THE ADVENT OF GOD

My family, friends, colleagues, and fellow pilgrims on the road to Forever. As my Advent penance, I am giving up giving gifts at Christmas. Our house is doing without any gifts except each other. (I say that because we spread our gifting out throughout the year, this is not entirely altruistic.) The greatest gift is that which Christ gives us, Himself. (Philippians 2:5-12) Because we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and are bid to love each other as Christ loves us, we can do no less than what He taught us, to love God with all our hearts, all our mind, and all our strength, and our neighbor as our self. Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36.   These sites are my top ten sites and readings that I recommend, not just for the season, but because they have helped me to re-discover the Advent of God in me. I share with you the gifts that God has so generously allowed me to discover. May the peace of Christ be in your hearts always, but not the peace that the world gives. Christ’s peace is not the absence of conflict and struggles to do the Art of Contemplative Practice, but the presence of pure love, pure knowledge, pure service in my heart. Isn’t that what the Christmas moment is all about? Philippians 2:-12 

I. I stumbled across this website a few months ago. It contains some interesting ideas worth your browsing, especially the piece about St. Thomas More.https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/ 

II. I have always loved the irascible G. K. Chesterton. He is worth the read. Check out the collected works at https://freeclassicebooks.com/g_k_chesterton.htm 

III. Lumen Gentium. This document is the Church in the Modern World. It is worth your time to read and meditate on it. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html 

IV. Bishop Robert Barron’s YouTube videos and websites, https://www.wordonfire.org/https://wordonfire.institute/courses/are ones I read every day for education and edification. I have signed up for his free Sunday sermons and daily reflection on the readings at Eucharist. I am on the cusp of signing up to be an Institute member.  

V. The Center for Contemplative Practice is the name of my blog and hopefully some YouTube videos. These blog ideas are my reflections on reality as a Lay Cistercian due to my daily Lectio Divina. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org 

VI. Places you may never have been. I rummaged through all my saved URLs and found this interesting one about the martyrdom of Saints. You might enjoy it. I must caution you that I use these sources very carefully and judiciously and not with blind faith. Blind faith is just that; it is faith but may just be oblivious to the Church Universal’s teachings. http://devotiontoourlady.com/your-daily-martyr.html 

VII. Archbishop of Canterbury’s address to the Synod of Bishops in Rome. I learned of this talk through my Lay Cistercian colleagues on Gathering Day. It is about contemplation and is an excellent analysis of spirituality. http://aoc2013.brix.fatbeehive.com/articles.php/2645/archbishops-address-to-the-synod-of-bishops-in-rome 

VIII. O Clavis David — I remember sitting in the chapel at St. Meinrad Minor Seminary (1954) and praying the O Antiphons. Father Stephen Thuis, O.S.B., now deceased, bless his soul, sang the Latin Antiphon in a mournful but elegant melody. The Key of David is just one of the many joyful memories I have of how St. Benedict and the Benedictine monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey influenced my spirituality. www.st.meinrad.eduhttps://www.catholic.org/advent/the-o-antiphons-20-december 

IX. The Liturgy of the Hours — A favorite site of mine is one that allows me to recite the complete Liturgy of the Hours every day. It is a free service, but I recommend a donation to help them out. Besides, my blog, https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org, is featured in the Resource section of their website. www.divineoffice.org 

X. The Enduring Presence of Truth I love to read the primary sources of early Christians in the Church, ones who lived Christ as their center, many of whom died because of their love and faith in a God they had never seen. One of my favorite sites (I say that about all the sites) is Father Luke Dysinger, a Benedictine monk, medical physician, doctor of patristics, and the author of the following website. You owe it to your faith and growth in Christ Jesus to look at some of the resources on his website and perhaps take one of his free courses.http://www.ldysinger.com/@texts/00a_start.htm 

I can’t love something or someone if I don’t know about it, says Erich Fromm in his Art of Loving. I can’t know about something unless I am aware of it. I can’t be of service to others or love others if I don’t know about them and move to the heart’s deeper level. Spirituality is all about placing myself in a position of humility and obedience to the will of the Father and asking Jesus to sit with me on a park bench in the dead of Winter and just be there, overshadowed by the pure energy of the Holy Spirit. That is the meaning of being human with the commitment to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. 

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

FEELING JESUS IN SCRIPTURE

As I begin to peel off the layers of my own sloth, greed, gluttony, lust, jealousy, vengeance, and hatred, to name a few vices, only to have them return at the beginning of the next day, I am reminded that everything in the world has a beginning and an end.

In my practice of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), there is a routineness to keep trying each day, only to begin a new day all over. Each day becomes a lifetime in and of itself. It is a chance for me to pray the day without ceasing. This concept of the consecration of the day to the glory and honor of the Father through, with, and in Christ, with the energy of the Holy Spirit, enables me to pray without ceasing. I also sanctify the moment each day in my Cistercian practices of Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Rosary, Reading Sacred Scripture, Reading the writings of holy men and women, following the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian constitutions and adaptations, and being a member of the Gathering of Lay Cistercians from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) in Conyers, Georgia. Sounds like I don’t have anything else to do but pray, but that would not be the case. These practices are just spikes in my day where I look forward to spending time being in the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit. I anticipate it much like a woman or man anticipates their spouse being in their presence to have and hold from this day forward, in sickness ad in health, until death do them part. There is a process to love, one that builds on the days of our lives, an unbroken chain of all those attempts to seek love in multitudes of ways.

Each day is linked together with those which have gone before. Christ makes each day new, because He is always new, always the source of inspiration energy, always one who loves unconditionally. We humans can only hope to tag along with Christ and learn, for He is meek and humble of heart. Matthew 11 shares with us:

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

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

Like everything that deals with the spiritual universe, there is an unimaginable depth to this process. I would even argue it has an infinite depth of meaning and love. Life is just a process of discovering and uncovering meaning that God says will allow me to claim my inheritance as a son of the Father. Contemplative practice is one way that I use to penetrate the veil of my false self to move beyond my own limited boundaries of what is contained in the Mystery of Faith, to begin to see things as revealed by God. Within that framework of resting in the presence of God, here are some reflections on the ongoing process of awareness that takes place when I approach the Sacred in reading Scripture and other Cistercian practices.

