WHOSE CHURCH IS IT?

WHOSE CHURCH IS IT?

The Church is the visible manifestation of God whom we cannot see. The Church, or gathering of believers, is the living Body of Christ on earth, but also those living in heaven, and also those awaiting purification. Many humans only view the Church as a building or something for old ladies to go to when they feel guilty about their lives. As time passes in this fourth paradigm from Pentecost to this very day, there seem to be four quadrants evolving out of the Christ Principle. In my view of reality, they are:

  • THE ORGANIZATION AND GOVERNANCE OF THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE– It shows that God must have a sense of humor because he entrusted his commandment to love one another to sinful humans who are prone to error. Luckily, Christ promised that, even if we messed up having Christ as the center of our Church, the Holy Spirit would not allow us to crash and burn, like so many other human institutions who try to sustain their momentum. Jesus gives authority on earth to Peter and the Twelve Apostles sending them out to tell humanity that they are free at last. This is not the freedom for each individual to create their own Christ, although individuals who believe make up the Church. It is the freedom to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father and to act like that while they are alive (with each, individual person).
  • THE INFORMATION AND AIDS TO HUMAN REASONING FROM THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE

(How to know God with all your mind) The Scriptures give us an account of how to love others as Christ loves us. Essentially, it is, what St. John says in Chapter 30:30-31 of his Gospel,

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

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

The Scriptures, ratified by the Faith of the Faithful and declared by the Apostles and early Ecumenical Councils, is the inspired word of God. It allows its readers to sit next to Jesus and learn how to love others.

  • THE FORMATION OF A SCHOOL OF LOVE TO DO WHAT THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE TAUGHT(How to love God with all your heart) We humans are an fickle lot, prone to love yet with the schizophrenic insanity of instantly rejecting God when things get tough. What happened when Moses went up on the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments? When he returned, people had sold their valuables to melt down into a golden calf which they were adoring and asking it to lead them out of the desert and the inconvenience of little food and water. (Genesis 32.) There were consequences to this betrayal of God, just as there were consequences to the Sin of Adam and Eve.  (Genesis 1-2) To help each of us as we make our journey down the pathway of time, Christ left us with the Church as a place to learn how to love others as He loved us. In each age, with each person, the Church is the occasion where you and I can approach the presence of Christ and see to make all things new in our journey. St. Benedict founded a school of charity for his monks and nuns. Others have also created special ways to communicate with Christ, such as St. Dominic, St. Francis, St. Ignatius and many other ways. I follow the Lay Cistercian way of life, which takes its spirituality from the Cistercian Order’s constitutions and policies as they interpret the Rule of St. Benedict. In each of these ways, there is only one way to contact THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.
  • THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE HUMAN MIND AND HEART TO SIT NEXT TO THE HEART OF THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE AND MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD (How to Serve God with all your strength)

Those who gather in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit recreate their Baptism promises to reject Satan and all his allurement and false promises. Whenever I look at Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, I am struck by the list of tools for good works, as St. Benedict terms them that have spiritual and corporal works of mercy in them. I would encourage you to access this URL and look at the following tools that are recommended for us to inch our way from self to God.

Chapter 4: The Tools for Good Works

1 First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength, 2 and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27).

3 Then the following: You are not to kill,

4 not to commit adultery;

5 you are not to steal

6 nor to covet (Rom 13:9);

7 you are not to bear false witness (Matt 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20).

8 You must honor everyone (1 Pet 2:17),

9 and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16; Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31).

10 Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23);

11 discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);

12 do not pamper yourself,

13 but love fasting.

14 You must relieve the lot of the poor,

15 clothe the naked,

16 visit the sick (Matt 25:36),

17 and bury the dead.

18 Go to help the troubled

19 and console the sorrowing.

20 Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way;

21 the love of Christ must come before all else.

The Church Universal alone is the only means humans have to reach Heaven. “Ecclesia sola” What sound like a statement that is exclusive of all other Churches except Roman Catholic, actually turns out to be all inclusive, or “catholic”. First of all, there is only One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism, so, to separate the Body of Christ from the Head would not be possible. Next, from early after Christ’s death, the notion of “extra ecclesiam nula salus,” outside the Church there is no salvation, is addressed by St. Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr in their writings. One thing I think about is this, after any of us dies, there is only one Heaven. Do you think Baptists go to one Heaven while Methodists go to another? That is not logical in my mind, nor what God intended by redeeming all humans and giving them the opportunity to choose to live in Heaven or not. The Church is one, not a bunch of various human interpretations each at odds with each other. All of this will be burned away in the crucible of truth as each one of us approaches the last judgement and gives an accounting of our stewardship. Matthew 22. In the end, I hope and pray that I make it to Heaven with the help of Christ’s redemption and resurrective love, but I also wish that all those who wish can make it there also. It is the destiny of all humanity to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Not everyone will accept that invitation nor realize what it is that they have rejected. All of us will be judged by God by our deeds. Believers have an additional accountability because of their Baptism and loving others as Christ loved us. We have been blessed by God.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extra_Ecclesiam_nulla_salus

These four expressions of Church from the beginning of time are contained in God’s DNA. They are what we must do to sustain our Faith in times of conflict. We take up our cross daily to follow what The Master taught us. Each day is a lifetime with its own beginning and its own ending. We are not orphans on the road to Forever, we can actually sit down with God in the Sacraments and Contemplative prayer and just be. The Church from earliest times is seen as a Mother, much like Mary was for Jesus, who smothers us with the blanket of the collective Faith of all living beings who are in Heaven, on earth, and awaiting their second chance to love others as Christ loved them.

This paradigm is a continuation and fulfillment of the Old Covenant. With the Christ Principle, Church moves from salvation for a few to a universal statement of love for all humanity. When I went to Starbucks recently (of course observing all the social distancing protocols) I chance to talk with a young college male who noticed I had been reading the late Dom Andre Louf’s book, The Cistercian Way. The conversation eventually turned to my reasoning for being a follower of Christ and how that did not make sense. His argument was: that is just your opinion and I have my opposite opinion, and both are correct. I have the freedom to believe whatever I want and what I believe is correct. I told him that he was wrong that it was just my opinion. I said that it was indeed a free choice on my part, but it was based on my desire to love others as Christ loved us and I do that through a gathering of like-minded believers. I continued to explain that my individual belief in something doesn’t make it real, but I believe it because it is reality. My belief is based on the foundation of those who have struggled with the same principles of meaning going back to the Christ Principle from whom all truth flows. This is the apostolic tradition from the Holy Spirit who is to safeguard our Faith from the gates of Hell prevailing against it. I believe that is when he got up, gave me a disdainful glance, and walked away. One of the great paradoxes of our Faith is how the Church can be holy and yet be filled with sinners (with the exception of Christ and His Mother)?

Part of the uniqueness of this paradigm shift is that it is a transfer of authority from Christ to his undisciplined and sinful Apostles. From now on, followers will be responsible for establishing the Kingdom of Heaven in the hearts and minds of its followers. This is a period of great uncertainty, as the Apostles gathered in the upper room. There were only Eleven of them, Christ left them no book of instructions on “How to Build and Run a Church for Dummies”, and they were with a leader to tell them what to do.

*1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.a2 And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,*and it filled the entire house in which they were.b3Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,*which parted and came to rest on each one of them.c4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,*as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

THE CHURCH IS A GRAND GATHERING OF ALL THOSE GATHERED THROUGHOUT TIME WITH ONE CHRIST AS THE HEAD

  • The Church Triumphant is a gathering of all those whom God has accepted as sons and daughters of the Father.
  • The Church Militant are those of us gathered earth who still struggle with trying to love others as Christ loves us, each day. This is both collectively and individually.
  • The Church Purgative are those gathered together for a second chance at trying to love others as Christ loves us.

The Church is composed of all those who are alive now (Church Militant), those who have died in the peace of Christ and have been declared worthy by God to claim their inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and finally, those who have died and need a second chance at how to love others as Christ loved us (Church Purgative). In this paradigm, Christ is head of the body and we are all members.

When you think of Church, always think of those who are living, gathered with One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism.

The Church is collective way for communities of those gathered together in Faith to practice love.

When you think of Church, it is a living extension of Christ. We are the real presence of Christ on earth to those in our particular world.

The concept of Church is that of a mother who nourishes her children with food to sustain them as they walk their unique paths of choices to try to discover what is meaningful and true.

This blog is excerpted from my new book, The Christ Principle: A Lay Cistercian reflects on six paradigm shifts that help to clarify how all reality fits together.

SEEKING GOD EVERY DAY

YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO MEET THE HOLY SPIRIT

Recently, I went to Starbucks, B.C. (before COVID-19), to get a cup of my favorite brew. By chance, I found myself standing in line with a friend of mine from Good Shepherd. We struck up a conversation about this and that when, out of the blue, she asked me, “If God asked you to boil down all this religion stuff and simply make one statement that describes what you have been hoping to become, what would that one idea be?” After picking my jaw up from the floor where it had dropped, I got my coffee and sat down with her. For what seemed like a long time (actually about a minute), I sat in silence just thinking of all that I had experienced over a lifetime of 80 years. What I realized was that I was not thinking of her statement as much as why she was prompted to make such an out-of-character statement at all. As we talked, I told her how astonished I was that she had asked me that question because it was the very one I had been struggling with in my Lectio Divina that very morning. I have known the answer to the question she asked since 1962, when I began to accept Christ as my center, the one principle of purpose for whatever life throws at me each day. It was and is Philippians 2:5-12. “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” What actually gave me goosebumps was that there was a dimension to this I had never experienced before in quite the same way.  I told her that I had recognized and experienced the Holy Spirit as speaking just to me through her question. I also told her that I had thought of how Christ and Peter had a similar exchange. (I told you this was a long minute.)

Listen profoundly to that encounter between Our Master and a disciple, Peter. Read Matthew 16 slowly, for three-time, each time slower than before. What is the Holy Spirit telling you? Slow down. Listen profoundly!

Peter’s Confession About Jesus.

13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.”

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/16

When I got up from our coffee break, I thanked her for allowing me to see the Holy Spirit through her. I think we both became a little more humble that day and ended with the prayer:

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

ARE YOU GUILTY BECAUSE YOU CAN’T GO TO CHURCH?

THE CHURCH IS A GRAND GATHERING OF ALL THOSE GATHERED THROUGHOUT TIME WITH ONE CHRIST AS THE HEAD

  • The Church Triumphant is a gathering of all those whom God has accepted as sons and daughters of the Father.
  • The Church Militant are those of us gathered earth who still struggle with trying to love others as Christ loves us, each day. This is both collectively and individually.
  • The Church Purgative are those gathered together for a second chance at trying to love others as Christ loves us.
  • The Church is composed of all those who are alive now (Church Militant), those who have died in the peace of Christ and have been declared worthy by God to claim their inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and finally, those who have died and need a second chance at how to love others as Christ loved us (Church Purgative). In this paradigm, Christ is head of the body and we are all members.
  • When you think of Church, always think of those who are living, gathered with One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism.
  • The Church is a collective way for communities of those gathered together in Faith to practice love.
  • When you think of the Church, it is a living extension of Christ. We are the real presence of Christ on earth to those in our particular world.
  • The concept of Church is that of a mother who nourishes her children with food to sustain them as they walk their unique paths of choices to try to discover what is meaningful and true.

A friend of mine told me that I was not a good Catholic because I no longer went to Church to pray. I told her that I do pray everyday in union with the Church Universal and also because I am the Church wherever and whenever I gather my mind and link it to the hearts of others who seek to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

BUT… I AM JUST ONE PERSON, HOW CAN I MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

If I am a leaf on the tree where Christ is the trunk and the Holy Spirit is the root, then I am one of many, many other leaves. Christ is the vine, and we are the branches. Rest your mind and prepare your heart to listen profoundly to what the Holy Spirit has to say through St. John in Chapter 15.

The Vine and the Branches.1* “I am the true vine,* and my Father is the vine grower.a2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes* so that it bears more fruit.3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.b4 Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.6*c Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.d8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.e9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.f10If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.g11“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.h12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.i13* No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.k16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.l17 This I command you: love one another.m

What gives life to the tree is its roots, nourished with the energy of the Father, the Grand Gardener. My individual life as a leaf is only for one year. I am born from the branch, grow as a leaf, according to my nature, and provide life to those around me with photosynthesis (good works as in Matthew 25). I live for a season and then die. My value is to act according to my human nature to help the tree sustain itself in my own leafy way. I am not the branch, I am not the other leaves, I serve the others. In the analogy of the spiritual universe, all the leaves have One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism. Other trees do not bear good fruit because they do not possess the links to life-giving nutrients. They may be sincere and don’t know what they don’t know. St. Paul gives a poignant reflection on the unity of Faith in Ephesians 4.

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,a2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3 striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c4*one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. “

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/ephesians/4

Why read Scripture at all? If there is no resurrection of Christ from the dead, then save your time and read the white pages of the phone book. St. John, the last of the Apostles to die, wrote in his Gospel, Chapter 20:30-31, that these actions were written down so that you might come to believe that Jesus is the Son of Christ, and that believing, you might have life in his name. I will share the three levels I use when I read Scripture. Each day begins the new search to seek God in whatever comes my way. All the Cistercian practices and charisms are there for me to be present to the one who has no beginning or ending, pure energy, the unconditional love of God that I seek to possess.

1. INFORMATION – I read the Scriptures daily in my spiritual reading but also in the Liturgy of the Hours in the Psalms. I always begin with the words. Sometimes that is as far as I get. This is the level of meditation. It takes awareness on my part to go to the next level.

2. FORMATION –I am aware that this is God’s word to all humans and that it produces energy in the ones who read it. This energy does not come from me but is from God and I move from reciting the words to praying the words in order to be present and communicate with Christ. That leads me to an even deeper level, if I allow Christ to overshadow me.

3. TRANSFORMATION – This is the level of contemplation and being present to God with no restrictions, unconditionally. This is the area where I have no agenda to push, no prayers to say that might keep me from entering into oneness with The One who has no beginning and no end. This is the level where I don’t pray to be the one who controls the conversation, but just allow Christ to be present to me and experience the conversion. I don’t even realize that there are levels of awareness.

Read what St. Bernard of Clairvaux says.

https://www.azquotes.com/author/19601-Bernard_of_Clairvaux

  • There are four degrees of love: 1) Love of self for self’s sake. 2) Love of God for self’s sake. 3) Love of God for God’s own sake. 4) Love of self for God’s sake.
  • He won me over entirely by giving Himself entirely to me.
  • He rightly reads scripture who turns words into deeds.
  • Wherever…thou shalt be, pray secretly within thyself. If thou shalt be far from a house of prayer, give not thyself trouble to seek for one, for thou thyself art a sanctuary designed for prayer. If thou shalt be in bed, or in any other place, pray there; thy temple is there.

The passage above is excerpted from my new book entitled, The Christ Principle: A Lay Cistercian reflects on six paradigm shifts that help to clarify how all reality fits together.

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WAKING THE SPIRIT

As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.” Contemplation is all about the resignation of self to let the Holy Spirit overshadow you. In reality, the term, “waking the Spirit” is a misnomer, an attempt by human words to say something about the Holy Spirit, that which has no beginning and no end. Human language, in my case, English, has some words that I recognize because of their meaning. No human language can define the Holy Spirit, but what it can do is describe what we are seeing, thinking, and feeling as someone with human nature can comprehend. What Jesus did, and only because he was both divine and human natures, was to show us how to live in such a way that we fulfill our destiny as a human being. The Holy Spirit overshadowed us in Baptism as it did Mary in Luke 1-2, and the Apostles in the Upper Room. It is the very same Spirit that allows us to call God Father because we are adopted, sons and daughters.

Here are a few of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) reflections as I think about how much God loved us to send Himself as Son, even to death on the cross to allow us to realize our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. The Holy Spirit is what Jesus left us (Himself), to be with us as we journey in the secular world with all its minefields of false values and promises.

Each day, I wake up and remind myself that this World is not my final destination and I only live in it because I have no other way of sustaining my spiritual universe until I Passover from death to life again. Two things have happened to me that has enabled me to live this life that seems to be spiritually schizophrenic. The first is that I am loved by someone I have never seen before (God) and can’t possibly know with my human reason as I would know you if you were standing before me. The second has to do with choice, the acceptance that I am loved by the God who is, who was, and who will be, at the end of the ages. Here is the real reason I get up each morning and look forward to each day with the joy of a newlywed who realizes they have found “the one” that makes them fulfilled as a person. I realize that life is not about me at all, although paradoxically, I am the only one who can make it happen in my particular space and time. I have accumulated much learning in my life, and hopefully some wisdom along my 80-year-old journey. Like St. Thomas Aquinas (https://www.azquotes.com/author/490-Thomas_Aquinas), I have looked into the mind and heart of God through contemplation and moving from self to God, and what I found is that I can only begin to know God, not as God is, but as much as I am. It is through Christ, both God and Human that I can begin to describe, not define, that person who loves me so much that He made me an adopted son, heir to the Kingdom of Heaven that begins with my Baptism and confirmation of that Faith by loving others as Christ loved us. That is the pure energy that comes only from the God of nothingness, whose nothingness is every-thing.

Each day, I wake up and remind myself that I am a pilgrim in a foreign land (the World in which I live). The World is not bad and is it incomplete. If my center of life is money, for example, I may or may not make any money, but that is like cotton candy, it tastes terrific but has no nutritional value and won’t sustain me for very long. All the words that the World uses to define who I am and what I am are shallow, although they may seem to be productive and normal. If I use the word, “Peace” for example, it has two meanings, as do all the words I use in the World. We get a clue from Scriptures when Christ says in John 14. I encourage you to read this passage very slowly, each time slower than what you did before. The first time you read it, read for meaning. The second time you read it, read as a gift from God to you alone. The third time you read it, pray that you can be what these lessons from Christ give us as ways to love one another as He loved us.

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.a4Where [I] am going you know the way.”*5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.”c8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father,* and that will be enough for us.”d9Jesus 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’?e10Do 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.f11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.g12 Amen, 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.h13 And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.i14 If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

The Advocate. 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.j16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always,k17 the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.l18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.*19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me because I live and you will live.m20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.n21 Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”o22 Judas, not the Iscariot,* said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”p23 Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.q24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words, yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. 25 “I have told you this while I am with you. 26 The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.r27 Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.s28* You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’t If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. u 30 I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me,31 but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go. v” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/14

I think about this idea quite often. The Kingdom of Heaven is God’s playground and if I want to play in His sandbox, I must use His rules, not my own. What are these rules? I live in the World that has its own rules for playing in the dirt (from which Adam came), and its words have their own meaning. In the passage above, Peace, says Jesus, is not what the World thinks, such as the absence of conflict or war, but He is Peace, the presence of Love itself. It is that peace I want to have in me to help me move from self to God. The peace that the World suggests is not as bad as much as it is insufficient to allow me to be in the presence of God and just be. What is normal in the Kingdom of Heaven makes no sense to the World. Read this passage from Paul about the paradox of the cross to get some idea of the meaning that the Kingdom of Heaven means something almost paradoxical to what the World thinks. If you are a pilgrim in a foreign land, would you want to get your directions from what the World says is true, good and tempting as it might be, and that of the opposite, the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the paradox of the cross, which would you choose. To choose Christ, you have to go against human nature and find meaning that doesn’t make sense using the pure energy of divine nature. Only Christ allows you and I to approach the Father, and then only as you can do with your “capacitas dei” the wiggle room you make in you for Christ to increase and you to decrease. You and I are defined by our choices, ones that we made when we accepted Christ as our Savior, Son of God, Messiah. Our reason helps us to see what cannot be seen, the Mystery of Faith. It all seems to go back to the archetypal choice of Adam and Eve to choose what is good for them, ironically by not choosing what God told them to avoid. That they chose something based on the World, and remember, what God made is not evil but good, had consequences. The Genesis writers using four traditions with separate Genesis stories of our beginning were oral traditions written down many years after people gathered around the campfires and told stories of why there is suffering, death, and how there is hope for the future in one to come who will redeem them. I am just beginning to put together the wisdom contained in these accounts of human nature, Original Sin, and redemption.

Each day, I wake up with my Morning Offering prayer for God, to have mercy of me a sinner, and to allow me the grace to be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in whatever comes my way. Recently, I was put to the test by another person who challenged my Faith because I did not go to Church every day and therefore I was not a good Catholic. I don’t know if I have ever been a “good Catholic” but I do know that I must have in my mind the mind of Christ Jesus each day. (Philippians 2:5) It is a struggle for me during this COVID-19 pandemic to stay focused, which is why I like writing down my thoughts, as they come. Whenever someone challenges my belief in Christ (e.g., the Nicene Creed) or my motivations to be a Lay Cistercian and follow the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian constitutions and policies down through the centuries, I just think of it as my personal martyrdom, the martyrdom of everyday living, the wear and tear that comes to my spiritual universe by living in the World. It takes spiritual energy to fight against evil, even if the ones hating you, culminating and disrespecting you because you believe in Jesus, the Son of God, Savior, are sincere and do not know what they are saying. In Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, which I try to recite each day, I pray that I might just a little more like Christ and less like the old, broken-down temple of the Holy Spirit that I see when I look in the mirror. The reason for any prayer is to lift up your heart and mind to be able to sit in the presence of Christ and wait for whatever happens. Whatever it is, it will be wonderful.

” Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23);
11 discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);
12 do not pamper yourself,
13 but love fasting.
14 You must relieve the lot of the poor,
15 clothe the naked,
16 visit the sick (Matt 25:36),
17 and bury the dead.
18 Go to help the troubled
19 and console the sorrowing.

20 Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way;
21 the love of Christ must come before all else.”

In particular, when St. Benedict suggests that we prefer nothing to the love of Christ, it is an inspiration and motivation for me to seek Him in silence and the solitude of my heart. Even in human love, being present to the other is a sign of deep respect and love. It is the same with me sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter, waiting for me to recognize the Christ next to me. What joy there is in that love, now and in the life to come…Forever.

Paradox of the Cross. 18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.k19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.”l20 Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?m21* For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith.22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,n23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,o24 but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

The Corinthians and Paul.*26 Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.27 Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,p28 and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, 29 so that no human being might boast* before God.q30 It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,r31 so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”s

I try to wake the Spirit each day as I begin my day. My day begins at about 2:30 a.m. (I go for a bathroom break, so this is nothing out of the ordinary). I try to sit on the edge of my bed, when I get back from washing my hands and think about Philippians 2:5, saying it over and over and trying to focus on just that phrase. The Holy Spirit fills the void left by move moving slightly from self to God each day. Of late, I have begun to notice the effects of the Holy Spirit being with me, just as I notice the effects of my most recent heart medicine, Sotalol. Even though my mind continues to suffer the aging process for 80 years, I can begin to see things that I not noticed before, not with physical eyes but with the results that come from sitting on a park bench in the middle of winter next to Christ and just hanging out.

