universe of matter, time, and energy and proposes solutions using the languages of Science. What is real is where you find ourselves and what you have learned from the past.

The mental universe (reason and the ability to choose) allows humans to ask questions about who we are. The answers come from science, logic, deduction, probability, historical precedent. Each individual must address what is real according to certain criteria that they, themselves, choose as being true. Collectively, these individuals form tribes, gangs, groups of like-minded thinkers, such as churches, societies, nations, and ethnic attachments that form who they are.

The problem that I have with just a physical and mental universe is that is does not provide me with the answers that answer these six questions. Like the presence of dark matter in the universe, there is part of the equation that is missing. When I use my reasoning and freedom to choose what I reasoned, I look back on reality, both present and in the past to inform me of what is true. I use the languages and tools that we have developed so far to separate fact from fantasy. Is this all there is? Are we just condemned to live for seventy or eighty years, then die?

WHY ARE WE?

The Church Universal is a collection of those marked with the sign of Faith and who are alive. Those in Heaven are called Saints or saints, those on earth still practicing what is means to love others as Christ loves us are called by the name Church Militant, and those who have been judged by God to need purification before they enter the kingdom of heaven are the Church Purgative. All are alive. Christ is the head and we sinful members make up the Mystical Body of Christ. There is a danger that Christ warned us about and St. Paul confirmed, when the Church becomes keeping rules alone (the Law) without using The Law to allow us to love others as Christ loves us, then we have a group of people with the Church as their center. As humans, we all have the ability to reason, then to choose to do what we have reasoned is true.

The Spiritual Universe. We humans have always been an inquisitive lot. Perhaps why we evolved physically, mentally as well as spiritually is to be aware of a reality larger than our physical and mental universes, which St. Paul termed The Spirit. As good as reason is to make sense out of the World in which we live, it alone is not enough to approach the next universe, that of the Spirit. We must choose to enter the spiritual universe freely and we need to be lifted up to do that. By lifted up I mean God lifts us up from the Garden of Eden to the Kingdom of Heaven through Baptism. We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through Faith (God’s energy to gather all things to Himself). The reality now becomes what it was intended to be before the Fall of Adam and Eve from grace (Original Sin). These three universes complete the cycle for all humans and answer the question, Who are we? Why are we? What is our future? What is our purpose? How does love fulfill the longing heart? and We know we are going to die, now what? To inherit the kingdom, God’s playground, we must use what He taught us through His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, And what was that? Simply put, it is to love one another as He has loved us. The spiritual universe uses the opposite of what the World says is good to provide us with a path to walk through the minefields of life without getting blown up. We must renounce our false selves (the World) to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). We must make room for Christ in our hearts by using the Tools for Good Works listed in Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. Each day, we must seek God where we are, and as we are, taking up whatever cross we bear that day as Christ carried his cross for the sins of the World.

Remember the example I gave at the beginning of his reflection, the person who was exhibiting symptoms of being paranoid because all they could see is the Church with bad priests, the Pope or Bishops calling them to love one another as Christ loves them and seeming to be false prophets? When someone displays the signs of dysfunction and hatred about the Church then it is a sign that they have a center that will lead them to spiritual anxiety and possible loss of the Faith. Satan uses the vulnerability of the Faithful to test them against what is going on around them. You may not see this temptation coming. When people criticize the Church, some of this may be justified, but some of it only leads to substituting something for your present center. False centers lead to the death of the Spirit. (Galatians 5) There is only one Center that produces grace, that has the energy to lift us up when we have sinned and gone off the path of righteousness. The Church becomes the living member who helps the individual to transform themselves from their sinful selves to being an adopted son or daughter. This is a struggle that is a daily occurrence because of the effects of Original Sin. Thanks be to God we have THE REAL PRESENCE of Christ in the Eucharist to be THE WAY for us in the same way he spoke to the Apostles in the Upper Room. Thanks be to God we have Real Presence of the Holy Spirit to make all things new in penance so we can transform our poor life daily to that of THE LIFE of an adopted son or daughter. Thanks be to God we have the Real Presence of the Father in Baptism, revealed through the Son, to be our North on the Compass of Life and THE TRUTH against which we measure what is meaningful.

When you put your hope in the Church, you are bound to be dissapointed. When you place your hope in Christ alone, you are bound to see the sins and failings of the Church Universal in each age as exactly what you yourself are now.

Blessed are you who hear the word of God and keep it. Blessed are you who say Jesus is Lord, for you cannot do so without the Holy Spirit. Blessed are you who put your trust in God’s mercy.

Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. Pray that you become what you read. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

Blessed are you who let God be the judge of those outside the Church Universal. You must not judge anyone in the Church.

Praise and Blessing be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

THE HAPPINESS OF DOING NOTHING

What follows is a series of thoughts that are the result of one of my recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditations.I experienced these thoughts while sitting on a park bench in the density of winter, waiting for Christ to come and share His Real Presence. I thought, “Here I am, sitting on a park bench in the dead cold, waiting for Christ to visit me, while not presupposing that I am even worthy enough for God to sit next to a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit, but hoping He will do so.” There is a strange consequence of silence and solitude, the stillness that comes with letting go of everyTHING in your life that ties you to being human, the complete abandonment to a person you love but have never seen, and the realization that you can never approach God because He is God and you are, well, you. Yet, here you sit in the hope Christ will come into your heart and just sit there with you, no words, no thoughts, no need to fill up the time with idle chatter, This reminds me of the look that comes between two people who have lived together for many, many years are endured the rocky fastness of their chosen paths, which now have become just one road which they share together. It is the look of deep, abiding, unconditional love, which the World and death cannot break apart in the hope that they will live together forever. That happiness is what I felt while in my contemplation. It is, for lack of a good description, the happiness of doing nothing.

THE NOTHINGNESS OF GOD

In my view of what is real, the World (living only in the physical and mental universes) says that nothing makes you happy except what excites you, entertains you, and what distracts you from all those foolish ideas that come from God, such as denying yourself daily, taking up your cross and following Christ. As I sit on the park branch, uncomfortable because it is so very cold, wishing I could be somewhere warm, the thought occurs to me that I must look at happiness and nothingness from the viewpoint of God, not the World. Then, I realized that the nothingness of God is more real than the nothingness espoused by the World. The paradox of God is at work. It is only when I accept nothingness as the presence of Christ in my heart that I can truly understand what St. Benedict wrote to his monks about humility in Chapter 7 of his Rule. I read Chapter 7 and the commentary by Abbot Phillip Lawrence, O.S.B., Abbey of Christ in the Desert, and encourage you to do the same. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-7-humility/

Chapter 7: Humility

1 Brothers, Divine Scripture calls to us saying: Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (Luke 14:11; 18:14). 2 In saying this, therefore, it shows us that every exaltation is a kind of pride, 3 which the Prophet indicates he has shunned, saying: Lord, my heart is not exalted; my eyes are not lifted up and I have not walked in the ways of the great nor gone after marvels beyond me (Ps 130[131]:1). 4 And why? If I had not a humble spirit but were exalted instead, then you would treat me like a weaned child on its mother’s lap (Ps 130[131]:2).

5 Accordingly, brothers, if we want to reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily that exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life, 6 then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw angels descending and ascending (Gen 28: 12). 7 Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility. 8 Now the ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our hearts the Lord will raise it to heaven. 9 We may call our body and soul the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend.

10 The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (Ps 35[36]:2) and never forgets it. 11 He must constantly remember everything God has commanded, keeping in mind that all who despise God will burn in hell for their sins, and all who fear God have everlasting life awaiting them. 12 While he guards himself at every moment from sins and vices of thought or tongue, of hand or foot, of self-will or bodily desire, 13 let him recall that he is always seen by God in heaven, that his actions everywhere are in God’s sight and are reported by angels at every hour.

The nothingness of God is greater than any reality in our physical or mental universes. If you look at the spiritual universe as the opposite of what the World says is meaningful, then nothingness means everything is one in Christ. He told that he will draw all things to himself John 12:31-33 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) “31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[a] to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Here are some random reflections I had as a result of my Lectio Divina.

  • How can nothing make me happy? Sounds like a conundrum, doesn’t it? The nothingness of Christ is the presence of the Supreme Being. Like a person who gets closer and closer to the Sun, the presence of God can annihilate our physical, mental, and spiritual being, if we approach him directly. Baptism allows us to get close to Jesus Christ, Son of God, because he is our mediator the transformer that allows us to call God, Abba, that is, Father. When we say we pray to the Blessed Mother or for the intercession of the Saints, what we mean is that our prayer does not stop with Mary or the Saint, but we ask them to join us as to give glory, praise, and honor to the Father through, with and in Jesus in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The nothingness of God contains everything that is of value.
  • In the World, nothingness does make me happy. I am uncomfortable with doing nothing. I must be productive and fill the time with something, anything, to keep myself busy. I fill this hole with reading, or watching television, or traveling to Cape San Blas, Florida, on the weekends to pass the time. This nothingness is nothing. It does not inspire nor transform, it is just a way to count time. I am not proposing that something like work, or a hobby, or family reunions, or love as the world sees it is somehow evil. It is just not complete unless I see all of reality.
  • The nothingness of God, as the name implies, contains no thing, thing being matter, physical energy, time, or space. The nothingness of God is all that is in Heaven, where there is only being who stand before the Throne of the Lamb, at the right hand of the Father, One God, yet three distinct persons, the Supreme Existence, the One who just is.
  • St. Paul in I Corinthians 2:9 says “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— When I try to move from self to God, using the tools of Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, or my daily Lectio Divina meditations and contemplation, I make a conscious effort to just sit in silence and solitude and just “let it be done to me according to your word”. I want to move from the nothingness of the world, which means they lack anything, to the nothingness of God which means the presence of everything. In this context, whenever I sit on a park bench in the dead of winter in silence and solitude, all I do is wait to be in the presence of Christ,
Happiness is being in the presence of Being. It is more than just a human emotion, it is the product of my allowing myself to divest my reliance on senses, and abandon all hidden agendas with Christ. This is why I am happy by the sheer nothingness of being present to God. I seek God daily where I am and as I am. Some days are better than others.

Psalm 27:4-5 New International Version (NIV)
One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

uiodg

TEN MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT BEING A CATHOLIC

Recently, a rash of people have commented on some of my writing by saying “That is just your opinion.” Of course, it is who else’s opinion would it be? One of my assumptions in writing these types of reflections is that they do not represent anything official, either from the Roman Catholic Church, the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappist), or any official Lay Cistercian pronounce. In writing some of these reflections on Lay Cistercian contemplative practice, I don’t advocate that I am any kind of expert in things Lay Cistercian, or a theologian, or some guru. I am simply a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian trying to seek God in each day and then sharing what I have found with you. As I reflect each day on my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5),

Most, if not all, of the beliefs about Catholics that are not of my faith tradition (Catholic Universal), are plainly false or so skewed as to be unrecognizable. They are true in their minds. I keep telling people I don’t believe this or that, but they keep insisting that I do. I have written ten of these questions or statements that people have asked me about being Catholic. They have the right to their opinion. I also have the right to say what is right about their opinion and what is false. I try not to discount the belief of anyone who holds that Jesus is Lord. Scriptures tell us that no one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Who am I to judge? Don’t judge anyone in the Church as to their mind and heart, and let God judge those outside the Church.

  1. Christ is the head and we are members of the body. The Church Triumphant are all those who have died marked with the sign of the cross and those God has deemed worthy to enter into his kingdom. The Church Militant are those of us still struggling to love others as Christ has loved us. The Church Purgative are those who have died and await purification. The Church is not a denomination, a building, an elite group of people who automatically go to heaven. It is the gathering of those who believe Jesus Christ is Messiah, Son of God, Savior.
  2. The Center of the Church is Jesus who has both divine and human natures. There is no other name by which we are saved.
  3. Here are some false centers for your life. Power, Money, Work, Religion, Church, Mary, any of the Saints, any government of the Church or Society, any King or Ruler, and, most especially you.
  4. Power and authority in the Church Universal come directly from Jesus through the Apostles and traced down through the centuries in Ecumenical Councils (21 of them).
  5. The Pope is Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, the chief teacher and one who has primacy of honor among all Patriarchs and Bishops. The Ecumenical Councils make policies and procedures and the Holy Father promulgates and makes it happen.
  6. The Creed that we recite each Sunday at Holy Eucharist is the summary of our Faith that comes through Christ. The Church is not about keeping laws but of praying for the grace to practice the charisms that reinforce our Baptismal Covenant to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  7. Mary is Mother of God but not God’s mother. She has human nature but not divine nature. She is to be honored and venerated, as are the Saints. We don’t ask Mary to have mercy on us or forgive our sins. We pray to no one except God. Why? Christ tells us that no one goes to the Father except through him.
  8. Catholics pray for the dead that they are loosed from their sins. We also pray to those who stand before the Throne of the Lamb giving eternal praise, honor, and blessing. We don’t ask the Saints and saints (your mom and dad) for mercy but to add to our prayer of petition to the Father. We only pray to God not directly to anyone else. Why? God is all that is in heaven and we share in that adoption as sons and daughters.
  9. The purpose of the Catholic Universal Church is to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength and our neighbor as our self.
  10. There are seven ways the Church Universal helps its living members to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). In Baptism, Christ chooses us as adopted sons and daughters and heirs of the kingdom. This happens by Faith (which only comes from God). In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit overshadows us with the very power of God but depending on how much we believe (which is the response each of us gives to Faith). In Holy Eucharist, Christ gives us of Himself, his living body and blood, to sustain our Faith (Baptismal covenant) and Belief (our struggle to overcome the temptations of the World). In Penance, God gives us mercy and the grace to sustain us as we live out our Baptismal covenant each day. As penitential people, we seek to have Jesus grow in us each day through practices and charisms that allow us to keep our focus on our center. Marriage and Holy Order are the gifts that allow us to grow as the body of Christ. Anointing of the Sick is the gift of God’s own energy as healing of mind, body, and spirit. It also prepares us to go to Heaven where we will be asked to give an accounting of our stewardship.

MY new END TIME

Everything has a beginning and an end in the physical and mental universes. We don’t think about that idea much in the midst of a Covid 19 Pandemic. I only bring this up because that was the main thought of my Lectio Divina meditation (Philippians 2:5). This crazy idea came to me while reflecting on how even Christ was like us in all things, except sin. Jesus of Nazareth had a beginning and he died on the cross, but with a difference. He voluntarily gave up his life, it was not taken from him. Read Luke 1-2. Jesus opened up the gates of heaven for each of us by rising from the dead and ascending to the Father. The spiritual universe, the one we voluntarily enter (as Christ voluntarily accepted death on the cross) in Baptism, has no end. Death is not a roadblock anymore, it is a gateway to a whole new life as an adopted son or daughter of the Father.

Jesus took on our limited nature with the “Let it be” from Mary. Read what St. Paul says about this in Philippians 2:5-12. When Jesus bids us keep his commandments and love one another as He loved us, this is what I think about. This one command can only be understood in terms of the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, the fulfillment of second Abraham, the second Isaac, the second Moses, the second Joseph, the second David, the second Jeremiah, the second Isaiah, the second Elijah, and the second Ezekiel. There is a pattern of fulfillment in the progression from the anticipation of the Messiah to the actual person of Christ. As I look at the dynamics of the seamless morphing from Old to New Covenants, what strikes me is the sign of contradiction is so evident in the Old Testament. if the center of the Old Testament is someone to save them from the oppression of the enemy, then the one to come must be a champion of power and authority. The end time of the anticipation phase of our salvation ends and begins with John the Baptist asking the question, are you the one to come or shall we love for another?

With Christ reconnecting to the Kingdom of Heaven with the Father, a new beginning and new end come as an option. Now, the beginning is a voluntary one that each individual makes that Christ is the Messiah come to redeem us from the tyranny of believing that we are god. This is marked by the Baptism of adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, but gives each of us personally and as church the power that comes from the Holy Spirit. Unlike the physical universe of matter, time, space, and energy, this spiritual universe has a beginning (Baptism) and an end, but with a catch. The end, in this case, is eternity.

THE PARADOX OF GOD

There is a place, deep within us, a sanctuary, and inner space, that contains our most precious treasures. These hidden treasures are invisible to the eye yet guide our every movement. It is the one center that is the capstone of our being, a principle or being that does not change with time nor is affected by death. Humans are unlike all other living things in that they have reason and the ability to choose what is good for them. Why is that? We have reason for a reason and the ability to choose what we reason. Choose what? You place in your center what you think your treasure is, one that will sustain you in good times and bad, one that will propel you beyond the physical and mental universe which we call home to that which only our center can access. Your purpose in life is what you place in your center. Humans don’t mind looking at external reality as a center (family, friends, work, relationships, power, money, houses, bank account) but are afraid to peek inside that inner space to see what’s there. Following Cistercian, contemplative practice is a way to enter into the silence and solitude of the heart through the mind and sit in stillness to wait for Christ to come to sit next to us. This is “Being” sitting next to being. As the Sun’s rays of warmth, there are no words spoken, no hidden agendas to talk about. Just because your road in life is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Look inside to find the strength that comes from the true source of power–Love. You can’t buy this Love, you can’t believe it into existence. It just is and your being grows in the ability to expand to receive Love the more you practice. We are made to exist beyond mere matter, space, and time. To prepare for the trip, you need to know what to pack. No one but you can pack that one suitcase. So, what would you pack? A hint might be the treasures you have gathered from a lifetime of struggling to find purpose and making your life of value. You have a codebook to decipher the language of the next level of reality, the Kingdom of Heaven, if you know where to look and the key to unlocking the mystery of faith. Do you know where to look? You have only one rule to follow, and it is to love others as Christ has loved us. This road to our inner self is not easy and takes countless trials and failures to accomplish. The Master will not leave us orphans on our particular journey to what is unseen yet real. Don’t be afraid, He says, it is worth it.

As a result of many, many years of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus daily ((Philippians 2:5), I have adjusted my end time from my physical body dying to that of claiming my inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven, if God judges me worthy.

COSMIC RESONANCE: WHY JESUS IS THE MESSIAH?

My latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) has taken me to a place that I would never have thought possible, linking Christ as the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Old and New Testaments. The way my thinking progressed, as I sat in silence and solitude, waiting for Christ to visit me as I sat on my park bench in the dead of winter, was in terms of resonance or dissonance. To ensure that I don’t fly with false colors, let me say from the outset that my opinions come from beyond the edge of space and time (Holy Spirit) and reflect only my thoughts, not those of any Lay Cistercian group of Cistercian (Trappist) writings. This is me, my thoughts. Take them for what they are.

I begin, as I always do, with the hope of contemplation on Philippians 2:5. “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” While waiting for Christ to visit me on a park bench in the dead of winter, I thought about why Christ had to become one of us (human nature). The notion of Messiah coming to rescue his people is lost on me, and I suspect anyone who is not Jewish. I am living in the year 2020, far removed from the pristine problems facing the transition of the Church from Twelve Tribes to Twelve Apostles. Personally, I place my faith in the reality of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, a “sine qua non” of belief (I love to use that phrase). If the resurrection did not happen, then, as St. Paul writes, Christ is not God but, like many devout Jewish believers think, just one more in a line of false messiahs. Belief is a position or something spiritual does not depend on the believer to be true. There is a struggle between what is true and what I think is true. My belief does not make something true, but what is true makes me believe. How can some people believe in one God and others believe in one God but with three distinct persons, one of whom is Jesus the Messiah? Are these poles are symptomatic of something larger going on in reality?

THE PARADOX OF ALL THAT IS: THE COSMIC STRUGGLE OF SEEMING OPPOSITES

Are these two polar opposite positions, and even that may not be an accurate description, part of some larger design, more cosmic, more sophisticated than we could have ever imagined? This is getting far afield of Lectio Divina, don’t you think? Sorry, all I do is take dictation from the Holy Spirit.

