THE DEVIL’S HANDBOOK: Lesson on how to seduce humans.

This blog is the first series on the premise that if the Devil had a handbook to train demons in how to seduce the faithful, what would be in it. Of course, I made all of this up. Still, the content comes from my Lectio Divina meditations, and the examples are those I experienced during my ongoing struggle with the Great Prevaricator.

If you have not read The Screwtape Letters, I will encourage you to listen to the audiobook now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuPcCq0VtWo

This segment is about the top ten people that demons should focus on to knock them off of their centers and so begin the slippery slope of sin. I am writing this as though Satan is talking to his Legions, giving them instructions on what to do and not do.

My Dear Purveyors of Evil:

Today’s lesson is essential because I will show you whom to seduce. All humans are not worthy of your time.

LESSON ONE: WHO IS A DEMON, AND THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DEMONS. I write this for you who are demon spirits. We don’t have human physical bodies or live in the world. We do have reason and freedom to choose. You have chosen me; I have not chosen you. You live by my rules, not your own. These rules are:

Hatred is to be preferred over love; don’t let anyone tell you what to do except me;

Get anyone with the cross mark on their forehead to cross over to the darkness of sin.

Sin is good; it fosters the anarchy of the individual as a god. Remember, your sign is that of the beast.

Flee from God and those who call him Master, Savior, Rabbi, or Lord. You have one Lord, the Lord of the Earth, and that is me. I am a jealous being who does not suffer fools gladly.

I commend you on your selection for those who are seduced by their own choice. You are humans who, not knowing what you choose, have joined me in hatred of God and those he calls friends.

The third type of demon is a human who has not chosen me or even a clue that they are doing my will but thinks they are correct that there is God or Church. They do my will without even realizing that they have been possessed. They do speak good demon nonetheless.

LESSON TWO: DISCERN — I will list some people you should stay away from because they are already corrupted and not worth your interest or energy.

  • Movie Stars in general, specifically those who think they can speak for me in trying to push hatred and anarchy of free choice. They lead lives that seem glamorous but inside are a bag of dead bones. If we leave them alone, they sometimes do a much better job than us. Let the painter paint.
  • Politicians
  • Amoral thinkers
  • Atheists and Agnostics, Pagans and Druids, Witches and Warlocks. Leave them alone.
  • False prophets and preachers of prosperity gospel who think money is their god. It is. They don’t need us.
  • Anyone who calls the innocent bad names makes fun of them because they hold fast to teachings that we hate.
  • Secular humanists propagate their egos by thinking that being fully human means moral anarchy. They don’t need us; we need them.
  • Pedophile clergymen and women of all denominations and professions. Once they are hooked and addicted to porn, sexual anarchy, and thinking that all morality is based on what they think is true, you got them and don’t need to waste your time. Of course, they may convert and repent, but the odds are in our favor.
  • Teenagers who slough off the hard way favor a sloth-filled life geared to their appetites and whims. Like teenagers who drink to drunkenness because it is fun, they think they are strong but are pusillanimous. But don’t know it. They have no foundation for morality and are already in our camp.
  • Public School teachers who advocate no moral compass or
  • Scientists lock themselves out of the reality of the invisible and think that science has the power to help them move to the next level of evolution. Scientific thinking is not evil, but those who fail to open themselves to the totality of all people we need to avoid.
  • Global leaders who advocate taking over other counties just because they can are not worth your time.
  • Political, racial, and religious fractional leadership seeks to dominate rather than serve their constituents by dividing humans. They help us more than you know.

LESSON THREE: Know your enemy. This is a list that I want you to pin on your mirror in the morning so that you never forget the enemy. These are those who have been marked with the sign of the cross on their foreheads, so you can know your enemy.

  • The Pope. Seduce him, and you get a promotion to Demon IV class.
  • Sincere and innocent priests, nuns, and laity who try to love each other.
  • Monks and nuns in monasteries live out the Ordinary’s Martyrdom daily.
  • Lay Cistercians and other Lay Institutes.
  • Anyone who claims Jesus is Lord.
  • The sick and dying are weak and vulnerable.
  • Those who allow their Faith to grow weeds from lack of care.

LESSON FOUR: JOB DESCRIPTION OF A DEMON MEMBER OF THE FAMILY OF SATAN

If you want to be a member of my family destined for the profound darkness of evil, then you must do the following.

  • Give up your free will to choose good or bad in favor of what my will is.
  • Worship me as the god of the Kingdom of Earth and your master. I am the Great Attractor on earth and the Accuser of all Humans.
  • Cultivate a hatred of God and all those who seek to do his will.
  • Latch on to one human at a time before you move to the next one. Completely dominate their willpower to bend to my will to hate others as I hate you.
  • You must hate God daily with all your strength, all your mind, and all your heart.
  • Learn to hate what is good about humans and always seek to destroy their Faith in God.
  • You must love to punish those in hell whom you have seduced with mental and physical torments.
  • You have no power to enter a person unless they ask or act as evil. If someone invites you into their inner self, seek to enter meekly, then destroy everything inside that is good or inclined to love anyone.

LESSON FIVE: Specific tactics to separate humans from what they think is good.

Never mention the name of God (I do it only with utter contempt). Ugh!

Always suggest that religion is against pro-choice and abortion and, therefore, somehow evil.

Don’t let anyone tell you what to do (except my will, for I am the truth).

“Religion is the opium of the people,” you should whisper to the weak in mind and heart.

Always whisper softly in the ears of humans that if God really cared about them, He would not have allowed the pain to hurt little children and abuse them with pedophile predators.

Encourage those who think they are strong to rape and pillage others. You can tell these people from their center. They placed the pleasure of their sexual organs as their center and only wished to excite their free will.

More latter…

FIVE MUST-SEE CATHOLIC MOVIES

These are my five favorite movies. Your list might be different.

The Left Hand of God starring Humphrey Bogart

The Keys of the Kingdom starring Gregory Peck

A Man for All Seasons starring Paul Scoffield

Of Gods and Men (Seven Cistercians Martyrs)

The Shoes of the Fisherman starring Anthony Quinn

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE CATHOLIC: The neverending story.

My thoughts this morning are a reflection of, not only what I am, but more importantly, who I have and will become if I continue to profess my Faith through the Catholic approach to spirituality. I write this, not to apologize (defend) or try to prove my Church is better than your Church (denomination), but to lay out my ideas so that I might grow deeper into the Mysterium Fidei (the great Mystery of Faith). This blog is about me and who I hope to become Forever.

My guess is that all humans, towards the end of their lives, try to reflect on a lifetime of making choices plus living out their consequences. I know it is true of me. More and more, I reflect on my end time (and why not, I can throw a rock and hit 80+ years). Having the advantage of looking back on my life’s accomplishments, I realize six great, important truths that only wisdom of age can tease out of the mundane activities from which I have emerged. They may not be the ones you might expect to find. They are:

ONE REALITY HAS THREE DISTINCT UNIVERSES: EACH HAS ITS OWN LANGUAGE AND REQUIREMENTS

Most recently, as I have become more and more aware of what it means for me to move from self to God, I use the three universe test to reflect on reality from the viewpoint of a Lay Cistercian. This way of reasoning is the result of my attempt to fit all reality into the mold of science/philosophy/religion. I wrote about this way that I reflect on the reality in a recent blog entitled, “I have heart problems.” You can read it here. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?post_type=post&jetpack-copy=8108

WHY DO HUMANS POSSESS TWO ATTRIBUTES OTHER LIVING THINGS DO NOT? THEY HAVE REASON FOR A REASON, AND THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE. EVERYTHING, IN REALITY, HAS A BEGINNING AND AN END, WITH ONE EXCEPTION.

When humans try to unscramble the seemingly contradictory signs of science, medicine, philosophy, and literature, there can be many points of view about what is real and what is not. I am astonished that we can actually ask the question at all.

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: LOVE IS A PERSON

Who better to tell us who God is than God? Moses received a description of who God was on Mount Horeb. God communicates through Jesus, our Mediator, and Universal Translator. People wrote down what he said and did so his followers would have a way, the truth, and live a life that would take them to heaven, beginning right now. We are adopted sons and daughters when we respond to Faith with our consent, Yes. It reconfirms the commitment of Mary to being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Love is a person, not an attribute. Read John 20:30-31.

THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL AS THE NEW JERUSALEM IN EACH AGE

Being Catholic is like the 50,000-foot level of spirituality with the Holy Father linking us with St. Peter the Apostle. This level is the universal Church, the living Body of Christ with Christ Himself as its Head in Heaven. Those in heaven with God are called the Church Triumphant; those on earth who proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes are called Church Militant; those awaiting purification and a second chance to profess their belief that Jesus is the Son of God, Savior are the Church Purgative.

Other levels are the 5,000-foot level or diocese, each with a bishop with links to the Apostles. This is the level of collective gathering. The next is the 500-foot level which is the parish, with an ordained priest linked to the Apostles. Last is me, at the 5-foot level. It is on this level that I have been accepted as a Lay Cistercian by the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist). http://www.trappist.net

All levels are the body of Christ. All levels are one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, as we say in the Creed. I belong to Christ as an adopted son.

The New Jerusalem is the fulfillment of what Christ came to show us. Each age must take up the challenge of taking up their cross, dying to self to rise again with Christ, to love one another as Christ has loved us.

In all of this, I do not presume to judge others as to their beliefs. God is the judge of the individual soul. I try to see where we can agree and pray together, recognizing that there is but one truth, one Lord, one Baptism.

SAYINGS

Just because your road is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road.

All the rowers in the world won’t help you if your boat has a hole in it.

Mud thrown is ground lost.

You won’t break the commandment but they might break you.

The Scriptures are not to be read and memorized but rather lived and practiced.

Don’t dig a hole so big you cannot climb out of it.

SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

One of the things I like about the Catholic Church is its vulnerability, tripping over the wrong pathways only to reconnect with the Holy Spirit and renew itself. It is a history of how the Church is Holy because Christ is Holy, but each Pope is a sinful person who sometimes makes wrong choices. A Church without the battle scars of bouts with Satan and even its own members is not a Church worth trusting. I celebrate this humanity, knowing that the Holy Spirit, our Second Advocate, will not let the gates of Hell prevail.

Having said all that, the Holy Spirit selected the Pope to lead us. Be careful that your pride doesn’t trip up your Faith. My Faith never has been, nor ever will be, in any Pope, Church, or Bishop. It is in Christ Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who overshadowed the Pope, Church, Bishop, and you.

Here is a listing of Popes, the good, the bad, and the ugly. They are from http://www.newadvent.org. My questions for you are at the end of this Canon.

“See also POPEPAPAL ELECTIONSELECTION OF THE POPE.

  1. St. Peter (32-67)
  2. St. Linus (67-76)
  3. St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)
  4. St. Clement I (88-97)
  5. St. Evaristus (97-105)
  6. St. Alexander I (105-115)
  7. St. Sixtus I (115-125) Also called Xystus I
  8. St. Telesphorus (125-136)
  9. St. Hyginus (136-140)
  10. St. Pius I (140-155)
  11. St. Anicetus (155-166)
  12. St. Soter (166-175)
  13. St. Eleutherius (175-189)
  14. St. Victor I (189-199)
  15. St. Zephyrinus (199-217)
  16. St. Callistus I (217-22) Callistus and the following three popes were opposed by St. Hippolytusantipope (217-236)
  17. St. Urban I (222-30)
  18. St. Pontian (230-35)
  19. St. Anterus (235-36)
  20. St. Fabian (236-50)
  21. St. Cornelius (251-53) Opposed by Novatianantipope (251)
  22. St. Lucius I (253-54)
  23. St. Stephen I (254-257)
  24. St. Sixtus II (257-258)
  25. St. Dionysius (260-268)
  26. St. Felix I (269-274)
  27. St. Eutychian (275-283)
  28. St. Caius (283-296) Also called Gaius
  29. St. Marcellinus (296-304)
  30. St. Marcellus I (308-309)
  31. St. Eusebius (309 or 310)
  32. St. Miltiades (311-14)
  33. St. Sylvester I (314-35)
  34. St. Marcus (336)
  35. St. Julius I (337-52)
  36. Liberius (352-66) Opposed by Felix IIantipope (355-365)
  37. St. Damasus I (366-84) Opposed by Ursicinus, antipope (366-367)
  38. St. Siricius (384-99)
  39. St. Anastasius I (399-401)
  40. St. Innocent I (401-17)
  41. St. Zosimus (417-18)
  42. St. Boniface I (418-22) Opposed by Eulalius, antipope (418-419)
  43. St. Celestine I (422-32)
  44. St. Sixtus III (432-40)
  45. St. Leo I (the Great) (440-61)
  46. St. Hilarius (461-68)
  47. St. Simplicius (468-83)
  48. St. Felix III (II) (483-92)
  49. St. Gelasius I (492-96)
  50. Anastasius II (496-98)
  51. St. Symmachus (498-514) Opposed by Laurentius, antipope (498-501)
  52. St. Hormisdas (514-23)
  53. St. John I (523-26)
  54. St. Felix IV (III) (526-30)
  55. Boniface II (530-32) Opposed by Dioscorusantipope (530)
  56. John II (533-35)
  57. St. Agapetus I (535-36) Also called Agapitus I
  58. St. Silverius (536-37)
  59. Vigilius (537-55)
  60. Pelagius I (556-61)
  61. John III (561-74)
  62. Benedict I (575-79)
  63. Pelagius II (579-90)
  64. St. Gregory I (the Great) (590-604)
  65. Sabinian (604-606)
  66. Boniface III (607)
  67. St. Boniface IV (608-15)
  68. St. Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) (615-18)
  69. Boniface V (619-25)
  70. Honorius I (625-38)
  71. Severinus (640)
  72. John IV (640-42)
  73. Theodore I (642-49)
  74. St. Martin I (649-55)
  75. St. Eugene I (655-57)
  76. St. Vitalian (657-72)
  77. Adeodatus (II) (672-76)
  78. Donus (676-78)
  79. St. Agatho (678-81)
  80. St. Leo II (682-83)
  81. St. Benedict II (684-85)
  82. John V (685-86)
  83. Conon (686-87)
  84. St. Sergius I (687-701) Opposed by Theodore and Paschal, antipopes (687)
  85. John VI (701-05)
  86. John VII (705-07)
  87. Sisinnius (708)
  88. Constantine (708-15)
  89. St. Gregory II (715-31)
  90. St. Gregory III (731-41)
  91. St. Zachary (741-52) Stephen II followed Zachary, but because he died before being consecrated, modern lists omit him
  92. Stephen II (III) (752-57)
  93. St. Paul I (757-67)
  94. Stephen III (IV) (767-72) Opposed by Constantine II (767) and Philip (768), antipopes (767)
  95. Adrian I (772-95)
  96. St. Leo III (795-816)
  97. Stephen IV (V) (816-17)
  98. St. Paschal I (817-24)
  99. Eugene II (824-27)
  100. Valentine (827)
  101. Gregory IV (827-44)
  102. Sergius II (844-47) Opposed by John, antipope
  103. St. Leo IV (847-55)
  104. Benedict III (855-58) Opposed by Anastasiusantipope (855)
  105. St. Nicholas I (the Great) (858-67)
  106. Adrian II (867-72)
  107. John VIII (872-82)
  108. Marinus I (882-84)
  109. St. Adrian III (884-85)
  110. Stephen V (VI) (885-91)
  111. Formosus (891-96)
  112. Boniface VI (896)
  113. Stephen VI (VII) (896-97)
  114. Romanus (897)
  115. Theodore II (897)
  116. John IX (898-900)
  117. Benedict IV (900-03)
  118. Leo V (903) Opposed by Christopher, antipope (903-904)
  119. Sergius III (904-11)
  120. Anastasius III (911-13)
  121. Lando (913-14)
  122. John X (914-28)
  123. Leo VI (928)
  124. Stephen VIII (929-31)
  125. John XI (931-35)
  126. Leo VII (936-39)
  127. Stephen IX (939-42)
  128. Marinus II (942-46)
  129. Agapetus II (946-55)
  130. John XII (955-63)
  131. Leo VIII (963-64)
  132. Benedict V (964)
  133. John XIII (965-72)
  134. Benedict VI (973-74)
  135. Benedict VII (974-83) Benedict and John XIV were opposed by Boniface VIIantipope (974; 984-985)
  136. John XIV (983-84)
  137. John XV (985-96)
  138. Gregory V (996-99) Opposed by John XVIantipope (997-998)
  139. Sylvester II (999-1003)
  140. John XVII (1003)
  141. John XVIII (1003-09)
  142. Sergius IV (1009-12)
  143. Benedict VIII (1012-24) Opposed by Gregoryantipope (1012)
  144. John XIX (1024-32)
  145. Benedict IX (1032-45) He appears on this list three separate times, because he was twice deposed and restored
  146. Sylvester III (1045) Considered by some to be an antipope
  147. Benedict IX (1045)
  148. Gregory VI (1045-46)
  149. Clement II (1046-47)
  150. Benedict IX (1047-48)
  151. Damasus II (1048)
  152. St. Leo IX (1049-54)
  153. Victor II (1055-57)
  154. Stephen X (1057-58)
  155. Nicholas II (1058-61) Opposed by Benedict Xantipope (1058)
  156. Alexander II (1061-73) Opposed by Honorius IIantipope (1061-1072)
  157. St. Gregory VII (1073-85) Gregory and the following three popes were opposed by Guibert (“Clement III”)antipope (1080-1100)
  158. Blessed Victor III (1086-87)
  159. Blessed Urban II (1088-99)
  160. Paschal II (1099-1118) Opposed by Theodoric (1100), Aleric (1102) and Maginulf (“Sylvester IV”, 1105-1111), antipopes (1100)
  161. Gelasius II (1118-19) Opposed by Burdin (“Gregory VIII”)antipope (1118)
  162. Callistus II (1119-24)
  163. Honorius II (1124-30) Opposed by Celestine II, antipope (1124)
  164. Innocent II (1130-43) Opposed by Anacletus II (1130-1138) and Gregory Conti (“Victor IV”) (1138), antipopes (1138)
  165. Celestine II (1143-44)
  166. Lucius II (1144-45)
  167. Blessed Eugene III (1145-53)
  168. Anastasius IV (1153-54)
  169. Adrian IV (1154-59)
  170. Alexander III (1159-81) Opposed by Octavius (“Victor IV”) (1159-1164), Pascal III (1165-1168), Callistus III (1168-1177) and Innocent III (1178-1180), antipopes
  171. Lucius III (1181-85)
  172. Urban III (1185-87)
  173. Gregory VIII (1187)
  174. Clement III (1187-91)
  175. Celestine III (1191-98)
  176. Innocent III (1198-1216)
  177. Honorius III (1216-27)
  178. Gregory IX (1227-41)
  179. Celestine IV (1241)
  180. Innocent IV (1243-54)
  181. Alexander IV (1254-61)
  182. Urban IV (1261-64)
  183. Clement IV (1265-68)
  184. Blessed Gregory X (1271-76)
  185. Blessed Innocent V (1276)
  186. Adrian V (1276)
  187. John XXI (1276-77)
  188. Nicholas III (1277-80)
  189. Martin IV (1281-85)
  190. Honorius IV (1285-87)
  191. Nicholas IV (1288-92)
  192. St. Celestine V (1294)
  193. Boniface VIII (1294-1303)
  194. Blessed Benedict XI (1303-04)
  195. Clement V (1305-14)
  196. John XXII (1316-34) Opposed by Nicholas V, antipope (1328-1330)
  197. Benedict XII (1334-42)
  198. Clement VI (1342-52)
  199. Innocent VI (1352-62)
  200. Blessed Urban V (1362-70)
  201. Gregory XI (1370-78)
  202. Urban VI (1378-89) Opposed by Robert of Geneva (“Clement VII”)antipope (1378-1394)
  203. Boniface IX (1389-1404) Opposed by Robert of Geneva (“Clement VII”) (1378-1394), Pedro de Luna (“Benedict XIII”) (1394-1417) and Baldassare Cossa (“John XXIII”) (1400-1415), antipopes
  204. Innocent VII (1404-06) Opposed by Pedro de Luna (“Benedict XIII”) (1394-1417) and Baldassare Cossa (“John XXIII”) (1400-1415), antipopes
  205. Gregory XII (1406-15) Opposed by Pedro de Luna (“Benedict XIII”) (1394-1417), Baldassare Cossa (“John XXIII”) (1400-1415), and Pietro Philarghi (“Alexander V”) (1409-1410), antipopes
  206. Martin V (1417-31)
  207. Eugene IV (1431-47) Opposed by Amadeus of Savoy (“Felix V”)antipope (1439-1449)
  208. Nicholas V (1447-55)
  209. Callistus III (1455-58)
  210. Pius II (1458-64)
  211. Paul II (1464-71)
  212. Sixtus IV (1471-84)
  213. Innocent VIII (1484-92)
  214. Alexander VI (1492-1503)
  215. Pius III (1503)
  216. Julius II (1503-13)
  217. Leo X (1513-21)
  218. Adrian VI (1522-23)
  219. Clement VII (1523-34)
  220. Paul III (1534-49)
  221. Julius III (1550-55)
  222. Marcellus II (1555)
  223. Paul IV (1555-59)
  224. Pius IV (1559-65)
  225. St. Pius V (1566-72)
  226. Gregory XIII (1572-85)
  227. Sixtus V (1585-90)
  228. Urban VII (1590)
  229. Gregory XIV (1590-91)
  230. Innocent IX (1591)
  231. Clement VIII (1592-1605)
  232. Leo XI (1605)
  233. Paul V (1605-21)
  234. Gregory XV (1621-23)
  235. Urban VIII (1623-44)
  236. Innocent X (1644-55)
  237. Alexander VII (1655-67)
  238. Clement IX (1667-69)
  239. Clement X (1670-76)
  240. Blessed Innocent XI (1676-89)
  241. Alexander VIII (1689-91)
  242. Innocent XII (1691-1700)
  243. Clement XI (1700-21)
  244. Innocent XIII (1721-24)
  245. Benedict XIII (1724-30)
  246. Clement XII (1730-40)
  247. Benedict XIV (1740-58)
  248. Clement XIII (1758-69)
  249. Clement XIV (1769-74)
  250. Pius VI (1775-99)
  251. Pius VII (1800-23)
  252. Leo XII (1823-29)
  253. Pius VIII (1829-30)
  254. Gregory XVI (1831-46)
  255. Blessed Pius IX (1846-78)
  256. Leo XIII (1878-1903)
  257. St. Pius X (1903-14)
  258. Benedict XV (1914-22) Biographies of Benedict XV and his successors will be added at a later date
  259. Pius XI (1922-39)
  260. Pius XII (1939-58)
  261. St. John XXIII (1958-63)
  262. Paul VI (1963-78)
  263. John Paul I (1978)
  264. St. John Paul II (1978-2005)
  265. Benedict XVI (2005-2013)
  266. Francis (2013—)

About this page

APA citation. The List of Popes. (1911). In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved October 1, 2022 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm

MLA citation. “The List of Popes.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 1 Oct. 2022 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm&gt;.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at newadvent.org. Regrettably, I can’t reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.”

WHAT FOLLOWS ARE THE QUESTIONS THAT I ASKED MYSELF. You might ask them of yourself, also.

  1. Notice that the first 58 Popes are martyrs for the Faith. What Faith is that? Does it change from Pope to the next pope, or is there an unbroken line from Pentecost to now?
  2. All Popes are fallible, sinful people, but ones selected by the Holy Spirit to continue the heritage of Christ down through the centuries.
  3. All Popes must be the servant of the servants of God.
  4. My Faith has never been, nor will be, in any Pope, Church, or Bishop. It is, however, in Christ Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who overshadowed the Pope, Church, Bishop, and you.
  5. The Pope has primacy of honor above the Apostles, which means his job is to safeguard the truth, allow the Holy Spirit to flourish through the Councils and Magisterium, and atone for the sins of the Church by reparation throughout history.
  6. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. The Catholic Church has twenty-three rites, one of which is the Roman Rite. He is the Patriarch of Rome, no higher or lower in importance than other Patriarchs, except by Primacy of Peter. The Pope speaks for the Catholic and Apostolic, the One and Holy Church militant on earth. Christ is the head of the Church, not the Pope. Christ gave Peter primacy of honor to help us keep His commandments, to love one another as He loved us.
  7. Some Popes led us off the path of Christ as our center, but the Holy Spirit always brought us back to the center again and again. These are the battle scars of a Church, not at all perfect but sinful, yet Holy because of the death and Resurrection of Jesus, our head.

Do you know of any other group of people with an unbroken lineage (fraught with controversy sometimes) other than the list or Canon of Popes?

MAGISTER NOSTER PART I: TEN LESSONS JESUS GIVES YOUNG CHRISTIANS TO FOCUS ON HOW TO GET TO HEAVEN

I. The -s-s-s-serpent s-s-s-seduces the Innocents when you least expect it. You won’t even see it coming. Be on guard.

What a great version of S-s-s-s-satan, and I love Bob Fosse’s choreography.

TIP: Be careful what you place at your center; this is your God. Be on guard, for Satan is like a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” Christ’s temptations in the desert were attempts to seduce Him to make the Devil his center. He tries that with us each day.

II. Avoid making rock stars and movie stars (and politicians) your role models for getting to Heaven. As a Catholic, you have chosen the hard way on earth to discover what it means to be fully human. All religious teachings revolve around The Christ Principle (the wheel’s hub). If you are not one of the spokes, you will have a long walk in life.

Tip: It is not without purpose that you were signed with the cross at your Baptism. You won’t go to Heaven (on earth) or later on without work. Those with the indelible mark of the cross on their foreheads are in for a bumpy ride in the world. If your religion is easy or you are easily bored, you probably are at the train station watching the train leave rather than being on it.

III. As you move forward in your life and try to figure out what is good for you or what makes you less human, you will come across many people to try to tell you, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “Taste and see how good the Lord is; happy are those who take refuge in Him.” Always seek to keep your wineskins new by seeking God daily. New wine needs to have new skins. You are the new skins when your heart is next to the heart of Christ in silence and solitude. It takes work to believe. Faith is the energy of God in each of us.

Tip: Jesus is our model. He took the difficult way (being crucified and put to death for his beliefs). This is your path also. You must put to death your dependence on the world and embrace the opposite because you are a son or daughter of the Father. Your destiny is Heaven, even as you continue to live on earth.

IV. Learn to recognize that the world you live in and from which you seek meaning is the opposite of the kingdom of Heaven. If all you think it means to be Catholic is to follow the rules and go to Church on Sunday, you don’t even know what you don’t know. There is only one rule: love others as Christ loved us. The reason for a Church (the collection of those who tried to do that with their whole mind, their whole heart, and all their strength plus love their neighbor as themselves) is to help you NOW, not to be seduced by the vain and empty promises of the secular world. Ironically, it is only when you die to yourself and bring Christ into your heart as you would your best friend that you can hope to be fully human as nature intended. That makes absolutely no sense. The folly of God is wiser than all the wisdom of all humans who ever lived.

TIP: Spirituality in the Catholic Church is not for the faint of heart. It is work and demands you do something daily so that the grass of your life won’t get too high and you lose control of yourself. Christ won’t cut this grass for you, but He will help you, like Simon of Cyrene helped him carry his cross. 24/7, Christ is there on the park bench waiting for you to sit down and be in His presence. You might ask, how is it that you know how to do this? How is it that you do not?

V. It is only with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Only with the heart can one see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. –The Little Prince.
Your life is an iceberg. Some of it is above water, but most are hidden from view. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life to use your full potential as a human being to sustain you until you get to Heaven.

TIP: As one chosen by God to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father (Faith), your destiny is not of this world. To get there, you have to live in a world of mental and moral corruption and walk in the minefields of human relativism and secularism (you are God). None of this makes sense unless you turn everything upside down and think the opposite of what the world says is meaningful. Scriptures are not an academic exercise to prove God’s existence as much as a “How to” book on where to step into the minefield of life and not get destroyed. Like an iceberg, what is most real about humanity and your life as a human is not just in what you can see but in what is true visibly AND invisibly. Don’t be hoodwinked by the Devil. You have all the help you need to get to Heaven (your destiny as fully human).

VI. Original Sin makes you oldie and moldy. As we paddle down the river of time, two things happen automatically. We get older, and we gradually deteriorate. This is consistent with the corruption of all matter. Included are your thoughts that will corrupt back to their default state unless you make all things new again and again. This is the corruption of matter, both physical and mental universes. You are going to die. When you are Baptized and carry the mark of the cross, you have been marked as an adopted son or daughter when the Angel of Death passes over you at death. You can’t buy that at any store, but you can use the helps Christ has to sustain you with his energy. Christ saves all humans from their natural evolution–death, to become an heir of the Kingdom of Heaven. Without you invoking the Christ Principle, it makes no sense to the world.

TIP: Life can sometimes make no sense at all. I have found that I must be in it for the long haul. If there is no key to overfit the six locks that prevent us from being fully human, I remain a hostage to my daily ups and downs (my emotions). The Holy Spirit gives us the right questions and answers to unlocking the treasure chest of what life is all about. There are six questions to ask and answer in order. Once you have answers to all the questions comes the big problem. How do you know if each of them is true or not? What is the template with the correct answers? Applied to these six questions, you know what is true, what the way is or not, and what life is authentic. The world, good as it may seem, will not give you the correct answers because it does not have the power to lift you up to the next level of your evolution, intelligent progression.

Here is the Divine Equation. It is called The Divine Equation because it is a way for you to discover who you are as a human living in this space and in this particular time. This does not prove God’s existence nor anything about The Church. The Divine part is due to God giving Christ the right questions and answers and the Holy Spirit helping you with the homework. Six padlocks need to be opened by you in the correct sequence.

  • What is the purpose of all life?
  • What is the purpose of your life within this purpose of all life?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How do I love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die; now what?

Once you open these six locks, you can open the treasure chest. Contained in it is the key to making all things new, to allow all things, in reality, to fit together. You must insert it in the lock of your heart to open yourself to the presence of Christ waiting within. This is the Christ Principle that makes life worth living because you know and believe where you are headed fulfills your humanity as nature intended.

VII. Don’t get caught loitering before the Mirror of Erisad. Look at this YouTube from a Harry Potter movie.

Don’t loiter too long in front of the Mirror of Erised…or else.

This YouTube from a Harry Potter movie is one of my favorites to show how there is a reality out there that is harsh and unforgiving, the one in which we must live, then there is another reality that is fiction, made up by our fantasy. This view is what we would like it to be. As one marked with the cross, your challenge is to know the difference and to choose what is right over what is easy. You must struggle against the lure of the world to do the easy thing, put pleasure as your center, let no one tell you what to believe or do, to relegate God to a fairy tale or the Easter Bunny. You must choose not to sit before the Mirror of Erided or end up being seduced by the allure to make love into a pleasure factory. Don’t get tricked by the Devil into thinking that pleasure is evil. It is not. What is evil is placing pleasure alone as your center, the purpose for why you exist. God’s cautions (Ten Commandments) show us that confident human choices harm our nature and destiny as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Throughout your life, you still get to choose what makes you most human daily. Sometimes we get it right; sometimes, we miss the mark (sin).

TIP: That pull you feel in the pit of your stomach is the struggle between doing what you think is morally correct and what you actually do. Hollywood and YouTube are not a reasonable basis for your moral thinking (knowledge of what is good or evil). Satan uses the weak mind and heart to seduce you into thinking that the cross is irrelevant. It isn’t relevant if you follow the wrong crowd. My dad said: Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you if you will make it through the gauntlet of false gods. Your life is not a game like Mastercraft. It is lit rally life and death. Wake up a d realize that you are in a cosmic battle for what it means to be human as your nature intended. If you live in a world in front of the Mirror of Erisad, you may lose your perspective and live in a fairy tale land.

VIII. What is the stench of sin? How can you smell sin? Think about it. Our senses tell us about our environment, so our minds pick up signals (languages) to communicate ideas to our bodies. Sin doesn’t smell, does it? Let’s use the Rule of Threes to find out.

The Rule of Threes is a mental construct I devised to help me separate one reality into three distinct dimensions or universes.

The first universe is the physical one, the one which is the basis of all life. This is the visible universe. This is the visible universe. Matter, time, energy, gases, and chemical elements all are at this level, as well as all living things, including humans.

The second universe exists simultaneously and on top of the physical one. In this universe, only humans live. We have something the physical universe does not have, the ability to reason or know what we know, plus choices that raise us higher than the rest of living things. This is the visible and invisible universe beg. What we can see is above the surface, but what is accurate but cannot be seen is much more significant and invisible.

The third universe is the product of the physical and mental universe, the reason we are here on earth for even a short time. It is the spiritual universe. This universe can only be entered by choice. Reason alone can’t see it because it is invisible. Our reason tells us that it is accurate. The characteristic of this universe is that it defines who we are as the result of our intelligent progression, but more than that. It does not exist in time and space, nor has anything that humans can hang onto as landmarks. It is the opposite of the physical and mental universes yet provides closure to the Divine Equation, which seeks to discover what it means to be fully human as nature intended. Unlike human thinking, Jesus had to become one of us to teach us how to make it through the minefield of life without being blown up. (Philippians 2:5). This is why Jesus is the Magister Noster (Our Master, Our Teacher), to lead us out of the confusion of human nature and original sin to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through Faith(we deserve none of this but are grateful).

Sin, meaning we went down the wrong path to discover what it means to be fully human, is said to have died as its product or wages. In the physical universe, matter and the body are corrupt. We decay and putrify if we die, returning back to the dust. In the mental universe, sin doesn’t smell if you have a wrong idea about what God wills, but it causes the death of your spiritual universe. This is the smell of pride and coveting a neighbor’s wife and goods. If you are Baptized, you live with two identities, that in the physical and mental universes, and another one, as an adopted son or daughter of the Father. A war or struggle is going on between these two identities. The Devil tempts you that your spiritual self is just a fairy tale like Santa Claus. Fighting this feeling is uncomfortable, and we shun any pain in favor of what is easy. Christ comes to show us that life is not fair or accessible nor without struggle. We have all the helps we need to survive, but sin still smells as it causes death in our hearts if we don’t continue to eat the food of life (Eucharist) and get rid of the bad choices (Reconciliation).

TIP: The Gentle Mastery of Christ.

28* “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest.

29* p Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

IX. You must face the one place humans are afraid to go. A great challenge to humans is to try to figure out their purpose in life. You can spend your whole life placing their or that at your center but fail to discover what is real. God gives us both the questions and the answers in many ways; through his Scriptures; through the teaching magisterium of the Church that burns away all false prophets and false centers; through being a Lay Cistercian (in my case); and through a pang of hunger to love Christ and find fulfillment for our humanity as nature intended (before the Fall in Genesis). Like everything else, you must learn how to do this. Being Catholic is inconvenient and causes you to go against the pull of original sin, which whispers in our ears, “Don’t tell me what to do.”

A contemplative approach to life is to embrace the Divine Equation and try to solve six challenging questions with the correct answers. These answers do not come from human reasoning or anything inside us. Ironically, it is only inside me that I find the answers to these questions. To do that, I just use the insights of The Christ Principle, which states I must die to my sinful and false self and put on Christ to be able to see that solving this Divine Equation takes know-how. I must do the opposite of what the world proposes as purpose or meaning. I must prefer nothing to the love of Christ in my heart. Here are some reasons why you would NOT want to be a Catholic.

TIP:

  • That they ask you to die each day to yourself to rise to new life in Christ Jesus.
  • That they ask you to love one another as Christ loved us.
  • That they ask you to love God with your whole heart, whole mind, and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.
  • That they ask you, when people calumniate and make false statements, do not return evil for evil, but return evil with good.
  • You should be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit and overflow so that people may see your good works and give glory to our heavenly Father.
  • They ask you to grow in the capacity of God each day in silence and solitude.
  • That they ask you to forgive those who persecute you and love those who hate you.
  • That they ask you to believe that the words of Christ are as valid today as when he spoke them.
  • They ask you to give glory to the Father, through, with, and in Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
  • That they ask you to convert your sinful self each day through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • That they ask you to sit quietly on a park bench in the middle of winter with the heart of Christ next to yours and just be fully human as your nature intended.
  • That you should do nothing more than to seek God each day in whatever comes your way or whoever comes your way with no judgments.
  • They ask you not to fall for the sham of thinking that pleasure alone is at the center of your life. It is the opposite. It is the cross at your center which is tattooed on your heart. You must carry your burdens each day as life presents itself. Just because your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road.
  • They ask you to repent and reflect on your sins with penance throughout your lifetime.
  • They ask you to have mercy on others as Christ has mercy on you.
  • That you should pray in the silence of your room (Matthew 6.5) in secret (contemplative prayer) and make no demands on God.
  • You should remember that the first step of humility is to fear the Lord.
  • You should not worship false gods of the world, the first and foremost being yourself.
  • That you should do penance for your sins and read the seven penitential psalms with genuine sorry for offending God.
  • That you should not prevaricate and speak falsely of others.
  • That you should not let the sun go down on your anger.
  • You should do unto others as you want them to do unto you.
  • That you should come to believe in the words of Christ as Messiah. (John 20:30–31)
  • You should not worship false idols such as money, fame, fortune, adulation, false pride, or thinking that you and your thinking are better than others.
  • That they ask you to give up what seems righteous to the world but which is the opposite for those in the kingdom of Heaven.
  • That they ask that in all things, you glorify God.
  • That they ask you to watch out for the Devil goes about seeking whom he may devour, especially me.
  • They ask you not to place the world’s riches as your center but instead place there God’s riches. Only the rich get to Heaven, but it is with God’s riches, not material things.
  • They ask you to have Faith, Hope, and Love and listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit with the ear of your heart.
  • That, even if there is no god, no higher source, nobody from whom we have a DNA, doing these things would allow us to reach the highest potential of our humanity as intended by our nature.
  • That, in the end, we have Faith so that we can have Hope in the resurrection, and so live now in the love of God (not the world), and serve others as Christ has served us.
  • Who wants to be a member of that? I would sell every THING I own to be in the presence of Christ. There is no other way to approach the Father than through Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • You and I don’t deserve any of these insights, energy sources outside ourselves, and knowledge of how to get to Heaven each day. Heaven begins NOW, each day, but so does Hell. My Faith helps me see the differences and choose wisely.

X. JOIN A SCHOOL OF LOVE

You may not know it, but there is a School of Love out there whose sole purpose is to place you in the presence of Christ so that you can move from your false self to your true self. This is not the Catholic Church Universal, your diocesan membership, or even the local gathering of believers in your parish.

There are many opportunities that take you one step (actually unlimited steps) deeper in your relationship with Christ and help you actualize those characteristics you just read in the IX characteristics above. The Lay Institutes and Oblates follow a certain set of disciplines to grow Christ in your heart.

I have selected a Lay Cistercian approach to my core spirituality to help my descent into the depths of myself, where I fear to look. I use the practices of Cistercians and their charisms to go where I could not venture by myself. These ways are the way mentioned by Jesus. http://www.trappist.org; http://www.trappist.net.

Some, but not all such ways have, as their basis, the Rule of St. Benedict. https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/ Any of these ways to “…have in you the mind of Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:5) are to help me with discipline, focus, techniques to move deeper into the Christ Principle (capacitas dei) and convert my life from my sinful self (false self) to my true self. Here is the bad news. I have to die to myself to rise with Christ in my spirit each day. This may lead the pusillanimous (faint of heart and Faith) to drop out of what Christ challenges us to be. As a young believer, I can remember being very impatient with the Church because I wanted to be perfect and was not. The older I got, the more I realized that this boredom with the sameness, ritual, with discipline is the default in my spirituality and what I might fight against to keep myself centered on Christ each day.

The Lay Cistercian School of Love is a discipline (disciple comes from this root) that I embrace to keep my focus on The Christ Principle. My human self wants instant results and no inconvenience to my attempts to reach it. My attention span is less than a minute unless I use Lay Cistercian practices to help me prolong my focus so that I can receive energy from the Holy Spirit which informs me of how all of this fits together.

In my religion, Christ tells me to take up my cross daily. Do you know how heavy your cross is? You probably don’t have the right cross if it is light, like balsam wood. This is the martyrdom of the ordinary, struggling to keep Christ at the center of my life, fighting the Devil who wants to supplant hatred for love, anger for peace, and pride for humility. If you fall victim to his wiles, you will do nothing, or fall away from the way, the truth, and the life, because it is too difficult.

TIPS:

  • Don’t wait for someone to ask you to join a School of Love. “Ask and you will receive, seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you.”
  • Discern if you are called to be a Lay Cistercian. Don’t let the fact that you are young keep you from discovering God’s riches for you as heirs of the kingdom of Heaven and his sons or daughters. Heaven begins now. If you found something very valuable, would you not push hard to obtain it and not let anything stop you? I would, and I did. http://www.trappist.org; http://www.trappist.net. You can join a virtual group.
  • Remember that each day it takes work to carry that cross of yours. Your cross is not my cross; Christ’s cross is not mine; I have the help of Jesus to lift me up and those with whom I share my Faith.
  • The School of Love exists for those bold enough to claim it.

uiodg

THE WONDER I FEEL IN THE PRESENCE OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

Sometimes words fail to capture what is real about how I feel. Here are some expressions of love for Christ through the Holy Spirit.

I am nothing in the presence of the nothingness of God.

Christ is my center, The Christ Principle.

I have called you friends. I am an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.

Waiting on Christ to come to me, only to realize that it is I who is late.
Can you drink the cup that I drink?
Be still and “listen with the ear of your heart.”

FOUR LEVELS OF CHURCH: Keep my commands

Disclaimer: What follows is not authorized by Cistercians, Lay Cistercians, or Roman Catholic Church but is solely the opinion of a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit.

During one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Phil 2:5), I asked what Christ did to ensure the continuity of his mission, giving honor and glory to the Father through the Son.