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I am waiting for the heart of Christ only to discover that Christ is waiting for me to listen.

have you ever thought of…

I get random thoughts throughout the day. Some of them are just “out there” and have no connection to what I am thinking about at the time. Here are some of these thoughts.

Have you ever thought of Purgatory as something where humans are given a second chance to love others as Christ loved us? Second chances are for those whom God deems worthy of perpetual light because they did not have the opportunity to know, love, and serve God in this life.

Did you ever think of the book of Genesis or all of Scripture, for that matter, as being forged on the anvil of human experiences, one where written documentation was not dominant but rather oral tradition was standard? If God were to actually tell us who he is, as he is, we would not have the capacity nor the language to even grasp it. Because of his love for us, God sent his only son to show us what it means to be human and to prepare to receive our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

Did you ever think of why Scriptures were written down for us? John 20:30-31 suggests it was written so that we would come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Messiah and that believing we would have life in his name. Conclusion.*30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s31But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.t The phrase “that you may come to believe” might have several meanings. My own interpretation, with apologies to St. Jerome, is that it reminds me that I begin each day as a new creation, a day that the Lord has made, and that I must move from self to God once again. I come to believe each day that Jesus is the Messiah.

Have you ever thought about where all these stories about Christ come from? All Scriptures are stories, fables, parables, love letters from God, as Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. told us one time, to remind us just how much Christ loves me, the individual, me, as one who gathers with other in Christ to share the Holy Spirit, and me who is one leaf on the great oak tree of the Church Universal.

Have you ever thought about where the structure of the three Synoptic Gospels came from? Did they just pull this out of the sky? Or, was the prevalent Greek hero myth format known to them and transposed to Christ? John’s Gospel focuses not on Christ the hero, but Christ the Messiah, who fulfills the divine plan of salvation God created.

Have you ever thought about stopping time? What does time seem to march on, despite the powers that humans seem to think they have to control it? Does time have a direction, as in linear, from beginning to end, like everything in existence that we know about? What can you control in your life? Do you have power over death? Do you have the choice to accept Jesus as Savior or to reject Him? Do you have the power to live forever?

…more to come.

poetry in the silence and stillness of winter

As I usually do each morning, and today is no exception, I sit down to my computer, recite my Lectio phrase to begin my practice of contemplation, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus,” then wait. Whatever comes my way, I try to write it down for you. I don’t presume to speak for the Holy Spirit, for Jesus, or for God, but I do share what happens to me in my blog so that you might see my light shine and give glory to the Father for His kindness. Reflect on this passage in Matthew 5 for a few minutes as it applies to your day today.

The Similes of Salt and Light.*13i “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.*14You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.j15Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.k16Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.l

WAITING TO BEGIN CONTEMPLATION: WAITING FOR THE LORD

My day begins with waiting for God. I am seated on a park bench in the dead of Winter, peering at the horizon, waiting for Christ to come to me.
I am tired, even though I just got up. The winter cold begins to seep through my heavy jacket. I am troubled by those around me telling me what to do in my eightieth year. Where is Christ? I think. I am here.
The weather dominates my thoughts. Why would Christ want to meet here, at this time, and in the dead of winter? Where is He? I am waiting and becoming a little (a lot) irritated and annoyed at being stood up.
I have been sitting here for nearly an hour. I will give Jesus five more minutes and then I will leave. I have important things to do, even if I am retired,
One last chance. I stand up, peering angrily at the bridge over which I thought Christ was coming to see me.
Wait! I sit down again and hear a sound. It sounds like the constant beating of a heart, just like my own. I sit there for five minutes just listening and it remains constant and not too loud nor so soft that I can’t hear it. I must strain to keep this sound focused in my mind.
It is a heart beat, I am sure of it. No one is seated next to me on the bench, yet this heart beat is so close that I can feel it. A voice whispers, Michael.
“Michael,” the voice whispers again, “don’t be afraid. I am here, sitting next to you.”
“Where have you been?” I say testily. “I have been here since the beginning of time,” says Christ, “waiting for you to show up with all your heart, your mind, and all your strength. Welcome, good and faithful servant.”
My Lord, and My God. Have mercy on me, a sinner.

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VOICES

One of the challenging topics that Lay Cistercians discussed at the Gathering, on October 11, 2020 was that of voices in our minds that say things. Once a month Lay Cistercian novices, juniors, and professed members, meet to pray together, share the Holy Spirit with each other, and listen to the words of the Trappist monks of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia. We meet so that Christ might increase in us and we decrease. One of the interesting observations I have, as one who struggles to seek God every day, is about the notion of “struggling”. Why is it not easy for me, as I presume it is other Lay Cistercians and monks, to move from self to God each day? The struggles have to do with the voices that I keep hearing and have heard all of my life. Lest you think I am paranoid in the dysfunctional sense, I assure you that there is only one person out to get me or that whispers “No” in my ear each time I want to step outside of myself.

I have the ability to use my reason for a reason and to choose which path will lead me to what is meaningful about being human. The problem is, I keep hearing silence voices somewhere in the recesses of both my consciousness and unconsciousness. This actually happens to me every day as I try to discern God’s will versus my own. I am reminded of a picture I saw with an angel on one side of my shoulder telling me to do good while on the other side is a demon whispering words to lead me astray.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 1-2)

I have been in the struggle with my good and bad voices from far back as I can remember.

THE GENESIS ARCHETYPE

I consider the book of Genesis as the greatest commentary on the human condition in all of written literary history. An archetype is far more mysterious and profound than a mere story. An archetype reaches into the bowels of the collective human condition and provides a peek into why something is. Genesis is the compliation of many years of oral tradition, refined, lost, rediscovered, and finally written down. It is a commentary on why we humans find ourselves in a condition where we must die, there is pain and suffering, and the results of being in a state of alientation from God. In the two Genesis accounts, God is the one who lifts humans up from the soil (adama in Hebrew). Humans would never be able to know God as He is but only as they are in this particular space and time in history. The story of resonance and dissonance in human condition is key.

In my own understanding of this classic myth, The Garden of Eden is the place in the Physical Universe from which Adam and Eve (the archetype for all humans) were literally created from animality to rationality. Just as in the first paradigm, God creates time, matter, energy, and infuses them with his DNA. In the second paradigm, God lifts up the first humans from the platform of animality to begin the process of growing collectively and individually in union with the natural law of the physical universe. Adam and Eve disrupted this resonance by choosing to be something they were not, God the creator. Sin came into the world through one man, says St. Paul, and one man (the Christ) would become sin to restore resonance once again, the relationship with God as it should be. But there was a price to pay for this restoration. Christ had to become human, suffer, and die as an offering (like Abraham and Isaac). I like to use the word Christ because it means messiah, Son of God, and the word Jesus because it means Joshua, God is helping, the anointed one. These words are at the core of our Faith. (Philippians 2:-12) Every knee must bow at this name because God has visited us as one of us to pay the price for the archetypal sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus is our humanity, Christ is the divinity of the Godhead. God revealed to us through, with, and in Christ how to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father but also how to live our lives in our timeframe that we can overcome death, pain, suffering, ambiguity, and the temptations that may lead to the seven deadly sins. Contemplation is a way to move from self to God where we abandon or empty our human self to allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow us each and every day.

GOOD IS NOT THE SAME AS EVIL

  • One of the mistakes that people who fail to read the writings of the early Fathers of the Church is to equate God with the Devil, as though they are opposing but equal Beings. The pure energy of God has no beginning nor end and does not exist in physical space, nor is bound by what we humans think of as time. God blows away all those assumptions about how all reality is only what we can reason with our minds and scientific yardsticks. This is not to say that we cannot measure and identify what physical reality is. I argue that we not only can measure the world around us but that we should aggressively use science and human reasoning to expand the yardsticks we use to measure that reality. My problem with scientific measurement is that it fails to look at an important part of reality that is spiritual. Even if we could prove and define this or that about God depending on who you ask, how can you describe (not define) a Being that is unknowable who exists at 100% of its Nature and has three functions who are beyond our normal way of thinking? There is but one reality but three separate, yet integral functions, so much so that these functions are alive and we call them persons. None of this makes sense to those with assumptions that say what is real is what we can see, experience with our human intelligence and knowledge. One of my favorite sayings is: I am not you, you are not me; God is not you, and you, most certainly, are not God. What we have termed the Devil, the snake in Genesis, the roaring lion seeking whom it may devour, is not the same nature as God. In fact, Lucifer was created by the Word of God and endowed with reasoning and the ability to choose good or evil but is not a human, but a spirit from the mind of God. Lucifer chose himself and not God’s rule in the playground of Heaven.
  • Lucifer is consumed with jealousy and pride and will not admit to what is real in the spiritual universe. He, and his followers sought to reform God by denying who God is but more importantly who they are. This is the archetypal sin of having self as God.
  • Not everything that comes into our minds is a temptation. As one trying to seek God every day in meditation, reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Lectio Divina, there are good thoughts from God, then thee are thought that come from my just living in the corruption of Original Sin, such as being lazy and not praying with the mind and heart but just to please a habit.
  • Temptation from Satan is recognized by what it suggests you do. St. Paul gives us the fruits of evil in Galatians 5. Read this, along with the energy of the Spirit. Conversion of self takes place every day because we are challenged every day to live just in the World and not in the Spirit. Without the saving grace and energy of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, our Second Advocate, we may be seduced into thinking that what is against God is actually okay because it fulfills us (leads to temporary gratification). Temptation is only a suggestion by Satan to do evil or replace the peace of Christ with the hatred of others. Sin means I accept the voice of Satan to replace the spirit with evil. Voices in our minds, then, can be a natural result of our evolution from animality to rationality, a suggestion by Satan to do something that will lead us to death of the spirit, even though it seems pleasurable or fulfilling, and then the voice from the Holy Spirit. This voice is God’s own energy, endowing the Church Universal to help us stand firm against the choice of sin versus the love of Christ.
  • I am bombarded every day with voices from my animal past, which is why I like to think of myself as a spiritual ape. I am grateful to the Benedictine Rule to help me convert my morals from self to Christ and the Cistercian practices and constitutions of the Order that allow me to die to self in order to rise again and again each day to make all things new again in Christ.
  • From the moment I was born, I have been bombarded with constant voices, some evil, some from God, and some from my background heritage. Herein lies the struggle to become more like Christ and less like me. Just as God overshadowed matter and lifted it up to become a reality that has an ending and an end, just as God the Father overshadowed matter and energy in the physical universe and lifted up humans from all other species and endowed with reason and the freedom to choose what is reasonable, there is significant trending and movement towards a destiny that is Omega. With the Christ principle, God the Son became one of us to show us what it means to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father and to sustain those in the Church Universal with the very power of God to overshadow us as He was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and the belief of Mary that God’s will be one to her according to His Word. As I sit here today, I am blessed to recognize that the Holy Spirit works through me to transform myself to become more like Christ. That recognization is a cascading effect of pure energy (as much as I can absorb) that moves to see the Holy Spirit in others as it impacts my moving from self to God. This is the voice that I strive to have in me, that of the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5).
  • Good is not the same or is equal to evil as two polar sources of power. Evil has no power other than the result of choosing what is not authentic and what God says is the way, the truth that leads to life.
  • Evil exists only in humans. Dogs are not evil. The Moon and the Earth are not evil. Then Canticle of Daniel is a beautiful prayer to glorify God by presenting the Sun and Moon as praising God because they are acting their nature. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5n3hZK4YI
  • The opposite of good is not evil, as though they were two poles of one reality. Evil exists in the Devil because of the choice to choose to be in the presence of a false center, one that is based on the individual and not the will of God.

More and more each day, I am at peace with just being content to sit in the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, my two Advocates, and wait. God’s presence is transforming if I have the humility and the patience to seek God daily. I used to think that I did all the work by performing the Cistercian practices of Lectio, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, reading Scripture, and of Eucharistic Adoration. Now, I am just beginning to realize that, all along, nothing depended on me at all, but to sit on a park bench in the middle of Winter and wait for me to be present to Christ.

HOW TO PLAY IN GOD’S PLAYGROUND

HOW TO ORGANIZE AND FOCUS ON THE LIFE OF CHRIST

SEEKING GOD EACH DAY IN ALL THAT COMES MY WAY

The following pages are samples of the horarium (hourly agenda) and Internet sites that I use to organize my day as a Lay Cistercian. Everyone who practices the Cistercian practices and charisms, for those, not a monk or a nun, will have a different challenge to seek God. This is how I do it, but it does not mean this is how you must do it. I must tell you that I am retired and have time to devote to the practice of how to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. My focus is not to do this or that Cistercian practice and I will automatically have God in me, which seems rather presumptuous of me, but rather in humility and obedience to the command to Christ to love each other as He loved us, to ask God to come into me so that I might worthily use these practices to move from self to God. He must increase and I must decrease.  

There are voices in my consciousness that tell me all this dying to self is made up by people who did not want me to fulfill my life as a human being, that all this seeking God each day is a waste of time because I can’t see God or feel the immediate presence that I am making up in contemplation, that there is no resurrection from the dead only a dead end, and that my prayers don’t do anything except feed my own need to punish myself for imaginary sins and failings.  I have a choice to take these temptations from Satan to the next level and make them the center of my life (the ninth and tenth Commandment calls it coveting), or I can say the one word that dispels the darkness and bring light from light back to my inner self. As I run the gauntlet of what remains of my life, I use these practices to place my heart next to the heart of Christ and learn of Him for He is meek and humble of heart. I seek only

The Praise of the Father.25 At that time Jesus said in reply,* “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.26 Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.o

The Gentle Mastery of Christ. 28* “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest.29* Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is God’s playground we must use His Rules if we want to play in his sandbox. Fortunately for us, there is only one rule: to love God with all our hearts, and all our minds, and all our strength and our neighbor as our self. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36) Because the whole of humanity that was, is, and will, be did not have the energy or will to bring God’s kingdom to earth, God Himself in the Second person of the Blessed Trinity became one of us, like us in all things but sin. The purpose was to have the energy of God, that which has no beginning and no end, to lift up human to have the opportunity to live in this Kingdom of Heaven with God…Forever. Now, the second Adam who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might inherit this Kingdom of Heaven created for us from before the existence of time, space, matter, and physical energy. But, humans had a problem (explained in the Book of Genesis). We live in the World but must use our reason and free will to make the jump to the Kingdom of Heaven where we will begin our journey to Forever. We Christians are somewhat schizophrenic in that we live in the physical world and use human reason in our daily lives, but take our values and direction in obedience to the will of the Father from God, the opposite of what the world holds out as meaningful. Once again, in Baptism, Faith, which is the energy of God reaches down to lift us up to make us adopted sons and daughters of the Father and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Forever. It is only through Faith that this could happen. It is only because Christ accepted us first that we can approach the Father through, with, and in Christ, with the energy of the Holy Spirit. We depend on everything from Christ, our Christ Principle from whom flows all that is good.

Every day is a lifetime in the Kingdom of Heaven. We must accept Jesus as Lord every day of our life, having in us the mind of Christ Jesus to dispel the corrosive rust of Original Sin. This brings me to the Cistercian practices and charisms. They sustain me each day as I struggle against voices that try to corrupt me with pride, my own importance, rather than to seek humility and constant Faith. These are the tools of the Art of Contemplation, those bits of help which are not ends in themselves but transform me from self to God with God’s own energy. Life is all about discovering love. Love is all about discovering energy, Energy of God is all about the Mystery of Faith, which St. Augustine said “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

My Center: Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. –Philippians 2:5

Five or Six Practices to support my center: These are Cistercian practices I use as my centerpieces as a Lay Cistercian to measure if I am doing something for my benefit or to give praise and glory to the Father through, with and in Christ Jesus, in the unity with the Holy Spirit..

1. Silence—When I think of silence, I think of lack of worldly noise. But, it is more than just lack of external noises, like television, children playing, going to work, and traveling in a car. For me, I try to be conscious that all these sounds give glory to the Father through the Son, in union with the Holy Spirit. I try to make a space where I can reflect on my center with some degree of privacy. Silence of my heart helps me sustain the other Cistercian charisms and practices and so grow in fierce love.

2. Solitude— Solitude, for me, means carving out space and quiet time to focus on how to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. For the Cistercian monks and nuns, solitude means carving out time and space that permits them to focus on loving God with their whole heart, whole soul and whole mind without external distractions. For the Lay Cistercian, we also concentrate on fashioning a little prayer nest but we live in the secular world and therefore embrace all the distractions as part of our prayer to the Father. St. Benedict says, “That in all things, God be glorified.”

3. Prayer—Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God. As a Lay Cistercian, I actively put myself in the presence of God using prayer, both communal and private. Even if I sometimes feel that prayer is repetitious and rote, I have noticed that the more I try to grow deeper using prayer, rather than fighting the externals, the more peace there is in my spirit. It is resting my heart in the heart of Christ that helps me love fiercely.

 4. Work—Work as the world sees it is a means to make money. Work with a spiritual approach is transforming the ordinary tasks of the day into those that give glory and praise to the Father. Work is prayer, if offered up as praise and glory to the Father. As a retiree, my work is almost exclusively devoted to writing and my blog. For whatever time I have remaining, I want to offer my experiences and talents to help parishes implement a contemplative option to their normal parish spirituality.

5. Community—Lay Cistercians gravitate towards communal gatherings to refresh the soul and to transform themselves deeper in the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. I commit to attending a monthly meeting of Lay Cistercians called a Gathering Day at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Even though there is great distance between us (250 miles one way), we link together as one in our commitment to each other because we are all linked through, with, and in, the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. Prayer is where you find it. So, too, is Lay Cistercian spirituality. I have several communities of faith that help sustain me in my quest to love God with all the heart, my soul, and my strength. My parish faith community is where I do most of my Lay Cistercian practices.

My spiritual goals for the rest of my life:

1. Take up your cross daily and follow Christ.  The cross, in this case, is consistent in spiritual practices. Although there is no penalty attached for not performing them, the more you want to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus, the more you will have what you wish for. Take what comes your way and transform it into Christ Jesus.

2. Solitude amid community.  Community here means support and sustaining faith group, such as Lay Cistercians of Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga. and Good Shepherd faith community at daily Mass and Liturgy of the Hours, with its ministries to the poor, the sick and those in need. Where two or three gather in my name, says the Master, there I am also.

3. Work to share my writings and adult learning about Cistercian spiritual practices.

4. Be open to the possibility of the manifestibility of all being! I want to be more conscious of my own capacity to love God with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole soul and my neighbor as myself (capacitas dei). I want to be open to radical hospitality, seeing Christ as my neighbor, seeking to be open to God’s message in nature, hoping for a small place in the Kingdom of Heaven. I want to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), I don’t just want it, I will pay any price (using Cistercian charisma and practices to die to self so that I might rise with Christ to a new life each day)

Spiritual Practices I use to sustain my center:

As a Lay Cistercian, these are some of the practices, little nests of silence and solitude, I carve out of my routine, not because I need the discipline but because they place me in direct contact with the mind and heart of Christ.

Eucharist:  The Sacrament of unity with God through Christ Jesus with the Holy Spirit as Advocate. This is the bread of Heaven. This is the pure energy of God for my transformation. This is my destiny in one prayer of gratitude with the community of believers.

Lectio Divina: This ancient, monastic practice allows me to growing deeper in spiritual awareness, there are four steps. Read (lectio); Meditate (meditatio); Pray (oratio); Contemplate (contemplatio).

Meditation and Spiritual Reading: This practice gives me time to focus on Scriptures and Spiritual Readings about how to grow deeper in Christ Jesus. Nothing is more central than to read the inspired Word of God and to seek, in humility and truth, to become what I read. John 20:30-31.

The Rosary:  Meditations on the life and purpose of Christ Jesus. One of my favorite practices is a mantra-like prayer to help me meditate on the high points in the life of Jesus. You grow beyond saying Our Fathers or Hail Marys. It is trying to focus on how to move from self to God using the Life of Christ Jesus as motivation.

Liturgy of the Hours: This practice, refined by St. Benedict c. 540 AD in his Rule of St. Benedict, organizes the monks to pray the Psalms seven times a day. I try to pray the Psalms at least three times a day. The key is consistency and prayer in common, if possible. It is the prayer of the Catholic Church every hour of the day, every day of the week, giving praise, honor, and glory to the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit.www.divineoffice.org

Eucharistic Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament: I believe that Jesus Christ is present, body and blood, soul and divinity, under the appearance of the bread. This is an ancient practice and one of the most revered of all practices. If this is indeed the living Christ, why would you not want to visit? This takes fierce love to practice.

Reading the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4:  Each day, part of taking up my cross is reading Chapter 4 of St. Benedict, the Tools for Good Works. I offer this reading in reparation for my sins and for the strength to be strong next time I am tempted. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

Dedication of the Day: My offering each day for a different intention. 

  • Monday: Penance: In reparation for my sins and those of the Church, those in my book of Life.
  • Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers, those in my book of Life.
  • Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Joseph, those in my book of Life.
  • Thursday: For all Lay Cistercians, Monks of Holy Spirit Monastery, Monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey, priests and religious of Diocese of Evansville, Monks of Norcia, Italy, and those in my book of Life. 
  • Friday: For an increase in God’s grace to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and my neighbor as myself.
  • Saturday: For all deceased, an increase in my faith through the Holy Spirit and for those in my book of Life.
  • Sunday: To give praise, honor, and 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. Amen and Amen.

A PRAYER FOR PERSPECTIVE

Our Father, source of all goodness and fulfillment, we struggle so many times to see your will in what we attempt each day. We are most alive, most human when we look at you in the delicate way the sun greets each leaf in the morning by brushing it gently with the gold paint of dawn, the way the rose radiates subtle smells effortlessly to praise you far more than mere words, the way the seashore throttles the sands with clashing sounds, the way coffee con leche tastes with Cuban bread, the way you touch us with the unseen reality of your love. All creation gives you glory by their being. “That in all things, God be glorified.” Give us daily food for the journey, and you did your people in the desert. Give us good friends to help keep us honest about ourselves. Give us your Spirit to make the gifts real in treating others with unconditional love and faith. Allow us to forgive those who wrong us and pray for those who put us down for loving you. You are the gate through which we must pass on our journey to Forever. Show us the way to be gentle and humble of heart. Give us wisdom so that we can see what is unknown, know what is unseen, and love pure energy. With St. Paul, may we prefer nothing to understanding you and serving you with gladness all the days of our lives. When the Devil tempts us, may the angels that minister to you night and day also be our protectors from choosing our false self.

May you bless us with your spirit of mercy and penance, so that we might resist evil and our failures to love you with all our hearts, as you were once tempted in the Garden of Gethsemani.

END NOTES:  

To live the life of Christ as a Lay Cistercian is not without distinct challenges and responsibilities. If would be so easy just to say you want to be a Lay Cistercian and bask in the glow of what the monks and nuns do in their daily lives as if you wishing to be like them is actually like them.  Like the book of James points out, faith without works is dead. So too is a Lay Cistercian Journey without the struggle of trying to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). As the Fox in the book, The Little Prince, points out: it is time you take to be with someone that makes it meaningful.

