HOW TO SEEK GOD IN THREE UNIVERSES

I woke up this morning at 2:16 a.m. for my usual bathroom break. Going back to bed, I usually do a mini-Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). This time my focus was on how God puts all these signs and wonders in front of us and how we often fail to link them to our destiny in life as an adopted son or daughter, living out what we have discovered about love while on earth.

Do you see the photo of a cup in a window? I want to take you on a journey of mind and heart, one that will transport you, through your mind, to a place of mystery and suspense. It is like Rod Sterling’s Twilight Zone. It is a journey of sign and sound using your mind and imagination. This zone is within each of us, informing all of our choices and striving to fit what we experience each day into some kind of meaning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzlG28B-R8Y

For many years, now, I have attempted to come up with a way to look at the one reality that incorporates sciences, philosophies, literature about the human experience, and religion (as I know it). After twenty years of scratching my head in frustration, it finally came to me as I was sitting before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration. I kept asking God how all of these seemingly confusing and contradictory ideas fit together. It doesn’t make sense. I could not stuff what I know about science into the same shoe as my Catholic Universal faith. Like the Cinderella story, this shoe would not fit into the one paradigm I had used to force one reality into another one. The paradigm I was using was one that states: everything fits together in one universe, and if it doesn’t, you got it wrong.

The answer I received from somewhere at the edge of time was that it doesn’t fit together using the paradigm of one reality containing everything that is, that is the physical universe (humans are a part of this universe). I said to God, “Okay. It does not fit. So what does reality look like? How would you look at it?” Of course, this sounds completely crazy, but what came to my mind was this. You can change your paradigm but not reality. My paradigm is my way of looking at what is and asking what it is, why is it, how is it, and where is it? My template for looking at reality was God Himself (saying that, God has no gender). Christ revealed to us that there is one God but three distinct persons, each one with a separate function, each one complementing the others, each one necessary for the others to be One. God is One. Look at what Joel Barker has to say about paradigm shifts. I used these ideas to help me formulate an “out of the box” approach to spirituality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOXWSg_PyTQ

My paradigm that changed was: there is one reality but three separate and distinct universes, each autonomous, each with their own properties, and with their own function. You need all three of them working together for humans to figure out how all these seemingly confusing ideas bump into each other? This is where I began formulating my way to look at one reality in three dimensions or universes. Using this seemingly simple change of assumptions, all reality made complete sense (but it is still unfolding itself one day at a time). God was telling me in my meditations and contemplations that I should not over complicate things.

PARADIGM SHIFT: THE THREE UNIVERSES AND ONE REALITY

The three universes I settled on were the answer to three questions that I asked about reality.

THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — This is the object of scientific inquiry where we seek what is real and true. It contains all that is, energy, matter, time, space, what is alive, what is not, all theories of how and why things are. Animals, plants, indeed every that is alive lives in this universe. The physical universe is bound by the laws of nature (as far as we know). All in this universe live with the assumption that there are a beginning and end to their existence. My question about the physical universe is: what is the most powerful object in the known universe? I had to go to Google and search for the answer. Turns out that it is called a hypernova. https://www.businessinsider.com/hypernovas-are-the-most-powerful-thing-in-the-universe-2014-9#: Humans could not survive the gamma rays from being too near this most powerful object in the physical universe. Think about this. Why is it that you can look up the most powerful object in the universe but it can’t look you up? Who is more powerful? Why is that? The physical universe is the platform for life on this planet. We live in the Goldilocks zone, not too close to the Sun and not too far away, but just right for life to thrive on the Earth. Why is that? Hold that thought for right now.

THE MENTAL UNIVERSE — Why is it that we can even study other living species on Earth but they cannot study us? Who is the most powerful person in this mental universe? Although animals do have limited intelligence and survival skills, although they follow the dictates of their nature (animal), only humans can ask the question at Five Guys: Do you want cheese on your burger or just plain? As far as we know, we are the only persons, even at the microbial level, to exist in the Physical and Mental Universe. Why is that? Maybe there is other life out there. Maybe other planets harbor sentient life forms. Maybe. Fermi’s Paradox comes to mind. He simply asked his colleagues, “Where is everybody?” Only humans live on this island of human reasoning and free choice. And remember, due to our advances in sciences and medicine and what it means to be a human during our watch of seventy or eighty years, we are able to discover what our purpose is and do something about it. Why is that? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uD4izuDMUQA

Why, of all the species on our plant, do only humans possess the ability to reason and the ability to choose? Reason what? Choose what? Certainly, we use our human intelligence to look at the physical universe and ask questions about it so we can better describe why we are here. We can also use that same reasoning to look forward to what will be and choose whatever destiny we want.

What do we have so far? The greatest power in the known universe is a hypernova, but power must have another level of development, i.e., mental power. We can ask the questions of what composes a hypernova, and how it is presenting itself to us. Birds don’t worry about a hypernova, nor do aardvarks devise wonderful scientific instruments to study the heavens and seek answers to what is out there. Here comes question number three, “Is that all there is?” We, humans, are able to make choices that are consistent with our nature. Some consequences of our choices may be bad or good. It is what we choose that is good or bad for us and our destiny. There are two areas where we go to find out what is good or bad for us: 1. Our own independent reasoning and choices, and, 2. God tells us what is good for us.

SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE

Humans have reason for a reason. They have the ability to make choices over and above the natural order of things. Butterflies can’t make choices other than what is consistent with their nature. do this, nor can horses choose not to come into breeding season. God speaks to us through other people, through the writings of the prophets and scriptures, through the Church, but mainly to each of us in our hearts. Contemplation, specifically Cistercian practices and charisms in my case, is a way to access the heart of Christ and communicate through silence and solitude to listen with the “ear of my heart” (St. Benedict’s Prologue to his Rule). Is there a power, energy, pure thought out there that is not bound by space, time, matter or natural laws? This level would be more powerful than anything in the physical universe, more powerful than human thought in the mental universe. We call this energy God, one divine nature with three distinct persons. It took Jesus to reveal this to us and how it affects our relationship with a God beyond our abilities to grasp Him. Philippians 2:5-12 gives us the best rationale why God would become our nature–love. Remember, this is not human love, but pure love, 100% of its nature. Our brains cannot contain such knowledge, but that very God invited us to be a part of Him as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We can only see the Father through Christ and His love for each of us. Heaven is God’s playground and if humans want to use it, they must follow God’s rules, not their own. Our whole lifetime of choices becomes one of trying to choose what Christ taught us. When we fail, as we often do, we seek mercy.

If our lifetime is one spent packing for the trip to Heaven, then what can you take with you in your one bag? In one of my Lectio Divina Meditations (Philippians 2:5) I had thoughts that my bag is that cup you see in the photo above. I take with me those things consistent with what God taught us. My heaven will be different than your because of the choices you made in your lifetime. Good choices go to Heaven, while bad choices send us to Purgatory or to Hell, the place where we can get it right the second time. If we reject God in his presence, like Lucifer did, we will live in Hell what the center of our life was. If, like Adam and Eve, we get a second chance to love others as Christ loves us, then God will judge us justly and compassionately as we await our purification. In Heaven, I can take with me love, hope and faith that I encountered on my journey. Is any of this true? We must wait until we meet Christ at the Throne of the Lamb to know for sure. Until then, we have the Hope that comes from the Holy Spirit that tells us to be faithful and keep seeking mercy for ourselves and give mercy to others.

Every human has the tools of reasoning and the ability to make choices. What choices we make depends on how we relate to what is real for us and the values that we have assumed as part of what is meaningful for each of us. But where do we find out what is the truth? What is the way we need to journey to fulfill our destiny in the physical and mental universe? What is the meaning of life for us? Where do we find that out? The limitations of our human existence dictate that we only live for seventy or eighty years.

In my thinking about three universes, the third one, the Spiritual Universe, is couched in mystery and is unlike the other two universes (physical and mental). If the physical universe is the platform for humans to discover what is true, a way of life that is meaningful, and the fulfillment of what it means to be human, then the mental universe allows humans to use languages to uncover some of these mysteries. As we become more and more sophisticated in our mental capabilities, our languages begin to open up what had hitherto been closed to us, we know more at this stage or our human development than we ever did. The problem with seeing one unified theory of reality is the Tower of Babel effect, (Genesis 11 http://www.usccb.org/bible/genesis/11) We use the mental universe as the bridge-builder between what we can see and what we can’t see that is of meaning to us (e.g. trust, love, respect, caring). This mental universe of reason and free will allows us to approach the next level of reality, the Spiritual Universe. This third universe is the fulfillment of the first two (physical and mental). It contains the answers to questions that each and every person must answer correctly before they die:

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

There is a catch. You must have an invitation to enter it. The good news is that all humans have an automatic invitation due to the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. They may not even know they have it so they don’t use it. It is like a credit card that everyone gets at their birth. It is a gift from God, an invitation to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father, brother to Christ, with the energy of the Holy Spirit. All is takes is cashing it in (Baptism) and being open to the Spirit in their lives. The Spiritual Universe begin with Baptism. All those collective Baptisms and Confirmations are called by the name Catholic Universal Church (those still on earth awaiting deliverance, those Saints and saints in Heaven standing before the Throne of the Lamb, giving honor, power and glory to the Father through the Son with the energy of the Holy Spirit, those who, in God’s mercy get a second chance to proclaim Jesus as Lord and atone for their sins). All of us have access to the grace of God (energy) to seek God daily where we are and as we are. Each day must be a stand alone testimony to the love of Christ for us.

The Spiritual Universe begins with Baptism and God’s gift of adoption as sons and daughter. Christ gives us the way to go, what is true, and how to live life in such a way that we end up with Him forever as our Lord and Savior. As you have already experienced, it is one thing to be Baptized but quite another to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each and every day. Left to our own sinful tendencies, we could not survive the onslaughts of Original Sin and temptations by the Devil, and would easily succumb to the seductions of the flesh (Galatians 5). The Spiritual Universe does not have an ending, unlike the physical and mental universes.

So, once we enter the Spiritual Universe, what do we do? The one rule we all have to attempt to complete is “love one another as Christ loves us?” As soon as we begin to understand what that means, it becomes clear that God has given us the Holy Spirit in one another to help us. Not only that, but Jesus told us that his grace is sufficient. An interesting thing about Faith and grace and God’s energy is that it can be lost. How can we sustain our love for others? Like any relationship, it takes communication between you and Christ, it requires you to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus every day. (Philippians 2:5) A particularly haughty Christian man once asked me in a condescending way, “Have you been saved?” I told him, “Each day for the past 24,984 days, I have been saved by the blood of the Lamb and I have tried to accept Christ as Son of God, Savior. Some days are better than others.” His jaw dropped open. Here are three things that I practice as part of my Lay Cistercian approach to spirituality (Trappist).

Every day, just as I eat food to sustain me and drink water to hydrate me, I try to practice humility and obedience to God’s will by doing Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), Eucharist (after COVID-19 is over), Liturgy of the Hours (www.divineoffice.org), and reading Scriptures in silence and solitude.

Every day, I pray at 2:30 a.m. to be with Saint Michael, my patron Saint and ask him to sit with me as I pray to the Father for mercy and a spirit of penance and reparation for my sins. I often do a mini-Lectio Divina in the morning. Do you know something? The Holy Spirit is up at 2:30 a.m.

Every day, I try to think of my life in a single day. Everything we know has a beginning and an end. With this attitude in mind, I seek God daily wherever I am, and as I am. It doesn’t matter what life experiences come my way. That in all things, God be glorified. –St. Benedict

The Spiritual Universe, beginning with my Baptism and lasting Forever, is the paradigm shift that I had to make and sustain. Life is not easy sometimes, but just because your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Taking up my cross daily, I have Christ with me in whatever challenges face me. As I seem to progress in moving from self to God, I think I am less nervous and worry only about seeking first the kingdom of heaven. That works nicely for me. I sense a peaceful blanket that overshadows me. The peace that Christ talks about is not the absence of strife or conflict but rather the presence of Love.

Who is most powerful in the Spiritual Universe? It is pure love, pure mind, pure heart. It is a God so far beyond us that it took Christ, Son of God, to be our Savior, not only to tell us the truth, but to show each of us how to fulfill our destiny as human beings.

USING THE THREE UNIVERSES TO SEEK GOD

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

PHYSICAL UNIVERSE: Look at the cup from the viewpoint of the physical universe. What do you see? Think about what you see, only the physical properties, colors, textures. Do this for ten minutes. Write down what you see.

MENTAL UNIVERSE: Now, look at the same photo of the cup from the viewpoint of reason and choice. What do you see? What can this mean? Who is the cup? What is the significance of the window? What lies beyond the window? Look at this photo for fifteen minutes. What does it mean from the viewpoint of just the World?

SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE: If you are the cup and it signifies who you are, what did you fill the cup of salvation with? How does this photo describe original sin? Is the window like looking at Heaven through a frosted glass? Where does all this take you Take twenty minutes just to look at it, close your eyes, then look at it again. Make it the only focus you have. Listen with the “ear of the heart”.

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seeking god at the va clinic

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

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

HOW GOD SPEAKS TO ALL OF US.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SLOW DOWN! lISTEN TO YOUR HEART

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

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

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

SHARING INTERNET SITES I USE

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

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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

Catechism of the Catholic Church – Expressions of prayer

Church promulgates new decrees for Causes of Saints – Vatican News

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

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

Catholic Saints, Blesseds, and Venerables Index -C

Notable Monks & Nuns | Cistercians of the Strict Observance

Revised Grail Psalter Conception GIA

Egyptian prayer to Virgin Mary—Aleteia

Hand pressure points: Chart and uses

Anticipating the Glorified State | Trappist-Cistercian Order

Rabbi – Biblical Cyclopedia

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

The Love of Solitude and Silence — Catholic Sacramentals

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Angels

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

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

The Screwtape Letters Quotes by C.S. Lewis

contemplation research

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

PARADOXES

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

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

“The Mystery of God” – Sample Lesson – YouTube

Catholic Rites and Churches

https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

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Youtube clips that have helped me in contemplation

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

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

THE DEVIL AS SNAKE IN THE GRASS

ALLOWING GOD TO TAME US

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

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

TEARING DOWN DESTROYS BUT MAKING ALL THINGS NEW CREATES

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

TRUE CONFESSIONS

Just relax.

Part I
Part II

WHAT DEFINES US IS NOT OUR SKILLS BUT OUR CHOICES

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

We are defined by our choices.

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

SILENCE AND SOLITUDE AND THE LEAP OF FAITH

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

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

The leap of Faith.

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

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

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

Sic transeat gloria mundi

KNOWING JESUS DEPENDS ON WHO YOUR JESUS IS

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

TEARING DOWN RATHER THAN MAKING ALL THINGS NEW

Here are some thoughts to ponder.

  • When we tear down something rather than reform it, we have nothing to replace it with except our self. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2a2fAEQaGo
  • Any reform based on justice without mercy is not only doomed to fail but will fail its supporters.
  • You can have hatred for a system without looking at the human faces that populate it, whatever side you are on.
  • Those iconoclasts who think that they improve anything by destroying it are doomed to worship at the Golden Calf of their own failures.
  • Any movement, any religion, any constitution that does not include all the people will eventually be overthrown by the weight of its own failure to love others.
  • In the heat of hatred and fear, the tyranny of a few can overthrow and seduce the many.
  • Only love can heal the human heart. When those who hate everyone turn all their energies to helping people to love as Christ loves us, then we can move forward.
  • Causing factions (Galatians 5) will not allow those with hatred in their hearts to banish justice. “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkiZuu79N_I How do you tame your own heart in relationship to God? isn’t this called contemplation, sitting on a park bench in the midst of winter, waiting for Christ to stop by?
  • Making all things new is only possible with Christ so doesn’t it stand to reason that humans must seek mercy and forgiveness and try to heal those wounds that cause cuts in our hearts. To heal the cuts love is the only cure that lasts.
  • The Devil has surely convinced people that they are correct in following the choices of Adam and Eve rather than of Christ (“Love others, as I have loved you.”). The Devil seduces us with the promise that breaking down will cause a building up. See the sssseducation of the snake in this video clip from The Little Prince. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUTEhEPONgc We don’t even realize what is going on because we measure truth by our own feelings and not from God. What has God got to do with this anyway?

In the larger sense, all that is going on in today’s world, or any period of time, is a reflection that humans have still not learned to love and that we need Christ to help us make all things new.

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STRENGTH TRAINING FOR BECOMING MORE LIKE CHRIST

One of the ways to approach the Sacred is to follow a daily routine. Some people call it a habit. Here is a challenge. Try to do these practices for 30 days, then sit down and think about it. If you are unable to do so, you might want to consider if your spirituality needs to go to the gym.  Here are some exercises that I do nearly every day in my quest to seek God in daily living.

DAILY PRACTICES

Place this aide on your mirror. When you wake up in the morning, offer everything you do today as glory to the Father and for the grace to do God’s will, through Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Monday: In reparation for my sins and those of the Church, those on my prayer list

Tuesday: For all family, friends, teachers, classmates from St. Meinrad Seminary, those on my prayer list

Wednesday: In honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Joseph, those on my prayer list

Thursday: For all Lay Cistercians, Monks of Holy Spirit Monastery, Monks of St.Meinrad Archabbey, priests and religious of Diocese of Evansville, Monks of Norcia, Italy and  those on my prayer list

Friday: For an increase in grace to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and my neighbor as myself.