Knowing full well the eccentricities of the human condition called Original Sin, Jesus entrusted his mission to the Apostles through the Holy Spirit, giving them one command to love one another as He loved us. Read John 15. The Apostles entrusted it to each age. The Holy Spirit did not descend upon just one Apostle, Peter, but on all of them and the other disciples in the room.

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me, you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become[c] my disciples. As the Father has loved me, I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[d] any longer because the servant[e] does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so you may love one another.

THE PARADIGM OF LEADERSHIP: JESUS HANDS DOWN HIS HERITAGE, THE CHURCH: We don’t live past seventy unless we are fortunate. How do you ensure that your heritage is passed on to the next generations? For humans, we have children to ensure our progeny and pass on our genes. Animals and plants do it automatically. It is the way of nature. Jesus is not different from us in that he also passed on his heritage. Notice that he did not, but could have, passed on his genes. Why not? I am not sure of the answer other than his kingdom was not of this world. Our zeal to leave what is most important to our family or business is endemic to humans. Jesus passed on his heritage to those close to him. He entrusted his mission to his followers, with Peter as its trustee. But Jesus did more. His heritage to the Church was not a book, not a series of rules to follow, not a bank account with money to spend on expansion. He left Himself. He left each of us at every age. The Church is holy; people in the Church are sinful, are tempted to offer incense to the Emperor, and are doubtful about how to move forward. Enter the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and beyond.

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

13 Now, when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah,[c] the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in Heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter,[d] and on this rock[e] I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was[f] the Messiah.[

You just read Jesus handing off the baton to the next generation, although Peter does not seem to fully realize what is happening. This is Jesus not just giving his followers money or fame or fortune as their heritage but that they have authority to build his Church, one that is not limited to only Jews, one that proclaims that he is the Messiah, one that has the authority of Heaven to bind and loose on earth, one where one person as a leader is the paradigm of leadership, one based on mercy not sacrifice. This is the paradigm of one person representing the many, as in Christ and his Body. Throughout our history, from the beginning, one person became the visible leader of the community with followers. That model is present at all levels of the Church; you will read below. This should be evident in any Church down through the centuries.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE  PARADIGM

  • Jesus never left a book but singled out twelve to be Apostles to restore the concept of the twelve tribes of Israel, ten of whom were assimilated into the North.
  • Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament by moving sacrifices of animals to live the Law in people’s hearts and stressing that mercy is essential.
  • Jesus is the Messiah, one who is both divine and human, the one who is Lord, with Apostles as inheritors of the mission., tasked with handing down Christ’s message to subsequent ages.
  • Jesus wanted his disciples to make his commands and teachings actual in each age.
  • Jesus selected twelve of the most unlikely persons as pillars of his New Jerusalem. Of all of the twelve, Peter was the one I would never have selected.
  • Jesus wanted me (and each of you, individually) to experience the upper room, the Eucharist at the Last Supper, the encounter with the woman at the well, the passion, death, and the Resurrection. Christ wanted a way to be present to you just as He was to the Twelve. The Church is that way, that truth, and indeed that life. Not the building or a set of prescriptions to follow (although those are important). He wanted your heart to be next to His Heart, to hear them both beating as one. 

LEVEL ONE:  There is such a thing as the Church Universal, composed of all the faithful in Heaven, those who still struggle on earth (militant), and those awaiting purification (Purgatory). We call that the mystical Body of Christ. The following is from New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, and Mystical Body of Christ. http://www.newadvent.org  The doctrine may be summarized as follows:

  • “The members of the Church are bound together by a supernatural life communicated to them by Christ through the sacraments (John 15:5). Christ is the center and source of life to Whom all are united and Who endows each one with gifts fitting him for his position in the Body (John 15:7-12). These graces, through which each is equipped for his work, form it into an organized whole, whose parts are knit together as though by a system of ligaments and joints (John 15:16Colossians 2:19).
  • Through them, too, the Church has its growth and increase, growing in extension as it spreads through the world and intensively as the individual Christian develops in himself the likeness of Christ (John 15:13-15).
  • In virtue of this union, the Church is the fulness or complement (pleroma) of Christ (Ephesians 1:23). It forms one whole with Him, and the Apostle even speaks of the Church as “Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).
  • This union between head and members is conserved and nourished by the Holy Eucharist. Through this sacrament, our incorporation into the Body of Christ is outwardly symbolized and inwardly actualized; “We being many are one bread, one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).”

CHARACTERISTICS OF LEVEL ONE:

  • This is the most universal level of the Church, the “Big Picture,” where the ancient concept of “extra ecclesia, nulla salus” applies. This saying recognizes that “through Christ alone” is their salvation, and all there is after death in the Kingdom of Heaven are the assemblies of believers. 
  • The four signs of Christ’s Church.
    •        It is the sense of the Universal Church that we can call the Church of Christ holy, one of the four marks of the Church Universal (one, holy, catholic, and apostolic).
    • We can call this Church Universal at this level one because we all live at this level, connected through our Baptism and the Holy Spirit.
    • Similarly, we can call this level of Church apostolic because the Church handed on to those who follow them the essentials of what it means to be Catholic.
    • We can call this level catholic because, even if people don’t accept Christ as the Son of God, Savior, make up their own religion, or even deny God ever existed, they are all redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. The Church becomes all those in Heaven who stand before the Throne of the Lamb, those who still run the race for the prize here on earth, and those who await purification.
  • Each of the four levels of the Church is linked together in knowledge, love, and service to one another.
  • Fundamental teaching: love one another as I have loved you. John 15.
  • One leader represents all members worldwide as Christ. That person is not Christ but one to whom Christ gives authority to bind and loose. Who is that?
  • When I say I am Catholic, this is the level at which I speak.
  • The sign of contradiction in the Church Universal: There is diversity in the unity, continuity in the apostolicity, sinfulness in the holiness, and individuality in its catholicity. The Mystery of Faith.

DIVERSITY IN UNITY

On this level of Church Universal, as it evolved from the Apostles going out to various parts of the world and St. Paul’s missionary outreach to the Gentiles, there are many ways the Gospels were applied in liturgy, governance, doctrines, and prayer. These are called rites, for lack of a better way to describe them. They are all united under the apostolic head of Peter, open to all mankind, and linked with Christ, the Head of the Body of Christ. Rather than take ten pages or more to describe all these various rites, I will cite my sources, and you look them up. What a rich heritage we have. Don’t take it for granted.

HOLY AMID ORIGINAL SIN

One of the conundrums of what happened after the Holy Spirit entered the spirits of the Apostles is how fumbling, fueding, jealous, envious, lustful, and prideful humans could lead the Church. I had to clarify that when I speak of the Church Universal as Holy, I mean those also in Heaven, those awaiting purification, and those on earth NOW. Again, the sign of contradiction comes into view. It doesn’t make sense. The Church Universal is Holy because Christ, our Head of the Body, is Holy, the Holy Spirit is Holy, and God the Father is Holy. Jesus was like us in all things but sin. There is no one outside of Jesus who is without sin, the one exception being Mary, who was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (who is Holy). The rest of us must use the Sacrament of Reconciliation, personal petitions for mercy, as we do in Eucharist and Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule to examine our conscience. No one! No one is without sin, and everyone is in daily need of conversation and mercy from self to God.

APOSTOLIC IN THE NOW

When I was in my late forties, a young woman approached me at a religious convention and asked what religion I was. I said, “I was not anything right then but was formerly Roman Catholic.” She told me that the Roman Catholic church leaders did not create their Church until 313 AD, the Edict of Milan, and before that, it was the Apostolic Church, which she said she follows. Of course, she did not believe in Apostolic succession or had ever heard of the writings of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, the history of the Western or Eastern rites and their histories, the evolution of art about the Sacred, the communion of saints. Wow! I was looking at the progression of the Church forward to now; she was looking at the regression of the Church, skipping from the Now to Apostolic without sensing the violence it does to reality.

The Catholic Church is sometimes derided because it is too human. It is too human, replete with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as it wobbles through centuries, down paths that lead to false promises only to renew itself through its Saints to get back on the path of righteousness. You can tell a Gathering of Believers by looking at their battle scars. 

CATHOLIC AND INDIVIDUAL

One of the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation is that each person becomes their own head of their religion. They are the pope, the doctrinal interpreter of truth, and the way to skew history to fit their principles. I say this to point out that Church is not an individual but rather Christ is the head of the Body of Christ. You are baptized into the Faith of the Church when baptized with water and the spirit. Individuals are the bricks in the roadway, the stones in the wall, and the cells in the Body, but they are not the Body. When you are born, you come into the world as an individual, but you must have a mother and Father create you. When you die, your family does not die, you do, and you will be judged according to your works and how well you loved others.

MY REFLECTIONS

The need for humans to belong to something, anything of value, goes back to the time of primitive humans. Belonging is one of those human characteristics developed with human reasoning. To be sure, animals need to belong, but we all come from one source of life and have held those characteristics throughout the centuries. When someone asks me what religion I am, I answer, “I belong to the Catholic Church.” That may have a different meaning for me than for the person asking the question. That difference is contained in the many assumptions we have about language based on our education, upbringing, and experiences in life. Here are some reflections of mine when I say “catholic.”

When I say, “I am Catholic,” I speak of this level, one in unity with apostolic continuity, holy in seeking God but sinful with individual sins. As St. Benedict says in Chapter 4 of his Rule, “To put one’s hope in God. 42. To attribute to God, and not to self, whatever good one sees in oneself. 43. But to recognize always that the evil is one’s own doing, and to impute it to oneself.” Individually, all of us but Christ and His mother are sinless of us. No exceptions. There are no individuals as Church, only gatherings of individuals who, in humility and obedience to Christ’s directives, seek God daily through our Scripture and Tradition.

  • When I say, “I am Roman Catholic,” I mean I belong to the Church Universal, Roman Rite.
  • When I say, “I belong to the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee,” I am also a member of the Church Universal, practicing the Roman Rite, and am a Lay Cistercian.”
  • When I say, “I am a Lay Cistercian, professed,” I mean that I belong to the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery and have made my Final Profession before the abbot, Dom Augustine, OCSO. I am also a member of the Church Universal and belong to the Roman Rite.
  • Churches can have Faith as well as individuals. When I say, “I belong to Good Shepherd parish, Tallahassee, Florida,” it means I belong to a parish community of Faith. Simultaneously, I also belong to the Church Universal, the Roman Rite of that Church, the diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, and am a Lay Cistercian of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Trappist Monastery in Georgia. Did you get that word, “simultaneous”? All four levels are one in Holiness, Oneness, Apostolicity, and Catholicity, just as there is only One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism.

LEVEL TWO: This level is the local Church, sometimes called the assembly of the faithful. The early communities did not have formal churches but assembly places to meet, such as catacombs, someone’s house, or hidden resources. These churches were not named for people but for their geographical area, much like today. Paul writes to them, such as Hebrews (Jews), Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and so on.

CHARACTERISTICS OF LEVEL TWO:

Christ is the head; we are the Body. After centuries of morphing from local communities of believers, such as those geographic areas for whom St.  Paul wrote his letters, we have the earth made up of dioceses, or geographical areas, with a bishop, priests, deacons, and now religious orders of men and woman, plus lay ministries. Each geographical area has episcopos (leader, teacher) and presbyters (priests), and also deacons (spiritual service to the members).

  • Each level of the Church is linked in knowledge, love, and service to one another as priest, prophet, and king.
  • Fundamental teaching: love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:37)
  • One leader of a geographical area or religious community represents all members as Christ. Cistercian monks and nuns have an abbot or abbess as the representative of Christ for the community. Dioceses have a bishop as head of the community of believers.
  • The Bishop is a teacher, guardian of orthodoxy, protector of the Scriptures, has the power to bind and loose, and presider over the Presbyterate and Body of Christ within his area. The Bishop received power from one who wears the shoes of the fisherman, head of the Church Universal. It is not they who have chosen to be Bishop, but Christ has chosen them.

MY REFLECTIONS

What links us together is the invisible web of Faith from now back through all the centuries. What is true never changes. What changes in each age is each of us. We come, we go, but Christ remains ONE forever, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

LEVEL THREE:  INTENSE COMMUNITIES OF FAITH From ancient times, there is a level of Church that is unique to the Church Universal, i.e., religious communities of men and women who follow the directive of Christ to leave Father and mother, sell what you have and give it to the poor and come follow him. These ancient forms of spirituality are not better than or worse than anything in the Level Two church. It is unique. These are communities whose purpose is the total or part-time dedication to serving Christ through various ministries, e.g., schools, universities, hospitals, Catholic Charities, contemplative, and hermits, to name a few. Look up the Catholic Almanac 2016.

Lay Cistercians are one such movement, affiliated with a monastery, living their lives according to Cistercian practices and charisms to seek God through silence and solitude, officially recognized by the Church Universal as having constitutions and by-laws. Lay Cistercians are a new movement started in the 1980s at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, and Nigeria. Cistercians are those who follow the constitutions and interpretations of the Rule of St. Benedict as expressed by Strict Order Cistercians. https://cistercianfamily.org/documents/ I now belong to Levels One through Four. All are one in doctrine and practice, with Christ as their center,

CHARACTERISTICS OF LEVEL THREE: The exciting thing about this level of Church is intensity and exclusivity in the community context.

This level is not just about individuals, although individuals make up all those in this community. It is about the mutual choice of the vocation to grow a step deeper in moving from self to Christ. Here are some of the characteristics:

This happens amid a community of Faith. There are hundreds of religious and lay organizations in the Church Universal, each with a specific ministry or mission. You may have heard of some, and some are quite obscure. It points to the diversity of ways to have Christ as your center and live out that love in the world. Usually, they live together in a monastery or convent but may be dispersed worldwide to fulfill their desire to seek God.

Look up some of the religious communities in the Catholic Universal Church tradition. http://www.translationdirectory.com/articles/article2296.php

LEVEL FOUR: LIVING THE CHRIST’S LIFE –– No one exists alone as their own Church. Individual members make up the Body of Christ. These members form parishes, communities of Faith linked together by practice and outreach to live the Life of Christ on the local level. You have heard the saying that all government is local, I hope. It is like that with this level. Individuals keep their individuality while in a community of like believers. You can belong to many levels of the Church. I belong to four levels myself. In practice, all these levels of one don’t distinguish between them.

There are no individual churches, or one being a church, except for my bias that all the reformers of the Fifteenth Century form individuals who are each a church. Individuals populate religious communities and lay associations, such as Lay Cistercians or Lay Dominicans, to name only a few. Just an observation which I call Ecclesia Sola, or Church alone, is an unintended consequence to add to the five other “solas” who formed their own Church. Maybe I will get over it if I get older (I am a cranky 82-year-old right now). Humor me.

CHARACTERISTICS OF LEVEL FOUR

The problem Christ had was to pass on his message that all humans are potentially adopted sons and daughters of the Father if they choose. This “if they choose” is the purpose of Baptism. It responds to the Father through the Church as the Body of Christ. Christ chose us; we did not choose Him. This choice is Faith. It is the context in which we are given citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven, fulfilling what it means to be human as nature intended before The Fall. It restores the dissonance and corruption of matter and mind to resonance. It allows us to call God “Abba,” Father, and Christ, a brother. To keep us safe while we live, the Holy Spirit gives us energy (Eucharist) and the ability to make all things new again and again (Reconciliation).

Contemplation, using Cistercian practices and charisms, is a way to seek our life’s purpose from within, using silence, solitude, work, and prayer, in the context of community (the gathering).

At this level, I am Church because I am simultaneously one with all other levels of the Church.

This notion is not one that I discover automatically. I have to use my reason and my free will to discern how the purpose of Christ overshadows my personal preference in life. I must choose Christ, knowing that Christ has first chosen me to sit next to Him on a park bench in the middle of winter and just hang out. This is my view of being a Lay Cistercian.

The Church is not magical, but it is most undoubtedly mystical.

LECTIO DIVINA FRAGMENTS

These ideas are unrelated thoughts I find interesting.

  • On the cross, Pilate wrote INRI (Jesus Nazarenorum Rex Judaeorum), and the Roman Standard was SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romani). One was the kingdom of heaven and its king, and the other was Rome and its king.
  • The Red Sea (Reid Sea) parted with a word from Moses and the power of God. The veil in the temple was torn in two pieces by Christ and the power of God. You and I are ripped from the world and made adopted sons and daughters by Christ through the Holy Spirit.
  • With Baptism comes dual citizenship, one of the world and one of the kingdom of heaven. Render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasers and to God that which is to God.
  • Three moral sins in the early Church: offering incense to the Emperor; adultery, and murder. These had to be forgiven by the community.
  • Confession with a priest is humiliating. It is designed to be just that. You must humble yourself before God, represented by the priest, not some fantasy of yours in the mind.
  • The Church is founded on Peter, the most sinful of all the Apostles and least likely to succeed.
  • Purgatory is a place of second chances, a waiting room for you to make all things new once again.
  • You are born as an individual, Baptized as an individual, you sin as an individual who thinks they are god, and you die alone as an individual. You rise to new life in the communion of all saints…forever.
  • Hope is the last virtue I will cling onto at death.
  • When we are born we must learn how to become more human with each day. When we are born again in Baptism, we must learn how to become more like Christ each day and less like our human inclinations. Life is the accumulation of our choices, both good and bad. Wisdom is knowing the difference between the two.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO BE A LAY CISTERCIAN?

The world has seduced us into thinking that everything is measured by how much some things cost. I ran into a similar situation when I had the affrontery to suggest that science is a closed system. The words we use to describe what is around us carry different weights for each person. Each person hears the word, “God” with the totality of who they are during their life journey. Words like “Faith” “belief system,” and scientific thought, all are based on what that experience has been for them. You know you have an opponent when their response is more cussing than discussion. It probably means they have no answer for it or don’t know what you mean but are too proud to say they don’t know.

Everything we do, every action, even each thought, has consequences. That is what I mean by the idea of cost. Here are some of my ideas.

  • How much does it cost to be Catholic? You have to die to yourself and make a commitment to love others as Christ loved you.
  • How much does it cost to be a Lay Cistercian? You must believe that you are a sinner and throw yourself on God’s mercy by placing yourself in the presence of Christ through Cistercian practices and charisms.
  • This is the meaning of the Widow’s Mite in Scripture. Money is not the measuring stick.
  • Heaven is God’s playground and if you want to play in his sandbox, you have to say, “Please.”
  • Only the rich get to heaven; you must take God’s riches there and not your own.

uiodg

LECTIO DIVINA FRAGMENTS: Original Sin

When I apply my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), then sit back and wait, here is what I received. You judge its value for you.

  • Original sin reflects human nature and how evil and good coexist within humans, not as a place but as the consequences of our choices.
  • Humans, like butterflies, are created good because that which is good created us. Genesis is a compilation of oral traditions and stories that teach how human choice is not evil, but that choice can be detrimental to our human progress.
  • What happens if humans are created in God’s image and likeness (good)? Genesis is a story about why humans do bad things and yet are good by nature.
  • Here are some ideas about why you see some people do bad things with no consequences and where does evil exist? In God? In humans? Outside of humans?
  • Genesis is an archetypal account of human nature as perceived by the multiple writers of Genesis.
  • It is indeed a story of creation with the notion that God created all that is and that once created, he hired Adam and Eve to be gardeners or caretakers of his Garden. Thinking about if the Garden of Eden historically existed or not may divert our attention away from the core meaning of Genesis. What actually exists is that people (at least four literary traditions) all came together around one God as a creator of good, and Adam (from the earth) and Eve (mother of humanity) made choices that were bad for them, even when they knew it was bad. Evil is one of the choices humans make to find meaning. In Genesis and the remaining Old Testament and New Testament, God tells us what is suitable for our nature and what will cause it to die (the wages of sin is death).
  • Scripture is a history of how well people did in taking God’s advice or not. Genesis and the Fall are about why humans want to choose what they think is good for them but actually harmful. Sin is harmful. The story is a literary device to focus the readers on why humans are in the big mess they find themselves in when they follow what the world says is important.
  • When Israel and also the Church are with God, good things happen. Bad things happen when they follow their whims, and Christ is not the center.
  • Jesus is the result of the reparation humans had to achieve to restore (redeem) themselves with God. The Hebrew word “Gaal” means a kinsman who goes to the pawnshop with a ransom for that which was pawned and buys it back. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1350.htm The price of that buy-back is a voluntary reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve. In the case of Christ, the sign of contradiction is voluntary death on a cross (the ultimate sign of abandonment of Christ’s humanity).
  • Christ became our kinsman (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us) to serve as a ransom for many and establish the tie between humanity and divinity by lifting us up to become sons and daughters of the Father. This final step is the culmination of our humanity, the result of our evolution, and our victory over death.
  • Genesis (Adam and Eve) is the type of what it means to be human. We were created good. With that, we received the gifts of reason and free choice. God told Adam and Eve what to avoid and how to use that gift. Adam and Eve are archetypes for all humans. With our humanity, we have to learn how to use it properly. Adam and Eve chose poorly. There are consequences to this sin(missing the mark of what it means to be human). We live the consequences of this choice: we must work to eat and learn by accumulation, we die, we are at dissonance with the Nature of God, we now know that we are naked, and we shift responsibility for our mistakes to someone else. “The snake made me do it.”
  • Without Genesis, there is no humanity. Without Adam and Eve, there is no sin (Romans 5). And without Genesis and its poignant discourse of why we do bad things are who is responsible, there can be no redemption. Without someone (a kinsman) to pay the ransom for many, we remain in the darkness of purgatory, waiting for someone to be a ransom for the many.
  • The Father said YES to all creation and to making Adam and Eve in his image and likeness. He offered them to work this reality and be Lords of the Garden. Adam and Eve said NO to the offer, and so God banished them from The Garden until someone would come to restore the resonance of what is real. Humans could, once again, become what their nature intended all along, to be now adopted sons and daughters of the Father (not just the hired help) and heirs to all that is real.
  • Next is the Christ Principle, the logical, intelligent progression from The Genesis Principle. This next step in our collective journey begins with a YES, but not from Christ. Mary, as the type for all humans, t did what Adam and Eve would not do; she said YES. “Be it done to me according to your word.” Like Neil Armstrong’s first step on the Moon pales in comparison to Mary’s YES, the first one by a human, our second Eve. That YES changed time itself. (spiritual time, that is).
  • Jesus is the fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament meant to point out that Israel is the point person for God’s initiative for all humanity— to know, love, and serve God in this life and to be happy with God in the next. (Baltimore Catechism, Question 6)
  • Like the propaganda of false or fake disinformation about Ukraine from Russia and China, the Devil is also a propagandist. The whole movement away from Christ by 25 countries trending more and more to give up on God is the degree of success by Satan. Here is a secret. It was always that way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYJ15by205Q
  • I guess, like the quote from G.K. Chesterson, “Christ has not been tried and found wanting but rather has never been tried at all.”
  • As one who chose the Lay Cistercian WAY of life on what is TRUE, the LIFE, I prefer nothing over the Love of Christ.

That was a big basket.

STAGES OF CONTEMPLATION

From a sermon by Saint Bernard, Abbot

The stages of contemplation

Let us take our stand on secure ground, leaning with all our strength on Christ, the most solid rock, according to the words: He set my feet on a rock and guided my steps. Thus firmly established, let us begin to contemplate what he is saying to us and what reply we ought to make to his charges.

The first stage of contemplation, my dear brothers, is constantly to consider what God wants, what is pleasing to him, and what is acceptable in his eyes. We all offend in many things; our strength cannot match the rectitude of God’s will, being neither one with it nor wholly in accord with it; let us then humble ourselves under the powerful hand of the most high God and be concerned to show ourselves unworthy before his merciful gaze, saying: Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved. And again, Lord have mercy on me; heal my soul because I have sinned against you.

Once the eye of the soul has been purified by such considerations we no longer abide within our own spirit in a sense of sorrow, but abide rather in the Spirit of God with great delight. No longer do we consider what is the will of God for us, but rather what it is in itself. For our life is in his will. Thus we are convinced that what is according to his will is in every way more advantageous and fitting for us. And so, concerned as we are to preserve the life of our soul, we should be equally concerned, insofar as we can, not to deviate from his will.

Thus having made some progress in our spiritual exercise under the guidance of the Spirit who searches the deep things of God, let us reflect how sweet is the Lord and how good he is in himself; in the words of the prophet let us pray to see God’s will; no longer shall we frequent our own hearts but his temple. At the same time we shall say: My soul is humbled within me, therefore I shall be mindful of you.

The whole of the spiritual life consists of these two elements. When we think of ourselves, we are perturbed and filled with a salutary sadness. And when we think of the Lord, we are revived to find consolation in the joy of the Holy Spirit. From the first we derive fear and humility, from the second hope and love.

LECTIO DIVINA FRAGMENTS: What will heaven be like?

Being nearly 82 years of age, the one thought that keeps popping up in my Lectio Divina meditations is unlikely. If I die, where will I go? What will it be like? If my focus is to be more like Christ and less like me, what does that look like?

THOUGHTS FROM AN OLD, BROKEN-DOWN TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

St. Paul writes that he caught a glimpse of heaven, in or out of the body. Read the full text.

I* must boast; not that it is profitable, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

2I know someone in Christ who, fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was caught up to the third heaven.

3And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows)

4was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter.a

5About this person* I will boast, but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.

6Although 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 me

7because 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.b

8Three times* I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,c

9* 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.d

10Therefore, 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.*

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/2corinthians/12
  • Do you know what happens to humans when they journey outside of our earth for long periods? We are gaining more insight into this. I am concerned that we don’t do well in space or on planets like Mars. We are created for earth. Our earth’s DNA evolved from gravity, using our five senses to interpret languages, and our organs have evolved to accommodate our early conditions like bacteria and health issues. I bring this up to illustrate a point. Is Heaven like that spaceship where we must go to a place where we can live eternity? I don’t know.
  • I think the excellent thinking on this is that after they die, humans go to an earth-like space where our bodies are glorified, just like Christ’s body was after he rose from the dead. Mary, we hold, was assumed into heaven body and blood. What does that mean? I am not sure, but here are some thoughts that percolated out of my meditations on heaven.
  • Is heaven like the Garden of Eden before the Fall?
  • Will we be naked and not worry about not having control over our procreation proclivity? I don’t know.
  • If we have a body, we will have bodily functions and health issues like we did when we lived. Will there be hospitals? Who will staff them? What equipment will be used?
  • Humans can’t exist without water. Will there be water and food there for us? Will we have to use the bathroom as we do now?
  • The Father has reserved many rooms for us, says Scripture.
  • How will we pay for our accommodations?
  • Is there oxygen in this new Jerusalem?
  • Does God make a containment field where people will bring what they discovered their heaven on earth to be?
  • Will bodies have mass and atoms, organs, and pain?
  • Scripture says there is no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven. So, do we have sexual gratification there?
  • Will we have Netflix or Hulu?
  • Are there any books to read?
  • All of these items above are what I am used to on earth. What happens when you replace what I have made my condition of life on earth with what I don’t know and have no frame of reference?
  • Does heaven (and hell) begin with Baptism, and we start packing for the trip to heaven by practicing how to live there while still on earth?
  • What can I stash in the suitcase of my life that will make it through the x-machines into heaven?
  • Is reconciliation and forgiveness on earth one way I must take out those values and experiences that will not make it through customs?
  • After I die, there must be more than to stand before the Throne of the Lamb in adoration and thanksgiving. I am hoping so, but a part of me says I want to bring the fullness of what I have discovered my humanity to be. How does that work? Again, I am thinking like a human rather than an adopted son.
  • St. Paul says, “You have no idea what God has planning for those who love him.” Faith tells me that I am blessed with believing even if I don’t see it fully. Hope tells me God keeps his promise to me (and all humans) to be an adopted son (daughter) of the Father and heir to His Kingdom. Love tells me that what makes me most human, my nature intended before the Fall will allow me to be what I should be, with God’s grace and energy.

I look forward to that last great adventure using all the tools and help Christ gives me daily. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. -St. Thomas Aquinas

TOP TEN FAVORITE: Photos

In keeping with my Top Ten Favorites theme, here are my top ten photos with a twist. They are the focus of contemplation in various Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) sessions I have used. Photos add richness and a touch of realism to my Lectio Divina meditations. They allow me to use more of my five senses to access my mind and, through my mind, my heart. Using photos and video clips in my Lectio, I can begin my meditations on Philippians 2:5 with a theme and tie all of my thoughts together.

PHOTO ONE: CHRIST IS THE ONLY TRUE CENTER

Blessed Virgin Mary– In the window of the Abbey Church at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, there are no pictures of saints or statues. In the back wall, there is only a stained glass window.No statues of Saints or inspirational pictures are founds in the stained glass windows. Look at that same photo of Mary below. What do you see? Nice colors? What else? Where is Jesus in relationship to Mary? Notice that Christ is her center, not the other way around. The Church honors Mary because of what she taught us: do what he tells you. Christ is always the center for Mary. Mary chose Christ as her center, just as we have the opportunity to do. Mary tells us she is a poor center but points us to a good one. My soul magnifies the Lord, she says.

download (1)
Our Lady of the Holy Spirit

What do you see? Look at this photo for ten minutes. What do you see? Certainly stained glass. What images are contained in the glass window of the Blessed Virgin Mary? This is the picture on the back wall of the Monastery Church, Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery.

I usually close my eyes for a minuto, then open them and look at the photo once again. I keep doing this for ten to fifteen minutes. What comes to mind is the result of the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to do anything but let the photo speak to your heart. No words are needed, and no images need to be remembered.

PHOTO 2: TWO DIMENSIONS OF MEANING

Animals don’t seek what is meaningful in their life. They seek to follow their nature and survive. Their nature is animal. Humans have a reason for a reason. My contention is that we alone, among any sentient life, possess the ability to ask why, when, how, what, and when. Humans share animal nature with animals, but with a big difference. We know that we know. We look at what it is and ask how it all fits together. We look around at what is and ask how we fit into what we call reality.

VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE MEANING

I suggest that we humans seek the answers to how it all fits together in two dimensions: one is external, such as using the sciences, literature, and what is outside of us to find meaning, the visible realm of the mind. This approach seeks to use the mind to answer questions of meaning, the results of which are appropriate to the physical and mental universes. The second way is contemplative, which is going within ourselves to discover what is meaningful and of value. This approach seeks to use the heart to translate what the mind discovers, the results appropriate to the physical, mental, and spiritual universes. When we use the heart, we are in God’s realm, and love is the measurement of what is of value. You don’t have to be a Lay Cistercian to be contemplative, but what makes us different (not better) from Agnostics, Atheists, and Pagans is we live in three universes (physical, mental, spiritual).

EXERCISE THE MIND: To probe deeper into reality, I will ask you to answer three seemingly innocuous questions,  all of which are the same but may be monumentally different in how you answer them.

QUESTION ONE:

This question uses your mind to probe deep into the physical universe, the realm of matter, time, and energy. Go to a place of solitude in your life. Look at this photo for five minutes. What do you see? In the space below, write down onlywhath you can see with your eyes.Don’t editorialize. Don’t go any deeper than what the photo displays.

pexels-photo-209500

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

QUESTION TWO: This second question uses your mind to probe deeper into both physical and mental universes, the realm of the mind.

pexels-photo-209500

                               WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Go to a place of solitude in your life. When you look at this photo for ten minutes, what do you see? In the space below, write down what you can see with your eyes, but now add this question,”“What is in the cup? Whom does the cup represent? What is the significance of a cloudy window? How does this photo help you contemplate your inner self? How does your mind help you to see associations and probe questions about meaning that Question One does not address? Write your ideas down in the following space.

QUESTION THREE: This third question uses your mind to probe ever deeper into reality, penetrating the physical, mental, and now spiritual universes within the realm of the heart. In the first photo, you just saw physical reality. You used the first photo to ask what it could mean in the second photo. Now you add the spiritual universe to whatit is and its meanings. Remember, spiritual means looking for the meaning of life within you.

pexels-photo-209500

                             WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Go to a place of solitude in your life. When you look at this photo for fifteen minutes, what do you see? This third photo is the same as the other three butdifferente. Look at this questionwith your mind ando focus on your heart. For Questions One and Two, you have been asked to look deeper into your inner self. When you look at the photo now, what is the cup you see? How many of the answers you gave to the purpose of life, what your purpose in life is, are in that cup? Who is the cup? With what do you fill the cup? What does the foggy window remind you of in the Mystery of Faith? Let your mind just be present to the cup. Does your first and second threshold or questionappearp in the spiritual universe? Write down your thought when you are ready.

Photo Three: The Park Bench

When using contemplation, I use LectioDivina’ss five steps to help bring me to where I can actually rid myself of all thoughts, agendas, cares of the day, and false self and move to just waiting for Christ to come and sit with me awhile. I am not so presumptuous to think that if I command, Christ will drop everything and come. Even though I know He told us to ask anything in His name and He will give it to me, I don’t want to be like Adam and Eve and make myself into God. In silence and solitude, I prefer to ask God for mercy, humility, and the strength to be obedient to the signs of contradiction in my spiritual journey. This story is one I wrote for my latest book, The Place Where No One Wants to Look. I offer it as one of my favorite photos to help with your Meditation on seeking God.

WAITING FOR THE MASTER

Snow Covered With Brown and Black Steel Couch

You are seated on a park bench in the dead of Winter. Jesus has told you He will be passing by the bench sometime soon. You seat yourself and look down the path, straining to see Christ as he comes around the bend of the trees. You don’t know what he looks like, but you have an invitation to meet with him today, and all your senses are at their peak. You don’t want to miss him.

The first person to come to the trees is an old woman pushing a cart full of what looks like bottles and rags. You smile as she passes and wishes her a good day. She turns to you and asks if you have a water bottle. She says she has not had water in two days. You only have half a bottle of water left, but you give it to her, asking her to excuse your germs. She trudges away, smiling.

You look up, and there is what looks like a teenager. He asks if he can sit on the bench with you. You do not know him and are reluctant to let him sit down but he has on only a thin T-shirt, and it is freezing outside. “Thanks,” he says. He talks about how he is homeless, the Shelter kicks them out at 7:00 a.m., and he has no place to go. Again, you look to the pathway straining to see if Christ is coming. No Christ. The teenager says he is twenty-seven years old and out of a job with no family and nowhere to go. You get out your cell phone, call the local Catholic Charities, and speak to someone you know about helping the young man. You help out there once a month with packing food for the homeless, so you are familiar with their services. It happens that the City has a long-term shelter for people who need job skills and a safe place to stay until they get a job. You give him the directions to the shelter about eight blocks away. He gives you a hug and trudges away.

It has been going on for two hours now, and no Jesus. A dog comes up to you, a Weimaraner, tail wagging, happy to see you.”“Hey girl”” you say. “Where is your Master?” She sits down and offers you one of her paws to shake? Friendly dog, you think, but who could be its owner? It has been going on for three hours now, and it seems to be getting colder. Just you and the dog are there, which you have named Michele. As you wonder once more if you have been stood up and inconvenienced, an older man approaches. He has a long, gray beard, somewhat matted together, and uses a cane to help him wobble down the path. His clothes are neat but certainly well-worn. His face has a gnarly look about him as if he had weathered many hardships, and they had taken their toll. He asked if he could sit down since he was tired. You say, “Of course, I am just waiting for a friend to come by. “You look cold,” he says. “Here, take this scarf my mother knit for me; it will keep you warm.” The dog sits next to the man as if he was its owner. All the while, he kept stroking the dog’s head and petting it on the head. “Oh, by the way,” the old man says, ”this is my dog. Thank you for finding it for me.”

Two more hours went by, but you did not notice because the conversation was so warm and intimate. You tell the kind gentleman about your trials and successes and how you want to seek God wherever and whoever it might be. The gentleman tells you he must go home to see his father; he lives with him. You think of how lucky the old man is to have such a loving Father. The old man gets up and smiles at you.”You are a good person,” he says, “and I look forward to seeing you again in the future,” his face just beaming with kindness. Turning to his dog, he says, smiling,” Coming” The dog jumps up and down a few times, wagging his tail fiercely, and they both set off, trudging slowly away from the bench. You look at your clock and see that five hours have passed, but they passed so quickly. You are a bit disappointed that Christ did not stop by. You think maybe you got the time wrong and left to go home. As you are going, you remember you have the scarf the old man gave you as a gift, knit by his mother. You are shocked by what you see. On the scarf is embroidered your name in the gold thread. You think to yourself, he said his mother made it for him.

Another thing you noticed. You felt your heart burning as the old man talked to you on the bench. “I wonder, ” you think,“…I wonder.”

The only prayer you can think of comes into your mind. Praise the Father, 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.

 Now, look at the park bench photo for a few minutes. Think about the story you just read while focused on the park bench. What thoughts does the Holy Spirit place in your mind? Write down what your heart tells you about the story you just read. How does this relate to where you are in your Lay Cistercian or another spiritual journey?

ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS:

  1. Write down your thoughts about the bench meditation.
  2. What does this story tell you about meeting Christ? If you say you have never seen Christ but can’t see Him in your neighbor next to you, what do you need to change to seek God? Seeking God is so easy that it is the most difficult, ongoing task you will ever have in this lifetime.

PHOTO FOUR:   Is that all there is?

Free stock photo of space, dark, galaxy, stars

Ask yourself this question: Is there a beginning to time? Is there an end of time? In terms of three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual), I would say.””I don’t know about physical time. I do know about spiritual time. Time has no beginning nor end in the spiritual universe. Time is”  Time is essential for our comprehension of the world around us. For those who accept the Resurrection of Christ, time is Forever; it is the relationship we seek to achieve, our inheritance for keeping true to the command of Christ to love one another as He has loved us.

PHOTO FIVE: Photo of how I feel about being in the presence of Jesus. 

 
Father,
I abandon myself in
your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all; I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld
Former Trappist of N.D. de Neiges
Killed December 1, 1916
 

 
II. MEDITATION – Go to the place in your inner room (Matthew 6:6) and close the door. Listen with”“…the ear of the spirit”.” Use this image to guide thoughts from the Holy Spirit.
 
WHAT DO YOU SEE?
 
 
  
Padre mío,
Me abandono a Ti,
haz de mí lo que quieras.
Lo que hagas de mí te lo agradezco.
Estoy dispuesto a todo, lo acepto todo,
 
con tal que Tu Voluntad se haga en mí
y en todas Tus criaturas.
No deseo nada más, Dios mío.
 
Pongo mi alma en Tus manos.
Te la doy, Dios mío, con todo el amor de mi corazón,
porque Te amo y porque para mí amarte es darme,
entregarme en Tus manos sin medida,
con infinita confianza,
porque Tú eres mi Padre.  Amen.
 
 

Mon Père,
Je m’abandonne à toi,
fais de moi ce qu’il te plaira.
Quoi que tu fasses moi, je te remercie.
Je suis prêt à tout, j’accepte tout.

 
Pourvu que ta volonté se fasse en moi,
en toutes tes créatures,
je ne désire rien d’autre, mon Dieu.
 
Je remets mon âme entre tes mains.
Je te la donne, mon Dieu, avec tout l’amour de mon coeur,
parce que je t’aime, et que ce m’est un besoin d’amour de me donner,
de me remettre entre tes mains sans mesure,
avec infinie confiance
car tu es mon Père.
 
Photo Six: Humans are spiritual apes. Humans are why we have reason and the ability to choose what we think is good for us. Choosing what will allow us to fulfill our humanity as nature intended enables us to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs to Heaven.
Photo Seven The Rule of Threes. The three realms of reality: scientific thought (best for looking at visible and some invisible reality); reason and the ability to choose with consequences (best to look at physical reality with the mind); Faith informed by reason (best to look at both physical universe and the mental universe and receive questions and answers about humanity that human reasoning alone cannot provide)
Photo Eight: I look at my life in my attempt to have the mind of Christ Jesus and how successful I was each day. Trying is itself a prayer of humility. Each day I begin the process anew, with one exception. I am more like Christ today than I was before.
Photo Nine: I have two choices of what is good or bad for me. Although I make those choices internally, my nature is not harmful, nor are there hidden rooms where good or evil lurks. If I want good as a choice, I must choose it. I don’t usually choose what is bad for me, but sometimes I choose what I don’t know, which turns out bad. God tells me what is good for me because I am an adopted son (daughter of the Father). What Father wants his child to sin. Does he give me a stone or a brick if I ask for bread? Even if I choose what is bad for my humanity, God still loves me as the ProdigalSon’ss father kept looking down the road each day until he showed up.
Photo Ten: My center and where my heart longs to rest. http://www.trappist.net
1aOf David.

A
I
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?

2When evildoers come at me

to devour my flesh,*b
These my enemies and foes
themselves stumble and fall.

3Though an army encamp against me,

my heart does not fear;
Though war be waged against me,
even then do I trust.
II

4One thing I ask of the LORD;

this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’s house
all the days of my life,
To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,
to visit his temple.c

5For God will hide me in his shelter

in time of trouble,d
He will conceal me in the cover of his tent;
and set me high upon a rock.

6Even now my head is held high

above my enemies on every side!
I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and chant praise to the LORD.
B
I

7Hear my voice, LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

8“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”;*

your face, LORD, do I seek!e

9Do not hide your face from me;

do not repel your servant in anger.
You are my salvation; do not cast me off;
do not forsake me, God my savior!

10Even if my father and mother forsake me,

the LORD will take me in.f
II

11LORD, show me your way;

lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.g

12Do not abandon me to the desire of my foes;

malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me.