THE PURPOSE OF SCRIPTURE

How I read Scriptures today is not how I read it in 1962, when I studied it formally in Theology class at St. Meinrad School of Theology. There, I remember trying to see the context in which the Scriptures were written. It was an academic exercise of the mind. Now, I am not as concerned about proving which canon of Scriptures is correct or what the words actually mean in Greek or Hebrew, or Latin. Those days are long gone. In my Scripture readings and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, most especially, I look at the words, hear the words, try to listen to what the words say to me. In doing so, I am discovering the process of awareness that says, become what you read. But, what can that possibly mean? If all the Scriptures are, are prayers as food for the mind, then I have not penetrated the veil of the Sacred Mystery of Faith. The mind (meditation) leads to the ultimate purpose of prayer (contemplation). Contemplation is relationship, sharing, love, silence, solitude, being still to receive whatever Christ wants to share.

Let me share a Scripture that I use to grow deeper in meaning. It is Psalm 27. I want you to read it three times, each time very slowly, but each time doing the following:

First Reading: The Psalm as the Word of God. God is speaking to you through the words and experiences of the Psalmist. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? Read it out loud and very slowly.

Second Reading: The Psalm as Experience of the Word of God. What does each sentence feel like? Does the Psalm transport to actually hearing the Psalmist read it for the first time and to experience what is written. In verse 2, the picture and feel are of people who evil coming close to you to eat your flesh. Do you see that in your life? Do you feel what the Psalmist is trying to say?

Third Reading: The Psalm without words. Just look at each verse. Try to banish any external thoughts you have other than what Christ wants you to hear. Take your time with this third reading. Share your Lord’s joy.

Pray for the humility to become what you have read and the obedience to do what God through Christ has shared with you.

Psalm 27

1The LORD is my light and my salvation;

 whom shall I fear?

 The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

 whom should I dread?

2When those who do evil draw near

 to devour my flesh,

 it is they, my enemies and foes,

 who stumble and fall.

3Though an army encamp against me,

 my heart would not fear.

 Though war break out against me,

 even then would I trust.

4There is one thing I ask of the LORD,

 only this do I seek:

 to live in the house of the LORD

 all the days of my life,

 to gaze on the beauty of the LORD,

 to inquire at his temple.

5For there he keeps me safe in his shelter

 in the day of evil.

 He hides me under cover of his tent;

 he sets me high upon a rock.

6And now my head shall be raised

 above my foes who surround me,

 and I shall offer within his tent

 a sacrifice of joy.

 I will sing and make music for the LORD.

7O LORD, hear my voice when I call;

 have mercy and answer me.

 8Of you my heart has spoken,

 “Seek his face.”

It is your face, O LORD, that I seek;

 9hide not your face from me.

 Dismiss not your servant in anger;

 you have been my help.

Do not abandon or forsake me,

 O God, my Savior!

 10Though father and mother forsake me,

 the LORD will receive me.

11Instruct me, LORD, in your way;

 on an even path lead me

 because of my enemies.

 12Do not leave me to the will of my foes,

 for false witnesses rise up against me,

 and they breathe out violence.

13I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness

 in the land of the living.

 14Wait for the LORD; be strong;

 be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD!

I try and keep trying over and over to seek the face of God each day. My life is a daily prayer offered to God in reparation for my sins and for the grace to remain worthy to be an adopted son of the Father.

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

MORE IS BETTER, OR IS IT?

I met a man, quite similar in appearance and temperament to me, who keeps trying to pray as much as possible in the hopes of becoming more like Christ and less like himself. The more he prays, he thought, the holier he would become and thus the closer he would become to his center (Philippians 2:5). In trying to use the World as a measuring stick for holiness (quantity equals quality), he overlooked the dimension of the heart. The mind is good at measuring quantity, while the heart looks for quality. It is not how much you pray but how much your heart can make room (capacitas dei) for Christ. He was seduced into thinking that prayer was all verbal and must be done in a Church building, while actually that is an important part of the contemplative life for a Lay Cistercian, but there is always more. Formal prayers are not the end in themselves but only ways to be present to Christ, only the beginning of the process. This happens from the beginning of each day, which is why the Morning Offering prayer is so important. Prayer is not what you do as much as lifting the heart and mind to God wherever and however you seek God daily.

There is such a thing as horizontal prayer, meaning from beginning to end, the more you pray, the closer you are to having God in you. This is the prayer of the mind which likes the fact that attending verbal prayer and completing a prayer practice (e.g., Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, etc…). Because humans access everything through their five senses, they process what they experience in their mind which translates sounds and sights into ideas that mean something. Particularly in Western Spirituality, with the emphasis on logic and completion of a task, prayer becomes horizontal, that is, there is a beginning and an end to it and we enjoy what comes between that as meaningful. In the Old Testament, orthodoxy comes when you do what the Law says, and there are 617 prescriptions of Jewish Law (fewer are practiced because there is no longer the Temple of Jerusalem). This is horizontal prayer and there is nothing wrong with this prayer. The question is, is that all there is?

I submit that there is such a thing as vertical prayer or lifting of the heart and mind to God. As a Lay Cistercian trying to practice the Cistercian Way by praying Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and reading Scriptures, to name a few prayers. Vertical prayer is accessing the mind which is the key to opening the heart. In vertical prayer, Christ is the prayer, the Christ Principle through, with, and in whom everything flows. Prayer is trying to be in the presence of Christ so that these prayers go deep, not just from beginning to end.

In this latest Lay Cistercian Day of Reflection on December 5, the topic was a commentary on prayer using the text of The Way of the Pilgrim, an 18th-century story about a pilgrim searching for the meaning of the phrase, “pray unceasingly” and what it means. Read it and make your own conclusions.

file:///C:/Users/Owner/Desktop/The%20way%20of%20the%20pilgrim%20-%20Eastern%20Orthodox%20texts%20preserved.html

Does praying unceasingly mean that you are only praying when you recite verbal prayers. All formal prayers have a beginning and an end, so it would be impossible, just physically, to pray all day. Liturgy of the Hours is prayer, preferably community prayer, but also private devotion. When you finish with reciting the prayers as found in the Liturgy of the Hours books, is prayer finished, or is there a deeper connotation to prayer, one which suggests that everything you seek and reminds you of how much God loves you is prayer. This is not so far from what we do in human love, i.e., husband and wife, love of mother and father, love of friends, love that monks and nuns have for Christ and their colleagues, loving one another as Christ loved us.