Saturday: For all deceased, an increase in my faith through the Holy Spirit and for those on my prayer list.

Sunday: To give praise, honor, and glory to the Father through the Son by means of the Holy Spirit, the God who is, was, and is to come at the end of the ages

FIDELITY TO THE LIFE OF ONE WHO IS SIGNED WITH THE SIGN OF FAITH

In my life, it is important that I have a schedule to follow. I refuse to be used by a schedule (feeling that I have sinned if I don’t adhere to it perfectly) but would rather use it to help me seek God where I am and as I am, each day. I share with you my daily practices. I must emphasize the word “daily”. It is such a simple word but has crushed me more times than I would like to admit. These habits are what I do daily and I do not wish to impose them on you. You may wish to try some of them or none of them. If you do try them, do them daily and feel the struggle that it takes to be worthy of being an adopted son or daughter of the Father.

 EACH DAY, READ CHAPTER 4 OF THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT. NO EXCEPTIONS! — the Rule contains practices offered to his monks by St. Benedict (c. 540 AD). Most of the chapters contain practical guides on how to organize the daily lives of monks of his time.  If you go to this site, you will find a wealth of information about St. Benedict and also a tutorial from the Abbott on the meaning of each chapter of the Holy Rule. The key here is asking God to become what you are reading. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict Here are some of the Chapters of the Holy Rule that I use to take up my cross daily and follow Christ.

  • Prologue
  • Chapter 4 Tools for Good Works
  • Chapter 5 Obedience
  • Chapter 7 Obedience
  • Chapter 19 The Discipline of Psalmody
  • Chapter 20 Reverence in Prayer

I read and try to practice these Chapters as one who is a professed Lay Cistercian of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) in Georgia, always mindful of the lifetime promises I made to Christ through the Abbott, Dom Augustine, O.C.S.O. I am not a monk living in a monastery. My monastery is the limits of my world in which I seek to find meaning. I am challenged to adapt the Rule to help me seek God daily where I am and as I am. Some days are better than others. I have discovered that it is the time I take trying to calm myself down so as to present myself to God properly, that is also a prayer.

EACH DAY, RECITE THE OFFICE OF READINGS, THE MORNING PRAYER, AND THE EVENING PRAYER. These prayers are prayers of the Church Universal. Somewhere in the world, the faithful are reciting these prayers in praise of the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit. They are public prayers of reparation for the sins and shortcomings of the Church and all members. It is praise and thanksgiving to the Father for considering us as adopted sons and daughters. Since before c 540 (St. Benedict), holy men and women have been praying these prayers seven times a day, 365 days a year, continuous prayer for all of us to the Father that He grant us mercy, sinners all. These Hours are not limited to “just Catholics”.  There is no such thing as Catholic prayers. Our Catholic heritage contains prayers that have been part of our tradition for twenty centuries. Anyone can pray these prayers because we don’t pray to the Catholic Church or any Church. Prayer is our communication with Christ, mind to mind, heart to heart, and also to love others as Christ loves us. No one can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Ecumenical groups also pray the Liturgy of the Hours together and are linked together by the Universal Prayer of the Church.

Watch the example of one of the Hours from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), in Georgia.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbE92dFGG50  What did you notice about this prayer? I was struck by how slow the monks sang hymns and prayed the Psalms. It was like walking on honey. 

EACH DAY, READ OR LISTEN TO SACRED SCRIPTURE — Some people read the Scripture to prove they are better than anyone else. How far away are they from the Kingdom of Heaven. St. John writes about why we have the Scriptures in John 20:30-31 when he says: “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 biblical quotation is from a website you should bookmark under CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL. It is the website of the Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) http://www.usccb.org/

EACH DAY, IN FACT, SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, DO LECTIO DIVINA.– When I first began doing Lectio Divina on June of 1963, I was very scrupulous to follow Guigo II’s Ladder of Contemplation. As I approach the end of my life on earth, I am much more forgiving of following the steps of Guigo II.  I pray Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) without realizing that there are steps.  Even seven years ago, when I first became interested in applying to be a Lay Cistercian, I have found myself having one, long session of Lectio. Now, my Lectio sessions total one, sometimes two hours per day, but I spread that out over three or four shorter sessions. My daily schedule is flexible, yet strict enough, that I pray at least once a day at 2:30 a.m. (twenty minutes), then do my Lectio Divina at my computer at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., after Compline. This is how I do it. Interestingly, during my self-imposed house quarantine, I have found more emphasis on contemplation and silence and solitude. Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Morning Prayer, collective recitation of the Rosary, are virtual or via on-line services.  I appreciate trying to seek God every day as I am and where I am.  If you are looking for a challenging read, open this URL, and read about the four steps of the Ladder. http://www.umilta.net/ladder.html

The transformation from self to God is not stopped by the COVID 19 virus, nor by hateful people wishing to destroy what they cannot control. 

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THE MYSTERIOUS WHY QUESTION

Humans differ from other species because we have reason (some more than others) and the ability to choose good or evil (no one chooses what they think is bad for them). The problem comes when humans think something is good for them but don’t realize the unintended consequences of their choice. Scripture tells us “the wages of sin in death”. We don’t always choose what is good for us. Case in point, Genesis 2-3 where the archetype humans, Adam and Eve, choose what they think is good for them, even though God tells them “don’t do it'”.

The fact that we have reason for a reason means we can ask questions. Have you ever asked your dog or cat a question, such as “What is your gender?” Why is it that we can answer that question and animals can’t?

I even bring up this topic because it was the result of my most recent Lectio Divina (Philippians). I was thinking, not of the usual WHY question, such as “Why are humans the only ones who know that they know?” I actually thought of Philippians 2:5, the very center of my reality, and asked, “Why did St. Paul write this passage? Where did it come from? Was there a template for him to use, like the Hero myth format of ancient Greece and Rome, that tells the life story or a person and how he had to overcome obstacles but rose up to conquer them? What went before St. Paul that would give him the linkage with ideas from the past, one on which he could build?” As I thought of all this, I realized that much of the new testament, although linked with the old testament prophets, was new material. Where did the writers get it? Some of those who espouse the historical Jesus approach think his disciples made up all of this stuff. Maybe so, but how could they come up with all these new ideas that fit some well together? Were these early disciples a Ph.D. in religion, or a religious fanatic that believes in just one aspect of the divine economy of salvation (e.g. end times)?

Not even the lofty thoughts of the Romans or Greeks of Christ’s time thought of such a well-developed system of how to love others as Christ loved us. The fact that this fledgling movement began with twelve terrified men who did not fully comprehend how Christ loved us is, in itself, amazing. St. Paul develops a rationale for the Messiah, the one who is to come. Remember, most of these letters were read and reread in the Jewish memorial of their deliverance from slavery, the Last Supper. These teachings of the Master spread quickly. Why is that? Belief is key in this early Church, but that belief was in someone who was rumored to have died and was seen afterward by many different groups of disciples. There is just too much collaborative writing and belief from various groups to think that all of this happened by chance. St. John, in his Gospel 20:30-31 tells us WHY many different scribes and disciples wrote down what Jesus did. “John 20: 30-31 NRSVCE – The Purpose of This Book (NRSVCE)The Purpose of This Book30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah,[b] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

  • Remember this! Our believing, the believing of anyone in the Church Universal does not make something true.
  • Rather, because it comes from God (Faith) we believe it is true. Some will choose to believe and some will not.
  • The reason WHY we have reason is to discover the kingdom of heaven. The reason WHY we have reason is to be able to discern good from evil.
  • The reason WHY we have the freedom to choose is to be able to choose that which is good. God tells us what is good.
  • The reason Christ took on our nature was to show us WHY God loved us.
  • All the writings from Scripture and the early Church tell us that God loves us and that we should love others as Christ loves us.
  • There are actually only two choices we have to make: I am God and the center of my universe; and, God is the center of all reality and I choose to do his will.
  • Choose God and live now and forever.
  • Choose yourself as god and die, eventually hoping that God has a sense of humor and did not mean what he said.

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THE SIXTY-SECOND CATHOLIC

Here are some thoughts for Dads on their secular holiday.

FIVE YES’S AND ONE NO

THE BEGINNING Creation began as a YES (Let it be) from God. That which is created takes on the characteristics of the person creating it.

THE BEGINNING OF HUMAN LIFE (ADAM AND EVE) Everything living is a creation of the owner of the Garden; Adam and Eve were made to be gardeners of creation, not creators. Adam and Eve were the first creators of other humans. Those created by humans take on the characteristics of the one creating them (DNA). Adam and Eve chose to be god and lost their original purpose of being a gardener. Human life began with a YES from God and end up at NO from Adam and Eve. NO is a blocking word.

THE BEGINNING OF NEW LIFE (CHRIST and the CHURCH) Christ comes into existence with a YES (Let it be) from Mary. Jesus restores us to new life with Baptism and the Holy Spirit to help each of us.

CHRIST WAS TEMPTED IN THE DESERT (temptations about his divinity and humanity) BUT ALSO IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANI (temptation testing his resolve to face the price of reconciliation with the Father). His human side was like us but his divine side was God. He had to make a choice of YES or NO. Christ chose to redeem us (YES).

GOD CREATED HUMANS WITH THE ABILITY TO REASON AND TO CHOOSE WHAT THEY REASONED. Each and every one of us must make a profession of faith in God as God (YES) rather than ourselves as god (NO). Christ tells us he has chosen us, we have not chosen Him. When we are Baptized, we are given the grace of being adopted sons and daughters of the Father and member of his Body, the Church Universal.

LECTIO DIVINA: ENHANCEMENTS

During my Lectio Divina, I sometimes use enhancements to my lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. I don’t know what else to call them. Some people use a mood to create an ambiance that will provide them with the best way to use their silence and solitude. most of the time but not always, when I do Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). This works for me.

ACCUPRESSURE– I know, it sounds way out there. I don’t always use acupressure in my Lectio, but I have just recently begun some research on the effects of certain simple acupressure points on my Lectio. It is too soon to give you the results. I share with you the website I use for the pressure points. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324699#do-pressure-points-work You can judge for yourself if this is effective.

SITTING STILL– I have always been impressed by photos of monks or nuns sitting by themselves on a bench, cowl over their heads, just sitting there. I try to imagine myself doing the same thing during my Lectio Divina sessions before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration. The stillness of the heart opens me to the ontic possibility of the manifestability to all being (Being) I encounter. Stillness, as I use it, works best for me in Eucharistic Adoration rather than in front of Trader Joe’s Market waiting for my wife to come out. I think it is the lack of movement that helps me to focus on Christ.

TEETERING ON THE EDGE OF SLEEPING– The Late Father Anthony Deliese, O.C.S.O. told us to pray as we can, which may mean you find yourself falling asleep. That is part of prayer. Of course, that mysterious land between keeping oneself awake and drifting in and out of the focus on Christ sitting next to me on a park bench in the depths of winter, is part of prayer, also. As of ten months ago, I keep waking up to go to the bathroom around 2:30 a.m., then wash my hands vigorously for twenty seconds, as per Covid19 protocols, and then lay down again. Some people tell me that they can’t get back to sleep once they get up. Thanks be to God, I don’t have that problem. What I have been doing is beginning to do Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) and await what comes. I have been asking my guardian angel (St. Michael) to join with me in asking the Father for mercy and reparation for all my sins through the mediation of Jesus in union with the Holy Spirit. I ask Holy Mother to join St. Michael and me in praying for mercy to the Father for those who have died and await purification for their sins. What seems like a long procedure actually happens in seconds. I have a golden book in which I have written the names of those I have met in my lifetime and for whom I pray that they are loosed from their sins. I am not a big fan of “one text” proofs, but I measure this against all the Ecumenical Councils through the ages to see a pattern. 2 Maccabees 12:46 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA) 46 It is, therefore, a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. I share just a few of the people for whom I lift up my prayers to the Father through Christ, those who have gone before me with the sign of the cross and those who are still living, that they learn the meaning of how to love others as Christ loves us.

  • My mom and and and family
  • My wife’s mom and family
  • My teachers and classmates at St. Meinrad School of Theology
  • Those whom I have promised to pray for
  • All Cistercian monks and nuns, especially those at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist)
  • All Lay Cistercians living and dead
  • All Chaplains, prisoners in prisons, their victims, and those who volunteer their time to share Christ with them

STARING AT A MY FAVORITE PHOTO — Sometimes I use a photo to help my mind focus on moving deeper into my inner consciousness, the place no one wants to go. My favorite photo is the cup in a darkened window frame with the glass just blurred enough to identify shapes and a color or two.

LECTIO WITH MY DOG, TUCKER (When at home) I have learned a lot about contemplation from my dog. Mind you, I am treating my dog as an I-Thou being and not an I-It. http://www.angelfire.com/md2/timewarp/buber.html#:~:text=According%20to%20Buber%2C%20human%20beings,having%20a%20unity%20of%20being.

That means, although I am human, I let the dog be its own nature and speak to me from those constraints. I have learned that this is all part of my seeking God where I am and as I am. This has helped me with the humility that comes from realizing that in everything, God is to be glorified. –St. Benedict

MUSIC– I don’t use music in my Lectio Divina because, at least so far, it is distracting for me. Some people find that it helps them very much.

Like all of the practices (Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule) we use to move from self to God, remembering that all of these enhancements and prayers are to allow us to become more like Christ and less like us. They are not ends in themselves.

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THE TRINITY: ARCHETYPE FOR FOREVER

When was the last time you consciously thought about the Trinity? For me, it was at 2:40 AM this morning, when I got up to use the bathroom. Usually, when I try to go back to sleep, I do a mini-Lectio Divina in order to prime myself for day ahead. I don’t know what the day will bring, but it does not matter. I just try to seek God daily where I am and how I am. In silence and solitude, I just let the Holy Spirit talk and I listen. This morning, what poped into my head was the Trinity.

Let me tell you a story about a young boy in 1963, who was studying theology and faced the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. I have never been one to have good grades (either because I was not smart enough or because I over-thought the questions). One Saturday afternoon, while other students of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, were out playing softball, I trudged up five flights of stairs to our chapel. I was very hot and stuffy in that chapel and everything inside me kept telling me to get out of there. What I had come to do was try to comprehend the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity. I sat there in silence and solitude and kept repeating to God that I believed but asked that he help my unbelief (St. Thomas Aquinas). I thought that, since God was everywhere, He would hear my plea and answer my prayer. As I sat there, I began to look around that chapel. There were no lights on but the sun was shining through the high stained-glass windows. I thought, “How can there be but one nature in God (divine) but three separate persons, each distinct. What would that look like?” Thinking that this was a waste of time, I turned to leave and gave one last glance to the altar. On it showed a rainbow of colors, a light that had passed through the clear window pain and refracted into various wavelengths. At that very moment, two things happened to me: a) I stopped trying to cram the divine nature of the Trinity into my poor, broken-down, Temple of the Holy Spirit. b) I experienced a profound sense of wellbeing and peace that I did not need to understand what could not be understood fully by any human, just ask for God’s mercy on me, a sinner. The Trinity is the mystery of Faith.

My Lectio this morning brought four examples of how the Blessed Trinity is a paradigm on how to look at reality and see the whole picture. Let me share these with you now.

I. THE MYSTERY OF DIVINE NATURE : One God but three persons

There are some ideas that humans could not reason without some hints or help in the form of revelation. The Blessed Trinity is one such dogma (dogma means teaching from Christ). Other major religions teach that God is One in Divine Nature, but there are not three persons in the form of a Trinity of Persons. Remember that each individual human being has the ability to reason for a reason and also the capability to choose what they think is good for them. Not all humans reason that there is a Trinity so they are not able to choose this way of thinking. It would be like taking a hike in the Grand Canyon and coming upon a great rift between one side (The World) and the other (The Spirit). You are not able to exercise this option. Your life will be spent on one side of the rim and not the other. Then, all of a sudden, a very young man comes up to you and tells you how to get across and what is on the other side. In this example, this would be Christ who tells you that He is the Pontifex Maximus (The Great Bridge Builder) and that on the other side of the gap is His Kingdom where he invites you to be an adopted son or daughter of the King. He tells you that all you have to do is walk across the gap (Baptism) and have Faith(Acceptance of Christ as Lord). The problem is, you must have faith in the words of the young man because this gap does not seem to have any bridge over it. Remember the movie of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? There is a scene in the movie that I always think about when I am faced with what seems like an impossible task. Here it is! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFntFdEGgws

God is one in nature (divine) and three in persons. You can’t make this stuff up. We would not know about the Trinity unless Christ revealed it. We would not be able to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven had not Christ redeemed us and paid the price of that reconciliation of human nature with the divine by His passion and death. (Philippians 2:5-12) Remember, nothing about the Mystery of Faith or the Kingdom of Heaven makes sense with the measurements of the World, or without the revelation from Christ, and Christ does not make sense without the Resurrection. And the Resurrection does not make sense without Faith. And Faith does not make sense without Love. And Love does not make sense without the Trinity who is the paradigm of Love.

