THE WOMAN WHO CHANGED TIME: SPIRITUALITY AND TIME

SPIRITUALITY AND TIME

Some thoughts on how spirituality and time interact. 

 Seven lessons humans need to learn, in order to live in three universes.

  1. LESSON ONE: The more complex the reality, the simpler it Truth is. The purpose of your life is to discover what that truth is and to fulfill your destiny as a human being.
  2. LESSON TWO: The mental universe, in which human can reason, gives us the opportunity to choose a higher
  3. LESSON THREE: There are three universes but only one Truth that must be the same in all three universes, to be real.
  4. LESSON FOUR: There are no secrets to the discovery of meaning, reserved for a privileged few. Everyone has a chance to get to Heaven. The purpose of life is to discover meaning and fulfill your destiny.
  5. LESSON FIVE: All humans are free to choose their own Some centers lead to truth; some lead to destruction. You have a lifetime to discover and learn the difference.
  6. LESSON SIX: Relationship is a key to discovering meaning in all three universes.
  7. LESSON SEVEN: Genuine spirituality is the most difficult universe to integrate into reality. It is totally in front of you right now, but it is totally invisible using just your five senses.

“Many people are more concerned about where they came from than where they are headed. You only enter spiritual time with a free act of the will. You make an act of the will for what will be, not for what has been.”  —The Center for Contemplative Practice

The following blog comes from my book on Spirituality and Time, entitled The Woman Who Changed Time: Spirituality and Time.  The book may be found in the Store section of this blog. I write vertical books, so be warned. Vertical books are those containing a question at the top of each page followed by my comments on the remainder of the page.  They are ideally suited for blogs.  I have excerpted one section, spiritual time, in this blog.  Other blogs will explore physical time and mental time.

WHAT IS SPIRITUAL TIME?

If the spiritual universe is X, can you solve for X?

Mathematics can teach us about the invisible universe of spirituality. Like dark matter, we cannot SEE it but we can deduce its presence through other measurements and deduce its existence from its effect on other known phenomena. In a mathematical formula, the spiritual universe is like solving for X. Like the Pythagorean Theorem, the square on the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. In physical reality, we can see matter and energy, and measure it. We can use our mental energies to deduce a solution or solve for X if we know the formula. Humans have discovered mathematics, the sciences, medicine, physics, and chemistry to answer the question, “What is it and how does it work?” Our mental thinking is invisible yet no less real. It leads us to make choices. Unlike Yogi Berra’s purported saying: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it,” our mental capabilities allow us to choose what is valuable. Yet, what is of value to us may not be valuable in terms of what is good for the last part of the equation– that third side of the triangle. Spirituality is the logical consequence of two universes, separate yet inexorably interdependent. This spiritual universe is analogous to the dark matter of the physical universe, only it is opaque.

The Logical Conclusion to Human Growth.

Spirituality begins when we make a conscious choice to move from a human-centered existence to one that is centered on THE OTHER. You will spend a lifetime, if you are so fortunate, trying to discover what that means. In my own mind, I have discovered the equivalent of Fermat’s Last Theorem. Once thought to be unsolvable, it has only been solved recently. http://www.mbay. net/~cgd/flt/fltmain.htm. My thinking has led me to look at reality in threes, or, The Rule of Threes: the physical universe, mental universe, and spiritual universe, but with a twist. I have attempted to take everything I ever learned about my time on earth and link it together. In doing that, I used Teilhard de Chardin’s ideas about how the universe is growing. Does time move in a straight line? I don’t agree with the straight line description. I think time is more like concentric circles that form when you drop a pebble on the surface of a clear pond. Instead of the rock causing the ripples, I found myself looking at those ripples and looking for the rock that caused it. Spirituality is the like a pebble that is dropped into the pond of time…it causes ripples. It is the logical consequence of time and matter. Spirituality allows humans the tools to discover the direction that time is headed. It fulfills our nature.

Authentic spirituality…is selecting what is aligned with pure energy.

You are free to choose whatever spirituality you want, but remember that not all spiritual thinking will lead you to fulfill your destiny. People who have a devout spirituality that says, “It is moral to fly a plane into the World Trade Center in the name of God,” are missing the point. So, is everyone’s spirituality correct just because they are free to choose it? If you are free to choose drugs, binge drinking, indiscriminate, unprotected sex, indecent exposure, as some of these halftime football shows advocate, is that authentic? Who is to say? You have all the time you have in your lifetime to find out what is meaningful. When you choose spirituality, you must also choose what that means. Not all religions lead to the truth, the way, and the life. Life is a quest for the truth. Authentic spirituality, regardless of what philosophical expression you select, means your value system is based on three principles:

  • The principle of the Truth states that what is real is found in three universes, not just one;
  • The principle of the Way means that the path to truth lies outside of you;
  • The principle of the Life means that you discover pure spiritual energy in everyday events, to fuel your quest for authentic

 

The Two Dimensions of Spiritual Time.

If you want to live in the spiritual universe, you must choose to do so. You must also choose what is authentic and real about spirituality. Once this happens, you live in spiritual time. There is a macro level of spiritual time, one particular to the human race. Spiritual time began with one person making a conscious decision to move forward. There are two dimensions of spiritual time. One is personal and one describes the condition of the human race.

  1. Personal spiritual time begins when you, as an individual, make a conscious and free choice to enter the spiritual This time continues even after you die. Individuals pass into the spiritual universe that has no physical time, space, or matter, but it does have energy. You must say, “YES.”
  2. Human spiritual time began with the choice of one person who represented all of us. Although spiritual persons lived before Mary, she was the one person who enabled time, not individual physical or mental time but human spiritual time. Spiritual time began with her word, “YES.”

Learn how to sew with  The Golden Thread.

You have heard of our early ancestors as hunter-gatherers haven’t you? Did you know humans are also sewers? We humans like to link things together mentally. We want to know how it all fits together. In the physical universe, we use thread to sew our clothes and mend our socks. In the mental universe, we use a mental thread called logic, to put an invisible thread through every action we do, and every thought we think. There is a reason why humans behave as they do. Maybe, in the short run, it is for self-satisfaction. We have evolved to sharing with others. In the long run, we think about things like religion, where it all fits, and how my life has meaning. Usually, people who are older tend to think more about the deeper thoughts about their lives. When we have a trauma or life-shaking event, such as cancer in our own bodies, or the death of a relative, we move quickly to think about the deeper part of life. Ever wonder why people in prisons all of a sudden get religion? Why are some people so religious, when they find out they are going to die? In the spiritual universe, the one we choose freely, we are given a Golden Thread to link everything we find of value to our future destiny, Forever. We need a sense of urgency to focus on what is most important in life.

Mary teaches us to sew with The Golden Thread.

Spiritual time is important because what we thread together during our lifetime, we take with us into a universe without space or time. You can only take with you those items you have sewn together with a Golden Thread. That seems impossible. How can an individual link together all these experiences, these wonderful times, and the relationships that made life worth living? The Golden Thread is God. Each and every morning, as soon as you sit on the side of the bed, make a morning offering of that day to God. A simple prayer might be: “that in all I do today, in all my thoughts and actions, may God be glorified.” If you make this act of the will, every human thought or activity automatically has a Golden Thread put through it, as long as those thoughts and deeds are consistent with God’s laws of spirituality. The Golden Thread for each human who freely chooses spirituality is the link between the wonders of the physical universe with the mental universe, and finally with those of the spiritual universe. Those relationships of intimacy and friendship, consistent with God’s will, all have a Golden Thread running through them. So, what’s your point? We are able to use the Golden Thread because Mary made a choice for spirituality that was acceptable to God.

Spiritual time on earth prepares you for spiritual time in Heaven.

Why are you here on this earth? Is there a destiny out there towards which all of us inexorably march? The answer is “Yes.” It is one of the reasons that spiritual time completes physical and mental time. There is a reason we humans evolved using human reason. The mental universe allows us to store those values and experiences we wish to take with us as we move to spiritual time after we die. Our circuits were not wired to live in a state of pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service. Spiritual time is the universe that “always is.” How would humans relate to that? It would fry our circuits. There must be some artificial environment within spiritual time to allow us to survive. There is. Those links we sew with The Golden Thread show that we know what it means to be fully human. We take with us what we sew during our lifetime. Mary is the only human, with the exception of her son, who was perfectly human. Yet, Mary became perfect because God filled her with his energy. In three billion years, we humans might reach that stage of maturity, if we don’t first kill ourselves. For Mary, it was instantaneous. Mary was the first one of us to use The Golden Thread. Because she said “YES,” we reap the benefits and have a chance to fulfill our destiny.

Meditations on Spiritual Time.

  1. Without a spiritual universe, we miss the critical part of the equation for a unified theory of reality.
  2. The physical universe is the platform for life; the mental universe is the platform to discover meaning and value. The spiritual universe is the platform to find meaning and values that correspond to pure energy, and so continue to live…Forever.
  3. The spiritual universe began with a ..the Word Made Flesh. Read John 1: 13-14.
  4. For that Word to be human, another free choice had to be made by It was “YES.”
  5. The free choice of Adam and Eve was “NO.”
  6. Spiritual time is not measured with metrics. There is no distance within spiritual time, only the energy that is.
  7. To prepare our human minds to live in the presence of pure energy, God had to SHOW us how to use the tools. Read John 3:12-21.

LEARNING POINTS

  1. In the physical universe, time is limitless, it is invisible, it seems infinite, yet still tied to matter.
  2. In the mental universe, humans have only a lifetime to find their Humans ask questions that lead them to search for something more than just feeling good about themselves.
  3. Spiritual time uses the platform of physical time and the human curiosity to resolve the questions humans ask in the mental Spiritual time is. Humans have an opportunity to prepare to live in a universe containing no space or time, only spiritual time.
  4. There is one reality with three distinct Time is constant in all three universes. There are three distinct types of time, just as there are three distinct universes. There is only one reality.
  5. The measuring sticks for each universe are different, yet must be True in all three universes.

 

More on physical time and mental time, next time.

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

 

 

 

THE TIME TRAVELER: A TRIP TO FOREVER

Here some crazy ideas about time travel and immortality.

I recently wrote a blog about taking a trip to California. I left for Los Angeles on a Friday and returned on a Monday. No problems. Nice flight, but somewhat tiring for an old geezer. In reflecting on this trip, I am reminded of original sin. Original sin, remember, is the result of disobedience and lack of humility by Adam and Eve. There are consequences to that archetypal act of our first parents. For one thing, nothing lasts forever, that is to say, nothing in the two universes of time and matter.

When I watched some episodes of time travel in the Star Trek series, there was warp drive or traveling at various times the speed of light. Nice touch for the television series, don’t you think? Time travel and nudging those hypotheses and theories of Einstein is well beyond the world I live in. Yet, if time travel is moving through time, we do that each and every minute of our day until we die. We move from Point A to Point B, perhaps not in distance, but in time. Case in point is my trip to California. I left on a Friday but returned on Monday. I traveled through time, although in only two universes. There are no exceptions to this effect of original sin. Even with a warp drive, it is still Point A to Point B, although the points are very far apart. Now add three universes to the equation about what is real. The spiritual universe does not exist in space or time. It simply is. So, there is no Point A to Point B time travel, only Point A. In the spiritual universe, Point A is Point B. It is also a person, whom we call God for lack of an adequate description. When I embarked on my trip to California, I knew that I would return on a certain date. The same holds true for everything that exists in two universes. I know I was born and I know I will die. I know that, if I go to college, and stick it out, I will be graduated in four years, all things considered. Why is that? Why can’t I take a vacation that lasts Forever? Maybe because I don’t live in that condition. My two universes have the limitations imposed on it as a result of original sin. Everything will decay, eventually. I will die, so will everything else around me, with a few exceptions. What we learn does not die. Only recently, we have had the technology to use information, wisdom, scientific studies and research into cancer cures and medical procedures to help sustain life. Unfortunately, humans still hate each other, drive cars into people they don’t know, in the name of a religion that disavows it.

Doesn’t sound like my trip to California was very productive.  It was because I complied with the rules of nature. It was because nature complied with its own laws, i.e., the sun came out, there were no volcanoes, etc…

WACKY IDEAS

Wonder if the earth is actually its own spacecraft traveling through, not only space but through time towards a destiny in the future called Omega? Science can’t verify this because it is using the wrong set of assumptions and may not be able to let go of reason long enough to think outside of matter and time to something far more interesting, pure energy. In my book series on this topic, entitled Spiritual Apes, I talk about this in more detail. You can find them in the Store section of this blog. Pure energy is love, as set forth in The Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. Jesuit paleontologist. It sounds crazy that love would be the energy that fuels all of reality. Agreed!  Yet, we have reason for a reason, as I am fond of saying. Like a neutron star that spews forth its deadly cosmic rays to everything around it, pure energy radiates love and is 100% of a person’s nature. The significant thing is that this person is not human at all but divine nature. But there is more, in Philippians 2:5-12, my favorite passage in Scriptures and the center of my life, it tells of how God took on the nature of a man with all the effects of the original sin of the race, without individual sin.

If there is a place without space or time and we are headed there, it would make sense to warn us how we should live later on, so as to prepare for this new approach to life, one that has no end, one whose energy is not the Sun but the pure energy of God, one where our human nature can thrive in a climate of peace and fierce love. God would not hurt us nor give us cause to regret our choice. That is why Jesus had to show us how to live in the life to come.

We actually are time travelers, but when our time in two universes has expired (the body dies), we open another chapter in the journey, that of being with Jesus.  This is spiritual time (three universes) and not two.

One of the admonitions that I have found in Scripture, used over and over, when the Sacred (an angel) meets one of us (the Blessed Mother) is “Don’t be afraid!” (Luke 1:31.) It is what I thought about when I was told I had cancer (leukemia) in 2014. Contemplation allowed me to wait in the presence of the Lord God and soak up whatever God wanted me to have. To be sure, salvation by faith does not mean we can ever take it for granted or that we are on a conveyor belt to automatically get to Heaven. Heaven depends upon God but if we get there depends on us with God’s help, of course. That is good advice for any time traveler who goes from visible to the invisible reality.

Hope is a theological virtue that gives us the ability to believe in a person or a concept. I believe in love as the purpose of life and am trying not to be afraid of what lies ahead.

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

 

A TRIP TO CALIFORNIA

Last month, I took a trip to California to visit my favorite Aunt, Sister Adrian Marie Conrad, S.P. She is a Sister of Providence from Terre Haute, Indiana. Although it only lasted four days (two of which were for travel), it was very memorable.  You see, Sister Adrian Marie is 97.  The family did not want to wait until a funeral to meet together, so we decided to meet before both of us finish our journey on earth.

I bring this up because, on the way out to see Sister, I did Lectio Divina in the airplane. All of my Lectio reading (or thinking, in my case) comes from Philippians 2:5. These are my thoughts.

This is a great trip to California. I had no hassle with luggage because I carried my overnight bag with enough stuff for two days. I wondered what it would be like to carry my lifetime bag when I die. What would I take to Heaven with me, given God’s mercy on this broken-down, old Lay Cistercian? I would take the following item.

THE GOLDEN THREAD — I received the Golden Thread when I was baptized (September 29, 1940,) at 1:00 p.m. in Vincennes, Indiana. I did not know it until much later in life, actually when I was 70 years old, but the Golden Thread binds all things together and these I can take with me to Heaven. It is this sense that I can take all of my pets with me to Heaven. The Golden Thread links all my life experiences that I have identified as being a thought, word, or deed leading from self to God.  In English, that means I can thread the delicate rays of the morning sun on the green leaves in Tallahassee to the goodness and greatness of the Creator. The only thing this thread will not penetrate is sin and unauthentic love. What I thread with my Golden Thread will be the context of my Heaven. To the extent that I have loved others as Christ has loved us, my reward will be complete.