Trying to follow the dictates of St. Benedict’s Rule in Chapters 4 and 7, I use the attributes of human love to help me focus on my whole life each day as a prayer to the Father in reparation for my sins and failings, for the grace to allow Christ to grow in me as I move away from my false self, joining with the sacrifice of the Eucharist to offer the Father all honor and glory, through, with, and in Christ, with the Holy Spirit as One.

Prayer becomes wanting to be next to the one you love in contemplation. Prayer is listening to the heart of Christ in silence and solitude. Prayer is confronting the urges and tendencies of trying to fill up hole which we make by unproductive silence and time spent before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration.

As an individual person who tries to have the mind of Christ Jesus in me each day (Philippians 2:5-12), I can go to that room inside me of which Jesus speaks in that wonderful passage on how we should approach almsgiving and prayer in Matthew 6. Read this quote three times, once for the words, once to become what you read, and once in silence and solitude to let the Holy Spirit overshadow you with love.

Teaching About Almsgiving.*1 “[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds so that people may see them; an otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites* do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.b 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,4 so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret, will repay you.

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

The results of your prayer (vertical and horizontal) transforms the world around you, through you. Not that you transformed the world, but that you have been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and lifted up beyond what the world teaches is meaningful. Christ tells us in Chapter 5 of Matthew:

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

Teaching About the Law.17* “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.m19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.*20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

POINTS FOR REFLECTION

  • Everything Christ left us after He ascended to the Father to be our Advocate at the Right Hand of the Father, is all about the practice of what he taught us.
  • Everything Christ left us is to help prepare us to live in a condition of pure love, pure energy, pure knowledge, and pure service. Don’t ask me how God will do that. All I know is, I want to be with that continuous prayer that is Heaven with those I know and those I don’t.
  • Everything Christ left us is to make all things new in, with, and through Him to the glory of the Father.
  • Prayer is not just the time you actually spend in prayer or contemplation, although it most certainly is that. It is more. It is what surrounds prayer that makes it acceptable to the Father. Matthew 25 points out what we need to do as a result of prayer.
  • Pope Benedict XVI has suggested that Guibo II’s ladder of Lectio Divina (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio) should have a fifth step–actio or producing sometimes as a result of being in the presence of Christ, the source of all our energy in union with the Holy Spirit.
  • The transformation from false self to true self happens when we lift up our hearts and minds to God and say, Abba, “Father.”
  • Just as Christ became sin for us, although he himself was not sinful, that love is what inspires us to say “Jesus is Lord”.
  • Prayer is not only the time we take to pray but the ability to seek God each day in whatever it throws at me, transforming it because I have been transformed by Christ Jesus.
  • If prayer is like an ice cube, our Faith will melt unless we keep it frozen. Keeping it frozen means we ask the Holy Spirit, each day, for the humility and obedience to what Christ tells us.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY TO THE HOLY SPIRIT WHEN YOU ARE SITTING ON THE EDGE OF YOUR BED AT 6:14 A.M. FOLLOWING YOUR MORNING OFFERING PRAYER.

This is a long title, don’t you agree? This morning at 6:14 a.m. (I got to sleep in late.), I found myself, as I always do in the a.m., sitting on the edge of my bed, reciting my daily morning offering, and thinking about taking a shower, and what to prepare for my writings for my daily blog, when I made the mistake of asking the Holy Spirit if there was anything He wanted to tell me. In recent months, the Holy Spirit and I have become mates, as the Australians say it, and, I must admit to detecting a sense of humor in his conversations with me in the Lectio Divina meditations. In all of this, like St. Benedict writes in the Rule, Chapter 7, the first step in humility is the fear of the Lord. I realize that God is God and I am me, and I don’t want to confuse the two natures. Being friends with a person with a divine nature (God) is not like any human friend you have or will ever have. Even Jesus, who has both divine and human nature, calls us friends, but there is always that profound respect and reverence that I have for the honor of being an adopted son of the Father. I must confess that I talk with the Holy Spirit in my Lectio prayer the same way I would talk to my spiritual director or someone who can look into the depths of my heart and know the truth. Talking with the Holy Spirit as a friend does not mean I speak for God or even have special knowledge of insights into the Sacred that other people do not. What it does mean to me is that I anticipate and look forward to our chats that always begin with Philippians 2:5, the phrase, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” This morning, for example, all I said was, “Do you have anything you want me to know today?” BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY TO THE HOLY SPIRIT WHEN YOU ARE SITTING ON THE EDGE OF YOUR BED AT 6:14 A.M. FOLLOWING YOUR MORNING OFFERING PRAYER. At 7:20 a.m., the Holy Spirit was still giving me ideas, although random like a shotgun spread without a theme, at least, one that I could pick up immediately. I can’t shut the Holy Spirit up, for lack of a better description, like one of your friends who always does the talking and never shuts up. With the Holy Spirit, I can’t get a word in edgewise. It is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant that is opened up. I know the power of a fire hydrant from my youth, when firemen would come around to flush out the hydrant by opening them up. Water came out with a whoosh! A good picture for me would be like the one of I Love Lucy, where she is trying to stop the candy conveyor belt and they come so fast, she must eat them, stuff them in her pocket, all without success. That is why I think the Holy Spirit is the person of the Blessed Trinity with a sense of humor. Look at the YouTube video. What a hoot! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3axU2b0dDk

Here are a few of the thoughts that came to me as I sat on the edge of the bed, waiting to take my shower before writing down these thoughts.

If we are made in the image and likeness of God, what about the image and likeness of each person of the Blessed Trinity? What would that look like?

First of all, God doesn’t have an image and likeness, only in that we humans are so used to anthropomorphisms, that we expect God to look like us. It is a critical flaw on the part of humans to see God in their image and likeness. Genesis is a prime example of the story tellers couching God in an image to which we can relate, consistent with our limited human knowledge.

