CHAPTER 4: DISTRACTIONS AND BAD THOUGHTS DURING CONTEMPLATION

Posted on May 20, 2019, by https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org

This might seem like an odd topic for Lectio Divina, but I assure you, it is authentic, embarrassingly honest. It is natural because none of us practice prayer and hopefully contemplation without distractions and trying to avoid evil thoughts. That it is not just the tomfoolery of a broken-down old Lay Cistercian, St. Benedict, in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, states:

46 Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.
47 Day by day, remind yourself that you are going to die.
48 Hour by hour, keep careful watch over all you do,
49 aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be.
50 As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father. 51 Guard your lips against harmful or deceptive speech.

The Holy Spirit presented me with these thoughts hoping that I might be smart enough to assimilate them into my Lay Cistercian spirituality and The Cistercian Way. These thoughts are my own interpretation (as I listened to Christ while on a park bench in the dead of winter) and do not reflect any Lay Cistercian or Cistercian points of view. I share them with you because I was asked to do so.

When I think of these tools for good works that St. Benedict suggested for his monks to move from self to God, they all demand action. If I am to expand the capacity for God’s “capacitas dei” in my inner self, I must struggle with what the World sets forth as part of my human nature versus what Christ bids us do to become fully human (Adam and Eve before the Fall and not after it). Unfortunately, all of us, including Christ and especially his body, the Church (including me), live in what St. Paul calls The World (after the Fall). Living in the World has consequences, such as pain, suffering, being ruled by our emotions, temptations to do evil and not good, and thinking we are God. I bring this up because it is at the root of why, when any of us pray (that includes Pope all the way to me, who sits in the Tax Collectors’ seat in Church and will not raise his eyes to the heavens but keeps repeating, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me), we experience distractions and sometimes downright obscene thoughts. I must struggle to have Christ Jesus’s mind in me (Philippians 2:5). Christ had temptations. Temptations are just choices between good and evil, between what the World says is God and what God says is God. If you don’t know the difference, you may have already been seduced by the Dark Side and not even realized it.

GEORGE

My good friend George Unglaub, 83, who just died during Holy Week this year, asked me why we always have the most disturbing and pornographic thoughts while we attend Eucharist or sit before the Blessed Sacrament in contemplation of Christ. George, bless his soul, was a convert to the Church Universal. He was a proud Marine (Semper Fi, George!) and a crusty, old man who would never tire of telling people how he saw Jesus in the Chapel at Good Shepherd Church, Tallahassee, Florida. A daily communicant and frequent participant in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When I asked him why he went to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Congers, Georgia, with his wife Vanessa, who also received into the fullness of the Faith of the Universal Church a year ago, why he wanted to do daily Eucharist at Good Shepherd, and why he wore out our priests going to Reconciliation, he simply said, “That is where I see Jesus.” Those who knew the no-nonsense George knew he actually did see Jesus. What a great inspiration of Faith for all of us who wax and wane with trying to master our emotions. George told me he would never master the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, in the sense that once you have them, you can forget them. He said that he needs Jesus EVERY DAY to keep his focus. He could use these gifts of the Holy Spirit to help him each day to see Christ. He was passionate about this. I mean passionate. I bring up George as one of the answers to having bad or evil thoughts during extremely spiritual times.

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.

You know the Lord’s Prayer. But do you know how archetypal it is? Original Sin, which seeks to explain the human condition of decay and corruption, is why we have these thoughts. God gave Adam and Eve two gifts after they were thrown out of the Garden of Eden (Heaven) to help us live in this world without becoming animals. Animals don’t go to Heaven (unless you take them there). We can’t go to Heaven (unless Christ we accept that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father.) Nothing personal! What does it profit you to be a physician, a nurse, a teacher, an entrepreneur, a retiree, or anything else, for that matter, if you miss all the helps God gives you to claim your heritage and you can’t see Jesus? Salvation was won at a great price, Christ’s own life, given for the redemption of all of us so that we can claim adoption. Those who recognize Jesus as Lord recognize their birthright. I recommend those who do not to the mercy of Christ and say, as he did, “Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do.” That is God’s decision as he sits on the Throne in Heaven “from whence he will judge the living and the dead.” Christ helps those who believe in him, even in the face of thinking bad, evil, or obscene thoughts while we pray, because that is the way life is. According to Cistercian spirituality that I read in the late Dom Andre Louf’s book, The Cistercian Way, we have a choice to choose our false self or a new self. (Dom is the title for the Abbot of a Monastery. It comes from Dominus or Lord and means the Abbot takes the place of Christ for those in his pastoral and spiritual care.) The whole idea of a Monastery, and also for Lay Cistercians, is to “see Jesus each day,” as George was so fond of saying. He loved the monastery, although, by his own admission, he did not understand all this talk about God. I don’t either.

FIRST GIFT: Reason

When you look out at all of the species living on earth (many of them extinct), which of them knows? Animals and plants share life with us, but with a difference. Humans alone know that they know. Why do we, of all species, so far in all of physical reality, know that we know, have the awareness that raises us up from being animals to being spiritual apes? Why is that? Is this a random selection of humans over other species? Something does not come from nothing, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out. (See my three books entitled Spiritual Apes for more ideas about this theme. http://www.amazon.com/books/dr. Michael. f. conrad)

This is where the book of Genesis comes into play. These ancient oral traditions are finally written down to pass on their heritage and answer fundamental questions: Why is there pain? Why do we have only seventy or eighty years, then we die? Is that all there is? What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of my life? What is love, and how can I lose it? Why does everything corrupt (everything)? There is someone to come who will redeem us from our collective fault, the human condition that in all cases leads to death. Christ, came to give us life, life forever. Reason is the gift from God that allows us to choose. Choose what?

GIFT TWO: Freedom to Choose

If reason is a gift from God for us to eventually claim our inheritance that Adam and Eve lost through poor choices, the second gift is that very freedom to choose, one that got us into trouble in the first place. The Old Testament is a record of how God loved the Israelites and even established a convent, but it is also an account of how people moved away from God (e.g., worshiping the Golden Calf, worshiping gods of stone and iron). Nothing has changed in the New Testament. Christ came to take away the Sin of the World (Original Sin), so we could once more have adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Read Romans 5:12-21. St. Paul writes that the Old Testament is fulfilled by Christ, the Second Adam. But, there is a catch to the price of redemption–the effects of the Original Sin are still there, even if the Sin is removed through Baptism.

As part of my daily Lay Cistercian promises, I try to approach God through Christ each day, asking the Holy Spirit to guard me against the temptations of the World and give me the grace to choose life and fulfill my adoption heritage. Here are some temptations that George and I discussed how Satan tempts us to move off the center (Sin) and eat of the tree of good and evil (Genesis 2-3). You might have experienced some of these or none of these. They all are a result of Original Sin. We must choose life and not death. We must renounce ourselves and follow Christ (RB Chapter 4:10) and discipline our body, St. Benedict bids his monks. This man knew human nature more than most psychologists and psychiatrists in our age can even approach. He used what was real in the physical universe, the mental universe, which opens up the spiritual universe, not to take away our choice but to give us the framework where we can move from our false self (Seven Deadly Sins) to move toward God (Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit). Everyone has temptations, and not all temptations are evil (choosing Cheerios for breakfast or Wheaties). The archetypal temptations I refer to are at the core of what it means to be human and are those that make us human and not whales or Aardvarks.

