WHERE ARE THOSE OLD WEDDING PICTURES, NOW?

When was the last time you looked at those old wedding pictures? Blow off the dust and take a look at them again. They transport you back to a time when you celebrated something wonderful, your marriage with each other and your reliance on Christ to help you grow in wisdom and meaning together.

Over the years, like everything in the physical and mental universes, reality rusts, gets old, has adjustments, shrinks in some values while enhancing other new ones. In marriage, you continue to grow older, but with a caveat–you do so with a significant other. The good time and bad times, sickness and health, the times you grew apart, then back together, only to repeat the cycle over and over. It is in living with the emotions and personality quirks of the other person that defines the quality of your relationship. A few quick reflections before we look at what it means to be legally married but physically and mentally divorced and five remedies.

THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC: Marriage

  • Marriage is one of the seven sacraments Christ gave us to help us grow in grace through and with each other. These gifts are ministered through the Church to help sustain you through the ups and downs of Original Sin.
  • In marriage, your ministry is to each other primarily, then to your children.
  • This ministry means you are committed to helping spouse and children to discover the purpose of life, then to identify their purpose in life.
  • Marriage means you have stability (you stay with your spouse in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death ends your vows.)
  • Marriage is a voluntary commitment, just as is Baptism.
  • Marriage is based on love, but not just any love. As a Baptized Catholic, love is defined by Christ’s loving us first. He is the norm against which we measure what love is. Love is helping each other grow in caring, respect, knowledge, and sharing, all while becoming fulfilled as a human being.
  • Like faith, love can wither on the vine if not cultivated and protected. Love needs the nourishment of Christ in the Eucharist and the elimination of waste through the forgiveness of sins.
  • Like sustaining your Faith, Marriage can grow apart through boredom, neglect, not sharing anything with your spouse, verbal, physical and spiritual abuse. I term that “Legally Married, Physically and Mentally Divorced”, based on my book of the same title.

THREE QUESTIONS

I. WHAT DO YOU SEE? When you look at those old wedding pictures, what do you see? Just write down what you see physically in as much detail as you can. Just write down what is in those wedding pictures, don’t interpret what they mean to you.

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II. WHAT DO YOU SEE? Write down how you felt during the time you first took those wedding pictures? This is the mental universe, the place you find meaning and measure your achievements against values. What were two of those values you share with your spouse about marriage? What two values did you want to have in your marriage that you could not live without? Do you still have those same two values? If not what other values have replace them? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

WHAT DO YOU SEE? When you look at those old wedding pictures this time, notice where you are now verses where you were when you got married. What is the value of the time you spent in your relationship? Where is your treasure? What part does love play in your relationship with each other. You are looking at the wedding pictures, you do so from the viewpoint of loving others as Christ has loved you. Does that make a difference in what you see?

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PRIVATE RETREAT

If you are legally married, but, when you look at your old wedding pictures, mentally and spiritually divorced, what can you do? What follows is a retreat that the both of you can make in the privacy of your home. It is contemplative because, with Christ, you can move from your old self to your new self. Remember, it takes two.

What follows is an excerpt from my book entitled, Legally Married, Mentally and Spiritually Divorced. http://www.amazon.com/books/ then type in Dr. Michael F. Conrad.

THE TWELVE GIFTS OF RELATIONSHIP

Twelve Gifts God Gives You to Help You Get to Heaven

When God gives a gift, it is not like receiving some delicious fudge at Christmas, or a pair of exquisite Steuben swans for a wedding anniversary. http:// steuben.com God gives from the depth of who God is. That gift is always given with unconditional love. Once more, God always gives us a part of who God is, as a gift. That is our template. God allows us to participate in his own energy, off-the-scale knowledge, love, and service. When you read about these twelve gifts,

THINK SPIRITUALLY! Read Galatians 5:16-26.

  • Love Joy  Peace Patience Kindness Goodness
  • Trustfulness Gentleness Self Control
  • Food for the Journey Drink for the Journey Faith, Charity, and Hope
Lesson Twelve

Make A Twelve Gifts Retreat With Each Other

You are in a marriage which is legal, but somehow your relationship leaves a lot to be desired. Right? You have just read this book which provided you with some thoughts for spiritual food. Right? You have just completed the exercises to heighten your sensory and mental awareness of relationship. Right? So, what is left? You need closure with the past, and a recommitment to the future…together. No one will be telling you what to say or how to think in this retreat. It is self-directed. My suggestion is that you take the themes on page 208 (in the book) and develop a program for your partner. Take turns being the leader.

  1. Agree to set aside some time for your spiritual development. If the children interrupt, tell them this is very important, that it is about spiritual development. Two hours minimum?
    1. Agree on a time frame in which to hold these private meetings.
    1. Each time you meet, read the two pages for each of the themes. Add your own comments. Talk to each other about the most intimate parts of your self. Remember to face

each other.

Lesson Twelve THE FIRST GIFT LOVE

Love is the first gift you will give one another…For- ever. At Christmas, you give gifts to symbolize the love that is behind it. Love may be the most important gift you give to your spouse. Share God’s love with each other.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. Look at each other, even if  it seems awkward and uncomfortable. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do so by facing each other.
  2. Talk with each other about the meaning of love. Each of you tell a story from your past that illustrates the meaning of love.
  3. Talk about physical love and intimacy, mental love and intimacy, and spiritual love and intimacy. Share what intimacy means to you.
  4. What do you want the rest of your lives together to be like? What part does love play in your vision for your future together?
  5. Look at your wedding pictures and share your feelings now, compared to when you first saw them. What has changed? Is that good or bad?
Lesson Twelve

Your Very First Meeting

Share the love that leads to authentic relationship.

Without trying to sound too simplistic, the relationship is doing activities together. It means sharing your- self with another person, in this case, your spouse. It means facing your spouse and talking together. This relationship is different from that of you and your children. If you are legally married, you can also be sexually distant, yet still, be spiritually united. You can be mentally and spiritually joined together, yet have little or no sexual intercourse. You can be romantic without having to perform sexual intercourse. Most importantly, you can have sexual contact, using all your senses and your mind, and still not experience the physical act of intercourse. What is essential is love that leads to a relationship. Your norm in finding authentic love is the love that God has for each of us. Read John 3:15-21 together. What does love mean in terms of your relationship? Spirituality helps you grow towards each other by sharing the gift of love. You only have the gift of love because God saw fit to share it with both of you. God shares, not from the excess of love, but from the very center of who God is. That love is pure energy.

Lesson Twelve THE SECOND GIFT JOY

Joy is the second gift you will share with one another. At Christmas you give gifts to symbolize the love that is behind it. Giving produces great joy. Sharing joy with your family is what life is all about on earth, but also in Heaven. You can share joy together every day.

DISCUSSION:

  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other.
  2. Talk with each other about what gives you great joy.
  3. Talk about your relationship and how giving joy to your spouse make you feel.
  4. What do you want the rest of your lives together to be like? If you don’t have joy together because you are legally married, but mental and spiritually divorced, how do you change that?
  5. Make a pledge to each other to do things together, such as taking walks, and cooking together. Facing each other produces great joy.

Lesson Twelve  Your Second Meeting Just Being There.

Because Josh couldn’t stand his wife’s nagging about his personal habits, he gradually became alienated in his affections towards Beth. Both Josh and Beth were like their parents. Josh’s father was easy going and slow to anger. Beth was like her mother, tactless, opinionated, and a faultfinder. They both did well for the first three years of marriage, but the last twenty were without job, without sex, and without hope. Josh would read his Scriptures every day. That did not seem to help his situation, but he never gave us hope. He did not believe in divorce, and Beth was too insecure to want a separation, despite her pseudo bravado. As the years rolled by, including the birth of two children, Beth began to mellow a little. In everyone’s life, there is a critical moment that can lead to a dramatic change in behavior. Beth and Josh attended a Marriage Encounter retreat at their church. It was the first time they had faced each other in years. They accepted the opportunity to share with each other. This retreat turned them towards each other. They began to listen without fault-finding.

Lesson Twelve THE THIRD GIFT PEACE

Peace is the third gift you will share with one another. Peace does not only mean you know how to hold your temper when you are aggravated.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other about what gives you the gift of spiritual peace.
  3. Talk about your relationship and how it feels to experience the peace of The Master within you.
  4. Share the peace of The Master with each other. You can give the peace of The Master to your spouse only when you, yourself have received it from God. How does this peace change how to solve conflicts of ideas?
  5. Make a pledge to each other to enhance this spiritual peace and make it flourish. This is the peace that will dissolve your legally married, but mentally and spiritually divorced relationship. It does not happen overnight, but it will happen.
Lesson Twelve

Your Third Meeting

Use the energy of God’s peace to face each other mentally and spiritually.

Peace is not just the absence of conflict or war, as darkness is the absence of light. Rather, peace is a gift that provides sustenance and the ability to gain perspective over your life. Peace is a gift that causes you to face God, your spouse, your family, and most importantly, yourself. When you empty yourself of hatred, jealousy, envy, lust, mean-spirited, self-indulgence, fill the vacuum with the gift of peace. For spiritual relationships, peace is the gift of God’s own energy to fill the darkness of your animality. On a human level, you can have peace, which is the lack of stress, or the absence of conflict, but it is not the same as spiritual peace. When God gives you a gift, it does something wonderful within you both, and between you. God is pure energy. That means the power of God is available for you to help you face each other. What may be difficult on the human level is possible on the spiritual level. Did you understand that statement? You can be living independent lives, yet still, be facing each other mentally and spiritually. That is much different than being legally married, yet mentally and spiritually divorced.

Lesson Twelve

THE FOURTH GIFT

PATIENCE

Patience is the fourth gift you will share with one another. Patience means you can control yourself, when faced with a stressful situation.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other about what gives you the gift of spiritual patience.
  3. Talk about your relationship and how it feels to experience the patience of The Master within you.
  4. Share the patience of The Master with each other. You can give the patience of The Master to your spouse only when you, yourself have first received it from God. How does patience solve conflicts of ideas? It does so by giving you perspective over your anger.
  5. Make a pledge to each other to enhance this spiritual patience the next time you get angry.
Lesson Twelve

Your Fourth Meeting

You are not your spouse.

One of the great lessons of human relationship is to let each other be themselves. You are not your wife, and you are not your husband. You are not your children, and you are not your parents. Identifying who you are is the first step of facing each other. Do you want to make your spouse into your image and likeness? If so, you will no doubt be legally married, but mentally and spiritually divorced. If you have a need for control, you must let go of making your spouse into your image and likeness. You will feel the tension and pull, as your significant other resists the pressures to conform to what you think they should be. The results may show up in an alienation of affection, or a lack of being able to live together. You still love the person, but inexplicably, don’t want them to touch you. You shy away when they touch you. Perhaps just ten minutes before, your spouse told you that “You are something. I can’t stand to look at you.” Then ten minutes later, your partner wants to sit on your lap. Do you notice a bizarre pattern of love and hate? What allows you to continue in your relationship without mental or physical abuse is patience?

Lesson Twelve

THE FIFTH GIFT

KINDNESS

Kindness is the fifth gift you will share with one another. Kindness means you can control yourself when faced with a stressful situation.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other about what gives you the gift of spiritual kindness. Bring God’s kindness into the picture and you will enhance your own relationship with a spouse, family, and even strangers.
  3. Talk about your relationship and how it feels to experience the kindness The Master had for each of you.
  4. Make a pledge to each other to be kind to each other. Kindness will refresh your tired relationship. Set a goal to do a small act of kindness each week for your spouse, your children, and those at work. Small acts of kindness make a huge impact.
Lesson Twelve

Your Fifth Meeting

Anticipation is the key to renewing relationships.

Being kind to your spouse is a gift. Being kind means that you anticipate the needs of each other. For example, when you bring home TCBY treats, and your wife says, “You didn’t have to do that. That is so thoughtful!” You can say, “I know I don’t have to do it, but that is what love is all about.” Central to understanding kindness is realizing the needs of your spouse, your family, and even those with whom you have no ties of direct relationship. Our model is The Master. He does not know us, yet he gave up his life so that we might join the Father in Heaven. That is unconditional kindness! That is unconditional love! What does God get out of the relationship with us? God is pleased when we humans discover how his creation makes sense, and how we fit into it. We fit into God’s plan, not the other way around, don’t you think? God anticipated our needs by sending his only Son, The Master. Read Philippians 2:5-12.

When you are kind, because of the kindness that God has bestowed on us, you can take everything you do and think to Heaven with you. You have linked the Kingdom of Heaven on earth with the one in Heaven.

Lesson Twelve

THE SIXTH GIFT

GOODNESS

Goodness is the sixth gift you will share with one another. Goodness is the gift from God that enables you to view your partner with fresh eyes.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other about what gives you the gift of spiritual goodness. What makes a person good? Does God have anything to do with helping you become good?
  3. Talk about your relationship and how it feels to experience the goodness with which The Master has filled you.
  4. Make a pledge to each other to be good to each other. Make an effort to learn the center of your spouse and your children. Goodness comes from God, through the Master. Through you, you pass it to your

spouse and your family. Goodness creates a ripple effect. It permeates your thinking, helping you maintain your Center.

Your Sixth Meeting

Walk with each other towards a common goal.

Being good to your spouse is a gift. Goodness exists in the eye of the beholder. There is a saying about communications from St. Thomas Aquinas that goes, “Whatever is received, is received according to the disposition of the recipient.” Applied to goodness as a gift from God to you both, it means you must determine what goodness is. You can only do that by communicating with each other about the deepest parts of your feelings. You can only communication your deepest feelings when you face each other. Being legally married, but mentally and spiritually divorced means you DO NOT face each other. You go along in life as though you and your spouse are going in opposite directions. When you use the gift of goodness, you communicate to your spouse that you want to walk with him or her towards the goal of eternal life together, and not go in opposite directions. Your path in life is different from your spouse. You can choose to walk in the same direction, hopefully, to share your centers with each other. Goodness helps you to learn from each other. A good heart can see the footprints of God.

Lesson Twelve

THE SEVENTH GIFT

TRUSTFULNESS

Trustfulness is the seventh gift you will share with one another. Trustfulness is the gift from God that enables you to relax, knowing that your spouse is truthful.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other about what gives you the gift of spiritual trustfulness. What makes a person trustful? Does God have anything to do with helping you become trustful?
  3. Talk about your relationship and how it feels to experience the trustfulness with which The Master has filled you.
  4. Make a pledge to each other to be faithful to each other. Make an effort to learn the center of your spouse, and your children. The ability to trust comes from God, through the Master. It is because The Master trusts both of you to help each other get to Heaven, that you can enjoy the trustfulness that comes from  sharing spiritually.
Lesson Twelve

Your Seventh Meeting

Trust means you believe that your spouse will keep their promise to you.

Trustfulness in a relationship means you believe that the words to you from someone else are true. Your marriage vows are not just a pledge for the moment, but the basis for a contract. You pledge to be faithful to each other, to help each other in sickness and in health, until death due you part.  Being legally married, but mentally and spiritually divorced is a death of sorts, the slow death of a relationship. You can live together in this state of death, but why would you want to do so? Some spouses make an accommodation that they lead separate lives, which means they have other sexual experiences outside of their marriage contract. They can rationalize that they can’t have sexual intercourse or romance inside their relationship, so they will get it from people outside of their legal marriage. Remember the story of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy? If you are trustworthy inside side your relationship, then you will be truthful with other external relationships. God trusts you to be truthful with yourselves and not experiment with other primary relationships. You can love other men and women, but not in the same way as your spouse.

Lesson Twelve

THE EIGHTH GIFT

GENTLENESS

Gentleness is the eighth gift you will share with one another. Gentleness is the gift from God that enables you to respect your spouse and family members.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other about what gives you the gift of spiritual gentleness. What makes God gentle? Does God have anything to do with you becoming gentle? Read Matthew 11:29-30.
  3. Talk about your relationship and what being gentle with each other means.
  4. Make a pledge to be gentle in your relationship with each other. Make an effort to learn the center of your spouse and your children. Be gentle with your loved ones as God is gentle with you. Gentleness means forgiveness.
Lesson Twelve

Your Eighth Meeting

Gentleness is a sensitivity to how your partner feels.

Forgiveness is intimately bound up with relationship. We are bid to forgive others as God forgives us. Gentle- ness comes from a willingness to be sensitive to how your partner feels.

Carline had a mental dysfunction which caused her to rage uncontrollably when certain topics were brought up, such as her husband’s weight, or their finances. Carline and her husband, Josh, were polar opposites, when it came to an agreement on most subjects. Josh knew that Carline had problems controlling her temper, but he thought he could control herself. He was wrong. Josh was a gentle man, slow to anger and quick to forgive. Carline was a thoughtful person on the surface, but her dark side could pop up at any time, especially when the hot button topics were raised. For twenty years of marriage, Josh stayed married to Carline, He survived by walking away when she was screaming at him. When he returned five minutes later, it was as though Carline was a different person. He used his gentleness as a strength to help make peace.

Lesson Twelve

THE NINTH GIFT

SELF CONTROL

Self-control is the ninth gift you will share with one another. Self-control is the gift from God that enables you to love each other unconditionally.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other about what gives you the gift of spiritual self-control. What makes a person able to focus on the needs of the other? Have you told each other that you continue to love each other? Read Galatians 5:16-26.
  3. Talk about your relationship and what the next phase of your relationship will be. What you do want it to be?
  4. Make a pledge to each other to focus on giving each other as much love as possible. What God expects of you should be what you give to each other. Read Matthew 22:34-40. What does it mean to love each other unconditionally, knowing that you are imperfect?
Lesson Twelve

Your Ninth Meeting

Self-control means you desire to give your spouse as

much physical, mental, and spiritual pleasure as possible.

Here are some ideas that will challenge your assumptions about controlling your sexual urges. Think of self- control as focusing your attention span, so that you give your spouse the most intense physical pleasure within your power to perform. This is not only the act of intercourse, but, more importantly, the infinite range of sexual and emotional experiences tied to sexual feelings. Explore together what these feeling mean. It is another way of saying that you not only face each other, but also control your urge to do less than your maximum efforts, when giving your partner sexual stimulation. The same idea goes for mental, as well as spiritual intimacy. By now, you may have seen a pattern emerging. Two people who face each other will not be legally married, but mentally and spiritually divorced. They may have difficulties, but they care for each other. Sexual intercourse is not the purpose of life. You can live without sexual intercourse, but you cannot exist without sexual intimacy. Do you see the difference? A spiritual person is not one who denies sexuality but seeks to fulfill their partner without limits.

Lesson Twelve

THE TENTH GIFT

FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY

Food for the journey is the tenth gift you will share with one another. This food is the gift from God that enables you to sustain your relationship through times of famine and spiritual depression.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other about what sustains you in times of trouble in your relationship. If you are legally married, but mentally and spiritually divorced, are you incapable of taking the nourishment to give you the strength to re-establish your to face each other. Read John 6:32-40.
  3. Physical food brings you together. Mental food nourishes your minds when you feed each other meaning and fulfillment. Spiritual food is eating the very energy of The Master, not just metaphorically, but in spirit and truth.
Lesson Twelve

Your Tenth Meeting

Where can you find the spiritual food come down from Heaven?

Ask each other where you can find this spiritual food that will sustain you in your common relationship and provide you with nourishment for the journey to

…Forever? The answer is right in front of you, although you may not see it. Read John 6:52-58. If you are parents, do you not feed your children and provide for them? If you are parents, do you not show your children what will nourish their bodies, just a mother polar bear teaches her cubs to hunt? Food nourishes the body and makes it strong. Without some form of food, you will surely die. Spiritual food, which is God’s own energy and power, nourishes your spirit. Without this food, your spiritual life will surely die. The Holy Spirit is the energy, or pure love, between The Father and The Master, His Son. You can share in that pure-energy, but only to the extent that you prepare yourself through faith, hope, and love. Spiritual faith is the heart that pumps God’s own life-giving blood through your veins. You can have faith as to move mountains, but if you do not have love, your spiritual muscles atrophy. Read I Corinthians 13. You must eat to grow. You must grow to get to Heaven.

230                     The Twelve Gifts of Relationship

Lesson Twelve

THE ELEVENTH GIFT

DRINK FOR THE JOURNEY

Drink is the eleventh gift you will share with one another. The spiritual drink is the gift from God that enables you to receive God’s own energy.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other. What gives you the  gift of spiritual energy? What is this drink that comes from God, and where can you get it?
  3. Talk about your relationship and what being one with The Master means. Do you help each other attain the purpose for which all humans exist–to know, love, and serve God, and to be happy with God in Heaven?
  4. Make a pledge to help each other be spiritually alive through the drink that gives eternal life, now, and in the life to come. It is the true “pause that refreshes.”

The Twelve Gifts of Relationship

Lesson Twelve

Your Eleventh Meeting

You need a spiritual drink to sustain your relationship,

not only with God but with each other.

231

You need spiritual drink to sustain your relationship with God. You need spiritual drink to refresh tired re- lationship with your spouse and your family. Spiritual drink take the appearance of ordinary looking wine at Eucharist. As part of the bigger picture, it is the very life’s blood of the Master, made present today, every day. When you drink this blood and eat this flesh, you have life in you. We are not talking cannibalism here, as some of the nonbelievers tell you, but rather the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Just imagine! The greatest gift The Master gave to the Father was himself, to allow us to make the jump to Heaven. When we join with that same Master, we too can approach the Father with that same gift from the Son. This gift is without time or space since it exists in Heaven. Humans cannot approach the Father directly. The brilliance of that pure energy would fry our puny minds. We tag along, so to speak, with The Master. Read John 17. We are destined to be with God in Heaven.

Spiritual drink allows you to exist in the presence of pure energy, and pure love…Forever.

Lesson Twelve

THE TWELFTH GIFT

FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY

The virtues of faith, hope, and love are the twelfth gift you will share with one another. Faith, hope, and love are gifts from God that provide you with the core principles for helping each other get to Heaven.

DISCUSSION:
  1. Face each other. If you want to revitalize your marriage relationship, you can only do that by facing each other mentally, as well as spiritually.
  2. Talk with each other about the these gifts from God. How does faith help you? When you are down and depressed, how can faith, hope, and love help you? What can you do to help your spouse walk through the dark times? Think about whose faith, hope, and love you bring into your relationship. What effect will it have on you?
  3. Talk about your relationship and how faith, hope, and love can help you remain centered.
  4. Make a pledge to each other to increase faith in each other, expand hope in the future, and seal it with love, as a sign of your relationship.

Lesson Twelve

Your Twelfth Meeting

Faith, Hope and Love are core energies flowing from God’s own Center.

To help you help your spouse and loved ones get to Heaven, God gives us what we need for the trip. When God gives a gift, it is for a purpose. Gifts from God are pure energy, totally 100% of God’s nature. Humans re- ceive these gifts according to their individual capacity to know, love, and serve God in this life. The reward? Life with God together…Forever. Now THAT’S a gift worth having. But, it comes at a price.

FAITH-– Faith comes in two parts, as befits any relationship. First, God accepts you as his adopted son or daughter through a covenant agreement, usu- ally through a faith community. Secondly, you accept God as Father, the Son as Savior, and the Holy Spirit as Advocate.

HOPE — Hope is the trust for the future, that the words told to you by the Master are true. Others can say that there is no Heaven. You can only say, “I hope so!” Remember, this is not human faith, but the gift of Hope that comes from sharing God’s life. You must have Faith, to have Hope. You must have Charity to show love.

LOVE — Love is the product of faith and the recogni- tion that you hope in the Master’s promise. Read that promise in John 11:25-26.

LEARNING POINTS
  1. There are twelve gifts of relationship that can help you move from being legally married, but mentally and spiritually divorced toward healing your lives with the help of God’s power.
  • You can share these gifts with each other, as God has shared them with you.
  • Gifts from God are energy to help sustain your spiritual dimension.
  • Gifts from God are not passive, but active. God is 100% of his nature, which is divine, for lack of a better word. When these gifts from God pervade your spirit, the Spirit infuses you with the power out of this world, quite literally. It is the only power that can turn around a couple who are legally married but mentally and spiritually divorced.
  • You both related to God when you share these gifts with each other. To do so, you must have hope that the words spoken by The Master are true. Read John 17.

FIVE QUESTIONS YOU NEED TO ASK YOURSELVES AND, OF COURSE, ANSWER

  1. Are you the same person now as you were when those wedding pictures were taken? If there is no change, you have not grown at all. If you did grow, what how are you different now than when you made your wedding vows.
  2. Do you do things of significance to your spouse together, or, do you lead separate but equal lives? What difference does that make?
  3. Are you legally married, but mentally and spiritually divorced? How would you rate your spiritual awareness? Do you help your spouse to be spiritually alive?
  4. Do you still remember those vows you took with each other? To have and to hold; in sickness and in health; until death do us part. Well, do you hold each other? Do you give your partner sexual intimacy as part of love? Do you feel bad, not complete, when you are not with your partner?
  5. If you are legally married, but find yourself mentally and spiritually divorced, what are your options? Do you know how to fix this? Do you want to fix it? What role does Christ play in you loving your spouse as Christ loves you?

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BLUE SKYS

Here is a story that brings to mind all kinds of spiritual linkages. It is one that I heard from my wife, a true story that is happening in our days. When meditating on Philippians 2:5, this blue sky story led me to places heretofore outside of my boundaries of thought.

BLUE SKY

When my wife returned to South Korea to visit her family and take care of some family business, she related to me that there were many days in which the Sun never appeared and there were no blue skies. The reason was the particulates in the air from all the pollution that came from industrial factories in South Korea but mostly from China. Imagine not having control over normal weather patterns. People must wear masks, there is a high degree of frustration over not being able to see blue skies.

Whenever I see a blue sky in Florida, which is frequently, I always comment on how beautiful it looks, how much we appreciate being able to breathe without wearing a mask. I don’t take for granted the color blue.

SEEKING GOD IN NATURE

Blue sky offer me the opportunity to say thank you to God for all the blessings of nature: blue sky, green trees, and shrubs, the way the golden sun hits those same trees every day on the way to Eucharist. I am reminded of the Canticle of Daniel 3:57-88,

61All you powers, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

62Sun and moon, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

63Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

64Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

65All you winds, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

66Fire and heat, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

67Cold and chill, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

68Dew and rain, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

69Frost and chill, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

70Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

71Nights and days, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

72Light and darkness, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

73Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

74Let the earth bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

75Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

76Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

77You springs, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

78Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

79You sea monsters and all water creatures, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

80All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

81All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

82All you mortals, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

83O Israel, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

84Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

85Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

86Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

87Holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

88Hananiah, 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.

89Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,

whose mercy endures forever.

When you think about this Canticle of David, it doesn’t make sense according to how the World thinks. How can the sun and moon bless the Lord? They are not alive. How can ice and snow bless the Lord? They don’t have the ability to reason or to choose what is meaningful. Yet, all creation can bless the Lord by being what it was created to be. Humans were created in the image and likeness of God, yet, with the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, it took Christ becoming human to re-establish the linkage between God and humans once more. Nature provides humans with a pathway to link the World and the Spirit together. Not taking for granted the Blue sky, when they remind us of God, become instruments for us to find meaning. Nature is a pathway to God, when linked to the source of all reality, God. Only humans can be transformers of reality from the profane to the sacred.

Next time you look at the blue sky, praise God.

St. Benedict tells us, “that in all things, may God be glorified.”

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CONCENTRATED ORANGE JUICE

Try to drink this cup of the Mystery of Faith! It is like concentrated orange juice–very tasty but strong. I had to address this in one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5). I warn you, this is way out there (out there is okay as long as it is tethered to Christ). Hold on to your parachute!

THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC

There may be something out there called dark matter and dark energy. Science is still trying to prove this. This is energy in the physical universe that has matter, energy, time and all of us. It is the platform in which we discover that we know that we know. It is the only place we know of where humans exist. It is the only place we know of where we can choose good or bad for us and be free to do so. It is where we find purpose. The mental universe allows us to pass to the next level of existence, the spiritual universe but only with an invitation by God (baptism).

All reality has polarity (north and south, good and evil, male and female) If there is actually dark matter, it is logical that there may be something out there called white matter. It exists, but only in the spiritual universe as the pole with the physical universe. The mental universe is the synthesis between the two, mediating the transfer from one universe to another (think of wormhole). White matter has it own set of measurements that is the opposite of the physical universe. This is called the sign of contradiction and a way for humans to begin to understand the Mystery of Faith. White matter can only be approached, not captured or understood, by evolving collective reasoning of all human time. To access white matter, the Supreme Being (God) invites us to share in the fullness of what it means to be human. White matter is pure energy, pure, love, pure service (know, love, and serve God). This pure energy is God’s playground, not ours. We only know how to play there by the example of Christ (Philippians 2:5) to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him. Earth is where we learn to love others as Christ loves us. Heaven is a component of the Mystery of Faith that exists only in the now, not the past or future. To make that jump, we need the help of God with Christ as our navigator (the way, the truth, and the life). We can catch a glimps of white matter in the Baptism and Transfiguration of Christ. The Ascension of Christ is the human body taken through a wormhole from our physical, mental and spiritual universes to the pure energy or white energy of what is.

The problem for humans is our human senses, our emotions, our reasoning, even our Faith, is tainted by Original Sin. Christ came to show us how to act in such a way that we can survive whatever containment field God has created for those who love him (St. Paul). No one can look on the face of God. It is only with, through, and in Christ, that we can approach God, based on how much we are one with Christ. The Church is simply the multi-generational vehicle that spans generations to keep us focused on Christ as Lord of all and the way, the truth, and the life.

Our purpose in life is not to make money, gain fame, notoriety, power over others, but rather to be Christ for those in need. St. Benedict, in Chapter 4 says for us to: “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way. The love of Christ must come before all else.” We become what we place at our center. Behavior proceeds from what lies at the center of your being. Lay Cistercian spirituality is all about placing your heart next to the heart of Christ, and, in silence and solitude, listening. You become what you love. You share being with Being. You decrease and God increases. You fulfill your destiny prepared for you from the first Big Bang.

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

THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC

Prayer is lifting up the heart and mind to God.

Prayer is listening to what God says and who God is.

The heart is the destination of prayer.

The mind opens the door of the heart. We must all have in us the mind of Christ Jesus–the key.

Each person must turn the key for him or herself.

The Church provides the opportunity to approach the door.

Christ will not turn the key for you. You must ask for help to turn the key.

The heart of Christ helps you turn the key with love, God’s love.

Christ tells us what is on the other side of the door (death). It is God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

THE SIXTY SECOND CATHOLIC

As someone who has professed faith in Christ Jesus:

Do you mean what you say?