As one who can only aspire to be a Lay Cistercian, it takes five years of practice (two years as a Novice, and three years as a Junior) before one makes final promises, and that is just to begin to run the race. It is the race itself that is meaningful, the time it takes to live out the Life of Christ in daily events, to see and share the love of Christ in community of believers that you may only see once a day or once a month, the daily habits formed by practicing prayers over and over, while all the time making them fresh and new each day, and all this to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil.2:5).

Is it worth the cost? For those for whom Christ has captured them, as St. Paul says in Philippians 3:7-16, “…I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For Him, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ Jesus and be given a place in Him.” 

That passage has begun to transform me from self to God, ever so slowly and unobtrusively, so that what had become routine and stale is now new and fresh with the realization that I have only begun to grasp  “…the breadth and the length, the height and the depth, until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge,  (I am) filled with the utter fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-20) Praise to the Father, to 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.

RESOURCES THAT HELP ME MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD

I share with you what I have received via the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Georgia, and also from the Lay Cistercians (with permission).

Blessings on you this day. Remember, peace is not the absence of conflict but rather the love of Christ in your heart. It is this that will conquer the world, if not the earth, then certainly the world as you experience it.

Please pray for all monks and Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) that all may seek God every day in every way and become what they seek.

REFLECTIONS ON SILENCE AND SOLITUDE BY A BROKEN-DOWN, OLD TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

CHARISM FOUR: Silence and Solitude

Both silence and solitude are distinguishing characteristics of anyone who wants to be a contemplative monk or nun. But it would be a mistake to take words on their face value and not see them about the mission of a particular Order. Carthusians, for example, are hermits and follow the Rule of St. Benedict, and also St. Bruno. Cistercians may be divided into two branches, one that is called Regular Cistercians OCist, https://www.cistercian.org/abbey/ and those that are more contemplative, Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, O.C.S.O. http://www.trappist.net. Trappist Cistercians differ from those of the Regular Order in their emphasis on contemplative living (silence and solitude).

Slow down your reading and your thinking. To grow deeper from my false self to my true self (Galatians 5), I had to slow down my reading of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. All of my reading now is intentionally slow, not because I am getting old, although that is indeed the case, but that I take time now to REST on the word and savor them. The Psalms, in particular, are my target for this new approach to reciting the Liturgy of the Hours.

Read one of my favorite Psalms below in your usual way, don’t pause between each stanza or between the antiphon and the Psalm, just get through it as you would normally do, reading it quickly. Don’t pause for reflection. Read it the second time but this time pause for a few minutes between each stanza as you let the Holy Spirit have a chance to speak. The third time, seek to become what you read with God’s help.

FIVE LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL AWARENESS

  • Say the Word
  • Pray the Word
  • Share the Word
  • Be the Word you Shared
  • There are no Words (Contemplation)

Antiphon: Turn not your head away from me nor remember my sins.

Psalm 51

3Have mercy on me, O God,

 according to your merciful love;

 according to your great compassion,

 blot out my transgressions.

 4 Wash me completely from my iniquity,

 and cleanse me from my sin.

5 My transgressions, truly I know them;

 my sin is always before me.

 6 Against you, you alone, have I sinned;

 what is evil in your sight I have done.

 So you are just in your sentence,

 without reproach in your judgment.

7 O see, in guilt, I was born,

 a sinner when my mother conceived me.

 8 Yes, you delight in sincerity of heart;

 in secret, you teach me wisdom.

9 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be pure;

 wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

10 Let me hear rejoicing and gladness,

 that the bones you have crushed may exult.

 11Turn away your face from my sins,

 and blot out all my guilt.

12 Create a pure heart for me, O God;

 renew a steadfast spirit within me.

13 Do not cast me away from your presence;

 take not your holy spirit from me.

14 Restore in me the joy of your salvation;

 sustain in me a willing spirit.

15  I will teach transgressors your ways,

 that sinner may return to you.

16 Rescue me from bloodshed, O God,

 God of my salvation,  and then my tongue shall ring out your justice.

17  O Lord, open my lips

 and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

18 For in sacrifice you take no delight;

 the burnt offering from me would not please you.

 19 My sacrifice to God, a broken spirit:

 a broken and humbled heart,

 O God, you will not spurn.

20 In your good pleasure, show favor to Sion;

 rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

 21 Then you will delight in right sacrifice,

 burnt offerings wholly consumed.

 Then you will be offered young bulls on your altar.

ALL: Praise be 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.

Antiphon: Turn not your head away from me nor remember my sins.

RESOURCES TO HELP ME GROW FROM SELF TO GOD

YOU MUST SEE THIS WEBSITE

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

I share my joy with you about a website that I discovered by Father Luke Dysinger, O.S.B. with very rich contemporary subjects and also patristic and other primary sources. You can read the actual texts of the ecumenical councils, plus other great writers. Father Luke conducts an on-line course in bioethics. Here is his shortened bio as copied directly from his website.

FATHER LUKE’S BIO:

“Fr. LUKE Dysinger has been a member of the Benedictine monastic community at Saint Andrew’s Abbey Valyermo, California, since May 1980. He has served in the past as a novice master, junior master, and prior; he is presently librarian and second cantor. He teaches patristics, the history of Christian spirituality, bioethics, and human sexuality at Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, where is a full professor and chair of the department of moral theology. He teaches monastic formation and monastic spirituality at the School of Theology of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Prior to joining the monastery, he trained as a physician, graduating from the University of Southern California School of Medicine in 1978, and completing his residency in family practice in 1981. He serves as chair of the bioethics committee at the Antelope Valley Hospital Medical Center in Lancaster, California, where he is a member of the medical staff. He consults as a contract bioethicist at St. Francis Medical Center, Lynnwood.


He studied theology in Oxford, completing his studies for ordination in 1985 and his D.Phil. in patristics in 2000. He has published a translation of the Rule of Benedict, as well as articles on Evagrius Ponticus, lectio divina, and other subjects in monastic spirituality and bioethics. His book, Prayer and Psalmody in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus, is available from Oxford University Press.”

FATHER LUKE’S COURSE ON BIOETHICS

http://www.ldysinger.com/ThM_590_Intro-Bioeth/webcourse/00a_start.htm

READINGS AND AUDIO LECTURES FROM ST. JOHN’S SEMINARY

http://www.ldysinger.com/

PRIMARY SOURCES

http://www.ldysinger.com/@texts/00a_start.htm

This site is the resource for which I have been anxiously awaiting. What a treasure trove of courses and great primary texts from saints to heretics, from Christ to Mohammed, in the original texts (in English). I must add this site to my top websites.

MY TOP WEBSITES FOR SPIRITUAL AWARENESS (Copied from a prior blog).

I use the Internet a lot these days. Granted, there is a lot of blather contained in it, but there are some gems that I use almost every week as I seek God daily through silence and solitude. In no order of importance, here are the sites that have helped me to move a tiny bit from self to God.

WORD ON FIRE — www.wordonfire.org This is the site that features Bishop Robert Barron and his ministry. I love this site because you are able to sign up for his daily meditations on the Eucharist plus a Sunday commentary. If you are so inclined, you can sign up for his Word on Fire Institute. This has my highest recommendation and I use it nearly every day. You can go to YouTube.com and type in Bishop Barron to see some of his videos. All of us are blessed because of Bishop Barron and his team of evangelists.

DR. SCOTT HAHN — http://www.scotthahn.com Here is another magnificent site that just oozes with the Holy Spirit. When you access his website you are able to click on some of his video sessions. Anything that comes from the St. Paul Center is worth your time and spiritual energy. You can also access Youtube to find more of Dr. Scott Hahn’s videos.

NEW ADVENT — https://www.newadvent.org/ I use this site when I want to look up resources, such as The Catholic Encyclopedia, Fathers of the Church, the Bible, Summa Theologica, and my personal favorite, and an up to date newsletter that is loaded with commentary and links to other significant events of the day. It is yours for free.

TRAPPIST BROTHERS AND SISTERS — https://www.trappists.org/history-of-the-trappists/notable-monks-nuns/ This site is one I use for all things Trappist, one of two branches of the Cistercian Order, the other being Regular Cistercians. It has my highest recommendation because I use it to check out what is going on with the Trappists.

A LAY CISTERCIAN LOOKS AT REALITY — https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org This site is one I created to reflect on the reality of each day using Cistercian, specifically Trappist practices and charisms. I have been blessed to be accepted by Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Conyers, Georgia) as a Professed Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net

THE DIVINE OFFICE — http://www.divineoffice.org If you wish to join others in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours, this is the on line site I use, since I am quarantined due to COVID 19. It also has a link to my blog.

USCCB- http://www.usccb.org is the website for the Bishops of the United States. I use this to look up scriptural quotes, the latest in developments that affect our Faith in this country.

THE VATICAN NEWS — https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-05/church-recognizes-miracle-attributed-to-ven-michael-mcgivney.html This is a site to read about news from the Holy Father and Vatican. Highly recommended.

There are many other site that are just excellent, but these are the ones I use the most.

MONASTERY AND LAY CISTERCIAN PONDERINGS

I share with you what I have received via the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Georgia, and also from the Lay Cistercians (with permission).

Blessings on you this day. Remember, peace is not the absence of conflict but rather the love of Christ in your heart. It is this that will conquer the world, if not the earth, then certainly the world as you experience it.

Please pray for all monks and Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) that all may seek God every day in every way and become what they seek.

A TRIBUTE TO PACO AMBROSETTI

The late Paco Ambrosetti was a Lay Cistercian at the same Monastery that accepted me as a Professed Lay Cistercian. He was my Novice Director, along with Carl McColeman, and exerted in quiet and forceful influence on my inching from self to God. I remember how he used to tell us that contemplation demands patience on our part, not God’s part. I began my process of silence and solitude with his guidance, patience, stillness, anticipation, recognition of the struggle it takes to maintain focus in the midst of Original Sin, and how we are all pilgrims in a foreign land if we take our Baptism seriously. I pray for him, and the other monks and Lay Cistercians who have gone to their reward as good and faithful servants, in the peace of Christ, that they join me in, with and through Christ to praise the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

A POEM WRITTEN BY PACO AMBROSETTI, DECEASED LAY CISTERCIAN

COME, Holy Spirit.
Replace the tension within us with a holy relaxation.
Replace the turbulence within us with a sacred calm.
Replace the anxiety within us with quiet confidence.
Replace the fear within us with a strong faith.
Replace the bitterness within us with a sweetness of grace.
Replace the darkness within us with a gentle light.
Replace the coldness within us with loving warmth.
Replace the night within us with your day.
Replace the winter within us with your spring.
Straighten our crookedness.
Fill our emptiness.
Dull the edge of our pride.
Sharpen the edge of our humility.
Light the fires of our love.
Quench the flames of our lust.
Let us see ourselves as you see us.
That we may see you as you have promised use.
And be healed according to your word.

A POEM WRITTEN BY MICHAEL F. CONRAD, Ed.D.

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

…greatly grateful for the gift of humility and obedience to The 

    One

…greatly thankful for adoption, 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 wife, 

   daughter, friends

…mindful that the passage of time increases each year

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

   Purpose and meaning…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, 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 true, 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 in me the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose in life and my center…Forever.

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

POWERPOINT SLIDE SHOW OF THE MONASTERY FROM FATHER CASSIAN RUSSELL, O.C.S.O.

NEWSLETTER FROM BROTHER MARK DOHLE, O.S.C.O., Retreat House Director

November 2020 Newsletter(New).pdf

REFLECTIONS ON SILENCE AND SOLITUDE BY A BROKEN-DOWN, OLD TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

CHARISM FOUR: Silence and Solitude

Both silence and solitude are distinguishing characteristics of anyone who wants to be a contemplative monk or nun. But it would be a mistake to take words on their face value and not see them about the mission of a particular Order. Carthusians, for example, are hermits and follow the Rule of St. Benedict, and also St. Bruno. Cistercians may be divided into two branches, one that is called Regular Cistercians OCist, https://www.cistercian.org/abbey/ and those that are more contemplative, Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, O.C.S.O. http://www.trappist.net. Trappist Cistercians differ from those of the Regular Order in their emphasis on contemplative living (silence and solitude).

Slow down your reading and your thinking. To grow deeper from my false self to my true self (Galatians 5), I had to slow down my reading of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. All of my reading now is intentionally slow, not because I am getting old, although that is indeed the case, but that I take time now to REST on the word and savor them. The Psalms, in particular, are my target for this new approach to reciting the Liturgy of the Hours.

Read one of my favorite Psalms below in your usual way, don’t pause between each stanza or between the antiphon and the Psalm, just get through it as you would normally do, reading it quickly. Don’t pause for reflection. Read it the second time but this time pause for a few minutes between each stanza as you let the Holy Spirit have a chance to speak. The third time, seek to become what you read with God’s help.

FIVE LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL AWARENESS

  • Say the Word
  • Pray the Word
  • Share the Word
  • Be the Word you Shared
  • There are no Words (Contemplation)

Antiphon: Turn not your head away from me nor remember my sins.

Psalm 51

3Have mercy on me, O God,

 according to your merciful love;

 according to your great compassion,

 blot out my transgressions.

 4 Wash me completely from my iniquity,

 and cleanse me from my sin.

5 My transgressions, truly I know them;

 my sin is always before me.

 6 Against you, you alone, have I sinned;

 what is evil in your sight I have done.

 So you are just in your sentence,

 without reproach in your judgment.

7 O see, in guilt, I was born,

 a sinner when my mother conceived me.

 8 Yes, you delight in sincerity of heart;

 in secret, you teach me wisdom.

9 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be pure;

 wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

10 Let me hear rejoicing and gladness,

 that the bones you have crushed may exult.

 11Turn away your face from my sins,

 and blot out all my guilt.

12 Create a pure heart for me, O God;

 renew a steadfast spirit within me.

13 Do not cast me away from your presence;

 take not your holy spirit from me.

14 Restore in me the joy of your salvation;

 sustain in me a willing spirit.

15  I will teach transgressors your ways,

 that sinner may return to you.

16 Rescue me from bloodshed, O God,

 God of my salvation,  and then my tongue shall ring out your justice.

17  O Lord, open my lips

 and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

18 For in sacrifice you take no delight;

 the burnt offering from me would not please you.

 19 My sacrifice to God, a broken spirit:

 a broken and humbled heart,

 O God, you will not spurn.

20 In your good pleasure, show favor to Sion;

 rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

 21 Then you will delight in right sacrifice,

 burnt offerings wholly consumed.

 Then you will be offered young bulls on your altar.

ALL: Praise be 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.

Antiphon: Turn not your head away from me nor remember my sins.

RESOURCES TO HELP YOU GROW FROM SELF TO GOD

YOU MUST SEE THIS WEBSITE

Posted on October 24, 2020 by thecenterforcontemplativepractice

I share my joy with you about a website that I discovered by Father Luke Dysinger, O.S.B. with very rich contemporary subjects and also patristic and other primary sources. You can read the actual texts of the ecumenical councils, plus other great writers. Father Luke conducts an on-line course in bioethics. Here is his shortened bio as copied directly from his website.

FATHER LUKE’S BIO:

“Fr. LUKE Dysinger has been a member of the Benedictine monastic community at Saint Andrew’s Abbey Valyermo, California, since May, 1980. He has served in the past as novicemaster, juniormaster, and prior; he is presently librarian and second cantor. He teaches patristics, the history of Christian spirituality, bioethics, and human sexuality at Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, where is a full professor and chair of the department of moral theology. He teaches monastic formation and monastic spirituality at the School of Theology of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Prior to joining the monastery he trained as a physician, graduating from the University of Southern California School of Medicine in 1978, and completing his residency in family practice in 1981. He serves as chair of the bioethics committee at the Antelope Valley Hospital Medical Center in Lancaster, California, where he is a member of the medical staff. He consults as contract bioethicist at St. Francis Medical Center, Lynnwood.
He studied theology in Oxford, completing his studies for ordination in 1985 and his D.Phil. in patristics in 2000. He has published a translation of the Rule of Benedict, as well as articles on Evagrius Ponticus, lectio divina, and other subjects in monastic spirituality and bioethics. His book, Prayer and Psalmody in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus, is available from Oxford University Press.”

FATHER LUKE’S COURSE ON BIOETHICS

http://www.ldysinger.com/ThM_590_Intro-Bioeth/webcourse/00a_start.htm

READINGS AND AUDIO LECTURES FROM ST. JOHN’S SEMINARY

http://www.ldysinger.com/

PRIMARY SOURCES

http://www.ldysinger.com/@texts/00a_start.htm

This site is the resource for which I have been anxiously awaiting. What a treasure trove of courses and great primary texts from saints to heretics, from Christ to Mohammed, in the original texts (in English). I must add this site to my top websites.

MY TOP WEBSITES FOR SPIRITUAL AWARENESS (Copied from a prior blog).

I use the Internet a lot these days. Granted, there is a lot of blather contained in it, but there are some gems that I use almost every week as I seek God daily through silence and solitude. In no order of importance, here are the sites that have helped me to move a tiny bit from self to God.

WORD ON FIRE — www.wordonfire.org This is the site that features Bishop Robert Barron and his ministry. I love this site because you are able to sign up for his daily meditations on the Eucharist plus a Sunday commentary. If you are so inclined, you can sign up for his Word on Fire Institute. This has my highest recommendation and I use it nearly every day. You can go to YouTube.com and type in Bishop Barron to see some of his videos. All of us are blessed because of Bishop Barron and his team of evangelists.

DR. SCOTT HAHN — http://www.scotthahn.com Here is another magnificent site that just oozes with the Holy Spirit. When you access his website you are able to click on some of his video sessions. Anything that comes from the St. Paul Center is worth your time and spiritual energy. You can also access Youtube to find more of Dr. Scott Hahn’s videos.

NEW ADVENT — https://www.newadvent.org/ I use this site when I want to look up resources, such as The Catholic Encyclopedia, Fathers of the Church, the Bible, Summa Theologica, and my personal favorite, and an up to date newsletter that is loaded with commentary and links to other significant events of the day. It is yours for free.

TRAPPIST BROTHERS AND SISTERS — https://www.trappists.org/history-of-the-trappists/notable-monks-nuns/ This site is one I use for all things Trappist, one of two branches of the Cistercian Order, the other being Regular Cistercians. It has my highest recommendation because I use it to check out what is going on with the Trappists.

A LAY CISTERCIAN LOOKS AT REALITY — https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org This site is one I created to reflect on the reality of each day using Cistercian, specifically Trappist practices and charisms. I have been blessed to be accepted by Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Conyers, Georgia) as a Professed Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net

THE DIVINE OFFICE — http://www.divineoffice.org If you wish to join others in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours, this is the on line site I use, since I am quarantined due to COVID 19. It also has a link to my blog.

USCCB- http://www.usccb.org is the website for the Bishops of the United States. I use this to look up scriptural quotes, the latest in developments that affect our Faith in this country.

THE VATICAN NEWS — https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-05/church-recognizes-miracle-attributed-to-ven-michael-mcgivney.html This is a site to read about news from the Holy Father and Vatican. Highly recommended.

There are many other site that are just excellent, but these are the ones I use the most.

WHICH POLITICAL PARTY DO YOU TRUST THE MOST?

Granted that both political parties are not beacons of truth and both tell their share of obfuscations, in this last week before elections, I am asking these pointed questions to find out where my mind and heart are. I do not presume to tell you how or for whom to vote. This is your birthright as a citizen. I would only encourage you to vote what is in your heart for the good of all of our great society. I ask myself:

  • Granted that both parties are not models of telling the truth, which party do you trust the most to lead us forward so that you can believe what they tell me is the truth?
  • Which party do you trust the most to sustain the rule of law and order and protect legitimate law enforcement and the criminal just system from those enemies foreign and domestic who want to tear down the principles of the Constitution?
  • Which party will protect us from foreign economies taking advantage of our monetary system?
  • Which party do you trust to not only sustain the military preparedness but also keep us at the forefront of the newest technological advances?
  • Which party do you trust to protect those poor and disabled among us with justice and mercy?
  • Which party makes you proud to be an American?
  • Which party makes you confident about the next four years in terms of the economy and your standard of living?
  • Which party will fight to protect the Constitution from all those who wish to tear down our heritage and replace it with a socialist-style elite government at Federal, State, and Local levels?
  • Which party embodies compassion and mercy for those unborn, disadvantaged, and on the fringes of poverty?
  • Which party would you be proud to say you support (in general)?

I know the party I will select in the next election. Do you? Vote your heart!

LECTIO DIVINA: inching to forever

I can’t believe what Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) has done for me over the past ten years. I have not had a miraculous revelation during anything, nor a flash of lightning (like St. Paul), but, reflecting back on where I was, in terms of loving Christ, and where I am now, I am not anywhere where I was when I started my journey as a Lay Cistercian. I can’t explain it except to say, doing Lectio has moved me slowly, almost impercibly , towards being more like Christ and less like me. All of this movement is none of my doing. I attribute it to the Holy Spirit energizing my Faith so that I can consistently and constantly do Lectio every day. Here are some outcomes or products that I have realized as I sit on a park bench and wait for Christ to show up to talk to me, only to realize that Christ has always been there and I am the one who has not shown up.

DISCOVERING THAT SIMPLICITY CONTAINS COMPLEXITY

It comes as no surprise to me that my Lectio Divina is moving from simplicity to complexity. The simplicity part comes whenever I do Lectio Divina and recite my phrase over and over (Philippians 2:5). Growing from self to God as I seek God every day, has become more than an intellectual statement. The template for this growth is the Trinity of God (one nature yet three distinct persons). This revelation is so incredible that human reasoning alone could not conjure up this reality. It took Christ, the Messiah, to fulfill what had gone before and then show us how to love others. Scripture tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be given to you besides. It is this type of simplicity, the resignation that you don’t have to do anything but place yourself in the presence of Christ and wait, that makes Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, daily Lectio Divina, meditating on Scripture, adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, the foci for meeting God.

DISCOVERING THAT YESTERDAY’S STRUGGLES TO HAVE IN THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS DO NOT COUNT TOWARDS SEEKING GOD TODAY

Dependence on God.*25n “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?o27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?*28 Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin.29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. 30* If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ 32 All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides. 34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/6

I read this Scripture and thought about how I should not worry so much about me trying to reach God as much as I should be waiting for the Lord to speak and then respond. My Lectio sessions are not as formulaic as they were (four phases of Lectio Divina) but rather just letting go of all around me in silence and solitude and being present to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

This approach takes humility and obedience to what the presence of Christ shares with me in Faith, not just with Lectio meditations but also with all the Cistercian practices and charisms.

