THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC- Don’t forget!

I share with you one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5). Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology

Because Christ is both God and Man, you can never exhaust the depth, the heights, and the width of the truth, the Mystery of Faith.

Christ tells us he draws all things to himself. In the physical universe, of which we are a part, all matter, energy, time trend toward Omega (I am the Alpha and the Omega).

In the mental universe, the realm of the mind, we reflect on the physical universe with our reason and ability to choose what is good for us or bad for us. We also use our collective minds and consciousness to find purpose in life, discover our own center, discover what reality looks like (visible and invisible), how it all fits together, the meaning of loving fiercely, and you know know you are going to die, now what?

The mental universe is also the gateway to enter the next universe, the spiritual universe (Kingdom of Heaven( which we do through Baptism. Baptism not only takes away Original Sin from each individual, but also enables us to call God Father (Abba) because we have been adopted by God as His sons and daughters. We have reason for a reason.

Adam and Eve were created to be gardeners of God’s most precious creation, Earth and its being. We inherit that gardenership with our charge to love one another as Christ has loved us. We are stewards of our immediate world. Faith and Grace (God’s energy) allows our tree to bear good fruit by doing this command of Christ.

Ironically, we don’t use the World to find meaning in the world but instead use a sign of contradiction (Jesus Christ) to first transform ourselves from our false self to our true self. St. Benedict in Chapter 4 tells us not to prefer anything to the love of Christ.

Lay Cistercians use Cistercian practices and charisms to transform themselves each day, by God’s grace, into an acceptable sacrifice to the Father, through, with and in Christ. It is the Mystery of Faith. It is our destiny as a human being. It is the fulfillment of what it means to be a human being within the time we have allocated to us and with the abilities we have to make the world a better place, not using the World’s approach, but with Faith in the sign of contradiction. Much more can be said, but not much more can be done. John 20:30

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WHAT IS GREATER THAN FAITH?

If you are a person who places their whole Faith in Faith, you will not want to read the rest of this.

Like everything is the spiritual universe, nothing is what it seems. Not only is everything a sign of contradiction, but much of it does not make sense without Faith. There are so many layers of meaning to even the most familiar of ideas that we often don’t even try to grow deeper to discover a much richer meaning or treasure contained. I try to think of everything around me in multiple layers of meaning.

When I was Baptised, on September 29, 1940, I don’t remember a thing. It was a time when God accepted me as an adopted son and made we an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven. Every day, since I can remember, I have tried to offer a Morning Prayer to the Father to ratify the Baptismal initiation with water. One of the things I learned about Faith later on was that I was not only baptized with water but also immersed into the Faith of Mother Church were I was, and still am, nourished with life-giving love. Faith is so important to what we believe, yet some do not plunge beneath its surface to ask, “Is that all there is?” Is there something greater than Faith? Faith is what we receive at Baptism, Faith that takes away the sin of the World (Original Sin) while the effects still remain. Faith is fidelity to the Word even when we don’t see the object of our belief. Faith does not come from humans but only from God. It the the Faith that overshadowed Mary, the Faith that descended upon the Apostles in the Upper Room, the same Faith that dwells in our hearts. Jesus told Thomas that “blessed are those who have not seen, yet believed.” Faith is God’s energy, a gift not one of us deserves, a gift given to us by Christ to wash away our iniquities, one that makes Heaven our inheritance. What can be better than Faith? In the readings from Scripture today we read how Faith healed the woman. It is peculiarly interesting because Jesus said her Faith saved her, not Christ. Christ is the great enabler, and with baptism, invites us to join him in this endeavor.

GospelMT 9:18-26

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.
A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him
and touched the tassel on his cloak.
She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said,
“Courage, daughter!  Your faith has saved you.”

And from that hour the woman was cured.

When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070819.cfm

What is this Faith that Scriptures talks about? If Faith is a gift from God that we use not only at Baptism but throughout our life, then belief is the action that makes it real.

In looking at Cistercian spirituality, based on the little I know so far, it is about seeking God where you are. Faith enables us to search our minds and our hearts for God and to approach that God in humility and obedience to God’s will not our own. That is called conversion of lifestyle and it must happen every day because we live every day.

What is greater than Faith? It is Love. But not just any Love. This is the Love taught to us by Christ, the love that conquers the World, the love that is one with Faith and Hope. Read what St. Paul has to say about Faith and Love. Love is not better than Faith. It is a direct result of the covenant relationship between God and Humans. It is the product that comes when we take Christ into our hearts. Faith, Hope, and Love. The three of these are one, inseparable from each other.

1 Corinthians 13 (NRSVCE)

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

10 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

Despite the bad press about Mary and her being divine and the object of a cult, she is the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Living God. Of course, none of this makes any sense using the assumptions of the World. It is a sign of contradiction, a Mystery of Faith.

  1. Mary only has one nature, human. Yea, you say, but you call her the Mother of God. Does that means she is before God because she was His mother? No. Does Mary have a divine nature? No. Only God has a divine nature. Jesus had both a divine nature, and, thanks to Mary’s “yes”, a human nature.
  2. No one should pray to another human, either living or dead. We only pray to God, the object of our Faith. We don’t pray to the Pope or to the Blessed Mother or to St. Peter or St. Paul. We only pray to someone with divine nature.
  3. Mary only told us one thing to do when it comes to Jesus. “Do what he tells you.”
  4. Mary is Mother of God. When Mohammed was pulling together his religion, he took elements of pagan worship from the tribes, Jewish traditions, and Christian traditions. The problem was, when he took the Christian part of the religion, he talked to people who were Nestorian Christians (heretics). They held that Mary was the mother of Jesus, whereas the Church tradition held that Mary was the Mother of God. They hold that misconception to this day.
  5. Mary is the Mother of God but also the Mother of the Church. She is the first Christian, the first to believe in her Son.
  6. There is only one way to approach the Father, through, with and in Christ. We can pray to Mary, in the sense of asking her to pray with us to her Son, but even that prayer is through, with and in Christ.
  7. When we go before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration, we worship God alone. When we consume the Eucharist during Mass, we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Mary worships God, just as we do. We ask her intercession as we do all the Saints who have gone before us (those who are Saints and those who are saints) to join in our prayers to God as they stand before the Throne of the Lamb giving Him all praise, and honor, and blessing.
  8. Christ ascended into Heaven. Mary was assumed into Heaven. Mary has not power other than through, with, and in her Son, just as we all do.
  9. Mary’s center was Christ, not herself. She was overshadowed or conceived by God and was without sin from that moment. We call this the Immaculate Conception, part of the Mystery of Faith.
  10. Mary was not one of the Apostles nor did Christ make Mary the rock upon which he would build his Church. That was to Peter, broken, and one who betrayed Christ.

WHO DOES GOD THINK HE IS, ANYWAY? God?

Several months ago, a group of us in Tallahassee, Florida met to talk about forming a discernment group to see if anyone is interested in forming a Lay Cistercian prayer group. After our initial prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to be with us and for us to be open, we introduced ourself. We gave who we are, where we are practicing our Faith right now (parish) and a word or two about why we are here. I bring this up because each one of us identifies who we are by our name. Granted, as time goes on, we learn more about each other as we dig deeper into our Faith journey, what we believe, our struggles, our triumphs. All of these things define who we are in our own minds, and also in the minds of those with whom we meet.

I thought you might be interested in reading an excerpt from a book I wrote some years ago entitled Who Does God Think He Is, Anyway? God?

A God That Matters

“If humans ever voted for a God, it might be someone to save them from oppression, and tyranny. A God who is powerful is seen as being able to vanquish his enemies. The Old Testament saw God as “El Shadai”, the powerful one who lived on top of the mountain. In the New Testament, the paradigm changed. If you would be a leader, said the Master, you must learn to serve others. The real God came to free us from ourselves, our limitations of merely living in the physical and mental universes. The real God doesn’t save you from anything outside of yourself.”

The Physical Universe
God set in motion the laws God set in motion the laws God set in motion the laws God set in motion the laws God set in motion the laws of matter, energy, and of matter, energy, and of matter, energy, and of matter, energy, and of matter, energy, and time.


The Mental Universe
God set in motion the God set in motion the God set in motion the God set in motion the God set in motion the limitless potential of the limitless potential of the limitless potential of the limitless potential of the limitless potential of the human mind. human mind. human mind. human mind. human mind.


The Spiritual Universe
God set in motion the God set in motion the God set in motion the God set in motion the God set in motion the guidelines of spirituality, guidelines of spirituality, guidelines of spirituality, guidelines of spirituality, guidelines of spirituality, opening the doors to opening the doors to opening the doors to opening the doors to opening the doors to Heaven for those who Heaven for those who Heaven for those who Heaven for those who Heaven for those who choose.

You must live in three universes to be spiritual. You must live in three universes to fulfill your human destiny.

FIRST UNIVERSE: PHYSICAL, the universe of matter, elements, gases, the earth, animals and plants. Humans live in this universe as animals. Science studies this universe to find out about life.

SECOND UNIVERSE: MENTAL, the universe of the mind, love, meaning, and reason. Only humans live in this universe. Humanists live in this universe. Critical thinkers live in this universe to find out about life and meaning. You need this universe to make the jump to the next one.

THIRD UNIVERSE: SPIRITUAL, the universe of pure thought, pure energy, pure love. The third universe has two parts. It begins while we live on earth and continues when we go to heaven. Humans learn what it means to be spiritual on earth, then continue to find out about life, meaning in heaven. We are destined for forever, not the grave. Do you automatically go to heaven? It depends on your relationship with God, your family, and your friends.

A God That Matters…characteristics

A God That Matters Would Not Live in Matter.
Read Philippians 2:5-11. Think about it! Would you want a God that will die? One that deteriorates? One limited by decay? One confined by space and time? One subject to the properties of matter, as we know them today? One that evolved from monkeys? One that makes little God Juniors? One that is solely male? One that has to learn by assimilation of ideas? Even if God were billions of years beyond us in the evolutionary process, which I do not believe, that Being would still be subject to the limitations of matter. Matter may be infinite, but it is not the stuff of which God is made. Infinity of matter is still finite. So then, what kind of God do we have?

  • One that is not limited by space and time.
  • One that simply is.
  • One that is like us in all things but sin.
  • One that is pure relationship.
  • One that is pure knowledge.
  • One that is pure love.
  • One that is pure energy.
  • One who can show us how to love.
  • One who is the Mystery of Faith.
  • One that is pure service or energy.

Our God is not like us, yet the Master become one of us to show us the way. What a God we have. Wow!

We are not a game that God plays to amuse Himself.

Humans like to play games. Men, in particular, seem to have a propensity for playing power games, like King of the Universe. The Caesars, Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Genghis Kahn, Napoleon, Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Slobodon Milosovich, Irish Republican Army, Ulster Constabulary, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Ladin, all tried to use armies to take over territory under the guise of some righteous cause, such as peace, usually in the name of God. How primitive! Men have always tried to play God. When God gave the Ten Commandments, which one was the first? Read Deuteronomy 5:6-7.

With your eyes, all you can see is visible reality.
But, take a look at reality from the side. Three universes are stacked on top of one another. Using the laws of Nature, all reality evolves towards one end point called Omega. Christ said he was the Alpha and the Omega.

A God that matters helps you to see what you cannot find by yourself. What kind of God would create humans, give them human reasoning and the ability to choose freely what is good for them or what is bad for them? We can discover a lot about the physical universe…we live in it with all other matter, energy, and time. But, we could not lift ourselves up to the next level without help (Genesis 2-3). Some people call that evolution. No problem. We needed help to make it to the next level, as Teilhard de Chardin says to the next level of existence (the biosphere). Why do all species except do not have the ability to reason and make free choices of what is good or bad for them? Why is that?

https://cac.org/pierre-teilhard-de-chardin-part-ii-evolving-consciousness-2015-08-12/

Sue Ellen always wanted to be a molecular biologist like her Mom. She would spend hours at the microscope looking at life. As she got older and obtained her Ph.D., it seems that so many doors were opening she had trouble keeping up with her field. Along with two other colleagues, she was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Medicine. Sue Ellen never considered herself a spiritual person, such as going to church, reading the Bible, but every time she looked at living cells, she would marvel at the invisible force that propelled these cells to survive. She knew there was a supreme force out there somewhere. Sue Ellen believed in what she could see. Like an iceberg, most of the values we hold dear are invisible reality hidden under the surface. As Sue Ellen matured, she began to deduce that life propels itself towards a higher level, in this case God. She began to integrate her science with the thinking that enabled her to explore the wonder of spirituality. Although she could never articulate her thoughts, she came to see that all like was linked together in a grand design that moved forward towards an unseen destiny. She wanted to be part of that destiny. Do you think Sue Ellen was a spiritual person?

A God that matters is universal.
Everything in space and time has limits. God has no limits because God does exist not in space and time. Think about i! God told Moses that he simply is. A limited God would not be powerful enough to make an unlimited universe without space and time. Not enough energy for that. What is the source of power? Nuclear Fission? Try pure love! That sounds like it is a bedtime story. Or is it? Even the Big Bang, if you believe that hypothesis, had to have a spark to ignite it. Like cooking hamburgers, someone must light the charcoal. If pure love is a form of pure energy, it is the missing part of the formula for reality. But, there are no chemicals, gases, elements in the spiritual universe. How can there be energy? Yet, energy is the constant that binds all three universes together. Ever think about pure energy? Some characteristics: no source, no decay, no readings at 80% of capacity, no way to measure it because it is off-the-scale. Heaven is the interface between the love of the Father for the Son and the love of both produces a person, the Spirit. Read John 14:24-31. The greatest source of power in all universes is love, and that interaction depends on you for the spark. How wonderful!

Patricia Ann had been disturbed for some time with her church. She had seen what she considered the rigid, superficial trapping of Sunday Liturgy. She looked around and did not see anyone doing anything to be of service to others. Everyone, she thought, was a hypocrite. She was very discouraged and started looking for a place to call home. After twenty years of trying this and that way of thinking, she just happened to return to her old church for Sunday Service. When she went in people greeted her by name, remembering her from over twenty years ago. It was as though she had attended for the first time. This time, Patricia Ann heard people plead for help for projects for the homeless, migrant workers, prison ministry, and education. She found what she had searched for all these years, right in her own backyard. The rigid and cold church had changed, or was it Patricia Ann that changed?

A God that matters won’t let you won’t let you flounder.

Without your human mind, you would not be able to know God. When Moses went up on the mountain to talk with God, had he not had his intelligence, he would not have been able to receive The Law. Imagine a goat going up on the mountain instead of Moses. Goats don’t have what we have–the ability to choose God. God did not give his commandments to a mountain goat. What God did not give Moses was how to make his name known to other people. He trusted Moses to come up with that solution, just like He trusts you to make the Word known to those around you.
In a sense, Moses was the universal translator of who God is to those around him. You, too, must translate what God wants and who God is, not what you want. Some people think they are doing God’s will, but are far from it. Read Matthew 23:13-32.

A God that matters gives you the tools to gives you the tools to find meaning.

A God That Matters Does Not Give You Does Not Give You Obstacles You Can’t Reach.

FULFILLING YOUR DESTINY AS A HUMAN. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE?
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to discover the purpose accept it, is to discover the purpose for your existence and then do something about it.

1. Spirituality helps you by using your mental abilities to discover a spirituality that is dynamic–one that does something positive and good for this world in which you live. Not all spirituality is authentic but only one given to us by God.
2. Without help, this would be mission impossible indeed. With the help of the Master, we have a friend to help us.
3. To find God, God must help you by getting rid of the obstacles that hinder your mind. You have a chance to become spiritual and a chance to find out what that means for you. Contemplation helps you to go to a place where you dare not look…in the depths of your spirit.

The spiritual universe is not just going to church on Sunday, although that is part of it. This spiritual universe is voluntary. You must want to live in it. It is a perspective that says our destiny is to be with God in Heaven.
Here is a question. If you don’t have a spiritual center, and you divorce, can you survive? Of course you can. You can choose to have a wonderful life while on earth. You make lots of money, you have a wonderful family, good friends to be with you, you can travel and enjoy nature. Life can be humanly rewarding. Spirituality means you believe there is something more than mere human living– you must fulfill your destiny as a human being. That destiny can only be accessed through spirituality. Your destiny is not on this earth, but to be with God…Forever.

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WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL ENERGY IN THE WHOLE WORLD?

This might seem like an innocuous topic for contemplative practice, but stick with me. The World is obsessed with power, be it physical power, personal power, military prowess, or political power (the one I detest the most). What bothers me most is that when we do use power, it is always seen in terms of physical power (e.g., black hole) or who has the most muscles. Let me lead you through four questions that I have had to confront as I look out on reality and ask WHY? Your answers might be different than mine, but I offer these for to stimulate your thought processes.

I. WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL ENERGY IN THE WHOLE WORLD?

If I Google that question, I get this site as an answer. Look it up. https://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/news/20may99.html It is called a hypernova, and the mind-blowing thing about this is that there may be energy out there that is more massive than this. Science does a great job of probing the depths of inner and outer space to discover what is, why it is, and where it is. In the face of this hypernova, humans would not survive, just as they would not survive in outer space without artificial atmosphere and heat regulations. Everything that is, is part of the physical universe, and is subject to the laws of nature. So the question remain, what is the most powerful energy in the whole world? It must be a hypernova, correct? It has energy so much off the scale that we have not developed instruments to adequately measure it. I raise the question with you, What hypernova knows that it knows? What hypernova can love? What hypernova knows its purpose in life? We live within the Laws of Nature, we are not the Law.

II. WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL ENERGY ON EARTH?

Part of the assumptions underlying for humans to know that there is a hypernnova, is that, until very recently, we did not have instruments to discover its existence. Which brings us to the next question: What is the most powerful energy on earth. All reality, all being lives on earth. The famous physicist, Enrico Fermi’s question is: where is everybody? https://www.seti.org/seti-institute/project/fermi-paradox In all the universe that we know of so far, with the Science and Logic that we have so far, no life has been found anywhere outside of Earth. I grant the argument that there is no reason to think there should not be life out there, given the enormity of galaxies. Dr. Frank Drake even came up with an equation that lists the probability of life in the cosmos. ttps://www.space.com/25219-drake-equation.html https://www.universetoday.com/39966/drake-equation-1/

The argument is always to presuppose that other life out there exists (life, I might add that is sentient). To date, we have not even discovered anywhere capable of sustaining organic life of any kind. It may exist and it may not exist. I know that scientifically I am anathema, but wonder if we are the only ones in the whole of reality and why is that? Humans are not designed for space travel, but to live within the parameters of this Earth (we must breathe oxygen, exist with in a life sustainable temperature, and we subject to the laws of Nature). Why do we live for only seventy or eighty years?

What we do know is that we know that we know (although some think they know more than others), and so up comes the question again “What is the most powerful energy on earth?” To answer this, I have come to the conclusion that humans (either through natural selection or some other means) moved from being animal to being human. Humans live in the mental universe, complete separate and apart from the physical universe, although we are included in it with our heritage. We live in both the physical universe (our based of existence) but have grown as a race into being that know that we know. The most powerful energy on Earth and maybe in the whole universe, as far as we know, is sentient being. Growing slowly but exponentially, collectively, our human nature has moved from a primitive life form to the human we know today, capable of Science, Mathematics, Medicine, Philosophy, Poetry, and Spirituality to explain what is, why it is, who it is, where it is, and when it is. It is important to note that we are in process of moving from this to that. We have reason to help us determine what the “that” is. We have developed the art of logic with Greek Philosophers to probe the depth of reality, discovered the wonders of matter, time and energy with Science, and collectively, tried to discover meaning in life both collectively and individually. What Aardvark goes to the library to look up the history of facts about life in the 1900’s? What pet dog can answer the question,” Can you join me at 9:00 a.m. at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?”

In looking at sentient being, we ask why? Why us? Why do we have the ability to love and hate? Why must we die and not live forever? Why is there pain and imperfection in our behavior so that some have peace while others are murdered for no reason? We might be the most powerful energy on the planet, but we can’t solve these questions. We don’t live past seventy or eighty, even if we are strong. We have the keen minds to solve some of these problems but results have been disappointing so far. If we are the most powerful and have the most energy of all lifeforms, do we need to abandon our collective Ego and move towards solutions that are consistent with these four questions?

We are limited to living on this planet and not visiting the stars? We don’t know the effect that gravity would have on our selves or our offspring in prolonged space. The distances are so great that, as of now, we can’t move from planet to planet, much less galaxy to galaxy. We don’t know the effect of space radiation on our reproductive or mental health systems. There is always hope in the future, but for now, we must focus on where we are.

The answer to the first question of what is the most powerful energy in the universe is: the human mind. The answer to the second question to which of all those lifeforms on earth are able to answer the questions of why? when? when? and how? What is the purpose of why we are here? It is the human mind and the ability to make free choices that affect our collective and individual destiny. Although humans know that they know, they also live in the NOW where there are choices, some of which lead to meaning and some lead to a dead-end. Why are humans the only life form that knows that it knows? That has the ability to choose their destiny outside of Natural order? The problem comes when many people have many different ways to interpret what is meaningful.

If we look at the human experience in which we find ourselves right now, we are so fortunate to have Science tell us how and why something is in the physical universe and provide clues to where we are headed, we are so fortunate to have philosophy and psychology tell us about the hidden part of our reality and put forth ways we can discover what is meaningful. Medicine helps us with health, mental health gives us hope to keep our minds clear and bright, and social work helps us discover meaning in work and leisure. Individually, we are the sum of our lifetime experiences, we are defined by the choices we have made. Collectively, we stumble down the pathway to truth, hobbled not only with our reason, but our inability to accept as true that is objective. Objective truth is one and must exist for all. The problem is, humans have always squabbled about what true is. This is both the glory of what it means to be human, but it is also the problem that must be solved by the next level in our evolution. The story in the books of Genesis 11, tells of the confusion of tongues, which is another way of saying that people could not agree on what is true. We still have our problems with truth because no one can accept that truth is what answers the questions of wonder if we are alone in the universe, why do only humans have reason and freedom to choose good or evil, and what is the next stage in our evolution as humans.

III. IF HUMANS ARE THE MOST POWERFUL LIFE FORM ON EARTH, Why is that? If the Physical Universe is our platform for housing human reasoning and the ability to choose outside the Natural Law, the Mental Universe allows us to choose what is good for us and discernment as to what choices are bad for us to make us happy (fulfilled). The question becomes who chooses what is good for us and who determines what is bad for us? If the Physical Universe gives us the formula for reality and the mental universe factors in the human condition, we still not had an answer to what makes humans human? Is there one person, a powerful person against which we measure our worth and determine what is good for us? Do we have a North on the Collective Human Compass, or are we rudderless and adrift on a sea of individual rationalisms? As I see reality, the answer is the Spiritual Universe, and not just any amorphous, spiritual place. It is the Mystery of Faith, the way to look at reality that explains (but does not define) how Science/Medicine/Philosophy can fit together. They each have different ways to measure different levels of meaning. The reason why we have a Spiritual Universe is love. Granted, love is not the most popular subject of scientific inquiry, but it motivates the human heart by allowing us to seek that which essential, often invisible to the eye.

Humans are the most powerful lifeform on Earth because they can say YES or NO to anything. It is free will that is an inconvenient truth. There is objective truth out there, truth given us by God through Christ, but millions of people who disagree on what that truth is. So, does that means truth is not objective? Humans become their own law, their own interpretation of the truth, and no one can tell them they are wrong. Just as any individual human can go beyond the Nature Law and do whatever he or she wants, so the opposite is true. Humans can stop logic and block reason if they so choose.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

To move from animality to rationality, to a higher level of being, two qualities are needed, those that separate us from what we just left (being an animal nature): First, the ability to reason; Secondly, the ability to choose what is good for us. When each of us is born, we do not receive infused knowledge of what is good or bad for us. We must learn that from experience. That is where reason comes into play. Although each one of us is stand-alone in our ability to make choices, we do not choose anything bad for us. The problem comes when we think what is good for us is actually bad for us. This is the inconvenient truth about our freedom to choose. What is at stake here is nothing other than our ability to fulfill what it means to be human. Bad questions about how we see others, our purpose, our view of what makes up reality, how we love, and even our perspective about what it means to die, all depend upon asking the right question. Again, the old inconvenient truth pops us, as it does in any argument over what is true. No one can tell us what to choose, it is a freedom that comes with terrible consequences if used poorly. The issue is not that we have free will or that we can make choices, it is over the values of what we choose that is good for us. Who determines what is good for us or what is bad for us. We have two choices there, too. I do, or God does. Even with this concept of inconvenient truth, I have had people tell me, “that is just your view of reality and not mine.” Is there no objective truth? My conclusions from Lectio Divina and using my gift of human reasoning is “not in this World.” Again, we are free to choose, but the the hurtle we humans can’t jump over is who chooses what is good or bad for us. It is at the heart of the Archetypal story of Genesis 2-3. Read it again.

Let me offer an example. A popular dilemma in our age is the one over abortion. One side touts freedom to choose as the shibboleth for independence from rules and external truth, while the other side sites the consequences of the choice results in the death of a person. Of course, these are two irreconcilable positions, like black and white. So, are we left with truth being half of one and half of the other, the answer being truth is what you think it is? This type of thinking is called rationalization: each person is correct in their thinking because they have the freedom to choose to think whatever they want. Truth becomes relative, that is, without permanency or more than an amorphous, hazy principle. So who is correct? Both? Is truth like a bowl of Jell-O, without nutritional substance, one that tastes good but offers no nourishment in the long run? The inconvenient truth here is that people are free to choose whatever side suites their own assumptions about what is good, what is true, and its consequences. When the question of ultimate truth (objective truth from God) comes up, the fall back is always “that is your opinion and I don’t share that.” So, is truth one, or whatever the individual says is true, just because they have the right to say so and there is no independent truth out there against which we measure what is good for us from what is bad for us, either short-term or long term? Since there can never be objective truth as the World sees it, but our reason tells us we cannot have two masters, we end up saying “there are consequences for each behavior we have, each thought we make, each act of love. Maybe we won’t know what is true until we reach Heaven (again, my concept of reality), but we must live our lives with the principles we choose freely to make and not by the exceptions (everyone’s truth is the ultimate truth).

As soon as I say “God doesn’t permit murder,” or, “Killing the fetus deprives them of being able to choose their destiny freely,” I am hit with the argument, “You can hold whatever you want. You can’t tell me what to believe, no matter how ridiculous my position is to you.” That is the inconvenient truth about choice. You choose what is right for you or what is bad for you and no one can tell you what is good or bad, no one can say, this is truth, because you can say back to them, “that is your opinion.” And, they would be right.

Reflect on what you just read above about humans being the most powerful individuals. When humans evolved from animality to rationality, they did so with the power of reasoning and also the ability to choose what was good for them or bad for them. Genesis is a book at looks at the epicenter of humanity, reason and free will, and tells the story of who Adam and Eve chose what they thought was good for them but it was actually bad for them. This choice had consequences. The archetypal story of what it means to be human being in temptation, choice, happiness, and the consequences of making bad choices. Adam and Eve were sincere, but sincerity is no substitute for the truth. The Devil is sincere.

Humans are the most powerful lifeform on Earth because they can say YES or NO to anything. They are the brickwall of logic. Just as any individual human can go beyond the Nature Law and do whatever he or she wants, so the opposite is true. Humans can stop logic and block reason with a NO. The Blessed Mother opened up a new Epoch of Spirituality with a YES.

Ultimate truth exists only in the mind of God, the author of Truth. God wanted humans to have the truth but there was a problem. How to communicate to them what he wanted to tell them about what was good for them or bad for them. We call the bad stuff sin, for lack of a better way to describe it. The good stuff is called love. God gave of Himself to show us how to love (Philipians 2:5). He spoke of His Coming through Abraham and the Prophets, then through the most contradictory of all events, The Nativity, we became one of us. He told us to look deeper in spirituality to find the truth and disclosed the Trinity, a community of perfect. He had to die on the cross in reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve (Romans 5) so that our race might becomes adopted heirs of the truth and that truth would set us free. Truth from God can only be one. The problem comes when humans as individuals begin to tell others what that truth is. The Church was founded to do what Christ came to show us, from age to age, until He again comes in glory to judge the living and the dead. We recite this each Sunday in the Nicene Creed (one of three Creeds of the Body of Christ).

RECAP: The most powerful energy in the physical universe is the hypernova. Humans wake up (self awareness) on the Earth and gradually discover that they have reason and the ability to make choices and are not subservient to the Laws of Nature. There is a problem. What is good for someone or bad for someone. God tells us, as a loving Father, what is good or bad for us, as does any Father worthy of that name. Some people resent the Father telling them anything, so they rebell (Satan and the Fallen Angels, Adam and Eve, and each person that is born knowing that they know and having the freedom to choose good or evil. Every time we sin, we are like Adam, we falling into the snares of Satan. There is temptation to present the golden fruit of either good or bad. Sometimes we don’t know something is bad for us until we take a bite of that golden fruit and it tastes like persimmons that are not ripe. Yech! Of all humans who know that they know, some are more powerful than others. The most powerful of humans is one who not only knows that they know or can choose good or evil but actually chooses God, the source of truth, despite the deflections of the World that no one can know God because the opinion of God is relative and no one can tell you what to think or how to act. You have become a Spiritual Ape, descendant of life forms on this Earth that have moved from animality to rationality and from rationality to spirituality. This progression is the detour courtesy of Adam and Eve but restored by God Himself through, with and in Jesus Christ. Because of this we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, heirs of truth. To live our our lives, we are only asked to love others as Christ loves us. Spirituality becomes the way to find fulfillment as a human being (even if you don’t believe there is a God who can tell you what is good for your or bad for you). Spirituality becomes the sign of contradiction with the World, the Mystery of Faith where what does not make sense makes perfect sense with humility and obedience to God as the one who shows us how to be fully human by loving others as Christ (both God and Human) did. That is the meaning of Church, that is the reason we will sell all we have and give it to the poor and follow the Master, to serve others as Christ has served us with his passion, death, and resurrection.

God is the most powerful energy in all of reality (physical, mental, and spiritual universes). Heaven is love. Heaven is our destiny as humans, despite all of our struggles on Earth. The Church helps us with these struggles by making Christ present to us in Eucharist, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, reading Scripture, Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, contemplative prayer, reading and becoming Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. God is so good to us that He gave of Himself (Jesus) to take on our nature and show us how to love authentically, how to be spiritually authentic and not like what the World says is good.

AUTHENTIC AND UNAUTHENTIC SPIRITUALITY

Humans are designed to make free choices. We have reason to be able to determine what is good for us and what is bad for us. The problem for all humans is, what is true and who tells us what is good for us or what is bad for our human maturation.

Like scientific inquiry, where not all such opinions (science calls them hypotheses) end up successfully discovering the truth, and pseudo-spirituality (forune telling) often leads to short term exhilaration, seducing believers is this or that self-belief using their own Ego. If the Physical Universe asks and seeks to answer the questions of, WHY, HOW, WHEN, and WHERE, then the Mental Universe, because of human reasoning and free choices, asks and answers the question of WHAT DOES IT MEAN and WHAT IS OF VALUE to human occupation of this blue, ball of gases and rocks. The one set of Laws that all humans follow is the Natural Law, as far as we know, extending throughout the whole realm of reality. The problem is one of ever-growing complexity. As our species becomes more familiar with technology and advanced techniques to resolve, up to this point, unsolvable problems (e.g., cancer, medical and surgical techniques to prolong and improve the wellness of all), each person becomes more and more capable of making free choices outside of their natural cycle. Cows can’t regulate being in heet by themselves. Humans can now regulate their birth cycles with chemicals or prolong their lives through medication. The abortion controversy is not about free choice at all, but about between what the will is free to choose, life or death. Of course, This freedom to choose is not good or bad, but there unintended consequences when we take it upon ourselves to be our own center and determine what is good for us. In the Physical and Mental universes, if we don’t measure ourselves against the Natural Law, then our default is us, the individual us, and not a collective set of norms which all obey because of their nature. The unintended consequence is, once you abandon a center that all measure themselves against, you can only fall back on yourself as the center of all morality, of all value, of religious belief. This is the danger of individualism where no one can challenge another because who is to say you are right or you are wrong. Outside of Science, there can be no objective truth (that which is true for all reality and is one), which is why I like scientific inquiry. The problem with that line of reasoning is that it only applies to what is visible and verifiable, and leaves out meaning. Humans, because we have reasoning, walk the slippery sloap of freedom of choice and truth that is one and will make us free. Truth is one for everyone, like the Natural Law, applying to all even if, individually, you choose not to believe in it for yourself. It would seem like truth is a hostage to free choice but this is the human condition. We are free to choose what is good for us and what is bad for us. Spirituality is the gateway to what is true, and yet, once again, there is a problem of complexity. Not all spiritualities deal with what is true. The question, within our Question Three above, is what is truth? Can we actually know what is true for everyone, or are we condemned to live in relativism and contradictory logical thinking. Because of our freedom to choose what we think is good for us or bad for us, the answer must be YES. For me, this is the human condition known as Original Sin, a spiritual term.

There are two ways to look at reality (I know, I simplify), the first one is loving others because Christ first loved us and showed us the authentic meaning of love, and secondly, as an individual, I discover what love is for me now and all decisions are based on me. The problem with that last one is, I only live seventy years, if I am lucky.

AUTHENTIC SPIRITUALITY

The most powerful energy of all, using human reasoning and the ability to choose good or evil is love. Spirituality is the way of looking at reality that provides answers to the questions of the physical and mental universes. There is a catch, you only get to the spiritual universe, one that contains the Mystery of Faith with the help of your reason and free will. But there is a catch to that, too. Because we are dealing with possibilities that are beyond our human comprehension, no matter how long we live, reason can take us only so far. Faith is a term we use for what we don’t know but hope for because reason has led us to the edge of the cliff. Our human instincts tells us don’t jump off the cliff. It doesn’t make any sense. the assumptions we hold about spirituality tells us that there is someone out there greater than human nature, a nature that is living, just like humans, yet one that is divine (for lack of a better word) and all reality is careening down the highway of life towards it. Some call it by the name Omega.

MY CONFLICTED THINKING

As you can probably tell, I am conflicted in walking through the minefield of logic, scientific inquiry, philosophical speculation, and spirituality (with all the conflicting and splinter theories of truth). They don’t fit, nor are they supposed to any more than God fits with humans or humans fit with animals. They are separate entities each with their own realities and characteristics, each using differing measures to identify what is real in each one. There is one reality, each having separate aspects of reality, just as the Trinity.

  1. I know that there can be but one truth., one reality.
  2. I know that humans have reason for a reason but also the ability to choose what is good for them or what is bad for them.
  3. I know that no one chooses what is bad for them if they know it is bad. Humans have reason for a reason.
  4. I know that spirituality is the next level in the evolution of humans towards fulfillment of what it means to be human. I also know that not everyone hold the same view as I do.
  5. I know that I hold my views because I espouse and encourage scientific inquiry, the ability to assimilate various ways to look at reality (existential phenomenology, Teilhard de Chardin, Erich Fromm, Martin Buber, St. Thomas Aquinas, Scriptural writers of the Apostolic Era, and the heritage of spirituality down through the centuries), and have concluded that the only way this makes sense is to tease out three universes (physical one that in our heritage of life and uses the Natural Law, the mental one that is our collective heritage in developing various ways to look at reality, such as scientific inquiry, philosophical logic, but that these two universes don’t explain the whole of reality). The spiritual universe takes all we know, all the questions we have about purpose, my place in this reality and makes sense from its seeming conflicts and contradictions. Not everyone will see this or believe this. Each of us has the opportunity to know the truth and that truth will make us free.
  6. Erich Fromm wrote his classic book, The Art of Loving, to explain his thinking that humans are not born knowing how to love, but must be taught how to love by parents, family, friends, and society. Here are a few of his ideas about life and love.

“The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, and the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.” ~ Erich Fromm

“To love somebody is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.” ~ Erich Fromm

“Respect is not fear and awe; it…[is]the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality. Respect, thus, implies the absence of exploitation. I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me.” ~ Erich Fromm

“Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.'” ~ Erich Fromm

“To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defense, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.” ~ Erich Fromm

TWO TYPES OF CHOICES FOR THE ONE CENTER AGAINST WHICH WE MEASURE WHAT IS TRUE.

I call authentic spirituality, living authentically. This means different things to different people. Remember the two types of spirituality?

The Individual as Center — This has you as the center of your world, and so your spirituality. You don’t admit to a center outside of yourself, much less one that has come down through the wear and tear of the centuries. You accept Christ, but you determine who Christ is, what Christ thinks, what Christ says to you and you say to others. You are your own church, your own pope, your own authority. You find it difficult to deny yourself and take up your cross, and if so, it may be paper mache or styrofoam. Each person has an opinion about Scripture which is correct because you hold it. You don’t admit of tradition or heritage. You look back at Scripture and are content to read the Bible and make assumptions about it based on what you think it true. You don’t have anything outside of yourself upon which you can based the truth. Your are authentic in your spirituality as long as you remain within your own set of assumptions. Your roots are planted on soil but the top soil is on rocky ground. The seeds grow but soon die for lack of depth and nourishment.

In terms of who is the most powerful human in the world is, you are, if you freely choose this type of spirituality, even if you believe it is authentic. Freedom to choose is power. The ability to reason is power. Who is to say you are not? You have the right to think what you want, but that does not mean that what you think is right. You don’t care.

Christ as the One Center –– I am the vine and you are the branches, says the Christ. The vine lives and so does the branches throughout the centuries as long as they are attached to the vine. It bears good fruit. Sometimes, the branches are diseased and need to be pruned. On the whole, it moves forward, although not without struggle. This is the second type of authentic love, one that is not based on the individual, but on Christ. This is spirituality, opposed to what the world (Physical Universe and the Mental Universe) teach us about what is good for us or bad for us.

Consistent with the freedom to choose, spirituality may only be entered by a free act of the will, or the choice to enter it. We use our reason to approach this great Mystery of Faith, but reason alone can only take us so far. We signifigy that entry with water and the reception of God’s energy (the Holy Spirit). If I was a rocket ship, I would need fuel (energy) to lift me off of the Earth and go against the Natural Law (gravity) by exerting more force from the rocket than there is to hold me to the Earth.

The first stage of the rocket is like the Physical Universe. This is our playground and the rules are Natural Law.

But the next stage of the rocket is important to lift us higher. This is the Mental Universe, or the realm of the mind. The mind allows me to build a rocket ship, know the Laws of Nature to help me navigate the multiple problems a human has in blasting off into an environment non-supportive of life. I need a third stage, the capsule capable of sustaining my life and its bodily functions. This is spirituality, where I use my reason and the ability to choose to even seek to explore the cosmos at all. The Earth, like the first stage of a rocket, is our platform for life? Why are we the only lifeforms on the planet? Natural Law is the Law before humans began codifying rules to live by. The second stage is mental. Why are humans the only ones to know that they know? We are the only ones to have the ability to reason of all life forms? Why? Stage one of the rocket is needed to lift us off of the ground.

Stage two of the rocket is needed to propel us out of orbit into a trajectory out there. Stage three of the rocket is needed to sustain the human mind (individually and collectively) and discover wonder and meaning. But where do we go? Why do we go? How do we go? And what do we do when we get there? Spirituality, far from being the amorphous Internet Cloud, helps us to answer the questions of purpose and meaning., but only to those who know how to look there.

The challenge for humans is, not all spiritualities lead to the truth. Truth is one as is reality. So, who is right? There can only be one truth, one reality, one path to our destiny. We have reason for a reason, to discover what is true. We have the freedom to choose what is good for us or what is bad for us for a reason. Ultimately, you are the most powerful person in the Universe because you can choose what is true or not. Free choice does not make what you choose as true. What is true happens when we measure ourselves and our purpose in life against either something inside us (we make ourselves into god) and outside ourselves (God makes us adopted sons and daughters). It comes down to this: you have reason for a reason, use it. You have the ability to choose right from wrong, use it. You have the ability to launch the rocket, your purpose in life.

Each individual has a center, just like above, but it is the person of Christ. The individual exists in a collective of faith called the Church. The Church is a collection of traditions and communities that each have an authority outside the individual, one who takes the place of Christ, one to whom the individual treats owes obedience as he or she would give to Christ Himself.

Human existence is more than just being born, getting a job, perhaps having children, growing old, then dying. In between all that living is the search for meaning.

In Western thinking and thought progression, the more you can define something and pick it apart, the more real it is. In the Eastern thinking of what is real, the more mysterious it is, the more profound. It is this thinking about the Mystery of Faith that it at the core of the Spiritual Universe. Here is a picture of what I think it is.