Do you mean what you pray?

When was the last time you were present before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration?

Is your spiritual attention span over ten seconds?

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THE POLITICS OF HATRED

Do you remember the late Sen Ted Kennedy and Sen. Alan Simpson, (R-Wyoming) debate in the early 1990s?  https://jfk.blogs.archives.gov/2018/09/24/facing-off-senator-ted-kennedy-debates-his-republican-colleagues/?subscribe=success#blog_subscription-5

Now, the era of civility in politics is out the door. Respect for the office of President is lacking among lawmakers. Oh, did you look up the latest approval rating for Congress? You won’t believe it. It is for sure that Congress does not believe it, or just doesn’t care. The only thing both parties want is to show how they can hate each other, block judicial nominees, and sabotage the agenda from the other side. Usually, I don’t interfere in the political process, but I have five recommendations to combat the politics of hatred.

  1. Don’t vote for anyone who supports hatred, calumny, and detraction coming from candidates.
  2. Don’t support anyone who wants to disrespect the right of people to choose whatever religion they want.
  3. Don’t choose someone who is a socialist or elitist, one-issue politician.
  4. Don’t vote for people who want to spend money they don’t have.
  5. Don’t vote for anyone against the military.

MAKE A CONTEMPLATIVE RETREAT

Making a retreat is one of those events where there are a thousand reasons not to go but only one good one to go– to grow in the capacity to move from self to God. Movement is a sign you are alive. You can be physically and mentally alive but spiritually lethargic or even dead. One thing about the spiritual dimension in each of us is that we live in a physical body inhabited by reason and the ability to choose what is good for us. Grace builds on nature. As such, we can take our spiritual temperature to see if we are just coasting down the road of life or really engaged in the trip and enjoying the scenery. What we do and say OR DON’T DO OR SAY betrays our spiritual dimension. If you remember, we have the occasion to reflect on this at the beginning of the Eucharist when we say the prayer of penance to ask forgiveness for our sluggish approach to God and our neighbor.

Penitential Act Form A (Confiteor)

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

or, Form B

PRIEST: Have mercy on us, O Lord. PEOPLE: For we have sinned against you. PRIEST: Show us, O Lord, your mercy. PEOPLE: And grant us your salvation. or Form C PRIEST: Lord, have mercy. PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy. PRIEST: Christ, have mercy. PEOPLE: Christ, have mercy. PRIEST: Lord, have mercy. PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy.

(The Latin Form is)

PRIEST: Kyrie, Eleison. PEOPLE: Kyrie, Eleison. PRIEST: Christe, Eleison. PEOPLE: Christe, Eleison. PRIEST: Kyrie, Eleison. PEOPLE: Kyrie, Eleison.

http://www.catholictv.org/mass-prayers-responses

Having a penitential mindset is very important because it is something not natural to our spiritual thinking. This simple reminder of who we are in relation to God and how we are what we are because we long to sit next to the heart of Christ and just be there is a definition of love. We are not perfect but Christ is perfect. We are bid to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. That is impossible because we are only human and not God, but Christ became one of us (human) so that we can at least approach the Father through, with, and in Him.

A PENITENTIAL RETREAT

Contemplative retreats stress long periods of silence and solitude. All retreats are penitential, in that we withdrawal from the World so that we can come apart and rest awhile. This past week, August 19-22, 2019, to be exact, a group of us traveled to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia (near Atlanta) to spend some time with Jesus in contemplating how to grow and move more towards Christ and away from the World.

The topic of our focus was, of course, how Christ can increase and I can decrease. The book we used was called THE PLACE WHERE NO ONE WANTS TO LOOK: Six Questions humans must ask and answer before they die. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=The+Place+No+ONe+Wants+to+Look&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss These six questions are the foundation of spirituality (grace builds on nature). Christ has answered them in his behaviors, in teaching us how to love others as He loves us. This retreat presents some ideas about Christ’s love for us and then we listen.

A SIN FIXATION OR CHRIST FIXATION

Many of us grew up knowing a lot about what is a sin or isn’t. There might be a tendency to see our Catholic Faith as only conformity to rules. There is that aspect to it but it is by no means the core or center of spirituality. The core is “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Being a professed Lay Cistercian, I try to do things and think things that bring me into the presence of the Mystery of Faith and ask God for enlightenment. It is a daily struggle to overcome the notion that I am not “sin-centered” but rather an adopted son of the Father who needs Christ to help me transform myself from the way the World thinks to God’s will. Penance, in this context, is putting humility where there is pride; Chastity where there is Lust; Love where there is hatred. I ask you to take some time and look at Bishop Barron’s talk on seven deadly sins and seven lively virtues. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wG4VF0jU568

WALKING ON MOLASSES

A Monastic retreat is one where everything slows down. The prayers of the monks in choir (chanted first on one side then the other) are much slower than in the parish. This gives us time to actually focus on what is being said. One lady said it was like walking on molasses.

Coupled with the ambience produced by silence and solitude, the effects are quite astonishing. You must experience it to actually appreciate how it feels.

CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER

Father Cassian, O.C.S.O., a Trappist monk, shared with us some thoughts about contemplation and prayer. He used the Catechism of the Church to pull out some ideas, which we discussed. I have the complete handout he gave us so that you could read what we talked about. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p4s1c3a1.htm

The Catholic Catechism is one of the best resources I have found for study and meditation. I would never have guessed that. Here is an answer to the question, “What is contemplation?”

III. CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER

2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”6 Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.”7 It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself.

2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. The heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty ant in faith.

2711 Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we “gather up:” the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed.

2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.8 But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son.

2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.9 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”

2714 Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit “that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith” and we may be “grounded in love.”10

2715 Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the “interior knowledge of our Lord,” the more to love him and follow him.11

2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the “Yes” of the Son become servant and the Fiat of God’s lowly handmaid.

2717 Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come”12 or “silent love.”13 Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.

2718 Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. The mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.

2719 Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb – the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not “the flesh [which] is weak”) brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to “keep watch with [him] one hour.”14

IN BRIEF

2720 The Church invites the faithful to regular prayer: daily prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, Sunday Eucharist, the feasts of the liturgical year.

2721 The Christian tradition comprises three major expressions of the life of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer. They have in common the recollection of the heart.

2722 Vocal prayer, founded on the union of body and soul in human nature, associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart, following Christ’s example of praying to his Father and teaching the Our Father to his disciples.

2723 Meditation is a prayerful quest engaging thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. Its goal is to make our own in faith the subject considered, by confronting it with the reality of our own life.

2724 Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery.”

If you have not done so, plan to make a contemplative retreat at the Monastic Retreat House. http://www.trappist.net

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JOIN THE SCHOOL OF LOVE

St. Benedict composes a Rule (d. 649 A.D.) to organize monks into forming a school for charity (love) in which they can move from the false self to the true self. What follows is an excerpt from my book on Learning How to Love.

God the Father creates a platform for humans to survive. The purpose is to learn how to love with all our minds, all our hearts, and all our strength and love our neighbor as ourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36) Christ came to show us what that meant by becoming one of us (Philippians 2:5-12) to the extent of voluntarily giving up his life to save us. He left the Church in the hands of sinners and saints and trusted it to preserve the message of loving one another as He has loved us. If the Scriptures are God’s love letters to us, then the Church is a school to learn how to love as Christ loves us.

PREMISE: We need to attend a school of love to learn how to love as Jesus loved us. I could not address the meaning of love without mentioning St. Benedict and his school of love or charity. It would be foolish indeed to attempt to start my own School of Love when there has been one well before St. Benedict of Nursia wrote his Rule (c.540 A.D.) to develop practices to organize the monks of his day. To help them learn how to love. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Monte-Cassino. http://www.osb.org/rb/text/rbejms1.html#pro

I am not advocating setting up an competing program to what is already going on in the parish community. I do suggest that you look at offering the opportunity for people to learn the contemplative approach to prayer, based on St. Benedict’s Rule. This does have to be a special meeting or weekly prayer group, such as Centering Prayer. Just sit down together and ask how you can practice being silent and with solitude using the practices you have.

If you begin with something, I suggest you try to read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day for thirty days, then think about what you read for ten or fifteen minutes.

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 only to realize they are beyond mastery in this lifetime, but not in the next, and that you may approach them only when you love others as Christ loved you. Each day is a lifetime in this school. Conversion from your false self to your true self is the curriculum. There is no graduation. Christ is the only Master. His only command: love one another as I have loved you. This is a School of Spiritual Love where you practice the art of loving.

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 intense focus on contemplative prayers and practices (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community), adapting the Rule of Benedict to each new generation. This is the same school that comes down to us today practicing same horaria, traditions, writings, wisdom, temptations, and graces in each age. It is an unbroken, 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. x 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.
  • Joy is the product of loving as Christ loved us, it does not come before loving others but is the result of our loving others. This book is a journaling retreat about how to love spiritually. I call it loving fiercely. It is only by doing spirituality in contemplation and with others that you enter the school for loving spiritually. It is what you do with the rest of your life as you learn these practices and the charisms of humility, obedience to God’s will and not your own, hospitality, that sitting next to Christ on a park bench in the dead of winter and longing to see Him with all your mind, all your heart, and your strength that will sustain you daily 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, i.e., 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.
  • The 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.

LOVE: WHY DO HUMANS HAVE LOVE AND ANIMALS DON’T?

Animals don’t love, at least not human love that requires reason and free choice. They do have affection and respond to attention (and food). Humans, if you accept the premise that Erich Fromm suggests, that we are not born with love but must learn it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Loving Where we get that love and how we apply in throughout our life has consequences. We call those moral choices. The World (physical and mental universes) sets forth some of the conditions of love: unconditional love, giving one’s life for another, sharing, respect, knowledge, presence, and giving. All of this is good and noble. Can we just love each other, in a good sense, without God? Yes, we can, but with a caveat. We are created by one who loved us, we are here for a purpose, we fulfill that purpose by loving others. Here is the caveat. We don’t move to the next level of maturation (I would say evolution but that has so much negative baggage associated with it), the spiritual universe, automatically. We must choose it freely. Not only that, but we must sustain it against the corruption of the World (Original Sin). For those who place God as their center of reality, there is the realization that we need help to fulfill our destiny as a human being. The Old Testament was written down to tell us what was authentic and what God wanted us to know. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old by showing us how to love as Christ loved us. We know love, in the fullest sense, by doing what Christ taught us. This is not just a way of life-based on how much you know, but how that knowledge opens your heart to all being. The School of Love helps provide direction, focus, sustainability, sharing, respect for each other, helping each other to grow in Christ, using contemplative practices to grow from self to God.

A danger in all this is that we focus on the School of Love as an endpoint of our actions. The School of Love is a means to an end. The end is love and we continue to learn the meaning of love through, with, and in Christ. God is love. The School of Love is an organized way to remind ourselves that we must love as Christ loved us. We are not assigned to a dark closet where we pray all day. Love is doing for others as Christ did for us. (Matthew 25:40 ff) The School of Love is where we find good soil in which to grow in Christ Jesus. It is the seminarium, greenhouse, where the tender young shoots can sprout and give their produce. A monastery is a particular setting for such a school, but more generic setting is all that is outside of the cloister. The principles are the same for both but the applications are much different.

WHAT DOES A SCHOOL OF LOVE DO?

  • A School of Love has a set of practices that followers do together in order to increase the “capacitas dei” (the capacity for God) inside each person.
  • A School for Love teaches by doing love for others as Christ loved us.
  • A School for Love is organizing members to be present to God so that they can listen to the heart of Christ in silence and solitude. This is the contemplative dimension of spirituality. It is
  • A School of Love in the parish or for Lay Cistercians, is not a building, although you may hold activities in the parish hall.
  • For monastery, the School of Love is the physical boundary of the cloister. If you are a Lay Cistercian or practicing Catholic, your boundary is the whole world, in general, and your immediate space around you, in particular as lived out in the context of a community of faith.
  • The Rule of St. Benedict provides monks with a time-tested approach to the School of Love with the Abbot or Abbess as the representative of Christ. In the parish, the pastor is the representative of Christ who shepherd the sheep to find green grass and water for their sustenance.
  • One of the big challenges (another word for problems) we face is not only telling our young, our newly professed Catholics, each member of the Body of Christ, what love is, but allowing them to influence each other with that same love and peace that comes from Christ. The Church is the mind is knowledge; the Church of the heart is love. Both of these dimensions must be present for a community of faith to move forward. Christ is the fuel, the energy, the motivation to become more like God and less like your false self.
  • The School of Love already exists. It is the local Church (the parish), it is the diocese (groups of local Churches under the authority of a Bishop), it is the Church Universal under the authority of the Holy Father, it is the Body of Christ (those still living on earth, those living in Heaven, those awaiting their purification).
  • At the heart of the School of Love is Christ. How we organize that love so that we can share it with Christ are the practices of Eucharist, Forgiveness of Sins, Penance, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, Rosary and other private prayers, Lectio Divina. We do that as individuals in the context of a community of Faith. This is called contemplative prayer, which we will explore in the section on prayer.
  • In Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, he provides a checklist of those things that each of us must DO to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Each day, I pray Chapter 4 in the hopes that I can become what I pray. Some days are better than others. This is a good examination of conscience at the end of the day to determine if you did what you said you were going to do.
  • The School of Love teaches us to grow in our capacity to hold Christ in our hearts. He must increase, I must decrease. I don’t do this alone, but I do it as an individual who is part of the community of faith, even when I seek God in silence and solitude.

If you wish to explore this topic more thoroughly, look up the following URLs.

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SLOW DOWN

The first time I attended the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours (4:00 a.m.) at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia, I noticed that the monks were deliberate with their prayers and said them slowly. While trying to stay awake at that hour and concentrating on praying, their purposefulness was evident. Slowing down the prayers has the effect of moving deeper into prayer. The monks also paused at appropriate times for what seemed like two or three seconds between stanzas of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Slowing down my praying the Rosary, reciting prayers that put me in the presence of God, and even Lectio Divina has become more meaningful as I slowly take charge of my prayers. How do I do that? I find that by letting go of my urge just to recite the prayers for the sake of saying them, leads me to the next level of spiritual awareness, pray the Word. At first, it sounds strange when I purposefully slow down saying prayers. Now, I look forward to deliberately praying slowly. Try it.

LUMEN GENTIUM: The Mystery of the Church

There is no more challenging sign of contradiction of our Faith than that of the Church. At once, holy and sinful, one yet diverse, catholic yet individual, and apostolic and current in each age. The Ecumenical Council of Vatican II produced a profound statement that begins to address the Church in the Modern World.

   
DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH 
LUMEN GENTIUM
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY HIS HOLINESS
POPE PAUL VI
ON NOVEMBER 21, 1964 
CHAPTER ITHE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH1. Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature,(1) to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils. The present-day conditions of the world add greater urgency to this work of the Church so that all men, joined more closely today by various social, technical and cultural ties, might also attain fuller unity in Christ.2. The eternal Father, by a free and hidden plan of His own wisdom and goodness, created the whole world. His plan was to raise men to a participation of the divine life. Fallen in Adam, God the Father did not leave men to themselves, but ceaselessly offered helps to salvation, in view of Christ, the Redeemer “who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature”.(2) All the elect, before time began, the Father “foreknew and pre- destined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that he should be the firstborn among many brethren”.(3) He planned to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ. Already from the beginning of the world the foreshadowing of the Church took place. It was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the Old Covenant.(1*) In the present era of time the Church was constituted and, by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest. At the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and “from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,”(2*) will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church.3. The Son, therefore, came, sent by the Father. It was in Him, before the foundation of the world, that the Father chose us and predestined us to become adopted sons, for in Him it pleased the Father to re-establish all things.(4) To carry out the will of the Father, Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of heaven on earth and revealed to us the mystery of that kingdom. By His obedience He brought about redemption. The Church, or, in other words, the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world. This inauguration and this growth are both symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of a crucified Jesus,(5) and are foretold in the words of the Lord referring to His death on the Cross: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself”.(6) As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on, and, in the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ (8) is both expressed and brought about. All men are called to this union with Christ, who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and toward whom our whole life strains.4. When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth (9) was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father.(10) He is the Spirit of Life, a fountain of water springing up to life eternal.(11) To men, dead in sin, the Father gives life through Him, until, in Christ, He brings to life their mortal bodies.(12) The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple.(13) In them He prays on their behalf and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons.(14) The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth(15) and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits.(16) By the power of the Gospel He makes the Church keep the freshness of youth. Uninterruptedly He renews it and leads it to perfect union with its Spouse. (3*) The Spirit and the Bride both say to Jesus, the Lord, “Come!”(17)Thus, the Church has been seen as “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”(4*)5. The mystery of the holy Church is manifest in its very foundation. The Lord Jesus set it on its course by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Kingdom of God, which, for centuries, had been promised in the Scriptures: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”(18). In the word, in the works, and in the presence of Christ, this kingdom was clearly open to the view of men. The Word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field;(19) those who hear the Word with faith and become part of the little flock of Christ,(20) have received the Kingdom itself. Then, by its own power the seed sprouts and grows until harvest time.(21) The Miracles of Jesus also confirm that the Kingdom has already arrived on earth: “If I cast out devils by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you”.(22) Before all things, however, the Kingdom is clearly visible in the very Person of Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, who came “to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many:”(23)When Jesus, who had suffered the death of the cross for mankind, had risen, He appeared as the one constituted as Lord, Christ and eternal Priest,(24) and He poured out on His disciples the Spirit promised by the Father.(25) From this source the Church, equipped with the gifts of its Founder and faithfully guarding His precepts of charity, humility and self-sacrifice, receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom. While it slowly grows, the Church strains toward the completed Kingdom and, with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its King.6. In the old Testament the revelation of the Kingdom is often conveyed by means of metaphors. In the same way the inner nature of the Church is now made known to us in different images taken either from tending sheep or cultivating the land, from building or even from family life and betrothals, the images receive preparatory shaping in the books of the Prophets.The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ.(26) It is a flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd,(27) and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds; are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds,(28) who gave His life for the sheep.(29)The Church is a piece of land to be cultivated, the tillage of God.(30) On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the Prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about.(31) That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly Husbandman.(32) The true vine is Christ who gives life and the power to bear abundant fruit to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ without whom we can do nothing.(33)Often the Church has also been called the building of God.(34) The Lord Himself compared Himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the cornerstone.(35) On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles,(36) and from it the Church receives durability and consolidation. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God (37) in which dwells His family; the household of God in the Spirit;(38) the dwelling place of God among men;(39) and, especially, the holy temple. This Temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Holy Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (5*). As living stones we here on earth are built into it.(40) John contemplates this holy city coming down from heaven at the renewal of the world as a bride made ready and adorned for her husband.(41)The Church, further, “that Jerusalem which is above” is also called “our mother”.(42) It is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless Lamb,(43) whom Christ “loved and for whom He delivered Himself up that He might sanctify her”,(44) whom He unites to Himself by an unbreakable covenant, and whom He unceasingly “nourishes and cherishes”,(45) and whom, once purified, He willed to be cleansed and joined to Himself, subject to Him in love and fidelity,(46) and whom, finally, He filled with heavenly gifts for all eternity, in order that we may know the love of God and of Christ for us, a love which surpasses all knowledge.(47) The Church, while on earth it journeys in a foreign land away from the Lord,(48) is like in exile. It seeks and experiences those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right-hand of God, where the life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God until it appears in glory with its Spouse.(49)7. In the human nature united to Himself the Son of God, by overcoming death through His own death and resurrection, redeemed man and re-molded him into a new creation.(50) By communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers, called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body.In that Body the life of Christ is poured into the believers who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ who suffered and was glorified.(6*) Through Baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”.(51) In this sacred rite a oneness with Christ’s death and resurrection is both symbolized and brought about: “For we were buried with Him by means of Baptism into death”; and if “we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be so in the likeness of His resurrection also”.(52) Really partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. “Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread”.(53) In this way all of us are made members of His Body,(54) “but severally members one of another”.(55)As all the members of the human body, though they are many, form one body, so also are the faithful in Christ.(56) Also, in the building up of Christ’s Body various members and functions have their part to play. There is only one Spirit who, according to His own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives His different gifts for the welfare of the Church.(57) What has a special place among these gifts is the grace of the apostles to whose authority the Spirit Himself subjected even those who were endowed with charisms.(58) Giving the body unity through Himself and through His power and inner joining of the members, this same Spirit produces and urges love among the believers. From all this it follows that if one member endures anything, all the members co-endure it, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.(59)The Head of this Body is Christ. He is the image of the invisible God and in Him all things came into being. He is before all creatures and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body which is the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the first place.(60) By the greatness of His power He rules the things in heaven and the things on earth, and with His all-surpassing perfection and way of acting He fills the whole body with the riches of His glory.All the members ought to be molded in the likeness of Him, until Christ be formed in them.(62) For this reason we, who have been made to conform with Him, who have died with Him and risen with Him, are taken up into the mysteries of His life, until we will reign together with Him.(63) On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths He trod, we are made one with His sufferings like the body is one with the Head, suffering with Him, that with Him we may be glorified.(64)From Him “the whole body, supplied and built up by joints and ligaments, attains a growth that is of God”.(65) He continually distributes in His body, that is, in the Church, gifts of ministries in which, by His own power, we serve each other unto salvation so that, carrying out the truth in love, we might through all things grow unto Him who is our Head.(66)In order that we might be unceasingly renewed in Him,(67) He has shared with us His Spirit who, existing as one and the same being in the Head and in the members, gives life to, unifies and moves through the whole body. This He does in such a way that His work could be compared by the holy Fathers with the function which the principle of life, that is, the soul, fulfills in the human body.(8*)Christ loves the Church as His bride, having become the model of a man loving his wife as his body;(68) the Church, indeed, is subject to its Head.(69) “Because in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”,(70) He fills the Church, which is His body and His fullness, with His divine gifts (71) so that it may expand and reach all the fullness of God.(72)8. Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation (9*) through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element.(10*) For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body.(73) (11*)This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, (12*) which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd,(74) and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority,(75) which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”.(76) This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him,(13*) although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.Just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and persecution, so the Church is called to follow the same route that it might communicate the fruits of salvation to men. Christ Jesus, “though He was by nature God . . . emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave”,(77) and “being rich, became poor”(78) for our sakes. Thus, the Church, although it needs human resources to carry out its mission, is not set up to seek earthly glory, but to proclaim, even by its own example, humility and self-sacrifice. Christ was sent by the Father “to bring good news to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart”,(79) “to seek and to save what was lost”.(80) Similarly, the Church encompasses with love all who are afflicted with human suffering and in the poor and afflicted sees the image of its poor and suffering Founder. It does all it can to relieve their need and in them it strives to serve Christ. While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled(81) knew nothing of sin,(82) but came to expiate only the sins of the people,(83) the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal. The Church, “like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God”(14*), announcing the cross and death of the Lord until He comes.”(84) By the power of the risen Lord it is given strength that it might, in patience and in love, overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without, and that it might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light.CHAPTER IION THE PEOPLE OF GOD9. At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right.(85) God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness. He therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto Himself. With it He set up a covenant. Step by step He taught and prepared this people, making known in its history both Himself and the decree of His will and making it holy unto Himself. All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh. “Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel, and with the house of Judah . . . I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people . . . For all of them shall know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord.(86) Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood,(87) calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God. For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperishable seed through the word of the living God,(88) not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit,(89) are finally established as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people . . . who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God”.(90)That messianic people has Christ for its head, “Who was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification”,(91) and now, having won a name which is above all names, reigns in glory in heaven. The state of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in His temple. Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us.(92) Its end is the kingdom of God, which has been begun by God Himself on earth, and which is to be further extended until it is brought to perfection by Him at the end of time, when Christ, our life,(93) shall appear, and “creation itself will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God”.(94) So it is that that messianic people, although it does not actually include all men, and at times may look like a small flock, is nonetheless a lasting and sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race. Established by Christ as a communion of life, charity and truth, it is also used by Him as an instrument for the redemption of all, and is sent forth into the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth.(95)Israel according to the flesh, which wandered as an exile in the desert, was already called the Church of God.(96) So likewise the new Israel which while living in this present age goes in search of a future and abiding city (97) is called the Church of Christ.(98) For He has bought it for Himself with His blood,(99) has filled it with His Spirit and provided it with those means which befit it as a visible and social union. God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and established them as the Church that for each and all it may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity. (1*) While it transcends all limits of time and confines of race, the Church is destined to extend to all regions of the earth and so enters into the history of mankind. Moving forward through trial and tribulation, the Church is strengthened by the power of God’s grace, which was promised to her by the Lord, so that in the weakness of the flesh she may not waver from perfect fidelity, but remain a bride worthy of her Lord, and moved by the Holy Spirit may never cease to renew herself, until through the Cross she arrives at the light which knows no setting.10. Christ the Lord, High Priest taken from among men,(100) made the new people “a kingdom and priests to God the Father”.(101) The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.(102) Therefore all the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God,(103) should present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.(104) Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in them.(105)Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ.(2*) The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist.(3*) They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.11. It is through the sacraments and the exercise of the virtues that the sacred nature and organic structure of the priestly community is brought into operation. Incorporated in the Church through baptism, the faithful are destined by the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; reborn as sons of God they must confess before men the faith which they have received from God through the Church (4*). They are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ (5*). Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It.(6*) Thus both by reason of the offering and through Holy Communion all take part in this liturgical service, not indeed, all in the same way but each in that way which is proper to himself. Strengthened in Holy Communion by the Body of Christ, they then manifest in a concrete way that unity of the people of God which is suitably signified and wondrously brought about by this most august sacrament.Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion. By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of her priests the whole Church commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord, asking that He may lighten their suffering and save them;(106) she exhorts them, moreover, to contribute to the welfare of the whole people of God by associating themselves freely with the passion and death of Christ.(107) Those of the faithful who are consecrated by Holy Orders are appointed to feed the Church in Christ’s name with the word and the grace of God. Finally, Christian spouses, in virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, whereby they signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church,(108) help each other to attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children. By reason of their state and rank in life they have their own special gift among the people of God.(109) (7*) From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.12. The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name.(110) The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (8*) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God.(112) Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.It is not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, “allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills,(114) He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit”.(115) These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.(116)13. All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God’s will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one and decreed that all His children, scattered as they were, would finally be gathered together as one. (117) It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things,(118) that be might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God. For this too God sent the Spirit of His Son as Lord and Life-giver. He it is who brings together the whole Church and each and every one of those who believe, and who is the well-spring of their unity in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers.(119)It follows that though there are many nations there is but one people of God, which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly rather than of an earthly nature. All the faithful, scattered though they be throughout the world, are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit, and so, he who dwells in Rome knows that the people of India are his members”(9*). Since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world(120) the Church or people of God in establishing that kingdom takes nothing away from the temporal welfare of any people. On the contrary it fosters and takes to itself, insofar as they are good, the ability, riches and customs in which the genius of each people expresses itself. Taking them to itself it purifies, strengthens, elevates and ennobles them. The Church in this is mindful that she must bring together the nations for that king to whom they were given as an inheritance,(121) and to whose city they bring gifts and offerings.(122) This characteristic of universality which adorns the people of God is a gift from the Lord Himself. By reason of it, the Catholic Church strives constantly and with due effect to bring all humanity and all its possessions back to its source In Christ, with Him as its head and united in His Spirit. (10*)In virtue of this catholicity each individual part contributes through its special gifts to the good of the other parts and of the whole Church. Through the common sharing of gifts and through the common effort to attain fullness in unity, the whole and each of the parts receive increase. Not only, then, is the people of God made up of different peoples but in its inner structure also it is composed of various ranks. This diversity among its members arises either by reason of their duties, as is the case with those who exercise the sacred ministry for the good of their brethren, or by reason of their condition and state of life, as is the case with those many who enter the religious state and, tending toward holiness by a narrower path, stimulate their brethren by their example. Moreover, within the Church particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity (11*) and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it. Between all the parts of the Church there remains a bond of close communion whereby they share spiritual riches, apostolic workers and temporal resources. For the members of the people of God are called to share these goods in common, and of each of the Churches the words of the Apostle hold good: “According to the gift that each has received, administer it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God”.(123)All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the people of God which in promoting universal peace presages it. And there belong to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation.14. This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.”(12*) All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.(13*)Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own.15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (14*) For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (15*) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God.(16*) They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (17*) Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126) But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.17. As the Son was sent by the Father,(131) so He too sent the Apostles, saying: “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world”.(132) The Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the apostles and must carry it out to the very ends of the earth.(133) Wherefore she makes the words of the Apostle her own: “Woe to me, if I do not preach the Gospel”,(134) and continues unceasingly to send heralds of the Gospel until such time as the infant churches are fully established and can themselves continue the work of evangelizing. For the Church is compelled by the Holy Spirit to do her part that God’s plan may be fully realized, whereby He has constituted Christ as the source of salvation for the whole world. By the proclamation of the Gospel she prepares her hearers to receive and profess the faith. She gives them the dispositions necessary for baptism, snatches them from the slavery of error and of idols and incorporates them in Christ so that through charity they may grow up into full maturity in Christ. Through her work, whatever good is in the minds and hearts of men, whatever good lies latent in the religious practices and cultures of diverse peoples, is not only saved from destruction but is also cleansed, raised up and perfected unto the glory of God, the confusion of the devil and the happiness of man. The obligation of spreading the faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ, according to his state.(21*) Although, however, all the faithful can baptize, the priest alone can complete the building up of the Body in the eucharistic sacrifice. Thus are fulfilled the words of God, spoken through His prophet: “From the rising of the sun until the going down thereof my name is great among the gentiles, and in every place a clean oblation is sacrificed and offered up in my name”.(135)(22*) In this way the Church both prays and labors in order that the entire world may become the People of God, the Body of the Lord and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and that in Christ, the Head of all, all honor and glory may be rendered to the Creator and Father of the Universe.