Here are some of the other “one and three” paradoxes that came to my mind during my Lectio.

II. THERE ARE THREE HUGE QUESTIONS THAT CHALLENGE YOUR REASONING AND FREE CHOICE BUT ONLY ONE ANSWER

Here are three questions I asked myself about the reality that I see about me, questions that may not have answers in just two universes (physical and mental) but which are reasonable in a reality with three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).

  1. WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE? I had to look it up on Google (see below) but the wonders of science always bring us such inspiring objects. Needless to say, if humans ever got close to a hypernova or magnetar, we would not survive. We are not made for exposure to outer space with its radiation, so why do we exist on a precarious rocky platform of gases? https://encrypted-vtbn1.gstatic.com/video?q=tbn:ANd9GcRHHUjn8MzlTSfOyvEbFSbFX-s3NJlKLxb60rE6QKHuhfGxKY3-
  2. WHY, OF ALL LIVING THINGS ON EARTH, ARE HUMANS THE ONLY SPECIES THAT KNOWS THAT IT KNOWS? Humans have two qualities that make us different: the ability to reason and the ability to choose what they reason is good or bad for them. The problem comes when what a human chooses is bad for them but they still choose bad over good. So, what is normative (good) for humans?
  3. HUMAN CHOICE MEANS WE ARE NOT LOCKED INTO A NATURAL ORDER, SUCH AS ANIMALS. WHY IS THAT? You and I have the ability to know what is good for us and then to choose which option is good for us. There are two places where we find the measuring stick against which we choose this or that. The first place inside ourselves. The Book of Genesis points out that Adam and Eve are poor measuring sticks. The second place we can choose to look is outside of ourselves. God had to prepare his people, Israel, to receive one against whom all reality would be measured, Jesus the Christ, (Philippians 2:5). Christ is the measuring stick. But there is a catch, you must use God’s measurement and not the World’s. We enter the Kingdom of Heaven at Baptism and continue to learn what it means to love others as Christ loved us. We are not destined for this World but the next one, where there is only God, and God is love. This is what the catch means. The measuring stick of God is the opposite of what we think of when we use our reasoning (Science, Philosophy, Literature) and the freedom to choose. It does not make sense unless we use God’s measuring criteria. We had to wait for Christ to give us the fullness of grace through the Holy Spirit which provides us with the Faith and energy to survive in the World with all it false enticements. We are free to choose between two alternatives: God is God or I am god. The difference is not always apparant but we have the living tradition in the Church, the Scriptures and prayer to keep us grounded in humility. Lay Cistercian spiritual is one way to open up the mind and heart to sit and soak up the Divine Being through Christ under the inspiration of the Spirit of Truth. You just can’t make this stuff up.

II. THERE ARE THREE SEPARATE UNIVERSES BUT ONLY ONE REALITY

Another of the “one yet three” paradigms is that of three separate and distinct universes. They correspond to the three questions you just read above. I recommend you read this section then go back and re-read sections I and II. Here is what I wrote about three universes in a former blog. I think it applies to the Trinity.

First, in the physical universe, the one in which we share with all other matter, energy, time, rocks, and those who have life, there is both resonance and dissonance. These qualities are part of the natural order of reality which we call the natural law. For example, if animals would, all of a sudden stop procreating, that would not be a part of the natural order of things. It would be dissonance. Keeping the natural expectations of reality is called resonance. All things living are a part of the physical universe and subject to its Laws. It is the object of study and inquiry of the next universe, one in which only humans live.

The mental universe are those gifted with human reasoning and the ability to choose what they reason. Only humans are part of this universe. They can act outside the Laws of Nature if they choose. In this universe, the individual is the center of all reality. The languages of Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Logic helps humans to discover the physical universe and find out what makes it tick, why it ticks, and how it ticks. Humans, as well as all reality, has a beginning and an end, 70 or 80 years, if we are strong as humans, then we die. We hand off what we have learned to the next generation. In doing so, we humans try to find meaning and purpose for why we are here at this particular time, in this particular space. Individual persons try to find security and stability by adopting various ways to see reality and answer the six questions each person must ask and answer before they die (these are my six questions):

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

Granted these are the six question each of us must ask and answer, but where do you find the answers? This is a big challenge for humans. They try to answer questions with different philosophies or no ideas at all. This is the reason you have reason and the ability to choose something or someone that is invisible to your usual pattern of thinking. Where do you go for the truth? Science and the empirical way of thinking, to its credit, has tried to objectify the answers to questions of Why, Where, When, How, and What. It looks at the physical universe of matter, time, and energy and proposes solutions using the languages of Science. What is real is where you find ourselves and what you have learned from the past.

The mental universe (reason and the ability to choose) allows humans to ask questions about who we are. The answers come from science, logic, deduction, probability, historical precedent. Each individual must address what is real according to certain criteria that they, themselves, choose as being true. Collectively, these individuals form tribes, gangs, groups of like-minded thinkers, such as churches, societies, nations, and ethnic attachments that form who they are.

The problem that I have with just a physical and mental universe is that is does not provide me with the answers that answer these six questions. Like the presence of dark matter in the universe, there is part of the equation that is missing. When I use my reasoning and freedom to choose what I reasoned, I look back on reality, both present and in the past to inform me of what is true. I use the languages and tools that we have developed so far to separate fact from fantasy. Is this all there is? Are we just condemned to live for seventy or eighty years, then die?

WHY ARE WE?

The Church Universal is a collection of those marked with the sign of Faith and who are alive. Those in Heaven are called Saints or saints, those on earth still practicing what is means to love others as Christ loves us are called by the name Church Militant, and those who have been judged by God to need purification before they enter the kingdom of heaven are the Church Purgative. All are alive. Christ is the head and we sinful members make up the Mystical Body of Christ. There is a danger that Christ warned us about and St. Paul confirmed, when the Church becomes keeping rules alone (the Law) without using The Law to allow us to love others as Christ loves us, then we have a group of people with the Church as their center. As humans, we all have the ability to reason, then to choose to do what we have reasoned is true.

The Spiritual Universe. We humans have always been an inquisitive lot. Perhaps why we evolved physically, mentally as well as spiritually is to be aware of a reality larger than our physical and mental universes, which St. Paul termed The Spirit. As good as reason is to make sense out of the World in which we live, it alone is not enough to approach the next universe, that of the Spirit. We must choose to enter the spiritual universe freely and we need to be lifted up to do that. By lifted up I mean God lifts us up from the Garden of Eden to the Kingdom of Heaven through Baptism. We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through Faith (God’s energy to gather all things to Himself). The reality now becomes what it was intended to be before the Fall of Adam and Eve from grace (Original Sin). These three universes complete the cycle for all humans and answer the question, Who are we? Why are we? What is our future? What is our purpose? How does love fulfill the longing heart? and We know we are going to die, now what? To inherit the kingdom, God’s playground, we must use what He taught us through His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, And what was that? Simply put, it is to love one another as He has loved us. The spiritual universe uses the opposite of what the World says is good to provide us with a path to walk through the minefields of life without getting blown up. We must renounce our false selves (the World) to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). We must make room for Christ in our hearts by using the Tools for Good Works listed in Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. Each day, we must seek God where we are, and as we are, taking up whatever cross we bear that day as Christ carried his cross for the sins of the World.

I realize that I am just hypothesizing with three universes, but this way of breaking down reality has been helpful for me to tease out what had heretofor baffeling. I like to put things together and see where they fit. This all leads me to think about the Trinity and why there is one God but three separate persons.

III.THERE ARE THREE LORDS BUT ONLY ONE REALITY

There are three persons yet one nature in God. That is not something humans could reason to but it took Christ to tell us that it is so. You either believe that or you don’t.

THE FATHER AS LORD OF FAITH CREATION AND ALL REALITY: We reaffirm our Faith each Sunday when we recite the Creed as part of our Eucharist. Before we approach the ultimate, timeless sacrifice of Christ in Eucharist, we must ask to receive the grace to even say, “Abba” or “Father”. Christ told us that no one can approach the Father but only the Son. The Father is the source of energy. This energy is the power of love, a love which created all the heavenly choirs of angels (and demons), a love that unleashed it DNA on matter, time and energy to propel it towards an end time, a desire to share all of this with humans by giving them the ability to reason and the freedom to choose good or evil. Everything we know of has a beginning and an end, galaxies, black holes, earth, all living things, all humans. Why is that? There are four Epochs of time:

a) From the beginning of time to the creation of Adam, b) from the creation of Adam to the creation completion of the mission of Christ, c) from Pentecost to the second coming of Christ, d) from the creation of each one of us as adopted sons and daughters of the Father until we die and live forever. Each person in the Blessed Trinity has a mission and plays a key role to help us fulfill our human destiny.

THE SON AS LORD AND MEDIATOR OF LOVE FOR THE FATHER: God did not leave us orphans at the mercy of Satan and his minions. He shared his own self, in the form of Jesus, Son of David, to set us free from the slavery of self and to give us forgiveness of Original Sin (the sin of Adam and Eve). Christ told us only to love one another as He has loved us. How simple! How difficult it is without Christ as the Way. Philippians 2:5-12 tells us that His name is above every other name and that every knee should bend at His name to the glory of the Father. Contemplative (Trappist) prayer gives me the opportunity to seek God every day, in all that I am, in all that I do. These charisms and practices are not just empty prayers but are transformative to all who are gentle and humble of heart. Christ is as present to us in my life as he was to the lives of the Apostles and his disciples if I have humility and obedience to His will. To move from self to God takes focus, purpose, and trial and error. Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict provides a wonderful guide to measure ourselves again. Jesus is the personification of the Trinity to show us how to love others and to make it possible for us to join him in Heaven…Forever. He is the Real Presence for each age in the Last Supper (Eucharist) as he takes us along with Him as He gives fitting honor and glory to the Father in union with the Holy Spirit.

THE SPIRIT AS THE LORD OF HOPE AND TRUTH: If you look again at the epochs of time (above), then you realize that something is missing in this divine economy without a Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit of truth that overshadowed Mary with the Immaculate Conception, the same Spirit that overshadowed the Apostles in the Upper Room, the same Spirit that overshadows each one of us at Baptism and in our daily prayer to have mercy on us, sinners all. The Holy Spirit is the Real Presence of God in the Church, which is why we say the Church is Holy. It is certainly not because of the people in it who must continously strive to love others as Christ did.

A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON THE REALITY OF THE TRINITY: The Archetype to Forever.

In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), it all came down to this.

  • God did all these epochs of the Kingdom (Christ), the Power (Holy Spirit), and the Glory (the Father).
  • Christ told us to love others as He loves us.
  • Christ is both divine and human for a reason.
  • The human side of all of us must learn how to love.
  • The human side of us must trudge our way through the minefields of Original Sin.
  • Humans have human nature that has been redeemed (raised up) by the Father through the love of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • Christ saved us from having just ourselves as a god.
  • The Holy Spirit guides the Church through the ages. That doesn’t mean that what sinful leaders do is correct but that, as Christ pointed out, the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
  • We are not left orphans in each age.
  • Each person is offered a chance to accept Christ as Son of God, Savior.
  • The Holy Spirit overshadows each of us in Baptism.
  • The Holy Spirit enables those with Faith to say Jesus is Lord.
  • The Holy Spirit tells us not to worry and don’t be afraid of the future.
  • If we are friends with Jesus, our Brother, and use the power of the Holy Spirit, our Power, and praise the name of the Lord in Honor the Glory, we will be saved.
  • Jesus is the only way to the Father; giving glory and praise to the Father through Christ is the only life; and being present to Jesus sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter through the Holy Spirit is the truth.
  • The Trinity of One God being three distinct persons is a mystery of Faith. Humans don’t have the capacity nor the capability to know the mind of God, only that what does not make sense to the Gentiles and is a stumbling block to the Jews, makes perfect sense in God’s playground.
  • Each of us received a tattoo on our spiritual self, the cross, both a sign of contradiction and a paradox when we were Baptized into adoption and the care of the Holy Spirit to lead us to Heaven…Forever.

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

YOU may be ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION?

Wrong questions always lead to wrong answers. Humans differ from other species of animals because we have the ability to reason and also to choose between options of what seems reasonable to us. I have given up watching television news of any kind because of the hatred and factions that are so evident and an insult to my reasoning.

People ask the wrong question because they assume various beliefs are true, while other people can look at the same thing and have a quite different opinion. Those who hold to the relativist theory say that all opinions are correct (which means that no one is correct), while those who hold that there is only one truth say that we have reason for a reason that we have the ability to choose whatever we want. To take it a step further, it is not that anything we choose is correct because we choose it but that, because we have reason, we choose because it is correct. Ultimately, there are always consequences to whatever we choose, be it an atheist who is more fervent in his or her opinion that there is no God than some people are who actually do believe in God.

Here are five of the most controversial statements that I have encountered.

I AM FREE TO CHOOSE WHATEVER I WANT WITH MY LIFE. Well, that is a YES and a NO. The YES is that you are free to choose what you want, and the NO is that the wages of sin are death. There are consequences to every choice I make. We are, in large part, defined by the choices we make. Being free to choose doesn’t mean that what I choose is automatically correct. Choose God and live. Choose hatred and die.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH MEANS I CAN SAY ANYTHING I WANT. If you believe that, you must not know of the thousands of people who have been slandered and lied about when they say what they think. One word can sink a career or a joking remark taken out of context can shipwreck whole families. We have a double standard here.

EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO THEIR OPINION. No, they don’t! When opinions face the wall of hatred and lawlessness, humans face some choices about what their values are. The Preamble and Constitution of the United States are such principles. When some people use some principles to their own advantage but refuse to allow others the same freedom, principles go out the window. We are becoming a nation where violence and hatred have replaced the foundations of mercy and justice for all.

JUSTICE IS WHAT I SAY IT IS. That depends on who is talking and what they are saying. It is ironic to the nth degree that some elected officials want to arrest people for not wearing a mask or maintaining social distancing and we see new clips of thousands of people marching together in the peaceful but sometimes violent destruction of property. The product of hatred and rage is almost always either fatal to individuals or results in the destruction of the property of others. Justice without mercy is a limp noodle because it depends on the emotion of the moment rather than self-evident principles that all are created equal.

WE DON’T NEED GOD TO HELP US. Again, a false assumption or question. The Constitution of the United States is not the whim of the moment which waxes and wanes with each ideology. Rather, it sets forth the principles against which all of us are measured. It states that all men and women are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What riots and anarchy achieve is a replacement of principles with their own ideology. It will never result in peace nor happiness. The principles are not there. God doesn’t help us by intervening in our history as much as giving us those principles that lead to freedom and equality. Love one another, says Christ, as I have loved you.

As always, humans must trudge through the Tower of Babel to reach some accommodation that does not kill each other. Some things never change. I guess that is why we call it Original Sin and why we must rely on a power outside of ourselves to find the energy to ask the right questions and choose wisely.

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LESSONS AVOIDED

Everyone is upset about what is going on in society. Protestors want meaningful change. Law and Order folks want the Rule of Law and not lawlessness. Let’s not forget that there are consequences, some of which are unintended, with each choice. Here are some thoughts from my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5).

  • Change of any kind won’t work if it is based on hatred.
  • Justice without mercy is blind.
  • You can’t have both love and hatred in your heart at the same time.

EMAIL FROM JESUS

Michael:   Sorry for waking you up at 9:56 pm but you did ask me to help clarify all the confusion and turmoil around you. Before I begin, St. Michael wants me to tell you that he appreciates your thinking of him in your Lectio Divina at 2:30 am every day. You had mentioned in your Lectio Divina prayer that you find all the hatred and posturing for power sad and depressing. I have to tell you, Michael, it hurts me deeply to see how you humans are acting. If you remember, my tribes in the New Testament worshiped the Golden Calf even as I gave them the Commandments from Moses. It looks like you folks don’t learn the lessons of history past three generations. The Golden Calf is still alive and well and people are worshiping it, blinded to my words of caution. The key to all of this is confirmed in both new and old testaments. Deuteronomy 5:6 and Matthew 22:36.  Love God with all your mind, your heart, and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself. When you listen to any of the speeches about justice is there any talk of mercy? Can you say the Shema Yisrael and listen to the hatred of those full of rage instead of full of grace, without feeling that people have missed the mark about what I have come to tell them? I said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” That’s all folks! Tell people that any efforts to build peace on the foundations of the world are in vain and useless. If all humans measure their hearts against my heart, they will find peace and justice. This peace is not what the world gives, that is, the absence of war or conflict, but rather it is the presence of Love, my love for each person. Tell folks not to give up hope but to not place their trust in humans. I am the way, the truth, and the life, Michael. I fear that people will get a rude awakening if they stand before me in judgment with hatred, envy, and jealousy in their hearts. There is no hatred in Heaven, Michael, only Love. If you were a room in my kingdom of heaven, I would not allow you to have hatred in it. You must first sweep clean your room to prepare for my way. If you link your love for me with one other person, that means there are two of you. You know what I said about two or three who gather in my name to love me? I am in your midst. I won’t let you down, Michael. If you want, you can send this Email out to those whom you think could join you in 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. Be safe in all the Covid19 pandemic. Remember, you are my adopted son. See you soon.   Love, your brother, The Christ  

Jesus  

10 questions about WHAT HEAVEN will BE LIKE?