There is a concept out there call the theory of everything, popularized by a book and a movie of the same name, about the late, great Steven Hawking and his quest to find one theory of the physical universe. I have been developing a theory of reality for the past thirty years. I am not a trained scientist, nor do I aspire to be. I do try to think about a unified theory of all that is and have come up with the notion of three separate universes, each distinct yet all one. The characteristics and measurements for each universe are completely different, and in the case of one of them, the spiritual universe, directly opposite that of the physical and mental universes.

THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE: In my model, the physical universe is all that we can see or reason to with the aid of our human languages. All physical matter, space, time, every star and the black hole, all exploding hypernovas, all live anywhere in the universe, humans, all animals, plants, even mosquitoes, are part of this observable universe. The problem with this universe has always been, why do we humans know about it, but it does not know about us? There must be purpose and reason why we find ourselves on this rocky platform of gases. Humans are part of this universe, along with all other life forms.

THE MENTAL UNIVERSE: This universe answers the questions about the Physical Universe. Only humans live in this universe. It is the universe of reason. Why do only humans have the ability to build languages, discover relationships, and seek to find the meaning of all that is? Without the Mental Universe, no one would be able to ask why it is, how is it, what is it, and so what? The two attributes that separate us from the animals are: you have the ability to reason for a reason, and, based on that reasoning, you have the ability to make choices free from nature or any other ideology. There must be a reason we find ourselves on this rock, the only persons we know of, anywhere. There must be a reason humans developed from other life forms with the ability to reason and to select what is good for them. For me, the theory of everything just looks at the physical universe using the mental universe to find meaning. The problem is that this is incomplete, there is something missing, something like 1 + 1 =, and there is no answer. For me, this led to a third universe, one which we could not have either reasoned to or chosen without someone giving us the code.

THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE: We are discovering so much about physical reality through the sciences and literature. If left only to science and logic, humans would never have been able to access a level of consciousness that does not fit the physical and mental universe paradigm. We don’t do well with invisible relationships. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see it. This universe has to do with solving the equation of what is real. Reality is not just what we can see but what we cannot see. Not all religious traditions can transform you into what you were designed to be. This is why you have reason and why there is an earth to give you time to discover the code of eternity. You can choose freely whatever you discover and place at the center of your life. This is the energy source that will propel you to the next reality, one for which we need to begin preparing in this lifetime.

It is interesting to note the interdependence of the three universes. The physical universe exists, the platform for where we find ourselves today. All matter, all time, all energy has a beginning and an end, and that includes each one of us. That is the paradigm in which we humans wake up to the reality of where we are and who we are. As we look around us, we notice that we are not like the other animals we have as pets or eat as food. We have something they don’t have self-awareness. Where does that come from all of a sudden? Did it randomly happen by chance or is it part of a larger dynamic the language of which we are not totally familiar? The mental universe allows us to look at the physical world and ask why, how, when, where something is. Far from being anti-spiritual, the physical and mental universes exist for us to be able to wonder about all this and seek a conclusion. I like to think of it as being in dissonance or without purpose, even though we might know the purpose of the physical as well as the mental universe. Now comes the seeming paradox, the spiritual universe, the solution to the equation of life, the resonance to the dissidence of the cosmos. Reason and free choice allow each individual to choose to live in this universe or not. The choices are clear: you are the center of reality or God is the center. Every time you choose yourself as the center of reality, there is dissonance; every time you choose God as your center, there is resonance. That is how nature is. This concept is so alien to the human way of thinking that God Himself had to tell us how to be authentically human and he did it in stages.

Stage one is the creation of the physical universe.All living things live here, including humans. This stage uses the natural law (what would happen naturally, if humans did not intervene).

Stage two is the creation of the mental universe. Adam was fashioned from the earth and Eve came from Adam’s rib. Only humans here. Humans have the ability to reason and the freedom to choose what they reason, but with consequences to each choice. We are defined by the choices we make. Adam and Eve had a chance to choose God but chose themselves instead. This was a poor choice and issued in the time of dissonance with God until it would be restored. All reality was thrown into chaos by this choice. Humans would never be able to regain resonance with God by themselves, even with all their sacrifices and prayers. All humans that are born of the flesh are subject to the laws of nature, but their destiny is to live with God…Forever as adopted sons and daughters. That was not going to happen unless God Himself rescued us from the grip of death and took on the nature that, in Philippians 2:5-12 tells us is akin to being a slave. This YES from the Blessed Mother was not only a nice-sounding gesture meant to edify the pious but was the nexus between the physical and mental universes and the addition of the spiritual universe. In terms of a cosmic, polar shift, reality had changed. It looked the same, it smelled the same, and no one even noticed that now, the beginnings of cosmic resonance were falling into place.

Stage three is the creation of the spiritual universe. Only humans and God live in this universe. This universe uses reason and free choice as does the physical and mental universes but with a difference. Humans must use their reason to choose God as their center and not themselves. The purpose of this universe is to bring all things together as one, once more, to restore relationship with God once more, to create resonance in time and space once more. Those who choose this way must continue to struggle against the effects of the flesh (physical and mental universes) each day.

If we look at these three universes of reality, each one quite different, each one with their own purpose, each one having measurements that may vastly stretch the mind of those trying to cram all reality into just one universe, the physical one. Rather than thinking something is wrong with science or that spirituality is a bunch of personal opinions that cannot possibly be true, all three universes fit nicely together. Science continues to give us how the physical universe is, why it is, and how it is. Science is limited because the spiritual universe turns logic upside down. God’s playground is the opposite of what the world, physical and mental universes, think. Only the Messiah of God has the code to unlock the consequences of that Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Read Romans 5. The Messiah would be one to unlock the gates of Heaven to give us a chance, like the chance He gave to Adam and Eve, to enter into the spiritual universe. He would be a sign of contradiction to the gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. Everything he says would not make sense to those who just have the mind of the world, thinking that they are God. Everything he says would make complete sense to those who are filled with the Spirit of Truth at Baptism and use that grace to see what cannot be seen and hear what cannot be heard. None of this is a secret or the exclusive knowledge of a group to be kept pure from other forms of thinking (Gnostics), it is to be catholic, that is, open to all who accept the gift of faith into their hearts, thus becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Jesus is the great teacher of how to live our lives in such a way that we have resonance with all reality. To do that we must die to self in order to rise to a new life in Christ. Again, none of this makes sense to the world (physical and mental universes) unless Christ is indeed the Messiah, the one St. John the Baptist asked: “are you the one, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)

Once again, it seems a neverending story, we face two choices, both of which have consequences for being resonant or dissonant. These are cosmic choices as well as personal ones. Remember, you have reason for a reason and the ability to choose what you reason. The Messiah in my thinking would not be someone to free me from the power of the Romans or Arabs or whomever, but rather free me from the tyranny of becoming my own god, the consequences of which are dissonance with the rest of reality.

This is why, as a Lay Cistercian, I focus on reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict as one of my Cistercian practices each day. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ Making the resurrection real each day is now my goal. That is another way of saying that my mindset now is trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each day. I use the practices and charisms of Cistercian spirituality to provide structure and accountability.

I began my thinking by realizing that science, the study of the physical phenomenon with the languages of mathematics, chemistry, physics, research, and wonder, doesn’t fit with the spiritual universe. I am at the point in my thinking that says when you burn away all of the dross of truth about reality, what remains, however improbable, is what it is, even if it does not make sense to the world.

Each of us is marked at Baptism with the sign of contradiction, a paradox to the world, which is the cross. We carry that with us throughout our whole lifetime. We use the Church Universal and particular to help us as an anchor in times of storm and sail in times of challenge and everyday living. We have not been left orphans in each age, subject to being seduced by Satan without hope of any help. We have Christ, Son of God, Savior as our brother and the Father, who has said that we are adopted sons and daughters and will inherit the kingdom. This is what the Messiah is. My wishing will not make the Messiah real, but the real Messiah will allow me the energy to make the resurrection true in my heart.

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THE CONSEQUENCES OF SEEKING GOD DAILY

Philippians 2:5 is my Lectio Divina mantra. Today, I thought about the consequences of a simple YES or NO to seeking God in daily living. YES is usually seen as an enabling word while NO is usually, but not always, blocking (e.g. NO to sin means YES to God). Here are some of my thoughts on the choices people have made. You can judge what the consequences might be.

  • God created everything that is with a Word. What was that Word? (John 1:1) YES
  • God created the archangels and angels to minister to Him with that same Word. YES
  • Lucifer made the free choice of wanting to be God, someone He was not. NO
  • God created Adam from the soil, and Eve from his rib, to be a Gardner and tend the Garden of Eden. YES
  • Adam and Eve made the free choice of wanting to be God’s divine nature and not their human nature. NO
  • Lucifer (the serpent) seduced Adam and Eve with the false promise of being like God. Lucifer said NO to God’s will be done in his heart as it is in heaven, once more.
  • Cain said NO to God by killing Abel.
  • Abram’s conversion from pagan gods to the one true God. YES
  • The entire Old Testament as the story to prepare for the coming of Christ as Redeemer and Messiah. YES
  • Moses and Aaron who led the chosen people through the desert to enter the promised land. YES
  • The Twelve Tribes who, like the Catholic Church of today, wander now and then from the path of righteousness and God’s fidelity to his covenant. YES
  • David as one who becomes God’s champion only to squander it away with lust and greed. The NO changes to YES after his humiliation and forgiveness by God.
  • Jeremiah and Isaiah, plus other prophets who kept telling Israel to repent and keep the covenant. YES for the Prophets, NO for the ten lost tribes.
  • Mary, Mother of God, was the first believer of the Church Universal. She was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and responded to Faith with a commitment that God’s will be done to her as it is in heaven. LET IT BE DONE TO ME ACCORDING TO YOUR WILL.
  • Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, said YES to the birth of Jesus and to Mary as his wife.
  • St. John the Baptist was second to proclaim that Christ was he who is to come, the Messiah. YES
  • Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, became our Savior and Redeemer. (Philippians 2:5) YES
  • The twelve Apostles were overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and then said YES.
  • All those following the birth of Christ who proclaims Christ as Son of God, Redeemer, through Baptism and the Spirit. (John 20:30-31) YES
  • The Church Triumphant is composed of all those who have died with the sign of Faith (the cross) and those God has judged as worthy. YES, Forever.
  • The Church Militant is composed of all those who are still living, marked with the sign of Faith, and awaiting death. YES with the help of God’s grace.
  • The Church Purgative is composed of all those who have died but get a second chance at believing that Jesus Christ is Son of God, Savior. Those in the Church Triumphant and Church Militant can pray for them that they are loosed from their sins. I hope that the words of Christ to us are true.

The consequences of sin are cosmic and affect not only our life now, but in the life to come.

  • For those who say YES to having God’s will done in their hearts, the reward is faith, hope, and love.
  • For those who say YES to taking up your cross daily and following Christ, the product is love.
  • For those who say YES to having in them the mind of Christ Jesus on a daily basis, the product is joy and happiness that what you have chosen is what Christ chose to share with those who love him.
  • For those who say YES to Christ as Redeemer, Messiah, Priest, Prophet, and King, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes in glory.
  • For those who say YES to Christ in Baptism, Confirmation of the Spirit, giving Thanks to the Father through, with and in Christ (Eucharist) and asking mercy and forgiveness of sins, the consequences are peace. The peace of Christ is not the absence of dissent or conflict in your life but the presence of Love, Christ’s own body and blood in you, daily.
  • For those who say YES to the Real Presence of Christ in Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, you are experiencing heaven on earth.
  • For those who say YES to daily practices of contemplative prayer, you sit in the presence of the One who Is, the consequence is God’s own energy permeating not only your body, but your mind, and your heart.

Praise to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

FOCUS: AT THE NEXUS OF THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN SPIRIT AND FLESH

What follows are some reflections about one of the most difficult expressions of contemplative prayer, one that I never get rid of, one that is with me as long as I traverse the halls of silence and solitude in search of God wherever I may encounter Him today.

Focus is one of those human traits that, like the meaning of love, we humans don’t do automatically. When I sit in Eucharist Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, I am always faced with the feeling that I should be somewhere else, or that this is not a productive use of my time. In this most recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I actually took a conscious look at my focus process and came up with some interesting observations.

In the first few minutes, I carry with me the flurry of what the world says is important. For example, I have a meeting scheduled in two hour, I am due for lunch at home and my wife wants to know what I want to eat, or in the chapel at Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Florida, it seems stuffy and too hot. My mind conjers up any number of flashing choices for me to make. I call this my detoxification period (from one to five minutes), where I try to focus on Christ. I try to overcome this alarming flashes of temptation to do something meaningful, After all, who wants to sit in a darkened chapel with no one there, only a burning votive candle beside the tabernacle, and it smelling a bit stuffy. There are many, many reasons my senses tell me to go, but only one good reason to stay…love.

At this stage of my Lectio Divina, I have tried to Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) by beginning to think of my Lectio statement, the only one I have had each day since 1962. I am beginning to be aware of where I am and who is there with me. I try to move from self to God by thinking about God. St. Benedict, in his Chapter 4 of the Rule tells me not to overcome evil with evil but overcome evil with good.

This happens to me every single time I do Lectio Divina, a veritable gauntlet of thoughts and mental jousting with Satan or his demons. Struggling to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) is not fun and, I will admit, I am not always successful at my focus, as if I have gone through the anxiety of trying and failing and trying and failing and then some success. In reading the book, The Little Prince, by Saint Exupery, the fox is trying to tell the Little Prince how to tame the rose. In this way, the rose will not be frightened. Listen to the Youtube account of one of my favorite analogies on focus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkiZuu79N_I The fox, in the story goes on to say that it is the time to take to tame your rose that makes it valuable. The moral of the story for me is the saying, “It is only with the heart that ones sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Lectio Divina is trying to see what is invisible, and what is essential to our Lay Cistercian spirituality. It is the time I spend trying to calm down my flesh so that I can enter into stillness by focusing on silence and solitude, which is also part of prayer.

Next time you read about the passion and death of Christ, think of the temptation in the Garden of Gethsemani as one of losing focus of what the mission was. Christ overcame his temptation to abandon the humilitation and pain of the cross by telling the Father that his will be done, not that of Christ. What a model to follow when we do Lectio Divina. Think of you sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and waiting for Christ to come by. It is the time you spend waiting that make your prayer pleasing to the Father, through, with, and in Christ.

Focus is an act of the will to keep Christ centered in your heart for as long as possible. If you want to enter that place where no one wants to look, then you must anticipate the effects of Original Sin. Struggle is, in itself, a way to increase the capacity of God within us. Amen and Amen.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR US TO LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST LOVES US?

THE CHRIST IMPERATIVES

LISTEN TO ME, FOR I AM MEEK AND HUMBLE OF HEART. Matthew 11:28-30

  • Thirsty? Drink of the living waters! John 7:37.
  • Hungry? Eat the food that gives eternal life!  John 6:33-38.
  • Bewildered? Believe in the Master! John 3:11-21.
  • Without hope? Be not afraid! John 13:33-35.
  • Lost? Find the way. John 14:6-7.
  • Tired because of the pain? Be renewed! John 15:1-7.
  • Afraid? Find peace! John 27-28.
  • Afraid to believe? Believe! John 11:25-27.
  • Without a family? Listen! John 10:7-18.
  • In darkness? Walk in the light! John 8:12.
  • Spiritually depressed? Be healed! John 5:24

“Welcome, good and faithful servant, into the Kingdom, prepared for you before the world began.”

RELAX!

What follows are my reflections on some ideas that came up during my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5).

Here are ten things you don’t need to worry about as you live out your spiritual life.

  1. The Church Universal is going to disappear and collapse. If you read the sensationalist, tabloid press (all press seems to be tabloid), the Catholic Church is losing people and will end up in bankruptcy. If the Church Universal collapses and the gates of Hell prevail, then there is no Holy Spirit. If there is no Holy Spirit, there is no Resurrection. If there is no Resurrection, there is no God. If there is no God, go out and have a cup of Kona Brand coffee and wait to die. You can’t change anything but your own world. Relax!
  2. It sometimes seems like the unrepentant adulterers, fornicators, thieves, detractors, drunks, witches, drug addicts, unfaithful priests and religious, fake politicians, parental strife, incest, drug gangs, murderers, and prostitutes will inherit the earth. It might seem like evil will conquer the world and all those evildoers get away with murder. They will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Notice the important word “unrepentant”. Relax!

3. Don’t make the mistake of judging who is saved or who is going to Hell. That is a subtle form of idolatry. You spend all your time being judgmental about others and less time about loving God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Who made you God? Relax!

4. Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else will follow. Matthew 6:33 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[a] and his[b] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Relax!

5. Don’t worry about who is right in the Bible and who is not. John 20:30-31 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah,[b] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. Sacred Scripture was written down so that you may believe that Jesus Christ, Son of God, is Lord and Messiah. Concentrate on your belief and not on why everyone else does not believe in Christ as you do. Relax!

6. The Ecumenical Councils (21 of them to be exact) contain the policies and procedures of the Church Universal in that age. It would be wrong to think of the Pope as having great secular authority over us. He does have authority, but, in keeping with the sign of contradiction, it is one of being the servant of the servants of Christ, not one to lord it over us. Authority comes from Christ alone and to anyone to whom he entrusts it. Accepting Christ means you accept those that shepherds of the flock. St. Benedict points out in his Rule, Chapter 4 for monks,

“57 Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer
58 and change from these evil ways in the future. 59 Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16);
60 hate the urgings of self-will.
61 Obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, even if his own conduct–which God forbid–be at odds with what he says. Remember the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3).” https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ Relax!

7. Pray as though everything depends upon God and work as though everything depends upon you. — St. Augustine. Relax!

Saint Augustine Quote: “Pray as though everything depended on God ...

8. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are not good enough to be in the presence of God now, and later on, in heaven. You are not! Moving from a false self to a true self is a process that takes a lifetime. It is Christ who sits with us on that park bench and is our mediator with the Father. It is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who allows us to say, “Jesus is Lord.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UG77k-xLpz8. Relax!

9. Don’t worry that you sometimes think of Christ and sometimes it is just not your day. The peaks and valleys of life are part of our journey. Just because your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Trust in God to help you on the way to the truth, and thus live the life that you alone can experience. What you can do is, in silence and solitude, look right next to you and find Christ was there all along. Anyone marked with the sign of faith (the cross) has Christ as a companion. Contemplative practices just allow each of us to say hello to Christ in the stillness of our hearts. Relax

10. Place your Hope in God alone. Relax!

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen –Cistercian doxology

MONOS

What I am experiencing, as I move through the stages of the Coronavirus 19 effects on my personal space, my environment, my relationships, is isolation and the failure of those human structures I have built up to sustain my life on a daily basis. I am talking about the isolation from other people, the inability to touch others in social contexts, such as the sign of peace at Eucharist, and the Eucharist on my computer, the inability to congregate in the community for the social interaction that is crucial to finding meaning and purpose. All of these experiences are new for me and could be a bit off-putting, were it not for three things that have kept me grounded. In these comments that follow, I will share with you those spiritual principles I use, and continue to use on a daily basis, to keep me grounded. I make these comments in the hope that you might examine your self against what you consider to be the central principles of your life, as you experience this opportunity to reflect and be solitary. Granted, we don’t go deeper into ourselves very often, but this virus might be God’s way of telling us to get our house cleaned before the next plague hits. Not that these are like the plagues of Egypt that Moses dealt with, but they do resemble them from a modern perspective, e.g., monetary plagues, health plagues, the failure of people to love, the rise of the cult of relativism, lack of resources (water and food) and wars based on power and control.