CHAPTER III ON THE HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE OF THE CHURCH AND IN PARTICULAR ON THE EPISCOPATE18. For the nurturing and constant growth of the People of God, Christ the Lord instituted in His Church a variety of ministries, which work for the good of the whole body. For those ministers, who are endowed with sacred power, serve their brethren, so that all who are of the People of God, and therefore enjoy a true Christian dignity, working toward a common goal freely and in an orderly way, may arrive at salvation.This Sacred Council, following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father;(136) and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion.(1*) And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful. Continuing in that same undertaking, this Council is resolved to declare and proclaim before all men the doctrine concerning bishops, the successors of the apostles, who together with the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ,(2*) the visible Head of the whole Church, govern the house of the living God.19. The Lord Jesus, after praying to the Father, calling to Himself those whom He desired, appointed twelve to be with Him, and whom He would send to preach the Kingdom of God;(137) and these apostles(138) He formed after the manner of a college or a stable group, over which He placed Peter chosen from among them.(139) He sent them first to the children of Israel and then to all nations,(140) so that as sharers in His power they might make all peoples His disciples, and sanctify and govern them,(141) and thus spread His Church, and by ministering to it under the guidance of the Lord, direct it all days even to the consummation of the world.(142) And in this mission they were fully confirmed on the day of Pentecost(143) in accordance with the Lord’s promise: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and even to the very ends of the earth”.(144) And the apostles, by preaching the Gospel everywhere,(145) and it being accepted by their hearers under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gather together the universal Church, which the Lord established on the apostles and built upon blessed Peter, their chief, Christ Jesus Himself being the supreme cornerstone.(146)(3*)20. That divine mission, entrusted by Christ to the apostles, will last until the end of the world,(147) since the Gospel they are to teach is for all time the source of all life for the Church. And for this reason the apostles, appointed as rulers in this society, took care to appoint successors.For they not only had helpers in their ministry,(4*) but also, in order that the mission assigned to them might continue after their death, they passed on to their immediate cooperators, as it were, in the form of a testament, the duty of confirming and finishing the work begun by themselves,(5*) recommending to them that they attend to the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit placed them to shepherd the Church of God.(148) They therefore appointed such men, and gave them the order that, when they should have died, other approved men would take up their ministry.(6*) Among those various ministries which, according to tradition, were exercised in the Church from the earliest times, the chief place belongs to the office of those who, appointed to the episcopate, by a succession running from the beginning,(7*) are passers-on of the apostolic seed.(8*) Thus, as St. Irenaeus testifies, through those who were appointed bishops by the apostles, and through their successors down in our own time, the apostolic tradition is manifested (9*) and preserved.(10*)Bishops, therefore, with their helpers, the priests and deacons, have taken up the service of the community, (11*) presiding in place of God over the flock,(12*) whose shepherds they are, as teachers for doctrine, priests for sacred worship, and ministers for governing.(13*) And just as the office granted individually to Peter, the first among the apostles, is permanent and is to be transmitted to his successors, so also the apostles’ office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and is to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops. (14*) Therefore, the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, (15*) as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ.(149)(16*)21. In the bishops, therefore, for whom priests are assistants, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Supreme High Priest, is present in the midst of those who believe. For sitting at the right hand of God the Father, He is not absent from the gathering of His high priests,(17*) but above all through their excellent service He is preaching the word of God to all nations, and constantly administering the sacraments of faith to those who believe, by their paternal functioning.(150) He incorporates new members in His Body by a heavenly regeneration, and finally by their wisdom and prudence He directs and guides the People of the New Testament in their pilgrimage toward eternal happiness. These pastors, chosen to shepherd the Lord’s flock of the elect, are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,(151) to whom has been assigned the bearing of witness to the Gospel of the grace of God,(152) and the ministration of the Spirit and of justice in glory.(153)For the discharging of such great duties, the apostles were enriched by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them,(154) and they passed on this spiritual gift to their helpers by the imposition of hands,(155) and it has been transmitted down to us in Episcopal consecration.(18*) And the Sacred Council teaches that by Episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred, that fullness of power, namely, which both in the Church’s liturgical practice and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the supreme power of the sacred ministry.(19*) But Episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college. For from the tradition, which is expressed especially in liturgical rites and in the practice of both the Church of the East and of the West, it is clear that, by means of the imposition of hands and the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is so conferred,(20*) and the sacred character so impressed,(21*) that bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person.(22*) Therefore it pertains to the bishops to admit newly elected members into the Episcopal body by means of the sacrament of Orders.22. Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together. Indeed, the very ancient practice whereby bishops duly established in all parts of the world were in communion with one another and with the Bishop of Rome in a bond of unity, charity and peace,(23*) and also the councils assembled together,(24*) in which more profound issues were settled in common, (25*) the opinion of the many having been prudently considered,(26*) both of these factors are already an indication of the collegiate character and aspect of the Episcopal order; and the ecumenical councils held in the course of centuries are also manifest proof of that same character. And it is intimated also in the practice, introduced in ancient times, of summoning several bishops to take part in the elevation of the newly elected to the ministry of the high priesthood. Hence, one is constituted a member of the Episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the body.But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.(27*) This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church,(156) and made him shepherd of the whole flock;(157) it is evident, however, that the power of binding and loosing, which was given to Peter,(158) was granted also to the college of apostles, joined with their head.(159)(28*) This college, insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one head, it expresses the unity of the flock of Christ. In it, the bishops, faithfully recognizing the primacy and pre-eminence of their head, exercise their own authority for the good of their own faithful, and indeed of the whole Church, the Holy Spirit supporting its organic structure and harmony with moderation. The supreme power in the universal Church, which this college enjoys, is exercised in a solemn way in an ecumenical council. A council is never ecumenical unless it is confirmed or at least accepted as such by the successor of Peter; and it is prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to convoke these councils, to preside over them and to confirm them.(29*) This same collegiate power can be exercised together with the pope by the bishops living in all parts of the world, provided that the head of the college calls them to collegiate action, or at least approves of or freely accepts the united action of the scattered bishops, so that it is thereby made a collegiate act.23. This collegial union is apparent also m the mutual relations of the individual bishops with particular churches and with the universal Church. The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful.(30*) The individual bishops, however, are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular churches, (31*) fashioned after the model of the universal Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and only Catholic Church.(32*) For this reason the individual bishops represent each his own church, but all of them together and with the Pope represent the entire Church in the bond of peace, love and unity.The individual bishops, who are placed in charge of particular churches, exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God committed to their care, and not over other churches nor over the universal Church. But each of them, as a member of the episcopal college and legitimate successor of the apostles, is obliged by Christ’s institution and command to be solicitous for the whole Church,(33*) and this solicitude, though it is not exercised by an act of jurisdiction, contributes greatly to the advantage of the universal Church. For it is the duty of all bishops to promote and to safeguard the unity of faith and the discipline common to the whole Church, to instruct the faithful to love for the whole mystical body of Christ, especially for its poor and sorrowing members and for those who are suffering persecution for justice’s sake,(160) and finally to promote every activity that is of interest to the whole Church, especially that the faith may take increase and the light of full truth appear to all men. And this also is important, that by governing well their own church as a portion of the universal Church, they themselves are effectively contributing to the welfare of the whole Mystical Body, which is also the body of the churches.(34*)The task of proclaiming the Gospel everywhere on earth pertains to the body of pastors, to all of whom in common Christ gave His command, thereby imposing upon them a common duty, as Pope Celestine in his time recommended to the Fathers of the Council of Ephesus.(35*) From this it follows that the individual bishops, insofar as their own discharge of their duty permits, are obliged to enter into a community of work among themselves and with the successor of Peter, upon whom was imposed in a special way the great duty of spreading the Christian name.(36*) With all their energy, therefore, they must supply to the missions both workers for the harvest and also spiritual and material aid, both directly and on their own account. as well as by arousing the ardent cooperation of the faithful. And finally, the bishops, in a universal fellowship of charity, should gladly extend their fraternal aid to other churches, especially to neighboring and more needy dioceses in accordance with the venerable example of antiquity.By divine Providence it has come about that various churches, established in various places by the apostles and their successors, have in the course of time coalesced into several groups, organically united, which, preserving the unity of faith and the unique divine constitution of the universal Church, enjoy their own discipline, their own liturgical usage, and their own theological and spiritual heritage. Some of these churches, notably the ancient patriarchal churches, as parent-stocks of the Faith, so to speak, have begotten others as daughter churches, with which they are connected down to our own time by a close bond of charity in their sacramental life and in their mutual respect for their rights and duties.(37*) This variety of local churches with one common aspiration is splendid evidence of the catholicity of the undivided Church. In like manner the Episcopal bodies of today are in a position to render a manifold and fruitful assistance, so that this collegiate feeling may be put into practical application.24. Bishops, as successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord, to whom was given all power in heaven and on earth, the mission to teach all nations and to preach the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain to salvation by faith, baptism and the fulfilment of the commandments.(161) To fulfill this mission, Christ the Lord promised the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and on Pentecost day sent the Spirit from heaven, by whose power they would be witnesses to Him before the nations and peoples and kings even to the ends of the earth.(162) And that duty, which the Lord committed to the shepherds of His people, is a true service, which in sacred literature is significantly called “diakonia” or ministry.(163)The canonical mission of bishops can come about by legitimate customs that have not been revoked by the supreme and universal authority of the Church, or by laws made or recognized be that the authority, or directly through the successor of Peter himself; and if the latter refuses or denies apostolic communion, such bishops cannot assume any office.(38*)25. Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place.(39*) For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old,(164) making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock.(165) Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.(40*) This is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.(41*)And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith,(166) by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals.(42*) And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.(43*) The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter. To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith.(44*)But when either the Roman Pontiff or the Body of Bishops together with him defines a judgment, they pronounce it in accordance with Revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with, that is, the Revelation which as written or orally handed down is transmitted in its entirety through the legitimate succession of bishops and especially in care of the Roman Pontiff himself, and which under the guiding light of the Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church.(45*) The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, in view of their office and the importance of the matter, by fitting means diligently strive to inquire properly into that revelation and to give apt expression to its contents;(46*) but a new public revelation they do not accept as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith.(47*)26. A bishop marked with the fullness of the sacrament of Orders, is “the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood,” (48*) especially in the Eucharist, which he offers or causes to be offered,(49*) and by which the Church continually lives and grows. This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local congregations of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called churches in the New Testament.(50*) For in their locality these are the new People called by God, in the Holy Spirit and in much fullness.(167) In them the faithful are gathered together by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, that by the food and blood of the Lord’s body the whole brotherhood may be joined together.(51*) In any community of the altar, under the sacred ministry of the bishop,(52*) there is exhibited a symbol of that charity and “unity of the mystical Body, without which there can be no salvation.”(53*) In these communities, though frequently small and poor, or living in the Diaspora, Christ is present, and in virtue of His presence there is brought together one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.(54*) For “the partaking of the body and blood of Christ does nothing other than make us be transformed into that which we consume”. (55*)Every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is regulated by the bishop, to whom is committed the office of offering the worship of Christian religion to the Divine Majesty and of administering it in accordance with the Lord’s commandments and the Church’s laws, as further defined by his particular judgment for his diocese.Bishops thus, by praying and laboring for the people, make outpourings in many ways and in great abundance from the fullness of Christ’s holiness. By the ministry of the word they communicate God’s power to those who believe unto salvation(168) and through the sacraments, the regular and fruitful distribution of which they regulate by their authority,(56*) they sanctify the faithful. They direct the conferring of baptism, by which a sharing in the kingly priesthood of Christ is granted. They are the original ministers of confirmation, dispensers of sacred Orders and the moderators of penitential discipline, and they earnestly exhort and instruct their people to carry out with faith and reverence their part in the liturgy and especially in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. And lastly, by the example of their way of life they must be an influence for good to those over whom they preside, refraining from all evil and, as far as they are able with God’s help, exchanging evil for good, so that together with the flock committed to their care they may arrive at eternal life.(57*)27. Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them (58*) by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant.(169) This power, which they personally exercise in Christ’s name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate.The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for they exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called “prelates,” heads of the people whom they govern.(59*) Their power, therefore, is not destroyed by the supreme and universal power, but on the contrary it is affirmed, strengthened and vindicated by it,(60*) since the Holy Spirit unfailingly preserves the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church.A bishop, since he is sent by the Father to govern his family, must keep before his eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister,(170) and to lay down his life for his sheep.(171) Being taken from among men, and himself beset with weakness, he is able to have compassion on the ignorant and erring.(172) Let him not refuse to listen to his subjects, whom he cherishes as his true sons and exhorts to cooperate readily with him. As having one day to render an account for their souls,(173) he takes care of them by his prayer, preaching, and all the works of charity, and not only of them but also of those who are not yet of the one flock, who also are commended to him in the Lord. Since, like Paul the Apostle, he is debtor to all men, let him be ready to preach the Gospel to all,(174) and to urge his faithful to apostolic and missionary activity. But the faithful must cling to their bishop, as the Church does to Christ, and Jesus Christ to the Father, so that all may be of one mind through unity,(61*) and abound to the glory of God.(175)28. Christ, whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world, (176) has through His apostles, made their successors, the bishops, partakers of His consecration and His mission.(62*) They have legitimately handed on to different individuals in the Church various degrees of participation in this ministry. Thus the divinely established ecclesiastical ministry is exercised on different levels by those who from antiquity have been called bishops, priests and deacons.(63*) Priests, although they do not possess the highest degree of the priesthood, and although they are dependent on the bishops in the exercise of their power, nevertheless they are united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity.(64*) By the power of the sacrament of Orders,(65*) in the image of Christ the eternal high Priest,(177) they are consecrated to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful and to celebrate divine worship, so that they are true priests of the New Testament.(66*) Partakers of the function of Christ the sole Mediator,(178) on their level of ministry, they announce the divine word to all. They exercise their sacred function especially in the Eucharistic worship or the celebration of the Mass by which acting in the person of Christ (67*) and proclaiming His Mystery they unite the prayers of the faithful with the sacrifice of their Head and renew and apply (68*) in the sacrifice of the Mass until the coming of the Lord(179) the only sacrifice of the New Testament namely that of Christ offering Himself once for all a spotless Victim to the Father.(180) For the sick and the sinners among the faithful, they exercise the ministry of alleviation and reconciliation and they present the needs and the prayers of the faithful to God the Father.(181) Exercising within the limits of their authority the function of Christ as Shepherd and Head,(69*) they gather together God’s family as a brotherhood all of one mind,(70*) and lead them in the Spirit, through Christ, to God the Father. In the midst of the flock they adore Him in spirit and in truth.(182) Finally, they labor in word and doctrine,(183) believing what they have read and meditated upon in the law of God, teaching what they have believed, and putting in practice in their own lives what they have taught.(71*)Priests, prudent cooperators with the Episcopal order,(72*) its aid and instrument, called to serve the people of God, constitute one priesthood (73*) with their bishop although bound by a diversity of duties. Associated with their bishop in a spirit of trust and generosity, they make him present in a certain sense in the individual local congregations, and take upon themselves, as far as they are able, his duties and the burden of his care, and discharge them with a daily interest. And as they sanctify and govern under the bishop’s authority, that part of the Lord’s flock entrusted to them they make the universal Church visible in their own locality and bring an efficacious assistance to the building up of the whole body of Christ.(184) intent always upon the welfare of God’s children, they must strive to lend their effort to the pastoral work of the whole diocese, and even of the entire Church. On account of this sharing in their priesthood and mission, let priests sincerely look upon the bishop as their father and reverently obey him. And let the bishop regard his priests as his co-workers and as sons and friends, just as Christ called His disciples now not servants but friends.(185) All priests, both diocesan and religious, by reason of Orders and ministry, fit into this body of bishops and priests, and serve the good of the whole Church according to their vocation and the grace given to them.In virtue of their common sacred ordination and mission, all priests are bound together in intimate brotherhood, which naturally and freely manifests itself in mutual aid, spiritual as well as material, pastoral as well as personal, in their meetings and in the communion of life, of labor and charity.Let them, as fathers in Christ, take care of the faithful whom they have begotten by baptism and their teaching.(186) Becoming from the heart a pattern to the flock,(187) let them so lead and serve their local community that it may worthily be called by that name, by which the one and entire people of God is signed, namely, the Church of God.(188) Let them remember that by their daily life and interests they are showing the face of a truly sacerdotal and pastoral ministry to the faithful and the infidel, to Catholics and non-Catholics, and that to all they bear witness to the truth and life, and as good shepherds go after those also,(189) who though baptized in the Catholic Church have fallen away from the use of the sacraments, or even from the faith.Because the human race today is joining more and more into a civic, economic and social unity, it is that much the more necessary that priests, by combined effort and aid, under the leadership of the bishops and the Supreme Pontiff, wipe out every kind of separateness, so that the whole human race may be brought into the unity of the family of God.29. At a lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed “not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service.”(74*) For strengthened by sacramental grace, in communion with the bishop and his group of priests they serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity to the people of God. It is the duty of the deacon, according as it shall have been assigned to him by competent authority, to administer baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the Sacred Scripture to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, to officiate at funeral and burial services. Dedicated to duties of charity and of administration, let deacons be mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: “Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all.”(75*)Since these duties, so very necessary to the life of the Church, can be fulfilled only with difficulty in many regions in accordance with the discipline of the Latin Church as it exists today, the diaconate can in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. It pertains to the competent territorial bodies of bishops, of one kind or another, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, to decide whether and where it is opportune for such deacons to be established for the care of souls. With the consent of the Roman Pontiff, this diaconate can, in the future, be conferred upon men of more mature age, even upon those living in the married state. It may also be conferred upon suitable young men, for whom the law of celibacy must remain intact.

CHAPTER IVTHE LAITY30. Having set forth the functions of the hierarchy, the Sacred Council gladly turns its attention. to the state of those faithful called the laity. Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind. For we must all “practice the truth in love, and so grow up in all things in Him who is head, Christ. For from Him the whole body, being closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system, according to the functioning in due measure of each single part, derives its increase to the building up of itself in love”.(190)31. The term laity is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church. These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. It is true that those in holy orders can at times be engaged in secular activities, and even have a secular profession. But they are by reason of their particular vocation especially and professedly ordained to the sacred ministry. Similarly, by their state in life, religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes. But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer.32. By divine institution, Holy Church is ordered and governed with a wonderful diversity. “For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another”.(191) Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”(192); sharing a common dignity as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection; possessing in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity. There is, therefore, in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because “there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all ‘one’ in Christ Jesus”.(193)If therefore in the Church everyone does not proceed by the same path, nevertheless all are called to sanctity and have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of God.(194) And if by the will of Christ some are made teachers, pastors and dispensers of mysteries on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ. For the distinction which the Lord made between sacred ministers and the rest of the People of God bears within it a certain union, since pastors and the other faithful are bound to each other by a mutual need. Pastors of the Church, following the example of the Lord, should minister to one another and to the other faithful. These in their turn should enthusiastically lend their joint assistance to their pastors and teachers. Thus in their diversity all bear witness to the wonderful unity in the Body of Christ. This very diversity of graces, ministries and works gathers the children of God into one, because “all these things are the work of one and the same Spirit”.(195)Therefore, from divine choice the laity have Christ for their brothers who though He is the Lord of all, came not to be served but to serve.(196) They also have for their brothers those in the sacred ministry who by teaching, by sanctifying and by ruling with the authority of Christ feed the family of God so that the new commandment of charity may be fulfilled by all. St. Augustine puts this very beautifully when he says: “What I am for you terrifies me; what I am with you consoles me. For you I am a bishop; but with you I am a Christian. The former is a duty; the latter a grace. The former is a danger; the latter, salvation” (1*).33. The laity are gathered together in the People of God and make up the Body of Christ under one head. Whoever they are they are called upon, as living members, to expend all their energy for the growth of the Church and its continuous sanctification, since this very energy is a gift of the Creator and a blessing of the Redeemer.The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, especially holy Eucharist, that charity toward God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished. Now the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth (2*). Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself “according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal”.(197)Besides this apostolate which certainly pertains to all Christians, the laity can also be called in various ways to a more direct form of cooperation in the apostolate of the Hierarchy (3*). This was the way certain men and women assisted Paul the Apostle in the Gospel, laboring much in the Lord.(198) Further, they have the capacity to assume from the Hierarchy certain ecclesiastical functions, which are to be performed for a spiritual purpose.Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land. Consequently, may every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church.34. The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.(199) Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.35. Christ, the great Prophet, who proclaimed the Kingdom of His Father both by the testimony of His life and the power of His words, continually fulfills His prophetic office until the complete manifestation of glory. He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith (sensu fidei) and an attractiveness in speech(200) so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life. They conduct themselves as children of the promise, and thus strong in faith and in hope they make the most of the present,(201) and with patience await the glory that is to come.(202) Let them not, then, hide this hope in the depths of their hearts, but even in the program of their secular life let them express it by a continual conversion and by wrestling “against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness.(203)Just as the sacraments of the New Law, by which the life and the apostolate of the faithful are nourished, prefigure a new heaven and a new earth,(204) so too the laity go forth as powerful proclaimers of a faith in things to be hoped for,(205) when they courageously join to their profession of faith a life springing from faith. This evangelization, that is, this announcing of Christ by a living testimony as well as by the spoken word, takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world.In connection with the prophetic function is that state of life which is sanctified by a special sacrament obviously of great importance, namely, married and family life. For where Christianity pervades the entire mode of family life, and gradually transforms it, one will find there both the practice and an excellent school of the lay apostolate. In such a home husbands and wives find their proper vocation in being witnesses of the faith and love of Christ to one another and to their children. The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the Kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come. Thus by its example and its witness it accuses the world of sin and enlightens those who seek the truth.Consequently, even when preoccupied with temporal cares, the laity can and must perform a work of great value for the evangelization of the world. For even if some of them have to fulfill their religious duties on their own, when there are no sacred ministers or in times of persecution; and even if many of them devote all their energies to apostolic work; still it remains for each one of them to cooperate in the external spread and the dynamic growth of the Kingdom of Christ in the world. Therefore, let the laity devotedly strive to acquire a more profound grasp of revealed truth, and let them insistently beg of God the gift of wisdom.36. Christ, becoming obedient even unto death and because of this exalted by the Father,(206) entered into the glory of His kingdom. To Him all things are made subject until He subjects Himself and all created things to the Father that God may be all in all.(207) Now Christ has communicated this royal power to His disciples that they might be constituted in royal freedom and that by true penance and a holy life they might conquer the reign of sin in themselves.(208) Further, He has shared this power so that serving Christ in their fellow men they might by humility and patience lead their brethren to that King for whom to serve is to reign. But the Lord wishes to spread His kingdom also by means of the laity, namely, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace (4*). In this kingdom creation itself will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.(209) Clearly then a great promise and a great trust is committed to the disciples: “All things are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s”.(210)The faithful, therefore, must learn the deepest meaning and the value of all creation, as well as its role in the harmonious praise of God. They must assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations. In this way the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity and peace. The laity have the principal role in the overall fulfillment of this duty. Therefore, by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of His Word. May the goods of this world be more equitably distributed among all men, and may they in their own way be conducive to universal progress in human and Christian freedom. In this manner, through the members of the Church, will Christ progressively illumine the whole of human society with His saving light.Moreover, let the laity also by their combined efforts remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it. By so doing they will imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values; they will better prepare the field of the world for the seed of the Word of God; and at the same time they will open wider the doors of the Church by which the message of peace may enter the world.Because of the very economy of salvation the faithful should learn how to distinguish carefully between those rights and duties which are theirs as members of the Church, and those which they have as members of human society. Let them strive to reconcile the two, remembering that in every temporal affair they must be guided by a Christian conscience, since even in secular business there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion. In our own time, however, it is most urgent that this distinction and also this harmony should shine forth more clearly than ever in the lives of the faithful, so that the mission of the Church may correspond more fully to the special conditions of the world today. For it must be admitted that the temporal sphere is governed by its own principles, since it is rightly concerned with the interests of this world. But that ominous doctrine which attempts to build a society with no regard whatever for religion, and which attacks and destroys the religious liberty of its citizens, is rightly to be rejected (5*).37. The laity have the right, as do all Christians, to receive in abundance from their spiritual shepherds the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the assistance of the word of God and of the sacraments (6*). They should openly reveal to them their needs and desires with that freedom and confidence which is fitting for children of God and brothers in Christ. They are, by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church (7*). When occasions arise, let this be done through the organs erected by the Church for this purpose. Let it always be done in truth, in courage and in prudence, with reverence and charity toward those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ.The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. Let them follow the example of Christ, who by His obedience even unto death, opened to all men the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God. Nor should they omit to pray for those placed over them, for they keep watch as having to render an account of their souls, so that they may do this with joy and not with grief.(211)Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church. Let them willingly employ their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action. Further, let them encourage lay people so that they may undertake tasks on their own initiative. Attentively in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity.(8*) However, let the shepherds respectfully acknowledge that just freedom which belongs to everyone in this earthly city. A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders. The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill is a mission for the life of the world.38. Each individual layman must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God. All the laity as a community and each one according to his ability must nourish the world with spiritual fruits.(212) They must diffuse in the world that spirit which animates the poor, the meek, the peacemakers—whom the Lord in the Gospel proclaimed as blessed.(213) In a word, “Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body.”(9*)

CHAPTER V THE UNIVERSAL CALL TO HOLINESS IN THE CHURCH39. The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this Sacred Synod, is believed to be indefectible holy. Indeed Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as “uniquely holy,” (1*) loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her.(214) He united her to Himself as His own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory. Therefore in the Church, everyone, whether belonging to the hierarchy or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”.(215) However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called “evangelical.” This practice of the counsels, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit, undertaken by many Christians, either privately or in a Church-approved condition or state of life, gives and must give in the world an outstanding witness and example of this same holiness.40. The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and everyone of His disciples of every condition. He Himself stands as the author and consumator of this holiness of life: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect”.(216)(2*) Indeed He sent the Holy Spirit upon all men that He might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength(217) and that they might love each other as Christ loves them.(218) The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way, they are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. They are warned by the Apostle to live “as becomes saints”,(219) and to put on “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience”,(220) and to possess the fruit of the Spirit in holiness.(221) Since truly we all offend in many things (222) we all need God’s mercies continually and we all must daily pray: “Forgive us our debts”(223)(3*)Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity;(4*) by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.41. The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one—that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.In the first place, the shepherds of Christ’s flock must holily and eagerly, humbly and courageously carry out their ministry, in imitation of the eternal high Priest, the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. They ought to fulfill this duty in such a way that it will be the principal means also of their own sanctification. Those chosen for the fullness of the priesthood are granted the ability of exercising the perfect duty of pastoral charity by the grace of the sacrament of Orders. This perfect duty of pastoral charity (5*) is exercised in every form of episcopal care and service, prayer, sacrifice and preaching. By this same sacramental grace, they are given the courage necessary to lay down their lives for their sheep, and the ability of promoting greater holiness in the Church by their daily example, having become a pattern for their flock.(224)Priests, who resemble bishops to a certain degree in their participation of the sacrament of Orders, form the spiritual crown of the bishops.(6*) They participate in the grace of their office and they should grow daily in their love of God and their neighbor by the exercise of their office through Christ, the eternal and unique Mediator. They should preserve the bond of priestly communion, and they should abound in every spiritual good and thus present to all men a living witness to God.(7*) All this they should do in emulation of those priests who often, down through the course of the centuries, left an outstanding example of the holiness of humble and hidden service. Their praise lives on in the Church of God. By their very office of praying and offering sacrifice for their own people and the entire people of God, they should rise to greater holiness. Keeping in mind what they are doing and imitating what they are handling,(8*) these priests, in their apostolic labors, rather than being ensnared by perils and hardships, should rather rise to greater holiness through these perils and hardships. They should ever nourish and strengthen their action from an abundance of contemplation, doing all this for the comfort of the entire Church of God. All priests, and especially those who are called “diocesan priests,” due to the special title of their ordination, should keep continually before their minds the fact that their faithful loyalty toward and their generous cooperation with their bishop is of the greatest value in their growth in holiness.Ministers of lesser rank are also sharers in the mission and grace of the Supreme Priest. In the first place among these ministers are deacons, who, in as much as they are dispensers of Christ’s mysteries and servants of the Church,(9*) should keep themselves free from every vice and stand before men as personifications of goodness and friends of God.(225) Clerics, who are called by the Lord and are set aside as His portion in order to prepare themselves for the various ministerial offices under the watchful eye of spiritual shepherds, are bound to bring their hearts and minds into accord with this special election (which is theirs). They will accomplish this by their constancy in prayer, by their burning love, and by their unremitting recollection of whatever is true, just and of good repute. They will accomplish all this for the glory and honor of God. Besides these already named, there are also laymen, chosen of God and called by the bishop. These laymen spend themselves completely in apostolic labors, working the Lord’s field with much success.(10*).Furthermore, married couples and Christian parents should follow their own proper path (to holiness) by faithful love. They should sustain one another in grace throughout the entire length of their lives. They should embue their offspring, lovingly welcomed as God’s gift, with Christian doctrine and the evangelical virtues. In this manner, they offer all men the example of unwearying and generous love; in this way they build up the brotherhood of charity; in so doing, they stand as the witnesses and cooperators in the fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church; by such lives, they are a sign and a participation in that very love, with which Christ loved His Bride and for which He delivered Himself up for her.(11*) A like example, but one given in a different way, is that offered by widows and single people, who are able to make great contributions toward holiness and apostolic endeavor in the Church. Finally, those who engage in labor—and frequently it is of a heavy nature—should better themselves by their human labors. They should be of aid to their fellow citizens. They should raise all of society, and even creation itself, to a better mode of existence. Indeed, they should imitate by their lively charity, in their joyous hope and by their voluntary sharing of each others’ burdens, the very Christ who plied His hands with carpenter’s tools and Who in union with His Father, is continually working for the salvation of all men. In this, then, their daily work they should climb to the heights of holiness and apostolic activity.May all those who are weighed down with poverty, infirmity, and sickness, as well as those who must bear various hardships or who suffer persecution for justice sake—may they all know they are united with the suffering Christ in a special way for the salvation of the world. The Lord called them blessed in His Gospel and they are those whom “the God of all graces, who has called us unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself, after we have suffered a little while, perfect, strengthen and establish”.(226)Finally all Christ’s faithful, whatever be the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives—and indeed through all these, will daily increase in holiness, if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father and if they cooperate with the divine will. In this temporal service, they will manifest to all men the love with which God loved the world.42. “God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God and God in Him”.(227) But, God pours out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us;(228) thus the first and most necessary gift is love, by which we love God above all things and our neighbor because of God. Indeed, in order that love, as good seed may grow and bring forth fruit in the soul, each one of the faithful must willingly hear the Word of God and accept His Will and must complete what God has begun by their own actions with the help of God’s grace. These actions consist in the use of the sacraments and in a special way the Eucharist, frequent participation in the sacred action of the Liturgy, application of oneself to prayer, self-abnegation, lively fraternal service and the constant exercise of all the virtues. For charity, as the bond of perfection and the fullness of the law,(229) rules over all the means of attaining holiness and gives life to these same means. (12*) It is charity which guides us to our final end. It is the love of God and the love of one’s neighbor which points out the true disciple of Christ.Since Jesus, the Son of God, manifested His charity by laying down His life for us, so too no one has greater love than he who lays down his life for Christ and His brothers.(230) From the earliest times, then, some Christians have been called upon—and some will always be called upon—to give the supreme testimony of this love to all men, but especially to persecutors. The Church, then, considers martyrdom as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love. By martyrdom a disciple is transformed into an image of his Master by freely accepting death for the salvation of the world—as well as his conformity to Christ in the shedding of his blood. Though few are presented such an opportunity, nevertheless all must be prepared to confess Christ before men. They must be prepared to make this profession of faith even in the midst of persecutions, which will never be lacking to the Church, in following the way of the cross.Likewise, the holiness of the Church is fostered in a special way by the observance of the counsels proposed in the Gospel by Our Lord to His disciples.(13*) An eminent position among these is held by virginity or the celibate state.(231) This is a precious gift of divine grace given by the Father to certain souls,(232) whereby they may devote themselves to God alone the more easily, due to an undivided heart. (14*) This perfect continency, out of desire for the kingdom of heaven, has always been held in particular honor in the Church. The reason for this was and is that perfect continency for the love of God is an incentive to charity, and is certainly a particular source of spiritual fecundity in the world.The Church continually keeps before it the warning of the Apostle which moved the faithful to charity, exhorting them to experience personally what Christ Jesus had known within Himself. This was the same Christ Jesus, who “emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave . . . becoming obedient to death”,(233) and because of us “being rich, he became poor”.(234) Because the disciples must always offer an imitation of and a testimony to the charity and humility of Christ, Mother Church rejoices at finding within her bosom men and women who very closely follow their Saviour who debased Himself to our comprehension. There are some who, in their freedom as sons of God, renounce their own wills and take upon themselves the state of poverty. Still, further, some become subject of their own accord to another man, in the matter of perfection for love of God. This is beyond the measure of the commandments but is done in order to become more fully like the obedient Christ.(15*)Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul. Let neither the use of the things of this world nor attachment to riches, which is against the spirit of evangelical poverty, hinder them in their quest for perfect love. Let them heed the admonition of the Apostle to those who use this world; let them not come to terms with this world; for this world, as we see it, is passing away. (235)(16*)