When making any statements about God, I am warry because of my limited, human knowledge, and must always caveat is that this is my opinion, not only in this space and time but also where I am in my life. These questions and thoughts are what I received from the Holy Spirit. That does not make it doctrine, but only my feeble subscription of something I know nothing about, the nature of God. The image and likeness of God must, in some way, describe (not define) God’s qualities, such as knowledge, love, service, and energy. When I look at humans, that is what I see describing me and my purpose in life. God’s nature is so beyond human comprehension and language to describe it adequately, the He had to send the second person of the Blessed Trinity to become one of us, that he could give us human parables and stories that bring us more into line with what we can experiece when we go to heaven. Imagine Christ trying to sell us on a place with no time, no space, no physical energy, or landmarks that would make it comfortable for us to live forever. The image and likeness of God mean that there is a connection between divine and human nature, one that says, even if the gulf between us is beyond our comprehension, we share some characteristics. My Lectio thoughts take me to a condition where there is pure energy, not the energy we know at all, but composed of pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service. This somehow ties into the image and likeness of the persons of the Trinity. Each person has all three characteristics but each person is responsible for the individual likeness and image as it affects all reality. There is only one reality yet it has three separate and distinct characteristics, different responsibilities.

The Father is the seat of the Lord of all knowledge and creation, the Life. The problem for me in thinking about this profound mystery is that the only knowledge and creation I know of is the one I have experienced in my lifetime, a mere eighty years so far. We are made in the image and likeness of the pure knowledge of the divine nature, pure truth 100% of his nature, to use a poor analogy. Just as Mary’s human nature was filled to the brim of her cup (overshadowed) with the Holy Spirit, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are filled to the brim of their divine nature with pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service. They just are in an eternal now, a kingdom with power and its own glory, self-sufficient in the love produced as a result of their just being who they are. In this context, that of the unknowingness of God, the Mystery of Faith makes sense.

The Son is the seat of love and redemption, the seat of mercy, the Way. If we are made in this image and likeness, we must heed the words of Jesus, who told us all to try to love one another as He has loved us. Jesus did not just say he loved us, he became sin for us so that He could redeem us from the confines of the World, only the physical and mental universes, and open to us not only the spiritual universe but give us adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. The Son emptied himself of being God in order be one of us to tell us (Scriptures) and show us (The Church) how to get to Heaven (remember the place that has no human landmarks and frame of reference). In the Old Testament, the people of God saw God as El Shaddai (the god of strength and power at the top of the mountain) and represented in the Manna and Tablets of the Ten Commands. If they kept God’s commands of the Law, God would be with them. In the New Testament, Christ is the Messiah. The name Jesus means born of human nature. The name Christ means the fulfillment of what went before, the Messiah of God. (John 20:30-31) Christ is our mediator, our transformer, our friend in high places.

The Holy Spirit is the seat of wisdom and light, the Truth. The Father sent His Son, Jesus to enable us to be in Heaven and not fry our neurons. Jesus the Christ, sent the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to continue the way, the truth, and the life to each generation and to each individual within that generation so that we might fulfill our destiny as those gathered together in prayerful thanksgiving (Eucharist) to the Father, in, with, and through Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit.

Lectio Divina is a way to unlock the Mysteries of Faith, not that we will ever be capable of comprehending or defining who or what they are. We can, as St. Paul, says, see through a foggy window and get a glimpse of what is on the other side. For me, it is the fulfillment of the love that I tried to achieve while on earth, now made perfect, as I am able to assimilate it.

The Holy Spirit just doesn’t let up, if you ask him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35icCO-ifUs

ST. JOHN OF GOD

You no doubt have heard of the saying. “out of sight, out of mind.” That goes for all of the everyday good works in the name of Christ that those who gather together in his name do, as their way to love others as Christ loved them. St. John of God is one such example of a person who loved God fiercely. Read about his life.

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-of-god

Read about the ministry of hospitaliers. The product of that love still lives on today in each of us who try to convert our lives to that of Christ Jesus.

https://www.camillus.org/

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

HOW GOOD ARE YOU AT FILLING UP HOLES?

FILLING IN THE HOLES

In contemplative prayer, one characteristic is that you must deliberately slow down. Another reaction that I have found is in thinking that I have to do something with the time I meditate or it is not productive, I must fill in the hole of time that I just created with something, anything. This feeling becomes all consuming, if not addressed. After each of my meditative blogs on contemplative practices, I recommend that you consider reading them three times, each time growing deeper in awareness and time for the Holy Spirit to overshadow you with grace (energy of God).

TYPES OF HOLES IN YOUR LIFE

Holes are those voids in your life that cause you to ache because you do not feel the same, or whole. All humans try to fill these holes, like someone who has a chronic back pain and can’t find relief, even with strong medications. Be careful what you use to fill your hole.

Here are a few types of holes you might have experienced as you meander down your path of life.

  • The loss of a spouse or a child
  • The loss of a mother or a father
  • The loss of a close friend
  • Divorce
  • Divorce with acrimony
  • Fighting (verbally) with a spouse over the more inconsequential things in your lives
  • Caregiving for someone with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Loss of a job
  • Being robbed of money or reputation
  • Rape
  • Friends throwing you under the bus for their own advancement or pleasure
  • Failure to reach your potential in the job or lack of promotion
  • Adultery (your own) or your spouse
  • Fornication and living with someone else
  • Anger with parents over how to live your life
  • Anger with children over how to live their lives
  • Living with someone who hates you and any and everything you do
  • Phobias of any kind, such as fear of dying or going to Hell
  • Fear of anything that is paralyzing behavior (severe claustrophobia)
  • Hating what you consider to be God and blaming Him for your lot in life
  • Being content to remain in your ignorance about God because it takes time and energy
  • Being taken over by Satan and slowly descend into Hell on earth

These are only a few of the holes that you might have dug for yourself or find yourself in, right now.