13I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness

in the land of the living.*h

14Wait for the LORD, take courage;

be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!
Photo Eleven: Don’t dig a hole so big you can’t get out.
Photo Twelve: Get rid of your spiritual waste, or you will have to live in it.
Photo Thirteen: No one can serve two masters. Choose to serve your own appetites or God’s treasures.
Photo fourteen: Contemplation means silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. You are never alone if you are in the presence of Christ.
Photo Fifteen:””What is essential is invisible to the eye” –Little Prince

THE THREE LANGUAGES I USE TO SIT NEXT TO GOD AND THRIVE

To solve the Divine Equation correctly, I must use the correct language. This language does not come from human nature because the questions and their correct answers originate from pure knowledge (beyond our pay grade). To solve anything about God, we must use the language of God to have it makes sense. This language is the opposite of what the World thinks will allow us to become fully human. It originates within the Godhead and is translated and transmitted through The Christ Principle. Philippians 2:5. There are three approaches to THE TRUTH, which I use, depending on the focus of my inquiry. All three of these are good and have unique characteristics. In my toolbox, there are hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches. All valid by themselves but together for how I approach The Divine Equation to seek how all reality fits together. These three languages I use to listen to God “with the ear of my heart” are:

  • SCIENTIFIC APPROACH TO REALITY
  • THE ACCUMULATED LIFE EXPERIENCES AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY LIFE OF TRIAL AND ERROR
  • THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE.

The problem comes when we single out one of these languages to exclude the others. In my search for the Sacred within (contemplation) and without (service) me, I have found that these three languages must be used in order, the deepest part of reality being the final one because it contradicts reason and demands Faith informed by reason to access it. Not everyone can get there. Each person may use only one, two, or three languages due to their accumulated life experiences and the mini languages they learned to solve the six questions each of us must answer about our short life span.

As my gaze about what is a reality today focuses on the notion of “assumicide,” I see layers of mental constructs with each question I ponder and ask the question, “What are the assumptions behind that statement.” “Assumicide” is a term I coined many years ago to describe how it is possible for three people to all say the word “God” and have different views. I wrote a book about it at the time. In my thinking, “Assumicide” is NOT considering that all human thoughts, all reasoning, and free will, are based on the assumptions held by that individual. These assumptions may or may not be actually factual or accurate.


Typically, Humans hold that anyone is free to choose any idea or thought they want. They have the right to hold anything, despite how despicable. This does not mean that whatever you or I think is right, just because we can choose our destiny. Each of our choices has consequences. Over time, we learn what is right and what is wrong. If we choose something terrible, we can change it until we die and make it new or better. The default in all of this is our humanity, as we morphed from animality to rationality. We have emotions, traits, DNA, learned behaviors, and our history of choices (good and poor) that make up who we are. We choose based on the fulfillment of who we are, our assumptions about what is good for us, and the purpose of life. No one can choose something for us. However, we can give others our choice and assimilate their ideas as our own. A complex animal is a human being.

Assumptions underly all of our cognitive thinking and inform our choices. I offer three different types of thinking (you may know of more) based on my notion of The Rule of Threes: there is one reality that has three separate and distinct universes. These are consecutive to our human senses but have different characteristics and measures.

Belief depends upon the assumptions you select as accurate. Assumptions depend upon those core principles on which you base your belief. This is why two Methodist people can hold slightly different views of their Faith while being faithful to their core confession. If you know the core principles and your assumptions about them or why you believe what you do, you will know what you can and cannot change without losing your Methodist identity. Two people in a marriage can hold different a set of faith assumptions and have their marriage survive, even flourish. Here’s how. This plain-speaking book helps you identify the assumptions underlying your thinking. In this way, you can know what the core of your belief is and what is negotiable. This book is a quick read and perfect for discussion starters in your adult learning group. Some themes are: Ten Assumptions About Assumptions What Is the Basis for What You Believe? The World Runs on Assumptions How to Stop Assumicide How to Play the Assumption Game How to Start an Adult Learning Program In business, relationships, religion, and politics, committing assumicide can lead to polarizing outcomes. Learn how to stop assumicide and think creatively without destroying your core beliefs.

Here are three ways of thinking from which you might make your assumptions. I use all three ways to look at reality and make conclusions.

THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH TO REALITY: Assumptions are those mental consequences of reality that are based on reasoning, logic, plus specific theories contained in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and all scientific inquiry. For my hypotheses, scientific inquiry is a language with assumptions used by many, but not all, of its users. Our collective human reasoning came up with this way of thinking only recently. I use scientific thinking, not rigorous proofs, but rather an approach that says physical reality has laws against which hypotheses are tested, and results are indicated. This is the language of the physical universe, and our tools and newly developed computer-generated assistance help us probe what and why something is.

In the physical universe, that of matter, time, energy, space, and life forms on earth, those who use this way of thinking make assumptions that may or may not be visible to those who understand the language. If I ask someone who uses this way of thinking what reality looks like, I will get various answers from various people, all of them correct to the individual. In a bit, I will give examples of each way of thinking by fictionalizing a conversation between three people, one of whom uses scientific inquiry.

ASSUMPTIONS: Here are some of my assumptions about scientific thinking.

  • Scientific thinking is valid and must be used and encouraged as a way of thinking that looks at physical reality.
  • Scientific thinking uses various languages (mathematics, physics, chemistry, logic) to look at reality.
  • Scientific thinking, in my view, does not look at all of reality but only the physical and mental universe.
  • Scientific thinking does not have the mental energy to open the mind to the possibility of the manifest ability of unseen yet existing reality.
  • Scientific thinking is open to developing new hypotheses based on new data. It is not a closed system but the most open of systems to look at visible reality.
  • Scientific thinking does not do well in looking at the invisible realm of emotions, values, and meaning.
  • Scientific thinking is superb at using the mental universe with the advances afforded by human reasoning aided by computer capability to view the physical universe of matter.

THE ACCUMULATED LIFE EXPERIENCES AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY LIFE OF TRIAL AND ERROR: This second way of looking at reality is what I usually use in my thinking. Again, I am using my assumptions to explain how I make decisions and observations about reality. These are not your assumptions. If I share my rationale for using this method, you may disagree with me but at least know from where I am trending. Suppose the first way of viewing reality is scientific inquiry. In that case, this second way does not use scientific language to describe life but rather logic, observation, assimilation of ideas and assumptions about what is or is not good, and historical track records. The language of this second way is using reason to formulate assumptions which in turn are the basis for hypotheses and conjecture.

Mental constructs and logical thinking can be the collective knowledge and conclusions about what life is all about; it is also about how I, as an individual, take the knowledge, choices, and lessons learned about what is good for me or wrong and make assumptions about the purpose of life. I have the free will to choose what path I want to take in life. I may be influenced by parents, social mores, religious mores, college, and wins and losses in the consequences of my choices, but they are my choices. My assumptions are the result of my cumulative experiences. I am not you; you are not me; God is not us; we certainly are not God.

Based on my being human in the physical universe, I live in the mental universe. Each individual has the same ability to reason and make choices. What differentiates us is the choices we make. For example, if I am either Democrat or Republican, I assume that my understanding of either party’s platforms is the totality of who I am. This big ball of experience is my humanity. What makes it good or bad comes from inside or outside me. I am free to choose what key I want to measure myself against to determine if I have value or not. I have a reason for the reason that I can choose whatever key I want to place at my center. No one can tell me what to do or place me at my center. My center is not a one-time choice, but I need to keep it focused or lose it daily. This center, a whole bunch more conditions, play into what makes me human.

MY ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT MENTAL CONSTRUCTS AND LOGIC:

  • The mental universe contains only humans with human intelligence and the ability to choose what they think is good for them.
  • God intervenes in human affairs not to try to control us but to give us the ability to have options that will not damage our fulfillment as a human as nature intended.
  • I give God the gift of my humanity to die to my old self so that I might fulfill the destiny my nature intended.
  • I place God as my one center (I call this The Christ Principle) because my reason tells me I don’t have the power to lift myself up to the next level of my evolution, that of adoption by God as heir to the spiritual universe.
  • There is the next step to my human evolution, which requires me to deny my humanity (abandonment) and embrace the opposite of all that my corruptible human natures cling to as fulfilling my purpose. This is the spiritual universe. It does not make sense to the mental universe by itself until I use the Christ Principle as the sign of contradiction and unlock that which is blocking my humanity from realizing its full potential. That which makes no sense at all becomes the measurement to move beyond mere humanity towards our destiny, to “know, love, and serve God in this world, and be happy together in the next.” (Baltimore Catechism, Question 6) Using these assumptions about mental reality, I step out before my reasoning and experience and take a step into the murky and somewhat unknown future.
  • Science and the mental constructs around which we find meaning are the springboards to entertaining the idea that there is an additional step in evolution, one revolutionary and requiring humans to give up their humanity to possess the fullness of what it means to be human.
  • Scientific reasoning, by itself, does not possess the energy to lift human nature up to the next level of its evolution, one that uses the opposite of what it can see and prove. The invisible parts of life are essential to discovering who I am as an individual and the last steps in the evolution of my race. It takes Faith (God energy) informed by reason (my energy as an individual human–belief) to breach what cannot be seen by the eye but experienced by Love in the heart.

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE:

I exist because of a physical act by my parents some eighty-two years ago. I am born into space and time with “a particular set of skills” (the ability to reason and the freedom to choose my destiny). I assimilate experiences and accumulate what I think is good for me. I am the sum of my choices and their consequences. I can reflect on these changes and, at any time, correct them to what I think should be the purpose of what it means to be human. I know there is intelligence that overshadows all reality and still keeps it moving forward with its DNA fingerprints all over it. I know that I must discover the six postulates of what it means to be fully human. They are:

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

Both these questions and their correct answers come from outside my life experiences. When I apply different centers to try to unlock what I describe as The Divine Equation and discover what it means to be fully human as nature intended, not all fit nor do any but one correct key has the power to transform me from rationality to spirituality, just as I have been transformed from animality to rationality at birth. I have human reasoning and the freedom to choose what to place at my center. Over a lifetime of trial and error, of replacing centers of lust, jealousy, power, arrogance, pride, control, money, fame, adulation, and even myself as my center, the choice I have made is The Christ Center. To do that, I have had to die to my human self as it presents itself to me, good as that is, to move to the next level of my evolution. This is not an evolution of the species but an intelligent progression of me and what I have done with my eighty-two years (so far) to solve The Divine Equation. This Equation does not tell me who God is but what God has to say about who I am as an adopted son of the Father through Baptism and forgiveness of my constant attempts to replace The Christ Principle with the Golden Calf of myself.

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE

  • Suppose the physical universe houses matter and physical energy and use the Laws of Nature to police itself. In that case, the mental universe is one where only humans have reason and the power to say YES or NO to nature, logic, and any value system presented to them.
  • This mental universe is where humans have the capacity and capability to look at the physical universe they inhabit and ask the Interrogatories (Who, What, Why, When, How, and So What) and make conclusions based on their experiences.
  • The mental universe is one in which individuals can change their minds if new information emerges. Humans alone can make all things new.
  • As a language to solve The Divine Equation, The Christ Principle is the only way, which is true, leading to a life that has the power to lift humans to the next level of their evolution, to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

This third way that I look at spiritual reality as a Lay Cistercian comes from a power beyond what I possess or even outside my lifetime experiences, which is why I should pay attention to it. Is this way of thinking correct? Correct against what other center? My Lay Cistercian experiences have taught me HOW to access the Holy Spirit and HOW to sit in the presence of pure energy and wait for my humanity to catch up to what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell me. I gain a drop of two, but that is enough for a hundred lifetimes. I know there is a destiny called The Christ Principle that I alone must choose to enter, but the power to do that is outside of myself and by invitation only (Faith). I must die to my humanity, and everything I know is accurate (abandonment), to be able to enter another universe, one that is the opposite of my experiences. This is a leap of Faith, one that is a choice. My choice (Belief) is to give The Christ Principle (the way, the truth, and the life) my human ability to reason and my freedom to choose, the only aspect of my life that is voluntary and totally dependent upon Love to give away my essence of what it means to be human. In doing so, I lose everything; as Saint Paul writes in Philippians 3:

7[But] whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss* because of Christ.g

8More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ

9and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through Faith in Christ,h the righteousness from God, depending on Faith

10to know him and the power of his resurrection and [the] sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death,i

11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.j

Forward in Christ.*

12k It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity,* but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus].

13Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead,

14I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.l

15Let us, then, who are “perfectly mature” adopt this attitude. And if you have a different attitude, this too God will reveal to you.

16Only, with regard to what we have attained, continue on the same course.*

Wrong Conduct and Our Goal.*

17Join with others in being imitators of me,* brothers, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us.m

18For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.n

19Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things.o

20But our citizenship* is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.p

21He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.q

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/philippians/3

LEARNING POINTS

Language is there for two people to communicate. I can’t communicate with God except through Christ, one of my two advocates.

Because the condition in which I must live out the rest of my life is original sin, being tempted to overthrow my Christ Principle each moment I am alive, I am also aware that I am an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.

I struggle to move from my false self to my true self daily. I know the three languages that I use to solve the Divine Equation. This Equation is dynamic in that once solved is not forgotten.

I have all the help I need if I ask, knock, and seek help.

Three languages help me to look at the physical universe, the mental universe, and the spiritual universe. Science is my “go to” to learn about creation and its properties of matter. My life experiences help me how to discover my purpose in life and ask the right questions. My Christ Principle is the stone the builders rejected that has become the cornerstone. It is the key that unlocks The Divine Equation.

In the end, the purpose of all my physical reality, mental reality, and its fulfillment in spiritual reality comes down to three things: Faith (the energy of God in me); Hope (the energy of the Holy Spirit in me that the words spoken by Christ are true); and Love (the energy of Christ in me to sustain me now as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father—forever. The greatest of these is Love. Read the text of Holy Scripture in I Corinthians.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues* but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.a

2And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.b

3If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.c

4* Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,d

5it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,e

6it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.f

8* Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.

9For we know partially and we prophesy partially,

10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

11When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.

12At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.g

13* So faith, hope, love remain, these three;h but the greatest of these is love.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/1corinthians/13

Praise the Father, 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. –Cistercian doxology

RESOURCES THAT HELP LIFT MY MIND AND HEART TO GOD

Q & A

Question: Do I need contemplative prayer to be a practicing Catholic?  Answer. Catholics have a rich heritage of prayer, dating back to Apostolic times. As you read from the section on contemplative prayer, prayer means a way we communicate with the Sacred.  We use various methods to approach God (Eucharist, Penance, Lectio Divina, Eucharistic Adoration, Private Prayer). To be a practicing Catholic, you need to try to love God with your whole mind, heart, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36) You do that as a member of the living Body of Christ and use the gifts Jesus left us to help us with our struggles of Faith. Contemplation is just an approach to loving others as Christ loves us by using silence, solitude, work, and prayer in the community context.

 Question: Why does contemplative prayer focus on the individual? Answer: Everything focuses on the individual. The individual focuses on many individuals linked to the Mystical Body of Faith, the Mystery of Faith. Together, when there are two or three of us in Faith, where Christ is in our midst. Our salvation comes through Faith in being one with Christ, but we do that as individuals in a faith community. No one person is God. No one person is the Church Universal. All our branches and Christ is the vine. Contemplative monks and nuns live secluded in their respective monasteries as individuals. Still, they are individuals bound together in love to follow their respective rules (e.g., Rule of St. Benedict, Rule of St. Francis, Rule of St.Dominic).

Here are some tips to help you (the individual) form a School of Love (a community of individuals).

1. Begin with your prayer life, not someone else’s.

2. Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

3. Each individual has a plan for salvation. God has a plan for salvation through Christ. Make sure your plan fits into God’s plan and not the other way around.

4. Consider asking someone to be your spiritual director (to keep you accountable for what you say you will do). 

5. Be consistent in your prayer life. (e.g., if you say you will read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every, then do so.) Daily conversion is the greatest challenge of contemplative spirituality. Good intentions don’t make for successful outcomes. 

6. Organizing your prayer life is only a means to an end, not your purpose in life.

7. The School of Love is having the mind of Christ Jesus so that you seek God where you are, as you are.

8. Taking up your cross daily is work. If your spirituality is too easy, you might be on the conveyor belt of Life where all you have to do is believe. Belief supports Faith but won’t sustain it. Faith is God’s energy. Belief is the human response.

9. Good work results from Faith but won’t buy you into Heaven. There are three works: good works that come from Faith; bad works that come from evil intentions; and no works that come from the results of Original Sin. Which do you do?

10. Don’t over-organize the School of Faith.

11. The School of Love is having the mind of Christ Jesus so that you seek God where you are, as you are.

12. St. Benedict wrote a Rule so monks might find help denying themselves to take up Christ in their hearts and get rid of the false self (Galatians 5).

13. In the School of Love, Faith is the energy that fuels the heart to cry out Abba, Father.  

14. The School of Love helps us practice mercy, forgiveness, penance, reparation for our sins, and seek hope that the words of Christ are valid.

15. Eucharist is a core principle, The Christ Principle, that allows me to decrease and God to increase (capacitas dei). Everyone must have a North on their compass of Life.

RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME ON MY LAY CISTERCIAN JOURNEY (SO FAR) Here are some wonderful, contemplative websites that may help you find some rest for your soul. I admit my bias.  http://www.trappist.net

http://www.newadvent.com https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org http://www.cistercianfamily.org/

https://siena.org/

http://www.carlmccolman.net

http://scotthahn.com http://www.cistercianpublications.org http://dynamiccatholic.com http://www.centeringprayer.com/cntrgpryr.htm http://www.monk.org https://cistercianpublications.org/Category/CPCT/CistercianTradition

http://www.saintmeinrad.edu http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html http://ccc.usccb.org/flipbooks/catechism/files/assets/basichtml/page-I.html#

http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ https://stpaulcenter.com/support-the-center https://www.osv.com/Home.aspx

http://www.osb.org/cist/ http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-weteach/catechesis/catechetical-sunday/word-ofgod/upload/lectio-divina.pdf http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/bernard2.htm https://www.ecatholic2000.com/index2.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_shhU_H5Z0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sfMYn3YcT8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYE7CC1m_II http://www.ncregister.com/ https://cistercianfamily.org/lay-groups/

https://cuf.org/support-our-work/cuf-chapters/ https://catholicexchange.com/seven-capital-sins http://www.catholicapologetics.org/aff/courses.html&nbsp; http://divineoffice.org https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/ http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/

https://zenit.org/

https://lifeteen.com/blog/

http://catholicmom.com/

https://cruxnow.com/

https://www.wordonfire.org/ https://onepeterfive.com/

YOUTUBE

G.K. Chesterton 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE0b4zteOoI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anBuPC6DpvE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE0b4zteOoI

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHaizmIj3ck https://youtube.com/watch?v=K8qqZup3Bg4www.youtube. com/watch?v=NnXlQWmubYw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGGSxxuBtMk

Scott Hahn and Catholic Apologetics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uL_IAJWvX0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn1tWuIoZsg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faIB-sOBDKk &nbsp;

Bishop Robert Barron

https://www.youtube.com/user/wordonfirevideo/videos

www.wordonfire.org

FIVE CONTEMPLATIVE WEBSITES

When I look up something that puzzles me almost 100% of the time, I use these five sites when I think of contemplative spirituality. I offer these sites as an aspiring Lay Cistercian seeking wisdom and humility. I thought you might like to see what they are and bookmark them.

NUMBER FIVE:  CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE http://www.osb.org/cist/ You will find many hours of enjoyment clicking on and reading the various sites that pertain to Cistercians.  There are two branches of the Cistercian observance, Regular Observance ( O. Cist.) and Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.). Of particular interest to me were the sites that pertain to Lay Cistercians and those highlighting the movement’s early history.

NUMBER FOUR: LAY CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE TO MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD

http://www.citeaux.net/wri-av/laics_cisterciens-eng.htm http://www.trappist.net/about/lay-cistercians http://www.carlmccolman.net/category/laycistercians/&nbsp; Read this website. Carl is a Lay Cistercian of Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, where I aspire to be a Lay Cistercian. It is my favorite website of an individual practitioner of Cistercian piety.

NUMBER THREE: RESEARCH SITES TO GROW DEEPER INTO CHRIST JESUS http://newadvent.org. If there is one source I use more than others, it is New Advent.  It contains the Catholic Encyclopedia, Summa Theologica, Bible, Early primary sources or Fathers of the Church, plus other excellent links.  Don’t miss this one. I recommend signing up for their newsletters. You can sign up for their daily posting of news.

NUMBER TWO: TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM (Vatican)

http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html&nbsp; This is a site on which I have spent many happy hours looking up the actual texts about what the Church teaches, as opposed to what people say we teach but don’t.

NUMBER ONE: MY WEBSITE

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

This is my website.  I put it as number one because I use it the most, not because I think it is the best. It is the result of my daily Lectio Divina and a poor attempt to share some practical ways to practice contemplative spirituality, emphasizing the Cistercian heritage.  I have tried to give you a variety of websites I use to grow from self to God.  They have all helped me to look at who I am in my relationship with God (He must increase, I must decrease).

That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

THE CHRIST IMPERATIVES Here are some of the commands that Jesus gave us to help us convert our lives from the World to the Spirit.

• Seeking perfection? 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.

Being a faithful follower of the Master is the easiest thing to talk about but the most challenging thing to do. As a Lay Cistercian, trying to convert my Life daily to be more like Christ and less like me, I find these imperatives like beacons on the stormy waters of living in a world influenced by Original Sin. Spirituality is work and a struggle because we live in a foreign land, one whose default is not a conveyor belt to get to Heaven. Heaven is not automatic. If it was, why be spiritual? Just sit back and sin bravely. 

 Christ has shown us the way, given our love as the gold standard, and taught us how to love because he has loved us first by his passion, death, and resurrection. It is this Faith that conquers the World; it is this Faith, that of the Universal Church (those who have died and are in the peace of Christ, those who live on earth and struggle with the conversion of Life, and those purifying themselves). Christ wanted us to live out our moving from self to God amid the community of Faith. This community has the Mystery of Faith as its core. These imperatives help us as a community as we approach the Sacred. 

The core imperative is: to love one another as I have loved you. I pray that I am what I hope to become in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Praise the Father, 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

MEASURING SUCCESS

Measurement is an essential part of science and education. It tells us what works and what does not, and more importantly, why. Christ had a system for measuring success, too.

 Be careful when you take any test, especially this one. The assumptions will kill you. With that in mind, you should know this before making this measurement. The good news is only one yardstick —have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). 

THE CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE SERIES 

If you are interested in purchasing any of the books in this contemplative practices series, they are online at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

BLOG: https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org     

WHAT IS THE CENTER FOR CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE? 

The Center for Contemplative Practice is a ministry of people devoted to providing spiritual resources for adults, such as publishing books, training, blogs, and online meditations. 

DISCLAIMER The ideas and meditations contained in any books or blogs shared by The Center for Contemplative Practice do not represent the official, authoritative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church or any Cistercian Monastery or Lay Cistercian group. These ideas are the results of Lectio Divina’s spiritual meditations by the author and reflect only his interpretation of Catholic spiritual thoughts through contemplation. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Michael F. Conrad, B.S., M.R.E., Ed.D., is retired from a whole life of trying to make money and seek fame and recognition by the World, all without much success. Regarding what the World thinks is successful, he has been a failure. Coming to his senses, even after age 82, he now struggles to have the mind of Christ Jesus in him. (Philippians 2:5) Still running the race and searching for the prize, he has had a lifetime of activities to help him in his quest: he is proud to have been a U.S. Army Chaplain, pastor of parish ministry, adjunct instructor of Adult Education at Indiana University (Bloomington) and University of South Florida (Tampa) and Barry University (Florida), high school instructor of religion, trainer of managers and supervisors, adjunct trainer for the Florida Certified Public Manager program, instructional designer for the State of Florida, former Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, and currently a publisher, blogger, and author. He is beyond retirement; now, he is just tired. He is a Professed Lay Cistercian member of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, a proud Father, and a humbled husband. 

What follows is a poem about my Life. It is, as yet, unfinished, as is my Life, but the elements are all present.

 The Poem of My Life

I sing the song of life and love…

…sometimes flat and out of tune

 …sometimes eloquent and full of passion

…sometimes forgetting notes and melody

…sometimes quaint and intimate

…often forgetful and negligent

…often in tune with the very core of my being

…often with the breath of those who would pull me down,

     shouting right in my face

…often with the breath of Life uplifting me to heights never       

     before dreamed

…exceedingly grateful for the gift of humility and obedience to The One

… incredibly thankful for adoption, the discovery of new Life of pure energy

…greatly appreciative for sharing meaning with others of The Master

…greatly sensitive for not judging the motives of anyone but me

…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian …happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration

…happy and humbled to be an adopted son of the Father

…happy for communities of Faith and love with my wife,      

    daughter, friends

…mindful that the passage of time increases each year …mindful of the significant distractions of cancer and cardiac arrest

…mindful of my center and the perspective that I am loved    

     moreover, I must love back with all the energy of my   

heart and strength, yet always falling a little short

 …mindful of the energy I receive from The One in Whom I

      find purpose and meaning in the Mystery of Faith…Forever.

To The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, be glory, honor, power, and blessings through The Redeemer Son, in unity with the Advocate, the Spirit of Love.

From The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek hope that His words about the purpose of Life are valid, that He is the way that leads to Life…Forever.

With The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek the fierce love so I can have the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose in Life, and my center…Forever.   “That in all things, may God be glorified.” –St. Benedict

RESOURCES THAT HELP LIFT MY MIND AND HEART TO GOD

Q & A

Question: Do I need contemplative prayer to be a practicing Catholic?  Answer. Catholics have a rich heritage of prayer, dating back to Apostolic times. As you read from the section on contemplative prayer, prayer means a way we communicate with the Sacred.  We use various methods to approach God (Eucharist, Penance, Lectio Divina, Eucharistic Adoration, Private Prayer). To be a practicing Catholic, you need to try to love God with your whole mind, heart, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36) You do that as a member of the living Body of Christ and use the gifts Jesus left us to help us with our struggles of Faith. Contemplation is just an approach to loving others as Christ loves us by using silence, solitude, work, and prayer in the community context.

 Question: Why does contemplative prayer focus on the individual? Answer: Everything focuses on the individual. The individual focuses on many individuals linked to the Mystical Body of Faith, the Mystery of Faith. Together, when there are two or three of us in Faith, where Christ is in our midst. Our salvation comes through Faith in being one with Christ, but we do that as individuals in a faith community. No one person is God. No one person is the Church Universal. All are branches, and Christ is the vine. Contemplative monks and nuns live secluded in their respective monasteries as individuals. Still, they are individuals bound together in love to follow their respective rules (e.g., Rule of St. Benedict, Rule of St. Francis, Rule of St.Dominic).

Here are some tips to help you (the individual) form a School of Love (a community of individuals).

1. Begin with your prayer life, not someone else’s.

2. Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

3. Each individual has a plan for salvation. God has a plan for salvation through Christ. Make sure your plan fits into God’s plan and not the other way around.

4. Consider asking someone to be your spiritual director (to keep you accountable for what you say you will do). 

5. Be consistent in your prayer life. (e.g., if you say you will read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every, then do so.) Daily conversion is the greatest challenge of contemplative spirituality. Good intentions don’t make for successful outcomes. 

6. Organizing your prayer life is only a means to an end, not your purpose in life.

7. The School of Love is having the mind of Christ Jesus so that you seek God where you are, as you are.

8. Taking up your cross daily is work. If your spirituality is too easy, you might be on the conveyor belt of Life where all you have to do is believe. Belief supports Faith but won’t sustain it. Faith is God’s energy. Belief is the human response.

9. Good work results from Faith but won’t buy you into Heaven. There are three works: good works that come from Faith; bad works that come from evil intentions; and no works that come from the results of Original Sin. Which do you do?

10. Don’t over-organize the School of Faith.

11. The School of Love is having the mind of Christ Jesus so that you seek God where you are, as you are.

12. St. Benedict wrote a Rule so monks might find help denying themselves to take up Christ in their hearts and get rid of the false self (Galatians 5).

13. In the School of Love, Faith is the energy that fuels the heart to cry out Abba, Father.  

14. The School of Love helps us practice mercy, forgiveness, penance, reparation for our sins, and seek hope that the words of Christ are valid.

15. Eucharist is a core principle, The Christ Principle, that allows me to decrease and God to increase (capacitas dei). Everyone must have a North on their compass of Life.

RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME ON MY LAY CISTERCIAN JOURNEY (SO FAR) Here are some wonderful, contemplative websites that may help you find some rest for your soul. I admit my bias.  http://www.trappist.net

http://www.newadvent.com https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org http://www.cistercianfamily.org/

https://siena.org/

http://www.carlmccolman.net

http://scotthahn.com http://www.cistercianpublications.org http://dynamiccatholic.com http://www.centeringprayer.com/cntrgpryr.htm http://www.monk.org https://cistercianpublications.org/Category/CPCT/CistercianTradition

http://www.saintmeinrad.edu http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html http://ccc.usccb.org/flipbooks/catechism/files/assets/basichtml/page-I.html#

http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ https://stpaulcenter.com/support-the-center https://www.osv.com/Home.aspx

http://www.osb.org/cist/ http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-weteach/catechesis/catechetical-sunday/word-ofgod/upload/lectio-divina.pdf http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/bernard2.htm https://www.ecatholic2000.com/index2.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_shhU_H5Z0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sfMYn3YcT8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYE7CC1m_II http://www.ncregister.com/ https://cistercianfamily.org/lay-groups/

https://cuf.org/support-our-work/cuf-chapters/ https://catholicexchange.com/seven-capital-sins http://www.catholicapologetics.org/aff/courses.html&nbsp; http://divineoffice.org https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/ http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/

https://zenit.org/

https://lifeteen.com/blog/

http://catholicmom.com/

https://cruxnow.com/

https://www.wordonfire.org/ https://onepeterfive.com/

YOUTUBE

G.K. Chesterton 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE0b4zteOoI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anBuPC6DpvE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE0b4zteOoI

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHaizmIj3ck https://youtube.com/watch?v=K8qqZup3Bg4www.youtube. com/watch?v=NnXlQWmubYw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGGSxxuBtMk

Scott Hahn and Catholic Apologetics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uL_IAJWvX0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn1tWuIoZsg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faIB-sOBDKk &nbsp;

Bishop Robert Barron

https://www.youtube.com/user/wordonfirevideo/videos

www.wordonfire.org

FIVE CONTEMPLATIVE WEBSITES When I look up something that puzzles me almost 100% of the time, I use these five sites when I think of contemplative spirituality. I offer these sites as an aspiring Lay Cistercian seeking wisdom and humility. I thought you might like to see what they are and bookmark them.

NUMBER FIVE:  CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE http://www.osb.org/cist/ You will find many hours of enjoyment clicking on and reading the various sites that pertain to Cistercians.  There are two branches of the Cistercian observance, Regular Observance ( O. Cist.) and Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.). Of particular interest to me were the sites that pertain to Lay Cistercians and those highlighting the movement’s early history.

NUMBER FOUR: LAY CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE TO MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD

http://www.citeaux.net/wri-av/laics_cisterciens-eng.htm http://www.trappist.net/about/lay-cistercians http://www.carlmccolman.net/category/laycistercians/&nbsp; Read this website. Carl is a Lay Cistercian of Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, where I aspire to be a Lay Cistercian. It is my favorite website of an individual practitioner of Cistercian piety.

NUMBER THREE: RESEARCH SITES TO GROW DEEPER INTO CHRIST JESUS http://newadvent.org. If there is one source I use more than others, it is New Advent.  It contains the Catholic Encyclopedia, Summa Theologica, Bible, Early primary sources or Fathers of the Church, plus other excellent links.  Don’t miss this one. I recommend signing up for their newsletters. You can sign up for their daily posting of news.

NUMBER TWO: TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM (Vatican)

http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html&nbsp; This is a site on which I have spent many happy hours looking up the actual texts about what the Church teaches, as opposed to what people say we teach but don’t.

NUMBER ONE: MY WEBSITE

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

This is my website.  I put it as number one because I use it the most, not because I think it is the best. It is the result of my daily Lectio Divina and a poor attempt to share some practical ways to practice contemplative spirituality, emphasizing the Cistercian heritage.  I have tried to give you a variety of websites that I use to grow from self to God.  They have all helped me to look at who I am in my relationship with God (He must increase, I must decrease).

That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

THE CHRIST IMPERATIVES Here are some of the commands that Jesus gave us to help us convert our lives from the World to the Spirit.

• Seeking perfection? 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.

Being a faithful follower of the Master is the easiest thing to talk about but the most challenging thing to do. As a Lay Cistercian, trying to convert my Life daily to be more like Christ and less like me, I find these imperatives like beacons on the stormy waters of living in a world influenced by Original Sin. Spirituality is work and a struggle because we live in a foreign land, one whose default is not a conveyor belt to get to Heaven. Heaven is not automatic. If it was, why be spiritual? Just sit back and sin bravely. 

 Christ has shown us the way, given our love as the gold standard, and taught us how to love because he has loved us first by his passion, death, and resurrection. It is this Faith that conquers the World; it is this Faith, that of the Universal Church (those who have died and are in the peace of Christ, those who live on earth and struggle with the conversion of Life, and those purifying themselves). Christ wanted us to live out our moving from self to God amid the community of Faith. This community has the Mystery of Faith as its core. These imperatives help us as a community as we approach the Sacred. 

The core imperative is: to love one another as I have loved you. I pray that I am what I hope to become in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Praise the Father, 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

MEASURING SUCCESS

Measurement is an essential part of science and education. It tells us what works and what does not, and more importantly, why. Christ had a system for measuring success, too.

 Be careful when you take any test, especially this one. The assumptions will kill you. With that in mind, you should know this before making this measurement. The good news is only one yardstick —have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). 

THE CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE SERIES 

If you are interested in purchasing any of the books in this contemplative practices series, they are online at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

BLOG: https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org     

WHAT IS THE CENTER FOR

CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE? 

The Center for Contemplative Practice is a ministry of people devoted to providing spiritual resources for adults, such as publishing books, training, blogs, and online meditations. 

DISCLAIMER The ideas and meditations contained in any books or blogs shared by The Center for Contemplative Practice do not represent the official, authoritative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church or any Cistercian Monastery or Lay Cistercian group. These ideas are the results of Lectio Divina’s spiritual meditations by the author and reflect only his interpretation of Catholic spiritual thoughts through contemplation. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Michael F. Conrad, B.S., M.R.E., Ed.D., is retired from a whole life of trying to make money and seek fame and recognition by the World, all without much success. Regarding what the World thinks is successful, he has been a failure. Coming to his senses, even after age 82, he now struggles to have the mind of Christ Jesus in him. (Philippians 2:5) Still running the race and searching for the prize, he has had a lifetime of activities to help him in his quest: he is proud to have been a U.S. Army Chaplain, pastor of parish ministry, adjunct instructor of Adult Education at Indiana University (Bloomington) and University of South Florida (Tampa) and Barry University (Florida), high school instructor of religion, trainer of managers and supervisors, adjunct trainer for the Florida Certified Public Manager program, instructional designer for the State of Florida, former Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, and currently a publisher, blogger, and author. He is beyond retirement, now tired. He is a Professed Lay Cistercian member of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, a proud Father, and a humbled husband. 

What follows is a poem about my Life. It is, as yet, unfinished, as is my Life, but the elements are all present.

 The Poem of My Life

I sing the song of life and love…

…sometimes flat and out of tune

 …sometimes eloquent and full of passion

…sometimes forgetting notes and melody

…sometimes quaint and intimate

…often forgetful and negligent

…often in tune with the very core of my being

…often with the breath of those who would pull me down,

     shouting right in my face

…often with the breath of Life uplifting me to heights never       

     before dreamed

…exceedingly grateful for the gift of humility and obedience to The One

… immensely thankful for adoption, the discovery of new Life of pure energy

…greatly appreciative for sharing meaning with others of The Master

…greatly sensitive for not judging the motives of anyone but me

…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian …happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration

…happy and humbled to be an adopted son of the Father

…happy for communities of Faith and love with my wife,      

    daughter, friends

…mindful that the passage of time increases each year …mindful of the significant distractions of cancer and cardiac arrest

…mindful of my center and the perspective that I am loved    

     moreover, I must love back with all the energy of my   

heart and strength, yet always falling a little short

 …mindful of the energy I receive from The One in Whom I

      find purpose and meaning in the Mystery of Faith…Forever.

To The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, be glory, honor, power, and blessings through The Redeemer Son, in unity with the Advocate, the Spirit of Love.

From The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek hope that His words about the purpose of Life are valid, that He is the way that leads to Life…Forever.

With The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek the fierce love so I can have the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose in Life, and my center…Forever.   “That in all things, may God be glorified.” –St. Benedict

Jesus and Me

RESOURCES THAT HELP LIFT MY MIND AND HEART TO GOD

Q & A

Question: Do I need contemplative prayer to be a practicing Catholic?  Answer. Catholics have a rich heritage of prayer, dating back to Apostolic times. As you read from the section on contemplative prayer, prayer means a way we communicate with the Sacred.  We use various methods to approach God (Eucharist, Penance, Lectio Divina, Eucharistic Adoration, Private Prayer). To be a practicing Catholic, you need to try to love God with your whole mind, heart, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36) You do that as a member of the living Body of Christ and use the gifts Jesus left us to help us with our struggles of Faith. Contemplation is just an approach to loving others as Christ loves us by using silence, solitude, work, and prayer in the community context.

 Question: Why does contemplative prayer focus on the individual? Answer: Everything focuses on the individual. The individual focuses on many individuals linked to the Mystical Body of Faith, the Mystery of Faith. Together, when there are two or three of us in Faith, where Christ is in our midst. Our salvation comes through Faith in being one with Christ, but we do that as individuals in a faith community. No one person is God. No one person is the Church Universal. All are branches, and Christ is the vine. Contemplative monks and nuns live secluded in their respective monasteries as individuals. Still, they are individuals bound together in love to follow their respective rules (e.g., Rule of St. Benedict, Rule of St. Francis, Rule of St.Dominic).

Here are some tips to help you (the individual) form a School of Love (a community of individuals).

1. Begin with your prayer life, not someone else’s.

2. Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

3. Each individual has a plan for salvation. God has a plan for salvation through Christ. Make sure your plan fits into God’s plan and not the other way around.

4. Consider asking someone to be your spiritual director (to keep you accountable for what you say you will do). 

5. Be consistent in your prayer life. (e.g., if you say you will read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every, then do so.) Daily conversion is the greatest challenge of contemplative spirituality. Good intentions don’t make for successful outcomes. 

6. Organizing your prayer life is only a means to an end, not your purpose in life.

7. The School of Love is having the mind of Christ Jesus so that you seek God where you are, as you are.

8. Taking up your cross daily is work. If your spirituality is too easy, you might be on the conveyor belt of Life where all you have to do is believe. Belief supports Faith but won’t sustain it. Faith is God’s energy. Belief is the human response.

9. Good work results from Faith but won’t buy you into Heaven. There are three works: good works that come from Faith; bad works that come from evil intentions; and no works that come from the results of Original Sin. Which do you do?

10. Don’t over-organize the School of Faith.

11. The School of Love is having the mind of Christ Jesus so that you seek God where you are, as you are.

12. St. Benedict wrote a Rule so monks might find help denying themselves to take up Christ in their hearts and get rid of the false self (Galatians 5).

13. In the School of Love, Faith is the energy that fuels the heart to cry out Abba, Father.  

14. The School of Love helps us practice mercy, forgiveness, penance, reparation for our sins, and seek hope that the words of Christ are valid.

15. Eucharist is a core principle, The Christ Principle, that allows me to decrease and God to increase (capacitas dei). Everyone must have a North on their compass of Life.

RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME ON MY LAY CISTERCIAN JOURNEY (SO FAR) Here are some wonderful, contemplative websites that may help you find some rest for your soul. I admit my bias.  http://www.trappist.net

http://www.newadvent.com https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org http://www.cistercianfamily.org/

https://siena.org/

http://www.carlmccolman.net

http://scotthahn.com http://www.cistercianpublications.org http://dynamiccatholic.com http://www.centeringprayer.com/cntrgpryr.htm http://www.monk.org https://cistercianpublications.org/Category/CPCT/CistercianTradition

http://www.saintmeinrad.edu http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html http://ccc.usccb.org/flipbooks/catechism/files/assets/basichtml/page-I.html#

http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ https://stpaulcenter.com/support-the-center https://www.osv.com/Home.aspx

http://www.osb.org/cist/ http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-weteach/catechesis/catechetical-sunday/word-ofgod/upload/lectio-divina.pdf http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/bernard2.htm https://www.ecatholic2000.com/index2.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_shhU_H5Z0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sfMYn3YcT8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYE7CC1m_II http://www.ncregister.com/ https://cistercianfamily.org/lay-groups/

https://cuf.org/support-our-work/cuf-chapters/ https://catholicexchange.com/seven-capital-sins http://www.catholicapologetics.org/aff/courses.html&nbsp; http://divineoffice.org https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/ http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/

https://zenit.org/

https://lifeteen.com/blog/

http://catholicmom.com/

https://cruxnow.com/

https://www.wordonfire.org/ https://onepeterfive.com/

YOUTUBE

G.K. Chesterton 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE0b4zteOoI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anBuPC6DpvE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE0b4zteOoI

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHaizmIj3ck https://youtube.com/watch?v=K8qqZup3Bg4www.youtube. com/watch?v=NnXlQWmubYw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGGSxxuBtMk

Scott Hahn and Catholic Apologetics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WmIGLPvEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uL_IAJWvX0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn1tWuIoZsg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faIB-sOBDKk &nbsp;

Bishop Robert Barron

https://www.youtube.com/user/wordonfirevideo/videos

www.wordonfire.org

FIVE CONTEMPLATIVE WEBSITES When I look up something that puzzles me almost 100% of the time, I use these five sites when I think of contemplative spirituality. I offer these sites as an aspiring Lay Cistercian seeking wisdom and humility. I thought you might like to see what they are and bookmark them.