TYPES OF TEMPTATION

Physical temptation— In the physical universe, our base for survival, we share the laws of nature with animals, plants, chemicals, physical matter, energy, and time. We must be authentic in this universe and not disobey its laws. As part of it, humans also have urges and survival needs, just like other animals. Animals go through periods when they are fertile, and the sexual hormones want species to copulate. When humans act like animals, we call that Sin–you are not acting your nature.

Human temptations to sex are the most understandable for humans because we came from animal nature by God’s mercy, and it is essential to note that we still have those urges. These can be triggered by looking a someone from either sex and feeling urges to copulate. Having thoughts of a highly erotic nature during the holiest of times is not sinful. This is a temptation. Sin is when you do not, as St. Benedict says, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father (your confessor later one). Sin is allowing Satan to tempt you, just like Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Physical temptations are those we hold in common with all other living things. It is primarily, but not exclusively, sexual because that is the dominant drive in all animals, and humans are part of that.

Mental temptations —Mental temptations are much more severe than those stemming from our animal nature. That does not mean they are not evil. Less bad is still bad for us. The difference is the gulf that exists been all living things and humans. God made all that lives; Adam He made from the “Adama,” the Hebrew word for the earth. No wonder humans are dirty, but they are not evil. Adam means earthy. Say what you want about evolution; Adam and Eve were given two gifts all other living things don’t have: reason and the ability to choose (the image and likeness of God). Humans can choose to propagate outside of seasons or periods, although the period of fertility females have is a remnant of our belonging to the physical universe. The mental universe uses reason and the ability to choose good from evil to discover meaning. What is the reason we have a reason? I think it has to do with our purpose in life, which is to discover the meaning of love? Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37. And why is it essential to discover love? If we are to rise above the other life forms on earth, we must know the meaning of love to be authentically human. As Erich Fromm states in his book, The Art of Loving, humans are not born knowing how to love; they must learn it. Depending on what they use as meaning, love can be destructive or allow us to go to the next level of our destiny, the spiritual universe. Human temptations come from our human emotions and needs. Anger, Jealousy, Murder, Stealing, Adultery, Fornication, Coveting other women or men and Coveting other people’s riches are all examples of human temptations. These sins are against other persons, the Church Universal, and

Spiritual temptations— As you guessed, humans can have temptations based on the spiritual universe. These temptations present a choice of what God thinks is authentic (Spirit) and what we think is authentic (the World). Sin means we choose ourselves rather than God. Read Galatians Chapter 5. Spiritual temptations are: 

  • not offering incense to other gods,
  • not respecting the name of the Lord, and
  • not keeping holy the Sabbath.
  • They include falling away from the Church because you chose the World over God, losing your Faith,
  • disrespecting your spiritual heritage,
  • falling away from the Faith because of anger with the Church,
  • hatred for a priest or nun that taught you in school, 
  • and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (the only unforgivable sin).
  • Spiritual sins are the most grievous.
  • These sins are against God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

Temptations are not sins. They are choices. You have reason for a reason, remember? The problem is not that you are free to choose or not, but what you choose. We not only choose good or evil, but we also choose the center against which we find meaning and truth. For me, that center is Philippians 2:5, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” The choice, then, becomes are you the author of what is good or evil, or is God. What you choose can either be from God or not. This is compounded by the fragmenting of religion into thinking that each person is their own God, Church, and Pope. Truth is one, and sincerity is not a substitute for the way, the truth, and the life. Not all religions are religious and teach what comes from Christ. From the very beginnings of the early Church, there has been confusion over who Christ is and is he God or not. This is a struggle that still exists today. Look up Wikipedia on the subject of heretics (with the usual caveat that Wikipedia is not entirely accurate historically).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_movements_declared_heretical_by_the_Catholic_Church

THE THREE FILTERS FOR TRUTH

The big temptation in our age is to discount Christ, the Church (after all, a corrupt Church can’t produce truth, can it?), the Apostolic heritage, and the teachings of men (not male but rather humans). This is a way the Devil uses to separate us from Christ and our heritage as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Some are seduced by this temptation into equating a few corrupt priests with the message of Christ to love each other as He has loved us. The Church will last until the end time and the Last Coming. Satan knows human weakness is sexuality and the inability to control animal urges to propagate. These urges are good, and we would not propagate without them, but we have reason to be able to know what is good or evil. Baboons don’t have that gift. Baboons are not evil or corrupt (although they die); they act their nature. As found in Genesis, human nature is destined to live with God forever (the Garden of Eden), but Adam and Eve, representing us all, chose to choose evil rather than good. This archetypal choice explains the human condition humans find themselves in today. St. Paul says, “the things I don’t what to do, I do, while the things I do, I don’t want to do.”

Romans 7:15-20 (NIV)

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is Sin living in me.18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a]For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.20 Now, if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is Sin living in me that does it.

This is classic St. Paul, and it should be classic us. Adam and Eve did not sin until they ate the fruit. In terms of falling away from the path of righteousness, one meaning may be that the urge to follow our animal instincts is not evil but actually shows we are human. Something is sinful when we act of the will we have been tempted to do. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for the Devil not to lead us into temptation, but, and this is important, we also pray to deliver us from evil, i.e., not to choose what is presented to us as good when it is a fact evil. It must be wrong (remember, God, determines what is right or wrong).  

Three filters to know the truth.

Here are the three questions I ask when I want to know the truth because there can be only one truth.

  1. Ask the right question. When someone says I don’t believe in the Catholic Church Universal because they are corrupt and rotten, I tell them they are not asking the right question. The right question is: How does this Body of Christ help me love God with all my mind, heart, and strength, and my neighbor as myself. (Deuteronomy 6.5 and Matthew 22:34-40). If you have Jehovah’s Witnesses come to the door to ask you if you believe in Jesus, tell them you will answer their question, but you first must determine if they are authentic witnesses of truth: Who wears the Shoes of the Fisherman in your Church, as they stand here, right now? If they don’t know, shake the dust from your shoes and pray for God’s mercy on both you and them.

2. Do you look forward or backward? Everyone has reason and the ability to choose right from wrong. There are consequences for choosing good (grace) and for choosing evil (Sin, missing the mark, not knowing the difference between the choice of what is right is what is easy (Read Harry Potter, No. 3 and No 7, sayings I find refreshing in an age of conformity and relativism. https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/remembering-wise-wizard-albus-dumbledores-12-greatest-quotes 

If you find yourself looking backward in time to what the Scriptures say, jumping from now to then, you do so without knowing and experiencing the Church’s struggle to keep Christ as its center. In the first three centuries, fifty Popes were martyred for their Faith, sometimes by fellow Christians. The other option is to look forward, not from now until you die, but from when Christ founded the Church on the Peter, the rock until now, and told his Church that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. This is an early Church full of sinful men and women trying to discover Christ, often losing the way but always returning to the true path. It mirrors Old Testament, where the prophets kept crying and crying out for Israel to turn back to God. 