Holy Mother's Center

This morning, more precisely at 2:34 A.M., I did one of my three or four Lectio Divina meditations, using lasting twenty minutes or more. My Lectio is always Philippians 2:5 and this morning was not an exception. At nearly 80 years of age, my thoughts often meander towards death and what heaven will be like. This is what I thought about this morning.

  • How would God, the center of all reality, unapproachable to human nature, communicate to us that He gives us an invitation to join Him after we die? In the Old Testament, He tells us through the prophets and the Law. In the New Testament, He shows us by sending His only begotten Son to give us directions (Scripture). He could have sent us an Email invitation but sent his own Son to show us what to pack for the journey. That Son was and is a sign of contradiction to the Gentiles and a stumbling block for the Jews. Do you know what to pack for the journey?
  • God doesn’t walk the path of salvation for us but is with us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit activates this spirit of adoption so that we keep our eyes focused on our heritage. God always gives us help (grace) to face whatever challenges we have but He won’t take this cross from us, as Christ asked Him to do the Garden of Gethsemani. Do you know what the simple response is to God’s mercy? It is “be it done unto me, according to your word.”
  • If Heaven is God’s playground and we want to play in his sandbox, we must play by His rules, not ours. Christ tells us there is only one rule: love one another as I have loved you. Have you tried that lately?
  • The Son tells us that there are three persons but only one nature in God. Humans have only one nature, that of a human being. Christ, being our brother, has both divine and human nature, much like someone who has dual citizenship. We would not know about the Trinity except through direct revelation.
  • Heaven must be consistent with human nature. Read Philippians 2:5-12. God became our nature so that we could begin to prepare on earth for what is to come in heaven. There are a few questions that I have about heaven, in terms of our human condition. Did you see the launching of SpaceX to eventually dock with the Space Station? Our human nature is limited to a certain time (70 or 80 years, if we are strong), and is dependent on our atmosphere to sustain us. Were humans to go into space without artificial help, we could survive. Why is that? We are held hostage by our nature to its limitations, one that says there is a beginning and ending to everything. When Christ comes, he tells us we have a natural beginning, but there is also a deeper reason for our existence, we have an invitation to live beyond death. Now invitation simply does not make any sense with what we know of reality. We call it Baptism, a gift from God for every single human if they want it.
  • How will every one fit in heaven, if they don’t all fit on earth? If we have an assumption about heaven that it is just like on earth, then there is a problem. Heaven is not a place with 3Dimensions as much as it is a Divine Nature and it doesn’t exist in space, time, or energy that we know about. Christ came down to tell us in person not to worry about it, that we will be just fine, to trust in God that He knows what he is doing. Christ also showed us what to pack in our bag to Forever. Read Matthew 25:36ff. He told His Apostles to pass on to the communities of believers what He had shown them in this life with them. Read John 20:30-31 to find out why the Scriptures were written.
  • Grace builds on nature and so does our interaction with the world around us. We find what is meaningful through our senses. Animals also do that, but we have two things they don’t have. 1. The Ability to Reason and 2., We are free to choose what we reason. Heaven, it would seem, would have to be consistent with our nature for us to appreciate what awaits us in Heaven. Here are some seeming problems, if we are transported from our world to the Kingdom of Heaven.’
    • We don’t have clothes in Heaven like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.
    • Will there be seasons of hot and cold? We are used to these atmospheric changes.
    • There is no marriage in Heaven. If you have married two or three times, who will be your spouse?
    • John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is going back to the Father as our mediator and friend to prepare a place for us. There are many mansions in heaven, according to Jesus. Do we pay rent for these? Is there someone to cut the grass?
    • Do we have hospitals in Heaven?
    • What do we eat in Heaven? Humans can’t exist without food, or more importantly water.
  • While we prepare to go to heaven while on earth, God’s grace is sufficient. God gives us what we need to survive. In Heaven, will that be the case?

Cistercian spirituality has helped me in this terminal stage of my time on earth, but it has also provided me with focused opportunities to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, attend Eucharist, read Sacred Scripture daily, practice forgiving others and asking for God’s mercy, and Lectio Divina, to name a few ways. I suspect I will continue to do that after I die. Mainly, I trust that the words of Christ to those who love him are true and the eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has waitingfor us. Faith sustains us while we await the next portal, Hope maintains us while we suffer the temptations to abandon Christ, but it is Love that propell us forward towards our true destiny as a human being.

While at Starbucks for a cup of delicious coffee, an agnostic friend of mine asked me what I would do if I knew that an asteroid would hit the earth in one hour and end all life? I looked at him, smiled, and told him, “I would ask for another refill of coffee.”

Relax! Trust in God! In the silence and solitude of your heart, give 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

HERE IS A TEMPTATION FROM SATAN YOU MAY NOT SEE COMING

My Lectio Divina never happens in a vacuum. In the process of seeking God in my daily life, where I am and as I am, certain events impact my consciousness and I takes those experiences with me as I try to focus on my only Lectio Divina I have had since 1962, Philippians 2:5. As an example, may I share with you one such incident in a recent Lectio session that impacted the outcome of my meditation.

It came to my attention that one of my dear relatives was exhibiting symptoms of paranoia. Having only a cursory familiarity with this condition, I usually don’t say anything and let it slide off to other topics. In this case, the person in question was a very devout Catholic, who, up to this time, did not experience anything radical about their belief. It turns out that this person is in a great deal of pain, both physically, mentally, and spiritually. The condition is one that afflicts many Catholics these days, the realization that the Church is imperfect and that you have placed all of your hope on the Church is the way, the truth, and the light. What happens when your world collapses? It must be the fault of the Church, being so hypocritical and imperfect. The Church betrayed you with all it lofty and high expectations that you be perfect and yet it is so imperfect. As a result, you leave the very Church that has the answers to all your vexing problems. You are not prepared to receive grace from God. You are spiritually depressed and don’t know where to find peace and security of mind and spirit.

In this context, I began my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) and, sure enough, this situation somehow worked its way into my Meditatio (Meditation). Instead of trying to banish these disturbing thoughts, I decided to embrase them as part of my Lectio and see where the Holy Spirit would take me.

What follows are my ideas stemming from that encounter with Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter.

Although I don’t subscribe to the notion that all life is but a series of problems to be solved, in this case, I thought about what was behind all of this pain and anguish with the Church being the focal point of the hatred, mistrust, and anger. There are three dimensions to this so called problem.

First, in the physical universe, the one in which we share with all other matter, energy, time, rocks, and those who have life, there is both resonance and dissonance. These qualities are part of the natural order of reality which we call the natural law. For example, if animals would, all of a sudden stop procreating, that would not be a part of the natural order of things. It would be dissonance. Keeping the natural expectations of reality is called resonance. All things living are a part of the physical universe and subject to its Laws. It is the object of study and inquiry of the next universe, one in which only humans live.

The mental universe are those gifted with human reasoning and the ability to choose what they reason. Only humans are part of this universe. They can act outside the Laws of Nature if they choose. In this universe, the individual is the center of all reality. The languages of Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Logic helps humans to discover the physical universe and find out what makes it tick, why it ticks, and how it ticks. Humans, as well as all reality, has a beginning and an end, 70 or 80 years, if we are strong as humans, then we die. We hand off what we have learned to the next generation. In doing so, we humans try to find meaning and purpose for why we are here at this particular time, in this particular space. Individual persons try to find security and stability by adopting various ways to see reality and answer the six questions each person must ask and answer before they die (these are my six questions):

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

Granted these are the six question each of us must ask and answer, but where do you find the answers? This is a big challenge for humans. They try to answer questions with different philosophies or no ideas at all. This is the reason you have reason and the ability to choose something or someone that is invisible to your usual pattern of thinking. Where do you go for the truth? Science and the empirical way of thinking, to its credit, has tried to objectify the answers to questions of Why, Where, When, How, and What. It looks at the physical universe of matter, time, and energy and proposes solutions using the languages of Science. What is real is where you find ourselves and what you have learned from the past.

The mental universe (reason and the ability to choose) allows humans to ask questions about who we are. The answers come from science, logic, deduction, probability, historical precedent. Each individual must address what is real according to certain criteria that they, themselves, choose as being true. Collectively, these individuals form tribes, gangs, groups of like-minded thinkers, such as churches, societies, nations, and ethnic attachments that form who they are.

The problem that I have with just a physical and mental universe is that is does not provide me with the answers that answer these six questions. Like the presence of dark matter in the universe, there is part of the equation that is missing. When I use my reasoning and freedom to choose what I reasoned, I look back on reality, both present and in the past to inform me of what is true. I use the languages and tools that we have developed so far to separate fact from fantasy. Is this all there is? Are we just condemned to live for seventy or eighty years, then die?

WHY ARE WE?

The Church Universal is a collection of those marked with the sign of Faith and who are alive. Those in Heaven are called Saints or saints, those on earth still practicing what is means to love others as Christ loves us are called by the name Church Militant, and those who have been judged by God to need purification before they enter the kingdom of heaven are the Church Purgative. All are alive. Christ is the head and we sinful members make up the Mystical Body of Christ. There is a danger that Christ warned us about and St. Paul confirmed, when the Church becomes keeping rules alone (the Law) without using The Law to allow us to love others as Christ loves us, then we have a group of people with the Church as their center. As humans, we all have the ability to reason, then to choose to do what we have reasoned is true.

The Spiritual Universe. We humans have always been an inquisitive lot. Perhaps why we evolved physically, mentally as well as spiritually is to be aware of a reality larger than our physical and mental universes, which St. Paul termed The Spirit. As good as reason is to make sense out of the World in which we live, it alone is not enough to approach the next universe, that of the Spirit. We must choose to enter the spiritual universe freely and we need to be lifted up to do that. By lifted up I mean God lifts us up from the Garden of Eden to the Kingdom of Heaven through Baptism. We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through Faith (God’s energy to gather all things to Himself). The reality now becomes what it was intended to be before the Fall of Adam and Eve from grace (Original Sin). These three universes complete the cycle for all humans and answer the question, Who are we? Why are we? What is our future? What is our purpose? How does love fulfill the longing heart? and We know we are going to die, now what? To inherit the kingdom, God’s playground, we must use what He taught us through His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, And what was that? Simply put, it is to love one another as He has loved us. The spiritual universe uses the opposite of what the World says is good to provide us with a path to walk through the minefields of life without getting blown up. We must renounce our false selves (the World) to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). We must make room for Christ in our hearts by using the Tools for Good Works listed in Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. Each day, we must seek God where we are, and as we are, taking up whatever cross we bear that day as Christ carried his cross for the sins of the World.

Remember the example I gave at the beginning of his reflection, the person who was exhibiting symptoms of being paranoid because all they could see is the Church with bad priests, the Pope or Bishops calling them to love one another as Christ loves them and seeming to be false prophets? When someone displays the signs of dysfunction and hatred about the Church then it is a sign that they have a center that will lead them to spiritual anxiety and possible loss of the Faith. Satan uses the vulnerability of the Faithful to test them against what is going on around them. You may not see this temptation coming. When people criticize the Church, some of this may be justified, but some of it only leads to substituting something for your present center. False centers lead to the death of the Spirit. (Galatians 5) There is only one Center that produces grace, that has the energy to lift us up when we have sinned and gone off the path of righteousness. The Church becomes the living member who helps the individual to transform themselves from their sinful selves to being an adopted son or daughter. This is a struggle that is a daily occurrence because of the effects of Original Sin. Thanks be to God we have THE REAL PRESENCE of Christ in the Eucharist to be THE WAY for us in the same way he spoke to the Apostles in the Upper Room. Thanks be to God we have Real Presence of the Holy Spirit to make all things new in penance so we can transform our poor life daily to that of THE LIFE of an adopted son or daughter. Thanks be to God we have the Real Presence of the Father in Baptism, revealed through the Son, to be our North on the Compass of Life and THE TRUTH against which we measure what is meaningful.

When you put your hope in the Church, you are bound to be dissapointed. When you place your hope in Christ alone, you are bound to see the sins and failings of the Church Universal in each age as exactly what you yourself are now.

Blessed are you who hear the word of God and keep it. Blessed are you who say Jesus is Lord, for you cannot do so without the Holy Spirit. Blessed are you who put your trust in God’s mercy.

Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. Pray that you become what you read. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

Blessed are you who let God be the judge of those outside the Church Universal. You must not judge anyone in the Church.

Praise and Blessing 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

THE HAPPINESS OF DOING NOTHING

What follows is a series of thoughts that are the result of one of my recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditations.I experienced these thoughts while sitting on a park bench in the density of winter, waiting for Christ to come and share His Real Presence. I thought, “Here I am, sitting on a park bench in the dead cold, waiting for Christ to visit me, while not presupposing that I am even worthy enough for God to sit next to a broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit, but hoping He will do so.” There is a strange consequence of silence and solitude, the stillness that comes with letting go of everyTHING in your life that ties you to being human, the complete abandonment to a person you love but have never seen, and the realization that you can never approach God because He is God and you are, well, you. Yet, here you sit in the hope Christ will come into your heart and just sit there with you, no words, no thoughts, no need to fill up the time with idle chatter, This reminds me of the look that comes between two people who have lived together for many, many years are endured the rocky fastness of their chosen paths, which now have become just one road which they share together. It is the look of deep, abiding, unconditional love, which the World and death cannot break apart in the hope that they will live together forever. That happiness is what I felt while in my contemplation. It is, for lack of a good description, the happiness of doing nothing.

THE NOTHINGNESS OF GOD

In my view of what is real, the World (living only in the physical and mental universes) says that nothing makes you happy except what excites you, entertains you, and what distracts you from all those foolish ideas that come from God, such as denying yourself daily, taking up your cross and following Christ. As I sit on the park branch, uncomfortable because it is so very cold, wishing I could be somewhere warm, the thought occurs to me that I must look at happiness and nothingness from the viewpoint of God, not the World. Then, I realized that the nothingness of God is more real than the nothingness espoused by the World. The paradox of God is at work. It is only when I accept nothingness as the presence of Christ in my heart that I can truly understand what St. Benedict wrote to his monks about humility in Chapter 7 of his Rule. I read Chapter 7 and the commentary by Abbot Phillip Lawrence, O.S.B., Abbey of Christ in the Desert, and encourage you to do the same. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-7-humility/

Chapter 7: Humility

1 Brothers, Divine Scripture calls to us saying: Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (Luke 14:11; 18:14). 2 In saying this, therefore, it shows us that every exaltation is a kind of pride, 3 which the Prophet indicates he has shunned, saying: Lord, my heart is not exalted; my eyes are not lifted up and I have not walked in the ways of the great nor gone after marvels beyond me (Ps 130[131]:1). 4 And why? If I had not a humble spirit but were exalted instead, then you would treat me like a weaned child on its mother’s lap (Ps 130[131]:2).

5 Accordingly, brothers, if we want to reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily that exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life, 6 then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw angels descending and ascending (Gen 28: 12). 7 Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility. 8 Now the ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our hearts the Lord will raise it to heaven. 9 We may call our body and soul the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend.

10 The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (Ps 35[36]:2) and never forgets it. 11 He must constantly remember everything God has commanded, keeping in mind that all who despise God will burn in hell for their sins, and all who fear God have everlasting life awaiting them. 12 While he guards himself at every moment from sins and vices of thought or tongue, of hand or foot, of self-will or bodily desire, 13 let him recall that he is always seen by God in heaven, that his actions everywhere are in God’s sight and are reported by angels at every hour.

The nothingness of God is greater than any reality in our physical or mental universes. If you look at the spiritual universe as the opposite of what the World says is meaningful, then nothingness means everything is one in Christ. He told that he will draw all things to himself John 12:31-33 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) “31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[a] to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Here are some random reflections I had as a result of my Lectio Divina.

  • How can nothing make me happy? Sounds like a conundrum, doesn’t it? The nothingness of Christ is the presence of the Supreme Being. Like a person who gets closer and closer to the Sun, the presence of God can annihilate our physical, mental, and spiritual being, if we approach him directly. Baptism allows us to get close to Jesus Christ, Son of God, because he is our mediator the transformer that allows us to call God, Abba, that is, Father. When we say we pray to the Blessed Mother or for the intercession of the Saints, what we mean is that our prayer does not stop with Mary or the Saint, but we ask them to join us as to give glory, praise, and honor to the Father through, with and in Jesus in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The nothingness of God contains everything that is of value.
  • In the World, nothingness does make me happy. I am uncomfortable with doing nothing. I must be productive and fill the time with something, anything, to keep myself busy. I fill this hole with reading, or watching television, or traveling to Cape San Blas, Florida, on the weekends to pass the time. This nothingness is nothing. It does not inspire nor transform, it is just a way to count time. I am not proposing that something like work, or a hobby, or family reunions, or love as the world sees it is somehow evil. It is just not complete unless I see all of reality.
  • The nothingness of God, as the name implies, contains no thing, thing being matter, physical energy, time, or space. The nothingness of God is all that is in Heaven, where there is only being who stand before the Throne of the Lamb, at the right hand of the Father, One God, yet three distinct persons, the Supreme Existence, the One who just is.
  • St. Paul in I Corinthians 2:9 says “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— When I try to move from self to God, using the tools of Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, or my daily Lectio Divina meditations and contemplation, I make a conscious effort to just sit in silence and solitude and just “let it be done to me according to your word”. I want to move from the nothingness of the world, which means they lack anything, to the nothingness of God which means the presence of everything. In this context, whenever I sit on a park bench in the dead of winter in silence and solitude, all I do is wait to be in the presence of Christ,
Happiness is being in the presence of Being. It is more than just a human emotion, it is the product of my allowing myself to divest my reliance on senses, and abandon all hidden agendas with Christ. This is why I am happy by the sheer nothingness of being present to God. I seek God daily where I am and as I am. Some days are better than others.