I have used the Golden Thread to bind the following:

  • All my family, friends, those who have asked for my prayers
  • Those who are my enemies, have hurt me, have spoken evil of me because of my faith
  • Handel’s Messiah
  • Everything I have ever thought about that has brought me closer to the mind of Christ Jesus, even if I can’t remember it now
  • All my pets and animals that have reminded me that, like Adam and Eve, I am created to take care of the Garden of Eden
  • All the Benedictine and Trappist monks that have taught me to be patient, humble and obedient to those who represent Christ on earth
  • All my teachers who are nuns and those in college and university for their patience with me as one who is in process of gaining knowledge, love, and service
  • All military chaplains
  • All priests, ministers, and rabbis with whom I have exchanged thoughts about the Oneness of God.
  • All the saints and Saints, who have inspired me to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus
  • All the sights, sounds, smells of the fresh morning, sunsets in the evening, where I silently marveled at the goodness of God
  • In reparation for the hurt, I have caused God by my insensitivity to doing his will as found in Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule.
  • DD214, just in case

What have you packed in your suitcase for the trip to eternity? One of the most beautiful expressions of what lies ahead is not even from our Christian tradition but comes from Egyptian mythology. It is about Osiris.

When someone dies, as I have learned it, you die and go to the nether world of darkness to await being brought into the light. Before you can begin your life in the light, Osiris, god of the nether world takes your heart with all its imperfections and places it on a scale. He takes a single feather and places it on the other side of the scale. If your heart is as light as a feather, you can proceed to the light. That may be why the Egyptians left the heart in the mummified body and did not put it in a Canopian jar with the rest of the organs.

I have always liked that story. To make your heart as light as a feather means you must not take yourself too seriously but do God’s will, not your own.  For me, that means receiving the Eucharist, Lectio Divina, Divine Office, Spiritual Reading, and Rosary as often as I can. For me, it means that I avail myself of the gifts that God Himself gave those still remaining on earth to help them in their struggle to keep their hearts light, i.e., the Eucharist, Forgiveness of Sins, Penance, Repentance, and the Sacraments.

It is not too late to lighten your burden of stuff that you have accumulated over the years. In any event, you would probably not make it through security with St. Peter.

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

FORGIVENESS: The Gift only a God could give us.

When someone gives you a gift,  such as Christmas time or your birthday, you naturally think of money, expensive articles of clothing or fancy kitchen appliances. Most of these gifts are what we want, not what we need.

What gifts would God give us to help us achieve the purpose of life (Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:34)? What are those bits of help, those tools, those footprints in the snow for us to follow, those snatches of wisdom from the Prophets, Apostles, and Saints to guide us through the briar patch of original sin and its false becomings and promises? God would not abandon his adopted sons and daughters to the Evil One. Consistent with natural law, he would give us how to find our North on the compass of life but not do it for us. He would tell us He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life but not make the journey of life for us. He would tell us, like the story of Lazarus that we have the Moses and the Prophets. (Luke 16:16-31).

We keep asking God to be merciful to us, but there is an interesting take on this in Matthew 6:9-13, also known as the Lord’s Prayer. Instead of an individual asking for forgiveness, Jesus takes it one step further. He says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Notice here that mercy and forgiveness from God are contingent on how we forgive others.  It is all about the sincerity of the heart, of course, known only to God.

It is prideful of us to think God will automatically forgive us. Something to think about when you are judging others as not being what you think Jesus wants them to be.

Here is a thought:  did we evolve the notion of forgiveness as in natural selection? From what did it evolve?  If it did evolve from us, current the state of affairs with political opportunism the new morality of the masses, makes me wonder how far we have evolved from our animal ancestors. There is too much hatred in the world, and Satan is exploiting weak minds and hearts all in the name of freedom from anyone telling them what God thinks It is classic idolatry. There will be a price to pay. To remain on this path much longer will result in enduring God’s wrath that will blot out the hatred as sure as Sodom and Gomorrah. Wait and see!

Mercy and forgiveness of each other lead to fierce love which banishes hatred. I must emphasize that only God’s love banishes hatred, not love as the world defines it.

What follows is an excerpt from my book on God’s mercy, entitled For Behold, I Make All Things New. You can find it in the Store section of this blog.

“Jesus did not go to all the trouble to become one of us, only to abandon us to our own self-destructive tendencies. Not one of us could survive the journey to Heaven. Genesis tells of our roots as living in a world of sin, original or archetypal sin, being alienated from God, complaining about pain, prone to the vagaries of nature and ultimately dying. The profound Genesis statement is that everything around us, including ourselves, is subject to decay, aging, and eventually death. It was to be the purpose of Jesus, Son of God, to provide us with the opportunity to reach Heaven if we so chose. There was one catch. We would still have to live out our lives in a condition of alienation and decay.  I call that condition the effects of original sin. That is why we still have problems focusing on the purpose of life and your purpose of life. That is also why spirituality is a struggle and why we sin, sin meaning we miss the mark of loving God with all our hearts and minds and our neighbor as our self, (Deuteronomy 6:4 and Matthew 22:34 ff) Jesus became one of us to show us how to overcome the effects of original sin and to live…Forever. Jesus told us, in effect, I will show you the path to everlasting life, but you must still walk it yourself and it is not without difficulties. Just because your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. I will give you my own energy (grace) to help sustain you, but you must still struggle with living in a world that does not know me. Those who use these gifts, and there are seven of them and persevere to the end, will make it to Heaven. It won’t be easy, says our Master, but neither was my dying on the cross. It is the price you must pay to be my disciple. These lessons focus on one of the seven gifts of grace Jesus gave us, Forgiveness. To use a dialectic example, Forgiveness is the antithesis of original sin, the thesis is the decay and death of all matter and time. The synthesis is living with God Forever, the restoration of the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, the fulfillment of our destiny as human beings. Each day is a lifetime of trying to love God with all your heart, mind and strength but failing. These reflections are the product of my Lectio Divina contemplation and, hopefully, will provide you with some insights into how to take up your cross daily and seek Christ Jesus.” –Michael F. Conrad, Ed.D.

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

 

 

WONDER IF…

One of the things I like about science and the discovery of wonderful, new ideas is the ability to wonder about things and make hypotheses about why they exist.  The human mind is made to wonder about why something is and to try to find solutions to perplexing problems. When I have a computer problem with either software or hardware, I am more excited about all the ways something can work and why it does not work. It is thrilling, actually.

Since my view of reality is not only the physical universe (what is and how it is) and the mental universe (what is it is, why it is and when it is) but also the spiritual universe (where does it all fit and why it is), I wonder about things both visible and invisible, things measured with instrument, things reasoned with logic, and faith informed by reason.

Here are some of my Lectio Divina meditations and contemplations based on Philippians 2:5. I have no idea why they popped into my head, but they did. Are you listening, Holy Spirit?

WONDER IF… spiritual reality is no la-la land, as some try to tell me, but actually what is most real, a sign of contradiction with physical and mental universes.

WONDER IF…each universe (physical, mental and spiritual) has its own measuring stick for what is real and what is true.

WONDER IF…it is impossible to measure the spiritual universe with the yardstick of the physical or mental universes. No wonder science mocks spirituality as being too subjective and mushy. If I used their assumptions about invisible reality, I would reach the same conclusion.

WONDER IF…The measuring stick of spirituality is not material at all, but invisible. The measurement of the Spirit is love ( John 10:6-18) and the tools are Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:34. http://www.ecatholic2000.com/benedict/rule.shtml

WONDER IF…you won a Pulitzer Prize for Mathematics, could solve Fermat’s Last Theorem, have a doctorate in Theoretical Mathematics, but fail to discover the reason we have reason and the existence of pure energy.

WONDER IF…as the scientist, Teilhard de Chardin said, love is the greatest energy and it is so far beyond us that we are mere infants in our quest for discovering one, unified reality.

WONDER IF…we can actually take our dog and/or cat with us to Heaven (to be fair, all animals). Christ takes us to Heaven with him, and we can take our beloved pets with us, if we know how. Do you?

WONDER IF…God spoke to you in contemplation that you could take any reality you want with you when you go to heaven. You are only allowed one suitcase, but what a suitcase that it. It contains the Golden Thread with which you bind all things together to God’s glory. You can bind a sunset when you link it with gratitude for God’s goodness to us. You can thread a Bach chorale or Tocatta and Fugue with it when it reminds you of the great majesty of the Creator.

WONDER IF…you have the strength to love with Dark Love, that elusive but most powerful part of genuine unconditional love. Dark love is not evil or even dark in the bad sense. Dark Love is the ability to love people who hate you, do good to those who speak all manner of ill against you and Jesus, love Jesus when you have a terminal illness without complaint or hatred, forgive those who have wronged you, especially your family, the closest ones to you. Dark love is the price Jesus paid for our redemption, the temptation he had in the Garden of Gethsemani to let this purpose pass from him, to forgive those who crucified him with the words, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.  

WONDER IF…you are a pilgrim in a foreign land, a land that does not know Jesus as Lord, a place where Scriptures are not meant to be lived out as a way to follow Christ. People say the words, “God,” “Christ,” “Church,” “Peace,” but have a radically divergent view about what that means, even among themselves. It is a place of false teachings, true teachings, heroic acts of charity by nonbelievers, and sins committed against children and the innocent by those entrusted to bear the good news to the whole world.

WONDER IF…you learned how to overcome your inadequacies and began to feel the presence of God’s energy through contemplation, if only through a foggy glass.

WONDER IF…you hold that death is the end, like an old television set that loses its picture and just fades away to a point of nothingness. You have no hope that there is anything but you as your center, the meaning of life.

WONDER IF…you don’t hold that the Church is the living body of Christ in the world, composed of those living, those awaiting purification for their sins, and those triumphant in Heaven. Any consequences?

WONDER IF…you die and find out that you will be judged each one according to the deeds and not be given a free pass to Heaven after leading a life of libertarian thinking and acting as though you were God, even though you believe God’s grace douses you with grace. Would that change your behavior now?  It would mine.

WONDER IF…you woke up one day and found out the world was to end in five minutes.

WONDER IF…all this fuss about which religion is right and whose God can beat your God is so much smoke screen. There can be only one truth as God is one. So, pick a religion or none at all. Why did you pick it? Is it consistent with reason to the extent we know about it? Is it apostolic? It is one, not just now, but from the times of the Apostles? It is universal, open to all who profess that Jesus Christ is Son of God, Savior?

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

DO YOU HAVE SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION?

Whoa!  Wait a minute! Are you saying there is such a thing as being spiritually depressed? Yes, I am!  What follows are my reflections from Lectio Divina meditation and contemplation on Philippians 2:5. I asked the question, what are aberrations or dysfunctions of the spirit. What follows is what I received back and wrote in my book, Is Your Life Running on Empty? Moving beyond spiritual depression.  Find it in the Store section of this blog.

ARE YOU SPIRITUALLY DEPRESSED?
“You can’t commit a sin unless you are spiritually depressed. The reason you choose what you want over what God wants is that you always choose what is best for you. Sin means what you choose is not good for you and, if you don’t get rid of it, it may kill you.”

Are you spiritually ailing and depressed?
Are the questions on the following pages true for you? When you have reached the end of the section entitled, “Are You Spiritually Depressed?” go back to the beginning and re-read the section on “What Is Your Center?” So little is known of spiritual depression and its interaction with the mental and spiritual universes in which we find ourselves. The interface between body, mind, and spirit is just now being taken seriously. We, humans, are joined at the hip with our spirituality, like it or not. When we talk about spirituality, we usually talk in terms of unseen things, like love, peace, justice. Love, peace, and justice do not live in an invisible world but are made real through us. If you are spiritually depressed, you won’t be able to “see” the spiritual dimension to life. The dark side of the human psyche is capable of the most heinous crimes and unspeakable grievances against humanity. Witness the rash of pedophile priests uncovered or the discovery of genocide, both symptoms of spiritual depression in either individuals or societies. Why do people do those things? The troubling fact is, any of us are capable of all of the above, given the right circumstances. Except for the grace of God.

If you think that no one loves you, you may have symptoms of a spiritual headache. Spiritual depression is the headache of the spirit.

The physical universe is linked to the mental universe, and the fate of both are inexorably bound up with the spiritual universe. All three are separate dimensions, yet one reality. Evolution happens in all three universes. Being African American, Native American, European American, or any other ethnic tribe is not the same as having a human nature. We share human nature together, we may not share our ethnic backgrounds. Is that bad? No, is it a fact.

Spiritual depression means my human nature is not acting in accordance with its intended purpose. There is dissonance in my space, my frame of reality. I have an existential headache. If you have a spiritual headache, you need to take some spiritual medicine, some spiritual aspirin, if you will, to help you gain perspective. Curing a spiritual headache is not that easy. You must first cure the body and the then the mind. Spiritual depression feeds upon the vacuum of meaning created by the mind.
The following statements in the next few pages came from those who may be spiritually depressed. Grace produces change because you are hooked up to the energy of God, and not your own self-contained power source. When you are spiritually depressed, there is a short-circuit in the flow of energy between your physical, mental and spiritual universes. These universes must be aligned because they were intended to produce grace. When you read scriptures and are depressed, nothing will happen. Why is that? You read the words. You comprehend the words. Nothing happens because the power that flows from pure energy is shorted out. It takes time. Be patient! You are the living conductor that channels the flow of energy from God through you to the physical universe and mental universes. If you want to have God’s energy inside you, you must put it there. Everything spiritual is bound up with the freedom of choice and the ability to choose wisely.

Depression Speak

“How could God possibly love someone like me?”

Remember your center? You can’t have both hate and love in the same center? If you keep hatred at your center, you will be spiritually depressed. Having momentary thoughts of hating someone is not necessarily harmful, but it may not be good if they continue to dominate a relationship. If so, all teenagers would be condemned for hating their parents. Hatred is evil because it keeps the energy of the spiritual life from surging through your body and mind. Hatred only destroys those who hate. You can’t hate and be in Heaven. Hatred is a sign you are spiritually depressed. If you are stuck in a hatred
mode, which some are, you can’t love yourself, as the Master suggested. The Master asked us to get rid of hatred, even towards those who have wronged us, like a former spouse. Why is that? Is it easy? Not at all, but it brings spiritual healing. You will know you are a disciple of The Master when you can forgive those who wrong you. You are called to transform what is sinful into what is graceful, but not without help.

Depression Speak

“I hate my former husband or wife for what they did to me.”

Changing a flat tire is part of the journey. If you have been changing it year after year, without learning that you need a spare in the trunk, you are spiritually depressed. You have not learned from your mistakes. Where do you get the spare tire? Spiritual depression means you are so out of focus that you fail to check to see if your spare has air in it, or is even in the trunk. Life will give you setbacks, like the death of a child, the loss of a fortune, your own impending death, the loss of a spouse, severe deformity, and possibly even rape. How do you cope with these set backs? Do you have a spare ready? Your spare is forgiveness. Forgiveness always leads to reconciliation, but it begins with you. You may fall into spiritual depression because you do not seek God’s energy to help you. Forgiveness is not forgetting what happened. It means you are enlightened to see that you are off center and you consciously and willingly want to get back on the correct path.