Only two persons are without Sin; the rest of us must take up our crosses daily and seek God’s mercy and daily bread in the Eucharist. It is a struggle to be a believer, just like it was in the Early Church of Martyrs, and continues to this day. https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org/2018/04/13/seven-cistercian-martyrs-of-atlas/ If you look back to the time of Christ and seek to find meaning in the Scriptures, you will find it, but you may or may not have the proper interpretation of what Christ passed on to the Apostles. Truth is passed forward, not backward. The reason is that you are your own Church. No one can tell you what to believe or how to believe it. You have no heritage of trial by blood and fire. What Scripture means is up to you (which is true). Scripture was forged in the fiery crucible of the blood of martyrs, with Christ the firstborn of the dead, as our sacrificial lamb, The Lamb of God. Today’s struggles pale to the controversies of the first three centuries of Christology Wars. The Church was born as the community of Faith, with individuals seeking to do what Christ did so they could go to Heaven inside of them, not out. We must look at Scripture and how those in the Early Church were affected by it and love others as Christ loves us. You don’t get that by looking backward. 

3. Christ Himself authorized St. Peter and the Twelve to go out into the World and preach the good news. Remember, the only books there were from the Old Testament, as the early Church tried to move from the Twelve Tribes of Israel to the Twelve Apostles. St. Paul was instrumental in helping the Church keep from being tied to rituals and the Law (for the sake of the Law). Ironically, as Christianity moved into other places, it did so without a circumcision as a condition of membership to that of Baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to prove anything to anyone. For those without Faith, no answer is possible; for those with Faith, no answer is necessary, says St. Thomas Aquinas. 

This means that there is but one truth, one way, one life. My Faith does not depend upon belief alone but on everything coming from the heart of Christ. As a Lay Cistercian, I observe practices and conversion of heart daily to learn from Christ, not the Christ of my imagination, not the Christ of trying to prove I am right and you are wrong, but the Christ whose only request was: love others as I have loved you. That is Church Universal, the living Body of Christ that was, and that will be. Christ is the head, and we are the body.

The uncomfortable notion of consequences

Our problem, again, is the Church, having weathered the storms of heresy, martyrdom, and the Monarchical Church trying to seduce the Penitent Church, is perceived as ineffectual because of the current crisis of Faith we experience in our time, betrayal of the promises of some Priests, Nuns, and Laity to keep the promises they made to follow Christ through celibacy (Priests, Religious) and chastity (Laity). These people will have to answer to the Supreme Judge, not lawyers. The rest of the Church must heal itself and any victims of these crimes (incest, white slavery, abortion, murder, theft, adultery, and fornication). What is at work here is the consequences of our choices. No sin is without consequences. We know from Scripture that the wages of sin are death. Death to the Spirit. God will not abandon His Body, the living Church, as he would not abandon Israel in the Old Testament covenant. What God gives us as a gift to sustain our Faith is the ability to make all things new through Christ’s redemptive forgiveness. If the Mystery of Faith, the Body of Christ, is like joining the Moose or Elks Clubs, you will be looking around for another place to plant your body. Remember, no human institution is not sinful, especially the Church; we can confess our collective sinfulness and ask for God’s mercy. We can turn from evil and do good. Jesus knows that we are tempted. To show us how to combat evil, He was led out into the desert by Satan and tempted.

THE THREE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST

No discussion about temptation can be complete without bringing up the three choices Christ was given in the desert. Christ was like us in all things but Sin. If it is true that we learn how to love with our whole hearts by learning from Christ, it is also true that the three temptations of Christ were inserted in the Scriptures to teach us how to combat temptation and its source. Here are some of my ideas.

The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament and moves it to a deeper level. It does not dump the tradition but transforms it to help us grow more profound with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The three temptations of Christ have been written to show that God is tempted to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, the same tree of which Adam and Eve ate. Jesus, the second Adam, shows us the temptations that lead to pride and our fall from grace if we eat. These three temptations are not designed to test his human nature, but rather to see how the young Christ (young in human nature) responds as God. The first part is the choice, and the second part is how God answers the Devil, just as he did in the Garden of Evil. These three temptations are not those you or I would have, which leads me to think that they were meant to give the readers insights into how God wants his followers to treat being tempted. In the first temptation, that of hunger of the body, Satan uses the human need for food, one of the basic needs, as Abraham Maslow sets forth in his hierarchy of needs, and offers Jesus the choice to  (remember, there are consequences our choices). Remember, Christ had just finished forty days and forty nights (something I find astonishing). The Devil wanted to test the young Christ (young in human nature) to see if his humanity would betray his divinity. Jesus answers the Devil as both God and Man by refocusing hunger to the hunger the heart has for God and that only that bread of life will bring fulfillment as a human being. Of course, we learn from this temptation that the Real Presence in the Eucharist is the food that is the Bread of Life. Again, human nature is tempted, but the divine nature responds to this temptation by moving it from the realm of the World to the realm of the Spirit, or the spiritual universe. Jesus hits an out-of-the-park home run.

The second temptation tests human vanity. His humanity is tempted to use his divinity to keep his body safe (also one of Abraham Maslow’s needs) (https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-4136760) so that he can save people. Again, human nature is tempted, but the divine nature responds to this temptation by, once more, moving it from the realm of the World to the realm of the Spirit, or the spiritual universe. To overcome temptation from the World, we learn we must choose to live in the Spirit. Lay Cistercians call that moving from the false self to the new self. It is done with an act of choice, and this choice has consequences. Home run two.

Matthew 4 (NRSVCE) The Temptation of Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished.The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”But he answered, “It is written,‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! it is written,‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”11 Then the devil left him, and angels suddenly came and waited on him.

CELIBACY AND COMMITMENT, AND TEMPTATION

We come to the last temptation, or the Devil’s last chance to pitch. Two strikeouts so far. God 2 and Devil 0. Here is the pitch. It is a fastball. Worship me at God, says Satan, and you can have it all. It is identical to the temptation in Genesis 2-3. Wham! A triple home run. Jesus, fully human, fully God hit it out of the park.  

When those temptations pull you away from God, Christ tells us to do what he did and say” “Away with you, Satan! Workshop the Lord your God, and serve only Him.”  This is what I told George. I try to dash my evil thoughts against Christ and tell my spiritual director of my struggle. It is what I do when those bad thoughts and emotions well up within me. To battle Satan, only the sword of justice and truth can banish him from your thoughts (I ask the Warrior Angel Michael to be my protector using his flaming sword). None of this will prevent you from having wandering thoughts, but it will help if you call upon the name of the Lord to protect you from evil. That is one of the reasons I wear the St. Benedict medal I received when I made final promises as a Professed Lay Cistercian. Some days are better than others.