UNAUTHENTIC WAYS TO FILL YOUR HOLE

  • Fill the holes with drugs or alcohol
  • Fill the hole with watching television
  • Fill the holes by yourself
  • Fill the holes by blaming God, others, anyone but you, for your misfortunes
  • Fill in your holes with unauthentic love
  • Fill in your hole with hatred, one which you cannot release from your inner self
  • Hate yourself and so hate others around you
  • Refuse to get professional help for anger mood disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder, blaming your spouse and family for your depression

AUTHENTIC WAYS TO GET OUT OF YOUR HOLE

  • You can get out of your hole, if you know how
  • Realize that you are in a hole and want to get out of it
  • Be aware of Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief and use them
  • Be aware that the wages of sin is death to the Spirit
  • Pray that you may not be led into temptation
  • Fill the hole of grief with the love of Christ

CONTEMPLATION AND SERENITY

  • Contemplative prayer will not take away the pain of being in a hole, even if you can’t get out of it immediately, but it will allow you perspective to realize that Christ is sitting next to you. Christ was in a hole in the Garden of Gethsemane and asked the Father to take away the pain. He conquered his human doubts and pain by joining with the will of the Father. This did not make the pain go away but allowed him the strength to complete his mission.
  • Contemplative prayer allows you to sit in silence and solitude on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait patiently for you to calm down enough to listen to Christ, sitting right next to you.
  • Contemplative prayer is quietly and patiently receiving transformation from Christ from your false self to your new self, which will allow you to carry your cross daily.

Use this Scripture as it was intended, to help each of us have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) and give us the strength to place ourselves in the healing presence of the Trinity.

The Praise of the Father.

25 At that time Jesus said in reply,* “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.

26 Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.

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

The Gentle Mastery of Christ.

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

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/11

How can taking up the burden of filling a hole be considered light by Christ? The yoke of the World can be these holes that you experience in your life and over which you do not have control. The heavy yoke of which Christ speaks is taking up our cross daily, using the love of others, as Christ loves us, to fill the hole. Understand, Christ won’t take away your heavy yoke but will help you carry it with his own heart next to yours.

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

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

ACTIVITY

The first time you read the blog, just read it as you normally do but make a deliberate effort to read it slowly and don’t rush just to finish it. The second time read it even slower but try to pick out one idea or theme that you want to explore. You may wish to write it down in the space that I have provided for your notes. I have heard it said that the third time is the charm. The third time read it again but this time as prayer. Take ten minutes or more to reflect on the story. Look at the photo of the park bench for a few minutes. What is the Holy Spirit trying to tell you? You don’t have to do anything now but wait.

THE ART OF CONTEMLATIVE PRACTICE

For some time now, I have noticed myself under the influence of the Holy Spirit. I know that because I have begun to recognize the Holy Spirit speaking to me through others. I have given up about approaching the Spirit with my requests. Now, I just sit there and wait. Almost immediately, thoughts come to my mind, based on my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5).

I know that Christ came not only to tell us about the love of God has for us, but also to make us adopted sons and daughters of the Father. What does any of this mean to someone who is foraging through the dark forests and travailing the barren deserts of today’s landscape of hatred and vengeance that seems to overtake the love and peace of Christ just like kudzu? It is in the titanic battle between the World and the Spirit that the art of contemplative spirituality makes the most sense to me. I woke up to contemplative penetration into the meaning of love quite late in my life, actually with my entry into the disciplines of St. Benedict, the Cistercian Order (Trappists), and my resting place, Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery. http://www.trappist.net. I am beginning to discover what Erich Fromm meant by his statement that we don’t automatically learn how to love by being born. Rather, it is an art to be acquired, a set of skills that must be mastered. It takes a lifetime of trying to master this Art of Contemplative Practice. Personally, I am blessed to have come across the Rule of St. Benedict and the subsequent adaptation of these principles (Chapter 4 of the Rule) by Cistercian monks and nuns through the centuries to finding my niche as a Lay Cistercian. What follows is a series of reflections and observations about the Art of Contemplative Spirituality based on The Art of Loving. This is actually the how to live the art of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Love is the key element that binds all reality (physical, mental, and spiritual) together into one.

  • If Erich Fromm is correct, then I must learn what it means to love.
  • This is love as the World offers it to me, good but not deep enough to sustain me on the journey to Forever.
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality takes love to the deepest level, one where human love sits in the presence of divine love on a park bench in the middle of winter and waits to be transformed into that which is greater.
  • Like a super black hole swallowing a nearby planet, no one can approach the Father except through the Son, but, if we know how, each of us has the power to sit next to Christ on that park bench, using the energy of the Holy Spirit, to become what is greater, God’s own pure love overshadowing us, just as He did to Mary.
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is realizing this love is available and how to access it appropriately, through, with, and in Christ Jesus, our transformer, our source of divine love, the one person that can go to the Father with us tagging along as adopted sons and daughters.
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is about dying to my false self so that I can rise to the newness of life by loving others as Christ loved us.
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is being present to the Love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is moving from my false self to my true self with the help of the Holy Spirit, in humility and obedience to God’s will for me.
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is transforming my time to be present to pure energy, pure love, and pure spirit and just wait.
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is realizing that anything I think, anything I feel in my heart, everytime I seek God every day in whatever way I am present to Him, is love.
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is about being present to the triune God in Baptism, reading and trying to become Scriptures, Eucharist, Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Eucharist Adoration as much as possible, reading Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule every day. I do these Cistercian practices so that I can be present to Christ and increase the charisms in me that lead to the conversion of morals and life (humility, obedience to God’s will, profound listening, more patience with my lack of perfection, stability to my Lay Cistercian promises to prefer nothing to the love of God.)
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is my realization that consistent failure to reach my goal each day is acceptable. I try tomorrow to do what I messed up today. Christ is the same today, tomorrow, and forever.
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is like being wrapped up in a blanket of God’s love like a mother bundles up her child to take her to Trader Joe’s on a blustery day.
  • The Art of Contemplative Spirituality is going to the place inside you, the place none of us wants to go, and finding meaning in the silence and solitude of our inner room, one in which God lives because of our Baptismal commitment, one where he waits for me to open the door and enter without conditions, a place of peace which is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of love.

MY REFLECTION: WHAT IS LOVE?

One of the most elusive challenges to face humans is that of love. Along with the sexual drive, which we all share with all animals and plants, it is a mystery for many. A mystery, because we just think we know what it is and there is a deeper side to it we have never discovered. A mystery, because we think we can possess it and define it once and for all and we realize that we don’t know that much about it at all. Poets and novelists print thousands of pieces dissecting and proving every orifice of love, yet they still struggle with possessing it in its entirety.

Erich Fromm, the author of the book, The Art of Loving, has been someone that has influenced how I look at love, and also the art of contemplative spirituality.  Here is a quote from the art of which he speaks.