CHAPTER VI RELIGIOUS43. The evangelical counsels of chastity dedicated to God, poverty, and obedience are based upon the words and examples of the Lord. They were further commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church, as well as by the doctors and pastors of souls. The counsels are a divine gift, which the Church received from its Lord and which it always safeguards with the help of His grace. Church authority has the duty, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of interpreting these evangelical counsels, of regulating their practice and finally to build on them stable forms of living. Thus it has come about, that, as if, on a tree which has grown in the field of the Lord, various forms of solidarity and community life, as well as various religious families have branched out in a marvelous and multiple ways from this divinely given seed. Such a multiple and miraculous growth augments both the progress of the members of these various religious families themselves and the welfare of the entire Body of Christ.(1*) These religious families give their members the support of more firm stability in their way of life and a proven doctrine of acquiring perfection. They further offer their members the support of the fraternal association in the militia of Christ and of liberty strengthened by obedience. Thus these religious are able to tranquility fulfill and faithfully observe their religious profession and so spiritually rejoicing to make progress on the road of charity.(2*)From the point of view of the divine and hierarchical structure of the Church, the religious state of life is not an intermediate state between the clerical and lay states. But, rather, the faithful of Christ are called by God from both these states of life so that they might enjoy this particular gift in the life of the Church and thus each in one’s own way, may be of some advantage to the salvific mission of the Church. (3*)44. The faithful of Christ bind themselves to the three aforesaid counsels either by vows or by other sacred bonds, which are like vows in their purpose. By such a bond, a person is totally dedicated to God, loved beyond all things. In this way, that person is ordained to the honor and service of God under a new and special title. Indeed through Baptism a person dies to sin and is consecrated to God. However, in order that he may be capable of deriving more abundant fruit from this baptismal grace, he intends, by the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church, to free himself from those obstacles, which might draw him away from the fervor of charity and the perfection of divine worship. By his profession of the evangelical counsels, then, he is more intimately consecrated to divine service.(4*) This consecration will be the more perfect, in as much as the indissoluble bond of the union of Christ and His bride, the Church, is represented by firm and more stable bonds.The evangelical counsels which lead to charity (5*) join their followers to the Church and its mystery in a special way. Since this is so, the spiritual life of these people should then be devoted to the welfare of the whole Church. From this arises their duty of working to implant and strengthen the Kingdom of Christ in souls and to extend that Kingdom to every clime. This duty is to be undertaken to the extent of their capacities and in keeping with the proper type of their own vocation. This can be realized through prayer or active works of the apostolate. It is for this reason that the Church preserves and fosters the special character of her various religious institutes.The profession of the evangelical counsels, then, appears as a sign which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation. The people of God have no lasting city here below, but look forward to one that is to come. Since this is so, the religious state, whose purpose is to free its members from earthly cares, more fully manifests to all believers the presence of heavenly goods already possessed here below. Furthermore, it not only witnesses to the fact of a new and eternal life acquired by the redemption of Christ, but it foretells the future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom. Christ proposed to His disciples this form of life, which He, as the Son of God, accepted in entering this world to do the will of the Father. This same state of life is accurately exemplified and perpetually made present in the Church. The religious state clearly manifests that the Kingdom of God and its needs, in a very special way, are raised above all earthly considerations. Finally, it clearly shows all men both the unsurpassed breadth of the strength of Christ the King and the infinite power of the Holy Spirit marvelously working in the Church.Thus, the state which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, though it is not the hierarchical structure of the Church, nevertheless, undeniably belongs to its life and holiness.45. It is the duty of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to regulate the practice of the evangelical counsels by law since it is the duty of the same hierarchy to care for the People of God and to lead them to most fruitful pastures.(236) The importance of the profession of the evangelical counsels is seen in the fact that it fosters the perfection of love of God and love of neighbor in an outstanding manner and that this profession is strengthened by vows.(6*) Furthermore, the hierarchy, following with docility the prompting of the Holy Spirit, accepts the rules presented by outstanding men and women and authentically approves these rules after further adjustments. It also aids by its vigilant and safeguarding authority those institutes variously established for the building up of Christ’s Body in order that these same institutes may grow and flourish according to the spirit of the founders.Any institute of perfection and its individual members may be removed from the jurisdiction of the local Ordinaries by the Supreme Pontiff and subjected to himself alone. This is done in virtue of his primacy over the entire Church in order to more fully provide for the necessities of the entire flock of the Lord and in consideration of the common good.(7*) In like manner, these institutes may be left or committed to the charge of the proper patriarchial authority. The members of these institutes, in fulfilling their obligation to the Church due to their particular form of life, ought to show reverence and obedience to bishops according to the sacred canons. The bishops are owed this respect because of their pastoral authority in their own churches and because of the need of unity and harmony in the apostolate.(8*).The Church not only raises the religious profession to the dignity of a canonical state by her approval but even manifests that this profession is a state consecrated to God by the liturgical setting of that profession. The Church itself, by the authority given to it by God, accepts the vows of the newly professed. It begs aid and grace from God for them by its public prayer. It commends them to God, imparts a spiritual blessing on them and accompanies their self-offering by the Eucharistic sacrifice.46. Religious should carefully keep before their minds the fact that the Church presents Christ to believers and non-believers alike in a striking manner daily through them. The Church thus portrays Christ in contemplation on the mountain, in His proclamation of the kingdom of God to the multitudes, in His healing of the sick and maimed, in His work of converting sinners to a better life, in His solicitude for youth and His goodness to all men, always obedient to the will of the Father who sent Him.(9*)All men should take note that the profession of the evangelical counsels, though entailing the renunciation of certain values which are to be undoubtedly esteemed, does not detract from a genuine development of the human persons, but rather by its very nature is most beneficial to that development. Indeed the counsels, voluntarily undertaken according to each one’s personal vocation, contribute a great deal to the purification of heart and spiritual liberty. They continually stir up the fervor of charity. But especially they are able to more fully mold the Christian man to that type of chaste and detached life, which Christ the Lord chose for Himself and which His Mother also embraced. This is clearly proven by the example of so many holy founders. Let no one think that religious have become strangers to their fellowmen or useless citizens of this earthly city by their consecration. For even though it sometimes happens that religious do not directly mingle with their contemporaries, yet in a more profound sense these same religious are united with them in the heart of Christ and spiritually cooperate with them. In this way the building up of the earthly city may have its foundation in the Lord and may tend toward Him, lest perhaps those who build this city shall have labored in vain. (10*)Therefore, this Sacred Synod encourages and praises the men and women, Brothers and Sisters, who in monasteries, or in schools and hospitals, or in the missions, adorn the Bride of Christ by their unswerving and humble faithfulness in their chosen consecration and render generous services of all kinds to mankind.47. Let each of the faithful called to the profession of the evangelical counsels, therefore, carefully see to it that he persevere and ever grow in that vocation God has given him. Let him do this for the increased holiness of the Church, for the greater glory of the one and undivided Trinity, which in and through Christ is the fount and the source of all holiness.

CHAPTER VII THE ESCHATOLOGICAL NATURE OF THE PILGRIM CHURCH AND ITS UNION WITH THE CHURCH IN HEAVEN48. The Church, to which we are all called in Christ Jesus, and in which we acquire sanctity through the grace of God, will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven, when there will come the time of the restoration of all things.(237) At that time the human race as well as the entire world, which is intimately related to man and attains to its end through him, will be perfectly reestablished in Christ.(238)Christ, having been lifted up from the earth has drawn all to Himself.(239) Rising from the dead(240) He sent His life-giving Spirit upon His disciples and through Him has established His Body which is the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. Sitting at the right hand of the Father, He is continually active in the world that He might lead men to the Church and through it join them to Himself and that He might make them partakers of His glorious life by nourishing them with His own Body and Blood. Therefore the promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ, is carried forward in the mission of the Holy Spirit and through Him continues in the Church in which we learn the meaning of our terrestrial life through our faith, while we perform with hope in the future the work committed to us in this world by the Father, and thus work out our salvation.(241)Already the final age of the world has come upon us (242) and the renovation of the world is irrevocably decreed and is already anticipated in some kind of a real way; for the Church already on this earth is signed with a sanctity which is real although imperfect. However, until there shall be new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells,(243) the pilgrim Church in her sacraments and institutions, which pertain to this present time, has the appearance of this world which is passing and she herself dwells among creatures who groan and travail in pain until now and await the revelation of the sons of God.(244)Joined with Christ in the Church and signed with the Holy Spirit “who is the pledge of our inheritance”,(245) truly we are called and we are sons of God(246) but we have not yet appeared with Christ in glory,(247) in which we shall be like to God, since we shall see Him as He is.(248) And therefore “while we are in the body, we are exiled from the Lord (249) and having the first-fruits of the Spirit we groan within ourselves(250) and we desire to be with Christ”‘.(251) By that same charity, however, we are urged to live more for Him, who died for us and rose again.(252) We strive therefore to please God in all things(253) and we put on the armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and resist in the evil day.(254) Since however we know not the day nor the hour, on Our Lord’s advice we must be constantly vigilant so that, having finished the course of our earthly life,(255) we may merit to enter into the marriage feast with Him and to be numbered among the blessed(256) and that we may not be ordered to go into eternal fire(257) like the wicked and slothful servant,(258) into the exterior darkness where “there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth”.(259) For before we reign with Christ in glory, all of us will be made manifest “before the tribunal of Christ, so that each one may receive what he has won through the body, according to his works, whether good or evil”(260) and at the end of the world “they who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but those who have done evil unto resurrection of judgment”.(261) Reckoning therefore that “the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us”,(262) strong in faith we look for the “blessed hope and the glorious coming of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”(263) “who will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of His glory(264), and who will come “to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all those who have believed”(265).49. Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him (266) and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,(277) some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding “clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is”;(1*) but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him.(268) Therefore the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who have gone to sleep in the peace of Christ is not in the least weakened or interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the perpetual faith of the Church, is strengthened by communication of spiritual goods.(2*) For by reason of the fact that those in heaven are more closely united with Christ, they establish the whole Church more firmly in holiness, lend nobility to the worship which the Church offers to God here on earth and in many ways contribute to its greater edification.(269)(3*) For after they have been received into their heavenly home and are present to the Lord,(270) through Him and with Him and in Him they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us,(4*) showing forth the merits which they won on earth through the one Mediator between God and man,(271) serving God in all things and filling up in their flesh those things which are lacking of the sufferings of Christ for His Body which is the Church.(272)(5*) Thus by their brotherly interest our weakness is greatly strengthened.50. Fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead,(6*) and “because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins”,(273) also offers suffrages for them. The Church has always believed that the apostles and Christ’s martyrs who had given the supreme witness of faith and charity by the shedding of their blood, are closely joined with us in Christ, and she has always venerated them with special devotion, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels.(7*) The Church has piously implored the aid of their intercession. To these were soon added also those who had more closely imitated Christ’s virginity and poverty,(8*) and finally others whom the outstanding practice of the Christian virtues (9*) and the divine charisms recommended to the pious devotion and imitation of the faithful.(10*)When we look at the lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ, we are inspired with a new reason for seeking the City that is to come (274) and at the same time we are shown a most safe path by which among the vicissitudes of this world, in keeping with the state in life and condition proper to each of us, we will be able to arrive at perfect union with Christ, that is, perfect holiness. (11*) In the lives of those who, sharing in our humanity, are however more perfectly transformed into the image of Christ,(275) God vividly manifests His presence and His face to men. He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of His Kingdom,(12*) to which we are strongly drawn, having so great a cloud of witnesses over us (276) and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel.Nor is it by the title of example only that we cherish the memory of those in heaven, but still more in order that the union of the whole Church may be strengthened in the Spirit by the practice of fraternal charity.(277) For just as Christian communion among wayfarers brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its Fountain and Head issues every grace and the very life of the people of God.(13*) It is supremely fitting, therefore, that we love those friends and coheirs of Jesus Christ, who are also our brothers and extraordinary benefactors, that we render due thanks to God for them (14*) and “suppliantly invoke them and have recourse to their prayers, their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer and Saviour.”(15*) For every genuine testimony of love shown by us to those in heaven, by its very nature tends toward and terminates in Christ who is the “crown of all saints,”(16*) and through Him, in God Who is wonderful in his saints and is magnified in them.(17*)Our union with the Church in heaven is put into effect in its noblest manner especially in the sacred Liturgy, wherein the power of the Holy Spirit acts upon us through sacramental signs. Then, with combined rejoicing we celebrate together the praise of the divine majesty;(18*) then all those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (278) who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and gathered together into one Church, with one song of praise magnify the one and triune God. Celebrating the Eucharistic sacrifice therefore, we are most closely united to the Church in heaven in communion with and venerating the memory first of all of the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, of Blessed Joseph and the blessed apostles and martyrs and of all the saints.(19*)51. This Sacred Council accepts with great devotion this venerable faith of our ancestors regarding this vital fellowship with our brethren who are in heavenly glory or who having died are still being purified; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea,(20*) the Council of Florence (21*) and the Council of Trent.(22*) And at the same time, in conformity with our own pastoral interests, we urge all concerned, if any abuses, excesses or defects have crept in here or there, to do what is in their power to remove or correct them, and to restore all things to a fuller praise of Christ and of God. Let them therefore teach the faithful that the authentic cult of the saints consists not so much in the multiplying of external acts, but rather in the greater intensity of our love, whereby, for our own greater good and that of the whole Church, we seek from the saints “example in their way of life, fellowship in their communion, and aid by their intercession.”(23*) On the other hand, let them teach the faithful that our communion with those in heaven, provided that it is understood in the fuller light of faith according to its genuine nature, in no way weakens, but conversely, more thoroughly enriches the latreutic worship we give to God the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit.(24*)For all of us, who are sons of God and constitute one family in Christ,(279) as long as we remain in communion with one another in mutual charity and in one praise of the most holy Trinity, are corresponding with the intimate vocation of the Church and partaking in foretaste the liturgy of consummate glory.(25*) For when Christ shall appear and the glorious resurrection of the dead will take place, the glory of God will light up the heavenly City and the Lamb will be the lamp thereof.(280) Then the whole Church of the saints in the supreme happiness of charity will adore God and “the Lamb who was slain”,(281) proclaiming with one voice: “To Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb blessing, and honor, and glory, and dominion forever and ever”.(282)

CHAPTER VIII THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OF GOD IN THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST AND THE CHURCH

I. Introduction52. Wishing in His supreme goodness and wisdom to effect the redemption of the world, “when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman…that we might receive the adoption of sons”.(283) “He for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary.”(1*) This divine mystery of salvation is revealed to us and continued in the Church, which the Lord established as His body. Joined to Christ the Head and in the unity of fellowship with all His saints, the faithful must in the first place reverence the memory “of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ”.(2*)53. The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is “the mother of the members of Christ . . . having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head.”(3*) Wherefore she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.54. Wherefore this Holy Synod, in expounding the doctrine on the Church, in which the divine Redeemer works salvation, intends to describe with diligence both the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body, and the duties of redeemed mankind toward the Mother of God, who is mother of Christ and mother of men, particularly of the faithful. It does not, however, have it in mind to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified. Those opinions therefore may be lawfully retained which are propounded in Catholic schools concerning her, who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.(4*)

II. The Role of the Blessed Mother in the Economy of Salvation55. The Sacred Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament, as well as ancient Tradition show the role of the Mother of the Saviour in the economy of salvation in an ever clearer light and draw attention to it. The books of the Old Testament describe the history of salvation, by which the coming of Christ into the world was slowly prepared. These earliest documents, as they are read in the Church and are understood in the light of a further and full revelation, bring the figure of the woman, Mother of the Redeemer, into a gradually clearer light. When it is looked at in this way, she is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise of victory over the serpent which was given to our first parents after their fall into sin.(284) Likewise she is the Virgin who shall conceive and bear a son, whose name will be called Emmanuel.(285) She stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from Him. With her the exalted Daughter of Sion, and after a long expectation of the promise, the times are fulfilled and the new Economy established, when the Son of God took a human nature from her, that He might in the mysteries of His flesh free man from sin.56. The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son, so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life. That is true in outstanding fashion of the mother of Jesus, who gave to the world Him who is Life itself and who renews all things, and who was enriched by God with the gifts which befit such a role. It is no wonder therefore that the usage prevailed among the Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.(5*) Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the radiance of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is greeted, on God’s command, by an angel messenger as “full of grace”,(286) and to the heavenly messenger she replies: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word”.(287) Thus Mary, a daughter of Adam, consenting to the divine Word, became the mother of Jesus, the one and only Mediator. Embracing God’s salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption. Rightly therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she “being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”(6*) Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert in their preaching, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”(7*) Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her “the Mother of the living,”(8*) and still more often they say: “death through Eve, life through Mary.”(9*)57. This union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to His death it is shown first of all when Mary, arising in haste to go to visit Elizabeth, is greeted by her as blessed because of her belief in the promise of salvation and the precursor leaped with joy in the womb of his mother.(288) This union is manifest also at the birth of Our Lord, who did not diminish His mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it,(10*) when the Mother of God joyfully showed her firstborn Son to the shepherds and Magi. When she presented Him to the Lord in the temple, making the offering of the poor, she heard Simeon foretelling at the same time that her Son would be a sign of contradiction and that a sword would pierce the mother’s soul, that out of many hearts thoughts might be revealed.(289) When the Child Jesus was lost and they had sought Him sorrowing, His parents found Him in the temple, taken up with the things that were His Father’s business; and they did not understand the word of their Son. His Mother indeed kept these things to be pondered over in her heart.(290)58. In the public life of Jesus, Mary makes significant appearances. This is so even at the very beginning when at the marriage feast of Cana, moved with pity, she brought about by her intercession the beginning of miracles of Jesus the Messiah.(291) In the course of her Son’s preaching she received the words whereby in extolling a kingdom beyond the calculations and bonds of flesh and blood, He declared blessed(292) those who heard and kept the word of God, as she was faithfully doing.(293) After this manner the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan,(294) grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to His disciple with these words: “Woman, behold thy son”.(295) (11*)59. But since it has pleased God not to manifest solemnly the mystery of the salvation of the human race before He would pour forth the Spirit promised by Christ, we see the apostles before the day of Pentecost “persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren”,(296) and Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation. Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin,(12*) on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory,(13*) and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords(297) and the conqueror of sin and death.(l4*)

III. On the Blessed Virgin and the Church60. There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, “for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all”.(298) The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.61. Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin was on this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Saviour in giving back supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace.62. This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.(15*) By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and cultics, until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix.(16*) This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator.(17*)For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. It knows it through unfailing experience of it and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more intimately adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer.63. By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.(18*) For in the mystery of the Church, which is itself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of virgin and mother. (19*) By her belief and obedience, not knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the new Eve she brought forth on earth the very Son of the Father, showing an undefiled faith, not in the word of the ancient serpent, but in that of God’s messenger. The Son whom she brought forth is He whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren,(299) namely the faithful, in whose birth and education she cooperates with a maternal love.64. The Church indeed, contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and faithfully fulfilling the Father’s will, by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By her preaching she brings forth to a new and immortal life the sons who are born to her in baptism, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God. She herself is a virgin, who keeps the faith given to her by her Spouse whole and entire. Imitating the mother of her Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, she keeps with virginal purity an entire faith, a firm hope and a sincere charity.(20*)65. But while in the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin.(300) And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues. Piously meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church with reverence enters more intimately into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her Spouse. For Mary, who since her entry into salvation history unites in herself and re-echoes the greatest teachings of the faith as she is proclaimed and venerated, calls the faithful to her Son and His sacrifice and to the love of the Father. Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her exalted Type, and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things. Hence the Church, in her apostolic work also, justly looks to her, who, conceived of the Holy Spirit, brought forth Christ, who was born of the Virgin that through the Church He may be born and may increase in the hearts of the faithful also. The Virgin in her own life lived an example of that maternal love, by which it behooves that all should be animated who cooperate in the apostolic mission of the Church for the regeneration of men.

IV. The Cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church. Placed by the grace of God, as God’s Mother, next to her Son, and exalted above all angels and men, Mary intervened in the mysteries of Christ and is justly honored by a special cult in the Church. Clearly from earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, under whose protection the faithful took refuge in all their dangers and necessities.(21*) Hence after the Synod of Ephesus the cult of the people of God toward Mary wonderfully increased in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation, according to her own prophetic words: “All generations shall call me blessed, because He that is mighty hath done great things to me”.(301) This cult, as it always existed, although it is altogether singular, differs essentially from the cult of adoration which is offered to the Incarnate Word, as well to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and it is most favorable to it. The various forms of piety toward the Mother of God, which the Church within the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine, according to the conditions of time and place, and the nature and ingenuity of the faithful has approved, bring it about that while the Mother is honored, the Son, through whom all things have their being (302) and in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell,(303) is rightly known, loved and glorified and that all His commands are observed.67. This most Holy Synod deliberately teaches this Catholic doctrine and at the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered, and the practices and exercises of piety, recommended by the magisterium of the Church toward her in the course of centuries be made of great moment, and those decrees, which have been given in the early days regarding the cult of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed.(22*) But it exhorts theologians and preachers of the divine word to abstain zealously both from all gross exaggerations as well as from petty narrow-mindedness in considering the singular dignity of the Mother of God.(23*) Following the study of Sacred Scripture, the Holy Fathers, the doctors and liturgy of the Church, and under the guidance of the Church’s magisterium, let them rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin which always look to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity, and piety. Let them assiduously keep away from whatever, either by word or deed, could lead separated brethren or any other into error regarding the true doctrine of the Church. Let the faithful remember moreover that true devotion consists neither in sterile or transitory affection, nor in a certain vain credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to know the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to a filial love toward our mother and to the imitation of her virtues.

V. Mary the sign of created hope and solace to the wandering people of God68. In the interim just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected is the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come,(304) as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth.69. It gives great joy and comfort to this holy and general Synod that even among the separated brethren there are some who give due honor to the Mother of our Lord and Saviour, especially among the Orientals, who with devout mind and fervent impulse give honor to the Mother of God, ever virgin.(24*) The entire body of the faithful pours forth instant supplications to the Mother of God and Mother of men that she, who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers, may now, exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede before her Son in the fellowship of all the saints, until all families of people, whether they are honored with the title of Christian or whether they still do not know the Saviour, may be happily gathered together in peace and harmony into one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity.Each and all these items which are set forth in this dogmatic Constitution have met with the approval of the Council Fathers. And We by the apostolic power given Us by Christ together with the Venerable Fathers in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and establish it and command that what has thus been decided in the Council be promulgated for the glory of God.Given in Rome at St. Peter’s on November 21, 1964.