Once, I talked to a group of Roman Catholic priests about sexuality and mental health. The topics were many and quite explicit, such as “I have sexual feelings a lot and have the urge to procreate with females, any females,  to fulfill these needs. Am I not entitled to fulfill my needs? I have these thoughts even during the holiest parts of the Eucharist or while praying Lectio Divina.” Having been a celibate priest for sixteen years, I thought I could address it in my pride. I did so by saying that the urges all males have and the material instincts women have come from God and are good. We share those urges to procreate with all living things.

Being a Lay Cistercian is all about affirming the choices that I think God has given us through Christ. God gives us choices in the Ten Commandments, and the Church gives us choices in marriage and holy orders. We are defined by these choices. It is not just that we are free to choose, which all humans are; we are defined by what we choose. Because the World only gives us choices that cater to our false selves, we are challenged to choose what is bad for us over what is good. Temptations simply point out that we are human and have reason, but also that, like Genesis, we have a choice of the knowledge of good and evil. What we do next is sinful or not. Here are some ideas I offered to the clergy.

  • Realize that your mind can entertain any thought or temptation of a sexual nature, drinking alcohol, or living a life of clericalism (being celibate but not following Christ). Matthew 22.
  • Realize that your commitment is one of struggle, one impossible to achieve with the values of this World. Only Christ gives us the meaning of true love.
  • Realize that temptations to do evil in thoughts or with others mean you are struggling with the deepest of human conditions. Being a Lay Cistercian, a monk, or a nun, will not shield you from temptation or sin, but it will help you dash your unhealthy choices against Christ and have someone you can help you move from self to God. 
  • Realize that you are not defined by other priests or nuns who made terrible choices. Don’t confuse the aberration with the commitment, despite lawyers’ greed, detraction, and calumny.
  • Realize that you are in a titanic struggle for good and evil within you.
  • Realize that once you put on the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of Faith, you are at war with the World and its temptations for self-gratification.
  • Realize that others will sustain you in times of intense temptation if you reach out. Christ is always there.
  • Realize that if you wear a St. Benedict medal and pray with humility and openness to the will of God, this will remind you of the prayer on the medal (see the inscriptions below). This resource is lifted from Wikipedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Benedict_Medal I recommend you wear the St. Benedict medal, not as a magical talisman to prevent the Devil from seducing you, although it is that. Instead, I like to think of it as a rubber band wrapped around my wrist to make me conscious that, when we are led into temptation, Christ is there to protest us from the Devil, who goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. https://e-benedictine.com/medal/
The medal’s symbolism
Saint Benedict Medal, front.

On the front of the medal is Saint Benedict holding a cross in his right hand, the object of his devotion, and in the left his rule for monasteries.[3] In the back is a poisoned cup, in reference to the legend of Benedict, which explains that hostile monks attempted to poison him: the cup containing poisoned wine shattered when the saint made the sign of the cross over it (and a raven carried away a poisoned loaf of bread). Above the cup are the words crux sancti patris Benedicti (“The Cross of [our] Holy Father Benedict”). Surrounding the figure of Saint Benedict are the words Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur! (“May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death”), since he was always regarded by the Benedictines as the patron of a happy death.[3][10]

On the back is a cross containing the letters C S S M L – N D S M D, initials of the words Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Non [Nunquam?] draco sit mihi dux! (“May the holy Cross be my light! May the dragon never be my overlord!”).[3] The large C S P B stand for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (“The Cross of [our] Holy Father Benedict”). Surrounding the back of the medal are the letters V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B, in reference to Vade retro satanaVade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!(“Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!”) and finally, located at the top is the word PAX which means “peace.”[3][10]

Saint Benedict Medal, back.
Latin AbbreviationLatin TextEnglish TextLocation
PAXPAXPeaceTop
C S P BCrux Sancti Patris BenedictiThe Cross of [our] Holy Father BenedictFour quadrants made by the center cross
C S S M LCrux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux!May the holy cross be my light!Center cross, vertical bar
N D S M DNon [Nunquam?] Draco Sit Mihi Dux!“May the dragon never be my overlord!”
“Let the devil not be my leader.”
Center cross, horizontal bar
V R SVade Retro Satana!“Begone satan!”
“Get behind me satan”
Clockwise around disk
N S M VNunquam Suade Mihi Vana!“Never tempt me with your vanities!”
“Don’t persuade me of wicked things.”
Clockwise around disk
S M Q LSunt Mala Quae Libas.“What you offer me is evil.”
“What you are showing me is bad.”
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I V BIpse venena bibas!“Drink the poison yourself!”
“Drink your poisons yourself.”
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  • We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, but we are not orphans.
  • Wearing the blessed medal of St. Benedict is not magic or illusion, but it does remind me to call on the name of the Lord to help me in times of trouble.
  • Christ came to save us from having no choices except our own selves.
  • Christ came to save us from having our only option being what the World thinks is true.
  • Christ came to save us from being our own God, our own Church.
  • I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, says Christ our Master, follow me, love one another as I have loved you. That “as I have loved you” is the kicker.
  • We have reason to know the truth, and the truth will make us free. That is not always easy to do, and we fail the test of covenant many times in our lives. How many times? Seventy times seven times. When we fall down, we have Christ reaching out his hand to help us back up. 
  • It is essential not to be defined as Sin or the exception to the Rule. Christ alone is the Rule.

I. THE MODERN TEMPTATION TO BE GOD

The news media is full of politicians falling all over themselves to proclaim what is moral, just, and the way. Christ is nowhere to be found. Our temptation is to take the easy way out rather than do what is right. The easy, political way is to stand for everything, which is to stand for nothing. The political way is to say, “personally, I am against it, but politically, I support abortion to get elected.” Hatred and detraction of others are normative. The temptation here is to think you are God if you are a politician (any party, any governing level). Humility is nowhere to be found. If you take the time to measure any political message against Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, make your own decision as to what is correct or not. You have reason for a reason.

The Works of the Flesh1Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.The Fruit of the Spirit22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.  

II. TEMPTATION TO BE YOUR OWN CHURCH

There is a confusion of tongues, like the tower of Babel, in our age. Religions contradict each other and hold assumptions that cannot possibly be true if there is but one truth. The temptation here is to follow false prophets and false gods, the modern equivalent of offering incense to the bust of Caesar as a god in Apostolic times. There have always been individuals who, with itching ears, have falsely proclaimed the teachings of the Master. Sincerity is no excuse for heresy. You have a choice. As the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie knight says, “choose wisely.” After all, you can reason and have the freedom to choose what is either good or evil for you. There are consequences to your choice. Just because you have the freedom to choose whatever you want does not mean that what you choose is the truth. 

Here are some Scripture passages for your reflection and contemplation.

Matthew 26:40-42 New International Version (NIV)

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.