“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering. What are the necessary steps in learning any art? The process of learning an art can be divided conveniently into two parts: one, the mastery of the theory; the other, the mastery of the practice. If I want to learn the art of medicine, I must first know the facts about the human body, and about various diseases. When I have all this theoretical knowledge, I am by no means competent in the art of medicine. I shall become a master in this art only after a great deal of practice until eventually the results of my theoretical knowledge and the results of my practice are blended into one — my intuition, the essence of the mastery of any art. But, aside from learning the theory and practice, there is a third factor necessary to becoming a master in any art — the mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern; there must be nothing else in the world more important than the art. This holds true for music, for medicine, for carpentry — and for love. And, maybe, here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art, in spite of their obvious failures: in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power — almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.”

Love is not only knowing, which is most definitely is, it is also doing. Fromm states that:

Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.” In my short lifetime of trying, yet consistently failing, to love with all my mind and heart, I find this statement to be inspired. He also gives the requirements for authentic love. “The mature response to the problem of existence is love.” “Is love an art? Then it requires knowledge and effort. Love is not a spontaneous feeling, a thing that you fall into, but is something that requires thought, knowledge, care, giving, and respect (my emphasis). And it is something that is rare and difficult to find in capitalism, which commodifies human activity. ”

In this question about fierce love, the very reason we need to include love at all is to go to the heart of what it means to be human rather than an Anteater. You won’t understand Scripture unless you know it is all about love (Remember Questions One and Two above?)

LOVE IS LIKE A VALENTINE CARD

Love has two dimensions, that of the mind (knowledge and logic) and that of the heart (emotion and feeling). Remember when you were in Third Grade and everyone exchanged Valentine Day cards? What did you do, when you went home that day? Did you put them in a special spot in your drawer where you could pull them out and look at them frequently? Did you think of the person who gave you the card with affection? Did you feel a sense of warmth and pleasure? Love is one of the ways humans are different from other living things. It is a form of communication between two persons, heart to heart, thinking of others, wanting to help others. It can be with two humans or groups of humans. It can be between single persons, homosexuals, heterosexuals, groups of peoples, with families and relatives. Love is a human phenomenon. Love does not exist between animals, or between and animals and humans, although we can love our pet. Animals can’t love back. So, what is this love? It is one of the thresholds through which all of us must pass.

Mature love is so much more than a Valentine’s Day card. Here are Erich Fromm’s five criteria for authentic loving with some thoughts about both dimensions of the head and the heart.

THOUGHT

  • Love is thinking of the one you love all the time.
  • Love is having their picture on your desk and in your heart

KNOWLEDGE—

  • Love is wanting to know as much as you can about your love.
  • Love is wanting the one you love to know as much about you as possible.     

CARE

  • Love is patient with the one you love as they explore life.
  • Love forgiving of others, realizing that you are not perfect.

GIVING

  • Love knows that your loved one likes A-1 sauce on their steak and you make sure you buy it at the store.
  • Love is learning the art of receiving from your loved one, allowing them to love you in return.

RESPECT

  • Respect is wanting your love to succeed and do what it takes to ensure they meet their goals in life.
  • Love is taking the time to tame your other, waiting for them to grow and mature.

If you say you love someone, but don’t do anything to show it, there may not be love there at all but just your representation of what it means in your own mind. Similarly, if you receive Faith from God but hide it under a bushel basket and don’t do anything with it, there may not be Faith there at all but just your representation that you have made yourself into God.

YOUR REFLECTIONS

Write your thoughts for each of Eric Fromm’s five characteristics of authentic love.

These reflections are excerpted from my book, The Place Where No One Wants to Look: A Lay Cistercian reflects on six questions everyone must ask and answer.

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/bookshelf?ref_=kdp_kdp_TAC_TN_bs

QUESTIONS IN SEARCH OF AN ANSWER

MESSAGES FROM THE EDGE OF TIME

1. If Heaven is the reason why we are here on earth, why is it we don’t do more to prepare ourselves to live there?

2. It is better for you to have the perspective that all humans have the opportunity to get to Heaven, than to think that only a few make it.

3. If you play around with worrying about who is going to Heaven, you risk playing god. That is against the first commandment.

4. You are going to die, no matter if the doctor tells you, you have cancer, or you just die from old age.

5. All humans are destined for Heaven, but not everyone will make it there. Who goes and who does not?

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. The Master is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Do you know what this means in your life, right now?

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 pattern of spiritual behavior? Contemplative?

12. Who has the right to take their own life? What are the moral implications of suicide or assisted suicide?

13. How would you explain reality in terms of three universes?

14. What is the purpose of the spiritual universe?

15. The core values of life are those we discover on our own, but also those given us by The Master. What are they? What is the value of these core principles for those who know when they are going to die?

16. Have you made the self-directed retreat?

17. Why should you help others to refocus, when you are the one who is going to die? How can this be a golden opportunity for you to share your spiritual treasures with those whom you love?

18. Everyone has the right to live. Everyone has the right to die with dignity. Not everyone agrees on what that means.

19. Cremation is an acceptable form of burial. It is certainly less expensive. Go to http://www.saintmeinrad.edu, to access a place that sells

wooden urns for cremation.

20. If it a good idea to have a last will and testament, it is also good to complete a journal preparing for the journey to…Forever.

21. Do you have a pattern of spiritual behavior? What you live on earth will be your frame of reference in Heaven. There is a caveat. Your experiences must be rooted in authentic, spiritual principles.

22. You based your life on God’s core values. Do you know what they are? You measure yourself against God’s core values to find out how close you are to being authentically human.

23. Look at the human race as heading towards its destiny. You, too, have a personal destiny, Heaven.

24. The purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God in this world, so that you can be happy in the next level of reality. (Baltimore Catechism, Question 6)

25. What you know about the purpose of life and God’s design is what you take with you to Heaven.

26. In the physical universe, you live, love, and die. In the mental universe, you broaden your horizon by loving through principles that lead to meaning. In the spiritual universe, you do all of the above, but

use God’s core values to actually boost you to a higher level of meaning. You prepare to live in a world without matter, a world of pure energy, pure thought, pure service, and pure love.