APPENDIX 
From the Acts of the Council*‘NOTIFICATIONES’ GIVEN BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL 
OF THE COUNCIL AT THE 123rd GENERAL CONGREGATION,
NOVEMBER 16, 1964
A question has arisen regarding the precise theological note which should be attached to the doctrine that is set forth in the Schema de Ecclesia and is being put to a vote.The Theological Commission has given the following response regarding the Modi that have to do with Chapter III of the de Ecclesia Schema: “As is self-evident, the Council’s text must always be interpreted in accordance with the general rules that are known to all.”On this occasion the Theological Commission makes reference to its Declaration of March 6, 1964, the text of which we transcribe here:”Taking conciliar custom into consideration and also the pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred Council defines as binding on the Church only those things in matters of faith and morals which it shall openly declare to be binding. The rest of the things which the sacred Council sets forth, inasmuch as they are the teaching of the Church’s supreme magisterium, ought to be accepted and embraced by each and every one of Christ’s faithful according to the mind of the sacred Council. The mind of the Council becomes known either from the matter treated or from its manner of speaking, in accordance with the norms of theological interpretation.”**The following was published as an appendix to the official Latin version of the Constitution on the Church.**A preliminary note of explanation is being given to the Council Fathers from higher-authority, regarding the Modi bearing on Chapter III of the Schema de Ecclesia; the doctrine set forth in Chapter III ought to be explained and understood in accordance with the meaning and intent of this explanatory note.
Preliminary Note of ExplanationThe Commission has decided to preface the assessment of the Modi with the following general observations.1. “College” is not understood in a strictly juridical sense, that is as a group of equals who entrust their power to their president, but as a stable group whose structure and authority must be learned from Revelation. For this reason, in reply to Modus 12 it is expressly said of the Twelve that the Lord set them up “as a college or stable group.” Cf. also Modus 53, c.For the same reason, the words “Ordo” or “Corpus” are used throughout with reference to the College of bishops. The parallel between Peter and the rest of the Apostles on the one hand, and between the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops on the other hand, does not imply the transmission of the Apostles’ extraordinary power to their successors; nor does it imply, as is obvious, equality between the head of the College and its members, but only a proportionality between the first relationship (Peter-Apostles) and the second (Pope-bishops). Thus the Commission decided to write “pari ratione, ” not “eadem ratione,” in n. 22. Cf. Modus 57.2. A person becomes a member of the College by virtue of Episcopal consecration and by hierarchical communion with the head of the College and with its members. Cf. n. 22, end of 1 1.In his consecration a person is given an ontological participation in the sacred functions [munera]; this is absolutely clear from Tradition, liturgical tradition included. The word “functions [munera]” is used deliberately instead of the word “powers [potestates],” because the latter word could be understood as a power fully ready to act. But for this power to be fully ready to act, there must be a further canonical or juridical determination through the hierarchical authority. This determination of power can consist in the granting of a particular office or in the allotment of subjects, and it is done according to the norms approved by the supreme authority. An additional norm of this sort is required by the very nature of the case, because it involves functions [munera] which must be exercised by many subjects cooperating in a hierarchical manner in accordance with Christ’s will. It is evident that this “communion” was applied in the Church’s life according to the circumstances of the time, before it was codified as law.For this reason it is clearly stated that hierarchical communion with the head and members of the church is required. Communion is a notion which is held in high honor in the ancient Church (and also today, especially in the East). However, it is not understood as some kind of vague disposition, but as an organic reality which requires a juridical form and is animated by charity. Hence the Commission, almost unanimously, decided that this wording should be used: “in hierarchical communion.” Cf. Modus 40 and the statements on canonical mission (n. 24).The documents of recent Pontiffs regarding the jurisdiction of bishops must be interpreted in terms of this necessary determination of powers.3. The College, which does not exist without the head, is said “to exist also as the subject of supreme and full power in the universal Church.” This must be admitted of necessity so that the fullness of power belonging to the Roman Pontiff is not called into question. For the College, always and of necessity, includes its head, because in the college he preserves unhindered his function as Christ’s Vicar and as Pastor of the universal Church. In other words, it is not a distinction between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops taken collectively, but a distinction between the Roman Pontiff taken separately and the Roman Pontiff together with the bishops. Since the Supreme Pontiff is head of the College, he alone is able to perform certain actions which are not at all within the competence of the bishops, e.g., convoking the College and directing it, approving norms of action, etc. Cf. Modus 81. It is up to the judgment of the Supreme Pontiff, to whose care Christ’s whole flock has been entrusted, to determine, according to the needs of the Church as they change over the course of centuries, the way in which this care may best be exercised—whether in a personal or a collegial way. The Roman Pontiff, taking account of the Church’s welfare, proceeds according to his own discretion in arranging, promoting and approving the exercise of collegial activity.4. As Supreme Pastor of the Church, the Supreme Pontiff can always exercise his power at will, as his very office demands. Though it is always in existence, the College is not as a result permanently engaged in strictly collegial activity; the Church’s Tradition makes this clear. In other words, the College is not always “fully active [in actu pleno]”; rather, it acts as a college in the strict sense only from time to time and only with the consent of its head. The phrase “with the consent of its head” is used to avoid the idea of dependence on some kind of outsider; the term “consent” suggests rather communion between the head and the members, and implies the need for an act which belongs properly to the competence of the head. This is explicitly affirmed in n. 22, 12, and is explained at the end of that section. The word “only” takes in all cases. It is evident from this that the norms approved by the supreme authority must always be observed. Cf. Modus 84.It is clear throughout that it is a question of the bishops acting in conjunction with their head, never of the bishops acting independently of the Pope. In the latter instance, without the action of the head, the bishops are not able to act as a College: this is clear from the concept of “College.” This hierarchical communion of all the bishops with the Supreme Pontiff is certainly firmly established in Tradition.N.B. Without hierarchical communion the ontologico-sacramental function [munus], which is to be distinguished from the juridico-canonical aspect, cannot be exercised. However, the Commission has decided that it should not enter into question of liceity and validity. These questions are left to theologians to discuss—specifically the question of the power exercised de facto among the separated Eastern Churches, about which there are various explanations.”+ PERICLE FELICI 
Titular Archbishop of Samosata 
Secretary General of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council
NOTES1 Cf. Mk. 16:15.2 Col. 1:15.3 Rom. 8:29.4 Cf. Eph. 1:4-5 and 10.5 Cf. Jn. 19:34.6 Jn. 12:32.7 1 Cor 5:7.8 Cf. 1 Cor. 10:17.9 Cf. Jn. 17:4.10 Cf Eph. 1:18.11 Cf Jn. 4:14; 7:38-39.12 Cf. Rom. 8:10-11.13 Cf. Cor. 3:16; 6:19.14 Cf. Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15-16 and 26.15 Cf. Jn. 16:13.16 Cf. Eph. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:4 Gal. 5:22.17. Rev. 22:1718. Mk. 1:15; cf. Mt. 4:17.19. Mk. 4:14.20 Lk. 12:32.21 Cf. Mk. 4:26-29.22 Lk. 11:20; cf. Mt.12:28.23 Mk. 10.45.24 Cf. Acts 2:36; Heb. 5:6; 7:17-21.25 Cf. Acts 2:33.26 Jn. 10:1-10.27 Cf. Is. 40:11; Ex. 34:11ff.28 Cf Jn. 10:11; 1 Pt. 5:4.29 Cf. Jn. 10:11-15.30 l Cor. 3:9.31 1 Rom. 11:13-26.32 Mt. 21:33-43; cf. Is. 5:1 ff.33 Jn. 15:1-5.34 1 Cor. 3:9.35 Mt 21:42; cf. Acts 4:11; 1 Pt. 2:7; Ps. 117:22.36 Cf. 1 Cor. 3:11.37 1 Tim. 3:15.38 Eph. 2:19-22.39 Rev. 21:3.40 1 Pt. 2:5.41 Rev. 21:16.42 Gal. 4:26; cf. Rev. 12:17.43 Rev. 19:7; 21:2 and 9; 22:1744 Eph. 5:26.45 Eph. 5:29.46 Cf. Eph. 5:24.47 Cf. Eph. 3:19.48 Cf. 2 Cor. 5:6.49 Cf. Col. 3:1-4.50 Cf. Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17.51 1 Cor. 12:13.52 Rom. 6:15.53 1 Cor. 10:17.54 Cf. 1 Cor 12:27.55 Rom. 12:5.56 Cf. 1 Cor. 12:12.57 Cf. 1 Cor. 12.1-11.58 Cf. 1 Cor. 14.59 Cf. l Cor. 12:26.60 Cf. Col. 1:15-18.61 Cf. Eph. 1:18-23.62 Cf. Gal. 4:19.63 Cf. Phil. 3:21; 2 Tim. 2:11; Eph. 2:6; Col. 2:12 etc.64 Cf. Rom. 8:17.65 Col. 2:19.66 Cf. Eph. 4:11-16.67 Cf. Eph. 4:23.68 Cf. Eph. 5:25-28.69 Ibid. 23-24.70 Col. 2:9.71 Cf. Eph. 1:22-23.72 Cf. Eph. 3:19.73 Cf. Eph. 4:16.74 Jn. 21:17.75 Cf. Mt. 28:18, f.76 1 Tim. 3:15.77 Phil. 2:6.78 2 Cor. 8:9.79 Lk. 4:18.80 Lk. 19:10.81 Heb. 7:26.82 2 Cor. 5:21.83 Cf. Heb. 2:17.84 Cf. 1 Cor. 11:26.85 Cf. Acts 10:35.86 Jer. 31:31-34.87 Cf. 1 Cor. 11:25.88 Cf. 1 Pt. 1:23.89 Cf. Jn. 3:5-6.90 1 Pt. 2:9-10.91 Rom. 4:25.92 Cf. Jn. 13:34.93 Cf. Col. 3:4.94 Rom. 8:21.95 Cf. Mt. 5:13-16.96 Neh. 13:1; cf. Deut. 23:1 ff; Num. 20:4.97 Cf. Heb. 13:14.98 Cf. Mt. 16:18.99 Cf. Acts 20:28.100 Cf. Heb. 5:1-5.101 Cf Rev. 6:1; cf. 5:9-10102 Cf. 1 Pt.2:4-10.103 Cf. Acts 2:42-47.104 Cf. Rom. 12:1.105 Cf 1 Pt. 3:15107 Cf. Rom; 8:17; Col. 1:24; 2 Tim. 2:11-12; 1 Pet. 4:13.108 Cf. Eph. 5:32.109 Cf. 1 Cor. 7, 7.110 Cf. Heb. 13:15.111 Cf. Jn. 2:20, 27112 Cf. 1 Thess. 2:13.113 Cf. Jud. 3114 1 Cor. 12:11.115 Cf. 1 Thess 5:12, 19-21.116 Cf. Jn. 11:52.117 Cf. Heb. 1:2.119 Cf. Acts 2:42.120 Cf. Jn. 18:36121 Cf. Ps. 2:8.122 Cf. Ps. 71 (72):10; Is. 60:4-7; Rev. 21:24.123 1 Pet. 4:10.124 Cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3.5.125 Cf. Rom. 9:4-5126 Cf. Rom. 1 l:28-29.127 Cf. Acts 17:25-28.128 Cf. 1 Tim. 2:4.129 Cf Rom. 1:21, 25.130 Mk. 16:16.131 Cf. Jn. 20:21.132 Mt. 2:18-20.133 Cf. Acts 1:8.134 I Cor. 9:16.135 Mal. 1:11136 Jn. 20:21.137 Mk. 3:13-19; Mt. 10:1-42.138 Cf Lk. 6:13.139 Cf. Jn. 21:15-17.140 Rom. 1:16.141 Cf. Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:45-48; Jn. 20:21-23.142 Cf. Mt. 28:20.143 Cf. Acts 2:1-26.144 Acts 1.8.145 Cf. Mk. 16:20.146 Cf. Rev. 21:14; Mt. 16:18; Eph. 2:20.147 Cf. Mt. 28:20.148 Cf. Acts 20:28.149 Cf. Lk. 10:16.150 Cf. 1 Cor. 4:15.151 Cf. 1 Cor. 4:1.152 Cf. Rom. 15:16; Acts 20:24.153 Cf. 2 Cor. 3:8-9.154 Cf Acts 1:8, 2:4, Jn. 20:22-23.155 Cf 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6-7.156 Cf. Mt. 16.18-19.157 Cf. Jn. 21:15 ff.158 Mt. 16:19.159 Mt. 18:18, 28:16-20.160 Cf . Mt. 5:10.161 Cf. Mt. 28:18; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 26:17 ff.162 Cf Acts 1:8- 2:1 ff, 9:15.163 Cf Acts 1:17, 25; 21:19; Rom. 11:13; 1 Tim. 1:12.164 Cf. Mt. 13:52.165 Cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-4.166 Cf. Lk. 22:32.167 Cf. 1. Thess. 1:5.168 Cf. Rom. 1:16.169 Cf. Lk. 22:26-27.170 Cf. Mt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45.171 Cf. Jn. 10:11.172 Cf. Heb. 5:1-2.173 Cf. Heb. 13:17.174 Cf. Rom. 1:14-15.175 Cf. 1 Cor. 4:15.176 Jn. 10:36.177 Heb. 5:1-10, 7:24, 9:11-28.178 1 Tim. 2:5.179 Cf. 1 Cor. 11:26.180 Cf. Heb. 9:11-28.181 Heb. 5:1-4.182 Jn. 4:24.183 Cf. 1 Tim. 5:17.184 Cf. Eph. 4:12.185 Cf. Jn. 15:15.186 Cf. 1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Pt. 1:23.187 1 Pt. 5:3.188 Cf 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1.189 Cf Lk. 15:4-7.190 Eph. 4:15-16.191 1 Rom. 12:4-5192 Cf. Eph. 4:5.193 Gal. 3:28; cf. Col. 3.11.194 Cf. 2 Pt. 1:1.195 1 Cor. 12:11.196 Cf. Mt. 20:28.197 Eph. 4:7.198 Cf. Phil. 4:3; Rom. 16:3ff.199 Pt. 2:5.200 Cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rev. 19:10.201 Cf. Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5.202 Cf. Rom. 8:25.203 Eph. 6:12204 Cf. Rev. 21:1.205 Cf. Heb. 11:1206 Cf. Phil. 2:8-9.207 Cf 1 Cor. 15:27208 Cf. Rom. 6:12.209 Cf Rom. 8:21.210 1 Cor. 3:23.211 Cf. Heb. 13:17.212 Cf. Gal. 5:12.213 Cf Mt. 5:3-9.214 Cf Eph. 5:25-26.215 l Thess. 4.3; cf. Eph.1:4.216 Mt. 5:48.217 Cf. Mk. 12:30.218 Cf. Jn. 13.34; 15:12.219 Eph. 5:3.220 Col . 3:12.221 Cf. Gal. 5:22; Rom. 6:22.222 Cf. Jas. 3:2.223 1 Mt. 6:12.224 Cf. 1 Pt. 5:3.225 Cf. 1 Tim. 3:8-10 and 12-1226 1 Pt. 5:10.227 1 Jn. 4:16.228 Cf. Rom. 5:5.229 Cf. Col. 3:14; Rom. 13:10.230 Cf. 1 Jn. 3:16; Jn. 15:13.231 Cf 1 Cor. 7:32-34.232 Cf Mt. l9:11; 1 Cor.7:7.233 Phil. 2:7-8.234 2 Cor. 8:9.235 Cf 1. Cor. 7:31ff.236 Ezech. 34:14.237 Acts 3:21.238 Cf Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20; 2 Pt.3:10-13.239 Cf. Jn. 12:32.240 Cf. Rom. 6:9.241 Cf. Phil. 2:12.242 Cf 1 Cor. 10:11.243 Cf. 2. Pt. 3:13.244 Cf. Rom. 8:19-22.245 Eph. 1:14.246 Cf. 1 Jn. 3:1.247 Cf. Col. 3.4248 Cf. 1 Jn. 3:2249 2 Cor. 5:6.250 Cf. Rom. 8:23.251 Cf. Phil. 1:23.252 Cf. 2 Cor 5:15.253 Cf. 2 Cor. 5:9.254 Cf. Eph.6:11-13.255 Cf. Heb 9:27.256 Cf. Mt. 25:31-46.257 Cf. Mt. 25:41.258 Cf. Mt. 25:26.259 Mt. 22:13 and 25:30.260 2 Cor. 5:10.261 Jn. 5:29; Cf. Mt. 25:46.262 Rom. 8:18; cf. 2 Tim. 2.11-12.263 Tit. 2:13.264 Phil. 3,:21.265 2 Thess. 1:10.266 Cf. Mt. 25:31.267 Cf. 1 Cor. 15:26-27.268 Cf. Eph. 4:16.269 Cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-27.270 Cf. 2 Cor. 5.8.271 Cf. 1 Tim. 2.5.272 Cf. Col. 1:24.273 2 Macc. 12:46.274 Cf. Heb. 13:14; 11:10.275 Cf. 2 Cor. 3:18.276 Cf. Heb. 12:1.277 Cf Eph. 4:1-6.278 Cf. Rev. 5:9.279 Cf. Heb. 3:6.280 Cf. Rev. 21:24.281 Rev. 5:12.282 Rev. 5:13-14.283 Gal. 4:4-5.284 Cf. Gen. 3:15.285 Cf. Is 7:14; cf. Mich. 5:2-3; Mt. 1:22-23.286 Cf. Lk. 1:28.287 Lk. 1:38.288 Cf. Lk. 1:41-45.289 Cf. Lk. 2:34-35290 Cf. Lk. 2:41-51.291 Cf. Jn. 2:1-11.292 Cf. Mk. 3:35; Lk. 11:27-28.293 Cf. Lk. 2:19, 51.294 Cf. Jn. 19:25.295 Cf. Jn. 19:26-27.296 Acts 1:14.297 Cf Rev. 19:16298 1 Tim. 2:5-6.299 Rom. 8:29.300 Cf. Eph 5:27.301 Lk. 1:48.302 Cf. Col. 1:15-16.303 Col 1:19.304 Cf. 2 Pt. 3:10.SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES (*)Chapter I(1) Cfr. S. Cyprianus, Epist. 64, 4: PL 3, 1017. CSEL (Hartcl), III B p. 720. S. Hilarius Pict., In Mt 23, 6: PL 9, 1047. S. Augustinus, passim. S. Cyrillus Alex., Glaph in Gen. 2, 10: PG 69, 110 A.(2) Cfr. S. Gregorius M., Hom in Evang. 19, 1: PL 76, 1154 B. S Augustinus, Serm. 341, 9, 11: PL 39, 1499 s. S. Io. Damascenus, Adv. Iconocl. 11: PG 96, 1357.(3) Cfr. S. Irenaeus, adv. Haer, 111 24, 1: PG 7, 966 B; Harvey 2, 13i, ed. Sagnard, Sources Chr., p 398.(4) S. Cyprianus, De Orat Dom. 23: PL 4, 5S3, Hartel, III A, p. 28S. S. Augustinus, Serm. 71, 20, 33: PL 38, 463 s. S. Io. Damascenus, Adv. Iconocl. 12: PG 96, 1358 D.(5) Cfr. Origenes, In Matth. 16, 21: PG 13, 1443 C, Tertullianus Adv. Marc. 3, 7: PL 2, 357 C, CSEL 47, 3 p. 386. Pro documentis liturgicis, cfr. Sacramentarium Gregorianum: PL 78, 160 B.Vel C. Mohlberg, Liber Sactamentorum romanae ecclesiae, Romao 195O, p. 111, XC:.Deus, qui ex omni coaptacione sanctorum aeternum tibi condis habitaculum….. Hymnus Urbs Ierusalem beata in Breviario monastico, et Coclest urbs Ierusalem in Breviario Romano.(6) Cfr. S. Thomas, Sumtna Theol. III, q. 62, a. 5, ad 1.(7) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl Mystici Corporis, 29 iun. 1943 AAS 35 (1943), p. 208.(8) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl Divinum illud, 9 maii 1897: AAS 29 (1896-97) p. 6S0. Pius XII, Litt Encyl. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., pp 219-220; Denz. 2288 (3808).S. Augustinus, Serm. 268, 2: PL 38 232, ct alibi. S. Io. Chrysostomus n Eph. Hom. 9, 3: PG 62, 72. idymus Alex., Trin. 2, 1: PG 39 49 s. S. Thomas, In Col. 1, 18 cet. 5 ed. Marietti, II, n. 46-Sieut constituitur unum eorpus ex nitate animae, ita Ecelesia ex unil atc Spiritus…..(9) Leo XIII, Litt. Encycl. Sapientiae christianae, 10 ian. 1890 AAS 22 (1889-90) p. 392. Id., Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitium, 29 iun. 1896; AAS 28 (1895-96) pp. 710 ct 724 ss. Pius XII, Litt. Eneyel. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., pp. 199-200.(10) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., p. 221 ss. Id., Lin. Encycl. Humani genesis, 12 Aug. 1950: AAS 42 (1950) p. 571.(11) Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitum, 1. c., p. 713.(12) Cfr. Symbolum Apostolicum: Denz. 6-9 (10-13); Symb. Nic.-Const.: Denz. 86 (150), coll. Prof. fidei Trid.: Denz. 994 et 999 (1862 et 1868).(13) Dieitur. Saneta (catholica apostolica) Romana Ecelesia .: in Prof. fidei Trid., 1. c. et Concl. Vat. I, Sess. III, Const. dogm. de fide cath.: Denz. 1782 (3001).(14) S. Augustinus, Civ. Dei, XVIII, 51, 2: PL 41, 614.Chapter II(1) Cfr. S. Cyprianus, Epist. 69, 6: PL 3, 1142 B; Hartel 3 B, p. 754: inseparabile unitatis sacramentum ..(2) Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Magnificate Dominum, 2 nov. 1954: AAS 46 (1954) p. 669. Litt. Encycl. Mediator Dei, 20 nov. 1947: AAS 39 (1947) p. 555.(3) Cfr. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Miserentissimus Redemptor, 8 maii 1928: AAS 20 (1928) p. 171 s. Pius XII Alloc. Vous nous avez, 22 sept. 1956: AAS 48 (1956) p. 714.(4) Cfr. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 63, a. 2.(5) Cfr. S. Cyrillus Hieros., Catech. 17, de Spiritu Sancto, II, 35-37: PG 33, 1009-1012. Nic. Cabasilas, De vita in Christo, lib. III, de utilitate chrismatis: PG 150, 569-580. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 65, a. 3 et q. 72, a. 1 et 5.(6) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mediator Dei 20 nov. 1947: AAS 39 (1947), paesertim p. 552 s.(7) I Cor. 7, 7: . Unusquisque proprium donum (idion charisma) habet ex Deo: alius quidem sic alius vero sic .. Cfr. S. Augustinus, De Dono Persev. 14, 37: PL 45, 1015 s.: Non tantum continenti Dei donum est, sed coniugatorum etiam castitas.(8) Cfr. S. Augustinus, D Praed. Sanct. 14, 27: PL 44, 980.(9) Cfr. S. Io. Chrysostomus, In Io. Hom. 65, 1: PG 59, 361.(10) Cfr. S. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III, 16, 6; III, 22, 1-3: PG 7, 925 C-926 Aet 955 C – 958 A; Harvey 2, 87 s. et 120-123; Sagnard, Ed. Sources Chret., pp. 290-292 et 372 ss.(11) Cfr. S. Ignatius M., Ad Rom., Praef.: Ed. Funk, I, p. 252.(12) Cfr. S. Augustinus, Bapt. c. Donat. V, 28, 39; PL 43, 197: Certe manifestum est, id quod dicitur, in Ecdesia intus et foris, in corde, non in corpore cogitandum. Cfr. ib., III, 19, 26: col. 152; V, 18, 24: col. 189; In Io. Tr. 61, 2: PL 35, 1800, et alibi saepe.(13) Cfr. Lc. 12, 48: Omni autem, cui multum datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo. Cfr. etiam Mt. 5, 19-20; 7, 21-22; 25 41-46; Iac., 2, 14.(14) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Apost. Praeclara gratulationis, 20 iun. 1894; AAS 26 (1893-94) p. 707.(15) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitum, 29 iun. 1896: ASS 28 (1895-96) p. 738. Epist. Encycl. Caritatis studium, 25 iul. 1898: ASS 31 (1898-99) p. 11. Pius XII, Nuntius radioph. Nell’alba, 24 dec. 1941: AAS 34 (1942) p. 21.(16) Cfr. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Rerum Orientalium, 8 sept. 1928: AAS 20 (1928) p. 287. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl Orientalis Ecclesiae, 9 apr. 1944: AAS 36 (1944) p. 137(17) Cfr. Inst. S.S.C.S. Officii 20 dec. 1949: AAS 42 (1950) p.142.(18) Cfr. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 8, a. 3, ad 1.(19) Cfr. Epist. S.S.C.S. Officii ad Archiep. Boston.: Denz. 3869-72.(20) Cfr. Eusebius Caes., Praeparatio Evangelica, 1, 1: PG 2128 AB.(21) Cfr. Benedictus XV, Epist. Apost. Maximum illud: AAS 11 (1919) p. 440, praesertim p. 451 ss. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Rerum Ecclesiae: AAS 18 (1926) p. 68-69. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Fidei Donum, 21 apr. 1957: AAS 49 (1957) pp. 236-237.(22) Cfr. Didache, 14: ed. Funk I, p. 32. S. Iustinus, Dial. 41: PG 6, 564. S. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. IV 17, 5; PG 7, 1023; Harvey, 2, p. 199 s. Conc. Trid., Sess. 22, cap. 1; Denz. 939 (1742).Chapter III(1) Cfr. Conc. Vat. I, Sess. IV, Const. Dogm. Pastor aeternus. Denz. 1821 (3050 s.).(2) Cfr. Conc. Flor., Decretum pro Graecis: Denz. 694 (1307) et Conc. Vat. I, ib.: Denz. 1826 (3059)(3) Cfr. Liber sacramentorum S. Gregorii, Praefatio in Cathedra S. Petri, in natali S. Mathiae et S. Thomas: PL 78, 50, 51 et 152. S. Hilarius, In Ps. 67, 10: PL 9, 4S0; CSEL 22, p. 286. S.Hieronymus, Adv. Iovin. 1, 26: PL 23, 247 A. S. Augustinus, In Ps. 86, 4: PL 37, 1103. S. Gregorius M., Mor. in lob, XXVIII, V: PL 76, 455-456. Primasius, Comm. in Apoc. V: PL 68, 924 BC. Paschasius Radb., In Matth. L. VIII, cap. 16: PL 120, 561 C. Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Et sane, 17 dec. 1888: AAS 21 (1888) p. 321.(4) Cfr. Act 6, 2-6; 11, 30; 13, 1, 14, 23; 20, 17; 1 Thess. 5, 12-13; Phil. 1, 1 Col. 4, 11, et passim.(5) Cfr. Act. 20, 25-27; 2 Tim. 4, 6 s. coll. c. I Tim. 5, 22; 2 Tim. 2, 2 Tit. 1, 5; S. Clem. Rom., Ad Cor. 44, 3; ed. Funk, 1, p. 156.(6) S. Clem. Rom., ad Cor. 44, 2; ed. Funk, I, p. 154 s.(7) Cfr. Tertull., Praescr. Haer. 32; PL 2, 52 s.; S. Ignatius M., passim.(8) Cfr. Tertull., Praescr. Haer. 32; PL 2, 53.(9) Cfr. S. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III, 3, 1; PG 7, 848 A; Harvey 2, 8; Sagnard, p. 100 s.: manifestatam.(10) Cfr. S. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III, 2, 2; PG 7, 847; Harvey 2, 7; Sagnard, p. 100: . custoditur ,., cfr. ib. IV, 26, 2; col. 1O53, Harvey 2, 236, necnon IV, 33, 8; col. 1077; Harvey 2, 262.(11) S. Ign. M., Philad., Praef.; ed. Funk, I, p. 264.(12) S. Ign. M., Philad., 1, 1; Magn. 6, 1; Ed. Funk, I, pp. 264 et 234.(13) S. Clem. Rom., 1. c., 42, 3-4, 44, 3-4; 57, 1-2; Ed. Funk. I, 152, 156, 171 s. S. Ign. M., Philad. 2; Smyrn. 8; Magn. 3; Trall. 7; Ed. Funk, I, p. 265 s.; 282; 232 246 s. etc.; S. Iustinus, Apol., 1, 6S G 6, 428; S. Cyprianus, Epist. assim.(14) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitum, 29 iun. 896: ASS 28 (1895-96) p. 732.(15) Cfr. Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, ecr. de sacr. Ordinis, cap. 4; enz. 960 (1768); Conc. Vat. I, ess. 4 Const. Dogm. I De Ecclesia Christi, cap. 3: Denz. 1828 (3061). Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Cororis, 29 iun. 1943: ASS 35 (1943) p. 209 et 212. Cod. Iur. Can., c. 29 1.(16) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Et sane, 17 dec. 1888: ASS 21 (1888) p. 321 s.(17) S. Leo M., Serm. 5, 3: PL 54, 154.(18) Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, cap. 3, citat verba 2 Tim. 1, 6-7, ut demonstret Ordinem esse verum sacramentum: Denz. 959 (1766).(19) In Trad. Apost. 3, ed. Botte, Sources Chr., pp. 27-30, Episcopo tribuitur primatus sacerdotii. Cfr. Sacramentarium Leonianum, ed. C. Mohlberg, Sacramentarium Veronense, Romae, 195S, p. 119: ad summi sacerdotii ministerium… Comple in sacerdotibus tuis mysterii tui summam…. Idem, Liber Sacramentorum Romanae Ecclesiae Romae, 1960, pp. 121-122: Tribuas eis, Domine, cathedram episcopalem ad regendam Ecclesiam tuam et plebem universam.. Cfr. PL 78, 224.(20) Trad. Apost. 2, ed. Botte, p. 27.(21) Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, cap. 4, docet Ordinis sacramentum imprimere characterem indelebilem: Denz. 960 (1767) . Cfr. Ioannes XXIII, Alloc. Iubilate Deo, 8 maii 1960: AAS S2 (1960) p. 466. Pall1us VI, Homelia in Bas, Vaticana, 20 oct. 1963: AAS 55 (1963) p. 1014.(22) S. Cyprianus, Epist. 63, 14: PL 4, 386; Hartel, III B, p. 713: Saccrdos vice Christi vere fungitur .. S. Io. Chrysostomus, In 2 Tim. Hom. 2, 4: PG 62, 612: Saccrdos est symbolon . Christi. S. Ambrosius, In Ps. 38, 25-26: PL 14, 105 1-52: CSEL 64, 203- 204. Ambrosiascr In I Tim. S 19: PL 17, 479 C ct in Eph. 4, 1;-12: col. 387. C. Theodorus Mops., from. Catech. XV, 21 ct 24: ed. Tonneau, pp. 497 et 503. Hesychiu Hieros., In Lcv. L. 2, 9, 23: PG 93, 894 B.(23) Cfr. Eusebius, Hist. ecl., V, 24, 10: GCS II, 1, p. 49S; cd. Bardy, Sources Chr. II, p. 69 Dionysius, apud Eusebium, ib. VII 5, 2: GCS 11, 2, p. 638 s.; Bardy, II, p. 168 s.(24) Cfr. de antiquis Conciliis, Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. V, 23-24: GCS 11, 1, p. 488 ss.; Bardy, 11, p. 66 ss. et. passim. Conc. Nicaenum. Can. S: Conc. Oec. Decr. p. 7.(25) Tertullianus, de Iciunio, 13: PL 2, 972 B; CSFL 20, p. 292,lin. 13-16.(26) S. Cyprianus, Epist. 56, 3: Hartel, 111 B, p. 650; Bayard, p.154.(27) Cfr. Relatio officialis Zinelli, in Conc. Vat. I: Mansi S2,1 109 C.(28) Cfr. Conc. Vat. 1, Schema Const. dogm. 11, de Ecclesia Christi, c. 4: Mansi S3, 310. Cfr. Relatio Kleutgen de Schemate reformato: Mansi S3, 321 B – 322 B et declaratio Zinelli: Mansi 52 1110 A. Vide etiam S. Leonem M. Scrm. 4, 3: PL 54, 151 A.(29) Cfr. Cod. Iur. Can., c. 227.(30) Cfr. Conc. Vat. I, Const.Dogm. Pastor aeternis: Denz. 1821 (3050 s.).(31) Cfr. S. Cyprianus, Epist. 66, 8: Hartel 111, 2, p. 733: .. Episcopus in Ecclesia et Ecclesia in Episcopo ..(32) Cfr. S. Cyprianus, Epist. SS, 24: Hartel, p. 642, line. 13: . Una Ecclesia per totum mundum in multa membra divisa .. Epist. 36, 4: Hartel, p. 575, lin. 20-21.(33) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Fidci Donum, 21 apr. 1957: AAS 49 (1957) p. 237.(34) Cfr. S. Hilarius Pict., In Ps. 14, 3: PL 9, 206; CSEL 22, p. 86. S. Gregorius M., Moral, IV, 7, 12: PL 75, 643 C. Ps.Basilius, In Is. 15, 296: PG 30, 637 C.(35) S. Coelestinus, Epist. 18, 1-2, ad Conc. Eph.: PL 50, 505 AB- Schwartz, Acta Conc. Oec. 1, I, i, p. 22. Cfr. Benedictus XV, Epist. Apost. Maximum illud: AAS 11 (1919) p. 440, Pius XI. Litt. Encycl. Rerum Ecclesiae, 28 febr. 1926: AAS 18 (1926) p. 69. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Fidei Donum, 1. c.(36) Leo XIII, Litt. Encycl. I Grande munus, 30 sept. 1880: ASS 13 (1880) p. 14S. Cfr. Cod. Iur. | Can., c. 1327; c. 13S0 2.(37) De iuribus Sedium patriarchalium, cfr. Conc. Nicaenum, I can. 6 de Alexandria et Antiochia, et can. 7 de Hierosolymis: Conc. I Oec. Decr., p. 8. Conc. Later. IV, anno 1215, Constit. V: De dignigate Patriarcharum: ibid. p. 212.-| Conc. Ferr.-Flor.: ibid. p. 504.(38) Cfr. Cod. luris pro Eccl. I Orient., c. 216-314: de Patriarchis; c. 324-399: de Archiepiscopis I maioribus; c. 362-391: de aliis dignitariis; in specie, c. 238 3; 216; 240; 251; 255: de Episcopis a Patriarch nominandis.(39) Cfr. Conc. Trid., Decr. de I reform., Sess. V, c. 2, n. 9; et Sess. I XXlV, can. 4; Conc. Oec. Decr. pp. 645 et 739.(40) Cfr. Conc. Vat. I, Const. dogm. Dei Filius, 3: Denz. 1712l (3011). Cfr. nota adiecta ad Schema I de Eccl. (desumpta ex.S. Rob. Bellarmino): Mansi 51, I 579 C, necnon Schema reformatum I Const. II de Ecclesia Christi, cum I commentario Kleutgen: Mansi 53, 313 AB. Pius IX, Epist. Tuas libener: Denz. 1683 (2879).(41) Cfr. Cod. Iur. Can., c. 1322-1323.(42) Cfr. Conc. Vat. I, Const. dogm. Pastor Aecrnus: Denz. 1839 (3074).(43) Cfr. ecplicatio Gasscr in Conc. Vat. I: Mansi 52, 1213 AC.(44) Gasser, ib.: Mansi 1214 A.(45) Gasser, ib.: Mansi 1215 CD, 1216-1217 A.(46) Gasser, ib.: Mansi 1213.(47) Conc. Vat. I, Const. dogm. Pastor Aesernus, 4: Denz. 1836 (3070) no. 26(48) Oratio consecrationis cpiscopalis in ritu byzantino: Euchologion to mega, Romae, 1873, p. 139.(49) Cfr. S. Ignatius M. Smyrn 8, 1: ed. Funk, 1, p. 282.(50) Cfr. Act. 8, 1; 14, 22-23; 20, 17, et passim.(51) Oratio mozarabica: PL 96 7S9 B(52) Cfr. S. Ignatius M., Smyrn 8, 1: ed. Funk, I, p. 282.(53) S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 73, a. 3.(54) Cfr. S. Augustinus, C. Faustum, 12, 20: PL 42, 26S Serm. 57, 7: PL 38, 389, etc.(55) S. Leo M., Serm. 63, 7: PL 54, 3S7 C.(56) Traditio A postolica Hippolyti, 2-3: ed. Botte, pp. 26-30.(57) Cfr. textus examinis in initio consecrationis episcopalis, et Oratio in fine vissae eiusdem consecrationis, post Te Deum.(58) Benedictus XIV, Br. Romana Ecclesia, 5 oct. 1752, p 1: Bullarium Benedicti XIV, t. IV, Romae, 1758, 21: . Episcopus Christi typum gerit, Eiusque munere fungitur. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., p. 211: . Assignatos sibi greges singuli singulos Christi nomine pascunt et regunt.(59) Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitum, 29 iun. 1896: ASS 28 (1895-96) p. 732. Idem, Epist. Officio sanctissimo, 22 dec. 1887: AAS 20 (1887) p. 264. Pius IX itt. Apost. ad Episcopol Geraniae, 12 mart. 1875, et alloc. onsist., 15 mart. 187S: Denz. 112-3117, in nova ed. tantum.(60) Conc. Vat. I, Const. dogm. Pastor aeternus, 3: Denz. 1828 ( 3061) . Cfr. Relatio Zinelli: Mand 1 2, 1114 D.(61) Cfr. S. Ignatius M., ad ephes. 5, 1: ed. Funk, I, p. 216.(62) Cfr. S. Ignatius M., ad phes. 6, 1: cd. Funk, I, p. 218.(63) Cfr. Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, sacr. Ordinis, cap. 2: Denz. 958 (1765), et can. 6: Denz. 966 (1776).(64) Cfr. Innocentius I, Epist. d Decentium: PL 20, 554 A; sansi 3, 1029; Denz. 98 (215): Presbyteri, licet secundi sint sa erdotcs, pontificatus tamen api em non habent.. S. Cyprianus, Epist. 61, 3: ed. Hartel, p. 696.(65) Cfr. Conc. Trid., l. c., Denz. 962-968 (1763-1778), et in specie l an. 7: Denz. 967 (1777). Pius l II, Const. Apost. Sacramentum ordinis: Denz. 2301 (38S7-61).(66) Cfr. Innocentius I, 1. c. S. Gregorius Naz., Apol. II, 22: PGS, 432 B. Ps.-Dionysius, Eccl. ier., 1, 2: PG 3, 372 D.(67) Cfr. Conc. Trid., Sess. 22: Denz. 940 (1743). Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mediator Dei, 20 nov. 1947: AAS 39 (1947) p. 553; Denz. 2300 (3850).(68) Cfr. Conc. Trid. Sess. 22: Denz. 938 (1739-40). Conc. Vat.II, Const. De Sacra Liturgia, n. 7 et n. 47.(69) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mediator Dei, 1. c., sub. n. 67.(70) Cfr. S. Cyprianus, Epist. 11, 3: PL 4, 242 B; Hartel, II, 2, p. 497.(71) Ordo consecrationis sacerdotalis, in impositione vestimentorum.(72) Ordo consecrationis sacerdotalis in praefatione.(73) Cfr. S. Ignatius M. Philad. 4: ed. Funk, I, p. 266. S. Cornelius I, apud S. Cyprianum, Epist. 48, 2: Hartel, III, 2, p. 610.(74) Constitutiones Ecclesiac aegyptiacae, III, 2: ed. Funk, Didascalia, II, p. 103. Statuta Eccl. Ant. 371: Mansi 3, 954.(75) S. Polycarpus, Ad Phil. 5, 2: ed. Funk, I, p. 300: Christus dicitur . omnium diaconus factus .. Cfr. Didache, 15, 1: ib., p. 32. S.Ignatius M. Trall. 2, 3: ib., p. 242. Constitutiones Apostolorum, 8, 28, 4: ed. Funk, Didascalia, I, p. 530.Chapter IV(1) S. Augustinus, Serm. 340, 1: PL 38, 1483.(2) Cfr. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Quadragesimo anno 15 maii 1931: AAS 23 (1931) p. 121 s. Pius XII, Alloc. De quelle consolation, 14 oct. 1951: AAS 43 (1951) p. 790 s.(3) Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Six ans se sont ecoules, 5 oct. l9S7: AAS 49 (19S7) p. 927. De mandato et missione canonica, cfr. Decretum De Apostolatu laicorum, cap. IV, n. 16, cum notis 12 et 15.(4) Ex Praefatione festi Christi Regis.(5) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Immortale Dei, 1 nov. 188S: ASS 18 (188S) p. 166 ss. Idem, Litt. Encycl. Sapientae christianae, 10 ian. 1890: ASS 22 (1889-90) p. 397 ss. Pius XII, Alloc. Alla vostra filfale. 23 mart. l9S8: AAS S0 (145R ) p. 220: Ia Iegittima sana laicita dello Stato ..(6) Cod. Iur. Can., can. 682.(7) Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. De quelle consolation, 1. c., p. 789: Dans les batailles decisives, c’est parfois du front que partent les plus heureuses initiatives..Idem Alloc. L’importance de la presse catholique, 17 febr. 1950: AAS 42 (1950) p. 256.(8) Cfr. l Thess. S, 19 et 1 lo. 4, 1.(9) Epist. ad Diogneum, 6: ed. Funk, I, p. 400. Cfr. S. Io.Chrysostomus, In Matth. Hom. 46 (47) 2: PG 58, 78, de fermento in massa.Chapter V(1) Missale Romanum, Gloria in excelsis. Cfr. Lc. 1, 35; Mc. 1, 24, Lc. 4, 34; Io. 6, 69 (ho hagios tou theou); Act. 3, 14; 4, 27 et 30;Hebr. 7, 26, 1 Io. 2, 20; Apoc. 3, 7.(2) Cfr. Origenes, Comm. Rom. 7, 7: PG 14, 1122 B. Ps.- Macarius, De Oratione, 11: PG 34, 861 AB. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. II-II, q. 184, a. 3.(3) Cfr. S. Augustinus Retract. II, 18: PL 32, 637 s. Pius XII Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 29 iun. 1943: AAS 35 (1943) p. 225.(4) Cfr. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Rerum omnium, 26 ian. 1923: AAS 15 (1923) p. 50 ct pp. 59-60. Litt. Encycl. Casti Connubii, 31 dec. 1930: AAS 22 (1930) p. 548. Pius XII, Const. Apost. Provida Mater, 2 febr. 1947: AAS 39 (1947) p. 117. Alloc. Annus sacer, 8 dec. 1950: AAS 43 (1951) pp. 27-28. Alloc. Nel darvi, 1 iul. 1956: AAS 48 (1956) p. 574 s.(5) Cfr. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. II-II, q. 184, a. 5 et 6. De perf . vitae spir., c. 18. Origenes, In Is. Hom. 6, 1: PG 13, 239.(6) Cfr. S. Ignatius M., Magn. 13, 1: ed. Funk, I, p. 241.(7) Cfr. S. Pius X, Exhort. Haerent animo, 4 aug. 1908: ASS 41 (1908) p. 560 s. Cod. Iur. Can., can. 124. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Ad catholici sacerdotii, 20 dec. 1935: AAS 28 (1936) p. 22 s.(8) Ordo consecrationis sacerdotalis, in Exhortatione initiali.(9) Cfr. S. Ignatius M., Trall. 2, 3: cd. Funk, l, p. 244.(10) Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Sous la maternclle protection, 9 dec. 1957: AAS 50 (19S8) p. 36.(11) Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Castf Connubii, 31 dec. 1930. AAS 22 (1930) p. 548 s. Cfr. S. Io Chrysostomus, In Ephes. Hom. 20, 2: P. 62, 136 ss.(12) Cfr. S. Augustinus, Enchir. 121, 32: PL 40 288. S. Thomas Summa Theol. II-II, q. 184, a. 1. Pius XII, Adhort. Apost. Menti nostrae, 23 sept. 1950: AAS 42 (1950) p. 660.(13) De consiliis in genere, cfr. Origenes, Comm. Rom. X, 14: PG 14 127S B. S. Augustinus, De S. Viginitate, 15, 15: PL 40, 403. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. I-II, q. 100, a. 2 C (in fine); II-II, q. 44, a. 4 ad 3(14) De praestantia sacrae virginitatis, cfr. Tertullianus, Exhort. Cast. 10: PL 2, 925 C. S. Cyprianus, Hab. Virg. 3 et 22: PL 4, 443 B et 461 A. A. S. Athanasius (?), De Virg.: PG 28, 252 ss. S. Io. Chrysostomus, De Virg.: PG 48, 533 u.(15) De spirituali paupertate et oboedientia testimonia praccipua S.Scripturae et Patrum afferuntur in Relatione pp. 152-153.(16) De praxi effectiva consiliorum quae non omnibus imponitur, cfr. S. Io. Chrysostomus, In Matth. Hom. 7, 7: PG S7, 8 I s. 5. Ambrosius, De Vidu s, 4, 23: PL 16, 241 s.Chapter VI(1) Cfr. Rosweydus, Viqae Patrum, Antwerpiae 1628. Apophtegmata Patrum: PG 65. Palladius, Historia Lausiaca: PG 34, 995 ss.; ed. C. Butler, Cambridge 1898 (1904). Pius XI, Const. Apost. Umbratilem, 8 iul. 1924: AAS 16 (1924) pp. 386-387. Pius XII, Alloc. Nous sommes heureux, 11 apr.1958: AAS 50 (1958) p. 283.(2) Paulus VI, Alloc. Magno gaudio, 23 maii 1964: AAS 56 (1964) p. 566.(3) Cfr. Cod. Iur. Can., c. 487 et 488, 40. Pius XII, Alloc. Annus sacer, 8 dec. 1950, AAS 43 (1951) p. 27 s. Pius XII, Cons. Apost. Provida Mater, 2 Febr. 1947: AAS 39 (1947) p. 120 ss.(4) Paulus VI, 1. c., p. S67.(5) Cfr. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. II-II, q. 184, a. 3 et q. 188, a. 2. S. Bonaventura, Opusc. X, Apologia Pauperum, c. 3, 3: cd. Opera, Quaracchi, t. 8, 1898, p. 245 a.(6) Cfr. Conc. Vat. I. Schema De Ecclesia Christi, cap. XV, et Adnot. 48: Mansi 51, 549 s. et 619 s. Leo XIII, Epist. Au milieu des consolations, 23 dec. 1900: AAS 33 (1900-01) p. 361. Pius XII, Const. Apost. Provida Mater, 1. c., p. 1145.(7) Cfr. Leo XIII, Const. Romanos Pontifices, 8 maii 1881: AAS 13 (1880-81) p. 483. Pius XII, Alloc. Annus sacer, 8 dec. 1950: AAS 43(1951) p. 28 8.(8) Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Annus sacer, 1. c., p. 28. Pius XII, Const. Apost. Sedes Sapientiae, 31 maii 19S6: AAS 48 (1956) p. 355. Paulus VI, 1. c., pp. 570-571.(9) Cfr. Pius XII Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 19 iun. 1943: AAS 35 (1943) p. 214 s.(10) Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Annus sacer, 1. c., p. 30. Alloc. Sous la maternelle protecrion, 9 dec. l9S7: AAS 50 (19S8) p. 39 s.Chapter VII(1) Conc. Florentinum, Decretum pro Graecis: Denz. 693 (1305).(2) Praeter documenta antiquiora contra quamlibet formam evocationis spirituum inde ab Alexandro IV (27 sept. 1958), cfr Encycl. S.S.C.S. Officii, De magne tismi abusu, 4 aug. 1856: AAS (1865) pp. 177-178, Denz. 1653 1654 (2823-2825); responsioner S.S.C.S. Offici, 24 apr. 1917: 9 (1917) p. 268, Denz. 218 (3642).(3) Videatur synthetiea espositi huius doctrinae paulinae in: Piu XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis AAS 35 (1943) p. 200 et passilr(4) Cfr., i. a., S. Augustinus, Enarr. in Ps. 85, 24: PL 37, 1095 S. Hieronymus, Liber contra Vigl lantium, b: PL 23, 344. S. Thomas In 4m Sent., d. 45, q. 3, a. 2. Bonaventura, In 4m Sent., d. 45, a. 3, q. 2; etc.(5) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis: AAS 35 (1943) p. 245.(6) Cfr. Plurimae inseriptione in Catacumbis romanis.(7) Cfr. Gelasius I, Decretalis De libris recipiendis, 3: PL 59, 160, Denz. 165 (353).(8) Cfr. S. Methodius, Symposion, VII, 3: GCS (Bodwetseh), p. 74(9) Cfr. Benedictus XV, Decretum approbationis virtutum in Causa beatificationis et canonizationis Servi Dei Ioannis Nepomuecni Neumann: AAS 14 (1922 p. 23; plures Allocutiones Pii X de Sanetis: Inviti all’croismo Diseorsi… t. I-III, Romae 1941-1942, passim; Pius XII, Discorsi Radiomessagi, t. 10, 1949, pp 37-43.(10) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl : Mediator Dei: AAS 39 (1947) p . 581.(11) Cfr. Hebr. 13, 7: Eccli 44-50, Nebr. 11, 340. Cfr. etia Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mediati Dei: AAS 39 (1947) pp. 582-583(12) Cfr. Cone. Vaticanum Const. De fide catholica, cap. 3 Denz. 1794 (3013).(13) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis: AAS 35 (1943) p. 216.(14) Quoad gratitudinem erga ipsos Sanctos, cfr. E. Diehl, Inscriptiones latinae christianae vereres, 1, Berolini, 1925, nn. 2008 2382 et passim.(15) Conc. Tridentinum, Sess. 25, De invocatione… Sanctorum: Denz. 984 (1821) .(16) Breviarium Romanum, Invitatorium infesto Sanctorum Omnium.(17) Cfr. v. g., 2 Thess. 1, 10.(18) Conc. Vaticanum II, Const. De Sacra Liturgia, cap. 5, n. 104.(19) Canon Missae Romanae.(20) Conc. Nicaenum II, Act. VII: Denz. 302 (600).(21) Conc. Florentinum, Decretum pro Graecis: Denz. 693 (1304).(22) Conc. Tridentinum Sess. 35, De invocatione, veneratione et reliquiis Sanctorum et sacris imaginibus: Denz. 984-988 (1821-1824); Sess. 25, Decretum de Purgatorio: Denz. 983 (1820); Sess. 6, Decretum de iustificatione, can. 30: Denz. 840 (1580).(23) Ex Praefatione, aliquious dioecesibus concessa.(24) Cfr. S. Petrus Canisius, Catechismus Maior seu Summa Doctrinae christianae, cap. III (ed. crit. F. Streicher) pas I, pp. 15-16, n. 44 et pp. 100-1O1, n. 49.(25) Cfr. Conc. Vaticanum II Const. De Sacra Liturgia, cap. 1 n. 8.Chapter VIII(1) Credo in Missa Romana: Symbolum Constantinopolitanum: Mansi 3, 566. Cfr. Conc. Ephesinum, ib. 4, 1130 (necnon ib. 2, 665 et 4, 1071); Conc. Chalcedonense, ib. 7, 111-116; Cow. Constantinopolitanum II, ib. 9, 375-396.(2) Canon Missae Romanae.(3) S. Augustine, De S. Virginitate. 6: PL 40, 399.(4) Cfr. Paulus Pp. VI, allocutio in Concilio, die 4 dec. 1963: AAS 56 (1964) p. 37.(5) Cfr. S. Germanus Const., Nom. in annunt. Deiparae: PG 98, 328 A; In Dorm. 2: col. 357. Anastasius Antioch., Serm. 2 de Annunt., 2: PG 89, 1377 AB; Serm. 3, 2: col. 1388 C. S. Andrcas Cret. Can. in B. V. Nat. 4: PG 97, 1321 B. In B. V. Nat., 1: col. 812 A. Hom. in dorm. 1: col. 1068 C. – S. Sophronius, Or. 2 in Annunt., 18: PG 87 (3), 3237 BD.(6) S. Irenaeus, Adv. Hacr. III, 22, 4: PG 7, 9S9 A; Harvey, 2, 123.(7) S. Irenaeus, ib.; Harvey, 2, 124.(8) S. Epiphanius, Nacr. 78, 18: PG 42, 728 CD; 729 AB.(9) S. Hieronymus, Epist. 22, 21: PL 22, 408. Cfr. S. Augwtinus, Serm. Sl, 2, 3: PL 38, 33S; Serm. 232, 2: col. 1108. – S. Cyrillus Hieros., Catech. 12, 15: PG 33, 741 AB. – S. Io. Chrysostomus, In Ps. 44, 7: PG SS, 193. – S. Io. Damasccnus, Nom. 2 in dorm. B.M.V., 3: PG 96, 728.(10) Cfr. Conc. Lateranense anni 649, Can. 3: Mansi 10, 1151. S. Leo M., Epist. ad Flav.: PL S4, 7S9. – Conc. Chalcedonense: Mansi 7, 462. – S. Ambrosius, De inst. virg.: PL 16, 320.(11) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 29 iun. 1943: AAS 35 (1943) pp. 247-248.(12) Cfr. Pius IX, Bulla Ineffabilis 8 dec. 1854: acta Pii IX, I, I, p. 616; Denz. 1641 (2803).(13) Cfr. Pius XII, Const. Apost. Munificensissimus, 1 no. 1950: AAS 42 (1950) ú Denz. 2333 (3903). Cfr. S. Io. Damascenus, Enc. in dorm. Dei gcnitricis, Hom. 2 et 3: PG 96, 721-761, speciatim col. 728 B. – S. Germanus Constantinop., in S. Dei gen. dorm. Serm. 1: PG 98 (6), 340-348; Serm. 3: col. 361. – S. Modestus Hier., In dorm. SS. Deiparae: PG 86 (2), 3277-3312.(14) Cfr. Pius XII Litt. Encycl. Ad coeli Reginam, 11 Oct. 1954: AAS 46 (1954), pp. 633-636; Denz. 3913 ss. Cfr. S. Andreas Cret., Hom. 3 in dorm. SS. Deiparae: PG 97, 1089-1109. – S. Io. Damascenus, De fide orth., IV, 14: PG 94, 1153-1161.(15) Cfr. Kleutgen, textus reformstus De mysterio Verbi incarnati, cap. IV: Mansi 53, 290. cfr. S. Andreas Cret., In nat. Mariac, sermo 4: PG 97, 865 A. – S. Germanus Constantinop., In annunt. Deiparae: PG 98, 321 BC. In dorm. Deiparae, III: col. 361 D. S. Io. Damascenus, In dorm. B. V. Mariae, Hom. 1, 8: PG 96, 712 BC-713 A.(16) Cfr. Leo XIII, Litt. Encycl. Adiutricem populi, 5 sept. 1895: ASS 15 (1895-96), p. 303. – S. Pius X, Litt. Encycl. Ad diem illum, 2 febr. 1904: Acta, I, p. 154- Denz. 1978 a (3370) . Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Miserentissimus, 8 maii 1928: AAS 20 (1928) p. 178. Pius XII, Nuntius Radioph., 13 maii 1946: AAS 38 (1946) p. 266.(17) S. Ambrosius, Epist. 63: PL 16, 1218.(18) S. Ambrosius, Expos. Lc. II, 7: PL 15, 1555.(19) Cfr. Ps.-Petrus Dam. Serm. 63: PL 144, 861 AB. Godefridus a S. Victore. In nat. B. M., Ms. Paris, Mazarine, 1002, fol. 109 r. Gerhohus Reich., De gloria ct honore Filii hominis, 10: PL 194, 1105AB.(20) S. Ambrosius, l. c. et Expos. Lc. X, 24-25: PL 15, 1810. S.Augustinus, In lo. Tr. 13, 12: PL 35 1499. Cfr. Serm. 191, 2, 3: PL 38 1010; etc. Cfr. ctiam Ven. Beda, In Lc. Expos. I, cap. 2: PL 92, 330. Isaac de Stella, Serm. 51. PL 194, 1863 A.(21) Sub tuum praesidium(22) Conc. Nicaenum II, anno 787: Mansi 13. 378-379; Denz. 302 (600-601) . Conc. Trident., sess. 2S: Mansi 33, 171-172.(23) Cfr. Pius XII, Nunius radioph., 24 oct. 1954: AAS 46 (1954) p. 679. Litt. Encycl. Ad coeli Reginam, 11 oct. 1954: AAS 46 (1954) p. 637.(24) Cfr. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Ecclesiam Dei, 12 nov. 1923: AAS 15 (1923) p. 581. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Fulgens corona, 8 sept. 1953: AAS 45 (1953) pp. 590-591.