Psalm 27:4-5 New International Version (NIV)
One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

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TEN MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT BEING A CATHOLIC

Holy Mother's Center

Recently, a rash of people have commented on some of my writing by saying “That is just your opinion.” Of course, it is who else’s opinion would it be? One of my assumptions in writing these types of reflections is that they do not represent anything official, either from the Roman Catholic Church, the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappist), or any official Lay Cistercian pronounce. In writing some of these reflections on Lay Cistercian contemplative practice, I don’t advocate that I am any kind of expert in things Lay Cistercian, or a theologian, or some guru. I am simply a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian trying to seek God in each day and then sharing what I have found with you. As I reflect each day on my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5),

Most, if not all, of the beliefs about Catholics that are not of my faith tradition (Catholic Universal), are plainly false or so skewed as to be unrecognizable. They are true in their minds. I keep telling people I don’t believe this or that, but they keep insisting that I do. I have written ten of these questions or statements that people have asked me about being Catholic. They have the right to their opinion. I also have the right to say what is right about their opinion and what is false. I try not to discount the belief of anyone who holds that Jesus is Lord. Scriptures tell us that no one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Who am I to judge? Don’t judge anyone in the Church as to their mind and heart, and let God judge those outside the Church.

  1. Christ is the head and we are members of the body. The Church Triumphant are all those who have died marked with the sign of the cross and those God has deemed worthy to enter into his kingdom. The Church Militant are those of us still struggling to love others as Christ has loved us. The Church Purgative are those who have died and await purification. The Church is not a denomination, a building, an elite group of people who automatically go to heaven. It is the gathering of those who believe Jesus Christ is Messiah, Son of God, Savior.
  2. The Center of the Church is Jesus who has both divine and human natures. There is no other name by which we are saved.
  3. Here are some false centers for your life. Power, Money, Work, Religion, Church, Mary, any of the Saints, any government of the Church or Society, any King or Ruler, and, most especially you.
  4. Power and authority in the Church Universal come directly from Jesus through the Apostles and traced down through the centuries in Ecumenical Councils (21 of them).
  5. The Pope is Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, the chief teacher and one who has primacy of honor among all Patriarchs and Bishops. The Ecumenical Councils make policies and procedures and the Holy Father promulgates and makes it happen.
  6. The Creed that we recite each Sunday at Holy Eucharist is the summary of our Faith that comes through Christ. The Church is not about keeping laws but of praying for the grace to practice the charisms that reinforce our Baptismal Covenant to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  7. Mary is Mother of God but not God’s mother. She has human nature but not divine nature. She is to be honored and venerated, as are the Saints. We don’t ask Mary to have mercy on us or forgive our sins. We pray to no one except God. Why? Christ tells us that no one goes to the Father except through him.
  8. Catholics pray for the dead that they are loosed from their sins. We also pray to those who stand before the Throne of the Lamb giving eternal praise, honor, and blessing. We don’t ask the Saints and saints (your mom and dad) for mercy but to add to our prayer of petition to the Father. We only pray to God not directly to anyone else. Why? God is all that is in heaven and we share in that adoption as sons and daughters.
  9. The purpose of the Catholic Universal Church is to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength and our neighbor as our self.
  10. There are seven ways the Church Universal helps its living members to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). In Baptism, Christ chooses us as adopted sons and daughters and heirs of the kingdom. This happens by Faith (which only comes from God). In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit overshadows us with the very power of God but depending on how much we believe (which is the response each of us gives to Faith). In Holy Eucharist, Christ gives us of Himself, his living body and blood, to sustain our Faith (Baptismal covenant) and Belief (our struggle to overcome the temptations of the World). In Penance, God gives us mercy and the grace to sustain us as we live out our Baptismal covenant each day. As penitential people, we seek to have Jesus grow in us each day through practices and charisms that allow us to keep our focus on our center. Marriage and Holy Order are the gifts that allow us to grow as the body of Christ. Anointing of the Sick is the gift of God’s own energy as healing of mind, body, and spirit. It also prepares us to go to Heaven where we will be asked to give an accounting of our stewardship.

MY new END TIME

Everything has a beginning and an end in the physical and mental universes. We don’t think about that idea much in the midst of a Covid 19 Pandemic. I only bring this up because that was the main thought of my Lectio Divina meditation (Philippians 2:5). This crazy idea came to me while reflecting on how even Christ was like us in all things, except sin. Jesus of Nazareth had a beginning and he died on the cross, but with a difference. He voluntarily gave up his life, it was not taken from him. Read Luke 1-2. Jesus opened up the gates of heaven for each of us by rising from the dead and ascending to the Father. The spiritual universe, the one we voluntarily enter (as Christ voluntarily accepted death on the cross) in Baptism, has no end. Death is not a roadblock anymore, it is a gateway to a whole new life as an adopted son or daughter of the Father.

Jesus took on our limited nature with the “Let it be” from Mary. Read what St. Paul says about this in Philippians 2:5-12. When Jesus bids us keep his commandments and love one another as He loved us, this is what I think about. This one command can only be understood in terms of the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, the fulfillment of second Abraham, the second Isaac, the second Moses, the second Joseph, the second David, the second Jeremiah, the second Isaiah, the second Elijah, and the second Ezekiel. There is a pattern of fulfillment in the progression from the anticipation of the Messiah to the actual person of Christ. As I look at the dynamics of the seamless morphing from Old to New Covenants, what strikes me is the sign of contradiction is so evident in the Old Testament. if the center of the Old Testament is someone to save them from the oppression of the enemy, then the one to come must be a champion of power and authority. The end time of the anticipation phase of our salvation ends and begins with John the Baptist asking the question, are you the one to come or shall we love for another?

With Christ reconnecting to the Kingdom of Heaven with the Father, a new beginning and new end come as an option. Now, the beginning is a voluntary one that each individual makes that Christ is the Messiah come to redeem us from the tyranny of believing that we are god. This is marked by the Baptism of adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, but gives each of us personally and as church the power that comes from the Holy Spirit. Unlike the physical universe of matter, time, space, and energy, this spiritual universe has a beginning (Baptism) and an end, but with a catch. The end, in this case, is eternity.

THE PARADOX OF GOD

There is a place, deep within us, a sanctuary, and inner space, that contains our most precious treasures. These hidden treasures are invisible to the eye yet guide our every movement. It is the one center that is the capstone of our being, a principle or being that does not change with time nor is affected by death. Humans are unlike all other living things in that they have reason and the ability to choose what is good for them. Why is that? We have reason for a reason and the ability to choose what we reason. Choose what? You place in your center what you think your treasure is, one that will sustain you in good times and bad, one that will propel you beyond the physical and mental universe which we call home to that which only our center can access. Your purpose in life is what you place in your center. Humans don’t mind looking at external reality as a center (family, friends, work, relationships, power, money, houses, bank account) but are afraid to peek inside that inner space to see what’s there. Following Cistercian, contemplative practice is a way to enter into the silence and solitude of the heart through the mind and sit in stillness to wait for Christ to come to sit next to us. This is “Being” sitting next to being. As the Sun’s rays of warmth, there are no words spoken, no hidden agendas to talk about. Just because your road in life is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Look inside to find the strength that comes from the true source of power–Love. You can’t buy this Love, you can’t believe it into existence. It just is and your being grows in the ability to expand to receive Love the more you practice. We are made to exist beyond mere matter, space, and time. To prepare for the trip, you need to know what to pack. No one but you can pack that one suitcase. So, what would you pack? A hint might be the treasures you have gathered from a lifetime of struggling to find purpose and making your life of value. You have a codebook to decipher the language of the next level of reality, the Kingdom of Heaven, if you know where to look and the key to unlocking the mystery of faith. Do you know where to look? You have only one rule to follow, and it is to love others as Christ has loved us. This road to our inner self is not easy and takes countless trials and failures to accomplish. The Master will not leave us orphans on our particular journey to what is unseen yet real. Don’t be afraid, He says, it is worth it.

As a result of many, many years of trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus daily ((Philippians 2:5), I have adjusted my end time from my physical body dying to that of claiming my inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven, if God judges me worthy.

COSMIC RESONANCE: WHY JESUS IS THE MESSIAH?

My latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) has taken me to a place that I would never have thought possible, linking Christ as the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Old and New Testaments. The way my thinking progressed, as I sat in silence and solitude, waiting for Christ to visit me as I sat on my park bench in the dead of winter, was in terms of resonance or dissonance. To ensure that I don’t fly with false colors, let me say from the outset that my opinions come from beyond the edge of space and time (Holy Spirit) and reflect only my thoughts, not those of any Lay Cistercian group of Cistercian (Trappist) writings. This is me, my thoughts. Take them for what they are.

I begin, as I always do, with the hope of contemplation on Philippians 2:5. “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” While waiting for Christ to visit me on a park bench in the dead of winter, I thought about why Christ had to become one of us (human nature). The notion of Messiah coming to rescue his people is lost on me, and I suspect anyone who is not Jewish. I am living in the year 2020, far removed from the pristine problems facing the transition of the Church from Twelve Tribes to Twelve Apostles. Personally, I place my faith in the reality of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, a “sine qua non” of belief (I love to use that phrase). If the resurrection did not happen, then, as St. Paul writes, Christ is not God but, like many devout Jewish believers think, just one more in a line of false messiahs. Belief is a position or something spiritual does not depend on the believer to be true. There is a struggle between what is true and what I think is true. My belief does not make something true, but what is true makes me believe. How can some people believe in one God and others believe in one God but with three distinct persons, one of whom is Jesus the Messiah? Are these poles are symptomatic of something larger going on in reality?

THE PARADOX OF ALL THAT IS: THE COSMIC STRUGGLE OF SEEMING OPPOSITES

Are these two polar opposite positions, and even that may not be an accurate description, part of some larger design, more cosmic, more sophisticated than we could have ever imagined? This is getting far afield of Lectio Divina, don’t you think? Sorry, all I do is take dictation from the Holy Spirit.

There is a concept out there call the theory of everything, popularized by a book and a movie of the same name, about the late, great Steven Hawking and his quest to find one theory of the physical universe. I have been developing a theory of reality for the past thirty years. I am not a trained scientist, nor do I aspire to be. I do try to think about a unified theory of all that is and have come up with the notion of three separate universes, each distinct yet all one. The characteristics and measurements for each universe are completely different, and in the case of one of them, the spiritual universe, directly opposite that of the physical and mental universes.

THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE: In my model, the physical universe is all that we can see or reason to with the aid of our human languages. All physical matter, space, time, every star and the black hole, all exploding hypernovas, all live anywhere in the universe, humans, all animals, plants, even mosquitoes, are part of this observable universe. The problem with this universe has always been, why do we humans know about it, but it does not know about us? There must be purpose and reason why we find ourselves on this rocky platform of gases. Humans are part of this universe, along with all other life forms.

THE MENTAL UNIVERSE: This universe answers the questions about the Physical Universe. Only humans live in this universe. It is the universe of reason. Why do only humans have the ability to build languages, discover relationships, and seek to find the meaning of all that is? Without the Mental Universe, no one would be able to ask why it is, how is it, what is it, and so what? The two attributes that separate us from the animals are: you have the ability to reason for a reason, and, based on that reasoning, you have the ability to make choices free from nature or any other ideology. There must be a reason we find ourselves on this rock, the only persons we know of, anywhere. There must be a reason humans developed from other life forms with the ability to reason and to select what is good for them. For me, the theory of everything just looks at the physical universe using the mental universe to find meaning. The problem is that this is incomplete, there is something missing, something like 1 + 1 =, and there is no answer. For me, this led to a third universe, one which we could not have either reasoned to or chosen without someone giving us the code.

THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE: We are discovering so much about physical reality through the sciences and literature. If left only to science and logic, humans would never have been able to access a level of consciousness that does not fit the physical and mental universe paradigm. We don’t do well with invisible relationships. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see it. This universe has to do with solving the equation of what is real. Reality is not just what we can see but what we cannot see. Not all religious traditions can transform you into what you were designed to be. This is why you have reason and why there is an earth to give you time to discover the code of eternity. You can choose freely whatever you discover and place at the center of your life. This is the energy source that will propel you to the next reality, one for which we need to begin preparing in this lifetime.

It is interesting to note the interdependence of the three universes. The physical universe exists, the platform for where we find ourselves today. All matter, all time, all energy has a beginning and an end, and that includes each one of us. That is the paradigm in which we humans wake up to the reality of where we are and who we are. As we look around us, we notice that we are not like the other animals we have as pets or eat as food. We have something they don’t have self-awareness. Where does that come from all of a sudden? Did it randomly happen by chance or is it part of a larger dynamic the language of which we are not totally familiar? The mental universe allows us to look at the physical world and ask why, how, when, where something is. Far from being anti-spiritual, the physical and mental universes exist for us to be able to wonder about all this and seek a conclusion. I like to think of it as being in dissonance or without purpose, even though we might know the purpose of the physical as well as the mental universe. Now comes the seeming paradox, the spiritual universe, the solution to the equation of life, the resonance to the dissidence of the cosmos. Reason and free choice allow each individual to choose to live in this universe or not. The choices are clear: you are the center of reality or God is the center. Every time you choose yourself as the center of reality, there is dissonance; every time you choose God as your center, there is resonance. That is how nature is. This concept is so alien to the human way of thinking that God Himself had to tell us how to be authentically human and he did it in stages.

Stage one is the creation of the physical universe.All living things live here, including humans. This stage uses the natural law (what would happen naturally, if humans did not intervene).

Stage two is the creation of the mental universe. Adam was fashioned from the earth and Eve came from Adam’s rib. Only humans here. Humans have the ability to reason and the freedom to choose what they reason, but with consequences to each choice. We are defined by the choices we make. Adam and Eve had a chance to choose God but chose themselves instead. This was a poor choice and issued in the time of dissonance with God until it would be restored. All reality was thrown into chaos by this choice. Humans would never be able to regain resonance with God by themselves, even with all their sacrifices and prayers. All humans that are born of the flesh are subject to the laws of nature, but their destiny is to live with God…Forever as adopted sons and daughters. That was not going to happen unless God Himself rescued us from the grip of death and took on the nature that, in Philippians 2:5-12 tells us is akin to being a slave. This YES from the Blessed Mother was not only a nice-sounding gesture meant to edify the pious but was the nexus between the physical and mental universes and the addition of the spiritual universe. In terms of a cosmic, polar shift, reality had changed. It looked the same, it smelled the same, and no one even noticed that now, the beginnings of cosmic resonance were falling into place.

Stage three is the creation of the spiritual universe. Only humans and God live in this universe. This universe uses reason and free choice as does the physical and mental universes but with a difference. Humans must use their reason to choose God as their center and not themselves. The purpose of this universe is to bring all things together as one, once more, to restore relationship with God once more, to create resonance in time and space once more. Those who choose this way must continue to struggle against the effects of the flesh (physical and mental universes) each day.

If we look at these three universes of reality, each one quite different, each one with their own purpose, each one having measurements that may vastly stretch the mind of those trying to cram all reality into just one universe, the physical one. Rather than thinking something is wrong with science or that spirituality is a bunch of personal opinions that cannot possibly be true, all three universes fit nicely together. Science continues to give us how the physical universe is, why it is, and how it is. Science is limited because the spiritual universe turns logic upside down. God’s playground is the opposite of what the world, physical and mental universes, think. Only the Messiah of God has the code to unlock the consequences of that Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Read Romans 5. The Messiah would be one to unlock the gates of Heaven to give us a chance, like the chance He gave to Adam and Eve, to enter into the spiritual universe. He would be a sign of contradiction to the gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. Everything he says would not make sense to those who just have the mind of the world, thinking that they are God. Everything he says would make complete sense to those who are filled with the Spirit of Truth at Baptism and use that grace to see what cannot be seen and hear what cannot be heard. None of this is a secret or the exclusive knowledge of a group to be kept pure from other forms of thinking (Gnostics), it is to be catholic, that is, open to all who accept the gift of faith into their hearts, thus becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Jesus is the great teacher of how to live our lives in such a way that we have resonance with all reality. To do that we must die to self in order to rise to a new life in Christ. Again, none of this makes sense to the world (physical and mental universes) unless Christ is indeed the Messiah, the one St. John the Baptist asked: “are you the one, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)

Once again, it seems a neverending story, we face two choices, both of which have consequences for being resonant or dissonant. These are cosmic choices as well as personal ones. Remember, you have reason for a reason and the ability to choose what you reason. The Messiah in my thinking would not be someone to free me from the power of the Romans or Arabs or whomever, but rather free me from the tyranny of becoming my own god, the consequences of which are dissonance with the rest of reality.