If life is a journey, are you changing a flat tire on the side of the road only to find you don’t have a spare?  Recently, I had a person stop at the door and tell me I had the wrong Christian denomination and that I was destined for hell unless I changed. They looked angry and hateful when they were talking. I asked them if they thought it peculiar that they were trying to change my God for their God. They were stunned! What they wanted was to have me join their denomination, which had a particular point of view about life. I told them that our two religions were so different and that I was, with God’s grace, willing to die for that difference. They left no doubt thinking I was going to perdition and that they were doing God’s will. We all play God games in the guise of truth, don’t we? Be careful in thinking that your religion is so superior that you fail to notice that you fit into God’s plan, not vice versa. You are not God! Pride precedes the Fall of Adam and Eve, you know. You can preach the good news. You may not judge. The part we forget is, God will ultimately judge all of us, weighing the lightness of our heart against the Truth, the Way, and the Life we led.

Do you find that attending church, which so often has been a source of comfort and inspiration, suddenly has become flat and lifeless? You attend the service. You try to listen to the sermon or message. You get up, when your turn comes, and go to communion, but there is nothing there. Have you lost your faith? You may just be spiritually depressed. The problem is not the church. The problem is not communion. The problem is not Holy Scriptures. The problem is not your spouse or your family. The problem is not even you. You are spiritually at odds with your mental and physical selves. You are out of alignment. This feeling, like a headache, is a symptom that something is out of balance. This, in turn, manifests itself in the misalignment of your spirit with your mind, and your body. Like the physical physician who can diagnose then treat illness, someone who is a spiritual coach or director can identify what blocks grace from flowing and they allow you to seek healing.

Do you feel like you are dying of thirst on an ocean of water? Your system will not tolerate salt water. In a similar way, your spiritual self cannot take the saltiness of hatred, envy, jealousy, lust, drunkenness, and still thrive. You have a spiritual temperature that is over “normal.” Spiritual depression means you do not give the spiritual life the life-giving water it needs to survive. The more you drink of sin, the more you are thirsty. We, humans, are destined for life with a being that is pure water for our spirit. Read John 4: 13-14. What is the water of life, the fountain of youth, the living water of which John speaks? Do you have a chance to drink this water? Spiritual depression means you drink, yet nothing happens. You need the water of life, but something keeps you from benefits. What could it be? Drinking the water of life while spiritually depressed is like drinking salt water. It won’t be effective until you take out the salt. Who can do that?

Are you obsessed with the spiritual life? Too much religion and not enough spirituality can lead to a religious depression. Much like a “smiling depression,” what is going on inside is not so evident. A true story: I had known Janice for five years. Each time we would pass in the hallway, she would be smiling and always greeted me with a spiritual comment about how good God was to her. Six months later, I found out that she was treated for severe depression, stemming from family problems. She held her emotions in check for fear of losing her job. She was a single parent. She turned to religion out of desperation, becoming obsessed with the spiritual universe. One problem: being depressed, she did not have the proper perspective. She drove everyone around her crazy with her rants and raves. She needed a psychiatrist to help her gain some equilibrium, not a minister. What is true for our physical and mental selves is also true for our spiritual self. Being obsessed with religion won’t make you any more spiritual, it may be a sign of spiritual depression. Treat the body first, then treat the spirit.

You can read the word of God all day long and quote scripture “until the cows come home,” yet if you don’t do what scripture tells you, you have missed the boat.

The Scriptures are the footprints of those who have taken the spiritual life and walked in it. It is a history of our failures and successes. It is the record of our wanderings and our awakenings. It is a guide for the perplexed mind. It is the Word translated into fl esh.
Have you ever heard of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, sometimes called SETI? Scientists have huge antennae facing the Heavens, listening for any signs of intelligent life out there. Did you know that you are the antenna that receives signals of pure energy from a power source so immense, it does not even live in our physical universe–not enough room. You, and you alone are the power source, the receiver, the universal translator, of pure thought, pure love, and pure service. Think of it! Why are you given such awesome responsibility by an alien being? The answer is as simple as it is complex: to know, love, and serve God, and to be happy one day in Heaven.

RESPONSIBLE FAITH
After you have prayed and prayed, and given yourself to God, but nothing happens, now what do you do?  It is good to put your cares, your fortunes, your very center into the hands of God. It is better to realize that when you gave God your cares, God gave them right back to you. Have you noticed the transfer? God doesn’t take responsibility for your actions, God wants YOU to take ownership of your life, and show how His grace can set you free. Spiritual dumping is when you say that God’s will be done and let God worry about it. Nothing will ever happen when you dump responsibility on God. It is when God dumps grace or pure energy on you that you explode into a symphony of activity. You have heard it said, “How can a good God allow bad things to happen to the poor and children?” The real question is: How can YOU let bad things happen to the poor, widows, the elderly, and children? A Hurricane hitting the coast is not evil, a tornado cutting through Zenia, Ohio, is not evil in itself. If you are spiritually depressed, you won’t know the difference. You will be waiting for a phone call from God that will never come. You are the phone, the receiver, and the operator.

RESPONSIBLE CHARITY “Thy Will Be Done” means God trusts YOU to act as if God were here with you. Because you continue to be graced by God, you are responsible to make love take root around you. Going to church is good. Going to church to get the strength to deal with a broken marriage, a child who has been killed in an automobile accident, losing your life savings to a con-man, failure to get that job or promotion, humiliation at being called racist names, put down because you are a believer, is better. Going to church because you are in need of spiritual replenishment because you are the occasion for others to receive God’s grace, is best.

You are a conduit of goodness when others put you down. You are the lightning rod of patience when your family rages against you and calls you unforgivable names. You make love happen where ever you are. You can’t do that if you are spiritually depleted. Your cell phone needs recharging or it will run out of power in one to two days. In the same way, you will run out of spiritual energy, if you are not plugged into the source of pure energy. The Master is the resistor between the pure love of God and you. Otherwise, your circuits would be fried. No one comes to the Father except through the Son.

What are you doing giving your responsibility back to God? God wants to know if you can take it.
• Your purpose is to know, love and serve God while here, so we can be with that same God in Heaven. “…Thy Will Be Done On Earth As In Heaven.” Matthew 6:19
• You must let God’s grace work through you, with you, and in you so that the Father is given all honor and glory.
• When you are angry, jealous, have vengeance toward someone who has wronged you, want to kill someone, want to drink yourself silly every weekend, what to sleep with a different female every night for Twenty-five years, you can’t focus on God’s will. You have too many distractions. That is called spiritual depression. You may not even notice it.

St. Benedict says, in Chapter 4 of his Rule, that, if we do any good, God should be praised as the author of it, but that if we do any evil, we take full responsibility for our sins.

If you are a car, do you feel that you are long overdue for an alignment, yet too lazy to take yourself in? We all need alignments. No, not the science of chiropractic, but an alignment of our physical body, our mind, integrated with our spirit. If you are spiritually depressed, your plugs may be dirty, your timing might need adjustment, or you might need your tires aligned. As long as you remain on earth in your present body, you are governed by the physical laws of nature. Alignment won’t stop death, and alignment won’t prevent you from veering off the road of life if you have the wrong center. What it will do for you is fi ne tune your perspective so that you can see with the eyes of the body, think creatively with your mind, and choose what is good for your spirit. When your spirit touches God’s spirit, you have the energy to gain perspective, although one that lives in three universes, not just two. The challenge in life is to choose continuously what is authentic and true. Maintaining your spirituality, like taking your car in for a tune-up, takes time out of your busy schedule. Do you have time?

Is your light bulb burned out and you are just too tired to replace it? Laziness can be a sign of spiritual depression when it becomes avoidance. We always find time to do what we want, if it rewards us. The reason you are spiritually depressed is: YOU DON’T THINK GOD IS WORTH IT! You need to plug into the source of energy again. God is someone “out there, rather than in here.” You may be spiritually tired. Call it what you want, you just can’t see to get up in the morning on Sunday and go to church. You still believe. You still call yourself spiritual, but you just don’t have the will to go to church. Avoidance is a symptom that you may be spiritually depressed, much like a high temperature means something is wrong with the body. You are spiritually depressed and may be trying to avoid meeting God. Time management has a saying: you always have time to do what you think is good for you. See any parallels? Read Mark 4:21-25.
Why would you take the trouble to enter the spiritual universe only to hide the reason you make the commitment in the first place? Spirituality is about making all things new. That takes work.

Has someone you loved just died? Anger over someone who has passed through to be with God can be directed at that person for leaving you. You are so angry at your spouse for leaving you with the bills, not knowing about social security, not having any idea of finance. What was once taken care of by someone is not your responsibility. You may even resort to turning around your late spouse’s picture so you won’t have to look at it. Your anger may also be directed at God. If God is good, why did he take your spouse, your child, your loved one? How can a good God accept evil? As a result of negative thinking, you might slip into spiritual depression and not even know it. When you are angry at God, it is ironic that it is that same God who gets you out of your spiritual stupor. You can get into a DaVinci Code mentality that what is plausible must be true. Get a grip! My friend’s wife had just died. He told me that he was an atheist, but attended the Unitarian Universalist church. He ranted and raved about how God could be so cruel as to take his wife. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Do you find life boring? Your physical self is inexorably linked to your mental and spiritual selves. When there is a symptom in your behaviors that something is not quite right, you will see events as black and white. Some cultures think this way. The Ying and Yan are black and white. In these cultures, gray is ambiguous. Ambiguous is not good. If you are in the gray areas, you won’t even know that you are depressed. If you find God boring, God just smiles and gently gives you more time to discover what is truly meaningful. When God finds you boring, that is when you should worry. That won’t happen. Being bored with life means you have problems with purpose and meaning. If you always want to be served by others, you will lose the spiritual dimension. This asks the question, “What can you give to me?” Our Master wants us to ask, “What can you give to others?”

When your physical, mental, and spirituality universes are aligned, you have resonance. You can not be bored because your energy comes from God.

Do you think that money makes the world go around? If not, what does? More money won’t help a millionaire find authentic meaning. You can have all the money there is and still have that nagging feeling that you missed something in life. The answer is not more money. Where you do find purpose in your life? What price are you willing to pay to get it? Money may buy you respect. Money may command the attention of others when you check into a luxury hotel. Money may buy you boats, buildings, blondes, and bonds. Money won’t buy you love, or spirituality. You are destined to find meaning all by yourself. You are not alone, of course, but you are born, live in the company of other humans, and then die alone. Spirituality provides you with the perspective that says, “I am one with the source of all energy. I have a purpose. I need to be here, now.”

God’s Bed and Breakfast is waiting for those who want to check in. When you are clinically depressed, you often want to sleep all day. When you are spiritually depressed, oddly enough, you may often want to just sit read the Bible, without having a thought in your mind about God. In the mental universe, relationships are too difficult to endure, so you want to be alone. In the spiritual universe, depression is a lack of meaning and focus. You know you should attend church, have meaning in your life, but nothing happens. You feel guilty. Spiritual depression is dissonance of the Spirit, your lack of alignment with your physical, mental, and spiritual selves, and your inability to communicate fully with the energy you need to sustain yourself as spiritual. Like any depression, it may not go away without help. Don’t forget to cure the mind as well as the spirit. The two are inexorably linked together.  If you are spiritually depressed, you will get a bill. All your food will taste bland. You won’t be able to enjoy it because the spirit in you is not in sync with your physical and mental selves.

Do you have a spiritual headache that won’t go away? We mentioned earlier that headaches are physiological signs that something is wrong with us. It may be stress, allergies, sinusitis or something more serious. A spiritual headache is a symptom that shows itself by what you say, what you do, or by what you don’t do. When you think your religion is better than anyone else’s; when you hate other people who hold differing spiritual views from your own; when you make pompous moral judgements about who will go to your view of Heaven; when you continue to lust after your neighbor’s wife or husband; when your center is filled with lust to the exclusion of true love, then you have a disconnect between your physical, mental and spiritual selves. You are not one in the spirit, you are out of spiritual alignment. You are spiritually depressed. Read Galatians 5. That slight discomfort, the tension you feel, the anxiety you notice, the impatience you feel when you touch core values or meaningful insights, is symptomatic of a spiritual headache. Will you die from it? No! However, spiritual depression may kill your spiritual universe, if not treated. You will surely die from that. Don’t stay in a state of sinfulness.

If you are in a state of sin, you are spiritually depressed. It seems like we got away from sin when we entered the age of enlightenment in the 1960’s. Maybe that was the beginning of our Modern Dark Age, the Age of Self Indulgence. No one knew where sin fit when God was supposed to be so good. If you look at the world and the mess the human race is in, you can see we only fooled ourselves. Sin is still here. It will always be with us. Original sin is the confirmation that our race has not evolved to a point where we can fully control our urges. We do it sometimes, and sometimes we fall on our face. Thank goodness God has a sense of humor. I am not talking about one peccadillo, but rather a prolonged state of alienation from God’s energy. This is like a state of depression. Depression breeds depression in the same way that sin breeds more sin. They are both related. Depression can cause you to enter into temptation and think that what is fun is good for you. If you have a center that is not at one with God, you may be spiritually depressed. Your destiny is not with evil, it is with God. God is not dead, but you may be spiritually depressed. Making all things new means you re-center or realign your realities.

Sin sucks! You may be saying, “I don’t believe you said that!” Think about it! Sin is a symptom of spiritual depression. Sin means that God and I are at-odds. In other words, I am not at-one with my center, or I may have the wrong center. If you have the wrong center, there is a disruption in the harmony between the physical, mental, and spiritual universes in which you live. When you don’t feel just right, it is because your universes are not aligned properly with your intended destiny — to be with God…Forever. Sin means you are not fulfilling the purpose for which you are intended. You act like an animal and not as a human. You grace tank may not be on empty, but your tank just got a bit emptier. Sin not only sucks, but it drains your spiritual energy. The Master prayed that we not be led into temptation. What do you think that meant? Your destiny is to know, love and serve God on this earth, and be happy with God in Heaven. Everything else in life is gravy. Some will never comprehend this because they are spiritually depressed. Open yourself to the possibility of the manifestibility of pure energy, pure Being. You can’t believe how exciting that is.

LEARNING POINTS 

1. If you are spiritually depressed, you may not even notice it.
2. If you have the wrong center, chances are high that you are spiritually depressed.
3. If you are in a state of sin, chances are high that you are spiritually depressed.
4. If you are chronically angry or negative, chances are high that you are spiritually depressed.
5. If you are physically and mentally depressed, you may not be able to cure spiritual depression until you first cure the other two universes. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, you know.
6. You are destined to be with God in Heaven. If you are not aligned correctly, you may be spiritually depressed, until you fulfill your destiny by realignment.

 

YOU HAVE REASON FOR A REASON

I recently wrote a blog about the Fermi Paradox. It may or may not be a paradox but it asks the question, where is everybody out there? We haven’t found so much as a hiccup from SETI, or an organic molecule of life, much less sentient life. According to statistics, there should be life out there and probably is.  Like dark matter, much of what we know about extra terrestrial life is hidden in darkness.

Here is a sobering thought: out of all species of animals or plants, why are humans the only ones in our brief history to develop reason? Even then, not everyone uses their reason to full advantage. There are so many competing ideologies seeking to influence the way we reason. So again, what is the reason we have reason?