NUMBER FIVE:  CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE http://www.osb.org/cist/ You will find many hours of enjoyment clicking on and reading the various sites that pertain to Cistercians.  There are two branches of the Cistercian observance, Regular Observance ( O. Cist.) and Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.). Of particular interest to me were the sites that pertain to Lay Cistercians and those highlighting the movement’s early history.

NUMBER FOUR: LAY CISTERCIAN WEBSITES OF NOTE TO MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD

http://www.citeaux.net/wri-av/laics_cisterciens-eng.htm http://www.trappist.net/about/lay-cistercians http://www.carlmccolman.net/category/laycistercians/&nbsp; Read this website. Carl is a Lay Cistercian of Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, where I aspire to be a Lay Cistercian. It is my favorite website of an individual practitioner of Cistercian piety.

NUMBER THREE: RESEARCH SITES TO GROW DEEPER INTO CHRIST JESUS http://newadvent.org. If there is one source I use more than others, it is New Advent.  It contains the Catholic Encyclopedia, Summa Theologica, Bible, Early primary sources or Fathers of the Church, plus other excellent links.  Don’t miss this one. I recommend signing up for their newsletters. You can sign up for their daily posting of news.

NUMBER TWO: TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM (Vatican)

http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html&nbsp; This is a site on which I have spent many happy hours looking up the actual texts about what the Church teaches, as opposed to what people say we teach but don’t.

NUMBER ONE: MY WEBSITE

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

This is my website.  I put it as number one because I use it the most, not because I think it is the best. It is the result of my daily Lectio Divina and a poor attempt to share some practical ways to practice contemplative spirituality, emphasizing the Cistercian heritage.  I have tried to give you a variety of websites that I use to grow from self to God.  They have all helped me to look at who I am in my relationship with God (He must increase, I must decrease).

That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

THE CHRIST IMPERATIVES Here are some of the commands that Jesus gave us to help us convert our lives from the World to the Spirit.

• Seeking perfection? 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.

Being a faithful follower of the Master is the easiest thing to talk about but the most challenging thing to do. As a Lay Cistercian, trying to convert my Life daily to be more like Christ and less like me, I find these imperatives like beacons on the stormy waters of living in a world influenced by Original Sin. Spirituality is work and a struggle because we live in a foreign land, one whose default is not a conveyor belt to get to Heaven. Heaven is not automatic. If it was, why be spiritual? Just sit back and sin bravely. 

 Christ has shown us the way, given our love as the gold standard, and taught us how to love because he has loved us first by his passion, death, and resurrection. It is this Faith that conquers the World; it is this Faith, that of the Universal Church (those who have died and are in the peace of Christ, those who live on earth and struggle with the conversion of Life, and those purifying themselves). Christ wanted us to live out our moving from self to God amid the community of Faith. This community has the Mystery of Faith as its core. These imperatives help us as a community as we approach the Sacred. 

The core imperative is: to love one another as I have loved you. I pray that I am what I hope to become in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Praise the Father, 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

MEASURING SUCCESS

Measurement is an essential part of science and education. It tells us what works and what does not, and more importantly, why. Christ had a system for measuring success, too.

 Be careful when you take any test, especially this one. The assumptions will kill you. With that in mind, you should know this before making this measurement. The good news is only one yardstick —have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). 

THE CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE SERIES 

If you are interested in purchasing any of the books in this contemplative practices series, they are online at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

BLOG: https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org     

WHAT IS THE CENTER FOR CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE? 

The Center for Contemplative Practice is a ministry of people devoted to providing spiritual resources for adults, such as publishing books, training, blogs, and online meditations. 

DISCLAIMER The ideas and meditations contained in any books or blogs shared by The Center for Contemplative Practice do not represent the official, authoritative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church or any Cistercian Monastery or Lay Cistercian group. These ideas are the results of Lectio Divina’s spiritual meditations by the author and reflect only his interpretation of Catholic spiritual thoughts through contemplation. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Michael F. Conrad, B.S., M.R.E., Ed.D., is retired from a whole life of trying to make money and seek fame and recognition by the World, all without much success. Regarding what the World thinks is successful, he has been a failure. Coming to his senses, even after age 82, he now struggles to have the mind of Christ Jesus in him. (Philippians 2:5) Still running the race and searching for the prize, he has had a lifetime of activities to help him in his quest: he is proud to have been a U.S. Army Chaplain, pastor of parish ministry, adjunct instructor of Adult Education at Indiana University (Bloomington) and University of South Florida (Tampa) and Barry University (Florida), high school instructor of religion, trainer of managers and supervisors, adjunct trainer for the Florida Certified Public Manager program, instructional designer for the State of Florida, former Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, and currently a publisher, blogger, and author. He is beyond retirement, now tired. He is a Professed Lay Cistercian member of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia, a proud Father, and a humbled husband. 

What follows is a poem about my Life. It is, as yet, unfinished, as is my Life, but the elements are all present.

 The Poem of My Life

I sing the song of life and love…

…sometimes flat and out of tune

 …sometimes eloquent and full of passion

…sometimes forgetting notes and melody

…sometimes quaint and intimate

…often forgetful and negligent

…often in tune with the very core of my being

…often with the breath of those who would pull me down,

     shouting right in my face

…often with the breath of Life uplifting me to heights never       

     before dreamed

…exceedingly grateful for the gift of humility and obedience to The One

… immensely thankful for adoption, the discovery of new Life of pure energy

…greatly appreciative for sharing meaning with others of The Master

…greatly sensitive for not judging the motives of anyone but me

…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian …happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration

…happy and humbled to be an adopted son of the Father

…happy for communities of Faith and love with my wife,      

    daughter, friends

…mindful that the passage of time increases each year …mindful of the significant distractions of cancer and cardiac arrest

…mindful of my center and the perspective that I am loved    

     moreover, I must love back with all the energy of my   

heart and strength, yet always falling a little short

 …mindful of the energy I receive from The One in Whom I

      find purpose and meaning in the Mystery of Faith…Forever.

To The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, be glory, honor, power, and blessings through The Redeemer Son, in unity with the Advocate, the Spirit of Love.

From The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek hope that His words about the purpose of Life are valid, that He is the way that leads to Life…Forever.

With The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek the fierce love so I can have the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose in Life, and my center…Forever.   “That in all things, may God be glorified.” –St. Benedict

Jesus and Me

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all; I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Former Trappist of N.D. de Neiges

Killed December 1, 1916

JESUS AND I HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM: How does one communicate with God, who has divine nature?

It seems that the most complex problems always have the most straightforward answers. Actually, God and I do not have precisely the same problem. Jesus had to learn how to communicate his mission as the ransom for many humans. My problem is to try to demythologize what He is saying in terms of the totality of what my life is; the only way I can make sense. I have long discontinued the impossible practice of trying to prove anything about God, Christ, Church, or my personal beliefs. I have accumulated what the Holy Spirit suggests to me (when I am not too proud to accept it) and applied it to the already accumulated choices and experiences of who I am. I must keep reminding myself, as did St. Benedict in Chapter 7 of his rule on humility, that the first step is “fear of the Lord.” This is God you are trying to sit next to on a park bench in the middle of winter. I don’t tell God anything or have to prove anything. All I have to do is sit in silence and solitude in the presence of the Sacred and wait. I use the Cistercian systematic approach to contemplation, one of many methods, to go to the place no one wants to look (inside me) and wait. Matthew 6:5.

God’s problem is that, because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, our types (or maybe even anti-types) of what it means to be fully human, God has to communicate with us, not as an equal (this was the sin of Adam and Eve) but as God. The only way Christ chose to tell us about what our minds could not comprehend through reason alone was to use parables and similies. The Prodigal Son, and the Parable of the Mustard Seed, are two such examples.

John 20:30-31 is my “go-to” inspirational quote about why Scripture is there. We must use Scripture as the primacy of knowledge about what it means to be fully human. My problem is that, as with any other human, I do so with the totality of whom I am when I read these stories. Being a Lay Cistercian, one of my “takeaways” is that I must constantly convert my false self to replace it with Christ’s love. I realize that I must do it each day. It is more important than my marriage, my children, my job, or even my religion. “Seek the kingdom of heaven first, and all else will be given to you.”

It takes work to keep myself focused on Jesus as my center. I am not suggesting that all I do is pray all day and only think about Jesus. What it does mean is that my life becomes a prayer of praise and glory to the Father through, with, and in the sacrifice of Jesus, using the power (energy) of the Holy Spirit. I don’t consciously think of that all the time, but Faith is informed by my reasoning so that I can try to become fully human with the help of God’s energy.

Lectio Divina Fragments: Three Principles emerging from The Divine Equation

If you have been following my meanderings, I write around a core of The Divine Equation in my Lectio Divina meditations on The Christ Principle. Mainly, I just listen to what is said and try to keep my mental mind open. It doesn’t always work, but here is one of the fragments I found in the leftovers basket.

MY ROMANCE WITH THE DIVINE EQUATION

The kick-off lectio for my Lectio Divina has always been Philippians 2:5, “…have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” That is the jump-off point for my meditation (meditatio). “I am not you; you are not me; God is not me; and, most certainly, I am not God.” the Divine Equation is the secret of opening up my inner self to whatever God wants to send my way. I call it “divine” because the question and the answers come from a divine nature, not a human one. If I answer the six postulate questions that allow me to access the key that unlocks the chains that bind my mind to the world, I discover new and exciting opportunities to know, love, and serve God in this world so that I can be happy with God in the next one. I make my heaven on earth using what human experiences I have (both good and destructive).

I received these six questions during one of my Lectio Divina sessions. Not only that, but I also received the correct answers to those six questions. This opens the holds that bind my box together and allows me to open it. But, there is still one more question to ask and answer. I have just answered those six questions that allow me to open the box where I find a key. I don’t know, “Does the key work in the lock which allows my humanity to be fully what it intended by nature?”

The key to the Divine Equation comes from The Christ Principle, the center of all reality, visible and invisible. Christ provided me with the key (the cross) and gave up his life for the ransom of many. I have inserted my key into the lock that has kept my mind locked (original sin) and opened it. Now that I have opened it, I no longer have to use the Scriptures to prove anything to anyone. I use the Scriptures (John 20;30-31) to believe that Jesus, Son of God, is the savior and Messiah and hope that the words of Christ to us are through.

What I have received after I have unlocked the Divine Equation is out of this world, literally and figuratively. In the series of Lectio refections, these are thoughts that come as a result of The Holy Spirit unlocking my heart and mind so that I can love God with all my strength and my neighbor as myself. This is where belief comes in, not a one-time shot, get it and forget it belief, but one that takes the cross each day to unlock my humanity to choose to sit next to Christ in the quiet of my heart (Matthew 6:5) and be present to the totality of all that is.

THREE PRINCIPLES

I learned in 8th grade what the purpose of life is and have tried to place that center each day so that I don’t take for granted my Faith but renew my heart each day with the love of Christ sitting next to me.

Walking with my friend.

THREE PRINCIPLES ARE ONE

I see three principles in my view of reality. Principles are those centers into which everything flows and from which, anything that emerges is transformed. Where does all this originate?

The Genesis Principle is more than a book; it is an explanation of creation for our consideration and how humans can be good yet so prone to evil. It is the principle of creation that humans partake in as they are aware (knowledge of good and evil). In the beginning, was the word. (John 1:1). What word was so powerful that its nothingness created somethingness? Yes. Be it done unto me according to your word. This is the kingdom of the Father.

The Christ Principle builds on creation and transforms the corruption of matter and mind to its intended intelligent progression (what humans were intended to be before the Fall in the Garden of Eden). This second Eden has human flaws. All humans have free will and the ability to choose (no one will tell me what to believe). Humans are left to discover what is good and what will hurt us. We are seduced by the Lord of the World, the Great Accuser (personified by Satan, who asks us to offer incense at his altar). God saw that human reasoning was corrupted by original sin and became human to open up the pathways to discovering the fulness of our humanity. (Philippians 2:5-12). The second principle is the key for humans to open up the ability to live in another universe (spiritual universe) that each person must enter by choice (Baptism) and sustain by energy (The Holy Spirit). This universe begins with the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father by offering his will up to the Father in reparation for the NO given to God by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

This is the first key I noticed and led me to expand my awareness to two other principles. One is the Kingdom of the Father, the Second the Kingdom of the Son, and the third, The Kingdom of the Holy Spirit. There is only one Kingdom, and as you might have guessed, it does not include the world.

This is the principle of love, the fullness of what it means to be human, to love others as Christ loved us. You only get to join this Kingdom if you choose to do so (belief), and that takes God’s energy to choose you as an adopted son (daughter). If you use The Genesis Principle and The Christ Principle in the context of original sin, you must struggle or battle to keep yourself centered on Christ.

The Spirit Principle is what happened to the Twelve Apostles when the Holy Spirit overshadowed them with the fullness of knowledge (as much as a human could tolerate), the love with God that is beyond what the world can teach us, and sustain that love by helping others with their humanity (service).

Christ is the new wine, and the Church must constantly renew itself to be a new skin. The danger is thinking that old skins are better than the trouble of taking up our crosses daily to make all things new with and through Christ.

I have found that following Cistercian practices and charisms allows me to move from my false self to making myself new through daily conversio morae and capacitas dei (more Jesus, less me).

More fragments are on their way.

uiodg

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE TEMPLATE

I use a template to create the exact product each time I make it. This could be a furniture template to turn out lamps that look exactly alike. I thought about the notion of a template when I thought of the Christ Principle, one concept into which all reality trends and flows from which all that is. I have now developed a template that incorporates the same look each time I try to seek God each day by applying this template to whatever it is.

HOW I DEVELOPED A TEMPLATE TO LOOK AT WHAT CAN NOT BE SEEN

What should this template look like, given that the object it examines is The Christ Principle? My thoughts led me to think of this template as something I alone could use to look at the reality familiar to my eighty-one years of this earth. It is a template that I use to make sense of what is essentially beyond knowing by human standards, yet a glimpse into the Sacred.

I chose the elements of this template from Question One that I asked and had answered by the Holy Spirit that goes, “What is the purpose of life?” After a few years of declassifying all the rubbish from the world around this topic, what emerged was a fragment I learned in the Eighth Grade in my Catechism Class at St. Francis Xavier School in Vincennes, Indiana. The date was around 1952 (or close to it). Father Henry Doll came in to give us lessons from the catechism. The topic was “What is the purpose of life?” I don’t know why but I perked up when he said that, and the answer has been central to how I view what it means to be fully human as nature intended. Father Doll read, “The purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God in this life, and be happy with God in the next.” That’s it. It comes from the Baltimore Catechism, Question Six. This has been my template from that time until right now as I write this blog. My Lectio Divina expanded on the template to reform (get it) to new skins so that I could put the new wine of Christ each day in the skins without spoilage. I offer you two different references to new and old wineskins in Mark 2 and Luke 5. Use these as meditative points for your Lectio Divina.

Mark 2

The Question About Fasting.*

18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.e People came to him and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

19Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast* while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

20But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.

21No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.

22 Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

Luke 5:33

The Question About Fasting.o

33And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.”

34* Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests* fast while the bridegroom is with them?

35But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”

36* And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.

37Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.

38Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.

39[And] no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”*

When I used the template back in 1952, I was no where near where I am today in my knowledge of the Faith. I have had many wrong roads where I have had to back up and start anew. For many years, I kept my old skins while the new wine was Christ yesterday, today, and tomorrow but always fresh wine. Christ is always the new wine but I am just an old and broken-down wine bag. This template helps me to renew my wine bag each day through Lectio Divina and the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. It is also a habit that I wish to grow (capacitas dei) with daily awareness of Christ as I meet each day in whatever situations that come my way. My life is now completely dedicated to a prayer of praise to the Father, through, with, and in Christ Jesus, using the power of the Holy Spirit. Some days are better than others.

My regenerated template reflects four dimensions of how I look at reality. First, I use the Rule of Threes in looking at whatever my five senses pick up, and my reason interpolates into something in my brain that makes sense to me. I can then act on what I think is good for me and choose what will allow me to become fully human as my nature intended. There is one reality containing three distinct universes; each one exists with the other so that all you see is one reality. The physical universe is the base for all matter, especially on earth, for our unique combination of gases and temperature with water. The mental universe is where humanity alone wakes up and knows it. Knowledge is cumulative, and we learn down the ages what is good and what is wrong by trial and error. You eat sour pork in the desert, and you die.

Humans must learn to be human, to exist as individuals, and learn to live with each other without killing themselves.

Here comes the spoiler. Humans come from our animality and retain all those traits that make animals survive. The difference now is that we know that we know. We strive to move away from animal behavior to human behavior (we are still learning how to do that with varying degrees of success). It is not that humans are born evil but born with the choice of good or bad using what they have learned in their lifetimes.

My template is one where I apply what I consider the purpose of life to various generic situations, such as Church, Lay Cistercian spirituality, Love, etc…

My Lay Cistercian life has four separate boxes, with The Christ Principle being my center. It might look like this. The Christ Principle is my center. When I say “Jesus is Lord,” this is what I mean. When I try to grow deeper each day (capacitas dei) in Christ’s love for me by loving others instead of judging them, this is what I mean. When someone says, “What does it mean to be a Roman Catholic” this is behind that statement. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. I have stopped trying to prove anything to anyone about what is in my heart.

REALM OF THE MINDREALM OF THE HEART
What my masculine side provides.What my feminine side provides.

I. AUTHORITY AND FAITH
The Christ Principle
My adoption by Christ
My acceptance of the Holy Spirit
Freely offer my will to the Father
Dying to Self
 IV. SERVICE AND GOOD WORKS
Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy
Chapter 4, Rule of St. Benedict
Gathering Day
Tallahassee Lay Cistercian discernment group
II. KNOWLEDGE AND FREE WILL
The primacy of Holy Scriptures
Writings of the Early Church
Writings of St. Benedict
Writings of Cistercian authors
YouTube of Bishop Barron and others

III. LOVE THROUGH CONTEMPLATION
Eucharist
Reconciliation and Penance
Lectio Divina
Liturgy of the Hours
Contemplative Prayer
“Do what he tells you.”

My life, my way, my truth, and my life are informed by The Christ Principle.

Here is my reflection on what this means as I sit there on the bench and wait for my humanity to catch up to Christ’s humanity (divinity is impossible).

Characteristics of all four dimensions.

  • Using this template is a feeble attempt for me to organize my thinking to focus on “having in me the mind of Christ Jesus.”
  • Some of these four quadrants are conscious during Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and Reading Sacred Scripture, while much of it is yet to be explored and awaits my prayer.
  • There is no limit to how deep (or high) these four quadrants extend. I know I will never reach the end. Read what St. Paul says about what is in his heart.
  • This is not where the Church gets its authority. It is The Christ Principle, my authority.

Prayer for the Readers.*

14For this reason I kneel before the Father,

15from whom every family* in heaven and on earth is named,

16that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,l

17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love,m

18may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth,n

19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.o

20Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us,p

21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/ephesians/3

These passages are not to prove anything, but you allow yourself to come to believe that Jesus is Lord and Messiah and that by believing in his name, you might have eternal life. John 20:30-31

I. AUTHORITY AND FAITH

I received this block at Baptism when Christ accepted me, and I was entrusted to the care and protection of my parents until such time that I could choose Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. I have found that this belief on my part does not happen one time but must be renewed each day. The authority of all of my Faith comes not from me or any Church. It comes from the kingdom, the power, and the glory of the Father as mediated to me by Christ Jesus using the power (energy) of the Holy Spirit. This is the square where The Christ Principle is tattooed on my soul in the form of a cross.

If I get cocky and try to substitute my will for that of the Father, I can lose my way or even my Faith. Prayer is just me going to that room in my heart (Matthew 6.5) and being one with Christ, who alone can approach the Father with the poor gift of my free will and sinful attempts to do God’s will amid original sin until I die.

My authority is from the Father, who graciously granted me adoption as a son (daughter). I can repeatedly reply, “My soul magnifies the glory of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my savior.” Luke 1.

38Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth.

39During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,

40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,s

42cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.t

43And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord* should come to me?

44For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

45Blessed are you who believed* that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”u

The Canticle of Mary.

46v And Mary said:*

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;w

47my spirit rejoices in God my savior.x

48For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.y

49The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.z

50His mercy is from age to age

to those who fear him.a

51He has shown might with his arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.b

52He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.c

53The hungry he has filled with good things;

the rich he has sent away empty.d

54He has helped Israel his servant,

remembering his mercy,e

55according to his promise to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”f

56 Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.

Looking at the table above, you will notice that this block is in our right brain. This has nothing to do with gender differences as much as the idea that each human has a male and female side. The two are one and inseparable. I hypothesize that men favor authority and knowledge while women favor service and love.

II. KNOWLEDGE AND FREE WILL

This is the quadrant of human knowledge and free will. We use our reason to reason what is reasonable about what we see around us. Science uses the first two quadrants, Authority and Knowledge, to prove that what they see is real. I use that language, too, but I don’t limit myself to just visible reality. My human reasoning has accumulated life experiences and fragments of knowledge so far so that I might move to the next quadrant in my intelligent progression, Love through Contemplative Practice. As you can tell, there is a progressive movement in these quadrants. St. Thomas Aquinas, my favorite Saint of Knowledge, says, “Knowledge comes before Love.” This is where it gets heavy. I use my Rule of Threes to look at knowledge from the point of view of three distinct universes with just one reality. For me, the only key, The Christ Principle, unlocks the Divine Equation to allow me to grow from my false self to my true self, fully human as nature intended. Knowledge in the physical universe is acting your nature. “No one goes to the Father except through me.” That includes all living things (humans, too) ruled by force more significant than themselves, the natural law. In the second universe, the mental one, only humans have entered this one, the realm of reason and the free choice to do what they think is good. Humans do this without repercussions (except if you break a societal norm) but not without consequences. In the fullness of intelligent progression (movement of humanity towards its destiny), God saw that humans did not get it and would not have the power by themselves to move to the next level of their growth, the spiritual universe. So, God sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus, to tell us (Old Testament) and show us (New Testament) how to reach that last level of human evolution, the spiritual one. Everyone is invited to the banquet of the Lamb of God, but not all will see it or believe it. That is not without justification because what you must believe in is truly unbelievable with just the physical and mental universe. Here is something you are called upon to believe if you choose this way, this truth, and the life of opposites to what you see in the world.

I wrote a blog a few weeks back on what it means to be a Catholic (for me).

I added these to the website Quora to answer one of their questions. With some of these inane questions, no wonder many countries are going more and more atheistic. I don’t blame them, but I offer some ideas that help me with the insanity of false questions. It’s a living.

  • That they ask you to die each day to yourself to rise to new life in Christ Jesus.
  • That they ask you to love one another as Christ loved us.
  • That they ask you to love God with your whole heart, whole mind, and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.
  • That they ask you, when people calumniate and make false statements, do not return evil for evil, but return evil with good.
  • You should be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit and overflow so that people may see your good works and give glory to our heavenly Father.
  • They ask you to grow in the capacity of God each day in silence and solitude.
  • That they ask you to forgive those who persecute you and love those who hate you.
  • That they ask you to believe that the words of Christ are as valid today as when he spoke them.
  • They ask you to give glory to the Father, through, with, and in Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
  • That they ask you to convert your sinful self each day through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • That they ask you to sit quietly on a park bench in the middle of winter with the heart of Christ next to yours and just be fully human as your nature intended.
  • That you should do nothing more than to seek God each day in whatever comes your way or whoever comes your way with no judgments.
  • They ask you to have mercy on others as Christ has mercy on you.
  • That you should pray in the silence of your room (Matthew 6.5) in secret (contemplative prayer) and make no demands on God.
  • You should remember that the first step of humility is to fear the Lord.
  • You should not worship false gods of the world, the first and foremost being yourself.
  • That you should do penance for your sins and read the seven penitential psalms with genuine sorry for offending God.
  • That you should not prevaricate and speak falsely of others.
  • That you should not let the sun go down on your anger.
  • You should do unto others as you want them to do unto you.
  • That you should come to believe in the words of Christ as Messiah. (John 20:30–31)
  • You should not worship false idols such as money, fame, fortune, adulation, false pride, or thinking that you and your thinking are better than others.
  • That they ask you to give up what seems righteous to the world but which is the opposite for those in the kingdom of heaven.
  • That they ask that in all things, you glorify God.
  • That they ask you to watch out for the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour, especially me.
  • They ask you not to place the world’s riches as your center but instead place there God’s riches. Only the rich get to heaven, but it is with God’s riches, not material things.
  • They ask you to have Faith, Hope, and Love and listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit with the ear of your heart.
  • That, even if there is no god, no higher source, nobody from whom we have a DNA, doing these things would allow us to reach the highest potential of our humanity as intended by our nature.
  • That, in the end, we have Faith so that we can have Hope in the resurrection, and so live now in the love of God (not the world), and serve others as Christ has served us.

Who wants to be a member of that? I do.

III.LOVE THROUGH CONTEMPLATION

St. Thomas Aquinas is quoted as saying, “Knowledge precedes love.” I have read some of the reactions on YouTube to Christianity by atheists and agnostics. Usually, I don’t pay any attention to their arguments because they hold radically different assumptions about what is real or not. One such YouTube is by Alan Watts, entitled, “They Made It All Up.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imSKlARohbQ

I find it fascinating that what sounds like perfectly logical arguments from someone who only lives in the physical and mental universe and who looks back in time two thousand years to make assumptions that only he can legitimize are ones about which I agree. Here are the results of my thinking.

  1. Of course, the followers of Jesus made all this up. Who else would there be to make it up but the people there, and that does not include Mr. Watt or me? What is indisputable is that they made something up. What is astounding is that the one focus of all these writings is the stories and activities of someone who influenced them enough to write down all this stuff, each person being different and writing from the fullness of their life experiences and yet all influenced by that one Christ Principle. It is absolutely unbelievable. (John 20:30-31; John 21:25)
  2. The assumption of this YouTube, if I might be permitted a comment is that assumption is that all the writings of different people cannot possibly mean that it is true. They make mistakes, and they write from the viewpoint of each person; schools of Thought, like the Pauline School, had a different approach than the format of the Gospels, which uses the classic heroic myth format popularized by Joseph Campbell. https://libguides.gvsu.edu/c.php?g=948085&p=6857311 My assumption is that all these different written documents (primary sources) by all these different authors is why I believe it is true.
  3. What is written down in the Scriptures is only a tiny piece of what has been written by those in those first centuries around the time of Jesus. Rather than take up too much space, I go to sources like http://www.newadvent.com and look up Fathers of the Church. Here are a few examples of people who made up things about Jesus.

Miscellaneous
  – The Didache (c. 100)
  – Apostolic Constitutions (c. 400)
  – The Legend of Barlaam and Josaphat
  – The Passion of the Scillitan Martyrs (c. 180)
  – A Treatise Against the Heretic Novatian (c. 255)
  – A Treatise on Re-Baptism (c. 255)
  – Remains of the Second and Third Centuries (various dates)
  – Apostolic Canons (c. 400) — See Apostolic Constitutions, Book VIII, Chapter 47
  – Acts of Sharbil (unknown date) [SYRIAC]
  – The Martyrdom of Barsamya (unknown date) [SYRIAC]
  – Extracts from Various Books Concerning Abgar the King and Addaeus the Apostle (unknown date) [SYRIAC]
  – The Teaching of the Apostles (unknown date) [SYRIAC]
  – The Teaching of Simon Cephas in the City of Rome (unknown date) [SYRIAC]
  – Martyrdom of Habib the Deacon (unknown date) [SYRIAC]
  – Martyrdom of the Holy Confessors Shamuna, Guria, and Habib (unknown date) [SYRIAC]
  – A Letter of Mara, Son of Serapion (unknown date) [SYRIAC]
  – Ambrose (unknown date) [SYRIAC]
  – The False Decretals (c. 850)

All of these writings, even those Mr. Watts sees as “made up” are real documents written by real people all centered on what the Christ Principle means to them.

My point in all of this is that Christianity is about sitting next to Jesus on a park bench in the dead of winter, content to be in the presence of pure love and receive the power to become what our human nature fully intended, fully human but as an adopted son or daughter of the Father.

Contemplation refers to that hidden room in your heart (inner sanctum) where you bolt the door closed and are there with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 6:5) This presence with the Sacred results from knowledge. This is love, not as humans define it, but as you are challenged to live it. (Matthew 25). Prayer is a way to put yourself in the presence of Jesus, sometimes with others but most intimately within your Temple of the Holy Spirit. What do you treasure in your Arc of the Covenant? Think about that. It is more beneficial to discover your true self than to read about how all these people wrote differently about Christ. False questions can only have false answers.

Discovering what it means to love is part of our purpose in life. What we learn about it gives each of our unique perspectives on what it means to be human.

IV. SERVICE AND GOOD WORKS

The quadrants of authority, knowledge, and love are incomplete with the last component–doing all this for and with others. St. Benedict provides a good list of practices (good works) needed to move from our false self to our true self. All it takes is for me to do it.

Lay Cistercian practices and charisms are how I focus on keeping my Christ Principle from corrupting due to the matter and mind around me. I must do this habit daily, and I need these good works to become more like Christ ad less like my old self.

And, by the way, I made up all these ideas with the help of the Holy Spirit, Mr. Watts, notwithstanding.

Using The Christ Principle, I must continuously upgrade and update my old skins to replace them with new skins. Christ is always new to each age and person, yet remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I use the Christ Principle template to measure my four quadrants against what is the way, the truth, and the life.

TEN PRACTICES THAT BRING FULFILLMENT TO ME AS A CATHOLIC

Remember that Catholic is the name for those individuals who share one faith, one lord, one baptism,

Unity in the Body.

1* I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,a

2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b

3striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c

4* one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d

5one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e

6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.f

  1. BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN
  2. BEING SOMEONE WHO SEEKS GOD EVERY DAY, AS I CAN.
  3. BEING SOMEONE WHO HAS THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE AS MY CENTER.
  4. BEING SOMEONE WHO MUST CONSTANTLY KEEP CHRIST AS MY CENTER THROUGH SILENCE, SOLITUDE, PRAYER, WORK, AND COMMUNITY.
  5. WRITE DOWN MY THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT THE HOLY SPIRIT PROMPTS WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT IF I AM RIGHT, OR WHO WILL READ IT.
  6. SPENDING TIME BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT.
  7. CREATING AN ARC OF THE COVENANT OF IN MY OFFICE WHERE I HOUSE FOUR ITEMS THAT REMIND ME THAT I MUST TAKE UP MY CROSS EACH DAY, TO FOLLOW THE FOOTSTEPS OF CHRIST.
  8. AS I NOTICEABLY DECLINE IN PHYSICAL HEALTH (AND PROBABLY MENTAL HEALTH), TO LOOK FORWARD TO SHARING MY INHERITANCE AS AN ADOPTED SON (DAUGHTER) OF THE FATHER.
  9. SITTING ON A PARK BENCH IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER ONLY WISHING TO BE NEAR TO THE HEART OF CHRIST WITHOUT WORDS, MY AGENDA, BUT RATHER LISTENING WITH THE EAR OF THE HEART.
  10. CREATING MORE BOOKS, BLOGS, AND MAYBE A YOUTUBE VIDEO ON CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE AS I UNDERSTAND IT.

UIODG

10 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT HOW TO MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD

My preoccupation for some time has been to move from my false self to my true self. This transition is a transformation (conversio morae) from being human in two universes (physical and mental) to that being fully human in three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual). As I am beckoned by the Holy Spirit to abandon what I have learned about life, from being in the world to “having in me the mind of Christ Jesus,” I have gained more than I can even write down, as much as I try. All this is without going to a theological class or studying for a degree, although I have the degrees and a lifetime of trying and failing to love others as Christ loves me. The new awareness is to just let go and sit in the presence of the Holy Spirit as Jesus sat in the temple with the elders, teaching them. It is a recognition that to move from false self to true self is with the help and mentorship of the Magister Noster (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Here are some new ideas that have popped up in this old and failing mind in my recent Lectio Divina meditations.

  1. TRUST IN THE LORD — I must decrease, Christ must increase. I don’t get that automatically, but I must work to achieve it. Awareness is the conscious lifting up my mind and heart to God, becoming a habit.
  2. PRAY IN PRIVATE — These days, I see myself going into that upper room in my heart, closing the door, then sitting down in my rocking chair to be with the Holy Spirit and learn the idea of the day. I don’t own the agenda, which is part of the abandonment of my false self. (Matthew 6:5)
  3. RECOGNIZE THAT GOD IS GOD AND I AM ME– The first step in St. Benedict’s ladder of humility is “fear of the Lord.” I don’t sense that this is being afraid of God as much as realizing that, when I am in the presence of Christ, I must keep my head bowed and my eyes lowered because I am in the presence of pure love (100% of God’s nature, which is beyond knowing with human reasoning).
  4. REALIZE THAT MY CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES — Evil and Good do not live outside or inside me. They are the results of what I choose when I think and act. I can make choices that are good for my adoption as a son of the Father or bad. Like any good Father, God helps and guides me by allowing me to make my own choices but points out the way, what is accurate, and the life I must lead while I am alive until I die and receive my reward for trying to be what Christ taught me. I don’t get to heaven automatically, like being on a conveyor belt with no responsibility or consequences for my actions. The Sacrament of Reconciliation and my habit of being a penitential Lay Cistercian keep me primed to keep all things new through, with, and in Christ Jesus.
  5. THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS WITHIN YOU –Recognize that contemplative prayer is going to that place inside me, the place the late Stephen Hawking could not look (not because he was not brilliant, but because he never thought there was anything there to discover). Contemplation is the abandonment of false self so that the newness of life through the Holy Spirit can overshadow me. How can you do that? By sitting on a park bench in the middle of winter and waiting for your humanity to settle down so you can listen with the “ear of the heart.” (St. Benedict)
  6. LONG FOR SIMPLICITY — The Christ Principle is the totality of all that is meaningful for humans to become what their nature intended. It is the size of a mustard seed yet contains all that I need to sustain me as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. All I have to do is plant, water, keep the weeds away, and talk to it. In the way that I adapt this to my actual living in the world, I have been sitting in my chair (I don’t count how long) and thinking about Philippians 2:5, my center, then just see myself in that upper room in my rocking chair waiting for Jesus to talk to me. I don’t control the agenda. I do speak first out of respect that this is God. I think, “Speak whatever I need to hear.” Simplicity is the result of complete abandonment of the will of God, which retains my responsibility to be fully human in the present as God intended in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.
  7. BE A CONSTANT SONG OF THANKSGIVING — I am always grateful for the gift of adoption from the Father and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in sustaining me against the lion’s roar. There are no words to describe the depths (and getting more profound each day) of my love for Christ, even with all my health problems and lack of support for being a Lay Cistercian. My grace is sufficient is the answer I get back. Christ tells me, “Just because your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. My road to Calvary had lots of pebbles and rocks that hurt my feet.” My response to this is a song of thanksgiving (Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration) to express my gratitude as much as my human nature will allow (with, in, and through the humanity of Christ). How great Thou Art.
  8. I AM A LEAF ON THE BRANCHES OF THE TREE OF CHRIST WITH THE FATHER AND HOLY SPIRIT AS THE ROOTS– I refer to the Church or Gathering of Believers. This is the dynamic presence of the humanity of those in heaven, those still struggling with carrying their daily cross on earth, and those given a second chance by the Father to love others as Christ loved us. Given the sinfulness of every member of the Church (except Christ and Mary), it is a paradox how God, who knew everything, still entrusted the administration of the flock to humans that led us off the beaten path. Only the fidelity of the Holy Spirit to us as adopted sons and daughters kept the Church from falling into the depths of failure and dissolving. We are all wounded and need mercy and forgiveness each day of our lives.
  9. THE PEACE OF CHRIST IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF CONFLICT IN OUR HEARTS, BUT THE PRESENCE OF HIS DIVINE LOVE (as much as we are capable of receiving–capacitas dei). If I want love in my life, I must choose to put it there; if I want to sustain my faith, I must constantly believe that Christ is the Messiah. (John 20:30-31) My Lay Cistercian community helps me to do that.
  10. THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, I AM A PILGRIM IN A FOREIGN LAND (the world) AND MUST STRUGGLE EACH DAY TO SURVIVE. I realize that each day is sufficient unto itself and that I must seek God anew the day the Lord has made. I am more and more aware that, although each day is a martyrdom of the ordinary (sameness), I am slightly more of Christ today than yesterday if I just “Do what he tells me.” Profound listening is not an easy habit to obtain or maintain, but it is one that I strive to do each day as I move from my false self to my true self. uiodg

I HAVE A GHOST WRITER

I have constantly been upset with myself for claiming that the Holy Spirit is my generator of ideas, not because it is not valid but because it sounds so haughty to claim that. No more. I give credit to the source of my thinking.

My approach to Lay Cistercian spirituality is totally my own experiences with how I either assimilate God’s communication into my patterns of thinking and acting or not. Honestly, my life has been a complete failure when I look back on it. It is not that I have not done a few good things in my lifetime. Still, my examination of conscience turns up the many times I just thought about myself and what I could gain from a relationship with anyone or how to improve my position or job. All failures, in terms of My center, The Christ Principle (Philippians 2:5). It is humbling that I have so much bumbling around.

My Lay Cistercian practices have given me the tools (Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict) to assess who I am in the sight of God and make all things new.

Writing has been a nice transition for me in retirement (I am beyond retirement and now am just tired). And there is the point of my blog, “Where do all these ideas come from?” Of course, they come from me, just as the Scriptures come from the many people who wrote down Old and New Testament stories. When I ask this question, what is in the back of my mind is that I don’t consciously bring up any of these ideas during a typical waking day. It is only when I do Lectio Divina that I unleash the power (not the full power of the Holy Spirit because none of us could survive that flush of energy that is knowledge, love, and service) of my humanity. Put another way, I inch forward (capacitas dei) by delving into relationships that are part of the compendium of my knowledge but not readily apparent to this temple of the Holy Spirit.

I just want to acknowledge my Ghostwriter is the Holy Spirit. I am the writing instrument (I must keep my ink full by seeking God daily). The book I write is my book of life, one that I present to God when I die to give an accounting of my stewardship (Genesis 1-2). I don’t speak for the Holy Spirit; only the Holy Father does that. I do speak with the Holy Spirit in my Lay Cistercian practices as I place myself unconditionally in the presence of Christ and wait.

I am not you; you are not me; God is not me; and I, most certainly, am not God.

uiodg

TOP TEN MOVIE FAVORITES: A life at the movies.

MY TOP TEN FAVORITES: Movies

What follows is what came from my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) meditations. I need to acknowledge Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. and Father Cassian, O.C.S.O., monks both at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Georgia, for expanding my idea of Lectio to group Lectio, photos, and music Lectio and even sitting down to a computer and letting the Holy Spirit dictate what to say. I must tell them I have a problem with their suggestions and guidance. I don’t know how to turn off the spigot of the Holy Spirit. I guess that is a good problem to have. 

If you know what the Left Hand of God is, then you know that it is a movie starring Humphrey Bogart, actually, his last film as well as for Jean Tierney made in 1955, although she was having severe emotional problems during the filming. https://www.bestmoviesbyfarr.com/articles/gene-tierney-pictures/2015/11  At the end of his life, Bogart had terrible coughing spells between takes for the movie. You can see age in his weathered face. Lee J. Cobb plays the War Lord in this film set in China in the 1940s. I bring this up because you can now see it on Comcast movies if you wish. I rate the Left Hand of God as one of my top ten movies of all time. 

Other top ten movies are:

1. Gregory Peck in Keys of the Kingdom (and anything else he was in)

2. Charlton Heston in Ben Hur (and anything else he was in)

3. Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain (and anything else he was in)

4. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers in Top Hat (and anything else they were in)

5. Humphrey Bogart in The Left Hand of God (and anything else he was in)

6. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man (and anything else they were in)

7. Basil Rathbone in The Court Jester (and anything else he was in)

8. Cary Grant in Gunga Din, Victor McLaglen(and anything else any of them were in)

9. Gary Cooper in Lives of a Bengal Lancer (and anything else he was in)

10. Katheryn Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story (and anything else any of them were in)

11. Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind (and anything else is was in)

Notice anything about this list? Something out of place?

  • For one thing, there are eleven movies, not ten. Baker’s Dozen? Sometimes you just have to squeeze life a little to get it to ooze what you want.
  • They all have movie stars that make me laugh, cry, or think. Other movies, for sure, do this, but these have reached my heart.
  • Movies are actual stories told by writers, actors, producers, directors, and stage hands, all working together to put ideas down within a specific timeframe. Some are good, some are terrible.
  • I like any movies these actors or actresses are in.
  • It shows how old-fashioned and sentimental I am.

Seeing how movies can relate to Christ might seem like a stretch. Think about it for a moment. As a Lay Cistercian who does Lectio Divina at least once every day (Phil 2:5), I try to relate everything to this saying, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.”