1 Corinthians 10:13[Full Chapter]
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing, he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Matthew 24 NRSVCE – The Destruction of the Temple Foretold – Signs of the End of the Age

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’[a]and they will lead many astray.And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines[b]and earthquakes in various places:all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

III. THE TEMPTATION TO THINK YOU KNOW WHAT IS GOOD OR EVIL

In Genesis 2-3, we read about Adam and Eve being given a command not to eat of the tree of good and evil. Even today, when someone tells me not to do something, there is a natural urge to at last try to do it. It must be built into the human consciousness. At issue here is, who is God? You or God? It is the very crux of what modern thinking, secular thinking, is all about. Whenever you hear the Church being vilified as being too old, too out of touch, too male-dominated, and against letting you do what you want to make you fulfilled, you can be sure that Adam and Eve are there once more. God is removed as the principle from which all moral decisions are made. You can measure your fulfillment either by accepting God as your center or, the other alternative, you as your center. In the last temptation, we talked about you being your own Church. The unintended consequence of placing yourself at the center of all knowledge of good and evil is that each individual is a god.

SUMMARY POINTS

  • Unless you are comfortably in the grave, you will have temptations throughout your lifetime.
  • Temptations are not good or bad; they are the presentation of choices that may be good or bad for you.
  • Humans have reason for a reason and the ability to make good or evil choices.
  • Good and evil are either defined by God (Commandments, Beatitudes, Scriptures. Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit) or by you (The World, Seven Deadly Sins)
  • Celibacy doesn’t mean you won’t have sexual thoughts or temptations to break your vows; marriage doesn’t mean you won’t have sexual thoughts or temptations to break your vows; being single doesn’t mean you have a free pass to commit fornication or adultery or living together outside of marriage.
  • Quit complaining about how difficult celibacy is or how marriage limits your sexual appetites. When God accepted you as an adopted son or daughter, he said it would be difficult to follow Him versus the World. He has given us Himself to help us, not to take away our temptations or our failures, but to assure us of God’s mercy and forgiveness, with the condition that we forgive others.
  • Temptations of bad or evil thoughts demand action. You can dash them against Christ and give in to what they promise you.
  • You must choose God or choose the World. The World promotes self-fulfillment and self-gratification; Christ promotes self-denial and transformation from your false self to your true self.
  • Christ is the Principle against which all is measured. He teaches us the meaning of authentic love, not what the World chooses. He saves us from death and promises life…Forever. 
  • We don’t always make the right choices. The gauntlet of life is fraught with many trials and “thorns of the flesh” that would seduce us from following the way, the truth, and the life. We have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to ask for God’s grace in helping us with temptations and confess our love for Christ once more, committing to making all things new once more.
  • All choices have consequences. The problem with consequences is you may not feel their effects in this lifetime, but you will be accountable for what you do. Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict counsels us to have a fear of Hell (See Chapter 4 at the beginning of this blog).

You are not me; I am not you; God is not you; and you, most certainly, are not God. –Michael F. Conrad

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

REVERSIO MORAE: Ten habits of highly successful people who regress deeper into their false selves.

There is no free will or the ability to choose anything if there is only one choice. Animal Nature has only one choice, that of being what Nature intended as a part of their natural progression. With the transition from animality to rationality, there is a paradigm shift. The new variables are human reasoning and the ability to choose between two possibilities. I can choose my will or God’s will. To do that, I must die to self, something entirely foreign to human reasoning and needs.

One of the constant struggles of my Lay Cistercian experience has been dying to self or conversio morae. This dying is not the end of physical life but rather the beginning of new life because I got rid of something toxic that prevented me from loving others as Christ loved us. In one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) meditations on dying to self, these thoughts came to mind about what that “false self” actually is. Why must I die to myself each day and take up my cross? Why can’t I just do it one time and then have done with it? The corruption of my Nature (matter and mind) will not allow me to do that.

  • Each day, I must seek God.
  • Each day, I must die to the self that says, “You don’t need to do Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist, and seek the presence of Christ through silence and solitude of my heart.”
  • Each day is a new beginning, a new lifetime, a new chance to be present to the totality of all that matters in matter.
  • Each day I realize that I am not the person I was yesterday, although I must still punch through the sameness of the martyrdom of ordinary living.
  • Each day, I choose God’s will be done instead of my own inclinations, the greatest gift I can give the Father, my free will, mingled with the body and blood of The Son, in fulfillment of all Old Testament and New Testament covenant relationships.
  • Each day, I am the only one who ever lived who can give thanks and praise by doing those Lay Cistercian practices that I can, as only I can.
  • Each day, I realize that God is to be feared as I sit on the backbench at Church (or in my upper room with doors locked), eyes lowered, and reflect in the silence and solitude of my heart on how much the invisible God loved just me by becoming visible, and not only that but to die for the ransom of many. (Philippians 2:5)
  • Each day, I get older as this citizen of the World completes his preordained path of corruption (everything has a beginning and an ending, plus all matter deteriorates) while preparing to continue the citizenship as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father and so fulfill my intelligent progression as intended from all eternity.
  • Each day, I join with two or more people as a community (through Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, online contact via Email, by linking my prayers to the intentions of others.)
  • Each day, I must seek power from a source outside of myself to combat the inexorable encroachment of original sin on my center, The Christ Center. If I do nothing, I may lose my balance and my center. Such is the daily battle of this Lay Cistercian and maybe yours.
  • Each day, I seek the simplicity of simply sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and waiting for Christ to sit next to me (in fact, I am waiting for me to wake up to the reality that Christ has been sitting there waiting for me to show up all this time). No words are necessary. No thoughts are necessary. I am present to the pure energy of the Holy Spirit and open to the warm blanket of Love that covers me from the cold of this World until I read home.

THOSE HABITS, TEMPTATIONS, IMPERFECTIONS, AND SINS THAT KEEP ME FROM CAPACITAS DEI

THE HERESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL— I have often wondered about the statement, “The wages of sin is death.” I invite you to take your time and read this passage on the seemingly invisible effects of sin and the equally invisible but powerful results of righteousness. I offer the entire passage rather than a sentence so that you might read and reread these words and see how they fit into the way you love others as Christ loved us. All Scriptures are for us to assimilate how to follow the way, what is true, that leads to a life beyond this world but one in which we must live until we claim our inheritance as adopted sons (and daughters) of the Father.

Freedom from Sin; Life in God.

1* What then shall we say? Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not!a

2How can we who died to sin yet live in it?b

3Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?c

4We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.d

5For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.e

6We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.f

7For a dead person has been absolved from sin.

8If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.g

9We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.h

10As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God.i

11Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as [being] dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.j

12* Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires.k

13And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness.l

14For sin is not to have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.m

15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Of course not!n

16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves,o you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?p

17But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted.*

18Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.