FAITH IS WHEN GOD CHOOSES ME AND BELIEF IS WHEN I RESPOND WITH THE ENERGY OF FAITH

My wife is convinced that I am a hypocrite in my practice because I used to go to Church every day and now, with COVID 19, I don’t attend anything except virtually. I respond that “I am Church” (not the Church Universal) and where I gather in silence and solitude to seek God every day, even if Tallahassee, Florida, I am still a part of the Lay Cistercians at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) who are in solidarity with One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, with the monks, everyone linked to everyone else with Christ as the vine and we the branches or leaves. I have come to realize what it means to be an adopted son of the Father and try to speak and act as one who realizes my inheritance. St. Benedict encouraged his monks to be aware of their heritage in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

46 Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.
47 Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.
48 Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do,
49 aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be.
50 As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ, and disclose them to your spiritual father. 51Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech.
52 Prefer moderation in speech
53 and speak no foolish chatter, nothing just to provoke laughter;
54 do not love immoderate or boisterous laughter. 55 Listen readily to holy reading,
56 and devote yourself often to prayer.
57 Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer
58 and change from these evil ways in the future.”

EACH DAY IS A LIFETIME

I realize that seeking God anew at the beginning of each day, I ask for God’s mercy on me and those for whom I pray, then ask that I be open to the possibility of the manifestability of the Holy Spirit in all whom I meet, and not judge what they believe. I have a long way to go on moving from an intellectual consent of Faith to one where I just sit and listen with the “ear of the heart.”.

FOUR NEW WAYS I HAVE EXPANDED HOW LECTIO DIVINA ALLOWS ME TO BE PRESENT TO CHRIST

As I move down my journey towards Omega, as Teilhard de Chardin would say, I have developed new ways to do Lectio Divina to adapt to my unique environment as a Lay Cistercian. I share them with you in the hopes that you might find some of them helpful in your own spiritual path.

THE CORE LECTIO

Everyone needs a core against which they measure themselves. Christ is my core. If I apply this to Lectio Divina, then the four-steps (some say five steps) of Lectio Divina as set forth by Guigo II are core for me. Here is a Youtube video that explains it very clearly. Bishop David Walker talks on the Guigo II method of Lectio Divina. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqeBV3PC01g

Here is an excellent resource on the core of Lectio Divina from the monks of Collegeville, Minnesota. https://www.conceptionabbey.org/monastery/lectio-divina/

MY VARIATIONS ON LECTIO DIVINA PRACTICES

As I listen to Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini, I am reminded of how the human mind always looks for better ways to do something. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EIE78D0m1g

I use the core of Lectio Divina but with five adaptations I have made over the last ten years.

VARIATION 1: ONE SCRIPTURE TEXT FOR THE PAST FIFTY-FIVE YEARS

Lectio is about being present to the Word of God in Scriptures in the mind and in the heart. Since I have had the only center of my life to be “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:) those the eight words are the only ones I have ever used as my first step, i.e., Lectio. Ten years ago, as I approached another conversion of morals in my life (Lay Cistercian spirituality), I dutifully recited this mantra over and over. Since this is the living Word of God, the effects on me went unnoticed, as I mentioned above, but with consistency and continuous practice on a daily basis, I began to think less of following the four-step formula (apologies to Guibo II) and more about just “letting go” and letting God do the talking. The results are absolutely astounding and produce great joy in my mind and heart, a joy that is not of this World but from just being present to Christ. Less worry about the externals of prayer (although I do them unconsciously) and more emphasis on the abandonment of self to just sit and listen with no hidden agendas on my part. This is how I do all my subsequent adaptations of Lectio in its various applications.

VARIATION 2: MOVING FROM SELF TO GOD IS NOT ABOUT SELF AT ALL

The purpose of my life is Philippians 2:5. It also happens to be the one Lectio reading that I recite over and ove in the hope that I become what I read. I don’t think about tying my Lectio to a specific time or place every day, although I actually do have a schedule with a time and place. I don’t worry about my going through the four steps of Lectio in turn or get out of sorts when I miss a step. Lectio can happen at any time, any place, any situation by my just beginning to recite my Philippians 2:5 sentence. I am not consciously aware of moving from self to God or even of the time it takes to long for the Lord. I try, some days are better than others, to open myself to whatever themes the Holy Spirit wants to send me, rather than trying to force something on my Lectio sentence that may or may not fit. Lectio is not about me nor is it up to me to do other than put myself in the presence of Christ and wait.

VARIATION 3: LECTIO IS NOT A PRIVATE PRAYER BUT SHOULD BE SHARED

Christ shares Himself with us in Lectio through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We must share our Lectio with others and allow them to glorify the Holy Spirit in us. When we share anything with others linked with the Holy Spirit, we open ourselves to the energy of the Holy Spirit to permeate our lives. My first step in this is not Lectio but “Scriptio”, writing. Several times per day, I sit down to my blog site and begin with my only Lectio (Philippians 2:5) and then sit silently and in solitude (unless I have chores to do from my wife) and wait for a meditatio. My prayer is always the same. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. Writing is a way for me to share my Lectio thoughts, many of them based on the writings of others, but all of them inspired by the Holy Spirit, even if I don’t know how they fit in my view of reality.

VARIATION 4: SITTING ON A PARK BENCH IN THE DEAD OF WINTER WAITING FOR CHRIST TO COME

Photo by Trang Pham on Pexels.com

The scenario I use most for Lectio, even if I am at Trader Joe’s waiting for my wife to shop (with a mask, of course), is that of a park bench in the middle of winter, looking down the road for Christ to show up and sit with me in contemplation. This scene is one where I can see it in my mind or view it online as a photo to help me focus. The park bench is silence and solitude. Winter is my choice of environments because it is all the same color and allows me to look down the road for Christ. It is also cold, and somewhat out of the normal being uncomfortable. with the pain of winter. In this sense, it is like the condition we live in with the physical and mental universes, called the world. What the world cannot give and what I seek each day is to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit with the warmth of energy that is not of this world but present in the kingdom of heaven. I want heaven to be present to me as I sit on that bench and be saved from the cold of this world. Waiting for the Lord is a critical part of the Lectio process. It is the time that I take for waiting in humility and obedience to God’s will that makes my time worthwhile. Good thoughts begin to flow, such as the realization that Christ has been sitting next to me all along, in silence and solitude, just waiting for me to shop for Him and not the other way around.

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

conduct your own contemplative ten minute retreat

SEEKING GOD AT FIVE GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES

I love Five Guys Burgers and Fries (don’t tell my wife). They specialize in not only the best burgers I have tasted this side of my own grille but also scrummy delicious french fries and plenty of them. Being up a burger joint might seem a far cry from contemplative practices, but it is part of my transformation (although so very slowly) from self to God each day. When I am open to the possibility of the manifestability of all being and whatever life deals up this day, it doesn’t matter what happens. I try as much as I can to relate all of my experiences to how Christ loves us and wants us to love others. No, I didn’t forget about Five Guys. In one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5), I thought of how Christ, through the Holy Spirit gives us a smorgasbord of ways to love Christ as He loved us. For some reason, I thought of ordering a Five Guys Little Hamburger. The attendant always asks you want on it. There are many choices from which to add to your hamburger. My daily search for God always takes me to very interesting places, such as Tallahassee Memorial Hospital for two separate cardioversions (A-fib and A-flutter) with happy results so far. I was reminded of the mantra that was popular and now gone the way of all mantras, “What would Christ do in this situation?” My thinking now is not what Christ would do but “What do I plan to do now about this situation in front of me?” Everything links together and fits with everything else, at least in my view of reality. Here is the point. Be it Five Guys or any other event that presents itself to me each day, I look at ways to link the possibility of the manifestability of having me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians2:5) with whatever comes my way. Don’t get me wrong. I am not one who tries the procrustean approach of forcing Jesus into whatever comes my way. First of all, it doesn’t work and secondly, you can’t fit Christ into anything where He is not already present. This is a mark of pride and one of those seductive vices I try to move away from. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/procrustean

I kept thinking, over and over, about multiple choices at Five Guys, and what in the world that could possibly mean for me. It is usually when I forget about something that the answer pops into my consciousness from nowhere. I wanted to share with you the multiple choices of how you can make your own contemplative retreat. I remember being a hostage to my own feeble knowledge of seeking God and trying to fit all of you into what I think reality is. No, that IS procrustean. This is the result of my Five Guys experience.

MAKING A CONTEMPLATIVE RETREAT TO FIT YOUR NEEDS

The Pandemic has changed many assumptions that we have had about going to Church, praying in silence and solitude, being patient in growing from self to God. Using my Five Guys example, I need to nourish myself to keep up my strength and to drink plenty of water (my physician told me eight glasses per day) to maintain my stamina. I don’t go out much these days since I am high risk (80+ years of age) and suseptible to the virus. Locked into my own frame of reality, I have attempted to break out of the paradigm of thinking that I am limited in any way. Contemplative, in the way I use it, is having a mindset about reality where loving others in a school of love is my center, my only center. http://www.trappist.net, http://www.trappist.org I am physically alone but not spiritually alone.

Like Five Guys, I wanted to offer you multiple resources that you may choose to use or not that provide with the option of just watching the Weather Channel for eight hours a day. As a regular part of this blog (which I write to keep my brain cells from atrophying), I will share with you what I used as my ten minute recollection. I don’t actually have anything to do with the site, I just pass it on to you.

RETREATS AND REFLECTIONS (1): THE IMPORTANCE OF CLEMENT OF ROME

The Importance of St. Clement of Rome (97 AD)

St. Clement of Rome is a worthy subject for a retreat. http://www.ldysinger.com/@texts/0095_clem-rome/00a_start.htm Father Like Dysinger has a course on St. Clement that you should know about.

Once you access the site, you will see on the left side seven topics for Fr. Luke’s audio. He uses the right hand side of the page, those with texts to help you follow along with his audio.

 deposing bishops

2.  Pet.& Paul’s martyrdom;

3._Christ: VISION
 &_KNOWLEDGE

4. Eccles.ranks- Jewish Temple

5. Apost. origins of Episcopate

6. O.T. strife priesthood

7.  Ap. Succes.; Bishops = Presbyters

audio.lect. ]

I hope you find this primary source of spiritual benefit.

uiodg

YOU MUST SEE THIS WEBSITE

I share my joy with you about a website that I discovered by Father Luke Dysinger, O.S.B. with very rich contemporary subjects and also patristic and other primary sources. You can read the actual texts of the ecumenical councils, plus other great writers. Father Luke conducts an on-line course in bioethics. Here is his shortened bio as copied directly from his website.

FATHER LUKE’S BIO:

“Fr. LUKE Dysinger has been a member of the Benedictine monastic community at Saint Andrew’s Abbey Valyermo, California, since May, 1980. He has served in the past as novicemaster, juniormaster, and prior; he is presently librarian and second cantor. He teaches patristics, the history of Christian spirituality, bioethics, and human sexuality at Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, where is a full professor and chair of the department of moral theology. He teaches monastic formation and monastic spirituality at the School of Theology of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Prior to joining the monastery he trained as a physician, graduating from the University of Southern California School of Medicine in 1978, and completing his residency in family practice in 1981. He serves as chair of the bioethics committee at the Antelope Valley Hospital Medical Center in Lancaster, California, where he is a member of the medical staff. He consults as contract bioethicist at St. Francis Medical Center, Lynnwood.
He studied theology in Oxford, completing his studies for ordination in 1985 and his D.Phil. in patristics in 2000. He has published a translation of the Rule of Benedict, as well as articles on Evagrius Ponticus, lectio divina, and other subjects in monastic spirituality and bioethics. His book, Prayer and Psalmody in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus, is available from Oxford University Press.”

FATHER LUKE’S COURSE ON BIOETHICS

http://www.ldysinger.com/ThM_590_Intro-Bioeth/webcourse/00a_start.htm

READINGS AND AUDIO LECTURES FROM ST. JOHN’S SEMINARY

http://www.ldysinger.com/

PRIMARY SOURCES

http://www.ldysinger.com/@texts/00a_start.htm

This site is the resource for which I have been anxiously awaiting. What a treasure trove of courses and great primary texts from saints to heretics, from Christ to Mohammed, in the original texts (in English). I must add this site to my top websites.

MY TOP WEBSITES FOR SPIRITUAL AWARENESS (Copied from a prior blog).

I use the Internet a lot these days. Granted, there is a lot of blather contained in it, but there are some gems that I use almost every week as I seek God daily through silence and solitude. In no order of importance, here are the sites that have helped me to move a tiny bit from self to God.

WORD ON FIRE — www.wordonfire.org This is the site that features Bishop Robert Barron and his ministry. I love this site because you are able to sign up for his daily meditations on the Eucharist plus a Sunday commentary. If you are so inclined, you can sign up for his Word on Fire Institute. This has my highest recommendation and I use it nearly every day. You can go to YouTube.com and type in Bishop Barron to see some of his videos. All of us are blessed because of Bishop Barron and his team of evangelists.

DR. SCOTT HAHN — http://www.scotthahn.com Here is another magnificent site that just oozes with the Holy Spirit. When you access his website you are able to click on some of his video sessions. Anything that comes from the St. Paul Center is worth your time and spiritual energy. You can also access Youtube to find more of Dr. Scott Hahn’s videos.

NEW ADVENT — https://www.newadvent.org/ I use this site when I want to look up resources, such as The Catholic Encyclopedia, Fathers of the Church, the Bible, Summa Theologica, and my personal favorite, and an up to date newsletter that is loaded with commentary and links to other significant events of the day. It is yours for free.

TRAPPIST BROTHERS AND SISTERS — https://www.trappists.org/history-of-the-trappists/notable-monks-nuns/ This site is one I use for all things Trappist, one of two branches of the Cistercian Order, the other being Regular Cistercians. It has my highest recommendation because I use it to check out what is going on with the Trappists.

A LAY CISTERCIAN LOOKS AT REALITY — https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org This site is one I created to reflect on the reality of each day using Cistercian, specifically Trappist practices and charisms. I have been blessed to be accepted by Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Conyers, Georgia) as a Professed Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net

THE DIVINE OFFICE — http://www.divineoffice.org If you wish to join others in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours, this is the on line site I use, since I am quarantined due to COVID 19. It also has a link to my blog.

USCCB- http://www.usccb.org is the website for the Bishops of the United States. I use this to look up scriptural quotes, the latest in developments that affect our Faith in this country.

THE VATICAN NEWS — https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-05/church-recognizes-miracle-attributed-to-ven-michael-mcgivney.html This is a site to read about news from the Holy Father and Vatican. Highly recommended.

There are many other site that are just excellent, but these are the ones I use the most.

TEN QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU VOTE

This is not a diatribe against this or that political party. Your right to vote is one of the most cherished of our constitutional requirements as a citizen. My only urging is to vote your conscience.

Here are ten questions I have asked myself as I approach the coming election for President. This list is not for you but to help me discern the future of how people will lead us.

  • What candidate would best simplify the astounding regulations and policies of the Federal Bureaucracy? Which candidate would add to the burden?
  • What candidate best embodies the principles of enterprise and small business entrepreneurship and helps the economy grow strong?
  • What candidate supports law enforcement and their task to keep public safety safe?
  • What candidate is weak in confronting anarchy and won’t propose a curb on the destruction of family businesses?
  • Which candidate would uphold the family and values that promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through a positive approach to what we, as a nation, can be, if we listen to one another and put the welfare of citizens ahead of personal and political gain?
  • Which candidate cares most about protecting the weak and vulnerable among us with realistic departments that focus on stressing working and not rewarding the idle with a give-away?
  • Which candidate protects our country and county from those who wish to do it harm, foreign and domestic, by supporting the military and law enforcement and prison personnel?
  • Who speaks the truth, according to what you know, and does not defame or vilify others but seeks to come to an agreement using political tools rather than slander and hatred of the personality?
  • Which candidate seems to live what they have selected as their faith in words, and activities?
  • Which candidate best embodies your own values of security, prosperity, and justice under the law?

Humans have reason for a reason and the ability to choose what they consider best for them. Vote!

SITES THAT HAVE HELPED ME THE MOST IN SEEKING GOD EVERY DAY

I use the Internet a lot these days. Granted, there is a lot of blather contained in it, but there are some gems that I use almost every week as I seek God daily through silence and solitude. In no order of importance, here are the sites that have helped me to move a tiny bit from self to God.

WORD ON FIRE — www.wordonfire.org This is the site that features Bishop Robert Barron and his ministry. I love this site because you are able to sign up for his daily meditations on the Eucharist plus a Sunday commentary. If you are so inclined, you can sign up for his Word on Fire Institute. This has my highest recommendation and I use it nearly every day. You can go to YouTube.com and type in Bishop Barron to see some of his videos. All of us are blessed because of Bishop Barron and his team of evangelists.

DR. SCOTT HAHN — http://www.scotthahn.com Here is another magnificent site that just oozes with the Holy Spirit. When you access his website you are able to click on some of his video sessions. Anything that comes from the St. Paul Center is worth your time and spiritual energy. You can also access Youtube to find more of Dr. Scott Hahn’s videos.

NEW ADVENT — https://www.newadvent.org/ I use this site when I want to look up resources, such as The Catholic Encyclopedia, Fathers of the Church, the Bible, Summa Theologica, and my personal favorite, and an up to date newsletter that is loaded with commentary and links to other significant events of the day. It is yours for free.

TRAPPIST BROTHERS AND SISTERS — https://www.trappists.org/history-of-the-trappists/notable-monks-nuns/ This site is one I use for all things Trappist, one of two branches of the Cistercian Order, the other being Regular Cistercians. It has my highest recommendation because I use it to check out what is going on with the Trappists.

A LAY CISTERCIAN LOOKS AT REALITY — https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org This site is one I created to reflect on the reality of each day using Cistercian, specifically Trappist practices and charisms. I have been blessed to be accepted by Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Conyers, Georgia) as a Professed Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net

THE DIVINE OFFICE — http://www.divineoffice.org If you wish to join others in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours, this is the on line site I use, since I am quarantined due to COVID 19. It also has a link to my blog.

USCCB- http://www.usccb.org is the website for the Bishops of the United States. I use this to look up scriptural quotes, the latest in developments that affect our Faith in this country.

THE VATICAN NEWS — https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-05/church-recognizes-miracle-attributed-to-ven-michael-mcgivney.html This is a site to read about news from the Holy Father and Vatican. Highly recommended.

There are many other site that are just excellent, but these are the ones I use the most.

make a virtual retreat at Our lady of the Holy spirit monastery

Holy Mother's Center

Think you are all alone and cut off from your Church as you ponder the inscrutable happenings of the COVID 19 virus? There are two ways to look at Church: one is a place where you go to pray, and the second one is you are the Church (not the Church Universal) and when you pray, you join with Christ as He ascends to the Father in each Eucharist giving Him all honor and glory.

Recently, I made a virtual retreat with Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) in Conyers, Georgia. I found it very inspiring and a wonderful way to actually hear Trappist Monks give their views about contemplative spirituality and moving from self to God.

I recommend that you look up this reference for the various retreat topics at the monastery. Father Mark, O.C.S.O. is the retreat director and has put together an impressive list of topics. You can make a virtual retreat from any place in the US. I also encourage you to share this site with others who might need encouragement and hope.

https://www.trappist.net/zoom-retreats

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

Michael F. Conrad, Ed.D. Professed Lay Cistercian

http://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

THREE SOURCES OF INSPIRATION

In my quest to seek God daily wherever I am and however I am, my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) jangled my roots with the thought that I m sometimes caught up with the externals of Cistercian practices and charisms (making sure that I pray at a certain time without failure) rather than just seeking God and these practices help put me in the presence of Christ. Here are three sources of inspiration for me.

THE HOLY SPIRIT AS ADVOCATE

I am, more and more letting the Holy Spirit be the source of inspiration for all my actions. You would think I would have learned this lesson long ago until waiting until I turned 80 years of age. I admit to being a slow learner and also a slow lover of Christ with all my mind, my heart, my strength and my neighbor as myself. I now know, more so than even last year, that all I have to do is put myself in the occasion of God’s energy and then just wait. The energy of God created the universe that has no beginning and no end. It is the same energy that I try to harness simply by being in the presence of my two advocates (Christ and the Holy Spirit) and just wait. That is difficult for me as a human being to do because I always think being productive means filling in the gaps of activity with some other activity, anything to fill up that hole in my routine. It is my default behavior and I find that I must make a conscious effort to allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow me. Learning to listen to the silence of God has been one of my most challenging but rewarding sources of inspiration. I have to tell you that trying to listen to the Holy Spirit is not without challenge. More and more, the Holy Spirit is flooding my mind and my heart with so many ideas (this blog is one of them) that I can’t keep up with the sheer volume. All I can do is try to write down some of these ideas. Scriptures tell us that no one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. What joy there is in just being in the presence of such love.

THE SACRED SCRIPTURES

The scriptures are sacred because they contain the inspired word of God. Nothing God touches (and He touches everything) is the same because the energy of God always produces grace, the pure love and energy of God. Anyone who reads Scriptures receives this inspiration from just reading the word. I like to think of this as five different levels of spiritual awareness of what is telling us through his Word.

  1. Read the Word (approach the Word)
  2. Pray the Word (internalize it in the heart)
  3. Share the Word (as God shares his Word with us, we must share it with others)
  4. Be the Word you share with others
  5. There are no Words just the presence of Love.

My inspiration from Scriptures takes the form of allowing the living Word of God to penetrate my spirit to be able to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the words. St. John says, in John 20:30-31, that the Scriptures were written Conclusion.*30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s31But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.t https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/20

When life becomes a roller coaster, as it usually is with all the ups and down of being a human who lives in a World with Original Sin, I take up the Scriptures daily and read my core passage, the center of my life, Philippians 2:5. In my tiny world of reality, this is the Christ Principle, from him, with him, and in him, all glory and honor is given to the Father with the Holy Spirit.

THE HOLY SPIRIT PRESENT THROUGH OTHERS

If my inspiration for being a Lay Cistercian comes from my listening to the Holy Spirit in my heart, it stands to reason that, if I am aware of the Holy Spirit in others, that is another source of God ‘s energy. If I am an acorn on the tree of Christ (I know, I am a nut), there are other acorns and leaves on that tree besides myself. Awareness of the community of Faith can often go unrecognized and thus not a source of God’s energy. I am not the roots or trunk of this tree, that is Christ. The Holy Spirit gives the energy for the tree (Christ is the vine and we are the branches) to bear fruit (in this case nuts). If I live as a nut, then I am born, I grow, I die, and then spring to new life as another tree, if I am planted in proper soil and conditions.

To draw a parallel, as a Lay Cistercian, I am not a solitary member, cut off from the whole. The community of believers is an important component of being Cistercian. Equally important is the awareness of the Holy Spirit in others. If I approach the Sacred with silence, solitude, work, prayer, I also count on the community as a source of the Holy Spirit. Being present to other Lay Cistercians, or others in my other faith communities is a source of God’s energy for me if I am aware. This awareness is a tiny peek at what heaven will be like when we meet all those who have died in the peace of Christ and share all things in, with, and through Christ to the glory and praise of the Father through the Holy Spirit.