All of these are plaguing us now, but there is one place that we can forget about looking, inside each of us. Monos. Alone. The place where no one wants to look. How I look at reality externally is in direct proportion to how to look at reality within me and what I fall back upon in times of crisis. When the virus hits, it strips away some of these external distractions that are only cosmetic, to lay bare what is within me. When I look at these phenomena, in my case, I feel like Anthony of the Desert and early monks who fled the allurements of the time to seek the cleansing power of silence and solitude. http://www.spiritualite-orthodoxe.net/vie-de-priere/index.php/saint-antony-the-great-writings The isolation afforded me by this small hiccup in my journey of life is a sign from the Holy Spirit that I must go out to the desert within me, that I may have been wandering in the Sinai desert of the World for the last forty years mesmerized by the seductive temptations of the Wiley One. This is a wake up call for me to turn to the only center than leads me out of this desert of the seven deadly sins to put on a new person in Christ. I have done that many times in the past, but I forgot one important point about spirituality: I need to take up my cross DAILY and follow Christ. Yesterday’s conversion is not today’s triumph over the plagues that infect society now.

I wrote a book entitled, The Place No One Wants to Look, which details six questions each human must ask themselves before they die. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss My thinking was that there is a place no one wants to think about, and that is inside us, in the mind and in the heart. Yet, this is where I must go, like St. Benedict, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, on those Cistercian men and women who yearned to “…have in them the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Phlippians 2:5) It is the modern desert, the place where I am alone with the heart of Christ, the place where I am in the presence of I am who am. No words, no expectations, no petitions, no praise are needed. It is the place where Christ bids me to come to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for him. Why do I have to wait for Christ when he is everywhere? He is everywhere, but I must not be so full of pride and lack of obedience to God’s will that I think God does my bidding. It is quite the reverse. Here are three spiritual principles that guide me through the valley of death (the World).

WHAT IS MY CENTER? A center, not to be confused with centering prayer, is the one principle that, if you took it away, your whole spiritual universe would have no meaning. It is the capstone spoken of in Scriptures, the cornerstone that keep together with your temple of the Holy Spirit. My center, which I chose in 1962, is from Philippians 2:5: “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” Centers are not logical constructs that you have and forget, they are there to move you from your false self to your true self. Entering the spiritual universe at Baptism, you have Original Sin taken away, by God, but, there is a problem, you still must live out your life with the effects of that Sin and the daily temptations by the Devil (the snake) to choose him over God. Far from being easy, your life after Baptism is a battle, a gauntlet you must run through, a struggle you make each and every day. Why do you think Christ told us to take up our cross daily? Do you know how heavy a cross is? By ourselves, we don’t stand a chance against “the roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”

FEEDING MY CENTER From the moment you are Baptized, you begin to corrupt, just like a piece of metal begins to rust. To keep it from rusting, you must keep it clean. How will you nourish that precious gift of Faith? Christ told us he would not leave us orphaned (John 14:18) Do you think Jesus abandons those who put their trust and faith in Him. No! He left us his real presence for each age to continue his admonition to love one another as He loves us. Think about that. Christ is not present to us like the virtual 2020 NFL Draft. We are not spectators of Christ who lived 2000 years ago. We are adopted sons and daughter and we need food to keep our Faith from atrophying. Christ gave his life on the cross for all humans, believers or not, and he provides the only food that can keep Faith from being like the fig tree, barren and dead. If you eat this Food, His very own body and blood that walked the earth those many centuries ago, you will live forever. The Church, the living body of Christ, our head, is the real presence in each age to continue the message of forgiveness of sin, giving glory to the Father through Christ in the Eucharist, forgiving sins with a firm purpose of amendment, and charisms of humility and obedience to the will of the Father. Christ is most real today, if we have Faith to see what cannot be seen, the Mystery of Faith.

I approach the Mystery of Faith, as a professed Lay Cistercian, by trying to emulate the practices and charisms of the Cistercian way (Trappist). This means solitude is critical to my being able to focus on Christ. Most of the time, I make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. But, more than that, my Lay Cistercian circumstances (I do not live in a sequestered monastery) are that my monastery is my sphere in which I seek God where I am. A theme that has imprinted itself on my consciousness is that of the corruption of matter and values espoused by the World. Everything in the physical and mental universe corrupts or deteriorates.

Matthew 6:18-20 NRSVCE – Matthew 6:18-20 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)” 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[a]Concerning Treasures19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[b] consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust[c] consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

The kingdom of heaven begins with Christ and is activated by you at Baptism, making you an adopted son or daughter of the Father. The problem is we still live in two universes (physical and mental) that suffer the effects of Original Sin. Those who live in the world but are not of it seek God where they are, as they are. St. Benedict provides his monks with tools for good works in Chapter 4 of his Rule. These tools are meant to help sustain us as we await the coming of Christ in glory. Scripture is not just a book to be read but a mindset to be lived so we can be with Christ each day…Forever. (John 20:30-31) The kingdom of heaven does not corrupt.

CHRISTS TEACHINGS DON’T MAKE SENSE

If you want to understand, ever so slightly, what is going on in Sacred Scripture, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Penance, and Healing, then you must apply the Rule of Opposites. This is explained in more detail in my book, Three Rules of the Spiritual Universe. What the physical and mental universes hold as true is just the opposite in the spiritual universe of the kingdom of heaven. Philippians 2:5-12, my personal center, gives a good rationale for why God emptied himself to take on human nature in addition to the divine nature. It is a revelation from Christ that there is but one God and three persons. No one would have reasoned about this dogma of the Faith, one we recited at each Eucharist in the Creed. It is by faith that we can approach the Father, and only then in, with, and through Christ. For those without faith, none of this makes any sense; for those with faith, there is no need to prove it, (St. Thomas Aquinas)

In the stillness of my heart, I sit down on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait for the Lord to pass by. This is the monos of the soul, that which heremitical monks sought when they went out into the desert. In the silence and solitude of the heart informed by the mind. It is abandoning self to seek that which is beyond making sense, the Mystery of Faith. It is preferring nothing to the love of Christ, each day, seeking God where I am, as I am. (St. Benedict, Chapter 4, Rule of St. Benedict).

For Lay Cistercians, and I am speaking only for myself, we live in the cloister of the heart informed by our mind. It is a place of stillness, humility, gentleness, joy, for those who enter it. Don’t think that all this silence, solitude, humility, comes from us. I am aware that these spiritual attributes don’t come from me, as I try to move from self to God. Everything comes from being present to the real presence of Christ.

In terms of the Coronavirus, or any physical or mental challenge, nothing changes. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. BibleGateway – Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

THE MARTYRDOM OF seeking god every day

When you read this title, you may find it a bit discombobulating. Isn’t martyrdom shedding your blood for Christ? Isn’t that reserved only for the Saints? What can any of this have to do with Lay Cistercian spirituality and contemplation? I found the answer to that at 2:32 A.M. this morning, when I woke up and, as is my habit, looked at the clock and started my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). I do my due diligence to my urinary system and then plop back in bed and go to sleep. But there is something at work here, something wonderful. I feel happy like I would be if one of our friends comes over for supper. This morning, true to form, my Lectio Divina came through, as I lay down on my pillow trying to get to sleep again. I always do (get to sleep again) Lectio this way, one of the four or five times a day that I take quickie Lectio Divina breaks while waiting for my wife at Wal-Mart or Trader Joe’s while sitting in my favorite chair, or closing my eyes and just waiting for Christ with the Holy Spirit to whomp me with another title from left field. Speak, your servant listens, Lord. I am always more than amazed at what the Lord speaks to me. Like the Movie, The Neverending Story, this story of my daily encounters with seeking God seems never to end. I bring this up because being A Lay Cistercian, especially in these quite queer times, it is not a question of too little time for prayer and reading, there is too much time. I normally do Lectio formally in the afternoon, sitting in my recliner with a glass of freshly made lemonade picked off the Meyer Lemon tree. I may have mentioned this before, but my contemplative attention span has gone from two minutes +, over six years ago, to two hours (in silence and solitude, of course). So, how about the martyrdom of everyday living? Do you know how difficult it is to do anything on a daily basis? I am not talking about breathing (that is the autonomic response, such as your heart beating or blinking), but rather when each day presents itself in all its infinite possibility to encounter the purpose of life, it is a struggle to focus on doing just that one Lectio or that one reading from Scripture that you tell yourself you are going to do one of these days. It is actually quite heroic if you think about what is happening.

In the Monastery, they have a daily schedule that does not vary. This helps monks and nuns to focus on Christ as their Center through Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Penance, reading Scripture. The community of like believers (although in fact different from each other)gives support and is even necessary to move from self to God through silence and solitude. Rather than comparing the seemingly quiet corridors of the Monastery with the hustle and bustle of living in the world, it would be a mistake to think one way is better than another. Comparisons are odious. Instead, both monks, nuns, and Lay Cistercians all seek to move from their false self to their true self as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. To do this takes a great deal of focus and strength of Faith. Like the fatigue that accompanies weightlifting or strenuous exercise, there is an exhaustion that comes from pushing against the daily temptations that distract from the love of others as Christ loves us.

The martyrdom of those who seek God every day goes almost unnoticed. Here are some situations to ponder in your heart. http://devotiontoourlady.com/november-martyrs.html At the risk of sounding full of myself, I would like to relate you to some of these situations of daily martyrdom as I have or do encounter them in my own life. When you look back at your life experiences you will no doubt have similar encounters.

DO NOT WORRY

One of the products of putting myself in the presence of the Holy Spirit in Lectio Divina each day (maybe several times a day) is that I don’t worry about anything as much as I used to do. I do not ever remember focusing on “not worrying” about what is important. All of a sudden, it just pops up. There it is, invading my thoughts, although quite surprisingly, leaving me wondering from where that came. Here is what I think happened to me. I never consciously did a Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) to ask God to take away my cross from me each day. What I did do, and continue to do on a daily basis, is struggling to keep myself anchored to my center, Christ. My beginning Lectio is eight words from Philippians 2:5, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” When I do my Lectio, several times a day, all I do is place myself in the presence of the Holy Spirit and wait. When I read a book, such as the one Lay Cistercians at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) use as the bases for their discussions, Thomas Merton’s The Waters of Siloe, then I try to absorb its meaning into my daily behaviors. In a way, what was written by Thomas Merton becomes part of me. I am beginning to realize that, without even being consciously aware of it, that when I read my center from Philippians 2:5 over all those years, I have slowly become it. The silent power of the Word is transformative. I am just beginning to be aware of this great power in the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t have to worry about anything, it just happens. What did Christ tell us? What follows is Sacred Scripture on the need to focus on what is most important. The martyrdom comes when I must die to self in order to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the kenosis or emptying of self that comes when you realize that, each day, you must die to your old self in order to rise with Christ to your new life. For me, the Cistercian practices and charisms are ways for me to stay focused on what is important in my life. Read the wonderful passage from Matthew about worry. If I apply the Sacred Scriptures to my situation right now, I don’t worry about the Coronavirus or what is going on in the world. Some people have told me this is the end of the world as we know it. I look at it as the opportunity to reflect on reality in terms of what is the most important part of my life–to seek God daily wherever I am and however I am.

Matthew 6:25-34 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

DO NOT WORRY

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[a] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[b] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[c] and his[d] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

EACH DAY IS A LIFETIME

As I have come to realize my interpretation of Cistercian spirituality, I am more and more at peace with myself. Each day is the opportunity for me to seek God where I am, as I am. Coronavirus notwithstanding, I am moving ever closer and closer to Omega. The martyrdom of everyday living is that the struggle is not something to fight against, it is part of the process of prayer, that which leads me to take up my cross daily and follow Christ. And what does following Christ mean? As verse 34 of the above passage states: 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Seeking God where I am, right now, means I use Cistercian practices and charisms as a mindset rather than activities. The day becomes lifted up to the Father through Christ’s atonement for sin. The Holy Spirit allows me, each day, not to worry about what is not important. The heaviness of the daily cross is that I must be constant in my need to have Christ grow in me (capacitas dei). The temptations of the World lash the shores of my life every day. Some days are better than others.

THE SAINTS ARE SINNERS WHO DIED TO SELF

For many years, I took for granted the canon of Saints, those whom the Church Universal has raised up for our edification and examples of how Christ changed their lives. Some of them shed their blood for Christ, while others suffered the daily buffeting and bruising of the fight to keep Christ as their center. It is a fallacy to think that being a follower of the Master is without struggle or pain. This dying to self happens every day. https://www.fullycatholic.com/about-fully-catholic/ The Saints are ones that the Church Universal has raised up to help our Faith. The saints are ones, like us, that struggle with the martyrdom of being in the world but not of it.

PEACE: THE PRODUCT OF MARTYRDOM

That may sound like a strange statement. Martyrdom is about dying, either through blood or living an ordinary life extraordinarily well with Christ as your center. One of the ways I can tell if I am on target is inner peace. Inner peace means I don’t worry about what is outside of my center (Philippians 2:5). I am content to continue to do all I can to seek God every day in the silence and solitude of whatever presents itself to me. When I make all things new with the grace of the Holy Spirit, it is not peace as the world gives it, but rather the peace that comes from sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and just waiting for Christ to stop by for a chat. Isn’t Christ everywhere? Yes, but he is not in the inner room of my spirit unless I open the door from the inside. I experience that peace that is not the absence of conflict (as the world defines it) but is the presence of Love, the resonance that comes from the martyrdom of my dissonance. Martyrdom of every day produces peace, the energy of God, the ability to see what is invisible to the world, to be a sign of contradiction as was Christ. In terms of the present Coronavirus, it is not something that is a jarring departure from what is real for me. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If Christ is my North on the compass of life, of whom should I be afraid? This was the feeling expressed by those who shed their blood for Christ. When I place myself in the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit, something happens, something that may not be discernable at first. I have come to accept that it is moving from my false self to my true self. And what is my true self? Read these two notations. https://artsandculture.google.com/story/seven-acts-of-mercy/hwLiY3AmAvR6LA https://fwdioc.org/works-of-mercy.pdf

MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT

Read 2 Corinthians 12. “Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me7because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated,* a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.b8Three times* I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,c9* but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,* in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.d10Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;e for when I am weak, then I am strong.”*

  • For the widow or widower who lost a spouse and now faces life alone, my grace is sufficient.
  • For the Catholic who has doubts about the Church Universal, because it is full of sinners, my grace is sufficient.
  • For the single mom or dad who must raise their children alone with very little monetary support, my grace is sufficient.
  • For the monk or nun in a cloistered monastery who is tempted to feel that their life is without meaning as they perform routine daily prayers, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those young believers who can’t yet see with the eyes of faith and thinks that all Faith is just a mental constructs and meaningless babble, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those who have wandered away from the Church Universal, the School of Love, and decry that there is no place to help them love authentically, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those who find themselves in a relationship where one partner is actively blocking your practice of the Faith, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those who are rich in money but poor in spirit, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those who are M&M Catholics (melt at the first sign of adversity and struggle), my grace is sufficient.
  • For those believers who think that all they need do is get on the conveyor belt of life and they are automatically assured of making it to Heaven, my grace is sufficient.

Christ only gave us one, new command, that we love one another as he has loved us. His example was one of acceptance of God where we find him, in each century, in each age, in each one of our hearts. There is no resurrection of Christ without the cross, the indelible sign tattooed on our hearts at Baptism. Christ is there to walk with us, not to walk for us. The martyrdom of every day is to realize, every day, that we must try to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). Being an authentic Catholic means you must take up your cross daily and follow Christ. We are told not to worry about the passing of the world. Christ’s grace is sufficient. Compared to all of the above, the Coronavirus, anything from the world, is so much straw.

Praise be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

WHAT I WILL PACK FOR THE TRIP TO HEAVEN: SPIRITUAL READING

In a recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), the thought of how lucky we are to have Sacred Scriptures presented itself to me. You can’t make this stuff up, with so many people writing about God. One thought, in particular, stood out for me: God communicates to humans through humans. How else can God do it? Some detractors say that all Sacred Scriptures is just the wild imagination of those living at the time. Maybe. Not so fast! Spiritual reading is not like reading the phone book, or a Jack Reacher novel by British author, Lee Child. My focus on selecting a spiritual book is intentional. I want to use it as an instrument to bring my mind and heart closer to Christ. Sacred Scripture is a good example of writings that were inspired by God, according to the Church. When I read it, I pray that I become what I read. Your levels of spiritual reading might be different than mine. Here is what I intend to pack.

Whenever I think of spiritual reading, there are five levels of books that are meaningful to me. Think of a dartboard with five circles on it. The first one is the bull’s eye, the most points, and the most difficult to hit consistently. Using this analogy, here are five levels of books that I consider spiritual reading.

SACRED SCRIPTURES: I use the term Sacred Scriptures rather than The Bible, because, at least in my spiritual reality, it denotes the holiness and primacy of the readings. When I read Sacred Scriptures, the words are transformative to help me grow from self to God. I read it daily in Liturgy of the Hours and private, spiritual reading. The Church Universal gathered together in prayer to the Holy Spirit to determine which books were inspired and which were spurious. Scriptures are transformative when I read them. With the Word of God, I pray to become what I read.

Resources: http://www.usccb.org/bible/books-of-the-bible/index.cfm http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/index.cfm http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm http://www.usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/index.cfm

ECUMENICAL COUNCILS: These are the interpretive results of how the Church Universal viewed Sacred Scripture and other housekeeping rules in order to maintain a unified approach to spirituality in each age. There were twenty-one such councils and you have the opportunity to look at their results. These Ecumenical Councils proposed the principles and policies of the age in which they are contained. The Pope ratifies the results, but it is the Ecumenical Council that is the Church Universal at work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Resources: https://www.newadvent.org/library/almanac_14388a.htm

EARLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH: From apostolic times, there have been commentators on Sacred Scriptures and how we should look on passages in order to increase Christ in us and decrease our false self. Some of these writers were considered heretical (not authentic according to the Church Universal).

Resources: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/

THE REFORMERS: These writings come from those whom the Church has designated as Saints, Martyrs, Reformers, Doctors of the Church, Pastors, Religious Men and Women, our major league players of how we should keep ourselves centered on Christ alone. These Saints are the Hall of Fame for the rest of us saints. All the Saints, indeed everyone who ever lived, except Christ and Mary, were sinful and imperfect. We honor them not because they were perfect, but rather because they were imperfect and filled their lives by loving others as Christ loved us. They wrote of their journies from their false self to their true self. We gain inspiration and courage from their struggles to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). These reformers did not try to reform the Church in the time in which they lived, although they did just that, but focused on their own interior relationship with Christ.

Resources: https://www.newadvent.org/library/ https://forums.catholic.com/c/apologetics https://www.newadvent.org/ https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/s.htm

FOUNDATIONAL WRITERS: There are exceptional Saints and Holy Men and Women who formed systematic approaches to loving Christ. Such persons are St. Dominic, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross, St. Scholastica, St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, just to name a few who founded schools of love for their followers to focus on preferring nothing to the love of Christ (St. Benedict in his Rule, Chapter 4). I do have one recommendation for those seeking resources, one that I, myself, use frequently. Go to the URL, http://www.newadvent.org, then sign up to receive their newsletter.

Research: https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/

https://www.virginiatrappists.org/2012/02/further-suggested-reading-cistercian-authors/

wHERE ARE THOSE OLD WEDDING PICTURES NOW

When is the last time you looked at your wedding pictures, assuming that you are married? This seemingly innocuous statement contains several layers of complexity that I recently explored as I thought about my Lectio Divina center (Philippians 2:5), “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” I asked myself, HOW do I sustain any serious commitment and keep it from going sour, given that we live in a condition where everything has a beginning and an end, plus all things corrupt or deteriorate? In this context, what God made, Adam and Eve, is, by its nature, good, but yet subject to the forces of corruption and disintegration. You won’t be here one hundred years from now. Have you thought about the fact that every single human (including Christ) does not live past a hundred? Do you get the point? Our history of being human lasts only seventy or eighty years, if we are strong, says the Psalmist in Psalm 90. http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/90 Read this Psalm in its entirety, three times. The first time you detoxify the influence of Original Sin; the second time you look for just one theme the Psalm is trying to convey; the third time, reading very slowly, you stop after each stanza and think how this applies to you. Very slowly!