  • What Jesus came to do was on a stage (the world, in particular, a set in Jerusalem).
  • He had a supporting cast of characters (you could not find a more unlikely crew of cats to herd).
  • Christ had a script (to do all the Father had told him), yet he had writers take down these ideas because he never wrote a script or a book (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, et al.).
  • He was a leader extraordinaire but only ever gave one command: love others as I have loved you.
  • He was tempted by Satan in the desert. Want an excellent visual of the Devil? See the fantastic choreography of Bob Fosse in his “Snake in the Grass” scene from The Little Prince Movie.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Prince.
  • The script had drama and incredible feats beyond the imagination of even the best scriptwriters. You could not make these miracles up.
  • He walked on water.
  • He raised the dead.
  • He was transfigured before the eyes of witnesses.
  • Like all heroic films, our hero had to overcome tremendous obstacles and come out on top. Was this magic? If not, he had significant special effects.
  • His supporting cast was always slow to get what he was trying to do, even going to sleep once when he needed them the most. 
  • The mother of some of the cast members wanted her sons to have the highest billing in the movie, but He told her it was not his to give. (After all, he was not the Director.)
  • Christ did his own stunts, doing all the scourging at the pillar, crowing of thorns, and carrying his cross himself (they did get an extra, Simon of Cyrene, to help him when he fell down too many times).
  • The climax to this film was not just a sword fight, as Basic Rathbone had in Robin Hood, or even a ship’s battle, as Gregory Peck did in Captain Horatio Hornblower. He volunteered to give up his life because of love.
  • The star dies in this film, giving his life to his friends. Sounds like Gunga Din and Tales of a Bengal Lancer, don’t you think? But, like all epic films (El CidThe Ten CommandmentsThe Greatest Story Ever Told), death is not the end of the movement. There is a resurrection of the hero from the dead, and he appears to Mary and the Apostles and other disciples after his death.
  • His enemies said his disciples stole his body away and made up all these fanciful tales. They still do to this day.
  • They recognized him in the breaking of the bread. We still do that today.
  • This film was made with no budget and no money for actors.
  • They had to pay to make the film; the cost is their life and to give up everything and follow The Master.
  • There have been many sequels to this film down through the ages.
  • Check out the movie about the Seven Cistercian martyrs of Our Lady of Altas for a poignant sequel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Gods_and_Men_(film)  Oh, and don’t forget to watch The Left Hand of God.   
  • What is the title of this film? It has many names, all of them good. I like to call it “The Divine Equation.” Not a catchy title, but I can call it what I want. I may change the title later if I get more mean and cranky. 
  • His followers promoted the movie, filmed in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. They still do. There is only one movie reel known to exist, although there are countless movie projectors on which you might play it.
  • The Father was the Director, while the Holy Spirit was the cinematographer. It was filmed in real-life color. Each individual person is in the cast, be they, believers or non-believers. 
  • Editing was done to the many scripts submitted as a biopic of his life after he Ascended. The Twelve Apostles were the Board of Directors and selected the best scripts after being enlightened by the Holy Spirit and approved by The Director.
  • The reviews were rave. His exploits spread to Rome from Jerusalem within twenty-five years of his birth. That must have been a box office record at the time. Those who attended the movie later said it was “to die for.”
  • It could have been just another Indy movie about an obscure cult. Instead, it had a worldwide audience.
  • Promotion is done by each person who loves others as Christ loved us.

This movie is not for everyone, but for anyone wishing to grow deeper in the Mystery of Faith, to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for the heart of Christ to come by and touch you with His love. To paraphrase the book Little Prince, the time you take to wait for someone to come by your bench is meaningful. What is essential is invisible to the eye. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Prince

To those who see this movie and interiorize its message of love and hope, there awaits a final showing at the end of time, a Gala Grand Movie Premier. Everyone will be there. You don’t want to miss it. Oh, I forgot, you must have a ticket to get in. The good news is that Christ gave everyone a ticket upon their birth, but not everyone realizes what they have. They redeem their ticket upon their Baptism and Confirmation. Lose your ticket? No problemo! Christ makes all things new…now and Forever. And don’t forget to buy popcorn and a drink.

Praise to the Father, 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

TWO TYPES OF CATHOLICISM: A Lay Cistercian looks at the duality of three new approaches to the Sacred.

I must warn you that what I am writing, I do so with the promptings from the Holy Spirit, which are not traditional to my Catholic Faith on the first review but which I consider illuminating, at least. This is just a blog, the mutterings of an old, broken-down Lay Cistercian temple of the Holy Spirit at the end of his life wobbling down the path of righteousness. You be the judge of its orthodoxy.

As I look at the profundity of my life, the only perspective I know, I realize that my Lay Cistercian experiences have laid many bare ideas and cherished beliefs that I hold now and in the past. More and more, my awareness of The Christ Principle is caught up in the conundrum of complexities, such as the duality between my human nature existing in the physical universe and, superimposed over that, my spiritual heritage as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. I see that played out before me in the history of the Catholic Church, which I describe later on, but also in the dual that exists in prayer (contemplative prayer of the individual and the public prayer of Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Rosary, and Litanies.) When I use the term “dualities,” I mean two interacting influences in the human experience and in no way conflicting, and in most ways, complementary parts of the one whole.

The implications of duality are that the concept of the Church or that adoption can have two levels, or whatever you want to call it. One is not the other, but they both exist in synchronicity. One is the easy way, and one is the hard way. Apply the sign of contradiction to these two ways, and I get the subject of my latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), and you get a statement like this. How is it that I can use Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) to place myself in the presence of Christ and just wait for me to show up to sit next to the Christ Principle and be? Then, because of the power of the Holy Spirit, bring forth such complexities and depth of thinking (far beyond my usual thought patterns of just looking at Korean cooking shows on the YouTube channel and marveling at their culinary skills).

In this first example, I look at how I can simultaneously be simple and complex in prayer. Next, I will share my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) results about Church, then a quick look at my feminine and masculine duality.

THE FIRST DUALITY: THE “CAPACITAS DEI” IN PRAYER AND HOW IT IS BOTH SIMPLE YET COMPLEX.

THE EASY WAY –The easy way is direct contact with the Christ Principle (as much as I can assimilate the faith I have assimulated and sustained by faith alone). It is only the way that is the most difficult to achieve and requires constant conversio morae (conversion). For me, this is sitting before the Blessed Sacrament and gradually and purposefully getting rid of (abandonment) the world’s allure in favor of just waiting with Christ in the silence and solitude of unconditional Love. That does not happen often, but it is the goal of all my Lectio Divina prayers. “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). The easy way is my path less traveled but most desired. It is the easiest in terms of simplicity and cutting through all the mental constructs I put up to meet God on my terms, but it is the most difficult to achieve. Heaven is the permanent habit of contemplation in this sense.

This approach bypasses the typical theological banter and struggles to discover what is spiritually true in favor of simplicity in contemplation using silence, solitude, work, and prayer, in the context of community (Cistercian charisms). A type of person comes to mind, one that is contemplative and wants to slow down, loving Christ with all their heart, their minds, and their strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). The mind feeds on complexity and always looks for more tendrils of meaning that leads to more meaning, like the mustard seed that grows into a big bush. This way seeks simplicity and focuses just on being in the presence of Christ, knowing that all knowledge is there but choosing that second to love Christ while waiting. All of this is reduced to one act of gratitude and humility at being chosen as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father, unworthy but grateful.

The example that comes to mind for me is Mrs. Murphy, a fictional character invented by the late Father Aidan Kavanaugh, O.S.B. He stated in one of his classes that I attended that Mrs. Murphy was a little, old lady who sat in the back of the Church in contemplation and prayer. He said she is not schooled in Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, and any other discipline of the mind. She just sits there in the presence of Christ in silence and solitude and waits. Father Aidan said this humble person knows more about what it means to be a disciple of the Master than all the Theologians from all religions who lived. In my Lectio Divina experiences, I don’t need all the various levels of trying to grow deeper in Christ Jesus. The difference is: that I try for silence and simplicity of mind and heart and just wait, not pushing any agenda on the Holy Spirit. When I abandon my human inclinations and will to the Father, I automatically step into the realm of contemplation, just being in the presence of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

My best example of this is my adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I am just sitting there, waiting for my mind to demythologize all the extraneous cares that bombard me so I can focus on seeking the kingdom of heaven first.

THE HARD WAY –Because I am of human nature, I have reason and the ability to choose whatever I want as my center, my God, my values, and what it means to be human. This is the hard way. I am this type of Catholic when I try to prove anything using the Scriptures. That is not why the Scriptures were written down by many people, using many points of view about The Christ Principle. It is amazing what came out of that experience.

The hard way is being open to what the Spirit says but with the downside of getting overkill if there is too much information. There is always too much information (capacitas dei) growing deeper in The Christ Principle.

With this approach, the hardest to assimilate because all of these experiences need to be organized, there is a tendency for The Christ Principle to get lost in the myriad of offshoots of the original question. This way, the more you know, the more ramifications about The Christ Principle come to mind, and the more hoops you must jump through. This is good but definitely the hard way to contemplate because, to reach simplicity, these mental constructs must be placed in order. Just like doing a Soduku puzzle, humans have a compulsion streak that seeks to solve what cannot be solved. This is the problem with God for many people because God is not a puzzle to be solved as much as a feeling that comes from being exposed to the Sacred, experienced, and enjoyed.

I perform both the easy way (when I do Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, or Eucharist, and just let myself go in the presence of Christ to become a cup filled with whatever enters it, or the hard way when I grow in capacitas dei with my predetermined levels of practice (lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio, actio). Both are part of the one core center, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

THE SECOND DUALITY: THE MYSTERY OF HOW THE CHURCH IS A DYNAMIC REPOSITORY OF THE FAITH FOR HISTORY YET MEANINGFUL FOR EACH PERSON MARKED WITH THE SIGN OF BAPTISM (THE CROSS).

One of the hottest topics of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) these days is the process of going deeper into my meditations. For example, take the word “Church.” It could mean a building, a denomination, or a way of believing. My thoughts go for this diagram containing four parts of the meaning of “Church.” Let me elaborate my thinking by giving you the history of the Catholic Church (as I alone see it). It illustrates the tension in a church, continuously challenging the world of the now for its role and purpose. As with any church, the history of the Catholic Church depends on your understanding of the conundrum of “How can anything Holy from Christ be so messed up with fallible, mistake-prone, sinful, worldly humans?” I offer no definitive answer other than what I have gleaned over nearly eighty-two years of looking at how all this could make sense. I am just a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian temple of the Holy Spirit with many weeds and cracks. You judge what is, just as I try to make sense of what is a conundrum to the world but makes perfect sense when you insert The Christ Principle into the lock of The Divine Equation.

The Catholic Church is the fulfillment of what the Jewish covenant should have been (instead of expanding as a light of truth to the Gentiles, it withdrew into itself). If Christ is the vine and we are the branches, then the Jewish experience with one God are the roots.) Two types of Church movements evolved: one is monarchical (began with Constantine and the Edict of Milan) when the Church was seduced and assumed into the state. Before that, it was the Church of Martyrs (the first forty Popes were martyred), and the first pope denied Christ three times. Peter was said to have had furrows carved out of his cheeks by his constant tears. From the beginning, the second type of Church was the rise of those (men and women) who followed the contemplative path made famous by the Essenes and John the Baptism.

These two strains moved forward in time using the Christ Principle. Both are correct and flawed yet obsessed with making the Christ Principle real in the moment. The Church of Martyrs, from Pentecost to the Edict of Milan in the West 313 A.D., was plagued by the casuistry and relativism of individuals who claimed to have been the way, have the truth, and invited people to join them. The heresies of the individual (Gnosticism and all the other “isms” and “ologies” touted believing in this or that variation on The Christ Principle.) The authority of the true teachings of Jesus was at constant risk of being tainted by false teachers. All this Church of the Martyrs had was the Torah and prescriptions of the Law, the Jewish practices, and the Temple of Jerusalem. They circulated manuscripts of what disciples had written down or remembered about Jesus (John 20:30–31). This transition from the Law of God to something much broader (they had no clue what that was) is evident in the writing of the Pauline School in Acts of the Apostles. Until the Holy Spirit, these twelve entrances of the New Jerusalem were hiding in the upper room for fear of being discovered by Jewish authorities. Then, something happened, something wonderful. For the second time (the Incarnation’s first time), God intervened and overshadowed them just like the Holy Spirit did with Mary. Somehow, they were made new, raised to a new level, still sinful and prone to making everyday mistakes, but now they had infused knowledge about what their Baptism meant and how Jesus was Lord, Savior, and Son of God. That group changed the world, not because they were human, but because, raised to a new life, they realized the evolution of humans as nature intended. Genesis was fulfilled in each of them and so in each of us. That is what they tried to spread and safeguard truth from being watered down.

THE FOUR QUADRANTS OF MY FAITH

To help my human tendencies always to have my thoughts racked in some order, four different processes of my Lay Cistercian experiences come to mind. I can best describe them with this diagram.

Any notion of a collection of those who gather in the name of the Lord has the burden of looking a lot like the person who asked the question, “What is the Catholic Church?” Each person answers that with the sum of their own life experiences, both good and bad. I speak only for myself.

To review: this is my hypothesis that there is but one reality containing three distinct and overlapping universes, each one with different characteristics and different measurements. This concept comes from The Divine Equation, the six postulates that I must successfully ask and answer correctly to fulfill what my nature as a human fully intended me to be (life before the fall of Adam and Eve). The Divine Equation is the six assumptions each human must correctly identify to become fully human as nature intended.

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is the purpose of my life within that purpose?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How do I love fiercely?
  • I know I am going to die; now what?

The Divine Equation is “divine” because both questions and the correct answers come from God through The Christ Principle. It is not the equation to prove God’s existence. Solving it individually allows me to break the code that prevents those who just hold reality in the physical and mental universes instead of the physical, mental, and spiritual universes also called intelligent progression.

MY ASSUMPTIONS:

This concept is not a “good or bad church” diatribe. It points out the humanity involved in this group of believers gathered together to try as best they can to “have in them the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

These two influences exist simultaneously as humanity proceeds down the path to discover the purpose of life and my purpose in that purpose (all six postulates of the Divine Equation).

When I answer these six questions correctly,  I can use the key to open up the purpose of life now and in the life to come.

The correct answer to the first postulate of The Divine Equation, “What is the Purpose of life?” is: Deuteronomy 6:5 and its fulfillment in Matthew 22:38. Put another way, “The purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God in this life so that I can be happy with God in the next.”

This gets a little tricky in my notion of church. Bear with me. This is my hard way of looking at the depths and heights of what I see around me when I behold the Catholic Church. I go into this seemingly complex view of the simple mystery of the Church in another blog.

All levels are one, inseparable through time and each age.

I wind up with my Church in the eighty years I have on earth to discover what it means to be fully human, which, in turn, means I am an adopted son of the Father.

RIGHT BRAIN/LEFT BRAIN

If I look at my own reflections of what it means to be Catholic, I see similarities with the concept of right brain and left brain traits. I use this concept even if it is a way for me to see how my behaviors in the spiritual universe can be split into two hemispheres of behaviors.

Right Brain

  • Creative
  • Intuitive
  • Artistic
  • Non-verbal
  • Emotional
  • Musical
  • Imaginative

Left Brain

  • Logical
  • Analytical
  • Linear
  • Verbal
  • Factual
  • Verbal
  • Sequential

https://www.verywellmind.com/left-brain-vs-right-brain-2795005

THE MONACHICAL INFLUENCE The monarchical Church, influenced by Roman law and order, and the Twelve Apostles, the painful process of applying the Gospel imperatives to a non-Jewish world to evangelize and organize the authority of Christ, truth, and organizational skills (bishops, presbyters, and deacons). This monarchical Church (after the fourth century) was prone to make bad choices over the years, yet all the while having authority to enter each age to protect the message of Christ from false teachers and prophets. The Church is holy, while all members are sinful and prone to evil without our constant call upon the Lord to be saved daily. Here are four ideas about the monarchical church that are still embedded in what we know as The Catholic Church through the centuries.

Reading the Acts of the Apostles gives us a flavor of the transition from Jewish Law (613 prescriptions of the Law) and how the Law and the Prophets would expand into the Roman and Greek worlds of the time. The Jewish approach was to conserve and preserve the Law and the teachings contained in the Torah and the Prophets, keeping intact the Twelve Tribes (actually, there were ten lost tribes, so Judah, Benjamine (St Paul was of this tribe), and Levi. When the Twelve Apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the world into which each of them exited was Jewish. The Torah and Law of Moses respected the temple, the sacred center, the priests who offered sacrifice with animals, and the writings of Rabbis on the meaning of the covenant and how God would not leave his people abandoned.

Jesus is the Messiah, Jeshua Meshiak, Son of God and Savior. John 20:30-31sums up the purpose of Scriptures as readings and a history of fulfilling the Law and the Prophets.

30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s

31 But 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

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/20

ONE WAY TO LOOK AT MY VIEW OF THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE

Left BrainRight Brain
AUTHORITY AND JUSTIFICATIONSERVICE AND FULFILLMENT
INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGELOVE AND CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE
THE MONARCHICAL INFLUENCETHE MONASTIC INFLUENCE
Four categories that I use to fill up my cup.

THE MONASTIC INFLUENCE– The monastic dimension, from the beginning, did not seek to go out to the whole world and tell the good news, although that was still an unintended outcome. There was only the Torah and teachings of the Prophets, the traditions of Jewish teachers. This way of life turned inward in contemplation to ask the questions: “What is the purpose of life? What is my purpose within that purpose? What does reality look like? How does it all fit together? How do I love fiercely? I know I am going to die, now what?” They sought the answers in the silence and solitude of their hearts, some becoming monks in the desert like St. Anthony., St. Benedict, the Cistercian and Carthusian movements of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Bruno, respectively. As the Church wobbled down the path of time, it was never an easy walk but one characterized by Christ’s walk to his crucifixion. Denial of self, connecting to the ways of the world (in each age), and focusing on Christ as the way, the truth, and the light daily was core.

From early on (you can argue how early), this movement or second stain of the Catholic Universal Church approached each individual at each age with the same question. “What does it mean for you to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus?” The monarchical Church (The Church of rules and order, and the mind is the right brain) is secondary to what happens in the heart between you and Jesus with that same Holy Spirit overshadowing you that happened to Mary in Luke Chapters 1–2. Both influences are correct, but with different emphasis. This is never an either/or dichotomy, but rather complementary processes influencing each other.

Because the Church on earth has been authorized to act on behalf of an unseen God, its focus is on keeping the message from Christ unsullied by humans. The problem was that people giving temporal direction to how the Church moved from Judaism to society contained all the uncertainties, struggles, human pride, and wrong choices that plague any human enterprise. We forget to think it is God’s Church, not ours, to play around with. Whatever you think about how the Church is run, and there is plenty of justification to show how human intervention went berzerk down through the ages, the Holy Spirit is there to bring the great ship of believers back on course.

The Monarchical Church (left brain) stressed being correct, law and order (from the Roman Law influence), and the stress of knowing Jesus. By itself, this Church is not complete nor fulfilled without the other. Look at the purpose of life once more, and you realize that what is missing is the Monastic Church’s influence, how to love our neighbor as ourselves, and how to live the sign of contradiction by serving others. Together, they live in an eternal embrace, separate but needing each other to address The Christ Principle in each age (monarchical) and in each individual (monastic).

I am writing a separate blog on this notion of six levels of my temple of the Holy Spirit.

III. THE THIRD DUALITY: MY CHURCH IS FEMININE AND MASCULINE.

Building on the duality of prayer and the mystery of Faith, there is one more dimension to this interaction between the two types of churches. Once again, I will introduce the table and more suitable information about the topic. This duality expands my notion of the Church to incorporate more of an archetype of Mary as Church and Christ as the head. Lectio Divina has led me deeper into the mystery of Faith, which some consider folly or a fairy tale. Still, I consider “the stone which the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone” of all reality.

HYPOTHESIS: Because the type of the Church has dual dimensions, another level of awareness is the relationship between the feminine and masculine Church (Adam and Eve being the prototype example of why you need both). For me to begin to reach an understanding of what it means to be fully human so that I can love God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, several of these dualities have popped up in my thoughts during Lection Divina, one of which is masculine and feminine dimensions to each human being.

In the transition from animality to rationality, there must have been a divine DNA compels our intelligent progression forward. The Genesis Principle is one that sets out the importance of a male and female, and the two will become one. That could mean separate genders, but it could also imply that each person has dimensions and layers of complexity that allow us to choose what is good for us or, as Genesis points out, the consequences of choosing what we think is good but is actually damaging to our nature.

Don’t ask. This topic just popped into my compendium of Lay Cistercian practices for my consideration. I wrote what is below in a previous blog but I think it appropriate to copy it again.

Whenever we use words, the user (me) has assumptions that have taken a lifetime to associate with that word, and the receiver uses the same lifetime of assuming what the word means to them. When I say I have a masculine and a feminine side to my Lay Cistercian contemplative prayer life, I DO NOT mean gender differences that exist in the physical universe. I am a male by gender. I have a masculine and feminine side to the prayer life that I never knew existed. There is something to think about when I try to apply my prayers in the mental universe (that of purpose and my particular purpose in life). If I am to fulfill my quest to be fully human, one that The Christ Principle can be of help, then a masculine and feminine dimension to my prayer can help me be whole.

Remember when Genesis, the great archetypal story of what human nature should be like, and actually is? It says, “It is not good for a male to be alone.” God creates a female, and they are joined together as one. Applying the Christ Principle to this statement might have an obvious and more sophisticated meaning. First, humans need each other; males need females for procreation. Suppose this story is a classical myth and Adam represents all humanity while Eve represents all humanity. In that case, my thoughts run to thinking that males by themselves need that infusion of purpose from their feminine side to be wholly human. The two shall be one.

As a Lay Cistercian, I recently applied this to my prayer life, which is what the Holy Spirit showed me (remember, none of this stuff is normal for me).

My Lay Cistercian life has four separate boxes, with The Christ Principle being my center. It might look like this. The Christ Principle is my center.

REALM OF THE MINDREALM OF THE HEART
What my masculine side provides.What my feminine side provides.

AUTHORITY AND FAITH
The Christ Principle
My adoption by Christ
My acceptance of the Holy Spirit
Freely offer my will to the Father
Dying to Self
 SERVICE AND GOOD WORKS
Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy
Chapter 4, Rule of St. Benedict
Gathering Day
Tallahassee Lay Cistercian discernment group
INFORMATION AND REASON Primacy of Holy Scriptures
Writings of the Early Church
Writings of St. Benedict
Writings of Cistercian authors
YouTube of Bishop Barron and others

LOVE THROUGH CONTEMPLATION
Eucharist
Reconciliation and Penance
Lectio Divina
Liturgy of the Hours
Contemplative Prayer
“Do what he tells you.”
My life, my way, my truth, and my life are informed by The Christ Principle.

uiodg

LECTIO DIVINA FRAGMENTS

The Feeding of the Four Thousand.*

1In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat,a he summoned the disciples and said,

2“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.

3If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.”

4His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”

5Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied.

6* He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd.

7They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also.

8They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets.

9There were about four thousand people.

He dismissed them

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/mark/8

In my most recent Lectio Divina meditation, I thought about the fragments left over after they ate and were satisfied (verse 8); there were seven loaves with seven baskets of fragments left over. 4000 people were fed and satisfied, and there were many as leftovers as when they began the distribution of loaves. The neverending food that satisfies. Eucharist.

I have many fragments of my Lectio Divina. When I did my Lectio Divina meditation, my awareness of “baskets of fragments” was like the feeding of 4000 people (Do you know how many loaves it would take to feed four thousand?) One or two days later, there are pop-ups when I am at Trader Joe’s or Walmart that seem to be leftovers from the day before. Here are some of the pop-up fragments that I have gathered.

  • Jesus Christ could not die on the cross, and he did not. Because Christ was uniquely human but also of divine nature, his divinity could not be born or die. Sacred Scriptures tell us that Jesus gave up his spirit freely and willingly as a gift of atonement to the Father for the sins of many. Who has the power to give up his life? Jesus.
  • After multiple listening sessions on the theme for Shindler’s List, I am moved to the depths of the totality of whom I am as a human being. I also have the sense that you must be Jewish to truly appreciate the emotions that are stirred by this piece by John Williams.
  • It is strange but exhilarating that Jesus did not say YES to becoming human in the Incarnation. Mary, only possessing human nature, said YES to the invitation to become the Mother of God, reversing the NO of Adam and Eve with Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of many.
  • A Lay Cistercian seeks God each day in their own unique way. Each human is different. Each Lay Cistercian approaches The Christ Principle using the totality of who they were in the past, where they are in the present, and who they will become with the grace of God.
  • Christ is always new wine, and each of us must convert (conversio morae) our old wineskins to new ones. We do this through Faith in Christ by practicing Cistercian prayer and denying oneself to take on Christ as our new white garment. Some who only drink old wine in old skins because they don’t want to change risk total spiritual incumbency, stuck in the past instead of living in the NOW with a nudge towards the future. Penance is the mindset that allows us to get rid of the old wineskins, not to throw out Christ, but to allow new ideas and practices to address new challenges in each age.
  • The Christ Principle is a mustard seed, the one center where nothing makes sense if you take it away. If you don’t protect your center, it will wander away, seduced by the inexorable pull of original sin on our resolve to seek God each day.
  • Each day is a different opportunity to meet Christ in the events that come our way. Yesterday’s victories do not ensure today’s success. What is true is that I am different yesterday from today because Christ has grown in me, and I have tried to get rid of my false self.
  • There is only one Christ, and each of us signed with the cross on our forehead accepts Jesus as our Lord and Savior, different from each other. This is so because we lift up the totality of our lives (the good, the bad, and the ugly) as a gift of praise and thanksgiving to the Father, through, with, and in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Once I receive Baptism, I am a pilgrim in a foreign land (the world) and use the way, the truth, and the life to walk through the minefields set by Satan to seduce me.
  • I can’t buy my way to Heaven by good works, but ironically, it takes work to be good. I need to resupply my dwindling energies with the living bread coming down from Heaven.
  • Pray as you can.
  • Don’t compare yourself or your faith to any other human being. Christ alone is my center. As there is only one Christ, there is only one me. Contemplation means going into that inner room (Matthew 6:5), locking the door, and sitting down with Christ for whatever He wants to talk about.
  • Eucharist is unbelievable, yet the key to making all things new.

I take these out of Christ’s basket occasionally and munch on them.

uiodg

VISUAL LECTIO DIVINA: PART II

Use these visuals to focus on Christ. With all the blather around issues in the Church, one good way to lose your Faith is to lose your focus on Christ. St. Benedict says, “…prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” (Chapter 4, Rule)

Sitting on a park bench waiting for Jesus to come.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Life is practicing on how to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father,

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Are you blocking Jesus from getting in or blocking you from getting out to see Him?

WHAT DO YOU SEE

MY LIFE: What is visible is above the surface; what is invisible I can’t see, but I know it is there.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

If God’s game is chess, would you know how to play His game? There are rules of the game. Do you know what they are?

That in all things, God be glorified. — St. Benedict

VISUAL LECTIO DIVINA: Part 1

I share with you some of the photos I use in my Lectio Divina and other PowerPoint learning events. They make good screensavers.

St. Charles de Foucauld and friend.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. –St. Augustine

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Above are the new skins for the new wine (Christ yesterday, today, and tomorrow). This is the old skins.

Each day I begin a new life and start over to seek God. What is different is that I am just a little bigger (capacitas dei) than I was before.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter waiting for Christ to come and sit next to me. I realize that Christ has always been seated next to me but I just showed up.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Each of us has a center. This is Mary’s center. It also happens to be mine.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

This photo is me.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

WHAT ARE SOME CRITICISMS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

I added these to the website Quora to answer one of their questions. With some of these inane questions, no wonder many countries are going more and more atheistic. I don’t blame them, but I offer some ideas that help me with the insanity of false questions. It’s a living.

  • That they ask you to die each day to self to rise to new life in Christ Jesus.
  • That they ask you to love one another as Christ loved us.
  • That they ask you to love God with your whole heart, whole mind, and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.
  • That they ask you, when people calumniate and make false statements, do not return evil for evil, but return evil with good.
  • You should be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit and overflow so that people may see your good works and give glory to our heavenly Father.
  • They ask you to grow in the capacity of God each day in silence and solitude.
  • That they ask you to forgive those who persecute you and love those who hate you.
  • That they ask you to believe that the words of Christ are as valid today as when he spoke them.
  • They ask you to give glory to the Father, through, with, and in Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
  • That they ask you to convert your sinful self each day through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • That they ask you to sit quietly on a park bench in the middle of winter with the heart of Christ next to yours and just be fully human as your nature intended.
  • That you should do nothing more than to seek God each day in whatever comes your way or whoever comes your way with no judgments.
  • They ask you to have mercy on others as Christ has mercy on you.
  • That you should pray in the silence of your room (Matthew 6.5) in secret (contemplative prayer) and make no demands on God.
  • You should remember that the first step of humility is to fear the Lord.
  • You should not worship false gods of the world, the first and foremost being yourself.
  • That you should do penance for your sins and read the seven penitential psalms with genuine sorry for offending God.
  • That you should not prevaricate and speak falsely of others.
  • That you should not let the sun go down on your anger.
  • You should do unto others as you want them to do to you.
  • That you should come to believe in the words of Christ as Messiah. (John 20:30–31)
  • You should not worship false idols such as money, fame, fortune, adulation, false pride, or thinking that you and your thinking are better than others.
  • That they ask you to give up what seems righteous to the world but which is the opposite for those in the kingdom of heaven.
  • That they ask that in all things, you glorify God.
  • That they ask you to watch out for the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour, especially me.
  • They ask you not to place the world’s riches as your center but instead place there God’s riches. Only the rich get to heaven, but it is with God’s riches, not material things.
  • They ask you to have Faith, Hope, and Love and listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit with the ear of your heart.
  • That, even if there is no god, no higher source, nobody from whom we have a DNA, doing these things would allow us to reach the highest potential of our humanity as intended by our nature.
  • That, in the end, we have Faith so that we can have Hope in the resurrection, and so live now in the love of God (not the world), and serve others as Christ has served us.

Who wants to be a member of that?

THE ART OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE: THE SIX QUESTIONS THAT HAVE ALTERED HOW I THINK ABOUT THE DIVINE NATURE OF GOD

In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) today, I thought about how powerful energy must be to create what we know as the known universe (multiple universes is another discussion). These are just the thoughts of a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit that has been blessed to be accepted as a Lay Cistercian by the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia. Here is what comes to mind when I think of the energy powerful enough to create all that is.

The Art of Contemplative Practice

The Art of Contemplative Practice is taking the pulse of the universe, the throbbing of pure energy as time destroys the present reality, rendering it past but not forgotten, and, like a grand train on which reality rides from beginning to end, each of us hopping on for a ride of some seventy or eighty years, if we are strong.

The Art of Contemplative Practice is my awareness of this grand journey as I observe it with human nature, conscious of my human reasoning, and make choices that affect this journey with my free will to choose what is good for me.

The Art of Contemplative Practice is my moving from my false self, relying on their false words and meaning, replacing it with what God shows us is our center. The meaning of life in the World is good but not good enough to propel me to my next universe of evolution, the spiritual universe.

The Art of Contemplative Practice happens because I set myself up to sit in the presence of pure energy and then wait. I use Cistercian constructs or practices to achieve the charisms that come from such an encounter with the Sacred, i.e., humility, obedience to the will of God as personified by the Abbot, Abbess, or Lay Cistercian council members. That I even have to use such help shows me that I am still imperfect and in need of more and more transformation from me to Christ, but that is what I must use while I still live in the World, even though I began my journey to the Kingdom of Heaven at Baptism.

The Art of Contemplative Practice does not just happen by itself, by chance. It is the result of the pure energy of God overshadowing the Church Universal since its birth at Pentecost with the Second Advocate (Holy Spirit)sent by Christ to provide us with the pure energy we need to sustain that Baptismal commitment to be sons and daughters of the Father. Everything in the Kingdom of Heaven depends upon our being present in humility and true hearts to whatever God brings our way each day. Some days are better, but the Lord’s fidelity enables us to be faithful in the long run.

Part of what it means to address reality in all the simplicity of its complexity is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, Savior is our taking the time to place ourselves in the presence of that life-giving energy. John 20:30-31. We do that through reading God’s transforming Word in Scripture and being present to Christ in the Eucharist as he again gives fitting praise and glory to the Father in union with the pure energy of the Holy Spirit. That we even participate in such a mind-blowing event is astonishing, but that is how much God loves us, to reach down to humanity and lift us up each time Jesus, the only one who can approach the Father, takes us with him as friends. This pure energy is not to show others how powerful God is (one of the three temptations in the desert) but to extend to every human who ever lived the invitation to become one with He who has no beginning and no end. We need only to say, “Here I am, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,” and be baptized with water and the Holy Spirit.

All these thoughts led me to meditate that God overshadows various stages of reality with his presence, the pure energy that brings life to all it overshadows. The form that emerged from all this thinking led me to conclude that there are six questions that each human must ask and then seek answers to in whatever time he or she has remained while they live. They are:

THE SIX QUESTIONS AND MY ANSWERS

FIRST QUESTION: WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE, ALL REALITY?

MY ANSWER: All matter, time, space itself, and energy, everything that exists, was overshadowed by a source of energy so powerful that we humans can’t fit into what we currently know of the physical universe with the mental universe. That which has no beginning or end created that which has a beginning and end with a Word. What was that Word? Yes! Nothing created everything, but not the nothingness we know from our human experience; this is the nothingness of a Being that does not exist in space or time as we do, nor does it have a language we can even understand. A physical universe is governed by the laws of nature (laws that exist whether humans exist or not). All life exists in this universe, its energy is astounding, and the distances of just our universe are mind-bending. All life lives in this physical universe, and even humans live in it, with one exception. We can reason and choose what we have reasoned. No other living thing has that ability except humans. Why is that? This is what I call the mental universe where only humans live, while our base is still the physical universe. The purpose of life must come from the one who created it. God’s DNA permeates all reality, drawing that which has a beginning toward an end somewhere in the future. In my view of what is real, divine nature is the only thing powerful enough to create both physical and human nature. The center of that divine nature is Love. Having realized that I can realize what Love is, I ask the question, what is the center of all that I can grasp? The answer comes from the Scriptures in two memorable quotes that link all reality into one purpose. Deuteronomy 6:5, the center of the Old Testament, and Matthew 22:36, the center of the New Testament, and thus, Christ’s own center.

SECOND QUESTION: WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MY LIFE?

MY ANSWER: What is the purpose of your life within that purpose of life? The underlying question I ask is: What is the one center of my life that would make all other questions meaningless if I took it away?

Wait a minute! Why can I identify the most extraordinary power in the universe, the hypernova, which can obliterate matter and change its form, but it can’t know how powerful it is? Why can I know it, but it can’t know me? Who is more powerful? Is there a more profound reality out there, not instead of but in addition to the physical universe? What is the purpose of all life? My conclusion for me: Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36ff. It has taken me a lifetime of discerning Cistercian charisms and practices (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community) and various thinkers such as Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Merton, OCSO, Joel Barker, Martin Buber, Aidan Kavanaugh, O.S.B., St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, Carl Rogers, Carl Sagan, Steven Hawking, Enrico Fermi, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, to name only a few that have shaped how I look at what is, with what was, to peek at what is to come.

But there is a more profound step. Why do humans have human reasoning (in addition to their animal instincts) and the ability to live beyond the bounds of all other animals, using free choice? Within the purpose of life in question one, granted that I have aligned my dissonance with the resonance of God’s purpose, then what is my purpose for my time on earth? I get to use my gifts of human reasoning and choice to choose what I want as my personal center, one that determines who I am and what I want to do with the time I have to discover meaning. My choice is Philippians 2:5. “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” My approach to the Art of Contemplative Practice involves trying to seek God daily with that center. I must use the Cistercian practices and charisms to help me try and try again to reach my chosen purpose. The problem for me is Original Sin, which means my center is revolving, never staying in one place long enough for me to focus on it. As I use it, the Art of Contemplative Practice provides me with the tools to slow down my life enough to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for my heart to listen profoundly to pure Love sitting next to me. It has taken me a long time to achieve even a tiny growth from false self to true self. The problem is each day begins anew, starting from scratch.

I like the approach that Erich Fromm has to human Love. He says it is an acquired habit and demands focus and attention to achieve. I apply that to acquiring divine Love in me and find that pure Love from Christ is the only source that allows me to grow from my false self to my true self. This is where the Art of Contemplative Practice comes in. Practice does not just mean I must do it over and over to achieve a skill, but rather it is a process that becomes part of who and whatever I am. My center, my North on the Compass of Reality, gives me purpose as a human to know why I am here and where I am going.

My Lay Cistercian spirituality, rooted in the Rule of St. Benedict and practiced down through the centuries by Benedictine monks and nuns, Cistercian monks and nuns, and Carthusian hermits, and now by members of Oblates and Lay Cistercians, is how I practice my contemplative approach to life.

THIRD QUESTION: WHAT DOES REALITY LOOK LIKE?

MY ANSWER: I based my notion of reality on three universes, and I reasoned to these with the Holy Spirit’s help. The Rule of Threes, or one reality containing three distinct, separate functions or universes, is the template I use to look at reality. Does this sound familiar? It works for me because of the assumption I have made. What are those assumptions? Read questions one and two. All of these questions build on the one before it. My reflections on the Art of Contemplative Practice use the Trinitarian template.

One of the characteristics of the Art of Contemplative Practice is the unity and diversity theme. Everything fits together, not because I think it is so, but because it is so, I must adjust my assumptions to achieve resonance in all that is rather than dissonance. Here is a brief synopsis of the Rule of Threes that I wrote in a blog:

I woke up this morning at 2:16 a.m. for my usual bathroom break. Going back to bed, I usually do a mini-Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). This time, my focus was on how God puts all these signs and wonders in front of us and how we often fail to link them to our destiny in life as an adopted son or daughter, living out what we have discovered about Love while on earth.

Do you see the photo of a cup in a window? I want to take you on a journey of mind and heart that will transport you, through your mind, to a place of mystery and suspense. It is like Rod Sterling’s Twilight Zone. It is a journey of sign and sound using your mind and imagination. This zone is within us, informing all of our choices and striving to fit what we experience each day into some kind of meaning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzlG28B-R8Y

For many years I have attempted to come up with a way to look at the one reality that incorporates sciences, philosophies, literature about the human experience, and religion (as I know it). After twenty years of scratching my head in frustration, it finally came to me as I was sitting before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration. I kept asking God how these seemingly confusing and contradictory ideas fit together. It doesn’t make sense. I could not stuff what I know about science into the same shoe as my Catholic Universal faith. Like the Cinderella story, this shoe would not fit into the paradigm I had used to force one reality into another. The paradigm I was using states that everything fits together in one universe; if it doesn’t, you got it wrong.

The answer I received from somewhere at the edge of time was that it doesn’t fit together using the paradigm of one reality containing everything: the physical universe (humans are a part of this universe). I said to God, “Okay. It does not fit. So what does reality look like? How would you look at it?” Of course, this sounds completely crazy, but what came to my mind was this. You can change your paradigm but not reality. My paradigm is my way of looking at what is and asking what it is, why it is, how it is, and where it is? My template for looking at reality was God Himself (saying that God has no gender). Christ revealed to us that there is one God but three distinct persons, each with a separate function, each one complementing the others, each one necessary for the others to be One. God is One. Look at what Joel Barker has to say about paradigm shifts. I used these ideas to help me formulate an “out of the box” approach to spirituality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOXWSg_PyTQ

My paradigm that changed was: there is one reality but three separate and distinct universes, each autonomous, each with its own properties, and its own function. Do you need all three of them working together for humans to figure out how all these seemingly confusing ideas bump into each other? This is where I began formulating my way of looking at one reality in three dimensions or universes. Using this seemingly simple change of assumptions, all reality made complete sense (but it is still unfolding itself one day at a time). God told me in my meditations and contemplations that I should not overcomplicate things.

PARADIGM SHIFT: THE THREE UNIVERSES AND ONE REALITY

The three universes I settled on were the answer to three questions that I asked about reality.

THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — This is the object of scientific inquiry where we seek what is real and true. It contains all that is, energy, matter, time, space, what is alive and not, and all theories of how and why things are. Animals, plants, and everything alive lives in this universe. The physical universe is bound by the laws of nature (as far as we know). All in this universe live with the assumption that their existence has a beginning and end. My question about the physical universe is: what is the most powerful object in the known universe? I had to go to Google and search for the answer. Turns out that it is called a hypernova. https://www.businessinsider.com/hypernovas-are-the-most-powerful-thing-in-the-universe-2014-9#: Humans could not survive the gamma rays from being too near this most powerful object in the physical universe. Think about this. Why can you look up the most powerful object in the universe, but it can’t look you up? Who is more powerful? Why is that? The physical universe is the platform for life on this planet. We live in the Goldilocks zone, not too close to the Sun and not too far away, but just right for life to thrive on the Earth. Why is that? Hold that thought for right now.

THE MENTAL UNIVERSE — Why is it that we can even study other living species on Earth but they cannot study us? Who is the most powerful person in this mental universe? Although animals do have limited intelligence and survival skills, although they follow the dictates of their nature (animal), only humans can ask the question at Five Guys: Do you want cheese on your burger or just plain? As far as we know, we are the only persons, even at the microbial level, to exist in the Physical and Mental Universe. Why is that? Maybe there is other life out there. Maybe other planets harbor sentient life forms. Maybe. Fermi’s Paradox comes to mind. He simply asked his colleagues, “Where is everybody?” Only humans live on this island of human reasoning and free choice. And remember, due to our advances in sciences and medicine and what it means to be a human during our watch of seventy or eighty years, we are able to discover what our purpose is and do something about it. Why is that? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uD4izuDMUQA

Why, of all the species on our plant, do only humans possess the ability to reason and the ability to choose? Reason what? Choose what? Certainly, we use our human intelligence to look at the physical universe and ask questions about it so we can better describe why we are here. We can also use that same reasoning to look forward to what will be and choose whatever destiny we want.

What do we have so far? The greatest power in the known universe is a hypernova, but power must have another level of development, i.e., mental power. We can ask the questions of what composes a hypernova, and how it is presenting itself to us. Birds don’t worry about a hypernova, nor do aardvarks devise wonderful scientific instruments to study the heavens and seek answers to what is out there. Here comes question number three, “Is that all there is?” We, humans, are able to make choices that are consistent with our nature. Some consequences of our choices may be bad or good. It is what we choose that is good or bad for us and our destiny. There are two areas where we go to find out what is good or bad for us: 1. Our own independent reasoning and choices, and, 2. God tells us what is good for us.

SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE

Humans have reason for a reason. They have the ability to make choices over and above the natural order of things. Butterflies can’t make choices other than what is consistent with their nature. do this, nor can horses choose not to come into breeding season. God speaks to us through other people, through the writings of the prophets and scriptures, through the Church, but mainly to each of us in our hearts. Contemplation, specifically Cistercian practices and charisms in my case, is a way to access the heart of Christ and communicate through silence and solitude to listen with the “ear of my heart” (St. Benedict’s Prologue to his Rule). Is there a power, energy, pure thought out there that is not bound by space, time, matter or natural laws? This level would be more powerful than anything in the physical universe, more powerful than human thought in the mental universe. We call this energy God, one divine nature with three distinct persons. It took Jesus to reveal this to us and how it affects our relationship with a God beyond our abilities to grasp Him. Philippians 2:5-12 gives us the best rationale why God would become our nature–love. Remember, this is not human love, but pure love, 100% of its nature. Our brains cannot contain such knowledge, but that very God invited us to be a part of Him as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We can only see the Father through Christ and His love for each of us. Heaven is God’s playground and if humans want to use it, they must follow God’s rules, not their own. Our whole lifetime of choices becomes one of trying to choose what Christ taught us. When we fail, as we often do, we seek mercy.

If our lifetime is one spent packing for the trip to Heaven, then what can you take with you in your one bag? In one of my Lectio Divina Meditations (Philippians 2:5) I had thoughts that my bag is that cup you see in the photo above. I take with me those things consistent with what God taught us. My heaven will be different than your because of the choices you made in your lifetime. Good choices go to Heaven, while bad choices send us to Purgatory or to Hell, the place where we can get it right the second time. If we reject God in his presence, like Lucifer did, we will live in Hell what the center of our life was. If, like Adam and Eve, we get a second chance to love others as Christ loves us, then God will judge us justly and compassionately as we await our purification. In Heaven, I can take with me love, hope and faith that I encountered on my journey. Is any of this true? We must wait until we meet Christ at the Throne of the Lamb to know for sure. Until then, we have the Hope that comes from the Holy Spirit that tells us to be faithful and keep seeking mercy for ourselves and give mercy to others.

Every human has the tools of reasoning and the ability to make choices. Like fingerprints, no two humans make the same choices using a lifetime of selecting what is good or what may be bad for them. What choices we make depends on how we relate to what is real for us and the values that we have assumed as part of what is meaningful for each of us. But where do we find out what is the truth? What is the way we need to journey to fulfill our destiny in the physical and mental universe? What is the meaning of life for us? Where do we find that out? The limitations of our human existence dictate that we only live for seventy or eighty years.

In my thinking about three universes, the third one, the Spiritual Universe, is couched in mystery and is unlike the other two universes (physical and mental). If the physical universe is the platform for humans to discover what is true, a way of life that is meaningful, and the fulfillment of what it means to be human, then the mental universe allows humans to use languages to uncover some of these mysteries. As we become more and more sophisticated in our mental capabilities, our languages begin to open up what had hitherto been closed to us, we know more at this stage or our human development than we ever did. The problem with seeing one unified theory of reality is the Tower of Babel effect, (Genesis 11 http://www.usccb.org/bible/genesis/11) We use the mental universe as the bridge-builder between what we can see and what we can’t see that is of meaning to us (e.g. trust, love, respect, caring). This mental universe of reason and free will allows us to approach the next level of reality, the Spiritual Universe. This third universe is the fulfillment of the first two (physical and mental). It contains the answers to questions that each and every person must answer correctly before they die:

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is the purpose of your life?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How do you love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die; now what?

There is a catch. You must have an invitation to enter it. The good news is that all humans have an automatic invitation due to the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. They may not even know they have it so they don’t use it. It is like a credit card that everyone gets at their birth. It is a gift from God, an invitation to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father, brother to Christ, with the energy of the Holy Spirit. All is takes is cashing it in (Baptism) and being open to the Spirit in their lives. The Spiritual Universe begin with Baptism. All those collective Baptisms and Confirmations are called by the name Catholic Universal Church (those still on earth awaiting deliverance, those Saints and saints in Heaven standing before the Throne of the Lamb, giving honor, power and glory to the Father through the Son with the energy of the Holy Spirit, those who, in God’s mercy get a second chance to proclaim Jesus as Lord and atone for their sins). All of us have access to the grace of God (energy) to seek God daily where we are and as we are. Each day must be a stand alone testimony to the love of Christ for us.

The Spiritual Universe begins with Baptism and God’s gift of adoption as sons and daughter. Christ gives us the way to go, what is true, and how to live life in such a way that we end up with Him forever as our Lord and Savior. As you have already experienced, it is one thing to be Baptized but quite another to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each and every day. Left to our own sinful tendencies, we could not survive the onslaughts of Original Sin and temptations by the Devil, and would easily succumb to the seductions of the flesh (Galatians 5). The Spiritual Universe does not have an ending, unlike the physical and mental universes.

So, once we enter the Spiritual Universe, what do we do? The one rule we all have to attempt to complete is “love one another as Christ loves us?” As soon as we begin to understand what that means, it becomes clear that God has given us the Holy Spirit in one another to help us. Not only that, but Jesus told us that his grace is sufficient. An interesting thing about Faith and grace and God’s energy is that it can be lost. How can we sustain our love for others? Like any relationship, it takes communication between you and Christ, it requires you to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus every day. (Philippians 2:5) A particularly haughty Christian man once asked me in a condescending way, “Have you been saved?” I told him, “Each day for the past 24,984 days, I have been saved by the blood of the Lamb and I have tried to accept Christ as Son of God, Savior. Some days are better than others.” His jaw dropped open. Here are three things that I practice as part of my Lay Cistercian approach to spirituality (Trappist).

Every day, just as I eat food to sustain me and drink water to hydrate me, I try to practice humility and obedience to God’s will by doing Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), Eucharist (after COVID-19 is over), Liturgy of the Hours (www.divineoffice.org), and reading Scriptures in silence and solitude.

Every day, I pray at 2:30 a.m. to be with Saint Michael, my patron Saint and ask him to sit with me as I pray to the Father for mercy and a spirit of penance and reparation for my sins. I often do a mini-Lectio Divina in the morning. Do you know something? The Holy Spirit is up at 2:30 a.m.

Every day, I try to think of my life in a single day. Everything we know has a beginning and an end. With this attitude in mind, I seek God daily wherever I am, and as I am. It doesn’t matter what life experiences come my way. That in all things, God be glorified. –St. Benedict

The Spiritual Universe, beginning with my Baptism and lasting Forever, is the paradigm shift that I had to make and sustain. Life is not easy sometimes, but just because your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Taking up my cross daily, I have Christ with me in whatever challenges face me. As I seem to progress in moving from self to God, I think I am less nervous and worry only about seeking first the kingdom of heaven. That works nicely for me. I sense a peaceful blanket that overshadows me. The peace that Christ talks about is not the absence of strife or conflict but rather the presence of Love.

Who is most powerful in the Spiritual Universe? It is pure love, pure mind, pure heart. It is a God so far beyond us that it took Christ, Son of God, to be our Savior, not only to tell us the truth, but to show each of us how to fulfill our destiny as human beings.

USING THREE UNIVERSES TO SEEK GOD

I use the Rule of Threes technique (one universe containing three, simultaneous universes of physical, mental, and spiritual) to help me look at and differentiate what the World says is true from what what the Spirit tells me. Look once more at the photo of the cup. What do you see?

PHYSICAL UNIVERSE: Look at the cup from the viewpoint of the physical universe. What do you see? Think about what you see, only the physical properties, colors, textures. Do this for ten minutes. What do you see.

MENTAL UNIVERSE: Now, look at the same photo of the cup from the viewpoint of reason and choice. What do you see? What can this mean? Who is the cup? What is the significance of the window? What lies beyond the window? Look at this photo for fifteen minutes. What does it mean from the viewpoint of just the World?

SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE: If you are the cup and it signifies who you are, what did you fill the cup of salvation with? How does this photo describe original sin? Is the window like looking at Heaven through a frosted glass? Where does all this take you Take twenty minutes just to look at it, close your eyes, then look at it again? Make it the only focus you have. Listen with the “ear of the heart”.

FOURTH QUESTION: How does everything fit together?

It is impossible to fit the square peg of scientific inquiry into the round hole of The Christ Principle. The assumptions of both universes are valid as they pertain to them but do not answer each other logically. I ask you to remember that this is just my perspective on reality.

These six questions must be answered in turn and have the correct key. This key happens after you know the correct answers to the first three questions. There can be many keys to unlocking The Divine Equation. Like is about trying to answer these six questions, and then the authentic key to unlocking the mysteries of Faith comes with the correct answers. I have unlocked my questions about human evolution (intelligent progression): “What does it mean to be fully human?”

The key I used was The Christ Principle. The first person I discovered to unlock these questions about what it means to be human was Mary, Christ’s mother. Think about it. In her case, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her to move her from human dissonance to the resonance of being fully human. She was the person who said YES to the invitation to be an adopted son or daughter for us. She was the person whom God favored, with being the first human in the new testament to be what nature intended. The rest of us must work for our bread (Remember the consequences of original sin in Genesis 1-2?) Mary went to the head of the line in those that would become the Church Universal. Mary is not God, but the Mother of God (Jesus). We honor her and ask her help (intercession) to allow it to be done to us as it was done to her by the Holy Spirit, just as I would pray to my mom and dad to put in a good word for me, a sinner.

Christ is The Christ Principle, the key, the mediator between humans and divinity, our advocate (with the Holy Spirit) to the Father. No one can see the Father but the Son, but we see Jesus when we use contemplative prayer and communal prayers of the Eucharist (food) and Reconciliation (making all things new in Christ).

Answering this question successfully opened up to me a rich meaning of Christ’s command to us: Love one another as I have loved you. Love is energy. The energy of God is the constant across each of the three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).

As humans, it is my contention that our hearts search for the resonance that the dissonance of original sin caused all of us to inherit when we pass over from animality to rationality, whenever that was. St. Augustine’s famous quote (often what people remember most about his astonishing writings) of “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee” describes the longing of the heart to sit side by side with God and just be who nature intended. The best photo I have ever seen about this longing and one which I admit is my favorite response to “Why I am a Catholic?” and, “What does it mean for me to me to be fully human and achieve completion as my nature intended?” is this icon of Saint Charles de Foucauld. Here it is. Just look at it for five minutes and ask yourself, “If this is Christ and me, what do I feel?”

This is how I see my past, present, and future.

FIFTH: QUESTION I ASKED: How can I love fiercely?

I am grateful to Erich Fromm (The Art of Loving) for pointing out that to love in the physical and mental universes, I must put Love where there has been no love before. Love is an art to be mastered. We must learn what we learn by learning the hard way. Knowledge is not infused. Knowledge is tied up with free choice because we choose what we think is good for us, even if it is not. Love is like that, too. I don’t automatically learn how to love except by trying out things and getting banged up when they don’t work. St. Paul offers a list of those things that lead to our spiritual bruising. (Galatians 5)

As one with adoption by the Father as one who inherits the kingdom of heaven, I am counseled to seek God every day. This is why Christ came to help humanity reach a level where it was able to fulfill the intention of our race, to be fully human. Like the observations of Erich Fromm on Love, spiritual Love must be acquired through dying to our natural inclinations of what Love is to make room for what Jesus tells us Love is. Love others as I have loved you is the only command coming from the Old Testament prescriptions of the Law. “Love is doing these rituals, much like the much-misinformed notion of doing good works, without having to expand it to include the heart.” Prayer is lifting your heart and mind to God with all your strength.

Here is what Love means to me. I refer to the Love that comes when I am in the presence of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • Love is the insatiable urge to think of Jesus when I look at anything in reality. The connection is there. When I look at nature, I can see God. Not only that, I am energized to look there automatically without thinking.
  • Love is sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and waiting for God to show up, with the realization that God is there waiting for me to show up.
  • Love is dying to self each day and offering my most precious gift, my will to be that of what Christ wants of me.
  • Love expands my notion of how I am present to Christ each day (capacitas dei) through the Cistercian practices and my charisms.
  • Love is the thrill of anticipation to be in the presence of Christ where I am and as I am, right now.
  • Love means my heaven begins as I try to become more like Christ and less like my false self.
  • Love means the struggle of the martyrdom of the ordinary routine of the World is part of my gift to the Father through Christ.
  • Love is simplicity and stillness in the presence of Christ.
  • Love is the Hope that the words of Christ are true.
  • Love is not judging others and their motives but that in all things (good and bad) God is glorified.
  • Love is having mercy on others and seeking it for myself each day.

SIXTH QUESTION I ASKED: You know you will die, now what?

The sixth question is itself a question. If I know that I will die, and all matter in what we know in the physical and mental universes corrupts (dies), then somehow that is part of a pattern in which I must participate. I live in those two universes. But is that all there is for humanity, particularly for me? I must die, but using the Christ Principle, something wonderful happens. I am made an adopted son (daughter) of the Father at Baptism. I am baptized with the Holy Spirit, nourished on my journey of life with the Eucharist since I am not immune to the attacks of going off track for following false gods, and restored to new life each time I rechoose The Christ Principle as the center of my life, and provided with Viaticum when I approach the death of the body. All this is because of Jesus’ Love for each person. All of this is just for me so that I can continue beyond the death of the physical body to the inheritance that is the fulfillment of what nature intended humanity to be– eternal knowledge, eternal Love, and eternal service.

There is one catch, one rooted in the very fabric of what it means to be human. I am given reason for a reason and the ability to choose what I have reasoned. One of those quirky side effects of being human is that if I choose the Christ Principle as my center, it begins to slide off center as soon as I choose it. These are the effects of the corruption of matter and mind. This is the World in which I find myself. This phenomenon is called the effects of living in the World of corruption. Like every other thing, our destiny in the physical and mental universe is to die. We don’t control it. No human has the power to stop it.

But……. that is not God’s destiny for those who love Him (and love others as Christ loved us). God tells us through Christ that another option exists for those who choose it. As crazy as it sounds, you can fulfill your true destiny as a human by making a choice, by saying YES to something that your reason says can’t be true. By adopting us, God tells us, “Why don’t you come and live with me… in my house? I have lots of room and you will find rest from the worries and turmoil of the World.”

God says, “One thing you must do is get rid of your reliance on what the World says is a treasure (money, power, greed, jealousy, hatred of others) and instead fill your heart with me, of course as you have the capacity to hold me. Here is my pledge to you. I will send my son, Jesus, to show you how to move to this next level of your intelligent progression (evolution). What he will show you is the opposite of what your senses tell you is true. He will be the Christ Principle in each age so that you will have the opportunity to know that is true and then have the way of life that leads you to me. One thing. Like Christ, you must endure this World and its allurements of Satan until your natural death. As a way for you to begin preparing to live with me, I call you son (daughter) and share with you Jesus in the Eucharist and offer you healing for your soul in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Like Christ, you must die to your human self and rise to your adopted self. This is an act of your free will to do what I tell you, even though it is difficult now. Do you want to join me now?”

I answer the NOW WHAT part of this sixth question with my way of life as a Lay Cistercian. Each Lay Cistercian, like each human, approaches the Father only through, with, and in Christ, using the power (energy) of the Holy Spirit. My focus is on the answer to Question One above. Question Two is “there is nothing more important to me than to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” Each day. I do this by creating for myself a schedule (not one of the laws to complete but opportunities to place myself by choice in the presence of Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter and be near the heart of Christ.)

Here are sixteen practices I try to make habits in my life. They are also the challenge that I have to write a book and add PowerPoint slides so that I can create a YouTube for each of these sixteen. How do you know that these sixteen are the correct ones? I don’t. My purpose is fourfold:

Have a parental legacy for my daughter, who is, as yet, unable to receive how to love Christ using these sixteen. I write all these ideas so that, hopefully, someday, she might read them and know the supreme joy that I have in being a Lay Cistercian.

Have some of my ideas as an inheritance to the Lay Cistercian community of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist).

Have some of my ideas written down for the Tallahassee Lay Cistercian group (in the formation process).

Have some of my ideas passed on to the prisoners of the Florida Prison System.

THE ART OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE BLOG ON HOW TO INSTALL CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES IN YOUR HEART, IN YOUR PARISH, IN YOUR COMMUNITY

THE ART OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE

One of the concepts that help me to grow in the capacity of Christ in my heart is that of the Church. I used to think of the Church as a body of rules and prescriptions I had to believe to make it to Heaven. Now, I see that as a kickoff point for what is an exceptionally sophisticated and ingenious way for Christ to take his command, “to love one another as I have loved you,” and make that accurate in each age for all races, for all genders, for all nationalities. What follows is an excerpt from my new book on The Art of Contemplative Practice: A Lay Cistercian reflects on a compendium of skills needed to move from self to God.

THE RANDOMNESS OF GOD IS GREATER THAN ALL THE INTENTIONS THAT HUMANS COULD CONCEIVE

During his lifetime, the era of Christ is characterized by God becoming human in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. Humans were not going in the right direction in the Old Testament. They needed to be re-directed toward a more catholic approach to salvation, including everyone using the lessons found in the Christ Principle. Jesus came to save us from going in the wrong direction and gave us the WHAT about how to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father and inherit the kingdom prepared for us from before the physical universe existed. If Jesus is the WHAT, then the extension of his presence in the physical and mental universes is the HOW, or the practice of those Christ Principles, every day. The minefield through which all humans must pass is called Original Sin or how to control the human condition in each of us to rise to our potential as adopted sons and daughters of the Father and not descend into our animality past, which is not our nature. In this context, Christ founded his Church, the gathering of those who try to make the Christ Principle the center of their lives, to DO those activities that will enable them to fulfill their human potential. The unbroken link with Christ is the Church Triumphant (those who have died in the peace of Christ and now enjoy the Heaven that they have discovered on earth), the Church Militant (those still living and struggling to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus each day with the energy of the Holy Spirit as Advocate), and finally, those who get a second chance at redemption or anyone God chooses to give another shot at loving others as Christ loved us, the Church Purgative or Penitential. The Church Universal is only made up of living human beings, ones who have varying degrees of awareness of how to love God with all their minds, with all their hearts, and with all their souls, and their neighbor as themselves. This multi-dimensional Church has three bodies but only one head, consistent with the Holy Trinity’s template (one divine nature with three distinct persons). This template is one that I use to look at one reality from three distinct universes of conditions, the physical universe, the mental universe (only humans were raised to this level of existence), and the spiritual universe (God raises only those Baptized with water and the Holy Spirit to be humans who God adopts to live forever.)

As an individual human being, far-fetched as it may sound, you are the center of all reality. Don’t think of this center as the center of a bull’s eye on a target, but rather the purpose of all reality from when time began to when you were born in original sin. Everything that is, the physical universe, the fact that humans can reason and make free choices, the insertion of God into the human situation to help us with WHAT we should do to be with God in Heaven, and finally, the foundation of the Church as a mother to nourish me and protect me from the violence of the human condition, gives me a chance to live and fulfill my destiny as a human being.

As Erick Fromm writes succinctly in his book, The Art of Loving, humans are not born with Love; they must acquire it. Not all notions about Love lead to authenticity. Some lead to the corruption of the human person. We must not only master human Love, the purpose of being human but also master the art of loving others as Christ has loved us. Christ did not just come down and say, “Do this or that, then die, leaving us orphans. He showed us how to conquer our temptations and seek God each day. He also told his followers and those who would gather together to DO what he said that He would be with us as we journey on our particular and unique paths to that final gathering in Heaven. The Art of Contemplative Practice means doing those activities and behaviors that allow God’s presence to influence how we treat others and respect ourselves. The Cistercian way is how I have chosen to express this desire to be in the presence of Christ through Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Annoting of the Sick. I use this approach to spirituality because it is one with which I am most familiar.

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE IS ALL ABOUT JESUS BEING THE CENTER OF ALL REALITY. THE CHURCH IS ALL ABOUT WHAT CHRIST CAN DO FOR YOU NOW AS YOU SEEK GOD IN YOUR DAILY LIFE.

The Church is the occasion for the Holy Spirit to overshadow you with Faith, hope, and Love if you know what is going on. Liturgy is a collective way that the Body of Christ approaches God the Father through, with, and in Christ in unity with the Holy Spirit. The Church is “doing” what Christ left us to practice. The Church is there joined together with God’s DNA that contains the building blocks of contemplative practice moving through each successive age just for me to be able to say, “Jesus is Lord.”

As I try to live my purpose in life to seek God each day (Philippians 2:5), I use the following six questions as a focal point to help me stretch beyond what is comfortable so that I can find deeper meaning in three areas where it takes skill to move forward. These six questions form the core or bedrock of my contemplative practice.

THE SIX QUESTIONS EACH PERSON MUST ASK AND ANSWER BEFORE THEY DIE

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is your purpose in life within that purpose?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How do you love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die; now what?

MASTERY NOW AND FOREVER

Your journey to Forever is just beginning when God accepts you as an adopted son or daughter. Like everything we do as human beings, it takes work. When you ratify your Faith, you begin to pack your bag for life with God forever. Love in the spiritual universe is not automatic; you must learn to love others as Christ loved us. The Church becomes the school of charity to help each and gatherings of individuals to love. I have chosen to express or make this Love real while I live with the Rule of St. Benedict, specifically with the Cistercian approach to contemplative practice. This book assumes that contemplative practices and skills don’t automatically appear magically from some invisible force like Love, contemplative practices, and skills. There is an art to contemplative practice that demands discipline and mastery. This mastery will never be fully reached in this lifetime of trying to love God with our whole minds, heart, and strength. It is the time that we take each day to seek God as life unfolds, using, in my case, Cistercian practices and charisms to make sense of reality. 

One of my concerns about conversion is the “one time is enough” syndrome. The blood of Christ saves us in His sacrifice on the cross, so we get on the conveyor belt to behave, do what we want, then get off in Heaven. What is lacking in this approach is an appreciation of Original Sin and of humility and obedience needed to take up our cross daily and follow Christ as we meet Him each day. Being a follower of the Master is work, a daily battle against the ever-encroaching effects of Original Sin on our belief. Another of my concerns is that we don’t teach our members how to move from self to God each day, only an intellectual encounter with keeping the rules and obeying what the Church says is true. Don’t mistake that last statement as abandoning the role of the Church through the ages. “Outside the Church, there is no salvation.” I am saying that Christ gives us the WHAT and WHY to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus, but show us HOW. The Church should be the instrument or help us with good works to move from self to God. Refer to St. Benedict’s Rule, Chapter 4. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ Don’t forget these good works are not ends in themselves but are only tools that lead us to increase Christ in our hearts. Christ is the terminus of all that we do, not the Church. Our reformation must be to increase God’s capacity (capacitas dei) in us by using the help and prayers not just of me but in union with all those gathered together in one Faith, one Lord, one baptism. The local Church becomes the occasion where I meet Christ. The Church is a gathering of believers who help me and, together with me, move more and more towards the Love Christ expressed for us by dying on the cross for our sins.

The context in which we all practice these sixteen skills we call The Church. I love the analogy of the Church Universal as Mother. A mother protects her children from harm and ensures that they are fed, and their wounds and bruises are soothed. A mother knows the failures and faults of her children but is always there with them as they get up from their foibles and fallacies. A mother is a moral compass for their children to admonish them when they need it, expressing unconditional Love. The Church Universal is about sustaining how to love Christ through our heritage and authority from the Apostles. As an individual who has a limited lifetime to learn how to love as Christ loved us, I am the Church particular to transform first myself and then, through me, to those I meet in my brief lifetime. The Church can be compared to a mother who patiently nourishes me (and all of us that ever lived) with how to love fiercely and make sense out of the spiritual universe, which is the opposite of what the World has an assumption about purpose of life. Each of us can reason and the choice to do whatever we choose. Some of these choices are authentic, and some are destructive. The purpose of the Church Universal is to help me get to Heaven. (Baltimore Catechism, Question Number Six)

The Art of Contemplation is a way to look at the reality that uses help from God to nudge us in the right direction so we can open our hearts to the heart of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

ASSUMPTIONS DRIVE THE BUS

Behind anything we believe are multiple assumptions about what is true. Both you and I will have a different take on reality because we are unique. I like the saying:

  • I am not you;
  • you are not me;
  • God is not you,
  • and you, most certainly, are not God. –Michael Conrad

Some assumptions I have in writing about The Art of Contemplative Practice.

I wrote all of my books as love letters from me to you, the result of my Lectio Divina meditations and contemplative thoughts that came from the Holy Spirit to me. I don’t speak for the Holy Spirit; I only listen to his television channel and watch whatever is presented. In that sense, I am a Scribe.

  • I don’t represent any viewpoint other than my own. I don’t speak for the Church Universal, The Catholic Church, the Rule of St. Benedict, the Cistercian Order, or any Lay Cistercian organization. My writing is what I have been instructed to write, even if it does not make sense to me right now. These ideas are how I look at reality and answer the six core questions of what it means to be human. How I look at reality has been conditioned by my choices. I choose to have the Christ Principle at the center of all I am. Don’t follow anything I do or say. Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
  • My Faith and belief have been informed by loving others as Christ loved us, as promoted and sustained by the Roman Catholic Church. Some days are better than others.
  • I use contemplation from Cistercian practices and chrisms, as I understand them and practice seeking God each day in the context of whatever comes my way. I seek to transform myself from my false self to my true self by growing the capacity for God (capacitas dei) within me. To do that requires that I die to a false self each day to rise to new life. The challenge is to sustain that Lay Cistercian promise I made in the daily struggle to move from my false self to my true self in Christ Jesus.
  • The Art of Contemplation is about creating silence and solitude so that you can sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for your heart to listen with “the ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict advises in his Prologue to the Rule. I don’t do the Cistercian practices and charisms just to be doing them because I am bored and tired of the secular World’s false promises, but because it is how I can love as Christ loved us. I long to wait for the Lord until He comes again in glory.

The Art of Contemplation is about my knowing what to choose to love as Christ loved us and practicing and receiving the charisms to place myself in the presence of God through Christ using the energy of the Holy Spirit to help me. All this is not about me but how I can make room for Christ in my heart.

I offer you sixteen skills I use to move from self to God. These skills allow me to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and approach God by keeping my mouth shut (God always approaches me, although I don’t always feel His presence). I don’t always practice them perfectly, but I do practice them daily in some form.

THREE LEVELS OF MAKING ROOM FOR GOD

There are three levels of awareness of what it means to love that I wish to master before I die. It will take me a lifetime of trying to approach God by having in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) Trying is a prayer in itself.

LEVEL ONE: Mastery of what it means to love in the Secular World (RE: Erick Fromm’s, The Art of Loving. https://amzn.to/2XiMonP) Physical and Mental Universes

LEVEL TWO: Mastery of what it means to love others as Christ loves us. (RE: Learning to Love https://amzn.to/385zlfw) Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Universes aid in the Formation of Contemplative Practice. Continue to practice the sixteen skills of the Art of Contemplative Practice until you die.

LEVEL THREE: Mastery of the School of Love (RE: Developing A School of Love, https://amzn.to/3pOblUj) Spiritual Transformation from Self to God daily. We are becoming what we read in Scripture.

I use the following sixteen skills to help me master the three levels of spiritual awareness. As a Lay Cistercian, spiritual awareness in contemplative practice means I try to grow in my capacity to have Christ in me. It is seeking God daily, with no reservations, with no agendas, with no expectations. With Christ as my center and the Christ Principle in my life, I don’t have to worry about what I am to eat or drink, what I am to wear, or what situations happen to me that day. Christ is there. It is time I take to make room for Christ in my most meaningful heart, not just its attainment.

ASSUMPTIONS FOR THESE CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE SKILLS

  • My answers to these six questions come from working through them individually.
  • Each skill depends on the other and builds on the ones that precede them.
  • It takes a lifetime to master these skills because we begin each day from the beginning. Each day is a lifetime. That is why we must seek God daily in whatever comes our way.
  • Mastery becomes possible when you realize that you will never fully master the skills needed to live forever without the help of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is no attainment or finality to any of these skills. They are only tools to allow you to approach the presence of Christ, who, alone, can stand in the presence of God and give fitting honor and glory, forever and ever.
  • Mastery does not mean you either know it all or can do it by a specific time. The Art of Contemplative Practice realizes that each day begins a new challenge, a new opportunity for you to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Each day I seek God is a lifetime and a beginning and end unto itself.
  • The struggle to love is the same as longing to have Christ grow in me while I decrease each day. It takes serious concentration. The four “S’s” of contemplative practice help as I prepare to face whatever comes my way: silence, solitude, stillness, sustainability, and seeking God each day as I am and where I am.
  • The Art of Contemplative Practice is about loving Christ so much (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36). I am passionate about transforming my usual human routine with Cistercian practices and their charisms using the five S’s above. What starts as a routine each day (as in the case of Liturgy of the Hours) becomes a chore, then moves to a habit when I make endless choices to seek God in the depths of the words of the Psalmist and win the struggle of wills with the Satan.
  • The Art of Contemplative Practice has several stages. I found myself going through a period where I just wanted to do the prayers for the sake of the prayers. This is good, but it is only a step. The next phase was getting into daily Liturgy of the Hours of Lectio Divina. My object was to set a time and place and then meet it to say my prayers. The third phase was praying without noticing the words but instead how it made me feel in my relationship with God. Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God. Sometimes the lifting is hefty, and I need help. I ask Christ to share my daily cross. Like Nicodemus, he is there for me each day.
  • To move from my false self to my true self takes action or movement. This movement is to carve out pockets of time I spend with the one I love, not counting the inconvenience, the cost, the feeling in my stomach that all of this customary practice of Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Rosary, daily Lectio Divina (multiple times) and reading Scripture is worth it. I must choose to pray with the habit of contemplative practice.
  • Because of original sin, all of us must recommit to the Christ Principle each day. We only live in the moment of the NOW, not the past nor the future. Only God lives in a perpetual NOW in Heaven. We must transform our NOW choices while we live on earth to conform to God’s will.
  • The sixteen skills are what I use to help me commit each day to having the mind of Christ Jesus in me.
  • If the School of Love is our community of Faith, where we learn HOW to do WHAT Christ instructed us, these skills come from God to help us move from our false self to our true self.
  • One of those quirky, pesky side effects of Original Sin is having to learn by working at it. We don’t have infused knowledge but must work for it. These skills must be acquired by learning how to know, Love, and serve God and be happy with Him in Heaven.
  • The Art of Contemplative Practice is being present to Christ by using Cistercian contemplative practices to receive the Cistercian charisms that allow us to grow in the capacity of God (capacitas dei). I use my free will to place myself in a condition whereby I sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for Christ to speak to me. These skills help me be in silence and solitude as I contemplate the Mystery of Faith daily.

SIXTEEN SESSIONS TO BEGIN THE ART OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE

What follows is a cryptic outline of the blogs I will narrate for YouTube. Contemplate practice is repeating going into your inner room, locking the door, and waiting.

OUTLINE OF THE ART OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE

I. FUNDAMENTAL CORE OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE

SKILL ONE: What is the purpose of life? Learn how to discover the meaning of life. Skill: How to be aware of God’s purpose for humanity?

SKILL TWO: What is my purpose in life within that purpose? Learn how to discover the purpose of your life within God’s purpose. Skill: How to choose a personal center within what God intends for humanity?

SKILL THREE: What does reality look like? Learn how to approach one reality using the divine gift of eyeglasses so you can see three distinct universes. Skill: How to see Jesus in three universes yet one reality. How to view the spiritual universe with Pauline duality: The World and The Spirit?

SKILL FOUR: How does it all fit together? Learn how all reality is centered on six cosmic paradigm shifts that lead to you. Skill: What are six paradigm shifts that happened in the cosmos, and what does that have to do with my contemplative approach to moving from self to God?

SKILL FIVE: How do I love fiercely? Learn how to love in three universes, discovering resonance and not dissonance in reality. Skill: What tools for good works does St. Benedict recommends in his Prologue to the Rule? How can I become what I read?

SKILL SIX: I know I am going to die; now what? Learn how to use contemplative practices to place you in the presence of God, where you seek to love others each day as Christ loved us, and how Heaven or Hell begins now, on earth, and continues after you die. Skill: How do you combine all six questions as part of the Divine Equation? How to interpret the six elements of the Divine Equation as you grow from self to God?

II. FORMATION: THE CONTEMPLATIVE SKILLS AND PRACTICES TO ALLOW ME TO GROW IN THE CAPACITY FOR GOD (Capacitas Dei)

SKILL SEVEN: What are Christ’s tools to live in a corrosive reality? Learn how the Rule of St. Benedict is a guide, an ongoing movement process to help you sustain and toughen your Faith amid a secular society without God. Just because your rocky road doesn’t mean you are on the wrong path. SKILL: How to see Jesus in Scripture? How to use the Rule of St. Benedict to grow into what Scripture invites us to become? (John 20:30-31)

SKILL EIGHT: Real Food and Real Drink that is a person. Learn how to eat the food for the journey to sustain you in your current struggle to have the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Skill: How to see Jesus in the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration and sit next to the heart of Christ in Love.

SKILL NINE: How to manage the effects of Original Sin. Learn the meaning of mercy and how to make all things new in your spiritual journey. Learn how to forgive others even if they don’t forgive you. Skill:  How to make all things new with Christ?

SKILL ELEVEN: Learn how to use the various ways to pray with Christ through His Church to be present to God now and in Heaven. Skill: Lectio Divina and Liturgy of the Hours as waiting for the coming of the Lord.

III. TRANSFORMATION: USING THE SKILLS YOU HAVE ACQUIRED TO MOVE FROM YOUR FALSE SELF TO YOUR TRUE SELF (Conversio morae)

SKILL TWELVE: How to see Jesus. Learn how to sit on a park bench in the middle of winter and listen to Jesus with the “ear of the heart.” Skill: How to move from your false self to your true self.

EXERCISE THIRTEEN: Prayer links “the moment” with the Christ Principle. Learn what and how to pack for the journey to Heaven. Skill: How to Link each day to the death and Resurrection of Christ using the Golden Thread.

SKILL FOURTEEN: Learn how to use the five unique gifts you received at Baptism from your Father in Heaven to allow you to thrive as an adopted son or daughter of the Father. Skills: How to activate the five gifts that Christ gave us to grow in the capacity of God (capacitas dei): Silence, Solitude, Prayer, Work, and Community.

SKILL FIFTEEN: Learn how to use silence and solitude in Lectio Divina to seek contemplation to help you survive as a pilgrim in a foreign land while you wait to claim your inheritance as a son or daughter of the Father. Skill: Learn how to enter the one place no one wants to look and find fulfillment as a human being using silence and solitude.

SKILL SIXTEEN: How to seek God each day by conversion of life. Learn to see what Heaven will be like while you live and be aware of what Hell is like. Skill: How to live each day using all of these skills to grow to “have the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

Next step: Narrate a ten to fifteen-minute YouTube on each skill.

The Center for Contemplative Practice is a HOW TO dimension of living a contemplative lifestyle in the chaos of the World.

CONCLUSION

There are sixteen skills that I propose as the core habits for acquiring what St. Benedict calls the Tools of Good Works (Chapter 4 of his Rule). Skills are about HOW to do contemplation. Contemplation is about using Meditation to move deeper into an abandonment of thoughts so that you focus on being present to Christ and listening with the “ear of the heart.” My new book will be a “How-to” book on contemplative practices that I use.

uiodg

MY MASCULINE AND FEMININE PRAYER DIMENSIONS

Don’t ask. This topic just popped into my compendium of Lay Cistercian practices for my consideration.

Whenever we use words, the user (me) has assumptions that have taken a lifetime to associate with that word, and the receiver uses the same lifetime of assuming what the word means to them. When I say I have a masculine and a feminine side to my Lay Cistercian contemplative prayer life, I DO NOT mean gender differences that exist in the physical universe. I am a male by gender. I have a masculine and feminine side to the prayer life that I never knew existed. There is something to think about when I try to apply my prayers in the mental universe (that of purpose and my particular purpose in life). If I am to fulfill my quest to be fully human, one that The Christ Principle can be of help, then a masculine and feminine dimension to my prayer can help me be whole.

Remember when Genesis, the great archetypal story of what human nature should be like, and actually is? It says, “It is not good for a male to be alone.” God creates a female, and they are joined together as one. Applying the Christ Principle to this statement might have an obvious and more sophisticated meaning. First, humans need each other; males need females for procreation. Suppose this story is a classical myth and Adam represents all humanity while Eve represents all humanity. In that case, my thoughts run to thinking that males by themselves need that infusion of purpose from their feminine side to be wholly human. The two shall be one.

As a Lay Cistercian, I recently applied this to my prayer life, which is what the Holy Spirit showed me (remember, none of this stuff is normal for me).

My Lay Cistercian life has four separate boxes, with The Christ Principle being my center. It might look like this. The Christ Principle is my center.

REALM OF THE MINDREALM OF THE HEART
What my masculine side provides.What my feminine side provides.

AUTHORITY AND FAITH
The Christ Principle
My adoption by Christ
My acceptance of the Holy Spirit
Freely offer my will to the Father
Dying to Self
 SERVICE AND GOOD WORKS
Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy
Chapter 4, Rule of St. Benedict
Gathering Day
Tallahassee Lay Cistercian discernment group
INFORMATION AND REASON Primacy of Holy Scriptures
Writings of the Early Church
Writings of St. Benedict
Writings of Cistercian authors
YouTube of Bishop Barron and others

LOVE THROUGH CONTEMPLATION
Eucharist
Reconciliation and Penance
Lectio Divina
Liturgy of the Hours
Contemplative Prayer
“Do what he tells you.”
My Life as a Lay Cistercian, now.

LAYERS OF LECTIO DIVINA

Humans interact with our outside environment by using our five senses and reason to form thought processes that mean something. Language is such a set of signals that we identify to form ways to communicate with each other. Knowing the language is so crucial for any group of people. Physicians have their own language, which includes the sciences and healing physical and mental problems. Take it a step further; physicians specialize in their field of medicine in oncology, podiatry, surgery, and other specialties.

There are layers to knowledge. In Lectio Divina, I find that I have begun to use the layers concept to move deeper into communication with Christ. Let me share an example.

Contemplation, as I use it, comes from my learning to use Cistercian practices and charisms as a Lay Cistercian. Contemplation means praying within or seeking to find the answers to what it means to be fully human inside of us. This is a place that is available but seldom used by humans–the place no one wants to go. Yet, contemplative prayer, in addition to public prayers (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Rosary, Stations of the Cross, as examples), is just raising our hearts and minds to God, then waiting.

  • Contemplative prayer stresses listening “with the ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict points out.
  • There is sharing, but the sharing that comes first is what you receive when you place yourself next to the heart of Christ in silence and solitude and wait. This layering helps focus on Christ.
  • Silent prayer in a group refrains from “war stories” or what happened to you last year on All Saints Day. This is a loss of focus. Vulnerable groups let it go by because they don’t want to interrupt what may be the Holy Spirit speaking to them. Wisdom tells what is spoken for the individual from what is spoken to bring those present into the presence of Christ in their lives.

The example comes from a session in which my Lay Cistercian Discernment Group used two of the layers as their meditation at our last session.

The layers of my Lectio Divina are:

  1. Looking at an icon of Saint Charles de Foucauld for five minutes and asking, “What do you see?”
St. Charles de Foucauld

What do you see that is in the Physical Universe? (colors, shapes, images, halos,) In this first set of meditations, you only want to look at what your senses and mind tell you that you see. This is the physical universe of what is. You may want to list them on paper.

Take another five minutes and ask the same question, “What do you see?” but this time search for meaning. Don’t go for anything spiritual yet. You see two men, one with his arm around St. Charles. One holds a piece of paper, and one holds a book. This is the mental universe of meaning.

Take another five minutes and ask, “What do you see?” Now, you can use The Christ Principle to go to the spiritual universe, the deepest part of reality. There is no end to how deep you can go at this level.

2. Read the prayer St. Charles wrote about our abandonment to the will of God, the most challenging choice humans must make. Mary made it with her YES but only with the help of the Holy Spirit. Having read the prayer, reflect on it for ten minutes while looking at the icon of St. Charles and Jesus.

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/blogs/

3. The layer of music. Play any inspirational music as you look at the icon of St. Charles, having interiorized the prayer. List to the music with all these layers with the “ear of your heart.” Play it at least twice in silence and solitude. Just look and listen. You listen with the totality of your life.

Amen and Amen.

IS HEAVEN DIFFERENT FOR EACH HUMAN?

In thinking about my own mortality and how it will be after I die, I usually abandon myself to Christ and fall upon the mercy of God to take care of me. John Chapter 17 is an unusually comforting Scripture that I enjoy reading repeatedly.

There is another dimension about Heaven that has crept into my consciousness lately, based on a perplexing question and answer that has eluded me for most of my life. Who goes to Heaven? Do only those who are baptized go to Heaven? Do atheists go to Heaven and get the same reward as those who have struggled their whole lifetime to “…have in them the mind of Christ Jesus?” (Philippians 2:5)

Learning what Heaven is like begins with Baptism when God accepts you as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. You are a student of the great Magister Noster (Jesus) from that time to when you die. The kingdom of Heaven begins with your Baptism and acceptance of Jesus as the Christ Principle (your personal savior to be by your side as you walk whatever life brings to your table. This icon of Saint Charles de Foucauld says it all for me. Heaven has two dimensions. The first is learning what it means to love others as Christ loved me; the second is living what I have learned on earth about how to die to self to fill myself more with Christ and share that with others, now sharing that with all humanity in one great act of glory through, with, and in Christ to the Father, giving all honor and glory. This is the fulfillment of what it means to be human.