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ON THE ENDURING INFLUENCE OF AIDAN KAVANAUGH, O.S.B.

To a great extent, all of us are, in large part, the result of people we have bumped into during our solitary sojourn down whatever paths life has taken us. People and sometimes events have shaped who we have become and that process continues until death has it due. In my own case, as I reflect upon my Lectio Divina verse (Philippians 2:5), I feel immense gratitude that Christ bumped into me and continues to be merciful to such a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian, such as myself. I call this the Christ Principle because everything that informs my life is based on that encounter (not just a one-time meeting, but seeking God each and every day), your life might be different, but I don’t control that, only my own. Of course, there are many, many more people who have contributed to where I am today. One of the learning points I have noticed since becoming a Lay Cistercian is having the ability to see the Holy Spirit in other people with whom I meet as I seek God daily. All of them form a sort of tree with Christ as the vine and we being the branches. There have been ten people who have left their mark on how I look at reality, ten that have an enduring influence on how I approach Christ, The Center of all Reality.

  • Jesus Christ, The Christ Principle, and Center of All Reality
  • Mary, Mother of God, Master of Humility and Obedience to God’s Will
  • Paul of Tarsus, Master Teacher of The Christ Principle
  • Sts Benedict and Scholastica, Masters of Living The Christ Principle
  • St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Master of the Contemplative Heart of Christ
  • Aidan Kavanaugh, O.S.B. Master of the Liturgy as the highest expression of The Christ Principle
  • Erich Fromm, Master of Authentic Love in the Secular World
  • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., Master of Perspective of All Reality using the Christ Principle
  • Antoine de St. Exupère, Master of Looking at what is essential
  • Joel Barker, futurist and noted author, Master of how Paradigm Shifts move humanity forward

In a series of blogs in the future, I will examine each of these people and how they have helped me have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). In this blog, I will share with you the experiences I had with Father Aidan Kavanaugh and why that is important in how I look at reality.

My relationship with Father Aidan is personal in that he was my instructor at St. Meinrad School of Theology in 1963, teaching a course on Sacramental Theology. That was the extent of my contact with Father Aidan. His classes were memorable, in that I still hold onto four situations and examples that were to remain with me and guide me in how I view reality. In the later part of this blog, you can read for yourself about the impact that Father Aidan had on liturgy in the United States Catholic Church.

THE ENDURING EXAMPLE OF MRS. MURPHY

My first exposure to Mrs. Murphy, a fictionalized, archetypal character used by Father Aidan to ground the academic theologians in the practical expression of Liturgy as the Body of Christ in the local community. She lifted up all the cares, worries, successes, and challenges of the day with Christ to the Father. What I remember him saying about Mrs. Murphy was that she is the little, old lady in the backbench of Church, eyes closed, faithfully praying to God with all her soul. This lady, said Father Aidan, knows more about the meaning of Faith than all the sophisticated theologians and academics combined. She brings all her struggles and aspirations and lays them at the feet of Christ in humility, simplicity of words, fidelity to the love of Christ, seeking only to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the time, this example just passed right over my head, like so many of the other ideas I encountered. Being in Father Aidan’s class was like taking a sip of water from a fully functioning fire hose. So many wonderful and scintillating ideas were presented in such a modest way, that I found myself struggling to catch just a gulp. I do remember Mrs. Murphy because it has taken me a lifetime to flesh out the significance of what Father Aidan was trying to communicate. It has been only in the last six or seven years that this image has even begun to make some sense to me. My inspiration came from the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in their monthly Gathering Days. Being from Tallahassee, Florida my drive to the monastery, once per month, was five hours away, in Atlanta, Georgia. I very slowly came to see what Father Aidan was alluding to in his avatar of Mrs. Murphy. It is the time I take to place myself in the presence of Christ, in the presence of my fellow Lay Cistercians on gathering day, that makes me open to the Holy Spirit in community. Liturgy is the expression of this living body of Christ which culminates in the Eucharist but which is sustained in the local Gathering in the name of Christ. I am very slowly coming to expand my Faith horizon from Church as someplace I go to for the Sacraments to actually believing that I am the Church wherever I am and that, joined with others of like persuasion, we offer our whole day as sacrament in our search to find God wherever we are. Spirituality becomes not just those times where we formally pray in silence and solitude, although it is that, much more significant is the time we take in our whole day joined with our community of Faith, and all of this joined to the Church Universal as the acceptable sacrifice of our lives in with and through Christ to the glory of the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. Practicing the five Cistercian charisms of silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community is how I have come to address Mrs. Mruph’s challenge of simply being in the presence of Christ and listening. St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., great Doctor of the Church states it so: “One day when Thomas Aquinas was preaching to the local populace on the love of God, he saw an old woman listening attentively to his every word. And inspired by her eagerness to learn more about her God whom she loved so dearly, he said to the people: It is better to be this unlearned woman, loving God with all her heart, than the most learned theologian lacking love.” https://www.azquotes.com/author/490-Thomas_Aquinas

Learning Points

  • Mrs. Murphy is an avatar for the person who does not possess profound knowledge about liturgy but rather uses this overshadowing experience of the Holy Spirit to become closer to Christ by doing liturgy.
  • The purpose of both Sacramental Liturgy (Church Universal) and local expressions are to remove obstacles to being present to Christ through the Holy Spirit.
  • It is important for the local Church to have a way to show new catechumens how to be present to Christ.

THE ENDURING EXAMPLE OF CHRIST AS HEROIC, MYTHIC FIGURE

I can still see Father Aidan writing on the chalkboard. He was talking about how Christ fulfilled not just the Old Testament prophets, but also the hero myth model of Greek and Roman mythology. The Gospel structure did not just pop out of the air but was actually a literary device that cultures used to show a hero who had a mission to overcome, faced great obstacles and overcame them, and rose above (resurrection) all his adversaries and blockages to bring new life to the whole world. The late Dr. Joesph Campbell has written extensively about this topic of hero, savior, messiah, king of kings. Here is one synopsis of the steps he uses to explain the journey of the hero. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBOx_zizir0 In doing research for this idea of a hero, I am struck by the last of applications in the literature about Christ as a heroic figure for the human race. I bring that up because that is exactly what Father Aidan proposed back in 1963. It is not exactly the model that Dr, Campbell uses, but there are so many variations out there that I give Father Aidan poetic license to interpolate it for his purposes. Here is what he wrote on the chalkboard that day (keep in mind, that was back in 1963 and I am not 80 years old). Father Aidan adapted the classic hero myth form from Joseph Campbell.

The Anticipation of the Hero

Birth Of God/Man Jesus into Ordinary Time

The Mission Identified

The Mission as Journey

Helpers in the Mission

The Hero faces and overcomes trials and barriers

The Hero suffers and dies for his Mission

The Hero Rises (Resurrection) with humanity to new life

The Hero Descends into Hell to unite all reality into one, holy, apostolic and catholic Universal Church

The Hero Ascends to ordinary life again but this time it is supernatural.

The Hero passes on this supernatural life to his followers.

Learning Points

  • I am still learning the application of the hero myth to the Gospels account of Christ’s life journey to complete his mission from the Father.
  • This common literary device seems to me to be at the heart of the four Gospels. Each Gospel is different because each writer is different but all use the same literary formula.
  • Christ is the hero of all the heroic stories of salvation from bad or evil.

THE ENDURING EXAMPLE OF LITURGY AS LIVED EXPERIENCES LIFTED UP THROUGH, WITH, AND IN CHRIST

So far, I have just touched on the importance of Mrs. Murphy as being one who is open to the possibility of all Being and is content to be in the presence of Christ. Next, the heroic myth story is one that Christ did to fulfill the prophets and leave the local Gathering of the Baptized to do what Christ did. And what did he do?

Christ loved each one of us in the context of our faith community so much that he became our nature (Philippians 2:5-12). He did that to not only tell us how to love others but to show us how to love others as He loved us. Liturgy is not just a Eucharistic moment in the life of the community, although it is indeed that. It is the Church gathering the faithful together to lift up their life situations to the Father as did Christ. In the myth hero formula, this would be the obstacles he would face to sidetrack him from his mission. This mission was to re-establish the relationship between divinity and humanity lost by the archetypal choice of Adam and Eve to be god. In the liturgy of the Hours, the liturgy of the Eucharist, there are moments where we offer up to the Father with, through, and in Christ the glory due his name as God, living and true. What Father Aidan exposed for me was the purpose of liturgy as a dynamic way to transform my everyday hurts, sufferings, accomplishments and successes into praise and glory of the Father. Mrs. Murphy is everyman, everywoman, all who use the externals moments provided by the local Gathering to see what cannot be seen and hear what cannot be heard. The community is the living body of Christ, composed of all the individual leaves on that branch, Christ being the trunk and the roots. Liturgy in the broad sense is prayer, those of the community of faithful but also the Church Universal. It is in this sense that the Church Universal is holy while all of its members are sinners in need of God’s constant mercy.

THE ENDURING TASK OF SEEKING GOD EVERY DAY

Everything in the above three categories seems to point to the individual in the context of the Church seeking God every day with what life serves up. This was brought home to me in this era of COVID-19 self-isolation when my wife asked me why I don’t go to church anymore. I made a feeble attempt to tell her that my doctor thought I was at high risk of being out in public because of my past battles with Leukemia (CLL type) and having a pacemaker implanted four weeks ago. Her argument was that I was not a good Catholic anymore because I did not go to Church as often as before and she never saw me praying out loud. I used this experience to measure myself against Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, which I read every day, to ground myself in what is essential. In one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditations, I actually asked the Holy Spirit if I was a slacker and losing my faith. The thought came back immediately that, far from being lacking in Faith, this COVID-19 test actually made me stronger. Instead of my being a lax catholic because I did not attend church as frequently as before, I realized, thanks to Mrs. Murphy and Father Aidan, that I am Church and that wherever I go, Church goes with me. The fact that I think I am Church does not mean I speak for the Church Universal. It does mean that, like one leaf on the branch of my tree of Christ at Good Shepherd Community, I am one of many leaves who tries to move from self to God each day. I realized also that when I join in my thoughts and Cistercian practices, I am joined with all other individuals who make up the Gathering know as Church. We share one faith, one Lord, one Baptism, and are the living, real presence of Christ on our journey. Seeking God in my daily life is not an isolated event between just Christ and me, but it is the presence of others Baptized in the Faith and adopted sons and daughters of the Father who, together and individually, long to move from self to God in the context of community. The Cistercian charisms of silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community enable me to join with others to give praise to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology.

Thank you, Father Aidan and my other professors who planted the seed. Even though it has taken a very long time, Christ has given the issue. The choices I make are informed by all those who have, in some way, touched my mind and heart.

https://dsc.duq.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1597&context=etd

WHY IS THAT?

I have used the question WHY more in these last five years than in all of my previous time on earth. Why is that? Here are some of my reflections from my Lectio Divina meditations on the Mystery of Faith.

Perhaps the WHY question is the most challenging of all questions we ask about our environment. It is the basis of scientific inquiry but it is also at the heart of the Mystery of Faith in the spiritual universe. In our Nicene Creed that we recite at Sunday Eucharist, we profess what we believe. One of those beliefs is in things that are visible and invisible. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see it. In my three universe model (physical universe, the mental universe, and spiritual universe), one reality contains three distinct aspects of universes, each with their own measurement. You and I live in the physical and mental universes as our platform for existence. The spiritual universe can be entered only by invitation and an act of free will by the individual. We call that belief. We can ask the why question about the spiritual universe but it cannot be comprehended by human reasoning alone. Why is that? The spiritual universe is the opposite of what we humans experience in the seventy or eighty years we have in this earth, if we are strong, says the Psalmist.

When you ask the WHY question, depending on WHY you ask it, you can get different answers, different yet all true. It is like the story of the blind man and the elephant. Read this excellent reflection on WHY by John Godfrey Saxe (1872). https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_poems_of_John_Godfrey_Saxe/The_Blind_Men_and_the_Elephant

Here are some random thoughts about WHY as I look out at reality.

PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — This is the platform for life and contains everything that has a beginning and an end. Humans are included in this universe, in that they are the end product of life’s equation. We share animality with other living life forms, but with one difference. Why is that?

MENTAL UNIVERSE- Using the platform of the mental universe, humans alone ventured into this universe of reasoning and free will. Humans are the only species that can look at the Hypernova in space and ask the WHY question. The Hypernova, for all its supreme power, does not know that it knows. Why is that? Is there a purpose out there waiting to be discovered, not just one of human reasoning and scientific inquiry but one that can satisfy the WHY questions of the human mind and heart? This mental universe, unlike the physical universe, can ask the WHY question, but it cannot answer it entirely. There seems to be a missing element in the equation, one that doesn’t make sense, one that provides purpose as to WHY we are here on earth for a brief time and WHAT is our destiny collectively and individually. I think of this as cosmic dissonance or the unfulfilled element of existence waiting to be discovered, the last piece of a complex puzzle that will make life meaningful.

SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE — That last piece of the puzzle is not from either the physical or mental universes with its limitations and dissonance in answering the final WHY question. In my view of reality, this last piece of the puzzle, one that satisfies the cosmic imbalance and provides resonance to human reasoning and the fulfilment of our human nature is not a thing, or matter, or time, nor even physical energy, it is a person. That just doesn’t make sense, given what our human reason tells us about science, philosophy, medicine, literature, and engineering. You would be correct, if you thought that. It is something beyond our human nature, a solution from the next level of evolution, spiritual communion with a person, but one that does not have a human nature, only a divine nature. Even these words only describe this living relationship, our destiny as humans, it can never define it. This universe is one of reason and free choice, but with a difference. This is God’s playground not ours and we must use His rules to fit that final piece of the puzzle into our view of what is real. WHY would a supreme being, one that has no beginning nor end want us to join Him in a place that is foreign to everything we know about what is meaningful in the world? We must choose to enter it, but to do so takes a password. It is the same password used to create matter, time, space, energy. It is the same password that created mental energy with which we can know that we know and choose what we think is good for us. It is the same password that created the spiritual universe. And what is this password that all humans have to enter into their destiny? It is “Let it be” or “Yes”. In all cases, reasoning created our ability to know, love, and help others. This is not ordinary reasoning like humans have, but reasoning from a living Being beyond our human capacity or capability to even grasp it. It is pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, pure service by living beings not limited to a beginning or an end. We have WHY answers to the missing puzzle only because of God’s love for all humanity that they share with Him this unknowable power of divine love. There is a problem that God has. How can God tell and show humans what awaits them if they follow the path He has set for them through the minefield of life?

In our heritage, Adam and Eve had knowledge of good and evil and made an archetypal choice to make this Spiritual Universe into their image and likeness, rather than serve God as is their nature. In the Genesis account, it is interesting to note that the only other creature to be featured is the snake or Satan. Isn’t it ironic that the snake wants Adam and Eve to disobey God and become gods of the Garden of Eden like he (Satan) tried to do? Using this as the backstory, in the fulness of human time, God the Son freely chose to take on our nature, as repugnant as that might be for the Divine Nature. (Philippians 2:5-12). Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit by God and responded with humility and obedience, to compensate for the pride and disobedience of Adam and Eve, by saying The Magnificat. This is the Christ Principle for everything from now on flows from him and with him and through him. The WHY of the Christ Principle was to actually tell us and show us in person what we needed to do to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father and fulfill our destiny as humans. Christ is the last piece of the puzzle and he gives each person, each human that same piece so that we can insert it into the divine puzzle and make sense out of what clearly does not fit with the reasoning of the World. When you choose Christ as your Savior, your Redeemer, your Center, you have restored resonance in your life, thanks to the love Christ has shown to those who are faithful to his command. And what is the one command that Jesus, Son of God, Savior, left us? Love one another as I have loved you. Why is that?

That last piece of the puzzle is love, but not just any love. This is the love of the Father for the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We all have been given an invitation to live life with this love as our center. We can only approach the Father through, with, and in Christ. He is our transformer, our mediator, our pontifex maximus, our redeemer, and our savior.

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

god’s hall of fame

Holy Mother's Center

Now that football has returned to the television, many commentators give very interesting breakdowns of the game so that neophytes like me can understand the intricacies of the strategy. Just playing the professional game is an accomplishment, but a few rise above this to be inducted into the hall of fame. They do so because of their accomplishment on the field. They are the best of the best, and are enshrined in a Hall of Fame.

This morning at 2:30 a.m., I had a short Lectio Divina about those people who are in God’s Hall of Fame. We call them Saints (upper case S) because all of them were sinners, but all of them overcame their challenges to love God with all their hearts. their minds, and their strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves. From the earliest times, the Church Universal has honored those who were martyred as worthy of our veneration (not adoration). We developed a Canon of Saints which we use today to pray to Christ that we might love him as the individual Saint did. Saints are proclaimed by the Church Universal as being in God’s Hall of Fame. The rest of us are saints (lower case s) and reach the fulfillment of our humanity by being heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven and God’s adopted sons and daughters.

Look up this resource in Butler’s Lives of the Saints. There are multiple saints for each day of the year. https://www.bartleby.com/210/2/ Here is our heritage as it comes down through the centuries.

All of us, Saints and saints, give glory and praise to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen -Cistercian doxology

anticipation

I like the idea of anticipation, meaning I look forward to something happening that has not yet arrived. I bring this up because my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditation today presented me with the notion of longing for the courts of the Lord. Rather than blab at you about the Psalm, here it is in its entirety. Read it three times: first time all the way through very slowly; the second time, think of yourself as sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter anticipating that Christ will come by and sit down with you; the third time, read it through with the thought that Christ has been seated next to you all this time but it is you did not open your heart to the heart of Christ.

Psalm 84

For the leader; “upon the gittith.” A psalm of the Korahites.

I

2 How lovely your dwelling,

O LORD of hosts!a

3 My soul yearns and pines

for the courts of the LORD.b

My heart and flesh cry out

for the living God.

4*As the sparrow finds a home

and the swallow a nest to settle her young,

My home is by your altars,

LORD of hosts, my king and my God!c

5 Blessed are those who dwell in your house!

They never cease to praise you.

II

Selah

6 Blessed the man who finds refuge in you,

in their hearts are pilgrim roads.

7 As they pass through the Baca valley,*

they find spring water to drink.

The early rain covers it with blessings.

8They will go from strength to strength*

and see the God of gods on Zion.

III

9 LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

listen, God of Jacob.

Selah

10*O God, watch over our shield;

look upon the face of your anointed.d

IV

11 Better one day in your courts

than a thousand elsewhere.

Better the threshold of the house of my God

than a home in the tents of the wicked.

12 For a sun and shield is the LORD God,

bestowing all grace and glory.

The LORD withholds no good thing

from those who walk without reproach.

13 O LORD of hosts, blessed the man who trusts in you!

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/psalms/84

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TENACITY AND SINGLEMINDEDNESS

These two words are ones which I have never used together, but yet are quite logical when describing the events in the life of Father Vincent de Paul Merle, O.S.C.O., Trappist missionary to Nova Scotia in the early 1800s. You can read all about it in Thomas Merton’s history of Cistercians and their foundations.

In our particular group, we discussed the tenacity and singlemindedness of Father Vincent as he overcame what seemed like crippling set-backs to establishing a monastery in Nova Scotia. Thomas Merton writes that tenacity is a Cistercian trait (p.87) and Father Vincent was certainly the most tenatious of them all.

In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I thought of how tenacious Christ must have been, beginning with the first instance we read about where he was lost to his mother and foster father but found himself to be singleminded in his mission in the Temple. I thought about how focused Mary, Mother of God, must have been to see her Son vilified, crucified, abandoned by his people, and even some Apostles, yet, being full of grace, unshaken by all these events because she knew the outcome for all of humanity. I thought of all the saints, those canonized for our emulation, and the many more who died in the hope of the Resurrection from the dead. Finally, I thought of myself and how I had to exhibit stubbornness and obsession to reach my goal of an advanced degree in Education. As I approach my last days, I have come to realize that I am much more obsessed and tenacious than ever before but with a difference. The object of my tenacity is not achieving wealth or power or adulation but rather to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Many elements about me try to tear me from my seeking God in daily living. All of them, some external to me (lack of the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours), and some internal (challenging me that I have lost my faith because I don’t go to church every day like I had done before) seeks to sidetrack me from my obsession. With the obsession of Christ as my energy, I will wobble into Heaven to receive whatever reward God has for this broken-down, old, temple of the Holy Spirit.

When I look at my situation in prayer and with some degree of humility, I compare myself to Christ, Mary, those who suffered great hardship and death to proclaim the Jesus is Lord of their lives. It is in this context as a Lay Cistercian that I have come to realize that tenacity is essential to the contemplative life of a layperson and how important it is for me to feel the same compulsion as did Father Vincent de Paul Merle all those years ago. I hear the words of St. Paul saying in Galatians 6, “Final Appeal.*11See with what large letters* I am writing to you in my own hand!i12* It is those who want to make a good appearance in the flesh who are trying to compel you to have yourselves circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.j13Not even those having themselves circumcised* observe the law themselves; they only want you to be circumcised so that they may boast of your flesh.14But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which* the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.k15For neither does circumcision mean anything nor does uncircumcision,l but only a new creation.*16Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule* and to the Israel of God.m17From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus* on my body.n18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.o

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

SILENCE AND SOLITUDE: iT MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU THINK

In one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5), the thought presented itself to me that there was a certain depth of meaning which I heretofor had not noticed about silence and solitude.

SILENCE – If I use my three universe template to look at this word, it has different meaning in the physical and mental universes than it does in the spiritual universe. The world thinks of silence as not talking, the absence of sound, what happens when you walk into a cave and hear nothing. Early monks, even St. Benedict, went out into the desert to find silence as the world projects, to get away from noise. What they found, and what is true today is the deeper penetration of the mind and heart into reality, the realm of the spiritual universe (The Kingdom of Heaven). God does not need language to communicate with us. He sent his only-begotten Son, Jesus, to tell us and show us what we could not reason to by ourselves, i.e., that God loves us so much he wants to make us adopted sons and daughters, if we choose. Silence, far from being the absence of sound, is the presence of the love of God in our hearts.

As a Lay Cistercian, one of the lessons that have slowly crept into my behavior is that silence has nothing to do with sound at all. I have to try to get to a place, such as Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, as a place where I can be without interruption from the world, to actually discovering that the silence of God is in my heart, not outside it and that Christ invites me to sit down on the park bench in the middle of winter and have a heart to heart chat (listening with the ear of the heart–St. Benedict). How wonderful is the dwelling place, mighty God. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hS3minjkpZE

SOLITUDE — The solitude of God is the Mystery of Faith in the Trinity, a community of Faith and Love. In God’s dwelling place, there is one person but three separate persons. Far from being alone or by yourself, contemplation takes place in the context of community. Why is this seeming paradox of logic even possible. When you look at solitude, look at it, not as the world sees it, but as God sees it. Of course, we can’t do that entirely, but we have a hint of what it means because Christ showed us. Solitude, as I have come to experience it, is not being the absence of any human contact, but rather, just the opposite. True solitude exists in that inner room that Christ told us to go when we pray. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/friar-s-e-spirations-finding-the-room-within/

In our monthly Gathering Day, Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), we meet to pray together. First, each of us must enter our inner room in humility and obedience to the will of God, and pray to the Holy Spirit that we might see. What happens is solitude in my heart but the openness of that heart (next to the heart of Christ) to listen to the Holy Spirit in others in the community. In this sense, the five principles of Cistercian spirituality (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community) all feed each other with the grace of Christ through the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father. So be it.

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MUSIC TO LISTEN TO WHEN SITTING ON A PARK BENCH IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER LONGING FOR CHRIST

I love music that elevates and transforms me from self to God. All music does not do that for me. I share what I have found that inspires my contemplative soul.

Agnus Dei by Samuel Barber.

One such piece is Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, adapted with the words from the Latin Mass, Agnus Dei. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRL447oDId4

Widor’s Tantum Ergo

I became familiar with Charles Marie Widor in 1958, as a student at St. Meinrad High School Seminary. The choir sang Widor’s Tantum Ergo. It had such resonance, such depth of tonality, that I was hooked. I have provided you with this piece to stimulate your meditation (contemplation does not require music).

Panis Angelicus

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

Bach’s organ music plus some choral arrangements are pure poetry in sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRkSYNlmugs

Handel’s Messiah

A long, but so meaningful reflection on Christ.

Gregorian Chant

The music of the Church Universal through the ages. Notice how all of this music centers around Christ and his redemptive gift to all humans. Truly holy music stirs the Holy Spirit in us to cry, Abba, that is, Father. In these next long pieces, find a quiet spot for solitude and silence and listen with the ear of your heart. The repetitive motion and simplicity of this plainsong elevate the mind to the heart to approach the heart of Christ in humility and obedience to God’s will.

Of course, there are many, many other hymns and poems out there. These are ones I want to pack in my bag to take with me to Heaven.

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

What have you learned?

I am counting on God asking me two questions when I approach the Throne of the Lamb for my particular judgement. Matthew 25 gives all of us pause to stop and reflect on these questions. Here are my two:

What did you learn? Notice God doesn’t say, you sinned and cannot come to Heaven. He knows that I am a sinner. Everyone except Christ and his mother are sinners. Did you move beyond thinking that you can just do whatever you want and then ask forgiveness later. Conversio morae is what penetintial people do to move from self to God. They are not satisfied with just being a sinner, sinning bravely, asking forgiveness, then sinning again and again. Christ wants us to try to reduce our sinful self and transform ourselves with grace. If I have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), there is an attempt on my part to consciously push away those habits which lead to the sin itself. It is the process of fighting temptations, winning the battle over bad habits (they never really go away because of Original Sin), but we can turn towards Christ to help us. This turning, this attempt at transformation, this fight against doing our will verses that of God’s will, are the lessons we learn. Christ without the passion and death on a cross is like each of us if we don’t struggle each day to say, “Jesus is Lord”. It is the daily taking up of our cross (each one of us being unique) that is a big part of love of others as Christ loved us.

What did you do about what you learned? When I die and stand before the Throne of the Lamb, my being will encounter the Being of God. My lessons learned will be automatically revealed. What will also be displayed is what I did about what I have learned. This passage from Matthew makes me quite uncomfortable. It is a cautionary tale reminding me that just doing prayers and reading the Scriptures may not be quite what Christ had in mind for his disciples.

The Judgment of the Nations.*31f “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,32g and all the nations* will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35h For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’40i And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’41*j Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42k For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’44* Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’46l And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” http://www.usccb.org

All salvation comes from the Baptismal gift of Faith and we know we have Faith because Christ loved us and bid us do the same to others, even those who might hate us. We have an opportunity while living to ask God to have mercy on his, but this is contingent on us having mercy on others as we would want God to have mercy on us. The Church Universal provides what we need to sustain our Baptismal commitment; the Eucharist, Christ’s very body come into our heart and Penance in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where Christ tells us that he makes all things new once more, until we meet him face to face.

In the meantime, each day is an opportunity to love others as Christ loves us.

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vatican observatory

I read this article from the Vatican Observatory on all creation praising the Lord. I thought you might like it. https://www.vofoundation.org/blog/sun-moon-bless-lord-understanding-part-hymn-creation/

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

There is nothing wrong with thinking about what is in it for me, when I do Cistercian practices and charisms. We humans have two characteristics that other animals don’t: we have the ability to reason and to act on that reasoning by choosing what we think is good for us. There are always consequences to my choices. I can remember one of my Professors at the I.U. School of Business in Bloomington, Indiana, telling us that no one chooses anything that they think will be bad for them. With respects to B.F. Skinner, the operant conditioning approach to choice is based on the assumption that, being like animals, humans will always make choices that will not hurt them but make them happy and fulfilled.

As I reflected on this concept, while praying my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I most always try to measure concepts I have experienced in the past and tie them to my one center. I asked myself, “Why am I doing Lectio Divina, anyway?” Let me share with you a different take on the answer that came to me.

An examination of conscience led me to think of my different motives for doing Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, and Scriptural Reading, to name a few.

  1. Do I pray so that people will see me and think me holy or somehow spiritually strong?

Matthew 6: Teaching About Prayer. 5“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.6But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.7* In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.*8Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” http://www.usccb.org

Contemplative prayer is going into that inner room, closing the door, and praying to the Father in secret. Silence and solitude are conditions that allows me to shut the door and just sit there in the presence of Christ. The father knows what I need so I don’t need to babble like the pagans and pray lots of audible or fill up the dead space with my words. What I want is to listen to what Christ is telling me.

2. Do I guide my being in the presence of Christ or do I let Christ form the agenda? If I sit on that park bench in the dead of winter and long for Christ to sit down next to me, do I expect Christ to do as I want? “Christ is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.” Here is what St. Paul says in Hebrews 13. I am trying to give you the context of these ideas rather than quote something just to justify my thinking.

1* Let mutual love continue.2Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.a3Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body.b4Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.c5Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.”d6Thus we may say with confidence:

“The Lord is my helper, [and] I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”e7Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.f9Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching.* It is good to have our hearts strengthened by grace and not by foods, which do not benefit those who live by them.g http://www.usccb.org

This beautiful passage is a feast of wonderful insights. Christ will never forsake or abandon us. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When I sit on that park bench waiting for the Lord, he is and always will be there for me. I am the one who must be aware that all I have to do is rest, be quiet, be still, and abandon my agenda and wait.

Saying prayers of thanksgiving and petitions for mercy to Christ is one thing, praying for the grace to become what I pray is a deeper penetration into the Mystery of Faith.

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waiting for the master

This is a story I wrote many, many blogs ago but I think it needs repeating.

WAITING FOR THE MASTER
Imagine yourself seated on a park bench in the dead of
winter. Jesus has told you that 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 back to you and asks if you have a bottle of water.
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 only a thin T-shirt, and it is very cold outside.
“Thanks,” he says. He talks about how he is homeless,
and 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
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he is twenty-seven years old and out of a job with no
family and nowhere to go. You get out your cell phone
and 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 hugs you and trudges
away.
It is going on 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 is going on three hours now, and it seems to be
getting colder. Just you and the dog are there, which
you have named Michele. Just as you wonder once
more if you have been stood up and inconvenienced,
you notice an older man approach. 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 here.” “You look cold,” he says.
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“Here, take this scarf that 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 do not
notice because the conversation is so warm and
intimate. You tell the kind gentleman all about your
trials and successes and how you just want to seek God
wherever that might be and whoever it might be. The
gentleman tells you that He must go home to see his
father, to whom he owes everything 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, “Coming?” The
dog jumped 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 passed so quickly. You are a bit disappointed
that Christ did not stop by. You think maybe you got
the time wrong and leave to go home. As you are going,
you remember you have on you the scarf which the old
man gave you as a gift. 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
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heart burning within you 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 to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is
to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen.

FILLING IN THE HOLES
In contemplative prayer, one characteristic is that you
must deliberately slow down. Another reaction that I
have found is in thinking that I have to do something
with the time I meditate or it is not productive, I must
fill in the hole of time that I just created with something,
anything. After each of my meditative blogs on
contemplative practices, I recommend that you consider
reading them three times, each time growing deeper in
awareness and time for the Holy Spirit to overshadow
you with grace (energy of God). Another way to say
this is by filling in the holes.

THE SEDUCTION OF FALSE SILENCE AND SOLITUDE

One day, last week, wearing my mask, I went to Costco to buy some Kona Coffee (my favorite). In their famous food court, I watched a table of six teenagers sitting, eating either pizza or Costco’s famous hot dog and drink combo, or in two cases, both. Picture this scene. These six teens are at one table, eating their food, oblivious to any other shoppers, equally blind to the six others at the table beside them. One characteristic which they all displayed was they all wore headsets attached to an iPhone or some such device. I sat there just watching them eat. No one said a word. They occasionally would look around but quickly return to the privacy of their iPhone. Then suddenly, as if by a secret code known only to them, they all got up at the same time and left. I asked myself what it was that I had just witnessed. I still don’t know, but this event triggered a meditation on silence and solitude, charisms that are the core of Lay Cistercian spirituality (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community). Here are some random thoughts from a broken-down, old, Lay Cistercian as he reflects on reality.

  1. Music or looking at the television (or writing this blog) could conceivably be an excuse to be by yourself, but it is not the alone of which I speak, a physical distancing (as in COVID-19), where you remove yourself from others to be by yourself so that you can be alone with Christ (and of course, the Holy Spirit, the second advocate.) I must remember to keep my focus on Christ and not on Netflix. Some days are better than others.
  2. It is ironic and yet quite logical that contemplative monks, nuns, and Lay Cistercians seek solitude in the midst of community. For me, when I attend the Lay Cistercian gatherings, I always come away with the feeling that I have just touched the Holy Spirit (or probably more theologically correct, that the Holy Spirit has touched me.)
  3. Silence, in order to meet Christ, allows me to listen to Him and not to the meanderings of my mind.
  4. Contemplative practice is not done in an hour but rather takes many, many attempts. It is an art.

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YOU CAN’t BE CONTEMPLATIVE IN YOUR SPIRITUALITY BY YOURSELF

A big misconception about contemplative spirituality is that it is done as an individual. The Lay Cistercian spirituality which takes roots from the Cistercian Order (women and men) stresses five areas to transform the individual from self to God (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community). Trappist monks and nuns confine themselves to the physical limits of their monastery for the rest of their lives. Lay Cistercians are not monks or nuns but go back to their families, their work, their ministries, and come together in a Gathering Day once a month to pray, learn, worship, and celebrate the Holy Spirit in each other. http://www.trappist.net

St. Benedict organized this spirituality by having monks and nuns pray the divine office together, eat together, have chapter meetings together. http://www.divineoffice.org. He also advocated a spiritual director and to obey the abbot or abbess as they would Christ. Thus, Cistercian charisms of humility, hospitality, obedience to the Abbot, conversion of life to move from self to God, all help the individual to seek God each day where they are or as they are. You would think that monks and consecrated religious women would have an easier time of community than Lay Cistercians who only meet once a month. These two approaches to contemplation should not be compared as one is better than the other. All seek to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) and to seek God daily through prayer, work, silence, solitude). Each one of these ways to live out the call of Christ to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect has unique temptations and difficulties. Community, in the form of a spiritual director or members of the community, helps to sustain the focus on Christ. Of late, I have been trying to see the workings of the Holy Spirit as I encounter monks or Lay Cistercians in my journey. This journey for me extends beyond the confines of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery to embrace my faith community at Good Shepherd and to the Church Universal wherever I am and as I am.

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HATERS ANONYMOUS

Almost everyone has heard of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Step Plan. I thought about what is going on in our country now and how all of us could use the 12 Step Plan that Christ gave us to quell the hatred of others in our hearts. I can’t take credit for the name, a singer has an album out with that name and you can Youtube the title to find a few sites. In my Lectio Divina this morning at 2:30 a.m., I began by thinking about the love that Christ has for all humans. I then thought of what barriers to that love there might be. I didn’t have to look very far. In the morning, I looked at both the political conventions on the Internet and the anarchy played out in cities like Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin by those blindly hating anything that is not made in their image and likeness. St. Paul gives a lucid description of those who think they are doing good but are actually condemned to the slavery of their own passions. They don’t even know what they don’t know.

Read Galatians 5. “For you were called for freedom, brothers.j But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve* one another through love.14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”*15 But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.16l I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.*17 For the flesh has desires against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.m18But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.n19* Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness,o20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions,p21occasions of envy,* drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,q 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law.r24 Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.s25If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.t26 Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.”

This morning, I looked at Internet news to see what evil has transpired over the night. I recommend you do the same but first, read Galatians 5 three times, each time more slowly. Let the wisdom of the Scriptures sink in. The tyranny of within is grounded in hatred. Granted, people are sincere. The big question is: “Is this the kind of behavior that comes from a heart that loves others as Christ loved us? Luke 7:20 “Ex fructibus cognoscetis,” Loosely interpreted by me as “You can tell what a person is inside by the way they treat others or respect property outside.”

I thought about twelve steps that have helped to keep me grounded in our Faith and centered on the only person that can bring lasting peace, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. https://bible.usccb.org/bible/

CHRIST’S TWELVE STEP PROGRAM TO MOVE FROM HATRED TO LOVE

STEP ONE: The Great Commandment. 4d Hear, O Israel!* The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! 5 Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.e6f Take to heart these words which I command you today.ghttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/deuteronomy/6

STEP TWO: The Similes of Salt and Light.*13i “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.*14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.j15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.k16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.lhttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/5

STEP THREE: THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT 1* “When he saw the crowds,* he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 He began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,* for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.a 4* Blessed are they who mourn,b for they will be comforted. 5* Blessed are the meek,cfor they will inherit the land. 6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,* for they will be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.d 8* Blessed are the clean of heart,efor they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,* for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. f11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. g12* Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.h Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/5

STEP FOUR: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. The Vine and the Branches.1* “I am the true vine,* and my Father is the vine grower.a2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes* so that it bears more fruit.3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.b4 Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.6*c Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.d8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.e9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.f10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.g11“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.h12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.i13* No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.15I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.k16It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.l17 This I command you: love one another.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/15

STEP FIVE: 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

STEP SIX: THE CONDITIONS OF DISCIPLESHIP. “23 Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily* and follow me.n24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.o25 What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.phttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/mark/8

STEP SEVEN: KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.l18I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.*19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me because I live and you will live.m20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.n21Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/14

STEP EIGHT: SERVING GOD OR MONEY 24* “No one can serve two masters.m He will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/6

STEP NINE: DEPENDENCE ON GOD *25n “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?o27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?*28 Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.30* If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?31So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’32 All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.33 But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides.34Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/6

STEP TEN: HAVE MUTUAL LOVE. 9 Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good;f10 love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.g11 Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.h12 Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.i13 Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,j exercise hospitality.14* Bless those who persecute [you],k bless and do not curse them.l15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.m16 Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.n17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.o18If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.p19 beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”q20 Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”r21Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/12

STEP ELEVEN: Plea for Unity and Humility.*“1 If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.a3 Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,b4 each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.c5 Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,*6 Who,* though he was in the form of God,d did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.*7 Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness;* and found human in appearance,e8 he humbled himself,f becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.*9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name* that is above every name,g10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,* of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,* to the glory of God the Father.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/philippians/2

RULE TWELVE: DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS 1″*a “Stop judging,* that you may not be judged.b2For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.c3 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?5You hypocrite,* remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Pearls Before Swine.6“Do not give what is holy to dogs,* or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.d

The Answer to Prayers.7e “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.f8For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.g9Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread,*10 or a snake when he asks for a fish?11 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.h

The Golden Rule.12* “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.i This is the law and the prophets.

It is impossible to have these twelve steps in your heart, even if for a moment, and also have hatred existing alongside it. This applies to all humans since all humans were redeemed by the blood of Christ on the cross.

THE GASOLINE TO POUR ON LOVE TO MAKE IT INTO HATRED

Here are some thoughts about how you can lose Faith, Love, and Hope, if you are not careful.

See people as an It and not a Thou. Martin Buber, Jewish Philosopher has some ideas about how we look at the totality of all that is and how we can either relate to everything as a Thou or be stuck with treating things, humans, and their choices as an It. It makes a difference when thinking about love. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/i-and-thou-selected-passages/

God is relegated to the inside of a Church building. It is what I do on Sundays (or what I don’t do if I don’t care).

I am god. I am made in my own image and likeness. I am the center of my values.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Reflect on what you see on the Internet and how people are tearing each other apart. The wages of sin is death, even if you think you are right because you are sincere. Remember that all of the choices you make have consequences, maybe not right now, but after you die. You will know what is correct behavior by looking at these twelve steps of love and how people live out their promises against the hatred, calumny, detractions, false gods, that you see and read about in our everyday living. My choice is to choose life, but also to choose love, not the love that the world says is true, but the love that comes from God, in with and through Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ironically, there are so many steps from which we can choose in Scripture, that we must give glory and praise to the Father for our Faith, our Hope, and our Love as we seek God every day.

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

uiodg

POWER AND GLORY

Who is the most powerful person you know? My answer is, my wife! To make it more specific, “What is the most powerful object in the universe?” I had to look it up on Google Search. Turns out that there is a Youtube video on it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DFdAHiDljc In the face of such power, humans would not last a nano-second. Power is one of those interesting phenomena that seem to captivate the curiosity of many of us. In one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5), I thought about the different kinds of power I had experienced in my lifetime, none of which contain the hyper-nova mentioned above.

As I always do when trying to decipher the reality about me, I use the “three universes” description to break down what I observe into three distinct, separate universes, each with their own assumptions and measurements. I refer to the physical universe in which all time, matter, energy, and humans reside. There is the mental universe, in which only humans live (unless you know of some other sentient beings). Finally, there is the spiritual universe, where God lives and it encompasses all three universes. This is a universe where you must seek admittance.

Let me walk you through how I use the three universes to distinguish levels of power. Let’s say that the most powerful object in the physical universe (all matter and time) is a hyper-nova. No question that it is able to destroy everything around it and no human or any life form could exist within the range of its influence. But, is it the most powerful object in all reality? To answer that, let me ask you a question; “Why is it that you know about a hyper-nova but it does not know about you?” If you can even ask the question, much less answer it, you live in a universe composed of only humans who have reason and the ability to choose what is good for them, the mental universe, for lack of a better title. We have reason for a reason and the ability to choose what that reason tells us is good for us. So we have physical power and mental power to discover the why, where, how, what, and so what of all matter and its properties. We develop languages to search for meaning, both outside of us and within us. Sciences of the physical universe and the mental universes all have their languages, many of them only known to a few. We humans have learned how to harness some power to help us live more comfortably. Everything in both the physical and mental universes has a beginning and an ending. We humans find ourselves on a rocky planet of gases and water trying to find out how to use what we have to better ourselves. There is the power of a power plant that makes electricity, or wind energy to help us light our houses and cook our food. In the mental universe, there is an added dimension because of reason and the freedom to choose. Sometimes these choices are bad for either us or for society. Humans developed laws to help keep order and to uphold the dignity that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But, is that the only type of power that exists in reality?

There is another power, one not accepted by all humans (remember, they have the ability to reason and to choose whatever they think is good for them), the spiritual universe. In our lifetime, we are defined, not by our accomplishments in life but by the choices we make and their consequences. Remember, the spiritual universe may only be entered if you have an invitation and you accept that free gift and you accept the conditions of membership. You always will be a part of the physical universe. On top of that, you are a member of the mental universe with all its consequences. The two universes, the platform for life and the platform for human reasoning and choice are there to allow you to choose the spiritual universe or not. In the mental universe, you begin to realize the importance of immutable values and meaning, especially what it means to love. Why is this? Where does that choice take you? This next level of power is not human at all. It is the power of God, for lack of a better term. How do you know that? Because He revealed it to us. Humans from time immemorial, created gods of stone and myth to satisfy a desire for communication with a higher level of power, one outside of themselves. They created gods such as the Greek Pantheon of Gods or Roman deities.

Jesus Christ becomes one of us (Philippians 2:5-12) to tell us AND to show us how to use the power of being adopted sons and daughters of the Father to know, love and serve God and others and to be fulfilled as a human being in Heaven. Here are some characteristics of this spiritual universe that you need to be able to do to have power to move from self to God.

  • Heaven is God’s playground and if you want to play in his sandbox you need to respect His rules.
  • There is only one rule: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • Everything in the spiritual universe doesn’t make human sense to the world. St. Benedict, in Chapter 4 of the Rule, provides us with a list of those things we need to do to become more like Christ and less like our sinful and inconsistent selves. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
  • Taking up your cross daily means to seek God where you are and as you are. If it is easy, you are probably carrying the wrong cross.
  • All power and energy in the spiritual universe come from God. It is the energy of love, the relationship of service between Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • The gulf between God and humans is so great that Christ (Son of God, Savior) had to become one of us to give us an inkling of what our inheritance is as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • In the physical and mental universes alone, individual humans are the center of their lives and they are happy to do what makes them satisfied. In the physical, mental and spiritual universes, the fulness of what it means to be human may be realized, not because of individual power but because all reality is in resonance and not dissonance. All reality is One.
  • When we say the Lord’s Prayer privately or recite it together in the Eucharist, we say: “For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, Forever and Ever.” In humility, we approach the Father through Christ to make a profession of Faith, a daily conversion from self to God.
  • https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p4s2.htm
  • In our own age, being corrupted by hatred and calumny and detractions, there are those whose center is hatred and burn incense at the altars of their own selves. These choices seem strong to their believers but won’t last long. They have no power.

To God belongs all Power and Glory. Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who will be, forever and ever. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

moving from self to god…slowly but surely

Here is a blog post I made over a year ago.  I had been thinking about using and applying Cistercian practices and seeking charisms.  I had the thought that my monastery is not just the world, but confined to the limits I discover each day. I thought about how I can transform that day into one that seeks to glorify the Father through Christ, the Son, with the power of the Holy Spirit, or I can just find meaning here and there based on the values of the world. Humans have reason for a reason and that is to seek God daily in everyday events.   

One of my spiritual directors told me that I needed to keep growing in Christ Jesus every day in order to sustain my faith, hope, and love. Growing can mean many things, but I had a Lectio Divina meditation on it the other day and this is what I discovered (Philippians 2:5).  I thought about my orange tree in my front yard and how the fruit is beginning to turn orange from its natural green. The tree must be good this year because we have 80+ oranges on it so far. This reminds me of my faith. I must do something to cultivate this tree (my faith) so that it does what it is created to be– to bear fruit. I thought about how I am created to love God with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole strength and love my neighbor as myself. (Matthew 22:34) To keep my fruit growing, I must water the tree, give it fertilize, keep off the bugs, and protect it when the limbs break off from too much weight. If I don’t help the plant (my faith) by cultivating it, it will not produce fruit.  