Science, to its credit, wants to get away from the imprecise reasoning of an individual, subject belief. The problem comes into play when speaking of freedom to hold an opinion, even one contrary to the prevailing political correctness of this or that special interest group. In looking at the bigger picture, something that rises to the level of humanity and not this or that slice of the pie, we have the opportunity to reason even though what we reason may not be reasonable.  When was the last time you asked a giraffe to lunch? Do gorillas go the Trader Joe’s to get pork chops? What we take for granted, that we humans are unique in the world, and maybe even in the universe, is astounding.

What is even more astounding to me is how we have come this far without wiping out the race due to hatred, intolerance, and nationalism. Even the Church is not immune to assuming the false trappings of monarchical elitism. One of the worst blunders we have made as a Church was to have it made the state church with Constantine, modeling a monarchical structure with all its pomp and circumstances. We are still trying to shuck off that debacle.

Well, here we stand, as Luther said, we can do no other. Human existence is most definitely in process of discovering meaning.  Right now, it does not look so good.

Here are five reasons that I think our human race has developed reason, and only in the last two hundred years, grown to learn from what went before us.

  1.  It doesn’t make any sense for a God to want us to join Him in Heaven and not give us the ability to know what is going on, especially if free will is involved.
  2. The mental universe is one of reason. It is the bridge between what is visible and what is invisible, between what are two separate universes (physical and mental) and three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).
  3. Reason gives our purpose meaning because we can move beyond mere lifetime goals to why we were given the ability to reason in the first place, to go to Heaven.
  4. Faith informed by reason provides us with the ability to not only believe we are destined for a universe beyond our own but with the tools to make a case that everything is linked to everything else, even our destiny.
  5. Reason gives us the ability to make the choice to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a response to God’s invitation and become adopted sons and daughters.

All this leads me to these thoughts. The purpose of life, the reason for reason, the ability to love unconditionally, the foresight to see patterns of historical relevance as God tries to tell us how to get to Heaven, the strength to live beyond our five senses and choose our true self as opposed to what the world sees as meaningful, the ability to communicate with the One and fulfill God’s purpose for us, the choice of my own personal center of reality,  how all of this fits together in one reality with three universes, the ability to love fiercely, and how to die well, all depend upon faith informed by reason.

It is no accident that we have the ability to know about the world around us. Part of evolving spiritual awareness, that includes why were are here, and what our role is in preparing for a life to come, is to recognize patterns of progression in thinking and believing.  Evolution aside, humans made it through the gauntlet of gene ontology with something no other species has attained, the ability to know that we know and based on that unique quality, to know, love and serve God in this life and to be happy with God in the next.

Humans are spiritual apes, in terms of future natural progression, not just descendants from our animal past. I detail some of these ideas in my three volume reflections entitled Spiritual Apes, which you can access in the Book section of this blog.

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

 

 

YOU DON’T WANT TO SLEEP IN THIS BED

As part of my Lectio Divina, I sometimes get bizarre thoughts and ideas. I was trying to meditate on my Lectio (reading or saying, which is always Phil 2:5) and the fact that humans have frequent temptations to stretch the truth to our own convenience (to make ourselves into God). Quite naturally, I thought of Procrustes. The following is from Wikipedia:

“In the Greek myth, Procrustes was a son of Poseidon with a stronghold on Mount Korydallos at Erineus, on the sacred way between Athens and Eleusis.[1] There he had a bed, in which he invited every passer-by to spend the night, and where he set to work on them with his smith’s hammer, to stretch them to fit. In later tellings, if the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length; nobody ever fit the bed exactly.[2] Procrustes continued his reign of terror until he was captured by Theseus, traveling to Athens along the sacred way, who “fitted” Procrustes to his own bed.”

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

The procrustean bed is one of the pitfalls of thinking that happens when we think we are god and thus truth is made in our own image and likeness.  Naturally, with that view, what does not fit into our “truth” must be either stretched or lopped off to suit our own pleasure. It is classic sin of Adam and Eve. Read Genesis 3. To put it another way, when we place ourselves as the center of our lives, we have a fool for a god. A side effect of this thinking is that each individual is a god, or a church, or the rule of law. It is no coincidence that thinking you are god is the very first of the Commandments God gave to Moses.

There are only two ways to approach reality: one is that you are god, and the other is that God is God.

I AM GOD — Let me lead you down the slippery slope of logic, if you take this path, If you are your own god, there will be no one who can tell you that you are mistaken, no one to challenge your assumptions. Faith becomes belief, belief becomes the center of your life, but also, unfortunately, the center of all reality. You become your own religion, your own church, your own belief system, even if you belong to a church. Why? You are convinced of your certitude because Scripture, as you believe it, it fits your conception of what religion is. No exceptions. Even in secular society, with its disdain for anything that even mentions God stuff, you can notice the struggle of our US Supreme Court to view the Constitution as one of the individual rights versus States and Government rights. Those who lean to the right are called strict constitutionalists and those who tilt to the left are called progressives, those who believe the laws serve the people and not the other way around. It is a tension that permeates religion, spirituality, politics, the law, and even your job.

GOD IS GOD — Genesis, that marvelous commentary on the struggle of human nature to choose self over God, reminded me in my Lectio meditation that those who do accept God as God are suddenly faced with the struggle to decide between what the world wants (I am God) verses what God wants (God is God). If you think that this is simple, think again. Many “isms” claim that they have the truth, that their God is God and not your God. I call it playing God games.  It is no coincidence that the tree of which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The big question, the elephant in the room is, whose approach is correct and, even more importantly, who tells you whose approach is correct?  Well, there it is! Like the television program, Naked and Afraid, we face truth in our all-together.

No wonder science looks at religion and spirituality and utters cries of contempt and disbelief. Logic is abandoned in favor of faith (depending on each individual). No one can tell you what is right but you alone. Of course, the big problem with that is you may not be correct. as the basis for what you believe. You have the right to your assumptions but your assumptions may not be right (correct).  If so, you do not have the truth, even if you are convinced you are in the right. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, says our Master.

This is an age old problem and one also faced by those Apostles who were filled with the Holy Spirit and told to go out and preach the good news.  Imagine! No books except the Torah, no cheat sheet of what Jesus said, each one would have to preach from the experiences he had with Jesus and the disciples.  As time went by, St. Paul and his School would chronicle the core of what it means to be a follower of Jesus and why.  These letters eventually made their way into a book called the New Testament but only after several centuries of discernment and usage.

The big problem in the early formation of the Body of Christ was the same struggle we face today: who determines what is from God and is not. If each person can determine what is from God, then the church as we know it today would never have survived. It would not have assimilated the Gentiles and morphed from the Old Testament prophets and teachings into the New Testament which allowed non-Jews and unbelievers to enter the Body. Read Romans 1:1-7. What a radical departure yet the natural progression predicted by Jesus in John 5:40-47. The approval is from the Father through the Son.

It is no wonder that the first expressions of communal faith were contained in the Apostles Creed, and later on in the Nicene Creed.  Creeds are a very early statement of what all should hold as true. They are the concentrated orange juice of the early church, the core of what it means to be a follower of the Master. It would take centuries to mix the water of martyrdom and heresies with these truths. It is an attempt by a yet undefined Church, struggling with its Jewish teachings and rituals, to reach out to all who will listen. It is in this uniformity of belief based on authority transferred by Christ to the Apostles that allowed them to receive the Holy Spirit and pass it on to this budding movement with truth from God, not from individuals who wish to be god, like Adam and Eve.

As an aspiring Lay Cistercian, I have determined that I want God as my center.  To keep myself honest and not prideful, I must continuously renounce my old self to allow God to enter. I do that in the presence of community, which keeps me honest and the Church, which is a watchful mother that warns me when I take myself too seriously. I try, with many failures, to take up my cross daily and follow Christ. It is the time I take to carry that load that is important, as well as my final destination.

LEARNING POINT

You don’t want to be one who sleeps in a procrustean bed. Remember Procrustes? He died sleeping in the bed he designed and had his legs chopped off.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOUR TRIP TO OMEGA

Life may be like a set of train tracks, but with one difference. Did you know you are on an inexorable trip to Omega and might not even be aware of it? Here are some ideas I had while doing Lectio Divina contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament last week. They are nothing short of mind-blowing.

Omega, as I use it here and write about in my 3 book series entitled Spiritual Apes,  (see Books section in this blog) is something I learned about from Scriptures from Revelations 1:8,  “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (DRA). Another writer that caught my attention was the late Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., a Jesuit paleontologist who wrote the book The Phenomenon of Man. He stated that all matter, visible and invisible, was moving toward one point in the future called Omega. His book interested me because he theorized that all matter and time was like a dart board with concentric circles evolving toward one point which he called the Christo-sphere. Sounds like a Jesuit, doesn’t it? At the time, in 1962, I was just a first-year seminarian. Teilhard de Chardin, who died in 1955, had had his writings condemned by ecclesiastical authorities. I liked that a scientist was trying to put forward a plausible theory that reality was one, with science, philosophy, and spirituality being different components, like the story of the six blind men of Calcutta. I have put my spin on this just like thousands of others before me.

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

Where was I? O yes, one point in the future.  Later on in life, I added in the notion that God is one (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). So, the One point is not a thing, a destination or composed of time or matter. It is a person composed of pure energy, pure thought, and pure service. I use the word “pure” in the context of someone using 100% of his nature. God’s nature, of course, is divine and we don’t even have a way to measure what that is, EXCEPT to look at Philippians 2:5-12, which happens to be the purpose of my life. Coincidence, don’t you think? Hardly!

Which brings me to the train tracks. When I look at train tracks, I see that they look like they are coming to a point, way down the line. Here is the one point of difference, they don’t ever come to a point. In trying to look at Point Omega, where I believe we are headed, first of all, it is an invisible point. You know what they say about invisibility, don’t you? The problem with invisibility is you can’t see it. Let me put it another way. Science has not yet devised an instrument to measure pure energy, much less agree on one point in the future. Yet, using our human reason, we can augment faith and propose what is reasonable (faith informed by reason) about that which we cannot see. St. Paul says we look at reality with foggy glasses and only see dimly.  See I Corinthians 13:12.

These are interesting thoughts to me.  Maybe that is because I turn 77 next month and am pushing the Pearly Gates. As St. Benedict says, that in all things, may God be glorified.

LEARNING POINT

There is so much more to learn about science, philosophy and the human mind, but also spirituality. These three are one.

 

 

 

 

 

THE MORE PROFOUND SPIRITUALITY IS, THE SIMPLER IT BECOMES

That title statement cannot be correct, can it? Think about it! If God is one, an assumption which I hold, then all that is real is contained in The One.  There is no two.

As part of my Lectio Divina contemplation, I reflected on this statement. Over the centuries, we have piled up belief upon belief until the sheer objects of our faith are complicated and hardly simple.  One of the side effects of this piling on is our difficulty to distinguish what is essential from what is nice but not at the core of our spirituality. As an example, we hold that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, but we also hold that we should go to Eucharist every Sunday. One is at the core of my faith and one is a discipline. They are both important but not equal.

Let me get real simple.  If you had to point out one sentence in the whole Scriptures that sums up what everything else is about, what would that be? What is the one center that, if you took it away, nothing else would sustain God’s purpose in life for you? God told us what that was.  Do you know? Look up Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:34. This is the only thing we must do in our lifetime to be one with The One.

Think about it and I will give you more to look up next time.

 

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

SPIRITUALITY FOR PET OWNERS

The  following blog is excerpted from my book, What Happens to You When Your Pet Dies: Spirituality for Pet Owners. See section in Books.

You can lose a pet in an accident, or it can run away, or you may have to terminate its life due to illness or old age.

We care so much for our pets so much, that it is difficult when we lose them. It is almost unbearable to give permission to terminate your pet’s life. That is your human side showing itself. Why is that?

Are we humans instinctively protecting life? We are the prime species of animals on earth. We are bonded with our pets by our common ancestry. The reason we hate to have our pet put to sleep is our deep, innate respect for all life. It is part of our spiritual blueprint. We don’t put our old human grandparents to sleep when they get old. Why not? When I was a boy, our family has had to put several dogs, some cats, and two horses to death. It was not easy. Maybe we felt guilty because our animal companions always gave us their affection readily. Our pets were part of the family in a very real sense. When they ran away, we got depressed. Why is that? It is easier to lose a pet to an auto accident than to have to make the decision to put it to sleep. Why is that? We grieve for our pets as much as we would for a family member. Why is that?

Our pet is one of the family. When it dies, we grieve as though we have lost a member of the family.

Pets do not live in the human world. They live only in the physical world. Everything in the physical world lives, procreate, survives and then dies.

If humans lived only in the physical universe, like our animal friends, I would have no problem with assisted suicide or even genocide. Who cares? You live, you breed, and you die. The default for our species is life, not death. For humans, we have a choice to be merely human, living only in two universes of physical and mental, or we can choose to live…Forever.

It’s that pesky, spiritual universe that keeps getting in the way. When your center is pure knowledge, pure love, pure energy or service, life is not yours to give or take. It is yours to discover and sustain.

When an animal dies, our relationship with them dies, too. We cherish them in our minds…Forever. We can be closer to our pet than we are to family members. Why is that? Is that bad? What are the limitation of that relationship?

Pets are not human. Only humans live in the mental world. This is the world of reason.

Why is it that we have such a love for animals and make some of them our pets? We share the physical world with all living things. Do Aardvarks prepare your annual taxes? Of course not, you get an accountant. Why do humans have the ability to reason whereas aardvarks simply eat, sleep, procreate, and die? Our pets are not human. Pets cannot respond to you as human, even though we speak to them as though they were our bosom buddies. We tell them our most intimate thoughts, those we would not even share with our spouse, and all they do is give us unconditional affection in return. Pets respond to us according to their nature, not ours. Pets cannot form a human relationship with us. That would have happened between God and humans, were it not for The Master helping us connect with the spiritual universe. Pets don’t go to Heaven, because they are not human. But, because you are spiritual, you can take all of your animal friends to Heaven with you, if you link them to God’s will. Do you know how to do that? It is as simple as wishing it to be so. Everything you value prepares your framework for the life to come.

We take care of pets because we also come from animal stock.

Humans are animals PLUS the ability to reason. We know that we know. We are spiritual apes, in one sense, the result of billions of years of evolution. How else can you explain our lack of development, our sinfulness, our fixation on hatred, war, and power? Human animals are capable of much, much more. We are in the process of maturing as a race. We are just infants in our collective maturity. As an individual, you live not only in the physical world but also in the mental world. Your pet only lives in the physical world. Way down deep, you take care of your pets because you come from the same genetic stuff. You have well over 98% of DNA in common with Chimpanzees. You are not an animal in the same way a possum is. So, what makes you so special? God! We still act like animals sometimes. That tension is called temptation, and we fight it as long as we are breathing. Humans are spiritual apes. Deny it, or affirm it, the fact is, we developed from animals, but with a BIG difference. God gave us reason and free will and made us in His image and likeness. When looking at that helpless kitty at the Animal Shelter, you naturally want to protect it and take it home with you. I do.

We are sad when a pet is sick or in trouble.

We are the care-giver for our pet. We feed it, nurse it when it is sick, spend time loving it by brushing its hair, talking to it, touching it. You must remember that you did not lose a pet, because it was never yours to begin with. You were just the care giver. Your pet is free to be itself. Your pet is not human, even though you grieve for it. Pets can grieve for their companions, but with a difference. Your animal friend can’t put death into any type of perspective. It is only a loss. There is no hope. Humans are the only ones who are not free to be animals. Ironically, it is freedom and choice that are the characteristics of being human. When your pet is sick, what does it do? It is difficult to heal itself. Humans can heal animals. When our pets have cancer, and need surgery, we have the technology to help them. They need our friendship. One of the good things about being spiritual is, we can take our pets with us to Heaven. Heaven is like a containment area God makes to give us a reference point. It is populated with those experiences we linked to God’s will, while we were on earth. That includes all our pets and life experiences that are consistent with who God is.

 

 

Reflections on Losing My Pet

Losing a pet reminds me of my animal heritage. Pets share my early roots, my stock, my genes, and my heritage. Pets are not human, but of all the life forms, they make me reflect on my humanity more than any other. Button is my pet, but she has never once jumped up on my lap. My wife is the mommy cat. I am useless, unless she wants to talk to someone. She is pure Himalayan, and so independent, I’d swear she is a perpetual teenager. My wife and I have cared for Button and has raised her from a tiny kitten, covered in fleas. Button was actually depressed, when my wife went out-of-town for four weeks. I took her to the Vet for signs of depression. When Button is sick now, we are there, just as we would be for our daughter. My wife and I acted according to our nature, caring for the lower species. Buttons is not human. She responds according to her nature — she responds to kindness, the need for food, stroking, and especially kitty treats. We cried when we lost Buttons. Buttons won’t know she is dead. We buried her after linking her with God’s will to our journey. I hope there are no kitty litter boxes in Heaven.

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

 

WHAT IS YOUR CENTER?

The following excerpt is from my book entitled, For Behold, I Make All Things New: A Lay Cistercian reflects on mercy, forgiveness, confession and penance to grow in faith, love, and service.

I can remember it very well. I stood as high as my little toes would allow and had mom measure how tall I was. Since 3rd Grade, I stood there solemnly every year on my birthday and got measured. I could see the lines growing up and up, until my last measurement, in 8th Grade. My crowing achievement was to actually see that I was taller then my mom. Measures are ways to predict time and direction, as well as growth in the spirit, if you have the correct measuring stick. Here is one way I use to tell if I am with reality.  This is what I wrote in my book.

  1. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MY LIFE? Within the framework of God’s plan for us, it is good to know what your plan is. This is called a center. It is not centering prayer, for those familiar with this approach. Each person has one center that fuels their behaviors, attitudes, and aspirations of meaning. If you have six or seven principles of life, you can have only one center, the capstone of all the others. In step one above, the purpose of life, you accepted what God gave you as the purpose of the human race. In this second step, you must choose your personal center and how you will implement God’s purpose in your life. If you have not done so, write down the one principle on which all others depend (it may be a phrase, a short scripture passage or a saying). My own personal center is Philippians 2:5.

(Write a short center statement here.)

Here are some ideas about how to choose an authentic center. Your center should…

  • be immutable (does not change from whim to whim)
  • be something that helps you get to Heaven.
  • give you the energy to overcome the lure of the world (i.e. power, money, pleasure for pleasure’s sake, lording it over others less fortunate).
  • make you more like Jesus and less like you.
  • be so deep in its wisdom that it would take a lifetime to attain, if at all.
  • be uniquely your own and freely chosen.
  • be something you fall back on when you have a crisis in your life.
  • be the bedrock of all your actions and behaviors.
  • be strong enough to get you to Heaven.

Your purpose of life is the measuring rod to see how you close you are to God’s purpose.  If you choose a center, you will have difficulty maintaining it, if it is authentic. The reason is original sin. Think of not cleaning or dusting or cutting grass at your house for two months. No laundry, no washing dishes, no fixing spills,  just let nature be natural. If we let our human nature go, it would be like your house. This is living in two universes. Without a purpose that is linked to God’s reality, you have no way to overcome the effects of original sin, no way to clean up your house. As a Lay Cistercian I try to follow the practices and charisms of those before me, so that I can free myself from the effects of original sin.

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

 

THRIVING IN THE PRESENCE OF PURE ENERGY

The following description is a synopsis of my forthcoming work, whatever you want to call it, entitled THRIVING IN THE PRESENCE OF PURE ENERGY: A Lay Cistercian reflects on invisible reality, The Mystery of Faith, and Eucharistic Adoration.  It should be completed in September, 2017.

 

You may not have heard of Mrs. Murphy, the fictional centerpiece of the late Fr. Aidan Kavanaugh’s writings on sacramental theology. He was a monk, Professor of Liturgics at Yale University, and died in 2008. In 1964, While attending Aidan Kavanaugh’s lectures on sacramental theology and reality at St. Meinrad School of Theology, all of us met Mrs. Murphy, although I confess I did not realize the profound meaning she held back then. Now, I am merely a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit, lucky to even comment about life around me and certainly not an eloquent apologist for any approach to liturgics. In this book, Mrs. Murphy looms large as an archetype of us all, an Adam and Eve for relations with the Sacred. Let me use a quote from Fr. Aidan to give you a sense of his eloquent thinking. https://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2007/02/10/remembering-aidan-kavanagh/

 “The liturgical assembly is thus a theological corporation and each of its members a theologian. . . . Mrs. Murphy and her pastor are primary theologians whose discourse in faith is carried on not by concepts and propositions nearly so much as in the vastly complex vocabulary of experiences had, prayers said, sights seen, smells smelled, words said and heard and responded to, emotions controlled and released, sins committed and repented, children born and loved ones buried, and in many other ways no one can count or always account for.” (On Liturgical Theology, Chapter 7)

If I understand Father Aidan’s thinking even remotely, it is that the local church is established by Christ to enable its members to communicate and give glory to a God we cannot see, to make sense out of everyday struggles and trials with those we do see, and to find meaning and purpose with a world gone mad with its own importance. In the simplicity of loving our neighbor as our self, within the sacramental and non-sacramental context of the local assembly, the Mystery of Faith, we find purpose, pure energy with the source of all reality, and how to love with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength. God will not leave any of us stranded or without food to sustain us on our journey. If our purpose is to be with God…Forever, then the invisible God needs some way to communicate with those who call him Lord and give them food for the journey and the ability to make all things new, over and over. The context in which we find what we need to make sense out of all of this is the local church, linked by heritage and practice to the Apostles. It is the way to touch the invisible God in our midst, it is the way we claim our adoption as God’s children.

Mrs. Murphy represents an ecclesial everyperson, an archetype  like that of Adam and Eve, but one that touches the Sacred through the sheer fidelity and simplicity, fierce love with an unseen and invisible God, but one that is the center of all reality.  God did not leave the security of the One to be the object of study groups and biblical-theological exploration but to touch each and every one of us and, due to the sacrifice of Christ, allowing us to touch back, using the only ways we can possibly touch pure energy without having our neurons fried, through Eucharist (community) and seeking love in the most natural, daily life experiences. –Michael F. Conrad, Ed.D.

 

Wash Me and I Will Be Whiter Than Snow

Sometimes God wait for us on a bench in what may seem like impossible conditions. In contemplation, I realize that there are three levels of awareness I must master.

Good — I wait for God to meet me because I made the appointment with Him and I have something to ask or need help

Better- I wait for God to show up for my appointment, although I did not get a confirmation back. I just want to meet Him as an old friend.

Best: I wait for God to show up with no agenda, no words, no thoughts, no petitions, no hope for my glory. I don’t know if God will show up or not, but I HOPE. In truth, God never left me.

God meets me in snow and rain, in heat and in cold, in Summer, Winter, Spring, or Fall, in the morning and the evening.

 

 

REFLECTIONS ON THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE

 

 

The following reflections come from one of my Lectio Divina Contemplations.

Have you ever heard of the phenomenon about pole reversal, which states that our North and South poles have sifted over the billions of years earth has been here?  How this came to me, when I was in the midst of a Lectio Divina contemplation on Phil 2:5 is a mystery, but there it was. I looked it up on Google,

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-poleReversal.html

My assumption is: when you enter the spiritual universe (voluntarily, of course) there are two sets of meaning. That of the world (everyday activities) and that of the spiritual universe. Another way to put that is, you can either live in two universes (physical and mental) or three universe (physical, mental and spiritual. All three universes have different yerdsticks with which to measure reality. It would be a mistake to think you can use the same measurements to measure visible reality as you do to identify invisible reality.

Every so often, more common in geological time than you might think, the North and South poles reverse. Down is up and up becomes down. I believe that is what happened with the coming of Christ, but with three universes, not two. It occurred to me that the same thing might happen in the spiritual universe. This universe interfaced with the physical one at the moment of creation and with the mental one when Adam and Eve, our progenitors, first knew that they knew.

In my book, The Woman Who Changed Time: Spirituality and Time, I talk how Mary changed time itself (spiritual time, Christos, not physical time, Kronos), when she resonded to God’s invitation, “Let it be.”  This was one of the times when the spiritual poles reserved themselves, and what was up became down. In other words, the gates of Heaven were opened by the unconditional sacrifice of the Son to the Father.

The spiritual universe has no beginning and no end. It is Heaven, the Garden of Eden before the Fall, and the Kingdom of Heaven after Jesus paid the price of redemption on the cross.  Redemption comes from a Hebrew word that means, go to the pawn shop and redeem that which you pawned. In this case, Jesus paid the price for Adam and Eve’s pawn ticket and got us out of debt.  The problem is, we all inherit the effects of original sin, i.e., we suffer, die, must work for our food, and have temptations to do what is evil, although we, ourselves, are not evil, just wounded.

Based on these assumptions, it comes to mind that there are three times that the spiritual universe turned upside down, up becoming down and down becoming up.

  1. THE CREATION – God made everything with a Word and it was all good. Physical time and the laws of physics and science applied to matter. Everything evolved according to natural laws.
  2. THE CREATION OF HUMANS—God made humans to live in a place of perfection, not the physical world of time and matter, but Adam and Eve chose not act their nature. Genesis story tells of how they were thrown out of perfection into an imperfect world, still good, still sustaining life, but now they had to work for a living, there was pain, there was death and disease, there was sin, they were no better than the animals in terms of sexuality and instinct to grab power and dominate others. This is the same world we know today, people wanting to be their own center, no appreciation of God’s laws, only what makes them happy. No one can tell anyone what to do.
  3. THE RE-CREATION OF MATTER AND TIME THROUGH SPIRITUALITY—Jesus, both God and human, rescued humanity from just living on earth and dying, that which they had in common with all living things, Now the purpose of life is to prepare to live with God…Forever. The price Jesus paid for that caused the poles to flip, but with one big difference. Now, the secular world stayed the same but you had to choose to be spiritual, thanks to Christ enabling all those who believed to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. The effects of this spiritual polar reversal were; everything from the secular world stayed the same, all laws remained in effect. What changed were the new spiritual laws. The way to get to Heaven was to do what Jesus did and to act as He taught us. Up is now down and down is now up. Peace that the world gives is not the peace that Jesus offers. The rule of opposites now influences you, once you have chosen to have God as you sole center and not false gods.  If you want to lead others, you must serve others. The Beatitudes now enhance the Ten Commandments. Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:34 become the purpose of life. The language of the Kingdom of Heaven is one of forgiveness and mercy. We must struggle to die to self to become more like God.

We are created in God’s image and likeness, so we are not intrinsically evil, but merely tempted to do evil.  With God’s energy, we chose our true self over our false self, but it is always a struggle. That is why, like St. Peter before us, we say we are disciples of the Master then turn right around and do evil in His sight.

The Effects of spiritual polar reversal are:

  • We can depend on just saying we believe in The Master, without working to ensure that we have the energy and endurance to make choices to do what is right.  In many cases, the world’s values are diametrically opposes to what Christ wants us to do.
  • We need the grace (energy) of God to sustain us so that we can make the right choices. We are tempted to choose what is right over what is convenient. These choices are what the world tells us is good for us verses what God says we should do.  Often, what God says is difficult, as in taking up your cross daily to follow Him. Just because the road is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Read Galatians 5.
  • You know you are in the spiritual universe when you realize that everything in that universe is opposed to the physical and mental universes you live in with your body.  In my book, Three Rules of the Universe, one of the rules I call The Rule of Opposites. You guessed it. What is up in the physical and mental universes, is actually the opposite in the spiritual universe. It is ths sign of contradiction and one what you know you are in the Kingdom of Heaven. Examples:, if you want to be the greatest, you must be the least and serve others; you must die to self to be reborn to life; you must let your light shine on the stand and not put it under a bushel basked; the Virgin shall conceive and bear and son, and the greatest one, Philippians 2:5-12. I use this verse as the purpose for my life, and I have never been dissappointed. In fact, all of these books are the result of just sitting down and writing what I hear in my mind and heart.
  • If it is easy, it probably isn’t the Kingdom of Heaven.  The good news is, because we are not adopted sons and daughters of the Father, we have footprints in the snow in which to step so as not to fall into the waters of sin and failure.
  • We are pilgrims in a foreign land, when we look around to see what is meaningful and what will get us to Heaven. Many will say, “this way” or “that way” is the path to righeousness. There is no roadmap other than The Master, who says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
  • As an aspiring Lay Cistersan, and a pilgrim in this foreign land we call earth, I am called to seek God through silence, solitude, pray, work, and community. Using the Cistercian charisms and practices, I have a way to plough through life to attain my goal, each and every day: to love God with all my mind, my heart, and my strength and my neihbor as myself. (Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:34).
  • Christ, our Master, says he will make all things new. Through mercy, forgiveness, confession, and penance, I hope to pick myself up from my imperfections and sins and carry my cross daily. I have help in that. “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.” Matthew 11:29

I have tried to apply my personal center, Philippians 2:5, to ideas like polar reversal and spirituality and time.  Forgive this broken-down, old Temple of the Holy Spirit for his musings.

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

10 FACTS ABOUT LAY CISTERCIANS YOU MAY NOT KNOW

While Cistercians have been around since the mid-10th century, and before them Benedictines from the time of St. Benedict (c. 540) and before them various monastic strains, Lay Cistercians are a very recent movement.

There are two types of Cistercians that trace their foundations to the 10th century, regular observance and strict observance (Trappist), formed after the French Revolution. You may want to look them up for yourself.

Regular observance. https://www.cistercian.org/abbey/

Strict observance: http://www.ocso.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=62

  1. Lay Cistercians are a very recent movement.
  2. Lay Cistercians as a group are accepted by an abbot/abbess, their spiritual superior and guide. They do not exist apart from a monastery but are not part of it.
  3. Lay Cistercians have an International Association of Lay Cistercians. http://www.cistercianfamily.org
  4. Lay Cistercians usually have a two year novitiate for discernment purposes, followed by three years of Junior promises made each year in front of the Abbot/Abbess. At the end of that time, the professed Lay Cistercians vote on the candidates for membership. If accepted, they make final promises. Monks take voews. Lay Cistercians promise to be faithful to the Rule of Benedict and have stability to this monastery. This is a solemn occasion with promises make in writing in front of the Abbott in the context of the Eucharist.
  5. Lay Cistercians commit to attending a Gathering Day once a month, during which time they pray together and learn about the Rule of Benedict and Cistercian charisms and history.
  6. Like others in the Benedictine family, Lay Cistercians follow the counsels in the Rule of Benedict. I like Chapter 4 in particular. I read it every day, or at least a part of it. Although it is only a tool and not the end result, I try to be balanced in my approach to life by using it as a guide for behavior, along with the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
  7. Some monasteries, like Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, in Conyers, Georgia, have auxiliary members in places too far away to attend the Gathering Day each month. These auxiliary groups have their own agenda and meet once a month. They make the annual retreat and profess their promises before the abbot, Dom Augustine, OCSO. The monastery and Lay Cistercians also have an ecumenical group in Atlanta, GA., composed of Episcopal, Presbyterian, and other denominations.  They also meet once a month, make the annual retreat, follow the Rule of St. Benedict to seek God, and profess their promises before Dom Augustine, OCSO.
  8. Some Lay Cistercians are associated with monasteries of Trappistine nuns. https://www.mississippiabbey.org/Monastic-Associates
  9. For a list of Lay Cistercians worldwide see:  http://www.cistercianfamily.org/communities.asp?language=english&order=group
  10. If you wish to delve deeper into Cistercian spirituality expressed by Lay Cistercians, look at the documents on the website for International Lay Cistercians: http://www.cistercianfamily.org/documents.asp?language=english#  The International Group (English, Spanish, and French) meet every three years.

Check out the website of Carl McColeman, professed Lay Cistercian from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga.  He has written several excellent books on mysticism and gives retreats you won’t soon forget.  www.carlmccoleman.net

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

HOW TO ENTER THE REALM OF THE SACRED

What might seem like an Indiana Jones fantasy adventure to enter the lost or forbidden realm of the Sacred is indeed the most simple, in keeping with everything about God. You simply go there. Contemplation is seeking God within you, among other places. Close your eyes in a place of silence and solitude and wait.

There are several ways I use to be in the presence of God. One of them is receiving Eucharist every day that I can, another is just sitting in Eucharistic Adoration and waiting for God to sit down with me, another is using Lectio Divina as a step-by-step way to reach the stage of contemplation.  Here is how I use Lectio each day for at least thirty minutes. Every day!

The question I get most often is, how can I enter this realm of the Sacred and find the peace you are describing. Here are some ideas to try:

  1. Find a place of silence and solitude.
  2. Learn to wait for God to show up, no matter how long.
  3. Use Lectio Divina as the four steps to reach contemplation.
  4. Read a selection from Sacred Scriptures, no more than one sentence, maybe even one or two words. My eight words are in Philippians 2:5.
  5. Meditate on this sentence. Resist the temptation to move on to another sentence. Over and over, think about what is there, say it over and over and over.
  6. Pray about this sentence that you may gain humility and the ability to see with the “ear of your heart,” as St. Benedict writes in his Prologue to the Rule. Now that you have prepared yourself to be in the presence of God, wait.
  7. Contemplate means to sit on a park bench waiting for God to walk by and sit down with you and have a conversation. This level is about feeling the energy transfer from God to you. I call this transfer by the name of peace, joy and love. It is real and abiding. Don’t think of time. Don’t think of results. Don’t ask God for favors.
  8. Praise to Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, both now and forever. The God is , who was and is to come at the end of the ages.–Cistercian Doxology

LEARNING POINTS ABOUT MERCY, FORGIVENESS, CONFESSION AND PENANCE

The following list is from my book, For Behold, I Make All Things New.  (see Books in this blog)

1. Whenever you use God’s energy, through contemplation or through penance, something wonderful happens inside you.
2. Penance re-aligns your spiritual purpose with God’s.
3. The template for self direction is: God tells you what is wrong; you know what is wrong; you are tempted to either do your will or God’s will; you choose. There are consequences for your choice.: death for your false self, and life for your true self.
4. I have noticed, since being allowed to follow the Cistercian way of life, that change does happen.
5. All humans are destined for Heaven, but not everyone will make it there.
6. Our Master came to SHOW us how to get to Heaven.
7. Everyone has a path in life. Just because your road is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Walk the path of your destiny.
8. In your life, there are four doors through which you must pass. Do you know what they are and what each means? 9. Contemplation is being present to God without condition, without wanting something, without reserve, loving with all your heart and just waiting for what God has to say. There are no words. 10. No one goes to the Father except through the Son. How does this affect your relationship with God? The purpose for The Master coming to earth was to glorify the Father. What is your purpose?
11. Do you have a practice of doing penance?
12. Don’t worry if other have mercy or not. You are not God. Be content to continuously seek God’s mercy on you every day.
13. Reality is made up of both visible and invisible reality. Science does a good job with one of these.
14. Why do we need to convert our human self toward being like more like Christ?
15. Confession of our need for God’s mercy is part of asking for forgiveness of our own sins. Penance not only makes reparation for our sins but asks to make all things new.
16. Fast and pray that you not enter into temptation.
17. All humans, but one, have only one nature, human. One human, Jesus Our Lord, had two natures, both human and divine. Mary, his mother, had only one nature. She was not God, but the Woman Who Changed Time. 18. Being a disciple of Our Master is not easy. If it is, you may be on the wrong path. 19. Faith is not just an individual profession of faith, it is also being faithful to how Christ taught us to pray, asking for the food to sustain us from temptation and forgiveness when we do not love.
20. All humans are destined for Heaven, but not everyone will make it there. God will decide who goes there, not you (unless you are god.)
21. What you live on earth will be your frame of reference in Heaven. There is a caveat. Your frame of reference must be the same as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
22. Temptation tests us against the false promises of Satan to be like God. Genesis is the architype myth of the human condition and the promise of Hope. It is the same for you as it was for Adam and Eve.
23. Look at the human race as fulfilling its destiny. You, too, have personal destiny that is Heaven. You won’t get their without struggle nor without God’s help. Not all paths lead to Heaven.
24. The purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God in this world, so that you can be happy now and in the next level of reality, Heaven.
25. Life is about packing for the trip to Heaven. Only the rich get to Heaven. You must make sure that you take God’s riches and not your own. What are those riches? Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. It won’t be easy to get to Heaven without God’s help. Read Matthew 11:28-30. With Christ’s help, your burden is light, even when you struggle to love God with all our self. 26. Obedience to God’s will is the most difficult choice you will have to make, and not just one time, but each and every day. As an aspiring Lay Cistercian, I make a conscious effort to ask God for enlightenment as soon as each day begins with Morning Prayer. http://www.breviary.com As the Lord’s prayer states: Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
27. Read Psalm 95. How true it is, even today.

28. Beliefs are those truths we hold with our minds. All beliefs have assumptions. Those assumptions differentiate a Protestant from a Catholic, and a from a Muslim. You should be free to hold any belief system you choose, but know that only one of them can be correct. God is one. Truth is one. Assumptions must not be in conflict with each other, in terms of the assumptions you hold to be true. All humans are destined to be with God in Heaven. Depending on your assumptions, you may believe that people must agree with your assumptions and interpret and the Scriptures as you do. Don’t make yourself God. Read Genesis 20. Heaven is God’s playground, not yours. God is the ultimate judge of all those who live…Forever.
29. You make a bad confessor for yourself. Know why?
30. Yesterday does not count for today. Today is where you live. Love in the now…Forever.
31. God takes care of those who believe in Him.
32. As one who aspires to be a Lay Cistercian, silence and solitude in the midst of a secular world, whose default is original sin, allows me to enter into the sanctuary of my heart and wait for Christ to speak to me when He is ready. Read the beautiful Psalm 148. How can the Sun and Moon praise the Lord? They are not alive. When you have the mindset that sees the Sun and Moon as praising God by being what they are, you open yourself to the symphony of being, all praising God. You praise God, too, by being what you are: an adopted son or daughter of the Father, destined to live…Forever. You praise God by being your nature, the nature destined from before the world was.
33. Hatred and love cannot live in the same room together. Hatred is a way of de-valuing others and yourself. It is not the same as not liking the personality of someone. Hatred means you wish them ill, you can’t stand to be in their presence and you despise their key values. Hatred kills you. Mercy means you value others.
34. Mercy means we must be compassionate towards those who disagree with us or mistreat us or speak ill of us because of Christ. Read Matthew 5. Mercy also means we don’t condone sin, if that person to whom we have shown mercy goes against God’s will. Read John 8:1-11. Remember, sin means missing the mark set by God and not achieving the purpose of Life. Read Deuteronomy 6:8. (You will read these, won’t you?
Pray as you can and when you can. Prayer should be simple, not complex. Prayer should allow your heart to rest alongside the heart of Christ Jesus in silence and solitude.
35. Marriage and Holy Orders are relationships of fierce love that overshadows our faults and gives obedience to God’s thinking. Read Matthew 22:34.
36. Fierce love is love and forgiveness for those who hate you. Fierce love is the love God has for us, in us. There is no place for sin or hatred in the presence of this kind of love. It is the most difficult to achieve because it contradicts our instincts—to hurt those who hurt us, to strike back at those who bad mouth us and call them name, to seek revenge on those who have harmed us.

My life as a poem.

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

 

My Life As A Poem

I sing the song of life and love…

…sometimes flat and out of tune

…sometimes eloquent and full of passion

…sometimes forgetting notes and melody

…sometimes quaint and intimate

…often forgetful and negligent

…often in tune with the very core of my being

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

right in my face

…often with the breath of life uplifting me to heights never before

dreamed

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

…greatly thankful for adoption, discovery of new life of pure energy

…greatly appreciative for sharing meaning with others of The Master

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

…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian

…happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration

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

…happy for communities of faith and love with wife, daughter, friends

…mindful that the passage of time increases each year

…mindful of the major distractions of cancer and cardiac arrest

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

love back with all the energy of my heart and strength, yet failing

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

purpose and meaning…Forever.

 

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

 

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

 

With The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek the fierce love so I can have in me the mind of Christ Jesus, my personal purpose in life and my center…Forever.

 

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

Fermi’s Paradox

You have heard of Enrico Fermi, physicist, haven’t you?  https://www.space.com/25325-fermi-paradox.html He was having lunch with his friends one day and the subject was life outside of earth.  He simply asked, “Where is everybody?” What may or may not be a paradox, depending on who you ask, is a valid question. Based on computations like the Drake Equation, the odds are that there is life out there. But wonder if the opposite is true? What if we are the only ones out there? What are the implications? Think of it! We have no proof that there is even an organic molecule outside of earth’s protective shell. Frankly, I myself believe there must be life out there, due to the sheer numbers of planets in the “safe zone” (not too hot, or not too cold). For a moment, let’s just assume that there is no other life out there.  Here are some things I think about, when I think of life on other planets.

  1. Humans are not designed to travel into or live in outer space. We evolved here on earth and will find it very difficult to spend extended periods of time in space.
  2. To travel in space, should we have the technology to do it, would demand several lifetimes to reach a world that we haven’t even discovered yet. We don’t know the long-term effects of living in space on aging or how the organs would adapt to weightlessness. Humans don’t live long enough to reach the stars. Why is that?
  3. If sentient life does exist, does it have free will? The history of how each culture treats each other is not encouraging, if you use earth as an example. Will they have sophistication and religion. Will they have males or females?  Will there be marriage and families? Who knows?
  4. If there are no other living creatures other than earth, why is that? Is there a super creature that make all of reality? Did he sprinkle star stuff throughout the universe which took root on just our planet?  Don’t know!
  5. Is there life on other universes other than our own? Do we go to that universe (Kingdom of Heaven) when we die? Did someone from that invisible universe be made a human so he could tell us how to get to this place? Will humans perish from the face of the earth because of misuse of natural resources? Will they descend into playing games, such as, my god can beat your god?
  6. I wonder a lot.  Here are some of my wonders…
    1. …wonder if a higher power made only humans to receive the ability to love unconditionally. Why is that?
    2. …wonder if, out of all the species on the earth, humans are the only ones who have the capability to love. Why is that?
    3. …wonder if the most powerful energy in the universe is invisible to the eye but can be seen with the mind and the heart, i.e., love. Why is that?
    4. …wonder if this pure energy became one of us in order to show us the way to another universe, one that is beyond the physical one in which we now live? Why is that?
    5. …wonder if earth itself is a space ship traveling through time so that humans can reach their full potential to be enveloped and protected..Forever, in a blanket of loving relationship with the source of all energy?  Why is this?
    6. …wonder if there is not only a physical time in which all matter must reside, but a spiritual time that has no beginning nor end and we are headed for that reality when we die. Why is that?
    7. …wonder if I am just a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian, seeking to find time to fill out his last days, or, are there discernible patterns of thought and energy that transcend our physical universe to include a spiritual one, invisible yet real? Now that is a question I like to wonder about. I am reasonably sure I know what these patterns are. They have been in front of us for centuries.

 

Reparation: Why waste your time praying?

Prayer is all about lifting your heart and mind to God.  There are lots of reasons to pray.  Here is one reason that probably goes unnoticed.

Think about this!  You are driving down the highway at 80 mph, clearly above the 70 mph limit, when you realize you are on a road with which you are not familiar. Rather than slow down, you reason that you should speed up to get to a place where you can turn around. Suddenly, a deer darts out in front of your car and you swerve to miss it. The momentum takes the car off-balance and it leaves the road and crashes into a bunch of small trees and bushes. You end up hitting a large tree and barely escape without killing yourself, but the person in the passenger’s seat is killed and your friend in the back is badly wounded and bleeding.  In the moments that follow, you find yourself in complete silence, and also in shock. Some people arrive and finally an ambulance comes to pick you up and take you to the hospital. You have five broken bones and a broken nose, but you will live. The two other passengers are not so lucky. They are your best friends, out for a nice ride to keep from being bored before going off to college to study law.  There is something else the physician tells you. Your blood alcohol level is way over the limits for normal driving.

THINK ABOUT THIS. All of our actions have consequences, the results of our choices. Some choices have good consequences and some have bad ones. Sometimes the results of our actions don’t show up now but pop up later on in life, or maybe even never at all.  Our actions are not created in a vacuum and can affect others even after we die.

Now, let me take you on another adventure, a mythical but real one that happened a long time ago.  You are being interviewed for a position to head a large garden. It is the vast estate of a man of means who owns everything as far as you can see. You will be his managers. He wants you to take care of it and see that the animals, the plants, and fish all have what they need to live their lives in happiness and peace. As he takes you around the garden, he points to one tree and says that it is a special tree, his prized possession. He warns you not to touch the tree, for if you do, you will die. The you look at each other, amazed, and walk on. Having given them the grand tour, the owner gives you a chance to freshen up, for it has been a long day. While resting,  a swarthy looking woman approaches you and asks if the owner has told you about the poison tree. You say that he had.  She goes on to say that, “he tells that to everyone because he doesn’t want you to be like him, powerful and rich.” She just laughed and walked away. Curious about the stranger’s statement,  you want to take another look at the tree. It is a normal looking tree with low hanging fruit, ripe and luscious. You reaches up and take fruit from the tree and eat it. And… time changes from that moment on. You can read Genesis 3 to see the consequences of this act of disobedience. The results are what we live with even today.

Here are some of my reflections: both cases were of people who did something that they should not have done.  In the first case, it was putting many people in harm’s way by reckless driving and drinking, In the second one, by deliberately disobeying the admonition of the land owner and seizing forbidden fruit.

In the first instance, the driver killed two people, and totaled the car. He said he was sorry to the judge and was let off with a light sentence. Yet, his life was changed forever. He would not go to law school, college, if at all, was years off while he paid his debts. It would seem that saying you are sorry for what you did would be enough, but then there is this: the car is wrecked, lawsuits pending over wrongful death, jail time, monetary ruin for him and possibly his family.  To put it another way, if you steal $210,00 from me in fraud, and get caught, then say to me, “I am sorry,” what is there remaining that you owe me?  The $210,000.  Reparation is the debt that I owe for the wrong that I committed. It is more difficult when the wrong is invisible or happened many years ago.

Let’s look at the second instance, the one where Adam and Eve represent all humans. The offence was doing something that would result in death, but what death. If this was the original sin, an archetype of what it means to be human, death for all humanity was the result, not just for Adam and Eve. Reparation means someone had to recreate the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, the tree of life, and apologize to the owner of the garden. Since we are talking in mythical terms, someone had to become Adam and Eve to pay a price for the offense. That is why the term redeem, in Hebrew, means to go to a pawn shop and buy back that which was hocked. Jesus had to be man, to satisfy the debt of Adam and Eve. Jesus had to be God to be able to return to the Father with our apology and give him his rightful glory and honor. Even though Jesus paid the price of his own death, willingly, we all have to live with the effects of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Christ paid off the debt that humanity owed by giving his very life as ransom. (Philippians 2:5-12)

We live in a time-limited universe. We will die. We suffer pain. We endure the temptations to, once more, be like Adam and Eve and eat of the forbidden fruit. The wily one still prowls about seeking whom he may devour. We sin, we get up, we say we are sorry to God, but there is something missing. The $210,000. Jesus doesn’t owe it, we do.

Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God. We can make amends for our past offenses and sins in reparation. With humility we can continue to ask God for mercy and forgiveness. Reparation means to repair that which was torn or broken. Reparation is not forgiveness, but is the result of our sins and, like Adam and Eve’s sin, the consequences of our faults and failings. We should acknowledge that the evil we do is ours, as St. Benedict says in his Rule, Chapter 4, but the good we do belongs to the grace of God.

We pray for our parents and family, our friends and faith companions that they be loosed from their sins. There is no conveyor belt that I get on to get to Heaven. It takes work, just as Adam and Eve had to work after their fall. (Genesis 3) I know that Christ draws all things to Himself. I pray reparation petitions for the whole Church as well as for individuals I have place in my Golden Book of Life, to once again make all things new through, with and in Christ to the glory of the Father, in union with the Holy Spirit.

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

Carving out solitude for Contemplation

The big problem with contemplation for those living in the world is the static that comes from being bombarded with all kinds of interests and projects competing for our time. Face it.  There will never be a good time for contemplation (unless you carve out a space for you to experience silence and solitude). Silence is not just a place where there is no noise, but a place where you can focus your spiritual energy on Lectio Divina, or reading from Cistercian authors.  Solitude means you find time for yourself, even in the midst of community activities. I like the idea of carving, don’t you? Here are eight tips or ideas that you might find useful in devising a contemplative system in the world of noise and competition for your time.

  1. Make a sacred space at home.  Create a small table on which you place scripture, Rule of Benedict, Cistercian authors you are reading, rosary, pictures of mom and dad, family pictures, and some sayings that speak to your heart.
  2. Create a golden, virtual book. This book is in your mind and heart, but it also attached to the heart and mind of Jesus. In this book you place all those for whom you have been asked or desire to pray. See yourself writing your name in golden letters. The file cabinet is God, so you won’t have to go to the trouble of remembering all the names of people throughout your lifetime for whom you said you would remember. Each day at Eucharist, or Morning Prayer, simply think of those who are in the golden book, living and dead, and ask God to be merciful on you and them.
  3. Make a holy hour.  Typically, this is a period of time when I go to the chapel at Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, and pray in reparation for my sins and the sins of my Church, read Scriptures, and pray the Divine Office. The Blessed Sacrament is present but not reserved, i.e., not exposed on the altar in a monstrance with six candles around it. The term for this is Eucharist Adoration, which I will get to shortly. Holy hours can be made in State Parks, waiting for an appointment at your physician’s office, or even in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s grocery.  I fill my holy hour with meditation, reading, listening to CDs on spiritual topics, and thinking about how fortunate I am to be able to see Christ is daily events.
  4. Attend Eucharistic Adoration outside Mass. This is a semi-formal event at parishes in the chapel or church, where anyone can come and go, sitting in front of the Real Presence of Christ. People usually sign up for an hour of adoration (remember, we only adore God, not churches or people). Good Shepherd Church, Tallahassee, Florida, has an hour of Eucharist Adoration every weekday from 4:00 to 5:00 pm. Blessed Sacrament Parish, Tallahassee, Florida, has 24 hour Eucharist Adoration with every hour filled with at least one person who is a sentinel before the Lord, waiting for His coming again in glory. http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/eucharistic-devotion/
  5. Make a schedule of activities you will do every day or every week, with the proviso that life must be very flexible. Don’t go overboard.
  6. Begin with small steps and small accomplishments.  Don’t try to be a professed Lay Cistercian (minimum of five years discernment) in your first year. Do one thing and try to be persistent and consistent. You will find even this is fraught with temptations to do something, anything else that is more meaningful.
  7. Get the support you need to be contemplative from your spouse. I travel from Tallahassee, Florida to Conyers, GA (outside of Atlanta) once a month for what is called a Gathering Day. We have community prayer together plus three classes on the Rule of Benedict, Cistercian authors and formation (taught by Cistercian monks).
  8. Pray as you can, says Brother Michael, O.C.S.O., one of our instructors in Junior Formation Class at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist). http://www.trappist.net  Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God, so don’t be too wordy with God. Contemplation is about carving out a space where you and God can sit down and have a heart-to-heart. Literally, your heart against the heart of God. I know, God doesn’t have a heart, but Jesus does.  –uiodg

A Lay Cistercian reflects on moving from self to God

There are many lessons I have learned about trying to be spiritual in my lifetime.  Here are a few.

  1. Spirituality, i.e., moving from self to God, is a lifetime process. I marvel, when talking to people who have said they left the Catholic Church because they did not find in it what they were seeking. The question of sincerity aside, the words of G. K. Chesterton come to mind, “The Catholic Church has not been tried and found wanting, it has never been tried at all.” This lifetime process is not one of time, as in, when I was young, I knew less, and now I know more. It is about growing deeper in Christ Jesus, of course, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The words from Scripture echo in my mind: Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24.The process of living has to do with the process of dying to self so that God can grow.
  2. There are at least five Catholic Churches in me.  I have a book entitled Six Thresholds of Life, in which I detail the six areas or thresholds through which I have passed. I have also noticed five levels of spiritual awareness, based on the Gospel of John 1:1.
    1. I am present to hear the Word from Scriptures at Eucharist and at Liturgy of the Hours.  It takes an act of the will to go to Eucharist, and when you get there, to stay focused on the Word. Most Catholics live just on this level of spirituality. It is like the rocky soil in the parable of the sower. (Matthew 13:5) There is a little growth but the seed does not grow because there is no ability to move deeper into the mystery of Christ. For me, contemplation is one way that I have found to grow deeper, to die to my old self, to seek God in all things new. The soil of God is limitless.
    2. I take that Word into my mind and heart and pray the Word. Prayer is lifting the mind and heart to God. In the first level, the individual lifts the mind to God. In the second level, both mind and heart are focused on doing God’s will and giving glory to the Father. In this level, I am not only physically present for the Word to envelop me in God’s energy, I am spiritually present with my heart, seeking to love God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength. Contemplation helps me to focus on not just the love I have for Christ, but the love that Christ has for me. (Phil 2:5-12)
    3. I share the Word.  Loving God with all our hearts is a goal to which I aspire. The next level is to love our neighbor as our self. (Deuteronomy 6, Matthew 22:34) This deeper level of spiritual awareness means my contemplation must involve five practices with other Lay Cistercians and those in my faith community in Tallahassee. (Silence, Solitude, Pray, Work, and Community) I am a seed in God’s soil, but I find myself in a Garden, once with flowering plants and lush greenery, one with all those who have been marked by the sign of faith and have died, those who still live and strive to move from self to God, and those who await the Grand Gardner and to smell the flowers. Faith is not just an individual act of belief, but is also the soil into which all those who wish to be like Christ must nourish and persevere. This is the Church universal, the Church one, the Church apostolic, and the Church holy.
    4. I contemplate the Word. As one who has tried to focus on a contemplative approach to reality (looking inward in silence and solitude), rather than an activist role, how I choose to seek God is through daily Eucharist, meditations on the Rosary for my intentions, Liturgy of the Hours, to include Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline, plus adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  It I am truly on this fourth level, the important thing is not that I do certain practices and get results, as much as I try for consistency and perseverance in being in the presence of God and just waiting.
    5. There are no words that are able to communicate with the Word. The results of this level are peace, joy, love. It is feeling the presence of the Spirit as you sit in your chair.  This level is not about me, nor my giving glory and praise. It is about sitting next to God and receiving energy, much as you would do if you sat in the presence of the Sun and felt the healing warmth of its rays on you. I have only partially been at this level of the Church. St. Paul wrote about it.  “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Corinthians 2:9)
  3. If there is any lesson life teaches, it is that you don’t get anything unless you work for it. That includes spirituality. Some churches hold that you don’t need to work for your faith, just believe. That goes against Genesis where God told Adam and Eve that they would have to work for their food and would die. (Genesis 3) The condition of original sin is important because presents us with two very different views of reality: one has us as the center of all reality, the other has God as the center of all that is. That is why we have to die to self (the false self of the world) and choose our true self (the true self that comes from God). Spirituality is a lifetime process of being tempted to choose us over God.  Sounds like what Adam and Eve faced, don’t you think?

4 Life is like a cross-word puzzle. I had a Lectio Divina reflection on this idea. When you enter the spiritual domain or universe, you are given all the pieces of the puzzle of life. Some of those pieces you fit into place as you grow older and wiser. Some pieces are not of this puzzle and won’t fit.  You won’t know which ones to use unless you get some help. Christ gives you help in this, but will not help you with the puzzle. If you follow Christ and his ways, you will find the truth and the life, or which pieces of the puzzle are true and which are false.  You still have to take a lifetime to fit the pieces together to see if they fit. The picture of the puzzle is the center you have chosen for your life.  It is the reward for which you have taken time to see what fits together. It is the purpose of your life.

If you want to read an excellent book on Cistercian spirituality as expressed by Lay Cistercians, read Carl McColeman’s book, Befriending Silence.

HOW DIET REMINDS ME OF CONTEMPLATION

Although I try mightily, I am constantly tempted to stop any attempts at contemplation. This is like a runner who must find a mental challenge, as well as the physical one of running the distance. In one of my Lectio Divina meditations, I found myself thinking about why it is so difficult to focus on being in the presence of God. I think the reason has to do with original sin, the condition in which all humans find themselves. Spirituality is the act of raising us up beyond this natural default of our nature, to attempt to think about invisible reality. Spirituality, much less contemplation, is not natural. It takes work, it demands focus, it requires energy, and not the energy you get from working out at the gym. I think of that when I am driving the five hours (one way) from Tallahassee, Florida to Conyers, Georgia, once a month. My wife keeps haranging me that I don’t need to travel to the Lay Cistercian Gathering Day at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery. I can pray anywhere. Why waste money we don’t have (actually we do). This is taking up the cross DAILY to follow Christ, being tempted that all this God stuff is irrelevant.  Even when trying to move from self to God by using the Lectio Divina method, contemplation is always with its temptations to do something that is profitable, that will make a difference, that won’t take so much wasted time. Contemplation is an illusive treasure and demands my full attention.

Contemplation, in a manner of speaking, is like a diet. Your physician tells you that you need to lose weight. Now comes the hard part. What diet will you choose, or, if the physician gives you one, will you take it seriously? Based on my own feeble attempts to diet, here are some observations of how a diet that applies to contemplation.

  1. I won’t diet unless my reasons for doing it outweigh my reason for not doing it (laziness). Cancer, cardiac arrest, and diabetes are three good reasons for me that outweigh not doing it, and even then, I am tempted to take the low road.
  2. No one should diet by themselves. They need the support from community, family and friends.
  3. I will be tempted, almost every minute, to abandon my goal and eat the forbidden fruit. Makes you sympathetic with Adam and Eve, don’t you think? Doing contemplation is just like that. There is no winning the prize without struggle and practice/failure/practice.
  4. The prize is worth the time you take to master it. Ask anyone who has lost weight and not gained it back; ask anyone who has even come close to catching a glimpse of the love of Christ through contemplation, and they will tell you.
  5. Failure is not a waste of time, when you try so hard. What is real failure is losing your will to diet and giving up totally. Because we exists in a condition of original sin (we have to struggle to do what is right), contemplation is not automatic. It takes work, time, and acceptance of our human frailties.
  6. There are many diets out there, all claiming to be “the one” to save you and help you lose weight. They probably all work. There are many practices out there to help you reach your purpose in life, contemplation being only one of them. To do diets and contemplation justice, you need to perform them consistently and persistently.
  7. . Diets are only tools to help you reach your goal. So too, contemplation is only a methodology to place you in a frame of mind to meet the source of all peace, joy and love. The end is not contemplation but being one with the One.

 

A Lay Cistercian Reflects on the Practice of Contemplative Practice

As an aspiring Lay Cistercian, I would like to share with you some of the practical and real ways in which I pray, using silence, solitude, work, prayer, in the context of community. These reflection are my own and do not reflect any official monastic or Lay Cistercian opinions. I am just a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit who is writing down what I receive in contemplatio. Here is what I try to do consistently and persistently every day.

  • Establish a schedule of prayer and work each day. I am fortunate to begin with the Morning Offering as soon as I wake up (I say the one at the last page of this book), try to attend Office of Readings and Morning Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours) at 7:40 until 8:20 a.m., recite the Rosary at 8:25 a.m. until Eucharist at 9:00 a.m., do various chores at home, do Lectio Divina, write my books or blog in the morning, Holy Hour sometime around Noon, take a nap, more writing in the afternoon, do chores, go to Premier Gym for a swim or exercise, attend Evening Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours) at my parish of Good Shepherd. It took me several years to develop this schedule. It is very flexible. I don’t always do these, but my intentions are to do so.
  • Once a month, on the first Sunday of each month, I attend the Gathering Day at Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, GA. It is mandatory that we be present, so that we can create a Lay Cistercian community of spiritual practitioners who share their experiences on how to apply contemplation to daily living with each other and receive formation from the monks. I don’t always make all the sessions, but I have committed to try to be there to join in communal prayer and sharing of spiritual insights.
  • Begin each day with a Morning Offering followed by dedicating this day to the glory of the Father through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit. Then, dedicate each day to a cause or some intention you have. What follows is what I do, but your intentions might be different.
  • Eucharist is food for the journey and not just any food. Even though I live in the physical universe, it is also the spiritual universe that composes my reality. To live in the physical universe, I need water and food to sustain my body. Likewise, to love in the spiritual universe while on earth, I need spiritual food to receive God’s sustaining energy. This spiritual food is from God and allows me to see what is unseen physically, and hear what I cannot hear physically. This spiritual food is God. How wonderful!

HOW I USE THE CONTEMPLATIVE APPROACH TO SPIRITUALITY

 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.

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.

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

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.”

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.

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.

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.

 

THREE THINGS GOD TOLD ME ABOUT CANCER , WHEN I SAT NEXT TO HIM IN CONTEMPLATION

If  you think I am some kind of religious fanatic, let me assure you that I am not. What this blog topic is about is ten days of contemplation using the Lectio Divina method. I didn’t always have success at waiting for God, which is what contemplation is all about. I didn’t spend all day fixated on how I would get angry if God did not talk to me. Now, that would be a fanatic. As an aspiring Lay Cistercian, I try to do Lectio Divina (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio) for at least twenty minutes a day. I only profess to be a beginner at this, so many times I don’t contemplate more than twenty minutes. I am growing, imperceptibly, to a deeper practice, but it takes time. The Lectio Divina stages, or rungs in the ladder, are based on Guido II’s steps to enter the inner self through contemplation. http://www.umilta.net/ladder.html
The key here is doing Lectio every day without fail, even if all you have to show for it is the time you put into it. This reminds me very much of a book I read called The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, particularly as it refers to the advice the fox gives to The Little Prince on the meaning of friendship and the time it takes to develop it. I recommend that you go on-line and read the chapter. http://www.angelfire.com/hi/littleprince/framechapter21.html
Once you have read it, do you see any similarities between taming and contemplation? Isn’t that a beautiful explanation of invisible reality and the power of persistent contemplation? It works!

Just like the Little Prince, I waited each day for God to be with me, not just in my mind, and my heart but my whole self. (Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:37.)

Read two important quotes from The Little Prince.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

It is the time I took in contemplation to be in the presence of The One who is beyond cancer, and has conquered death, that is important. There is no wasted time in contemplation. I said it once more, so that I would be sure to remember.

• Contemplation is part of a five-step process. I don’t just jump into contemplation right away.
• Contemplation is all about feelings not the mind, like being wrapped in a warm, security blanket with The One.
• In contemplation, no words are spoken, no thoughts to drive my personal agenda, and no images in my mind to explore how the lectio (Phil 2:5) would look.
Lectio is about reading the Word.
Meditatio is about how that Word impacts my life.
Oratio is asking that the Word be made flesh in my life.
Contemplatio is waiting for God to share His energy with me on how to love with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength.
Actio (recommended by Pope Benedict XVI) is doing what God instructs me to perform.
THE THREE IMPERATIVES FOR CANCER PATIENTS
While in contemplation, here it what came to me, without my leading God, so to speak.
1. Don’t be afraid. That is exactly what happened to me, when I began to rationalize all the possible worst-case scenarios about dying. I had lost control of my life, not realizing that I never did have full control over it, My thoughts went to the times in Scriptures when angels appeared to Elizabeth and then Mary (Luke 1:13, 31). They sought to calm down Elizabeth and Mary. How would you react, if you saw an angel standing before you? Don’t be afraid, they all said. I think that statement is significant because it shows how sensitive God is to our feelings. This statement just popped into my hear, out of the blue. This is not just the intellectual statement of not being afraid, it is the warm feeling that everything is as it should be and I am going to be alright. All this happened in an instant.
This first statement is the perfect way God would approach me. A gentle way, one which takes into account my wild rides of emotion and intellectual instability when facing serious illness or death. Don’t be afraid is what God would say to us as He meets us for the first time. He did that to me. But there is more…

2. I am with you. God’s response to me in the depths of my being was: Don’t be afraid. I am with you. This was not just any I. This was the only I there is, as in, I AM THE ONE WHO IS. If God is with me, I thought, who can be against me. All of this happened instantaneously.
If you don’t hold to all this God business, you have your family who is with you as you confront the cancer phase of your life, you until you die.
I find it a strength in my struggle to believe all this, that someone who lives in three universes (physical, mental, spiritual) is my friend, even to the point of making me an adopted son. If you have a friend, you want to be with him or her, want to be close to them, to share the joy and happiness of their presence. That is the way I feel about God communicating with this broken-down, old Temple of the Holy Spirit.

• God with me means I can live whatever time I have to the fullest.
• God with me means I can share with family and friends that death is not the end, but a door to be opened.
• God with me means I am humbled by the fact that Jesus became one of us, suffered (like those who have cancer) and died so that we could live…Forever as adopted daughters and sons of the Father.
• God with me means I can sit in silence and solitude and wait for God to approach me when He wants, knowing that I am valued.
• If God is with me, who can be against me, even with cancer or cardiac arrest.
• If God is with me, life is good, even if my road is rocky; at least I know I am on the right path.

But there is more…

3. Good and faithful servant, come share your Lord’s joy.
My contemplative experience gave me great joy, which may seem like an oxymoron. How can you have joy, when you have cancer? How can you experience fierce love, when you know you will die, maybe sooner than later, but you will die. Remember there are two meanings for joy: the worldly one, and the spiritual one. In the worldly one, joy means, among other things, happiness with your family, contentment that you have run a good race with your life, and the satisfaction that you are leaving the world a better place than you found it (if that is so).

Joy, in the spiritual sense, is a sign of contradiction. It means you have happiness with your family, contentment that you have run a good race with your life, and the satisfaction that you are leaving the world a better place than you found it (if that is so). Plus, you look forward to continuing that joy with your loved ones and your positive experiences of what life is all about, in Heaven…Forever.

In my contemplation, I had feelings of great joy and contentment, that I was on the right road, and that the words of Jesus to all of us were true, “Come, Good and Faithful Servants, share your Lord’s joy.”

FINALITY
There were three parts to my contemplatio, all experienced with great security, joy and peace. Compared to anything I will face during the rest of my life, even should it be the end of the world, I am with someone who will lead me, if I sit silently and alone in the silence of my heart.

The scary thing for me is, I know that I have only scratched the surface in contemplating the riches God has given us. As St. Thomas Aquinas, probably the greatest mind to explore how we interact with God, is said to have written before he died, “I can write no more. All that I have written seems like straw.”

When I deal with cancer or cardiac arrest, or any other ailment, I will always keep my experience of the three in mind:

a. Don’t be afraid.
b. I am with you.
c. Come, share Your Lord’s Joy.

THE JESUS CODE: ENTERING THE REALM OF ENLIGHTENMENT

If you are fortunate enough to attend a retreat at Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga., in the silent dining room, you will find a sign on the table that reads, “Silence spoken here.” Likewise, if you are committed to seeking God, you will need learn the language of love using the language of silence and solitude within you. To do that you need the code Jesus gave us.

If you have read the reflections I made on perspective, you know my thoughts about living in two universes verses three universes. Living in two universes is not bad, it just is not the whole scope of reality. I think of this, when I hear physicists and astronomers announce with great confidence that you can’t see God, therefore God does not exist. Of course you can’t see God. God doesn’t exist here, in the same way that you do. God doesn’t use words to communicate. He is the Word, three persons of pure energy, the energy of Love, as Teilhard de Chardin wrote. It is into this universe that the human race is propelled and how each individual is compelled to confront the totality of all reality and figure out the mega question: is earth a big spaceship hurtling through space and time towards a universe  composed of pure energy with just the right atmosphere to allow us to live for seventy years, or eighty, if we are strong, according to Psalms? Think about that! We are rapidly moving towards a universe where all of us can live in perfection, consistent with our human nature, and never die. It all goes back to the underlying meaning of the Genesis myth, that marvelous drama about who we are, why we are, and where we are headed.It details how we are imperfect yet called to live in absolute perfection, not according to our human nature, but God’s nature—pure energy. In this universe to which we are all aspire, termed Omega by Teilhard de Chardin, there is only The One, there is no two. There is a tick but no tock. Heaven is God’s playground, and if, by some chance, we figure out the code God left us, over thousands of generations and millions of years, and use it to the best of our ability, it will unlock how to live in absolute love (the language of perfection), absolute trust (faith) and absolute service (energy)…Forever. For me, this is called the Jesus Code, or how to speak the language of God by doing what he revealed through Jesus and acting now as though we were already with him. Christ gave us the key to unlock the mysteries of three universes. No all keys fit the lock, only ones that Jesus forged by his death on the cross.

Doesn’t that blow your mind? We are moving relentlessly through time in the direction of Omega while not moving in space. What Jesus did was to show us where to find the key and how to interpret the code that unlocks the doors of eternity. It is within each of us and we can access it through silence and solitude, if we choose. Some will unlock the secrets of reality, many will not get it, many more will not even care, calling the whole effort a feeble attempt by some minds to coerce the rest into believing as they do. Those who have struggled to discover the way, know the truth, and, as they begin to live the life prescribed by God to live in the presence of pure energy, are not phased by three universes because they know what awaits them. St. Paul says, But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (KJV)

For me, I discovered the key when I was in 8th Grade at St. Francis Xavier Grade School, Vincennes, Indiana in 1950. Of course, it took me the rest of my life to learn how to use the code to open it. I learned how to access my inner self through contemplation and receive the source of energy that sustains me, even with cancer and cardiac arrest (2007).

Seeking God in Daily Life

The morning is dark and lovely with the silence that comes with listening with the ear of the heart (St. Benedict’s Rule, Prologue) to the insights and love only God can share.  The cool air of the third day of Spring smells fresh and with just a hint of flowers about.  My lectio divina (http://lectio-divina.org/index.cfm) for today, as it has been since 1963 is: Have in You the Mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)  It is my purpose in life, the reason why I get up in the morning and drag these old bones out of bed.  I have found, to my utter amazement, that my encounters with God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, using just these eight words, produced over thirty books, with five more on the drawing board.  I just write what comes into my head.

This blog is the attempt of a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit (with lots of cracks) to share some ideas.  Four years ago, at the age of 72, I was accepted as a Lay Cistercian novice by the abbot of Holy Spirit Monastery at Conyers, Georgia (Trappist). I still aspire to turn my life toward God’s will each day, taking up the struggle to choose the good verses the faux temptations of the secular world that seek to derail me from my purpose. It is a daily struggle to take up my cross and keep myself focused on the prize, as St. Paul says.  I have chosen and been selected as a member of the Lay Cistercian family associated with the monks. (www.trappist.net/lay-cistercians).  I don’t promise you lofty ideas that change the world.  These practices and charisms of Cistercian spiritual have changed me, however, and that I can share with you.  My style is personal and meant to be from the heart, so you may find these ideas a bit fragmented–just like life.  I don’t care what your religious affiliation is or even if you don’t have one.  My own heritage is Roman Catholic and for that I can only give thanks to my parents for handing on to me what they themselves received.

It is my hope that some of these ideas find a home in the ear of your heart and help you discover the meaning of love.  “That in all things, God be glorified.” –St. Benedict

 

How contemplative prayer helped me with cancer.

The following excerpt is from my still unpublished journal on You Know You Are Going to Die, New What?  Three Questions You Must Face Head On

 

Sometimes is it easier to write down your thoughts before you attempt to express them with others. As a cancer survivor of Leukemia, CLL type, that is what I did and I thought you might like this non-intrusive way of organizing your thinking about the fact that you may or may not die as a resut of cancer, some other like-threatening illness. or AIDS.

 

              Whether you have some faith system or no faith system at all, you have a value system, know it or not. That is your default system of what you hold as your center. Only you can choose what you place at your center, be it money, fame, fortune and glory (as Indiana Jones said in The Temple of Doom) or nothing at all. Before you accuse me of flying under false colors, I will tell you that I am a Lay Cistercian (Trappist) member of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA. Although it has influenced my view of reality, I am not trying to make you this or that. I don’t care. I do care about contemplative practices of silence and solitude and conversion of my life to the purpose I have selected. I do care to share with you some reflections on how contemplation helped me secure a North on my compass when I learned I had cancer. I hope that you can apply at least one or two ideas to your situation, given that you know you are going to die soon. I do care that you have an opportunity to write down YOUR thoughts and feelings as you confront yourself and the situation in which you find yourself.

There are three questions that I asked myself, upon learning that I had cancer. I used contemplation (going into the rich interior of my inner self) to seek peace, purpose and forgiveness all within the silence of my own heart. While it is true that you are diagnosed with cancer or some other life-threatening illness as an individual, you can be sure you don’t have it alone, as soon as you allow your friends to share in your diagnosis and how you assimilate it into your way of thinking. Cancer is always a family disease.

The first part of this workbook, I will give you my take on the three questions that I faced. No apologies. It is what I did, not what you did or will do. In the second part of this book is a journal so that you can write down your answer to these three questions. No one needs to see what you write, unless you share it with them. I encourage you to do so. I will read it, if you want me to do so.

  1. AM I GOING TO DIE?

 

This is the big, elephant-in-the-room question, the so called question everone knows but no one wants to talk about. It is classic avoidance and we all do it. After all, who wants to die? Who wants to be told they are going to die? It affects both patients and physicians. Physicians are petrified because they don’t know how their patients will accept it; patients are stunned when they hear the “C” word and begin playing an endless loop of doomsday scenarios in their minds.

The question is not, nor will it ever be, “Am I going to die?” Name one person you know who will not die? I can’t, except for two persons, but that is the subject of another set of assumptions for another workbook. I received a phone call from my primary physician, Dr. Judith Lewis, M.D., Internal Medicine, one day in September of 2014, stating she had reviewed my WBC count (> 20) and wanted to make an appointment for me with an Oncologist, Dr. Robert Tetreault, M.D., in Tallahassee, FL.  She said to me, “Y ou know what we are talking about, don’t you?” I said, “Yes. You are telling me I probably have cancer but you want to make sure with a bone-marrow biopsy.” I thought is was nice that she called me. I hung up and had no thoughts in my mind, which some say is normal, but I did fall back on my center, the set of values and meaning that give worth to my life.

Each of us has a center, one which we alone can choose, based on what we value as meaningful in our lives to that point. When there is trauma and urgency, such as when you are told you are going to die, prisoners get religion all of a sudden, those about to die, want to confess to a Priest, if they are Catholic, people think of their value system, as their life moves before their eyes. You may have experienced this. If what we have selected as our center is substantial and meaningful, we stand on the solid grounds of our humanity, if our center is like Jell-O, we don’t do so well with the news that we are going to die.

Here are three lessons that I learned,  when confronted with my mortality.

Lesson One: Keep life simple. Your center is the one ground of your being. The default emotions and feelings, when someone says you are going to die, can be like Kubler-Ross’ five steps of grief:

1 – Denial.

2 – Anger.

3 – Bargaining.

4 – Depression. Also referred to as preparatory grieving. …

5 – Acceptance.

See Google for “Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages”

Not all centers are capable of sustaining you as you work your way through these five stages of grief, let alone provide you with what you need to move to the next stage of your life. When I was told I had cancer, it was like saying, “The world will end in ten minutes.” I don’t remember being depressed or angry, when I actually found out that I had a football-size mass of CLL cells in my liver. Not good. The worst part for me was not the chemo-therapy, the liver biopsy, twelve sessions of at least five hours apiece, but the MRI and PET scans. I am severely clostrophobic.

 

2.  Lesson Two: You die yourself, but you don’t die alone. The family goes through the stages of grief with you. If your family sees you as a defenseless victim they will never raise the one question I need to hear about my dying and what that would mean. Unless someone from the outside (a friend, minister, rabbi or priest) brings this up, it probably won’t be addressed. Every time you meet together, there is the great unspoken taboo that needs to be addressed. What I learned is, it is my death they are talking about, so I must bring up the subject and address it head on. I could not do that unless my ground for walking was concrete and I was in control of my dying well. I don’t control that I will die, but I can control how to die well.

I had my wife and daughter accompany me to the Oncologist, Dr. Tetreault’s office for the results of my tests.  I wanted them to know what I know and not begin conjecturing or playing the “what if” game. It worked out well, in terms of them knowing what I know. In terms of the type of lymphoma, it was CLL type and there were a bunch o these cells in my liver the size of a football. I had to have a liver biopsy to see what was going on.  Like most non-medical types, I had no idea what that meant, although I did know a little about liver functioning. Modern research in oncology is fantastic and I was given a newly approved drug.

Lesson 3: Be realistic. You know you are going to die, but you have the opportunity to die well.

In the next installment, I will discuss the impact of using Cistercian contemplative spirituality as a way for me to gain control of my life. I cannot control my death.

 

 

 

 

 

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