This is why, as a Lay Cistercian, I focus on reading Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict as one of my Cistercian practices each day. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ Making the resurrection real each day is now my goal. That is another way of saying that my mindset now is trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each day. I use the practices and charisms of Cistercian spirituality to provide structure and accountability.

I began my thinking by realizing that science, the study of the physical phenomenon with the languages of mathematics, chemistry, physics, research, and wonder, doesn’t fit with the spiritual universe. I am at the point in my thinking that says when you burn away all of the dross of truth about reality, what remains, however improbable, is what it is, even if it does not make sense to the world.

Each of us is marked at Baptism with the sign of contradiction, a paradox to the world, which is the cross. We carry that with us throughout our whole lifetime. We use the Church Universal and particular to help us as an anchor in times of storm and sail in times of challenge and everyday living. We have not been left orphans in each age, subject to being seduced by Satan without hope of any help. We have Christ, Son of God, Savior as our brother and the Father, who has said that we are adopted sons and daughters and will inherit the kingdom. This is what the Messiah is. My wishing will not make the Messiah real, but the real Messiah will allow me the energy to make the resurrection true in my heart.

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THE CONSEQUENCES OF SEEKING GOD DAILY

Philippians 2:5 is my Lectio Divina mantra. Today, I thought about the consequences of a simple YES or NO to seeking God in daily living. YES is usually seen as an enabling word while NO is usually, but not always, blocking (e.g. NO to sin means YES to God). Here are some of my thoughts on the choices people have made. You can judge what the consequences might be.

  • God created everything that is with a Word. What was that Word? (John 1:1) YES
  • God created the archangels and angels to minister to Him with that same Word. YES
  • Lucifer made the free choice of wanting to be God, someone He was not. NO
  • God created Adam from the soil, and Eve from his rib, to be a Gardner and tend the Garden of Eden. YES
  • Adam and Eve made the free choice of wanting to be God’s divine nature and not their human nature. NO
  • Lucifer (the serpent) seduced Adam and Eve with the false promise of being like God. Lucifer said NO to God’s will be done in his heart as it is in heaven, once more.
  • Cain said NO to God by killing Abel.
  • Abram’s conversion from pagan gods to the one true God. YES
  • The entire Old Testament as the story to prepare for the coming of Christ as Redeemer and Messiah. YES
  • Moses and Aaron who led the chosen people through the desert to enter the promised land. YES
  • The Twelve Tribes who, like the Catholic Church of today, wander now and then from the path of righteousness and God’s fidelity to his covenant. YES
  • David as one who becomes God’s champion only to squander it away with lust and greed. The NO changes to YES after his humiliation and forgiveness by God.
  • Jeremiah and Isaiah, plus other prophets who kept telling Israel to repent and keep the covenant. YES for the Prophets, NO for the ten lost tribes.
  • Mary, Mother of God, was the first believer of the Church Universal. She was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and responded to Faith with a commitment that God’s will be done to her as it is in heaven. LET IT BE DONE TO ME ACCORDING TO YOUR WILL.
  • Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, said YES to the birth of Jesus and to Mary as his wife.
  • St. John the Baptist was second to proclaim that Christ was he who is to come, the Messiah. YES
  • Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, became our Savior and Redeemer. (Philippians 2:5) YES
  • The twelve Apostles were overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and then said YES.
  • All those following the birth of Christ who proclaims Christ as Son of God, Redeemer, through Baptism and the Spirit. (John 20:30-31) YES
  • The Church Triumphant is composed of all those who have died with the sign of Faith (the cross) and those God has judged as worthy. YES, Forever.
  • The Church Militant is composed of all those who are still living, marked with the sign of Faith, and awaiting death. YES with the help of God’s grace.
  • The Church Purgative is composed of all those who have died but get a second chance at believing that Jesus Christ is Son of God, Savior. Those in the Church Triumphant and Church Militant can pray for them that they are loosed from their sins. I hope that the words of Christ to us are true.

The consequences of sin are cosmic and affect not only our life now, but in the life to come.

  • For those who say YES to having God’s will done in their hearts, the reward is faith, hope, and love.
  • For those who say YES to taking up your cross daily and following Christ, the product is love.
  • For those who say YES to having in them the mind of Christ Jesus on a daily basis, the product is joy and happiness that what you have chosen is what Christ chose to share with those who love him.
  • For those who say YES to Christ as Redeemer, Messiah, Priest, Prophet, and King, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes in glory.
  • For those who say YES to Christ in Baptism, Confirmation of the Spirit, giving Thanks to the Father through, with and in Christ (Eucharist) and asking mercy and forgiveness of sins, the consequences are peace. The peace of Christ is not the absence of dissent or conflict in your life but the presence of Love, Christ’s own body and blood in you, daily.
  • For those who say YES to the Real Presence of Christ in Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, you are experiencing heaven on earth.
  • For those who say YES to daily practices of contemplative prayer, you sit in the presence of the One who Is, the consequence is God’s own energy permeating not only your body, but your mind, and your heart.

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

FOCUS: AT THE NEXUS OF THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN SPIRIT AND FLESH

What follows are some reflections about one of the most difficult expressions of contemplative prayer, one that I never get rid of, one that is with me as long as I traverse the halls of silence and solitude in search of God wherever I may encounter Him today.

Focus is one of those human traits that, like the meaning of love, we humans don’t do automatically. When I sit in Eucharist Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, I am always faced with the feeling that I should be somewhere else, or that this is not a productive use of my time. In this most recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I actually took a conscious look at my focus process and came up with some interesting observations.

In the first few minutes, I carry with me the flurry of what the world says is important. For example, I have a meeting scheduled in two hour, I am due for lunch at home and my wife wants to know what I want to eat, or in the chapel at Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Florida, it seems stuffy and too hot. My mind conjers up any number of flashing choices for me to make. I call this my detoxification period (from one to five minutes), where I try to focus on Christ. I try to overcome this alarming flashes of temptation to do something meaningful, After all, who wants to sit in a darkened chapel with no one there, only a burning votive candle beside the tabernacle, and it smelling a bit stuffy. There are many, many reasons my senses tell me to go, but only one good reason to stay…love.

At this stage of my Lectio Divina, I have tried to Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) by beginning to think of my Lectio statement, the only one I have had each day since 1962. I am beginning to be aware of where I am and who is there with me. I try to move from self to God by thinking about God. St. Benedict, in his Chapter 4 of the Rule tells me not to overcome evil with evil but overcome evil with good.

This happens to me every single time I do Lectio Divina, a veritable gauntlet of thoughts and mental jousting with Satan or his demons. Struggling to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) is not fun and, I will admit, I am not always successful at my focus, as if I have gone through the anxiety of trying and failing and trying and failing and then some success. In reading the book, The Little Prince, by Saint Exupery, the fox is trying to tell the Little Prince how to tame the rose. In this way, the rose will not be frightened. Listen to the Youtube account of one of my favorite analogies on focus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkiZuu79N_I The fox, in the story goes on to say that it is the time to take to tame your rose that makes it valuable. The moral of the story for me is the saying, “It is only with the heart that ones sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Lectio Divina is trying to see what is invisible, and what is essential to our Lay Cistercian spirituality. It is the time I spend trying to calm down my flesh so that I can enter into stillness by focusing on silence and solitude, which is also part of prayer.

Next time you read about the passion and death of Christ, think of the temptation in the Garden of Gethsemani as one of losing focus of what the mission was. Christ overcame his temptation to abandon the humilitation and pain of the cross by telling the Father that his will be done, not that of Christ. What a model to follow when we do Lectio Divina. Think of you sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and waiting for Christ to come by. It is the time you spend waiting that make your prayer pleasing to the Father, through, with, and in Christ.

Focus is an act of the will to keep Christ centered in your heart for as long as possible. If you want to enter that place where no one wants to look, then you must anticipate the effects of Original Sin. Struggle is, in itself, a way to increase the capacity of God within us. Amen and Amen.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR US TO LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST LOVES US?

THE CHRIST IMPERATIVES

LISTEN TO ME, FOR I AM MEEK AND HUMBLE OF HEART. Matthew 11:28-30

  • Thirsty? Drink of the living waters! John 7:37.
  • Hungry? Eat the food that gives eternal life!  John 6:33-38.
  • Bewildered? Believe in the Master! John 3:11-21.
  • Without hope? Be not afraid! John 13:33-35.
  • Lost? Find the way. John 14:6-7.
  • Tired because of the pain? Be renewed! John 15:1-7.
  • Afraid? Find peace! John 27-28.
  • Afraid to believe? Believe! John 11:25-27.
  • Without a family? Listen! John 10:7-18.
  • In darkness? Walk in the light! John 8:12.
  • Spiritually depressed? Be healed! John 5:24

“Welcome, good and faithful servant, into the Kingdom, prepared for you before the world began.”

RELAX!

What follows are my reflections on some ideas that came up during my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5).

Here are ten things you don’t need to worry about as you live out your spiritual life.

  1. The Church Universal is going to disappear and collapse. If you read the sensationalist, tabloid press (all press seems to be tabloid), the Catholic Church is losing people and will end up in bankruptcy. If the Church Universal collapses and the gates of Hell prevail, then there is no Holy Spirit. If there is no Holy Spirit, there is no Resurrection. If there is no Resurrection, there is no God. If there is no God, go out and have a cup of Kona Brand coffee and wait to die. You can’t change anything but your own world. Relax!
  2. It sometimes seems like the unrepentant adulterers, fornicators, thieves, detractors, drunks, witches, drug addicts, unfaithful priests and religious, fake politicians, parental strife, incest, drug gangs, murderers, and prostitutes will inherit the earth. It might seem like evil will conquer the world and all those evildoers get away with murder. They will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Notice the important word “unrepentant”. Relax!

3. Don’t make the mistake of judging who is saved or who is going to Hell. That is a subtle form of idolatry. You spend all your time being judgmental about others and less time about loving God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Who made you God? Relax!

4. Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else will follow. Matthew 6:33 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[a] and his[b] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Relax!

5. Don’t worry about who is right in the Bible and who is not. John 20:30-31 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah,[b] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. Sacred Scripture was written down so that you may believe that Jesus Christ, Son of God, is Lord and Messiah. Concentrate on your belief and not on why everyone else does not believe in Christ as you do. Relax!

6. The Ecumenical Councils (21 of them to be exact) contain the policies and procedures of the Church Universal in that age. It would be wrong to think of the Pope as having great secular authority over us. He does have authority, but, in keeping with the sign of contradiction, it is one of being the servant of the servants of Christ, not one to lord it over us. Authority comes from Christ alone and to anyone to whom he entrusts it. Accepting Christ means you accept those that shepherds of the flock. St. Benedict points out in his Rule, Chapter 4 for monks,

“57 Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer
58 and change from these evil ways in the future. 59 Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16);
60 hate the urgings of self-will.
61 Obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, even if his own conduct–which God forbid–be at odds with what he says. Remember the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3).” https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ Relax!

7. Pray as though everything depends upon God and work as though everything depends upon you. — St. Augustine. Relax!

Saint Augustine Quote: “Pray as though everything depended on God ...

8. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are not good enough to be in the presence of God now, and later on, in heaven. You are not! Moving from a false self to a true self is a process that takes a lifetime. It is Christ who sits with us on that park bench and is our mediator with the Father. It is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who allows us to say, “Jesus is Lord.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UG77k-xLpz8. Relax!

9. Don’t worry that you sometimes think of Christ and sometimes it is just not your day. The peaks and valleys of life are part of our journey. Just because your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Trust in God to help you on the way to the truth, and thus live the life that you alone can experience. What you can do is, in silence and solitude, look right next to you and find Christ was there all along. Anyone marked with the sign of faith (the cross) has Christ as a companion. Contemplative practices just allow each of us to say hello to Christ in the stillness of our hearts. Relax

10. Place your Hope in God alone. Relax!

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

MONOS

What I am experiencing, as I move through the stages of the Coronavirus 19 effects on my personal space, my environment, my relationships, is isolation and the failure of those human structures I have built up to sustain my life on a daily basis. I am talking about the isolation from other people, the inability to touch others in social contexts, such as the sign of peace at Eucharist, and the Eucharist on my computer, the inability to congregate in the community for the social interaction that is crucial to finding meaning and purpose. All of these experiences are new for me and could be a bit off-putting, were it not for three things that have kept me grounded. In these comments that follow, I will share with you those spiritual principles I use, and continue to use on a daily basis, to keep me grounded. I make these comments in the hope that you might examine your self against what you consider to be the central principles of your life, as you experience this opportunity to reflect and be solitary. Granted, we don’t go deeper into ourselves very often, but this virus might be God’s way of telling us to get our house cleaned before the next plague hits. Not that these are like the plagues of Egypt that Moses dealt with, but they do resemble them from a modern perspective, e.g., monetary plagues, health plagues, the failure of people to love, the rise of the cult of relativism, lack of resources (water and food) and wars based on power and control.

All of these are plaguing us now, but there is one place that we can forget about looking, inside each of us. Monos. Alone. The place where no one wants to look. How I look at reality externally is in direct proportion to how to look at reality within me and what I fall back upon in times of crisis. When the virus hits, it strips away some of these external distractions that are only cosmetic, to lay bare what is within me. When I look at these phenomena, in my case, I feel like Anthony of the Desert and early monks who fled the allurements of the time to seek the cleansing power of silence and solitude. http://www.spiritualite-orthodoxe.net/vie-de-priere/index.php/saint-antony-the-great-writings The isolation afforded me by this small hiccup in my journey of life is a sign from the Holy Spirit that I must go out to the desert within me, that I may have been wandering in the Sinai desert of the World for the last forty years mesmerized by the seductive temptations of the Wiley One. This is a wake up call for me to turn to the only center than leads me out of this desert of the seven deadly sins to put on a new person in Christ. I have done that many times in the past, but I forgot one important point about spirituality: I need to take up my cross DAILY and follow Christ. Yesterday’s conversion is not today’s triumph over the plagues that infect society now.

I wrote a book entitled, The Place No One Wants to Look, which details six questions each human must ask themselves before they die. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss My thinking was that there is a place no one wants to think about, and that is inside us, in the mind and in the heart. Yet, this is where I must go, like St. Benedict, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, on those Cistercian men and women who yearned to “…have in them the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Phlippians 2:5) It is the modern desert, the place where I am alone with the heart of Christ, the place where I am in the presence of I am who am. No words, no expectations, no petitions, no praise are needed. It is the place where Christ bids me to come to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for him. Why do I have to wait for Christ when he is everywhere? He is everywhere, but I must not be so full of pride and lack of obedience to God’s will that I think God does my bidding. It is quite the reverse. Here are three spiritual principles that guide me through the valley of death (the World).

WHAT IS MY CENTER? A center, not to be confused with centering prayer, is the one principle that, if you took it away, your whole spiritual universe would have no meaning. It is the capstone spoken of in Scriptures, the cornerstone that keep together with your temple of the Holy Spirit. My center, which I chose in 1962, is from Philippians 2:5: “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” Centers are not logical constructs that you have and forget, they are there to move you from your false self to your true self. Entering the spiritual universe at Baptism, you have Original Sin taken away, by God, but, there is a problem, you still must live out your life with the effects of that Sin and the daily temptations by the Devil (the snake) to choose him over God. Far from being easy, your life after Baptism is a battle, a gauntlet you must run through, a struggle you make each and every day. Why do you think Christ told us to take up our cross daily? Do you know how heavy a cross is? By ourselves, we don’t stand a chance against “the roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”

FEEDING MY CENTER From the moment you are Baptized, you begin to corrupt, just like a piece of metal begins to rust. To keep it from rusting, you must keep it clean. How will you nourish that precious gift of Faith? Christ told us he would not leave us orphaned (John 14:18) Do you think Jesus abandons those who put their trust and faith in Him. No! He left us his real presence for each age to continue his admonition to love one another as He loves us. Think about that. Christ is not present to us like the virtual 2020 NFL Draft. We are not spectators of Christ who lived 2000 years ago. We are adopted sons and daughter and we need food to keep our Faith from atrophying. Christ gave his life on the cross for all humans, believers or not, and he provides the only food that can keep Faith from being like the fig tree, barren and dead. If you eat this Food, His very own body and blood that walked the earth those many centuries ago, you will live forever. The Church, the living body of Christ, our head, is the real presence in each age to continue the message of forgiveness of sin, giving glory to the Father through Christ in the Eucharist, forgiving sins with a firm purpose of amendment, and charisms of humility and obedience to the will of the Father. Christ is most real today, if we have Faith to see what cannot be seen, the Mystery of Faith.

I approach the Mystery of Faith, as a professed Lay Cistercian, by trying to emulate the practices and charisms of the Cistercian way (Trappist). This means solitude is critical to my being able to focus on Christ. Most of the time, I make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. But, more than that, my Lay Cistercian circumstances (I do not live in a sequestered monastery) are that my monastery is my sphere in which I seek God where I am. A theme that has imprinted itself on my consciousness is that of the corruption of matter and values espoused by the World. Everything in the physical and mental universe corrupts or deteriorates.