27. You need help to get to Heaven, even though you must enter there by yourself. Your spouse helps you, and so does your family and friends. Church is just a group of friends that are linked together as

the body of The Master. You must enter through the one door, The Master.

28. Beliefs are those we hold with our minds. Faith is a gift of God we are given for our hearts. All beliefs have assumptions. Those assumptions differentiate a Protestant from a Catholic, and Jew from a Muslim. You should be free to hold any belief system you choose, but know that all of them cannot be correct. They are in conflict with each other, in terms of the assumptions they 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 interpretation of history and the Scriptures to make it there. Remember, Heaven is God’s playground, not yours. God is the ultimate judge of the heart.

29. To die well, you must also have lived well.

30. Preparing for your death, be it next week, or next fifty years will be the same process.

31. God takes care of those who believe in Him.

32. Soon, in about three or four billion years, the Sun will engulf this planet as it expands and expends it energy. By that time, the human race must find new worlds to pioneer and ways to get there. Will we?

Who knows? There is a way we can make it off the planet right now. When you die, you move to a different universe. This universe contains pure energy, pure thought, pure love, and pure service. While you are on earth, you prepare for the trip, the most important trip of your life. It is not a vacation nor is it business travel. Your destination is to live in

God’s home…Forever. How will you prepare?

33. You can’t have hatred and love in the same room together. Hatred is a way of de-valuing people 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.

34. We can hate people or we can hate ideas. If we hate ideas that are evil, as in the hatred of sin, we are justified. If we hate people, such as a spouse, we might be justified in our hatred, if that person is doing something evil and against God’s law. Usually, we hate the sin but love the person. Clearly, we must love one another, despite our failings, in spite of their personality flaws.

35. Marriage is a commitment 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. 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 names.

37. Invisible reality or taking the word of someone is the most difficult part of Faith. Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believed.

38. It is how I do what Christ taught us that is important. There is only one Rule: love others as I have loved you, but that innocuous-looking Rule is everything.

WHOSE CHURCH IS IT?

WHOSE CHURCH IS IT?

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

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

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

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

31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/20

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

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

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

Chapter 4: The Tools for Good Works

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

3 Then the following: You are not to kill,

4 not to commit adultery;

5 you are not to steal

6 nor to covet (Rom 13:9);

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

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

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

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

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

12 do not pamper yourself,

13 but love fasting.

14 You must relieve the lot of the poor,

15 clothe the naked,

16 visit the sick (Matt 25:36),

17 and bury the dead.

18 Go to help the troubled

19 and console the sorrowing.

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

21 the love of Christ must come before all else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEEKING GOD EVERY DAY

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

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

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

Peter’s Confession About Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unity in the Body. 1*I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,a2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3 striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c4*one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. “

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

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

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

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

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

Read what St. Bernard of Clairvaux says.

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

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

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

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WAKING THE SPIRIT

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

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

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

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

Last Supper Discourses. 1* “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith* in God; have faith also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.a4Where [I] am going you know the way.”*5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.”c8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father,* and that will be enough for us.”d9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?e10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.f11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.g12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.h13 And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.i14 If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

have you ever thought of…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…more to come.

poetry in the silence and stillness of winter

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

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

WAITING TO BEGIN CONTEMPLATION: WAITING FOR THE LORD

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

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VOICES

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

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

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

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

THE GENESIS ARCHETYPE

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

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

GOOD IS NOT THE SAME AS EVIL

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

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

HOW TO PLAY IN GOD’S PLAYGROUND

HOW TO ORGANIZE AND FOCUS ON THE LIFE OF CHRIST

SEEKING GOD EACH DAY IN ALL THAT COMES MY WAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My spiritual goals for the rest of my life:

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Practices I use to sustain my center:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A PRAYER FOR PERSPECTIVE

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

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

END NOTES:  

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

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

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

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

RESOURCES THAT HELP ME MOVE FROM SELF TO GOD

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

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

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

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

CHARISM FOUR: Silence and Solitude

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

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

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

FIVE LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL AWARENESS

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

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

Psalm 51

3Have mercy on me, O God,

 according to your merciful love;

 according to your great compassion,

 blot out my transgressions.

 4 Wash me completely from my iniquity,

 and cleanse me from my sin.

5 My transgressions, truly I know them;

 my sin is always before me.

 6 Against you, you alone, have I sinned;

 what is evil in your sight I have done.

 So you are just in your sentence,

 without reproach in your judgment.

7 O see, in guilt, I was born,

 a sinner when my mother conceived me.

 8 Yes, you delight in sincerity of heart;

 in secret, you teach me wisdom.

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

 wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

10 Let me hear rejoicing and gladness,

 that the bones you have crushed may exult.

 11Turn away your face from my sins,

 and blot out all my guilt.

12 Create a pure heart for me, O God;

 renew a steadfast spirit within me.

13 Do not cast me away from your presence;

 take not your holy spirit from me.

14 Restore in me the joy of your salvation;

 sustain in me a willing spirit.

15  I will teach transgressors your ways,

 that sinner may return to you.

16 Rescue me from bloodshed, O God,

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

17  O Lord, open my lips

 and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

18 For in sacrifice you take no delight;

 the burnt offering from me would not please you.

 19 My sacrifice to God, a broken spirit:

 a broken and humbled heart,

 O God, you will not spurn.

20 In your good pleasure, show favor to Sion;

 rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

 21 Then you will delight in right sacrifice,

 burnt offerings wholly consumed.

 Then you will be offered young bulls on your altar.

ALL: Praise be the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages.