19I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your nature. For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawlessness, so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

20q For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness.*

21But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.r

22But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,* and its end is eternal life.s

23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.t

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

As a human being, I only live a short time, maybe seventy or eighty years, if I am lucky. During that time, I must make choices that define who I am. I am the Lord of my life, and no one can tell me what to do, but I often like to tell others what to do. This enigma is a characteristic of original sin. I have reason and freedom to choose what I consider to be meaningful to me during my existence. I am indeed the Lord of my life. But existence is not so simple. I live in the World, one that is the base to sustain me. We share the matter with all others composed of matter, those inanimate, those with animal natures, and other humans who possess human Nature. There are only two choices that I can make, one is that I use my power, kingdom, and the glory that I have as an individual or, and this choice defies logic, I give away my power, my kingdom, and give glory to God, someone beyond my Nature.

My Nature keeps wanting me to choose what is good for my body, what is good for my mind, and what makes me happy. Nothing wrong with that. After all, I am Lord of my Kingdom, ruler of the time I have on earth. This seduction is the heresy of the individual.

When I become the center of my own universe, and that is how Nature intended it to be, religion makes no sense, especially one that says, “To live, you must die to self.” One of the awarenesses I have gained from my being in the presence of Christ consistently and constantly is that the kingdom of my experiences is the price I must pray to God for being counted worthy to be called adopted son (daughter) of the Father and heir to the kingdom, not of my eighty years of experiences, but the kingdom of heaven.

This is why St. Paul admonishes us in Romans to die to sin (our false self) and live for God in Christ Jesus. 10As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. I 11Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as [being] dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.j The question for you and me is, “Do I do this?”

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • Only when I give away my individual freedom to choose a power greater than myself that I am set free.
  • I have the power to say NO to God with no repercussions from God.
  • The heresy of the individual means I have the authority to say NO to the Church and the teachings of the Holy Father. Who am I to say NO to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit chose Pope Francis to guide the Church, not me.
  • The Great Accuser uses our power to choose to select those things that will give us pleasure but may not allow us to reach the next level of our intelligent design.

THE HABIT OF PREFERRING SELF TO GOD

A habit is a pattern of behavior that I choose, something I do without even thinking. I can have good habits and bad habits. I might even think my habits are good when they are not. The Church Universal, in its quest to be a bank for the truth of Christ, sets forth the parameters of what it means to be a believer. This truth is forged in the blood of early martyrs and continued with our own martyrdom of the ordinary each day. G. K. Chesterton says, “I know what is bad that I do is bad. What I need is a church to tell me is what I think is good, is bad.” One of the bad habits I can acquire is thinking that what is pleasurable about life is what drives my center. If I experience the individual’s heresy (above), I choose what makes me happy, what gives me pleasure, and what I think fulfills me as a human being.

It would be a mistake to think that God is against us having feelings, emotions, and pleasure when it plays such an essential part in our choices. Sexual pleasure and its satisfaction remain the most dominant and overpowering feeling we have. In a recent conversation about sexual morals, I was shamed by some pro-lifers who said both the Catholic Church and I are archaic and out of touch with what it means to be human by denying pleasure and sexual fulfillment. Granted that the Church always moves as the turtle in a race where all the hares are bolting ahead of it. By the time the turtle catches up to these profligate hares, they have already moved on to the next fad, one that only ends with death.

I don’t think the Church or me, for that matter, is against pleasure and embracing guilt by doing “bad things.” I think pleasure, a good emotion for humans, is not the core center of making choices that lead us to be fully human. My false self wants to keep pleasure as the center of all meaning and purpose. My choice is, “Do I prefer my own pleasures of this world as my purpose, or do I choose the hard way, one that places The Christ Principle at my center and pushes away my false self?”

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • These are dark times, and we are called to choose between what is right and what is easy. (Dumbledore to Harry Potter)
  • My power of Love comes from me putting myself in the presence of Christ (the awareness that God is God and not me) each day.
  • Simplicity is the fruit of silence and solitude.
  • Place your trust in God and not in princes or politicians.

THE HABIT OF THE HALF-EMPTY HEART

If you want Love in your heart, you must put it there yourself. Being in the presence of Christ is where we fill up our empty tanks. We must do it each day. The half-empty heart is one where Catholics settle on doing the minimum of what they consider a Catholic to be. Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:38 tells us to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

A half-empty heart yearns to be made whole and is restless. It is not complete, or is it what was intended to be by its Creator. Only two persons had full hearts, Jesus and His mother, Mary. The rest of us are sinners and seek to fill our hearts drop by drop as long as we live.

Love is defined by the one who loves us. In the case of Christ, there is a love that we citizens of the World can never fathom much less make our own. I have selected as my center, Philippians 2:5, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” It is when you love others that you are most loved. This transferral of Love from God to humans happens because, like Christ, we empty ourselves of what human Love is (whatever the World says it is) and replace it with the energy of the Holy Spirit.

The bad habit of Love without the cross, Love without the sacrifice of self to grow in Christ Jesus, and Love of others without the Holy Spirit leads to human Love but nothing more. Human love, good as it appears, only fills half our hearts. This is the yearning that all hearts have to be restless until they rest in God. (St. Augustine).

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • If I want Love in my heart, I have to put it there. There is Love that comes from the World, and I put it in my heart to fill it up with what I think is my need. This Love doesn’t have any energy in itself. Only the Love comes from loving others as Christ loved us that has the energy to lift us up and sustain us as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” –St. Augustine
  • This bad habit means I don’t do anything to convert myself from what I know to be my false self to my true self because it takes work and resolving to stay the course.
  • As one who follows The Lay Cistercian Way, as much as I know of it, I use the habit of seeking God every day to refill the bad habit of the half-empty heart.

THE HABIT OF DENYING THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN-

A bad habit I try to eliminate is thinking that I can do whatever I want because I am baptized and thus saved from the fires of hell. No matter my sins, I can do them without any consequences because I have accepted Christ as my Savior. I can “sin bravely” knowing that I get a free pass into the pearly gates with no questions. I only wish it were true.

What is confusing about the statement above is that some of it are true while other parts assume something with which I can’t place my trust. You make your own conclusions. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

Baptism takes away the original sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve. One thing it does not do is remove the effects of that first sin of disobedience from us. We still must die. We have to feel pain, suffering, and health-related problems plaguing humans. We must fight against the temptations of the flesh and the mind that lead us astray. Galatians 5.

Christ left us the Sacrament of Reconciliation to remove those sins that we make after Baptism and renew our hearts with grace. If there are no sins after Baptism, or if I can sin boldly as much as I want, there is no need to pick up my cross each day to follow Christ. There is no need to struggle to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each day. There are no consequences to my sin, none. I am a rotten nature with no free will that is not responsible and accountable for my actions. It is true that no matter my pattern of sinfulness or individual sins, they are forgiven. There is still the punishment due for sins that are not confessed. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (to include viaticum at the time of death) is a gift from Christ to wipe away all those sins before we die. That is why the priest anoints those gravely or terminally ill in preparation for death. Matthew 25 gives us a view of the particular accountability we face after we die and the universal judgment at the end of time.