Matthew 6:18-20 NRSVCE – Matthew 6:18-20 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)” 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[a]Concerning Treasures19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[b] consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust[c] consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

The kingdom of heaven begins with Christ and is activated by you at Baptism, making you an adopted son or daughter of the Father. The problem is we still live in two universes (physical and mental) that suffer the effects of Original Sin. Those who live in the world but are not of it seek God where they are, as they are. St. Benedict provides his monks with tools for good works in Chapter 4 of his Rule. These tools are meant to help sustain us as we await the coming of Christ in glory. Scripture is not just a book to be read but a mindset to be lived so we can be with Christ each day…Forever. (John 20:30-31) The kingdom of heaven does not corrupt.

CHRISTS TEACHINGS DON’T MAKE SENSE

If you want to understand, ever so slightly, what is going on in Sacred Scripture, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Penance, and Healing, then you must apply the Rule of Opposites. This is explained in more detail in my book, Three Rules of the Spiritual Universe. What the physical and mental universes hold as true is just the opposite in the spiritual universe of the kingdom of heaven. Philippians 2:5-12, my personal center, gives a good rationale for why God emptied himself to take on human nature in addition to the divine nature. It is a revelation from Christ that there is but one God and three persons. No one would have reasoned about this dogma of the Faith, one we recited at each Eucharist in the Creed. It is by faith that we can approach the Father, and only then in, with, and through Christ. For those without faith, none of this makes any sense; for those with faith, there is no need to prove it, (St. Thomas Aquinas)

In the stillness of my heart, I sit down on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait for the Lord to pass by. This is the monos of the soul, that which heremitical monks sought when they went out into the desert. In the silence and solitude of the heart informed by the mind. It is abandoning self to seek that which is beyond making sense, the Mystery of Faith. It is preferring nothing to the love of Christ, each day, seeking God where I am, as I am. (St. Benedict, Chapter 4, Rule of St. Benedict).

For Lay Cistercians, and I am speaking only for myself, we live in the cloister of the heart informed by our mind. It is a place of stillness, humility, gentleness, joy, for those who enter it. Don’t think that all this silence, solitude, humility, comes from us. I am aware that these spiritual attributes don’t come from me, as I try to move from self to God. Everything comes from being present to the real presence of Christ.

In terms of the Coronavirus, or any physical or mental challenge, nothing changes. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. BibleGateway – Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

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

THE MARTYRDOM OF seeking god every day

When you read this title, you may find it a bit discombobulating. Isn’t martyrdom shedding your blood for Christ? Isn’t that reserved only for the Saints? What can any of this have to do with Lay Cistercian spirituality and contemplation? I found the answer to that at 2:32 A.M. this morning, when I woke up and, as is my habit, looked at the clock and started my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). I do my due diligence to my urinary system and then plop back in bed and go to sleep. But there is something at work here, something wonderful. I feel happy like I would be if one of our friends comes over for supper. This morning, true to form, my Lectio Divina came through, as I lay down on my pillow trying to get to sleep again. I always do (get to sleep again) Lectio this way, one of the four or five times a day that I take quickie Lectio Divina breaks while waiting for my wife at Wal-Mart or Trader Joe’s while sitting in my favorite chair, or closing my eyes and just waiting for Christ with the Holy Spirit to whomp me with another title from left field. Speak, your servant listens, Lord. I am always more than amazed at what the Lord speaks to me. Like the Movie, The Neverending Story, this story of my daily encounters with seeking God seems never to end. I bring this up because being A Lay Cistercian, especially in these quite queer times, it is not a question of too little time for prayer and reading, there is too much time. I normally do Lectio formally in the afternoon, sitting in my recliner with a glass of freshly made lemonade picked off the Meyer Lemon tree. I may have mentioned this before, but my contemplative attention span has gone from two minutes +, over six years ago, to two hours (in silence and solitude, of course). So, how about the martyrdom of everyday living? Do you know how difficult it is to do anything on a daily basis? I am not talking about breathing (that is the autonomic response, such as your heart beating or blinking), but rather when each day presents itself in all its infinite possibility to encounter the purpose of life, it is a struggle to focus on doing just that one Lectio or that one reading from Scripture that you tell yourself you are going to do one of these days. It is actually quite heroic if you think about what is happening.

In the Monastery, they have a daily schedule that does not vary. This helps monks and nuns to focus on Christ as their Center through Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, Penance, reading Scripture. The community of like believers (although in fact different from each other)gives support and is even necessary to move from self to God through silence and solitude. Rather than comparing the seemingly quiet corridors of the Monastery with the hustle and bustle of living in the world, it would be a mistake to think one way is better than another. Comparisons are odious. Instead, both monks, nuns, and Lay Cistercians all seek to move from their false self to their true self as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. To do this takes a great deal of focus and strength of Faith. Like the fatigue that accompanies weightlifting or strenuous exercise, there is an exhaustion that comes from pushing against the daily temptations that distract from the love of others as Christ loves us.

The martyrdom of those who seek God every day goes almost unnoticed. Here are some situations to ponder in your heart. http://devotiontoourlady.com/november-martyrs.html At the risk of sounding full of myself, I would like to relate you to some of these situations of daily martyrdom as I have or do encounter them in my own life. When you look back at your life experiences you will no doubt have similar encounters.

DO NOT WORRY

One of the products of putting myself in the presence of the Holy Spirit in Lectio Divina each day (maybe several times a day) is that I don’t worry about anything as much as I used to do. I do not ever remember focusing on “not worrying” about what is important. All of a sudden, it just pops up. There it is, invading my thoughts, although quite surprisingly, leaving me wondering from where that came. Here is what I think happened to me. I never consciously did a Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) to ask God to take away my cross from me each day. What I did do, and continue to do on a daily basis, is struggling to keep myself anchored to my center, Christ. My beginning Lectio is eight words from Philippians 2:5, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” When I do my Lectio, several times a day, all I do is place myself in the presence of the Holy Spirit and wait. When I read a book, such as the one Lay Cistercians at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) use as the bases for their discussions, Thomas Merton’s The Waters of Siloe, then I try to absorb its meaning into my daily behaviors. In a way, what was written by Thomas Merton becomes part of me. I am beginning to realize that, without even being consciously aware of it, that when I read my center from Philippians 2:5 over all those years, I have slowly become it. The silent power of the Word is transformative. I am just beginning to be aware of this great power in the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t have to worry about anything, it just happens. What did Christ tell us? What follows is Sacred Scripture on the need to focus on what is most important. The martyrdom comes when I must die to self in order to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the kenosis or emptying of self that comes when you realize that, each day, you must die to your old self in order to rise with Christ to your new life. For me, the Cistercian practices and charisms are ways for me to stay focused on what is important in my life. Read the wonderful passage from Matthew about worry. If I apply the Sacred Scriptures to my situation right now, I don’t worry about the Coronavirus or what is going on in the world. Some people have told me this is the end of the world as we know it. I look at it as the opportunity to reflect on reality in terms of what is the most important part of my life–to seek God daily wherever I am and however I am.

Matthew 6:25-34 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

DO NOT WORRY

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

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

EACH DAY IS A LIFETIME

As I have come to realize my interpretation of Cistercian spirituality, I am more and more at peace with myself. Each day is the opportunity for me to seek God where I am, as I am. Coronavirus notwithstanding, I am moving ever closer and closer to Omega. The martyrdom of everyday living is that the struggle is not something to fight against, it is part of the process of prayer, that which leads me to take up my cross daily and follow Christ. And what does following Christ mean? As verse 34 of the above passage states: 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Seeking God where I am, right now, means I use Cistercian practices and charisms as a mindset rather than activities. The day becomes lifted up to the Father through Christ’s atonement for sin. The Holy Spirit allows me, each day, not to worry about what is not important. The heaviness of the daily cross is that I must be constant in my need to have Christ grow in me (capacitas dei). The temptations of the World lash the shores of my life every day. Some days are better than others.

THE SAINTS ARE SINNERS WHO DIED TO SELF

For many years, I took for granted the canon of Saints, those whom the Church Universal has raised up for our edification and examples of how Christ changed their lives. Some of them shed their blood for Christ, while others suffered the daily buffeting and bruising of the fight to keep Christ as their center. It is a fallacy to think that being a follower of the Master is without struggle or pain. This dying to self happens every day. https://www.fullycatholic.com/about-fully-catholic/ The Saints are ones that the Church Universal has raised up to help our Faith. The saints are ones, like us, that struggle with the martyrdom of being in the world but not of it.

PEACE: THE PRODUCT OF MARTYRDOM

That may sound like a strange statement. Martyrdom is about dying, either through blood or living an ordinary life extraordinarily well with Christ as your center. One of the ways I can tell if I am on target is inner peace. Inner peace means I don’t worry about what is outside of my center (Philippians 2:5). I am content to continue to do all I can to seek God every day in the silence and solitude of whatever presents itself to me. When I make all things new with the grace of the Holy Spirit, it is not peace as the world gives it, but rather the peace that comes from sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and just waiting for Christ to stop by for a chat. Isn’t Christ everywhere? Yes, but he is not in the inner room of my spirit unless I open the door from the inside. I experience that peace that is not the absence of conflict (as the world defines it) but is the presence of Love, the resonance that comes from the martyrdom of my dissonance. Martyrdom of every day produces peace, the energy of God, the ability to see what is invisible to the world, to be a sign of contradiction as was Christ. In terms of the present Coronavirus, it is not something that is a jarring departure from what is real for me. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If Christ is my North on the compass of life, of whom should I be afraid? This was the feeling expressed by those who shed their blood for Christ. When I place myself in the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit, something happens, something that may not be discernable at first. I have come to accept that it is moving from my false self to my true self. And what is my true self? Read these two notations. https://artsandculture.google.com/story/seven-acts-of-mercy/hwLiY3AmAvR6LA https://fwdioc.org/works-of-mercy.pdf

MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT

Read 2 Corinthians 12. “Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me7because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated,* a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.b8Three times* I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,c9* but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,* in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.d10Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;e for when I am weak, then I am strong.”*

  • For the widow or widower who lost a spouse and now faces life alone, my grace is sufficient.
  • For the Catholic who has doubts about the Church Universal, because it is full of sinners, my grace is sufficient.
  • For the single mom or dad who must raise their children alone with very little monetary support, my grace is sufficient.
  • For the monk or nun in a cloistered monastery who is tempted to feel that their life is without meaning as they perform routine daily prayers, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those young believers who can’t yet see with the eyes of faith and thinks that all Faith is just a mental constructs and meaningless babble, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those who have wandered away from the Church Universal, the School of Love, and decry that there is no place to help them love authentically, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those who find themselves in a relationship where one partner is actively blocking your practice of the Faith, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those who are rich in money but poor in spirit, my grace is sufficient.
  • For those who are M&M Catholics (melt at the first sign of adversity and struggle), my grace is sufficient.
  • For those believers who think that all they need do is get on the conveyor belt of life and they are automatically assured of making it to Heaven, my grace is sufficient.

Christ only gave us one, new command, that we love one another as he has loved us. His example was one of acceptance of God where we find him, in each century, in each age, in each one of our hearts. There is no resurrection of Christ without the cross, the indelible sign tattooed on our hearts at Baptism. Christ is there to walk with us, not to walk for us. The martyrdom of every day is to realize, every day, that we must try to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). Being an authentic Catholic means you must take up your cross daily and follow Christ. We are told not to worry about the passing of the world. Christ’s grace is sufficient. Compared to all of the above, the Coronavirus, anything from the world, is so much straw.

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

WHAT I WILL PACK FOR THE TRIP TO HEAVEN: SPIRITUAL READING

In a recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), the thought of how lucky we are to have Sacred Scriptures presented itself to me. You can’t make this stuff up, with so many people writing about God. One thought, in particular, stood out for me: God communicates to humans through humans. How else can God do it? Some detractors say that all Sacred Scriptures is just the wild imagination of those living at the time. Maybe. Not so fast! Spiritual reading is not like reading the phone book, or a Jack Reacher novel by British author, Lee Child. My focus on selecting a spiritual book is intentional. I want to use it as an instrument to bring my mind and heart closer to Christ. Sacred Scripture is a good example of writings that were inspired by God, according to the Church. When I read it, I pray that I become what I read. Your levels of spiritual reading might be different than mine. Here is what I intend to pack.

Whenever I think of spiritual reading, there are five levels of books that are meaningful to me. Think of a dartboard with five circles on it. The first one is the bull’s eye, the most points, and the most difficult to hit consistently. Using this analogy, here are five levels of books that I consider spiritual reading.

SACRED SCRIPTURES: I use the term Sacred Scriptures rather than The Bible, because, at least in my spiritual reality, it denotes the holiness and primacy of the readings. When I read Sacred Scriptures, the words are transformative to help me grow from self to God. I read it daily in Liturgy of the Hours and private, spiritual reading. The Church Universal gathered together in prayer to the Holy Spirit to determine which books were inspired and which were spurious. Scriptures are transformative when I read them. With the Word of God, I pray to become what I read.

Resources: http://www.usccb.org/bible/books-of-the-bible/index.cfm http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/index.cfm http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm http://www.usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/index.cfm

ECUMENICAL COUNCILS: These are the interpretive results of how the Church Universal viewed Sacred Scripture and other housekeeping rules in order to maintain a unified approach to spirituality in each age. There were twenty-one such councils and you have the opportunity to look at their results. These Ecumenical Councils proposed the principles and policies of the age in which they are contained. The Pope ratifies the results, but it is the Ecumenical Council that is the Church Universal at work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Resources: https://www.newadvent.org/library/almanac_14388a.htm

EARLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH: From apostolic times, there have been commentators on Sacred Scriptures and how we should look on passages in order to increase Christ in us and decrease our false self. Some of these writers were considered heretical (not authentic according to the Church Universal).

Resources: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/

THE REFORMERS: These writings come from those whom the Church has designated as Saints, Martyrs, Reformers, Doctors of the Church, Pastors, Religious Men and Women, our major league players of how we should keep ourselves centered on Christ alone. These Saints are the Hall of Fame for the rest of us saints. All the Saints, indeed everyone who ever lived, except Christ and Mary, were sinful and imperfect. We honor them not because they were perfect, but rather because they were imperfect and filled their lives by loving others as Christ loved us. They wrote of their journies from their false self to their true self. We gain inspiration and courage from their struggles to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). These reformers did not try to reform the Church in the time in which they lived, although they did just that, but focused on their own interior relationship with Christ.

Resources: https://www.newadvent.org/library/ https://forums.catholic.com/c/apologetics https://www.newadvent.org/ https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/s.htm

FOUNDATIONAL WRITERS: There are exceptional Saints and Holy Men and Women who formed systematic approaches to loving Christ. Such persons are St. Dominic, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross, St. Scholastica, St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, just to name a few who founded schools of love for their followers to focus on preferring nothing to the love of Christ (St. Benedict in his Rule, Chapter 4). I do have one recommendation for those seeking resources, one that I, myself, use frequently. Go to the URL, http://www.newadvent.org, then sign up to receive their newsletter.

Research: https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/

https://www.virginiatrappists.org/2012/02/further-suggested-reading-cistercian-authors/

wHERE ARE THOSE OLD WEDDING PICTURES NOW

When is the last time you looked at your wedding pictures, assuming that you are married? This seemingly innocuous statement contains several layers of complexity that I recently explored as I thought about my Lectio Divina center (Philippians 2:5), “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” I asked myself, HOW do I sustain any serious commitment and keep it from going sour, given that we live in a condition where everything has a beginning and an end, plus all things corrupt or deteriorate? In this context, what God made, Adam and Eve, is, by its nature, good, but yet subject to the forces of corruption and disintegration. You won’t be here one hundred years from now. Have you thought about the fact that every single human (including Christ) does not live past a hundred? Do you get the point? Our history of being human lasts only seventy or eighty years, if we are strong, says the Psalmist in Psalm 90. http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/90 Read this Psalm in its entirety, three times. The first time you detoxify the influence of Original Sin; the second time you look for just one theme the Psalm is trying to convey; the third time, reading very slowly, you stop after each stanza and think how this applies to you. Very slowly!

When I read this Psalm three-times, my second time through I was struck by how humanity must pass on what it has learned to the next seventy or eighty years. The third time I read Psalm 90 I thought of how all life passes on its genetic code to the next generation. Spiritual Apes, which is what I term humans who have voluntarily accepted Christ as their Lord, is an exception to the natural progression of all that lives. You must choose to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You can only make this choice by Faith that comes only from God. There are forces at work outside of you that try to lead you astray from your Baptismal commitment. Humans are like God in that they have the ability to reason and they have the freedom to choose. What they choose can either be God or themselves.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF IDOLATRIES TODAY

There is such a thing as the idolatry of the mind, where human reasoning, to the exclusion of anything spiritual, is god. Reality is what is visible, what is historical, what you can discover with your mind and five senses, not what is the opinion of each individual who only lives for seventy or eighty years. In the early Church, there were three major (mortal) sins that caused the individual to be cast out of the gathering or assembly: offering incense to the Emperor, adultery, and murder. To get back into the community, you had to be re-washed with the blood of the Lamb. We call that the Sacrament of Forgiveness with a promise not to sin again and do penance for the rest of your life.

There is such a thing as idolatry of free choice, where you can choose either what is good for you or what is bad for you, and you make the wrong choice (as Adam and Eve did). Each of us has seventy or eighty years to discover how to love authentically. We learn from the successes and failures of what went before us. History is a succession of those seventy or eighty years, linked together in such a way that we can look back on what happened before and learn.

There is the idolatry of thinking that all there is, is contained in the few years we appear on the earth. If we worship at this altar, we must find meaning and the purpose of life within a few, short years. There are millions upon millons of people who are now living or who have lived before us. We move forward because of the legacy of those who have gone before us. We learn from the discoveries of generations of the past. Only humanity as a race has a history. Individually, we do our share to make this a better world for ourselves and our children, eighty years or so at a time.

The effects of Original Sin are that we will only live to seventy or eighty if we are lucky, granted me don’t get cancer or have a heart attack (I had both). It seems like a fixation that humans are trying to go into space to find new worlds and perhaps new civilizations. With all our attempts to go to the Moon or to Mars, we are still limited by Original Sin. In the case of space travel, consider that we are not born in space but in a gravity-based rock with gases on it. Even if we wanted to travel to distant planets, which we don’t about yet, it would take us more than those seventy or eight years to get there, and, we must take our gravity and gases with us to survive. Consider that the productive life of a human is forty years, granted you don’t die or disease.

You are probably worndering why I am wandering. Hold your horses! Everything fits together in the end, although we not realize it within the timeframe we have to discover what is true. Isn’t it strange that Christ would want to enter this world of corruption and Original Sin? As God, Scriptures says, he became sin for us so as to rescue (save) us from death. To do that, he became one of us (Philippians 2:5-12) in all things but sin. He came to tell us how to live beyond those seventy or eighty years, preparing us to live in the Kingdom of Heaven with God…Forever. Faith is not about what is natural, but what is supernatural. To get there you must use the gifts that God gave all humans (the ability to reason what is good or bad for you and the ability to choose what is good or bad for you). What God won’t do is make the choice for you. There fundamentally two choices you can make, one of which will lead you to life and one to death. Jesus not only became one of us to tell us what was authentic (the Old Testament) but to show us how to follow his footsteps (the New Testament).

Sacred Scriptures, given to us down through twenty centuries until it informs me now how to find the way, the truth, and the life, are love letters from God in which he tells us through the Holy Spirit inspiring writers to show us how to live in such a way that we prepare to live beyond death. Of course, not of this makes sense to the World, but that is why Christ saved us from his viewpoint that only recognizes the values of the World.

Those snippets of seventy to eighty years of living walking with Christ through twenty centuries (the Church Universal), provides a pathway from the Apostles to my life, now. You can read the path that the Church Universal has taken as it has stumbled down the path toward Point Omega. Sometimes we got off the path, such in thinking that the Church Universal is perfect, is without sin, that we are better than anyone else, is infallible in its practice. History tells of our misadventure with monarchial power, how we are very much, in each age, subject to the same effects of Original Sin as Adam and Eve. The Prophets of the Old Testament continuously railed against the infidelity of Israel keep the Law. The Saints are the prophets of the New Testament, the Church Universal in each age. Saints are important because they give us hope that the Holy Spirit has not abandoned us, despite our collective sinfulness. The Church Universal must focus on “loving others as Christ has loved us.” This Church must not be confused with a building or the Vatican governance, nor any other perishible things. These things come and go depending on the age in which we live. What remains is that Christ loved us so much that He volutarily gave up his life to die on the cross. He did that to SHOW us how we should live out our seventy or eighty years, in helping others. (Matthew 25:36) The promise of Christ was that the Holy Spirit would be with us and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against us. He promised that we should drink the cup of salvation with him, which we do in the Eucharist. The most marvelous gift of Christ is one where he gives up his life for us (humanity), continues the Resurrection from the dead, and returns to the Father in glory, now both fully God and fully human. The perfect gift of honor and glory to God. This is our sharing in the love of the Father for the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is our way to rise above our false self and put on the armor of Christ to combat the temptations of the Devil (the World). In the Hymn, Amazing Grace, we sing, “amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me” Grace is God’s own energy within us. In each age, the Church Universal focuses us on Christ in the Liturgy, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Eucharist, Penance and the Forgiveness of Sins, Healing and Preparing for Heaven.

When you think of those old wedding pictures, if you have to blow the dust off of them, you are missing a great opportunity for renewal of your Marriage Commitment to each other. It is not as though we don’t have an annual rededication of our Faith. During the Easter Vigil, those present are asked to renounce Satan and all his allurements.

Rededication to your Faith should be done frequently. It is Christ making all things new in your life, the life within your seventy or eighty years. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Dr.+Michael+F.+Conrad&i=stripbooks&qid=1588101315&ref=sr_pg_1

What follows are the promises I made to the Abbot of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia in May 2018. I renew them frequently to remind myself that Christ is my Lord and Savior. I pray that I become what I have promised with God’s grace and mercy.

FINAL PROMISES AS A LAY CISTERCIAN OF OUR LADY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MONASTERY (TRAPPIST), CONYERS, GEORGIA

I, Michael Francis Conrad, a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a community of Catholics living in the world, promise to strive for a daily conversion of life as my response to the love of God.

I commit myself to live in a spirit of contemplative prayer and sacrifice in obedience to God’s universal call to holiness, using daily Cistercian practices and charisms of simplicity, humility, obedience to God’s will, hospitality, and striving for conversion of life to move from self to God.

I give thanks to my wife, Young, and my daughter, Martha, for standing with me on my journey. I ask for prayers from the Monastic community of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and the Lay Cistercian community, to include the  Ecumenical and Auxiliary communities. I place myself in the hands of those already stand before the throne of the Lamb, including Holy Mary, Mother of God, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, the Seven Cistercian Martyrs of Our Lady of Atlas, Father Anthony Delisi and other deceased monks and Lay Cistercians of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and also Deacon Marcus Hepburn. Finally, I accept the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the constitutions and statutes of the Strict Observance Cistercians as my guide for living the Gospel within the time I have remaining. Ut in Omnia Dei glorificatur.

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TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE DEVIL

While taking a break from watching movies in my downtime, due to the pandemic, I found myself looking at the titles of movies. What is astonishing is the sheer number of movies out there about demons, the devil, possession, Dracula (although that is a fictional character), and the living dead. To a young person, impressionable because she or he equates what it in a movie with what is real, it must be confusing. Here are some of my thoughts from a Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) on the forces of evil at work today. Most of those who do evil don’t even know what they don’t know about the devil, (Did you notice that the Devil and Evil come from the same root?)

  1. What does the Devil look like? Scripture portrays Lucifer as a snake (Genesis 1-2), seducing Eve, who in turn seduced Adam to choose themselves over God. I have never seen the Devil in person, but I have felt and seen the effects of evil. One of the best representations of the Devil is the choreography by Bob Fosse in the movie, The Little Prince. I watched it three times, once for the choreography, once time for the words (these words are important) and the third time to sit back and enjoy the whole movie as I try to see how it fits into my view of reality as a Lay Cistercian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXonK8EBqmk

2. What is the nature of the Devil? I know, this sounds esoteric, but bear with me. Think about this. There are three natures that correspond to the three universes of reality (physical, mental, and spiritual.)

The physical universe has animal nature plus humans, the mental universe has only human nature, the spiritual universe has only God with humans admitted as adopted sons or daughters. These three natures are separate, as are the three universes. Humans are not divine in nature. Animals and humans share the same animal nature, which is why, when we act like an animal, we are not acting our nature, and that is sinful (missing the mark of being human). Genesis, that archetypal story of human nature, details how humans are not animals. God made humans last of all, to be caretakers of his garden. Into the garden (reality) comes the Devil, as a snake. The Devil is not God, nor Adam or Eve. Whereas God is seen as a human being (anthropomorphic), He is still of divine nature and Adam and Eve are human nature. Where does that leave Satan? He is an animal nature (snake). When he tempts Adam and Eve, he wants them to be like him (animal nature) and not human nature. Why should any of this matter to anyone? All these movies and television shows, such as Lucifer, have messed up who Satan really is. Here is the point: Satan is not God’s equal as light is the opposite of darkness. Stan or Lucifer is a fallen angel, one of the Archangels along with Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. God made Lucifer. Lucifer did not make God or is he equal to God. That is what he wants you to believe.

3. Lucifer and Adam made similar choices. God made all the angels with reason and free will. If it were not so, Lucifer could not or would have made the choice to be God. There are consequences to all our choices, both good and bad. Lucifer wanted to be like God. He chose his own will instead of serving the will of God. Why is that so bad? One reason may be found in the fact that we are made for Heaven (Garden of Eden) and our prototypes (Adam and Eve) did not pass the test, just like Lucifer. That temptation is the same one the Devil used on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There were consequences to that choice of evil, disguised as something good. We lost access to Heaven until someone could come and redeem us. The Hebrew word for redeem is Gaal. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1350.htm It means a kinsman buys back that which was pawned away. Do you know who the kinsman is who redeemed us from our collective sin? Jesus. Think about it. Jesus of Nazareth became human (Philippians 2:5-12) so He could be our kinsman. We have the opportunity to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

Read what New Advent has to say about the Devil. I quote this in its entirety so that you will get the flavor of the text and also use New Advent as a primary resource. You will find excellent Scriptural references with New Advent. https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04764a.htm

“As may be gathered from the language of the Lateran definition, the Devil and the other demons are but a part of the angelic creation, and their natural powers do not differ from those of the angels who remained faithful. Like the other angels, they are pure spiritual beings without any body, and in their original state they are endowed with supernatural grace and placed in a condition of probation. It was only by their fall that they became devils. This was before the sin of our first parents, since this sin itself is ascribed to the instigation of the Devil: “By the envy of the Devil, death came into the world” (Wisdom 2:24). Yet it is remarkable that for an account of the fall of the angels we must turn to the last book of the Bible. For as such we may regard the vision in the Apocalypse, albeit the picture of the past is blended with prophecies of what shall be in the future:

And there was a great battle in heavenMichael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Apocalypse 12:7-9)

To this may be added the words of St. Jude: “And the angels who kept not their principality, but forsook their own habitation, he hath reserved under darkness in everlasting chains, unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6; cf. 2 Peter 2:4).

In the Old Testament we have a brief reference to the Fall in Job 4:18: “In his angels he found wickedness“. But to this must be added the two classic texts in the prophets:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations? And thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the most High. But yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depth of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)”

“In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

4. Lucifer can only tempt humans. We must let him inside. I Peter 5:8 tells us: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary, the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” Temptation is not a sin. Sin has to do with choosing, in this case, choosing that which comes from God, or, alternatively, what comes from Satan, the World, that which will not lead us to fulfill our destiny as adopted sons and daughters of the Father and claim our rightful inheritance.

5. If you think there is no Devil, he has already seduced you with the false promises of the World.

6. Moving from our false self to our true self means renouncing Satan and all his allurements and recommitting yourself to Christ as your center.

7. Jealousy is at the core of Lucifer’s hatred for God. Lucifer tempted Eve with Jealousy. He tempted Adam with the sin of Pride.

8. Read the story of Job to get an interesting perspective on the Devil. In this scenario, the Devil and God make a wager. Read about who won the wager and what it tells you about the power of God.

9. God created both angels and demons but gave them intelligence and the freedom to choose. Angels chose God who is love; the demons chose jealousy, envy, hatred, and the seven deadly sins. The wages of sin, says Scripture, is death. God created all that is living (Genesis 1-2) and then made a gardener tend the garden. From Gardner he fashioned Eve. He gave both of them intelligence and the freedom to choose. He told them not to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, the Devil tempted them with jealousy, envy, hatred and the seven deadly sins. They chose poorly and the consequences of that sin (we call it Original because it describes human nature and the corruption in which we live). What Adam and Eve lost was their relationship with God. Since human nature offended a divine nature, human nature, by itself, could not apologize to God (seeking forgiveness). When you offend God, only God can apologies to God, which sounds a little bizarre until we realize that Christ, who is God, inserted himself into history by becoming one of us in all things but sin. (Philippians 2:5-12). The fixation of Christ is on completing his mission, the kinsman who buys us back (redeems us) from the sin of Adam, culminates with the temptation in the Garden of Gethsemani (like the Garden of Eden) where he pays the price for Adam’s sin (Romans 5), the passion, death, and resurrection to atone for our sins and open the Gates of Heaven again.

10. Just as each of us has a guardian angel, we also have assigned to us our own personal demon. At least, that is what Abbot Issac of the Monastery Stella in France thought (c. 1100-1168) What follows is an excerpt from Sermon 38, the Third Sunday of Lent. Read it for yourself.

  1. “His physical absence and the disciples’ powerlessness clearly represent what we said before: without the presence of his divine power and the grace to work with it, nothing could be cast out anywhere. For this reason, to those who asked him why they were unable to cast out the demon, he answered, Because of your unbelief. Either they did not know this yet, or they did not yet believe as they should have. So it is also that elsewhere he calls certain people who claim that they are something (arrogantes) to return to themselves, saying, Do not boast that spirits are made subject to you, etc. For I have seen Satan falling like lightning from heaven because of his haughtiness. (arrogantia)
  2. We begin by mentioning these matters, brothers, so that you will not presume to claim anything for yourselves and foolishly boast in what you have received. For it is God who does all things in us, mercifully casting out what is evil and introducing what is good, and sometimes justly taking away what is good and inflicting what is evil.
  3. Therefore, Jesus was casting out a demon, and continues to do so today. Let us ask good Jesus for ourselves, beloved; let us constantly ask him to completely cast our demons out of us, or at least restrain them for a while. All demons are dangerous to us and rejoice when they harm us or discover that we have suffered harm. They all often heap up a great many wide-ranging and chance acts around many different people to deceive them. Yet Scripture informs us that we all have our own particular (familiaris) demon who is especially attentive toward us and who watches us everywhere in all our dealings. A monk must certainly be aware of this particular demon.
  4. For I reckon that I know and understand my demon quite well, beloved. Nothing is better known to me, because nothing does me more harm. Nothing is more familiar (familiarius) to me, because nothing is more constant. I am hardly unaware of the nature and kind of temptation that most frequently and sharply pricks me. I also know in what area I am most easily afflicted. This is why I must also cry out as a man who sees his weakness and recognizes his enemy: Lord Jesus, you who alone are mighty, snatch the helpless one from the hands of those who are stronger; the poor, needy one from his plunderer. Snatch the poor one, and free the needy one from the hand of the sinner. Snatch me from the hand of the sinner and from the hand of the wicked one who acts against the law. When I sing these and other verses like them in the assembly, beloved, I certainly direct that psalm against him in secret.
  5. And it was mute, it says. Mine talks constantly to me and weaves endless and deceitful tales about the glory, beauty, and delights of this world. It whispers ideas about these things and a thousand others like them, both promising and threatening miracles. It tells a thousand lies, saying that I can do many things that I cannot, and that I cannot do many things that I can. It says that others recount amazing things about me, both good and bad. It goes on at great length to me, variously talking about my knowledge, my religious observance, my habits, what kind of person I am, my charm, my eloquence, or my refinement. In short, it often grabs and takes over my ears for itself after this fashion, so that I am free neither to read nor to listen to someone else reading to me. This is its purpose in speaking to me: to make me entirely mute, to render me deaf and dull.
  6. And perhaps this is why a wicked spirit that does not stop speaking evil is called mute: because it makes those whom it attacks mute, unable to praise God or use their rational tongues properly. If someone speaks, says the apostle Peter, let it be with God’s words, as it were. I can thus understand that the rational tongue is not for speaking empty and lying words, words of conflict and ruin, words of slander or pride, of cupidity and lust, or any kind of nonsense, which is inappropriate. The tongue, whether it calls out with all these words and chatters in the ears of others or engages in inner conversation with its particular demon, is mute before God. As it is written, Because I was silent, my bones grew old, while I called out all day long. There are three ways, then, with which the tongue speaks God’s words: when it praises God, when it accuses itself in his presence, and when it builds up its neighbor. But those who do not engage in these kinds of speech are mute, no matter how much they cry out.
  7. O Lord Jesus, cast out my demon, and open my lips to humbly confess my sins, so that my mouth may worthily announce your praise. If you do not, no beautiful praise will be found in the sinner’s mouth: You have put on confession and beauty, Scripture says. For confession is beautiful, and beauty gives praise.”

Here are some of my concluding thoughts about Satan and demons.

We live in a world wounded by Original Sin but not evil. Human nature is wounded as well.

We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through water and the Holy Spirit.

We must constantly pray (daily) to be on our guard against the temptations of the Devil to seduce us with values and behaviors of the world.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray with Christ that we are not abandoned to the Devil when tempted.

Christ’s grace is sufficient.

The greatest triumph of the Devil is to convince the pusillanimous that he does not exist.

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