Proceeding from this hypothesis comes the idea that, like my time on earth, I live the results of my consequences on earth in Heaven, based on how much I have loved Christ while I could reason and choose. These must be degrees of Heaven, not based on the immutability of Heaven, but rather on my being closer to the way, the Truth, and the life than someone else. I don’t speak of being better than anyone else. Still, I do think that one of the ways Heaven and Purgatory make sense to me is that each one of us will stand before the Truth and be judged, not against each other, or even how much money we made or how well be can prove to others that Jesus is Lord. The totality of who we have become while on earth will be different. So our capabilities to share in the presence of God are shaped by the simplicity of my heart sitting next to the heart of Christ and being able to assimilate divine love into my being based on humility and the abandonment of self as Christ taught us.

To answer the questions I posed earlier, the only way this makes sense is if each human is judged separately based on how they used The Christ Principle to:

  1. Know the purpose of life.
  2. Use this purpose of life to identify your center or purpose of life for you.
  3. Use the Rule of Threes to see Jesus in the physical, mental universe, and finally, the kingdom of Heaven on earth until you die.
  4. Know it all fits together. This is the struggle I have each day.
  5. Love Christ fiercely.
  6. Know that I am going to die and prepare for the journey.

The key to all these questions is The Christ Principle. Each person stands before God to answer the question: What did you do with the life I gave you and the earth in which to find what it means to be fully human?

Although we are invited to the eternal banquet in Heaven, not everyone will be there, only those who do not hate or have made themselves into gods of their own choosing. There is only one Heaven, just as there is one Lord of Heaven. I am judged by God as to how many dishes I have the capability and capacity to eat. If the total is ten, for example, and I have the fulness of the Faith, I may be able to enjoy ten dishes. I may also only have the capability to eat one dish. We will be in Heaven if God deems us worthy to be there. I don’t judge others as to who will be in Heaven; let God be the judge of those who does not believe. After all, it is God’s playground we want to enter.

Each day, I seek to have a love of Christ in my heart. Some days are better than others.

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: From complexity to simplicity

Based on my contemplation of the Christ Principle (Philippians 2:5), I have conjured up a strange contradiction. All reality from its inception (however that happened) is an intelligent progression from what is simple to the more complex. Yet, to fulfill my nature, I must move from complex to what is most simple. How can that be?

MY ASSUMPTIONS

I will use the Rule of Threes to tease apart my thinking (mainly for my sake, not to prove anything is true or not). There are three distinct universes existing at the same time, like three layers of pancakes.

THE RULE OF THREES: Whatever you examine or reflect upon, there is only one reality that contains three separate and distinct universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).

THE DIVINE EQUATION: The six questions describe what it is like to be most human as our Nature intended. The Rule of Threes is the third question: What does reality look like?

The six questions that come from outside of ourselves, and more importantly, outside our Nature, are from The Christ Principle, that from which everything flows and from which all reality takes its meaning. I call it The Divine Equation because it encapsulates all that the human collective and individual minds need to be fully human as Nature intended. Each one must be solved correctly before moving on to the next step. The questions and the correct answers come from being part of spiritual reality where we have been given the correct answers (Faith) but need to actualize them for ourselves (Belief). The key is The Christ Principle.

As someone who only lives seventy or eighty years (82;10, so far), I have the answers to the test that solves what it means for me to be human. Every human who ever lived has the answers to these questions. This is not a Gnostic Suduku puzzle to trick us like the Game Show, hosted by Monty Hall, “Let’s Make a Deal.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem

Here are the six questions about life each person must answer.

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is the purpose of my life within that purpose of life?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How do I love fiercely?
  • I know I am going to die; now what?

What sounds like pure fantasy or fiction makes perfect sense when I use The Christ Principle as my power. Having the key and inserting it into the lock of the knowledge of good and evil are two different processes. The energy to turn this lock does not come from mere human power, which is incapable of opening The Divine Equation.

My Lectio Divina sessions with the Holy Spirit have tended to be cumulative rather than just one, then a different topic.

THE SIGN OF OPPOSITES: THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE CHANGED REALITY

Moving from complexity to simplicity as applied to many into just one doesn’t make sense if you look at the complexity of God. In human terms, the more complex something is, the more it has evolved into what Nature intended. The one-cell organization multiplied into what we have today, or know today as humans. Based on human knowledge, it looks like the future for humanity is limitless or infinite. That would be true if it were not for the corruption of the physical, the mental, and the tension that exists between the world and the spirit. Everything! Everything deteriorates with time.

What is the future if all moves to a complexity that ultimately deteriorates? Humanity had to intervene from a power source outside the normal flow of corruption. This is where that which was incorrupt by Nature (without sin) intervened into a corrupt and showed humanity how to fulfill their destiny by reversing the flow of simplicity to complexity to that of complexity to simplicity. Heaven is a state of complexity (using human terminology that is useful for us to grasp a concept totally outside our five senses and beyond our capacity to begin to comprehend it with any of the languages we have), and, as a nature, we had to reverse directions to prepare to live in the incorruptibility of simplicity (one).

An assumption of mine, call it a hypothesis, is that to fulfill our evolution or intelligent progression, our nature must die to the world to transform from being in the world but not of it. All of this is tied up with our freedom to choose. What we choose doesn’t make sense to the world. As one who must exist as a citizen of that world, this physical universe is the base we find ourselves (for seventy or eighty years, if we are strong). We have reason for a reason and the ability to choose what we think is good for us, even if it is not. I have reason to join that with Faith (Faith informed by reason) so that I can identify and choose to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven and choose adoption by God as the reason I am here. Granted, that takes a leap of Faith (like the one Indiana Jones had to take in his movie).

This Divine Nature is one (simplicity) containing three distinct persons (complexity). It is intelligence (knowing) whose energy (love) creates more than the sum of its being (service). We humans, and I might add, all the angels, are the result of that love, that service. This DNA of God permeates the corruptibility of matter and mind and provides the only solution to our destiny as being fully what our Nature intended, The Christ Principle.

To save our humanity from the consequences of poor choices that lead us more towards animality than rationality, The Father sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to earth (freely) to become like us in all things but sin (Philippians 2:5-12) so that all of us would have a chance to fulfill our destiny as intended but not die to the corruption of mind and matter that is the fate of all other existence. Baptism is the cleansing or washing away of Original Sin, but more than that. We are accepted by the One as adopted sons and daughters of a new dimension to our humanity, which demands we look at reality as the opposite of what our human nature tells us. According to St. Paul, the name for that is the world or the flesh. Human Nature is not evil or morally corrupt, but it is influenced by the choices it makes (good or evil) as it pertains to becoming more human or animal. The Holy Spirit takes over at Baptism to see us through the minefields of our life. We will make mistakes along the way, but we have the gift of the Holy Spirit to lift us up when we have fallen (over and over) through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharist, food from the Divine Nature to sustain us until we die and claim our inheritance, prepared for us since before there was anything that was. From the complexity of just the physical and mental universes, The Christ Principle gave all humans the capacity to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

I tied this into being a Lay Cistercian because, with the simplicity of The Christ Principle, all I need do is place myself in the presence of the One and wait. All the Divine Equation, all the Liturgy of the Hours, all the Eucharist, the Rosary, my contemplative Gathering Days, and my struggle each day with the martyrdom of the ordinary are just one act of belief based on Faith. My routine is to begin each new day as an opportunity to sanctify the moment by seeking God in whatever comes my way. For me, this is Lectio Divina and then writing down my thoughts from the Holy Spirit, crazy as they may seem, and putting them “out there” for others to read and judge what is true.

Heaven is a mystery because we humans can’t conceive of what pure love means; we must less have the capacity to stand in the presence of the Father and survive. With, through, and in Christ, our advocate, we have adoption as a son or daughter by the Father and the chance to exist in a dimension that is what our nature intended initially before the sin of Adam and Eve. With the Holy Spirit, we live the kingdom of heaven on earth, not deserving anything other than to say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

The one event that causes me to think of The Christ Principle as the point that cut the old wineskins to have new skins to contain the new covenant or the beginning of the movement from complexity to simplicity was tearing the veil in the temple when Christ died.

The Death of Jesus.

45* t From noon onward,u darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

46v And about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?* which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

47* Some bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”

48w Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink.

49But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50* But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.

51x And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.* The earth quaked, rocks were split,

52y tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

53And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

54* The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

55There were many women there, looking on from a distance,* who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.

56z Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

LEARNING POINTS

  • From the beginning of what is to the end of all, there is in the physical and mental universes, everything compounds to form complexity (human knowledge, intelligent progression). Beginning with your Baptism, when God chooses you as an adopted son (daughter), The Christ Principle becomes your center and is ratified when you choose Jesus.
  • From when you purposefully realize that Christ is Lord and your savior, you reverse the natural order and begin a progression from complexity to simplicity. Heaven is One.
  • As a Lay Cistercian, the implication of that reversal is to move from complexity in prayer to simplicity. Before, my Lectio and Liturgy of the Hours were performed so that I could be in the presence of Christ. My entire day, including the Lectio and the Liturgy of the Hours, is one prayer.

Praise be to the Father, 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. –Cistercian doxology

INTELLIGENT PROGRESSION: How time evolves using the Rule of Threes.

Among the more esoteric topics for my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I consider this one on time near the top of the list. In my Lectio Divina this morning (at 2:02 a.m.), the question popped into my mind, “If there is an evolution in all matter and within all living species (I call it intelligent progression because that speaks of a purposeful movement), and if matter, energy, light, the properties of matter, the quantum mechanics of what makes up whatever is, cannot exist without the context of time, then can time itself be in a state of flux, a condition of movement, with various levels and different kinds of time existing simultaneously in a seamless state, one time, yet three different dimensions? How would any of this make sense regarding my Lay Cistercian approach to seeking The Christ Principle each day in any situation that crosses my path?

I got my answer to these questions from an unlikely source (to those who do not know what to tap into God’s concept of pure energy). I simply asked the Holy Spirit. I have written about some of these outstanding questions and the equally surprising answers I received. In my Lectio Divina inspirations, I try to just sit on a park bench in the dead of winter, squinting in the snow to see if Christ is coming to sit next to me and share the Love in His heart with me. Just as no one goes to the Father except through Christ, no one goes to Christ except through the Holy Spirit. (No one can say Jesus is Lord except through the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 12:3)

I offer you a passage from Sacred Scriptures on the primacy of the Christ Principle as one who can unlock The Divine Equation and shed light on what is darkness to the World.

Last Supper Discourses.

1* “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith* in God; have faith also in me.

2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

3* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.a

4Where [I] am going you know the way.”*

5Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

6Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b

7If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.”c

8Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father,* and that will be enough for us.”d

9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?e

10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.f

11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.g

12Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.h

13And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.i

14If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/14

I had some thoughts while focusing on my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) while contemplating The Divine Equation as the key to unlocking how all of what I know fit together. A reminder. I am not you; you are not me, God is not you or me, and we certainly are not God. I offer these reflections with the only tools I have to view reality, those experiences, trials, errors, values, and purpose in life that I deem to make me fully human as my nature intended.

Time means I am part of the process, but one linked to all the other people who were, who are, and who will be. Human nature is good, but the condition of reason and free will means life is not automatic. Not everything I do is correct as intended by my nature (the law of being who I am intended to be).

I only have seventy or eighty years to figure out the Divine Equation. If I lived one thousand years ago, around the time of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, I would not be able to use anything remotely close to the scientific approach to discovering the “what, why, how, and so what” of life is.

I may be correct, according to the accumulation of those choices and consequences that make up who I am, but I have a reason for a reason. I can reflect on what I think is good and bad for me and change directions. Because of time (81.9 years in my case), I process all that has gone on and can make all things new again. In my spiritual dimension, that is called metanoia (change of heart). I call it reparation for my sins, sin being the times I chose poorly and missed the target’s bulls-eye. For me, God is the target, and I try but fail to hit the target each time. I keep trying.

This photo is a perfect story of my life. It is the treason I am a Lay Cistercian, a sinner who attempts to be aware on a profound basis of who I am is the result of who I was and those choices that were authentic love and cotton candy (tastes good but no nutrition).

Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

My center is Philippians 2:5, based on what I discovered about life’s purpose. Notice that Jesus is the only target, but I must learn to shoot the bow and aim for the center. The Christ Principle is my target in life.

Time has three dimensions corresponding to the three separate universes. My three separate universes allow my human mind (as I have defined it by my choices) to differentiate one reality happening at each moment as I live it. Physical time results from matter, time, energy, and space being as nature intended. Humans are part of that core matter platform, but we are different. Humans are the only species that knows that it knows. The physical universe is the object where we learn what it means to be human. The mental universe contains mental time and human self-awareness, but each individual in a self-contained time capsule lives in the physical universe as a base and reflects on it. Why?

There is a problem. The answer, in part, has to do with exploring the third universe; one has no matter, has spiritual time (no beginning or ending), and has no physical or mental energy. What it does have is the fulfillment of what it means to be human as intended by our physical universe. The Divine Equation is one that both gives the questions that approach the resolution of what it means to be as human as possible. I have all the mental time to experiment and seek the way that leads to the truth so that my life is as consistent with The Christ Principle as my humanity will allow.

As I experience it, my Lay Cistercian practices (Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, Rosary, Reading Sacred Scriptures) are occasions where I am in the presence of the energy of the spiritual universe that allows me to fill up what is meaningful about being human. It is putting to death the humanity of only the physical and mental universe, sound as that can be, and then moving from my false self to my true intended purpose.

The sign of contradiction (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior) shows me that to be fully human, both the questions and the answers to how to do this come from a source of intelligent progression outside of human experience, The Christ Principle, and that does not make sense, at first glance. Intelligent progression is not a river that my ark gets in and flows downstream. Because Christ showed me how to do so, I must paddle each up UPSTREAM against the current of the very nature I am trying to obtain.

TIME IN THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — This is the base for intelligent progression from simplicity to complexity. We don’t think about time in this universe; it just happens.

TIME IN THE MENTAL UNIVERSE — This is the time I have from the beginning of my life to its end. I have reason and the ability to choose what I think is good for me. I only live in the NOW, a compilation of successive moments in which I must look out on reality with the totality of who I am (my past, my NOW) and choose for the future. This is called existing one step in front of myself by existentialists (existential). It is my future determined by the choices I just made. My past is the sum of the consequences of my choices. Some choices are good for me, while some make me less human and more animal. In my view of reality, God, the loving Father, tells me (and all humanity that will listen) not to put my hand on a hot stove burner. Like Adam and Eve, what God tells me not to do, I am going to try it (the devil prompts me to do what seems to be good, but which is harmful to my spiritual self. “The wages of sin is death.”)

TIME IN THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE — This begins with my Baptism and is a struggle to keep centered throughout my life. I am an adopted son (daughter) of the Father in this universe. I keep my citizenship in the world while I try to determine what it is to be truly human as nature intended. But, I also now have dual citizenship, one where the world of my destiny has no time, no energy as we know it, no matter, no movement from past to future. It is eternal NOW. Not to leave us orphans, Jesus is preparing a place for those with adoption that will not destroy or dishonor our humanity but rather bring it to the full potential of what it means to be human. Mary is our example of a prototype of what awaits us to be with Jesus, just as Adam and Eve were for humanity.

As a Lay Cistercian, my complexity has lost its rough edges. Through my Cistercian practices and charisms, I am mellowing into a more uncomplicated act of Faith, one that just trusts in Jesus to sit next to me to be as pictured on this ikon of Saint Charles de Foucault. Now, I just wait with the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit in my heart, next to the heart of Christ.

Where is your heart?

My heart is next to the heart of Christ.

PRACTICES THAT COME FROM CISTERCIAN MONASTIC PIETY

I asked the question this morning, “What am I doing now that I was not doing five years ago, the caveat being Lay Cistercian practices that come from my observance of monastic charisms at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia?

CUSTOS OCULI –– I now practice custos oculi, the custody of the eyes. I do so as Lay Cistercian and not as a monk. I am more aware now of averting my gaze around me to see distracting visuals, for example, looking around at church when people arrive to see whom I know and who seems interesting. My focus is now on trying to keep my eyes focused on the ground to help me think about who I am versus who Jesus is. Chapter 7 of the Rule of St. Benedict has the twelve steps of humility that monks need to climb. I have only managed step one, the fear of the Lord, before tiring of the remainder.

SLOW DOWN –– I am more aware of slowing down my life to remember that I bear the sign of the cross on my heart (an indelible tattoo). I slow down any presentations I make on contemplative practice using PowerPoint slides.

WAITING FOR JESUS TO SHOW UP –– This is a way for me to say that I must wait for my humanity to catch up with my spirituality. Jesus has been there all along, waiting for me to show up.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN I SAY THAT CHRIST IS THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE?

Each of us, in the short time we find ourselves in this existence, uses the totality of our human experiences to probe the depth of what it means to be human. We may not even be conscious of it, but we want to ensure that we are worth something, that our living is for a purpose. People get their answers to this urge deep within us, unconsciously most of the time but now and then popping to the surface of consciousness.

Contemplation is a way that I use to go to seek answers to life’s challenges. I use Lay Cistercian charisms and practices to place me in the company of Christ’s heart and just wait there for what happens next. It is difficult to describe that feeling of peace that overshadows me as I just sit there, abandoning my will to God, dying to my fleshly self of the mind, being silent and still enough to listen to Jesus with “the ear of my heart.” I have done it over and over each day since my Baptism. Most days, I am aware of what is going on. Some days it passes right over the top of my head. Each day begins anew with the same routine. It is the struggle to “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus” daily. (Philippians 2:5). I have been obsessed with this since making my lifetime profession as a Lay Cistercian. I find that cross that Jesus says we should take up daily tricky. It is the martyrdom of the ordinary as a human being, not wanting anyone to tell us what to do, wishing to control our lives as we see fit.

I found an icon of St. Charles de Foucauld that typifies my relationship with Christ and can be the definition of contemplation and what it means to be a Lay Cistercian. Look at the icon for ten minutes, interrupted, and ask yourself, “What do I see?” Listen with “the ear of the heart.” –St. Benedict

St. Charles de Foucauld and Friend

My thoughts.

  • Jesus has his arm around St. Charles.
  • St. Charles is happy.
  • St. Charles has a rosary on his belt.
  • He has a paper (I don’t know what it says.)
  • St. Charles points to Jesus as Mary did and says: “Do what he tells you.”
  • I am St. Charles. Jesus is my friend; remembering what St. Benedict says about the first step of humility, “Fear of the Lord.”
  • The mission of Christ to become one of us was for him to put his arm around each human and help us to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • Jesus loves me, and there is nothing I can do about it.
  • Christ because sin allows us to reestablish a link between humans and the divine. The hallos mean both are holy. Only St. Charles is sinful.
  • This icon is the best definition of contemplation and “What it means to be a Lay Cistercian.”
  • I want Christ to put his arm around me, like St. Charles, and just stand there (or, in my case, sit there on the park bench in the middle of winter) and be still and at peace.
  • The peace of Christ is not the absence of conflict in your life but his presence of love in you.

Here is the agenda that our Lay Cistercian Discernment Group followed on July 27th.

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Saint Charles de Foucauld

Former Trappist of N.D. de Neiges

Killed December 1, 1916

Prayer requests

The practice of the day: Capicitas Dei: Christ increases, I decrease,

II. THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION – Go to the place in your inner room (Matthew 6:6) and close the door. Listen with “…the ear of your heart”. Use this image to guide thoughts from the Holy Spirit.

There are six questions as part of the Divine Equation. We will take one of these questions and reflect on the answers in the subsequent six sessions using The Rule of Threes.  1. What is the purpose of life?

Read: https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

This photo is my life.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

III. A Lay Cistercian Reflects on Spiritual Reality

Once you have abandoned your humanity as a gift to God, you open yourself to receiving questions and answers to The Divine Equation.

Christ became one of us to save us from the failure of human reasoning and choice by itself, even to realize there is a Divine Equation with six postulates that must be answered correctly and in the proper order.

It is the Divine Equation because the questions and answers to what it means to be fully human come from a power greater than ourselves, outside of ourselves, God. The Holy Spirit overshadows us with enlightenment beyond our capability and capacity to open our hearts to the way, the truth, and the life at this moment.

God gives us the purpose in one or two points that spring from our opening the heart to the Holy Spirit. We allow The Christ Principle to overshadow us in silence and solitude.

All we have to do in silence and solitude is “listen with the ear of the heart.” —St, Benedict

Ironically, we share with others in contemplation, but the others are Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and our fellow Lay Cistercians. Slow down, taste, and see the goodness of the Lord; happy are those who take refuge in him.

The five charisms of Cistercian spirituality are silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community.

Each lay Cistercian must apply what they have experienced to whatever the world presents to them. Lay Cistercians are not monks but do the Cistercian practices as they can. Monks and nuns do the same. Christ is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

What is the purpose of all life?

Read Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36ff.

IV. WORKS AND ADMIN REPORTS

Tallahassee Retreat at the Monastery sometime in Fall.

We Addicts Book update.

Date for next month.

Go to www.trappist.net and look up how to sign up to be a novice if that is your discernment.

https://www.facebook.com/monasteryoftheholyspirit

V. NEXT MONTH’S ACTION

The six core skills I use to grow deeper in Christ Jesus. 2. What is my purpose within the purpose of life?

Read: https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

CORE RESOURCES: Contemplative Prayer

I asked one of the monks about contemplative prayer and what it meant. He told me, “if you have to ask for a definition, you need to do more contemplation.” Although I am still not sure what he meant, I do know that my human side wants to know more, while my spiritual side just wants to be in the presence of Christ and wait. I am the sum of those two approaches (of course, much more than that). Prayer is the mind wants to know more because the more you know, the more you can understand the how, why, when, where, and so what it means to praise and glorify God. The heart wants to do all that the mind does but has the added dimension of feeling where the mind is content with just knowing. The prayer of the heart has no agenda, nor does it seek to boss around God so that God must fit my image and likeness. The prayer of the heart merely seeks to love, much like human love is just willing to be in the presence of the one you love and enjoy whatever takes place together.

I know (the mind) that Jesus is my Christ Principle and seek to discover whatever I can about who that is. I feel The Christ Principle and seek to sit next to that Jesus on the park bench in the cold of winter and share together WHATEVER GOD WANTS ME TO KNOW, LOVE, AND SERVE about myself and others around me.

I want to share with you what I did due to these thoughts. In this case, I went to some core resources, The Catholic Catechism, as part of my Lectio Divina (knowledge) to re-read what contemplation means. “Knowledge,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “precedes love.” I learned that to know what it means, I have to do it over and over until I don’t realize I am praying in the silence of my heart.

Contemplation, for me, is resting on a park bench in the middle of winter and waiting for Christ to show up. When my knowledge of whatever is cluttering my mind slowly dissipates, what becomes more apparent is that Christ has always sat next to me. Still, I have not had the abandonment of the world to listen with the “ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict counsels.

Below is a section from The Catholic Catechism on contemplation. Read it slowly and prayerfully. Make a conscious effort to move it from thinking about it to doing it. Meditation is about thinking about Jesus. Contemplation is about being present to Jesus and loving it.

III. Contemplative Prayer

2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”6
Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.”7 It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself.

2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. the heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty ant in faith.

2711 Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we “gather up:” the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed.

2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.8 But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son.

2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.9 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”

2714 Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit “that Christ may dwell in (our) hearts through faith” and we may be “grounded in love.”10

2715 Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to his holy cure about his prayer before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the “interior knowledge of our Lord,” the more to love him and follow him.11

2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the “Yes” of the Son become servant and the Fiat of God’s lowly handmaid.

2717 Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come”12 or “silent love.”13 Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.

2718 Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. the mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.

2719 Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. the Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb – the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not “the flesh [which] is weak”) brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to “keep watch with (him) one hour.”14

https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P9M.HTM

uiodg

THE MARTYRDOM OF THE ORDINARY: Paco’s Prayer

Francisco Paco Ambrosetti, God rest his soul, is a Lay Cistercian now standing before the Throne of the Lamb and proclaiming the glory of the Father. Here is his prayer. May his soul, and the soul of all Lay Cistercians rest in the peace of Christ.

Paco’s Prayer

COME, Holy Spirit. Replace the tension within me with a holy relaxation.

Replace the turbulence within me with a sacred calm.

Replace the anxiety within me with quiet confidence.

Replace the fear within me with a strong faith.

Replace the bitterness within me with a sweetness of grace.

Replace the darkness within me with a gentle light.

Replace the coldness within me with loving warmth.

Replace the night within me with your day.

Replace the winter within me with your spring.

Straighten my crookedness.

Fill my emptiness.

Dull the edge of my pride.

Sharpen the edge of my humility.

Light the fires of my love.

Quench the flames of my lust.

Let me see myself as you see me.

That I may see you as you have promised me.

And be healed according to your word. Amen.

Amen and Amen.

THE PHENOMENON OF MAN: Background for The Christ Principle as Intelligent Progression.

If you have not done so, I recommend reading (and reflecting) on the late Teilhard de Chardin’s book, The Phenomenon of Man. I do so because it is at the heart of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditations about The Christ Principle.

My thoughts go through a process of intelligent progression, reflecting what is happening in the physical and mental universes and the spiritual universe. These three are one reality. All of this culminates in one grand design of reality, The Christ Principle, similar to a mustard seed in real terms, contains all that was is and will be, much like the opposite of The Big Bang (as far as I understand it).

My first awareness (quite late in life) was that there is a strain of corruption and incorruption that flows through and intermixes with all that is real. This realization or hypothesis was followed by the additional discovery of another such strain, that of intelligent progression that also flows through all of reality. It does not contain matter, nor energy, as our limited physics has yet to integrate into the fullness of what is real. Intelligent progression dues This is the mathematics and physics of being, and not just any being, but pure energy. This all sounds like fantasy, and perhaps it is. My point is that all matter, all thought, and all spirituality are influenced by intelligent progression. The physical universe (evolution), the mental universe (knowledge is cumulative and progressive), and spirituality (The Christ Principle is different with each day that I am alive and face whatever comes my way, yet it is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow). This is movement in all three universes. The Phenomenon of Man helps put all of this in more focus (not clear yet) as cosmic growth from a point (Alpha) to another point (Point Omega, according to Teilhard de Chardin).

Another realization (again, relatively late in life) has been that I am the only one who can access these ideas (or any ideas) about the purpose of life. I do so not with scientific thinking, not solely human reasoning, but with thinking that encompasses all three universes of one reality, faith informed by reason. I am the only me living in my eighty-two years’ shoes. Each person can say the same thing. The accumulation of our choices makes me who I am, and thus I look on intelligent progression with the totality of who I am. My notion of God, as with each human, comes from the totality of what they place at their center. If I place being a wealthy and successful lawyer as my one center, that informs who I am. That is great; if I only live in two universes (physical and mental), I live, then I learn what the purpose of life is by my choices, then I die. When my perspective is three universes (physical base, mental progression, and my free choice to expand my humanity to what nature intended), then I have dual citizenship, one of this world and one that begins at Baptism and ends as being the fulfillment of my adoption by God as his son (daughter) and heir to the next level of intelligent progression, the kingdom of heaven, forever. Some can look at all this and say, “How can you see all this in your contemplation?” When I look at being in the presence of The Christ Principle and waiting for me to calm down enough to see what my humanity cannot see by itself, I say, “How is it you cannot?”

Here are a few quotes followed by the book in its entirety.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Above all trust in the slow work of God. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit, you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Love is the most powerful and still most unknown energy in the world.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The age of nations has passed. Now, unless we wish to perish, we must shake off our old prejudices and build the Earth. The more scientifically I regard the world, the less can I see any possible biological future for it except in the active consciousness of its unity.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mystical of cosmic forces. Love is the primal and universal psychic energy. Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The truth is, indeed, that love is the threshold of another universe.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Reach beyond your grasp. Your goals should be grand enough to get the best of you.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Everything that rises must converge.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Your creatures can come into being only, like a shoot from the stem, as part of an endlessly renewed process of evolution.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

https://www.azquotes.com/author/2738-Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin?p=4

https://archive.org/stream/ThePhenomenonOfMan/phenomenon-of-man-pierre-teilhard-de-chardin_djvu.txt.

uiodg

THE STARFISH THROWER

THE STARFISH THROWER

Almost every time I pray Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5), I invariably think about how Christ’s act of love, to save us from death and give us a chance at life everlasting, relates to those circumstances and experiences of my life. This is how I find meaning and value in those things that even happened to me a long time ago. One such story that impacted me then and still holds me in its grip now is the story of the starfish thrower as told by Joel Barker, one of the ten people that have influenced my life for the better. I would like to share it with you to give you some idea of how Philippians 2:5 is like the starfish thrower, the story of Christ.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVONMxCK4CQfDDs0yQIQ

Watch the story of the starfish thrower at least twice. Write down what Joel Barker says about vision and action at the end of the piece. Then, I want you to address these questions and use them as your meditation (that may lead to contemplation).

REFLECTION ONE: 

In this video,  a man comes across someone throwing starfish into the ocean. He asks him how the starfish thrower could possibly make a difference to the starfish population. The man replied, “I made a difference to that one.” Think about Philippians 2:5-12. Christ is the one throwing starfish into the water so they can live and not die. We are the starfish on the beach of life. We don’t deserve to be given life again, but because of Christ’s love, we have life.

REFLECTION TWO:

Each of us who realizes that what the man is doing by throwing starfish back into the ocean is meaningful and the purpose of our life is like the man who came upon the stranger throwing back starfish, and we want to help him do so. We join with the stranger to give others life. Christ is the stranger; we are now the man who came up to him and asked him what he was doing and decided to help him throw back starfish. We are helpers of Christ to give life to those we throw back into the ocean of God’s love.

REFLECTION THREE: 

Read the Star Thrower Story transcript by Joel Barker and answer the questions at the end.

“There’s a story I would like to share with you. It was inspired by the writing of Loren Eiseley. Eiseley was a very special person because he combined the best of two cultures. He was a scientist and a poet. And from those two perspectives, he wrote insightfully and beautifully about the world and our role in it.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man, much like Eiseley himself, who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead, he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?” The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I guess I should have asked, Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” “The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”

“But young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. “It made a difference for that one!”

His response surprised the man. He was upset. He didn’t know how to reply. So instead, he turned away and walked back to the cottage to begin his writings.

All day long as he wrote, the image of the young man haunted him. He tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted. Finally, late in the afternoon he realized that he the scientist, he the poet, had missed out on the essential nature of the young man’s actions. Because he realized that what the young man was doing was choosing not to be an observer in the universe and make a difference. He was embarrased.

That night he went to bed troubled. When the morning came he awoke knowing that he had to do something. So he got up, put on his clothes, went to the beach and found the young man. And with him he spent the rest of the morning throwing starfish into the ocean. You see, what that young man’s actions represent is something that is special in each and everyone of us. We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can, like that young man, become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision the power to shape the future.

And that is your challenge. And that is my challenge.
We must each find our starfish. And if we throw our
stars wisely and well, I have no question that
the 21st century is going to be a wonderful place.

Remember Vision without action is a dream.
Action without vision is simply passing the time.
Action with Vision is making a positive difference.”

REFLECTIONS:

Jesus had a vision for us (Philippians 2:5-12) to give us the chance at life. Christ has made a difference in how we humans relate with God, God is now one of us and we are adopted sons and daughters. We must love others as Christ loved us, some of us by throwing back star fish into the ocean with Him. The ocean is the limitless love of God for all of humanity.

Christ has a vision of what He wanted for us but he also emptied himself and died for us on the cross as his proof or action of love. Action with Vision is making a positive difference and what a difference that was because of us. How does being a Lay Cistercian fit into being a star thrower? Like the star thrower, if you like this blog, throw it to someone else in the ocean of life.

Glory 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.  –Cistercian doxology

FIVE LIFE-CRITICAL SKILLS MOMS AND DADS MUST SHOW THEIR CHILDREN

There is one shortcoming, I stop short of calling it a failure, of the Church Universal in teaching the Faith to those who are growing in their faith (youngsters or the newly professed Catholics): sustainability. RCIA is an excellent greenhouse in which those who discern what it means to be Catholic Universal (all rites) can thrive. The local parish provides such instruction in the form of sessions that allow individuals to address the elements of the Creed and see if this path is for them.

If they are deemed suitable and they judge that they want to profess their faith in The Catholic Way, they are Baptized and Confirmed at the Easter Vigil.

I think the Church could improve by extending the period of simulation of the Faith beyond Baptism in a systematic and formal way. The local Church becomes the context for newly professed or confirmed young believers to grow. The seminarium (greenhouse) takes them to the next level of their journey to love others as Christ loved us. We should not think that, just because a person is baptized, they have received infused knowledge and don’t need to do anything but attend Mass on Sundays.

Hopefully, the seeds of Faith planted at the Easter Vigil and confirmed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit will find rich soil to thrive. The local Church must have, as it continued assistance to parents, those who are the primary caretakers of young spiritual shoots, an awareness that there is no growth without cultivation and keeping out the weeds of life.

Here is what I consider to be the intelligent progression of any Catholic, and by application, what we should be teaching our young with skill sets to combat the seeming boredom of being human. Like Erich Fromm, an existentialist psychologist whose book, The Art of Loving, contain his thoughts that love is an acquired skill and not one we have innately, what follows are learned behaviors from the first teachers of each of us, our parents.

HOW TO GROW DEEPER IN THEIR FAITH THROUGH CONTEMPLATION— How can you share with your children that there is a place inside them where they must learn to go daily where they meet Jesus in the silence and solitude of their hearts. Contemplation is a way to communicate with God through the Holy Spirit by listening and waiting. It is a skill that needs to be mastered and not automatically given to you when you are Baptized.

THE COST OF BEING CATHOLIC AND THE REWARDS — How do you explain to your children that to follow Christ, they must die to their false self, and what that means, plus tolerance for the struggle that we all face when the world challenges us?

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CROSS ON YOUR FOREHEAD— How do you demonstrate the link between the cross of your Baptism and how it is the basis for prayer and behaviors that lead to loving others as Christ loved us?

YOU ARE AN ADOPTED SON OR DAUGHTER OF THE FATHER. YOU INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The value of being an adopted son or daughter of the Father is core to what it means to be a citizen of heaven because of your Baptism. What does God expect of his followers

THE STRUGGLE OF TWO CITIZENSHIPS. ONE GETS YOU TO HEAVEN. How do you show your children that there are two citizenships they hold, one earthy and one being adopted sons and daughters of the Father?

As strange as it may seem, we can learn from the polar bear how to transfer behaviors that make each of us uniquely human. Polar bear moms teach by doing with their cubs. If you don’t believe in Jesus, way down deep, your children pick up on what you hold as your center.

  • Parents need to talk to their children about WHY they love Jesus and not be ashamed to confess Christ before others.
  • Parents need to be unified in their beliefs by discussing how they want their children to have their heritage.
  • Parents who are split believers and nonbelievers need to be upfront with their children about what that means.
  • Parents need to show that they believe in the Trinity and how attending Eucharist is an act where we bring Jesus into our hearts and minds with all our strength. It is food to make us solid and resistant to the lures of the Devil.
  • Parents need to show their children how the Ten Commandments help us to keep centered on having Christ as our center.
  • Parents need to show their children that no one is perfect but that they need to seek forgiveness by using the Sacrament of Reconciliation as part of a way of life.
  • MUST DO BEHAVIORS AND PRAYERS
  • How the Rosary makes Christ real in your heart.
  • Read Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule daily and make it real.
  • A love for the Eucharist and the Real Presence.
  • How to pray Lectio Divina.
  • How to have a routine of spirituality.
  • How the Devil can sneak up on you if you are not aware.
  • Parents must show their children what it means to have Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
  • Parents must give their children the skills to be what they read when they use the Scriptures.
  • Parents must impart to their children how to address The Divine Equation in their lives:
  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is their purpose of life within that purpose?
  • How does reality look?
  • How does reality fit together?
  • How do you love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die; now what?

Who teaches parents how to be the best of teachers in the Faith? The answers have always been there, but we are unaware of what is in front of us. Do you know the most frequent words to St. Peter are for people knocking at the pearly gates? “Nobody ever told me that before?” If you are one of those who would say that to St. Peter, you need conversio morae (daily conversion of life).

uiodg

SWITCHING POLES I: Using The Christ Principle to row upstream in life

My Catholic Faith is not a philosophy where I have a set of goals I meet or not. It is not a way of life that is easy. Taking up the cross daily means being more human than I ever thought possible. I keep asking myself why things are so difficult? Part of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) concerns this line of inquiry. I offer you some random thoughts so that you can decide what they mean (it is like interpreting dreams).

My Catholic Faith is neither easy to sustain nor performed without a daily commitment to seek God as I find God and as I am. I am not the person I was forty years ago, physically, mentally, or spiritually. Because I exist within the context of intelligent design (God’s DNA), I am inexorably pulled forward without my consent. I cannot stop time. I can choose what I think is best for me and hope I am correct. My past gives me the perspective to know when I have made an existential mistake or taken the wrong path, leading me to diminish my humanity. Most of the time, I don’t know what I don’t know. My ego corners me into one dimension of my personality so that I get angry when someone says to me, you are off-center.

CHANGING POLES

In my reflection on spirituality as a Lay Cistercian, I obsess over two passions in my old age (81.10).

THE CAPACITAS DEI OF MY CRIB HAS CONTINUED TO GROW IN AWARENESS OF ALL REALITY (Physical, Mental, and Spiritual). “Capacitas Dei,” or growing every deeper with Christ as my center (Philippians 2:5). I use the analogy of a crib when I think about growing in awareness. As an infant, my parents used a crib to keep me confined. Since God accepted me as an adopted son (daughter) on September 29, 1940, I have been in a physical crib, a mental one, and a spiritual one. Each of these three universes may grow at a different rate, depending on how I interact with the world over the years and assimilate what it means to be human into my unique time on earth.

Your time and development are not mine, so my view of reality is not yours because of our choices and, most notably, the consequences of those choices as they shape who we are. It depends on what we place as our center that provides the key to telling us what is valuable and why. Animals don’t worry about their centers. Humans do, and there is something unique about centers that each person has. They revolve each hour, each day, constantly being challenged by what is called original sin (the corruption of the time, the corruption of matter, the corruption of human nature that exists within time, the corruption of you as you try to make sense out of the life you lead. The crib is limiting, so your reason says, “Is that all there is?” and the answer you get is you can move outside of your crib, now into the room. This is now your new world, but you keep all those experiences of the crib at your core, even if they are subconscious. This process repeats itself. You become bored with just being confined to a room, and you look out of the windows to see that there is something more than crawling around the room. You begin to stand up and wobble around the room, exploring everything about it: the smells, the touch, the distances, furniture on which you learn to sit. But, consistent with your humanity, your mind tells you that this is not enough, and you want more. Words become essential to you as ways to get what you want (you do not have the intellectual capacity nor the anatomical ability to activate what you need), but you seek more. Something within, something autonomous that compels you to move towards your intellectual progression. The process repeats itself through growing from a room into the whole interior of your house, then your yard, your neighborhood, your school in grade school, and high school, to face what it is you want as an occupation in your life. You discover your animal instincts of anger, power, sexual feelings, and the opposite sex and must learn how to control them. Some learn this. Others don’t.

You place one of these needs as your center and strive to keep it from disappearing in favor of another need. Humans tend to put those pleasurable and exciting needs of their physical and mental self up front. The problem with our spiritual self (universe) is that with The Christ Principle, reality had a polar reversal. North became South for reality, and a new way of approaching one reality happened without notice (although I think that was the event in the Scriptures when Christ died and the veil in the temple was torn in two). There is a new reality now: not two universes (physical and mental) but three (physical, mental and spiritual) universes. New wine must be put into new wineskins and not the old. The new configuration is the physical universe is, as it always is, our base for all things physical. The mental universe is as it always was (remember, there is no Science as we know it today), and it moves forward at the pace of enlightenment of humanity. But, there is not a new player that fulfills the Divine Equation that is the key to the purpose of all that is. This new universe is the opposite of the physical and mental universes called The World by St. Paul. (Galatians 5).

This new universe fulfills the physical and mental universes because it is the destiny of those two of three parts of reality. This third universe comes from outside human nature and beyond our capacity to comprehend it. Jesus came to tell us and show us that the sign of contradiction is actually the key against which all reality must be measured. And what is that measurement? (Philippians 2:5-12) It is a person, both divine and human nature, who abandoned divinity to take on the nature of a slave. This is the pattern of contradiction we must follow as we exercise our reason and free will. That free will must be given away to become energized. That free will must die to the physical and mental universes to be fruitful and process the energy that comes from the Holy Spirit. Because we live in the context of recidivism and fall back to our default as humans, we must work daily to retain the energy to keep ourselves centered on The Christ Principle. Christ knows that and says, “I know you are poor, have mental and social problems, and some of you have cancer and other diseases, such as war, beyond your control. I won’t take away your condition but assure you that my grace is sufficient until you are with me and all tears will be wiped away.” The Church Universal is the guarantor of this pledge. There is each age, as each of us is born and moves from the cradle to the grave. We have direction, a purpose, and the energy (from the Holy Spirit) to keep ourselves centered daily. It is work (what is a cross if it is made out of balsa wood?

I like the image of rowing against the current in life because that is how I feel as a human being resisting those who want me to turn around and go with the flow. I make a choice daily, as a Lay Cistercian, to seek God wherever I am aware of God.

Just because your spiritual road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. If being a Catholic is just fulfilling the law of Sunday observance (and that is not to be discounted), you are a baby Catholic, perhaps to live in your crib forever. I had to ask myself, and hopefully, you will consider, “Am I still back in the crib of my spiritual universe? Where am I?”

You may have felt that this is not enough or that the Church does not offer enough to keep you motivated. You may not know what you do not even know. The Christ Principle has no depth, height, or width. What if you die and stand before the Throne of the Lamb to give an accounting and say, “No one told me what to do. The Church is at fault because I had no idea you could grow deeper and growing deeper means inconvenient, abandonment, sacrificing time to be in the presence of pure energy. Change your way of life (conversio morae) and reconnect with what your humanity should be as intended.” uiodg

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: THE KEY TO UNLOCKING THE MYSTERY OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FULLY WHAT OUR NATURE INTENDED.