ALL IN

There was a casino scene in a James Bond Film, Casino Royale, where the suave and debonaire Mr. Bond plays against the bad guys. The thing I remember about it is that players can make various degrees of wagering. One in particular that has interested me is “Going All In” where you bet all the chips you have on your hand. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbY5DiKR-Yk

I am not much on gambling, but the fact of betting all you have, win or lose, is intriguing. When I think about my spiritual life, there might be a similar parallel with the core directive of Christ in Matthew 22:34-40. New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

The Greatest Commandment34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 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.”

Do you notice the words ALL in this quotation? It is that word that has me up at nights. Although I have some disagreements with a friend of mine over the use of ALL, my contention is that I don’t use ALL of my human potentials at any one time. Using my assumption, I can never reach ALL when I love God, think about God, or try to do what God asks of me in loving others. I always fall short in this lifetime. With Christ, however, He makes up in me that which I lack, so I actually don’t lose sleep over it.

The implications of this word ALL plays out in the way I live out my Lay Cistercian spirituality. My reach always is short of my grasp. I must try to love with ALL my heart, my mind, and my strength each day to move from self to God. At the beginning of each day, I begin from scratch. Each day is like a lifetime. When I accepted that my purpose in life was “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus,” (1962) I didn’t know that I would continue to reach out for Christ each day and each day fails to grasp Him. When you think of it, our Western mentality is that we possess what we grasp and, if we read Scriptures correctly, we never quite possess God. Adam and Eve tried that but with disastrous consequences. The Eastern mysticism approach is that we never actually reach God but that our lot in life is to reach out for that which is so far beyond our grasp. With the coming of Christ, we have tools where we can begin to help our reach (Eucharist, Lectio Divina, Rosary, Scripture Reading, Sacraments) and have it make some sense in terms of the purpose of life. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:34-40)

REFLECTIONS ON THE ALL OF LIFE

  • The Kingdom of Heaven (after we die) is where we don’t have to struggle with the ALL. We will be one with the ALL, one with each other. We will be operating at full human mode, (our minds and our hearts plugged into the totality of Being that is ALL in ALL.
  • The Kingdom of Heaven (while we are on earth) is one of discovery and uncovery. Each day, I try to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. Each day, I come up short because of the effects of Original Sin. I keep trying.
  • I try to increase the capacity for God in me each day by being conscious of my need to decrease my false self and increase Christ in me. I don’t think about this every moment of the day, but it is like background radiation, it is always present in my generic assumptions.
  • In my daily struggle to move from self to God, realize that you will never reach (possess) the goal of ALL, in this lifetime. Christ makes up in me that which I lack.
  • Silence and solitude help bring perspective to the process of moving from self to God.

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YOU HAVE NO IDEA

Once, there was a highly educated and refined woman, who wanted to become more spiritual. She began attending Eucharist almost every day. She was very happy when attending the meetings with those who also shared her Faith. The opportunity presented itself to attend a retreat at a nearby retreat house. She thought about it but was so busy. “I have so many appointments to keep and places to go that I just don’t have time to go, as much as I think it would help my spiritual life.” The time came and went for the retreat and the woman was soon thrust back into her routine of making money and trying to seek real happiness. She lost track of God.

There was another young woman who attended that same Faith group. When the priest was describing how much benefit he received from making a contemplative retreat at the Monastery, she was intrigued by his description of the effects of silence and solitude. She had no life experiences to relate to what he was saying, but she cleared her nursing schedule ahead of time so that she could attend the four days of prayer and silence. She thought to herself, “How can I make it four days without watching television or her iPhone?” The time came and went for the retreat and she returned to her Faith community where they asked her, “What was it like to come apart from the hateful news, the mindless television shows, and focus just on growing the capacity for Christ in your heart?” “I can’t describe it fully,” she said, ” but when she completed her time with Christ, she thought that she had no idea all the happiness and peace that would flood her mind and heart.”

I am struck by those two stories above because we are having a retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) Conyers, Georgia, this next week in August, and these are the two choices that people seem to make when confronted by making a contemplative retreat or not. There are always a thousand reasons NOT to attend but only one good one to attend–that Christ will increase in you the capacity to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) and you will decrease.

One of the temptations of Christ was that, if people only knew who you were and the tremendous power and happiness, they could receive by being one with you, they would worship you and fall on their faces in adoration. God chose to work through nature and natural events instead of by divine intervention. I can just imagine Christ holding in all his emotions when he knew what was in store for all humans who have become adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— Those who do not know the benefits of making a contemplative retreat can’t imagine what it is like. It is only by passing through this experience with Christ that you can look back and exclaim, “I had no idea.”

Pray for us on this retreat as we ask the Holy Spirit to fill out hearts with divine love as we move from self to God.

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DO WHAT YOU SAY

Maybe you have read my blog on Mean What You Say (maybe not). Meaning what you say is about aligning your mind with the words you say. Doing what you say is about aligning your heart with your activity. Christ is always urging his disciples to mean what they say as well as doing what they say. His admonition to us to “love one another as I have loved you\” is one of the commands he left us. Read Matthew 25:31-46. Remember that Christ got angry when he found out people said one thing but did not honor God with their hearts. By their fruits, you will know them, He said to us.

Let’s tease apart this saying, one that happens to us quite frequently, if we reflect on it. I was at Panera’s last week awaiting a meeting with someone about Lay Cistercian spirituality. It was set for 10:00 a.m. I waited and waited, but no one showed up. I didn’t know why until much later. They told me they forgot. My point is: people had good intentions to meet but did not do what they said. There are consequences for all actions. On my part, I wait for them to make the next move if they want a follow-up.

As one who tries to practice Lay Cistercian practices each day, I have made a promise to seek God every day and move from self to God. How I do that varies each day, but usually includes Liturgy of the Hours: Liturgy of the Word, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, daily rosary, daily Eucharist, Lay Cistercian gathering meeting once a month at Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Florida, attending Lay Cistercian Gathering Day at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) Conyers, Georgia, and typing up my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) for two or three hours per day, adoration before the Blessed Sacrament at least once per week. All these, plus some others, I have promised to do as tools to help me convert my life from my false self to my true self.

If you say you are going to do something to someone, do it.

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MEAN WHAT YOU SAY

In one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5), I chanced to think about why I have so much difficulty in concentrating when I pray. It does not happen always, but when it does, it is irritating and distracting. It takes an act of my will to jump-start me out of my lethargy and get back on track. When I think of it, it might be one of the reasons the Church Universal has so many people who say they are Catholic, but when they have to put up or shut up, they revert to being a member of a social organization, like the Moose or Elks.

I look around at the young people, bored out of their minds at Eucharist or, if they even go at all, to a Teen group. An exception is the program Life Teen that we have at our parish of Good Shepherd. I just began my journey as a Lay Cistercian, affiliated with Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist, Conyers, Georgia). I have noticed that my spirituality has deepened and matured, even at a ripe old age of 78. What I struggle with, but have accepted as part of the price of Original Sin, is trying to mean what I say in my prayers. Often, ritual prayers sail right over my head. I am sincere enough in being present at the Eucharist, but the fragrant treasures right under my nose sometimes are not even sniffed.

Let me share an example from the Morning Prayer for today (Tuesday, August 13, 2019 at http://www.divineoffice.org

Psalm 67
People of all nations will worship the Lord
You must know that God is offering his salvation to all the world (Acts 28:28).

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Psalm-prayer

Be gracious and bless us, Lord, and let your face shed its light on us, so that we can make you known with reverence and bring forth a harvest of justice.

Ant. Lord, let the light of your face shine upon us.”

Meaning what you say means:

  • This is a prayer, not a poem to be recited.
  • You and God are talking to each other.
  • When the Psalm-prayer is recited at the end of the Psalm, you are genuinely asking God to be gracious to you, here and now, in reality and not in fantasy.
  • You want to make God known to others and bring forth a harvest of justice.
  • You don’t just mouth the words, you desire it with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength. This prayer before you is the most important communication you will have with God all day so you want to make the most of it.

Meaning what I say is sometimes a struggle, but one that I gladly contend with because it allows me to choose the deeper level of awareness of God.

  • Say the Word
  • Pray the Word
  • Share the Word
  • Be what you say, pray, and share
  • There are no words to approach the Word; it is listening with the ear of the heart (St. Benedict’s prologue). It is being present to that which is.

Prayer takes work, concentration, focus, and most of all, love, that the words you say become who you are. This is another way of saying I try to move from self to God.

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ARE YOU LISTLESS?

If you read this title you might be fooled by the actual purpose of this blog. Listless means being lifeless and without enthusiasm. It reminds me of those who seem to decry the state of imperfection in the World or the Church (or both) yet have no clue as to what to do about it.

The importance of lists is that they are a sequence of events or people that link us with the past, or help us to explore the future, as in using the list of four steps in the Lectio Divina (lectio, oratio, meditatio, and comtemplatio {Latin}). Links connect the NOW with either the past or the future. They may be conduits of continuity with the apostolic past which may be difficult to visualize or otherwise experience.

The question all of us must ask ourselves and be confident of the answer is “Am I on the final list?” What list? Lists are an important part of my life. There are lots of different lists in which I participate and some I only wish I was included. Here are some famous lists, ones you may not have thought about since Grade School. Please forgive my bias. The question for each of us should be, “Am I on the List that gets me to Heaven? (Baptism)

LIST OF ROMAN PONTIFFS http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm

Why is a list of the Roman Pontiffs so important for continuity with the time of the Apostles?

THE LIST OF SEVEN SACRAMENTS

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/ritual-books/index.cfm

What makes seven sacraments so special for the community of faith?

THE LIST OF SEVEN LITURGICAL PRAYERS OF THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgy-of-the-hours/index.cfm

When did these prayers become the official prayer of the Church? What role did St. Benedict play in promoting recitation of the Hours?

THE ROMAN CALENDAR OF SAINTS

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

http://www.usccb.org/about/divine-worship/liturgical-calendar/upload/2019cal.pdf

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09128a.htm

Having such a list of people we venerate as having in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) tells us of the continuity of the Church from our time to apostolic times.

THE LIST OF MARTYRS

https://www.ecatholic2000.com/martyr/untitled-19.shtml

BUTLER’S LIVES OF THE SAINTS

https://www.ecatholic2000.com/martyr/untitled-19.shtml

LIST OF BOOKS OF THE BIBLE

http://www.usccb.org/bible/books-of-the-bible/

Who made up these lists in the first place?

LISTS OF THE DESERT FATHERS AND THEIR STORIES AND SAYINGS https://christdesert.org/prayer/desert-fathers-stories/

LIST OF THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a8.htm https://fathersofmercy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Seven-Capital-Sins-Opposite-Corresponding-Virtues-and-Extremes.pdf

LIST OF THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

https://www.stjmod.com/7-gifts-of-the-holy-spirit.html

LIST OF STEPS FOR LECTIO DIVINA https://www.thereligionteacher.com/lectio-divina-steps/

LISTED IN THE BOOK OF LIFE

LIST OF TRADITIONS WITHIN THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL CHURCH

http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/rite/

LIST OF DIOCESES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/diocese/la.html

LIST OF ALL BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL CHURCH

http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/diocese/la.html

LIST OF THE ROMAN CURIA (governance and structure) http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/country/xcur.html

LIST OF ALL THE CARDINALS OF THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL CHURCH http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/scardc3.html

LIST OF ALL LAY CISTERCIANS (International) https://cistercianfamily.org/lay-groups/

CISTERCIAN MONASTERIES (Not strict observance, Regular Order) https://www.cistercian.org/abbey/history/the-cistercian-order/beginnings.html

CISTERCIAN MONASTERIES (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance– Trappist) https://www.ocso.org/monasteries/alphabetical-list/

LIST OF LAY INSTITUTES

https://secularinstitutes.org/ https://www.cmis-int.org/en/institutes/alphabetical-order/

LIST OF MUST READ CATHOLIC AUTHORS https://www.luc.edu/ccih/CatholicClassicsReadingList.shtml

LIST OF CORPORAL AND SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10198d.htm

If you are listless, check out one of these lists.

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THE DIDACHE

This blog has taken the liberty of copying the whole of the text of the Didache from http://www.NewAdvent.com because of its significance. There is no commentary following it. Read and ponder. New Advent is an excellent source for looking up readings from the early Church.

The Didache

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The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.

Chapter 1. The Two Ways; The First Commandment

There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, your neighbour as yourself; and all things whatsoever you would should not occur to you, do not also do to another. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecuteyou. For what reward is there, if you love those who love you? Do not also the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone gives you a blow upon your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes away your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one that asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he that gives according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to him that receives; for if one having need receives, he is guiltless; but he that receives not having need, shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what, and, coming into straits (confinement), he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape thence until he pay back the last farthing. Matthew 5:26 But also now concerning this, it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.

Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Gross Sin Forbidden

And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adulteryExodus 20:13-14 you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not stealExodus 20:15 you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten. You shall not covet the things of your neighbour, Exodus 20:17 you shall not forswear yourself, Matthew 5:34 you shall not bear false witnessExodus 20:16 you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued; for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbour. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

Chapter 3. Other Sins Forbidden

My child, flee from every evil thing, and from every likeness of it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leads the way to murder; neither jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor of hot temper; for out of all these murders are engendered. My child, be not a lustful one; for lust leads the way to fornication; neither a filthy talker, nor of lofty eye; for out of all these adulteries are engendered. My child, be not an observer of omens, since it leads the way to idolatry; neither an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to look at these things; for out of all these idolatry is engendered. My child, be not a liar, since a lie leads the way to theft; neither money-loving, nor vainglorious, for out of all these thefts are engendered. My child, be not a murmurer, since it leads the way to blasphemy; neither self-willed nor evil-minded, for out of all these blasphemies are engendered. But be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 Be long-suffering and pitiful and guileless and gentle and good and always trembling at the words which you have heard. You shall not exalt yourself, Luke 18:14 nor give over-confidence to your soul. Your soul shall not be joined with lofty ones, but with just and lowly ones shall it have its intercourse. The workings that befall you receive as good, knowing that apart from God nothing comes to pass.

Chapter 4. Various Precepts

My child, him that speaks to you the word of God remember night and day; and you shall honour him as the Lord; for in the place whence lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And you shall seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words. You shall not long for division, but shall bring those who contend to peace. You shall judge righteously, you shall not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. You shall not be undecided whether it shall be or no. Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. If you have anything, through your hands you shall give ransom for your sins. You shall not hesitate to give, nor murmur when you give; for you shall know who is the good repayer of the hire. You shall not turn away from him that is in want, but you shall share all things with your brother, and shall not say that they are your own; for if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal? You shall not remove your hand from your son or from your daughter, but from their youth shall teach them the fear of GodEphesians 6:4 You shall not enjoin anything in your bitterness upon your bondman or maidservant, who hope in the same God, lest ever they shall fear not God who is over both; Ephesians 6:9Colossians 4:1 for he comes not to call according to the outward appearance, but unto them whom the Spirit has prepared. And you bondmen shall be subject to your masters as to a type of God, in modesty and fearEphesians 6:5Colossians 3:22You shall hate all hypocrisy and everything which is not pleasing to the Lord. Forsake in no way the commandments of the Lord; but you shall keep what you have received, neither adding thereto nor taking away therefrom . Deuteronomy 12:32 In the church you shall acknowledge your transgressions, and you shall not come near for your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.

Chapter 5. The Way of Death

And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and full of curse: murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rapines, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing requital, not pitying a poorman, not labouring for the afflicted, not knowing Him that made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him that is in want, afflicting him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.

Chapter 6. Against False Teachers, and Food Offered to Idols

See that no one cause you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear all the yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able, what you are able that do. And concerning food, bear what you are able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly on your guard; for it is the service of dead gods.

Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism

And concerning baptismbaptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy SpiritMatthew 28:19 in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

Chapter 8. Concerning Fasting and Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer)

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; Matthew 6:16 for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week; but fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Neither pray as the hypocrites; but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, thus pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Yours is the power and the glory forever. Thrice in the day thus pray.

Chapter 9. The Thanksgiving (Eucharist)

Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs. Matthew 7:6

Chapter 10. Prayer After Communion

But after you are filled, thus give thanks: We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name which You caused to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. You, Master almighty, created all things for Your name’s sake; You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You; but to us You freely gave spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Your Servant. Before all things we thank You that You are mighty; to You be the glory forever. Remember, Lord, Your Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Your love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Your kingdom which You have prepared for it; for Yours is the power and the glory forever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maran atha. Amen. But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.

Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets

Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turn and teach another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not; but if he teach so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, according to the decree of the Gospel, thus do. Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet that speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not every one that speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he hold the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit eats not from it, except indeed he be a false prophet; and every prophet who teaches the truth, if he do not what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophetproved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

Chapter 12. Reception of Christians

But let every one that comes in the name of the Lord be received, and afterward you shall prove and knowhim; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you, except for two or three days, if need be. But if he wills to abide with you, being an artisan, let him work and eat; 2 Thessalonians 3:10 but if he has no trade, according to your understanding see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep aloof from such.

Chapter 13. Support of Prophets

But every true prophet that wills to abide among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. Matthew 10:10; cf. Luke 10:7 Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. But if you have not a prophet, give it to the poor. If you make a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. So also when you open a jar of wine or of oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the prophets; and of money (silver) and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruit, as it may seem good to you, and give according to the commandment.

Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day

But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

Chapter 15. Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof

Therefore, appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, 1 Timothy 3:4 and truthful and proven; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the GospelMatthew 18:15-17 but to every one that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.

Chapter 16. Watchfulness; The Coming of the Lord

Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. Matthew 24:42 But often shall you come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hateMatthew 24:11-12 for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, Matthew 24:10 and then shall appear the world-deceiver as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third, the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it is said: The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

About this page

Source. Translated by M.B. Riddle. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm&gt;.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 atnewadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can’t reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

TEMPTATION AND FALLING AWAY FROM THE FAITH

This is an excerpt from my latest book, WE ARE DEFINED BY OUR CHOICES: A Lay Cistercian reflects on Temptation, Truth, Reason, and Free Choice and why people fall away from the Church. (out August 2, 2019) which are my reflections on the phenomenon of falling away from the Church? The image I have is one where, if the Church is tilted on its side, all the seeds without roots on loose soils will slide off into the abyss. Those who are rooted in the soil will withstand the trauma. The questions to be explored are: what makes some on taking root on the shallow ground while others are in fertile soil? How does free will play out? is truth relative? You may think you are on solid ground but really be in shallow soil.

Read this text for yourself. What are your conclusions?

Matthew 13 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, another case thirty.”

LAY CISTERCIAN LIFESTYLE AND TEMPTATION

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 a 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 its 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 entire resource is lifted from Wikipedia:https://en.

wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Benedict_Medal

I recommend you wear the St. Benedict medal, not as a 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, about 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 Benedict (“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, about Vade retro Satana: Vade 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]

  • 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. Scripture records the Rule. The Church makes the Rule flesh in each age. Christ is the Vine, and each one of us is a branch. Some bear good fruit, some don’t.

THREE TEMPTATIONS TO SEDUCE YOU TO BE GOD

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 nowhere 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 are normative. The temptation here is to think you are a god if you are a politician (any party, any level of governing). Humility is nowhere 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 a 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 a 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 seem 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 Flesh 16 Live 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 gentlenesses, 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. THE 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 a 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 can 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

3 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?”4 Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’[a]and they will lead many astray.6 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.7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines[b]and earthquakes in various places:8 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 were 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 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 a god. There is not a 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. Would you want to stand before Truth itself and say, “Personally, I held that abortion was wrong, but I stood by and even supported that principle that what people chose was moral? Do you see the dichotomy here? I am reminded of the words of Professor Albus Dumbledore said to Harry Potter at the end of the movie, “ Soon we must face the difficult choice between what is right and what is easy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52Wvn4SzYWc. This is clearly not a moral choice but a politically correct decision designed to appease their followers, Democrat or Republican.

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 the freedom to choose because we are human. The choice here is between God as your center or you as a 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 comfortable in the grave, you will have temptations throughout your lifetime.
  • The temptation is not good or bad, they are the presentation of choices that may be good or bad for you.
  • Humans have a reason for a reason and the ability to make choices that are good or evil
  • Good and evil are 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 versus 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 in to 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 are measured. He teaches us the meaning of authentic love, not what the World chooses. He saves 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 the 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 a 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

WHAT LAS VEGAS HAS TO SAY ABOUT MY FAITH

If you haven’t done so already, then you know I must have flipped out or had too much to drink (I only drink holy water which makes the plastic flowers grow). I only say that because where my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) led me was to think about the odds of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus and if is true or not. I guess I must have watched the morning sports commentary, First Things First, with Cris Carter, Nick Wright, and Jenna Wolfe. They are my favorites to catch up on the probabilities of who will win NBA and NFL. Knowledgeable, quite interesting and with a depth of information that I find quite compelling, these three are engaging.

In keeping with trying to seek God in daily living, I asked myself, “What if all this religion stuff is just not true?” I wondered what odds the bookies in Vegas would give to me to get to Heaven, given that I have a specific of assumptions that I almost can’t prove to be true (The Mystery of Faith). I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, actually.

  • Then, just last week, I was at Panera’s for a cup of coffee (Starbucks coffee is too strong for me and is off-putting), when I bumped into a friend who told me I was in La-La Land for believing all this stuff about God and Christ and the Church and Cistercians. So, being inquisitive with the little neurons that are still left synapting, I delved further into the murky darkness by asking, “Wonder if there is no spiritual universe, only just the physical one and mental one?”
  • Wonder if there is no Church, no Sacraments, No Eucharist, No Resurrection and everything I have done up to this point was, as St. Paul says, an illusion on my part, wanting to believe so much that I have to make up what is not there and see what is not there (rather paranoid, don’t you think?).

Lest you think that my argument is that the world is flat and I have just jumped off the edge, I reiterate that my Faith, with God’s help, is as strong as it has ever been (O Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.) I came up with the analogy of Las Vegas making the odds on the words of Christ being true or not, just as they do to handicap LeBron James and Anthony Davis on winning the NBA championship.

THE ODDS OF GOING TO HEAVEN

If I just lived in the World (it is my house of operations, not my home), I would probably not bet on there being anything after death. Come to think of it, I would not make a wager on any religion or belief system being one that I want to practice. Why waste your time? The gulf between unbelief and belief is so great as to be impossible for a mere human to jump over it. That is why we have Faith, the bridge builder, and God, of course, and unless God builds the house or bridge, we build in vain. My assent of Faith to the grace (energy) of God in me doesn’t make sense to the World but makes perfect sense in the light of the Spirit. Faith is the grace (energy) from God that allows each of us to become adopted sons or daughters of the Father. Either you see that or you don’t. Either you accept that premise or you don’t. God even gave humans reason for a reason and the ultimate test of freedom, to choose what is good for us or what is bad for us. When I say if I live in the World alone (physical and mental universes I would probably not even think that there is a missing piece of the pie, Faith from a Supreme Being to help me solve the equation of life. The assumptions I make when I factor in my platform for sustaining life (the physical universe) coupled with my platform to realize that I know that I know (the mental universe) which takes me only so far, only bring me to the edge of the cliff. My senses, my reason, my experiences based on mere human expressions of what is meaningful, say there is only the abyss our there, the great nothing. When I add the assumption (which is a gift from God) that, no, there is another dimension to reality that makes sense out of what the physical world can tell us about itself and what the mind can discover based only on it own limited experiences, then I make the jump off the cliff and find out that, instead of nothing there, there is EVERYTHING. It is called the Mystery of Faith because, even with human reasoning and Faith from God, we can only know so much, love so much, and serve others so much. We still strive to do it with all our strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:34) Both Jewish and authentic Christian belief systems have this as the center core of what they are about.

I have to go against the odds of Las Vegas, but, with God as my friend, I make a bet as a sure thing that the words he spoke to us, about the meaning of being human and our destiny, is true.

  • So, I live the life that says I must deny myself, take up my cross daily and follow what Christ did.
  • So, I follow the teachings of St. Benedict who follows the teachings of the Church Fathers and Mothers, who follow the teachings of the Apostles, who follows the teachings of Christ Jesus, who follows the will of his Father.
  • So, I live in three universes (physical, mental plus spiritual) in order to see how to love others as Christ has loved me.
  • So, I practice each day how to love and learn to become less of me and more like Christ, using Cistercian practices and charisms.
  • So, I read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day in the hopes of being what I read.
  • So, life becomes one with the ultimate purpose of loving others here on earth and longing to be with the person I love (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) in Heaven.
  • So, I realize that, whatever my road in life is, just because it is rocky, doesn’t mean I am on the wrong road. I have had cardiac arrest in my lifetime (2007) and Leukemia (CLL type) (2014). As the 23rd Psalm says: Though I pass through a gloomy valley; I fear no harm; beside me your rod and your staff are there, to hearten me. (New Jerusalem Bible)
  • So, I try to treat those with whom I meet on my journey as I would Christ.
  • So, I try to take some time for me in silence, solitude, in work, with prayer, in the presence of other humans, to give glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages.

THE NO LOSE SCENARIO

The Las Vegas oddsmakers would flip over this statement:

If I hold fast to my Faith in Christ Jesus and believe in Him and the power of the Resurrection, I can live out my life in whatever time I have, knowing that my purpose has meaning. I can’t be wrong, even if there is no God, as others say. Even if there is no Christ, as some hold. Even though all this Scripture stuff is false. It doesn’t matter. Following the admonition of Christ to love one another as He loves us fulfills my destiny as a human if death is the only end. If death is the beginning (which I hold), then what is human will be transformed into some wonderful, something St. Paul said is beyond the capability or the capacity of human reasoning, something that God has prepared for those who love him. In the end, it is that HOPE (this HOPE is a person, this HOPE is the Holy Spirit) that will set me free to be what Adam and Eve would have been without Original Sin. What Good News is that!

What are the odds of getting to Heaven? With Faith that the words of Christ are true, it is a shire thing. Without faith in the Resurrection and lack of Hope, don’t waste your money.

Colossians 3

Mystical Death and Resurrection.*1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God 2Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

Renunciation of Vice.*5 Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:c immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.*6Because of these the wrath of God* is coming [upon the disobedient].d7By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way.8But now you must put them all away:* anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths.e9Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices f10* and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.g11Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian,* slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.h

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,i13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.j14 And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.k15 And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.l16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.m17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.n

  • It doesn’t matter if some don’t believe that Jesus is Lord.
  • It doesn’t matter if there is no God or not.
  • It doesn’t matter if all you see at the end of your life is the picture tube of a television set growing ever blacker and blacker.
  • It doesn’t matter if there are doubters in your own family who think that you live in La-La Land.
  • It doesn’t matter that the oddsmakers in Las Vegas won’t put a line on getting to Heaven.
  • It does matter that you live whatever time you have left using the following admonition from St. Paul: 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.n

This is the no-lose scenario, the sure thing. I don’t want to be one to bet against Jesus. Do you?

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

THE END

According to Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything under Heaven. A time to be born, a time to live, a time to discover and implement your purpose in life, a time to discover what reality looks like, a time to wonder about how all reality is One, a time to learn how to love as Christ loves us, a time to die.

WHAT WILL THE END OF YOUR LIFE LOOK LIKE?

What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world and miss the opportunity to go to Heaven? That is Hell. Think about it. Read Chapter 4 in its entirety with emphasis on my italitized tools about having a healthy fear of Hell. After you die is too late to say, “No one told me about that.” or “It is the Church’s fault that they didn’t warn me.” No. you have reason for a reason and you have freedom to choose that which God says will be helpful to get you to Heaven.

Reflect on the boardwalk for a minimum of ten minutes each day for the next seven days. Read the Rule and the Comments of Abbot Philip Lawrence, O.S.B. Read what St. Benedict wants his monks to reflect on concerning their end.

“Chapter 4: The Tools for Good Works

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

3 Then the following: You are not to kill,
4 not to commit adultery;
5 you are not to steal
6 nor to covet (Rom 13:9);
7 you are not to bear false witness (Matt 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20).
8 You must honor everyone (1 Pet 2:17),
9 and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16; Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31).

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

20 Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way;
21 the love of Christ must come before all else.
22 You are not to act in anger
23 or nurse a grudge.
24 Rid your heart of all deceit.
25 Never give a hollow greeting of peace
26 or turn away when someone needs your love.
27 Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false,
28 but speak the truth with heart and tongue.

29 Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).
30 Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently.
31 Love your enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27).
32 If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead.
33 Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Matt 5:10).

34 You must not be proud,
35 nor be given to wine (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3).
36 Refrain from too much eating
37 or sleeping,
38 and from laziness (Rom 12:11).
39 Do not grumble
40 or speak ill of others.

41 Place your hope in God alone.
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.

44 Live in fear of judgment day
45 and have a great horror of hell.
(my emphasis)

Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert

The tools for good works are short statements of how we are to live our lives as Christians, and therefore as monks. There is nothing in these first 45 verses that the normal Christian should not strive to live–and if the normal Christian strives to live this way, then we monks must also strive. Verses 1 through 9 are simply the Ten Commandments seen in the eyes of the Gospel. Verse 10 begins to speak of renouncing our selves in order to follow Christ and this is the heart of the good works.

We come to the Monastery to follow Christ in the monastic way and we must renounce all other ways and all other gods. Verse 11 speaks of bodily discipline. This is not popular today because it brings to mind all kinds of physical penance of the past. Discipline your body, do not pamper yourself, but love fasting–all of this goes together in our tradition. Our tradition says that to be a Christian or a monk is very difficult and hard work and basically has nothing to do with how we feel about ourselves, but has to do with how we live. To attain the inner freedom that is necessary to love everyone else and to accomplish the will of God in all circumstances, bodily discipline is necessary. While most of us would not aspire to be weight-lifters, we can recognize easily that a weight-lifter cannot just start off pressing 500 pounds. Rather, the weight-lifter must train in order to be able to lift such a weight without bodily injury. The same is true of monastic life and of the spiritual life. We must do the small tasks first so that we can be able to live more deeply.

In some Zen centers, it is said that the novice Zen monk or Zen practitioner must first learn to close doors and to cook before there can be any thought of a deep spiritual life. The tools for good works are like that also: simple advice that is difficult to follow in our lives because we want to get on to that which feels good and makes us feel good about ourselves. Our approach must be simply to do the small and apparently easy things until we do them truly well.

Verses 14 through 19 are the corporal works of mercy. Verses 20 and 21 remind us that the wisdom of the Gospel is not in accord with the wisdom of the world. This is a necessary reminder today when there is such an impulse to try to make everyone happy by changing the teachings of the Church. We need to be aware in this context of the difference between the teachings of the Church as objective realities, and the pastoral approach that is so often necessary to help persons understand the teachings. The love of Christ that comes before all else keeps us from judging others and helps us find ways to speak of the Gospel that do not dilute its strength yet at the same time show forth its wisdom for our human lives.

Verses 23 through 41 are again practical advice for a strong spiritual life that is lived in our actions. In verse 25 we have the admonition never to give a hollow greeting of peace. We must be cautious with this advice because in the present time we judge the hollowness of a thing by how we feel about it. This is certainly not the intention of the Rule. Rather, the Rule is asking us to choose the good of the other, even when I feel total animosity toward the other. As Christians we are not to follow our feelings–and yet we must acknowledge them. Thus, a person must be able to acknowledge the dislike of another person, even anger towards another person, and yet still choose in Christ to act in a manner that is truly a reflection of Christ’s love for us.

Verse 41 reminds us of the importance of placing our trust in God alone. Once again we encounter advice that is very simple and very difficult. We want to place all our hope in God, but often we do so only when there is no other possibility! We are invited to learn how to place this hope in God before we get to a situation when we have no other choice.

We end this half of the Chapter on the Tools for Good Works with a recognition that all good comes from God and that all we have that is good comes from God. We are capable of doing evil and that comes from us, not from God. This should remind us of the tradition that we must always offer our sins to God, since that really is all we have to offer that is singularly our own. We offer our sins to God with the hope that God will transform our evil into good and transform us also into beings who do His will.

To live in fear of judgment day is only to be aware of the need for conversion in our lives. The reality of our lives–at least for most of us–is that we want to serve God, but have not yet begun to do so in a complete manner. We are still in the “active life” of purgation from our sinfulness, rather than in the “contemplative life” where our whole focus is simply on loving more.

We must strive to develop in ourselves a deep horror of offending God, a deep repulsion towards sinfulness, a sensitivity towards the awfulness and ugliness of sin in our lives. We do this not to denigrate ourselves, but to see reality as it truly is and to help us desire to change our ways and to love God more and more deeply.

May God help us all grow in the awareness of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. May we come to live more and more fully in the power of the Holy Spirit so that we may give glory to God our Father.

Chapter 4: Verses 46-end

46 Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.
47 Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.
48 Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do,
49 aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be.
50 As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father. 51Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech.
52 Prefer moderation in speech
53 and speak no foolish chatter, nothing just to provoke laughter;
54 do not love immoderate or boisterous laughter.

55 Listen readily to holy reading,
56 and devote yourself often to prayer.
57 Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer
58 and change from these evil ways in the future.

59 Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16);
60 hate the urgings of self-will.
61 Obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, even if his own conduct–which God forbid–be at odds with what he says. Remember the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3).

62 Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so.
63 Live by God’s commandments every day;
64 treasure chastity,
65 harbor neither hatred
66 nor jealousy of anyone,
67 and do nothing out of envy.
68 Do not love quarreling;
69 shun arrogance.
70 Respect the elders
71 and love the young.
72 Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ.
73 If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.

74 And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.

75 These, then are the tools of the spiritual craft. 76When we have used them without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgment day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised: 77 What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).

78 The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community.

Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert

Do we regularly take the time to yearn for everlasting life? Or are we caught up yet in the love of this life? It is a challenge for us to truly desire everlasting life. And one of the ways to remind ourselves of this desire is to remind ourselves that we are going to die. It seems to straightforward, and yet we do not want to remember it too often!! Especially while we are young we are normally not interested in thinking about dying. As we get older, at least for some of us, dying is a very pleasant thought because we trust that we shall be with God finally and without the sometimes bitter struggles of this life.

One of the most ancient methods of the spiritual life is that of watching the thoughts and struggling with them. Today not many persons practice this form of spirituality. Saint Benedict suggests it to us and perhaps we need to accept the challenge to at least try this form of spirituality some time in our life. It is so simple. Watch your thoughts. Take all the thoughts that are not in Christ and throw them on Christ. We will spend a lot of time at the beginning throwing thoughts on Christ, but eventually there can be a deep peace and tranquillity. We are much more comfortable today accepting all of our thoughts and acting as if they were from God. Our tradition asks us instead to place our thoughts in the light of Christ and throw out all those that do not reflect his love and his light.

Another important and tried way of the spiritual life is to listen to holy reading and allow our lives to be formed by that holy reading. In this reading God often calls us to pray. We must be prudent in what we read, and we must be committed to reading Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, the early monastic writers and the writers approved by the Church. We can read other theologies and other ways of thinking that will lead us out of the Church and out of monastic life. We are invited to use real wisdom in choosing what we shall read.

When Benedict asks us to obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, he also gives a method of spirituality. There is a deep and sure form of growth in truly accepting the obedience that we profess in our vows. We can spend a lot of our life trying to make our own decisions and doing things our own way. There is peace and tranquillity when we finally hand ourselves over. It does not take away the pain of living nor the struggle of making mature decisions, but it is done in an entirely different manner than before we accepted obedience. Benedict obviously recognizes that we can have bad superiors, but this does not make him shy away from asking for obedience.

Harbor neither hatred nor jealousy of anyone and do nothing out of envy. This advice is again quite strong. We all have our bouts of anger, hatred, jealousy and envy. We are invited to accept them and not act from them. The same with quarreling and with arrogance. How strong we shall become when we begin to take these tasks of the spiritual craft seriously. When we are young we do not like them so well, but normally, even in Monasteries, we are less interested in spiritual growth when we are young. Our passions are stronger and reactions are in some sense more “primitive.” The challenge is to grow and to mature and to put on Christ and his way of acting and living.

We must recognize that these tools are given to us as challenges to incorporate in our lives. It can never be said enough in formation and throughout our lives: if we are unhappy or angry or resentful, then we must recognize that all of those feelings and attitudes come from us. We must battle them. When we have achieved some peace and tranquillity, then we are finally approaching a point in our life when we can make more adult decisions. We want to be adults and yet often we act as children.

Saint Benedict tells us to stay in the Monastery and work at all these aspects of our lives. So often we think that life will be easier if we just leave. If we are called by God to leave, then life will be different, but not necessarily easier. So many monks leave monastic life when they are upset with something, when they are angry, when they are resentful, when they are depressed, etc. Such leavings are not the leavings of someone seeking God’s will, generally, but the leavings of someone who no longer wants to stay and fight for that inner freedom that will allow a strong decision in Christ.

Our whole world is infected with this running from place to place looking for that place where I will have no problems. It is as though the whole world has gone insane and no longer recognizes that my happiness comes from within me and no external situation can take it away as long as it is firmly anchored in God. There can be much sadness and sorrow in my life, but always there is this foundation of seeking God’s will.

There are many stories of the saints who have suffered incredible hardships and difficulties and who remained steadfast in their joy and contentment because they were seeking God’s will. And there are plenty of stories also of saints who spent a lot of their life fighting against God’s will and not accepting what was given to them in their lives until a more advanced age.

Monks have chosen a monastic way of life. Benedictines have chosen a life under the Rule of Benedict. How foolish for monks not to live as monks or for Benedictines not to follow the wise spiritual direction of Saint Benedict!

May the Lord our God give us the wisdom of His Holy Spirit to guide us in our lives. May that Holy Spirit strengthen us in the path of a virtuous monastic life.” https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

That was a nice reflection on finding God where you are. What does any of this have to do with “THE END”?

TWO ENDS TO MY LIFE

Of course, there is death, always lurking around the corner, waiting for me to die. Death knows that it is an immutable fact of the universe, one that science cannot grasp or control. It is and then it isn’t, if you believe in Christ. The Resurrection is a pivotal point between life and death because death has lost its sting. If you don’t believe that, then you will be pushing up daisies. If you do believe that, you will be smelling their fragrance and seeing their beauty.

My life will end, just like it looks like on that pier. I will step off the edge into the water of Faith, like Indiana Jones did in the movie, The Last Crusade, in his search for the cup of Christ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne8Hhkec3w8

This is my particular judgement, one where the good deeds of my life will be weighed against my bad deeds. Christ is the judge. Right now, I can only throw myself on the mercy of Christ and hope that I loved wisely.

The second end is the Last Judgement of all reality. This is part of the Creed we say each Sunday. It is the end of all reality. It is not a place as we know it, with space, time, and, of course Original Sin. I am part of the whole that gives glory to the Lamb.

A VERY “OUT THERE” VIEW OF THE END

I have no idea if this is true or not, but my Lectio Divina presented this to me. It is interesting. God lives in the NOW, right? (I am the who am) There is no past or present in God, only the NOW, but it always was, always is, and always will be. (Where is my book on Existential Phenomenology when I need it?) This is the Mystery of Faith, the Kingdom of Heaven, the mind of God. When I die, (in a couple of years, I hope), I go to the NOW. Remember, it always was and always will be. From the human perspective, I always was here and I always will be here, now. Everything that is is NOW. Scriptures gives us a hint when it says, I shall draw all thing to myself. There is ONE Lord, ONE Faith, ONE baptism, and reality is ONE. It all happens immediately. My life is the sum of my choices. Christ is both just judge of Truth (as in I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life) and our Brother who gave up his life so that we could experience what He knew would await us. His mercy endures forever. His covenant is never broken.

Then, at the same time (remember, we are all living in the NOW), there is the judgement of all creation giving glory to the Father…Forever. It happens simultaneously all together, in an instant, in the blink of an eye. There is a tick but no tock. Here is an inhale but no exhale, there is a beginning but no end. St. Paul tells us we don’t have a clue as to the wonderful relationship with Christ that is NOW. That is the meaning of HOPE. That is why I try to convert my life each day to love others as Christ loves us. Now, I struggle with what is. In THE END, I will be in the presence of the NOW…Forever.

Praise 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. Amen and Amen. –The Cistercian doxology

USING SCRIPTURE AS A TOOL FOR PRIDE

I keep bumping into them everywhere I go. You know the kind, the self-righteous, pompas, know-it-alls who have recently found Jesus in their hearts and want to spread their particular interpretation of who Jesus is to everyone who will listen. All religions have them. I am not talking about anyone who has received Christ into their heart in sincerity and truth. I am talking about those who are irrationally zealous persons who think that they have discovered what people for over two thousand years have experienced and they have just discovered.

One tell-tale characteristic is how they must convert you to their Jesus or you will be going to Hell. Usually, I don’t pay them any attention and brush off their lack of humility and tact as just the boorish behavior of the ignorant. I dismiss them as having the word of God but on shallow ground who will be unable to bear good fruit because of their pride. They don’t even know that they don’t know. One other thing this teaches me is how I must not fall into the easy trap of Satan that lures the seemingly pious and sincere into the entrapment of pride. Some loosen their bonds while other never do and remain a victim of their own pride and ignorance. St. Benedict’s Rule sets forth the steps his monks are encouraged to walk in Chapter 5. It is striking to me how much humility and obedience are dependent upon one another. Read Philipppians 2:5-12. It is the only words I use for my Lectio Divina meditations and the inspiration for this message as well.

Genesis 2-3 is a story, one shrouded in the mists of ancient history, that recounts one person (representing all humans) and one man (the mother of humanity) as they receive human reasoning and the ability to choose what is good for them. God tells them what is good for them, to be gardeners of His Garden of Eden and take care of all living things. He tells them what is bad for them, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good or evil or else they will die. You read it for yourselves. I always thought Adam and Eve ate the apple from the tree that made God angry, but it was the pair on the ground that got them into trouble. The Genesis Story is at the core of why Christ had to become one of us. It is called reparation for Original Sin and He had to leave the security of the Godhead to take on the nature of a human. (God actually never left being God, even when He became flesh as Jesus Christ, says St. Augustine). St. Paul uses the notion that Christ is the second Adam throughout his Letters. It is beautiful fulfillment of our origins and how Christ came to set us truly free to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

Romans 5 NRSVCE –

Adam and Christ 12 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.”

Obedience by Jesus Christ to God is the reparation that must be paid to redeem all of humanity from eternal oblivion. Redeemer means a family member who goes to the pawn shop with the ticket to buy back that was hocked in the past and is awaiting redemption. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1350.htm

Some who realize the great sacrifice of Christ for us are so consumed with zeal for their Father’s House that they fall off the deep end and thus become easy pickins for Satan. That is why we must keep ourselves rooted in humility and obedience to what God wants us to be. Being in a community of Faith that is grounded in Christ is a good way to keep from falling over the edge. It is also good to seek mercy from God daily for everyone, beginning with yourself.

Now to my point (about time, don’t you think?).

THE TEMPTATION TO PROVE YOU ARE RIGHT AND I AM WRONG I can always tell the unitiated in Faith because they will be armed with one sentence from Scripture that they shove in your faith (face) and ask if you believe. One such phrase is found in John 3. Read the context.

John 3:4-6 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)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.[a

My objection is not with Scripture, for it is true as handed down from the Apostles. My concern is that the uninformed and uninitiated use Scriptre for their own gains (proving that you are wrong and they are right and thus righgteous). Often is is accompanied by the statement that you will go to Hell if you don’t believe. For one thing, you can’t throw one tiny phrase of Scripture at someone to prove that they are wrong and you are right. You can’t prove anything about Baptism and the Holy Spirit by force or by proof. Faith is a gift not the cras object of a proof about anything. It is a gift from God freely given to those who wish to call God Abba, Father. It must be freely received by us using the Holy Spirit to claim our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Proving God? Human reasoning can try to bunch some ideas together, but Faith allows us to call ourselves with the name of Christ at all. We don’t earn any of this. We can’t pray our way to Heaven on our own merits, but we can pray that we receive humility and God’s grace in us to give praise and glory to the Father, always through, with, and in Christ.

Now to my point (here we go again).

There are two approaches I find people use to justify themselves whenever they push Scriptures onto others who already believe or who have no idea what they are talking about.

I. SCRIPTURES USED TO PROVE THAT MY GOD IS RIGHT AND YOUR GOD IS WRONG. Although that may seem a bit over exaggerated, my point is the motivation is to prove you are right and someone else has the wrong notion of who God is.

I sometimes triffle with people who come to my door or corner me at a table in a restaraunt to pump their Scripture phrase at me. I know, I should not do it, but it is my own pride showing off(which I am trying to overcome with Christ’s help).

They ask me if I am baptized and saved. I reply, that I have been saved 28,928 times (the number of days since I was baptized in 1940). I ask them if they take up their cross daily and follow Christ. They sheepishly mumble something about they don’t know what that means. I tell them, come back when you know its meaning and I will explain it. No one has ever come back.

My point is, Scriptures are not meant to point out I am right and you are wrong, which may lead to pride into thinking that God thinks a lot like you, even your interpretation of Scriptures. Just as Moses led the people out of Egypt amid grumbling and eventually to worship the Golden Calf, trust those appointed our leaders to lead us through the promised land of today.

II. THE PURPOSE OF SCRIPTURE

The correct way to use Scripture is not to Lord it over others who can’t defend themselves by proving to you that they are saved, which they never can do, but to do what St. John says at the end of his Gospel in Chapter 20:31.

John 20:30-31 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) The Purpose of This Book30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah,[b] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Judge others with the same criteria you want God to judge you. In my opinion, you don’t want to use Scripture as a weapon to beat others over the head with what they do or don’t believe is the truth, but rather to allow them believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. One is pride, the other is everlasting life and the fulfillment of what Christ told us, to love one another as I have loved you by seeing how you act. Your choice.

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. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

HERITAGE LOST

There are not many topics that I try to avoid as much as the one of “Why Has My Family Abandoned their Catholic Heritage,” passed on from grandparents, parents and beyond that, all the way back to the time of the Apostles. What I consider critical to being human, being a faithful member of the Body of Christ, the only way I have found to practice how to love others as Christ loves us, many have rejected as being irrelevant. I received my patrimony, my heritage from my parents and they from theirs. They were stalwarts of belief, role models for my own decision to embrace the Catholic Universal priesthood, than again to apply as a Lay Cistercian of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist). http://www.trappist.net How could anyone reject the one thing my grandparents thought worth dying? Passing on of things was never important to our family. We never had a lot to pass on. Passing on the heritage of Faith, now that was important. Growing up, they went to extraordinary lengths to preserve young believers. I am not only puzzled from the seeming abandonment of principles of love and service that we received, but I am also sad, sad that what I know to be so important to humans they may be missing: 1) discovering the purpose of life; 2) selecting my purpose in life; 3)what reality looks like; 4) how all reality fits together; 5) how to love fiercely; and, 6) you know you are going to die, now what I am sad because they are missing Christ as the Son of God, savior.

I must preface my remarks with two ideas, in order for me to be able to even write down my ideas, painful as they are. First, everyone is free to choose whatever they want as their belief system. In my own family, there are those faithful to their heritage passed on from our grandparents, then there are cultural Catholics, those who have abandoned their heritage in favor of whatever they place at their center, and finally, those who believe nothing at all. Secondly, I am not judging or putting down anyone for believing in anything. Faith is a process of believing as you weave down the path of life, often coming close to the edge of rationality versus animality. I am responsible for my life, my belief system, my ability to love others as Christ loves us, and how well I did what Christ asked of us. (Matthew 25:36). Next, I choose to focus on my own efforts to “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus,” rather than excoriate anyone because they don’t believe like I do. Truth is one. God is one. I will say that I pray for my family each and every day, as I do for myself, that we all have the strength and enlightenment to choose the love of Christ over the World. I have no control over anyone and, like St. Paul, I must continuously convert my life from my false self to my true self.

In this Internet Retreat, you have looked at temptations for this and that. One that looms large in this context is, the loss of Faith. Some would tell me that they have not lost their Faith at all but have come to their senses. Some replaced the Faith of their Heritage, forged by countless prayer and sacrifices, with something else they judged better. No one chooses what is bad for them. How can they choose something else and I hold something so important it explains, as much as humans can do so, the purpose of life and how we all fit? There are not two realities, only one. Truth is not subject to whim or to how much the person is sincere. Truth is one.

How does this heritage crumble in just one generation? It goes without saying that everyone is sincerely seeking the truth to the best of their ability. They are good persons, in some cases, heroic persons that care for others. I must admit to being very mystified and find myself without any good reasons. Never the less, I will attempt to move on with my Lectio Divina meditations on the subject and share with you what I have thought about. More troubling is that this happens in not just one family but across the board in many, many families I know.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LOSE YOUR HERITAGE?

I can only tell you what losing my heritage would be. If you never had your heritage, passed down through your family, you would not know the meaning of this concept. Faith is one of those realities, invisible like the emotion of love, all encapsulated within the parameters of the Mystery of Faith, a compendium of all that is, some of which we know but much of it beyond human comprehension. In the previous section on truth, reason and free will, I tried to describe that each of us has an opinion about this or that. That goes for the statement that someone has lost their Faith. That is from my viewpoint, but, as I have tried to point out, there is more than just my opinion. We measure ourselves against the weight of all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of Faith. Faith is not as the World sees it, just your opinion and my opinion. It is the collective strength, the unbroken thread of those who have sacrificed and struggled to love Christ as Christ loved them, the unknown and forgotten persons who make up the Body of Christ Triumphant, those who have been faithful to what Christ taught us. It is all those who are joined together as Church Universal, individually struggling to know what is good for them and what is bad for them, and those who jump off the barq of Peter for a bit then jump back on because Christ has the words of eternal life. It is waging warfare with the shallow and short term pleasures of the orgastic state, of drug and alcohol, and money, that Erich Fromm alluded to in his book, The Art of Loving. It is avoidance, in terms of behavior, but why? What is to avoid?

What did they lose, when they lose their Faith? Whenever I say someone seems to have lost their Faith, it means they do not have a North on their compass, one that was given them in Baptism to guide them through the alurements of what is good or bad for us, or minefields of the World. In Baptism, we all become adopted sons and daughters of the Father, in addition to having Christ take away the Original Sin into which all humans are born. We can squander this heritage, if we are not careful. How so? Like love, we can fall out of love with someone (we call that divorce) and change our assumptions about what relationship means. Of one thing we can be sure: God won’t renege on his love for us, even if we quaver in what God means for us. The fidelity of the Lord endures forever.

Whenever I say someone seems to have lost their Faith, it means they do not have a North on their compass, one that was given them in Baptism to guide them through the alurements of what is good or bad for us, or minefields of the World. In Baptism, we all become adopted sons and daughters of the Father, in addition to having Christ take away the Original Sin into which all humans are born. We can squander this heritage, if we are not careful. How so? Like love, we can fall out of love with someone (we call that divorce) and change our assumptions about what relationship means. Of one thing we can be sure: God won’t renege on his love for us, even if we quaver in what God means for us. The fidelity of the Lord endures forever. If God gives you a share in his life but you don’t use it, it withers like a dead leaf on the vine and falls off.

Take some time and read the passage about falling away from the Faith. Those who do this don’t even realize what is happening, it so gradual and innocuous to those without Faith. Many won’t even admit to losing their Faith and some actually say their gaining Faith.

Mark 4 NRSVCE – The Parable of the Sower

4 Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

The Purpose of the Parables

10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret[a] of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12 in order that‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. 17 But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.[b] 18 And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. 2
And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

The parable is about God who sows the seed of Faith in us. We don’t deserve it by however much we believe it to be true. Faith is not about what we believe but about how much we believe in what God tells us. This is called obedience to God’s will and is accessed through humility and conversion of life from self to God. There is a condition to receiving God’s word. You must cultivate it for it to grow and bear fruit. Losing Faith means it drys up because you can’t sustain it. The seed of Faith must be planted in good soil for it to grow. If the seed of Faith does not grow, it just remains a grain of wheat. It is meant to grow and give nourishment. Faith is like that grain of wheat. Initial Faith is received through Baptism but it must grow. Growth is not automatic but takes work. It must be planted in soil that will allow it to be what it is meant to be. If, after a lifetime of trying, your Faith is still initial, you have not produced anything. James writes of this in Chapter 2 by saying:

Faith and Works.*14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?i15If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?j17So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18Indeed someone may say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.19 You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.20 Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?k22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.”l24 See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route?m26 For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

We are baptized with water and the Spirit for a reason. That reason is not primarily for us but to help others, or, to love others as Christ loves us. If you don’t use your gfts of Faith and the Spirit, you will suffer consequences. If you don’t use your Faith, it will wither on the vine of Christ and not bear fruit. Want to see if you have Faith? Matthew 25:31

THE DRAUGHT OF FAITH

Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict (RB) is a good checklist of the tools needed to sustain yourself in times of struggle (which is every day). Based on my own observation in my life and in the lives of others, here are some reasons Faith dries up.

  • Lack of humility that causes me to put myself first rather than prefer nothing to the love of Christ (Chapter 4 of the RB)
  • Placing the Church as the center of your life rather than Christ. The Church was and never is a good center. Christ is a good center. Christ is the vine. The Church are the branches. The branches, if they are alive, bear fruit and produce chlorophyll to make all things new.
  • You don’t know how to love Christ or love others as Christ loves us. You don’t want to be with him in contemplation or prayer because there is nothing in it for you and it is boring.
  • You are afraid to look within yourself for fear of seeing all those demons you have not excised.
  • You have fallen away from Christ. You can’t sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter and know what it means to long to be present with Christ in Eucharistic Adoration.
  • Church is a building you go to, like a high school gym,.
  • Church is a place rather than the living Body of Christ.
  • You scoff at denying yourself and taking up your cross, and when and if you do, it is styrofoam.
  • You have never put anything in your relationship with Christ and are surprised when you get nothing in return.
  • People are hypocrites who say one thing about their Faith but do another.
  • Priests in general are all pedophiles. Who wants to belong to that? You prescribe to others what you can’t or won’t recognize in yourself.
  • You are the same person spiritually that you were a year ago. You have no idea what conversion of life means or growing from self to God.
  • Everything about the Catholic Universal Way is corrupt, limiting, shallow, duplicitous, or hypocrisy.
  • Once more, my concern is about those I know and love not practicing what I consider to be the reason why we are here on earth at all.

THE INABIITY TO FIND MEANING WITH CATHOLIC PRACTICES

I write all of this as a result of my Lectio Divina. I only vouch that it is what I think. I Hope that I am correct but I won’t be absolutely certain until I stand before Truth and let myself be before the Supreme Being, God. That is a particular judgement that happens when we die. No one gets away with anything. There are consequences for sin. No one goes to Heaven that has sinned that is unrepented. Repented sin are those actions and thoughts that are contrary to what God says is good for us, but we do them anyway.

What happens to someone who loses their faith is the same thing that happens to someone who falls our of love. If you don’t keep trying to love, in the midst of life’s challenges, love will dry up.

Falling out of love means:

Your mind and your heart have two different purposes, not one.

  • You don’t talk to one another.
  • You don’t like being present with each other.
  • You hate the Church but love what Christ says in Scriptures.
  • You don’t see Christ in anything related to Catholic Universal.
  • You are a passive Catholic waiting to be entertained or enthused by a Sunday service. You have no concept of discipleship.
  • Being Catholic is like joining the Elks or Moose. It is like joining a Greek fraternity. It is like
  • Some find meaning outside of Scriptures, contemplative practices, charisms and prayer. The allure of the World with its emphasis on my fulfillment outweighs the seeming archaic command from Christ that we must die to self to rise to new life. If you don’t know how to do that or even why you should do it, life becomes very World-centered.
  • Some have never grown deeper in their Faith nor do they know how to do so.
  • There is no spiritual attention span over ten minutes.

CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR ACTIONS

There is no free lunch, if you are a spiritual person. You must love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:34). The reason for a Church in any age is to create a School of Love (St. Benedict’s Prologue) in which we can practice loving others as Christ loves us with the tools He gives us (Chapter 4, RB). As a Lay Cistercian and member of the Church Universal, I do that in the context of others, meaning there is always imperfection and the consequences of Original Sin against which I must content, daily. Personally, I have not found anything more inspiring, more centered on Christ, more consistent with the message of Christ than what I am doing.

There are three choices we can make, all of which have consequences.

I. I can choose what I am doing as a Lay Cistercian and, to the best of my ability try to transform myself from my false self to my new self, each day, using the practices and charisms of the Cistercian Way. This is a way to look at reality that is in process of becoming. When I die, I will be judged on what I have chosen as my Center (Philippians 2:5) and how well I practiced my Faith. God will tell me, “Good and Faith Servant, Come, Share Your Lord’s Joy!”

II. I can choose not to be a Catholic Universal member, nor a Lay Cistercian, and select some other approach to find meaning in life. If I am sincere in what I have selected as my center, God will judge me on my activities. Matthew 25:31-46.

III. I can choose myself as my center and the fulfillment of all my wishes. When I die, I will be judged against Who God Is and What Christ came to share with us, and how I did or did not recognize it.

The most frequently used phrases humans will use when they are face to face with the Way, the Truth, and the Life is:

It is the Church’s fault, they never told me about this.

I never knew about how to love as Christ loves us.

I left the Church because it was irrelevant, maybe it was me who was irrelevant.

I never knew that the teachings of Christ were to help me love others. All I thought it was, was to go to Church and please my parents.

No one ever taught me how to dig beneath the surface and slough off my old self to put on the new self in Christ.

I though religion was for old ladies and priests who could not otherwise find a meaningful job.

Matthew 25:31-46 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

The Judgment of the Nations

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[a] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD…IN THE END IS THE WORD MADE FLESH

When writing this, actually as one part of a three part book, I want to emphasis that all of us are free to choose whatever we want to be or to believe about anything. I also want to state that there are consequences for our actions, maybe not now, but later on. Standing before God being asked to place your being against the Supreme Being, none of us comes out looking good. Some will accept their inheritance as sons and daughters of the Father and some will not.

In the end, there are three things that last, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13 Some people know what this means in terms of living it out, and some miss the point entirely.

Adam and Eve were created by God to be gardeners or caretakers of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. We are caretakers of the Kingdom of Heaven (on Earth) because of our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Some people realize this and some do not.

We have all been given the ability to reason for a reason. Perhaps it is to be able to chose the purpose of life. What we choose can be either good for us or bad for us. There are consequences to all our actions. God became one of us, Jesus Christ, not only to show us the way, the truth, and the life, but to show us what love means. We are made adopted sons and daughters of the Father through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. We confess our Faith through Baptism and Forgiveness of Sins in the Sacraments as ways Christ gives us the energy to sustain our struggle against the effects of Original Sin. Some see that and act on it, some do not see it and it means nothing. That in all things, God is glorified. –St. Benedict

MERCY AND CONTEMPLATION

This seems to me to be an odd topic for my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), but here it is.

In thinking about having in me the mind of Christ Jesus, my mind wandered into the aspect of Mercy, so important to the mission of Christ, yet so confusing to His followers.

We say it every time me pray the Eucharist together. Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy, Lord Have Mercy. What is this mercy that seems like unconditional love but carries a much deeper meaning, if we but take the time and effort to grow deeper in its implications? Use the following snippets from the Scriptres to reflect on God’s mercy and how we should show that same mercy to others, if we ourselves want mercy.

Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Psalm 25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.I

Psalm 40:11 Do not, O Lord, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.

Psalm 51:1 Cleansing and Pardon ] [ To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. ] Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions,

Psalm 69:16 Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Psalm 79:1[ Psalm 79 ] [ Plea for Mercy for Jerusalem ] [ A Psalm of Asaph. ] O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

Psalm 103:4 …who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

Psalm 119:77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.]

Psalm 119:156 Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your justice.

Psalm 123:2 As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us.

Proverbs 28:13 No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Sirach 50:22[ A Benediction ] And now bless the God of all, who everywhere works great wonders, who fosters our growth from birth, and deals with us according to his mercy.

Sirach 50:24 May he entrust to us his mercy, and may he deliver us in our days!

Lamentations 5:1[ A Plea for Mercy ] Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace!

Baruch 2:19 For it is not because of any righteous deeds of our ancestors or our kings that we bring before you our prayer for mercy, O Lord our God.

Matthew 9:13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”I

Matthew 9:27[ Jesus Heals Two Blind Men ] As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Matthew 12:7But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Matthew 15:22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.

Mark 5:19 But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.”Luke 1:58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

Luke 16:24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us

Philippians 2:27 He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

1 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1:12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service,

1 Timothy 1:13 …even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,

2 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain;I

2 Timothy 1:18—may the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you know very well how much service he rendered in Ephesus.I

James 2:13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

1 Peter 1:3[ 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,

Now you have read what I have read. My questions were:

  • We are bid to have mercy on others as Christ has mercy on us. Does mercy mean that, for those who do not hold our traditions or heritage, we should compromise and give up what Christ handed on to us, just in order for us to have mercy on others?
  • Does mercy mean we don’t judge others while still maintaining our integrity and, removing the beam in our own eye before we pass judgement on others? Matthew 7:1-5
  • Does mercy mean we love the sinner but do not condone the sin?
  • Does mercy mean we must first keep love in our hearts before condemning other who do not believe in our way?
  • Does mercy mean I try to convert each day from my false self to my true self?
  • Does mercy mean I place myself in the presence of the Sacred at the Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, without worrying whether other people are failing in their spiritual awareness?
  • Don’t play God games (my god is better than your god, my church is better than yours, I judge who goes to Heaven and Hell, Scriptures says you must be baptized with water and the Spirit to get to Heaven — a subtle form of idolatry in which the assumption is there is something God can’t do).

What you do think mercy is, in terms of your contemplative approach to living out each day?

10 THING YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT CHRIST

  1. Christ was not assumed into Heaven like Mary, He ascended into Heaven by the power of God.
  2. When Christ was on Earth as a son of Man, simultaneously, He is God. Only Jesus Christ had two natures, divine and human. Mary, his mother, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit only had one nature, human. The act of overshadowing was Mary’s Baptism in the energy and Holy Spirit, so much so, that she uttered that beautiful Magnificat.
  3. Christ, both God and fully human in nature, died on the Christ by giving up his spirit. The rest of us die because we are held hostage by our nature. Fully God, fully human, Jesus ascended to the Father to pay back the debt incurred by Adam (Romans Chapter 5). This is called reparation for the Sin of Adam and Eve. Reparation demand that a price be paid to God for this act of disobedience (Genesis 2-3).
  4. Jesus redeemed us. In everyday language, he was a family member who went to the pawn shop with the ticket from Genesis to exchange it for the Original Life in the Garden of Eden, but this time, all of us, without exception were granted access to God, but this time as adopted sons and daughters through our mediator, Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:5-12). When the holder of the ticket asked for payment, it was Christ, both fully divine in nature, fully human in nature, would would have to give up (emptying) everything to buy back our salvation. The word for redeem or buy back is pronounced gaw-al’, or to go to the pawn shop and redeem the ticket that God received from Adam and Eve. They pawned our future. Christ bought us back with the price of his own body and blood to make us adopted sons and daughters once more. All is right except for the effects of Original Sin (we call that the World). https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1350.htm
    • Original Word: גָּאַל
    • Part of Speech: Verb
    • Transliteration: gaal
    • Phonetic Spelling: (gaw-al’)
    • Definition: to redeem, act as kinsman
  5. Baptism is the act of gaw-al’ where God removed the stain of Original Sin (but not the effects) and allows us to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father with our inheritance as Heaven…Forever. Baptism is the response of Faith to the gift of the Father. Read Hebrews 2. There is a problem with Faith, if we don’t use it we may lose it. The Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, instituted by Christ, give each of us who believe the ability to sustain our Faith daily. In each age, everyone has the opportunity to nourish that Faith. Sadly, not all of us do. Read the Parabolic Discourse in Matthew 13.
  6. There is only one way to God and that is through Christ. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says Christ. Follow me, and do what I do. Do you know what he told us to do? John 17.
  7. Christ is present to us, with us, and for us in the Eucharist when we ascend to the Father once again with Him to give glory to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). We sustain ourselves with His real body and blood.
  8. Christ will draw all things to himself. John 12:31-33 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition (NRSVACE) 31 Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[a] to myself.’ 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. Christ is both the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. The physical universe, the mental universe and the spiritual universe will one day be one. Right now, they don’t look too compatible

Alpha and Omega

9. What type of people does Christ not like? Read Matthew 7:21-27 Matthew 23:13-32 plus Matthew 25:31

10. Christ is the fulfillment of Adam and Eve, Moses, David, and the Prophets in the Old Testament and is the Messiah, one not only to save Israel from itself, but also all of us. Praise be God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both 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

LISTEN WITH THE EAR OF THE HEART

There is nothing more difficult for a human being than to listen to God with the ear of the heart. That God would even consider speaking to me in the silence of my heart is, in itself, astounding. What I try to do as a Lay Cistercian, but often fall short, is keeping my mouth (my mind) shut so that God can get through. The difficulty is not one that God has, for God is everywhere in everything, in our minds and our hearts. That we even approach God in humility and obedience to what God tells us is astounding.

We don’t even know a lot about God except through Christ. In the Old Testament, we heard about God but did not know about the Trinity. Christ told us that.

Matthew 11 NRSVCE – “25 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.”

Listening with the ear of the heart is achieved by obedience to others, which obviously means God but also to God’s authorized representative on earth, the abbot or abbess. By extension, obedience means you are ready to give up your will, according to the Prologue in the Rule, and “… do battle for the true king, Christ Our Lord.”

THE STRUGGLE TO BE SPIRITUAL

Make no mistake about it. We are in a battle for the conquest of our souls. The effects of Original Sin are ever present and all too evident, even though Baptism washed away that Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Some people believe that humans are rotten by nature and that only the grace of Christ coates us so that we will be saved. It is like pouring Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake syrup over us to make us fresh and pleasing to God. The problem with that point of view is we are made in the image and likeness of God. If we are rotten, so is God. That is evidently not the case. So, we struggle to be good and accept our responsibility for making choices that are what God says is good for us. Listening with the ear of the heart helps us discern what is peudo-truth (cotton candy spirituality that tastes very good but has no nourishment) from what is means to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily and follow Christ. These are dark and difficult time, when we must choose between what is right and what is easy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASqHWwMlKSs

Doing what is right means we must see reality from two views: The World— which tells us our wills are important and to be happy you must do those things that give us meaning. The Spirit–which says you must renounce yourself and follow Christ. (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23) You can’t do both at the same time, just as hatred and love can’t coexist in the same room together. You can’t listen with the ear of the heart using the techniques and meaning of the World, even though humans use the words like “humility” “Meditation” “fulfillment” in both views, the techniques and the purposes are radically different. Humility and being poor in spirit will help you to approach God through, with and in Christ and do battle. This battle is nothing other than the daily grind or struggle to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). To be more like Christ who is meek and humble of heart is our goal, not to make more money, achieve fame and adulation, or to become powerful. Listening with the ear of the heart, in the context of a community of believers, helps to sustain us in our quest to move from self to God.

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7 Pillars of Cistercian Spirituality

I came across this article from New Clairvaux Monastery (Vino, California) and thought you would be interested. https://www.newclairvaux.org/7-pillars-trappist-cistercian-spirituality

7 PILLARS OF CISTERCIAN SPIRITUALITY

7 Pillars of Trappist-Cistercian Spirituality

            Clearly, all Christians are one in the Love of Jesus Christ and a full-on life commitment to His Gospel.  Yet within the Church there are an abundance of ‘spiritualties’ that emphasize certain aspects of the Gospel more particularly.  There is a Franciscan spirituality with its special emphases, Carmelite spirituality, Ignatian spirituality, etc.  So what makes our specifically Trappist-Cistercian spirituality?

            When I speak of this I emphasize 7 points or pillars of Trappist Spirituality, each of which turn out to be dependent on the others and all of which focus toward a single main goal.  Each point is worthy of special attention in its own right, but for now I would like to briefly present them together so their importance and interrelatedness can be seen.  These 7 pillars are:

            Separation from the World:  Obviously cloistered enclosure is a defining element.  We leave the world and create a physical and spiritual sacred space in which we may be free to listen, encounter and grow in God.

            Simplicity: Along the same lines, we reject all that is extravagant or superfluous.  This is so not only in diet, sleep, clothing, furnishing, but even in matters of liturgy and personal prayer. Desiring an uncomplicated relationship with the God of simplicity, we seek God by the most direct means possible.

            Liturgy: Mass in the center of our life and day, from which the Divine Office, the official prayers of the Church, radiate and return.  This continual coming home to God through the hours of day and night in communal sung prayer provides the framework of our life.  We continually and joyfully sing the Glory of God.

            Brotherhood: We are not in this alone.  We are family, a brotherhood supporting and serving one another on our mutual journey toward eternal life.

            Zeal for Souls:  We are mindful that our life is a participation in and cooperation with the Redemptive mission of Christ to bring souls back to the Father.  We believe with certainty that Jesus draws great graces from our cooperation and uses these graces for the conversion of perishing souls and the good of the Kingdom.

            Devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Jesus and to the Blessed Virgin Mary:  We cultivate a tender and personal friendship with the Lord Jesus.  Only in this intimate friendship will the brothers be happy to preserve us in a life that is ordinary, obscure and laborious.  Our Blessed Mother is an ever present guide who leads us ever more deeply into this intimate relationship with Her Son.

            Contemplative Prayer/ Eschatological dimension:  Our focus is in Heaven.  We do not have an outside apostolate.  Our total dedication toward Heaven is our apostolate and the grace we bring to the world.  This is where all the pillars coverage and what they lead us to.

So there you have it: the 7 pillars of Trappist Spirituality as I see it.  Do these resonate with you?  Do they fill you with longing?  This may be the indication of a vocation to our life and particular Trappist way of offering loving service to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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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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.

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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. The Pope only lives for seventy or more years and then must pass on the title to his successor. See the list of successors that date back to Peter. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm
  2. The Pope has no divine nature, only human, as does Mary, Mother of God. Only God has the divine nature (Christ has both divine and human natures). Christ is the head of the Church, not the Pope. He Pope, as Bishop of Rome, has primacy of honor as the first of bishops. All are equal, yet, like Peter and the Twelve, one is chosen to represent all. This tradition continues to this very day.
  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. Infallibility has to do with the Holy Spirit protecting the Church from error.
  6. Only the Pope wears the shoes of the Fisherman.
  7. Peter receives the handoff of authority from Christ. Peter receives the primacy of honor. Faith does not come from the Pope, but from God through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit in our age. The Pope is supreme teacher because he reaches back through twenty centuries to guide us what is authentic and consistently believed by the Faithful.
  8. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. The Sacrament of Holy Order contains three offices, Bishop, Priest or Presbyter, and Deacon. Pope is an honorary title, like Archbishop or Cardinal.
  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.

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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.

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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 th