The Mystery of Faith

I am the cup, the individual who must fill up my cup during my lifetime with what I think reality is, with scientific wonder, stretching my mind with ideas and literature, finding meaning in conversation with other. Ultimately, I choose what goes into this cup. It is me, the sum of whom I am. It contains all those authentic experiences of love, as Erick Fromm relates in his book, The Art of Loving, such as respect for others, profound knowledge, caring, sharing of yourself with your other(s). The window is cloudy and I can barely make out what is there but I know it is there. There is light on the other side. This is the Cloud of the Unknowing, ideas about the Sacred as it affects the Physical Universe and Mental Universes.

https://www.catholicspiritualdirection.org/cloudunknowing.pdf

WHO ROWS YOUR BOAT?

What follows is an exerpt from my book, Who Rows Your Boat: How you can be happier than you can possibly imagine. Use these thoughts to expand your horizon. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=books+dr.+michael+f.+conrad

Who Rows Your Boat?

Who Rows Your Boat?
If your life is a boat, there are only two ways for you to travel. Your life is like a rowboat on the undulating seas of change. You have only two options in this boat, you can be a passenger, or you can be a rower.

THE PASSENGER

  • A passenger is just along for the ride.
  • A passenger uses the boat to get where they are going.
  • Passengers don’t worry about how to get there, just their destination.
  • Passengers don’t own the boat, they are just users. Who will guarantee your safety, if there are holes in the boat? Who knows the way through rough seas? “You pay your money and you take your chances”

THE ROWER

  • A Rower is one who works to move the boat.
  • The Rower uses the boat to as a means to get to a desirable end.
  • The Rower fixes the boat if there is a hole in it, knows how to navigate in rough seas, and how to ensure the safety of any other passengers. You have two choices: you can be a rower or you can be a passenger. One of these will get you to Heaven

Own your own boat.

You are the only you, you have. Unless you believe in reincarnation, you have just seventy or eighty years to learn something, to do something, and to be someone. One thing is for sure, the time passes quicker than you can possibly imagine.

Ron had gone through college to please his parents. He went to church to please his parents. He got married to please his wife’s parents. He got a job with a company he did not like, so his wife could be near her mom and dad. Ron wanted children, while she kept putting it off. Ron was now in his early fifties. His wife was nearing the big “5-0”, with two face lifts, a breast augmentation, and two liposuctions behind her. She looked sixty. Ron looked like a young man. His black hair had not grayed. He had a stylish beard. He had a good job with the Federal Government. One day, Ron experienced his first genuine, panic attack. He had to stay home that day. Being alone, he wondered why he was so upset. He kept thinking of all the things he wanted to do but never got a chance because of pleasing someone else. Ron was a passenger on the boats of other people near him. At the age of fifty-three, he just discovered how to row his own boat. He was lucky he did not wait another ten years to discovered that secret. Your boat is your transportation to Forever. Don’t blow it! Who Rows Your Boat?

Row your own boat.
Denise was going to be a lawyer. She was in college to learn as much as she could. Denise, because she was focused, had no problems coming out the other end of the conveyor belt of schooling, ready for Law School. Here are some of the lessons that Denise learned along the way.

You can tell true friends, not by what they say they will do, but by what they accomplish.

Religion may seem boring only because you have not dug deep enough to get past your own prejudices from high school. Don’t stay buried in the soil.

Mud thrown is ground lost.

There is more to sexual intercourse than copulation. Monkeys can procreate. They cannot form relationships. Humans discover and nourish relationships.

There is a purpose to life, even if you don’t know what it is.

Humans are destined to live in a place of pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service. Rowing your own boat means you will need to practice living in all three universes to discover the mystery of pure energy, and how you can tap into it.

Rowing Takes Work

You must row your own boat. You are accountable for your own destiny, when you stand before the Master. He will ask you to give an accounting of your stewardship. Will you offer some lame excuse like, “My parents never forced me to go to church when I was young?” Going to church has nothing to do with spirituality. Spirituality gives direction to religion. When you die, you will be asked if you discovered the reason why you are here. Don’t blow your chance while you live. Take charge of your destiny. You, and you alone, will be one-to-one with the Big One, the I AM, or pure energy. So, while you still have time. Start your spiritual wealth planning. Learn what you need to do to store up treasures in that big computer of your mind. You need to row, row, row your boat. That takes work, but it also takes someone to help you.

√ ROW YOUR BOAT on earth to gain as much true knowledge as you can.

√ ROW YOUR BOAT, while you have time, to find out the true meaning of love.

√ ROW YOUR BOAT to discover that you are an extension of the Master on earth and that you must give true, unconditional service to your family, friends, and community.

Who Rows Your Boat?

Rowing takes work. You must row your own boat.

Know the Song, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat?”

Row, Row, Row Your Boat…gently down the stream.

Who Rows Your Boat?

How should you row your boat? Why, gently down the stream, of course. Life is too short to worry over the small stuff. To row gently means to take your time and you relish the view. If you have an authentic center, this will make you happy, and you have the side benefit of discovering the Kingdom of Heaven.

Luis had come to the United States from Mexico. He studied archeology at a the University of Colorado. The lure of money was a distraction that Luis did not have. He came from a family that was very poor in material goods but rich in its reverence for learning and his Mexican heritage. His goal in life was never to make money, only to discover the truth about his ancient past. Luis was most happy when he was in the field on an archeological dig, without any conveniences, and without dependence on electronic devices. Luis was a devoted family man, relishing the time he spent with his family. He considered one of his life goals to share the spiritual heritage his mother and father left to him with his children and friends. Luis was a gentle man with a passion for his family, for life, and for archeology. Read Matthew 12:28-30.

When you row your boat, how should you act? Does the word “merrily” always mean happy, smiling at misfortune, or putting on a happy face? Maybe! It is hard to sustain being happy for a long period of time. You fall back on your default, the ups and downs of daily toil.

Franco just lost both of his parents in a fire that destroyed the family home. He had two other sisters that consoled him and with whom he could share his grief. Franco was a deacon in his local church. Newly ordained, he went through stages of grief on three levels. He suffered pain and loss on the physical level. He was aware of his pain. Something else was bothering him. He kept asking why this happened. This was loss on the mental level. Franco tried to make sense out of all the situations in which he found himself. He worked through his emotional grief and his mental grief until he received enlightenment. The spiritual level, he discovered, is the answer to the other two universes, the physical and the mental. The spiritual level states: Happy are they who mourn; they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:5) Franco is spiritually happy. Happy is another word for merrily.

When you row your boat, how should you act?

How should you row your boat? … merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.

Life is but a dream.
Is life nothing but a dream? Is reality just a fantasy? Is what is real on only on Reality TV? You need to know the difference.
When Faye Ann and Lester were young newly weds, they would dream together of a time when they would have a small cottage farm, complete with barn, some horses, sheep, chickens, and a few goats to keep down the weeds. That never happened. Lester had to work on the farm his father left him. Faye Ann worked in town at the bank as a teller. They had no horses, chickens, or goats. As they got older, Lester and Faye Ann dreamed of retiring to a small coastal village in Florida where they could spend their hours watching the Gulf of Mexico. Both Lester and Faye Ann were under no illusions about getting such a retirement home. They resolved to make life worth living each and every day. Each day, they would start their days with a simple prayer to do God’s will that day. The retirement home was a dream for them. The reality was what happened to them each day, not what would happen ten years from now. They were happy.

You are your boat.

Denise had been in a wheelchair, ever since she could remember anything. She had Cerebral Palsy. Her parents raised her to challenge herself with the seemingly impossible. She went to high school, finished college with a major in business, and became a consultant for a large manufacturing company on issues such as diversity, the American’s with Disabilities Act, and organizational effectiveness. Denise never thought of herself as disabled but rather enabled. Just as someone who does not have sight compensates for the lack of that one sense, Denise compensated for her lack of motor functions.


On the side, she started a not-for-profit company to help other people challenge themselves to identify what was meaningful for them, and to pursue it. Denise would not settle for someone else rowing her boat. Sink or swim, she was in charge of her destiny. Denise set life goals for herself and began meeting them. She went on to teach swimming at a small private college. Denise embraced life rather than complain about it. She rowed her own boat. Her parents merely taught her how to navigate.

Only you can row your boat.
You can be a passenger in the boat of others, or you can row your own boat. It you wish to get to Heaven, you must row your own boat. Of all the people in the world, you are unique.

When Veronica had a run-in with her parents, she was so infuriated that they would not trust her, when she stayed out until 2:00 AM, that she left the house in a huff. Her parents wanted her to go to church. She refused. Her parents wanted her to get a job. She procrastinated. Veronica spent the majority of her young life reacting to her parents. She rejected a set of religious beliefs that she did not understand. She wanted to be independent. She left home at 18 and joined the military. Veronica was in charge of her career, but did not take responsibility for her life. She kept making decisions based on her reaction to what others thought she should do. Veronica had the ability to go any direction she wanted, but was impaired because of reacting to what friends thought she should do. Veronica wanted to row her own boat. It was not until she was in her 50’s that she realized what was going on. You don’t have to wait that long.

You only have one boat, so take care of it well.
All the rowers in the world won’t help you, if your boat has a hole in it. Like your kitchen, you must clean it, doing the dishes every day. The alternative is to live in filth that you, yourself have created.

If I would look in your bedroom closet, what would I find? Is it a disaster? Is there chaos? Do you iron your clothes or just throw them into the closet? Do you even care? You should! As your closet is, so is your life. Well, maybe not exactly, but it will give you cause to think about putting things in order. You must constantly keep your kitchen and your closet clean, or what happens? Dirt rules! The more dirt you let sit, the more you will have to clean up later.

“Row well and live.” –Ben Hur

The Passive Man

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house
.

–Mother Goose

There was a passive man, and he joined a passive church,

No one grew an inch, which left him in a lurch.

He blamed the Church for failing him, of keeping Christ from him

He never could accept the fact that it was he who was in sin.

–Michael Conrad

Passive Christianity may be the norm for most of us who casually call ourselves by the name of Christ. We are comfortable (or not so) with a minimalist view of our Faith, so that when we fall away from it because the Church is at fault, an easy scapegoat for those with a guilt conscious.

My brief practice of Cistercian spirituality, The Cistercian Way, at least as much of it as I know now, points out a much deeper and more challenging way to love others as Christ loves us. Christ shows us how to love, (Philippians 5-12) to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him each day, where I find myself. Some of us are passive, cultural or hereditary Catholics. You hear the title. cradle catholic, used by those who were Baptized but have never experienced the pull of temptations to give up the Faith because they experienced their first real challenge. Like M&M candies, they mealt in the hand of adversity at the first sign of stress. Yet, stress is what religion is all about. Christ tells us in Matthew 19:

Not Peace, but a Sword

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

3For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

There is no Resurrection without the passion and death. There is no Ascension without our losing our life for Christ’s sake. You must love Christ more than your father or mother. All of this sound silly, except it is how Christ loves us. He came to show us that putting God first actually places everything else in its proper order. He told us the seeming paradox that thow who find their life will ose it and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Notice the words “for my sake”. Cistercian spirituality is a way that I use to lose my life for Christ’s sake. It not easy, but neither is life’s challenges. We see the effects of our sin in Genesis 2-3 with the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve.

THERE IS NO PASSIVE CHRISTIAN

There is no Resurrection without the passion and death. There is no Ascension without our losing our life for Christ’s sake. You must love Christ more than your father or mother. All of this sound silly, except it is how Christ loves us. He came to show us that putting God first actually places everything else in its proper order. Cistercian spirituality is not easy, but neither is life’s challenges. We see the effects of our sin in Genesis 2-3 with the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve. Read what

Revelation 3 NRSVCE – The Message to Laodicea14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin[a] of God’s creation:15 “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. 21 To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

These two passages suggest that there are not fence sitters on loving others as Christ loves you. If you are lukewarm, like milk, God will spit you out of His mouth. As a Lay Cistercian, I must keep reminding myself that I can’t just sit there in a chair and believe. I must proactively “do” spirituality. The Church, properly understood, is the hothouse for “doing” what Christ told us to do so that we could love others. For me, it is Lay Cistercian practices and seeking to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippian 2:5). Christ bids his Church to be active, but not with action for the sake of action (St. Paul called that by the name The Law). Read Matthew 25:36 to find out what we must do to be active.

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PRAYING WITH PERSONALITIES

One of the ideas that rolled around in my head (there is lots of room to roll around) is the notion of personalities and prayer. I am part of several prayer groups, some of which pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Whenever there are people present, personalities either clash or mesh, or variations of the above. The point is, when you are singing a Hymn and your fellow participants start out on one level then lose tone by a full note or more, it is frustrating.

Putting up with the little things as you pray can be nerve racking. Over the last three years, I find myself a bit more patient with others’ differences and traits. Here are some that I find irritating. Mind you, I consider all of this part of prayer. I say these, not to criticize anyone but rather to say that all of the little personality quirks are the human dimension of prayer.

  • Lowering the Hymn by at least one full note each time we sing.
  • People not beginning the Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer on time.
  • Not showing up for Rosary or Lay Cistercian discernment group
  • Saying the Rosary fast while other are slow to recite it
  • Singing at Eucharist off key
  • Someone with a raucous clearing of their throat
  • Attending any prayer while sick with the flu or inflecting others with coughing.
  • Someone makes a mistakes in pronunciation
  • Someone who forgets where they are in Liturgy of the Word

These little failings irritate me because I am guilty of all of them myself. What patience and kindness do for any of us is not to ignore that these little failings exist but to do unto others as we would like to be treated (Chapter 4 of the RB). Don’t make an issue of it. It is all prayer.

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TWEEKING MY LAY CISTERCIAN PRAYERS

Praying, for me, is not the same as when I began my Lay Cistercian odyssey seven years ago. I considered myself somewhat religious, but I could never have imagined I would be where I am today in my prayer life. Some of the prayer are the same ones I said years ago. All that is good, but what has changed is my willingness to give up what I thought I knew about prayer and contemplation to embrace silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community (The Cistercian Way).

As I imagine myself sitting in a chapel at Good Shepherd parish, Tallahassee (one of two Faith groups in which I seek God) and praying the Liturgy of the Word, particularly the Office of Reading, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. A group of us pray the official prayer of the Church Universal out loud and in choir (alternating side as we pray the Psalms).

I began reciting the Liturgy of the Hours (we called it the Divine Office back then) in 1965. Deacons and priests are required to recite these seven prayer every day (almost everyone does it in private). Monks and nuns recite the Liturgy of the Hour in choir as their default and only individually, if they don’t have public recitation.

TWEEKING TIP FROM MONKS

As I began praying as a Novice Lay Cistercian (first two years of formation), the monks at Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) would teach us each month about how to pray, what to pray, when to pray, problems with saying prayers. Here are a few tidbits from what they taught us. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5812&action=edit

LITURGY OF THE HOURS — Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, and Eucharist form the core of what constitutes prayer as a Lay Cistercian. Monks and nuns have a schedule every day where they pray at certain times and meet in community for Eucharist and recitation of the hours. Lay Cistercians, not living in the community of a Monastery, are encouraged to have a schedule also but keeping it might be a bit more challenging because of family, work, retirement, etc…

Tips in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours

  • Liturgy of the Hours may be recited publically or in private. Since this is a public prayer of the Church, try to recite it outloud, even if you are the only one there. I move my lips while reciting it, if there are others in the Church praying.
  • Go to a place of silence and solitude (sometimes I do this at Trader Joe’s Market while my wife shops) and read from my four volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours (with big print). My favorite place is in the Chapel at Good Shepherd or in Eucharistic Adoration (24 hours at Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Tallahassee, Florida). Why would you not want to go there, if you truly believed that this was indeed Christ present body and blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread.

Pray it as though you had marbles in your mouth. Speak slowly and pause after each stanza for a second and for two seconds before and after each element (Psalms, Reading, Antiphons, Intercessory Prayers, and Lord’s Prayer. Make sure everyone agrees to speak slowly, if you are in a choir setting with others.

Pray as one voice. One of the things I picked up from how the monks pray at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) is they recite and sing with one voice, very slowly and with long pauses. It is like looking at Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup running down a stack of Bisquick pancakes.

Keep to a schedule, as much as you can. Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. taught us to pray as we can not as we should. Every day, pray at the same time. If you miss a day, no big deal, we are love-centered, not sin-centered. Do your best to give glory to God and forget the rest. Remember, it is ALL prayer.

THE EUCHARIST

My motives for attending Eucharist have moved from one of obligation to one of anticipation of meeting Christ and joining Him to give praise to the Father, something I cannot do alone. It is all part of the transformation, very imperceptibly and without sensationalism, that happened to me as a result of my approach Christ using Cistercian practices and charisms. Dying to self seems like such a irrelevant concept when applies to the psychological constructs of what makes an individual fulfilled as a human. The mental photo that I have of sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter and peering down a snow covered path waiting for Christ is so important this part of my journey. I moved from thinking that Christ is everything to me and that he will always be there for me at my beck and call, just waiting for me ask him for help, to one of sitting in the last bench at church, not willing to lift my head to heaven, and continuing to say over and over, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner. Anticipation is the door through which I can move to the next level of my spiritual awareness. Approaching Eucharist helps me to walk through that door each and every day. Here are some ways that I have found useful in sustaining Christ in a World that says, “You don’t have to deny yourself to follow Christ, follow yourself.”

The Eucharist is one of seven gifts that Christ gives us and the Holy Spirit sustains in us to give us grace. These Sacraments are what the Church needs for it to move down through the centuries and to love others as Christ loves us. Christ loves us by giving his Body (the Church Universal) the power to regenerate itself.

Baptism is the gift of adoption by God to be sons and daughters of the Father.

Confirmation is the gift of the Holy Spirit to sustain us in our time on earth.

Eucharist is the gift where the Body can feed and nourish itself with the Holy Spirit and then accompany Christ when he once more Ascends to the Father with praise and glory.

Reconciliation is the gift whereby we start over once more in trying to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). It keeps the Body from decay and ruin. It protects it from false prophets and errors in individual thinking. It keeps our Baptism and Confirmation fresh and makes all things new in Christ.

Holy Orders allows the other Sacrament to be sustained throughout the ages. There is only One Lord, One Baptism, One Faith, One Church in each age. We pass on our heritage from each age and grow in love. Celibacy is not a Sacrament, it is a discipline embraced by most Western Faith Traditions. Those who are ordained as Bishop, Priest, or Deacon are set apart from the Laity, much as the Tribe of Levi was set apart from the other Eleven Tribes, to devote itself to service of the Body in sustaining our Faith.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

Matrimony — Sustaining spirituality can’t happen without humans having some way to sustain their species. The physical universe is our base to exist has humans. The mental universe is our base to discover meaning and why something is. The spiritual universe has, as its base, both the physical and mental universes. This is quite consistent with the natural law, that which would apply to all inanimate matter and time plus all animate beings. Let me caution you to always think of reality containing two dimensions, one physical and mental and the other mental and spiritual. When we use the word, matrimony, there are two ways to look at it, one way includes God and the other does not. A Sacrament means Jesus gives his Church this gift to allow us to receive grace (God’s life in us)’

Annointing of the Sick — This the Sacrament of healing for the Church, for the body, for the spirit, for the Church Universal. Individuals may receive it in private, but it is still a public prayer, offered in reparation for sin and to ask for forgiveness for ourselves and our enemies.

Believing in the presence of the Word is important. One of the characteristics of love is a longing to be present to the one you love. Love is not only the motive for being present to Christ, but also it is the product of being present with God.

I have moved deeper in my quest for meaning from Eucharist as obligation to Eucharist as an chance to encounter the love of Christ in a way no other prayer has.

The temptation in approaching the Sacred is that I have to do something, it depends upon me to sustain this longing. I have found that I have calmed down exponentially since I learned to appreciate silence and solitude and allow God to be God and me to be me.

Existential psychologists would say you are just present to one another and appreciate who that Being is rather than making it in a carbon copy of yourself. We are made in the image and likeness of God and not the other way around. That has implications for my spirituality because I don’t grow deeper in my self but move from my self to God.

Eucharist is the ultimate prayer of transformation because what Christ is as he approaches the Father with his gifts of life itself (taking on the nature of a slave and by dying for our sins) and returning to the Father to give him the praise and glory that Adam and Eve (representing all of us) refused.

Each time the community (not the individual) comes together to celebrate the death of the Lord until he comes again, Eucharist means we catch a ride with Christ as He relives all that he did, all that he was, all that he will be. The doxology is the crescendo of prayer when the Priest offers to the Father (remember, we are together with Christ’s arms around us) all praise and honor, through, with, and in Christ. This ALL means 100% of God’s nature and also 100% of our human nature. To be sure, Christ’s sacrifice happened one time in temporal space, but the Mystery of Faith is that it happens all over again in all its majesty and glory each time we come together as a community with a Priest to be a mediator between the unseen God and we sinful member of His Body.

I grow in appreciation of the infinite Mystery of Faith each time I attend Eucharist.

  • It is the way I ask for forgiveness of sins, it is the place where two or three are father in His name.
  • It is where I head the Word of God and its implications for this day, each time I am present to the Lord.
  • It is where I offer up my self for that day or week to the Father, it is where the gifts of bread and wine are offered to the Father by Christ alone.
  • It is where I tag along with Christ and sheepishly approach Christ who alone can approach the Father face to face.
  • It is where these gifts of bread and wine become Christ (John 6), the Mystery of Faith.
  • It is where I take that peace from Christ into my heart to transform it from self to God.
  • It is where I give that peace from Christ to others around me and my family.
  • It is where I receive the real body and blood of Christ, unworthy as I am to even approach Christ much less the Father.
  • It is where Christ’s heart rests next to mine in love and silence and solitude. It is where my commitment to be what I have just received is strengthened and transformed from my false self to my true self.
  • It is where I say I will love others as Christ loves us, having Christ as my energy and not my own.
  • Eucharist is not made possible by the Faith of those present but by the recitation of the words of consecration (John 6) spoken by the priest over both the bread and wine.
  • Eucharist is the sacrifice of thanksgiving of the Church Universal to the Father through, with, and in Christ in unity of the Holy Spirit.

My question, and one I have come to ask each time I approach the Sacred, is why would I not want to be with the One I love as often as I can.

Part of this transformation from self to God, as it pertains to my Lay Cistercian spirituality is, I try to be Eucharist, not that I am God but I realize that I am an adopted son of the Father. What that means is clearly revealed by Christ. (The Real Presence of Christ to those I meet this day). Read Matthew 25 Just like the sign of Peace we receive at the Eucharist, we also are charged with moving from hatred to love, to try to become what St. Benedict sets for for us in Chapter 4 of his RB (Rule of Benedict). Not so surprisingly, there is a golden thread that weaves it way through Eucharist and prayer, all that I do that day, all I hope to become, each day. The Golden Thread is Christ. Each day, with each new experience, we as a community of living Faith, proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again in glory, but loving God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength and our neighbor as our self (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37). Lay Cistercian spirituality, as I understand it, is one of placing myself in the presence of Christ and waiting. This applies to all the prayer opportunities that I use each day. The product of these encounters are a transference of charims (humility, obedience to the will of God, love, hospitality, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit) from my false self to my true self, an adopted son of the Father.

ADORATION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

One of the biggest helps to sustain my Faith, outside the Eucharist itself, is prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Eucharist is not the same as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, although both involve the Real Presence of Christ. The Faith of those present do not cause the bread in the Monastrance to become the Real Presence of Christ. Only a validly ordained priest (Catholic or Orthodox) can confect the bread. Because Eucharist is indeed the actual Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, I have strength that the World cannot give to be able to do the following (in no order of importance):

  • With Christ, I have the strength not to judge others who do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ, although it is radically different than what my Church teaches, but rather to ask for God’s mercy on both of us.
  • With Christ, I have the strength to see what is invisible to the eyes of my mind but not my ear of the heart (Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule).
  • With Christ, I have the strength to endure those who hate me, vilify me, put down my heritage, my God, and my Lay Cistercian practice and not to return hatred for hatred. (St. Benedict, Chapter 4, RB).
  • With Christ, I can grow deeper in awareness that everything around me, all the words I speak, all my actions to discover what is meaningful, are just the tip of the iceberg. Life is about discovering the deeper meaning. Contemplation is a way to strip away that which is irrelevant and impure, like the refiners fire.
  • With Christ, I can move from false self to my true self, from self to God, from being a human with no hope of fulfillment as is our destiny to one of faith, hope and love.

Tips to Pray Before the Blessed Sacrament

  • Listen with the ear of your heart.
  • Time with Christ in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament is the perfect place for silence and solitude. You just wait there, often without prayers, alway asking God to be merciful to you, a sinner.
  • Empty your need personal prayers for this or that. God knows what you need. Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given to you.
  • Embrace humility and meekness.
  • Move away from dependence on saying prayers to communicate with God to praying using prayers as the point of departure
  • Do not raise our eyes to the heavens or even look at the Monstrance but rather keep you eyes lowered and repeat over and over, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  • Try Lectio Divina by saying this phrase, “…have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). Pray for this to happen to you, now.
  • Sit in silence and solitude.
  • Go to a place inside you that Steven Hawking could not look.
  • Contemplation is a state where there are no words, there are no scenarios to distract you from focusing on

LECTIO DIVINA — Benedictines, Carthusians, Camaldolese, Cistercians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustianians, Jesuits, and many other types of Lay organizations all use Lectio Divina as one of the pillars of their prayer practice. Read this source to find out the five steps of Lectio Divina and what it means.

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org/2018/06/28/lectio-divina-actio/ Here are some of the things I learned to help me do Lectio Divina more effectively (in no order of importance).

Lectio Divina has been the same eight words for me since 1964. “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). With my companions of silence and solitude, we sit (I used to be able to kneel ten years ago) before the Blessed Sacrament and listen with our ear of the heart. (Prologue to St. Benedict;s RB).

  • When I began my Lay Cistercian phase of my lifetime walk with Christ (began in 2010) with my first discernment retreat at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) in Conyers, Georgia, my attention span was 10 minutes, on a good day. That is when I thought I had to fill my silence with prayer, reading Scriptures, trying but failing to do Lectio Divina. The secret is persistence and consistency. Try this as a beginning exercise in prayer. Every day, read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. Ask someone to be your spiritual guide to whom you will report at the end of 30 days. Every day is important. At the end of those 30 days, how did you do. What does this tell you about yourself. Can you now do 90 days?
  • You know you have mastered Lectio Divina when you realize that you never will master it and that, you know all five levels are there, you do them automatically and never you never even think of them.
  • You spiritual life happen, like any skill you acquire, through practice. The greater the skill, the more you must practice to attain it. Do you have the patience or will you wilt under the heat of discomfort or failure. The World tried to get us to stop contemplation because it is too difficult, too irrelevant, and takes up too much of your valuable time.
  • What could be more valuable that having you heart sitting on bench in the cold of Winter and having Christ sit next to you? Would you sell all that you have to be able to do that? With God’s grace, I would.
  • Prayer is either the Church, or you, talking to God. If you are talking you can’t listen. Lectio is a prayer where you begin talking to God but end up, hopefully, with you listening to Christ’s Being sitting next to your heart. This is the deepest part of contemplation and may or may not be a part of Lectio. It may happen anywhere at any time. Your heart must be in-sync with the heart of Christ.
  • Contemplation is the absence of words, thoughts, prayers, or any mental constructs you normally use for communication. Contemplation is being present to the One Being who Is. What sounds like nothing is actually everything that is meaningful and the ultimate destiny of each human who is born from a human but who dies into the communion of the faithful (Nicene Creed) who stand before the Throne of the Lamb in perpetual contemplation (love).
  • What I am doing right now is what I consider Lectio Divina. I began by thinking of my eight words “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5), The theme plus all these ideas just popped out. Granted that it might seem a little disjointed at time, it is a way for me to commit my Lectio thought to a blog so that you can read them. This is the Actio part of the five step of Lectio Divina, the one recommend by Pope Benedict XVI.
  • Those with other talents, I would encourage to do a group Lectio (different than a discussion group or a prayer group) using the five steps of Guibo II. If you are an artist, use art to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. If you are a musician, use Lectio to create music. If you are a poet, write of how your heart sits next to Christ and what happens? There is a product that comes from any Lectio Divina (or any prayer) when you join your heart and mind with that of Christ. This is called good works, not the misconception most reformers had that we can buy our way to heaven (we can’t) or bribe our way to heaven (we can’t) but the pure product that comes from the Holy Spirit filling our heart with love. There are only three outcomes to Lectio Divina: good works (ones that comes to us through Christ’s love and transforms us into Christ); bad works (those that the World thinks is love and transforms us into ourselves); and no works (those that Satan encourages us to choose as love, those that do not transform us into anything). You can choose any one you want. Remember, there are consequences to all our choices.
  • Lectio Divina, as with any prayer, it not the end in itself but only a means to an end, to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5).

Prayer is about moving beyond the words to be at One with the object of your love. Read the following blog to get a sense of how deep love can take you, if you just let go of your preconceived ideas about who God is or what prayer is. He must increase and you must decrease. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org/2019/06/24/growing-deeper-in-your-faith-five-levels-of-spiritual-awareness/

THE ROSARY — Meditation on the Life of Christ

A minister once asked me if I was saved and I gave him what he considered a flippant answer. I told him I have been saved 25, 146 times in my life. When he shut his mouth from dropping open, he told me I was going to Hell. I told him that he was indeed a most powerful man to be able to condemn someone to Hell without knowing anything about their heart. I had just finished meditating on the life of Christ in the prayer called the Rosary and had asked myself how many times I had said the Rosary in my lifetime. I guessed it was over 500 but wasn’t counting. I did wonder how many time each morning I woke up since birth as an adopted son of god (baptized on September 29, 1940) and it was, at that time, 25,146 times. Tempus fugit. Here are some of the things I learned to help me meditate on the life of Christ more effectively (in no order of importance).

The habit of prayer is an important part of my Lay Cistercian life, as I live it. I have made a schedule of prayer that seems to help me out. Here is an example of what I mean by a schedule. You will go far by praying the Rosary but you will go farther by making a schedule to help you in the habit of prayer. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org/2019/06/05/five-practices-that-make-a-lay-cistercian-what-does-your-contemplative-practice-look-like/

Like Lectio Divina or the mantra used by monks sometimes, I pray the rosary as a private devotion to help me focus more on Christ and less and less on me. Repeating the prayers and words becomes secondary to meditating on the Mystery of Faith. I love this devotion, more so than when I began reciting the Rosary in 1955.

The Rosary, appropriately so, always begins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the sign of the cross, the pledge of our victory over sin by Christ. Read what the Rosary is and what it is not from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/rosaries/how-to-pray-the-rosary.cfm

Each day, okay, on most days, I recite the Rosary in public with a group of parishoners from Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Florida. We do so every day, except Sunday, in common, although the Rosary is a private prayer of the Faithful.

Here are some resources that you might find helpful. I did.

For those without Faith, the recitation of the Rosary can be a stumbling block. For those with Faith, no answers are necessary, says St. Thomas Aquinas.

  • The Rosary is not about Mary at all. It is about how Mary presents to us the key anchors of our Faith and asks us to meditate on this Mystery of Faith, her Son. She tells you to do what he tells you.
  • We only pray to God but we do ask the Saints (Mary being the first of all saints) to pray with us as they stand before the Throne of the Lamb.
  • I try to focus on the core milestones of Jesus’ life. I don’t force any thoughts to come, but, like Lectio Divina, they always so come. I don’t have a preconceived notion of what Christ will tell me in meditation.
  • Saying the Rosary is good. Praying the Rosary is better. Praying the Rosary with the hope of transforming yourself from your false self to your true self by meditating on the life of Christ is best.
  • Some days are better than others. I don’t always have a maximum effort at saying the Rosary. Some times, I fall asleep. That doesn’t mean I am on the wrong path.
  • Praying the Rosary is the Big Leagues of spirituality. To do so consistently each day or each week is an indication of your love for Christ.

READING SACRED SCRIPTURE — Reading from Sacred Scripture is reading the activities and word of Christ that come to us through various authors who want us to have some activities to help our belief. Saint John in 20:30 gives us a hint of why people of the time of Christ wrote down so much about Him:

John 20:30-31 

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[a]that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

  • When we read other books, we do so for enjoyment, to knowledge, for enlightenment, or for many other reasons (you might even be addicted to reading books. Reading Sacred Scripture is different. It has the power of the Word to transform you with words. Here are some ways that I try to tweek what might seem like an ordinary reading into something special for me.
  • Realize that God speaks to me through His Word. I must be attentive to this means to listen to God with “the ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict writes at the beginning of his Prologue to the RB.
  • Realize that the time I take to read Sacred Scripture is holy time, dedicated to God in reparation for my sins and to ask for mercy and forgiveness for those times I was not sensitive to love others as Christ loves us.
  • Realize that I must read slowly, more so than usual.
  • Realize that the Word produces energy for my spiritual life, even if I don’t feel its effects right now.
  • Realize that I have life in His name (John 20:31).

THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT –Lay Cistercians

Those who have elected to follow the Rule of St. Benedict (Benedictines, Cistercians, Carthusians, Camaldolese) read the RB (Rule of Benedict) frequently and try to install in their way of life what he wrote. I find that all of the RB does not apply to Lay Cistercians, much much of it does. Remember, I am speaking a someone who is still trying to apply the principles of spirituality to my life as I live it out. It it is a process of becoming rather than the attainment of a completed task.

The Cistercians have, like other reformers of the Rule, interpreted the Rule of Benedict to their particular approach to life. This is the Cistercian Way, one that is based on certain practices and charisms (what it means to be a Trappist). Trappist is a strict interpretation of the Cistercian charisms).

  • Each monastery has a different set of disciplines as set forth by the Abbot/ Abbess.
  • They all follow the constitutions and statutes of the Order of Cistercians Strict Observance (Trappists).

https://www.ocso.org/resources/law/constitutions-and-statutes/ http://www.trappists.org/trappist-life/

  • Lay Cistercians serve at the pleasure of the Abbot/Abbess.
  • Lay Cistercians International meet every three years to clarify their role and make recommendations for the future.
  • Lay Cistercians, if accepted by the local Lay Cistercian community and approved by the Abbot/Abbess make final promises after five years of discernment (Novices for two years, Junior promises for each of three years and final, lifetime promises).
  • Lay Cistercians are bound by stability to a particular Monastery and Abbot/Abbess.
  • As part of my practice each day, I read Chapter 4 of the RB. Two important parts of this prayer are: Read Chapter 4 list of what St. Benedict calls Tools of Good Words; next, do it every day. Both are part of prayer.
  • At this level of my awareness of Cistercian practices and charisms, I use the following Chapters of RB (in bold print):

The Rule of Benedict http://archive.osb.org/rb/text/toc.html

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02436a.htm

FIVE TIPS TO HELP WITH PRAYER

Posted on March 5, 2019 by thecenterforcontemplativepractice

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.

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.

uiodg

GROWING DEEPER IN YOUR FAITH: Five Levels of Spiritual Awareness

I have uncovered five levels of spiritual awareness as I sat, one Sunday morning at Eucharist, thinking about how my attention span waxes and wanes as I listen to the Word. I usually must make an effort to keep my focus on the readings and the sermons, then try to grow deeper as I listen to the Eucharistic Prayer said by the priest. It usually does not vary and the temptation is to think it irrelevant because it is a recited prayer.

St. Augustine, I found out, was fond of saying that we must become what we pray, so I can’t claim that one. I find these find apply to many different prayers and charisms that I practice as a Lay Cistercian. I will take you through each of the five (you may have more than five) but these help keep me anchored on Christ and my attention focused on the Mystery of Faith.

For this example, I use the Word from John 1:1 because I thought of this while at Eucharist looking at all those people out there and wondering if any of this sinks in. From my traditional set in the Tax Collector’s seat in the last pew in Church, the one that is meant for sinners in the Scriptures who can’t even raise his eyes of the Heavens but in humility keeps asking Jesus, Son of David, to have mercy on him, I am jolted back into reality. I should not judge others as to their motives but focus on converting my own heart from my false self to my true self. I try to read Chapter 4 of the RB (Rule of St. Benedict) every day. Some days are better than others.Here is how I apply the five levels to reading the Liturgy of the Hours each day. Some day are better than others.

LEVEL ONE: READ THE WORD –– When the Word of God comes into my heart, it does so through my five senses and my mind translates it into something meaningful, some behavior that does something in me. Spirituality gives it finality in that the Word is made flesh in my heart and dwells among us. The power of the Word is energy (Faith). Reading it is an act of the will to try to find meaning in what is read. Reading or saying the Word is key to praying the universal prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours. Completing the reading is a reward in itself. But is there something deeper here?

Characteristics:

  • To reach my heart, the Word must enter through my five senses.
  • I must be present to hear the word with my ears.
  • I translate it automatically into English so that it makes sense to my mind.
  • We all begin each Liturgy of the Word by saying or reading the words of the hour in question. How we do that is intention and meant to evoke meaning and move our praying from the head to the heart.
  • Each of us can hear the Word but receive it differently because of our assumptions about what it means. Assumptions come from how we look at the purpose of life, what our purpose in life is, what reality looks like, how it fits together, how we can love authentically, and what our approach to death is. For me, this is the foundations of spirituality and the bedrock on which all humans (especially Christ) discover anything about why they are here on earth and where they are going.
  • Reading the Liturgy of the Hours is probably different than reading the phone book or looking up a movie on YouTube. When you wake up and discover it is not, you need to recalculate where you are and move deeper.
  • The Word is alive and does something wonderful when it enters human beings. My dog can hear the Gospel read to him, but it does not benefit from the reading. Humans alone can hear the Word.
  • Humans alone can pay attention or let their mind wander. Because of Original Sin, it takes work to pay attention to what is behind the Word of God.
  • My attention tends to drift sometimes when I just hear the Word and it all sounds alike. I lose my train of thought. This is still preferable to not showing up at all and thinking that you can meet God on the golf course. You can, but God always makes a hole in one for each hole He plays. What is your handicap?

To grow deeper in Christ means I must use both my reason (to find meaning) and free choice (to choose to move to the next level of spiritual awareness). I call this Faith informed by reason.

There is an added dimension to the Liturgy of the Hours prayer other than mere reciting the text in private or in choir (with two rotating groups of people). It is an act of the will to take time to read the Liturgy of the Word at a certain time on a certain day. Religious monks and nuns devote their lives to living a schedule of prayer, where part of the prayer is showing up for Liturgy of the Hours. These hours have been one of our most cherished treasures of the Church Universal, dating back before the time of St. Benedict ( 540. A.D.) and his Rule, which sought to organize the reading of the Liturgy of the Hours for unruly and undisciplined monks. Our public prayers of the Church, especially Liturgy of the Hour, began to be recited on a daily basis for seven designated periods of prayer (Office of Readings or Vigils, Morning Prayer or Matins, Midmorning prayer, Midday Prayer, Midafternoon, Evening Prayer or Vespers, Night Prayer of Compline ). https://divineoffice.org/ Why are they called public? Because they are designed for public prayer and private recitation is only used by exception.

Two dimensions of prayer are at work here: keeping up a habit of praying and the praying itself. If we only stay on this level, we do not move past reading the Word, as good as that is. But, there is more, much, much more.

LEVEL TWO: PRAY THE WORD– Prayer lifting the mind and heart to God. This is heavy lifting to be sure. It takes work. Imagine me trying to lift up a thirty pound weight over my head. I can do it but won’t be able to sustain it for very long without some form of relief. Read what Christ says in Matthew 11 (NRSVCE) – “At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank[i] you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[j] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’”

You know you are at some deeper level when you are aware that the words you speak have meaning and that meaning leads you to adding your heart to what you say with your mind.

Contemplation is all about intensity of the mind and heart to seek God in prayer.

Saying prayer is just the beginning of approaching God. Praying prayer mean you say prayers with intensity and the yearning to have Christ in your heart.

Praying is communicating with God through Christ. The Holy Spirit helps each of us to pray as we can. Saying prayer is our initiative to approach God through Christ.

Praying is slowing down our prayers to savour the words and stress the you and your words.

TIPS ON PRAYING THE WORD

  1. Mean what you say.
  2. Slow down your reading (outloud or in private)
  3. Slow down your reading even more
  4. Pause after each stanza (about one or two seconds)
  5. Pause after the Antiphons
  6. Try to pray with one voice with no one voice dominant
  7. Phrase the stanza

Let me give you an example from my own prayer of Morning Prayer. https://divineoffice.org/ord-w03-sat-mp/?date=20190622 Read the whole Morning Prayer, but here is an excerpt. Read this Psalm through for the sense and understanding. Now read it again with the idea that it is a prayer that unites you heart with the heart of Christ. Remember, prayer means to slow down your reading.

Psalm 119
XIX (Koph)

I call with all my heart; Lord, hear me,
I will keep your commands;
I call upon you, save me
and I will do your will.

I rise before dawn and cry for help,
I hope in your word.
My eyes watch through the night
to ponder your promise.

In your love hear my voice, O Lord;
give me life by your decrees.
Those who harm me unjustly draw near:
they are far from your law.

But you, O Lord, are close:
your commands are truth.
Long have I known that your will
is established for ever.

  • You know you are at some deeper level when you are aware that the words you speak have meaning and that meaning leads you to adding your heart to what you say with your mind. Let me give you an example from my own prayer of Morning Prayer.
  • Slow down your prayers.
  • Pause between stanzas
  • Long to pray to the Lord using the words of the Psalmist.
  • Don’t be in a hurry to get in, get on, get over, then get out. Your Dunkin’ Donut coffee will be there when you finish praying.
  • Pray to Jesus as though he was sitting next to you on a park bench, praying with you (He is).
  • When my reason seems to have lifted all it can (the human attention span is even or eight seconds), I use my free will to choose this next level, moving ever deeper into the Word (words) with the help of Christ.

Prayer is like Faith, we take it for granted to the extent that we never plumb the depths of what is there. What is there is limitless, it is never-ending, it all ends in Heaven before the Throne of the Lamb. What is greater than Faith? There is something deeper. Do you know what it is?

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/apologetics/faith.html

LAY CISTERCIAN PRAYER TIPS —

  • Practically, I always go back and forth from level two and one, much like a yo-yo, except, with time, the swings get fewer and fewer as I settle into letting go of my personal agendas and seek to allow Christ to carry my burdens with me.
  • Our example for this article is saying the Psalms as part of Reading of the Hours, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer at our Church at Good Shepherd in Tallahassee, Florida. Our group meets each day (except Sunday) to recite the Psalms and Prayers in choir. I remember the monks telling us not to hurry in our prayers, like we are reading the morning newspaper, but rather to pray them and make a conscious effort to pray as though Christ is there praying with us. He is.
  • I try to say it as though I pray it to Christ sitting next to you on a park bench in the middle of Winter. The Psalm become so much more than just “getting through them.” It is hard to imagine anything greater than prayer between you and Christ but there is.

LEVEL THREE: SHARE THE WORD –– What comes next happens so quickly that I don’t even realize the Levels at all. I do them but “doing them” become habit and I don’t consciously think, “I must go to Level Three.” I am at Level Three automatically because the Word must be shared with others. Not only shared, I might add, but where two or three are gathered with one mind, one heart, and one voice, there Christ is present in their midst.

Praying with others is Christ joining us all in the Liturgy of the Hours. Not only that, but my mind just instinctively links all those at Good Shepherd Chapel in the morning or evening with all those Lay Cistercians associated with the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), then all Trappist monks and nuns who share the prayers each day, to all those Faithful who pray the Liturgy all over the world. It is the ceaseless prayer of thanksgiving linked with all those who share this prayer of the Church to give glory to the Father through, with and in the Son in union of the Holy Spirit. Not only that, but, in a nanosecond, I link up all those who have ever recited the Psalms in the past, back in time to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, to St. Benedict, to Robert of Molesme, back to the time of the Apostles and Martyrs to Mary’s first “Let it be done to me according to your word.” I join with all of them in Christ to ask for mercy first, for this broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit, then for those linked together in one glorious prayer of humility and obedience that God’s will be done now as it is in Heaven, now. The Word made flesh is the golden thread that we place through all those who have gone before us in faith, those struggling now with loving their neighbor as themselves, and those still awaiting final purification. This sharing is the Church Universal before the Throne of the Lamb, with no agenda other than love as Christ loves us. This is how deep this level of sharing goes in prayer. It only takes a nanosecond to do, without struggle or problems because Christ is with us. It is hard to imagine anything greater than prayer between you and Christ but there is.

Characteristics

  • Prayer doesn’t exist in a vacuum but rather in a community of fidelity and grace. Oneness seems to be a reoccuring theme throughout the Gospels. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. Prayer is a way to allow individuals to come together in praise and glory as one. Everyone saying the same prayer, in this case the Universal Prayers (Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours) with one mind and one heart we sit with Christ and give glory and praise to the Father through the Holy Spirit. That is all there is, but it has the intensity of nuclear fission. It produces more than it consumes.
  • To those who are boring people, recited prayer can be very boring.
  • You must work for your bread, just as Adam did. We can pray to “give us this day our daily bread,” but there are consequences to what we ask and it is not without work that we struggle to move from our false self to our true self.
  • As an individual, you must pray with intensity and passion that what you pray might be realized in you. As part of a community of Faith, prayer takes on a cumulative effect, you receive multiple helps from the Holy Spirit working in each brother or sister in your midst.

It is hard to imagine anything greater than prayer between you and Christ but there is.

LEVEL FOUR: BE WHAT YOU READ, YOU PRAY, YOU SHARE. — My purpose in my life is just eight words: Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). It has been my only Lectio Divina (thought) since I began my Lectio prayer in 1960. At this level of prayer, Eucharist becomes transforming, and you are content with just sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter with no agenda, longing for Christ to come by and sit with you. You don’t demand that he does so, you Hope he will. Your prayer is not anything resembling words, or human thoughts. It just is. In that sense you being just waits to become Being itself. This is what I think the Lay Cistercians mean by converting yourself from your false self to your true self as adopted son or daughter of the Father (conversatio morae). At this level, you realize it is not you at all who heals others, who prays individual prayers, who seeks forgiveness with Christ to make all things new. You have put on the new Christ, a garment glowing as in the Transfiguration of Christ to the glory of the Father.

Characteristics

  • One of the things that is happening to me as I approach my death is the realization that my mind and body are not what they once were. Now that I don’t have a job to keep my mind focused on what is meaningful, all I have is me.
  • What I like about becoming what you pray is that I still have the opportunity to grow and find meaning, although now it is through Christ and through prayer.
  • What I like about becoming a Lay Cistercian is that I still have the opportunity to grow from my false self (seven deadly sin) to my new self (seven gifts of the Holy Spirit). On this level I actively seek ways to make that happen. Just when I think I am hot stuff and have humility or obedience to the Abbot or my senior Lay Cistercians, something comes along to remind me of my weakness and lack of Faith.
  • The unintended purpose of prayer is activity. When the Sun hits a simple leaf, photosynthesis occurs. The Leaf does it automatically. The purpose is to make chlorophyll, life itself. To become what you pray means you realize the importance of the Word to give new life, to place you in a situation where you may receive love from Christ next to you in order for you to share that love with the one next to you as you seek God in your daily living.
  • Each day, I must begin my trek to be what I read during the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist, and each day, I fail to reach that which I seek, to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).
  • Love, I have discovered, is not the attainment of anything, but it is the process that leads to love and the daily failures that accompany it, that is my transformation, if only for a day. Next day is a new lifetime with Christ.
  • It is hard to imagine anything greater than prayer between you and Christ but there is.

LEVEL FIVE; THERE ARE NO WORDS TO APPROACH THE WORD MADE FLESH. It takes time to reach this Level Five. Not just the months and months of practice involved, but also going from Level One to Level Five in one sitting. Ironically, this is not temporal time at all, but spiritual time, the eternal now (a good definition of Heaven) being present with the one you love. As someone who knows enough about existential phenomenology to know that I don’t know enough as I should, I use the writings of the Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, to begin to make sense out what what does make sense at all to the World (the ontic possibility of the minifestibility of all being encountered). This means that I try to approach all being (living things) with an I-Thou relationship, not making them into little carbon copies of myself with all my biases and peccadillos. I allow them to be. I can remember reading Martin Buber as he tells about having a relationship with a tree. How can you have a relationship with something that is obviously not human? By allowing the tree to be who it is, consistent with its nature. Here are some quotes from Martin Buber to give you a flavor of which I write.

  • “When people come to you for help, do not turn them off with pious words, saying, ‘Have faith and take your troubles to God.’ Act instead as though there were no God, as though there were only one person in the world who could help — only yourself.” ~ Martin Buber
  • “The true meaning of love one’s neighbor is not that it is a command from God which we are to fulfill, but that through it and in it we meet God.” ~ Martin Buber
  • “Every person born in this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique.” ~ Martin Buber
  • “Our relationships live in the space between us which is sacred.” ~ Martin Buber

I am reminded that God created Adam and Eve, our archetypal parents, to live forever in a place of ultimate happiness, the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve threw it all away. He could have, but did not abandon them to oblivion. Because of His Divine Love, He gave all of us human reason for a reason and the ability to chose not only what is good for us but what is bad for us. He told us what is bad for us (don’t eat that tree of the knowledge of good and evil). We did. There were consequences to this act of disobedience. We experience pain, and all of us, without exception, dies (so does matter and time). In the Garden of Eden, God made Adam and Eve because it was not good for man to be alone. God wanted us to join him in Heaven, but Adam and Eve said, “No.” The only person other person to say “No” to God, the Archangel Lucifer, remember, tempted Adam and Eve to say “No” to God. Ironically, it took until the time of Christ for the second Adam to ungo what that “No” meant to all humans (Read Romans 5) and the second Eve, the Blessed Mother to also reverse the “NO” with a resounding “Let it be done to me according to your Word (get that?).” That YES still resounds throughout eternity.

Characteristics:

  • This is a level that bridges the gap between Heaven (only the Now) and Earth (temporal time).
  • It takes God’s help to enter this realm.
  • Some of the great mystics used to walk in the Cloud of the Unknowing for long periods of time. Most of us never approach Level 5 in our lifetime. I have only approached it a few times and only for seemed like a second or two. The feeling of Christ’s peace, is indescribable. The Catechism describes it as “Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. (CCC, 1831)” https://www.stjmod.com/7-gifts-of-the-holy-spirit.html
  • There is no sin on this level.
  • You can’t be on this level without Christ as your Guide. Christ reveals to you the mysteries of the Mystery of Faith.

This last level is not one of nothingness, but is where everything has meaning. Standing before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration is being present to The One Who Is. This One fills up in us that which is lacking by His love, by His very Being. It is in this sense that I find myself transformed from my old or false self to my new self, making all things new in, with and through Christ.

ACTIO (Action)

Read Passing from Self to God: A Cistercian Retreat by the late Robert Thomas, O.C.S.O. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=passing+from+self+to+god+a+cistercian+retreat+by+robert+thomas&i=stripbooks&crid=F10BRHEUM3C5&sprefix=robert+thomas+Passing+from%2Cstripbooks%2C253&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_26

Look up these Lay Cistercian books on how to move from self to God https://www.amazon.com/s? k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

  1. It takes time to move from Level I to Level V. Be patient.
  2. You don’t start out your spiritual journey with Level V, but by sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter, waiting for Christ to pass by and sit down next to you.
  3. Pray slowly and deliberately. Pray the Psalms as though you were sitting next to Christ and asking him to be with you.
  4. Before you Recite the Liturgy of the Word ask for the Word to come into your heart and dwell there.
  5. Praying the Liturgy of the Word with others helps you to keep focused on what is deeper.
  6. Don’t seek to reach Level V to the exclusion of the other steps. Seek God where you are as you read the Liturgy.
  7. In choir, seek to be present for as many of the Hours as possible (I recommend Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer to begin).
  8. Praying privately is still sharing with all those all over the world that join with you in asking for God’s mercy and giving praise and glory to the Father.

Let grace happen to you by approaching the Sacred in humility and with a contrite heart. If you hear the voice of the Lord, says Psalm 95, harden not your heart.

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

TEN THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT THE POPE

Here are some of my thoughts about the Pope. They are not sensational or even revelational, but reflect my own appreciation for the person selected by the Holy Spirit to lead us in how to love with our whole hearts, our whole minds, and our whole self.

  1. Every day, the Pope must strive to have in him the mind of Christ Jesus. How do you know that? Because that is what all of us who are signed with the cross of salvation must do and he is like us in all things, including sin.
  2. The Pope has no divine nature. Only God has the divine nature (Christ has both divine and human natures).
  3. The Pope commits sin and can make mistakes in judgement about whom to trust, how to proceed in this or that implementation, and how to select people that will not corrupt the Gospel message. How do you know that? We all commit sin, except Jesus and Mary, His mother. As such, he must ask for God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation just as we do.
  4. Catholic Universal members must respect the office of Peter and give consideration to what each Pope says about how to love other as Christ loves us.
  5. The Pope is not infallible in anything he says in Encyclicals, teachings, opinion, ideas, or anything else he does.
  6. The Pope wears the shoes of the Fisherman.
  7. Peter receives the handoff of authority from Christ. Peter receives the primacy of honor.
  8. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. The Sacrament of Holy Order contains three offices, Bishop, Priest or Presbyter, and Deacon.
  9. The Pope is not the most intelligent person we can find. He should be the most humble. Humility mean I know who I am in the sight of God and I serve others who serve others.
  10. It is interesting to note that the Pope is one who convenes various groups of clergy and laity to come together to study issues of important to our age. The point here is that the Pope doesn’t just pull these ideas out of a hat. Through the history of Ecumenical Councils, these bodies determined what is authentic teaching in the Church and the Pope promulgated it. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3801.htm

We must all pray for the Holy Father to ask God to bless him and will not abandon him to evil.

10 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT TEMPTATIONS

Here are ten things I have learned about temptations that you may or may not have known before.

  1. Temptations are not sins. They are possible choices presented to you so that you can choose to move forward. Some choices are good for you, while others lead to destruction.
  2. Temptations don’t have to be an “either-or” choice. They can be multiple choices, such as going out to a restaurant to eat and looking at the menu. Pick one! The temptation is one of food that is good for you or food that is, well intentioned but leads to high cholesterol.
  3. Choices don’t have to be good or bad. I can choose Wheaties for breakfast or Cheerios. In the Spiritual Universe, temptation can mean that the Devil (personification of evil) leads us out into the desert.
  4. For a temptation to be bad for us, it must be evil. Because there are two ways to choose good or evil, one being what God tells us is bad for us (sin) and one that is good for us (Spirit). Read Galatians Chapter 5.
  5. The Devil is portrayed as a snake for good reason. Shifty, slytherin, crafty, the epitome of evil in the Book of Genesis, Chapters 2-3, the Devil seduces the secularists and even those who pride themselves on being instruments of god’s will. The Devil uses Scripture to tempt the weak of Faith and will to think that they are instruments of the Most High and power comes through them. They think they are safe because, after all, it is in Scripture, and Scripture can’t be wrong. Can it?
  6. Temptations are not the same as choices. Choice is rooted in freedom, the freedom to even choose what is bad for us. Temptation looks at at least two possibilities for choice and we can choose what God says is Good for us or choose our false self. It is the Seven Deadly Sins versus the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5.
  7. The greatest temptation is one which Satan convinces us to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (i.e., to be our own god). It worked for Adam and Eve and it is at the root of all sin. Sin means we deliberately choose evil over good. Temptation means we are presented with the choices of good or evil by Satan and encouraged to choose that which is not good for us.
  8. The temptation of Christ in the Garden of Eden was to think that all this passion and dying was a waste of time and unnecessary. This temptation was one to question the reason why he came into the World. His humanity was quavering in resolve to face what he knew was about to happen. Satan was not present. This temptation came from his being in the World with all its effects of Original Sin. He responded by making a re-commitment to God (remember Christ is also God) that God’s will be not and not His.
  9. Temptation is about the World (Satan) seducing his that there is no Satan and that all this God stuff was made up by Christ.
  10. Look at the Youtube of The Little Prince and listen to the song about “The Snake in the Grass.” Be sure to look up this video on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXonK8EBqmk

So, what does all this have to do from moving from self to God?

  • All of us have temptations (even Christ).
  • Temptations to do evil are read and present evil as being good for you.
  • God tells us and Christ shows us how to defeat evil. We can’t get rid of temptations, but we can, with the help of Lay Cistercian practices and charisms, at least identify and resist evil.
  • We must choose good (from God) over evil (from Satan via Original Sin).
  • Humility and obedience to God’s will (or our superior’s) helps us to put temptation in the proper perspective.
  • We have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to sustain us if we do fall, and to re-commit ourselves to God’s will.

Pope Francis recently approved a change to the Our Father from the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops to change the prayer from “…and lead us not into temptation,” to that of “… do not abandon us to temptation”… The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has made no determination as to this change. So, what is the temptation surrounding this change?

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

THE DEEPEST LEVEL OF BEING CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL

There are two levels of being Catholic Universal: Baptismal and Eucharistic.

Baptismal is being accepted by God as an adopted son or daughter. It is the basics of our collective Faith, but it is only the minimum of commitment to Christ, the minimum of belief. You go to Church on Sunday (or not) because you have a feeling that you need God in your life. You listen to the sermons and the liturgy but it all sounds the same each week. You are there but not there on many occasions. You have no passion for the Passion.

When you make a deliberate choice to be a Eucharistic member of the Church Universal because of the Holy Spirit, you need Christ’s love in your life so you love each other. You do the maximum, not the minimum in prayer. Your passion is the Eucharist and Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament because you are rooted in the Real Presence of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. You seek God wherever you are. You have a passion to be with Christ in the Eucharist. You are focused on love of others because Christ loves us. You discover the unimaginable depths of the Mystery of Faith. You don’t go to Church, you are the Church where you are. For me, I enrich this experience even more by being a Lay Cistercian and following the Rule of St. Benedict and the Cistercian Way.

  • Eucharist is the energy that drives communities of Faith to offer its members the opportunities to discover the meaning of love according to Christ.
  • Eucharist is the perfect offering of Abraham on the alter of wood, the perfect offering of love and praise to the Father through, with and in Christ Jesus at each Eucharist.
  • Eucharist is the limitless love of the Son for the Father in which we. with we as adopted sons and daughters, approach the Mystery of Faith in awe and humility.
  • Eucharist is nuclear fusion of spirituality where we approach that which cannot be approached with Christ as our mentor, our mediator, our translator, our brother.
  • Eucharist is Christ present body and blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine. Baptismal Faith is what happens to you to be an adopted member of the Body of Christ. Eucharistic Faith is using Baptismal Faith to move to intensity and closer to the center of all that is.
  • Eucharist is the heart of Christ waiting for us to sit down next to Him and learn from Him for he is “…meek and humble of heart and we will have rest for our souls.”
  • Eucharist is the heart of Christ sitting down on a park bench in the dead of Winter and longing for Christ to sit down next to us and so we can learn from Him for he is “…meek and humble of heart. Matthew 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
  • Eucharist is the ability to see what cannot be seen (The Mystery of Faith) and moving to strive to be what you read in Chapter 4 of st. Benedict’s RB (Rule of Benedict)
  • Eucharist is unbelievably deep in riches and mystery. Christ alone helps us to decipher the language and behaviors we must do to reach heaven.

Waiting for Christ

The simplicity of Christ is that God, became incarnate as Jesus Christ to teach us love and show us how we can love with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength and our neighbor as our self

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

GOD SPEAK

It makes me uncomfortable when I hear someone say that God told them to do say this or that or to do this or that. Because someone uses “God talk,” we quite naturally give them the benefit of the doubt and accept that God did actually speak through them. Red Flags automatically rise their heads when I hear the haughty use God to play power games over the pusillanimous. It depends on what God is supposed to have told them. Let’s look a little deeper.

TYPES OF GOD TALK

I. INDIVIDUAL INTERPRETATION When I say, “In my Lectio Divina today, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me this or that about Scriptures,” can that actually happen? For sure. This is called individual interpretation, when your heart is next to the heart of Christ and you come away with an idea or a thought that you did not have before. On this level, who is to say your are wrong? After all, the Spirit moves moves in mysterious ways and I, for one, don’t want to limit the Spirit based on my personal bias. This is why my interpretation of what Scripture means might be different from what it actually means. Most people who quote single sentence Scriptures do so to actually humiliate you or prove you wrong. This is a subtle form of idolatry, you presume to speak for God. The problem comes when my God meets your God and they don’t agree. I try not to respond to this type of individual intrepretation by thinking of the motive behind it.

The danger of individual interpretation is that we believe that we are the ONLY person who has the gift of discernment about Scripture. Rather than use Scripture to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and act accordingly, we take a single phrase, such as: You must be born again of water and the Holy Spirit. Here is the full text from Scriptures.

John 3 New (NRSVCE)

Nicodemus Visits Jesus3 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”[b] Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born from above.’[e] The wind[f] blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you[g] do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.[h] 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[i]

There is a difference in God speaking to you and you speaking for God. As an individual, you only speak for yourself and for the duration of your lifetime. You are not authorized to speak for the Church Universal. One of the untended consequences of the Protestant Reformation is that there is no authority to speak for the Church, only for your personal intrepretation. Want to guess why there are so many religions out there? Every is there own Church. If you don’t like what someone says, you can start your own Church.

II. THE CHURCH SPEAKS FOR GOD Anyone can speak for God. Who is to say you are wrong? The questions I always ask is, “Who gave you the authority to be God’s speaker?” Christ Himself gave authority through St. Peter to speak for the Church. St. Peter as in individual speaks for himself. The Pope today, Pope Francis, when he speaks as an individual, speaks for himself. When he speaks for the Church as teacher, servant of the servants of God, he does so for all of us. Can Pope Francis make a mistake. You bet. We are not talking about individual interpretation, but as one who represents the Church Universal. Our bishop, Bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Most Reverend William Wack, C.S.C. (he is belongs to the Congregation of the Holy Cross) as teacher of the Faith in this diocese, speaks only for this diocese in matters of Faith and Moral, guiding us to love others as Christ loves us.

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT GOD SPEAK

God speak makes me uncomfortable. People who seem to be haughty and close-minded seem to be the ones who always seem to use God talk. They don’t care what you say or even listen to what you say. They phrase every sentence with “God told me,” or “The Holy Spirit told me to tell you this.” Of course, I don’t want to discount the Holy Spirit, and those God-Speakers count on your reluctance to challenge them. Once I judge that their motive is to tell me the truth because God told it to them, I usually come back with the opposite of what they are saying, such as “God told me that someone would come to the door and try to seduce me with evil world and that I should not listen to them. They will often reply that “they alone have the truth.” I ask them, “do you think it is wrong of me to listen to the Holy Spirit and do what He says?” Silence. Always silence.

The Second Commandment is “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.” God speak is vain speaking which is why I don’t do it. It is intended to be a way to say that they have authority and you don’t. If you use God speak to prop yourself up over others, that is called pride,, and guess what the Original Sin was?

III. LAY CISTERCIANS– All Lay Cistercians are attached to an Abbot or Abbess somewhere. Each Monastery is subject to the will of the Abbot or Abbess who takes the place of Christ for the monks and nuns, as well as Lay Cistercians. We take promises of stability, or being subject to the authority of the Abbot or Abbess. We all have individual interpretations of Sacred Scriptures, Lectio Divina meditations and hopefully contemplations, and doing the will of God. The point is, this will of God is personified by one person, someone who is authorized to care for the spiritual well being of monks (nuns and Lay Cistercians) under their care. The point is, that it is not me. Chapter 4 of the RB (Rule of Benedict) states that those under the care of the Abbot or Abbot (including Lay Cistercians), must use humility and obedience in the context of Faith must treat the Abbot or Abbess as if Christ Himself was giving the teaching or correction to behavior. This is God speaking through an authorized person not God speak as an individual against the Church Universal.

SUMMARY

The Holy Spirit speaks to whomever He wills.

No one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit.

Individuals receive the Holy Spirit in their prayers and contemplation in the midst of the Church.

God speak is an abberation of God’s aurhority that tried to Lord it over others.

Speaking with God is not the same as Speaking for God.

There are false teachers out there who are not authorized to speak for God.

They try to seduce the Faith because of their claim to speak for God.

When we all approach the Mystery of Faith in humility and obedience to God’s will through the authorized leaders, we are in awe that God would even take the time to grace us with His Real Presence in Eucharist and Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

The Rule of St. Benedict is a good guide to discern who is from God and who speaks for God.

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

Having said all this, I do so as one speaking only for myself and not for any Lay Cistercian group or Cistercian spirituality. These are my thoughts that come from Lectio Divina, nothing more. This is individual intrepretation and hopefully not bad God speak.

FIVE PRACTICES THAT MAKE A LAY CISTERCIAN: WHAT DOES YOUR CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE LOOK LIKE?

HOW I DESIGNED A SYSTEM OF SPIRITUALITY TO SUSTAIN MY CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE

The following pages are samples of the horarium (hourly agenda) I use to organize my day as a Lay Cistercian. I must tell you that I am retired and have time to devote to the practice of how to love as Jesus did. Not everyone has the great opportunity I have, to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and Rosary in the parish. If I don’t keep it, no big deal, but it is an anchor. I off you an example of what I have used to design a system of spiituality for my particular needs. Being a Lay Cistercian, when looking at a way to practice contemplative spirituality, I am mindful of the following characteristics:

  • Each day, I must try to use it routinely as a habit. The practice of contemplative spirituality is just that, each day, at the same time, without fail, to do what you say you are going to do. I can look back on my week and examine my couscience to see how well I did. There is no sin attached to doing or not doing it. It is how much time and attention I give to sitting next to the heart of Jesus. If I am to deny myself and take up my cross daily and follow Christ, then I must daily practice the exercises that give me the srength to do that.
  • Each day, I must pray as I can. The great advice from Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. is so simple yet so profound. I now pray as I can, when I can, where I can, and how long as I can.
  • Each day, I must seek a balance between my prayer life and my work. My work, being retired, is to devote time to writing my blog and books that help parishes to use contemplative prayer as a way to move away from my false self closer to Christ.
  • Each day, I try to increase the “capcitas dei” trying to make room for Christ. I do this by not watching hateful television news shows of all networks, or reading the Tabloid-obcessed major newpapers and magazines who spew hatred, falsehood, hopelessness, and secular values that make those, who are seduced by the siren call of making themselves into god.

 

 

 

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

 

Five or Six Practices to support my center: These are Cistercian charisms and practices.

 

  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 tryto be conscious that all these sounds give glory to the Father throughthe Son, in union with the Holy Spirit. I try to make a space whereI can reflect on my center with some degree of privacy. Silence ofmy heart helps me sustain the other Cistercian charisms andpractices and so grow in fierce love.

 

  1. Solitude— Solitude, for me, means carving out a space and quiet time to focus on how to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.For the Cistercian monks, solitude means carving out a 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.”

 

  1. 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 public 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Community—Lay Cistercians gravitate towards communal gatherings to refresh the soul and to transform themselves deeper in the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. Even though there is great distance between us, we link together as one in our commitment to each other because we are all linked through the mind and heart of Christ Jesus. Sharing Christ with each other nourishes the Spirit in me.

 

My spiritual goals for the rest of my life:

  1. Take up your cross daily and follow Christ. The cross in this case is being consistent in spiritual practices. Although there is no penalty attached for not preforming 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 through Christ Jesus.

 

  1. Solitude in the midst of community. Community here means a 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.

 

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

 

  1. Be open to the possibility of the manifestibility of all being! What seems like a mouthful of marbles is actual a way of saying that I will be more conscious of loving God with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole soul and my neighbor as myself.

 

Spiritual Practices I use to sustain my center:

These practices are little nests 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 give me a time to focus on Scriptures, Spiritual Readings about how to grow deeper in Christ Jesus.

The Rosary: Meditations on the life and purpose of Christ Jesus One of my favorite practices is this mantra-like prayer to help me meditate on the highpoints in the life of Jesus.

Liturgy of the Hours: This practice, refined by St. Benedict in 580 AD in his Rule of St. Benedict, organizes the monks to pray the Psalms seven times a day. I pray the Psalms at least twice 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.

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 Chapter 4 or some part of  the Rule of St. Benedict every day. By reading Chapter 4 each day, I hope to become what I read.

 

How I organize my daily practices:

Horarium: (This is the default schedule of my spiritual practice.)

4:00 a.m. Rise

4:10 a.m. Silent Prayer

Morning Offering and Dedication of the Day

Monday: In reparation for my sins and

those of the Church, those on my prayer

list

Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers,

those on my prayer list

Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart

of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and

St. Joseph, those on my prayer list

Thursday: For all Lay Cistercians, Monks

of Holy Spirit Monastery, Monks of St.

Meinrad Archabbey, priests and religious

of Diocese of Evansville, Monks of

Norcia, Italy and those on my prayer list

Friday: For an increase in grace to love

God with all my heart, all my soul, all my

mind and my neighbor as myself.

Saturday: For all deceased, an increase in

my faith through the Holy Spirit and for

those on my prayer list.

Sunday: To give praise, honor and glory

to the Father through the Son my means

of the Holy Spirit, the God who is, was,

and is to come at the end of the ages

4:30 a.m. Liturgy of the Hours: Readings in private (optional)

5:00 a.m. Exercise (Monday through Friday)

6:30 a.m. Breakfast:

7:40 a.m. Liturgy of the Word at Good Shepherd

Morning Prayer in common

Rosary in common

9:00 a.m. Holy Mass: In common (Sunday at 8:00 a.m.)

1:00 a.m. Exercise at gym: (Monday through Sunday)

11: 15 a.m. Work: Writing, Blog, Special Projects

12:00 a.m. Watch Colin Cowherd on television FX1

2:00 p.m.Work: Writing, Blog, Special Projects

4:30-5:30 p.m. Adoration before Blessed Sacrament in common

Lectio Divina and Meditation in private

Liturgy of the Hours: Evening Prayer in common

5:30 p.m. Supper

6:00-8:00 p.m. Exercise, Work, Read.

8:00 p.m. Liturgy of the Hours: Night Prayer in private (optional)

8:30 p.m. Work: Continue writing, Blog, Special Projects

 

WHAT I HAVE NOTICED ABOUT MYSELF SINCE MAKING A SCHEDULE AND KEEPING IT

  • I don’t always keep the schedule perfectly, but I always have it as a North on my compass of daily practice.
  • I look forward to spending more time with Christ and less time with television, newspapers, listening to hateful news, and other distractions that the world has to offer.
  • You don’t need to fill in the daily schedule all at once. Pick out just one prayer practice (e.g. Lectio Divina) and try it every day for 30 days. At the end of that time evaluate yourself on a) your daily prayer; b) what you experienced by sitting next to the heart of Christ.
  • I look forward to Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Private Prayer rather than have keeping the schedule be the end in itself.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SUSTAINING CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY: DESIGN YOUR CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUAL SUPPORT SYSTEM

This section will help you design your own Contemplative spiritual system. Use this template to create your default spiritual system. Fill in the blanks.These six questions with corresponding answers are the foundation of spirituality, but they are not spirituality itself. What follows is your application of what you have learned about Cistercian spirituality to how you will live out the rest of your life, no matter how long or short that may be.

 

SOME TIPS ABOUT MAKING THIS SCHEDULE

  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking that making this schedule will make you a contemplative person. It won’t. This is just one way that you can organize your thinking to give you the ability to focus every day on having in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5)

 

  • You don’t have to fill out all of the blanks below, especially the schdeule. I recommend you start off my just doing one think every day. My preference is reading Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule, then Lectio Divina.

 

  • If you don’t do what you say, start over the try to keep it. Make all things new.

 

  • You are not trying to be a Lay Cistercian but just someone who want to use silence and solitude as a way to meet Christ in your heart.
  • You have just completed the six foundational questins for your spirituality. Now, what do you do for the rest of your life?

 

 

 

My Center:_______________________________________________

 

My spiritual goals for the rest of my life: (Don’t put anything

down that you do not intend to do.)

  1. _______________________________________________________

 

  1. _______________________________________________________

 

  1. _______________________________________________________

 

4 _______________________________________________________

 

Write down the Contemplative spiritual practices you will use to

sustain your faith.

1.________________________________________________________

2.________________________________________________________

3.________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

4.________________________________________________________

5.________________________________________________________

  1. _______________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________

 

How I organize my practices (See examples above)

Themes for each day:

Monday:___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday:___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wednesday: _______________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

Thursday: ________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

Friday: ___________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

Saturday: _________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________

 

Write down one or two practices you will attempt every day.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

10 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT GOD

What follows are 10 thoughts I have had about God, some controversial, some traditional, all a part of the Mystery of Faith. The difficult part of limiting 10 ideas about God is daunting because I keep wanting to add more. Actually, God is One. Even that is a Mystery of Faith.

  1. What we don’t know about God is exponentially more than what we know. What we know is what Christ revealed to us through the writings of Scripture, written by others about Christ (John 20:30) so that each age has the signs Jesus did and thus believe “…that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and in so believing have life through his name.: Being fully human in all things but sin, Christ is the great translator, putting what cannot be put into parables and stories that we humans can understand.
  2. God is a term we use for The Sacred, The Mystery of Faith, the One. God has a divine nature, not a human one. Christ, because of the love of the Father for the Son in union with the Holy Spirit, became one of us so that we could be adopted sons and daughters.
  3. God is three distinct persons in one nature, Divine. When we pray to God it is in the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  4. God works through nature and through humans. He created us with reason (no other living thing has reason) and the ability to choose good or evil. What we choose is up to us ,using our reason (and our Faith for those living in the spiritual universe). God allows nature to be itself and follow its own rules. God allows us to use nature to determine what is good for us. God sent His Only Begotten Son to be one of us to show us the way, the truth and the life. He entrusted His Apostles to spread these truths to everyone (we term that the Good News) and entrusted the Church to enable its members to give praise and glory to the Father, through, with and in Him. He is physically, mentally and spritually present to us in each age through the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
  5. Very early Israelites viewed all gods as being powerful, but their God more powerful than others. Abraham was about to sacrifice his son on an altar because everyone around them that they knew were also sacrificing their children to their gods. It was the classic: my god is better than your god.
  6. Sometimes we pray just to God because God is one, as well as being The One. Koreans call God Hannanim, or holy One (nim means holy; hanna is the numeral, one).
  7. God is immortal. God lives in Heaven. We don’t know exactly what Heaven is like because we have human nature. Humans don’t do well in heaven. Adopted sons and daughters of the Father with Christ as our friend, is a place in which we can exist, despite our limited knowledge of what to expect.
  8. Lay Cistercians, following Cistercian spiritual principles have, as a focus, to seek God where we are. God is the Mystery of Faith, the Cloud of the Unknowing, and humans can only approach this Being as humans can, through prayer and having in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5).
  9. God speaks to us through Christ, His only Son.There is only one way to God, through Christ. Christ gave his Church through Peter and the Apostles His power to teach, to heal, to make Christ present in the Eucharist (the Last Supper), and forgiveness of sins. They transferred this forward through the ages, not from our age to Christ. There is only One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One Church Universal that is authorized by Christ to give its members grace.
  10. Whatever you think you know about God is nothing compared to what is real. Jesus cames to give us a hint about God when us used the Father and Son relationship. Knowing that you both don’t know about God, or even more importantly, can’t know about God except through Christ is the beginning of wisdom, only the beginning.

THE SIGN OF CONTRADICTION

One of the strangest of all the seemingly contradictory phenomena about spirituality, and I use Cistercian Spirituality as I know it, as my frame of reference, is the sign of contradiction. My Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditations have been trending toward thinking about a dogma of the Faith, i.e., The Trinity, Transubstantiation, The Mystery of Faith, The articles in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, and making the statement, “They just don’t make sense.”

I am reminded of the Harry Potter movie, Deathly Hallows II, where Professor Dumbledore is asked the question by Harry, “Is this real. Is it just happening inside my head?” Read what Professor Dumbledore says to Harry. “Just because it is happening inside your head does mean it is not real.” I would say of contradiction, “just because it is a sign of contradiction that you do not yet understand, doesn’t mean it is not real.”

REFLECTIONS ON WHAT IS, WHAT WAS, WHAT IS TO COME

The notion of three distinct universes does not make sense. I use three of them to makes more sense out of what does not seem to fit together. I began thinking about this because scientific thinkers were writing that spirituality did not makes sense because they could not measure it, so it is not real. Try as I might (mentally, of course), I could not smooch scientific thinking together with spiritual thinking, the classic visible and invisible dichotomy. Like oil and water, they would not merge together into one reality. After four years of trying and failing to squeeze all reality into one big blob, I remember waking up one night (most of my revelations seem to happen at night in the dead of sleep), and thinking, the answer is right before me. The answer is not that all reality, visible and invisible, is one, but rather that they are a sign of contradiction and are separate universes with the mind to mediate and makes sense out of what seems to be impossible or without measurement. What I came up with is that there are three distinct and separate universes out there,

  • I. the physical (all time, matter, energy, all life in all universes, and what we can see and measure)
  • II. the mental universe, the ability to reason and choose what is meaningful about the physical universe through our five senses and emotions,)
  • III. which points to the spiritual universe, (the invisible universe, where we discover authentic love, where we have the principle of love against which we can measure our behavior, where we can touch the Sacred, and where we can claim our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father Creator through the Son, with the help of the Holy Spirit).

The theme of the sign of contraction runs through all of my writings, as well as it underlying ideology, the notion of three universes. I can’t say it makes sense for anyone else, but it does for me (so far).

I bring all of this to your attention because spirituality, and for me Cistercian spirituality, in particular, makes no sense without the notion of three universes. Here is what I mean. Have you ever heard of polar shifts? These are the times in the earth’s history where the North Pole becomes the South Pole. Up is not down anymore. There are are whole different set of assumptions about reality when that happens. As I was thinking about the phenomenon, I linked it up to the sign of contradiction and why spirituality seems to make no sense, given the modern assumptions from science and psychology. Once more, the answer was right in front of me. The assumptions were different because each of the three universes are separate but essential, one reality, three dimensions. The reason the spiritual universe does not makes sense is due to changing assumptions.

In the physical universe, God changed the assumptions (pole reversal) and there was life. Why is there life? Maybe because no life, no spirituality. In the mental universe, God changed the paradigm again (poles reversed). https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomagnetic_reversal Man was created with reason for a reason and received the ability to choose what was either good or bad for him. In the spiritual universe, God did it again. This time, God became one of us to make sure we got the message– you are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and your destiny is Heaven not earth. Christ showed us how to find meaning that will enable us to sustain ourselves in Heaven. Spirituality, although it is still the universe with the opposite assumptions from the physical and mental (we call that the World), actually answers the questions about the meaning of life that we asked in the physical and especially the mental universe. But, and there seems to always be a “But,” there is a catch. In the Spiritual Universe, the answer is the opposite to the question. What sounds like a Sherlock Holmes mystery, makes perfect sense, if you apply the sign of contradiction. It is the Mystery of Faith, reality that contains pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service, but we can only approach it with God’s own energy (contemplation). Here are a few of the signs of contradiction that Jesus gave us that changes our behavior as the World expects it to be.

St. Benedict, in his Chapter 4 of the Rule, tells us “your ways must not be like that of the World.”

  • God became Human.
  • Adam and Eve became Human not animal.
  • God, whom we cannot see, is the measure of truth, the way, and the life. Christ came to show us what that means by doing love, forgiving others, healing the those sick, praying for oneness.
  • To be perfect, you must sell what you have and give it to the poor and follow me.
  • The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, yet populated by sinful persons.
  • Pride is the greatest sin and the most invisible one. Pride means I am god.
  • You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.
  • What individuals think about Scripture may or not be correct. The Church, the collective heritage down through twenty centuries is the fiery crucible against which all individual ideas are forged. Many such ideas shatter into oblivion.
  • If there is no Resurrection, all we do is useless.
  • The Mystery of Faith is like looking through a glass darkly, says St. Paul. It is the iceberg with what is exposed being what we know, while what we don’t know is hidden but no less real.
  • The Word is made real by holy men and women of humble heart in doing, writing and song.
  • The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
  • To be the greatest among you, you must serve all.
  • A Virgin shall conceive and bear a son.
  • Jesus is like us in all things but sin.
  • If you want forgiveness, you must forgive others.
  • You must love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.
  • Love others as Christ has loved us.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
  • If you want mercy, show it to others.
  • If you wish to be perfect, sell what you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me.
  • Take up your cross daily and follow me.
  • It is only when you die to your old self that you can rise to your new one.
  • God did not comes as the warrior messiah but as our brother, the highest product of our race, the servant of the servants of all of us.
  • Christ is the Alpha and the Omega.
  • The Messiah, God, was born as a vulnerable baby, Jesus Christ, folly to the Historical Secularists and a stumbling block to the Jews. He died on the cross of shame and made it the sign of salvation for all those who believe that he is the Son of God.

HOW TO SEE JESUS

If you want to see Jesus and make sense out of what seems like nonsense, then do the following:

I. Remember, that when you look at Scripture, use the Rule of Threes.

1. The Rule of Opposites: in the spiritual universe what is up is down. Whatever Christ taught has to do with self denial not self gratification (the World).

2. The Rule of Threes: there are three universes that make up reality, each one with its own set of measure. Separate, yet united. Three yet one.

3. The Rule of Revolving Centers: as soon as you profess your Faith in Christ Jesus, you will be challenged to change your center to that of the default (whatever the World thinks is important). Original Sin and its effects are the reasons we have to struggle to make all things new. Some new religions think all the individual has to do is believe and you can “sin bravely” because you are forgiven by the blood of the Cross. It is true that we must believe to be saved but it is also true that this belief is subject to the effects of Original Sin. St. Paul puts it this way: the things I don’t want to do I do and the things I want to do I don’t do. The freedom to choose does not mean anything I choose is morally true. The consequences of sin is death to the Spirit, sometimes just a small cut, but sometime it removes the whole limb. If we don’t take up the cross daily and follow Christ, we risk being spiritually amenic, without energy, slowly rotting from the inside, our purpose clouded by our own false self. It takes work to be spiritual just as it took work for Christ to suffer, die, rise from the dead and ascend into Heaven.

II. To move from my false self (Seven Deadly Sins) to my true self (Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit) I must deny myself, take up my cross and follow the footsteps of Christ. One of the ways I do this is by following the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the Cistercian monks (Trappist) and nuns (Trappistine) from it foundation by Saint Robert of Molesme. I have attached the entire Wikipedia for you so you can read about one of the founders of the Cistercian Order.

Saint Robert of Molesme (1028 – 17 April 1111) was an abbot, one of the founders of the Cistercian Order and is honored as a Christian saint.

Robert was born about 1029, a nobleman from Champagne, a younger son, who entered the Benedictine abbey of Montier-la-Celle near Troyes at age fifteen and rose to the office of prior.[1]

He was made the abbot of Saint Michel-de-Tonnerre around the year 1070, but he soon discovered that the monks were quarrelsome and disobedient, so he returned to Montier-la-Celle.[2]

Meanwhile, two hermits from a group of monks that had settled at Collan went to Rome and asked Pope Gregory VII to give them Robert as their superior. The pope granted their request, and as of 1074 Robert served as their leader. Soon after, Robert moved the small community to Molesme in the valley of Langres in Burgundy. Initially, the establishment consisted of only huts made of branches surrounding a chapel in the forest, dedicated to the Holy TrinityMolesme Abbeyquickly became known for its piety and sanctity, and Robert’s reputation as a saintly man grew.[2] It is because of this reputation that in 1082 Bruno of Cologne came to Robert seeking advice. He lived with Robert’s community for a time before going on to found the Grande Chartreuse, the first Carthusianmonastery.

In 1098 there were 35 dependent priories of Molesme, and other annexes and some priories of nuns. Donors from the surrounding area vied with one another in helping the monks; soon they had more than they needed, slackened their way of life and became tepid.[3] Benefactors sent their children to the abbey for education and other non-monastic activities began to dominate daily life. The vast land holdings they had acquired required a large number of employees. As the community grew increasingly wealthy, it began to attract men seeking entry for the wrong reasons. They caused a division among the brothers, challenging Robert’s severity. Robert twice tried to leave Molesme but was ordered back by the Pope.

Modern icon of the founders of Citeaux Abbey: Saints Robert, Alberic and Stephen Harding venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary

In 1098,[4] Robert and twenty-one of his monks left Molesme with the intention of never returning. Renaud, the viscount of Beaune, gave this group a desolate valley in a deep forest; there they founded Cîteaux Abbey. Saints Stephen Harding and Alberic – two of Robert’s monks from Molesme – were pivotal in founding the new house. The archbishop of Lyons, being persuaded that they could not subsist there without the endorsement of an influential churchman, wrote in their favour to Eudo, duke of Burgundy. Eudo paid for the construction they had begun, helped the monks finance their operating expenses and gave them much land and cattle. The bishop of Challons elevated the new monastery to the canonical status of an abbey.

In 1099, the monks of Molesme asked Robert to return and agreed to submit entirely to his interpretation of the Rule of St. Benedict; the local bishop also pressured Robert to return. He agreed and Molesme became a major center for the Benedictines under his tutelage. Albéric was made successor abbot at Cîteaux, with Stephen Harding as prior.

Robert died on 17 April 1111. Pope Honorius III canonized him in 1222. His feast day in the Roman Catholic Church was at first observed on 17 April, later transferred to April 29, and finally combined with the feast of Alberic and Stephen Harding and is observed in our day on 26 January.[2]

The Vie de saint Robert de Molesme was written by Guy, his immediate successor as abbot of Molesme.[3]

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

Saint Robert felt called to reform monastic practice, not by starting his own religion, but by taking what was there (Rule of Benedict) and trying a form that stressed silence and solitude. This to counteract the confusion and dysfunction of his age.

III. Being holy It is not keeping busy with prayer all day but rather to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I might add, doing this by loving God with all my heart, all my mind, an all my strength and my neighbor as myself.

IV. There are three levels of spiritual maturation, each one dependant on the one before it. 1. The Mind — we are given reason for a reason. We have reason so that we can fulfill out destiny as humans and read the directions on how to move from self to God. But we must grow beyond just mere belief. 2. The Heart — Christ tells us our only rule is to love one another as He loves us. When we sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter and wait for Christ to pass by, knowing that he is approaching, we have reached the beginnings of spiritual maturity. 3. My Heart next to the Heart of Christ– There is no trying to prove Christ exists on this level, no proving my god can beat your god on this level, only sitting in the presence of pure energy and being. The product of God’s energy is me and how its Church addresses the needs of those less fortunate. Read Matthew 25. I you do have the energy of Christ in you, you will have love for your neighbor as yourself not hatred.

V. The Old Testament is all about covenant and keeping it or not. The New Testament is all about God taking on our human nature because we were not doing such a good job and could not reach the next level of our collective progress without help from God Himself. The period from Pentecost until the Lord comes again in glory is marked by the Holy Spirit being with each age as they try to do God’s will. The problem with the Church is that is entrusted to sinful people, just like the Old Testament. Nothing has changed, only the characters, and those now include you and me. The sign of contradiction is that the Church is Holy even though we meander down the road of life, sometimes recklessly, sometimes losing sight of the Light of Christ as our destination, but always moving forward and trying to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I had an encounter with a particularly aggressive and pride-filled person about the Catholic Church as she saw it. Real hatred here. Real anger here. She told me that all Catholics are corrupt and sinful. I asked her if her Church was sinful and she hesitated and said “well, yes”. I told her to apply to my Church the same attitude she has towards her Church. She told me that was different. It always is. We must strive for perfection in the midst of the World. If you condemn the Church for being corrupt because its members are corrupt, then the only ones who can be members of the Church are Jesus and His mother, and only her because God Himself overshadowed her with the fullness of His Grace.

VI. Lay Cistercian spirituality, based on the interpretation of the Cistercians on the Rule of St. Benedict, is one which I find permeated with contradictions about moving from our false self to our true self. The World teaches us that to be fulfilled we must do what makes us happy. What makes us happy is up to us. The Spirit teaches us that to be happy you must take up your cross daily and follow Christ. Do you know how heavy a cross is? This is not a mental exercise with no stress nor demands on us, but rather we must go against or instincts to do what makes us happy. B.F. Skinner must be turning over in his grave when he hears this. We are not animals who must respond to a stimulus when it is offered. We must choose the opposite of convenience many times as our sign of contradiction. The World (Satan) has seduced many people in our times with thinking that no one can tell us what is the way, the truth and the life, only our own instincts, and that we are correct just because we think it. Classic Adam and Eve and Original Sin. As a result, we must choose the more difficult way, the way that does not make sense to the World. Lay Cistercian spirituality, as I understand it, means we seek God in daily living using silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community. Some days are better than others, but we move inexorably foward towards Omega in the sure and constant confidence of the Resurrection.

TOWARDS A CONCLUSION, NOT A FINALITY

To see Jesus, to love others as Christ has loved us, to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), we must recognize that Christ left us not a written book, but actions that we should replicate. These actions don’t make sense, like loving those who hate you and not returning hatred for those who hate you. Chapter 4 of the RB (Rule of Benedict) contains many of the contradictions, those who demand that we give up what the World says is correct in favor of the will of God. It is when we realize the meaning of Christ’s wisdom that when we lose our life, we will find it. The sign of contradiction does not make sense to those who do not have Faith, to those who ask God for mercy, no answer is needed.

Each of us will be judge by our actions after we die. Love is the measure. We will see Him as He really is before the Throne of the Lamb.

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. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

GET SPECIFIC IN YOUR PRAYER

When trying to devote whatever time I have left to prayer, as I promised to do when making my final promises as a Lay Cistercian, I have noticed a few thing that are important about my general prayer life. Sometimes my prayer life seems like a path with no destination, a way covered by snow or rocky. In those times I like to think of the saying, “Just because your road is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road.” Here are some ideas about prayer as I trudge along the path of life, hoping I stay on the road of meaning and reach Christ. They are listed in no order of importance.

  1. Try as I might, I can’t focus on Christ every minute, every second in prayer. If it means sitting in Chapel for hours on end, using solitude, silence, approaching The Sacred in humility and an open heart, listening with what St. Benedict calls the “the ear of the heart”, then, in one sense, I am a failure. It could mean that, and some of the great mystics (St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Bernard) may have been able to build up their capacity for prolonged prayer, but that is not me. Prayer for a Lay Cistercian, at least this broken-down, old, temple of the Holy Spirit, is not carving out eight or nine hours per day, seven days a week, stand before the Blessed Sacrament proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes again in glory (I stopped kneeling before Our Lord about ten years ago). I wish I could do that. Where I find myself is trying to implement what the monks, Brothers Michael and Cassian, have taught us about prayer, specifically that is should be balanced, simple, centered on Christ, being open to the Spirit with a spirit of humility and obedience to what Christ tell us, as Mary whispered to those at the Wedding Feast of Cana. There is another dimension to prayer that I am using, one that I came across because of my own deficiencies and old age. It is that of specificity.
  2. Specificity for me is a sign of contradiction, in that it actually seems to be generic. How is that for a conundrum? It happens when I first get up (about 4:30 a.m.). No I am not a monk. The dog gets us up at 5:00 a.m. each day, don’t ask me how. Being up, when my feet touch the floor, I have made a practice to offer the whole day as a prayer. I have specific intentions for each day in addition to my Morning Offering to seek God in anything that comes up during my day and offering it up to the Father as praise and glory through Christ. I always add, “in reparation for my sins” and for the grace to “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Some days I may forget it and have to reconsecrate the day to God with the prayer to have mercy of me, a sinner. No one can see me doing this. No one knows I am doing this. This specific act of prayer is generic, in that I don’t have to consciously be in chapel every hour. I use the admonition of St. Benedict, “that in all things, God be glorified.”
  3. Targeted prayers are those that link me with a specific theme, person, or intention. For me, I don’t like a litany of targeted prayers, because I also try to be specific and simple in my lifting of my heart and mind to God. Remember, all this is just the way I do it. A few days ago, I was honored to be asked to give a talk to the inmates at Wakulla (Florida) Correctional Institution. It is one of the few Faith-Based prisons in the State of Florida. To minister to the Catholics (and anyone else who wants it), volunteers from our parishes of Good Shepherd, Blessed Sacrament and St. Louis in Tallahassee, volunteer to be Eucharistic ministers, and meetings with the men. Our priests try to offer the Eucharist and Reconciliation weekly. My talk was for veterans but I used the theme of love to seek to dig deeper into the meaning of remembering those who have served, their wives or husbands, and their moms and dads. Seven weeks earlier, I offered the men some ideas about the Foundations of Contemplative Spirituality (my thoughts) that include: 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 to love fiercely? You know you are going to die, now what? These will be the same themes I will use on August 19-22, 2019 at a retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist). You should try to attend.
  4. Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God. When driving to Morning Prayer at Good Shepherd Church, I see the way the sun coats the green trees with regal gold and give thank to God. Just a moment, very specific in time, transforming my heart from self to God. It only takes a moment, a specific moment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5n3hZK4YIo

What follows is a commentary on the Canticle of Daniel by Saint Pope John Paul II. I would recommend you read it and pray that you become what you read. http://oblatesosbbelmont.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Daniel_3a.pdf

FINAL THOUGHT

  • In my quest to seek God, my prayer has become more specific without my even trying.
  • I don’t pray as much for World peace as I do for me to be an instrument of peace (St. Francis of Assisi).
  • I don’t pray as much for an end to abortion as I do that I respect life and radiate the life of Christ in silence and solitude throughout the day.
  • I don’t pray as much for my family members to return to the love of Christ and the true fullness of their Faith, which is my number one prayer intention, as I do that I renew my own commitment to mercy and forgiveness and ask God to have mercy of me, a sinner.
  • I don’t pray for long periods of time, but rather offer my own day, with all its ups and downs, to the Father, that in all things, God be glorified.

Praise be to God the Father and God the Son and God 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

10 THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT LAY CISTERCIANS

What follows is my Lectio Divina on Philippians 2:5 that I had at 2:30 a.m. one night last week. I just happened to remember it and thought it might be of interest to you, it was to me.

Lay Cistercians are laity who choose to follow Cistercian spiritual principles and the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian statutes and conventions. In this blog, I shall give you what I consider 10 bits of information you may not have known before and an link for you to find out more about it on the Internet.

  1. Lay Cistercians are not monks or nuns. None of us live in a monastery and we are not consecrated religious, but we are baptized laity who seek to love God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our strength and our neighbor as our self by following the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian order (Trappist) in it statutes and constitutions. https://www.ocso.org/resources/law/constitutions-and-statutes/
  2. Each Cistercian monastery has, at its head an Abbess or a Abbot who represents Christ to those monks or nuns who pledge vows of stability (stay in one monastery for the rest of their life) and obedience (the Abbess or Abbot represents Christ). http://archive.osb.org/cist/
  3. After two years in formation as a Novice, Lay Cistercians make promises in three separate years as a Junior Lay Cistercian. In the fifth year, Lay Cistercians who choose to do so, apply to the community for permission to take final promises or Final Profession to lead the Cistercian Way of prayer, conversion of life, silence, solitude, work, prayer and community, for the rest of their lives. These Lay Cistercians are called Professed Lay Cistercians and wear a large St. Benedict medal each day for the rest of their lives. In addition, they promise to meet monthly at the Gathering Day at their monastery for prayer, Eucharist, formation as Novices, Juniors and Professed Lay Cistercians. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/2013/05/on-being-a-lay-cistercian-2/
  4. Lay Cistercians seek God in everyday living wherever they live by practicing Cistercian prayers and seeking Cistercian charisms to move from our false self (the World) to our new self (the Spirit). https://www.msmabbey.org/lay-associates
  5. Lay Cistercians are part of a larger group called the International Lay Cistercians. https://cistercianfamily.org/lay-groups http://www.citeaux.net/wri-av/laics_cisterciens-eng.htm
  6. Lay Cistercians follow the spiritual guidance of the Abbot or Abbess who represents Christ. They serve at the pleasure of the Abbot or Abbess and make promises, not vows before this person. I wrote out my promises which I made before the Abbot and the Lay Cistercian community at a formal ceremony in Abbey Church. https://cistercianfamily.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2014Star-of-the-Sea-HR.pdf
  7. Each Lay Cistercian group is autonomous based on what the Monastery permits. https://cistercianfamily.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2014CLC-Spencer-HR-2013.pdf
  8. Lay Cistercians are expected to make an annual retreat at the Monastery Retreat Center. This is a silent retreat and stresses contemplation and approaching God with humility and seeking mercy.
  9. There is an Internet Lay Cistercian group called “Conversi” for those who live too far away from a Monastery to attend the monthly Gathering Days. https://cistercianfamily.org/laygroups/conversi-an-on-line-community/
  10. Some Lay Cistercian groups (Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) have auxiliary groups in different parts of Florida. All of these daughter groups belong to the main Lay Cistercian group in Conyers, Georgia. There is an Ecumenical Lay Cistercian group attached to the Holy Spirit Monastery group, composed of other faith families. They follow the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the Cistercians at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. They become Novices, make Junior promises and may apply for Final Profession before the Abbot. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

Of course, thee is much more to being a Lay Cistercian than this. One gentleman asked me what I do as a Lay Cistercian. I told him that I put myself in the presence of Christ every day through Morning Offering at 4:30 a.m., then Eucharist, Lectio Divina, Rosary, appreciation of the role of Mary as Patroness and Role Model of humility and obedience to God’s will, reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day, reciting the Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer), writing my blog on Lay Cistercian spirituality as a result of doing all of this. In all the above, all I do is place myself in the present of the Sacred and wait. I try to keep my talking and thinking at a minimum and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak. It is my hope that I become what I approach in Faith. Some days are better than others.

Brother Michael, O.S.C.O. taught us that we should pray when and as when can. There is no sin attached to not doing these practices, but there is grace and God’s energy for those who do all or part of them. St. Benedict says, “that in all things, God be glorified.” That’s not bad.

For more information, you can Email me at michaelconrad005@gmail.com

CHAPTER 4: DISTRACTIONS AND BAD THOUGHTS DURING CONTEMPLATION

Posted on May 20, 2019 by https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

This might seem like an odd topic for Lectio Divina, but, I assure you, it is very real, embarrassingly real. It is real because none of us practice prayer and hopefully contemplation without distractions and trying to avoid bad thoughts. That it is not just the tomfoolery of a broken-down old Lay Cistercian, St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict states:

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. 51 Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech.

The Holy Spirit presented me with these thoughts in the hopes that I might be smart enough to assimilate them into my Lay Cistercian spirituality and The Cistercian Way. I share them with you because I was asked to do so. All of these thoughts are my own interpretation (as I listened to Christ while on a park bench in the dead of Winter) and do not reflect any Lay Cistercian or Cistercian points of view.

When I think of these tools for good works that St. Benedict suggested for his monks to move from self to God, they all demand action. If I am to expand the capacity for God “capacitas dei” in my inner self, I must struggle with what the World sets forth as part of my human nature verses what Christ bids us do to become fully human (Adam and Eve before the Fall and not after it). Unfortunately, all us us, including Christ and especially his body, the Church (that includes me), live in what St. Paul calls The World (after the Fall). Living in the World has consequences, such as pain, suffering, being ruled by our emotions, temptations to do evil and not good, thinking we are god. I bring this up because it is at the root of why, when any of us pray (that includes Pope all the way to me, who sits in the Tax Collectors’ seat in Church and will not raise his eyes to the heavens but keeps repeating, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me), we experience distractions and sometimes downright obscene thoughts. I must struggle to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) Christ had temptations. Temptations are just choices between good and evil, between what the World says is god and what God say is God. If you don’t know the difference, then you may have already been seduced by the Dark Side and not even realize it.

GEORGE

My good friend George Unglaub, 83, who just died during Holy Week this year, asked me why we always have the most disturbing and pornographic thoughts while we attend Eucharist or sit before the Blessed Sacrament in contemplation of Christ. George, bless his soul, was a convert to the Church Universal. He was a proud Marine (Semper Fi, George!) and a crusty, old man who would never tire of telling people of how he saw Jesus in the Chapel at Good Shepherd Church, Tallahassee, Florida. A daily communicant and frequent participant in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When I asked him why he went to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Congers, Georgia with his wife Vanessa, also received into the fullness of the Faith of the Universal Church a year ago, why he want to daily Eucharist at Good Shepherd, and why he wore out our priests going to Reconciliation, he simply said, “That is where I see Jesus.” Those who knew the no-nonsense George knew he actually did see Jesus. What a great inspiration of Faith for all us us who wax and wane with trying to master our emotions. George told me he would never master the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, in the sense that once you have them you can forget them. What he said was, he needs Jesus EVERY DAY to keep his focus. What he could do is use these gifts of the Holy Spirit to help him each day to see Christ. He was passionate about this. I mean passionate. I bring up George as one of the answers to having bad or evil thoughts during extremely spiritual times.

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.

You know the Lord’s Prayer. But do you know how archetypal it is? Original Sin, which seeks to explain the human condition of decay and corruption, is the very reason we have these thoughts. God gave Adam and Eve two gifts after they were thrown out of the Garden of Eden (Heaven) to help us live in this world without becoming animals. Animals don’t go to Heaven (unless you take them there). We can’t go to Heaven (unless Christ we accept that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father.) Nothing personal! What does it profit you to be a physician, a nurse, a teacher, an entrepreneur, a retiree, or anything else, for that matter, if you miss all the helps God gives you to claim your heritage and you can’t see Jesus. Salvation was won a a great price, Christ’s own life, given for the redemption of all of us so that we can claim adoption. Those who recognize Jesus is Lord recognize their birthright. Those who do not I recommend to the mercy of Christ and say, as he did, “Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do.” That is God’s decision as he sits on the Throne in Heaven “from whence he will judge the living and the dead.” Christ helps those who believe in him, even in the face of thinking bad, evil, or obscene thought while we pray, because that is the way life is. We have a choice, to choose our false self or new self, according to Cistercian spirituality that I read in the late Dom Andre Louf’s book,The Cistercian Way. (Dom is the title for the Abbot of a Monastery. It comes from Dominus, or Lord, and means the Abbot takes the place of Christ for those in his pastoral and spiritual care.) The whole idea of a Monastery, and also for Lay Cistercians, is to “see Jesus each day” as George was so fond of saying. He loved the monastery, although by his own admission, he did not understand all this talk about God. I don’t either.

FIRST GIFT: Reason

When you look out at all of the species of living on earth (many of them extinct), which of them knows that they know? Animals and plants share life with us, but with a difference. Humans alone know that they know. Why do we, of all species, so far in all of physical reality, know that we know, have awareness that raises us up from being animal to being spiritual apes? Why is that? Is this a random selection of humans over other species? Something does not come from nothing, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out. (See my three books entitled, Spiritual Apes for more ideas about this theme. http://www.amazon.com/books/dr. michael. f. conrad)

This is where the book of Genesis comes into play. These ancient oral traditions are finally written down to pass on their heritage and to answer fundamental questions, such as: Why is there pain? Why do we have only seventy or eighty years, then we die? Is that all there is? What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of my life? What is love and how can I lose it? Why does everything corrupt (everything)? There is someone to come who will redeem us from our collective fault, the human condition that in all cases leads to death. Christ, came to give us life, life forever. Reason is the gift from God that allows us to choose. Choose what?

GIFT TWO: Freedom to Choose

If reason is a gift from God for us to eventually claim our inheritance that Adam and Eve lost through poor choices, they the second gift is that very freedom to choose, one that got us into trouble in the first place. The Old Testament is a record of how God loved the Israelites and even established a convent, but it is also an account of how that people moved away from God (e.g. worshiping the Golden Calf, worshiping gods of stone and iron). Nothing has changed in the New Testament. Christ came to take away the sin of the World (Original Sin) to we could once more have adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Read Romans 5:12-21. St. Paul writes that the Old Testament is fulfilled by Christ, the Second Adam. But, there is a catch to the price of redemption–the effects of Original Sin are still there, even if the sin is removed through Baptism. What Baptism did was to give those of us who want to “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) This is probably the long way of answering Georges’s question about why he has all those terrible thoughts during the most sacred times. This second gift is one that God give us, not to take away temptation, but to give us the choice of grace (what God wants) and sin (what I want). Cistercians call that transformation from self to God. I find that there is an interesting caveat to this process. Death is conquered by Christ but we still must die. Sin is forgiven through Reconciliation, Eucharist, Personal Petition, but we are prone to sin over and over, each and every day. We are not sin-centered, if we choose God but love-centered. We do not want to live our lives by putting at its purpose the exception to love, sin. Sin means we missed the boat, that God tells us how to love authentically, we don’t get that by following The World. Sin, with temptations to do what the World thinks is good, is a choice we make, one won with the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. How great is that love of Christ for us! I am not so naive to think that I can change the world, however, I can change my world by trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). Some days are better than others. 

As part of my daily Lay Cistercian promises, I try to approach God through Christ each day, asking the Holy Spirit to guard me from the temptations of the World and give me the grace to choose life, and fulfill my adoption heritage. Here are some temptations that George and I discussed about how Satan tempts us to move off the center (sin) and eat of the tree of good and evil (Genesis 2-3). You might have experienced some of these of none of these. They all are a result of Original Sin. We must choose life and not death. We must renounce ourselves and follow Christ (RB Chapter 4:10) and discipline our body, St. Benedict bids his monks. This man knew human nature more then most psychologist and psychiatrists in our age can even approach. He used what was real in the physical universe, the mental universe, which opens up the spiritual universe, not to take away our choice, but to give us the framework where we can move from our false self (Seven Deadly Sins) to move toward God (Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit). Everyone has temptations and not all temptations are evil (choosing Cheerios for breakfast or Wheaties). The archetypal temptations I refer to are at the core of what it means to be human and are those that make us human and not whales or Aardvarks. We have the freedom to choose good or evil, just as Adam and Eve did. As long as we live, there will be temptations we have to seduce us to do good and what is best for us verses what God knows is best for us, even if it seems comfortable. Temptations are choices we make and all choices, remember, have consequences. If we come to a fork in the road, Yogi Berra is said to have said, take it. That the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3) is good and evil bespeaks the intensity and authenticity of this first great Mystery of Faith, how God made us, we are good, yet we are prone to sin. After the Fall from Grace there was no other option to love, but Christ (Romans 5)  came to give us options once more. Once more, we have choices. We are not just big cups full of grace waiting to go to Heaven automatically. Like Adam and Eve, we must make choices that affect our here and now but also our there and then. Human reason can help us know what is good or bad, but pride and vanity may cloud our vision because we listen to our own ego rather than to Christ, the sign of contradiction to the World. The problem for most of us is, who tells us what is good and evil. Here are some of the issues we have over choice and who gives us that North on our compass with which we measure ourselves. 

TYPES OF TEMPTATION

Physical temptation— In the physical universe, our based for survival, we share the laws of nature with animals, plants, chemicals, physical matter, energy, and time. We must be authentic in this universe and not disobey its laws. As part of it, humans also have urges and survival needs, just like other animals. Animals go through periods when they are fertile and the sexual hormones want species to copulate. When humans act like animals, we call that sin–you are not acting your nature.

Human temptations to sex are the most understandable for humans because we came from animal nature by God’s mercy, and it is important to note that we still have those urges. These can be triggered by looking a someone from either sex and feeling urges to copulate. Having thoughts of an extremely erotic nature during the holiest of times is not sinful. This is a temptation. Sin is when you do not, as St. Benedict says, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father (your confessor later one). Sin is allowing Satan to tempt you, just like Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Physical temptations are those that we hold in common with all other living things. It is primarily, but not exclusively sexual because that is the dominant drive in all animals, and humans are part of that.

Mental temptations —Mental temptations are far more serious than those stemming from our animal nature. That does not mean they are not evil. Less bad is still bad for us. The difference is the gulf that exists been all living things and humans. God made all that lives, Adam He made from the “adama,” the Hebrew word for the earth. No wonder humans are dirty, but they are not evil.  Adam means earthy. Say what you want about evolution, Adam and Eve were given two gifts all other living things don’t have: reason and the ability to choose (the image and likeness of God). Humans can choose to propagate outside of seasons or periods, although the period of fertility females have is a remnant of our belonging to the physical universe. The mental universe is one that uses reason and the ability to choose good of evil to discover meaning. What is the reason we have reason? I think it has to do with our purpose in life which is to discover the meaning of love? Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37. And why is it important to discover love? If we are to rise above the other life forms on earth, if we are to be authentically human, we must know the meaning of love. As Erich Fromm states in his book,The Art of Loving, humans are not born with knowing how to love, they must learn it. Depending on what they use as meaning, love can be destructive or allow us to go to the next level of our destiny, the spiritual universe. Human temptations come from our human emotions and needs. Anger, Jealousy, Murder, Stealing, Adultery and Fornication, Coveting other women or men, and Coveting the riches of other people are all examples of human temptations. These sins are against other persons, the Church Universal, and

Spiritual temptations— As you might have already guessed, humans can have temptations based on the spiritual universe. These temptations present a choice of what God thinks is authentic (Spirit) and what we think is authentic (the World). Sin means we choose us rather than God. Read Galatians Chapter 5. Spiritual temptations are: 

  • not offering incense to other gods,
  • not respecting the name of the Lord, and
  • not keeping holy the Sabbath.
  • They include falling away from the Church because you chose the World over God, losing your Faith,
  • disrespecting your spiritual heritage,
  • falling away from the Faith because of anger with the Church,
  • hatred for a priest or nun that taught you in school, 
  • and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (the only sin that is unforgivable).
  • Spiritual sins are the most grievous.
  • These sins are against God, Christ, the Holy Spirit.

Temptations are not sins. They are choices. You have reason for a reason, remember? The problem is not that you are free to choose or not, but what you choose. We not only choose good or evil but we also choose the center against which we find meaning and truth. For me, that center is Philippians 2:5, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” The choice, then, becomes are you the author of what is good or evil, or is God. What you choose can either be from God or not. All of this is compounded by the fragmenting of religion into thinking that each person is their own god, their own church, their own pope. Truth is one and sincerity is not substitute for the way, the truth and the life. Not all religions are religious and teach what comes from Christ. From the very beginnings of the early Church, there has been confusion over who Christ is and is he God or not. This is a struggle that still exists today. Look up Wikipedia on the subject of heretics (with the usual caveat that Wikipedia is not completely accurate historically).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_movements_declared_heretical_by_the_Catholic_Church

THE THREE FILTERS FOR TRUTH

The big temptation is our age is to discount Christ, the Church (after all, a corrupt Church can’t produce truth, can it?), the Apostolic heritage, and the teachings of men (not male but rather humans). This is a way the Devil uses to separate us from Christ and our heritage as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Some are seduced by this temptation into equating a few corrupt priests with the message of Christ to love each other as He has loved us. The Church will last until the end time and the Last Coming. Satan knows human weakness is sexuality and the inability to control animal urges to propagate. These urges are good and we would not propagate without them but we have reason to be able to know what is good or evil. Baboons don’t have that gift. Baboons are not evil or corrupt (although they die), they act their nature. Human nature, as found in Genesis, is destined to live with God forever (the Garden of Eden) but Adam and Eve, representing us all, made the choice to choose evil rather than good. This archetypal choice is an explanation of the human condition human find themselves in today. St. Paul says, “the things I don’t what to do, I do, while the things I do, I don’t want to do.”

Romans 7:15-20 (NIV)

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a]For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

This is classic St. Paul and it should be classic us. Adam and Eve did not sin until the ate of the fruit. In terms of falling away from the path of righteousness, one meaning may be that the urge to follow our animal instincts is not evil but actually shows we are human. Something is sinful when we make a conscious act of the will to do what we have been tempted to do. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for the Devil not to lead us into temptation, but, and this is important, we also pray to deliver us from evil, i.e., not to choose what is presented to us as good, when it is fact evil. It must be wrong (remember, God determines what is right or wrong).  

Three filters to know the truth

Here are the three questions I ask when I want to know the truth, because there can be only one truth.

1. Ask the right question. When someone says I don’t believe in the Catholic Church Universal because they are corrupt and rotten, I tell them they are not asking the right question. The right question is: How does this Body of Christ help me to love God with all my mind, all my heart and all my strength, and my neighbor as myself. (Deuteronomy 6.5 and Matthew 22:34-40). If you have Jehovah Witnesses come to the door to ask you if you believe in Jesus, tell them you will answer their question but you first must determine if they are authentic witnesses of truth: Who wears the Shoes of the Fisherman in your Church, as they stand here, right now? If they don’t know, shake the dust from your shoes and pray for God’s mercy on both you and them.

2. Do you look forward or backward?  Everyone has reason and the ability to choose right from wrong. There are consequences for choosing good (grace) and for choosing bad (sin, missing the mark, not knowing the difference between the choice of what is right is what is easy (Read Harry Potter, No. 3 and No 7, sayings I find refreshing in an age of confirmity and reletavism.  https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/remembering-wise-wizard-albus-dumbledores-12-greatest-quotes 

If you find yourself looking backward in time to what the Scriptures say, jumping from now to then, then you do so without knowing and experiencing the struggle the Church had to keep Christ as its center. The first three centuries, fifty Popes were martyred for their Faith, sometimes by fellow Christians. The other option is to look forward, not from now until you die, but from when Christ founded the Church on the Peter, the rock until now, and told his Church that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. This is an early Church full of sinful men and women trying to discover Christ, many time losing the way, but always coming back to the true path. It mirrors Old Testament where the prophets kept crying and crying out for Israel to turn back to God. 

Only two persons are without sin, the rest of us must take up our crosses daily and seek God’s mercy and daily bread in the Eucharist. It is a struggle to be a believer, just like it was in the Early Church of Martyrs and continues to this day. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org/2018/04/13/seven-cistercian-martyrs-of-atlas/ If you look back to the time of Christ and seek to find meaning in the Scriptures, you will find it, but you may or may not have the true interpretation of what Christ passed on to the Apostles. Truth is passed forward not backward. The reason is, you are your own church. No one can tell you what to believe or how to believe it. You have no heritage of trial by blood and fire. What Scripture means is up to you (which is true to a point). Scripture was forged in the fiery crucible of the blood of martyrs, with Christ the first born of the dead, as our sacrificial lamb, The Lamb of God. The struggles we have today pales to the controversies of the first three centuries of Christology Wars. The Church was born as communities of Faith, with individuals seeking to do what Christ did so they could go to Heaven inside of them, not out. We must not only look at Scripture but how those in the Early Church were affected by it and love others as Christ loves us. You don’t get that by looking backwards. 

3. Christ Himself authorized St. Peter and the Twelve, to go out into the World and preach the good news. Remember, the only books there were were from the Old Testament, as early Church tried to move from the Twelve Tribes of Israel to the Twelve Apostles. St. Paul was instrumental in help the Church keep from being tied to rituals and the Law (for the sake of the Law). Ironically, as Christianity move into other places, they did so without circumcision as a condition of membership to that of Baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to prove anything to anyone. For those without Faith, no answer is possible; for those with Faith, no answer is necessary, says St. Thomas Aquinas. 

All of this means that there is but one truth, one way, one life. My Faith does not depend upon belief alone, but from everything coming from the heart of Christ. As a Lay Cistercian, I observe practices and conversion of heart daily to learn from Christ, not the Christ of my imagination, not the Christ of trying to prove I am right and you are wrong, but the Christ whose only request was: love others as I have loved you. That is Church Universal, the living Body of Christ that was, that is, and that will be. Christ is the head and we are the body.

The uncomfortable notion of consequences

Our problem, again, is the Church, having weathered the storms of heresy, martyrdom, the Monarchical Church trying to seduce the Penitent Church, is perceived as ineffectual because of the current crisis of Faith we experience in our time, betrayal of the promises of  some Priests, Nuns, and Laity to keep the promises they made to follow Christ through celibacy (Priests, Religious) and chastity (Laity). These people will have to answer to the Supreme Judge, not to lawyers. The rest of the Church has the obligation to heal itself and any victims of these crimes (as well as incest, white slavery, abortion, murder, theft, adultery, and fornication). What is at work here is the consequences of our choices. No sin is without consequences. We know from Scripture that the wages of sin is death. Death to the Spirit. God will not abandon His Body, the living Church, as he would not abandon Israel in the Old Testament covenant. What God gives us as a gift to sustain our Faith is the ability to make all things new through Christ’s redemptive forgiveness. If the Mystery of Faith, the Body of Christ is like joining the Moose or Elks Clubs, you will be looking around for another place to plant your body. As you do that, remember, there is not human institution that is not sinful, most especially the Church, We have the ability to confess our collective sinfulness and ask for God’s mercy. We have the ability to turn from evil and do good. Jesus knows that we are tempted. To show us how to combat evil, He Himself was led out into the desert by Satan and tempted.

THE THREE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST

No discussion about temptation can be complete without bringing up the three choices Christ was given in the desert. Christ was like us in all things but sin. If it is true that we learn how to love with our whole heart by learning from Christ, it is also true that the three temptations of Christ were inserted in Scriptures to teach us how to combat temptation and its source.  Here are some of my ideas.

The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament and moves it to a deeper level. It does not dump the tradition but transforms it to help us grow deeper with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The three temptations of Christ have been written to show that God is tempted to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, the same tree of which Adam and Eve ate. Jesus, the second Adam, shows us the temptations that lead to pride and our fall from grace, if we eat. These three temptations are not designed to test his human nature, but rather to see how the young Christ (young in human nature) responds as God. The first part is the choice, the second part is how God answers the Devil, just as he did in the Garden of Evil. These three temptations are not those you or I would have, which leads me to think that they were meant to give the readers insights into how God wants his followers to treat being tempted. In the first temptation, that of hunger of the body, Satan uses human need for food, one of the basic needs, as Abraham Maslow sets forth in his heirarchy of needs, and offers Jesus the choice to  (remember, there are consequences to our choices). Remember, Christ had just finished forty days and forty nights (something I find astonishing). The Devil wanted to test the young Christ (young in human nature) to see if his humanity would betray his divinity. Jesus answers the Devil as both God and Man by refocusing hunger to the hunger the heart has for God and that only that bread of life will bring fulfilment as human being. Of course, we learn from this temptation that the Real Presence in the Eucharist is the food that is the Bread of Life. Again, the human nature is tempted but the divine nature responds to this temptation by moving it from the realm of the World to the realm of the Spirit, or the spiritual universe. Jesus hits an out of the park home run.

The second temptation is one that tests human vanity. His humanity is tempted to use his divnity to keep his body safe (also one of Abraham Maslow’s needs) (https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-4136760) so that he can save people. Again, the human nature is tempted but the divine nature responds to this temptation by, once more, moving it from the realm of the World to the realm of the Spirit, or the spiritual universe. To overcome temptation from the World, we learn we must choose to live in the Spirit. Lay Cistercians call that moving from the false self to the new self. It is done with an act of choice, and, this choice has consequences. Home run two.

Matthew 4 (NRSVCE) The Temptation of Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”But he answered, “It is written,‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

CELIBACY AND COMMITMENT AND TEMPTATION

We come to the last temptation, or the Devil’s last chance to pitch. Two strikeouts so far. God 2 and Devil 0. Here is the pitch. It is a fastball. Worship me at god, says Satan, and you can have it all. It is identical to the temptation in Genesis 2-3. Wham! A triple home run. Jesus, fully human, fully God hit it out of the park.  

When those temptations come to pull you away from God, Christ tells us to do what he did and say” “Away with you Satan! Workshop the Lord your God, and serve only Him.”  This is what I told George that I try dash my bad thoughts against Christ and tell my spiritual director of my struggle. It is what I do when those bad thoughts and emotions well up within me. To battle Satan, only the sword of justice and truth can banish him from your thoughts (I ask the Warrior Angel Michael to be my protector using his flaming sword). None of this will prevent you from having wandering thoughts, but it will help if you call upon the name of the Lord to protect you from evil. That is one of the reasons I wear the St. Benedict medal I received when I made final promises as a professed Lay Cistercian. Some days are better than others.

Once, I was talking to a group of Roman Catholic priests about sexuality and mental health. The topics were many and quite explicit, such as “I have sexual feelings a lot and have the urge to procreate with females, any females,  to fulfill these needs. Am I not entitled to fulfill my needs? I have these thoughts even during the holiest parts of the Eucharist or while praying Lectio Divina.” Having been a celibate priest for sixteen years, in my pride, I thought I could address it. I did so by saying that the urges all males have and the material instincts women have come from God and are good. We share those urges to procreate with all living things. What God made is good. Celibacy is a commitment or choice of ways to love Christ and serve the Church. It does not make sense to the World and its secular thinking of self-fulfillment. Celibacy, like a marriage commitment is a way to live our your life with Christ as your center. Having urges to propagate is natural and normal. Celibacy is a free act of the will, although people at the time don’t know what the consequences of that promise will be in ten to twenty years. “Do you think that, just because you are celibate or a consecrated religious, you are not going to be subject to what all living things have as their primary needs, i.e. security, procreation, eating? I don’t think so,” I told them, “So then, how can you be fully human and still be celibate?” I said. The purpose of life is not celibacy nor even marriage. Married couples have temptations to procreate (men) and fulfill the need to be love by another.. It is love, but authentic love is not without struggle and automatic. That is why Faith, even as a gift from God, may be lost or weakened without daily taking up our cross and following Christ. We must learn love. We learn it by doing what The Master taught us as handed down through the centuries. Celibacy and marriage are acts of love that can make us fully human. Both Celibacy and Marriage doesn’t make sense without the example Christ gave us to love one another as Christ loves us. We will always have urges to dominate others, steal, murder, hate, fornicate, commit adultery, homosexual acts, acts with animals. Remember, we come from animal instincts. What Christ gave us was salvation from our false self (Seven Deadly Sins) to be transformed by our true self (Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit). We don’t deny our authentic urges for safety, propagation, self awareness, belonging, and to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Temptation means we are presented with authentic love (through, with and in Christ) and unauthentic love (The World tells us what is important). We have the ability to choose to choose the way, the truth and the life.

Being a Lay Cistercian is all about affirming the choices that I think God has given us through Christ. God gives us choices in the Ten Commandments and the Church gives us choices in marriage and holy orders. We are defined by these choices. It is not just that we are free to choose, which all humans are, we are defined by what we choose. Because the World only gives us choices that cater to our false self, we are challenged to choose what is bad for us over what is good for us. Temptations simply point out the fact that we are human and have reason, but also that, like Genesis, we have a choice of the knowledge of good and evil. What we do next is sinful or not. Here are some ideas I offered to the clergy.

  • Realize that your mind can entertain any sort of thought or temptation of a sexual nature, of drinking alcohol, or living a life of clericalism (being celibate but not following Christ). Matthew 22.
  • Realize that your commitment is one of struggle, one impossible to achieve with the values of this World. Only Christ gives us the meaning of true love.
  • Realize that temptations to do evil in thoughts or with others means you are struggling with the deepest of human conditions. Being a Lay Cistercian, a monk, or a nun, will not shield you from temptation or sin, but it will help you to dash your unhealthy choices against Christ and have someone you can help you move from self to God. 
  • Realize that you are not defined by other priests or nuns who made horrific choices. Don’t confuse the aberration with the commitment, despite the greed, detraction and calumny of lawyers.
  • Realize that you are in a titanic struggle for good and evil within you.
  • Realize that, once you put on the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of Faith, you are at war with the World and it temptations for self gratification.
  • Realize that others will sustain you in time of intense temptation, if you reach out. Christ is always there.
  • Realize that, if you wear a St. Benedict medal and pray with humility and openness to the will of God, this will remind you of the prayer on the medal (see the inscriptions below). This resource is lifted from Wikipedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Benedict_Medal I recommend you wear the St. Benedict medal, not as magical talisman to prevent the Devil from seducing you, although it is that. Rather, I like to think of it as a rubber band wrapped around my wrist to make me conscious that, when we are lead into temptation, Christ is there to protest us from the Devil, who goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 

The medal’s symbolism

Saint Benedict Medal, front.

On the front of the medal is Saint Benedict holding a cross in his right hand, the object of his devotion, and in the left his rule for monasteries.[3] In the back is a poisoned cup, in reference to the legend of Benedict, which explains that hostile monks attempted to poison him: the cup containing poisoned wine shattered when the saint made the sign of the cross over it (and a raven carried away a poisoned loaf of bread). Above the cup are the words Crux sancti patris Benedicti (“The Cross of [our] Holy Father Benedict”). Surrounding the figure of Saint Benedict are the words Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur! (“May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death”), since he was always regarded by the Benedictines as the patron of a happy death.[3][10]

On the back is a cross, containing the letters C S S M L – N D S M D, initials of the words Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Non [Nunquam?] draco sit mihi dux! (“May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon never be my overlord!”).[3] The large C S P B stand for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (“The Cross of [our] Holy Father Benedict”). Surrounding the back of the medal are the letters V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B, in reference to Vade retro satanaVade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!(“Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!”) and finally, located at the top is the word PAX which means “peace”.[3][10]

Saint Benedict Medal, back.

Latin AbbreviationLatin TextEnglish TextLocation
PAXPAXPeaceTop
C S P BCrux Sancti Patris BenedictiThe Cross of [our] Holy Father BenedictFour quadrants made by centre cross
C S S M LCrux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux!May the holy cross be my light!Center cross, vertical bar
N D S M DNon [Nunquam?] Draco Sit Mihi Dux!“May the dragon never be my overlord!”
“Let the devil not be my leader.”
Center cross, horizontal bar
V R SVade Retro Satana!“Begone satan!”
“Get behind me satan”
Clockwise around disk
N S M VNunquam Suade Mihi Vana!“Never tempt me with your vanities!”
“Don’t persuade me of wicked things.”
Clockwise around disk
S M Q LSunt Mala Quae Libas.“What you offer me is evil.”
“What you are showing me is bad.”
Clockwise around disk
I V BIpse venena bibas!“Drink the poison yourself!”
“Drink your poisons yourself.”
Clockwise around disk
  • We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, but we are not orphans.
  • Wearing the blessed medal of St. Benedict is not magic or illusion, but it does remind me to call on the name of the Lord to help me in time of trouble.
  • Christ came to save us from having no choices except our own selves.
  • Christ came to save us from having our only option as being what the World thinks is true.
  • Christ came to save us from being our own god, our own church.
  • I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, says Christ our Master, follow me, love one another as I have loved you. That “as I have loved you” is the kicker.
  • We have reason to know the truth and the truth will make us free. That is not always easy to do and we fail the test of covenant many times in our lives. When we fall down, we have Christ reaching out his hand to help us back up. How many times? Seventy times seven time. 
  • I think it is important not to be defined by sin or by the exception to the Rule. Christ alone is the Rule.

I. THE MODERN TEMPTATION TO BE GOD

The news media is full of politicians falling all over themselves to proclaim what is moral, what is just, what is the way. Christ is no where to be found. Our temptation is to take the easy way out rather than doing what is right. The easy, political way is to stand for everything which is to stand for nothing. The political way is to say, “personally I am against it, but politically, I support abortion to get elected.” Hatred and detraction of others is normative. The temptation here is to think you are god, if you are politician (any party, any level of governing). Humility is no where to be found. If you take the time to measure any political message against Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, make your own decision as to what is right or not. You have reason for a reason. No wonder that authentic religion is degenerate and mocked by those whose god is their own ego. No principles against which we must be accountable to God. Politicians are only accountable to the electorate. The temptation here is to think that there is no God, only the party platform, much of which is atheistic in assumption. The temptation for all of us is to think that all this garbage thinking will make us more human, more loving, more compassionate, and more merciful. You have reason for a reason. You also have choices for a reason, and, remember, we are defined by our choices. I choose not to be seduced by the false prophets of politics of any party. I choose not to give up my faith by burning incense before the altar of Democratic Party, Republican Party, or any groups that denigrates the teachings of Christ. The price for my redemption was too high for me to sell my birthright for a pitiful handful of silver. This might seem radical thinking, but all politics seems to me to be meaningless and bankrupt of values, based on relativistic and individualistic ideas. Power and hatred seems to be the platform of some parties. How would you evaluate what comes to you as political news based on Galatians 5: The Works of the Flesh1Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.The Fruit of the Spirit22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.  

II. TEMPTATION TO BE YOUR OWN CHURCH

There is a confusion of tongues, like the tower of Babel, in our age. Religions contradict each other and hold assumptions that cannot possibly be true, if there is but one truth. The temptation here is to follow false prophets and false gods, the modern equivalent of offering incense to the bust of Caesar as god in Apostolic times. There have always been individuals who, with itching ears, have falsely proclaimed the teachings of the Master. Sincerity is no excuse for heresy. You have a choice. As the knight in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie says, “choose wisely.” After all, you have the ability to reason and the freedom to choose what is either good or evil for you. There are consequences to your choice. Just because you have the freedom to choose whatever you want does not mean that what you choose is the truth. 

Here are some Scripture passages for your reflection and contemplation.

Matthew 26:40-42 New International Version (NIV)

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.

1 Corinthians 10:13[Full Chapter]
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Matthew 24 NRSVCE – The Destruction of the Temple Foretold – Signs of the End of the Age

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’[a]and they will lead many astray.And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines[b]and earthquakes in various places:all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

III. THE TEMPTATION TO THINK YOU KNOW WHAT IS GOOD OR EVIL

In Genesis 2-3, we read about Adam and Eve given a command not to eat of the tree of good and evil. Even today, when someone tells me not to do something there is a real urge to at last try to do it. It must be built into the human consciousness. At issues here is, who is God? You or God? It is the very crux of what modern thinking, secular thinking, is all about. Whenever you hear the Church being vilified as being too old, too out of touch, too male dominated, and against letting you do what you want to make you fulfilled, you can be sure that Adam and Eve are there once more. God is removed as the principle from which all moral decisions are made. You can measure your fulfillment either by accepting God as your center or, the other alternative, you as your center. In the previous temptation, we talked about you being your own church. The unintended consequences of placing yourself at the center of all knowledge of good and evil is that each individual is god. There is not collective hub against which you can measure your behavior. Each person, according to this thinking, has the right to think whatever they want. It is true that we have the freedom to choose anything we want as our center, but it is also true that if we choose a false center, the consequences are we become our own god. Lay Cistercian spirituality, based on following the Rule of St. Benedict confronts that thinking directly in Chapter 4. “You way of acting should be different than the World’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” The two are mutually opposed and you can be a politician who says, personally I think abortion is wrong but politically, I hold it to be true. That is spiritual schizophrenia. There are consequences to those actions. You will stand before the ultimate judge of your behavior one day and try to get away with it once more time. Good luck. We must try to move from our false self to our new self each day. The challenge is sometimes hidden in what seems to be an enigma; if you are pro-choice, that means you do have anyone tell you what to do with your body. All of us have freedom to choose because we are human. The choice here is between God as your center or you as god. There will be consequences for your actions, not now, but when you stand before the Throne of the Lamb and you must give an account of your stewardship. Read Matthew 25.

SUMMARY POINTS

  • Unless you are comfortably in the grave, you will have temptations throughout your lifetime.
  • Temptation are not good or bad, they are the presentation of choices that may be good or bad for you.
  • Humans have reason for a reason and the ability to make choices that are good or evil
  • Good and evil is either defined by God (Commandments, Beatitudes, Scriptures. Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit) or by you (The World, Seven Deadly Sins)
  • Celibacy doesn’t mean you won’t have sexual thoughts or temptations to break your vows; marriage doesn’t mean you won’t have sexual thoughts or temptations to break your vows; being single doesn’t mean you have a free pass to commit fornication or adultery or living together outside of marriage.
  • Quit complaining about how difficult celibacy is or how marriage limits your sexual appetites. When God accepted you as an adopted son or daughter, he said it would be difficult to follow Him verses the World. He has given us Himself to help us, not to take away our temptations or our failures, but to assure us of God’s mercy and forgiveness, with the condition that we forgive others as well.
  • Temptations of bad or evil thoughts demand action. You can dash them against Christ and give into what they promise you.
  • You must choose God or choose the World. The World promotes self fulfillment and self-gratification; Christ promotes self-denial and transformation from your false self to your true self.
  • Christ is the Principle against which all is measured. He teaches us the meaning of authentic love, not what the World chooses. He save us from death and promises life…Forever. 
  • The gauntlet of life is fraught with many trials and “thorns of the flesh” that would seduce us from following the way, the truth, and the life. We don’t always make right choices. We have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to ask for God’s grace in helping us with temptations and to confess our love for Christ once more, to commit to making all things new once more.
  • All choices have consequences. The problem with consequence is you may not feel their effects in this lifetime, but you will be accountable for what you do. Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict counsels us to have a fear of Hell (See Chapter 4 at the beginning of this blog).

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

Praise to the God 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

CONTEMPLATION IS…

This morning in my meeting at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Tallahassee, Florida, I was joined by two wonderful persons who were seeking God through contemplation. In my attempts to fumble around to describe to them what contemplation is, I came up with these ideas that you might find interesting. As a Lay Cistercian in process of moving from self to God, Contemplation means…

  • opening the mind to explore the heart
  • exploring the heart means, learning to be still in silence and solitude
  • learning to be still in silence and solitude means you meet Christ on the level of being, not human requirements
  • meeting Christ on the level of being means you discard all human conventions of communication and listen
  • listening to Christ means you must be humble and obedient to the Father, as Christ was
  • being meek and humble of heart means you can approach God  with Christ as your mediator without burning up your nerve endings 
  • you must be tamed to follow Christ authentically (…it is only with the heart that one sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye. –The Little Prince)
  • being tamed means you are constant and consistent in your approach to Christ each day (another word for prayer and being present to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament)
  • you want to be with the one you love
  • Cistercian practices allow each of us to approach the heart of Christ and wait in our own way
  • waiting for Christ is emptying oneself to be able to fill up in us that which is Christ (capacitas dei)
  • Capcitas dei (making room for Christ in my cluttered heart) means moving inside our soul with silence, solitude, work, prayer and community
  • Moving inside our soul is the meaning of contemplation
  • When speaking of contemplation, it is always just the beginning
  • The Holy Spirit is the height and the depth, the width of all human attempts at contemplation.

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

THE POWER OF DISCERNMENT

As I approached the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) with my petition and desire to be one of them, several professed members told me that our class of applicants would have to go through a period of discernment so that the community could see and hear our resolve also so that we would be able to know in our hearts if our motives were sustainable. I had been somewhat familiar with the concept of discernment before this, but had never had occasion to apply it to my own self.

One of my Lectio Divina meditations ended up with me thinking about discernment. My core is Philippians 2:5 for each Lectio Divina prayer (since 1962). In my meditation (inching toward contemplation), I was helped by the power of Christ sitting next to me on a park bench in the dead of Winter. Being the dead of Winter, I was cold and did not want to linger onto what Christ was saying. This “dead of Winter,” I noticed was not Winter at all, although I could feel the uncomfortable sting of the cold on my body. It was more like a voice telling me not to listen to Christ and to seek the warmth and comfort of a nice, warm living room with a roaring fire and toasty warm sheepskin slippers to keep my tootsies warm. This existential tug at my thoughts is always a good sign that I am doing the right thing by struggling to keep my focus on what Christ is trying to show me and tell me. In this case, he was explain to me about discernment. Here is what I can remember from this encounter.

DISCERNMENT: The Refiners Fire

One of my favorite television shows is Forged in Fire, the hour-long television show about four blacksmiths who must craft iconic weapons from whatever the producers choose. Judges then determine which smithy is the winner. Blacksmiths must use fire to heat and treat the iron to make it the shape they want and to make it hard enough to withstand two or three tests.
https://www.history.com/shows/forged-in-fire/season-6

Discernment is like that show. The Scriptures, Malachi 3, speaks of discernment to prepare the coming of the Lord in these words: 3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Not only do smithies have to know the metal they are forging, they must use a refiners fire to shape the metal into another form. Discernment is a lot like that. You are the metal. God uses fire to share you into something. The difference in this case is, you must be willing to be shaped into what God wants you to be. Discernment is a test of your metal to determine if you are capable and have the capacity to transform yourself.

A person might not be capable of being a Lay Cistercian because of the strict observances they endure, while living in the midst of chaos (the World). They may be capable of being a Dominican or Franciscan lay person. This in no way implies one of better than another, but I can say one is different from another, one is more appropriate for me than some other form of spiritual practice. Christ is the center and each of us must discern how we have in us the mind of that Christ Jesus and what that means. For me, I have been tried in the anvil of Cistercian Spirituality as a Lay person and have both been chosen by the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) and have promised to keep the Cistercian Way as best I understand it, until such time I die and receive the reward for my labors.

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT DISCERNMENT When I use the word “discernment” it is important for you to know my assumptions. These are the unspoken or hidden meanings I use whenver I use the word. You will have a different set of assumptions. Knowing our assumptions provides for less confusion and more enlightenment.

ASSUMPTION ONE: Discernment is a voluntary period of time you use to see if you are able to meet the requirements of whatever set of values you wish to use as the center of your life.

ASSUMPTION TWO: Discernment exists in two phases: one phase has you living the set of practices to see if you have the resolve to meet set requirements; the second phase is one where you make a choice to use these practices to help you move from self to God.

ASSUMPTION THREE: If you find, for example, the Lay Cistercian requirements and lifestyle not to your liking, for any reason, there is no failure in backing off from its approach and trying something (or even nothing) else.

ASSUMPTION FOUR: My purpose for discernment is to try or practice how to move from self to God using silence, solitude, work, prayer and community.

ASSUMPTION FIVE: It takes humility an obedience to God’s will to maintain your discernment without it deteriorating into being all about you and what you need from Christ. If you know what I am talking about, you know about the meaning of dying to self and allowing Christ to rise in your heart.

CAUTION: If I truly have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), what is important is how contemplation or any other spiritual methodology allows me to sit next to Christ on a park bench in the dead of Winter and wait for the Lord to stop by. Read the Scriptures to get a flavor for community discernment of what is from God and what is not.
1 Corinthians 1 Salutation

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord[a] and ours:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.I give thanks to my[b] God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of[c] Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.Divisions in the Church10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[d] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.[e] 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God[f] that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. Christ the Power and Wisdom of God.18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 2For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters:[g] not many of you were wise by human standards,[h] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one[i] might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in[j] the Lord.”

Clearly, everything depends upon and is centered on God and not our own will. When someone comes to me to talk about how they don’t like this or that about Lay Cistercian spirituality, I think of what Paul says and re-direct them to reflect on what God wants of them. The big caveat of discernment is trying to separate your will from God’s will. It takes time to see the different. For me, I used the crucible of the Lay Cistercians to sllow the refining fire of Christ to burn away my dependence upon my will.

MY TWO TYPES OF DISCERNMENT

Specific— I have undergone discernment several times recently. One time was when I took the whole series of instruction with the intention of being Anglican (St. Peter’s in Tallahassee). At the time I was angry at the Church for keeping me from being Laicized (two states of membership– clergy and laity). Like any person who let his emotions dictate his behavior, I played the blame game. I actually was in discernment for the complete series of instructions to be an Anglican (over one year). The people there were just wonderful to be. If it was just up to the people and their goodness, I would be an Anglican (or Baptism, or Methodist) today. Being in discernment, I was tried by fire on the anvil of time. More and more, I would think about Christ and less and less about what I should do. For me, the choice was clear after about a year of discernment. Despite being denied membership in the Church Universal for sixteen years, I pressed onward one more time, this time successfully. I petitioned the Magisterium of the Church and was granted Laicization by Pope Benedict XVI. Shortly afterward I applied for discernment with the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist).

Lay Cistercian Discernment

Every two years, the Lay Cistercians at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) admit novices for a two year period of official discernment. Before that time, we were encouraged to attend monthly meetings at the Monastery, conducted by Professed Lay Cistercians on some externals of the commitment expected. These four or five sessions were followed by mixing up one Gather Day with other Lay Cistercians to get a flavor of what we do each month at our meetings. In March, we had a Lay Cistercian retreat with just the prospective novices. The stress was on contemplation and prayer (both in public and in private) to begin to seek God through doing Cistercian practices and receiving charisms (humility, obedience, hospitality, trying to live the Rule of St. Benedict as one who does not live in the Monastery. In May, we were received as Lay Cistercian novices (two years) of seeing if we could not only know God but love God with all our minds, our hearts and all our strength then love our neighbor as ourselves. I use the word specific, even though it was a year and a half for the informal discernment then two years for the formal discernment focused on the Cistercian Way.

Lifetime — This type of discernment incorporates the specific type but actually lasts the rest of whatever time we have left. This is what I promised when I made my lifetime profession of Faith as a Professed Lay Cistercian. Discernment for me means Lectio Divina each day (more than once, if I am a good boy), Eucharist daily, Rosary daily, Reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day in the hopes that one day I may become what I read, Reciting the Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline) each day. I didn’t start off with these practices but they grew into what they are now, gradually and almost imperceptably . That took over three years of being faithful to the Cistercian practices and attending the montly Gathering Day at the Monastery.

THE GENESIS CONUNDRUM

Whenever I read Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule, even as a professed Lay Cistercian, I am trust back into the discernment mode to make a choice of God’s will or my will. Struggling in the World is never easy, it was not easy for Adam and Eve either, but that is our human condition in which we find ourselves. Genesis is an eloquent commentary on the human condition. Read Chapters 2 and 3 right now. There are four different traditions written here, all coming from different periods of time. http://www.usccb.org/bible/genesis/1/

I love the Book of Genesis and the layers of depth just keep coming and coming up in my Lectio Divina, In my understanding, Genesis seeks to answer the most fundamental questions we human face:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • If God is so good, why am I so miserable in my life?
  • Why do I have pain with suffering? Why must I work for a living?
  • Why must I die?”
  • Why do little children suffer and die, if God is so loving?
  • How can I see God?
  • What is my purpose in life?

Discernment must take into account all of these assumptions underlying Genesis, all the caveats, and look at reality with Faith informed by reason. Christ is the not only the answer to our discernment, he also helps us focus on the questions we must ask to walk through the minefield of false prophets and theologies.

What is discernment?

Whenever you discern the spiritual practices of a way of spirituality, you must seek God in these ways to approach God (Dominican, Ignatian, Franciscan, Cistercian, Benedictine, Augustinian) realizing that Christ is the center of your bulls-eye target and these practices are only tools to help you reach out to God. Practices are not as important as the practice to move from self to God.

CHARACTERISTICS OF DISCERNMENT

Here are some of the things I have discovered about discernment, I might add, after the fact.

  • Discernment takes a long period of time, sometimes a very long period of testing to beat out the old self so that there is “capacitas dei,” (room) for God.
  • Discernment is forged in fire. Sometimes the World wins and seduces us with fear we arn’t good enough (we arn’t) or smart enough (we arn’t) or holy enough (we arn’t) or strong enough to do with by ourselves (we arn’t). What is left in the crucible of life is what we have to offer up to the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit.
  • We are not shaped into the sign of Faith (the cross) by God without going from one form to another. This takes a beating to achieve. Some call this transformation. This means we deny ourselves each day and take up our crosses (each of us has different weights and shapes) and follow Christ. St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of his Rule states: “Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matthew 16:26 and Luke 9:27.”
  • Discernment is placing your heart next to the heart of Christ and listening with the the “ear of the heart” (Prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule. No words are needed, no prayers are necessary, no petitions to help you with this or that is warranted. The Blessed Sacrament is the place where that can happen right now. Discernment will allow you to be hungry to stand before the Throne of the Lamb and proclaim his praises for ever and ever. The power of discernment has nothing to do with human values. God is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever. Praise be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology
  • Discernment is learning to get rid of your demons replacing them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each day! Slowly and unrelentingly! The more you fill our heart with Christ, the less there is of the World to keep you from loving others as Christ loves us.
  • Discernment is about fidelity. The fidelity of the Lord endures forever, says the Psalmist. If you only think about the one you love once a week, it is a sign that love is lacking something. The same can be said for Faith.
  • You will know you have chosen the right path when you want to become what you have discerned.
  • You will know you have chosen the right path when you would sell all you have, give it to the poor and want to follow Christ with all your heart, your mind, and your strength.
  • True discernment is like an iceberg. What you think you know about God is the top sicking above the water. What there is left to explore is the part beneath the surface.
  • Discernment is all about doing. You do practices to see, not if God fits into your schedule, but do you fit into His (of course none of us ever do fit completely this side of Heaven). Discernment is about not giving up with your road get rocky. Just because you road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Christ’s road was rocky as He walked his way to Golgotha carrying his cross.
  • Remember that Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He would like nothing better than to see you throw down your cross because you got splinters or because it was too heavy. It is a sure sign of discernment that you recognize the Satanic (not Titannic) struggle that is always going on in the World and the Spirit because of Original Sin.



GROWING DEEPER IN FAITH

If Lent is a time of cultivating the ground of our spirituality, to include watering our Faith with the renewal of our Baptismal covenant with God and our commitment to sustain our Faith, then Easter is the the product of God’s grace in us. (Matthew 25:36) The analogy of the fig tree becomes important for the realization that Faith must grow to be productive.

Each year, Easter rolls around and each year, I dutifully trudge to Eucharist on Holy Thursday, sometimes on Good Friday, and Easter Eucharist. I don’t remember much about those early experiences of Lent and Easter, but I do know that I wanted to be close to Christ through living his life and experiencing his love in the events of the Church Liturgical year. To those who say they can’t see Jesus, I can only offer my own experience of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) on this Lent and Easter, 2019.

WE LIVE IN THE NOW

We live in the now but we remember the past. Our memories can retain those events and encounters that were significant. Humans have reason for a reason, as well as free will. All of us have free choice, but our choices define who we are. There are good choices and bad choices. Genesis is a story about Adam and Eve (the archetype of us) and the choices we make. If we make bad choices, and we may not even know what is good or bad, then we must live with the unintended consequences. God, like the loving Father He is, doesn’t want us to choose certain activities because he knows what leads to authentic love and what is not authentic. He wants to save us from going down the wrong path while we live. “The wages of sin is death.” The meaning here refers to the death of the Spirit rather than physically dying. Some accept that while others do not.

Because we live in the now, we can learn from out mistakes, like I can learn from all the times I did not love God with all my heart, my mind, and my strength. In Lent, I recognize who I am by daily reciting Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict each day. Easter is a time when I rise with Christ to new life once again. If I don’t renew my Baptismal commitment frequently, like all else in life, it passes into the past to be forgotten and without impact on making all things new through Christ. Only Christ can make all things new in the Church and in my personal expression of Faith. This Easter was a time when I was conscious of the now, more so than in past years. I think that was due to the time I took (in the now) to be present to Christ during Lent. Easter is the product of my cultivation of the ground of my being, my re-directing my efforts to loving God with all my mind, my heart and my strength and to try to love my neighbor as myself. It is the act of lifting up my mind and heart to be near the heart of Christ in the now of each moment I think about it, that is important. Faith is something I must struggle to cultivate every day. As a Lay Cistercian, I found that my practice of contemplative prayers in Lectio Divina daily, Eucharist daily, Rosary daily, Liturgy of the Hours daily and reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict daily, puts me in the presence of Christ. This is a way that I grow deeper in my Faith and not be captive of a Faith that is dead.

FIVE LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL AWARENESS

I use five levels of spiritual awareness. I know St. Augustine comments on these five and they are not original to me, but I use them to grow deeper in my Faith.

Whenever I do my Cistercian prayers or go to our Gathering Day at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) each month, I try to be conscious of the now and what it going on. Here are the levels that I use to tell if I am growing deeper in Christ and moving from self to God.

In the beginning, says St. John, in Chapter 1 of his Gospel, was the Word. What word? Let it be! Yes! The Word is God. The Word became flesh and living among us. The Word give us energy.

LEVEL ONE: Say the Word (Lectio)

LEVEL TWO: Pray the Word (Oratio)

LEVEL THREE: Share the Word (Meditatio)

LEVEL FOUR: Be what you say, pray and share. (Actio)

LEVEL FIVE: There are no words to describe the Word. (Contemplatio)

I try to make the now meaningful to me by realizing that this is the way I approach Christ with others. I try to read, not just for getting the words correct but using the words of Liturgy of the Hours, for example, as prayer and maybe leading to contemplation (no words are needed).

One thing I have found that is interesting about these five levels is that I don’t say to myself, “You missed Level Four.” I don’t even think about these steps until later on. I just do them. Yet, I am growing, inch by inch, deeper and with more awareness of Christ each time I try to grow from self to God.

EXERCISE:

Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day for thirty days. Pray that you become what you read. That’s all you need do. It is not as easy as you might think.

uiodg

EXSULTET JAM ANGELICA, TURBA COELORUM…

You may not have heard of this Gregorian Chant melody. It is the Pascal Story, the WHY of why the Resurrection of Christ is at the center of our Faith. Easter is a time when we get to affirm that Resurrection Enigma (see my previous blog). Listen prayerfully to the English Plain Song. This is a listening blog, a feast of music with which you may appreciation the Resurrection of Christ.

HISTORY: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/exsultet-iam-angelica-turba

TEXT: https://media.musicasacra.com/pdf/exsultet.pdf

ENGLISH PLAIN SONG: http://www.ccwatershed.org/video/37323663/?return_url=/liturgy/

OTHER MEDITATIVE SONGS FOR INSPIRATION ON THE FEAST OF THE RESURRECTION
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVowLNuV4Zk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pppexz-KKig
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPlK5HwFxcw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJCEGU7LX2s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79M0P74d6ZA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dp_llY3uyy4

May the presence of our Blessed Lord be before your mind, on your lips and in your heart.

THE RESURRECTION ENIGMA

Blessed Easter.

What follows is an excerpt from my newest publication, The Resurrection Enigma: A Lay Cistercian reflects on five consequences the Resurrection of Christ has for living Forever.

St. Paul, as you will read, states that, if the Resurrection is false, our Faith is useless. I took those ideas and applied them to my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). What follows is what the Holy Spirit presented to me. It is amazing what thoughts come into my mind when I keep my mouth shut and open my heart to the Spirit. Here are five consequences of the Resurrection, followed by an excerpt from one of them.

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?  13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;  14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain, and your faith has been in vain.  15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.  17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.  18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished.  19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (Emphasis mine)

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.[f]  21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;  22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.”

FIVE CONSEQUENCES IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION

To even begin to discuss the Resurrection, the Mystery of Faith, something that we can only vaguely describe, we will need to examine these five themes and probe the consequences.

  • Our Need to Live Forever
  • Our Need to Fulfill Our Destiny
  • Our Need for Adoption as Sons and Daughters
  • Our Need to Love as Christ Loved us
  • Our Need to Make All Things New

The first statement to consider is why there is that nagging desire in the human heart to live Forever.

The second discussion is related to the Six Thresholds of Life or the six questions all humans must ask and answer correctly to enter the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth and in the next life.

The third statement looks at the Resurrection as the joyful confirmation that we are indeed adopted sons and daughters of the Father and what that means in my short lifespan. You are not alone in your adoption but part of the Church Universal. Heaven is your birthright, once again. Lost by Adam and Eve (our archetypal parents) the Resurrection proclaims our inheritance once again.

The fourth discussion is what type of love satisfies the human heart. Our hearts, says St. Augustine, are restless until they rest in Thee (Christ).

The fifth statement looks at our need to make all things new and how the Resurrection of Christ enables us to do so in this life and in the next.

V.     Our Need to Make All Things New

We live in a human condition where everything is dying and whose default is corruption. All of creation began, exists, then dies and loses energy. The Book of Genesis is an archetypal account of that condition and how humans must live with the consequences of knowing that their existence is limited to seventy or eighty years.  Is Genesis real? The question is: If Genesis describes how human nature possessed then lost its innocence, how individuals live in a condition of imperfection and eventually death, how there is hope for the future, then the Resurrection is that event which restores the original life intended for us from the beginning. Resurrection is the promise of Christ to restore the Garden of Eden, to unlock the Gates of Heaven to humans, and to allow us to make all things new while we await our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father.

The Resurrection Enigma is at once a recognition of our frailty but also that we can move beyond death but only with our guide to the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ.

In prior discussion, we talked about nature and how human nature was elevated to the point that we were accepted as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. So, how do we keep our focus on our destiny and the promise made to us by Christ that those who are faithful will be with him in Paradise? 

SEVEN GIFTS FROM GOD TO SUSTAIN OUR FAITH

In each age, the Church Universal takes the message of Faith, Hope and most especially Love and allows us to experience it where we are and as we are. Sustaining our Faith is one of the critical struggles we have, especially after the death of our charismatic leader, Christ. Not one person after Christ can ever fill his shoes. What we weak and sinful members can do is walk in his footsteps. These are not footsteps that we make up ourselves but ones laid down through the centuries, ones that countless people have followed, often without any notoriety or fame. Only those declared as Saints (those who have walked the path of righteousness and have put Christ as their center) are worthy to be trail guides on our journey through life.

We are saved by Faith, says Saint Paal in Ephesians not by good works, yet ironically, it that Faith does not produce good works in us, that Faith is ineffectual. Remember the time that Jesus could not work wonders because of their lack of Faith? The point here is that God shows his mercy on humans by sending us a Gift, Jesus Christ. It is only through, with, and in Christ that we receive grace to call God Abba, Father. It is only through Christ that we are saved.

Faith and Belief

Faith is not the same as belief, although some people use it that way. As you can read below, we are saved by grace through Faith, a gift from God, and not by anything we do to earn it. That grace is energy. Humans, by themselves, cannot approach the Father. It is only through, with, and in Christ, God’s only Son, that we dare to call upon the name of the Lord. Belief is our calling upon God to be merciful to us, for we are sinful and in need of grace. Faith produces good works, much like the Sun produces both heat and light. Faith comes from God; belief is a human response to Faith. We have not earned the right to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father, but Christ has purchased this for us with his life, death, and resurrection. Without the resurrection, death would be the end instead of the beginning. It takes Faith for us to believe, Faith that does not come from us but by our being one with Christ in the glory of God the Father. It is a sign of contradiction that good works alone will not get you to Heaven (Matthew 25:36ff) but that you can’t get to Heaven without them. There are only three types of works: good works, bad works, and no works. One of these is the result of Faith. God helps sustain our Faith by gifts (grace) shared and poured out through the local Church and its Pastor. God knows what we need to resist tempation, keep our minds on having in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

Saint Benedict’s Chapter 4 of his Rule sets forth for his monks what he calls the tools for good works. Properly understood (in the 6th Century) the were ways to approach Christ by having in them the mind of Christ Jesus. These tools produce the charisms of humility, obedience, hospitality, preferring nothing to the love of Christ. They increase the capacity of God in each of us according to our individual Faith. Good works are always the products of Faith, not Faith itself, of which we have been gifted by God.

From Death to Life

2 You were dead through the trespasses and sins  2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.  3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.  4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us  5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ[a]—by grace you have been saved—  6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—  9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (emphases mine)

Once more, God, in his wisdom, gives us what we need to be with him and claim our inheritance bought by the blood of the Lamb of God. These are gifts given to the Church to distribute to each of us in every age. They are what we need to maintain our Faith in the face of Original Sin.

Baptism –In the gift of Baptism, God made all things new in us by taking away the sin of the World (Original Sin of Adam and Eve) and giving us the mark on our souls that says we are a pilgrim in a foreign land. 

Confirmation —

With the gift of Eucharist, the community of believers offers praise and glory to the Father through that same Christ that took on our human nature. As the Lamb of God, Christ offers himself again and again to the Father as a sacrifice. The Body of Christ must be nourished with Christ’s own body and blood so that each of us can live in the foreign land and sustain ourselves against the decay and corruption of the World. The Resurrection is all about knowing, loving and serving God with all our hearts and mind and strength so that we can fulfill the destiny that awaited Adam and Eve but which they squandered.

Eucharist –To sustain the Body of Christ, God gives us the gift of Eucharist. What a brilliant idea to give each us in every age the same body and blood the same humanity and divinity the Real Presence. Christ remains the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.  The brilliance of this gift is that it happens at each age. To put it another way, Eucharist is the Real Presence because it sustains the Baptismal covenant with each person when they are. Christ is present, not as a memory to be remembered, like we think of our parents after they have died, but is the same Christ that walked the earth in his time, healing, teaching, blessing, doing the will of the Father. St. Paul says it this way in Hebrews 13:7-9 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

“7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.  8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food,[a] which have not benefited those who observe them.”

Eucharist is Christ. Christ gave us of Himself in each age so that we might sustain our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Only God’s grace can help us move from two universes (physical and mental) to three universes (physical, mental, spiritual) in our approach to reality. These seven gifts from Christ help to give us that very life of God, not by any works or belief on our part, but by Faith. Whenever you see the word Faith, think of what God gives to us to help us get to Heaven (our ultimate destiny). 

If there is no Resurrection, there is no Christ present with us today because Christ died on the cross and that was that. There is no life after death, there is no promise of living Forever with the Father as adopted sons and daughters. Indeed, as St. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.  18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished.  19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

A Living Hope

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  6 In this you rejoice,[a] even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,  7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  8 Although you have not seen[b] him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Without the Resurrection, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there is no Real Presence, no heart of Christ against which we hope for future adoption. Without the Resurrection, all we have is the earth, and the World corrupts absolutely.

One of, if not the strongest urge for all living things is procreation. It becomes a little more confusing when you think of organizations that seek to propagate themselves so that they can survive each age. Gone are the Ceasars of Rome, gone the way of Ozymandias. Listen to the poetry of Shelley on the futility of power.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46565/ozymandias

Power is fleeting, fame a flickering flame blown by the wind. The Word of the Lord endures Forever, from age to age.

Reconciliation: Making All Things New  Both Eucharist and Reconciliation are given to the Church Universal to sustain our Baptismal Commitment. In Eucharist, Christ is present in the format of the Last Supper so that He lives Forever. As members of the Body of Christ, we bring Christ present into our hearts so that we can rise with Him, through Him, and with Him to give glory and honor to the Father in union with the Holy Spirit. (Eucharistic doxology)Think about it. Christ gives us of Himself just as He did on the cross, just as He did in the Transfiguration, and as He did at the Last Supper.

In Reconciliation, Christ gives us grace (His own energy) to renew in us our Baptismal Covenant. His is the Real Presence in our hearts as we proclaim our sinfulness and the need for daily renewal. I see what I do as Cistercian practices (Lectio Divina, the Rosary, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, and reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict) as placing me in the presence of the Real Presence so I can receive grace. God is made flesh each time we seek forgiveness for our sins and pledge to love with all our hearts, our mind, and our strength (Matthew 22:36) These two Sacraments are to feed us and make us whole again, not in the sense of Adam and Eve but one with Christ.

Matrimony and Holy Orders — Christ gives to his body on earth the gifts that sustain it in each age. Such gifts are Holy Orders and Matrimony so that we can build up the Body of Christ here on earth in each age. Holy Orders keeps the Body whole, allowing it to make all things new in each age. Matrimony populates the Body of Christ with new members as it slowly crawls through each age. One thing to note. These two gifts are instituted by Christ to give his adopts sons and daughters grace. Grace is the energy of God in each of us and also collectively.

These two gifts are meant to sustain the Church in feeding us and to keep alive our Baptismal covenant.

Anointing of the Sick – Both Anointings of the Sick and Viaticum (preparing your heart to sit next to the heart of  Christ..forever) are gifts that prepare us to meet Christ. Christ wanted the Body of Christ (local community or parish) to help me as an individual prepare for the journey to Forever. We receive both Eucharist and Reconciliation to make our hearts ready to receive the love that Christ has for us. Come, good and faithful servant, share your Lord’s joy prepared for you from the beginning. (John 1:1)

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • If there is no resurrection from the dead, there is no need to prepare for something that does not exist. 
  • It is important to realize that these gifts fulfill the needs that we have. Sustaining our baptismal promise is key to being One in Christ.
  • The Resurrection enabled us to claim our inheritance. The Resurrection needs sustaining through approaching the heart of Christ with our own heart (together with those around us as well as in union with the Church Universal).
  • Without the resurrection, whatever we do is futile, and we remain in our sins, prisoners of death, hostage to the whims that come with being our own god.
  • The power to make all things new

V.     Our Need to Make All Things New

We live in a human condition where everything is dying and whose default is corruption. All of creation began, exists, then dies and loses energy. The Book of Genesis is an archetypal account of that condition and how humans must live with the consequences of knowing that their existence is limited to seventy or eighty years.  Is Genesis real? The question is: If Genesis describes how human nature possessed then lost its innocence, how individuals live in a condition of imperfection and eventually death, how there is hope for the future, then the Resurrection is that event which restores the original life intended for us from the beginning. Resurrection is the promise of Christ to restore the Garden of Eden, to unlock the Gates of Heaven to humans, and to allow us to make all things new while we await our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father.

The Resurrection Enigma is at once a recognition of our frailty but also that we can move beyond death but only with our guide to the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ.

In prior discussion, we talked about nature and how human nature was elevated to the point that we were accepted as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. So, how do we keep our focus on our destiny and the promise made to us by Christ that those who are faithful will be with him in Paradise? 

SEVEN GIFTS FROM GOD TO SUSTAIN OUR FAITH

In each age, the Church Universal takes the message of Faith, Hope and most especially Love and allows us to experience it where we are and as we are. Sustaining our Faith is one of the critical struggles we have, especially after the death of our charismatic leader, Christ. Not one person after Christ can ever fill his shoes. What we weak and sinful members can do is walk in his footsteps. These are not footsteps that we make up ourselves but ones laid down through the centuries, ones that countless people have followed, often without any notoriety or fame. Only those declared as Saints (those who have walked the path of righteousness and have put Christ as their center) are worthy to be trail guides on our journey through life.

We are saved by Faith, says Saint Paul in Ephesians not by good works, yet ironically, it that Faith does not produce good works in us, that Faith is ineffectual. Remember the time that Jesus could not work wonders because of their lack of Faith? The point here is that God shows his mercy on humans by sending us a Gift, Jesus Christ. It is only through, with, and in Christ that we receive grace to call God Abba, Father. It is only through Christ that we are saved.

Faith and Belief

Faith is not the same as belief, although some people use it that way. As you can read below, we are saved by grace through Faith, a gift from God, and not by anything we do to earn it. That grace is energy. Humans, by themselves, cannot approach the Father. It is only through, with, and in Christ, God’s only Son, that we dare to call upon the name of the Lord. Belief is our calling upon God to be merciful to us, for we are sinful and in need of grace. Faith produces good works, much like the Sun produces both heat and light. Faith comes from God; belief is a human response to Faith. We have not earned the right to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father, but Christ has purchased this for us with his life, death, and resurrection. Without the resurrection, death would be the end instead of the beginning. It takes Faith for us to believe, Faith that does not come from us but by our being one with Christ in the glory of God the Father. It is a sign of contradiction that good works alone will not get you to Heaven (Matthew 25:36ff) but that you can’t get to Heaven without them. There are only three types of works: good works, bad works, and no works. One of these is the result of Faith. God helps sustain our Faith by gifts (grace) shared and poured out through the local Church and its Pastor. God knows what we need to resist temptation, keep our minds on having in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

Saint Benedict’s Chapter 4 of his Rule sets forth for his monks what he calls the tools for good works. Properly understood (in the 6th Century) the were ways to approach Christ by having in them the mind of Christ Jesus. These tools produce the charisms of humility, obedience, hospitality, preferring nothing to the love of Christ. They increase the capacity of God in each of us according to our individual Faith. Good works are always the products of Faith, not Faith itself, of which we have been gifted by God.

From Death to Life

2 You were dead through the trespasses and sins  2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.  3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.  4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us  5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ[a]—by grace you have been saved—  6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—  9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (emphases mine)

Once more, God, in his wisdom, gives us what we need to be with him and claim our inheritance bought by the blood of the Lamb of God. These are gifts given to the Church to distribute to each of us in every age. They are what we need to maintain our Faith in the face of Original Sin.

Baptism –In the gift of Baptism, God made all things new in us by taking away the sin of the World (Original Sin of Adam and Eve) and giving us the mark on our souls that says we are a pilgrim in a foreign land. 

Confirmation —

With the gift of Eucharist, the community of believers offers praise and glory to the Father through that same Christ that took on our human nature. As the Lamb of God, Christ offers himself again and again to the Father as a sacrifice. The Body of Christ must be nourished with Christ’s own body and blood so that each of us can live in the foreign land and sustain ourselves against the decay and corruption of the World. The Resurrection is all about knowing, loving and serving God with all our hearts and mind and strength so that we can fulfill the destiny that awaited Adam and Eve but which they squandered.

Eucharist –To sustain the Body of Christ, God gives us the gift of Eucharist. What a brilliant idea to give each us in every age the same body and blood the same humanity and divinity the Real Presence. Christ remains the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.  The brilliance of this gift is that it happens at each age. To put it another way, Eucharist is the Real Presence because it sustains the Baptismal covenant with each person when they are. Christ is present, not as a memory to be remembered, like we think of our parents after they have died, but is the same Christ that walked the earth in his time, healing, teaching, blessing, doing the will of the Father. St. Paul says it this way in Hebrews 13:7-9 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

“7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.  8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food,[a] which have not benefited those who observe them.”

Eucharist is Christ. Christ gave us of Himself in each age so that we might sustain our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Only God’s grace can help us move from two universes (physical and mental) to three universes (physical, mental, spiritual) in our approach to reality. These seven gifts from Christ help to give us that very life of God, not by any works or belief on our part, but by Faith. Whenever you see the word Faith, think of what God gives to us to help us get to Heaven (our ultimate destiny). 

If there is no Resurrection, there is no Christ present with us today because Christ died on the cross and that was that. There is no life after death, there is no promise of living Forever with the Father as adopted sons and daughters. Indeed, as St. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.  18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished.  19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

A Living Hope

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  6 In this you rejoice,[a] even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials,  7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  8 Although you have not seen[b] him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Without the Resurrection, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there is no Real Presence, no heart of Christ against which we hope for future adoption. Without the Resurrection, all we have is the earth, and the World corrupts absolutely.

One of, if not the strongest urge for all living things is procreation. It becomes a little more confusing when you think of organizations that seek to propagate themselves so that they can survive each age. Gone are the Ceasars of Rome, gone the way of Ozymandias. Listen to the poetry of Shelley on the futility of power.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46565/ozymandias

Power is fleeting, fame a flickering flame blown by the wind. The Word of the Lord endures Forever, from age to age.

Reconciliation: Making All Things New  Both Eucharist and Reconciliation are given to the Church Universal to sustain our Baptismal Commitment. In Eucharist, Christ is present in the format of the Last Supper so that He lives Forever. As members of the Body of Christ, we bring Christ present into our hearts so that we can rise with Him, through Him, and with Him to give glory and honor to the Father in union with the Holy Spirit. (Eucharistic doxology)Think about it. Christ gives us of Himself just as He did on the cross, just as He did in the Transfiguration, and as He did at the Last Supper.

In Reconciliation, Christ gives us grace (His own energy) to renew in us our Baptismal Covenant. His is the Real Presence in our hearts as we proclaim our sinfulness and the need for daily renewal. I see what I do as Cistercian practices (Lectio Divina, the Rosary, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, and reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict) as placing me in the presence of the Real Presence so I can receive grace. God is made flesh each time we seek forgiveness for our sins and pledge to love with all our hearts, our mind, and our strength (Matthew 22:36) These two Sacraments are to feed us and make us whole again, not in the sense of Adam and Eve but one with Christ.

Matrimony and Holy Orders — Christ gives to his body on earth the gifts that sustain it in each age. Such gifts are Holy Orders and Matrimony so that we can build up the Body of Christ here on earth in each age. Holy Orders keeps the Body whole, allowing it to make all things new in each age. Matrimony populates the Body of Christ with new members as it slowly crawls through each age. One thing to note. These two gifts are instituted by Christ to give his adopts sons and daughters grace. Grace is the energy of God in each of us and also collectively.

These two gifts are meant to sustain the Church in feeding us and to keep alive our Baptismal covenant.

Anointing of the Sick – Both Anointings of the Sick and Viaticum (preparing your heart to sit next to the heart of  Christ..forever) are gifts that prepare us to meet Christ. Christ wanted the Body of Christ (local community or parish) to help me as an individual prepare for the journey to Forever. We receive both Eucharist and Reconciliation to make our hearts ready to receive the love that Christ has for us. Come, good and faithful servant, share your Lord’s joy prepared for you from the beginning. (John 1:1)

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • If there is no resurrection from the dead, there is no need to prepare for something that does not exist. 
  • It is important to realize that these gifts fulfill the needs that we have. Sustaining our baptismal promise is key to being One in Christ.
  • The Resurrection enabled us to claim our inheritance. The Resurrection needs sustaining through approaching the heart of Christ with our own heart (together with those around us as well as in union with the Church Universal).
  • Without the resurrection, whatever we do is futile, and we remain in our sins, prisoners of death, hostage to the whims that come with being our own god.
  • The power to make all thing new does not come from ourselves, but from Christ. If there is no Resurrection, there is no power to do anything.
  • The Resurrection is an enigma to those who do not live in three universes. “To those with Faith, no answer is necessary; to those without Faith, no answer is possible.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)
  • l thing new does not come from ourselves, but from Christ. If there is no Resurrection, there is no power to do anything.
  • The Resurrection is an enigma to those who do not live in three universes. “To those with Faith, no answer is necessary; to those without Faith, no answer is possible.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

CHAPTER 4: To make peace with one’s adversaries before the Sun sets.

Chapter 4 – The Tools 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 oneself.
3. Then not to murder.
4. Not to commit adultery.
5. Not to steal.
6. Not to covet.
7. Not to bear false witness.
8. To honor all (1 Peter 2:17).
9. And not to do to another what one would not have done to oneself.
10. To deny oneself in order to follow Christ.
11. To chastise the body.
12. Not to become attached to pleasures.
13. To love fasting.
14. To relieve the poor.
15. To clothe the naked.
16. To visit the sick.
17. To bury the dead.
18. To help in trouble.
19. To console the sorrowing.
20. To become a stranger to the world’s ways.
21. To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.22. Not to give way to anger.
23. Not to nurse a grudge.
24. Not to entertain deceit in one’s heart.
25. Not to give a false peace.
26. Not to forsake charity.
27. Not to swear, for fear of perjuring oneself.
28. To utter truth from heart and mouth.
29. Not to return evil for evil.
30. To do no wrong to anyone, and to bear patiently wrongs done to oneself.
31. To love one’s enemies.
32. Not to curse those who curse us, but rather to bless them.
33. To bear persecution for justice’s sake.
34. Not to be proud.
35. Not addicted to wine.
36. Not a great eater.
37. Not drowsy.
38. Not lazy.
39. Not a grumbler.
40. Not a detractor.
41. To put one’s hope in God.
42. To attribute to God, and not to self, whatever good one sees in oneself.
43. But to recognize always that the evil is one’s own doing, and to impute it to oneself.44. To fear the Day of Judgment.
45. To be in dread of hell.
46. To desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.
47. To keep death daily before one’s eyes.
48. To keep constant guard over the actions of one’s life.
49. To know for certain that God sees one everywhere.
50. When evil thoughts come into one’s heart, to dash them against Christ immediately.
51. And to m
anifest them to one’s spiritual guardian.
52. To guard one’s tongue against evil and depraved speech.
53. Not to love much talking.
54. Not to speak useless words or words that move to laughter.
55. Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
56. To listen willingly to holy reading.
57. To devote oneself frequently to prayer.
58. Daily in one’s prayers, with tears and sighs, to confess one’s past sins to God, and to amend them for the future.
59. Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh; to hate one’s own will.
60. To obey in all things the commands of the Abbot even though he (which God forbid) should act otherwise, mindful of the Lord’s precept, “Do what they say, but not what they do.”
61. Not to wish to be called holy before one is holy; but first to be holy, that one may be truly so called. 62. To fulfill God’s commandments daily in one’s deeds. 63. To love chastity. 64. To hate no one. 65. Not to be jealous, not to harbor envy. 66. Not to love contention. 67. To beware of haughtiness. 68. And to respect the seniors. 69. To love the juniors. 70. To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ. 71. To make peace with one’s adversary before the sun sets. (Emphasis mine) 72. And never to despair of God’s mercy.

These, then, are the tools of the spiritual craft. If we employ them unceasingly day and night, and return them on the Day of Judgment, our compensation from the Lord will be that wage He has promised: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).Now the workshop in which we shall diligently execute all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community. 

This reminds me of another phrase, “Don’t let the Sun go down on your anger.” Anger is one of those human emotions that can kill us. It can certainly lead us to kill someone else, as in Genesis when Cain killed Abel.

  • Anger can mean many things, but here are my thoughts. You can add your thoughts later on.
  • Anger is an emotion associated with my false self.
  • Anger is the seedbed for hatred, jealousy, envy, murder, theft, and pride.
  • Anger can be good, as in a “just anger” that Christ exhibited when he drove out the money changers in the Temple.
  • Anger kills grace and weakens Faith.
  • Love and anger are mutually exclusive. If you are a room, there is not room for both anger and love.
  • The more you harbor hatred and anger in your heart, the more difficult it is to differentiate between good and evil.
  • Get rid of anger. Replace it with love.

QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE ASKED

  • Why is it important to divest yourself of hatred and other deadly sins before the Sun sets?
  • What does hatred do to your spiritual universe? Can you fall out of Grace? Adam and Eve did.

As a Lay Cistercian trying to move from my false self (seven deadly sins) to my true self (seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit), it takes an act of free will to substitute bad for you with something good for you. It takes God’s own energy (grace) to help you make all things new.

The Sacrament of Penance is one way to not only get rid of those evil thoughts and replace them with God’s own love. Penance means we have a horror of sin and ask God to be merciful to us as we show mercy to others.

The Sacrament of Penance is the best way to seek forgiveness of our sins. Jesus instituted this public prayer of the Church Universal as a means to receive the grace of reconciliation and to make all things new in our hearts. Another way is that we proclaim our need for repentance at the beginning of each Eucharist, Finally, in prayer, we can petition the Father to have mercy on us.

If you want peace in your heart, you must ask for it, realizing that God gives you the peace not you. At the Eucharist, we receive two great gifts each time the Church Universal meets: The actual Body of Christ, and the Peace of Christ. There are seven gifts from Christ to help the Church Universal (and you) to move from self to God. Can you name them?

Read what Scriptures tell us about transforming hatred and anger into love and blessings. During this Lenten season, seek to transform yourself from your false self to your new self (making all things new in Christ). Chapter 4 (above) of the Rule of St. Benedict gives us behaviors that we should be moving towards and some things we should be moving away from. I recommend that you begin any conversion of heart by reading Chapter 4 every day and praying that you become what you read.

Matthew 5 NRSVCE – Concerning Anger2“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister,[e] you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult[f] a brother or sister,[g] you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell[h] of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister[i] has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,[j] and then come and offer your gift. 2Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court[k] with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”

RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY — Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict (above) each and every day (at least a part of it). Get into the habit of prayer. Pray only that you become what you read. Be silence in your solitude and listen with the “ear of the heart,” as st. Benedict tells us in his Prologue to the Rule.

SEVEN WAYS OF DIVINE LOVE

In wandering in the vast hinterlands of the Internet, I came upon writings of a Cistercian Beatrice of Nazareth, that I would like to share with you. This is not my material, having copied it from another website. I thought it compelling enough to share it with you.
https://amedievalwomanscompanion.com/beatrice-of-nazareth/

Blessed Beatrice of Nazareth

BIOGRAPHY

“-Lived* 1200 – 1268 CE
-Joined the Beguine community in 1207 for schooling. Entered the Cistercian convent in 1208. Founded her own priory in Nazareth in 1236.+
-Became a novice to the Cistercian convent in 1215. Became a nun in 1217. Became prioress of her own convent, Our Lady of Nazareth, in 1237.
-Our Lady of Nazareth, a Cistercian convent founded in 1236.
-Feast day- July 29
Beatrice of Nazareth was born in Tienen , Belgium. While the biography of her life written in the medieval period, The Vita Beatricis, does not give an exact date of birth, it can be assumed she was born around 1200 CE. Beatrice had five older siblings, and was born into a family that was most likely considered middle class. As Roger De Ganck writes, Beatrice’s family was probably “”well-to-do, but not wealthy as has sometimes been asserted” (De Ganck, 1991, xiii).”

“Beatrice’s mother was the first source of her education, but she passed away when she was only seven years old. Afterwards, Beatrice’s father took her to a Cistercian monastery in Florival where she continued her education. After her stay in Florival, she was sent by the Abbess of the Cistercian Monastery in Florival to the Cistercian monastery at La Ramee “to learn how to write manuscripts, especially Choir books .” While at La Ramee, Beatrice met a fellow Cistercian and mystic named Ida of Nivellese , who “helped the young woman in developing her own spiritual life”.
After her stay at La Ramee, she moved to a monastery at Maagdendal, where she was consecrated as a virigin by a bishop, and then moved to Nazareth. At Nazareth, she established her own convent as prioress in 1237, the Our Lady of Nazareth.
Around this time, she composed her most famous work, The Seven Ways of Divine Love. The fact that “she was the author of this work was only discovered by Leonce Reypens in 1925”.”

“Seven Ways of Divine Love”

1.   “The first way is a fierce longing engendered by Love. Before the Soul can overcome every resistance to it, this yearning must develop gradually so that it rules the heart fully, Then She can work in strength and intelligence, with the courage to grow in Love.”

2. ” The Soul is given a second way of love. Sometimes she serves the Lord for nothing, only from love, without reason or reward, even of mercy or bliss.”

3. “The third way of Love is a way of pain and misery. The good Soul may come to this way if She wants to react fully to Love, to follow Love with reverence, service, honour and worship.”

4. “The fourth way of love is sometimes given in great delight, and sometimes in great pains. Love may be pleasantly awakened in the soul and may lift it up with great happiness, so that Love moves in the heart, without any human aid.”

5. “Alternatively, love can be awakened powerfully, arising with overpowering recklessness and great passion. This is the fifth way of love. It is as if She wanted to break the heart of the Soul by brute force, tear the Soul out and lose Herself in the purging fire of Love.”

6.” When the bride of our Lord has made progress and has achieved this greater salvation, She experiences a sixth way of love, closely connected and with higher knowledge” (image of the original 6th way).

7. “The blessed soul still has a more sublime way of love, a seventh way, which gives her much to do within. She is being raised above the human measure of love, above senses and reason, higher than everything of which our heart is capable on its own.”

Full Text (Note: Try the Full Text option. –mc)

“As one develops their love for God and passes through these 7 “ways,” the soul becomes more attuned with God’s form of Divine Love. As the Love heightens, it begins to give the individual the courage to grow closer to God, and begins to lift the soul. In the higher, final stages of love for Beatrice, once one has attuned their love to the love of God, their love begins to transcend the typical “earthly” love, and goes beyond senses and reason. The individual develops a different kind of love, a Divine Love, far above the “human love”. This transcendence requires active participation from the Soul, as the Soul must rule the heart, strive for the Divine connection, and actively lose (herself) in God’s “purging fires of Love”. When this transformation takes place, the Soul has access to not only higher knowledge, but to an entirely different reality. Truly, this level of love is “earth-shattering!”

 Works Cited

Anderson, Andy. Beatrice of Nazarath: Seven Ways of Divine Love. 2001. Web. 22 April 2014.

CNS.edu. Beatrice of Nazarath. Web. 22 April 2014

Dungen, Wim van. On the Seven ways of Holy Love. Antwerp. 2014. Web. 22 April 2014.

Women Philosophers. Beatrice of Nazareth. Web. 22 April 2014.

QUOTES FROM BLESSED BEATRICE OF NAZARETH

https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-883495541/spiritual-friendship-in-the-vita-of-beatrice-of-nazareth

MY COMMENTS

I am always fascinated by lists that Cistercian men and women use to move deeper into union with Christ Jesus. Blessed Beatrice of Nazareth wrote about sevens levels of spiritual awareness. I wanted to share these with you, especially during this Lenten time of reflection and penance; that she lived in the first half of the Thirteenth Century is remarkable in itself. We are so fortunate to have the writings and spiritual guidance provided by these models of spirituality to help us grow deeper from self to God.

UIODG

A SIGN OF CONTRADICTION

The message of Christ does not make sense. Scripture says that it is folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. That is another way of saying you won’t “get” what Christ is saying unless you use the Rule of Opposites. What follows is my Lenten reflections on the folly of God, “O, Happy Fault” (From the Exultet Jam Angelica Turba Choelorum, of the Easter Vigil Hymn).

In my book, Three Rules of the Spiritual Universe, I set forth three rules that apply whenever I look at anything spiritual. These are cross-cutting themes that transcend my notion of three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual), all with different measurements, all distinctly one. http://www.amazon.com/books Type in: Dr. Michael F. Conrad.

  1. THE RULE OF THREES Humans have their reason for a reason. The purpose of life is to look at every day with fresh eyes, even if they are sleepy. Those who are spiritual see with three universes, the physical sight, mental enlightenment, and spiritual wisdom. All truth is one, but with three layers or universes, each quite distinct.
  2. THE RULE OF REVOLVING CENTERS Humans are spiritual animals, but animals nevertheless. While in the physical universe, there is a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh. It is only with spiritual energy from God that humans can consistently and persis- tently keep their centers intact. To aid humans, the Master gives us help, both individually and collectively.
  3. THE RULE OF OPPOSITES What may seem true in the physical universe is just the opposite in the spiritual universe. When you are weak, then you are strong. If you wish to be a leader, you must serve all. If you wish to get to Heaven, you must be as a little child. With this rule, you learn to speak and think spiritually.

When I think of the Mystery of Faith, the compendium of all reality, the way, the truth, and the life for humans, the sign of contradiction that makes sense, I can only do so by applying these three Rules. Science has its rules, its special language. If you look at physical reality, you need to see if with the principles of mathematics, chemistry, and physics. Whenever you ask the question, “What does reality look like,” the answer you get depends upon what assumptions you use to discover what is real, what is true. Similarly, in the spiritual universe (one that makes sense only if you use the Rule of Opposites), answering the question, “What does reality look like” must be answered by Christ, who tells us, then shows us the purpose of life so that we can discover our personal purpose in life. Christ uses parables to explain to those in his age the meaning. Although this is a somewhat long passage, read it in its entirety to get the full import of the meaning of parables and how Christ uses them to teach us about how to love.

Matthew 13 (NRSVCE)

The Parable of the Sower “13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears[a] listen!

”The Purpose of the Parables10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets[b] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.’16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

The Parable of the Sower Explained 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.[c] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

What is missing? It is you. It is up to each individual to use the parable to use it to his or her advantage. If it is true that “whatever is received is received according to the disposition of the recipient,” then each of us can look at these parable stories and come up with different views, depending on our assumptions. For example, someone who only sees reality in terms of two universes (physical and mental) will not know how to makes sense out of it because the language is not what the World expects but what Christ taught us. Those who hear the word of God, and understands, it bears fruit. Those who do not see or hear (the spiritual universe) will not get it and it remains just a nice story like Aesop’s Fables. To those who can use the Rule of Opposites (using Faith, God’s gift of energy), it can be a transformation from self to God.

THE PARABLE OF THE PRATTLING PUBLICAN

Several weeks ago, I asked one of my colleagues to discern if they wanted to be an active part of the discernment group I was forming to explore the possibility of starting a Lay Cistercian group in Tallahassee, Florida. I told him that discernment meant no commitment, just follow your heart and let it guide your mind. Most of what we do in the World is dictated by following our mind and our heart follows that.

He told me about all the ministries he was doing for the Church and how his wife told him to cut out some of them so he could have a life (she was actually asking if she could have a life). In what must have been a five minute apologia, he told me why he could not join my group. I sensed that he was getting nervous trying to make excuses for why he can’t be a part of it. He walked away, like the rich young man in the account

Matthew 19. The Rich Young Man 16 “Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these;[b] what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money[c] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”

SEDUCED BY THE SACRED

Later on that day, I reflected back on that encounter and had these thoughts.

  • What if Christ Himself was sitting down in front of me and asked me to follow Him? Would I offer excuses as to why I was too busy to listen to the call? Probably! Maybe in six months? Probably not!
  • In terms of how we all approach such questions that demand an unknown and unseen consequence, this was classic avoidance. It is the classic political ploy of kicking the can down the street.
  • I must always be on guard that I am too busy praying instead of paying attention to what God is asking of me in my prayer. Wait for the Lord in silence, solitude, work, prayer and community. Be still my heart.
  • What is Christ telling each of us as we approach him every day with our prayers? Are we too busy with doing what we consider spirituality to be bothered with what the Holy Spirit is telling us, even when we think we are spiritual and pride ourselves on listening to the voice of the Lord? Isn’t Lent supposed to be a time when we seek silence and solitude away from all those “things” and “activities” we think makes God happy to actually listening to what Christ is telling us now, even if our plate is full, especially if our plate is full, don’t you think?
  • This is a very subtle temptation to choose self over God. It is only when, in humility and obedience, when we hear the voice of the Lord, that we become more like Christ and less like Adam and Eve. The danger in romanticizing the spiritual life with Christ is that we are seduced by the words and fail to listen and then obey what Christ is actually trying to say to us. This may be called the “heresy of action.”
    I thought of the saying I prayed that very morning at Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours) in the Invitatory antiphon for Lent, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Take a moment and pray this prayer of the Church Universal below. Think about the Antiphon in terms of the story above.

LENTEN PRAYER TO RE-CENTER OURSELVES ON WHAT CHRIST WANTS AND NOT OUR WILL

Christian Prayer:
Antiphon: 687
Psalm: 820

Lord, open my lips.
— And my mouth will proclaim your praise.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Psalm 67

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

The earth has yielded its fruit
for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be for ever. Amen.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

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

REACHING PERFECTION

I have always had a problem with spirituality until very recently. In the last six years, since I began my discernment as a Lay Cistercian (which I am still doing) into what it means to transform myself from my false self to a new self in Christ, I was under the illusion that those words of Christ, to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, were to be taken literally. Back then, that translated into doing more prayers, more penance, more good works, and more love. Matthew 5:47-48 (NRSVCE)47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

My problem was, and to a lesser degree still is, how can I be perfect when I know I live in a condition of Original Sin? For example, when I go to the Eucharist and receive Our Lord in the Bread and Wine, I feel, at the time, that I do reach a little higher toward perfection, but then comes the fall, just like Adam and Eve. As soon as I begin to live my daily routine, there are those little peccadilloes that pull me back to the World. Sometimes I feel like a yo-yo. I think that is all part of striving for perfection. We venerate Mary, the Mother of God, because she was made perfect by God, just like we will be when we make it to Heaven. We venerate all the Saints because they were not perfect, but by renouncing themselves to put on Christ, they all tried to be perfect. Only Jesus and his Mother, Mary were without sin. The rest of us must work to be spiritual, to learn how to love, to use the gifts from Christ to help us become perfect.

I realize that Christ was like us in all things but sin. This takes me to a Lectio Divina I had on perfection while meditating on Philippians 2:5. Perfection is one of those qualities that I seek but know that I will never attain in this life. It is the seeking Christ that is important for me, the daily taking up my cross, the struggle to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5) that is my lot.

  • It takes work to be perfect. Doing nothing actually does nothing to allow you to live in three universes (physical, mental, spiritual) and to receive the energy of God in our hearts.
  • I will never be perfect like Christ. I may only seek to be perfect with Christ.
  • Heaven is a final attainment of that which I sought and struggled for while I live.
  • In Christ, I will reach perfection. I can’t even strive for perfection in two universes (physical and mental) because the World does not believe in renouncing oneself to follow anyone, except itself.
  • This is the importance of being a Lay Cistercian to me. This way of life, the emphasis on the contemplative, helps me to seek God and strive for perfection all the while realizing that I am in need of Christ’s redemption on a daily basis.
  • The Cistercian practices and charisms all help me focus on this striving, Humility and obedience to God’s will are keys to my struggle. I read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day so that I might anchor myself in Christ and not in me. I use Chapter 4 as a good example of perfection because when I read them, I see how short I have come in transforming myself from self to God.

During this Lenten season, it is a time of repentance and penance for our past sins. Seeking perfection is a goal, one that can only be reached by having in you the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

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

SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

One of the things I have noticed about myself as I try to fulfill the promises I made as a Professed Lay Cistercian, namely to do have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) by praying a daily Lectio Divina, daily Eucharist, daily Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer), daily Rosary, reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict every day. The secret of contemplative prayer has not changed since the early challenge of the heart heard by men and women to discover the kingdom of God within themselves. It is passion to be in the presence of the one you love, and to love others as Christ loves us.

While I do try to follow Cistercian practices as much as I can, I also recognize in myself that some days are better than others. I can attribute this to many things, one of which is Original Sin. I am not always sparkling and in peek condition as I approach the Father each day through Christ using Cistercian practices. Some days are better than others. Here are a few lessons I have taken away from my consistent practice of contemplative spirituality. Like an old, worn-out boot, life takes its toll on my physical body as it interfaces with my mental universe. All three universes in which I live (physical, mental, and spiritual) interact with each other.

PRAY AS YOU CAN — Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. told our group that we should pray as we can not as we should. Praying as we should sets goals to attain, i.e., I need to go to Eucharist as a Lay Cistercian. Praying as I can has those same goals but realizes that, if I cannot make the Eucharist through sickness or having doctor’s appointments, I can offer up my prayer intentions in union with all those who are at present. The same thing applies for reciting the Liturgy of the Hours each day. Some days are better than others, but it is the heart that I desire to approach the heart of Christ in praise and glory.

PRAY WHEN YOU CAN — Over my discernment phase to become a Lay Cistercian, I noticed that no one forced me to pray. I gradually grew to a stage where, if I didn’t pray the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Rosary Meditations, Reading Sacred Scriptures, Eucharist, and praying Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day, I felt somehow unfulfilled and empty. I begin each day with my Morning Offering, where I take 60 seconds to offer up the whole day to the Father through Christ in union with the Holy Spirit. I center myself on what is my purpose in life, i.e.., to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). I do have a schedule for each day, particularly my prayers and when I should say them, but the important thing is not keeping the schedule to pray but to life my mind and heart to be near the heart of Christ. It is that simple. It is also that difficult.

PRAY IN THE NOW– This sounds trite and somewhat out of sync with today’s default of instant gratification. When you think of it, we don’t live in the past (we recall it) and we don’t live in the future (we anticipate it) but what we do, our activities, how we find meaning for our brief sojourn on earth, the platform for choosing God as our center, and, most importantly, living in three universes and not just two (physical and mental), all happens in the NOW.

  • Is it by coincidence that God tells Moses that his name is “Ege asher Ege,” I am the one who is? Is it by chance that each moment is a choice, one which establishes the priorities of three universes? The classic archetypal choice of Adam and Eve was all our choices of the knowledge of good and evil. They chose poorly, wanting to put their own priorities in place rather than allow God to be God. Christ’s choice was to be human, but even more than that, if you read Philippians 2:5-12, to freely die on the cross in sacrifice for the whole human race, that we might be saved by Faith and live in Heaven.
  • Is is a coincidence that Heaven is not a place but a person, the eternal now, where there is no time, space, matter, but there is energy, the pure energy of God?
  • Is it a coincidence that pure energy is love and it by loving others as Christ loves us that we can use that Faith to produce Love, Forever?
  • Is it by chance that God became one of us in Christ Jesus to show us how to exist in the NOW by transforming it through our daily offering our ourselves to the Father through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit?
  • Is is a coincidence that Christ is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow? We prepare to live in the NOW Forever by living as we can in the Now on earth.
  • Lay Cistercian spirituality, with silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community helps me to focus on the NOW each day. Each day is a lifetime. I try, but some days are better than others.

It is in the act of trying to become more like Christ each day that we make our lives a prayer, lifting our poor, imperfect bodies, minds and our spirit to be ONE in the NOW of FOREVER.

Praise be to God 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 (emphases mine)

CHAPTER 4: A Great Horror of Hell

Each age looks at the principles Christ taught us using the prevalent, collective thinking of the World. Reflecting on Hell is one of those things I don’t like to do but am compelled to do as my Lectio Divina during Lent and whenever I read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict.

I think of it as living in two universes, or a world without God. It is the world described in Genesis 2-3 after the Fall from Grace by Adam and Eve. We take our morality from rock stars and movie stars. Taboo is taking up your cross, denying yourself, and following Christ. We are creatures that seek our own comfort and happiness. How we view what is meaningful in life depends on what our assumptions might be. These assumptions must come from somewhere. Increasingly, I see society drifting towards hatred, jealousy, being mean-spirited, Another way to look at it is the World is that it is our default behaviors, two universes (physical and mental). God inserts Himself into Time in the person of Jesus Christ, being both divine and human in His nature. In my way of thinking, we have freedom to choose, in addition to knowing what to choose (the archetypal sin of Adam and Eve). Adam and Eve chose poorly. Genesis is a classic commentary of what it means to be human and why we are different from all other reality. It is the reason we have reason. It is the reason why we can choose this over that. God tells us in the Old Testament what are good choices and bad choices. The good choices have consequences, being one with God. The bad choices also have consequences, being alienated from God, for lack of a better way to say it. This is Hell.

THE OLD TESTAMENT STRUGGLE TO BE SPIRITUAL

The age in which the Old New Testament was formulated had strict cultural patterns of thinking In the Old Testament, for example, Abram wanted to sacrifice his son, Issac on an altar to please God. In this account, God wanted no part of human sacrifices and so told Abram to sacrifice a kid goat instead, an animal sacrifice. Why do you think this account is so crucial to the covenant relationship between God and Humans? In part, I think it was a shift in behaving and thus in believing that sacrificing your son or daughter to the gods, probably prevalent among all the other tribes of the time, was not right. I am also convinced that the early Israelites became convinced, over time, that their God was true because they won more battles with Him than without Him. He was better than other gods surrounding them. Other gods were real to these early Israelites, reference the Golden Calf which the people worshiped as Moses came down the mountain with the tablets God had carved out of rock. The dynamic of relationship is: God is God and Israel is not God, to sustain the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. God does not have a covenant with Moses, or Aaron, but with the people of Israel as a collective body. The Commandments, for example are rules of behavior by individuals to keep the tribes from killing and cannibalizing each other instead of other foreign enemies. The books of the Old Testament are a testimony to how God is faithful and Israel is not. Read the main theme of all the Psalms and prophets as being like a faithless spouse. Yet, God will not abandon his people, his covenant.

CHRIST COMES TO MAKE ALL THING NEW

Enter the Christ Principle, or that which flows from Him in every way. As God, he takes away the sin (Original Sin of Adam) for those who have Faith, allowing us to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. We know that Christ is the same, today, yesterday and tomorrow. We also know that we are not the same. How so?

  • Yet, because of the gift of love (Philippians 2:5-12) Christ can make all things new for us, even as we live out our time on earth.
  • God has given us the gift of reason for a reason.
  • God has allows us free will to choose good or evil for a reason.
  • As we looked at above, Israel often chose evil, but God remained faithful for a reason.
  • Just as humans must breathe oxygen and live in a controlled environment to sustain life, Christ came to give us the capability to sustain the Sacred in us, which makes us able to live in the next realm Heaven. Hell is the choice we make that God has no part in reality, that there is no God, no Heaven, no Sacred.
  • Will the angel of death pass over your house? If you have the blood of the Lamb on your lintel, if you are washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, if you practice humility to have the eyes to see and do the wonderous gifts of the Holy Spirit, you will enter into your inhertance.

As in the Old Testament, God works in each age through the modern Twelve Tribes of Israel, the Church Universal, connected together through the centuries by Christ. Are individuals sinful? All of them. Are they in need of making Christ new in their individual as well as collective lives? Indeed. We are given adoption as sons and daughters for a reason.

The reason is God’s love for us, as evidenced by His giving His only Son for us that we might have life. Read What St. John 3 says.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”[j]

When St. Benedict tells us in his Chapter 4 of the Rule to have a great horror of Hell and reflect on it, I think of the opposite of love: what it would have been like if there was no Resurrection? What could I look forward to, if I was not an adopted son? That is the true horror of Hell.

I don’t want to be Hell-centric any more than I want to be sin-centered to the exclusion of Grace (God’s own energy in, with, and through Christ to sustain me through the Holy Spirit. My purpose of life is Philippians 2:5, “..have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” You can’t have both Heaven and Hell as your Center any more than hatred and love can exist in the same room. You must choose. I must struggle with the choice. The Old Testament is our reminder that, even if the choices seem irrelevant, God’s folly is greater than the wisdom of humans. The sign of contradiction makes sense only in three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) and just just two (physical and mental).

During this season of penance and asking for God to be merciful to the Church Universal and to me, in particular as a Lay Cistercian, I reflect on Hell as the ultimate result of my not loving others as Christ loves me. I think about the desolation of what it would be like to be human without the concluding chapter of the Book of Life.

I re-energize my commitment to make all things new around me, giving glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit now and forever. To God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen -Cistercian doxology


Mr. McCarrick

As I sit here before the computer, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me in my search for God, a striking thought keeps infiltrating my consciousness. Earlier in the week, I had read an article in the “Tabloid” press about how the Vatican had defrocked Cardinal McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington D.C. for his repeated sexual abuse of young boys. Usually, I would have glanced at the article, expressed great sorrow that someone dedicated to Christ had abandoned his calling in the most horrific way, prayed for the victims of the atrocities that they might find peace in their lives, then moved on. The author of this particular article, quite properly, described that Cardinal McCarrick was now Mr. McCarrick. What stood out for me was his description that he was punished by being made a layman, without authorization to celebrate Eucharist. What made me a bit angry was the word, punished by being made a layman, as if that was the most horrific thing that could happen to a Roman Catholic for the most horrific betrayal of his vow of celibacy. What follows is a listing of my thoughts about the whole controversy. These thoughts may be random and might not all be linked together well.

  • Anyone who breaks the law should go to jail or anyone who covers up a crime should be punished.
  • No one is above God’s law.
  • Being made a layman is not a crime nor should it be a punishment for clerics who are not permitted to exercise their ordination. Holy Orders makes an indelible mark on the soul, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchesidek.”
  • Most dioceses have policies and boards in place to deal with accusations of improper sexual advances by a cleric.
  • Clerics are not the only ones who have committed crimes, but they receive the most press.
  • Sexual crimes and cover-ups are not the only crimes committed by clerics, teachers, and their staffs. Fraud, alcohol abuse are also reasons to suspend someone from ministry.
  • Mr. McCarrick has not been “excommunicated” but laicized. Do you know the difference?
  • Being “defrocked” means you have been disciplined and found guilty of some crime and may not practice your ministry.
  • In certain cases, former priests can hear confessions of those who are in danger of death.

There are two states in the Catholic Church. One is a cleric, anyone incardinated into a diocese under a Bishop; and another is a layperson, anyone who practices the Faith in a particular diocese. Both are equally focused on Christ as their center. A variation on that is the consecrated religious vocation and various lay institutions or associations recognized by the Vatican.

The Paraclete Fathers have, as their sole ministry, to help priests recover from mental health issues. Have they been criticized both fairly and unfairly for not doing enough to keep predatory priests from the flock, much like a shepherd who guards his sheep with these priests being the wolves in sheep’s clothing? Some truth to that, but like all fodder for those who want to find fault, there is always plenty to fuel the lust for vengeance, hatred, bias, and conspiracy. Always!

My discomfort, in addition to being humiliated by priests and religious who have not kept their vows, has to do with the statement in the press that Mr. McCarrick is punished by being made a Layman and “reduced to the Lay State”. When is being a Layperson a punishment? When anyone stands before our Father to give an account of our stewardship, the only thing we will be judged on is how well we loved. Matthew 25:36 gives us an accounting of what we will face. All of us are sinners, even the lawyers that trumpet the corruption of the Church, to further their own gain rather than justice for victims. It is not pretty! In fact, I find it downright terrifying.

https://religionnews.com/2015/12/07/spotlight-its-not-just-a-catholic-problem/

In the wake of the revelations of multiple priests being found guilty of sexual crimes against a minor, I offer some thoughts about what are the actual principles which we should strive to keep in mind. I go back to the core principles and values that the compendium of our Faith used in times of crisis, both external and internal.

DON’T JUDGE OTHERS- Christ is the just judge before whom we must give an accounting of our stewardship. No one gets away with anything. It is important to remember that all sins, even those such as sexual abuse, may be forgiven. That does not mean this sin is okay. Each sin has to be atoned or have reparation. That is the meaning of Christ dying on the cross. It is also why each of us must be a penitent man or woman in the face of our sins against both God and each other. Christ has mercy on all of us; we must forgive others as we want God to forgive us.

THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST THE CHURCH –– Because the Holy Spirit is with each of us in each age, what do we think we have joined by being a member of the Body of Christ? It is like the Elks, the Moose Club, a Country Club (if you can pay the fee, you can get it)? This is spiritual warfare between the forces of evil and the forces of light. It always has been that way. It always will be. In the context of Original Sin, the Church Universal (made up of individuals, all on the same level of being sinners) will prevail, but our personal and individual approach may fail. For every Mr. McCarrick, there are examples of exceptional heroism, some even giving their lives for Christ. I would not give my life up for the Church (like the Moose or Elks Club), but I would give it up for Christ as head of the Church Universal. How weak is your Faith in Christ if you are buffeted by the winds of change and misfortune, both internal and external. On what have you based your Faith. Are you a reed shaken by the wind, to bend and perhaps break when times are difficult. They have always been difficult. Thanks be to God that Christ has given us the gifts and His Own energy to help us. Without the energy of God, we fall back on our own devices and the gates of Hell will have prevailed over us as individuals. As the Body of Christ, together, we prevail against the gates of Hell. It is not easy. Just because your road is rocky and you may be a victim, don’t let that keep you from your destiny. All of us are victims of sin, all of us are victims of the failings of someone else. Unless we rise above that, we remain just victims, angry at someone else, and unable to forgive even ourselves.

THE CHURCH MUST BE PENITENTIAL —Here is a great source of knowledge and prayer that re-centers us on what is important, loving others as Christ loves us. I quote the reference in its entirety so that you may experience both its power and significance.
http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/seven-penitential-psalms-songs-of-suffering-servant.cfm

It is important to remember that this is not an academic exercise for other people but meant for each one of us to embrace as part of the humility it takes to take up our cross daily and follow in the steps of The Master. Use the following site as part of your Lenten devotion of penance and mercy.

The Seven Penitential Psalms and the Songs of the Suffering Servant

The Seven Penitential Psalms

During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms.  The penitential designation of these psalms dates from the seventh century.  Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God’s forgiveness.

Psalm 6









Audio
Reflection
Psalm 32
AudioReflection
Psalm 38
AudioReflection
Psalm 51
AudioReflection
Psalm 102
AudioReflection
Psalm 130
AudioReflection
Psalm 143
AudioReflection

The Songs of the Suffering Servant

Within the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we encounter four poetic sections known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. The specific identity of this Servant of the Lord remains the topic of scholarly debate. Perhaps it refers to the prophet Isaiah himself, perhaps the entire nation of Israel, or possibly the promised Messiah. Christian faith sees these prophetic utterances fulfilled in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Lord.
In brief:

  • The first song introduces God’s Servant who will establish justice upon the earth
  • The second song, spoken in the Servant’s own voice, tells of being selected from the womb to become God’s mouthpiece and help renew the nation
  • In the third song, we learn of the abuse and derision the Servant endured at the hands of his enemies
  • The fourth song proclaims the salvific value of the Servant’s innocent suffering that will justify many and blot out their offenses. 

Because of the Christian identification of the Suffering Servant with Jesus, the four Servant Songs become a way of encountering the Lord during this Lenten Season. Not only do they give us a sense of the commitment and endurance that characterized his messianic ministry, but they become a way of touching the bruised face of the Messiah, of hearing the resolute determination that sustained him in the midst of trial, and of rejoicing with him in God’s ultimate vindication of his calling and service.

Song 1









Audio
Reflection
Song 2
AudioReflection
Song 3
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Song 4
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FORGIVE THOSE WHO HURT YOU

Several years ago, at Evansville, Indiana, a couple came up to me and told me that they were sorry but were changing their membership to another Religion because they observed the Church was too corrupt. I thanked them for their attendance and gave them a blessing. “Before you go,” I said, “tell me where you are going that is free from corruption and sin. I want to join that Church with you.” They did not respond to my question but sheepishly walked away. There was evidently a lot more going on that what they were telling me.

If you think Jesus did us a favor by establishing the Church, think again. He handed the keys of the kingdom to people who had a difficult time to determine who was right, who had authority, whose Gospel was the best, which Apostle was the best. Things haven’t changed much from those first decades after Christ’s death. The Church is Holy, not because any of its members are holy, but because Christ, the head of the Body is Holy.

Here is a writing from St. Polycarp on some of the shenanigans going on in the very early Church as read in the Office of Readings for October 3, 2018.

Second reading
From a letter to the Philippians by Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr
Let us run our race in faith and righteousness

I ask you all to respond to the call of righteousness and to practice boundless patience. Your own eyes have seen it not only in blessed Ignatius, Zosimus and Rufus, but in others from among you as well, to say nothing of Paul and the other apostles. Be assured that all these men did not run their race in vain. No, they ran it in faith and in righteousness and are now with the Lord in the place that they have earned, even as they were once with him in suffering. Their love was not for this present world;rather, it was for him who died for our sakes and, on account of us, was raised up again by God.

Be steadfast, then, and follow the Lord’s example, strong and unshaken in faith, loving the community as you love one another. United in the truth, show the Lord’s own gentleness in your dealings with one another, and look down on no one. If you can do good, do not put it off, because almsgiving frees one from death. Be subject to one another, and make sure that your behavior among the pagans is beyond reproach. Thus you will be praised for the good you have done, and the Lord will not be blasphemed because of you. But woe to that man on whose account the Lord’s name is blasphemed. Therefore, teach everyone to live soberly, just as you live yourselves.

I am greatly saddened on account of Valens who at one time was presbyter among you; he does not understand the position to which he was called. So I urge all of you to be chaste and honest, to avoid avarice and to refrain from every form of evil. If a man cannot control himself in these ways, how can he teach someone else to do so? If he does not avoid greed, he will be defiled by idolatrous practices and will be reckoned as one of the pagans who know nothing of the Lord’s judgment. Or, as Paul teaches: Do we not know that the holy ones will judge the world?

However, I have never seen of heard of anything of that sort among you, for whom blessed Paul labored and whom he commends at the beginning of his letter. For he boasted about you in all the churches which at that time were the only ones that had come to know God – we ourselves had not yet come to that knowledge.

Brothers, I am deeply sorry for Valens and for his wife; may the Lord grant them true repentance. As for yourselves, be self-controlled in this respect. Do not look upon such people as enemies, but invite them back as frail members who have gone astray, so that the entire body of which you are a part will be saved. In doing this you are contributing to your own spiritual development. (emphases mine)

St. Polycarp (died in 155 AD) is said to have written this sometime around 120-140 AD.  Even in the very early formation of the Church, there are those who betray the community. They say one thing but do another. Valens was a married priest who fell out of grace. St. Polycarp bids us to forgive them and invite them back so that the entire body, of which you are a part, will be saved. Sadly, our own Church does not welcome back sinners with the love that seemed to come from Christ through His Church. We need to do a better job of reconciliation rather than casting out others who have harmed us. We should not condone sin but we also should not condone pride. It is a mark of Holiness in the Church that we can forgive all those who suffer from the effects of sin, perpetrators, victims, the Church Universal. Forgiveness does not mean we condone evil or say it is okay. It does mean we will never forget those marks against our dignity, self-worth, and faith, but that we have moved on facing Christ rather than the past. Easy? Never. It is what makes us holy.

In this Season of Lent, the Liturgy turns our thoughts towards penance for past sins, reconciliation with those who have harmed us and forgiveness others as Christ has mercy on us. Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict begins by saying that, for monks, Lent lasts all year. When we do deny ourselves of creature comforts for a higher purpose, we transform the NOW into something more meaningful, especially if we do it in the name of Christ.

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

Eh?

It is a sure sign you are getting old when you must worry about getting cataract surgery and being tested for hearing aids. I had both of these done within the last two years. the last one (hearing test) done at the VA Clinic in Tallahassee, Florida on March 18th.

The Audiologist completed the test, a series of three beeps and then you are supposed to hit a button, just like on Jeopardy. You can’t fail the test, so my anxiety was right where it should be. She came in with the results and said I needed hearing aids (free because I am a VA health care patient). Among other things, she told me that I heard men just fine but that when women speak, I could not hear what they were saying. I told her, “That’s just what my wife tells me.” Some things just never change.

That reminded me that hearing is a big part of how we approach God. St. It is no accident that Benedict begins his Rule by reminding us that…”Listen, carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” Hearing is the physiological process of processing sounds to make sense. We use several different languages in how we discover what is meaningful, in addition to English. There is the language of Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, All of these languages depend on our hearing.

HEARING IN THREE UNIVERSES

Those of you that have read any of my body of work, may have noticed a crosscurrent theme that runs through all of my thinking. It is that thee are three distinct universes of reality, all one, all a necessary part of reality. Based on three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) of reality, what Christ came to show us makes complete sense, although still a Mystery of Faith. It is a way for me to explain the seeming dichotomy between the World and the Spirit that St. Paul talks about in Galatians 5.

When Scriptures says” …hearing we don’t hear and seeing we don’t see,” I take that to mean what the World thinks is proper, the Spirit has a deeper meaning, one coming from God. At the heart of this way of thinking is Genesis 22–33, where Adam and Eve committed the archetypal sin, i.e., thinking that they are God. To get what I am saying about three universes, let’s look at some of the assumptions people use as a result of being in two versus three universes. The difference is not only profound but has consequences.

ASSUMPTIONS OF TWO UNIVERSES VERSES THREE

  • There is a qualitative difference between the assumptions of two universes (physical and mental) versus three (physical, mental, and spiritual).
  • Two universes are what we live in without God.
  • Two universes are not bad and you can live a good life if you have the proper values.
  • The Center of the two universes is you. The center of three universes is God.
  • Two universes are what we usually term the World. Three universes are what we term the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Typically, people who only live in two universes cannot see three universes. It takes Faith (a gift from God) to enable you.
  • Three universe thinking is often the opposite of what happens in two universes.
  • It is the sign of contradiction in three universes that does not make sense in two universes. There was a polar shift in reality with the Birth of Christ. What is up is now down in the spiritual universe only. If you want to be a disciple you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ.
  • Living in two universes may be good but won’t get you to Heaven.
  • Love in two universes can be authentic, as Erick Fromm points out in his Art of Loving.
  • The Mystery of Faith may only be seen in the spiritual universe, and even then to those with mature listening skills, those who listen with the ear of the heart, for example.
  • Obedience to God’s will and humility are needed to listen with the ear of the heart.
  • You can live in two universes, find meaning, discover love, find success and purpose in life. This universe is good, the platform upon which the spiritual universe rests. Jesus entered two universes (Philippians 2:5-12) but had the mission to give us the option of three universes. Some call that opening the Gates of Heaven for those with Faith, Hope, and most of all Love.
  • To those who live in only two universes, anything to do with three universes doesn’t make sense. Actually, it doesn’t.
  • Examples of things that don’t make sense: God becomes one of us (Philippians 2:5), The Virgin Shall Bear a Child, the greatest is the least, the leader is the servant of all, the Kingdom of God is within you, Christ is present (body and blood, soul and divinity) in the Eucharist, Christ voluntarily gave up his life on the cross; love is denying yourself; love God with all your mind, all your heart, all your strength and your neighbor as yourself; The Church is Holy but all members (except Christ and his mother) are sinful and susceptible to the temptations of Original Sin; If you believe in Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, you will live forever and never die;

WHY DO WE HAVE REASON AND MONKEYS DON’T

  • There is a reason why some do not see nor hear anything in the three universes? Do you know what those reasons are? Discuss them.
  • There is a reason humans have reason, to allow us to approach the Sacred with Faith.
  • There is a reason why Christ had to become one of us and open the Gates of Heaven.
  • There is a reason why we struggle to live in three universes and are pilgrims existing in a foreign land.
  • There is a reason why Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
  • There is a reason why we need spiritual hearing aids and glasses to both hear and see what is beyond our ability to fully comprehend (The Mystery of Faith).
  • We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • We need a community to support us in our quest to love others as Christ loves us.
  • We need silence to help us hear through the noise of the World.
  • We need solitude to help us realize that we need to increase the capacity of God in our hearts to make room to love with all our hearts.
  • We need work to take care of the physical mental and spiritual needs, relying on God to be with us as we seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and trust that all things follow from that.
  • We need prayer to approach the energy of God to be able to sit on a park bench in the midst of a cold Winter and years for the heart of Christ to sit next to us.

Finally, we need to keep in mind that in all things, God is glorified. –St Benedict

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

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SIMPLICITY

Sometimes I can’t get to sleep or wake up at night and must use the bathroom then can’t get back to sleep. This is one of those nights. I always get enough rest, but sometimes nothing works, even Melatonin.

My thoughts go to Lectio Divina, my old companion of Philippians 2:5, and what that means for me today as I sit before the computer here trying to get some rest. Simplicity in life comes to mind.

I am reminded that Christ became one of us, not to make life more complex, but through our adoption as sons an daughters of the Father to make life simpler, but not necessarily easier. As a Lay Cistercian, I try to practice simplicity in all aspects of my life in keeping with what I understand the contemplative life in the World to be.

CHARACTERISTICS OF SIMPLICITY

  • Simplicity is reducing something to its core components, then doing it routinely.
  • Simplicity in the spiritual universe means the more complex it is.
  • Simplicity is seeking God in daily living without my agenda.
  • Simplicity is sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter and waiting for Christ to come around the bend and sit with you.
  • Simplicity is doing more with less, as Brother Michael, O.C.S.O. keeps telling us.
  • Simplicity is your heart next to the heart of Christ in silence and solitude.
  • Simplicity is when you do Lectio Divina without knowing you are going through each step.
  • Simplicity is just being what you pray and not just saying more prayers. Reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict is a practice I do every day. I read it without thinking about the words too much.

There are five ideas of about simplicity that I want to share with you today.

THE SIMPLICITY OF HEART-– Love others as I have loved you.

John 13:34-35
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”

Like all principles, what sounds simplistic contains such depth that it takes a lifetime of struggle to each approach some of it. There is only one command that Christ gave us, “love one another as I have loved you.” We can approach the Father through the Son. For me, Cistercian practices of silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community help me to join with the Son so we can, together, approach the Father. Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, together we can offer praise to God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology

THE SIMPLICITY OF PURPOSE — Love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself, Psalm 119:145 “With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord. I will keep your statutes.”

Matthew 22 NRSVCE –
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

If you ask yourself the question, “What is the purpose of life?” I believe Matthew 22 is the one answer, the bullseye on the dart board of life, the North Star, the principle from which all others flow. How simple is that?

God is one. One what? This is the simplicity principle, the black hole of the spiritual life. Shema Yisrael, the Lord your God is one. Deuteronomy 6:5. The sign of contradiction with simplicity is that, despite being dense and compact, it contains meaning for both those not initiated in the practices of contemplation and also those who approach the face of God without burning up their neurons.

In my case, the depth of the Mystery of Faith is one that I based all of this on John 1:1

  • Say the Word
  • Pray the Word
  • Share the Word
  • Be what you say, pray, and share.
  • There are no words to describe this level of awareness of God.

THE SIMPLICITY OF LIFESTYLE– Seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be given to you. Everything in reality, is linked to everything else. The problem is, I don’t have the capacity or the capability to know how it all fits together in my lifetime, but I do know it does. When I look at my own simplicity and how I can change my life to fit my simplicity of purpose or simplicity of faith, that translates to be like the desert monks and nuns and rely less on things and more on seeking God wherever I find Him. Here are some thoughts that came to me during my Lectio Divina. I am not sure what they mean, but I am not worried about them.

  • You can’t drive two cars at the same time, but you can own a dozen of them. Seek simplicity of lifestyle.
  • You can’t live in more than one house at a time, but you can own two or more of them.
  • You can’t possibly eat three full meals every day without being blotted (at least I can’t).

THE SIMPLICITY OF FAITH — No one knows the Father except the Son or anyone to whom he has revealed Him.

Several passages from Scripture tell of how we should strive for simplicity in our hearts. Here are some of them:

Matthew 6:33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This is one of my favorite passages because of its simplicity (yet complexity) of practice. As a Lay Cistercian who tries to practice having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each day, I think about placing God first and forgetting the rest.

Read what Matthew 6 says in its entireity. “Do Not Worry25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[k] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Abraman Maslow created what he called the Heirarchy of Needs. These are needs that all humans have (those living in two universes). What stikes me about the Scripture passage is the passage in verse 33 that recommends to us that we try to seek God first and every thing else, in this case, all of Maslow’s human needs will fall into place. In former times, I used to think that this meant that I didn’t need to work about my human’s needs and I could just give responsibility for them to God and forget about them. Not so. In reality, I find that I must work even harder to try to make those human needs fulfilled, but with one exception. I now put Jesus first in my needs. I have expanded Maslow’s hierarchy from two universes (just physical and mental) to three (physical, mental, and now spiritual). Each morning, I make my morning offering with a free act of love telling Christ that he is Lord and that I wish to join with him in giving…glory and honor to the Father 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. Now THAT is simplicity.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs essay pdf – Bing

See the source image

Matthew 11:27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

In the complexity of simplicity, humans find they cannot approach the Father directly. Adam and Eve found this out when they were cast out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3). Because Christ is BOTH divine and human, he can approach the Father and, Scriptures says, the Son is the only one who can reveal the Father to us. Any relationship with God must come through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. In my Lay Cistercian practice, all the prayers we do are designed to give back to the Father praise and glory through Christ. Every day!

Part of what love means is to be present to the other person. In the case of marriage, it is called fidelity and living life together, two diverse personalities living to compliment each other. In the case of a monk or nun, being present to each other is the community and the community is seen as the body of Christ. For me as a Lay Cistercian, I put myself in the presence of Christ through contemplative practices (Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Rosary, Reading Scripture, reciting Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict, and trying to see how I can live each day in silence, solitude, work, prayer and community.

Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah,[a] tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.[b] 30 The Father and I are one.” If, as Jesus says, the Father and I are one and we are one with Christ by loving those whom Christ loved, we fulfill the mission of Christ to allow people the opportunity to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father…Forever. We don’t have to do anything but prepare our own hearts to sit next to Christ on a park bench and receive from the Holy Spirit life-giving energy and love, so that we can share it with others. How simple is that?

Simplicity in Faith is reducing what you do in order to expand the capacity for God in you. More is not necessarily better.

Using the Lay Cistercian charisms of humility and obedience to God’s will, I have observed and experienced the seeming contradiction that the more I strive for simplicity for all of these aspects of my spiritual journey, the deeper I realize they are. It is in realizing that they are part of the Mystery of Faith that makes sense for me. I don’t struggle to know every aspect of them but rather I just appreciate God more and more because He allowed me to use them as tools to help me grow from self to God.

THE SIMPLICITY OF SILENCE AND SOLITUDE

Some approach Christ through activities for the good of the Church Universal, while others seek God primarily through silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. This last aspect of simplicity is my encounter with Christ on a park bench in the dead of Winter.

Waiting for Christ

I have a story that came from one of my Lectio Divina encounters with the heart of Christ that I wish to share with you again. Read it slowly and carefully.

WAITING FOR THE MASTER

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

The first person to come to the trees is an old woman pushing a cart full of what looks like bottles and rags. You smile as she passes and wishes her a good day. She turns 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 on 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 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 gives you a hug 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, an older man approaches. He has a long, gray beard, somewhat matted together and uses a cane to help him wobble down the path. His clothes are neat but certainly well worn. His face has a gnarly look about him as if he had weathered many hardships and they had taken their toll. He asked if he could sit down since he was tired. You say, “Of course, I am just waiting for a friend to come by here.” “You look cold,” he says. “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 the owner. All the while he kept stroking the dogs 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 has to 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. Turing to his dog, he says, “Coming?” The dog jumps up and down a few times, wagging his tail fiercely and they both set off trudging slowly away from the bench. You look at your clock and see that five hours have passed, but 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, knit by his mother. You are shocked by what you see. On the scarf is embroidered your name in the gold thread. You think to yourself, he said his mother made it for him. Another thing you noticed. You felt your heart burning 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.

YOUR RESPONSE

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

1. Before you write down your thoughts, take ten minutes to just compose your mind. Write down your thoughts, but more importantly how you felt, about the bench meditation.

2. What three ideas would you like to share with someone about this story?

3. How is this story simple yet complex? It is like everything in the spiritual universe because there is where God is. We hope to be there some day.

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PROGRESS

I don’t remember it always being this way, but it seems we have developed a corporate mentality that says results are not good unless they are immediate. There is a time for everything. As Scriptures points out:

Ecclesiastes 3 NRSVCE –

Everything Has Its Time

3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

One of the lessons I have learned, thankfully before I die, is that God moves at His pace, not mine. God is not someone we can Tweet and expect an immediate reply. This idea is paramount in my image of me sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter, straining for Christ to show up and sit next to me. Even though God is everywhere and always with me, it is my anticipation of the coming of the Lord that I must never take for granted. God response comes when I make myself acceptable through humility and obedience to God’s will. How long this takes is unclear. I perform the Cistercian practices to put myself in the presence of God and wait for whatever comes.

REFLECTIONS ON PRAYER AND SOME TIMEFRAMES OF HOW LONG WE HAVE WAITED FOR THINGS TO HAPPEN

THE UNIVERSE- How old is the universe? What is the oldest thing we know of? https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Oldest+Object+in+the+Universe&&view=detail&mid=CFAA2378EB475BE5E877CFAA2378EB475BE5E877&&FORM=VRDGAR

Based on what I have read on Youtube, what we call The Universe is 13.5 billion years old. Yet, I am writing about this today so from the beginning to now is there for a reason. I just realized it right now and made that part of how I look at how all things fit together into one. I think back that, from the beginning of time, God created all that is so that I might be an adopted son of the Father.

THE EARTH — How old is the Earth? Within the framework of the universe, the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Watch Youtube on the age of the Earth. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=how+old+is+the+earth+youtube&&view=detail&mid=86ADC0DDCC09E669516086ADC0DDCC09E6695160&&FORM=VRDGAR

We were not there to see the beginning of Earth’s formation. Does that mean it did not take place? It is the classic dilemma if a tree in the forest falls and you don’t hear it, did it really fall? Logical thinkers like to do mental gymnastics with these ideas. Why is the Earth one of the very few places where any life can exist? Coincidence?

ADAM AND EVE — Whether you hold that the Genesis story was an actual historical event or an ancient myth describing the human condition as it affects our relationship with God, you are reading it. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01129a.htm

The Genesis event foreshadows the coming of Christ, the second Adam. The Christ event gives rise to our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, one of the most significant events and also one that would not have happened had there been no platform upon which to build our ability to reason. Do you see a pattern here?

CHRIST —
If any of these events did not take place, we are not only not here, but would not be able to give glory to the Father through the Son. Christ was a historical figure who lived among us. Read Philippians 2:5.

THE CHURCH — The interface between Christ and reality is the Church, his mystical body, the living body in each age as we attempt to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. This is the Church Universal.

YOU — All of this formation, all of this time is for you to be able to live your life for the next reality, to know, love, and serve God in this life so we can be with God forever.

Lay Cistercian contemplative practices and charisms help those who use them to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus here and now.

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SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR

I recommend that you consider asking someone to be your spiritual director. This should be a person of great integrity in things spiritual, especially as it pertains to the contemplative approach. One of the reasons that an outside person is helpful to give you feedback on how you complete your contemplative practices is to guard against idolatry in your spiritual life. This means you are not only your own god but also your own church. No one can tell you what is right or wrong; you are the supreme authority in all things pertaining to God. Who better than you knows what the mind of God is, is the dominant thinking.

A spiritual director can challenge you on your lack of humility or keep you from thinking that you can just say you believe in God but don’t actually love your neighbor. Human nature tends to seek its own level of comfort. If you have ever been on a diet, you know what I mean. Intentions are initially good to lose weight, but there is a problem. It takes work. Businesses have been founded to help people with their diet by introducing accountability and moral support to their plan. Weight-watchers and Jenny Craig are some of the many examples of diets who provide human interaction to help you keep your focus. Some days are better than others. All diets work, it is the people who do not work at doing what they say they will do.

As a Lay Cistercian, I can go it alone, if I choose, but one of the helps to keep me honest with myself is a spiritual director or guide. This is someone I select to tell them of my routine, my goals, how I think I am doing, and get feedback. The danger of each of us being our own church is that we tend to believe the press we write about ourselves.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR

  • Choose someone you want to emulate or be like in their spirituality.
  • Lay Cistercians should select someone who knows that way of spiritual practice.
  • Meet once a quarter or as needed.
  • A spiritual director doesn’t have to know more than you, but should be someone you trust to help you move from self to God.
  • A spiritual director should be meek and humble of heart.
  • A spiritual director can be male or female.
  • A spiritual director should help you become what you read in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict.
  • A spiritual director will hold you accountable to what you say you will do.

TIPS ON CHOOSING A DIRECTOR FOR YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

  • Having a spiritual relationship with another person means the two of you are focused on Christ as your center.
  • Hold your sessions in Church and preferably after Eucharist for 30 minutes or so. Use your common sense and the Holy Spirit to guide you.
  • In humility, open yourself to the Holy Spirit without conditions.
  • If your spiritual director does not fit with you or you feel uncomfortable, discontinue and get someone else.
  • Spiritual direction is no substitute for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is not counseling or therapy.
  • Before selecting a spiritual director, ask them three questions:
    • What is your center, your purpose in life?
    • Who wears the Shoes of the Fisherman, as we speak?
    • When was the last time you spent in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament?

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THE LIFE OF A HERMIT

Read about Sister Mary Beatrice Raphael, a hermit living on the grounds of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Georgia.

https://georgiabulletin.org/news/2014/10/devout-doctor-chooses-hermitage-focus-just-jesus/

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

MAKING SENSE OF THE SACRED

I have discovered four questions that have caused me to sit up and take notice of the world around me. In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) last week, I thought of how reality fits together, even if I don’t see any connection at the moment. This is actually the fourth question that I must ask and answer before I die. To review, the six questions are:

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

QUESTION ONE: What is the most powerful thing that we know of in this universe?

https://www.businessinsider.com/hypernovas-are-the-most-powerful-thing-in-the-universe-2014-9

Some say the most powerful thing in the universe is a hypernova. In terms of energy, it far surpasses anything we know of on earth. But wait, how powerful is the hypernova when compared to say a human, any human?

Ask yourself this question, “What hypernova knows that it knows?” Using this criterion, a human, any human, is more powerful than any natural power. It is the power of the mind, the power to ask why and to seek out what is real that is truly powerful. Why is that?

QUESTION TWO: Are humans the only ones in the universe that knows that we know? Probably not, but we base thought on the hypothesis that probability favors there being some form of life out there. Professor Frank Drake even designed an equation to show the probability that life exists in the universe. https://www.space.com/25219-drake-equation.html

Ask yourself this question, “Wonder if we are the only sentient species in all of the universe? What does this say about the purpose of life?”

QUESTION THREE: Of everything that is living (being) on earth, why are humans the only ones to have free will that is not tied to nature and the ability to know that we know? Baboons don’t make good politicians, although when you look at the House of Representatives these days, you would swear some act like monkeys.
Ask yourself this question, “Why are humans the only sentient life form that we know of?” Is there a reason that happened? We not only have a nature that is above the animals, we have the ability to choose. Why is that? Who gave us that freedom?

QUESTION FOUR: Why do some people live in three universes (physical, mental and spiritual) while others only live in two (physical and mental)?

It is only in the three universe approach to reality that we can fully answer the six questions each human must ask and answer before they die.
Ask yourself this question, “Of all humans, why do some people use their ability to choose, to include Faith and the possibility of loving fiercely, while others choose to make themselves gods?” To live in three universes, you must use your free will to do so. In all of the universe, why do humans have the ability to choose? Choose what? Adam and Eve chose what they thought was good but it turned out to be a false choice, one we inherit to this very day.

In Genesis 2-3, Adam and Eve chose to live in two universes rather than accept three universes with God as its center. In Philippians 2:5-12, God sent his only Son, Christ, whom St. Paul calls the second Adam, to become one of us so that we would have the choice of two universes or three. Read what St. Paul says about our ability to choose three universes and the consequences of that choice.

Romans 5 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) Results of Justification5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access[b] to this grace in which we stand; and we[c] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we[d] also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.[e] 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.Adam and Christ12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification[f] leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • It is not by accident that humans find themselves on this rocky ball of gases.
  • It is not by accident that we are tied to this planet for seventy or eight years if we are strong.
  • It is not by accident that, of all living things, humans have the ability to know that we know.
  • It is not by accident that we have the ability to choose.
  • One man and women, our human archetypal parents, choose poorly (chose two universes and the consequences of that choice being work, pain, and ultimately death).
  • It is by free will that God chose to send His Son, Christ, to give us the ability to select to live three universes (restoring the possibility of everlasting life with God as it was in the beginning).
  • It is no accident that Christ came not only to tell us that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father but show us the meaning of love in three universes. He bid us only to love one another as He has loved us.
  • It is no accident that Christ was Baptized in the Jordan to new life and bid us do the same.
  • It was no accident that Christ suffered, died and rose again to restore the Old covenant into a New one, one that is open to all humans but also one which demands an act of the free will to enter.
  • It is not by accident that Christ asked the Advocate to be with us in each age to allow us to keep alive the good news of salvation until the end of time.
  • It is no accident that Christ left his followers the responsibility to be fragile stewards of His body and blood (Real Presence) by the forgiveness of sins and by making all things new.
  • It is no accident that Christ restored all things and is the way, the truth, and the life for those who love Him.
  • Now, we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, capable of approaching the Father through Christ.
  • Now, we can call God Father, Abba with Christ.
  • Now, we can offer to the Father the honor and glory due His name, through, with, and in Christ. By ourselves, we are sons of Adam (living in two universes) but with Christ, we inherit the Kingdom of God…Forever.

Because of this great love for all of us, 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

WAYS TO LOOK AT SIN

Lent is a time of penance and prayer, a time to examine your collective consciousness to see if you are on the right track or not. Lent is also a time to reflect on how you increase your capacity to love Christ by loving your neighbor as yourself.

If your true self tries to move towards the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, then the false self pulls each of us towards the seven deadly sins. If you think life is a struggle to pull against Original sin, you would be correct in my estimation. Some have even characterized this titanic struggle between good and evil as a war against Satan.

Sin plays a significant part of the struggle we all face as a result of the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Christ came to remove that sin through Baptism but it does not diminish the effects of Original Sin. Faith can be gained through humility and obedience to God’s will but it can easily be lost to pride and the other deadly sins if we are not careful. It is not without some significance that Christ bid us take up our cross daily and follow Him.

Sin, according to this way of thinking is not just one action that we commit, but more of a mindset that says “We are God.” When we receive the Sacrament of Penance in many cases, we do so without having committed any serious or mortal sins. What we confess is our lack of Faith to love God with all our hearts and minds and strength. What we ask is the grace to make all things new in our hearts.

MISSING THE TARGET

Sin is an archer who aims for the target bullseye but misses it slightly or even completely. I use the Rule of St. Benedict, especially Chapter 4 as an examination of conscience, as the basis for my moral behavior. When I pray this Chapter 4 each day, my prayer is always that I become what I read. I am in the process of moving from my old self to my new self. Some days are better than others. This is my target in life, to move from self to God. I find it interesting that I must begin the struggle each day anew. Each day is sufficient unto itself.

GRACE CENTERED

A mistake would be to think of my spiritual behavior in terms of not committing sin. Rather, I should focus on loving God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength and my neighbor as myself. Avoidance of sin is not the center of my life, but rather how to love others as Christ loves us. Christ died for each of us, not because we are evil or corrupt persons, but to give us an inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

SIN IS LIVING IN TWO UNIVERSES AND NOT THREE

It takes energy to live in three universes and not just two. That energy comes from God. That energy is God’s own life. Christ gives us the template when he became one of us. He chose to live in the world of Original Sin (two universes) to show us how to live in three universes. In many ways, it is just the opposite of the World, a sign of contradiction, Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict reminds monks (and all of us) that Lent is a year-long struggle. It should be a special time liturgically to prepare our hearts once more to live the Life of Christ by appreciating the Resurrection. I can’t convert my life from my old self to my new self if I live in two universes. Galatians Chapter 5 points out this dichotomy by framing our living as coming from the flesh (two universes) or the Spirit (three universes).

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

Don’t fall into the trap of just doing “something” for Lent without it changing the way you live. Conversion of heart takes energy, God’s energy, not yours.

Place yourself in the presence of God and not vice versa. Lent is a time of intensive love where we long to expand our capacity to receive God in our hearts.

Lent is a time to choose love over sin. As a Lay Cistercian I find that I must fast and pray that I do not enter into temptation. I can’t do that in two universes, but only in three.

Lent is a time when I re-center myself on my personal purpose in life, “to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5-12.

UIODG

FAST AND PRAY

Lent is a time of repentance for our sins of the past, plus asking God for the grace to be more focused on Christ for the future. Ashes are an ancient sign of repentance. Ash Wednesday is a time to remember, O Human, that you are dust and into dust you shall return. It is a period of 40 days, like Jesus endured, as a way to purify the mind and the heart to seek God clearly.

Ashes are an outward sign of interior conversion and transformation. Soon after Christ died, there were those who, like the Essenes before them, wanted to experience a purification of mind and body to be able to approach God as Christ instructed, “learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.”

A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON LENTEN PENANCE

There is one thing about fasting that puzzles me. When Christ was led into the desert to be tempted, this was a time for him to fast and pray that he not be tempted. Was it a real 40 days of fasting without water or food? What human can last 40 days without food or water? I don’t know of any. Maybe the 40 days refers to the 40 years Moses wandered in the desert. The Israelites had no food or water other than what God gave them. Do you see a similarity here? If no human can survive without food or water and live, and Christ is like us in all things but sin, then the 40 days must be a period of time during which Christ wandered in the desert. Satan attacked not his divinity, which the Devil could not approach, but Christ’s humanity, and the interface between His human nature and the divine nature. Fasting and prayer were the contemplative ways that Christ used to gain mastery over his human tendencies of Original Sin. Like Baptism, Christ exposed his human nature to the effects of Original Sin to show us how to overcome temptation and its allure of false meaning. Lent is a period that precedes the Resurrection. It purifies the soul even today as it did for countless men and women who went out in the desert to purify themselves of their false self to be able to put on the white garments of the Resurrection to a new life in Christ. Over and over, we actually do the life that Christ lived through the liturgical year. The point of placing ourselves in the presence of the Holy Spirit so as to make all things new, once again, is building up the capacity for God to grow in us and we decrease.

Lent is a time in the Church calendar when we make the temptations of Christ real for us by doing something to bring us closer to the heart of Christ. Lent is such a time, one where we do something to remind us that nourishment of the body with food and water is necessary but nourishment of the soul allows us to fulfill our destiny as humans.

At Baptism, Christ gives us several gifts to help sustain us on our journey to Forever. Everyone receives these gifts but not everyone wants them or knows how to use them. One of my six foundational principles of being human is living in three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) and not just in two (physical and mental). One gift is a set of special glasses, ones that allow us to see reality in 3U or three universes. Unlike the early Gnostic followers who thought that only select people (Illuminati) could know the secrets of being like God, the Church Universal says that all people have been redeemed, but that free will allows us to respond to Faith in ways that are appropriate. To help us on our way, the Church Universal is there to provide insights into the way, the truth, and the life. The church is not the way, but Christ is, and the Church Universal is the living body of Christ in each age. Lent with its emphasis on fasting and prayer is a time to immerse ourselves in the life of Christ. Christ himself gives us the grace to see what cannot be seen (living in just two universes) and to understand what we hear.

Another gift is a set of hearing aids. Glasses help those who cannot see to make sense of images, and hearing aids help us to hear. What is different about these glasses and hearing aids is that they allow us to see and hear in three universes, not just two. As it says in Scriptures: Matthew 13 NRSVCE – The Parable of the Sower –

13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not
perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’
14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of
hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Lent, as St. Benedict points out to his monks in Chapter 49 of the Rule, isa yearly task, and it only intensifies during this liturgical season of
penance and mortification. Chapter 4 of the Rule states that “…your way must be different from the world’s way. the love of Christ must come before all else.

Characteristics of Fasting for a Broken-Down, old Lay Cistercian

  • At 78.6 years of age, I use Brother Michael’s advice on prayer and apply it to fasting. Pray as you can. Fast as you can.
  • Sit on the park bench in the dead of Winter and listen to what the heart of Christ says to me. Keep silence in the heart. Keep prayer simple. Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus and express it through writing this blog and my books.
  • I need three virtues. Seek humility, seek humility, seek humility, as St. Bernard tells us.
  • Smaller plates for supper, smaller bowls for salads. No sodas. No meat.
  • Offer up my fasting and prayer for those who have cancer and heart replacement surgery.

THE POINT (AT LAST)

  • Every time you seek the kingdom of heaven first, you place everything else in proper order in three universes, not just two.
  • Fasting and prayer refer not just to saying Hail Marys (good as that is) but in the constant and consistent use of prayer to approach the Sacred for 40 days. It is overcoming the human tendency to procrastinate doing something uncomfortable in favor of doing something that will help you in three universes.
  • Lent is about conversion from my false self to my true self. Fasting and prayer are only instruments to do that, not ends in themselves.
  • My favorite image is sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter waiting for Christ to approach me. St. Benedict asked his monks to “listen with the ear of the heart.” in his Prologue to the Rule of Benedict.
  • Penance is not limited to Lenten season, it is only intensified during these 40 days in preparation for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.
  • At the heart of repentance is the humility to love others as Christ loves us.
  • Silence and solitude during Lent, as we do all year long, places the mind in a position to open the heart to the heart of Christ.
  • Longing to see Christ, we sit on a park bench in the middle of Winter, waiting for Christ to sit next to us. It is the longing of the heart that is love. It is the anticipation of the mind that allows us to endure discomfort for the sake of having in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

Anthony of the Desert was a person who wished to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Christ. His writings: Sayings of the Desert Fathers represents an important insight into how fourth-century cenobites (monks) sought to transform themselves into Christ.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Anthony_the_Great

This is translated by the late Sr Benedicta Ward SLG in her collection The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

ACTIVITIES FOR LENT

Read these 39 sayings as part of your Lenten Penance. Read one a day for each day of Lent. Reflect on the meaning of each one and ask yourself what it means for your daily living out of the Life of Christ during Lent.

1. When the holy Abba Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by accidie, and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, “Lord, I wand to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?” A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony say a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down again and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the angel saying to him, “Do this and you will be saved.” At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved.

2. When the same Abba Anthony thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, “Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men proper and why are the just in need? He heard a voice answering him, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to known anything about them.”

3. Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

4. Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, “This is the great work of man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.

5. He also said, “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” He even added, “Without temptations no-one can be saved.”

6. Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.”

7. Abba Anthony said, “I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, “What can get through from such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Humility.'”

8. He also said, “Some have afflicted their bodies by asceticism, but they lack discernment, and so they are far from God.”

9. He said also, “Our life and our death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.”

10. He also said, “Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace. SO like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will lost our interior watchfulness.”

11. He said also, “He who wishes to live in solitude in the desert is delivered from three conflicts: hearing, speech, and sight; there is only one conflict for him and that is with fornication.”

12. Some brothers came to find Abba Anthony to tell him about the visions they were having, and to find out from him if they were true or if they came from the demons. They had a donkey which died on the way. When they reached the place where the old man was, he said to them before they could ask him anything, “How was is that the little donkey died on the way here?” They said, “How do you know about that, Father?” And he told them, “The demons shewed me what happened.” So they said, “That was what we came to question you about, for fear we were being deceived, for we have visions which often turn out to be true.” Thus the old man convinced them, by the example of the donkey, that their visions came from the demons.

13. A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, “Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.” So he did. The old man then said, “Shoot another,” and he did so. Then the old man said, ‘Shoot yet again,” and the hunter replied “If I bend my bow so much I will break it.” Then the old man said to him, “It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.” When he heard these words the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.

14. Abba Anthony heard of a very young monk who had performed a miracle on the road. Seeing the old man walking with difficulty along the road, he ordered the wild asses to come and carry them until they reached Abba Anthony. He said to them, “This monk seems to me to a ship loaded with goods but I do not know if he will reach harbor.” After a while, Anthony suddenly began to weep, to tear his hair and lament. His disciples said to him, “Why are you weeping, Father?” and the old man replied, “A great pillar of the Church has just fallen (he meant the young monk) but go to him and see what has happened.” So the disciples went and found the monk sitting on a mat and weeping for the sin he had committed. Seeing the disciples of the old man he said, “Tell the old man to pray that God will give me just ten days and I hope I will have made satisfaction.” But in the space of five days he died.

15. The brothers praised a monk before Abba Anthony. When the monk came to see him, Anthony wanted to know how he would bear insults; and seeing that he could not bear them at all, he said to him, “You are like a village magnificently decorated on the outside, but destroyed from within by robbers.”

16. A brother said to Abba Anthony, “Pray for me.” The old man said to him, ” I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.

17. One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the old man said, “You have not understood it.” Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, “How would you explain this saying?” and he replied, “I do not know.” Then Abba Anthony said, “Indeed, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: ‘I do not know.'”

18. Some brothers were coming from Scetis to see Abba Anthony. When they were getting into a boat to go there, they found an old man who also wanted to go there. The brothers did not know him. They sat in the boat, occupied by turns with the words of the Fathers, Scripture and their manual work. As for the old man, he remained silent. When they arrived on shore they found that the old man was going to the cell of Abba Anthony too. When they reached the place, Anthony said to them, “You found this old man a good companion for the journey?” Then he said to the old man, ” You have brought many good brethren with you, father.” The old man said, “No doubt they are good, but they do not have a door to their house and anyone who wishes can enter the stable and loose the ass.” He meant that the brethren said whatever came into their mouths.

19. The brethren came to the Abba Anthony and said to him, “Speak a word; how are we to be saved?” The old man said to them, “You have heard the Scriptures. That should teach you how.” But they said, “We want to hear from you too, Father.” Then the old man said to them, “The Gospel says, ‘if anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.'” (Matt. 5.39) They said, “We cannot do that.” The old man said, “If you cannot offer the other cheek, at least allow one cheek to be struck.” “We cannot do that either,” they said. So he said, “If you are not able to do that, do not return evil for evil,” and they said, “We cannot do that either.” Then the old man said to his disciples, “Prepare a little brew of corn for these invalids. If you cannot do this, or that, what can I do for you? What you need is prayers.”

20. A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, “If you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that.” The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Anthony said, “Those who renounce the world but want to keep something for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them.”

21. It happened one day that one of the brethren in the monastery of Abba Elias was tempted. Cast out of the monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony. The brother lived hear him for a while and then Anthony sent him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled. When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and he went back to Abba Anthony saying, “My Father, they will not receive me.” Then the old man sent them a message saying, “A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo; with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbor on the shore.” When the brothers understood that it was Abba Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at once.

22. Abba Anthony said, “I believe that the body possesses a natural movement, to which it is adapted, but which it cannot follow without the consent of the soul; it only signifies in the body a movement without passion. There is another movement, which comes from the nourishment and warming of the body by eating and drinking, and this causes the heat of the blood to stir up the body to work. That is why the apostle said, ‘Do not get drunk with win for that is debauchery.’ (Ephes. 5.18) And in the Gospel the Lord also recommends this to his disciples: ‘Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness.’ (Luke 21.34) But there is yet another movement which afflicts those who fight, and that comes from the wiles and jealousy of the demons. You must understand what these three bodily movements are: one is natural, one comes from too much to eat, the third is caused by the demons.”

23. He also said, “God does not allow the same warfare and temptations to this generation as he did formerly, for men are weaker now and cannot bear so much.”

24. It was revealed to Abba Anthony in his desert that there was one who was his equal in the city. He was a doctor by profession and whatever he had beyond his needs he gave to the poor, and every day he sang the Sanctus with the angels.

25. Abba Anthony said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.'”

26. The brethren came to Abba Anthony and laid before him a passage from Leviticus. The old man went out into the desert, secretly followed by Abba Ammonas, who knew that this was his custom. Abba Anthony went a long way off and stood there praying, crying in a loud voice, “God, send Moses, to make me understand this saying,” Then there came a voice speaking with him. Abba Ammonas said that although he heard the voice speaking with him, he could not understand what it said.

27. Three Fathers used to go and visit blessed Anthony every year and two of them used to discuss their thoughts and the salvation of their souls with him, but the third always remained silent and did not ask him anything. After a long time, Abba Anthony said to him, “You often come here to see me, but you never ask me anything,” and the other replied, “It is enough fo rme to see you, Father.”

28. They said that a certain old man asked God to let him see the Fathers and he saw them all except Abba Anthony. So he asked his guide, “Where is Abba Anthony?” He told him in reply that in the place where God is, there Anthony would be.

29. A brother in a monastery was falsely accused of fornication and he arose and went to Abba Anthony. The brethren also came from the monastery to correct him and bring him back. They set about proving that he had done this thing, but he defended himself and denied that he had done anything of the kind. Now Abba Paphnutius, who is called Cephalus, happened to be there, and he told them this parable: “I have seen a man on the bank of the river buried up to his knees in mud and some men came to give him a hand to help him out, but they pushed him further in up to his neck.” Then Abba Anthony said this about Abba Paphnutius: “Here is a real man, who can care for souls and save them.” All those present were pierced to the heart by the words of the old man and they asked forgiveness of the brother. So, admonished by the Fathers, they took the brother back to the monastery.

30. Some say of Saint Anthony that he was “Spirit-borne,” that is, carried along by the Holy Spirit, but he would never speak of this to men. Such men see what is happening in the world, as well as knowing what is going to happen.

31. One day Abba Anthony received a letter from the Emperor Constantius, asking him to come to Constantinople and he wondered whether he ought to go. So he said to Abba Paul, his disciple, “Ought I to go?” He replied, “If you go, you will be called Anthony; but if you stay here, you will be called Abba Anthony.”

32. Abba Anthony said, “I no longer fear God, but I love Him. For love casts out fear.” (John 4.18)

33. He also said, “Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Remember him who gives death and life. Hate the world and all that is in it. Hate all peace that comes from the flesh. Renounce this life, so that you may be alive to God. Remember what you have promised God, for it will be required of you on the day of judgment. Suffer hunger, thirst, nakedness, be watchful and sorrowful; weep, and groan in your heart; test yourselves, to see if you are worthy of God; despise the flesh, so that you may preserve your souls.

34. Abba Anthony once went to visit Abba Amoun in Mount Nitria and when they met, Abba Amoun said, “By your prayers, the number of the brethren increases, and some of them want to build more cells where they may live in peace. How far away from here do you think we should build the cells?” Abba Anthony said, “Let us eat at the ninth hour and then let us go out for a walk in the desert and explore the country.” So they went out into the desert and they walked until sunset and then Abba Anthony said, “Let us pray and plant the cross here, so that those who wish to do so may build here. Then when those who remain there want to visit those who have come here, they can take a little food at the ninth hour and then come. If they do this, they will be able to keep in touch with each other without distraction of mind.” The distance is twelve miles.

35. Abba Anthony said, “Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of virute we want to forge or we labor in vain.”

36. He also said, “Obedience with abstinence gives men power over wild beasts.”

37. He also said, “Nine monks fell away after many labors and were obsessed with spiritual pride, for they put their trust in their own works and being deceived they did not give due heed to the commandment that says, ‘Ask your father and he will tell you.'” (Deut. 32.7)

38. And he said this, “If he is able to, a monk ought to tell his elders confidently how many steps he takes and how many drops of water he drinks in his cell, in case he is in error about it.”

Read this excerpt from the Rule of St. Benedict on Lent. What three ideas seem to apply to you during this Lenten season?http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0480-0547,_Benedictus_Nursinus,_Regola,_EN.pdf

CHAPTER XLIX On the Keeping of Lent The life of a monk ought always to be a Lenten observance. However, since such virtue is that of few, we advise that during these days of Lent he guard his life with all purity and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the shortcomings of other times. This will then be worthily done if we restrain ourselves from all vices. Let us devote ourselves to tearful prayers, to reading and compunction of heart, and to abstinence. During these days, therefore, let us add something to the usual amount of our service, special prayers, abstinence from food and drink, that each one offer to God “with the joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thes 1:6), of his own accord, something above his prescribed measure; namely, let him withdraw from his body somewhat of food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the gladness of spiritual desire await holy Easter. Let each one, however, make known to his Abbot what he offereth and let it be done with his approval and blessing; because what is done without permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vainglory, and not to merit. Therefore, let all be done with the approval of the Abbot.

St. Benedict told his monks and nuns (and us) that Lent lasts all year around. For the rest of us, we might consider doing something extra during Lent, over and above the normal Cistercian practices we have in our daily schedule. Brother Cassian, O.C.S.O. handed out the following recommendations to the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist)at our last Gathering Day. I share them with you because they are based on Chapter 49 (above) and give a deeper dive into Lent. Remember, what we are about is the transformation from our false self to our true self in Christ. Fasting and prayer help us become what we pray. Below you will find what Brother Cassian suggests and I have put down what I will do over and above my daily Cistercian practices in italics (as an example). You might wish to fill in something different.

In order to I will

  • renew fervor (wash away negligence) examine my conscience daily
  • devote myself to reading reread The Cistercian Way
  • deepen prayer (add to private prayer, Stations of the Cross weekly devote myself to tearful prayer, devote myself to compunction)
  • add to abstinence (devote myself to self-denial, refuse to indulge in evil habits. fast (main meal at Noon)

ACTIO

What will you do that you have not up to this point to increase the love of Christ in you for others?

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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

SIC TRANSEAT GLORIA MUNDI

What goes around comes around eventually. Consider this example.

We are all born without our consent, alone, from darkness into the light of the world.

We live our unique lives at birth confined to a crib and would not exist without the help of our parents.

We expand that space to include our house and gain knowledge of what is right and wrong and begin to discover what is meaningful.

We push out further, going to school, learning to read and write, discovering the larger world around us.

We get a job, take on responsibilities, get married, raise a family and our progeny increases.

We complete our job, retire, and try to discover meaning for what is to come.

We are confined sometimes to our house and our movement may be limited.

We end up in our bed, once again, taken care of by our family or friends.

We die alone, in darkness, but with an exception. We wake up to the light of Christ which we have carried faithfully in our hearts.

Good and faithful servant, God tells us, come, share your Lord’s joy.

Amen and Amen.

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.

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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THE CONTEMPLATIVE APPROACH TO SPIRITUALITY

Some people have difficulty relating to a spirituality that is contemplative. Some people have difficulty comprehending the meaning of spiritual versus religion. Not all that is contemplative is Cistercian, but all that is Cistercian is most definitely contemplative.

Here are some of my ideas about the meaning of contemplative.

  • It is a way that I approach the Sacred.
  • Contemplation happens in the depths of my self.
  • I approach the meaning of life by a look at reality in terms of wonder, moving from self to God, expanding the “capicitas dei” (my capacity to approach the Sacred). I do this through Cistercian practices and charisms, although I am not limited exclusively to this approach.
  • My assumption is that I use what I learned from Cistercian spirituality to define contemplative.
  • Contemplative means five areas of emphasis to help me approach the Sacred: silence, solitude, work, prayer, community.
  • The contemplative approach to life is not to worry about converting the world but rather convert yourself from false self to a new self.
  • Contemplative practices are those which place your heart next to the heart of Christ and then get out of the way.
  • Contemplative practices require the skill of listening more than talking and demanding what you want.
  • Reflecting on what Christ meant when he said, “love one another as I have loved you” is part of contemplation.
  • Contemplative may mean solitude in the midst of a community of faith.
  • For me, as a Lay Cistercian, it means approaching the Sacred in the Mystery of Faith in the Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, reflections on the Rosary, Lectio Divina, Spiritual Reading, Reading Scripture, Reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict every day.
  • Contemplative means preferring nothing to the love of Christ. (Chapter 4)
  • The contemplative approach is not something that is beyond our capabilities or our capacity. It actually increases the capacity for God in our hearts.

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THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC

Many people are afraid to recite the Liturgy of the Hours because they find it difficult to master. Like everything else in life, there is a learning curve. We don’t master something in one day. Our impatience sometimes causes us to avoid certain practices we don’t understand.

Try this practice for 30 days, then evaluate its effectiveness.

Read all or part of Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. Pray that you become what you read.

Lay Cistercian Litany of Praise and Glory

One of the great prayer traditions in the Church Universal is the Liturgy of the Saints. I was thinking, during one of my recent Lectio Divina meditations about how I should praise God for his supreme act of Love to become one of us to save us from our human condition. (Philippians 2:5)

My mind ventured to pray the Cistercian doxology, “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.” In the Liturgy of the Hours, we always conclude this doxology at the end of each of the Psalms or the end of the three Psalms that make up each hour.

Cutting Wheat

My mind continued to conjure up various scenarios where we praise God. I thought of one of my favorite passages in the Liturgy of the Hours, that of Daniel 3. How people working in the fields would recite these psalms with each other. How the faithful would gather to respond to the various litanies with “Lord Have Mercy” “Lord, save your people” or “We beseech you, hear us.” Below are references to read the history of the Litany of Saints, the one I know the best and was prayed for me at the reception of Holy Orders.

LITANY AS PRAYER OF THE PEOPLE

Here is a litany from the Old Testament book of Daniel (3).

46 Now the king’s servants who had thrown them in continued to stoke the furnace with naphtha, pitch, tow, and brush. 47 The flames rose forty-nine cubits above the furnace, 48 and spread out, burning the Chaldeans that it caught around the furnace. 49 But the angel of the Lord went down into the furnace with Azariah and his companions, drove the fiery flames out of the furnace, 50 and made the inside of the furnace as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it. The fire in no way touched them or caused them pain or harm. 51 Then these three in the furnace with one voice sang, glorifying and blessing God:

52 “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestors,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
53 Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
    praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
54 Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
55 Blessed are you who look into the depths
    from your throne upon the cherubim,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
56 Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
    praiseworthy and glorious forever.
57 Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
58 Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
59 You heavens, bless the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
60 All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
61 All you powers, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
62 Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
63 Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
64 Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
65 All you winds, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
66 Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
67 Cold and chill, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
68 Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
69 Frost and chill, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
70 Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
71 Nights and days, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
72 Light and darkness, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
73 Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
74 Let the earth bless the Lord,
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
75 Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
76 Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
77 You springs, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
78 Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
79 You sea monsters and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
80 All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
81 All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
82 All you mortals, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
83 O Israel, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
84 Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
85 Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
86 Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
87 Holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
88 Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.
For he has delivered us from Sheol,
    and saved us from the power of death;
He has freed us from the raging flame
    and delivered us from the fire.
89 Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,
    whose mercy endures forever.
90 Bless the God of gods, all you who fear the Lord;
    praise and give thanks,
    for his mercy endures forever.”

LOOK IT UP

THE LITANY OF SAINTS AS PRAYER OF THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL

There are two types of sung Litany of the Saints. I have references for you to listen to each of them.

Traditional Litany of the Saints
Modern Litany of the Saints

I love both of these chants, one traditional and one modern. Sometimes, I just listen to them to enhance my Meditation on Philippians 2:5. Take some time and listen to both of them, one in Latin and one in English.

A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON THE LITANY OF THE SAINTS

Litanies begin by asking God for mercy. Next is praise for the Trinity, redemption, salvation. The next level is asking the key players in our salvation to help us., then comes the prayer to the specific Saints (note: we ask the Saints that stand in perpetual adoration before the Throne of the Father to join with us in prayer. We don’t pray TO the saints as our final source of praise and glory, that is to God alone.)

The Saints (those recognized as in God’s Hall of Fame) and the saints who have died and are before the Throne of the Father are alive in Heaven, just as we are. As we asked them when they were living, we now ask them via the litany to join us in in praise and glory to the Father through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit.

I will be using the patron saint or namesake in the Litany that I compose below. Saints are those who have died and are before the Throne of the Lamb.

We ask the Father to be merciful and helps us, as we continue to struggle on earth, with petitions of mercy and help. I can remember reciting litanies which say “save us from the peril of the Vikings.” There are prayers of petition to the Father to keep us strong in Faith and not let our Faith waiver.

The Litany of the Saints states and petition or statement from the Schola Cantorum (a group of lead singers) and then requires a response from us. This mantra-like chant opens up, to those disposed to the Spirit, relationship with the Sacred. The music is simple and does not get in the way of the words spoken, but elevates them so that we have both word and music praising and glorifying the Father through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit.

A LAY CISTERCIAN LITANY OF PRAISE AND GLORY

I have composed a Litany of Praise and Glory to the Father, using some of the Saints I know and people who have died in the peace of Christ. The first part is sung by the Schola Cantorum and the response is sung by the congregants (in italics)

Lord, Have Mercy Lord, Have Mercy

Christ, Have Mercy Christ, Have Mercy

Lord, Have Mercy Lord, Have Mercy

To the Father Who Creates All That Is Praise and Glory be to you

To the Son Who Set us Free Praise and Glory be to you

To the Holy Spirit who Gives us Strength Praise and Glory be to you

You are the God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages

Praise and Glory be to you

All you who stand before the throne of God Pray for us

Holy Mary,  Pray for us (repeat after each line)
Holy Mother of God, 
Holy Virgin of virgins,
St. Michael, 
St. Gabriel, 
St. Raphael, 

All you Holy Angels and Archangels, 
St. John the Baptist, 
St. Joseph, 
All you Holy Patriarchs and Prophets,

St. Peter, 
St. Paul, 
St. Andrew, 
St. James, 
St. John, 
St. Thomas, 
St. James,
St. Philip, 
St. Bartholomew, 
St. Matthew, 
St. Simon, 
St. Jude, 
St. Matthias,
St. Barnabas, 
St. Luke, 
St. Mark, 
All you holy Apostles and Evangelists, 

All you holy Disciples of the Lord, 
St. Stephen, 
St. Lawrence, 
St. Vincent, 
Sts. Fabian and Sebastian, 
Sts. John and Paul, 

St. Ignatius of Antioch

St. Polycarp
Sts. Cosmas and Damian, 
All you holy men, Saints of God

St. Anthony,
St. Benedict, 
St. Bernard, 
St. Dominic,  
St. Francis, 

St. Ignatius
All you holy Priests and Levites, 
All you holy Monks and Hermits,

John Cassian

All you Cistercian monks and nuns


All you Cistercian Martyrs and Martyrs of Atlas

Father Anthony Delisi

Francisco Ambrosetti

All you holy Lay Cistercians living and dead Pray for us

All you Holy Women, Saints of God Pray for us

St. Mary Magdalene, 
St. Agatha, 
St. Lucy, 
St. Agnes, 
St. Cecilia, 
St. Anastasia,
St. Catherine, 

St. Mother Theresa

Sr. Mother Theodore Guerin

St. Scholastica

O Lord, be merciful Lord, save your people (repeat after each verse)

O Lord, give us your peace

O Lord, may our capacity to love you grow every day

O Lord, sustain us in our search for you

O Lord, move us from self to you

O Lord, protect us from the temptation of relativism

O Lord, may we listen with the ear of the heart

O Lord, may our prayers permit us to approach you in Faith

O Lord, give us humility of heart

O Lord, may we be always close to your heart

O Lord, grant us the grace of silence and solitude

O Lord, that in all things may we have the mind of Christ

O Lord, give us the grace to experience the Holy Spirit in each other

We sinners, we beseech Thee, hear us (repeat after each line)
That you wouldst spare us,
That you wouldst pardon us,
That you wouldst bring us to true repentance,
That you wouldst bless those who follow the Rule of St. Benedict
That you would bring all of together as one
That you wouldst sustain and preserve us in Thy holy service,
That you would give us your own energy to love one another as you have loved us
That you wouldst render eternal blessings to all our family, friends and those who help us
That you would give us your own Spirit to stand vigil before the Blessed Sacrament
That you would grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed, Lay Cistercians, monks and nuns
That you would give us the strength to practice Lectio Divina and Liturgy of the Hours for your glory and honor

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
    the world, have mercy on us
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
    the world, have mercy on us
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
    the world, grant us peace

Christ, hear us, Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer. Lord, have mercy on us.

Lord have mercy on us. Lord have mercy on us

Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, graciously hear us

Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

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ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY

What follows is an exerpt from two of my books, THE PLACE NO ONE WANTS TO LOOK: Six questions all of us must answer before we die, and, SEEKING GOD AT PREMIER GYM IN TALLAHASSEE FLORIDA.What seems like nonsensical titles are actually at the core of contemplative spirituality as I practice it. In one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5), I thought of this saying: “You don’t meet God through Christ where he is, you meet Him where you are.” In all the different ways to see God, the best way for me has been to realize that God is right before me. When I first went to Premier Gym, I had no thoughts of God. After all, I wanted to exercise, and what does God have to do with getting your muscles and heart toned up? All of this depends on my assumptions.

As I move around my day, and my day moves around my years, and my years pass away, quickly, it seems, I am more and more conscious of transforming the NOW into something I can take with me to Heaven, packing my suitcase, if you will, for my last big trip.

As a Lay Cistercian, using the charisms and practices of Cistercian spirituality to help me reach my purpose in life (Philipians 2:5), assumptions are so important. Assumptions are those embedded principles that you use to find meaning and purpose in life. Depending on your assumptions, your behavior follows. Christ told us, “…by their fruits you shall know them.” You can tell a lot about someone by their external behavior. These behaviors come from somewhere. I think they are from my assumptions that I make about who God is, who I am, what my purpose in life is.

A FEW OF MY ASSUMPTIONS

Anytime you read anything, whenever you hear a commentator on television news give an opinion, there are always assumptions underlying their thoughts. We can’t help it. We speak of what we know based on our value system. Here are assumptions I have about my contemplative practice of prayer, as it pertains to any of my thoughts.

ASSUMPTION ONE: We need to attend a school of love to learn how to love as Jesus loved us.

We are not born with a mature spirituality. We must learn how to do it, just as we must learn the meaning of the word “Love”. It would be foolish indeed to attempt to start my own school of Love when there has been one around since St. Benedict of Nursia wrote his Rule (c.540 A.D.) to develop rules to organize the monks of his day. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Monte-Cassino. http://www.osb.org/rb/text/rbejms1.html#pro

Notes: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Here is an excerpt from the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict.

“LI S T E N  carefully, my child,

to your master’s precepts,

and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).

Receive willingly and carry out effectively

your loving father’s advice,

that by the labor of obedience

you may return to Him

from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,

whoever you may be,

who are renouncing your own will

to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King,

and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.”

He founded a monastery for monks at Monte Casino, Italy, which still follows this Rule. What is the school of love? It is a place where you learn the disciplines of how to love using proven practices and charisms (what you convert your life into when you say you want to be like Christ). The Christ Principle has endured to this very day.

These disciplines are not easily mastered and may take a lifetime of conversion of life only to realize they are beyond mastery, you may only approach them when you love others as Christ loved you.  Each day is a lifetime in this school. Conversion is the curriculum. There is no graduation.

Cistercians (contemplative monks and nuns) and Carthusians (hermits) evolved from the Benedictine tradition c. 1090’s, with a desire to love Christ even more fiercely. They did this through their contemplative prayers and practices (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community), adapting the Rule of  Benedict to each age. This is the same school that comes down to us today with the same practices, traditions, writings, wisdom, temptations, and graces in each age. It is a monastic tradition.

Characteristics of a School of Love

  • All Schools of Love have a Master. The model, of course, is Christ whom we call Rabonni or teacher. He is the Master, and we are all disciples, in all ages, from all cultures and philosophies. The Lay Cistercians have a  Master of their School, called an Abbot or Abbess. His person is the personification of Christ in the School. Humility and obedience to the command of Christ are paramount. “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ,” says St. Benedict in his Chapter 4 of the Rule. In the Church Universal, we have many religious orders of men, women, brothers, and laity. They all have a superior, one who represents Christ to the disciples.
  • The School of Love has a conversion of life as one of its purposes. There is little value in a school that doesn’t do anything to make you more than you were before. As a Lay Cistercian, I do not live within the walls of a monastery, but I do live within the walls of my own self. The more I make room for Christ in my life, the greater is my “capacitas dei” or the capacity to love as Christ loved us.
  • A school is a discipline that helps me focus on love in the midst of a world full of Original Sin.
  • The School of Love provides practices and charisms to enable you to touch the heart of Christ, who is the way, the truth, and, most certainly, the life. Contemplation is a way to put you in the presence of Christ, then asks you to be silent in solitude to let God talk.
  • The School of Love stresses being present to the Holy Spirit in other community members.
  • The School of Love begins the process of answering these six questions of life with Christ by using Cistercian spirituality and contemplation to provide meaning and clarification on what might seem murky.
  • The School of Love approaches the Mystery of Faith in humility and obedience to the will of God, being open to the energy of the Holy Spirit.
  • Each of the six questions must be answered in turn because they build on the answer before it. 
  • These six questions have not been fully answered but are in the process of being discovered.
  • These are the six questions I had to discover. I use Cistercian spirituality in the form of Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, daily Rosary, daily Liturgy of the Hours, and prayer to grow deeper into the Mystery of Faith.
  • The School of Love bring joy to the heart, not the joy that the world gives, but the ability to love others as Christ loved us.

We will spend the next three days together, part of your larger journey of life. It is what you do with the rest of your life after you go home that will sustain you for the rest of your life. It is time you take to overcome self-inflicted obstacles and temptations that say all of this is irrelevant and foolish and does no good, that is meaningful and makes the journey worthwhile. This journal-retreat is a trip to enter the one place no one wants to look, within you. If you allow, I will take you to a place where you may have never been, one that begins to answer the six questions the human heart asks. I will show you how contemplation and prayer using both mind and heart can unlock the darkness. Mystery continues to mean something beyond our mortal intellectual capability, but it will be welcomed as an old friend and not as a block to the truth. 

The six questions are:

  • 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 to love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die, now what?

If you wish to explore this topic more thoroughly,  look up the following URLs.

Notes:__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

ASSUMPTION TWO: My contemplation follows the Cistercian Way. Cistercian (Trappist) spirituality with its unique practices of silence, solitude, pray, work, and community forms the basis of charisms (humility, obedience to the will of God, hospitality, simplicity, and Lectio Divina) that lead to the conversion of self to God. Lay Cistercians, following Cistercian spirituality, adapt the disciplines of the Monastery (without actually living there) to whatever their vocations might be. Contemplation is certainly not limited to one religious order, i.e., Cistercians, but it is the one which I use in all my books.

ASSUMPTION THREE: The Mystery of Faith is approached in at least five levels of spiritual awareness, each one leading to a more deeper penetration of God’s plan of action for us.  I will use the transformative Word of God as an example of growing deeper in faith, love, and service.

  • Level One; Hear the Word with your mind
  • Level Two: Pray the Word in your heart
  • Level Three: Share the Word with others
  • Level Four: Be the Word you hear, pray, and share
  • Level Five: Enjoy the Word. Allow the Word made flesh to sit next to you in silence and solitude.

(You will notice the same levels of transformation are also below.)

This assumption is at the heart of what it means to dig deeper into contemplative spirituality. Deeper here means going within oneself using silence and solitude to discover the unlimited riches of what lies within us. Retirees may sometimes be afraid that they won’t have enough to do or to keep busy. If you use the foundations of spirituality with contemplative practices, you are never alone, and you will find meaning not by just keeping busy but by loving others.

ASSUMPTION FOUR: Contemplation allows us to move from the realm of the mind to the realm of the heart. Contemplative spirituality is all about being silent, being in solitude, practicing Lectio Divina daily, sharing Eucharist daily, reciting the Liturgy of the Word together daily, converting your life to the Lift of Christ daily. All of these practices begin with the realm of the mind but develop into the realm of the heart. This realm of the heart is what we all aspire to attain.

As a Lay Cistercian, I reach this level of love and then slip back into my old self again. This notion of dying to the old self and rising to new self is core to the conversion of life into the Life of Christ Jesus. My purpose in life, as you will soon see, is based on Philippians 2:5. My life becomes trying and trying, over and over, to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus as a way I address these six questions of life. The journey is the important part of my attempts to love, sometimes even achieving fleeting completion, This is the deepest part of me, unexplored, like the darkness of a cave; unknown, yet luring me ever forward, like a moth seeks a flame.

ASSUMPTION FIVE: Dedication to a contemplative way of life is all about dying to self and rising again with Christ. Conversion of life is a lifetime process of striving to move from my false self to the true self, giving up the self of arrogance, pride, vanity and the allure of world to choose death, not life…Forever. The late Dom Andre Louf, the abbot of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont in Bailleul, France, wrote a book which opened my spiritual eyes and ears entitled, The Cistercian Way.

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The Cistercian Way is all about moving from the false self to God (true self) and how to use proven practices to seek God within you.

ASSUMPTION SIX: I used whatever thoughts came to mind as a result of my Lectio Divina statement found in Philippians 6:5. I just think of this phrase, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus” over and over in the silence and solitude of my inner self (my outer self is full of noise and distractions). I don’t plan on having any thoughts or have any agenda, other than sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter and waiting. I have never been disappointed.

             

I try to use the Cistercian principles and practices of conversion of life, but do not use the Monastery as my occasion to express it. Here are a few of my obseservations about the differences between a monastery and living the Cistercian Way in the world.

Early monks went into the desert to find solitude and silence in the wilderness. Ironically, Lay Cistercians find a wilderness of ideas and false self in the world, a place devoid of nourishment unless you put it there, a place with no water to quench the longing in the soul for Christ. The Garden of Eden is still the Garden of Eden because what God made is good. The majestic beauty of the physical universe, the natural law of all life, the wonders of science that delve into the very make up of matter and time with energy, all creation praises the Lord. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 148. “Praise him sun and moon, praise him, shining stars, praise him highest heaves and the waters above the heavens,” How can sun and moon praise God? They do not live, as we do? The Psalmist points to a very important reflection about life itself. When Sun and Moon be what they are destined to be, they automatically praise to God be just being. All life is like that, with the exception of humans. Humans don’t act their nature, they tend to act like animals or not as their nature intended.  Remember, Genesis 2-3 speak of a fall from grace? Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden (did not act according to how they were created) and had to suffer pain, death, and other human dysfunctions. Christ came to redeem us (restore us to be able to act our nature, except for the effects of Original Sin).

Matter and time are not evil, yet they will end. Humans are not evil, but all will die. While we imperfect humans live, we are tempted by the wilderness of false ideas, like Adam and Eve were in the story of salvation. We will be tempted to make ourselves gods until we die, yet, because Christ became one of us and paid the price for our redemption, rising from the dead to be our mediator with the Father once more, we have found adoption as sons and daughters. This is the Good News Christ wants everyone to know, even if they don’t believe in Him.

In recognition of that great series of events (Philippians 2:5,-12) we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again in glory, using Cistercian practices and conversion of life. Lay Cistercians pray as they can, not with schedules of prayer but by transforming the very struggle and distractions into a hymn to the wonders of God’s love for each of us. As  he little fox tells the Little Prince, in Saint Exupere’s tale of the meaning of love, it is the time you take to discover the meaning of love that is itself part of loving.

Lay Cistercians embrace time, not just as part of the make-up of the physical universe, along with matter and energy, but as an instrument to transform us from where we are now to where we want to be with our true self, one rooted in the Life of Christ in the best sense of that phrase. Time becomes transformative when both monks, nuns, laity all see themselves in relationship to the totality of all that is and proclaim, Abba, Father. Time exists to help us approach the Mystery of Faith in the now, so that we can live that same Mystery forever with the source of all energy, the pure energy of God in the Trinity. We all live in the context of time, but we do not all realize that we alone can transform ourselves from our false self to our true self by Cistercian practices and charisms into our intended nature in the Garden of Eden. Christ gave us, adopted sons and daughters, the power, not only to go to heaven, but to transform earth by recognizing that God is, God and we are who we are, then giving praise, as found in Revelation 4:11; “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Of the many excellent, transformative ways to move from self to God that the Church has developed over the centuries (Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, Augustinian, Ignatian, Cistercian, Benedictine) I have chosen the Cistercian Way as my personal vehicle because it stresses silence and solitude in the context of Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and being what I read in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. Everything is geared to move from self to God.

I carry these assumptions with me everytime I go anywhere. Consequently, I am, ever more and more, waking up to the great possibility of the manifestibility of all Being encountered. I like to think of it as transforming the Now into Forever.

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • Assumptions underly all of our behaviors. Our behaviors come how we find meaning and purpose. Our meaning and purpose depend on our assumptions. What are three assumptions that inform how you believe about the purpose of your life?
  • Your assumptions might be different than mine. How does all of this impact the way, the truth and the life?
  • Philippians 2:5-12 are the assumptions Christ had about becoming human. There is only one assumption that Christ had, that we should love others as Christ has loved us.
  • The School of Love is a learned habit. This school lasts a lifetime. In this school we learn how to love as Christ loves us. Are you in such a school of Charity or Love? Do you want to be?

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CHAPTER 7: Fear of the Lord

In one of my Lectio Divina meditations on Philippians 2:5, I marveled at the key role that humility plays in the divine economy of salvation. Not only does this seem to be the cornerstone of any way of thinking with Jesus as the center, but it is the charism that defines what I have learned about being a Lay Cistercian so far. Chapter 7 refers to St. Benedict’s Rule,

Some few of us are called to the monastic lifestyle, where we just focus on having in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Others, who live in the context of the World, try to use Cistercian practices and charisms as we can to seek the same end, one that we can only approach but never quite master in this lifetime. No matter what approach we use, humility is the essential ingredient that makes the rest of the charisms fall into place. It is the cardinal virtue without which nothing makes sense.

THE HUMILITY OF CHRIST

It would be a mistake to think of humility in terms of how the world sees it. When we assume the responsibility for not only having Faith but actually doing what that Faith demands (Matthew 25:36) according to the example of Christ, there are various characteristics that seem to pop up.

Characteristics:

Humility comes from our heart touching the heart of Christ. That heart is what humility is all about. Philippians 2:5-12 inspires me to be like Christ in humility, not like a politician, military leader, or some financeer from banking,

There are examples we have of those who have practiced humility, and thus obedience to God’s will, trying to love others as Christ loves us. We call those people Saints (upper case S). All of us are saints, who, be it in heaven, on the earth, or awaiting purification, are marked with the sign of Faith (the cross), purchased by the blood of Christ. Saints are not those without sin but who use humility and obedience to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus. It is for this reason that we honor and venerate them. We do not adore Saints as much as try to use them as inspiration for us while we live out our destiny.

  • Humility is a virtue to enable us to approach God through Christ. We need humility for us to “see” what obedience to God’s will means. With our preoccupation in this culture on being free to do what you think is correct, humility stands as the hurtle over which many of us can’t cross.
  • Humility, as the World sees it, means self-deprecation. Humility as Christ showed us means recognizing who you are in the sight of God.
  • Adam and Eve committed the sin of Pride, one of the seven deadly sins, one that keeps us focused on our false self instead of our true self. Humility is the answer to pride, thinking that you are God. Humility must come from God for it to be beneficial for us in our quest to seek that very God.
  • Humility, for St. Benedict, was key to obedience and the conversion of self to what God wants (obedience).
  • For me, I begin a new life every day, beginning and not totally succeeding to have in me the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). I must begin each day with the intention to do God’s will with Christ’s help. Lay Cistercian practices allow me to be in the presence of Christ, who is One with the Father.

THE FIRST STEP OF HUMILITY

Any of us who wish to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus must also have the humility to approach the Sacredness of God with the Imperfections of Human Nature (Original Sin). St. Benedict outlines twelve steps that he encourages his monks to take to begin the lifetime struggle. I have not been strong enough to perform all twelve steps, but I do have an appreciation for the depth of meaning involved in this crucial Gift of the Holy Spirit.

I have developed a saying about humility that works for me. It is:
I am not you; you are not me; God is not me, and I am certainly not God.

Step One is that “we keep the fear of God always before our eyes (Psalms 35:2) and never forget it.”

I can remember talking about this first step with my Lay Cistercian group on Gathering Day (the one day per month meeting requirement). The word fear is open to many interpretations. It could be we should be afraid of God, but that doesn’t make complete sense when you think that Jesus became one of us so that we would not be afraid of God. Our humanity makes God into its own image, without God define who He is and the purpose of life. Fear here has more of a ring of respect for God and reverence for what God says.

One thing I thought about is how every action, every word we speak will be revealed at the Last Judgement. This is the context in which I think about fear. It changes the way I make decisions that are a little flakey at times.

WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMILITY

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” ~ Saint Augustine

“If you wish to attain to a true knowledge of the Scriptures, hasten to acquire first an unshakeable humility of heart. That alone will lead you, not to the knowledge that puffs up, but to that which enlightens, by the perfecting of love.” ~ John Cassian

“No structure of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless, first, the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart.” ~ John Cassian

“… a Christian is quite certain to fall into the same sins which he condemns in another with merciless and inhuman severity, for ‘a stern king will fall into misfortunes,’ and ‘one who stops his ears so as not to hear the weak, shall himself cry, and there shall be none to hear him’ (Prov. 13:17; 21:13).” ~ John Cassian

“Humility, in its turn, can be achieved only through faith, fear of God, gentleness and the shedding of all possessions.” ~ John Cassian

“The first degree of humility is prompt obedience.” ~ Benedict of Nursia

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.” ~ Benedict of Nursia

“The value of life does not depend upon the place we occupy. It depends upon the way we occupy that place.” ~ Therese of Lisieux

“My vocation, at last I have found it; my vocation is love.” ~ Therese of Lisieux

“Above the clouds the sky is always blue.” ~ Therese of Lisieux

“How happy I am to see myself as imperfect and to be in need of God’s mercy.” ~ Therese of Lisieux

“Your true character Is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do ‘Nothing’ for you” ~ Mother Teresa

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” ~ Mother Teresa

“There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“What we love we shall grow to resemble.” ~ 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.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“The rivers of Grace cannot flow uphill, up the steep cliff of the proud man’s heart.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux

“Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.
What delight God gives to humankind
with all these things .
All nature is at the disposal of humankind.
We are to work with it. For
without we cannot survive.” ~ Hildegard of Bingen

“God has arranged everything in the universe in consideration of everything else.” ~ Hildegard of Bingen

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.
God is the ground, the substance,
the teaching, the teacher,
the purpose, and the reward for which every soul labors.” ~ Julian of Norwich

LAY CISTERN APPLICATION

The contributions of others must be accepted as coming from sincere hearts. There is also the gift of discernment to tell you what is consistent with the Holy Spirit and what is not. When I attend the Gathering Day each month at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, we meet in groups to talk about a selected book. Humility means I must accept what others say as being sincere and coming from the heart, it does not mean that what people think is correct and I cannot state what I think is true. Knowing the difference allows me to keep my integrity.

Without humility, obedience to an abbot, abbess, bishop, superior general, or any person taking the place of Christ another as speaking for God becomes ridiculous, in terms of how the World sees humility.

Pride is the vice that keeps us from reaching our potential as sons and daughters of the Father. No one approaches God without humility of mind and heart.

LOOK UP THESE REFERENCES

https://richardconlin.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/st-bernard-of-clairvaux-the-twelve-degrees-of-humility-and-pride.pdf

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/spiritual-life/the-twelve-steps-up-the-mountain-of-pride-according-to-st-bernard-of-clairvaux.html

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  • How is humility related to conversion of life from self to God?
  • Is humility something you can lose? If so, how can you sustain a level of humility to help you in your struggle against Original Sin?
  • Jesus told us to learn from Him for he is meek and humble of heart. What does that mean as you pray to God?
  • How would you describe Philippians 2:5-12 in terms of humility?
  • Is there a humility which comes from the World and humility that comes from the Spirit? What is the difference?
  • What three activities will you attempt in the next 30 days to increase the capacity for God in you and how does humility play a key role?

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SEEKING GOD IN MY BACK YARD

I must share this incident with you. Last week, we replaced an old, wooden deck with a new one. It took a long time to ask three or four contractors to give us estimates (my wife is the brains, I am just old). Last Thursday and Friday they came and tore down the old one and put up a new wooden structure.

Don’t ask me why, but this event was part of my Friday Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). It came to me that Christ came to be one of us and knew exactly what we needed to survive Original Sin, that caustic human condition that leads to death.

Here is my point. I thought of how all of us must update everything, making new from old, just like tearing out an old deck and replacing it with a new one. I can remember how the old boards were rotten and looked terrible. The rain and sun had taken their effect. I thought of how nothing in this world lasts, nothing. Original Sin is the default activity for humans, The effects of Original Sin are still with us, the human condition, even though Christ came to open up the possibility for us to live beyond our nature. Christ became one of us to give us ways to combat the effects of Original Sin (death, sin, temptation to be God, breaking the Ten Commandments, and not loving others as Christ loves us). Faith as Baptism and the Spirit from God are gifts that make us adopted sons and daughters of the Father. But there is a problem. Once we have Faith, we must live it out with free will using the gifts that God have given us to survive until we pass over to the next reality, Heaven.

I thought of the deck as wearing out with use, growing old and dying, our not taking care of it, and of the time I fell through the rotting decking (not injured). This is like Original Sin with us. To survive, Christ told us to love others as He Himself loves us. He gave us seven gifts to give us grace (the energy of God) to sustain our Faith. Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Marriage, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick. The community of Faith uses these gifts to sustain us as we journey to Forever.

On this occasion, I thought of how Christ saved us from the effects of that Original Sin of Adam and Eve but left us with a way to make all things new. This changes the paradigm from one of decay and deterioration to one of accepting that we live in the World of the effects of Original Sin but have God’s grace to help us make all things new again.

Being a Lay Cistercian means, more and more as I seek more and more humility, that I try to use the Cistercian practices and charisms to move forward from self to God. It takes work. I am not always completely successful. I still live in the state of Original Sin but I know how to recharge the batteries, to make a new deck to replace the old one. Christ is the carpenter who builds decks. He makes all things new over and over. Not that I will ever reach perfection in this lifetime, but I strive to love as Christ has loved us, over and over.

Each new day is a lifetime of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:5). I have my doubts and anxieties over that last hurdle (death) and what it is like. I also have the way, the truth, and the life to sit next to me on a park bench in the dead of Winter and tell me, “Don’t be afraid.”

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MAKE A CONTEMPLATIVE RETREAT

This coming August 19-22, 2019, (Monday through Thursday), there will be an opportunity for you to make a retreat at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Retreat Center, Conyers, Georgia. If you have been to the Monastery for a retreat, you know that silence is a big part of any contemplative retreat, yet, there is plenty of sharing of ideas through the sessions and in long walks in the woods. Couples are most welcome.

Contemplative means you take time from all the cares and woes of life to reinvigorate your inner self through silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. I have the privilege of being the retreat master for this retreat, along with a colleague, Peter Cowdrey, both of us from Good Shepherd Parish, Tallahassee, Florida.

If you have never made such a retreat, or feel the need to be energized in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the actual retreat master for all retreats, I would encourage you to do so.

Here is the description from the official brochure from the Monastery.

August 19-22 (Midweek)

The Six Questions You Must Answer Before you Die

(Michael F. Conrad, Ed. D. & Peter Cowdrey)

There is a place in all of us where we are afraid to look to find the answers to some of life’s most perplexing questions. Contemplative spirituality can help to clear away some of the cobwebs so we can have a chance to address them. These six fundamental questions are:

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

Each person may have unique answers to them. This retreat will focus on how the Christ Principle enables us to discover authentic meaning and love within us by using Cistercian practices and charisms to move from self to God.

HOW TO ATTEND THE RETREAT

You can sign up right now for this event by calling the Retreat Center at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery and ask for Brother Mark, O.C.S.O., or Patti. They will guide you through the requirements and registration.
Call (770) 760-0959. Give them the title or dates of the retreat and they will do the rest.

The website is: http://www.trappist.net/ Look up “Plan Your Visit” then click on retreats.

I send this to you in advance so you may clear your schedule, if you are called to attend this retreat. We would like to have several people from the Tallahassee area attend this retreat. Don’t wait too long to sign up for the retreat. Space is limited.

You may reach me, Michael Conrad, at my Email: conrad40@comcast.net with any questions or concerns.

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

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