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

There are two possible approaches to life:

1. One is that of the World, which says that you, the individual are the center of the physical and mental universes, which means no one can tell you what to do; plus, you have the supremacy of free choice to choose what you think is good for you with no consequences, and additionally, your are your own principal for morals and values.

2. The second way is the opposite of that, which is at odds with Human Nature. You take his most precious defining characteristics of human Nature, free choice, and give it away purposefully to a greater power. This is the abandonment St. Charles de Foucauld speaks of when he prays:

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the Love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Saint Charles de Foucauld, Former Trappist of N.D. de Neiges, Killed December 1, 1916, Canonized May 15, 2022

The unintended consequences of the Reformers, noble though their interventions are, were that they gutted long-standing assumptions held by the Church, and inserted the individual alone as the Church and the pope, that you are infallible in faith and morals;, that the Body of Christ in the Eucharist is no longer needed to communicate with the Father and you can do it alone. No one can tell you what to believe. If you don’t like your religion, you use the Principle of Individuality to start something that makes you happy. Your whole reason for religion is more to justify that what you chose is correct rather than using the Scriptures as a way to find the truth and live the life Christ intended for you, in your heart.

THE HABIT OF NO ONE IS GOING TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO

This is a habit that is at the heart of human Nature, and one that I must struggle mightily to overcome. It is tied to all these other habits and they all act together to pull down any good intentions I might try to introduce. If you look at Genesis 2-3, that archetypal story of what it means to be human, next time notice that Adam and Eve are saying to God that they have that feeling in the pit of their stomach, much like the formative teenage years, that rebels against anyone telling them what to do.

The depiction of Satan in the garden is exactly someone who is angry at God and wants others to be angry, too. I can even feel the anger, the hatred, and even the rage to choose just the opposite of what God wants, just because you don’t want to be told what to do. Where does that part of our human Nature come from? In my view, the reality is the result of the choices we make or didn’t make to bring us into resonance with what our Nature intended. This is why the World can never be a choice that fulfills us as humans. We are created to know, Love, and serve God in this World and be happy with God in the next. –Baltimore Catechism Question Number 6. If you remember I suggested earlier that there are two choices we can make, one where we are the center of all reality, and the second one where we freely give our will to someone outside of ourselves. One of those choices fulfills us as human beings, while one does not. In choosing The Christ Principle as my center, contradictory though it might seem to the World, in order to fulfill my humanity, I must give away my will and choose the will of a being I have never seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed. This is the emptying (kenosis) that Christ underwent when he assumed human Nature in addition to divine Nature, mingling them forever into the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant, and opening the gates of heaven for all humans. Some will see this, while others will not have a clue. I must die to my false self each day in order to become more of what human and divine Nature intended me to be.

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • I am fortunate that God accepted me as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father at Baptism, giving me all the help I need when I call upon the name of the Lord.
  • Baptism is just the beginning of my journey into a new world, a New Jerusalem that makes me a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. The problem is, I still have citizenship on the earth, much like dual citizenship in two separate companies. I live in the World but am not destined to exist past my death in the World.
  • As a citizen of heaven, my preparation to enter that realm begins with my Baptism, with my practice to love others as Christ loved us, with being a part of a School of Love (the Church Universal, my Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, my parish of Good Shepard in Tallahassee, and with being a professed Lay Cistercian of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit {Trappist} in Conyers. Georgia.) All of these help me discern what to take with me to heaven.
  • I must be aware of my dual, competing citizenships and actively choose The Christ Principle over The World, put another way, moving from my false self to my true self as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.
  • What I choose each day is so critical for my sustained citizenship in heaven on earth. The Lord of the Earth (Satan) goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
  • Like a watchman in the night, I must be vigilant against the forces of Evil and the seduction of the World that I follow what is easy rather than choosing what is right. The Lay Cistercians are one way that I have to give me structure and discipline through Cistercian practices and charisms.
  • I don’t like people telling me what to do. The danger I fall into is that I become what I don’t like and begin judging other people’s motivation and acting like a god.

THE HABIT OF NOT ACTING MY NATURE

My first recollections about God come from my study of the Cathechism and learning what God is like. I learned that God has a divine nature, that I have a human nature, that animals have a nature and the rest of reality is composed of matter, gases, time, energy, and how they react together using the forces of Nature. I was content with that description, and still am. The difference is that I know much more about what I know and also what I don’t know.

I try not to be sin-centered in my approach to morality. Rather, my center is “To have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Not everything is a sin and not everything that the World does is bad. The World (what I call just living in the physical and mental universes) doesn’t produce the energy that leads us to fulfill our destiny and thus our terminal purpose of the species. I will offer chunks and pieces of my latest Lectio Divina on “Acting My Nature.” You be the judge of whether any of this makes sense.

In the compendium of my view of what is real and what is fiction, the notion of Nature is very crucial. I hold there are four areas of Nature. Remember, all of these concepts come from a human mind informed by Faith. Who God is and God’s attributes are only intelligible to us with human concepts and imperfect images. St. Paul likens it to looking through a foggy glass. This photo is one that depicts me (the cup) looking at heaven (through the window).

  1. NATURE OF MATTER– This is the Nature of everything that is, including humans. The laws don’t depend upon humans for their existence but come from Nature itself. They are God’s DNA contained within each atom, each molecule, all gases, and all energy.
  2. NATURE OF LIFE– Animal Nature. Withing the Nature of Matter, life exists, from one-cell creatures to humans. The laws are those of Nature, not humans, although humans use this Nature as a base.
  3. NATURE OF THE MIND– Human Nature. Only humans live with this Nature. Nature are those attributes that make humans human. Although we progressed from what went before us, what we are as humans is a new paradigm from everything not human. The laws we use come from human reasoning and the freedom to choose what we think is good for us. Humans organize ways of behaving that are good for society and require those who follow morals to regulate acts. There is a constant battle for supremacy of thought and the suppression of freedom of the individual.
  4. NATURE OF THE DIVINE– Divine Nature. Divine law is pure knowledge, pure Love, and pure energy (service). It is who God is by Nature, one Nature and three persons (by revelation). Energy at this level is Love.

The importance of NOT acting my Nature means I don’t have the energy (power) to lift myself up to the next level of my evolution. I can only push this up, higher to God. I can only push so high by myself. God’s Nature (Christ is both divine and human Nature) can lift both ways, pushing up, but more importantly, reaching down from the fullness of that Nature to life up a lessor nature to a higher level. Looking at the history of our relationship with God, there are several points of nexus where we evolved to the maximum by our own human Nature and needed help.