The problem with trying to solve any equation is knowing the formula. Granted that the Divine Equation’s six postulates have been answered correctly, there is still one thing left to do. You must use the correct key, the only one that fits into this lock, and turn it, to open the door to the fullness of what it means to be human and allow you entrance into your destiny. Once inside, several languages help to grow deeper into the inexhaustible knowledge of how all reality fits together and what it means to be what nature intended us to be. St. Thomas Aquinas states that “Knowledge precedes love.”

THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

It occurred to me that, given that I answered all six postulates of The Divine Equation correctly, there was still another glaring problem, one that is archetypal in its implications for what it means to be fully human. What is the key that allowed me to interpret the information correctly? By key, I don’t just mean a physical key like the one I use to unlock my house, although that analogy is part of my description. I have in mind a key more like the Enigma machine of WWII fame. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x8yfrsIoko

In my intellectual probing of reality, I have been through many Lectio Divina meditations on this subject of free choice. Most of the time, I have opened up more questions than answers. I began to realize that this feeling of incompleteness is an answer, but one, like the Enigma machine, needs deciphering. What language can I use to ask the correct questions and get the correct and authentic answers that allow me to gain more insight into what it means to be fully human as our nature intended? Well, it all comes down to this key. Like the Enigma analogy, neither the experience of how to walk this way (path) nor what is true comes with being born as a human into the context of Original Sin. Like Erich Fromm’s premise in his book, The Art of Loving, we don’t automatically receive infused knowledge on how to love fiercely. All knowledge humans use is intelligent progression; it is acquired, not infused. An intended or unintended consequence of Original Sin is that humans must work for our bread (Genesis 2-3). That also applies to knowledge, love, and, most significantly, what it means to wake up on this rocky ball of gases and realize that you can ask the questions in The Divine Equation and be sure that your answers are authentic.

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is my purpose within that purpose of life?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How do I love fiercely?
  • I know I am going to die; now what?

Now comes the most challenging question of all, one that gives The Divine Equation legitimacy, one that allows me to ask and answer questions with one immutable answer, beyond my limited human abilities, and one that is true. These answers do not come from humanity but from pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service, yet, once applied, they open up a reality that we could not possibly achieve with reason and our free will alone. This is not the freedom to choose what we want, but rather knowing what to choose and how to do it, moving into a realm where the truth will make me accessible. What is the correct key that, if applied to these six postulates, allows me to approach (not solve) this paradox of what it means to be human? Truth is one because there is only one truth. I had not been aware of the implications that what I choose as answers to The Divine Equation must have resonance and not dissonance with the totality of all that is. Of all the choices of all the people who ever lived, I have seventy or eight years to get it right, if I am lucky. It is not enough to know the questions of The Divine Equation. I must answer what it means to be fully human correctly. Where do I find the truth?

KEYS I EXPLORED TO UNLOCK THE DIVINE EQUATION

SCIENCE AS A KEY — When looking for one key that unlocked the secrets of what it means to be human, I first turned to the scientific approach to life. I still use it because it makes sense to look for the answers to physical reality with the tools of mathematics, chemistry, physics, medicine, artificial intelligence, and research into cures for cancer and other physical ailments that plague humanity. The approach is that we know what we can observe and prove with the language of Science. There is applied Science and theoretical Science, for example, doing physics to find new ways to expand our knowledge of this discipline. An essential part of how I look at reality as a Lay Cistercian comes from the scientists who pose questions about humanity based on their recent discoveries. It means I am challenged to continually seek a deeper reality based on my accumulated knowledge. I am not a trained chemist or astrobiologist, but I know enough that what I know needs more to satisfy my curiosity. I love Science because it asks the interrogatives (Who? What? Why? and Why Not?, Where?), just to name a few. The essence of science is the process of wondering, what if?

The Achilles Heel of Science

All these keys have an Achilles Heel, either a blindspot or assumptions you hold that will not allow you to advance. What’s the story of his ‘Achilles heel’?

“Thetis gives birth to Achilles who, unlike her, is mortal. She attempts to make the baby Achilles immortal, by dipping him in the River Styx (the river that runs through the underworld), while holding him by his heel. The one part of his body left untouched by the waters becomes his only point of weakness, hence the phrase ‘Achilles heel’.”

https://blog.britishmuseum.org/who-was-achilles/

I tried the key of Science to unlock The Divine Equation, but it fit but would not open the door to knowledge. When I applied Science to answer the questions of the Divine Equation, I found that this key is excellent at describing what is going on in the physical universe using the mental universe. The Achilles heel of Science in my search was twofold: It is a tool of the mind to seek reality with what it can observe and proven. I like that approach. The problem is Science does not include reality; it cannot see, such as what is invisible. Secondly, it does not admit that such a reality as the spiritual universe exists, so they don’t seek to include it in their definition of reality.

LEARNING POINTS

  • Science is an accurate and valuable tool for determining what is and how it interacts with its environment.
  • The scientific community looks at what is real in two universes, not three, i.e., the physical and mental universes, but cannot look at what is invisible because it cannot be measured with the concepts and tools of Science, so it must not exist.
  • Science is a good way, perhaps the only way, to seek what is real. The problem for me is that what is real is more than the scope of inquiry from Science. Spirituality is the place Stephen Hawking could not look, not because he was intelligent enough, but because it didn’t exist for him, and so he just missed it.
  • Science is a recent advancement in human improvement. Not everyone knows the language. Science is not the only language to discover what it means to be human, but it is undoubtedly one of the most important. Science is a key to unlocking the mysteries of the physical universe.
  • This is part of why I postulate that there are three separate universes but only one reality. Each universe is a paradigm shift without logical explanation or scientific verification, yet with all the consequences that come from being. Still, it is fundamental to those who know where and how to use the measurements and tools to discover it. Science is a language, only recently acquired, that does not look at the totality of all. When I try to approach The Divine Equation, Science is a key that cannot provide me with the ability to decipher its meaning. Even though it is not the key, there is no master key without it.

RECAP

I have what I consider the answers to the six postulates of The Divine Equation. Who tells me what is a good or bad answer? Who is to tell me what is correct and not authentic and why? I need a key or an authority against which I can measure my answer to see if it is correct. Again. Science as a way of answering The Divine Equation is just one such key, but, as I have pointed out, it is not so much wrong as incomplete. All humans have the freedom to choose what they want to be at their center, but not all centers will make us accessible and fulfill the destiny of what nature intended for us. It depends on what we choose to use as a key to interpreting reality to determine if something is moral or not.

HUMAN REASONING AND FREE CHOICE AS A KEY — If Science uses the disciplines of mathematics, chemistry, physics, medicine, psychology, and biology, to look at the physical and mental universes to discover what makes us up and to explain the environment in which we find ourselves, then everything else (logic, literature, poetry, religion, etc…) is the second way to look at The Divine Equation. We seek the answers using this second key based on the physical and mental universes. No God exists, no supreme being, just what we accumulate about what life is from the trials and errors of the human mind over the centuries. Science and human reasoning are not the keys, but there is no key without them.

Then, a paradigm shift in time and space happens; I am alive during whatever time I live. I look at what humanity left me to figure out the purpose of life and what my purpose is. I get to choose what I want as my center, good or bad. Now comes a third filter to add complexity to my quest for meaning–what does reality look like. Suppose I look at the amalgam of ideas from Aristotle through Jesus and continue to be modern apologists for humanism and nationalism. In that case, I get my ideas from those around me and forge two basic ways to look at reality (one, the physical and mental universes that St. Paul termed the World, and the second one is three universes that add spirituality to the first two). What does all of this mean, or, more correctly, how does it all fit together? Here, I can insert one of my keys to see what is behind my chosen door. It sounds like the game show “Let’s Make a Deal,” starring the late Monty Hall. Strangely, it is a game show. We make a choice but must live with the choice and its implications. While living, we can change curtains if we don’t like the one we selected. We must also live with what we have chosen unless we change it.

This second key (you may know of more) is about me and the accumulated situations, choices, and experiences that are unique to this body. I make choices, what is good for me or what I think is good for me that will actually hurt me with the sum total of who I am. I am the key who must open the lock of The Divine Equation. If you notice, with this approach, your lock is not my lock, nor are your choices my choices. Only one key can open the door of purpose and, eventually, what it means to be fully human. That might not make sense on the surface but consider this. If TRUTH is one, then if you or I live our lives measuring our choices against that TRUTH, it is the WAY for both of us. Even though our LIFE might be totally different, as long as our center is one, then the products of TRUTH will be the same, even though the way we achieved it was different.

There is one (or more) problem; I don’t possess the ongoing energy to be able to sustain my key to turn it in the appropriate lock. Even if I want to be able to discover the purpose of life, I lack the energy to make choices that will enable me to be fully human. I can’t turn that lock with my humanity alone. Original Sin seems to have revealed its poison pill again. Only humans can turn the lock of their free choice yet, lack the power to do so. One reason that comes to my mind is that behind that door we try to unlock contains our destiny in another spiritual universe. Humans can’t unlock the Divine Nature, yet we are called to be adopted sons, daughters, and heirs to God’s kingdom. f I am the key, which I am, then has God played a cruel joke on me, a type of divine bate, and switch that toys with my emotions and longings? If there is no resurrection, then life is just a cruel fantasy in which I am the main character.

There is only one answer to this seeming conundrum. Your destiny as a human being exists behind a door numbered ONE. I am the key to unlock what is behind that door, but I don’t have the energy to fit my key in the lock and turn it. It is above my pay grade. All is not lost. God hears the cry of the poor and feels our hurt. God sends Himself, His Son, to become Sin so that everyone (everyone) has help opening that door. Jesus is the energy of the Father that helps each one of us to open the door of our hearts to become fully human, but there is a catch. I must give back to God the one thing that defines me as a human being, more than the animals, capable of love, freely as a gift back to God. Thy will be done, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in the heavens.” I do this by following the footsteps of Christ, who said, “Learn of me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will have rest for your souls.”

The Gentle Mastery of Christ.

28* “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest.

29* p Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.

30For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/11

God’s gift back for you dying to yourself to become more like Christ and less like you is the adoption as a son or daughter. Your gift to God echoes Mary’s, “Let it be done to me according to Your Word.” Luke 1:46-55. These full quotes allow you to pause, think, pray, and say “Thank You.”

The Canticle of Mary.

46v And Mary said:*

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;w

47my spirit rejoices in God my savior.x

48For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.y

49The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.z

50His mercy is from age to age

to those who fear him.a

51He has shown might with his arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.b

52He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.c

53The hungry he has filled with good things;

the rich he has sent away empty.d

54He has helped Israel his servant,

remembering his mercy,e

55according to his promise to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”f

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/luke/1

LEARNING POINTS

The more sophisticated humans become, the more they want to examine the WHY of how they find themselves with seventy or eighty years on this earth.

Human reasoning alone is not able to comprehend the concept of God.

There is something more to life than just existing and passing time until you die.

Humans moved from animality to rationality while retaining all the emotions, traits, most of the DNA, and urges for power, procreation, dominance, and a natural affinity more closely aligned to animal past than spiritual future.

Humans are naturally inclined to act as animals, but those with reason and freedom to choose what is good for them.

In the Old Testament, God used Israel as a pilot program on inserting a way to become more and more like what nature intended. In the New Testament, Jesus became one of us because we were not able to process what it means to be what our nature intended. Jesus had to redo Genesis once more but this time getting it right. The caveat is, we still live in the world with our inclinations to do what is easy for us, whereas Christ’s lesson is to get rid of those false inclinations by dying to what seems like our normal self but is, in reality, lacking the power to be fully human.

Humans are not evil in their nature but rather prone to choose what is easy and convenient over what is right. God tells us and Christ shows us the way to be fully human, how to use what is true to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and how to live a life that will lead us to be fully human.

RECAP So far, I have uncovered two languages that have the potential to unlock The Divine Equation, the set of proposals that, if opened correctly, tell us what it means to be fully human and to claim the inheritance our nature intends.

THE THIRD KEY: The Christ Principle

This third key is one where I must abandon everything I know to this point in order to energize the key. I must still turn the key in the lock. What could this possibly mean? I give my limited power to turn the lock in my center to Jesus in return for His divine power to do what I could never do for myself. As a result of that dying to self, I am now becoming more and more human as I complete whatever time and tasks God has for me. It is only when I give away the two seemingly most important things to me, knowledge of good or evil and the free choice to make my humanity fulfilled, that I can have the power to turn the key in the lock of The Divine Equation.

The Christ Principle is the only way, the one truth, and the only life I will ever need as the Father’s adopted son (daughter). It is also the only way I can possibly have enough energy to turn the key in this lock of tomorrow.

The late Rev. Dr. Billy Graham gave me the spark that enlightened my darkness about how much God loved me. Here I am talking just about me, not Church, not Lay Cistercians, nor any organized group. I am the only person in the entire existence of the physical, mental and spiritual universes that lives in my space and my time. There are no two of us, but each human ever born has that envelope or bubble of time (seventy or eighty years, if we are strong), to discover about life and become what we discover. My awareness from the Holy Spirit snuck in the idea that all of this was so that I could say YES to the invitation to become a son (daughter) of the Father. This is so from before time had its first “tick”. The purpose of my life is to discover why I am here and to fulfill my destiny as a human being. God’s love is so great that, if I was the only person who ever existed, this would be my destiny.

Deep Dive into the Christ Principle

  • The Christ Principle is all that is contained within what we know as Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. It contains two natures, divine and human.
  • The Christ Principle is a person, not an idea or a concept.
  • We can only know about divine nature through human languages and history. There is only one way, one truth, and one life, but each human being has the freedom to choose whatever god they want, or, the default, themselves.
  • Christ became human to give us the knowledge of what is true and to show us how to fulfill our human destiny. Still, there is the Tower of Bable ranging from no god to what is right before our eyes but we don’t use the proper key to unlock reality.
  • The Christ Principle is the new paradigm of humanity that, using a contradictory sign, gives meaning to a solution of the Divine Equation that human reasoning alone is not capable of mastering.
  • The Christ Principle is the fulfillment of the Divine Equation and offers humans the solution to what it means to be fully human. This is characterized in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:38. “You shall love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole self (and your neighbor as yourself).”
  • Only the Christ Principle provides a way to love with your whole heart, how to know the truth about what is good and what is evil, and the life of dying to self so that you can rise above your human nature to discover a deeper level of existence, the kingdom of Heaven, our destiny.
  • Everything about The Christ Principle doesn’t make sense to our human reason and our ability to choose what is good for us. Christ shows us the key to fit into the lock of The Divine Equation, but each of us must turn it alone. This is the belief that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God, and Savior.

LAY CISTERCIAN PRACTICES AND CHARISMS

Among the many ways to practice how to sustain love until we dty. This is a way that I die to myself to rise each day to have the mind of Christ Jes in meus. (Philippians 2:5).

This repetition of seeking God each day becomes an occasion to show how I must die for the convenience and comfort of doing what makes my physical body happy, transforming this happiness into what will ultimately make me more human and less animal.

Lectio Divina is simply me making room for the Holy Spirit to sit with Christ on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait.

uiodg

INTELLIGENT DESIGN IV: Words that contain the power of transformation

Contemplation is a process of what happened before. In the case of just one word, if that word is the Word that is made flesh and dwells among us in the Eucharist, these words are not just human in origin but contain the energy of God, as much as we are able to receive it.

I use these special words in my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) sometimes and just wait (mentally and spiritually) for something to happen.

I have adapted my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) over the years. Now, one of the most frequent approaches is to tap into the powerful words of Scripture, those that are gifts from God to help me receive the energy I need each time I touch them to sustain me against the onslaughts of the corruption of society. It is a battle indeed. Two recent YouTube videos gave me shivers when I saw society as a whole crumble in their faith, which means they deteriorate in their values, with the result of the extinction of elements of society. I think of the ten lost tribes of Israel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Religion Wars that rage on even now, Ukraine, Moral anarchy, political establishment as a god, Israel wandering in the desert for forty years, the Catholic Church tearing itself apart over various teachings, and general disrespect for what it means to be human.

ATHEISM ON THE RISE — Look at the cultural shifts away from God, for whatever belief system. This is indicative of mega trends in the past where humans have lost sight of their purpose. A catastrophe usually happens to bring about the humility needed to get back on track. The San Andreas Fault is not the only geological anomaly that is overdue for a shock. The Adam and Eve Fault which humanity does not seem to remember is a shock in whatever way nature springs back to its intended resonance. I am not an alarmist but I am alarmed that we lack the collective choices to do what is right rather than what is easy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k_VubROphY

THE YOUNG ARE LESS RELIGIOUS — https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2018/06/13/young-adults-around-the-world-are-less-religious-by-several-measures/ I can see it in my own family that Faith, with a few exceptions, seems to stop with my generation (the broken-down, old temples of the Holy Spirit).

All of this points to the trends between God and humans. God wants humans to be what their nature intended, but Original Sin keeps us confused and more animal in our choices than spiritual. In the past, God reminded humans who God is. I think it is about time for a wake-up call from nature.

I have control only over my choices, and even then, Satan has a way of making God seem so superfluous and outdated. It is not without cause that Jesus told us we must take up our crosses daily and follow Him.

In the midst of chaos, there is always redemption. Christ will not leave us orphans, although I think only a remnant of faithful will remain. There are certain words that carry the power of the Holy Spirit. In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), all I need to do is be in the presence of Christ through Cistercian practices and charisms and WAIT. That’s it. Just wait!

Because these words have been embedded with The Word, they carry the energy of the one who uttered them. My evolution in spirituality is that, where I thought the only place I could be present to God was when I was at the eucharist, eucharistic adoration, Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, and reading Sacred Scripture, now I eagerly await whatever comes my way in any order. I am present to God, not limited by time, but by my own laziness to have The Christ Principle as my center.

ELECTRICAL WORDS THAT CARRY THE POWER OF FOREVER

When I touch these words, power flows from God to me, if I am humble and obedient to what God wants me to know. These words are the motivation of The Saints to love others as Christ loved us. These words have power from God for us to assimilate into our hearts and transform us from our false self to our true self.

ABANDONMENT — Abandonment to the will of the Father has always been there in my consciousness (somewhere). Like most things in my early spiritual journey, I knew of them slightly but had no idea of how they fit into reality nor into how I seek God every day purposefully and intentionally. Abandonment is leaving behind everyTHING you have and relying only upon God. This means several things, one of which is a mere human interpretation of the concept of abandonment (leaving something behind that may or may not mean anything). https://www.charlesdefoucauld.org/en/biographie.php

ASSIMILATION– I like being in the presence of Christ sitting before the Blessed Sacrament and just waiting. Waiting is part of my prayer. Assimilation means “Be it done unto me according to your World.” How that will be is by reducing all the clutter of the world and just waiting. Assimilation is also “capacitas dei” or growing in Christ Jesus.

WAITING — All of these words seem interdependent upon one another. I find that astonishing. Waiting for the Lord is the story of my life. God has been waiting for me since before the beginning of physical time. Each day, I place myself in the presence of God as I am and say, “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”

CAPACITAS DEI — I seek for Christ to increase and me to decrease each day. I wait in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament for energy to flow from God to me. I don’t feel the flow. Each day I must begin my search for God anew, but with an exception. I am more than I was a day ago. My growth is due to Christ and not anything I do. I don’t have the power to do anything other than offer up my freedom to choose and say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

DYING TO SELF — This process (conversion morae) of putting to death those things that cause my humanity to become more animal than spiritual is not one many who call themselves Christians know about much less do. Dying to self is alien to a world that touts the cult of the individual as being the way, the truth, and the life. The cross on your forehead means to have pledged to die to yourself. Do you? More importantly, do I?

INTELLIGENT PROGRESSION V: Choices of God that have conquences

We are made in the image and likeness of God. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with what that phrase could mean. Somehow, I think it is at the very core of what it means for me to be human, but how any of this has a bearing on my spirituality is still murky. I did have a glimmer this morning during my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) that bubbled to the surface of my consciousness. I share it with you, and you make you draw your own conclusions.

Where does that originate if I am defined by my ability to reason and my free will to choose what I think is good for me? If my choices define who I am, not my abilities, then can the same be said of God? God makes choices, and if the parallel holds, these choices define who God is and have consequences. My most recent addition is to seek to plumb the depths (heights) of any Lectio Divina.

Intelligent progression means that I get my ability to reason and freely choose my destiny because I am made in the image and likeness of God. If so, what are God’s choices? Scripture tells us, “Who can know the mind of God or who has been His Counselor?” Scriptures provide clues to at least approach the concept of God and free choice. Here are some random thoughts about God and choice and how their implications impact me as I struggle with reason and free will.

THE PRIMACY OF GOD’S CHOICES

As I look out at my life of over eighty-one years, I have made many choices, some good and some poor, but all of them are a result of my trying to love God with ALL my heart, ALL my mind, and ALL my strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:38)

  • God’s choice is me (Genesis 2-3).
  • God’s choice is to allow me to be free from coercion to choose Him.
  • God’s choice is to provide me with the tools and the techniques to make it through the minefield of human nature.
  • God won’t make the journey for me because it is the journey that adds value to what it means to be fully human.
  • God’s choice is to sit on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait for me to be in God’s presence so that energy can transform me to become what my nature intended, an adopted son (daughter) of the Father and heir to the kingdom.
  • God’s choice is to put a fingerprint (DNA) on each atom and molecule to move it forward toward the fulfillment nature intended.
  • God’s choice is to give us Himself, with reason (in the case of God, pure knowledge of The Word) and freedom to make choices without blocking from God. There are consequences of God’s choice; for us, it is the final judgment that we must account for what we do.
  • God loves me so much that the choice God makes is to allow me to choose what is bad for me.

INTELLIGENT PROGRESSION III: Peering deeper into the mist of the human condition

My mind is a computer of unimaginable complexity and wonder. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), my capabilities and capacities have increased, but only because I create my World from those assumptions and trials and errors that my reason tells me are good for me. I occupy a pocket of time during which I am God, in the sense that no one can tell me what to do (they can try to do so by force or manipulation). I am guided by the sum total of my life experiences. There is nothing unique about me other than I am the only me, much like no two fingerprints are alike, or no two snowflakes look the same. I didn’t create this phenomenon. It certainly did not come from the future.

When I say that “I am the sum of my choices and their consequences,” this is my past that informs how I act and look at my purpose in life. The choice is so important that it defines humanity from animality. We progressed intelligently (evolved is the outdated expression because it only applies to the reality you can see). “I am not you; you are not me; we are not God, and, most certainly, we are not God.”

Being human means I can give away this choice, but not the ability to continue to choose another set of ideas, not my own, can be inadequate for me. Some time back, I visited the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. They called it a high-class joint at that time because there were so many white-collar criminals. We met with a group of prisoners who had formed a Holy Name Society, a popular gathering of like-mind Catholics who were more conservative in their spiritual practices. The president of this Holy Name Society gave us a talk in the chapel. I thought I was back home in my parish because of what he said. I asked the guard who that person was who was giving the talk. She said he was a former bank president from near Chicago who was convicted of embezzlement of thousands of dollars. She also said he acted and sounded just like her grandfather. “He had only one fault,” she told me, “he thinks stealing is okay.” Where does all this aberration in the human condition arise? We are taught that human nature is not evil, just prone to bad choices. Tie this back into the human urge to resist anyone telling us what to do, and you have the basis for the Genesis narratives on why humans can be good by nature but also be so bad in how they make choices. Genesis narratives are about what they consider to be God as the Gardner of a perfect place. Humans messed it up by introducing sin (poor choices), and it continues as the context for each individual in which they seek what is good or evil. These narratives are a very sophisticated myth (in-depth explanation) of why some humans do good while at the same time can compartmentalize moral behaviors.

I have always looked to Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving as a power indicator of what it means to be human. He suggests that love is an acquired skill that is not assimilated into our consciousness and then abandoned but must be nourished with more love to sustain its integrity every day. Fromm calls this “The Art of Loving” because humans must constantly renew it to become more and more human as new situations are experienced each day that require love. Past performance is no guarantee of present or future success. Faith is also an acquired mindset received from a source of energy outside our human experience. That Faith can transform a human from being more like an animal to more like our nature intended (conversio morae) is due to the energy that comes from being in the presence of the one who can transform humanity from being just human to their next step in intelligent progression, being an adopted son or daughter of the Father.

I am on an eight-one-year-old journey to discover my purpose in life and how all reality fits together to move me forward to be as human as possible. There is also a collective movement of humanity forward, from animality through rationality to the end result of evolution, fully human. God did not provide all this communication to humans, including sending his only Son to tell us (knowledge) how to love, but show us how to sustain this love (service) until we can claim our inheritance after our human bodies die.

THE MOVEMENT OF HUMANITY VIA INTELLIGENT DESIGN

Galatians 5. I have applied The Rule of Threes to my search to become more familiar with this astounding process of how the physical universe and mental universes prepare me to reach the fulfillment of my being human. I intend to parse out three separate movements in the history of humanity as it moves forward so that I can apply these lessons to my constant obsession with moving from my false self to my true self (capacitas dei).

When I ask, “What does my humanity look like?” I offer these assumptions not to prove I am correct because this is only speculation (that is what humans do best) but some new thoughts on which you might chew. I like to use The Rule of Threes to pull apart some of the elements of intelligent design I must address.

QUESTION: Within the period of my human lifetime, I make a myriad of choices that affect who I am and who I will become. Some of those choices are good and not so good in terms of being what my human nature intended me to be. I can choose what is good or bad for me at any time on this timeline.

There are three levels of humanity, ranging from animality through rationality to spirituality. This is a sliding scale for me each day. Good choices today; don’t assume I will make them tomorrow.

ASSUMPTIONS

  • My nature as a human being is good because God made me that way.
  • The movement from animality to rationality gave my species the ability to reason and choose what is good for me.
  • Knowing what is good for me is the challenge.
  • Just live “love,” “faith,” and “hope,” these patterns of human thinking are not innate but are learned qualities. Nature does not give me control over my choices.
  • I have to make choices that are good for me.
  • Coming from animal nature, I still harbor those traits and emotional DNA traits.
  • Choosing what is good for me can be like B.F. Sinner’s operant conditioning (choosing pleasure and pain to react to choices).
  • Choosing what is good for my nature as a human means moving away from my animality by using my rationality.
  • If I make bad choices, I do so because the key I have chosen to measure my behavior against says it will not improve my humanity but limit it (sin).
  • Using my rationality does not have the energy to move me from rationality to spirituality, the destiny of where nature progresses automatically. It is the end product of evolution.
  • When I give my ability to choose to God as a gift, what I get back is the ability to choose to enter a new realm of existence (spiritual universe), one where I am not just a spectator but being treated as an adopted son of the Father and heir to His kingdom.

INTELLIGENT PROGRESSION IN ONE REALITY

Movement (time within the space of a beginning and an ending) is from simpler to more complex as matter and its antecedents collectively interact. This table views one reality with three distinct universes, each separate from another, with their own characteristics, and how humans can measure each one with different instruments. This is the big picture of humanity from its inception to extinction.

ANIMALITYRATIONALITYSPIRITUALITY
Contains everything that is living. They must choose based on natural conditions, not set by humans. The measure is nature.The measure is what makes me happy. Contains everything that is living but has a reason and the ability to choose outside their animality, set by humans. Influenced by individual emotions, free choice, and DNA.Using animality as a base, it is rationality with the knowledge to choose what is right rather than pleasurable and easy. The measure is outside of human nature. It is the opposite of rationality but depends upon it. Reason and free choice must choose the reversal of rationality and die to the false self of the World to assimilate direction from a divine nature with the power to make it happen.
TABLE A. ONE REALITY CONTAINING THREE DISTINCT UNIVERSES

THE FLOW OF TIME

In this next table, Table B, this all takes place within the universe of the mind, rationality. This is where I have lived for 81 years and in which I made those choices that continue to define who I am. My premise in this Table B is that, within humanity as a collective, and more particularly, within my short life span, I move back and forth between animality, rationality, and for those who are Baptized, spirituality. Table B is rationality as I live it from when I am born to when I physically die. The choices that I make must fall into one of three of these categories below: animality, rationality, and spirituality. Let me elaborate on each one.

ANIMALITY: I am rational and have the ability to choose what center is real for the moment. What I choose might revert back to my animal tendencies. The problem with this thinking is that, like all center, it is not permanent and changes each moment. Dominant are sexual, power, selfishness, and the emotions of preservation at the expense of others.

RATIONALITY: I control my animal tendencies with my mind and it works some of the time. My center is one that realizes that I am not alone on this rocky ball of gases and must get along. Society (imperfect because it changes with the majority of like thinkers) becomes my center. Dominant are choices that the collective consciousness says are good for me (love, family, procreation, discovering meaning, noble behaviors that help others) but also bad for me (murder, rape, incest, stealing, lying, coveting things and others). God is not automatically in this mix unless you add God. The purpose of life is to discover meaning in those things that you discover are true and lasting values, then you die.

SPIRITUALITY: As part of my sliding scale back and forth, I can sin by choosing animal behaviors as my center. The problem with centers is keeping them focused. They are in constant interaction with my human nature and the pull of Original Sin to be God. Human mental energy is not strong enough nor enduring enough to keep me centered on the spiritual universe. This energy comes from outside my human nature and I can access it with my reason and free will but only by giving it away to a higher power. Christ showed us how to do that by dying on the cross. We are to die on our cross (living our seventy or eighty years) by struggling to keep ourselves centered. Christ alone can provide the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us as adopted sons and daughters of the Father until we depart our human bodies for the next step in our evolution.

Baptism gives us new citizenship to exist parallel with our human existence. It is the reason humans have reason and freedom to choose that which makes no sense to the animal senses. The love of Christ is the power to be aware of how much God does love me and wants me to fulfill my destiny. Multiply that times everyone who lives or who has ever lived and you get a sense of just how enormous mental and spiritual reality is.

As a follower of The Master, I have chosen to be a Lay Cistercian as my way to focus on Christ so much that I seek to “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus” each day through Cistercian practices and charisms. I fight against my citizenship of the World which constantly says “What you do doesn’t make sense!” Christ tells us to deny ourselves and take up my cross (whatever comes my way each day) and transform it as a gift of thanksgiving to the Father through, with, and in Christ, with the energy of the Holy Spirit.

I must strive to become more spiritual and perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect (living as much as I can in the spirituality segment below). By myself, I don’t have the physical stamina nor the power to reach and maintain my presence in the spiritual universe. This is why I long to be in the presence of Christ each day as I trace the cross on my forehead and remind myself that I am an adopted son (daughter) of the Father but that I must have fear of the Lord (St. Benedict, Rule, Chapter 7) to allow me to offer to God the only gift he does not have from me, my free will that God’s will be done on earth, my earth, as it is in heaven. I live with the hope of the Resurrection of the Dead is true as Christ told us. All of this makes no sense to the Gentiles and is a stumbling block. Using the Christ Principle as my key to unlock the Divine Equation, I fulfill what it means for me to be fully human as my nature intended. I want to enter the next level of my intelligent progression as close to perfect as I can get by my own efforts, knowing that God makes up in me that which I lack.

 ANIMALITYRATIONALITYSPIRITUALITY
I am conceived in original sin.
I act more as my animal origins from which I came. Self-preservation, dominance, unrestricted procreation, selfishness with ideas and goods. I still exist in the rational universe St. Paul called the World (Galatians 5). I choose what gives me pleasure rather than what is difficult but correct.
I am a citizen of the World in this approach. I must make good or bad choices for myself as part of who I am. Rationality helps me to choose, but my choices have been tainted by the sin (poor choice) of Adam and Eve. I can move to the fulfillment of my humanity if I know how to solve The Divine Equation. Each human has been given a key to turn in their individual locks, but most don’t even know they have it, much less hot to use. We have human reason and free will to help us ask the correct questions and answers.I am released from the consequences of original sin and given adoption by a higher power. The consequences of sin still remain.
My DNA is animality. Each day I face multiple choices where I can progress or regress in my humanity.I have reason and the ability to choose, but my choices have consequences I may not know. When I know something is wrong and do it anyway, that is called sin. Sin is aiming for a bulls-eye on the target but missing it.One of the reasons I have reason and free will is to choose that which is difficult and does not make sense to my rationality without a key. This key comes from outside my human nature, but I don’t know about it or how to use it without someone telling me and showing me. Baptism is when I am given the keys to the next level in intelligent progression, but I need help to know how to use it. The Christ Principle shows me through the Scriptures and the trials and errors of the Old Testament and New Testament what works and what does not. I still can’t turn the key in the lock of the Christ Principle without knowing the secret combination that was given to me at Baptism but which tells me to use the power of the Holy Spirit to help me. The only way I can use the energy of the Holy Spirit is with humility and by offering my free will to God. When God’s will is done, I have the power to turn the key to unlock The Divine Equation. The price I pay for this is dying to my rational self to receive the knowledge, love, and service needed to remain in this spiritual universe and not slip back into just animality and rationality. Paradoxically, it is only when I die to my humanity that I become fully human, fulfilling my destiny as a species. Each human must move back and forth on a sliding scale while they live from animality to spirituality. This is the struggle to be human and only ceases with physical death. Each day is a new beginning, a new set of challenges. While I am alive, I have dual citizenship: my rationality lives in the World, and I make choices based on secular ideas until my physical body dies; I am also a citizen of heaven, and from Baptism to forever, I give glory to the Father, through, with and in, Jesus Christ, with the energy of the Holy Spirit. This is my destiny and what it means to be fully human.
TABLE B. MY JOURNEY FROM BIRTH TO FULFILLMENT

uiodg

ARE YOU WASTING YOUR GOOD TIME BY BELIEVING IN GOD?

It might seem strange for me to ask a question about wasting my time on putting together a view of reality where God might not exist. Actually, if I don’t ask the opposite of what I hold so tenaciously, then my belief is blind faith rather than faith informed by reason.

Here is my question: I wonder if God does not exist and all the arguments that believers tout as being true are stawed men and without substance. Does that mean my life has been a waste? If I followed Marcus Aurelius, I would have a life worthy of purpose. Following Christ allows me to be fully human as much as I can be while alive.

MARCUS AURELIUS

(26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was a Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher.

Marcus Aurelius has ideas that seem far ahead of his time. Read what he has to say about believing something. I am amazed at how much Marcus Aurelius sounds like Christ’s admonitions on how we should live as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

“Remember that there is a God who desires neither praise nor glory from men created in his image, but rather that they, guided by the understanding given them, should in their actions become like unto him.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

“Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe. .. We should not say ‘I am an Athenian’ or ‘I am a Roman’ but ‘I am a citizen of the Universe.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

“What we do now echoes in eternity.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

“Live each day as if it be your last.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

“God sees the inner spirit stripped of flesh, skin, and all debris. For his own mind only touches the spirit that he has allowed to flow from himself into our bodies. And if you can act the same way, you will rid yourself of all suffering. For surely if you are not preoccupied with the body that encloses you, you will not trouble yourself about clothes, houses, fame, and other showy trappings.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

“He who eats my bread, does my will.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

“To the wise, life is a problem; to the fool, a solution.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

“Do not be ashamed of help.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

This is my answer to living a Lay Cistercian life of solitude, silence, work, prayer, and community.

Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly. But to go away from among men, if there are gods, is not a thing to be afraid of, for the gods will not involve thee in evil; but if indeed they do not exist, or if they have no concern about human affairs, what is it to me to live in a universe devoid of gods or devoid of Providence? But Gods there are, undoubtedly, and they regard human affairs; and have put it wholly in our power, that we should not fall into what is truly evil.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

uiodg

ANOTHER VIEW OF REALITY

I have found a speaker that is compelling, not because of their rhetoric but because of how they view reality with statistics and trends in demography and geography. The speaker is Peter Zeihan and I recommend you consider watching his YouTube. I watch everything I can from what he has produced, which is considerable.

LECTIO DIVINA: Approaching an awareness of God using a new technique

I must make a disclaimer for this blog. Usually, my interactions with the Holy Spirit have some connection with a life experience or something I read somewhere and maybe forgot. These ideas are entirely outside what I can remember from how long I have been conscious. They are not new ideas but are new to me.

My late sleep patterns are similar to what I might term “Whale” breathing, taking a gulp of air, and then going down into an adverse environment to live your life. Every two hours in this seemingly chaotic sleep, I come up for air and change locations (bed or my favorite chair) or use the bathroom. This has developed into a pattern of how I sleep for the past eight or nine years. Physiologically, some of this might be due to my diagnosis of severe sleep apnea. I awoke during one of these “gulps of air” and had this one word fixated into my consciousness, “awareness.” I tried wearing a mask on two occasions but do not tolerate it. All of this, I realize, is in my head, but it is the world in which I must exist. This is a pattern that I have developed for Lectio Divina of late. This Lectio Divina encounter with the Holy Spirit was different. I not only received the word “awareness” for my Lectio Divina meditation(Philippians 2:5) but also a new technique to try to delve deeper into the Mysteries of Faith (what it means to be fully human as intended by our nature). My most recent Lectio Divina was the word “awareness” and the technique. I will share with you what I have received.

THE MUSTARD SEED LECTIO DIVINA — I don’t know what to call it, but the results are from one tiny word comes a multitude of related ideas in random order.

My Lectio Divina meditations (sometimes up to fifteen a day of these short gulps of air) last anywhere from one to fifteen minutes (no set time).

I always begin my Lectio Divina sessions by repeating over and over Philippians 2:5, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” I wait for what comes as I recite it in silence and solitude.

I consciously go to the upper room (Matthew 6:5), my private room, then lock the door and wait. That’s right, just wait.

In my heart, I ask the Holy Spirit to fill my heart with Divine Love (Prayer of the Holy Spirit) and visualize myself sitting on a bench in the middle of winter, peering down the road waiting for Christ to sit down with me. I am amazed that I can do Lectio Divina in silence and solitude while waiting for a Cholecystectomy at the physician’s office. Silence and solitude have developed into something profoundly internal with the mind and in the heart. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cholecystectomy/about/pac-20384818

The Awareness of Christ

I will use steps to describe this technique, but, like the steps in Lectio Divina (lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio, actio), I do them habitually without thinking, like driving a car.

STEP ONE: The Holy Spirit shares a word with me. (John 1:1) This time the word, which keeps persistently reoccurring in my mind, is “Awareness.” That is all I have to go on. That is the mustard seed I plant in the ground of my being, the Holy Spirit.

STEP TWO: (LECTIO) I repeat it repeatedly without any agenda or thoughts about what it might mean. I link this word to my center (Philippians 2:5) and wait. How long? As long as it takes. I resist the temptation to fill the holes of my unknowing with those thoughts that come from my mind and struggle to be open to the totality of all that is, the One who is.

I refer to this conscious struggle as a CONFRONTATIO (the martyrdom of the ordinary), the effects of original sin, which describes humans as having to work for their food (Genesis 2-3). To struggle while you pray is itself part of its value to God. Make no mistake; it is work, but it becomes a conscious habit with time.

STEP THREE: (MEDITATIO) In the silence and solitude of my heart, I listen with the ear of my heart as the Holy Spirit gives me one or two-word thoughts about “Awareness” as it pertains to “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Each of these ideas must be linked to my Lectio word and flows from it in any way. To show you what I mean, in the next segment, I will actually use these steps from my actual Lectio Divina on “Awareness.” I like to do “short bursts” of ideas that stem from the keyword, in this case, “Awareness.” I use these meditatio mosaics to build a picture for my contemplatio.

STEP FOUR: (ORATIO) My prayers in Lectio are almost always just a brief nod to the Holy Spirit to offer thanks for being counted worthy to be an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.

STEP FIVE: (CONTEMPLATIO) As of late, this stage of Lectio Divina has me ending up with no particular thoughts about “Awareness” and more just being aware that God is divine and I am an adopted son (daughter) sitting at the foot of Christ being content just to be in His presence. Waiting is a vital part of my contemplation, but one that I have sanctified by my linking all things to The Christ Principle.

STEP SIX: (ACTIO) An exciting observation as I do ACTIO after my Lectio Divine (usually by trying to write down what I can remember in my blog) is that my days of going out to the prisons and sharing my ideas with prisoners, or feeding the homeless at the local shelter, or even just having a strict routine of Liturgy of the Hours, has been significantly impacted by my aging in place. My monastic cell is my home. More and more, My monastery is the world of my creation. My Church Universal is my acceptance as God the Father’s adopted son (daughter). My ACTIO is becoming more and more the joy that results from being with the One you love and want to be with Forever, realized now, not later on in Heaven. I am finding that the difference between meditatio and contemplatio is that with mediatio, I consciously think of lists of items that come from my word or phrase. In contemplatio, I consciously don’t think of anything to say but instead wait for ideas to come into my mind. I must admit, this is a fine line, but one I am beginning to master. As you might have guessed from my choice of Lectio words, “Awareness” is integrally involved.

AWARENESS: The largess of Step Three

A product of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) is an awareness I did not have before.

Knowledge precedes Love, says St. Thomas Aquinas. If that is so, I not more intelligent as a result of placing myself in the presence of the Holy Spirit, but I am more aware.

Awareness is the wisdom of linking the OT with the fulfillment of the NT. Matthew 22:38.

Aware comes from the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit as I sit on the park bench in the dead of winter.

Awareness is my beginning to link all things new with each other.

Awareness is my reading of the Holy Scriptures (John 20:30-31) not to prove anything but to see how all things fit together.

Awareness is the appreciation that I need to fear the Lord (St. Benedict’s Rule, Chapter 7) and not forget that I am not God or manipulate God to my purpose.

Awareness is the gift that allows me to tell when the Devil is behind some temptations but not others.

Awareness is realizing that I am but a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian temple of the Holy Spirit.

Awareness is just waiting for God to arrive on a park bench in the middle of winter, only to realize that God is waiting for me to die so that I can show up correctly.

%d bloggers like this: