ARE YOU ROMAN CATHOLIC OR JUST A ROAMING CATHOLIC?

One of those recurring questions I must keep asking myself from now until I die is, “Am I a Roman Catholic, or am I just passing through?” It is like the examination of conscience that St. Benedict writes about in Chapter 4 of his Rule. Read it. https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ I always cite my source and give the total text of any Scripture I use so that you have a chance to reflect profoundly on the words of God to us rather than using them as a speed bump and an inconvenience. Reading Chapter 4 is important to this article, so make sure you don’t procrastinate.

Like me, if you aspire to love and act, not as the world teaches but follows The Christ Principle as my center, you will “get” what I am trying to uncover with this blog. If not, what I am about to say will knock on the door of your house with nobody home. I offer these opinions (after all, this is a blog), not to proselytize (my God is better than your God) or even evangelize (love others as I have loved you). Rather, these thoughts are ideas reflecting on why I still believe what I do. During this past month, the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit met in their gathering. I bring this up because a takeaway from this meeting was the notion that in my contemplative meditations (and once in a while contemplation), I should be living the moment out ahead of where I am or conscious of my next moment. This linking of thoughts or thinking ahead of yourself reminded me of Dr. Bernard Boland, my professor at Loyola University (Chicago), Institute of Pastoral Studies. He is an existential philosopher who brought existential thinking into my worldview. Dr. Boland told us that to be existential is to live “out in front of yourself,” which is similar to what Father Cassian Russell, O.C.S.C. told us about Lectio Divina. Living out in front of yourself is all about choices and their consequences.

What prompted my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) is the question I have about everyone having a different perception of who Jesus is based on their choices and the results of those choices in how you look at reality. I have a saying: “I am not you, you are not me; God is not you, and you, most certainly, are not God.” For example, as a Lay Cistercian, we meet on Gathering Day to frame or energize what we will live out for the rest of the month. Community is so important that you cannot remain a Lay Cistercian (with stability to a monastery with an Abbot or Abbess) without this face-to-face meeting. With the entry of COVID, we must resort to using Zoom, which I find better suited to the needs of an 81+-year-old who lives five hours away from the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia. http://www.trappist.net Community is so critical because it is through each Lay Cistercian and Monastic Spiritual Advisor that the Holy Spirit speaks. Like it is with belief, my problem is to listen profoundly to what Christ says “with the ear of the heart” and “do what he tells you.”

The Wedding at Cana.1* On the third day there was a wedding* in Cana* in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.a2Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.3When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”4* [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”b5His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”c6* Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,d each holding twenty to thirty gallons.7Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim.8Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”* So they took it.9And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom10and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”11Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs* in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.e12* After this, he and his mother, [his] brothers, and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there only a few days.*

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/2

I encourage you to read this entire Scripture at least three times, the last time asking yourself what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you. What is the most important idea Jesus wants us to know? Why is “do whatever he tells you” so important for approaching what happens to you each and every day you live? Reverence this word of God as if you were the only one that has ever read it.

BEING ROMAN CATHOLIC IS NOT EASY

If you want a Church that provides comfort as you pass through the minefields of life, this is not the one for you. When you become a professed Catholic of the Universal Church, you are not given a Bible but a heavy cross to bear (the weight of your own sins). The Scriptures tell us and show us how to love others as Christ loves us. Read John 20:30-31. To be Catholic in the Apostolic sense, you must trust a convicted criminal that what he says about love is true, even though it makes no sense in terms of what the world suggests is the way. As each Baptized Catholic lives out their existence, Christ does not leave us orphans. He understands the weakness and proneness to self-indulgence that the world offers and how incredibly weak any of us are to the onslaughts of the Devil. That is why He left us the power to make all things new. That he left this underappreciated power to love God as He loved us to sinful humans is remarkable. In both the Old and New Testaments, bad things happen whenever the people stray away from the covenant of loving others in their own name instead of as Christ loved us. The two gifts Christ handed down to the Apostles to give those who believe are real food and the spirit’s real healing. The real food is the Eucharist, where Christ is made present by the words of the Priest, just as real and energetic as he was when he was in the upper room challenging the disciples to move from self to God. As a pledge of sustainability of this new covenant, He gave us access to the Second Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. Not everyone can hear the words or ideas of the Holy Spirit in their heart. It takes work. That is why being Catholic is tough. You are asked to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.

Not only is being a Catholic, in the most authentic sense of that word, impossible by yourself, but you are also asked to die to yourself. That doesn’t make any sense to the world. Remember Chapter 4 that you just read above (you did read it, didn’t you?). Look at those tools or instruments to help you move from self to Christ and see if you can see what St. Benedict is telling you that you must do to love others as Christ loved you?

THE REAL PRESENCE

The Catholic Church does not make sense, given the world’s criteria. The only way to view it is using The Christ Principle. This is the one intense point or center into which all reality flows, is transformed into incorruptibility, and emerges with the way, the truth, and the life for those who bear the mark of the cross on their foreheads. As strange as that may sound, the sign of contradiction is the measurement by which and through whom what is irrational, a fairy tale, and totally against all human experiences, makes sense.

There is no more conflicting contradiction of reason than the doctrine and practice of the real presence of Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity present under the appearance of the fragile white piece of unleavened bread. The Arc of the Covenant is consecrated by the most unlikely of sources, a sinful human being. It is the Manna from heaven given for the ransom of many. It is the ultimate test of the belief that the same Christ that rose from the dead is as present as when he appeared to the Apostles who were in a room where the doors were locked for fear of the Jews.

This is my personal take on belief, but I think there are two distinct camps of Christianity. One is all those who do not hold that Jesus is present in the Eucharist; the second camp is those with varying levels of knowledge, love, and service, who live with the belief that Jesus is present. Even if you are a practicing Catholic, you may or may not believe in the Real Presence, called Transubstantiation. It is the major league of belief.

The practice of the Eucharist as the presence of Christ comes from the intensity of loving Jesus with your whole heart, with your whole mind, and with your whole strength and your neighbor as yourself. Believe me, you must fight your human self to move beyond the corruptible love of this world to embrace an incorruptible love.

I am at a stage where I don’t have to prove anything to anyone about the Real Presence. With Faith, says St. Thomas Aquinas, no answer is necessary. Without Faith, no answer is possible. Amen.

If you consider yourself a Catholic, don’t roam too far from the Christ Principle.

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SEVEN CONTEMPLATIVE HABITS OF A BROKEN-DOWN, OLD, LAY CISTERCIAN TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

The practice of contemplative thinking is being able to move ideas from the head into the heart. One way to do this is Cistercian (Trappist) spirituality which stresses: silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. I have used seven habits that allow me to focus consistently and purposefully on moving from my false self to my true self. It is not as easy as it seems. Here is what St. Bernard of Clairvaux had to say about having in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote of twelfth-century Cistercian life: This is what being a Lay Cistercian means, the fulfillment of our desires to rest in the heart of Christ. I want to have this Cistercian Way as part of my reality.

“Our way of life is abjection. It is humility, it is voluntary poverty, obedience, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit.Our way of life means being under a master, under an abbot, under a rule, under discipline. Our way of life means applying ourselves in silence, being trained in fasts, vigils, prayers, manual labor, and above all it means clinging to the most excellent way, which is Charity, and furthermore advancing day by day in these things and preservering in them until the last day.” (The Cistercian Way, Cover)

Habits are those repetitive behaviors that we repeatedly repeat until we have reached a level of skill that enables us to move to the next habit. Here are seven habits I use in my search for God each day.

I. THE HABIT OF PATIENCE– No question, but this is a flaw in most human endeavors that involve the Sacred. Sacred time is not the same as temporal time. My patience with God is sometimes relegated to making God in my image and likeness. This awareness of allowing God to be and realizing that patience in my expectations must not be immediate gratification is a habit in prayer. Patientia attingit omnia. Patience achieves everything.

II. THE HABIT OF WAITING — As with patience, my human anxiety fills up holes in my life immediately with busy work. Waiting to sit next to Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter requires silence and internal solitude to focus on emptying the false self (wanting to get in, get on, get over, and get out) and be present to whatever happens.

III. THE HABIT OF WONDERING — Although it might seem a bit of a stretch, wondering is a wonderful habit that I try to cultivate. Several sessions ago at our Gathering Days at the Monastery, Father Cassian brought up the concept of living out in front of oneself. It brought to mind Dr. Bernard Boland, one of my instructors at the Institue for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in Chicago. His class was on the existential-phenomenological approach to spirituality, where we are open to the ontic possibility of the manifest ability of all being encountered. He described that to exist means we must live just a bit beyond what we see and experience (ex-istere or to live a step outside of ourselves). This is direction, momentum, and the ability to allow the wonder in my mind and heart to propel me forward. Wonder is the essence of all scientific inquiry about what and how it is. Wonder in my contemplative spirituality is a cultivated awareness of the physical and mental universes in which I exist and the spiritual universe where I can construct the conditions of meeting Christ because my reason and free will don’t control outcomes. Patience, waiting and wondering all help me anchor myself in my resolve to be present to the Real Presence.

IV. THE HABIT OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER — Contemplative prayer, unlike praying in a prayer group or small faith community, is going into that inner room Christ speaks of in Matthew 6:6, locking the door, and praying in the silence of your heart. It is a scary place to be when you think about it. All there is: just you and Jesus with the Holy Spirit helping out with wonder. My urge is to blurt out everything from the Holy Spirit to share with others so that others know what the Holy Spirit said to me. If I am not careful, I fall into the trap of having my sharing be the end result of prayer rather than redirecting my ideas to share with Christ in the silence of the inner room. Even monks and nuns and Lay Cistercians pray in common during Eucharist and other community praying opportunities. Lection Divina is suited to being alone in that inner room of the soul and just patiently waiting with the wonder of anticipation that Christ is there. To draw an unlikely parallel, The Little Prince by Saint Exupery has a scene when the fox talks to the Little Prince about taming as a way to approach each other so they can be friends. Christ tames us. Watch a YouTube on this interaction. (Use the closed captioning edit)

V. THE HABIT OF SILENCE AND SOLITUDE — It would be a mistake to think of contemplative practices of silence and solitude as external conditions that must be present BEFORE you begin Lectio Divina or contemplative meditation on Scripture. If I had to wait until there were no people around me or be in a place with no noise, I would never do Lectio. What I can do is to go to that inner room (Matthew 6.6) and wait. This is inner silence and inner solitude.

VI. THE HABIT OF ADORATION BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT- This is a habit that comes from wanting to be with Jesus. Waiting before the Blessed Sacrament in vigil is a habit with unexpected consequences. This is a habit that, if I have to explain it, you won’t get it, but it doesn’t need any explanation if you get it.

VII. THE HABIT OF LOOKING TO GROW DEEPER — One of the remarkable consequences of making all these habits real is the realization that I am never stuck with the same old routines each time I pray. I have the ability to grow deeper in my spirituality each time I pray. This is vertical prayer or delving into the depths of your thoughts right now. With God, there is no limit to your growth.

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CONVERSIO MORAE: The habit of moving from my false self to my true self. With God’s energy, there is always deeper.

During the Lenten season, particular emphasis is on how to move from my false self to my true self. The book, The Cistercian Way, written by the late Dom Andre Louf, O.S.C.O., is one that I continue to read, again and again, to recreate the pattern of the passion, death, and resurrection in my person dying to self. Many ideas flow from a profound reflection on the Mystery of Faith, one of which is that Christ must increase while I must decrease. Dom Andre speaks of moving from my false self to my true self as emptying the world and receiving the living Word. (John 1:1) I find the following passage from The Cistercian Way inspirational to help me MOVE from my present way of doing lectio divina to an even deeper awareness. With God s energy, not mine, there is always deeper (higher).

“There comes a time therefore when the monk will close the commentaries and put aside the dictionaries and concordances. He will no longer ask questions or pose problems. Nor will he run after representations of the world in his imagination, nor lean on the feelings which these can arouse. He will try instead to rest before God in reverent and loving attention, which His interior faculties remain empty.

He must work to create this emptiness, the space within so that the power of God’s word can fill it. Only then will this power spring up like a flash of light or as a force that can transform me. This does not normally happen quickly. Perseverance, humility, and patience are needed, and not some sort of interior searching and questioning which would be no help at all. What the monk must do is nurture his desire for the word of God in faith and trust.

The attitude of the soul and heart which we are here describing is not always either easy or comfortable. The reason for this is that it is an attempt to persevere in which is in fact an interior desert. This is especially so if the world of the Bible has not yet become alive and life-giving for the monk. He does not know where to turn. He has no interior point of reference other than a gentle awareness that has come to him from the Holy Spirit. He is tempted to take the well-trodden paths of the old certainties that he knows. He wants the solid historical commentary, which will enlighten his intellect or the pious meditation which will warm his heart once more. He must resist these desires when he allies lectio divina. He must patiently persist in his attempts, putting all his hope in the power of God who is present in his ord, and in the love of God who wishes to speak to him at the moment.

In general, however, the beginner in lectio does not have to wait too long. Suddenly a word will light up. He will be touched interiorly. Perhaps he will be seized by a powerful emotion. He may feel himself overcome by the power of the word of God. He will lose himself in it easily. Sometimes tears will come without effort on his part. They are the fruit of grace. Such an experience is important in the life of any believer, especially the first time it happens. The heart feels as though it has been wounded by the sword of the word of God. “The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts through to where the soul and spirit meet, to where the joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of men’ hearts” (Heb. 4:12).

Our heart is the place of God. God is there and we do not know it. Our heart sleeps and only the word of God can awaken it. This word comes to bring it life and filled with this life the heart stirs and awakens. The power of God which is in his word strikes it and makes it vibrate with an echo to the very life of God, The word seeks out our heart and then our heart seizes on the word of God. The two recognize each other. In the first blinding by the word of God, our heart truly hears the word and in that same instant recognizes itself as a new being, recreated before God in the very power of the word. Henceforth, things will never be the same. A new doorway has been opened. A crucial threshold has been crossed. A new criterion of discernment has been given to us. Having once recognized God’s power in his word, so unlike all other inward experiences, we can recognize it again when it comes to us, just as we can thereafter detect its absence.” (pp77-78)

A new doorway has been opened, not by me, but because I waited in the silence and solitude of my heart to hear “the way, the truth, and the life.” My biggest seduction when it comes to contemplation is to proceed under the illusion that anything that comes to me in meditation from the Holy Spirit must be shared with others in a prayer group or even a Lay Cistercian Gathering Day. My great challenge is to keep the absolutely uncontainable energy that comes from Love contained within myself and share it with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the upper room of my heart (Matthew 6:6), I cultivate the habit of waiting in stillness. The human predilection for having to tell everyone what you are thinking tempts me to blurt out my feelings and emotions, rather than continuing to sit in silence and solitude next to the heart of Jesus and simply enjoy. With eyes cast down (custos oculi) and heart racing with all that I can contain from the Holy Spirit, I am resisting the race to share with others (a prideful temptation), instead, turning my attention to the person next to me, Jesus, and spending time being fully human mind to mind and heart to heart. This is Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37 in practice, “loving God with my whole heart, with my whole mind, with my whole strength, and my neighbor as myself.”

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote of twelfth-century cistercian life: This is what being a Lay Cistercian means, the fulfillment of our desires to rest in the heart of Christ. I want to have this Cistercian Way as part of my reality.

“Our way of life is abjection. It is humility, it is voluntary poverty, obedience, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit.Our way of life means being under a master, under an abbot, under a rule, under discipline. Our way of life means applying ourselves in silence, being trained in fasts, vigils, prayers, manual labor, and above all it means clinging to the most excellent way, which is Charity, and furthermore advancing day by day in these things and preservering in them until the last day.” (The Cistercian Way, cover)

I wish to make the words of St. Bernard in the twelfth century my own this day. As a Lay Cistercian, each day seeking God, I want to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. I want to move from my false self to my true self, each day growing in the capacity for God within me (capacitas dei). Let’s just say I am a vessel of clay in the process of being shaped by God the Potter.

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THE SUBTLE SEDUCTION OF SACRED SCRIPTURES

My Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) presented me with a bit of a puzzle that I am still trying to decipher. As God’s word, bring the words, the prayer, the sharing, the becoming what you read into your inner room (Matthew 6:6) is like having a glass of concentrated orange juice in front of you that is jammed packed with flavor and goodness, but you can’t drink it as it is. The only way to drink it is by adding the water of your life experiences to it, the sum total of who you are (failures and successes, in good times and in bad, for richer for poorer) until death do you part.

Scriptures are there, waiting for us to approach The Word in humility and obedience to God’s promptings to do something with it. Scriptures are seductive because they are action-oriented, not passive as in “Read it and forget it.” reading Scriptures is like that, in so far as God’s word is so full of what is true, that no human can drink it without adding something to it to water it down so that our human nature can take it in and digest it. No one reads the word of God without receiving the energy TO BECOME WHAT YOU READ.

The depths (and heights) of seeking God to increase in you while you decrease is limitless. Here is another idea to move even deeper. When you think of reading Scripture, “Whatever is received is received according to the disposition of the one who receives it.) In practice, it means Scriptures contain the way, contain the truth, and is the life we must follow to fulfill our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. And here is the deeper meaning. It also means each person who reads the immutable Scriptures does so using the totality of who they are and wish to become. Ten people could look at the phrase, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) and view it from ten different applications of that Scripture passage. All interpretations come from the heart of the person involved. The result is ten different ways to approach the text or nine other ways the Holy Spirit speaks to you in the Gathering Day of Lay Cistercians each month, where we gather to allow our hearts to be near the heart of Christ.

Scriptures were written down “so that we might come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and that, believing in Him, we might have life forever in his name.” John 20:30-31.

Let’s move deeper (higher). Scriptures are dead until and unless each one of us takes THE WORD into our hearts and “listens with the ear of the heart.” The seductive part of the written WORD is that it arouses in my feelings and emotions that I have accumulated throughout the years and enlivens them against the capstone of my Temple of the Holy Spirit, The Christ Principle that holds my broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit together. Cistercian practices and charisms are one way to approach the Sacred and to re-position and re-new The Christ Principle is central to how I look out at reality each day. This is what I understand “seeking God each day” means.

Allow me to explain with a few verses from Sacred Scripture and what it evokes within me as I read it. Remember Scriptures are not dead, but I am, until my humility and obedience to the Word unlocks those latent feelings and emotions that I have as I sit next to the heart of Christ AND WAIT.

https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/seven-penitential-psalms-songs-of-suffering-servant

1A psalm of David.

LORD, hear my prayer;

in your faithfulness listen to my pleading;

answer me in your righteousness.

2Do not enter into judgment with your servant;

before you no one can be just.a

3The enemy has pursued my soul;

he has crushed my life to the ground.b

He has made me dwell in darkness

like those long dead.c

4My spirit is faint within me;

my heart despairs.d

5I remember the days of old;

I ponder all your deeds;

the works of your hands I recall.e

6I stretch out my hands toward you,

my soul to you like a parched land.f

Selah

7Hasten to answer me, LORD;

for my spirit fails me.

Do not hide your face from me,

lest I become like those descending to the pit.g

8In the morning, let me hear of your mercy,

for in you I trust.

Show me the path I should walk,

for I entrust my life to you.h

9Rescue me, LORD, from my foes,

for I seek refuge in you.

10Teach me to do your will,

for you are my God.

May your kind spirit guide me

on ground that is level.

11For your name’s sake, LORD, give me life;

in your righteousness lead my soul out of distress.

12In your mercy put an end to my foes;

all those who are oppressing my soul,

for I am your servant.i

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/psalms/143

I added the footnotes from Psalm 143 to read the commentary on this Psalm.

* [Psalm 143] One of the Church’s seven Penitential Psalms, this lament is a prayer to be freed from death-dealing enemies. The psalmist addresses God, aware that there is no equality between God and human beings; salvation is a gift (Ps 143:12). Victimized by evil people (Ps 143:34), the psalmist recites (“remembers”) God’s past actions on behalf of the innocent (Ps 143:56). The Psalm continues with fervent prayer (Ps 143:79) and a strong desire for guidance and protection (Ps 143:1012).

1A psalm of David.
LORD, hear my prayer;
in your faithfulness listen to my pleading;
answer me in your righteousness.
2Do not enter into judgment with your servant;
before you no one can be just.a
3The enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground.b
He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.

Going even deeper…

When I read this Psalm (or any Scriptures), I am conscious that I am dead and the Word of God is alive. I must take that Word into my heart to start up the old temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of the corruption of the world in which I live, if I don’t keep my eyes fixed on the Lord, I rust in the climate of Original Sin. One way to keep my spiritual grass cut is to mow it daily with Cistercian practices and receive its charisms’ strength.

Going even deeper…

Scriptures are meant for me to take them into my heart and become what they say. In the passage above, when I read “listen to my pleading,” it is me talking to God at this moment. I feel the reason for the pleading. “The enemy has pursued my soul.” I am trying each day to move from my false self to my true self. People around me tell me to stop my blog, that no one wants to read that la-la land stuff, that I am no good and God doesn’t love me. Do you see this Psalm as my prayer to God for what is happening to me now, at this moment in my life, as well as past occurrences where I just completely lost sight of God in favor of my own importance?

Going even deeper…

God has given me the energy to try to create a habit of reading Sacred Scriptures as one way of many to make God’s will known to me. “For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever.” It is only when I die to self that I can begin to transform the seductive words from Scripture with my lived reality and deepen my understanding, my love for others, and my service to those around me, especially those who love me but try to cancel out Christ as my center.

NON NOBIS, DOMINE, NON NOBIS

Read Psalm 115 and reflect on it in the silence of your inner room. Not to us, Lord, not to us.

I

1Not to us, LORD, not to us

but to your name give glory

because of your mercy and faithfulness.a

2Why should the nations say,

“Where is their God?”*b

3Our God is in heaven

and does whatever he wills.c

II

4Their idols are silver and gold,d

the work of human hands.e

5They have mouths but do not speak,

eyes but do not see.

6They have ears but do not hear,

noses but do not smell.

7They have hands but do not feel,

feet but do not walk;

they produce no sound from their throats.

8Their makers will be like them,

and anyone who trusts in them.

III

9*The house of Israel trusts in the LORD,f

who are their help and shield?g

10The house of Aaron trusts in the LORD,

who is their help and shield?

11Those who fear the LORD trust in the LORD,

who is their help and shield?

12The LORD remembers us and will bless us,

will bless the house of Israel,

will bless the house of Aaron,

13Will bless those who fear the LORD,

small and great alike.

14May the LORD increase your number,

yours and your descendants.

15May you be blessed by the LORD,

maker of heaven and earth.

16*The heavens belong to the LORD,

but he has given the earth to the children of Adam.h

17*The dead do not praise the LORD,

not all those go down into silence.i

18It is we who bless the LORD,

both now and forever.

Hallelujah!

* [Psalm 115] A response to the enemy taunt, “Where is your God?” This hymn to the glory of Israel’s God (Ps 115:13) ridicules the lifeless idols of the nations (Ps 115:48), expresses in a litany the trust of the various classes of the people in God (Ps 115:911), invokes God’s blessing on them as they invoke the divine name (Ps 115:1215), and concludes as it began with praise of God. Ps 135:1518 similarly mocks the Gentile gods and has a similar litany and hymn (Ps 135:1921).

* [115:2] Where is their God?: implies that God cannot help them.

* [115:911] The house of Israel…the house of Aaron…those who fear the LORD: the laity of Israelite birth, the priests, and the converts to Judaism, cf. Ps 118:24135:1921. In the New Testament, likewise, “those who fear the Lord” means converts to Judaism (cf. Acts 10:2223513:1626).

* [115:16] The heavens: the Septuagint reads here “the heaven of heavens” or “the highest heavens,” i.e., above the firmament. See note on Ps 148:4.

LISTEN TO THIS YOUTUBE

THE INCORUPTIBILITY OF GOD:Like Father, Like Son.

This Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) came about when I ask the Holy Spirit the question: How is it that Jesus (human and divine natures) knew about his mission and purpose on earth? Remember, I only write what I think the Holy Spirit said. I am not claiming to be correct, only that I received and passed on to you to do with what you will.

Where did Jesus get all those ideas (most of which are not contained in Scripture but were taught to the disciple?. Who was Jesus’ teacher, and where did he get all those wonderful ideas? Certainly, because many people wrote them down, the inspired ideas came through each author and the life experiences of each person as they focused on The Christ Principle. If Jesus was a Rabboni (teacher), where did he get his ideas to pass on to others?

The answers I received from the Holy Spirit have been staring at me for nearly seventy of my eighty-one years on this earth, and I failed to pick up on them. They are in no order and without much elaboration (I will add water to this concentrated orange juice from God for the rest of my life on earth). Some ideas from my Interview with the Advocate (Lectio Divina) follow.

God is incorruptible, living in unapproachable light. This light is pure energy, the energy of pure love, the energy of pure knowledge, and also pure service (sharing love with the Father and Son). God the Son taking on human nature is not as easy as we make it sound. Humans have a way of always assuming so many things based on what we (the individual) know about the words we use. Jesus was like us in all things but sin, so he had to learn those lessons that would lead to fulfilling his mission.

Jesus was born into incorruptibility because Mary had been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit but had human nature just like us and was exposed to the effects of Original Sin. I think it is important to view Christ from the viewpoint of humanity because Scriptures point out the lessons Jesus had to learn as a part of the education of God the Son. This is where I am absolutely awed by the sophistication of The Mystery of Faith. Jesus had to learn what it meant to be an obedient son of the Father from the viewpoint of his human nature, and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, were his teachers. To feel what we feel like humans, to experience failure, frustration, friendship, fidelity, and betrayal is part of the life we all lead. It was no different for the humanity of Christ.

Read the passage from Philippians on how St. Paul addressed this seeming paradox. I use the complete text for you to read because I want you to do as I do when pondering the depths of Scripture.

GOD BECOMES ONE OF US

“5 Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,*

6 Who,* though he was in the form of God,d

did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.*

7 Rather, he emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

coming in human likeness;*

and found human in appearance,e

8he humbled himself,f

becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.*

9Because of this, God greatly exalted him

and bestowed on him the name*

that is above every name,g

10that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,*

of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,h

11and every tongue confess that

Jesus Christ is Lord,*

to the glory of God the Father.i

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/philippians/2

Jesus was God but emptied himself of his divinity (The Mystery of Faith) to assume our nature. For Jesus to fulfill his mission to be a ransom for the many, He had to feel what we feel, experience pain and rejection, suffer the humiliations and disappointments of those who mock and hurl insults at us. While being one of us in all things but sin, he would have to learn his mission from The Father, in a way teaching himself what it meant to redeem the sin of Adam and Eve. Learning for humans comes through practice and study and is not infused. It takes time to ponder all of us. I suspect this is why Jesus had to pray about what the Father wanted him to do during the hidden years, where he was obedient to Mary and Joseph. Jesus learned obedience and humility from Mary and Joseph, just as we learned, by doing. Ironic that Jesus’ human nature had to learn to “fear of the Lord,” while his divine nature was what he had to fear.

The Father, as part of being paternal, teaches his son, Jesus, what it means to be human. The Gospels describe the lessons Jesus learned as part of his training in becoming human. I think the story of Jesus sitting in the Temple and learning from the elders and teaching them is placed in this strategic position for readers to realize that Jesus has a father on earth (Joseph), but also a heavenly one that is incorruptible. This lesson is not only for Jesus but for his mother and foster father, and ultimately for each of us. Use this Sacred Scripture to feel what Jesus felt about his mission on earth. What is the profound significance of Jesus at the age of twelve teaching in the Temple and telling us that His Father is God?

The Boy Jesus in the Temple.*

41Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,p

42and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.

43After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.

44Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,

45but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions,

47and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.

48When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

49And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”*

50But they did not understand what he said to them.

51He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.q

52And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.r

WAYS JESUS IS LIKE HIS FATHER

1. He likes to create things. Both God and Jesus were builders as part of their skill set.The Father like to begin crafting matter and time, spriinkled with live creatures. God puts His DNA on everything He touches, which is why everything progresses with purpose toward its intended finality. All matter, time, physical energy, the universe of the mind, all have several things in common. Everything that is has a beginning and an end. Within that beginning and ending, matter corrupts, the mind has human reason and the ability to choose. What was Jesus’ profession? He was a builder of things. He would have a concept in his mind and an intended outcome (what would the table look like?)

2. Jesus learned to love (in his human nature) from the Father and Holy Spirit (his divine nature). The interesting thing about how Jesus learned how to love is that he was like us in all things except sin. Philippians 2:5-12 has an interesting phrase that goes

Who,* though he was in the form of God,d

did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.*

7Rather, he emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

coming in human likeness;*

and found human in appearance,e

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/philippians/2

What strikes me as challenging about this phrase is the notion that, for Christ to experience the full effect of humanity, divinity has to keep from interfering so Christ can legitimately choose good or not so good (Jesus could not choose anything sinful), in order to feel the passion, death, and resurrection plus the agony in the Garden.

3. Jesus was a teacher, just like his Father. Although God spoke through the Law and the Prophets, things were not progressing as planned. God sent His only begotten Son to show us the way, what is true, and how to live life in such a way as to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

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ARE YOU HALF A CATHOLIC?

My Lectio Divina meditation (Philippians 2:5) took me to ask about my being faithful to what Christ taught about loving others as Christ loved us.

Read the whole text about love with its fantastic approach to Christ being real inside you. I offer it to you so that you can enjoy the depths of meaning in Chapter 15. I simply love reading and reflecting on this passage, especially in Lent.

The Vine and the Branches.

1* “I am the true vine,* and my Father is the vine grower.a

2He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes* so that it bears more fruit.

3You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.b

4Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.

5I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

6* c Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.

7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.d

8By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.e

9As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.f

10If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.g

11“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.h

12This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.i

13* No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

14You are my friends if you do what I command you.

15I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.k

16It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.l

17This I command you: love one another.m

The World’s Hatred.*

18“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.n

19If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.o

20Remember the word I spoke to you,* ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.p

21And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,* because they do not know the one who sent me.q

22If I had not come and spoken* to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin.r

23Whoever hates me also hates my Father.s

24If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.t

25But in order that the word written in their law* might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’u

26“When the Advocate comes whom I will send* you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.v

27And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.w

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/15

When I read and reflected on this passage from John, it took me three days to complete my Lectio Divina. (I take my time because I have so much of it to take). One of the thoughts that passed my way was how much of what the Church teaches do I really believe? This led me to think of the promise I made in the final profession to become more like Christ and less like me. This is the promise I made before the Abbot of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, all the monks, and all Lay Cistercians present or absent. I have tried (that is the operable word) to love God with ALL my heart, mind, and strength. Mostly, my attempts are more like a yo-yo than a steady progression of loving God. Each day, I must begin anew and measure myself against Christ. Who you are depends upon what you place at the center of your life. It is this attitude or behavior against which you must measure your resolve.

MY PROMISES TO CHRIST WHILE I LIVE IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN ON EARTH

What follows is a blog I wrote around the time of my final profession to be a Lay Cistercian for my lifetime.

As I look back on my life, which is a very long look indeed, I usually reflect on what is good and try to forget all those times (the majority of my life) where I made a fool out of myself or was outright full of myself. To list all those faults and failures would take a book of many chapters and quotes. I won’t bore you with all those details. I will, however, share with you one of my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5) that looked at the positive things I had learned and tried to keep before my eyes each day, in keeping with my perpetual promises I made as a Lay Cistercian, my anniversary of a final profession as a Lay Cistercian. http://www.trappist.net. I share this profession of Faith with you just as I read it two years ago and as I try to live in daily until I Passover to be with Christ.

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.

FIVE LESSONS THAT HAVE SHAPED MY LIFE

Here are the five lessons that have shaped my life.

I. HAVE IN YOU THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS. This quote from Philippians 2:5 sums up my purpose in life and the motivation that propels me forward to whatever awaits me when my life will change but not end. I use it as my Lectio Divina quote each and every day. I have tried to use it as far back as September 1962 (I don’t remember the day). The North on my compass is the reason for my trying to transform my life from my false self (seven deadly sins) to my true self (seven gifts of the Holy Spirit). It is the reason for my being here on earth for whatever time I have. It motivates me to want to sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for the Lord to come by and grace me with His presence (God, of course, is everywhere). I can’t imagine what I would be without this North on my compass.

II. LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST LOVES YOU— I went from thinking that having in me the mind of Christ Jesus as meaning I must be in Church as much as I am the Church, the Body of Christ. The Church Universal are all those who have been signed by the blood of the Lamb and all those whom God deems worthy to be in Heaven. Loving others as Christ loves us means that I don’t judge who goes to Heaven (a subtle form of idolatry) but worry that I am not worthy enough to be an adopted son of the Father.

III. CONTEMPLATION ENTERS THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST — Yes, God’s presence is everywhere, but I am talking about me making a conscious choice to place myself in the presence of Christ in a deliberate prayer. Yes, Christ is everywhere, but I am not. This is a spirituality of one Being, Christ, who is both God and Human nature, being invited to picnic with me. It is my invitation to Christ to be present to me in a special way, one with no agenda, no hidden needs on my part. What I do in contemplation is sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and ask Christ to grace me with his presence. Even as I sit in silence and solitude before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic adoration, my prayer is for Jesus to have mercy on me for my lack of Faith and to wait until He wants to talk to me. I don’t want to presume on the mercy of God for me. I am just want to be present to and with him.

IV. TRANSFORMATION FROM SELF TO GOD— If my spiritual life is a room, have I cluttered it with so many useless values of the World that Christ has no room. To make room, I must be humble to admit that I need salvation each and every day of my life. Each day is a lifetime of trying to move from self to God. It is only due to God’s grace or energy that I can even move or transform myself. I have found Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict of particular help in identifying the tools for good works and a list of those attitudes and practices I must perform to move from self to God. Each day, I read Chapter 4 in total or in some parts. My prayer for me is that I might become what I pray, moving from pride and idolatry of my false self to that of humility and obedience to the will of the Father.

V. THE PEACE OF CHRIST IN MY HEART — Loving others as Christ loves me has the effect of being one with not only Christ but also the object of that love in those around me. As Scriptures point out, this is not the peace that the world gives. The Peace of Christ is the result of being in the presence of God in contemplation. The Joy of the Resurrection is the product of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus, without condition, open to the Holy Spirit in humility and obedience to whatever Jesus is telling me. Peace is not the absence of hostility but the presence of love, the real presence of Christ here before me just as he is in heaven sitting on the Throne of the Lamb of God. Faith alone, God’s own energy, enables me to be an adopted son of the Father. Church alone, the Body of Christ, allows me to love others as Christ loves me. It is letting your light shine before everyone so that “..they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” I am called to share that peace of Christ with those around me, those marked with the sign of salvation, and those who have not yet accepted Christ. I am called to judge not the motives or hearts of others in the church and let God judge those outside it. This is the peace that is beyond all telling.

Glory 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

AM I HALF CATHOLIC?

I may be asking the wrong question when I think of being half catholic. What half? Do I cut the Creed down the middle and believe one half while denying the other?

My sense is that I am a Catholic struggling to be more like Christ each day. This is what I term the martyrdom of the ordinary. I find it enough to measure myself against the love Christ has just for me, realizing that I am never close to 100% each day. This is why I conduct reparation for my sins (those confessed) and a resolve to sin no more. I don’t always do that, which is why I never love God with all my heart. I do try, and it is trying to place my heart next to the heart of Christ and just say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner” over and over and over, that I find my peace.

SATAN AND THE DEBAUCHERIES: The greatest sirens of all time.

It is Lent, the liturgical season once again, and I am drawn to think about my mortality, my corruption of life and its companion, conversio morae. Other than realizing that my life is more like a yo-yo in my struggle to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) rather than a merry-go-round, I fix my gaze on the one thing that can bring me peace of mind and heart, The Christ Principle.

I had this thought about the mythical sirens of ancient lore, that half-bird, half-female femme fatal that lured those not prepared to their doom by their wailing and seductive, beautiful singing. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Siren-Greek-mythology Myths are the deepest penetrations of what it means to be human, usually using anthropomorphic representations of those behaviors that sustain an authentic core truth and those that hinder it. The Greeks had their pantheon of gods and goddesses, while the Romans had their family of gods and demi-gods. All of this was to explain human nature and what it means to be good or evil in terms people could appreciate.

It is no coincidence that The Christ Principle entered into human history at just the right time to make sense of all of these attempts to seek a relationship with a power beyond themselves. Christ taught us how to walk in the minefield of the false promises and dead-ends that the world has to offer. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life says Christ.

Humans, by nature, are not intrinsically evil in their minds and hearts but can be tempted by Satan and the Debaucheries to choose what seems to satisfy the human heart, but will actually harm them. That name sounds like a rock band that plays cool and seductive music like the sires of myth, singing, “No one can tell you what to do! Follow the way of the world and kick out all this god garbage. Being human means power, riches, no limits to your sexual and emotional appetites, no rules to keep you from becoming all you can be.”

The irony is I am the center of the universe, not the physical or mental ones, but the spiritual one. What exists does so through me as I live my seventy or eighty years seek to find the solutions to the Divine Equation and thus allow me to know how all things fit together. The six components of the Divine Equation come from a higher power than me, so the answers are also from that higher nature.

  1. What is the purpose of life?
  2. What is the purpose of my life?
  3. What does reality look like?
  4. How does it all fit together?
  5. How to love fiercely?
  6. You know you are going to die, now what?

Jesus became human (Philippians 2:5-12) just so that I could say YES to the invitation of God to be an adopted son of the Father and thus heir to the kingdom of heaven. This is the kingdom of heaven while I live on earth. This kingdom has two parts, one of which is my time on earth, during which I must struggle with the effects of the corruption of matter and mind. It begins when I am accepted by God as a son (daughter) and receive the indelible mark of the cross on my soul. The second kingdom of heaven happens when I die; life is neither changed nor ended nor lived with Jesus forever.

Satan, full of jealousy and hatred for God, seeks to keep me from saying YES to God. The band plays music that the world wants to hear, at odds with the cross, and is destructive of the spirit within each of us.

Each day, my Lay Cistercian promises I made upon my final profession are tested against the seemingly beautiful and fulfilling music of the world. This music has no power to lift me up and sustain my incorruptibility. Only the power of the Holy Spirit as I sit in stillness next to the heart of Christ can mute the sounds that the Debaucheries (Sirens) make while I live in the world. I try to take up my cross each day. Some days are better than others. I know that God loves each one of us despite our faults and failures. Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Who is there who condemns you? Neither will I condemn you. God, and sin no more.” Jesus doesn’t condemn us for our failures but invites us to repent of our sins and sin no more. Jesus makes all things new within and without.

Remember, Human, you are dust, and into dust, you shall return. –Ash Wednesday sacramental

HUMILITY: The key to knowing, loving, and serving God in this life, and being happy with God forever in the next. (Baltimore Catechism, Question 6)

During Lent, I want to focus on moving away from my false self (pride) and replacing it with humility and the energy of the Holy Spirit (as much as I can take). This is capacitas dei, making room for Jesus in that upper room of your consciousness where you keep the doors locked for fear of Satan and the demoniac (Sounds like a Rock Band).

When I approach Jesus on the park bench in the middle of winter, attitude is everything. I am reminded repeatedly that I am corrupt in my human nature (not evil) and prone to doing my will each day instead of offering “mi casa, su casa” to Jesus. Humility helps me with perspective and the profound realization that I am relating with God and not some stranger. Here are the twelve steps to Humility that St. Benedict pointed out (my interpretation of them).

RULE OF BENEDICT: Chapter 7 Humility

Rather than taking up a lot of space in this blog, I encourage you to read the twelve steps with commentary by Abbot Phillip Lawrence, O.S.B., Abbot of Christ in the Desert Monastery. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hHDDk_vQjg

Here are the twelve steps St. Benedict wants his monks to interiorize with a word or two of my reflection.

STEP ONE: 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. Humility is when you are sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter, and Jesus sits next to you, and you are conscious that this is God who sits next to you.

STEP TWO: 31 The second step of humility is that a man loves not his own will nor takes pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires; 32 rather he shall imitate by his actions that saying of the Lord: I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me (John 6:38). 33 Similarly, we read, “Consent merits punishment; constraint wins a crown.” In silence and solitude, with eyes lowered and heart lifted up to the Lord, freely give the gift of all you have through Christ (kenosis).

STEP THREE: 34 The third step of humility is that a man submits to his superior in all obedience for the love of God, imitating the Lord of whom the Apostle says: He became obedient even to death (Phil 2:8). Humans don’t like to be told what to do. Women don’t like men telling them what to do. Men don’t like women pointing out to them that they are wrong. Obedience without humility just causes existential anxiety.

STEP FOUR: 35 The fourth step of humility is that in this obedience under difficult, unfavourable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering 36 and endures it without weakening or seeking escape. For Scripture has it: Anyone who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22). The Martyrdom of the Ordinary is a condition of the corruption of the mind and spirit that we seek to escape what is frustrating or painful in taking up our cross daily to follow The Master. It is the Sargasso Sea of prayer, the loneliness of the long-distance monk, nun, or Lay Cistercian, as we reach a patch of drying and total lack of meaning in our prayer life.

STEP FIVE: 44 The fifth step of humility is that a man does not conceal from his abbot any sinful thoughts entering his heart, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confesses them humbly. 45 Concerning this, Scripture exhorts us: Make known your way to the Lord and hope in him (Ps 36[37]:5). 46 And again: Confess to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy is forever (Ps 105[106]:1; Ps 117[118]:1). Humans would rather eat glass than tell anyone about what is contained in their inner room, the sum total of what is meaningful in their lives. Some of these choices are good, while others need purging (atonement for sins committed). It takes humility to confess what you have placed at your center to a priest.

STEP SIX: 49 The sixth step of humility is that a monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment and regards himself as a poor and worthless workman in whatever task he is given, 50 saying to himself with the Prophet: I am insignificant and ignorant, no better than a beast before you, yet I am with you always (Ps 72[73]:22-23). You won’t see and become the sign of contradiction as a Lay Cistercian without realizing that “if you want to be the greatest, you must become the least amount you and serve all as Christ served you.”

STEP SEVEN: 51 The seventh step of humility is that a man not only admits with his tongue but is also convinced in his heart that he is inferior to all and of less value, 52 humbling himself and saying with the Prophet: I am genuinely a worm, not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people (Ps 21[22]:7). 53 I was exalted, then I was humbled and overwhelmed with confusion (Ps 87[88]:16). 54 And again: It is a blessing that you have humbled me so that I can learn your commandments (Ps 118[119]:71,73). Ego sum vermis et non homo. I am a worm and not a human. Because I have the free will to reject the lures of the world to inflate my own worth so that I actually believe my own press, I must realize that, in bringing the heart of Jesus next to my own, I consciously reject all those false teachings except those from Jesus, and those whom he authorized to carry on his commands.

RULE EIGHT: 55 The eighth step of humility is that a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by his superiors. It takes humility to accept the interpretation of the Rule of Benedict and the Cistercian policies and procedures and do them as a way to convert yourself away from pride. If I only believe what I think is true without bending my will to serve God and, through Christ, others, then there can be no conversion of morals because I am the source of all morals, the way, what is true, and my life is moral because I do it.

RULE NINE: 56 The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question, 57 for Scripture warns, In a flood of words you will not avoid sinning (Prov 10:19), 58 and, a talkative man goes about aimlessly on earth (Ps 139[140]:12). Humans are great at compulsive games, such as filling an empty hole. In Lectio Divina, indeed, in any prayer, it is the heart next to the heart of Christ that communicates without words or human mental constructs. We can say we relish silence, but in our minds, that great empty hole must be filled by words or sitting before the mirror of Erisad. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck4Bk6SKO7o

RULE TEN: 59 The tenth step of humility is that he is not given to ready laughter, for it is written: Only a fool raises his voice in laughter (Sir 21:23). I can’t imagine being against ready laughter. This rule suggests that if my intent to be the center of the party is to make myself more popular and the center of attention, then this is wrong. Most monks I know have a keen sense of human life.

RULE ELEVEN: 60 The eleventh step of humility is that a monk speaks gently and without laughter, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, but without raising his voice, 61 as it is written: “A wise man is known by his few words.” Again, to see attention by raising your voice so that people notice you is not humility, as Benedict proposes.

RULE TWELVE: 2 The twelfth step of humility is that a monk always manifests humility in his bearing no less than in his heart, so that it is evident 63 at the Work of God, in the oratory, the monastery or the garden, on a journey or in the field, or anywhere else. Whether he sits, walks or stands, his head must be bowed and his eyes cast down. 64 Judging himself always guilty on account of his sins, he should consider that he is already at the fearful judgment, 65 and constantly say in his heart what the publican in the Gospel said with downcast eyes: Lord, I am a sinner, not worthy to look up to heaven (Luke 18:13). 66 And with the Prophet: I am bowed down and humbled in every way (Ps 37[38]:7-9; Ps 118[119]:107). I always sit in the publican’s seat at Good Shepherd (the very last bench). where I sit with my eyes cast down and keep saying. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

THE TRUE COST OF BULLYING

Play now, pay later. I would not want to be in your shoes when you meet God.

THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION: A penance of conversion.

For the many times I have gone to confession and received a penance from the priest, it was to recite Three Hail Marys and make a true promise not to sin again. No amount of penance by me can make up for my sins. The Three Hail Marys are just a token of my desire to start over once more. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think a simple act of contrition is all God wants from us, just as all I can give God that he does not have, is a simple thank you.

THE HABIT OF BEING PENITENTIAL

In keeping with my penchant for always trying to discover the deeper (or higher) meaning in each new facet of The Christ Principle, there are three stages or steps I use to prepare my mind to meet Christ. This is important because, just like meeting the Pope or a Patriarch, I should prepare myself with the proper attitude, dress nicely, and wait patiently to be received.

PREPARATION — I sit in silence and solitude on the last bench in church and remind myself of my center (Philippians 2:5). I ask for mercy and for humility to be worthy to sit in the presence of Jesus and wait.

ACT OF CONTRITION — The great act of contrition by Christ to the Father allowed humans to approach the unapproachable, now with a mediator who was both God and also one of us, like us in all things but sin. I both confess those sins in kind and number to the priest and ask for mercy by saying an act of contrition. In this part, the priest is Christ, who has the authority to bind and lose.

Appearance to the Disciples.*

19On the evening of that first day of the week,j when the doors were locked, where the disciples* were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.* The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.k

21* [Jesus] said to them again,l “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

22* And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,m “Receive the holy Spirit.

23* n Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas.

24Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

25So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”o

26Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”p

27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

28* q Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29* Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?r Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Conclusion.*

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

31But 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

PENANCE AND REPENTANCE What I need in each act of repentance is to place myself in the presence of Christ and recite one of the Seven Penitential Psalms (usccb.org). I try to prepare my heart BEFORE I receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, much in the same way as Scripture recommends I place burning coal on my lips before I do the Lord’s will like Isaiah did.

The Sending of Isaiah.

1In the year King Uzziah died,* I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne,a with the train of his garment filling the temple.

2Seraphim* were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered.b

3One cried out to the other:

“Holy, holy, holy* is the LORD of hosts!

All the earth is filled with his glory!”

4At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.* c

5Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed!* For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips,d and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar.

7He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips,* your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”e

8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

9* And he replied: Go and say to this people:

Listen carefully, but do not understand!

Look intently, but do not perceive!f

10Make the heart of this people sluggish,

dull their ears and close their eyes;

Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,

and their heart understand,

and they turn and be healed.g

11“How long, O Lord?” I asked. And he replied:

* Until the cities are desolate,

without inhabitants,

Houses, without people,

and the land is a desolate waste.

12Until the LORD sends the people far away,

and great is the desolation in the midst of the land.

13If there remain a tenth part in it,

then this in turn shall be laid waste;

As with a terebinth or an oak

whose trunk remains when its leaves have fallen.* h

Holy offspring is the trunk.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/isaiah/6

I recommend that priests consider giving one of the Seven Penitential Psalms penance within the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In addition, teach people the three levels of making a firm purpose of amendment (as above).

https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/seven-penitential-psalms-songs-of-suffering-servant

The purpose of the Sacrament is to meet Jesus and ask Him to make all things new again and seek forgiveness, plus adding that you will go and sin no more. Jesus, Himself, taught us this.

SHAME ON YOU

Russian people. Don’t you remember how it feels to invade another country? It was evil of Germany, and now you are repeating it. Wake up.

St. Charles de Foucauld: God’s bloodhound

During this Lenten season, a time to die to self to rise with Christ, there is no better example of abandonment than that of Viscount Charles de Foucauld, soon to be canonized as a Saint of the Church Universal. When Jesus tells us to love others as He loved us, the example of St. Charles de Foucauld inspires all of us. Here is his

QUOTES FROM St. Charles de Foucauld http://www.azquotes.com

“As soon as I came to believe there was a God, I understood that I could not do otherwise than live only for him.” ~ Charles de Foucauld

“Above all, always see Jesus in every person, and consequently treat each one not only as an equal and as a brother or sister, but also with great humility, respect and selfless generosity.” ~ Charles de Foucauld

“It is not necessary to teach others, to cure them or to improve them; it is only necessary to live among them, sharing the human condition and being present to them in love.” ~ Charles de Foucauld

“To love anyone is to hope in him for always. From the moment at which we begin to judge anyone, to limit our confidence in him, from the moment at which we identify him with what we know of him and so reduce him to that, we cease to love him and he ceases to be able to be better.” ~ Charles de Foucauld

“We should never forget the two axioms: ‘Jesus is with me’ and whatever happens, happens by the will of God.” ~ Charles de Foucauld

“You have only one model, Jesus. Follow, follow, follow him, step by step, imitating him, sharing his life in every way.” ~ Charles de Foucauld

“Cry the Gospel with your whole life.” ~ Charles de Foucauld

KITTY GENOVESE AND THE UKRAINE

Remember the murder of Kitty Genovese and how neighbors would not help her after she was wounded and dying? What is happening now resembles that situation, where all of us, beginning with myself, wring our hands and shout out, “I stand behind you,” as one country bullies and swallows another sovereign nation, raping their ability to choose.

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

A PUZZLE MORE COMPLEX THAN SUDOKU: CAN YOU SOLVE THE DIVINE EQUATION?

Actually, there is no solution to the Divine Equation as much as it is a key to living your humanity in such a way that you can see reality and thus fulfill the next step in the evolution of the species. In seeing reality authentically, you need to answer six questions. They need to be answered in order, beginning with number one, before proceeding to number two. The answer to number one will be one that helps you answer number two, and so on. Don’t skip a question.

Both the question and its answer must be correct before you proceed. As you are probably asking yourself in your mind, who has the correct answer? You must answer that question from the sum total of the experiences you have had in your lifetime. There is only one answer for each question that is correct?

Who should take the test? Anyone who is a sinner, like me, and, in addition, atheists, agnostics, pagans, Wiccans, Christians, Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, cult followers, Scientologists, Buddhists, Mormons, Native Americans, Hindus, any followers of New Age thinking, plus anyone who is a scientist, philosopher, psychologist, literary writer or reader.

Can you do it? No time limit. No reward for answering correctly or incorrectly. Just the challenge of being in resonance with the totality of reality.

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

Good luck.

LENT: A time to die

Taking up your cross each day to follow Christ is a preposterous idea to those who only live in two universes, the physical one which is our base, and the mental one which gives us the tools of reason and free choice to discover the interrogatories of the world of our experiences (WHO, WHAT. WHEN. WHERE. WHY, and my addition, SO WHAT).

The liturgical season of Lent is not just a memorial of the passion, death of our Lord, one that we just think about, like member states today are standing by passively, watching a people in the Ukraine being raped of their freedom to choose right in front of their eyes. Like the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the cross grows heavier each time injustice and evil win out over peace and respect for others. My own cross is the sum of my life’s achievement in two universes. To be frank, I am a colossal failure in what I attempted to do with the choices I made at the time. Of course, good things did happen, but my point is most of them did not originate with me. Lent for me is a time when I repent for my sins (I don’t seek forgiveness again since I did that once), but rather to read the seven Penitential Psalm and the songs of the Suffering Servant as penance. I recommend you do what I am doing for Lent and read one of them each day, only go deeper into each Psalm to feel what the authors felt as they exclaimed, “Our of the depths, O Lord, I cry to you. Lord, hear my prayer.”

I must die to myself to be able to rise with Christ on Resurrection Sunday. That won’t happen until I die in three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) in converting my life (conversion morae) to one that prefers my choices to those of the Father for me. St. Benedict, Chapter 4 of the Rule, says we should prefer nothing to the love of Christ. In my sojourn as a Lay Cistercian, that only happens if I really do die to my false self (and behave like it) so that I can rise with Christ into incorruptibility. If Christ had not died for our sins, and just for me, there would be no resurrection. Read the astonishing passage in I Corinthians 15 in its entirety. Read it in the profound stillness of your heart (amid the chaos of rape of reason and free choice in the world) and just say, Thanks, God.

The Gospel Teaching.*

1Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand.

2Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

3* For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;a

4that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures;b

5that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.c

6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

7After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

8Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.d

9For I am the least* of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.e

10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God [that is] with me.

11Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Results of Denial.*

12But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?

13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised.f

14And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.

15Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised.g

16For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised,

17and if Christ has not been raised,* your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.

18Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.

Christ the Firstfruits.*

20h But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits* of those who have fallen asleep.

21* For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being.

22For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,i

23but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;j

24then comes the end,* when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.k

25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.l

26* The last enemym to be destroyed is death,

27* for “he subjected everything under his feet.”n But when it says that everything has been subjected, it is clear that it excludes the one who subjected everything to him.

28When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will [also] be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.o

Practical Arguments.*

29Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead?* If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them?

30* Moreover, why are we endangering ourselves all the time?p

31Every day I face death; I swear it by the pride in you [brothers] that I have in Christ Jesus our Lord.q

32If at Ephesus I fought with beasts, so to speak, what benefit was it to me? If the dead are not raised:

“Let us eat and drink,

for tomorrow we die.”r

33Do not be led astray:

“Bad company corrupts good morals.”

34Become sober as you ought and stop sinning. For some have no knowledge of God; I say this to your shame.s

35*But someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?”

The Resurrection Body.

36* You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies.t

37And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind;

38u but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body.

39* Not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for human beings, another kind of flesh for animals, another kind of flesh for birds, and another for fish.

40There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the brightness of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another.

41The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. For star differs from star in brightness.

42* So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible.

43It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful.v

44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.

45So, too, it is written, “The first man, Adam,* became a living being,” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.w

46But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual.

47The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.

48As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.

49Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image* of the heavenly one.x

The Resurrection Event.

50* This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption* inherit incorruption.y

51* Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed,z

52in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.a

53For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality.b

54* And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:c

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

55Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”d

56The sting of death is sin,* and the power of sin is the law.e

57But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.f

58Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

LEARNING POINTS

  1. Unless you die to self and repent of your sins, you will not be able to rise again to new life in Christ. I have come to believe that this habit should happen to me each day, as I begin the day with my morning offering to convert my life to love others as Christ loved us. Try it. That is taking up your cross daily, if anything is.
  2. Lent is a time to die to the influences of the corruption of the world. Taking up my cross means I must constantly fight against the world’s influence to water down the challenge of the resurrection each day.
  3. Lent is not just 40 days, nor even 40 years, but is a daily habit of consciously taking up the burdens of my whole life as I meet the challenges of the day. I am the cross I must take up. Believe me, that is heavy.
  4. Don’t worry about what you are to eat, or drink, and what clothes to wear. Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given to you beside. For me, doing it daily is frustrating. I want to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) but my worldly self says that all of this god stuff is for fools. Actually, it is for fools, fools for Christ’s sake.

uiodg

WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL ENERGY IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE?

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

What follows is an excerpt from my book on Power and Corruption.

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

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

II. WHO IS THE MOST POWERFUL BEING ON EARTH?

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

The argument always presupposes that another life exists (life, I might add, is sentient). To date, we have not even discovered anywhere capable of sustaining organic life of any kind, much less sentient beings. It may exist, and it may not exist. I know that scientifically I may be anathema, but I wonder if we are the only ones in the whole of reality that know that we know, and, if so, why is that? Humans are not designed for space travel but to live within the parameters of this Earth (we must breathe oxygen, exist within a sustainable life temperature, and be subject to the laws of nature that dictate we must die). Why do we live for only seventy or eighty years? That is not long enough to get a running jump on why we are here and discover our purpose in life. Everything deteriorates or has limitations. This is the corruption of matter. The corruption of matter is not moral corruption but the condition into which all humans, indeed all life must conform. This is the corruption of being human, but ironically, human nature was originally created as good but became wounded by the sin of Adam and Eve. (Romans 5)

What we do know is that we know that we know (although some think they know more than others), and so up comes the question again “Of all living things on Earth, or anywhere for that matter, why are humans the only species to reach a level of self-awareness that allows us to reason and to make choices for ourselves?” Animals don’t know that they don’t know.

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

In looking at sentient (reasoning) beings, we ask why? Why us? Why do we have the ability to love and hate? Why must we die and not live forever? Why is there pain and imperfection in our behavior so that some have peace while others are murdered for no reason? Where does this evil come from? Does it come from God, who is incorruptible? We might be the most powerful energy on the planet, but we can’t solve these questions. We don’t live past seventy or eighty, even if we are strong. We have the keen minds to solve some of these problems, but the results have been disappointing. If we are the most powerful and have the most energy of all lifeforms, do we need to abandon our collective Ego and move towards solutions consistent with these four questions? Remember, these questions are asked by people living on the cusp of historical documentation or a very long time ago. Genesis is the book that sets forth archetypal consequences of our being human. We have reason to even identify consequences to our behavior and good and bad choices.

We are limited to living on this planet and not visiting the stars? We don’t know gravity’s effect on ourselves or our offspring in prolonged space. The distances are so great that, as of now, we can’t move from planet to planet, much less galaxy to galaxy. We don’t know the effect of space radiation on our reproductive or mental health systems. There is always hope in the future, but we must focus on where we are for now. Remember, a limitation brought up by Psalmist is that we live to seventy to eighty years if we are strong (and don’t get cancer or dementia.) We just wear out. This is the effect of the corruptibility of the mind.

The answer to the first question of the most powerful energy in the Universe is the human mind. The answer to the second question to which of all those lifeforms on Earth can answer the questions of Why? When? When? and How? What is the purpose of why we are here? The human mind and the ability to make free choices affect our collective and individual destiny. Although humans know that they know, they also live in the NOW where there are choices, some leading to meaning and some leading to a dead-end. We are free to explore them. The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States calls them inalienable rights (those all humans share), and they are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Why are humans the only species that knows that it knows? That can choose their destiny outside of Natural order? With all due respect to B.F. Skinner and his operant conditioning explanation of behavior, humans can choose to endure pain for a higher purpose and are not victims of their emotions, e.g., Christ died on the cross, knowing what was to come and that it was his destiny to allow us to move from just the physical and mental universes and open the spiritual Universe to us. This fulfills the questions posed by Genesis and restores us as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. You have a reason for an excellent reason. The problem comes when many people have many different ways to interpret what is meaningful.

Let’s look at the human experience we find ourselves in right now. We are so fortunate to have science tell us the how and the why something is in the physical Universe and how we can look at reality using the tools of Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, and Astronomy. We are so fortunate to have philosophy and psychology tell us about the hidden part of our reality and put forth ways to discover what is meaningful. Medicine helps us with health, mental health gives us hope to keep our minds clear and bright, and social work helps us discover meaning in work and leisure. Individually, we are the sum of our life experiences. We are defined by the choices we have made. Collectively, we stumble down the pathway to truth, hobbled not only with our reason are assumptions about what is true or not. Objective truth is one and must exist above all meaning. (God’s center) It is the cornerstone, the center of physical, mental, and spiritual existence. The problem is humans have always squabbled about what truth is. This is both the glory of what it means to be human and the problem that must be solved by the next level in our evolution. The story in the books of Genesis 11 tells of the confusion of tongues, which is another way of saying that people could not agree on what is true. We still have our problems with truth because no one can accept that truth answers the questions of wonder if we are alone in the Universe, why only humans have reason and freedom to choose good or evil, and what is the next stage in our evolution as humans?

III. WHY ARE HUMANS ALONE THE ONES WHO HAVE THE ABILITY TO REASON AND THE ABILITY TO MAKE CHOICES THAT ARE GOOD OR BAD FOR THEM? Why is that? Suppose the Physical Universe is our platform for housing human reasoning and the ability to choose outside the Natural Law. In that case, the Mental Universe allows us to choose what is good for us and discern what bad choices make us unhappy. The question becomes who chooses what is good for us and who determines what is bad for us? If the Physical Universe gives us the formula for reality and the mental universe factors in the human condition, we still do not answer what makes humans human? Is there one powerful person against which we measure our worth and determine what is good for us? A characteristic of corruption in the mental universe is that humans don’t want anyone telling them what to do. Do we have a North on the Collective Human Compass, or are we rudderless and adrift on a sea of individual rationalisms?

The answer is the Spiritual Universe, not just any amorphous, spiritual place as I see reality. The Mystery of Faith is the way to look at the reality that explains (but does not define) how Science, Medicine, and Philosophy can fit together. They each have different ways to measure different levels of meaning. The reason why we have a Spiritual Universe is love. Granted, love is not the most popular subject of scientific inquiry. Still, it motivates the human heart by allowing us to seek that which is essential, often invisible to the eye. Up to this point, we have tried to find a unified theory of everything (read the late, brilliant work by Steven Hawking). I cannot make sense of it when I squeeze the physical, mental, and spiritual universes together. But, using the sign of contradiction, if I pull each of the three universes apart and realize that one is not the other, but all are one with each other, all their own distinctive measures for reality, it makes more sense. I wrote three books called Spiritual Apes to tease out my hypotheses.

https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Apes-Dr-Michael-Conrad/dp/1537432125

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

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

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

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

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

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

There is no morality among any living species except for humans. All animals follow the Natural Law. Elephants don’t debate among themselves if they should have little elephants. They do it because of their animal nature.

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

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

RECAP: The most powerful energy in the physical Universe is the hypernova. Humans wake up (self-awareness) on the Earth and gradually discover that they have reason and the ability to make choices and are not subservient to the Laws of Nature. There is a problem. What is good for someone or bad for someone. As a loving Father, God tells us what is good or bad for us, as does any Father worthy of that name. Some people resent the Father telling them anything, so they rebel (Satan and the Fallen Angels, Adam and Eve, and each person is born knowing that they know and have the freedom to choose good or evil. Every time we sin, we are like Adam. We fall into the snares of Satan. There is the temptation to present the golden fruit of either good or bad. Sometimes we don’t know something is wrong with us until we take a bite of that golden fruit, and it tastes like persimmons that are not ripe. Yech! Some are more powerful than others of all humans who know that they know.

The inconvenient truth is because everyone is free to choose their assumptions about what is and why it is, the choice becomes an individual one (I am the reality against which I measure what I think is true or not) OR, God is the reality against which I measure all that I am or hope to be. This is the crux of the Genesis archetypes of knowledge of good and evil and how Adam (representing all humans) made the wrong choice. For those who choose God as the ground of their being, Scriptures is a series of love letters to humans (written by humans inspired by the Holy Spirit) to tell us, to show us that love is the purpose of our lives. Scriptures are a series of stories about what God suggests is good for us versus evil (sinful) to develop our human potential. A loving Father gives us what we need to help us in our struggle to make those choices that have good consequences for our future. One of the things the Father gave us to help us use our reason rightly was His Son, of Himself, Jesus Christ. Not everyone will see this to be true. All we have is a chance to look at life and see those things worth preserving for our posterity. Christ left us but one command: love another as I have loved you. The challenge is what does it mean to love as Christ loved us. This is one of the reasons I joined the Lay Cistercians, following the School of Love of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian spirituality.

https://www.newclairvaux.org/7-pillars-trappist-cistercian-spirituality

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

AUTHENTIC AND UNAUTHENTIC SPIRITUALITY

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

Like scientific inquiry, where not all such opinions (science calls them hypotheses) end up successfully discovering the truth, pseudo-spirituality (fortune-telling) often leads to short-term exhilaration; seducing believers is this or that self-belief using their own Ego. If the Physical Universe asks and seeks to answer the questions of WHY, HOW, WHEN, and WHERE, then the Mental Universe, because of human reasoning and free choices, asks and answers the question of WHAT DOES IT MEAN and WHAT IS OF VALUE to human occupation of this blue, ball of gases and rocks. The one set of Laws that all humans follow is the Natural Law, as far as we know, extending throughout the whole realm of reality. The problem is one of ever-growing complexity. As our species become more familiar with technology and advanced techniques to resolve, up to this point, unsolvable problems (e.g., cancer, medical and surgical techniques to prolong and improve the wellness of all), each person becomes more and more capable of making free choices outside of their natural cycle. Cows can’t regulate being in heet by themselves. Humans can now regulate their birth cycles with chemicals or prolong their lives through medication.

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

AUTHENTIC SPIRITUALITY

The most powerful energy of all, using human reasoning and choosing good or evil, is love. Spirituality is the way of looking at a reality that provides answers to the questions of the physical and mental universes. There is a catch, you only get to the spiritual Universe, one that contains the Mystery of Faith with the help of your reason and free will. But there is a catch to that, too. Because we are dealing with possibilities beyond our human comprehension, reason can take us only so far, no matter how long we live. Faith is a term we use for what we don’t know but hope for because reason has led us to the edge of the cliff. Our human instincts tell us you don’t jump off the cliff. It doesn’t make any sense. The assumptions we hold about spirituality tell us that there is someone out there greater than human nature, a living nature, just like humans, one more powerful than human nature, a divine one (for lack of a better word), and all reality is careening down the highway of life towards it. Some call it by the name Omega. Like any gift from God, Faith can be lost by careless thinking or inactivity. From my experience, Lay Cistercian spirituality provides a structured form of relationship with God all through Christ and using the Holy Spirit as experience To be like Christ, who left the security of being God to take on our human nature (Philippians 2:5-12), we too must leave the security of our humanity to follow the Master by loving others as He has loved us. Christ wanted to be with us in the most practical way: become one of us. For me, this takes the form of as much of the following daily practices as I can do:

  • To have in me the mind of Christ Jesus at my morning offering (Philippians 2:5)
  • Lectio Divina on what the Holy Spirit wants me to hear today (Philippians 2:5)
  • Liturgy of the Hours: (Office of Readings and Morning Prayer in the am; Evening Prayer in the pm)
  • Rosary meditations of the Life of Christ
  • Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament (combined with Lectio or Rosary sometimes)
  • Attending and receiving Eucharist
  • Receiving Sacrament of Reconciliation to make all things new (especially my heart)
  • Read the Rule of St. Benedict daily, especially Chapter 4

These are Cistercian practices that I do, not because if I don’t do them, I commit sin, but rather, if I do them, I do so because I want the love of Christ to dwell in my house all the days of my life. I offer my obedience (the only power God does not have) to the Father in gratitude for all God has given me, undeserving as I am to be an adopted son.

My human nature is good, but, like St. Paul points out, “there are things I do that I don’t want to do, and things I don’t want to do that I do.” While I live in the incorruptible universe of Baptism until I die, I also am hostage to the effects of Original Sin because of my dual citizenship (human and adopted son (daughter) of the Father. When I die, one citizenship dissolved into corruptibility of the body while one citizenship has life changed, not ended.

MY CONFLICTED THINKING

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

  1. I know that there can be but one truth., one reality.
  2. I know that humans have reason for a reason but also the ability to choose what is good for them or what is bad for them.
  3. I know that no one chooses what is bad for them if they know it is bad. Humans have reason for a reason.
  4. I know that spirituality is the next level in the evolution of humans towards fulfillment of what it means to be human. I also know that not everyone hold the same view as I do.
  5. I know that I hold my views because I espouse and encourage scientific inquiry, the ability to assimilate various ways to look at reality (existential phenomenology, Teilhard de Chardin, Erich Fromm, Martin Buber, St. Thomas Aquinas, Scriptural writers of the Apostolic Era, and the heritage of spirituality down through the centuries), and have concluded that the only way this makes sense is to tease out three universes (physical one that in our heritage of life and uses the Natural Law, the mental one that is our collective heritage in developing various ways to look at reality, such as scientific inquiry, philosophical logic, but that these two universes don’t explain the whole of reality). The spiritual universe takes all we know, all the questions we have about purpose, my place in this reality and makes sense from its seeming conflicts and contradictions. Not everyone will see this or believe this. Each of us has the opportunity to know the truth and that truth will make us free.
  6. Erich Fromm wrote his classic book, The Art of Loving, to explain his thinking that humans are not born knowing how to love, but must be taught how to love by parents, family, friends, and society. I make the same comparison with Christ teaching us how to love as he loves us. We know what love is because Christ first loved us. My book, Learning to Love, goes into more detail. https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Love-Cistercian-reflects-learning/dp/1728914590
  7. Here are a few of his ideas about life and love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. You, The Individual as Center — This has you as the center of your world, and so your spirituality follows, but it is unauthentic.

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

Your roots are planted on the soil, but the topsoil is on rocky ground. The seeds grow but soon die for lack of depth and nourishment. The crazy thing is, you are convinced you are correct. Matthew 25:31

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

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

Consistent with the freedom to choose, spirituality may only be entered by a free act of will or choice.

We use our reason to approach this great Mystery of Faith, but reason alone can only take us so far.

We signify that entry with water and the reception of God’s energy (the Holy Spirit).

THE COMPLEXITY OF SIMPLICITY

If I were a rocket ship, I would need fuel (energy) to lift me off of the Earth and go against the Natural Law (gravity) by exerting more force from the rocket than to hold me to the Earth.

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

But the next stage of the rocket is essential to lift us higher. This is the Mental Universe or the realm of the mind. The mind allows me to build a rocket ship knowing the Laws of Nature to help me navigate the multiple problems a human has in blasting off into an environment non-supportive of life. Why are we the only lifeforms on the planet? Natural Law is the Law before humans began codifying rules to live by. The second stage is mental. Why are humans the only ones to know that they know? We are the only ones to have the ability to reason for all life forms? Why? Stage one of the rocket is needed to lift us off the ground. Stage two of the rocket is needed to propel us out of orbit into a trajectory out there.

As the rocket’s first stage, the Earth is our platform for life? I need a third stage, the capsule capable of sustaining my life and bodily functions. This is spirituality, where I use my reason and the ability to choose to even seek to explore the cosmos at all.

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

IV. WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE AS YOUR CENTER?

The challenge for humans is not all spiritualities lead to the truth. Truth is one, as is reality. So, who is right? There can only be one truth, one reality, one path to our destiny. We have reason for a reason, to discover what is true. We have the freedom to choose what is good for us or what is bad for us for a reason. Ultimately, you are the most powerful person in the Universe because you can choose what is true or not. God exists on a level that we can’t even imagine, except for what Christ shares with us. We can say NO to God and accept the consequences of our actions, or we can say YES to God in humility and obedience and live as we have been created in the Garden of Eden, now purchased once again by the cross and Resurrection of Christ. What matters is what God believes about you, not what you believe about God. Ultimately, we make the best choices based on reason and the freedom to choose what is good for us. There are consequences for all humans: we will be accountable for what we choose. That is the nature of free choice, and it is consistent with the image and likeness of God. Free choice does not make what you choose true. What is true happens when we measure ourselves and our purpose in life against something inside us (we make ourselves into God) or outside ourselves (God makes us adopted sons and daughters). It comes down to this: you have a reason for a reason. Use it. You can choose right from wrong, use it. You can launch the rocket, your purpose in life.

Spirituality is the capsule that allows us to live outside of Earth. This sustainability is all due to God, not to anything we do. Each individual has a center, just like above, but it is the person of Christ. The individual exists in a collective of faith called the Church. The Church is a collection of traditions and communities that each have an authority outside the individual, one who takes the place of Christ, one to whom the individual treats owe obedience as they would give to Christ Himself.

The Church Universal is not the way, the truth, or the life, but it is the best of teachers. Humans only live so long, but the Church is a segmented compilation of the accumulation of what Christ taught us that is good. Oh, you say, bad popes have led the Church down the wrong path. Indeed! Remember, the Church Universal is Holy and incorruptible, but individuals (except Christ and the Blessed Mother) are prone to corruptibility both in matter and of the mind.

Human existence is more than just being born, getting a job, perhaps having children, growing old, then dying in between all that living in the search for meaning, especially the meaning of love and the fulfillment of that urging desire to be one with that DNA from God calling us to ratify our adopted. Of all that is in the physical or mental universes, you alone have reason for a reason and the ability to choose what is good for you or what you think is meaningful and good for you but not. When you choose the truth, you use both the physical and mental universes plus the spiritual ones. As you read above, you can either be the center against which you measure what is true or accept the obedience that leads to doing God’s will in this specific age. Here are my thoughts on what I believe about truth.

  • Truth is One. You and the rest of the human species have two things that other living things don’t have: the power to reason and the freedom to choose what you reasonm might I add, with consequences of the choice, but definate consequences of what you choose. The wages of sin is death.
  • We may not be able to comprehend what is true because of our limited ability to factor in all that is real. This is called the Mystery of Faith and can be accessed only in a limited way. The photo below illustrates the foggy window that limits what we see beyond the window.
  • Our nature is created as incorruptibe but because of the consequences of the poor choice of Adam and Eve, we are born corruptible. Baptism makes us incorruptible again, through, with, and in the incorruptibility of God becoming one of us in Christ Jesus. (Philipians 2:5)
  • I am the most powerful person in the universe, not because a hypernova could disintegrate my atoms, not becaue I might have the military power to rape a poor, defenseless neighbor state that has no hostile intentions, but because I can say no to God. I can say NO to God, the power beyong human imagining and description, yet I can say YES and give my power to one greater than me. “Thy will be done, on earth as it is, in Heaven.” My YES each day to making Jesus Lord and Master links up with the YES of creation, the YES of Mary to the invitation to be God’s mother, the YES of the Church Universal to the Holy Spirit in the sharing the good news with the world, eighty years at a time. Now is the time, now is moment of salvation, where my heart as a Lay Cistercian just longs to be in the presence of the Word Made Flesh. I bring no words, no thoughts and no demands of God, only to love God with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole self, and also my neighbor as myself.
  • God loves me for the accumulation of who I am, warts, addictions, definite flaws and personality traits some good and some bad, and those times I chose poorly, and also the times I realized my failures as did the Prodigal Son, and ask for mercy each day.
  • I am born into corruptibility because of my human nature’s sin of Adam and Eve, but I am made incorruptibe through Faith and my choice each day to “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” Some days are better than others.
  • I use what I consider to be authentic spirituality to describe reality. I respect the right of others to have a differing opinion from me but that does not diminish my position. God will ultimately judge my heart as I stand before Him in fidelity and truth. I must be true to my heritage handed down to me through the Ecumenical Councils, and the teachings of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church about what it means to love Christ as He loves us.

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

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

I AM MY CUP

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

Be careful what you pour into your cup.

GUIDANCE FROM THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL

http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/foundational-documents.cfm http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

IT’S ALL A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE: What is hidden is most real.

When entering the realm of the heart from the realm of the mind, Phil 2:5 taught me to have perspective. I thought of humility and how much Christ had to become one of us, how strange it must have been to be God one moment and human and God in the next. It is all a matter of perspective.

Here are some of my ideas from that Lectio Divina, which may refresh your memory about perspective. I have been an advocate of thinking of reality as having three universes, physical (all matter, all time, to include humans), mental (includes reason which is limited to God and humans), and spiritual (which is limited to God with humans being adopted by God into covenant relationship). 

Within that framework of reality, there are four natures at work:

  • nature: what exists independent of human influence. 
  • animal: what exists in animals and other living creatures, including humans
  • human: what exists with humans alone, those who know that they know
  • divine: what exists, the one who is who he is.

God is beyond human nature; human nature cannot approach divine nature without help, which is why Jesus is the Good News of Salvation.

REFLECTIONS FROM A TRAVELER IN THREE UNIVERSES

Here are some things to think about. How immense, how big is what we know as the universe? First, look at how immense the physical universe is. Astounding! Next, look at how powerful the physical and mental universes are.

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

QUESTIONS FROM THE EDGE OF TIME

My spiritual hypothesis is that three universes make up reality. All are one. All are separated by characteristics. The first universe, the physical one, is one in which we find ourselves along with all matter, energy, and time. I came to see the physical universe as distinct from the other two but totally dependent on them to fulfill the system we know as reality. This universe is the object of science and scientific inquiry. That is good. We need to know as much as we can about this universe to determine our purpose as a human species.  

What is the most enormous and most immense structure in the universe? Did you see the Youtube video? Is it the cosmic web? Again, what is the most powerful energy in the physical universe? Is it a supernova or a quasar? Did you watch the Youtube video on the most powerful energy in the universe?

Based on my Lectio Divina meditations, I submit to you that the next level of reality, the mental universe, is more powerful than anything in the physical universe. What quasar knows that it knows? What cosmic web can choose that is harmful to it over what is good? Even the most meager human can do that. If that is so, what are power and majesty? The mental universe allows us to choose both good and evil. Original Sin means, among other things, that, if left to our own devices (making ourselves into God), we will not get to the next level, the spiritual universe.

 The least person in the kingdom of heaven, the spiritual universe on earth and in heaven, is more powerful than those who just exist in the physical and mental universes. Why? Because God not only touches them through the Holy Spirit but also because they are adopted sons and daughters of God’s divine nature. To be sure, humans are not God, except Christ, but we have been raised up in adoption to praise the one who is power and majesty before the Throne of the Lamb. Heaven is not only our purpose in life (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37) but our final destiny as humans. Now that is power!

So, am I correct? I have reason, my spiritual heritage, being a Lay Cistercian to help me focus on real. Those six questions above can only be asked by someone who is alive and using their human reason. Quasars can’t ask those questions. Although they share much of our DNA, Monkies can’t ask those questions. The authentic answers for love, for meaning, to find out who we are and where we are going AND WHY, is the spiritual universe. God lives there and invites us to live there and claim it as our inheritance, prepared for us from the beginning of time. We have reason to be able to choose. We have Christ to show us what is authentic to choose. We have the Mystery of Faith, that compendium of all knowledge, love, and service to excite our minds and stimulate our hearts to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, as St. Benedict writes in his Chapter 4 of the Rule.

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

THE WAITING ROOM

These days when I am at the mercy of my body, I found myself in the waiting room of my Internal Medicine physician, awaiting an appointment to examine pain in my upper right quadrant. As I always do, my thoughts go to my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). Waiting rooms these days are strange places. People must wear masks, and no one but the patient is allowed in the waiting room. There I sat, alone, no one else in the room, waiting for the nurse to call me to go into one of the examination rooms.

THOUGHTS ON WAITING FOR GOD WHILE IN A WAITING ROOM

One of my more recent discoveries about my approach to Lectio Divina has been that, where I always thought I had to wait for God to show up on the park bench in the middle of winter, I gradually came to realize that it was I who was not there. Still, God had been there all along, just waiting for me to show up. My Lay Cistercian practices have become ways to be aware that I must show up for God and not the other way around. I have usually tried to make time before Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, and Scripture reading to ask the Holy Spirit to sit next to me.

Here are some ideas that filtered through my thoughts as I meditated on the whole concept of waiting for God. They take the form of waiting rooms (I wonder where I got that idea?)i.

I. MY LAY CISTERCIAN WAITING ROOM

Contemplation is going within to pray. This might be in private or as part of a group (but still internal). Read this following passage from Scripture to get a clue about the waiting room within you.

Teaching about prayer

5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

6But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

7* In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.*

8 Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/6

Contemplation is my inner room, the place I retreat to when I sit on a bench in the middle of winter and wait for Christ, knowing that Christ is already sitting beside me.

My inner room itself is in a place of corruptibility, just as I am just subject to the corruptibility of matter and the mind until I die. I have the choice to furnish my room with corrupt things (moral corruption) or keep my inner room clean each day from the ever-encroaching corruption of matter and mind by using The Christ Principle to make all things new, again and again. I can’t entertain Christ in a corrupt room, even though my basis for living is corrupt.

I prepare this room for Christ to join me with the following:

  • The awareness that Christ is not only my human brother, as I am an adopted son of the Father, but is also is the Son of God. I am reminded of St. Benedict’s Rule, Chapter 7, where he tells the monks the first of twelve steps to have humility is “Fear of the Lord:” My understanding of this fear goes something that we experience when we receive ashes during Ash Wednesday “Remember, Human, you are dust, and into dust, you shall return.” I think of this fear as”Remember, Human that the one you wish to sit next to is the Son of God and not just your friend.”
  • Besides myself, there is only room for one other person in this inner room. I can invite in Satan because I have been enamored with the false allurements of the World, or I can open my heart to The Christ Principle, one that fulfills the longings of the spiritual universe. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee,” says St. Augustine.
  • When I perform Lectio Divina, I allow Christ to enter into my heart so that I can listen to His heartbeat. With Christ comes resonance and not dissonance. This incorruptibility or energy of God permeates my corruptible physical self with Christ’s own energy through the Holy Spirit. It allows me to move from my corrupt self (matter and mind) to my true self (the incorruptible Spirit). I make a daily habit of this conversio morae (refreshing my life with God).
  • How do I know the Devil (Satan) or his colleagues are in my heart and not those of Christ? The fruits or products in my inner room indicate God’s presence or the remnants of evil. No one serves two masters. Think of good works as the fruit on the tree of life (like the one in the Garden of Eden). Galatians 5 tells us about some of these low-hanging fruits. I like to read Chapter 4, St. Benedict’s Rule to read these tools for good works.
  • Each of us has that secret room (the place no one wants to enter) where we can hide those things that prolong our evilness or, conversely, contains the things that we can take with us to Heaven.
  • Lent is a part of the Liturgical Year when we look at our inner rooms and clean out those cobwebs of bad habits and rough edges. It is a time of sweeping our house with the broom of Christ, making all things new.
  • What does evil smell like? I think it smells like spiritual depression and dissonance with matter and mind. Because sin has, as its product, death (corruption), it smells of evil.
  • All sin has consequences, mainly because all our choices have consequences. We live with what we choose until we change our assumptions. Reform is at the core of what it means to be marked with the sign of the cross at Baptism. Although Lent is a period of 40 days of penitential preparation for the resurrection of Christ in our lives as experienced by the community’s worship and practices, as a Lay Cistercian, being penitential is a habit I try to cultivate each day.
  • Scripture says, “the wages of sin is death.” There is more than just a nice phrase to these words. The consequence of us doing sin is that something happens to us. If the desire to seek God each day (capacitas dei) means I grow in my ability to link up various parts of my life with The Christ Principle, then my failures to love God with all my heart, with all my mind, and all my strength has a consequence of allowing Satan to gain entrance into my inner sanctum, my upper room. Dust gathers on my Arc of the Covenant and, since I live within the corruption of matter and mind until I die, I must pick up my cross daily to dust off the debris that settles in my soul. This dusting is what I understand as a penitential Lay Cistercian, one that not only happens just during Lent, where I share my seeking mercy with the Church Universal but also in the inner room of my self, where I must work daily to keep my room clean and presentable for Christ to dwell therein.
  • Cleaning my inner room can be accomplished if I use the tools given to me by Christ’s death on the cross. St. Benedict provides his monks (and each of us) with a list of good works that I can use to keep my inner room clean of the residue of sin that I carry with me in my heart. My understanding of being a Lay Cistercian includes being successful with five habits to help me in my conversion from false self to my true self as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father (conversio morae). If I can remember to do so, I will elaborate on these five habits at length in a separate blog. Right now, these five daily habits that I use to sustain and keep my corruption of the spirit (my spirit) in resonnance with the Christ Principle are:
  • THE DAILY HABIT OF SEEKING GOD WHERE I FIND GOD, AS I AM. (Philippians 2:5)
  • THE DAILY HABIT OF CONVERTING MY FALSE SELF TO MY TRUE SELF THROUGH CONVERSIO MORAE.
  • THE DAILY HABIT OF CONSCIOUSLY BEING AWARE THAT I MUST PUT ON THE CLOAK OF HUMILITY EACH DAY TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM THE CORRUPTION OF MATTER AND THE WORLD.
  • THE DAILY HABIT OF LONGING TO BE IN THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN LAY CISTERCIAN PRACTICES.
  • THE HABIT OF LISTENING WITH THE EAR OF MY HEART IN THE SILENCE AND SOLITUDE OF MY INNER ROOM WHILE SITTING ON A PARK BENCH IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER AND WAITING FOR MY SPIRIT TO BE STILL ENOUGH TO FEEL CHRIST’S HEART NEXT TO MY HEART.

These habits are not final states of attainments that I do as a result of my Lay Cistercian practices but rather practices that I do each day as I move from my false self to my true self, with the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of practicing good works (Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict) comes not from reciting this or that prayer and completing a time, but instead that they are occasions where I can be present to Christ in humility and so that my heart can feel the love of Christ overshadowing me and say “Be it done to me according to your word.”

II. THE WAITING ROOM OF GOD

In my Lectio Divina meditations on waiting for the Lord, the thought came to me that God has a waiting room, just as I have my inner waiting room. Does God need a waiting room? No, but we humans do.

These ideas are interwoven together with corruption of matter and mind and the effects of incorruptibility. If you remember, my hypothesis is that there is such a thing as a physical universe of matter. All physical reality exists within this universe, including humans with evolved emotions, penchants for selfishness, and nobility in the same person. The physical universe deteriorates, and everything within it has a beginning and an end, including humans. The corruption of matter leads me to ask, “Why does matter corrupt if God is incorruptible? How can an incorruptible God make something that is corruptible? Is that an oxymoron?” One possibility is that I am not seeking the bigger picture. How can you have a bigger picture than God? You can’t, but because God lives in a condition of incorruptibility, a perpetual NOW, the center of which is passionate love, God’s problem is the solution to how can humans live as adopted sons and daughters in Heaven without frying their neurons? This grand, cosmic plan of the Word began with matter, time, and energy in a physical universe. All of this so that you and I have a base for our existence in the movement of space and time, all of this so that I can have reason and the ability to choose what is needed for me to be with God forever. Again, there is a problem, and God’s answer is part of that difficulty: “If humans are created incorruptible (The Garden of Eden before the Fall), what made them corruptible? Genesis 2-3 gives an answer that has ruminated throughout the centuries as oral tradition but put into written form by four separate traditions (J, P, Elohist, and Yahwist). These commentators on what it means to be human make it clear that God is not the cause of corruption (the corruption of the mind). We call it “sin,” but I like corruption because of its broader implications.

There is one more element to corruption, one that slinks and slithers almost unnoticed in the Genesis account. St. Paul states in I Thessalonians 15, “sin came into the world through one man.” the serpent seduced Eve in securing Adam with the possibility of being a god in his own kingdom of power and glory. That same serpent sometimes called the Lord of the World (not the kingdom of Heaven), tempted Christ in the desert to worship him in his kingdom on earth. The wages of sin, however, are death.

Read and reflect on the problem and the solution God had as part of The Word spoken in the silence and solitude of God before there was matter, time, and physical energy.

Humanity’s Sin through Adam.

12* Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world,h and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned*

13for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i

14But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.j

Grace and Life through Christ.

15But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.

16And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.

17For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.

18In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.k

19For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.l

20The law entered in* so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,m

21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.n

  • Just as there was a free act of the will to choose something other than God’s will in the Garden of Eden, we have that same choice to make each day as we confront the minefield of living with the corrupting influence of matter and mind on our choices.
  • Human nature is good and meant to live in incorruptibility in Heaven forever. Human existence fulfills the grand design to share God’s love with us.
  • Humans were created by God from animality yet retaining characteristics from which they evolved, but with an exception.
  • Humans have reason and free will that is not chained to their nature. Genesis is the archetypal myth (ultimate reality) of how God so loved the world that He gave his only son that we might be saved from just being corruptible.
  • Jesus became one of us (Philippians 2:5) to tell us and show us how to get it right. Still, some don’t know about this way. The truth that leads to the fulfillment of our evolutionary destiny and how to live the rest of our lives is the corruption of matter and mind while simultaneously incorruptible due to the resurrection and ascension of Christ to the Father.
  • With Baptism, we live in the promise of incorruptibility by doing God’s will to the best of our ability. Baptism takes away Original Sin but not the effects of that sin (we must work for what we get, we get hungry and thirsty, we commit evil actions towards others, and we must die, to name just a few),
  • There is sin in the world. Humans are not evil in their nature but prone to evil in their choices. Once again, as of old, the Devil is the seducer of the unprepared and unaware.
  • Jesus, who knew no sin (incorruptibility of God), became sin (corruptibility of matter and time) so that we might be free from the wages of sin (death) and accept our inheritance as sons and daughters of the Father.

GOD’S WAITING ROOM PREPARES US TO LIVE IN INCORRUPTIBILITY

  • Humans love to play the judgment game of God on other humans (which should tell you right then that they haven’t a clue what offering incense to idols means).
  • Heaven is God’s playground, and He is the judge of who will play in His sandbox, despite what humans think Scriptures say.
  • Heaven is not a board game where, if you play it, you automatically get to Heaven.
  • Because humans are wounded warriors, they approach Heaven battered and bruised by their conflict with Satan.
  • There is no sin in Heaven, so what about those who die and face God? Outside the Church, goes the ancient saying, there is no salvation. After we die, the Church Universal is the only reality in the Kingdom of Heaven, those who confessed that Jesus is Lord, all those who thought religion was a country club membership, all those who hated God.
  • Where does human spirit who die unrepentant go? Is there a place where the unbaptized who had no knowledge go to learn how to love others as Christ loved us? Is there a place of second chances, a period of waiting until we are clothed with the proper wedding garment to enter the banquet hall of the King?
  • Purgatory is a place of second chances, God’s waiting room, where each of us who need it will be allowed to learn the lessons we need on earth? How long will this take? Remember, there is no corruption of matter and time in Heaven. It takes time for you to move from your false self to your true self. It is time it takes for you to learn how to love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6.5 and Matthew 22:38)
  • Will there be fire in Purgatory? Yes, the fire of knowing that you missed the train the first time you tried it but that God loves you so much that you get a second chance. Purgatory is a place of testing, but it is also a place of Hope (upper case H means the Holy Spirit is there to be your tutor).
  • I don’t know this to be accurate, but my Lectio Divina thoughts on this place of second chances were that it is The Garden of Eden as it was in the time of Adam and Eve, where there is resonance with God and all nature.
  • We can pray for God to have mercy on those in Purgatory who are released from their sins and make the correct choices of all those wrong ones they made in their lifetime on earth. We can only pray for forgiveness because we, ourselves, need it as long as we are alive.

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: We are what we choose.

Holy Mother's Center

Once, a young man wanted to know the one question, that, if you asked it, all others depended upon it. He set out to find that one question, one that kept him up at night, not with worry but with curiosity.

He went to his local high school chemistry teacher, which he admired the most. She told him that even asking his question was a sign of great scientific curiosity and worthy of a great mind. He asked her this question: What is the one question that if you asked it, all other questions depend upon it for their answers? To the answer, she said that this was a search she was still conducting, but she gave him two cautions: seek a question that is true in the past, in the present, and in the future. He told his teacher that she challenged him to choose concepts and ideas that would be true now and in the future. It must not be open to change but must be immutable; secondly, it must encapsulate all reality, not just scientific laws and theories. And finally, I am so proud of you for being so scientific in your thought processes.

Buoyed by this experience, he next visited the most intelligent person he had ever met. This man was a Detective of Police with his local police department. He had gone to college with his dad and knew him well. He had lost touch with him for a few years but ran into him in a mall, and they had coffee together. He asked his friend to help him out. What is the one question that, if you asked it, all other questions depend upon their answers? He told his friend that he had just begun to toy with that same question but had no definitive answer. He told him that part of it must be that all humans have human reasoning and are not animals. They also can choose whatever they want as their value system and what makes sense morally. He said there is another dimension of possibility that I have yet to assimilate into my one question. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but it has to do with my experience as a law enforcement officer. I see many people each day who break the law, either by choice or by accident, he said. My idea of human nature is that humans are good by default and are constantly prone to make easy choices rather than difficult ones. We have laws for us, but sometimes we just choose the opposite for no good reason other than we think we can get away with it or that no one will know about it.

The young man reflected on what his friend had told him and thought he knew why he considered him the most intelligent and wisest person he knew, next to his dad. The next person he wanted to look up was his pastor, Father Joe. Father Joe was one of his favorite persons because he was a straight shooter and told it like it was. He didn’t care if you believed it was true or not, but he spoke from his heart and what you needed to hear. He was always quoting G. K. Chesterton: “I don’t need to the church to tell me when I am wrong when I know I am wrong; I need the church to tell me I am wrong when I think I am right.” He told Father Joe of his question and asked for guidance. “These six questions,” he said, “are core questions each person must ask and find answers that satisfy their heart. If you don’t believe in a power greater than yourself, both the questions and the answers are relative, pending on who asks and give answers to them. There is no right or wrong, only what you choose to be authentic, and you only living seventy or eighty years, if you are lucky. Then what? Father Joe continued, “If both the questions and their authentic answers originate from a power outside of yourself, then you must use your reason and ability to choose correctly. Your free choice does not mean what you choose is free to choose. There are consequences to all choices.”

“Humans like to make choices that are easy and do not have pain. With all due respect to B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning approach to choice, those who are marked with the sign of the cross must choose what is difficult over what seems easy and without consequences. The world thinks this is crazy and is some kind of masochistic or sadistic approach to being human. Baptism changes all that. We embrace whatever life comes our way because God has chosen us as adopted sons and daughters and given us the strength to sustain our journey until we reach our destiny as intended in the Garden of Eden.”

The young man thanked Father Joe for his insights and told him that talking to him was like taking a drink of water from a fire hydrant. He would have to take some time and peel away the layers of meaning in what he said.

Next, he went to a nearby monastery, thinking that the monks there would indeed have the answers to his question since they had devoted their lives to living as consecrated religious. They were called Trappists and made beer to help support themselves. http://www.specer.org The monks told him to go to the one place humans are afraid to look, in their inner room, and just wait. They encouraged him to use Lectio Divina, penetrating the depths and the heights of meaning contained in his questions. He tried this and soon found out that it was not as easy as it seemed. First, there were all kinds of distractions bombarding his thought process so that he could not focus on one thing for more than a few minutes. They recommended he spend time in the monastery church in silence and solitude and ask the Holy Spirit to help with the question.

The young man did so for five days without any seeming results. At the end of five days, he was frustrated that he had no good thoughts, although he had pleaded and begged the Holy Spirit to help out. He was somewhat frustrated to the point of thinking that having an answer to the questions was impossible. He was walking out the door when he noticed an older woman sitting on the backbench, head bowed, eyes closed but with the most peaceful simile on her lips that he had ever seen. He interrupted the woman, who smiled at him gently and said, “What is it you seek?” “I want to know the answer to the question of what is the one thing at the center of my life, that, if I took it away, all other questions and worries would fall into place?” The woman said, “What you place at your center is your God. You can either put something there yourself, such as power, drink, pleasure for the sake of pleasure, or money. You might even put your church as your center, but all of these would be idols that will not fulfill your destiny.” She continued, “The only thing I have discovered to make me smile in the depths of my heart, is to sit here in the silence of the Monastery Church, and, with humility and obedience to God’s wishes, and wait for the heart of Christ to beat as one with mine.” The young man said, “How is it that you can see all this just sitting in Church?” The old woman fixed her eyes on his and said, “Young man, how is it that you cannot.”

We are defined by our choices and implications, not by our skills and knowledge. Only you can put something as your center. You have reason to help you find out what is true or false. You have the freedom to choose good or bad. God sent His only Son to save us from choosing what is terrible for our human nature and a deterrent to moving to our next level of evolution–being adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

SIC TRANSEAT GLORIA MUNDI

Thus passes the glory of the world. What a profound saying as the whole world seems destined for hatred and power-grabbing. My thoughts in a Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) had to do with what doesn’t pass away, what is secure, what lasts forever, plus how can I get some of that in my life.

I reflect on the words of the Lenten sacramental “Remember, Human, you are dust, and into dust, you shall return.” These are both somber and sober thoughts about life and the real purpose. Of course, the answers to all the corruption of matter and mind are there and have been since Christ first set us free from the power death had over the evolution of our humanity forward. My hypothesis here is that we are destined to know, love, and serve God in this life so that we can be happy with God in Heaven in the next. (Baltimore Catechism, Question 6).

I can still remember sitting in the upper room (second story) of the St. Francis Xavier Grade School, the first public school in the State of Indiana, and listening to Father Henry Doll droll on about the purpose of life. For some strange reason that I still can’t explain, I remember him reciting Question 6 of the Baltimore Catechism (above) and my thinking, “Wow. I now have a purpose in life. Isn’t that good of God?” Mind you, this was 1952 (or so). What happened to me is that God’s grace penetrated my heart via my mind, and I had no idea what happened. St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Knowing precedes loving.” (AZ quotes)

Everyone has a center or core of their being. If you take it away, it is the one principle that “Life is not worth living.” Conversely, suppose you place it there because of the corruption of matter and the mind (everything deteriorates). In that case, you must work daily to keep other false centers from invading (power, pride, money, orgiastic sex according to Erich Fromm, hedonistic pleasure, the Church, the Blessed Mother, and most especially you) the center for which you were intended. I am here to know, love, and serve God in this lifetime. My spiritual universe begins with my Baptism, an action outside of me that I must eventually confirm internally in my heart. The spiritual universe is the kingdom of heaven that is incorruptible and starts when I confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father in Heaven. My problem, until I die, is to keep myself centered each day on The Christ Principle, my center, Philippians 2:5). It is work, sometimes painful, often choosing the opposite of what the world teaches (If you want to be my disciple, you must take up your cross daily and follow me.) Do you know how heavy that cross is? It is the weight of all my sins, and I often choose what is easy rather than correct.

Although Lent is a time where we liturgically (as Church Universal) all repent of our sinfulness through penance, as a Lay Cistercian, I actually find my whole life each day trying to convert myself from my dependence on the world for my center to that of the stability and immutability of The Christ Principle. From the moment I am Baptized, I begin my training to inherit the kingdom of heaven (to be happy with God forever in heaven). In the kingdom of heaven after I die (remember, I am an adopted son (daughter), and my inheritance is not of this world of matter and mind. This is only spiritual time (the eternal NOW).

I try to live as a penitential person, conscious of my MANY failures and making a complete fool out of myself, yet more aware that God can still love me with all the bruises and cuts from living my particular life events while on earth. I have this vision of reaching out to God after I die with my hands and Jesus reaching back to me, lifting me up. Jesus tells me, “Let me see your hands.” I show Jesus my hands and arms covered with bruises and cuts that have healed. “Welcome into your inheritance I made for just you from when there was no beginning and end. You picked up your cross as you could or were able to do. It is in the trying and failing and trying again and again that love ripens and bears fruit.” I see the hand and arms of Jesus reaching out to me, ones that have the holes in them from the nails and his arms covered by bruising and the effects of scourging at the pillar. “Let me lift you up one last time, “Jesus says. “Mi casa su casa.”

What follows are some reflections for you on mortality and immortality, corruption and corruption, and dissonance and resonance.

Sic transeat gloria mundi

Te deum laudamus

Non nobis Domine

If you like this, share it with those you love.

uiodg

THE RAPE OF REASON AND FREE CHOICE

Recent events in our time have one country with considerable power and military take over another country, one who is sovereign and not provoking anyone in the name of nationalism. It is not just nor is it acceptable, yet many nation-states stand on the sidelines, wringing their hands with eyes glued on this rape, intently watching it take place. And when this rape has taken place, they will turn away to their own petty insecurities and wait for the next great county to rape another, almost excited to watch from afar and become aroused with all the atrocities. Moral outrage is spouted by all.

This is the corruption of the human spirit. All of us are diminished by these countries raping other counties just because they can, and no one dares to stop them. It doesn’t help that most of the last two centuries are distinguished by one country or another raping another smaller and weaker neighbor. The wages of sin, remember, is death.

Power has been at the heart of what makes humans morally corrupt: governments, individuals, churches, or militaries. They rape because they can, not because they are defending themselves, and all their neighbors shout alarming slogans but don’t stop them.No one wants war. Ironically, this war is part of a larger struggle that goes unnoticed, one between good and evil with Satan on the side of hatred, jealousy, envy, pride. The aggressors always think God is on their side, making Satan’s day.

G.K. Chesterton’s comments are apropos.

“But the truth is that it is only by believing in God that we can ever criticize the Government. Once abolish the God, and the Government becomes the God.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“I don’t need a church to tell me I’m wrong where I already know I’m wrong; I need a Church to tell me I’m wrong where I think I’m right” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton.

“The word ‘good’ has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“Right is Right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

Like watching a child being abused verbally and physically, we continue to watch this rape of reason and free will, then turn away when our attention span is captured by another atrocity. Humanity pays the price of sin. God have mercy on us all.

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THE CORRUPTION OF THE SPIRIT–Part II

In my last few years of being a Lay Cistercian, I have completely changed my viewpoint about being the center of my world, but not in the way you might expect. I have been tutored to avoid being self-centered and selfish all of my life. I now glory in my selfishness because I understand that being self-centered is the natural mechanism in all of us for self-preservation. Because I can reason, something my canine or feline companions do not have, I share many characteristics and even a big chunk of DNA from chimpanzees.

I am self-centered to protect my humanity as I have come to experience it. So are all life forms. If you realize that we are descendants from what went before us, it makes sense to think that our emotions, the basics of human survival all these years, procreation, and feelings towards others all preceded us. That got me thinking. What did not make it in the transition from animality to rationality? All the animals in the world now, and from that first cell, don’t have the power to move from one nature (animal) to something higher (rational).

When humans began to mature and refine their abilities to reason and make choices that won’t hurt their survival, they were somehow different from how other animals acted. Over the centuries, as time progressed, patterns of early human behavior became more overt, sometimes involving many people or even groupings of people into a tribe. People probably gravitated into tribes for safety and basic human needs (food, water, shelter, and shared tasks).

But, something was still not right. People were selfishly stealing the property of others, telling falsehoods, committing murder and rape, enslaving other people, cheating, being jealous of others, and other ways to be selfish and possessive. Not that humans don’t have the potential for good. I see a fragile line between my animality and rationality when I look at myself. This blog is about why we can do both evil and good and who is to blame? St. Benedict reminds his monks in Chapter 4 of the Rule to:

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

44 Live in fear of judgment day
45 and have a great horror of hell.”

https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

Lost in all the various four traditions of the Genesis account, there is evil and moral corruption in the world. There is no moral corruption in the physical universe. There is only the systematic corruption of matter (everything has a beginning and an ending, plus all matter deteriorates, even if from one form into another). Animals don’t do bad things; they act according to their nature.

WHERE DID MORAL CORRUPTION ORIGINATE?

As I read the Book of Genesis, particularly Chapters 2-3, I am struck by how it describes this corruption of the mind and its effects. At its core, Genesis is a compilation of oral traditions from multiple (four) sources over a period of time. It seeks to teach its listeners (readers) that what they experience in life in the form of evil comes from humans, not God. God is the author of life but has the freedom to choose what is good or bad is not God’s doing, but the responsibility of each human. Choices have consequences, as St. Paul points out in Romans 5. Yet, we survive in a world of incorruptibility with the help of the Holy Spirit. Since this blog is about moving deeper into the Mysteries of Faith using contemplation, read the passage that follows slowly and prayerfully at least three times and ask yourself how corruption permeates the world in which you live.

Morality is always linked to behaviors that come from our choices. Evil is a choice that leads to our humanity being dissonant with who we are supposed to be. Good is a choice with an outcome or consequence that is in keeping with our behavior. Who tells us that? God does? Why can God tell us that, and we know it innately? I only live seventy or eighty years; if I am lucky, I die. God created us in his image and likeness and therefore knows our actions’ intended and unintended consequences. What we do good allows us to be resonant with all reality, while the wages of sin is death.

What Father would create a son or daughter and give them a stone when they asked for bread, our daily bread? Because of the corruption of the mind, we make choices that are easy (those that please our flesh and egos, our lust for power and money and have no power to raise us up to a higher level), rather than choosing what seems like the opposite of what the world says is meaningful (a sign of contradiction and what is right according to God’s DNA for us). We don’t have the freedom to choose something, and that something is right because we choose it. We have the freedom to lift up to the Father each day our free will (the only thing God does not have) and say Thank You that Jesus saved us from the slavery of the world as the center of our life. In the course of human events, God gave us Baptism to take away the sin of the world, leaving us free to live out whatever time we have left in preparing ourselves to be present to the Father…Forever. The problem is we live in the incorruptible spiritual universe right now, beginning with Baptism, but still are wed to matter and mind in a way consistent with our humanity. We struggle to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus each day, why we can commit sin after our conversio morae. That is also why we have the Church to help us during our seventy or eighty years to allow Christ to be present with us, not to do it for us, but to give us the power of incorruptibility in our journey.

Moral corruption means the deterioration of the spirit, my spirit, when it comes into contact with the corruption of matter and mind. The Evil One is the Lord of the world, roaring about, seeking whom he may devour. Many call him Lord or Master and even think they are doing right by doing wrong. Our Lord and Savior is Jesus, whose Kingdom is not this world. We inherit this Kingdom through Baptism and adoption. We are destined for incorruptibility but still inherit the consequences of Original Sin until we die.

In this context, I find myself as one who has been accepted into the Lay Cistercian patrimony and matrimony. While I live as a human, I must seek God daily to keep at bay the forces of corruptibility that relentless wash at my shores, seeking to encroach on my territory.

Faith, Hope, and Love.*

1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace* with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,a

2through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.b

3Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance,

4and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,c

5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.d

6For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.

7Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.*

8But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.e

9How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.f

10Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.g

11Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Humanity’s Sin through Adam.

12* Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world,h and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned*

13for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i

14But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.j

Grace and Life through Christ.

15But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.

16And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.

17For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.

18In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.k

19For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.l

20The law entered in* so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,m

21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.n

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/5

After the two stories of creation in Genesis 2-3, Cain kills Abel. Think of Genesis, in fact, the whole of Sacred Scriptures as the inspired writings of both Old and New Covenants designed explicitly for those who are left after Christ died. Apostles and Early disciples had the Torah and the oral stories that Jesus told them, like those formed in the book of Genesis. They were confused and terrified because they had lost their Master, their Teacher. What were they to do? What did Jesus want them to do? This is the corruption of the world at work on the mind. There was no one to tell them what to do, what their future might be. Do you feel their despair, their hopelessness? Two things happened to the Apostles gathered behind the locked doors for fear of their lives. Jesus, Son of God, Savior, stood in their midst, and the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, overshadowed them to move them from dissonance to resonance, from the corruption of matter and mind to the incorruptibility of the Kingdom of Heaven, their heritage. Can you feel that same power in you? If not, what is blocking this energy from overshadowing you? The Apostles still lived in a world of corrupt physical and mental worlds, but there is a significant difference. Do you know what that is? Christ had just paid the price for our redemption, which paved the way for the Holy Spirit to introduce them to the spiritual universe that has no end because it is incorruptible.

LIVING IN A WORLD THAT IS CORRUPT BUT ALSO IN A WORLD THAT IS INCORRUPT

  1. Far from keeping humans from being human, God’s guidance to us actually allows us to choose the more difficult path of righeousness of God than one that is temporary and has no power at all to help us towards our destiny.
  2. With human nature comes the freedom to choose, with this choice, the emotions, past conditioning, DNA, and each person’s center determines good or evil.
  3. Corruption of the mind means our human will cannot sustain one center for any length of time. I call it a revolving center. Baptism takes away our sin of Adam (the one each of us inherits from Adam) and replaces it with the grace from the Holy Spirit (the one each of us inherits from Jesus as an adopted son or daughter of the Father).
  4. Satan is the Ruler of the World (the corruption of the mind). Satan uses the corruption of matter and the mind to try to rule over our hearts. This ruler of the world is driven out by the resurrection of Christ and return to the Father with the ransom for our sin of Adam and Eve. The struggle we face as ones who bear the mark of the cross in our hearts is to beat back the ever present moral corruption that come from those who haven’t a clue about the implications of their choices. Scripture teaches us that those who lose their life (seek obedience to the Father with humility) will find it. When we give away the pseudo power of the World, we gain the power of what is incorruptible, even though we continue to seek God each day.
  5. The struggle or battle we face is between the corruptibility of matter and the mind being our destiny as humans or to realize that the resurrection moment (incorruptibility) is our destiny. Heaven begins with a YES from us to continue the covenant of love with the Father through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. The daily challenge for each of us is to sustain our resolve to keep Christ as our Christ Principle (Philipians 2:5). All of my Lay Cistercians practices are not ends in themselves but are there to place me in the presence of the Real Presence and wait.

31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world* will be driven out.y 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.z 33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would di.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/12

DON’T LOSE YOUR BALANCE WHILE STANDING ON TOP OF A PICKET FENCE

I am corrupt (still live within the parameters and effects of the corruption of the matter and mind) until I die, but now, I also live in the World and the Kingdom of Heaven. Lay Cistercian practices, especially daily desire to move from my false self (the corrupt world) to the true self (being an adopted son ((daughter)) of the Father), is actually my movement from corruptibility to expand my incorruptibility or capacitas dei. I need to remember NOT to lose my balance when thinking of all these corruption/incorruption and resonance/dissonance ideas. Losing my balance would be just focusing on the corruption of humans and how bad they act without considering the nobility of the human spirit and its search for the meaning of love.

How I can simultaneously be living in a matter and mind that exists only under the influence of corruption but not be bad in my nature is something of a wonder and shows a complexity in the Word made flesh. The problem God had was one where He only made good (Genesis 2-3, including humans) but left it up to humans to choose what is right over what is convenient to their need for pleasure, feeling good, and sexual fulfillment. In his classic book, The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm sets forth what he calls unauthentic love versus authentic love when he states that not all love is good for us. We can choose what is bad for us even when we think it will bring us pleasure. Unauthentic love is choosing alcohol, drugs, and the orgiastic state. Authentic love is choosing love that has four aspects: care, responsibility, respect and knowledge” (Art, p. 21).https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0lsn0-H5kY

If evil or bad choices don’t come from God (a prime conclusion from reading Genesis 2-3), and they don’t automatically come from humans because what God made is good, then how and why do humans do the things they don’t want to do but don’t do the things they want to do (Saint Paul)? In its transition from animality to rationality, what is in human nature that causes aberration in thinking to its very nature, that God would have to send His only Son to put straight that which made crooked by a single choice of Adam and Eve? In the Garden of Eden story myth, the ancient archetype of why humans do bad things yet are good in their nature, Humans (Adam and Eve) use their gifts of reason and free will to choose what was presented to them as alternatives to God by the snake, the archetype evil or a choice presented to humans that leads to them halting their progression towards incorruptibility. It is as though God tells Adam and Eve, “I made you so that you could live with me forever in a state of perpetual incorruptibility that your human nature could endure in my presence as divine nature, but you chose the way of corruptibility. You need to wait and practice getting it right.”

The Old Testament is nothing other than a record of God’s people trying to get it right but not moving to the next level of their evolution, the spiritual universe. They could not see a Messiah whose power was in making all things one in a kingdom ruled by Christ, the head, while all of us try to choose God once again to make up for the sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus, Son of God, our Savior, had to leave the security of being God to show us how to do what we were not doing to become incorruptible, to move to our next stage of existence as humans, that of fulfilling our original purpose to be happy with God in heaven…Forever. (Philippians 2:5) The New Testament is a record of what Jesus teaches us about how to love one another as He loved us. Heaven on earth begins with me being baptized, being presented the gift of adoption by the Father so that, from now on, I at least know the purpose of life and now have the way to follow, which leads to discovering heaven right now, every day. When I die, I take all that I know, all that I love, and the connections I have made between Christ, the Chruch Universal, and those I have written in my personal Bibila Raza (blank book). I received that book at Baptism and, in it, I write everything good that I want to take to heaven with me.

Appearance to the Disciples.*

19On the evening of that first day of the week,j when the doors were locked, where the disciples* were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.* The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.k

21* [Jesus] said to them again,l “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

22* And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,m “Receive the holy Spirit.

23* n Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas.

24Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”o

26Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”p

27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

28* q Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29* Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?r Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Conclusion.*

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s 31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.thttps://bible.usccb.org/bible/philippians/2

HOW CAN THE CHURCH BE HOLY WHILE EVERYONE IN IT IS SINFUL?

The Apostles still lived in a world of corrupt physical and mental worlds, but there is a significant difference. Now, Christ has re-establishes entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, what we inherit as adopted sons and daughters is incorruptible. All we have to do is sustain Christ as our center, susceptible to encroachment by the world’s corruption if we don’t do something to fight against it. This struggle is prayer in all its forms. Prayer puts each of us in the presence of Christ so that the power of the Holy Spirit can overshadow us with God’s own energy.

Recently, some people I know have left the Church because of the rash of pedophile priests being discovered after years of cover-ups. How can evil exist in a Church that preaches incorruptibility? This conundrum has always plagued me because I know only Jesus and Mary (because of the Holy Spirit) were the only two persons incorruptible. The rest of us are born into the moral corruption of the spirit (not the Holy Spirit). Evil does not come from God nor Christ because they are incorruptible and have no sin. However, I am only human in nature, so I am born with Original Sin (a corruption of matter and mind and prone to corruptibility in my choices for what is good or bad for me. Baptism takes away the world’s sin, but I still live in this world until I die and inherit the next life. When I use the term corruption of the spirit, I refer to my human nature being tested by the Lord of the World (Satan) each day until I die. Although I know I will win the battle because the Holy Spirit will not let the gates of Hell prevail against me, there are plenty of battles and skirmishes that I will lose. Once again, my savior is Christ, who gives me the power to seek mercy and reparation for my offenses through the Holy Spirit. The Church is Holy because it is incorruptible in Heaven and Purgatory, but the Church militant must still run the gauntlet of landmines while alive. Individuals are corruptible, but the Church (beginning with the Baptism of each individual) is incorruptible.