FROM THEN TO NOW   Six years ago (which seems like only yesterday), I began my journey as a Lay Cistercian at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) in Conyers, Georgia. I had always had a desire to become a contemplative monk, either Benedictine or Trappist, but that did not work out. When I got the chance to apply for admission as a novice as a Lay Cistercian, I did it with the understanding that they may not approve of me or I might not like it. This is called discernment, a process of discovery and growth. Look back on that initial meeting, which is like looking back at your wedding pictures, I realized that I am not the same person. Physically, I may be the same, but mentally, I have been exposed to ideas and experiences that have made me better, stronger, more peaceful, more powerful in knowing who I am and my purpose in life (see above).   When I first began my journey as a Lay Cistercian, I had no history against which to measure myself. I thought of silence and solitude as being an individual thing and pictured myself alone, in adoration before the Eucharist. That has not happened to me, but something else that is wonderful did. I applied silence and solitude to where I found myself each day as I lived in the World. My growth, as suggested by the many sessions on Cistercian contemplative spirituality that we had together in a Gathering Day each month, was that I was an individual but not alone. I was in silence and solitude IN THE MIDST OF A COMMUNITY of like-minded people who also tried to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). What I began to see what that the Holy Spirit in each of these individual Lay Cistercians was helping shape my own way to approach the Mystery of Faith. Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict suggests tools to help with good works. These tools are not the end but only the means to an end–Christ must grow and I must decrease. To do that, I needed to purposefully make room (capacitas dei) for God in my mind and heart each day. I seek God each day as a part of a larger group of believers, even though I am not present to them. I am a part of them but not apart from them. If you extend this thinking to the Church Universal, then there is but one Body, one Christ, one Faith, one Lord. As individuals, we make up the living Body of Christ on earth, in heaven, and those awaiting purification. The one but many, the sign of contradiction, the Mystery of Faith.   It is in this context of solidarity with other humans seeking the meaning of love, that I have moved from self to God. Here is what happened to me.   Whenever I try to seek God where I am, good things happen. Since the year 2000, I had been putting together a series of books on contemplative spirituality (before I became a Lay Cistercian). I have written over 60+ books since that time. The problem was, and is, what do I do with them? They are on Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/s?k=dr.+michael+f.+conrad&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss. I did not nor do not have the money to promote these books because of the lack of support from those closest to me. So, I am stuck with all these books. What should I do? I decided to give them away to prison libraries, libraries in churches, Newman Centers, Hospice Centers, Nursing Homes, and Independent Living Centers. I also wanted to offer to conduct a session on contemplative prayer at these places and train others to do it. Last week, I turned 79 years old, so what does this broken-down, old Lay Cistercian do with his retirement? He grows in Christ Jesus where he is at. Do you see how the Holy Spirit works for those who trust more in God and less on themselves? As St. Benedict says: that in all things, may God be glorified.   Please join me in praying to Christ for a special intention I have. It concerns the future of this blog. uiodg  

CHAPTER 4: rENOUNCE YOURSELF IN ORDER TO FOLLOW CHRIST

You would think that a person who has tried to follow the teachings of The Master for all these years (80, to be exact), would have mastery over his mind and body to be able to reach a state where he did not struggle each and every time he attempted Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, Liturgy of the Hours, Reading Scripture, and praying Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each and every day. I wish.

In my most recent Lectio Divina meditation (Philippians 2:5), I asked the question of Christ, “Why is it that all my prayers don’t seem to be doing anything and that I keep struggling each and every time to renounce myself to follow you?” What follows are some of the thoughts from the Holy Spirit to guide me in the right direction.

“Michael, don’t be afraid. I know what you are talking about since I took on the imperfections of human nature so that you could learn from me. I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest from all the chaos of life under my protection. You did not choose me but I chose you, just you, from the beginning of time to be with me as an adopted son of my Father. Through my mystical body, I have given you all that you need to survive the minefield of your journey to be with me. Remember, just because your journey is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. My road, to free all humanity from its dependence on the world for its purpose and meaning, was filled with obstacles. My purpose in coming to earth was to restore the relationship humanity once had with the Father and to prepare you to live with us forever. Knowing what we know about human nature, we wanted you to have the grace that is sufficient to overcome those doubts and temptations from Satan to disregard your human feeling to do your own will instead of that of the Father. We knew it would not be easy for you so that is why I had to become one of you to show you how to fulfill your original destiny as a human being, made in the image and likeness of God, capable of discovering what it means to love others as I have loved you. I did not leave you an orphan when I ascended to the right hand of the Father. Your Baptism on September 29, 1940 did not give you a free ride to heaven. We gave you reason for a reason and the ability to choose. Baptism means you have what you need through Eucharist, my very own body and blood to nourish you on your way, plus forgiveness of sins and imperfections so that you can make all things new, just like I did for all humanity. You live in the world but not use its values and meaning to help you find fulfillment. Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, where I am, and everything will be just find. Embrace your humanity as I did and transform it by denying yourself each and every day so that you can seek God wherever that day takes you. Some days are better than others and you must begin each and every day like it was your first. I had a tough time trying to do the will of my Father. Remember, in the Garden of Gethsemani where I ask the Father to free me from my mission? Michael, the struggle you experience in your Lectio Divina is the same struggle Adam and Eve faced, that Moses experienced, that David confronted, that the prophets all wailed and lamented. Just as the Father would not take the struggle away from me and made me face my mission, so too, I can’t take away the struggle from your prayer, only to tell you that my grace is sufficient. It is your rising up over your human feelings that is taking up your cross daily to follow me. What you do with that struggle that is a part of the glory that you give to me as your friend, then together we take it to the Father to tell him that we give praise and glory that He is God and we ask His mercy on us and our fellow humans. It is the struggle that you experience, Michael, that is your opportunity to renounce yourself and follow in my footsteps. I am there, sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter with you, waiting for you to open your mind and heart to my heart. Life is a struggle, Michael, but one that we can share together. Peace be with you.”

10 Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23);
11 discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);

https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

I HAVE HEART PROBLEMS

Holy Mother's Center

In keeping with seeking God daily in everything in every way, I have an appointment today at 2:20 p.m. with my Cardiologist to check my recently installed pacemaker. This discipline is now called electrophysiology and it looks at the heart from the viewpoint of its electrical system or heart arrhythmia. I share this with you because, at least for the past month, I have been in the Emergency Room two times, plus two times at my hospital, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, and then a surgical procedure to install a heart pacemaker. In two weeks, I will have another procedure to restore my heart to its normal “sinus” rhythms. It is called Cardioversion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dC_i8zuclmQ I love modern medicine.

But this is not the heart problems of which I write. As a Lay Cistercian who seeks God in each and every event of the day, I use my three universe template to view reality. This approach to seeing reality with both the mind and the heart is how to make sense of the seemingly chaotic values that are espoused by the World in which I live. In case you don’t remember, let me describe these three distinct and separate universes that comprise only one reality. Remind you of something?

PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — this is the physical universe in which everything exists. It is the platform for life whose laws are natural law. All matter, all time, everything that has a beginning and an end lives in this distinct universe. The question comes up, how can humans know about this universe but everything outside of humanity can’t? If this is true, there must be another universe, one that allows humanity to see a higher level of awareness, one that uses human reasoning and freedom to choose. Is this all there is?

MENTAL UNIVERSE– this is the universe where only humans live. Remember we also live with everything else in the physical universe. What is the reason humans have reason and why, of all the species we know of, are humans able to control their destiny beyond the natural law by making choices? Some choices humans make are not good while others are quite noble and authentic. The mental universe is where our minds look at the physical universe and ask what is it, why is it, how is it, where is it, and what does it mean? Remember, all three universes are one. The mental universe interprets the physical universe through language. We all use many of these languages to communicate and with time comes more sophistication. The language of science allows us to look at what is (the physical universe) using a measure that we make up using other languages (physics, chemistry, mathematics, reasoning, logic) in order to answer questions about reality, This is good and normal. It’s what we humans do. But is that all there is to the reality that has a beginning and an ending? So, we live on a platform called the physical universe but can be stewards of that platform because of reasoning and the choices we make, collectively and individually. Is that all there is? What is the purpose of the mental universe? We are self-aware because we can look at the physical universe and seek to answer the questions we pose. Why is that? Up to now, we have been talking about physical reality (what you can see is real) but is there more? In my thinking, mental universe is also there to enable us to see what can’t be seen. I am not talking about love and the other human emotions that stem from our living and finding purpose in our world. Matter is not evil nor is the human mind rotten, but we are wounded because we can choose what is bad for us and not even know it.

The measuring stick for the physical universe is the natural law that carries over into the mental universe. The physical and mental universes can measure what is and observe the effects of human emotions (love, hatred, jealousy) But, is that the end of it?

THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE –The third universe, the one that is mysterious and couched in paradox, doesn’t fit well with measurements of science, philosophy, and human secular reasoning. This is the universe of the future and, in my own mind, the fulfillment of both the physical and mental universes. We have reason for a reason. We are able to move from human purposes, such as love, family, power, fame, adulation, pride, to something more enduring, a universe where there is no time, no space, no matter, no disease, no imperfection. What is this universe that is so inhuman and seems like science fiction? Love! Peace! Purpose! Resonance! Fulfillment! This love does not come from the world. It comes from another dimension, that of pure energy, pure love, pure service, pure knowledge. This pure energy is a person, way out of the framework of logical thinking. This Being has another nature, divine. The gulf between human nature and divine nature is unreachable for humans. We only know about it because God told us about it through Abraham, the Prophets, the covenant of relationship God said he wanted with humans. By themselves, humans did not get it, so God had to become a person with human nature to lead them to the truth. Christ revealed that there are three persons in one God. He taught us that the kingdom of heaven begins now (with Baptism) and ends with us being adopted sons and daughters of the Father (the only way we can share Heaven). I suggest that we don’t share it as God, but to the extent that we use the daily helps Christ gave us to do God’s will and not our own. This spiritual universe is something humans don’t create in their image and likeness but comes from God through Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. There are many religions out there that tout their believers to follow their way. Christ told us only He is the way, the truth, and the life. You have reason for a reason and you also have the ability to choose whatever you want as meaningful. We are not defined by our accomplishments but rather by the choices we make for what is good for or destructive of our purpose.

MEASURING WHAT CANNOT BE MEASURED WITH WHAT CANNOT BE SEEN

What sounds like an oxymoron is actually indicative of the spiritual universe. It is the opposite of what the world holds as meaningful. The time we have on earth is the time we have to practice loving and serving others as Christ served us.

There is a great, insurmountable gulf between God’s nature and our human nature. God has generously given each human an invitation to share in this inheritance, as we are able to do so (Gifts of Baptism and the Holy Spirit). For me, it means I make my heaven while I am on earth. I will live later on what I have brought with me to Heaven. No sin is in heaven, only those things where I have loved others as Christ has loved me.

As a Lay Cistercian, I made final promises to try to love God with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my strength and my neighbor as myself. I read that promise every time I look at the shrine I set up on my table in the office. These are the signs of my love for Christ: Rule of St. Benedict, Professed Promises, My Lay Cistercian medal, Dr. Eduardo Hubard’s gift of a unique wooden box with a rosary on it, inscribed with the oldest known Marian hymn (3rd century), Scripture (Jerusalem Bible that I purchased back in 1962).

The measurements of God are love, peace, knowledge, service, and energy. The problem is these are divine attributes not human. We can only know what love is through our experiences. Human knowledge can only approach God’s love, not as it is, but as St. Paul puts it, “through a foggy glass.” These measurements are not proofs so much as indicators of something way beyond our human capacity to comprehend it. Luckily, we have Christ as our mediator, our translator, our bridge with the divine, our Master.

If you tell me, “Religion doesn’t make sense,” I would agree with you but add that the foolishness of God is wiser than all the wisdom of humans. Some additional thoughts:

  • There are three distinct universes in only one reality.
  • You can only measure the spiritual universe with what is from God, not from the World. Heaven is God’s playground and if you want to play in his sandbox you need to play by His rules. That might be another way of saying, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • Everything about God is a sign of contradiction. It clashes with the physical and mental universe, although they are still one.
  • Christ came to restore resonance to a dissonant reality, one that was not bad, just incapable of seeing the whole picture, a spiritual universe that is the opposite of what we experience as we live in the world.
  • Baptism means God chooses to love us and make us adopted sons and daughters through, with, and in Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. The only command Christ gave us is to love each other as Christ loved us.
  • The spiritual universe is the opposite of the World, even though some of its aspects of love and meaning are good. Those who accept Christ as their center are pilgrims in a foreign land (meaning the World) until they die. It is necessary to love as Christ loved us. One way I have chosen to do that is by asking Lay Cistercians if I can be a member and learn how ancient Cistercian practices and charisms. Contemplation is being present to Christ through all these practices so that He fills me with love and so I decrease while Christ increases.

The place no one wants to look is right inside us and we can access it through Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). In silence and solitude, we enter our interior room and wait for Christ. The waiting is, by itself a prayer, and is conducive to profound listening (listening with the ear of the heart–St. Benedict). It is dying to that self which depends on the world for its meaning and choices of what is good. It is a heart problem, in the same way, that St. Augustine said: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

When I say I have heart problems, my problem is, how can I contain the joy that comes now almost every day in seeing my purpose in life begins to take shape? “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) is the center of whatever reality I encounter. Rather than worry about COVID-19 or my heart condition, I now just seek God every day in whatever comes. I don’t try to fill holes in my life with the “heresy of action” or watching television or reading. I don’t pass the time so much as embrace the moment, every day is a total lifetime.

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IF YOU ARE A ROOM…

One of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5) centered around an idea I have been romancing for some time– spiritual hoarding. Most of the people to whom I tell this idea discount it as being foolish. How can hoarding spirituality be bad? The way I approach hoarding is how I see this tendency playing out in my physical and mental universes. Hoarding can be a dysfunction if it is obsessive and compulsive. Hoarding is the inability of the individual to throw anything away. I use this concept of dysfunction as applied to a spiritual universe. Let me give you several examples of what I mean by spiritual hoarding and then apply it to you, if you are a room.

You exhibit the characteristics of a spiritual hoarder if you…

  • have not been to the Sacrament of Penance for years and years, thinking that you can just ask forgiveness of your sins and God will do your will and be merciful. You do not take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a gift Jesus gave us to receive grace to continue on our journey and make all things new. God is merciful but is not a fool.
  • have no sense of being a penitential person who is in constant need of transformation and conversion each day. Part of what it means for me to be a Lay Cistercian is to seek God every day in every way. The penitential person asks God the Father for mercy through the Son using the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • think that you can steal $1,000. from me, then ask God to forgive you and go on your way. What is wrong with this scenario? How about this: you still have not given me back my $1,000. This is called restitution and is the beginning of reparation. Forgiveness is always conditioned by repentance and reparation. Reparation means a firm purpose of amendment and, as St. Benedict quotes from Scripture, “29 Do not repay one bad turn with another” (1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).
  • don’t know how to make all things new. Your Faith is the same as when you were in Grade School. St. Benedict, in his Rule, Chapter 4 states: “You must honor everyone (1 Pet 2:17), 9 and never do to another what you do not want to be done to yourself (Tob 4:16; Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31). 10 Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23); 11 discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);” A penitential person uses these tools for good works (Chapter 4) as reparation for doing bad and shameful things.
  • don’t know how to clean out your spiritual room of all that is useless and throw away all those things that keep you from “having in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
  • are the same Catholic as you were when you began your journey in Baptism. Christ asked us to do something with the gift of adoption as son and daughter of the Father. Just as Christ, Son of God, Savior, shared Himself with us with His death and resurrection and ascension to the Father, so we, those who have been called by Christ to be disciples, must share what we have received from Christ. And what was that? There is one command, one request that Christ makes of us: to love others as He has loved us, not as the world defines love, but one that makes Christ real to those with whom we encounter (friends as well as enemies).

YOU ARE A ROOM

When I apply this concept of holding onto those things that are not necessarily sinful but keep me from growing from self to God, I use the analogy of a room.

In my case, I am more keenly aware that my transformation depends on putting more Christ in my room and discarding the old. Put another way, if I want to have Christ over for a cup of coffee and a chat, is my room clean enough for me to entertain God? This is a way that I can understand that I must keep my room ready to wait for the coming of Christ into my heart. But, isn’t Christ everywhere? Yes, Christ is everywhere, but I am not present in contemplation and prayer unless I am a penitent man who keeps saying over and over, “have mercy on me, Son of David, for I am a sinner.”

When I am in the presence of Christ, something wonderful always happens. I don’t realize it right away but it happens, even if I don’t think about it. It is akin to walking outside and feeling the sun on your face. It is warm and wraps you in a mantel of comfort. In my room, I want to experience being present to Christ through Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Scripture, and reading about the lives of others who have placed Christ as the center of their lives.

WHAT HELPS ME RECITE THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS?

FIVE PRACTICES THAT HAVE HELPED ME COMMIT TO PRAYING THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS

  1. When I think of prayer as part of my Lay Cistercian principles (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community), I don’t see it apart from other prayers I do (e.g. Eucharist, the Rosary, Lectio Divina, and Reading Scripture each day), but rather it is inclusive of all of them. There is one prayer.
  2. Each day, I begin my day sitting on the edge of my bed and asking God for mercy for all my sins, failures to see Him in others, and all times I was just plain oblivious of anything except my own needs). I make a commitment to try to do better this day, with God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit helping me. This all takes less than one minute. What is important is that I do it every day.
  3. Before I begin my Liturgy of the Hours, I take a second to ask God to be merciful to all those I have included in my Book of Life, those who have died and I had added to this book and for all those in Purgatory and on earth who might need prayers but are not known to me. Think this task is too big for God?
  4. I try to recite three of the seven hours of the divine office each day: invitatory, Office of Readings Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer. During this COVID-19 shut-down, I recite these hours in private.
  5. I try to be conscious that this is the official public prayer of the Church (along with Eucharist) and that, somewhere in the world, a continuous chant of praise and glory goes to the Father on behalf of all humanity, asking for mercy for the sins of the Church, for forgiveness and reparation for all of our sins, help with the transformation from self to God, and finally to seek the God’s will be done with the presence of the Holy Spirit in this day’s happenings. None of these prayers are limited just to Catholics although the Catholic Universal Church prays them each day.

THE GATHERING

My Lectio Divina today (Philippians 2:5) took me to a place I had not visited before. I thought about the very early Church and how they must have had a struggle to “have in them the mind of Christ Jesus.” I thought about my own struggles to do the same, given the unique circumstances that have presented themselves to me, i.e., my having had surgery about 12 days ago to implant a pacemaker and then subsequent cardiac procedures to shock my heart back to its normal “sinus” rhythm, called Cardioversion.

Christ did not institute an individual as church, one based on anyone but Himself, but rather one composed of many individuals. Why is that? Part of the reason seems to me to be our need to belong. Individuals don’t usually thrive in isolation but are designed to interact with others to achieve any worthwhile goals or projects. As a Lay Cistercian, one of the things that separate us from other lay organizations is silence, solitude, work, prayer in community. I am not saying Lay Cistercians are better than other such Lay Groups, rather, that what it means to be a Lay Cistercian is physically meeting together once a month for renewal, prayer, learning about Cistercian practices and charisms, and sharing the Holy Spirit we discover in each of us. They call this monthly meeting a Gathering. At first, I did not see the significance of this words, “to gather together”, but over these seven years of my participation, I see what is meant by the words, that is, to describe the early communities of Faith, by the name of ecclesia, assembly of the faithful, grouping together to sustain each other as we seek to more from self to God as individuals. The faithful are church as they gather together in the name of Christ, to give glory to the Father, through that same Christ in union with the power of the Holy Spirit. The gathering is not like the Moose, Elks, or other groups of belonging. This gathering is Christ when they come together to proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again, as we say in each Eucharistic Liturgy. The Lay Cistercians meet only once a month, but the rest of the time they go about their professions, taking with them the Cistercian practices and charisms (humility, obedience, hospitality) as they relate to whatever comes their way. Each day is a lifetime of seeking God where you are, as you are. Lay Cistercians are Church even when they go back to their respective homes and practice loving others as Christ loves us.

The measuring stick in all of this contemplative practice (Trappist) is gathering together with Christ as our Savior and Lord, as set forth in Scripture, in the rule of St. Benedict (especially for me in Chapter 4), in Eucharist, and again in Eucharistic Adoration, in Lectio Divina meditation, and hopefully, contemplation. My Lectio Divina prayer always comes back to my one phrase, “have in your the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). The uniqueness of each individual Lay Cistercian (woman or man, retired or still working, those with families who support them or those that may be totally unaware of what is going on) means that we approach the mind of Christ, each one of us having a different way we seek God in our daily living. Although the Gathering is a formal way we meet to share the experiences we have had in moving from self to God, it does provide us with a monthly forum to express these prompting of the Holy Spirit and share them with those who seek to use Cistercian spirituality as a way to look at reality. The Gathering is not a meeting so much as it is a mindset to be open to the Holy Spirit in each individual Lay Cistercian as a temple of that same Holy Spirit. Renewal and transformation from self to Christ come about, not because of any meeting or learning on our part, rather, like Lectio Divina, it is the openness to the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Like Eucharistic Adoration, we go to The Gathering without any personal agenda except to be open to the manifest ability of whatever the Holy Spirit intends. Then, we take that overshadowing of the Spirit back to our daily living to sustain us until our next Gathering.

Christ told us in Matthew Chapter 13: k Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.19*l Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.20*m For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

The power of the Gathering has nothing to do with us so much as it is the opportunity for us to recognize the Holy Spirit in each of us and allow that same Spirit to work through us.

Discerning of the Holy Spirit anywhere must be done with humility and in obedience to the will of the Father. It is not our power that is important but that we tag along with Jesus as he approaches the Father for us. Each of us is blessed to be chosen by Christ at Baptism with the adoption of sons and daughters of the Father.

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

how long can you hold your spiritual breath?

HOW LONG CAN YOU HOLD YOUR SPIRITUAL BREATH?

When I was young and adventuresome, I tried holding my breath for as long as possible. It was all part of my preparation to be able to swim in the deep section of Rainbow Beach in Vincennes, Indiana, my hometown. I managed to keep my breath long enough to swim underwater, but I never became accustomed to it.

You have a spiritual breath, you know.  It is the attention span that you tolerate for being in front of the Sacred, such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As an aspiring Lay Cistercian, I began my spiritual breath holding it with barely a minute or two before my mind kept telling me to get out of there.  Now, I can go up to an hour( plus )before my mind takes me to places not consistent with the Sacred, such as what am I going to eat for dinner. I have noticed that, when this does happen, I can get back on track much quicker than before.  Also, I have lost my nervous foot (shaking nervously) behavior whenever I sit down. Contemplation has been, for me, a way to find peace and humility, and I consider myself just a toddler in the Cistercian way of thinking. I use the Rule of St. Benedict as my view of reality as interpreted by the Cistercian traditions of silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community, so that I might have a system against which I measure myself. I used to worry about being perfect as a Lay Cistercian, doing everything correctly and praying often, but I have now come to believe that all I need do is seek God daily with a heart open to what the Holy Spirit is telling me, and the rest follows. As Christ tells us in Matthew 6:

25n “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?o 27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?*28 Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. 29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. 30* If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ 32 All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides. 34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Here are some ideas about how I sustain my Baptismal commitment each day. I use these sayings, not as a mantra to lull myself into some unconscious state of thinking, but rather just what St. Benedict intended. They are means to an and and that end is having in your the mind of Christ Jesus. Forget the end and the means all you do is just pass the time without any transformation from self to God.

  1. It takes a long time to attain any degree of self-control when thinking about contemplation and holding your thoughts. A danger in spirituality that I faced is thinking that everything depends on God and I don’t need to take up my cross daily and walk the road to my salvation. It takes time to acquire the art of contemplative spirituality. God has given me the gift of Faith but I must make that real each day with, through and in Christ Jesus, in union with the Holy Spirit, to the glory of the Father.
  2. A focus is key to keeping your mind from wandering. Cistercian practices help me stay grounded in my purpose –He must increase and I must decrease.
  3. Asking for God’s help is very important in the Lectio process, which is why Oratio (Prayer) is an important step. My prayer is always that Christ grant me the humility to seek Him without unconsioucly demanding that He meet me in my world under my conditions and do my bidding.
  4. Lectio Divina is a skill that is difficult, but not impossible to attain.
  5. Don’t give up.

Just because your road is rocky in your spiritually seeking God doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road.

REFLECTIONS ON MY LAY CISTERCIAN PRACTICES, CHARISMS AND READINGS

I only hope to aspire to be a Lay Cistercian, which, I suppose I will be doing when I knock on the Heavenly Gates and once more ask for mercy. I am not an expert on anything Cistercian, only a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit who tries to seek God with all his heart, again and again.

The following reading is from the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4. Tools for Good Works.  I try to read it every day, or at least some portion of it. I have found that I now treat each day as a new beginning, making all things new once more. The “Now” makes more sense to me each day than reflecting on the past, with its wailings and wanderings. As a Lay Cistercian, I find it remarkable that I am growing, almost imperceptibly, more and more into that which I seek, having the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose of life. (Philippians 2:5) Having read the following tools, reflecting on their importance in my life, I am very slowly becoming what I read.

Forgiveness comes into play when I forget God is God and try to substitute my will for His. If you know what I am talking about, there is no need to explain further, if you do not know what I am saying, there is nothing I can do to make you aware.

Here are the tools for good works, as written by St. Benedict about 540 AD. I hope to become what I pray with God’s grace. I recite these good works each and every day.

The Instruments of Good Works

  • (1) In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength…
  • (2) Then, one’s neighbor as one’s self (cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27).
  • (3) Then, not to kill…
  • (4) Not to commit adultery…
  • (5) Not to steal…
  • (6) Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).
  • (7) Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20). (8) To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17).
  • (9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).
  • (10) To deny one’s self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).
  • (11) To chastise the
  • body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).
  • (12) Not to seek after pleasures.
  • (13) To love fasting.
  • (14) To relieve the poor.
  • (15) To clothe the naked…
  • (16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).
  • (17) To bury the dead.
  • (18) To help in trouble.
  • (19) To console the sorrowing.
  • (20) To hold one’s self aloof from worldly ways.
  • (21) To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
  • (22) Not to give way to anger.
  • (23) Not to foster a desire for revenge.
  • (24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.
  • (25) Not to make a false peace.
  • (26) Not to forsake charity.
  • (27) Not to swear, lest perchance one swear falsely.
  • (28) To speak the truth with heart and tongue.
  • (29) Not to return evil for evil (cf 1 Thes 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9).
  • (30) To do no injury, yea, even patiently to bear the injury done us.
  • (31) To love one’s enemies (cf Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27).
  • (32) Not to curse them that curse us, but rather to bless them.
  • (33) To bear persecution for justice sake (cf Mt 5:10).
  • (34) Not to be proud…
  • (35) Not to be given to wine (cf Ti 1:7; 1 Tm 3:3).
  • (36) Not to be a great eater.
  • (37) Not to be drowsy.
  • (38) Not to be slothful (cf Rom 12:11).
  • (39) Not to be a murmurer.
  • (40) Not to be a detractor.
  • (41) To put one’s trust in God.
  • (42) To refer what good one sees in himself,
  • not to self, but to God.
  • (43) But as to any evil in himself, let him be convinced that it is his own and charge it to himself.
  • (44) To fear the day of judgment.
  • (45) To be in dread of hell.
  • (46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.
  • (47) To keep death before one’s eyes daily.
  • (48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.
  • (49) To hold as certain that God sees us everywhere.
  • (50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one’s heart.
  • (51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.
  • (52) To guard one’s tongue against bad and wicked speech.
  • (53) Not to love much speaking.
  • (54) Not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter.
  • (55) Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
  • (56) To listen willingly to holy reading.
  • (57) To apply one’s self often to prayer.
  • (58) To confess one’s past sins to God daily in prayer with sighs and tears, and to amend them for the future.
  • (59) Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh (cf Gal 5:16).
  • (60) To hate one’s own will.
  • (61) To obey the commands of the Abbot in all things, even though he himself (which Heaven forbid) act otherwise, mindful of that precept of the Lord: “What they say, do ye; what they do, do ye not” (Mt 23:3).
  • (62) Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so-called.
  • (63) To fulfill daily the commandments of God by works.
  • (64) To love chastity.
  • (65) To hate no one.
  • (66) Not to be jealous; not to entertain envy.
  • (67) Not to love strife.
  • (68) Not to love pride.
  • (69) To honor the aged.
  • (70) To love the younger.
  • (71) To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ.
  • (72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.
  • (73) And never to despair of God’s mercy.
  • Behold, these are the instruments of the spiritual art, which, if they have been applied without ceasing day and night and approved on judgment day, will merit for us from the Lord that reward which He hath promised: “The eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). But the workshop in which we perform all these works with diligence is the enclosure of the monastery, and stability in the community.”

These spiritual habits are not the ends in themselves, but rather means whereby I can place myself in the real presence of Christ and wait. All of these tools and practices serve to propel and compel me to have in myself the mind of Christ Jesus, and to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.

Here are three ways I use Chapter 4 to place my heart next to the heart of Jesus. Some days are better than others.

  1. Try (and fail) to read Chapter 4 every day.  I always read one or two of the tools and try to apply those to my daily morning offering, asking that I do the will of the Father.
  2. I don’t try to do good works, just do the Cistercian practices as I can, placing my heart next to that of Our Lord and Savior. What comes from that are good works, in the sense of charisms for me to grow from self toward God.
  3. I find that the consistent practice to pray daily at a certain time, even if I miss the time, is itself a prayer to transform my false self to my true self, obedient to the will of God through Christ.
  4. In the Old Testament, God told the people how to relate with an unseen God.  In the New Testament, God showed the people how to relate to an unseen God by sending His only Son to be one of us. From the time of the Apostles (Pentecost) until now, God gave us the power to his people to transform the world by doing what Christ taught us to others. What we do is called good works because they come from God, not us.

We become the real presence of God in this world of original sin, using the power of God through the Holy Spirit, to make all things new. To do that without being corrupted by the sins of the world, we need to constantly throw ourselves on the mercy of God, asking forgiveness first for our own sins and then the sins of all, daily confessing our the need for humility and obedience, and finally doing penance to sustain us in our resolve to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5)

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

SILENCE: THE ENTRANCE TO FOREVER

Whenever I think of silence, I mean real silence, I think about going into a cave in Northern Florida. The absence of any noise is deafening. All humans relate to the reality before them through the five senses which feed the brain and direct the choices we make in the next moment or two. In this cave, my five senses seemed to fail me (although they just did what they always do–feed information about my environment to the brain). The problem was the brain was confused, having no signal of hearing nor of sight. This is real silence and this is real darkness. I panicked and experienced claustrophobia.

As soon as the lights went on again and I regained control of my external environment I was much better. This is an actual experience of silence that informs the way I think about silence and solitude in seeking God in my daily life. Nearly 100% of the opportunities I have to contemplate are with the sounds of everyday living are with this background noise. I have tinnitus and this slight ringing in the ears is always there. Even going within me to perform Lectio Divina, these background sounds from the physical and mental universes are there. I ignore them. As I move from my meditations toward contemplation, I embrace the silence in the sounds and it gradually fades away. It is when I accept what is real that I lose myself among the ideas that flood through my consciousness from the Holy Spirit.

Last week, I thought of how St. Benedict left the security and safety of his world to enter a place that is not unlike the cave I explored in Northern Florida. This silence in the midst of the sounds of everyday life is like a Lay Cistercian practicing charisms and practices of seeking God wherever and whenever he or she is. Silence or solitude is not an end in itself but only gives me a better way to focus on listening with the “ear if the heart” as St. Benedict prescribes to his monks in the Prologue to his Rule.

THREE TYPES OF SILENCE

THE SILENCE OF NATURE — This first type of silence is one that is based on nature, or in my terminology, the physical universe. Any living thing that interacts with its surrounding environment at each moment uses its probes or sensors to achieve its purpose in life. Silence in this universe is the lack of physical sound. All plants and animals (including humans) are subject to the laws of nature. But, it that all there is?

THE SILENCE OF THE MIND– The second type of silence corresponds with my notion of the mental universe. Only humans are a part of this universe because they are the only ones with the ability to reason and to make choices about what they reasoned. It is in this universe that we are aware of a silence that opens the door to our inner selves. Some of us choose to use this platform of human sensors, plus reason, to move to a deeper level of reality–Faith. It is this silence in which Faith is nourished and flourishes. The purpose of human existence is to know, love, and serve God in this life and to be happy with God in the next. The silence of the mind is what we must begin to tame before we can enter the last, but the most profound area of silence, that of the heart. The early Fathers of the Desert such as Anthony and later St. Benedict and St. Bernard of Clairvaux knew of the importance of silencing the mind and so they sought out solitude as a way of isolating and focusing their minds on Christ alone. That they ended up in caves and in the desert was no surprise. Have you ever been to any type of dessert? All you can hear is your own thoughts and the beating of your own heart. We need to clean the mind of anything that would deny us entrance to the heart. Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule has the good works needed to cleans the mind and heart to prepare to receive Christ.”To deny oneself in order to follow Christ.” When we have humbled ourselves to be able to see with the “ear of the hear” we grow ever deeper into the Mystery of Faith., gradually being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

THE SILENCE OF THE HEART (The Silence of God) I often think of the silence of the heart as contemplation, while the silence of the mind is meditation (using the four levels of Lectio Divina- lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio). I kept thinking of why these early holy men and women gravitated to solitude in the desert and eventually in monasteries. This is the silence of the kingdom of heaven and it begins for each of us with Baptism and acceptance by God as adopted sons and daughters, but ends in Forever.

My growth from self to God uses this silence and solitude to enable me to sit in stillness on a park bench in the midst of winter and wait patiently for God (my definition of contemplation). I strive to listen with the “ear of the heart.” It is this striving for my heart to be present to the Real Presence that begins my contemplation. It is the silence of my heart longing just to be with Christ that I seek. This profound encounter in contemplation is where I hope transformation takes place. Being in the presence of the heart of Christ happens when I abandon myself to whatever God says. Just let go and wait.

wonder-filled resources that fill up the emptiness of my heart while i age in place.

I use these resources nearly every week to help me fill in the big holes in my life due to COVID-19 and the hatred our culture seems to have for one another. Using the analogy of a room, each of us has a room way down deep inside of us. Not many people can enter this room, only if you allow them to enter. If you are a room, you cannot have love and hatred in the same room. Here is how to try to gain some perspective on life. I had the thought that, because much of the self-imposed quarantine means staying at home, why not make my home like the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), complete with schedule and contemplative prayer space. I share with you some of the prayer practices I do.

THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT- https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/ Every day, as in “every day”, read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. I like the commentary from the AbbottChrist in the Desert Benedictine Monastery. Every day!

USCCB When I want to look up a Scripture passage or want to know what a particular Encyclical says about a particular topic, (e.g., the Church in the modern world), it is all there. http://www.usccb.org

CISTERCIAN (Trappist) SPIRITUAL PRACTICES My “go-to” sites always begin with the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) http://www.trappist.net. https://www.trappists.org/ is a good way to look at all the monasteries of monks and nuns. I like to listen to the sermons of various Cistercians at https://www.trappist.net/homilies and use them to frame my meditations on the seeking God in my daily life.

NEW ADVENT– http://www.newadvent.com has a multitude of resources. My favorite is a blog you can sign up to receive daily updates on all things Catholic Universal.

DIVINE OFFICE– My favorite site for reading the Liturgy of the Hours is http://www.divineoffice.org. In addition, my own blog (https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org) is under resources (Lay Cistercian). http://www.divineoffice.org

BISHOP BARRON –If you haven’t signed up yet, do so now. Bishop Barron’s webpage, http://www.wordonfire.org will direct you to some of his video offerings. I have signed up for the daily Scripture meditations (free of charge).

DR. SCOTT HAHN — Dr. Hahn is an inspiration for me. I recommend you sign up for his newsletters and bookmark his website. Although I have not had the privilege of meeting him, his witness to Christ Jesus in his life has excited the Holy Spirit in me. https://stpaulcenter.com/

CATHOLIC CULTURE — This is a must-see site for those who wish to have a more apologetical approach to our Catholic heritage. https://www.catholicculture.org/ Sign up for their newsletters.

SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT– I am building a shrine to Our Lady in my heart, one that constantly reminds me of the humility necessary to embrace silence and solitude, which in turn leads to contemplation. When I seek God every day, I try to place myself in the real presence of Christ and just wait.This shrine contains those qualities that Mary used to accept her responsibilities as the Mother of The Savior, humility, obedience, actio, hospitality, and total abandonment to the will of the Father. The shrine will be completed when I stand before the Throne of the Lamb and show Jesus what I have done.

seeking god during covid-19

The interesting thing about viewing our COVID-19 situations are the many lessons we can gain from this experience. Not all of these lessons are without some form of inconvenience or even outright suffering, but they are what is happening. I look at what is coming down the pike everyday and try not to overreact to the situation. My contemplative practices have helped me gain a small bit of perspective on the pandemic. There is more to it than just this one health crisis, although I don’t want to minimize the risks involved. Each day, I practice Lay Cistercian activities which direct my focus to giving glory and honor to the Father, through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. My Cistercian training (as I know it) has provided me with perspective and a daily way to “…have in me the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). As of late, I have been trying to focus on seeking God every day wherever I am and as I am,

I don’t have any sure-fire ways to take away any situations that may arise in your life. What I can share with you are the two ways I have approached any situation that may come up in my day and how I measure it against my center (Philippians 2:5).

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

Do you remember Disney’s movie, Alice in Wonderland? She finds herself lost in the forest and has several paths to follow, but which one should she take? Look at the YouTube clip from the movie to get a sense of the importance of both the question by Alice and the response by the Cheshire Cat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXpaBOsx4Gg I viewed this very clip and came up with these ideas. The Cheshire Cat says “Where do you want to go?”. Alice says, “It doesn’t matter where I go.” To which the Cheshire Cat responds, “then any direction will get you there.” This clip with a seemingly innocuous question and answer have provided me with insights about seeking God in daily living. Each day, I am like Alice, trying to create a schedule and reaching some object or activity out there. In this first approach, I don’t care what presents itself to me every day (COVID-19, my recent trip to the ER and Hospital to test me for a heart pacemaker, being 80 years of age and not being physically able to do my Cistercian practices with others at Good Shepherd Church, Tallahassee, Florida.

The direction I am headed is to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus every day. Silence and solitude become conditions for my heart to be still and abandon all selfish interests in prayer and just listen with the “ear of the heart.”

HOW TO SEEK GOD IN THREE UNIVERSES

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, one 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 each of 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, now, 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 all of 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 one paradigm I had used to force one reality into another one. The paradigm I was using was one that states: everything fits together in one universe, and 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 that is, that is 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 is it, how is it, and where is it? 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 one 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 their own properties, and with their own function. 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 to look 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 was telling me in my meditations and contemplations that I should not over complicate 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, what is not, all theories of how and why things are. Animals, plants, indeed every that is 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 there are a beginning and end to their existence. 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 is it that you can 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. 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 THE THREE UNIVERSES TO SEEK GOD

I use the three universes to help me look at the difference between what the World says is true and what the Spirit tells me. Look once more at the photo of the cup.

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. Write down what 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”.

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seeking god at the va clinic

I had an appointment at the VA Clinic in Tallahassee, Florida today. I never know what the day will bring but that doesn’t matter. I try to seek God wherever I am. I finished my business then got on the elevator to go from the 2nd floor to the 1st floor and out to my car. I was thinking about my Lectio Divina I had this morning. I stood there for the longest moment and thought, Why am I not moving? Is the elevator stuck? The answer was, the elevator was not stuck but I was. Then it hit me. That is like me sitting on a park bench in the cold of winter waiting for God to come to visit me. After getting a little annoyed with God for standing me up, I realized that God was sitting next to me all the time, but it was I who was stuck. Like the elevator, all I had to do was press the button for the 1st floor, but I was so preoccupied with myself that I stuck. All I had to do is press the button. All I had to do is abandon my will and seek God as God is and where God is and all God to be who he is, and all my worries fade away.

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

HOW GOD SPEAKS TO ALL OF US.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SLOW DOWN! lISTEN TO YOUR HEART

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

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

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

SHARING INTERNET SITES I USE

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

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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

Catechism of the Catholic Church – Expressions of prayer

Church promulgates new decrees for Causes of Saints – Vatican News

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

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

Catholic Saints, Blesseds, and Venerables Index -C

Notable Monks & Nuns | Cistercians of the Strict Observance

Revised Grail Psalter Conception GIA

Egyptian prayer to Virgin Mary—Aleteia

Hand pressure points: Chart and uses

Anticipating the Glorified State | Trappist-Cistercian Order

Rabbi – Biblical Cyclopedia

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

The Love of Solitude and Silence — Catholic Sacramentals

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Angels

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

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

The Screwtape Letters Quotes by C.S. Lewis

contemplation research

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

PARADOXES

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

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

“The Mystery of God” – Sample Lesson – YouTube

Catholic Rites and Churches

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

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Youtube clips that have helped me in contemplation

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

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

THE DEVIL AS SNAKE IN THE GRASS

ALLOWING GOD TO TAME US

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

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

TEARING DOWN DESTROYS BUT MAKING ALL THINGS NEW CREATES

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

TRUE CONFESSIONS

Just relax.

Part I
Part II

WHAT DEFINES US IS NOT OUR SKILLS BUT OUR CHOICES

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

We are defined by our choices.

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

SILENCE AND SOLITUDE AND THE LEAP OF FAITH

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

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

The leap of Faith.

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

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

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

Sic transeat gloria mundi

KNOWING JESUS DEPENDS ON WHO YOUR JESUS IS

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

FIVE TIPS TO HELP WITH PRAYER

There are five things about prayer that I have learned from my time going to Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia.

Without editorializing too much, I offer them for your consideration for those times you find yourself approaching the Sacred through prayer, and in a somewhat lethargic mood.

I. PRAY AS YOU CAN: Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. told us this during a conference on Lectio Divina. This is important because many times I don’t find myself in an environment conducive to praying. Either there is too much noise for me, or I am doing “things” to help the family and find myself waiting for my wife outside of Trader Joe’s market or going to the Premier Gym to exercise.

I learned that it does not make any difference in praying if I am in Premier Gym or attending the Eucharist. Each type of prayer is different and not to be confused with each other, but both or prayer, the lifting of the heart and mind to God. I pray as I can. I have done Lectio Divina outside Trader Joe’s waiting for my wife to finish her shopping. I have stopped waiting until I find quiet (usually impossible for me) and embraced noise as a form of silence. My mind focuses on Lectio Divina at Premier Gym in the midst of all that noise and distraction. I pray as I can.

II. PRAY WHEN YOU CAN: I learned that some days are better than others. Life sometimes throws me a curve in my intensity of prayer. I go to Eucharist, pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and evening, do Lectio Divina, but there are times when I sit at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee, Florida and sit on a park bench seeking God. Both types of prayer are part of my integrated spiritual life.

In being a Lay Cistercian, I am more and more aware of praying Lectio Divina outside of formal prayers with others. I am looking at the blue sky and praising God for his creation.

III. WORK IS PRAYER. Formal prayer is not the only time I pray. When I offer up my writing to God, my going to the Gym for exercise, whenever and wherever I find myself, I can sanctify the moment. It comes and it goes.

IV. LIFTING THE HEART AND MIND TO GOD. Prayer is nothing other than thinking of the one you love and wanting to sit next to them.

V. DON’T LIMIT PRAYER. Prayer may be formal or informal. It may take the form of contemplation as an individual or the prayer of the Church Universal, Eucharist in a community of Faith.

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GOD IS NOT FAIR BUT HE IS JUST

My latest Lectio Divina(Philippians 2:5) took me to a place I had not visited before. Have you ever had a particularly complex dream in your sleep, then awoke with the strange feeling that everything you thought tooks hours, lasted only a few seconds? It happened to me this morning at 2:00 a.m.. I thought of how my life is nearly complete and how I hope to enjoy my Lord’s joy. Why, I have no idea, but I was caught up with the “only the saved” go to Heaven syndrome. What is important is not that the saved with be with God in Heaven, that is true. What I found happening to me was I was the one who was judging others about their lives and loves and who should be with God. This is a subtle form of idolatry that seduces the Faith side of my life and does not allow God to be the one who is. More specifically, I asked the question, “I should receive more than those who just repented of their sins before death.” Still more specifically, “If I am faithful to what I consider the teachings of Christ are and try my best to love others as Christ loved us since I was a boy, am I not better than those who have spent their whole lives in hatred and greed? God is not fair.”

The Scriptures are a series of stories and similes that help us to just crack open the profound meanings of our human nature. The parable of the workers in the vineyard is such a story with an important lesson to keep us from betraying Christ as our center.

In the Scripture reading below, I want you to read it three times. The first time, read it in silence. Take ten minutes to think of the lesson Christ wants to tell us about our tendency to be the landowner instead of one of the laborers.

The second time, read it aloud. Take another ten minutes to think about the vineyard as Heaven and you have received what is promised to you by God. Write down five words that describe what you are feeling about someone who has found Christ for just a second compared to you, who have borne the temptations and failures of original sin. Is this fair? The third time, read it with the attitude of the landowner. Take some time to reflect on how we can make ourselves into God if we are not careful.

The Workers in the Vineyard.*1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.2After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.3Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,4* and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’5So they went off. [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.6Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’8*a When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’9When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.10So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.11And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner,12saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’13He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.* Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14* Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? 15[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’16* Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/20

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