When I read this Psalm three-times, my second time through I was struck by how humanity must pass on what it has learned to the next seventy or eighty years. The third time I read Psalm 90 I thought of how all life passes on its genetic code to the next generation. Spiritual Apes, which is what I term humans who have voluntarily accepted Christ as their Lord, is an exception to the natural progression of all that lives. You must choose to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You can only make this choice by Faith that comes only from God. There are forces at work outside of you that try to lead you astray from your Baptismal commitment. Humans are like God in that they have the ability to reason and they have the freedom to choose. What they choose can either be God or themselves.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF IDOLATRIES TODAY

There is such a thing as the idolatry of the mind, where human reasoning, to the exclusion of anything spiritual, is god. Reality is what is visible, what is historical, what you can discover with your mind and five senses, not what is the opinion of each individual who only lives for seventy or eighty years. In the early Church, there were three major (mortal) sins that caused the individual to be cast out of the gathering or assembly: offering incense to the Emperor, adultery, and murder. To get back into the community, you had to be re-washed with the blood of the Lamb. We call that the Sacrament of Forgiveness with a promise not to sin again and do penance for the rest of your life.

There is such a thing as idolatry of free choice, where you can choose either what is good for you or what is bad for you, and you make the wrong choice (as Adam and Eve did). Each of us has seventy or eighty years to discover how to love authentically. We learn from the successes and failures of what went before us. History is a succession of those seventy or eighty years, linked together in such a way that we can look back on what happened before and learn.

There is the idolatry of thinking that all there is, is contained in the few years we appear on the earth. If we worship at this altar, we must find meaning and the purpose of life within a few, short years. There are millions upon millons of people who are now living or who have lived before us. We move forward because of the legacy of those who have gone before us. We learn from the discoveries of generations of the past. Only humanity as a race has a history. Individually, we do our share to make this a better world for ourselves and our children, eighty years or so at a time.

The effects of Original Sin are that we will only live to seventy or eighty if we are lucky, granted me don’t get cancer or have a heart attack (I had both). It seems like a fixation that humans are trying to go into space to find new worlds and perhaps new civilizations. With all our attempts to go to the Moon or to Mars, we are still limited by Original Sin. In the case of space travel, consider that we are not born in space but in a gravity-based rock with gases on it. Even if we wanted to travel to distant planets, which we don’t about yet, it would take us more than those seventy or eight years to get there, and, we must take our gravity and gases with us to survive. Consider that the productive life of a human is forty years, granted you don’t die or disease.

You are probably worndering why I am wandering. Hold your horses! Everything fits together in the end, although we not realize it within the timeframe we have to discover what is true. Isn’t it strange that Christ would want to enter this world of corruption and Original Sin? As God, Scriptures says, he became sin for us so as to rescue (save) us from death. To do that, he became one of us (Philippians 2:5-12) in all things but sin. He came to tell us how to live beyond those seventy or eighty years, preparing us to live in the Kingdom of Heaven with God…Forever. Faith is not about what is natural, but what is supernatural. To get there you must use the gifts that God gave all humans (the ability to reason what is good or bad for you and the ability to choose what is good or bad for you). What God won’t do is make the choice for you. There fundamentally two choices you can make, one of which will lead you to life and one to death. Jesus not only became one of us to tell us what was authentic (the Old Testament) but to show us how to follow his footsteps (the New Testament).

Sacred Scriptures, given to us down through twenty centuries until it informs me now how to find the way, the truth, and the life, are love letters from God in which he tells us through the Holy Spirit inspiring writers to show us how to live in such a way that we prepare to live beyond death. Of course, not of this makes sense to the World, but that is why Christ saved us from his viewpoint that only recognizes the values of the World.

Those snippets of seventy to eighty years of living walking with Christ through twenty centuries (the Church Universal), provides a pathway from the Apostles to my life, now. You can read the path that the Church Universal has taken as it has stumbled down the path toward Point Omega. Sometimes we got off the path, such in thinking that the Church Universal is perfect, is without sin, that we are better than anyone else, is infallible in its practice. History tells of our misadventure with monarchial power, how we are very much, in each age, subject to the same effects of Original Sin as Adam and Eve. The Prophets of the Old Testament continuously railed against the infidelity of Israel keep the Law. The Saints are the prophets of the New Testament, the Church Universal in each age. Saints are important because they give us hope that the Holy Spirit has not abandoned us, despite our collective sinfulness. The Church Universal must focus on “loving others as Christ has loved us.” This Church must not be confused with a building or the Vatican governance, nor any other perishible things. These things come and go depending on the age in which we live. What remains is that Christ loved us so much that He volutarily gave up his life to die on the cross. He did that to SHOW us how we should live out our seventy or eighty years, in helping others. (Matthew 25:36) The promise of Christ was that the Holy Spirit would be with us and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against us. He promised that we should drink the cup of salvation with him, which we do in the Eucharist. The most marvelous gift of Christ is one where he gives up his life for us (humanity), continues the Resurrection from the dead, and returns to the Father in glory, now both fully God and fully human. The perfect gift of honor and glory to God. This is our sharing in the love of the Father for the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is our way to rise above our false self and put on the armor of Christ to combat the temptations of the Devil (the World). In the Hymn, Amazing Grace, we sing, “amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me” Grace is God’s own energy within us. In each age, the Church Universal focuses us on Christ in the Liturgy, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Eucharist, Penance and the Forgiveness of Sins, Healing and Preparing for Heaven.

When you think of those old wedding pictures, if you have to blow the dust off of them, you are missing a great opportunity for renewal of your Marriage Commitment to each other. It is not as though we don’t have an annual rededication of our Faith. During the Easter Vigil, those present are asked to renounce Satan and all his allurements.

Rededication to your Faith should be done frequently. It is Christ making all things new in your life, the life within your seventy or eighty years. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&qid=1588101315&ref=sr_pg_1

What follows are the promises I made to the Abbot of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia in May 2018. I renew them frequently to remind myself that Christ is my Lord and Savior. I pray that I become what I have promised with God’s grace and mercy.

FINAL PROMISES AS A LAY CISTERCIAN OF OUR LADY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MONASTERY (TRAPPIST), CONYERS, GEORGIA

I, Michael Francis Conrad, a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a community of Catholics living in the world, promise to strive for a daily conversion of life as my response to the love of God.

I commit myself to live in a spirit of contemplative prayer and sacrifice in obedience to God’s universal call to holiness, using daily Cistercian practices and charisms of simplicity, humility, obedience to God’s will, hospitality, and striving for conversion of life to move from self to God.

I give thanks to my wife, Young, and my daughter, Martha, for standing with me on my journey. I ask for prayers from the Monastic community of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and the Lay Cistercian community, to include the  Ecumenical and Auxiliary communities. I place myself in the hands of those already stand before the throne of the Lamb, including Holy Mary, Mother of God, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, the Seven Cistercian Martyrs of Our Lady of Atlas, Father Anthony Delisi and other deceased monks and Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and also Deacon Marcus Hepburn. Finally, I accept the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the constitutions and statutes of the Strict Observance Cistercians as my guide for living the Gospel within the time I have remaining. Ut in Omnia Dei glorificatur.

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TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE DEVIL

While taking a break from watching movies in my downtime, due to the pandemic, I found myself looking at the titles of movies. What is astonishing is the sheer number of movies out there about demons, the devil, possession, Dracula (although that is a fictional character), and the living dead. To a young person, impressionable because she or he equates what it in a movie with what is real, it must be confusing. Here are some of my thoughts from a Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) on the forces of evil at work today. Most of those who do evil don’t even know what they don’t know about the devil, (Did you notice that the Devil and Evil come from the same root?)

  1. What does the Devil look like? Scripture portrays Lucifer as a snake (Genesis 1-2), seducing Eve, who in turn seduced Adam to choose themselves over God. I have never seen the Devil in person, but I have felt and seen the effects of evil. One of the best representations of the Devil is the choreography by Bob Fosse in the movie, The Little Prince. I watched it three times, once for the choreography, once time for the words (these words are important) and the third time to sit back and enjoy the whole movie as I try to see how it fits into my view of reality as a Lay Cistercian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXonK8EBqmk

2. What is the nature of the Devil? I know, this sounds esoteric, but bear with me. Think about this. There are three natures that correspond to the three universes of reality (physical, mental, and spiritual.)

The physical universe has animal nature plus humans, the mental universe has only human nature, the spiritual universe has only God with humans admitted as adopted sons or daughters. These three natures are separate, as are the three universes. Humans are not divine in nature. Animals and humans share the same animal nature, which is why, when we act like an animal, we are not acting our nature, and that is sinful (missing the mark of being human). Genesis, that archetypal story of human nature, details how humans are not animals. God made humans last of all, to be caretakers of his garden. Into the garden (reality) comes the Devil, as a snake. The Devil is not God, nor Adam or Eve. Whereas God is seen as a human being (anthropomorphic), He is still of divine nature and Adam and Eve are human nature. Where does that leave Satan? He is an animal nature (snake). When he tempts Adam and Eve, he wants them to be like him (animal nature) and not human nature. Why should any of this matter to anyone? All these movies and television shows, such as Lucifer, have messed up who Satan really is. Here is the point: Satan is not God’s equal as light is the opposite of darkness. Stan or Lucifer is a fallen angel, one of the Archangels along with Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. God made Lucifer. Lucifer did not make God or is he equal to God. That is what he wants you to believe.

3. Lucifer and Adam made similar choices. God made all the angels with reason and free will. If it were not so, Lucifer could not or would have made the choice to be God. There are consequences to all our choices, both good and bad. Lucifer wanted to be like God. He chose his own will instead of serving the will of God. Why is that so bad? One reason may be found in the fact that we are made for Heaven (Garden of Eden) and our prototypes (Adam and Eve) did not pass the test, just like Lucifer. That temptation is the same one the Devil used on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There were consequences to that choice of evil, disguised as something good. We lost access to Heaven until someone could come and redeem us. The Hebrew word for redeem is Gaal. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1350.htm It means a kinsman buys back that which was pawned away. Do you know who the kinsman is who redeemed us from our collective sin? Jesus. Think about it. Jesus of Nazareth became human (Philippians 2:5-12) so He could be our kinsman. We have the opportunity to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

Read what New Advent has to say about the Devil. I quote this in its entirety so that you will get the flavor of the text and also use New Advent as a primary resource. You will find excellent Scriptural references with New Advent. https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04764a.htm

“As may be gathered from the language of the Lateran definition, the Devil and the other demons are but a part of the angelic creation, and their natural powers do not differ from those of the angels who remained faithful. Like the other angels, they are pure spiritual beings without any body, and in their original state they are endowed with supernatural grace and placed in a condition of probation. It was only by their fall that they became devils. This was before the sin of our first parents, since this sin itself is ascribed to the instigation of the Devil: “By the envy of the Devil, death came into the world” (Wisdom 2:24). Yet it is remarkable that for an account of the fall of the angels we must turn to the last book of the Bible. For as such we may regard the vision in the Apocalypse, albeit the picture of the past is blended with prophecies of what shall be in the future:

And there was a great battle in heavenMichael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Apocalypse 12:7-9)

To this may be added the words of St. Jude: “And the angels who kept not their principality, but forsook their own habitation, he hath reserved under darkness in everlasting chains, unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6; cf. 2 Peter 2:4).

In the Old Testament we have a brief reference to the Fall in Job 4:18: “In his angels he found wickedness“. But to this must be added the two classic texts in the prophets:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations? And thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the most High. But yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depth of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)”

“In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

4. Lucifer can only tempt humans. We must let him inside. I Peter 5:8 tells us: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary, the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” Temptation is not a sin. Sin has to do with choosing, in this case, choosing that which comes from God, or, alternatively, what comes from Satan, the World, that which will not lead us to fulfill our destiny as adopted sons and daughters of the Father and claim our rightful inheritance.

5. If you think there is no Devil, he has already seduced you with the false promises of the World.

6. Moving from our false self to our true self means renouncing Satan and all his allurements and recommitting yourself to Christ as your center.

7. Jealousy is at the core of Lucifer’s hatred for God. Lucifer tempted Eve with Jealousy. He tempted Adam with the sin of Pride.

8. Read the story of Job to get an interesting perspective on the Devil. In this scenario, the Devil and God make a wager. Read about who won the wager and what it tells you about the power of God.

9. God created both angels and demons but gave them intelligence and the freedom to choose. Angels chose God who is love; the demons chose jealousy, envy, hatred, and the seven deadly sins. The wages of sin, says Scripture, is death. God created all that is living (Genesis 1-2) and then made a gardener tend the garden. From Gardner he fashioned Eve. He gave both of them intelligence and the freedom to choose. He told them not to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, the Devil tempted them with jealousy, envy, hatred and the seven deadly sins. They chose poorly and the consequences of that sin (we call it Original because it describes human nature and the corruption in which we live). What Adam and Eve lost was their relationship with God. Since human nature offended a divine nature, human nature, by itself, could not apologize to God (seeking forgiveness). When you offend God, only God can apologies to God, which sounds a little bizarre until we realize that Christ, who is God, inserted himself into history by becoming one of us in all things but sin. (Philippians 2:5-12). The fixation of Christ is on completing his mission, the kinsman who buys us back (redeems us) from the sin of Adam, culminates with the temptation in the Garden of Gethsemani (like the Garden of Eden) where he pays the price for Adam’s sin (Romans 5), the passion, death, and resurrection to atone for our sins and open the Gates of Heaven again.

10. Just as each of us has a guardian angel, we also have assigned to us our own personal demon. At least, that is what Abbot Issac of the Monastery Stella in France thought (c. 1100-1168) What follows is an excerpt from Sermon 38, the Third Sunday of Lent. Read it for yourself.

  1. “His physical absence and the disciples’ powerlessness clearly represent what we said before: without the presence of his divine power and the grace to work with it, nothing could be cast out anywhere. For this reason, to those who asked him why they were unable to cast out the demon, he answered, Because of your unbelief. Either they did not know this yet, or they did not yet believe as they should have. So it is also that elsewhere he calls certain people who claim that they are something (arrogantes) to return to themselves, saying, Do not boast that spirits are made subject to you, etc. For I have seen Satan falling like lightning from heaven because of his haughtiness. (arrogantia)
  2. We begin by mentioning these matters, brothers, so that you will not presume to claim anything for yourselves and foolishly boast in what you have received. For it is God who does all things in us, mercifully casting out what is evil and introducing what is good, and sometimes justly taking away what is good and inflicting what is evil.
  3. Therefore, Jesus was casting out a demon, and continues to do so today. Let us ask good Jesus for ourselves, beloved; let us constantly ask him to completely cast our demons out of us, or at least restrain them for a while. All demons are dangerous to us and rejoice when they harm us or discover that we have suffered harm. They all often heap up a great many wide-ranging and chance acts around many different people to deceive them. Yet Scripture informs us that we all have our own particular (familiaris) demon who is especially attentive toward us and who watches us everywhere in all our dealings. A monk must certainly be aware of this particular demon.
  4. For I reckon that I know and understand my demon quite well, beloved. Nothing is better known to me, because nothing does me more harm. Nothing is more familiar (familiarius) to me, because nothing is more constant. I am hardly unaware of the nature and kind of temptation that most frequently and sharply pricks me. I also know in what area I am most easily afflicted. This is why I must also cry out as a man who sees his weakness and recognizes his enemy: Lord Jesus, you who alone are mighty, snatch the helpless one from the hands of those who are stronger; the poor, needy one from his plunderer. Snatch the poor one, and free the needy one from the hand of the sinner. Snatch me from the hand of the sinner and from the hand of the wicked one who acts against the law. When I sing these and other verses like them in the assembly, beloved, I certainly direct that psalm against him in secret.
  5. And it was mute, it says. Mine talks constantly to me and weaves endless and deceitful tales about the glory, beauty, and delights of this world. It whispers ideas about these things and a thousand others like them, both promising and threatening miracles. It tells a thousand lies, saying that I can do many things that I cannot, and that I cannot do many things that I can. It says that others recount amazing things about me, both good and bad. It goes on at great length to me, variously talking about my knowledge, my religious observance, my habits, what kind of person I am, my charm, my eloquence, or my refinement. In short, it often grabs and takes over my ears for itself after this fashion, so that I am free neither to read nor to listen to someone else reading to me. This is its purpose in speaking to me: to make me entirely mute, to render me deaf and dull.
  6. And perhaps this is why a wicked spirit that does not stop speaking evil is called mute: because it makes those whom it attacks mute, unable to praise God or use their rational tongues properly. If someone speaks, says the apostle Peter, let it be with God’s words, as it were. I can thus understand that the rational tongue is not for speaking empty and lying words, words of conflict and ruin, words of slander or pride, of cupidity and lust, or any kind of nonsense, which is inappropriate. The tongue, whether it calls out with all these words and chatters in the ears of others or engages in inner conversation with its particular demon, is mute before God. As it is written, Because I was silent, my bones grew old, while I called out all day long. There are three ways, then, with which the tongue speaks God’s words: when it praises God, when it accuses itself in his presence, and when it builds up its neighbor. But those who do not engage in these kinds of speech are mute, no matter how much they cry out.
  7. O Lord Jesus, cast out my demon, and open my lips to humbly confess my sins, so that my mouth may worthily announce your praise. If you do not, no beautiful praise will be found in the sinner’s mouth: You have put on confession and beauty, Scripture says. For confession is beautiful, and beauty gives praise.”

Here are some of my concluding thoughts about Satan and demons.

We live in a world wounded by Original Sin but not evil. Human nature is wounded as well.

We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through water and the Holy Spirit.

We must constantly pray (daily) to be on our guard against the temptations of the Devil to seduce us with values and behaviors of the world.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray with Christ that we are not abandoned to the Devil when tempted.

Christ’s grace is sufficient.

The greatest triumph of the Devil is to convince the pusillanimous that he does not exist.

WHY CHRIST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE

Don’t be fooled by the title. I actually want to talk about the sign of contradiction, God becoming human. When I think about it, one of the reasons God did become one of us, with all our frailties and sinfulness, was to tell and show us how to love as Christ loves us. This is something that we must acquire using the ability to reason and our freedom to choose what we think is good for us. No one chooses something bad or inconvient for themselves. Yet, that is what everyone born of water and the spirit is asked to do, voluntarily. It is not enough that Christ told us how to love others as He loves us, He actually showed us how to do it.

Consider this. When we are born, we come into a world that is imperfect. The default of the world has a beginning and an end, in fact, everything in the physical and mental universes has a beginning and an end. Each human, although saved by the redeeming blood of the Lamb of God, must use their ability to reason to make a choice, in this case to place and sustain Christ as the center of their existence. God won’t make it for us. The transition from the physical and mental universes to a reality that includes physical, mental, and spiritual universes is needed to be able to even understand what Christ is telling us and showing us. Here is my point. If you only look at Christ from the viewpoint of the World (physical and mental universes), nothing He says makes sense.

In recent Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5), I have been thinking about what it means to be saved (passive)? Saved from what? First, we are saved from our own lack of Faith by Christ coming to show us how to love others as He loves us. God doesn’t need my praise or my prayers, I need it to sustain my relationship with Christ. When I join Christ in the Eucharist, I am an adopted son of the Father, tagging along with Christ who actually sees the Father. This is where the sign of contradiction comes into play. My spirituality only makes sense because Christ first loved me. He tells us, I have chosen you, you have not chosen me. All the believers in the world won’t make Eucharist the Real Presence. Only Jesus can do that. Faith is when I am overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to be able to call God, Abba, Father.

Next, Christ came to save us from just getting our values from the World. Read what Bishop Barron has to say about the World and the Law. https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/video/israel-the-church-and-the-law-part-2-of-2/131/

Our values come from Christ. Christ shows us and gives us tips on how to prepare ourselves to live with Him Forever and not get our circuits fried by the pure knowledge, pure energy, pure love that is God. Here is my point. The Spiritual Universe can only be understood in terms of the sign of contradiction. Everything in the Kingdom of Heaven is the reverse of the World. St. Benedict instituted a School to learn how to love because the word “love” means different things to the World and the Spirit. (Galatians 5). Chapter 4 of his Rule instructs us in how to behave in this spiritual universe, where we are asked to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Christ’s footsteps. I ask you to stop now and reflect on how Christ gives us what we need to know, love, and serve God in this life, so that we can be happy with Him in Heaven.

When the sign of the cross, a symbol of this sign of contradiction is the standard that we carry. We have a tattoo indelibly etched on our spirit, the sign of the cross. Like a tattoo, we can’t get rid of it, but we can ignore it, at risk of losing the gift of Faith.

Read what I Corinthians has to say about the sign of contradiction. Our sign, our standard is the cross of Christ Jesus.

“The Message of the Cross

18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. 19For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”b

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

22Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,c 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom,d and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Wisdom from God

26Brothers, consider the time of your calling: Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly and despised things of the world, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast in His presence.

30It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”e

Read this passage again, very slowly, and think about the sign of contradiction that is Christ Himself (Philippians 2:5-12). I have described this event in terms of a polar reversal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6Ggs7nUjxA

When Christ died on the cross, and the veil in the Temple was torn in half, there was also a polar reversal in spiritual time. From now on, disciples must not see reality as the World sees it, but as Christ sees it. If you want to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, you must be the servant of all. If you love those who love you, what merit is that? To be disciples of the Master, you must love those who hate you, do good to those who persecute you, become like a little child. This sign of contradiction is the badge we wear over our hearts and marked on our souls, the cross of a criminal, an outcast, one scorned by his own people.

  • Christ doesn’t make sense because, to be a disciple, we must prefer nothing to the love of Christ (Chapter 4, Rule of St. Benedict)
  • Christ doesn’t make sense because we must die to self to be able to rise with Christ.
  • Christ doesn’t make sense because you must renounce yourself and take up your cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)
    Christ doesn’t make sense if you don’t believe that the Resurrection of Christ is real.
  • Christ doesn’t make sense because He asks you to be Baptized with water and the Holy Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Christ doesn’t make sense to those without Faith, folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews.
  • Christ doesn’t make sense because God loved us so much to send His only begotten Son to save us from the sin of Adam. (Romans 5 and Philippians 2:5-12)

I have tried to make my Lay Cistercian lifestyle consistent with this sign of contradiction by the daily practice of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). Some days are better than others. It is the time I try to try to prefer nothing to the love of Christ that is my yearning for Christ. It is one a once a day experience, but rather the whole day is lifted up to the Father in praise and glory through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

WE ARE DEFINED BY OUR CHOICES.

One of the characteristics of being human is the need to belong. Another one seems to be the need to be spiritual, and why we must struggle to be spiritual, and why we, of all living beings, have the ability to reason. From the very beginning of what we know to be human existence, Genesis 2:17-19 (NRSVCE) “7 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

It is noteworthy to realize that Adam (Adama, Hebrew: the ground) was made by God and so were all the animals, as you read above. Eve alone was made from a rib from Adam’s side and not from the earth. This suggests that, while all males are dirty by nature, women proceed from human flesh (Adam’s rib) are are not dirty or defiled. Perhaps that is why Mary was selected by God as the Second Eve, this time the mother of the Church Universal.

OUR NEED TO BELONG

From time immemorial, humans have tended to cluster in groups of their own kind (e.g., humans don’t run with baboons, although sometimes you wouldn’t know that by the hatred some political parties have for those who do not agree with them, all contrary to Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict).

The genius of the Book of Genesis is that it recounts what it means to be human. Adam and Eve were created by God. They were made because God needed a gardner for his paradise (Heaven). As the story goes, Adam and Eve confused being gardner or caretaker with being God. In this story, we see two elements that make humans what they are, separate from all other living things. They are the ability to reason, and the ability to make choices. Reason gives us the awareness to choose what is good for us. Genesis relates how Adam and Eve knew that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden. They wee not to eat of it, but they did. Even though they thought they were doing right or knew that they were disobeying God, they did it hoping God would not know. They wanted to be God.

To be sure we share processes of procreation, safety, sustenance, and survival. One other needs common to other animals is belonging. Belonging, rather than being a Lone Ranger among humans, is how we focus all the other needs. As God says in Genesis, “…it is not good for man to be alone.” God tells Adam and Eve that there are consequences to sin (death, pain, suffering, having to work for their survival, lack of security, and they realized they were naked.

Life outside the Garden of Eden meant that God was not there to tell them what was right or wrong, nor to protect them from the consequences of their mistake. Genesis is describing us in our relationship with God. They still had hope that God would protect them. Indeed, in the Old Testament, through Abraham, Moses, David and the Prophets, God sets us a covenant relationship with Israel and even gave them laws (10 Commandments) and Jewish traditions of sacrifice and governance. But, it is not without consequences for those seeking to live the covenant relationship. Think about this! Israel had to choose between what is right (God’s way) and what was easy. The writings of the Old Testament told of how Israel did or did not keep the covenant. In addition, there was always the hint of one to come to save the people (from their enemies, but more importantly, from themselves). In each age, we have the same choice. The wages of sin, says Scripture, is death. We pay the price for what Adam and Eve did. With Christ, we must still die, but now we are heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven and we are given helps to sustain us on earth while we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

If God is not part of the way you find meaning for your purpose in life, you may be oblivious to the consequences of sin. There are three dimensions to spirituality, the beginning (creation), the re-creation, and the continuation. The Father is Lord of creation; the Son is Lord of re-creation or salvation; and the Holy Spirit is Lord of the Church until the Second Coming of Christ. The Church is all about doing what was won for us by the blood of the Lamb. All three dimensions are separate, yet all three are one.

Every choice we make has a consequence, although most of them won’t kill us. Scripture says in.Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” For me, that sums it up nicely, but there is a catch. Who determines what is sin (missing the mark) and what happens when we do sin? When is something sinful and when is it just part of the everyday routine? Let’s go back to the concept of reality being three universes (physical, mental and spiritual). These three different and separate realms of reality are one. Yet this reality is one into which Christ became human (Philippians 2:5-12).

There are two kinds of humans: those who live in two universes (physical and mental) and those who live in three universes (physical, mental and spiritual). The first kind we call living in the World. This is the place where the purpose of life is to live, learn to love, breed, find meaning, and eventually to die. Not a bad living when compared to the purpose of an animal, i.e., to be born, to live, eat, procreate, get old, and die. The World is limited in that our morality is governed by governments, those in power, and ultimately the individual. Relativism (no one has the truth because everyone can believe whatever they want and what they believe is reality.

The second type of human also lives in the World but is not of it. Because of Faith and their consent to that relationship, humans voluntarily join the Kingdom of Heaven (begins with Baptism and continue on Forever). The consequences of this choice are:

  • you are an adopted son or daughter of the Father,
  • you must love others as Christ has loved you,
  • you must take up your cross (the heavy one, not styrofoam) daily and follow Christ
  • following means doing those things he left us to help give glory to the Father through, with and in Him
  • each day, pledging yourself once more, to have Christ as your savior and redeemer, in humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit
  • to seek God in every situation in which you find yourself
  • you dedicate whatever time you have left to practicing the charisms from which you grow from your false self to your new self In Christ
  • you realize that even though you pray, Faith is necessary to keep you from falling into the archetypal sin of thinking that you are god
  • you don’t presuppose Faith but must fast and pray that you don’t enter into temptation
  • you place your hope in God alone

Here is an unusual thought from my Lectio Divina meditation (Philippians 2:5). Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of a time for everything under heaven. In that context, why did Christ have to become human at any time? Erich Fromm’s book, The Art of Loving, states his premise that we are not born knowing how to love, we must learn it and authentic love is an art. Following this line of reasoning, I thought about one of the reasons, perhaps an unintended consequence, of why Christ had to become one of us was to show us how to love as God loves us. Christ left us but one command, a new one, that bids his followers to love each other as He loves us. The life of Christ, the mission of Christ was to love the Father as his only begotten Son could do (being both divine and human nature). For who want to be his disciples, they must learn how to love. This love is not like the world teaches you, although that love is good. This is the love that transcends all knowing, how to love as God the Son would do for us. I asked myself why Christ would not only tell us what love is but go to all this trouble to show us, even to giving up his life voluntarily on the cross? Christ did not leave us orphans after he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit took over, ever so seamlessly, the task of being with the Church or Gathering of those who practice in this School of Love, as St. Benedict organized it in his Rule. The Church, as living Body of Christ on earth, in heaven, and in purification, makes it possible for each one of us individually to learn the art of loving spiritually, as Christ both taught us and showed us. Here is the point that amazes me. Heaven is all about pure love. Without Christ, we could not even entertain the hope of going to be with that same Christ. Yet, through, with and in Him, we are saved from ourselves, given both the words of life (Scriptures) and how to love as Christ Himself loves us. We do this by loving others. And how do we do that? Read Matthew 25: 36ff. In loving others on while we live, we prepare ourselves to live as adopted sons and daughters of the Father in the life to come. None of this makes any sense without Faith. Just as God overshadowed Mary, Mother of God, the Holy Spirit is with each of us each day, our companion on the rough road we each lead towards our destiny, to be one with the One who says, Behold, I gather all things to myself. If that is not Good News, I don’t know what is.

As a Lay Cistercian struggling to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each day, I call upon the name of the Lord in my Lay Cistercian practices of Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours (www.divineoffice.org), Rosary, Reading from Scripture, writing my blog and writing down what the Holy Spirit tells me (errors and all). All of this I do in silence and solitude, (if my dog, Tucker, allows me), each and every day so that, in calling upon the name of the Lord, I might seek God wherever I find him, and give glory to the Father through, with and in Christ.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology



I SAW AND HEARD JESUS YESTERDAY

Yesterday, at 10:15, Easter Sunday, reliving the Resurrection of Christ, I actually saw Jesus. Calm down! I am not a spiritual zealot. You can see Jesus, too, if you go to this website and click on the live stream triangle for the 10:15 Mass on Easter Sunday.

https://www.goodshepherdparish.org/livestream

AT THE CORE CENTER OF MY LIFE IS NOT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Before you look for the matches to burn me at the stake, think about this. This was one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) during Holy Week. Consider that there are two characteristics that separate humans from all other living things; a)the ability to reason; and b), the ability to choose what is good for us based on that reasoning. The problem is, not everything is good for us. To complicate things even more, the World is composed of those who look at reality with only two universes (the physical one, of which we are a part, along with all living things, and the mental universe. This universe, along with the platform to allow us to exist is called the World. To live in three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) takes God’s help through Baptism or desire. This is called the Kingdom of Heaven (on earth as well as in Heaven). We have not chosen God, but Christ has chosen us first, from before time existed. What we do as individuals is give our assent or belief to God’s gift of adoption as sons and daughters. Mary, Mother of God, is the archetype of this belief. Read Luke 1-2.

Each of us has, at our core, one principle that informs everything we do and are. God has given all humans reasoning and the ability to choose whatever they want at their center. You must select a center that will propel you beyond death. Today, the Resurrection of Christ from the dead gives each of us a gift beyond all telling. Read the blog I wrote on the Resurrection Enigma. False centers are your spouse or family, your money, power, The Mother of God, and the Church. These are false centers because there can be only one Center, and all others flow from that one principle, the Christ Principle.My personal center is Philippians 2:5. I have had that as my center since 1960. The two choices each human must make are: 1. God as my center guides me down right paths and I fear no evil. 2. I am my own god and whatever I think about life is informed by the World, not God. None of us can serve two masters.

In the Lord’s prayer, we say: Our Father, which are in Heaven, holy is your name; your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. There is another one who wants to be our Master, if we will but bow down and worship him. Our choices from this master are hatred, jealousy, envy, the seven deadly sins. (Galatians 5). We are defined by our choices.

In this context of choosing Christ as the very center, each and every day, there is a battle between the two Masters. I must struggle to choose Christ each day (take up your cross each day and follow me). Christ produces energy for us to endure the toll that this struggle takes on my spiritual resolve to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) When you look at the stained glass window in Church (building) of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), in Conyers, Georgia, you notice that at the center of Mary’s heart is the heart of Christ. Seek first to put Christ as center, and all else follows. It is not enough for me to just sit back and trust that Faith alone will produce Grace alone. I am not like the Sherman-Williams logo of the earth being covered by paint. The effects of Adam and Eve still pervade every moment while I live. Faith alone will save me from the attacks of the Evil One, but I must work as though everything depends on me and pray as though everything depends on Christ.

My title sounds a bit controversial until you think about it. If I choose Christ as my center, and he is the head of the Church, I must also choose the Church Universal, the living Catholic Church in each age, linked to the Apostles in heritage. What happens, when I choose the Church as my center, and things fall apart or we have a crisis? People fall away from the Church because they have put Church as their center, in the same way as someone puts their spouse at their center. What happens when that spouse dies? You lose your center. Only Christ as my Center means I can profess my Catholic Faith and not worry that this center won’t be there in one hundred years. Far from being alienated by the Church, this thinking puts Christ first and then everything else in perspective. It is a reaffirmation that the Holy Spirit will not let the gates of Hell prevail against it. The Church is not a denomination but the real presence of Christ in each age. As St. Benedict says in Chapter 4 of his Rule, “place your Hope in God alone.”

Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and all else will be given to you, says Scriptures. What say you?

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THE RESURRECTION ENIGMA

On a recent television show, I watched as two of the experts gave opinions about Jesus a) not existing at all or, b) being a deluded young man who fantasized about being the Messiah. In traditional arguments of the Historical Jesus group, they said the Resurrection was made up by his followers.

I am not going to share with you any of my ideas about their denial of the Resurrection. I actually dismiss the Historical Jesus as not knowing what they do not know. It is like arguing with an alcoholic that they are not a drunk. Who cares? I will share with you some thoughts I had as a result of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) contemplation.

COSMIC CHARM

Humans are different from any other life form that exists. Why is that? How do I know that humans are different from all other life forms, although we share some of the same characteristics? I know because I know that I know. What sounds like gobbledygook is actually one of the first characteristics of human existence, i..e., self awareness. Humans know that we know. Why? Secondly, humans have the ability to choose what is good for them, even if it is bad for them. All humans are defined by their choices and are responsible for what we choose. The question in Genesis 1-2 is, who tells us what is good or bad for us? Only humans are prone to evil and that is due to where they find the answer to what is good for them. The answer to that seeming enigma is either God or you. Because what God has created is good, he shepherds the flock and guides them down right paths, the path we are all destined to take from the moment God spoke that Word (John 1:1). Remember, the freedom to choose is all about choices. We are defined by our choices. The Old Testament is a record of fidelity to God’s Word and infidelity to it, as evidenced by the constant focus on the Prophets on being faithless and worshipping false idols.

Free choice is so important to the human condition that God allows us to make choices that are not hitting the mark of what it means to be human. When we make decisions based on our choice that comes from us (the World), then this is called sin, or missing the mark you should have been aiming for. The choice itself is not evil but what you choose may be. Galatians 5 is a classic Scripture for distinguishing the flesh from the decisions that come from the Spirit. You are free to choose that which comes from the World (the physical and mental universes only) or that which comes from God, the Spirit of Truth (the physical, mental AND spiritual universes). In the Lord’s Prayer, we petition the Father that we act as His will dictates, rather than our own self-idolatry.

In the New Testament, Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. In order to do this Jesus took on our human nature, with our tendency to want to be our own god, and show us how to transform our false self to that of God’s will. If you do not believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, then everything we hold true is false and the historical Jesus advocates that won. A note about belief. Belief is the human response to a set of conditions or beliefs in which we place or trust, our hope, and our choices. All the belief in the world won’t make Christ present in the Eucharist. Our belief does not have the power to change water into wine, or even make the dead rise from the cross. We believe it because it comes from Christ. Belief belongs to the World (physical and mental universes only). Faith, on the other hand, comes from God in Christ by means of the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a mystery somewhat known because Jesus revealed it to us, but mostly hidden from our reason, as looking through a foggy glass. The reason we have reason is to be able to move past what the World tells us is meaningful to what Christ says is meaningful. St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of his Rule says ” our way of acting must be different from the world. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/The love of Christ must come before all else.” It is when we abandon ourselves to the will of God that we, paradoxically, have the most freedom of all, because we seek God, the way, the truth, and the life.

THE PARADOX OF FAITH

The ultimate abandonment to God’s will is the Resurrection. Christ voluntarily gave His life to the Father in reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve and restored us to life. Reason alone won’t get you to heaven. Believing in the historical Jesus is nice but like cotton candy. It tastes good and looks good, but has no nutritional value. Without Jesus there is no hope for us beyond the grave. Without Jesus’ resurrection He is not God, just a deluded young man whose followers make up all those stories that have endured to this day.

Of course, the Resurrection from the Dead does not make sense to just human reasoning. It is only by choosing to follow the will of God in Christ with humility and obedience to what He says is good for us, that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs of the Kingdom of Forever. This is not easy to do, which is why Jesus instituted a Church to help us in each age. Even though crazy humans in the Church Universal have lead it away from having in them the mind of Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:5), and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. By all accounts, the Church Universal should have folded many, many times in the past. There was always a reformer to bring us back to Jesus as our sole center. Faith informed by reason can render us at least able to begin to scan the Mystery of Faith and pluck some low hanging fruit.

If there is no Resurrection from the dead, then Christ is not the Son of God. Everything we believe in the Creed is nonsense. All the prayers we say are a waste of time. There is no Faith, Grace, Scriptures, Christ, or Church. All those peoples for twenty centuries have been dupped. There is no Holy Spirit, no Saints, no one exists past their death.

My reply to those who cast doubt on the resurrection is “With Faith no answer is needed. Without Faith, no answer is possible”. –St. Thomas Aquinas

THE WISDOM OF SACRED SCRIPTURE

John 11 describes the resurrection of Lazarus in these words. http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/11

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.i22 [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”j25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,k26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27* l She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed* and deeply troubled,34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”35 And Jesus wept.m36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”37But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

3 8So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father,* I thank you for hearing me.42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”n43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,* “Lazarus, come out!”44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Matthew 28 has an account of the actual Resurrection of Christ.

a After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,* Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.2* b And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.3c His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow.4The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men.5Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.6* He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.7d Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”8Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce* this to his disciples.9* e And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The Report of the Guard.*11While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had happened.12They assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,13telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’14And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy [him] and keep you out of trouble.”15The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present [day].

Contemplation helps me to cut through all the dissonance in life to find resonance in, with and through Christ, to the glory of the Father. The resurrection happens every time I hear and accept the words of consecration in the Eucharist and proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again. The resurrection happens every time I try to place myself on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait for Christ to sit down next to me. The resurrection happens every time I confess that Jesus Christ is Son of God, Savior. The resurrection happens every day I recite the Liturgy of the Hours and offer them up in reparation for my sins and failings and ask for God’s mercy. The resurrection happens when I read Scriptures, especially Philippians 2: 5-12 and also in John 11: Do you see a parallel of Lazarus and Christ’s resurrection and what you do now? My belief doesn’t make the resurrection happen, but the resurrection makes my belief believable.

In history, Julius Caesar lived, was murdered, and we think of his memory. Genghis Khan lived, conquered many peoples, and died but we know him through history. Constantine the Emperor lived, died, and we read about him in books. Sigmund Freud lived, wrote books which we can read and he, also, died. Everyone who ever lived, had a life full of their choices, then they died. Even Christ died on the cross, but with one difference. He gave his life up for the ransom of all humanity and God raised him up on the third day. He lives today just as he lived all those many years ago. Because of the resurrection, we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and await our inheritance purchased for us by the blood of the Lamb of God. Because of the resurrection, like Christ, our bodies will die but will be resurrected through the energy of God. Some people choose not to believe this, either through pride or prejudice. Those who do believe it move forward with the Hope that the words of Christ are true: “j25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,k26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27* l She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11)

Finally, St. Paul states the resurrection in brutal but eloquent terms in I Corinthians 12. “12 Now if Christ is preached as raised up from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ has not been raised either. 14 But if Christ has not been raised, then[b] our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain. 15 And also we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if after all, then, the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised either. 17 But if Christ has not been raised, your faith is empty; you are still in your sins. 18 And as a further result, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have put our hope[c] in Christ in this life only, we are of all people most pitiable.”

If we are defined by the choices we make, there can be no more appropriate destiny for a human than to be raised up by God to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father. Without the resurrection, we are just blowing dust from age to age. We are indeed pitiable.

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in THE STILLNESS OF TIME

Sitting before the Blessed Sacrament while thinking about my lectio divina phrase (Philippians 2:5), I realized how much I have changed since I first began this leg of my journey of life, that of a Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net. This was not a mental construct but rather a feeling somewhere inside me. I had consciously taken time to sit in from the Blessed Sacrament and wait. As is my custom, I thought about silence and solitude and recited over and over my Lectio Divina phrase (Philippians 2:5).

My thoughts turned to trying to move through the four levels of Lectio Divina (lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplation). Over the years, I have moved from consciously and deliberately moving through these four stages to that of doing it as a seamless progression. What is important is the process not keeping or not doing this or that step.

Quitely, in just a whisper, I just sat there in the stillness of time. I realized how important it was for be to be still to my false self so I become more like Christ. Another product of my Lectio was the realization that each day, each day I must begin from zero. I begin my Morning Offering before my toes his the floor as I get out of bed. It takes time to move from my old, false self to newness of life. I must keep the words of St. Benedict before me as he wrote in Chapter 4, Tool for Good Works. This is the daily struggle, the cross that I accept to carry each day. I offer you four outcomes or products from being consistent and faithful to Cistercian practices of Lectio Divina, what I notice about myself now that were not present even a year ago.

  1. STILLNESS: I can sit and look at the blue sky or the fresh greens of Spring trees and grasses and be happy with myself in being able to look without any thoughts of a product. The difference is, as the Jewish Existential Philosopher writes, I allow more and more of reality to just be what God created it to be.
  • “The true meaning of love one’s neighbor is not that it is a command from God which we are to fulfill, but that through it and in it we meet God.” ~ Martin Buber
  • “Our relationships live in the space between us which is sacred.” ~ Martin Buber
  • “To love God truly, one must first love man. And if anyone tells you that he loves God and does not love his fellow-man, you will know that he is lying.” ~ Martin Buber
  • “All actual life is encounter.” ~ Martin Buber

The Stillness of the Mind: The mind must be tamed to make it accepting of spiritual contemplation. How does one tame the mind? In his book, The Little Prince, Saint Exupere gives us a clue. Listen to the clip about how how to tame the heart. Listen also for the final statement about the heart. The mind prepares us to love along with the mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d33AQNo8H6U

The emptying of the mind of all extraneous thoughts and preoccupations takes time and practice, it takes taming. For me, the Cistercian practices have become occasions where I leave behind my personal preoccupations and focus just on Christ and not just on Scriptures, although I do that also. I like to focus sitting on a park bench in the middle of a severe winter and waiting for Christ. Isn’t Christ everywhere? Yes, but in this way, I use my reason which God gave me to separate me from being so occupied with my own self to refocus just on Philippians 2:5, the only Lectio Divina I have ever used consistently and every day. The product of all of this is not that I embrace Christ but the realization that He has loved me first. This is the Christ that I don’t make into an image and likeness of myself, but one where I am open to the ontic possibility of the manifestibility of Being itself. I must tame my mind and my heart first to receive what Christ, through the Holy Spirit, wants to share.

The stillness of the heart: Another product of having in me “…the mind of Christ Jesus”, (Philippians 2:5) is my heart is less concerned with what makes me happy than with just being in the presence of Christ.. St. Augustine says,”My heart is restless until it rests in Three.” The stillness of the mind allows me to find and open the door of my hear. St. Benedict calls this, “…listen to the ear of your heart,” in his Prologue to the Rule. What does Christ say is at the core of both the New and Old Testaments? “

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.

Matthew 22:37-40 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The heart has many distractions when trying to contemplate. I can only describe what happens to me as a work in progress. Some days are better than others. As you listened to in the clip from The Little Prince, it is the time you take in taming someone that is precious. As applied to my quest for Lectio Divina and contemplation, it is the time I take with all the distractions and detours that makes it so meaningful. Lectio Divina is not just the actual time you take in prayer, but also everything that leads up to it.

If my life is a journey, it is the time I take along the way to seek God in everyday living that is itself my prayer of abandonment to the will of the Father through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit.

2. EVERY DAY IS A LIFETIME. A product of silence and solitude is my thinking that what I did yesterday to praise the Father does not count for this day, a new day. If I miss a Liturgy of the Hours Morning Prayer one day, no problem. It is what I do that day, whatever it is that compels me to seek God for that day, not that I did or did not do one of the Hours. This behavioral outcome or product has caused me to emphasize my practices more and re-energize my saying Compline as a night prayer. All of us have a spiritual attention span. As a result of my collective moving from self to God, ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly, my attention span in meditation with a view to contemplation, has grown from two or three minutes, to more than an hour or more.

3. SIMPLICITY OF LIFE. I am consciously becoming more simple in my prayer life and in contemplation. Simplicity of life now means I seek first the kingdom of heaven and wait for all that comes after that as God’s will. I have slowed down my life in order to get off the Merry-Go-Round of the World. I find that I used to tell God what I wanted as a result of my praying to Him, such as peace, love, and community. Now I wait for God to tell me what is good for me, the antithesis of Adam and Eve.

4. RETURN TO CLASSIC SPIRITUALITY. One of my favorite books on spirituality is the The SOUL of the APOSTOLATE by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O., Cistercian (Trappist) Abbot of Sept-Fons in Central France. I include it here for your spiritual reading and meditation. https://servusfidelis.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/soul_of_the_apostolate.pdf

I have discovered what is more important than Faith alone. I know a bit more how Faith is not one dimensional but contains layers, the three being One Faith. They are Faith, Hope and Love, and the greatest of these is Love. You cannot have Love without having Faith. Faith comes from the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, Love comes from loving others as Christ has loved us.

1 Corinthians 13 NRSVCE – The Gift of Love – If I speak in the – Bible Gateway

1 Corinthians 13 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

I wanted you to read this entire quote because it reminds me of the dynamics at work within the very nature of God. The Father is the Lord of Faith; the Son is the Lord of Love; the Holy Spirit is the Lord of Hope. All three are one. There is only one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism as St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Ephesians 4,
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

FILLING HOLES, FILLING TIME, FILLING SPACE

As I usually do every morning, I turn on the computer and watch ESPN or one of the variations of Fox Sports. I stay away from major network news, Fox News, etc… because of the hatred, negativity, false or misleading information, and mainly I am tired of people mistrusting one another. The sports program I was watching had a commercial whose premise was: We need something to believe in. The natural conclusion was that Sports is a diversion, filling the void of a bored individual in the home. We all need purpose and the power that comes from knowing that my life is not without meaning.

Even sports programs get boring. How many reruns of basketball, football, and baseball can you stand? Is this what will make us happy and fill the hole in our lives that causes boredom and anxiety? When someone loses a lifetime partner, that is a real hole, not an inconvenience. When the holes in our lives get too much for us to handle, we have options to choose. Remember, God gave us reason for a reason and the ability to choose what is good for us or, conversely, what is bad for us. Here are some options or fillers.

Alcohol, drugs and orgiastic sex: One of my favorite authors is Erich Fromm whose book, The Art of Loving, inspired me to ask the question: What is love? His premise is that we humans must learn to love. It is not infused in our DNA. This comes with the freedom to choose what is good for us, or even those things that are bad for us but we select them anyway. Some of his quotes from http://www.azquotes.com

  • “It takes a moment to tell someone you love them, but it takes a lifetime to prove it.” ~ Erich Fromm
  • “To love somebody is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.” ~ Erich Fromm
  • “Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.” ~ Erich Fromm

I bring up Erich Fromm as one who tells us what love will fill our holes and what will not (alcohol, drugs, and orgiastic sex). Fromm’s use of love is a great insight into human nature and the deepest, more intimate emotion we have. It is, however, only what the World thinks of love (physical and mental universe only).

FILLING THE HOLE WITH CHRIST True love comes when we build on our human nature with what Christ came to tell us. He has loved us first. (Philippians 2:5-12) If God is not the builder of the house, we labor in vain who build it. This is the temple of the Holy Spirit. There is someone out there who can make the rough ways smooth and the crooked ways straight. It takes Faith to take a shovel and fill your hole with Christ. It doesn’t cost anything in terms of money, but it will take everyTHING you have.

CONTEMPLATION — Understood properly, contemplation of Christ must be with no strings attached, just unconditional love, like sitting on a park bench in the midst of a cold winter and waiting, longing for Christ to sit next to you, Someone asked me, “But Christ is always with us.” I responded, “Of course he is, but you are not always with Him. In silence and solitude, seek God without human conditions.”

With what will you fill the hole left by the Coronavirus 19?

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contemplative prayer as you wait out the coronavirus19

Today, my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) was about how fortunate I am to have time to focus on Christ and taking time to meditate on various topics and look up things on the Internet to help me do that. Yes, the coronavirus is bad. Yes, I am 79.7 years old and have to take extra precautions. Yes, I am bound to the house in self exile, much like the Fathers of the desert were. I asked myself the question, What would I want you to know and to look up on the Internet to make your time meaningful? Instead of watching movies and television shows to fill up the space, here is what I would recommend, in no order of importance. It is what I am doing.

INTERNET SIGHTS THAT WILL FILL UP ANY TIME YOU HAVE WITH THE LOVE OF CHRIST.

DON’T MISS THIS SITE: If there is one site you should visit and bookmark, it is this one. The text is from 250 AD, a Marian prayer, where it came from and other very valuable things about the Coronavirus around the world. https://aleteia.org/2017/04/29/the-oldest-known-marian-prayer-is-from-egypt/

Here is the Marian prayer that has been in use since well before 250 AD (that is just the papyrus fragment dating).

Latin Text 
Sub tuum praesidium
confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta
English Text
We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. Amen.
EARLIEST KNOWN MARIAN PRAYER (250 AD)

USCCB: This is a great site and I use it frequently to find out what is going on. There are so many resources on this URL that I want you to access it yourself and just browse around. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings-audio.cfm

LAY CISTERCIAN SITES WORTH READING:

I am going to go to Confession for the sin of Pride for telling you to read my blog site. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

https://laycistercians.org/ This is an ecumenical lay cistercian group.

PRAYING THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS EACH DAY

If you want to practice the most difficult but most rewarding experience in your prayer life, try praying the Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (two of the seven hours of prayer) each day. The best site for this is http://www.divineoffice.org If you look at the bottom right hand column under “Resources” you will find my blog site.

STUDY THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT

https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/

WATCH VIDEOS ABOUT ALL THINGS CHRIST

One of the best theologians is Scott Hahn. Look at this website and, by all means, view one of his video clips. http://www.scotthahn.com/

Bishop Robert Barron is another wonderful speaker. Watch his videos. https://www.wordonfire.org/ You can sign up for a free course on evangelization.

HOMILIES

Listen for homilies from your local parish website. Two I like are: https://goodshepherdparish.org/homilies. Listen to anything by Fr. Tom Dillon. https://www.trappist.net/homilies. Trappist homilies you must hear.

READ CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA, ETC…

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/ Read the Fathers and Mothers of the Church in this site. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/index.html

http://www.newadvent.org/library/index.html All the documents of the Holy Father and much more. http://www.newadvent.org/library/almanac_14388a.htm Check out a list of Ecumenical Councils.

CISTERCIAN SOURCES

These resources are just a few of the many resources you can abandon yourself in as you wait out the Cronavirus19. That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

PROFOUND LISTENING

As I was trying vainly to describe contemplation to prisoners at the Wakulla Correctional Institution (Annex) near Tallahassee, Florida, I happened to use the words “profound listening.” I reflected on these words in light of the admonition of St. Benedict to his monks in the Prologue to the Rule to listen “with the ear of the heart.” https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/ I have noted a few observations and some recommendations about how to listen profoundly.

PROFOUND LISTENING IS NOT THE SAME AS THE WORLD DESCRIBES. I use this phrase as one of the ways that we communicate with God with Faith alone and He responds to us with grace and enlightenment. Profound listening is not the same as listening to the Nightly News or Fox News. In the stillness of silence and solitude, we sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and listen for the footsteps of Christ approaching. It is this longing for Christ to grace us with his real presence that is a characteristic of listening with the ear of the heart.

LISTENING IN THREE UNIVERSES — Those who know my discombobulated mind know that I think in threes when it comes to all human words. Profound listening exists in three universes, not just two.

Physical Universe— all matter, all energy, time, space, everything on earth that has life, is part of this universe. Humans live on this level. It is the platform on which we realize that we are unlike everything else in the universe. Animals are subject to the Laws of Nature (what happens naturally in the order of things) as are we. What God makes is good, including humans.

Mental Universe– I hold that there is another separate universe called the mental one. Only humans live here, just humans (of course, that may include other sentient life forms on other worlds, if they exist). This is the universe where we use reason to make choices that affect who we are. What is the reason we have reason at all? We are free to make good or bad choices for us. Why? Animals only choose what is good for them according to the Laws of Nature. There are consequences to our human choices. Adam and Eve had the chance to make a choice for good or evil in the archetypal story of Genesis 1-2. God told them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good or evil or they would die. The snake (Satan) tempted Eve who then tempted Adam to eat of the fruit (sins of vanity and pride and greed). The consequences of sin is death. Romans 6:23[Full Chapter] “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So what restores us to our heritage?

Spiritual Universe — If the first two universes contain what St. Paul refers to as the World, then this last universe completes the first two and is the fulfillment of reality. This universe can be entered only by an act of free will. Also, it is by Faith alone that we can even make such as choice. Our consequences are we still have the effects of Original Sin (death, pain, injustice, false promises, temptations by Satan), but we are now adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We have the Resurrection of Christ with victory over death. We know how, as you read this, we can love others as Christ loves us.

Contemplative prayer puts us in touch with that whole universe that we cannot see, touch, hear, feel, or taste with the World but actually makes sense with the Spiritual Universe. The Christ Code, if you will, is to follow how he acted so that we can walk in his footsteps and avoid the minefield of sin and unbelief. All of this points to the whole spiritual universe being the opposite of what the world thinks is necessary for fulfillment. Christ points out that we must die to self to live life in the Spirit. Some call this the sign of contradiction or a polar reversal of the spiritual world. Contemplation is, using humility and silence with solitude, listening to what God is saying. This is profound listening, hearing what cannot be heard and seeing what cannot be seen. Remember! Without the Resurrection, the ultimate sign of contradiction foretold in the Old Testament, none of this makes any sense whatsoever.

PROFOUND LISTENING IN THREE UNIVERSES

Let’s use the words “profound listening” as seen in three universes.

  • Physical universe: This is the foundation where we live. Hearing is one of our five senses where we can react to our environment and hear language. Animals have their own language. This is good.
  • Mental universe: Listening is taking in signs and symbols (language, science, poetry) to discover meaning, how something is, why something is, and how it is constructed. This is good. On this level, humans alone exist and have the ability to choose what is good for them and choose what may be bad for them.
  • Spiritual universe: Free choice is needed to choose this universe. It is invisible and therefore folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. Profound listening is translating this contraction so that it makes sense. Profound listening picks up the language of God. And what is that? It is loving God with your whole heart and your whole mind, and your whole strength plus loving our neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:35ff) Contemplative prayer places you in the presence of the source of the way, the truth, and the life, and bids you to wait.

We have been profoundly blessed with the love of Christ.

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POPE FRANCIS ON PRAYER AND FASTING

Pope Francis on Fasting and Prayer

Here are some penitential practices for all year long.Pope Francis proposes these 15 simple acts of charity as concrete manifestations of love:

  1. SMILE. A Christian is always cheerful
  2. Say THANK YOU for little things (even if you don’t have to).
  3. Remind others how much you LOVE them.
  4. GREET with joy the persons you see every day.
  5. LISTEN to other people’s stories without prejudice, and with love.
  6. STOP to help. Pay attention to whoever needs you.
  7. Try to RAISE the spirits of people around you.
  8. CELEBRATE the qualities or success of others, thus avoiding envy or jealousy.
  9. SORT OUT the things you no longer use or need, and give them to those in need.
  10. Be ready to HELP when you are needed so that others may rest.
  11. GIVE CORRECTIONS with love, do not keep quiet out of fear.
  12. Maintain good relations with those around you.
  13. Keep clean the things you use in the house.
  14. HELP others overcome obstacles.
  15. CALL, and call on, your parents more often.

THE BEST FASTING:

  • Fast on offensive words and transmit only sweet and tender words
  • Fast on dissatisfaction and fill yourself with gratitude.
  • Fast on anger and fill yourself with meekness and patience.
  • Fast on pessimism and be filled with optimism
  • Fast on worries and be filled with confidence in God
  • Fast on laments and take pleasure in the simple things of life.
  • Fast on stress and fill yourself with prayer.
  • Fast on sadness and bitterness, and fill your heart with joy.
  • Fast on selfishness, and be filled with compassion for others.
  • Fast on unforgiveness and vendetta, and be filled with acts of reconciliation and forgiveness.
  • Fast on words and fill yourself with silence and readiness to listen to others.

If we all practice this style of fasting, our everyday will be filled with peace, joy, trust in each other, and life.

MY ANNIVERSARY OF FINAL PROFESSION AS A LAY CISTERCIAN: FIVE LESSONS THAT SHAPE MY LIFE

As I look back on my life, and that is a very long look indeed, I usually reflect on what is good and try to forget all those times (the majority of my life) where I made a fool out of myself or was outright full of myself. To list all those faults and failing would take a book of many chapters and quotes. I won’t bore you with all those details. I will, however, share with you one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5) that looked at the positive things I have learned and try to keep before my eyes each day, in keeping with my perpetual promises I made as a Lay Cistercian, my anniversary of final profession as a Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net . I share with you this profession of Faith just as I read it two years ago and as I try to live in on a daily basis until I passover to be with Christ.

FINAL PROMISES AS A LAY CISTERCIAN OF OUR LADY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MONASTERY (TRAPPIST), CONYERS, GEORGIA

I, Michael Francis Conrad, a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a community of Catholics living in the world, promise to strive for a daily conversion of life as my response to the love of God.

I commit myself to live in a spirit of contemplative prayer and sacrifice in obedience to God’s universal call to holiness, using daily Cistercian practices and charisms of simplicity, humility, obedience to God’s will, hospitality, and striving for conversion of life to move from self to God.

I give thanks to my wife, Young, and my daughter, Martha, for standing with me on my journey. I ask for prayers from the Monastic community of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and the Lay Cistercian community, to include the  Ecumenical and Auxiliary communities. I place myself in the hands of those already stand before the throne of the Lamb, including Holy Mary, Mother of God, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, the Seven Cistercian Martyrs of Our Lady of Atlas, Father Anthony Delisi and other deceased monks and Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and also Deacon Marcus Hepburn. Finally, I accept the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the constitutions and statues of the Strict Observance Cistercians as my guide for living the Gospel within the time I have remaining. Ut in Omnia Dei glorificatur.

FIVE LESSONS THAT HAVE SHAPED MY LIFE

Here are the five lessons that have shaped my life.

I. HAVE IN YOU THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS. This quote from Philippians 2:5 sums up my purpose in life and also the motivation that propels me forward to whatever awaits me when my life will change but not end. I use it as my Lectio Divina quote each and every day. I have tried to use is as far back as September 1962 (I don’t remember the day). It is the North on my compass, the reason for my trying to transform my life from my false self (seven deadly sins) to my true self (seven gifts of the Holy Spirit). It is the reason for my being here on earth for whatever time I have. It motivates me to want to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for the Lord to come by and grace me with His presence (God, of course, is everywhere). I can’t imagine what I would be without this North on my compass.

II. LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST LOVES YOU— I went from thinking that having in me the mind of Christ Jesus as meaning I must be in Church as much as I am the Church, the Body of Christ. The Church Universal are all those who have been signed by the blood of the Lamb, and all those whom God deems worthy to be in Heaven. Loving others as Christ loves us means that I don’g judge who goes to Heaven (a subtle form of idolatry) but worry that I am not worthy enough to be an adopted son of the Father.

III. CONTEMPLATION ENTERS THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST — Yes, God’s presence is everywhere, but I am talking about me making an conscious choice to place myself in the presence of Christ in a deliberate prayer. This is a spirituality of one Being, Christ who is both God and Human nature, being invited to have a picnic with me. It is my invitation to Christ to be present to me in a special way, one with no agenda, no hidden needs on my part. I am just want to be present to and with him. Yes, Christ is everywhere, but I am not. What I do in contemplation is sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and ask Christ to grace me with his presence. Even as I sit in silence and solitude before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic adoration, my prayer is for Jesus to have mercy on me for my lack of Faith and to wait until He wants to talk to me. I don’t want to presume on the mercy of God for me.

IV. TRANSFORMATION FROM SELF TO GOD— If my spiritual life is a room, have I cluttered it with so many useless values of the World, that Christ has no room. To make room, I must be humble to admit that I am in need of salvation each and every day of my life. Each day is a lifetime of trying to move from self to God. It is only due to God’s grace or energy that I can even move or transform myself. I have found Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict of particular help in identifying the tools for good works and a list of those attitudes and practices I must perform to move from self to God. Each day, I read Chapter 4 in total or in some part. My prayer for me is that I might become what I pray, moving from pride and idolatry of my false self to that of humility and obedience to the will of the Father.

V. THE PEACE OF CHRIST IN MY HEART — Loving others as Christ loves me has the effect of being one with not only Christ, but also the object of that love in those around me. This is not the peace that the world gives, as Scriptures point out. The Peace of Christ is the result of being in the presence of God in contemplation. The Joy of the Resurrection is the product from having in me the mind of Christ Jesus, without condition, open to the Holy Spirit in humility and obedience to whatever Jesus is telling me. Peace is not the absence of hostility but the presence of love, the real presence of Christ here before me just as he is in heaven sitting on the Throne of the Lamb of God. Faith alone, God’s own energy, enables me to be an adopted son of the Father. Church alone, the Body of Christ, allows me to love others as Christ loves me. It is letting your light shine before everyone so that “..they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” I am called to share that peace of Christ with those around me, those marked with the sign of salvation and those who have not yet accepted Christ. I am called to judge not the motives or hearts of others in the church and let God judge those outside it. This is the peace that is beyond all telling.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

WONDER IF….

As I sat musing the state of my world with the introduction of the Coronavirus, I kept wondering what would happen if certain scenarios played out. One such outcome is, this virus would mutate, become airborne, and kill millions of people, including myself. Such a doomsday picture is easily dismissed because I tend not to be a conspiracist, but it is very much a part of my thinking, which brings me to my daily Lectio Divina meditations. What happens as I try to contemplate Christ as I sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter, is very much informed by what happens around me. In no [particular order, here are some of my disjointed thoughts as I now contemplate Philippians 2:5, the only phrase I have used since 1961.

Wonder if there never was a God, no Trinity, no hope for us for the future, what would my world look like? How would I react? Gods would look like me, act like me, think like me. I would just try to lead a peaceful life and then die. That’s all folks! Happy are they who trust in the Lord.

Wonder if the Blessed Mother, ashamed because she found herself pregnant without having intercourse, humiliated before her family and relatives, open to public stoning for her shame, thought of her circumstance and decided to get an abortion? What would my world be without Jesus? What would be the center of my life? No Eucharist. No Resurrection. No Salvation. No Hope. No Holy Spirit. Happy are those hope in the Lord.

Wonder if there is no Resurrection of Christ from the dead to make us sons and daughters of the Father and heir to His kingdom? What would my world look like? No Eucharist. No Liturgy of the Hours. No Lectio Divina. Without Christ as living and true God, none of this make any sense. Happy are they who hear the word of God and keep it.

Luke 16 NRSVCE – The Parable of the Dishonest Manager The Rich Man and Lazarus 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.[g] The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.[h] 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
No Resurrection means what we are doing is a waste of time. Is it?

Wonder if there is no Real Presence in the Eucharist but it is just a symbol, a mental construct to help us think of Jesus, with no intrinsic power to heal, no life, no truth, no way to the Father? The real presence of Christ is a sign of contradiction. Ii doesn’t make sense to those without Faith, but to those with Faith, no explanation is needed. Blessed are those who believe that the words of Christ are true and let their good works shine before humans so that they can glorify our heavenly Father.

Wonder if there is no Devil, only the hallucinations of old men trying to frighten children with threats of sin and going to hell? No templations! No sin! Only my interpretation of good and evil and if someone does not agree, I kill them (Cain and Abel). There is no good but what I say it is. There is no evil but what I say. Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord.

Wonder if there was no Adam and Eve? We are just animals with instincts of self preservation and procreation. No love. No morality. No hope. We don’t know that we know. Life has a beginning and an end. No Jesus. No heaven. No way. No truth. No life. All creation bless the Lord for your words to us are light, and in this light we see life.

Wonder if there is no Lay Cistercians? No growing deeper in Christ Jesus. No praising the Father through the Son with the Holy Spirit. No contemplation. No loving others as Christ loved us.

In this Lenten time of penance and reparation for our sins of the past, we join in the passion and suffering of Christ as he, once again, works he way towards death, the death he would conquer by rising from the dead. It is due to Faith that we can even say Jesus is Lord. We must all die to self, a contradiction that is folly to the Pagans and a stumbling block to the Jews, in order to rise again and again with Christ.

How blessed we are through grace to be able to recognize that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs of the kingdom. We begin by making that kingdom real on this earth to prepare for living with the Mystery of Faith after we die. Death has no more sting, as we hear in the Exsultet for Easter Vigil. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzJGFIa6R80

Finally, wonder if God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to free us from physical death, show us how to love one another as Christ loved us, and live life using the tools for good works as found in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. How blessed are we to have heard the word of God and try to keep it with God’s grace. Alleluia.

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SeekING GOD AT COSTCO

Several days ago, I found myself looking at a very low tire pressure on my right front tire of my car. It looked like a slow leak. The next day, I went to Costco, Tallahassee, Florida, where I had purchased the tires and told them of the problem. They fixed it in about thirty to forty minutes. I found myself sitting on a bench in the tire department waiting for them to fix a slow leak. They found a screw in the tire but it would be thirty minutes before I could get my car.

Bored, with no magazines to read, I kept looking at the stacks of Micheline and B.F. Goodrich tires in rows on the stack before me. There was a strong smell of rubber. Glancing to the right, I saw three rows of batteries all displayed for customers. Faced with a long wait, I usually try for some form of lectio divina, based on my eight words, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). What a queer place to seek God, I thought. What could I possibly see at Costco to remind me of Christ, my center?

The tires I saw reminded me of how Faith wears out and must be maintained and even updated every so often. Faith is one but, unfortunately, I only last until I die in the hope of the Resurrection. The Sacrament of Penance is the check-up to see how my Faith is doing. Sin is a nail in my tire that may cause a slow leak. No wonder the Scriptures tell us that the wages of sin is death. Ever tried to drive a car with only three wheels?

The mechanic is Christ who stops by now and then to ask if everything is okay and to see if I need anything. If my battery is low (they only last so long), then I need a replacement. The battery of my spiritual life is Christ who gives me grace or His own energy to sustain me as I travel down the road towards my final destiny. Christ gives us our spiritual batteries at Baptism(no cost), along with a credit card. There is only one limitation to the card–I must love others as Christ loves us. Everything I do is contained on that card which I will present to Christ as a result of my stewardship on earth. Matthew 25.

Christ tells me that he is the map (the way, the truth and the life) but will not drive the car for me. That, I must do for myself (but he will sit in the front seat and be a passenger). “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.”

This is only a brief snippet of what I thought about in my Lectio meditation. In this very simple setting of the World, I managed to transform myself just a tiny bit from my false self to my true self, an adopted son of the Father.

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KERNELS OF FAITH

If Faith is the infinite storehouse of God’s goodness for us as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, then Belief is how we take the kernels of Faith and dispose them to those around us. For those who consciously seek God where they are, the “capacitas dei” or ability to hold Faith is a constant quest. I must decrease, He must increase. Using contemplative spirituality, we do that by practices that allow Christ to be in us. We put ourselves in a state of mind, or lifetime thinking for some, where we sit and wait for the Holy Spirit, through the real presence of Christ, to overshadow us as God did to the Blessed Mother. This is a conscious act, in keeping with our ability to reason and to make choices that have consequences for us. Faith is not a one time shot at grace and forgiveness of sins, but just the beginning of our lifetime struggle to have in each of us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

Our Faith must be informed by reason, not that we can ever completely know the mind of God, but we can know what we can know. Most of those who live in darkness (two universes of the physical and mental only) do not get the wisdom of God for us. What we do in our Lay Cistercian practices is to seek God’s mercy on a daily basis, always praying for God to have mercy on us, in need of daily Faith. I receive kernels or drips of Faith in my seeking God each day. To be exposed to the totality of who God is would fry my neurons for I am not created to be God, but, like the angels, to seek God in the short time span I have left.

Faith is like drinking concentrated orange juice, too strong to drink by itself, it needs the water of my Belief to water it down. This water is contained in my personal cup of salvation, one that Christ gave me at Baptism. I will present it to Christ when I die. He will look at the cup and see how full of grace it is. Grace only comes from God, belief is my assent to my overshadowing, my doing what Christ aaught us: love one another, as I have loved you. Every day, in every way, that is mindset that I try to maintain. Lay Cistercian practices help keep me focused on how much I need Christ each day just to maintain the grace in my cup. The Church, (the assembly of Faithful in heaven, those still on earth, and those awaiting purification), is a living, dynamic Body of Christ now, in each age. Church is a gathering of those who, suffering the effects of Original Sin, proclaim he death of the Lord until he comes. This gathering is one in centering themselves around Christ, Son of God, Savior; it is holy because Christ, the head is holy; it is catholic because it is not limited to any denomination or religion, but open to all who call upon the name of the Lord; it is apostolic because the teachings of Christ were handed on from the Apostles to allow this gathering in each age to love God with all their hearts, all their minds, and all their strength and their neighbor as themselves. (Matthew 22:36)

Kernels of Faith are contained in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. They are ratified by the Ecumenical Councils in each age, the Church Universal at work.What follows are some questions for you to answer in the silence of your heart.

  • If you fall into the duality trap (liberal vs. conservative) in Faith and Belief, what happens when the Pope, elected by the Holy Spirit, says something you think is betraying what you consider to be a dogma of the Faith, such as keeping the tradition of celibate men as priests? Do you stand on Faith or are you standing on J-ello?
  • On what do you fell back in times of uncertainty about all the laws of the church changing, laws, and practices that you have done from your youth, perhaps laws that you have abandoned long ago when you lost your Faith?
  • Is your Faith based on the Church or on Christ? One will get you to Heaven, one will not. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Church Universal, the living body of Christ, the Head, is not important. If Faith, which comes from God through Christ is important, it is important because it is the occasion for us to give glory to the Father. When we are baptized to newness of life, we are baptized into the Faith of the Church, the collective belief of those in heaven, those on earth still alive, and all those awaiting purification.
  • If you have lost your Faith, what have you lost? I asked a young woman this question several years ago (and I mean several), and she told me she did not think she had lost her faith but the Church has lost its Faith. When Christ told Peter that he was the Rock and on this rock he would build his Church, he did not say we would not wander down false paths in the future, he told him that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. When individuals become their own Church, they can make up anything they want and it will be correct. After all, they are god. We need the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to inspire reformers to reset our sights on Christ.
  • One of the mysteries of Faith is why Jesus entrusted his message of loving others, as he loves us to fragile and sinful people.

One of the charisms of what I have learned from Lay Cistercians is called “conversio morae” or conversion of life to become more like Christ. It is lifestyle change a polar shift in loving and doing because Christ first loved us.

Faith alone is needed for salvation but a dead Faith without the grace from Christ is like a barren fig tree. Belief alone will not get you to heaven any more than good works alone, without Faith, will. Faith is one side of the coin, belief is the other. Remember, both Faith and belief are not just for you, but the whole Church Universal giving praise, honor an glory to the Father through Christ in union with the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

ONE SOLITARY LIFE

I share with you something I have read and re-read over time. It is humbling.

“One Solitary Life

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years, He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.


This essay was adapted from a sermon by Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” © 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled “Arise Sir Knight!”). If you are interested, you can read the original version .

i have a problem

For the last several weeks, I have been experiencing some very unusual thoughts. I would not say they are bad thoughts, but just persistent. Let me share. For the last month, I have been waking up at night almost always about 2:30 a.m. I have the old man’s problem (I don’t know if old women have this or not) of going to the bathroom and getting back to sleep. That is not the problem I have. I had a problem in 2007 which was cardiac arrest (The Widow maker). That is not the problem I have. In 2014, I was diagnosed with CLL type Leukemia and received nine chemo treatments to flush out a football size mass on the outside of my liver. I am cancer free after five years. That, too, is not the problem I have.

Going back to waking up at 2:30 a.m., I found myself thinking of the center of my life and also the only Lectio Divina I have ever used. (Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5). What is strange is that I find myself always drawn to thoughts about Christ that I could use in my blog, the one you are reading. This very topic came to me this morning. I began to realize that I have been doing Lectio Divina so many times and with such frequency that I don’t even use the four stages of Lectio (Reading, Meditation, Prayer, and Contemplation.) Just this morning, I was sitting at the table around 10:00 a.m. waiting for the plumber to come and fix our toilet bowl, and I found myself thinking of my Lectio saying. This led to all sorts of ideas, two of which I am going to write down for possible books. The flush of ideas and wonderful thoughts is undiminshed over the last year or so. Is there such a thing as a human not having the ability to process the limitless grace he receives from the Holy Spirit? Well, that is my problem and I am most grateful to have it as a challenge for the future.

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SIMPLICITY of contemplation

One of the characteristics I learned about contemplation as practiced by the Cistercian monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) is that of simplicity. Like so many of the attributes that have influenced me, simplicity is one of those hidden gems that are right in front of me but hidden, due to my lack of awareness. Other attributes about seeking God each day where I am, are: balance, silence, solitude, repetition, consistency, When sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I try to use all of these attributes along with the charisms of humility and obedience to Christ.

  • Simplicity is seeking to love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.
  • Simplicity means not falling into the trap of thinking that all I have to do is pray, pray, pray, multiple times and those prayers will make me holy. This is keeping the letter of the law without the transformative power deep within each time we reach out to the Father with our minds and hearts. Simplicity is the awareness that I must pray as though everything depends upon God but work each day as though everything depends on me.
  • Simplicity is the skill needed to sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter and long for Christ to sit next to you. You don’t presuppose that God will sit down with you just because you asked Him to do so. That is pride.
  • Simplicity is being aware that life on earth must be converted to God time by the “conversio morae” of your life each day.
  • Simplicity of life means each day is its own lifetime. You have control of the now by the choices you make.
  • Simplicity is realizing that God is One, but that One contains all of reality in one moment, beyond space and time that we know.
  • Simplicity is Faith that the words of Our Lord are true, Hope that there is a Resurrection, and Love as a result of our helping others through good works.
  • Simplicity of lifestyle means THINGS are not important. Love is important.
  • Simplicity means you seek to abandon all trappings that would distract you from focusing only on having in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)
  • Simplicity is continuously evaluating the meaning of the World against the love of Christ.

Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given to you. I have found this sign of contradiction to be true.

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LINKING life’s lessons

Sometimes, thoughts trickle into my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) reflections from very unlikely places. I have noticed recently that my focus is interrupted by sources, like my wife asking me to take her to Publix or Trader Joe’s. I always take her, or anyone who asks, without hesitation and cheerfully (not saying I am too busy). In what seemed like a nanno second, I recalled the reason I take people where they want to go with never a whimper.

The year was either 1957 or 1958 (you can tell I am feeling my age of 79.7). I was attending St. Meinrad Seminary High School with about 250 other young aspirants to the Roman Catholic Priesthood. The place was St. Meinrad Archabbey and School, http://www.st.meinrad.edu and the occasion was the end of Summer semester. My parents, whom I remember as never complaining because they had to drive 70 miles from Vincennes, Indiana (my home) to St. Meinrad, Indiana, picked me up early one May morning. I had packed all my things and was more than eager to meet them and make the drive home. On the way home, I noticed that there was a new road over some recently dug strip mining countryside. What struck me was the road buckled up and down as well as from side to side, as the land settled from all that mining. We finally made it home. Whenever I come from a big institution like St. Meinrad to my home, and walk in the front door, I am struck at how tiny my home has become That last less than a day and then I adjust to reality. As soon as I entered the door of my home, I realized that I had left some of my clothes and other stuff in my downstairs locker at St. Meinrad. I remember being flush with embarrassment at having to ask my Dad if we could go back and get it. Without such as a deserved comment about my stupidity, he said, “Get in the car, you can practicing driving on the way to St. Meinrad. Let’s have some time together.” My immediate thought was, “What a good Dad I have! I promise that, if I ever get in this situation with another person, I will not seek to put them down but cheerfully take them where they want to go.”

I have never forgotten his life lesson, a transforming type of experience that continues to inform how I act towards others. As my thoughts progressed (remember, all of this happened in less than a second), other life events came to mind, one of which was my introduction to Lay Cistercian spirituality. Although I am a professed Lay Cistercian (five years of fidelity to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus), I will always be a novice at moving from self to God. I am grateful for all of the practices and charisms of the Cistercian spirituality which helps me focus. It is Christ, however, who gives the issue.

META THOUGHTS

All of us are defined by our choices we have made.

Choices we will make are informed by choices we have made.

Unlike other animals, we have both reason and the ability to choose. We learn what is good and bad for us.

Loving others as Christ loves us means we must try to have in ourselves the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

Heaven is all about linking ourselves with Christ, who is linked with all those who do God’s will.

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A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON WEALTH AND HAPPINESS

In a recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), the following thoughts emerged. I am still trying to decipher what it all means, but I wish you share it with you.

  • How many rooms do you need in your house?
  • How many cars do you need to drive?
  • How much money in the bank is enough?
  • How many vacations do you need to take to be happy?
  • Can bourbon make you feel better?
  • Do you have an addiction to food, alcohol, soft drinks, potato chips, candy (except chocolate), watching television, eating out, smoking, taking pain pills not prescribed, binging on vitamin pills, reading pornography, putting other people down who don’t believe like you do (whatever that is), wishing you had the wife of another person, wishing your wife would marry someone else, having no relationship with anyone other than yourself, making yourself god, telling falsehoods about people to build up yourself in their sight, having secret girlfriends or boyfriends your spouse does not know about, and having the psychopathology of the average?
  • Do you have a way to make all things new in your life?

These are waste products that come from living a life without dusting or cleaning out your spiritual life. Christ is the broom, but you must sweep your house to make it clean. For a hint, read Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

Christianity is about doing, doing Christ.

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THE TOWER OF BABEL rEDUX: the INEXPLICABLE race by our race toWARDS ignorance and self delusion

Where I am in my spiritual journey is not where I expected to be at this point in my life. The first part of my life (from birth to my profession as a Lay Cistercian at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), in Conyers, Georgia.) I might characterize as keeping the Laws of the Church. The better I keep the laws, the more I am like Christ. With my introduction to Cistercian spirituality, with its stress on personal prayer and contemplation using silence, solitude, work, prayer, in the context of community, I am slowing moving into a new beginning (that is quite a feat for a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit.) More and more, the word “abandonment to the will of Christ” trickles into my daily Lectio Divina devotions (Philippians 2:5). I say that because Philippians 2:5-12 speaks of abandonment in terms of emptying of self to fill it with something new. This is the new paradigm of my life, the all consuming fire in my heart which only grows in enlightenment and intensity when I sit quietly on a park bench in the dead of winter and get rid of all that the World says is important in relationships or through language. Abandonment to self to be able to have an increased capacity for Christ (capacitas dei) demands focus, sustainability, daily seeking God where I am, and fidelity to prayer and practices of Lay Cistercian spirituality.

The context of my life journey to seek God is my eighty years (so far) of struggling to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I am not there yet, nor do I ever expect to attain fulness of knowledge and love. Profound love for me comes only from placing myself in the presence of Christ and waiting for my friend to sit down next to be and just be. That being, far from just an object to be encountered one to another person, as Martin Buber states in his theory of being, I-Thou and I -It. http://www.angelfire.com/md2/timewarp/buber.html Contemplation is placing myself in a context where I can have an I-Thou relationship with the being of Christ. How can this happen? As with all mysteries of faith, my awareness is still unfolding, in process of becoming something about which I have no experiences, an abandonment of logic, words, human values of the World, all just to be in the presence of the Real Christ, the pearl of great price. Contemplation has morphed for me into an emptying of self each day to be able to fill up in me what is lacking. It is the ontic possibility of the manifestibility of all being encountered. My reflections about reality are now not formed by language, words, concepts, worldly values, the seven deadly sins, but simply by placing myself purposefully (prayer) in the presence of Being. Notice the upper case “B”?

THE PRESENCE OF BEING AND BEING PRESENT TO BEING

The implication of this approach, gradually revealed through time and patience, are that my being is in the presence of the center of all that is, The Supreme Being, or the person we call God. What happens when we do sit on a park bench in the dead of winter waiting for the Lord as sentinels wait for the dawn, to quote the Psalmist? I actually don’t know, since I am not sure of particulars, but I do get a sense of what it means from the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, highlighted in the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent. The Transfiguration passages are inserted for a reason, as are all the stories about Christ. This Gospel gives us a glimpse of Christ as he really is. Peter, James and John were overcome by fear when they saw this, as we will be when we gaze upon the face of Christ. We will never see the face of the Father because our human nature can not stand in the presence of God. Yet, we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs to his kingdom. What can this mean? Christ came to be our intercessor, our good will ambassador with the Father. I am beyond worrying about what all this means. I am content to sit in silence and solitude on a park bench in the dead of Winter and wait for Christ to sit next to me. (Yes, God is everywhere.)

What I think happens is, when I am in the presence of pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, pure service, Christ alone is my mediator, my mentor. My human nature absorbs energy from the greater nature, divine. No need for words at this deepest level of intimacy. Person to person, but with a difference. The one person is Christ, Son of God, Savior, and the other person is me, sinful, in need of God’s mercy, bound by time and space of the physical and mental universes, but at the same time, unlimited by Christ’s love and care for me. Reflect on the Transfiguration Moment.

Matthew 17 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) The Transfiguration 17 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I[a] will make three dwellings[b] here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved;[c] with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

THE TOWER OF BABEL: At the Root of Original Sin

What follows are my conclusions and reflections on reality as I see it now. Genesis 1-2 tells us about those deep, dark archetypes that lurk in the collective human consciousness down through the ages. When asking myself the question, “Why all the confusion of ideas in our days? Why the mess humans have made of environment, the freedom to choose, and human reasoning?” a clue might be found in Genesis 9:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel. After Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, there were a series of incidents in Scripture to identify how humans fared after the Fall. First Cain killed Abel, then there was Noah and the Flood, the Covenant with the People, the one people as descendents of Noah and finally, the great flood where God caused a confusion of tongues. Why are these particular stories written for generations to ponder?

All Scriptures are linked together, even if we don’t quite know how it fits together. Brother Michael O.C.S.O. told us in retreat a few years back that Scriptures are love letters from God. He chastises those who break the Law in the Old Testament but he always forgives and has mercy on the people. The Tower of Babel story might well fit the confusion and the self-righteousness of the individual with which we find ourselves in each age, but particularly in this age. The story points out that there is one people and one language but God Himself causes a diversity of tongues so that people could not finish building the city to the heavens. Don’t you find that strange that God doesn’t want humans to complete building the city of God? Like all mythic stories of the collective human consciousness, what is real is hidden behind ordinary, human experiences. The story of Babel could be viewed as the natural progression of cultures and evolution, the way humans spread out from the one seed, Adam and Eve, proliferating throughout the world. This might be true, but might there be a deeper meaning, a fatal flaw in human existence, a darker meaning to the movement of human reasoning and choice than is first perceived. Might this story be a clue to our own absurd obsession of building our own city of God instead of abandoning our wills and following the will of the Father?

In my Lectio Divina, one morning at 2:30 a.m. (yes, I dream my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I came up with the Tower of Babel story as being a perfect paradigm for what is happening today in the world around me. I thought about my being on my favorite park bench in the dead of winter and waiting for Christ to visit. It occured to me that this is like the Tower of Babel story, not just a fairy tale but one that has implications for my own contemplation grow from self to God. I thought about what language I am using to communicate with Christ as I wait. Quite naturally, English. God does speak English, doesn’t he? I want him to come so I can relinquish my responsibility to take up my own cross each day and abandon myself to do God’s will each day. I want to control the agenda so that, if I sit on the park bench and wait for Christ, I am sure he will come and talk to me. After all, he is everywhere and he said, “Come to me all you who are heavily burdened and I will refresh you.” Do you see what I am doing? I am speaking in a language where I control God. I pray, therefore God must respond. God speaks through me if I do good works. The Tower of Babel is the seduction of our mind and will to think that I can build a city of God in my image and likeness. Contemplation means I abandon all things to see Christ where I am and when I am. I use silence and solitude to set myself apart from the World so that I can be present to the source of pure love. Faith alone can allow me the energy to do this. My product is loving others as Christ loves us.

CONFUSION OF TONGUES IN MY REALITY

The more I think about it, the more I can identify those languages that I use in everyday living some of them leading to being one with Christ and others not so much. You may not notice it, but there are a multitude of languages spoken. Language is a set of words with specific meaning known to those who comprehend the assumptions behind those words. I only speak English and don’t consider myself an expert in that language. I like to write my thoughts down in English, but those who don’t speak the language don’t know what I am saying, even if they hear it. Remember Christ telling people that “seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear?” They knew the language that Christ used and the words but were not able to see deeper into the parable.

Here are some types of language:

  • Science has it own language. Within science, physics, chemistry, medicine, mathematics, and geometry, we learn about the physical universe and discover why something is and how it relates to us, eventually helping the race to become better. Scientific thinking is good and should be cultivated, but science is not the only language.
  • French, English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean cultures have their own and sometimes multiple dialects within them.
  • Each culture has its own language. Australian, Israeli, Arab.
  • Each Church has their own language and, what is more important, the assumptions behind the words. These are handed down in the heritage of the Faith family. You can say the word “God” and, even in English, ten different people will have ten different assumptions about it.
  • Christ gave us the way, the truth, and the life. The Body of Christ fumbles its way down the centuries of life trying to always place Christ at the center of reality. Some attempts are better than others.
  • Politics has it own language and set of assumptions.

THE LANGUAGE OF GOD

God doesn’t need a language in the same way he doesn’t need Faith. He is Faith. He is the language–pure love, and pure energy. We need help from Christ (divine and human nature) to show us how to love others as He has loved us. This is the language of contemplation, abandoning self with all the human trappings of fame, fortune, adulation, relationships, and honors for the good we do. God speaks simplicity, silence and solitude in the midst of the complexities of the world

One of the great challenges for me before I pass over to the next reality of heaven is, why is it so difficult for other languages to speak God? Why can’t the great scientists grasp the great mystery of being and are afraid or can’t look at the one place Steven Hawking could not look. Why? He is certainly intelligent enough. He did not speak the language.

THE THREE ARE ONE: The paradox of God.

Reality, in my view, is made up of three distinct universes, the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. Each of them is separate yet inseparable. Each of them contains a language separate from the other. The three are one (sound familiar?). The first two universes, in which we have our platform for discovering the purpose of life and, within that, our particular purpose, has the natural law as its default principle. We call that “The World” because humans begin to value those things that are good but also worship the golden calf of false gods. They make laws which other people follow. I live in this reality and The next reality

My own reflection on reality has led me to explore the language of God using different assumptions. This is what I have garnered from my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) about why so many people don’t see what seems obvious to those with Faith. At this point in my journey, I don’t care if you believe me or not. I do care that you explore the depths of your Faith with the tools of contemplation in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. Three dimensions of the language of God stand out for me as I seek God wherever I am.

  1. When you enter the spiritual universe (Baptism), you must choose to do so. This choice ratified the gifts of reason and freedom to choose either good or bad for you (Belief). When you are born of the World, you don’t choose your birth or your parents. If you just live in two universes (physical and mental) you may actually have a fulfilled life but miss the reason you are reading this blog.
  2. Faith alone can save you, but you must pray as though everything depends on God and work in carrying your daily cross as though everything depends on you (and Christ).
  3. In learning the language of God, realize that everything you believe and aspire to is opposite of what the World says is true. No wonder scientists do not have a clue about spirituality, they don’t speak the language. What is that language? Love one another as I have loved you. Think about that. In the spiritual world, the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s playground, everything is upside down, a paradox that can only be understood if you abandon yourself to the World and accept Christ as Lord and Master of the Universe. At a local Panera restaurant, a group of friends was commenting on how useless and fruitless it is to believe without any proof. I told them that I agreed with them that spirituality, and in particular, contemplative Lay Cistercian spirituality, did not make sense. One fellow about dropped his coffee. I went on to explain my notion of three distinct universes all coexisting together seamlessly, undetectable to those who only live in the physical and mental universes.

Have you ever heard of Fermat’s Last Theorem, supposedly unsolvable? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BSFyEIY2BY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiNcEguuFSA

If you look at this Youtube blog, you will gain some understanding of why the language of Mathematics is so exciting and valuable to finding out the make up of matter, time, and energy. The more we know about the physical universe, using the tools of the mental universe, the greater humans can discover who they are and what they will become. The problem comes when you introduce spirituality into the mix. The assumption is all universes must use the same language and measurements. All the assumptions of the physical universe and human investigation of what is and how it is are of the physical universe only.

My thinking leads me to think that Jesus came down to show us a third universe, one which would not be understood by those in the Old Testament or the New Testament upon to the present age. He could not describe it as it really is because humans were, and are still, incapable of knowing God as He truly is. We see God through Christ, the Son of the Father. St. Paul sees it as looking through a foggy glass. This spiritual universe is voluntary in keeping with reason and the ability to choose. The spiritual universe is unscientific. My view of the spiritual universe is that when God came to become human (Luke 1) there was a polar shift in time and space. Unlike the polar shifts that have happened to the Earth in times past, the shift is of the whole spiritual universe. Up becomes down, what is logical somehow is the opposite of what makes sense. This is the Christ Code, given to those who have gathered together in the Faith of the Universal Church. This code is not hidden, but is actually there for all to use, if they know how. The World doesn’t know about this code or how to use it. Upon Baptism we are given this code tattooed on our hearts. It is the sign of contradiction, the ultimate paradox that is the cross and the resurrection to new life that keeps reminding us that to gain our life, we must lose it, to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, we must serve others, to live life fully as a human, we must die to self to rise with Christ to claim our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. When people can’t agree on this or that about Christ, I just keep silent and marvel as the confusion of thoughts and tongues.

Before Christ, the World was the norm and Israel was the norm in learning how to love God. Keep the laws of God perfectly and I will be your God. The history of the Old Testament recounts the frustration that the Prophets had with a stiff-necked people who easily turned to stone idols. History records ten of the twelve tribes were assimilated into the general populace of Syria. This indicates, on a rather broad scale, how Israel needed to be whole again, once again with Twelve Tribes, and needing a champion to lead them to the New Jerusalem. Christ came to redeem not only Israel from its folly but to make it whole again. An indication of this is found in the story of the Eleven Apostles, the new tribes of the New Jerusalem. To be whole again, the Israel of God must be whole. The Messiah would be one to restore Israel to the way, with the truth, so they could have life and fulfill its destiny.

The Tower of Babel continues to be real and a stumbling block to each age. The confusion of tongues is not just about a particular language but, in an even deeper sense, a search for what is true. That search is made more difficult because of the confusion of words, but not only the words themselves, but our insistence that we have a right to our opinion and, of course, our opinion is right. Each person becomes a language, a stumbling block to what Christ wants to share with us about loving our neighbor. The big elephant in the room of this age is, everyone thinks they are god. To think otherwise, you must abandon yourself and accept the will of the Father and the humility of Christ. Philippians 2:5-12.

Acts 1 NRSVCE – The Promise of the Holy Spirit –

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place[g] in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

LOOSE ENDS

I discovered an even deeper meaning to Lectio Divina this morning. I got up early and went to feed my dog his cup of dog food, made my usual cup of Kona Roast coffee from Costco, popped in two pieces of whole wheat bread and waited. My dog, Tucker, sat dutifully at my feet looking up at me with those eyes that just begged for food. I went to the computer to begin writing (this very blog), eating my toast and drinking delicious black coffee. Concentrating on my writing, I payed little attention to Tucker but he just sat there looking at me with those eyes that pleaded for just a scrap of toast. Then it hit me. While trying to seek God wherever I am, I was seduced by my own needs for food and failed to see my dog’s plea. This situation is like Lectio Divina, in some respects. I am the dog and Christ is sitting at the computer of life (probably browsing ESPN or Fox News). I sit next to him in silence and solitude, looking mournfully at Christ with those eyes that long for just the scraps from his toast. This scenario is a great comparison to what happens in contemplation– all without words, heart to heart, longing for just one or two scraps from the bread of Heaven. Jesus doesn’t disappoint.

ACTIO

Pope Benedict XVI says that there is a fifth level to Lectio Divina, that of Actio or Do Something as a result of God sitting next to you sharing His Being.

https://www.conceptionabbey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/lectio-divina-card.pdf

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org/2018/06/28/lectio-divina-actio/

  • Realize that everytime you say a word as the World uses it, e.g. Peace, there are three levels of meaning.
    • What does it means in the physical world of all matter, time, space and energy (and you)? Peace means resonance not dissonance of being.
    • What does it mean in the mental world of ideas, language, scientific inquiry, poetry, and values? You live in the physical and mental universe because you are born. Here, peace means the lack of conflict or hostility.
    • What does it mean to the spiritual universe? You must have a reservation to get in and know how to use the tools to help you make sense out of the physical and mental universes. You must petition to get into this universe. Reservation is by Faith Only. St. Benedict, in his Chapter 4 of the Rule gives us some helps to maintain our Faith in the midst of the World (Original Sin). Contemplation is profound focus on Christ without words, without agenda, with Hope in the Resurrection, by moving from self to God. Peace as Christ gives it is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of lofe.

MY GOAL IS NOT AS YET ATTAINABLE BUT IT IS WITHIN SIGHT

Philippians 3 NRSVCE –

Pressing toward the Goal12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[g] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved,[h] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[i] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[j] call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.17 Brothers and sisters,[k] join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship[l] is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation[m] that it may be conformed to the body of his glory,[n] by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

Praise be the to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be, at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology

SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC: aRE YOU WASTING TIME JUST WAITING TO DIE?

Unless you have been hiding under a blanket for the last thirty years, you have probably heard of the New One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard’s view of leadership. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4VnMmSr0HM I like to think of this blog as the Sixty Second Catholic, the concentrated orange juice of contemplative spirituality. At Baptism, we receive God’s gift of Faith (concentrated orange juice). To make it happen in our hearts, we must add the waters of Baptism and the Holy Spirit to activate Faith. As good as Ken Blanchard’s books are, they won’t get us to Heaven. Faith alone with our good works will do that. (Matthew 25)

The topic is: Are You Just Waiting to Die? Here are some ideas, if this is you.

  • You did not ask to be born but you do have control of how you go out of this life.
  • Don’t worry about heaven or hell. Concentrate on loving Christ as Christ has loved us.
  • Spirituality is not about knowing God, but in knowing, loving, and serving him. (Faith without works is dead, but your works without Faith is idolatry.)
  • Get back with your Gathering (Church) and join ministries that visit the sick, bring Holy Communion to the shut ins and elderly.
  • If you don’t have these ministries, start just one. Visit the widows and widowers plus those too old to attend Eucharist. Make sure you pair up with another person. It is not by chance that Christ admonished his disciples to go out “in twos”. As the Christophers say, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
  • Avoid reacting to death as though it won’t come to pass, embrace it and help others in need.
  • Avoid passing the time until you die by watching television, doing Sudoku or reading all the books in your public library. Seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be given to you.
  • Join a spiritual group, such as Lay Cistercians (www.trappist.net), Lay Dominicans, Benedictine Oblates, Franciscan Third Order, and Lay Carmelites, just to name a few. These systems of spirituality will provide you with order, principles of practice, contemplative prayer opportunities, and movement away from self to God. You can’t possibly imagine how joyful that seeming contradiction.
  • Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. Every day is important. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
  • If you did nothing but try to become what St. Benedict challenges his monks to do (540 AD), then you would become what you pray. If you become what you pray, you have purpose to your life from now until the end, real purpose, not treasures that rust and moth consumes.
  • Remember, Heaven is God’s playground. If you want to go there you must follow His rules. The only rule is: love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.
  • Do any of these suggestions and you place yourself on a park bench in the dead of winter and long to have Christ say to you, “Come blessed of my Father, because you have been faithful over a few things, I will put you in charge of many more. Come, share your Lord’s joy.”
  • Faith comes only from God, God’s own energy. Without Christ to be our transformer, our neurons and memories would be fried. Humans cannot look at the face of Christ, but Christ is our brother, making us adopted sons and daughters of the Father with the energy of the Holy Spirit.
  • Abandon your trust in the World. Don’t trust in princes, as the psalmist says. Trust in God alone. Make the leap of Faith from everything depending on you and how much you understand about God to saying, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Hope is all we have that the words of Christ to us are true. If there is no Resurrection, then the World has won and God has lost the battle of our hearts and minds.
  • Don’t try to prove anything about the Bible to yourself or others. Seek to be present to Christ in silence and solitude, seeking to decrease while praying that Christ will grace you with His real presence.
  • Once in your lifetime, make a retreat at a MONASTERY. http://www.trappist.net, http://www.st.meinrad.edu
  • The foolishness of God is wiser than all the knowledge of all the human minds in the history of our race. Your reward? Not money. Not promotion. Not 77 virgins who wait on pleasing you. Not being the most popular or most read politician. Not being a retired physician without portfolio now. Not being a service member with no framework of meaning. Not being a prisoner who is devoid of Hope in the future. What happens right now, as you are retired, and you think life is over. There is nothing left to live for. There is no Hope.
  • With Faith from God, you will find the purpose of why you are here. With Love from Christ, you will find the purpose of why He came just to tell you how to get to Heaven. With Hope from the Holy Spirit, you abandon all that is of the World and embrace Faith, Hope and Love, and the greatest of these is Love.
  • If you just must binge watch television, look at all ten of these thoughts by Bishop Barron. This is good Lenten penance (besides reading this blog.)
  • https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/bishop-barrons-10-most-popular-homilies/25863/

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology

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