Read the words of St. Paul on incorruptibility and how we are redeemed by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. I encourage you to read them slowly and pray that these words might enter your hearts and give you the peace that the world cannot give.

42* So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible.

43It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful.v

44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.

45So, too, it is written, “The first man, Adam,* became a living being,” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.w

46But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual.

47The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.

48As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.

49Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image* of the heavenly one.x

The Resurrection Event.

50* This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption* inherit incorruption.y

51* Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed,z

52 in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.a

53 For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality.b

54 And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:c

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”d

56The sting of death is sin,* and the power of sin is the law.e

57But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.f

58Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

I Corinthians 15

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OF GODS AND MEN: A Celebration of Love

One of the most impactful movies of my life is that of the martyrdom of the seven monks of Tibhirine (Algeria) in 1996. Here are some of the movies I watch during Lent as a way to lift my consciousness to how others live out their lives trying to live the model Christ left us: to love others, as I have loved you.

Lay Cistercian spirituality, as I understand it, begins each day with me sitting on the bed, eyes cast down, reflecting on my life of repeated missed opportunities to know, love, and serve God and grateful that God loves me despite my constant blustering through life.

Movies are a way to penetrate the silence and solitude of the desert of modern civilization with its wasteland of false prophets and thinking. Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life, and I must constantly burn away the corruption residing in the world which seeks to hold me back from moving toward incorruptibility.

Here are a series of YouTube and websites that have helped me focus more on Christ and less on me.

LENTEN RESOURCES THAT WILL ASTOUND YOU

Look up the website called The Prodigal Catholic under resources. Astounding. This is in my top five all-time websites.

https://prodigalcatholic.com/free-books-resources/

FLANNERY O’CONNOR: GOD’S PIT BULL

Very rarely does the Holy Spirit throw something at me out of the blue, so to speak. This is a topic I share with you without comment, which would only dilute this concentrated orange juice of Flannery O’Conner’s thoughts. Each of us can mix the lived reality of our life against the words from this author. During Lent, I use her writings to inspire my adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Pray as you read for meaning and profound stillness in your heart.

“You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other people’s sufferings and not your own.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell them to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“[To] know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against Truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility . . .” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“You shall know the truth, and it will make you odd.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket when of course it is the cross.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so, and that religion is our own sweet invention.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when he can’t see it or feel it if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon It will keep you free – not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your own intellect or the intellects around you.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“The mind serves best when it’s anchored in the Word of God. There is no danger then of becoming an intellectual without integrity.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“If we forget our past, we won’t remember our future and it will be as well because we won’t have one.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“A God you understood would be less than yourself.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“Satisfy your demand for reason but always remember that charity is beyond reason, and God can be known through charity.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“I am no disbeliever in spiritual purpose and no vague believer. I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. This means that for me the meaning of life is centered in our Redemption by Christ and what I see in the world I see in relation to that.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“We are not judged by what we are basically. We are judged by how hard we use what we have been given. Success means nothing to the Lord.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“…the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“For me, it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which is the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws. I am always astonished at the emphasis the Church puts on the body. It is not the soul she says that will rise but the body, glorified.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“I love a lot of people, understand none of them.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“I have found, in short, from reading my own writing, that my subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory largely held by the devil. I have also found that what I write is read by an audience that puts little stock either in grace or the devil. You discover your audience at the same time and in the same way that you discover your subject, but it is an added blow.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote: “The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devours you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.” No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“Most of us come to the church by a means the church does not allow.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“Dogma is the guardian of mystery. The doctrines are spiritually significant in ways that we cannot fathom.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“I am a Catholic not like someone else would be a Baptist or a Methodist, but like someone else would be an atheist.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“The operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner; which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.” (August 9, 1955)” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“The operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner; which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.” (August 9, 1955)” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“When you leave a man alone with his Bible and the Holy Ghost inspires him, he’s going to be a Catholic one way or another, even though he knows nothing about the visible church. His kind of Christianity may not be socially desirable, but will be real in the sight of God.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“We lost our innocence in the Fall, and our turn to it is through the Redemption which was brought about by Christ’s death and by our slow participation in it. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

When talking with Dorothy Day about the Real Presence of the Eucharist: “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

“Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

A HOLY SPIRIT DUMP OF ENERGY

I offer to you what I myself received. I don’t know what to do with it, and you might or might not either. I warn you, linking up with the Holy Spirit and asking that the Spirit enlighten you with divine energy is risky. You might just get what you wished. The following is like drinking concentrated orange juice from the Holy Spirit. It takes years of mixing it with the water of human experimentation to drink it at all. I warned you.

IT SOUNDS LIKE when I apply the filters of corruptibility and incorruptibility to this statement. Sin came into the world through one man, St. Paul writes in Romans 5, 12-2. Jesus was sinless because he is God, but he became sin for us, who knew no sin. Jesus, who knew no sin (was incorruptible because he was God), became sin (the corruptibility of matter and mind we live in, known as the world) to be a ransom for the many. Philippians 2:5-12 gives the reason God emptied himself of his divinity, so that his gift was fully human, as lived in corruption that has a beginning and an ending, like Adam and Eve, and thus acceptable as the price for our redemption. He took on our corrupt nature (the consequences of Original sin, such as death, working for a living, pain, suffering, joy, happiness) and felt as we feel, loved as we loved, all without sin. Corrupt has to do with the deterioration of matter and energy in the context of physical time. Incorruptibility is an act of the will where we offer to God the only thing God does not have, our free gift that says, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” With humility and realization that I am not you, you are not me, God is not me, and I, most certainly, am not God, all I can say is Thanks.

Where does evil come from? How can I live beyond my seventy or eighty years? Why does everything, that is, have a beginning and an end? Or, does it? Why do I have to die? What do some people break the law and become the norm for morality and seem to get away with it? Why can’t my human reasoning and my free will give me the strength to avoid evil sometimes? What do I do some things I don’t want to do, and other times don’t do the things I should? (St. Paul) How can God make humans that are good but they turned out prone to either evil or good? What is the one principle that, if in place, would at least point us to being fully human, even if we failed to live up to it over and over? Why is human nature good, but individuals do such horrible and sometimes noble things? How can I sustain my resolve to do good in a corrupt world? Matter is not evil, but it is corrupt. Matter deteriorates, and so does the resolve of the will to keep myself centered on Christ Jesus. The human mind is not evil because the energy of God is not corrupt. We can reason and choose what we think is good for us and often make wrong choices. (Genesis 2-3) If the wages of sin are death, and we don’t die for seventy or eighty years, is there a price we must pay while we wait until death? What is that price? Who tells us what is good or bad? Is it me? Is there a power outside of the physical universe that gives me the way, has the truth, so that I can live a life that is the culmination or endpoint of my human evolution? All humans live in two universes (the physical universe of matter, time, energy), and some live in the mental universe of reason and free will. There is a third universe, but one that must be accessed by invitation and acceptance. The problem is everyone has an invitation, but not everyone accepts the adoption into God’s family of incorruptibility. Some don’t know about it. Some don’t care about it. Some actively hate whatever their concept of God is, while some embrace love from Christ and seek to spread it around through good works.

Who has the power in this lifetime? In one sense, I do. I look out at the world and try to make sense of the chaos, asking myself why everyone hates one another and yet finds immeasurable goodness in that same person. I ask myself what the most powerful energy in the known universe is. Google is a great place to get a YouTube response. Here is one I looked up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYVUhSloDfc It is called a gamma-ray burst. Humans would not survive this if we were close enough. I ask myself, why I can know about the power of a gamma-ray burst, but it does not know anything about me and my human energy of the mind? Why is that? Who is more powerful? That leads me to the next paradigm shift in power, animality to rationality. Matter and the mind all live under the influence of corruption. Everything has a beginning and an end. Although I share many traits and emotions with my pets, I am not an animal. I do not share rationality or freedom to choose what I reasoned. I have two choices as a human being. My choices can be good or bad for me. As an individual who has lived to be 81 so far (how lucky is that?), I can determine what is good or bad for me, or I can choose to accept what God thinks is good or bad for me. (Genesis 2-3). I have the power to say NO to God just as surely as Adam and Eve did. When I say NO (sin), sin affects my soul (the wages of sin are death). Conversely, when I choose to embrace humility and obedience to God’s purpose for me, I grow in my capacity to receive God’s love and enlightenment (capacitas dei)

My will struggles to keep myself centered on Christ Jesus with all the temptations and sidetracks that the world sets in my way. This struggle is itself a prayer that I offer in reparation for my past sins and my prayer for continued mercy from the Father. I read the Seven Penitential Psalms frequently to get in touch with how it feels to sustain a habit of penance in the midst of the world’s chaos.

If I want to replace the love given me by the world, I must put love where there is no love. But, and this is significant, this is a love that I receive from Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. This love is incorruptible, while the love of the world, although it seems noble, does not have the power to lift my nature to share in the adoption that awaits me in heaven.

I begin my heaven with my adoption by God as a son (daughter) and heir to the kingdom. This kingdom of heaven begins while I am on earth, able to make choices good for me to take what I choose to heaven after I die.

Praise to the Father, 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

LAY CISTERCIAN LENTEN PRACTICES

I share with you the Lenten Practices I do as part of my habit of penance that comes with being a Lay Cistercian. I do not wish you to do as I do. I recommend that you do as Christ does as we prepare liturgically to appreciate the importance of the Resurrection.

SCRIPTURAL READINGS

These Scriptural references below come entirely from http://www.usccb.org.

“The Songs of the Suffering Servant

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

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

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

THE ABBOT’S TABLE

The Rule of St. Benedict has a Chapter that I just read for my spiritual reading last week. It is called The Abbot’s Table. Obviously, we don’t live in the time of St. Benedict in the 6th Century. However, the notion of hospitality is still very much alive today for Benedictines, Cistercians, and Lay Cistercians, just to name a few groups who follow this admonition. I offer some reflections on what this concept means to me today.

CHAPTER 56
On the Abbot’s Table Let the Abbot’s table always be with the guests and the pilgrims. But when there are no guests, let it be in his power to invite whom he will of the brethren. Yet one or two seniors must always be left with the brethren for the sake of discipline.

I offer a somewhat unorthodox interpretation of The Abbot’s Table, which came to me as I meditated on Philippians 2:5.

LET EACH PERSON EAT AS THEY CAN

Each day, as I begin my seeking God in whatever comes my way, I see myself eating from The Abbot’s Table. On this table, I see foods arranged like as on a smorgasbord. I can eat as much or as little as I want from this table. Each day, I have a new plate and must place those things that taste good and nourish me on my plate.

I get to choose what foods I want. God is the cook and offers me food, not only for my body but more importantly for my spiritual energy to resist the ever-encroaching penetration of the corruption of matter and mind as I live out each day. I live in a world of matter, time, physical energy, and power, but, because I am an adopted son of the Father (by the grace and favor of God), I also live in a third universe, one that is incorruptible, a universe that has no end.

Christ is the food on my Abbot’s table. Reflect on this food that is not just symbolic but the energy of God that we need to sustain us in a state of incorruptibility that is the kingdom of heaven, now and after our corrupt bodies die.

44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him on the last day.

45It is written in the prophets:

‘They shall all be taught by God.’

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.x

46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.y

47Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

48I am the bread of life.

49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z

50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.

51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a

52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”

53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.

54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b

58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

The Words of Eternal Life.*

60Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

61Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?

62What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?*

63It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

64But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.c

65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

66As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

67Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

68Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

69We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”d

70Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?”

71He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.e https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/6

Each human approaches the Table of the Lord (The Abbot’s Table) with the sum total of our successes and failures at trying to love God with all our minds, our hearts, and our strength, plus loving our neighbor as our self. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:38ff) Although God’s table has everything we need to love others as Christ loved us, the variable lies in both the capability and capacity to eat what we need.

It is not up to me to judge what people eat from The Abbot’s Table, nor why they choose some foods but not eat others. I don’t worry about who is called to The Abbot’s Table or not. All humans are welcome at The Table of the Lord. Admittedly, some don’t know that it exists, while others do know but refuse to eat this or that food (maybe they are on a diet or fasting). We can choose food based on what is in our hearts and our love for others.

The real presence of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine is the actual Christ in front of me, the one that told me to eat this food to have life in me. The capacity of God in me to receive the sacred body into my soul depends on my Faith and humility to sit at The Abbot’s Table and recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

During Lent, a liturgical period of 40 days where we focus on moving from our false self to our true self as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, I use four Lay Cistercian practices to help me be present to Christ.

  1. PUT ON THE HABIT OF HUMILITY — “The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux
  2. CLOTHE YOURSELF WITH THE ENERGY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT– “It is no advantage to be near the light if the eyes are closed.” ~ Saint Augustine
  3. KEEP VIGIL BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT– “The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love; It signifies Love, It produces love. The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life.” ~ Thomas Aquinas
  4. CULTIVATE THE HABIT OF LOVE– “Love follows knowledge.” ~ Thomas Aquinas

I share with you what I myself do. Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

1 Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech,* who drove him out and he went away.

I

2 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall be always in my mouth.a

3 My soul will glory in the LORD;

let the poor hear and be glad.

4 Magnify the LORD with me;

and let us exalt his name together.

II

5 I sought the LORD, and he answered me,

delivered me from all my fears.

6 Look to him and be radiant,

and your faces may not blush for shame.

7 This poor one cried out and the LORD heard,

and from all his distress he saved him.

8 The angel of the LORD encamps

around those who fear him, and he saves them.b

9 Taste and see that the LORD is good;

blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.c

10 Fear the LORD, you his holy ones;

nothing is lacking to those who fear him.d

11 The rich grow poor and go hungry,

but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

III

12 Come, children,* listen to me;e

I will teach you fear of the LORD.

13 Who is the man who delights in life,f

who loves to see the good days?

14 Keep your tongue from evil,

your lips from speaking lies.

15 Turn from evil and do good;g

seek peace and pursue it.

16 The eyes of the LORD are directed toward the righteous

and his ears toward their cry.

17 The LORD’s face is against evildoers

to wipe out their memory from the earth.

18 The righteous cry out, the LORD hears

and he rescues them from all their afflictions.

19 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,

saves those whose spirit is crushed.

20 Many are the troubles of the righteous,

but the LORD delivers him from them all.

2 1He watches over all his bones;

not one of them shall be broken.i

22 Evil will slay the wicked;

those who hate the righteous are condemned.

23 The LORD is the redeemer of the souls of his servants;

and none are condemned who take refuge in him.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/psalms/34

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LAY CISTERCIAN CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES: Custos Oculi

One of the first things monks and nuns, particularly those cloistered, do is to learn custody of the eyes. Here are some readings for you that I, myself, did, and which I share with you. During this time of Lent, when we recognize that we are dust and into dust we all will return, ponder these ideas, and, if you are interested, read the accompanying YouTube

“NO THING” LASTS FOREVER IN THE CORRUPT WORLD OF MATTER AND THE MIND.

REMEMBER, HUMAN, YOU ARE DUST AND INTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN.

Go to a place of silence and solitude (the inner room of your heart) and wait for Christ (after some time of realizing that you human, you discover God is there waiting for you to show up). Think about the corruption of matter and mind for those who live ONLY in the World. With your Baptism, you still live in a corruptible world until you die, but you also have added an incorruptible world, the Kingdom of Heaven, one that has no end. This is your destiny, human, and all you have to do is say YES.

GIVE THE DEVIL BENEFIT OF LAW

REALIZE, HUMAN, THAT YOU ARE NOT ME, AND I AM NOT YOU, THAT GOD IS NOT YOU, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, YOU ARE NOT GOD.

https://www.youtube.com/user/wordonfirevideo/videos To sustain yourself as a penitential person, watch and listen to one of Bishop Barron’s YouTube presentations each day, or each week, or even just one.

CLOTHE YOURSELF WITH THE CLOAK OF HUMILITY AND DO NOT RAISE YOUR EYES TO HEAVEN. https://catholicgentleman.com/2014/06/custody-of-the-eyes-what-it-is-and-how-to-practice-it/#:~:text=At%20its%20most%20basic%20level,look%20anyone%20in%20the%20face. https://uscatholic.org/articles/201310/dont-look-now-how-to-practice-custody-of-the-eyes/

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