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

RESOURCES TO HELP ME GROW FROM SELF TO GOD

YOU MUST SEE THIS WEBSITE

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

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

FATHER LUKE’S BIO:

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

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


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

FATHER LUKE’S COURSE ON BIOETHICS

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

READINGS AND AUDIO LECTURES FROM ST. JOHN’S SEMINARY

http://www.ldysinger.com/

PRIMARY SOURCES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONASTERY AND LAY CISTERCIAN PONDERINGS

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

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

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

A TRIBUTE TO PACO AMBROSETTI

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

A POEM WRITTEN BY PACO AMBROSETTI, DECEASED LAY CISTERCIAN

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

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

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

The Poem of My Life

I sing the song of life and love…

…sometimes flat and out of tune

…sometimes eloquent and full of passion

…sometimes forgetting notes and melody

…sometimes quaint and intimate

…often forgetful and negligent

…often in tune with the very core of my being

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

    shouting right in my face

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

    before dreamed

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

    One

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

    energy

…greatly appreciative for sharing meaning with others of The

   Master

…greatly sensitive for not judging the motives of anyone but

   me

…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian

…happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration

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

…happy for communities of faith and love with wife, 

   daughter, friends

…mindful that the passage of time increases each year

…mindful of the major distractions of cancer and cardiac

   arrest

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

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

   strength, yet always falling a little short

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

   Purpose and meaning…Forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 2020 Newsletter(New).pdf

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

CHARISM FOUR: Silence and Solitude

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

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

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

FIVE LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL AWARENESS

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

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

Psalm 51

3Have mercy on me, O God,

 according to your merciful love;

 according to your great compassion,

 blot out my transgressions.

 4 Wash me completely from my iniquity,

 and cleanse me from my sin.

5 My transgressions, truly I know them;

 my sin is always before me.

 6 Against you, you alone, have I sinned;

 what is evil in your sight I have done.

 So you are just in your sentence,

 without reproach in your judgment.

7 O see, in guilt, I was born,

 a sinner when my mother conceived me.

 8 Yes, you delight in sincerity of heart;

 in secret, you teach me wisdom.

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

 wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

10 Let me hear rejoicing and gladness,

 that the bones you have crushed may exult.

 11Turn away your face from my sins,

 and blot out all my guilt.

12 Create a pure heart for me, O God;

 renew a steadfast spirit within me.

13 Do not cast me away from your presence;

 take not your holy spirit from me.

14 Restore in me the joy of your salvation;

 sustain in me a willing spirit.

15  I will teach transgressors your ways,

 that sinner may return to you.

16 Rescue me from bloodshed, O God,

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

17  O Lord, open my lips

 and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

18 For in sacrifice you take no delight;

 the burnt offering from me would not please you.

 19 My sacrifice to God, a broken spirit:

 a broken and humbled heart,

 O God, you will not spurn.

20 In your good pleasure, show favor to Sion;

 rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

 21 Then you will delight in right sacrifice,

 burnt offerings wholly consumed.

 Then you will be offered young bulls on your altar.

ALL: Praise be the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages.

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

RESOURCES TO HELP YOU GROW FROM SELF TO GOD

YOU MUST SEE THIS WEBSITE

Posted on October 24, 2020 by thecenterforcontemplativepractice

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

FATHER LUKE’S BIO:

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

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

FATHER LUKE’S COURSE ON BIOETHICS

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

READINGS AND AUDIO LECTURES FROM ST. JOHN’S SEMINARY

http://www.ldysinger.com/

PRIMARY SOURCES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHICH POLITICAL PARTY DO YOU TRUST THE MOST?

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

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

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

LECTIO DIVINA: inching to forever

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

DISCOVERING THAT SIMPLICITY CONTAINS COMPLEXITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EACH DAY IS A LIFETIME

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

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

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

THE CORE LECTIO

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

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

MY VARIATIONS ON LECTIO DIVINA PRACTICES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Trang Pham on Pexels.com

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

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

conduct your own contemplative ten minute retreat

SEEKING GOD AT FIVE GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES

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

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

MAKING A CONTEMPLATIVE RETREAT TO FIT YOUR NEEDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 deposing bishops

2.  Pet.& Paul’s martyrdom;

3._Christ: VISION
 &_KNOWLEDGE

4. Eccles.ranks- Jewish Temple

5. Apost. origins of Episcopate

6. O.T. strife priesthood

7.  Ap. Succes.; Bishops = Presbyters

audio.lect. ]

I hope you find this primary source of spiritual benefit.

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YOU MUST SEE THIS WEBSITE

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

FATHER LUKE’S BIO:

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

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

FATHER LUKE’S COURSE ON BIOETHICS

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

READINGS AND AUDIO LECTURES FROM ST. JOHN’S SEMINARY

http://www.ldysinger.com/

PRIMARY SOURCES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEN QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU VOTE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Mother's Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

THREE SOURCES OF INSPIRATION

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

THE HOLY SPIRIT AS ADVOCATE

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

THE SACRED SCRIPTURES

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

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

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

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

THE HOLY SPIRIT PRESENT THROUGH OTHERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ENDURING EXAMPLE OF MRS. MURPHY

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

Learning Points

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

THE ENDURING EXAMPLE OF CHRIST AS HEROIC, MYTHIC FIGURE

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

The Anticipation of the Hero

Birth Of God/Man Jesus into Ordinary Time

The Mission Identified

The Mission as Journey

Helpers in the Mission

The Hero faces and overcomes trials and barriers

The Hero suffers and dies for his Mission

The Hero Rises (Resurrection) with humanity to new life

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

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

The Hero passes on this supernatural life to his followers.

Learning Points

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

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

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

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

THE ENDURING TASK OF SEEKING GOD EVERY DAY

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

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

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

WHY IS THAT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

god’s hall of fame

Holy Mother's Center

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

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

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

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

anticipation

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

Psalm 84

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

I

2 How lovely your dwelling,

O LORD of hosts!a

3 My soul yearns and pines

for the courts of the LORD.b

My heart and flesh cry out

for the living God.

4*As the sparrow finds a home

and the swallow a nest to settle her young,

My home is by your altars,

LORD of hosts, my king and my God!c

5 Blessed are those who dwell in your house!

They never cease to praise you.

II

Selah

6 Blessed the man who finds refuge in you,

in their hearts are pilgrim roads.

7 As they pass through the Baca valley,*

they find spring water to drink.

The early rain covers it with blessings.

8They will go from strength to strength*

and see the God of gods on Zion.

III

9 LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

listen, God of Jacob.

Selah

10*O God, watch over our shield;

look upon the face of your anointed.d

IV

11 Better one day in your courts

than a thousand elsewhere.

Better the threshold of the house of my God

than a home in the tents of the wicked.

12 For a sun and shield is the LORD God,

bestowing all grace and glory.

The LORD withholds no good thing

from those who walk without reproach.

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

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

uiodg

TENACITY AND SINGLEMINDEDNESS

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

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

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

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

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

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