  1. GOD REACHING DOWN TO LIFT US UP FROM ANIMALITY TO RATIONALITY. This reaching down from divine Nature to help humanity comes at a point where we received reason and free will. Genesis 2-3 is an archetypal story of how we are still learning how to control the effects of human Nature. We not only needed help getting from animality to rationality but with how to use the freedom to choose evil and its consequences and what is good.
  2. REACHING DOWN FROM THE DIVINE NATURE TO REDEEM HUMAN NATURE FROM ITS SELF-DESTRUCTION. God sent Jesus (Philippians 2:5-12) to use to show us how to act and why it is important. This is the second intervention where humans needed help. God, though, with, and in Jesus.
  3. REACHING DOWN FROM THE DIVINE NATURE TO SHOW US THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. Baptism is the fulfillment of the Resurrection Event. All of reality, all that Jesus came to tell us to save us from being an unfulfilled humans, is created just for me (and any others who wake up and find themselves on this rocky ball of gases and life). God reaches down to me to cloth me with the white garment of energy which allows me to believe that I am an adopted son of the Father and my kingdom is not of this world, after I die.

There is a temptation, because I can’t or don’t know who God is or if it is the Holy Spirit speaking to me our my own ego, to dismiss the whole troublesome idea of God as irrelevant. It makes my way tortuous and a struggle each day, it renders truth foggy and subject to the whim of each individual human, it is a life that asks its adopted sons and daughters to die to themselves each day and become more like Christ. (capacitas dei)

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • These are bad habits that I am constantly trying to replace with the energy of God.
  • I battle my Nature each day because I have two citizenship in two universes; I am from and of the World with all that it implies.
  • My God is a God of Second Chances. Throughout my life, I have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help me start out again, to make all things new. Even after I die, Purgatory is the safety net. God wants me to survive the gauntlet of being human so much that there is a place of Second Chances where I can go and try it again.

THE HABIT OF CHOOSING SEVEN DEADLY SINS RATHER THAN GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT—  

I learned about the Seven Deadly Sins from my catechism lessons in Grade School. (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth). I never actually paid any attention to these deadly sins, relating them to a notch under thinking about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. About eight years ago, when I took on the mantel of righteousness to move from the banket of deadly habits to those of my true self. The difference was that now I consciously wanted to get rid of these seven deadly sins by replacing them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. I try to replace in me a habit of penance and repentance for my sins by seeking these gifts from the Holy Spirit to crowd out my bad habits. I am a work in progress, each day.

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • Human Nature is good. Choices are either good for us or bad for us.
  • Our Father (we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father) will let us make mistakes because to be truly free, each of us must not be coerced into doing either good or evil. In Philippians 2:5, the text reads:

1If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in Love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy,

2complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same Love, united in heart, thinking one thing.a

3Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,b

4each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.c

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

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

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

7Rather, 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

If I attempted to epitomize the one passage in Sacred Scripture that captures my life, center, and fulfillment as a human being, it would be this quote in Philippians by St. Paul. When struggling to keep the one command Christ taught us, “Love others as I have loved you,” this is The Christ Principle for me. It details what I must do if I am to accept the sign of the way, the truth, and lead the life of an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. I must not be coerced into believing but instead choose it out of fierce Love and belief.

Free choice is such an integral part of the mission of Christ that he had to put on hold that he was God while he was human, lest that divinity overwhelms his humanity, thus rendering his free choice invalid. I am not suggesting Jesus was not fully God as much as inadequate human language and concepts can describe such a phenomenon.

Moving from my false self (seven deadly sins) to my life in Christ (gifts of the Holy Spirit) is a daily effort. If I get into a pattern of bad acting, I fall victim to the wages of sin–death. They don’t call them deadly sins without reason. This is so insidious that you won’t even realize that you have been seduced by The Great Accuser until you notice that your actions are not consistent with those who “…have in them the mind of Christ Jesus.

THE HABIT OF THINKING THAT EVIL IS GOOD — A consequence of the original sin of Adam and Eve is that humans, in particular each individual, determines what is good and what is evil. This is made more complicated because each individual can reason and have the freedom to choose either what is right or wrong for them. This habit is so insidious that individuals assume that they can choose and that what they choose is right automatically. There are only two sources of what is good for us. Both of these principles come from the heart. The first is that what is good comes from each individual’s heart. The second say is that what is good comes from The Christ Principle, the source of what it means to be human. These two sources are the origin of what is good. What we choose is good if it comes from The Christ Principle. If we choose what we think is good, but The Christ Principle says it is bad for us (will not lead us to grow from our false self to our true self), then this is evil. Evil and good are not equal partners of the truth. The Church is the living depository of what is good or bad, so we can measure our actions against Christ’s. G. K. Chesterton, the late and might I add great (both girth and human intellect) apologist for what is true, said, “I know when I do something bad is bad. What I want the Church to tell me is when I do something I think is good is bad.”

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • I must convert my heart from thinking that I am the center of the universe. This is made more confusing because I actually am the center of the universe, but I get to place at my center something that is outside of me which is more significant than me. This choice is one that I make by Faith alone. It is a choice that says to God, “Your will done. Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

THE HABIT OF LIVING IN JUST TWO UNIVERSES-– If you only live in two universes (physical and mental) instead of three (physical, mental, and spiritual), you won’t be able to look in the one place where the answers to the Divine Equation are answered.

Living in two universes is the awareness that you know that you know. It is the awareness that what you are looking at in the physical universe does not know that it does not know.

This is the habit of most people who have no idea what it means to be the Father’s adopted son or daughter.

To enter the third universe, to see a reality beyond human reasoning or outside of the mere human will, adherents must die to their false self, both in Baptism and then for each day for the remainder of their lives.

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • Living in a two universe approach to reality seems so normal that you would not even notice anything is wrong if you did not know what to look for,
  • The Divine Equation is how you solve the mystery of being human. Both your questions and answers come from outside of those two universes. It is called The Divine Equation, not because it solves who God is, but because both the questions to ask and their correct answers come from outside the two universes.

THE HABIT OF HATRED IN THE HEART–

If hatred becomes a habit, am I a hoarder of hatred? Cleaning out that room in my heart where I go to pray and lock the door (Matthew 6:5), is there hatred? If you agree, as I do, that the wages of any sin are the death of the spirit in you, then you might need to take a fire hose to clean out your Augean Stable of hatred and other seven deadly sins before you ask Christ to sit in a chair and have a conversation.

The habit here is not cleaning your upper room or, like your own home, failing to cut the grass or make repairs regularly. You can ask God for many favors, but don’t ask Him to cut your grass.

When you replace hatred in your heart, be sure to add the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and not your own requests for power, special treatment, money, or adulation that is our filling.

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • Hatred, like Love, is not the freedom to choose but a free choice to put something in your heart that is not there already.
  • Hatred is not the default of the human heart but an emotion that you must place in your heart.
  • Each day, our lives begin at zero, except that we contain the sum of all that went before us as learned experience. In this sense, we live each moment slightly ahead of ourselves because of our momentum toward The Christ Principle.
  • The habit of penance combats the habit of hatred. Each day, these two poles battle each other for a spot at our center. I must actively and purposefully pray and do penance to keep hatred at bay.

THE HABIT OF REVERTING TO ANIMALITY–

Although the differences are dramatic, there is but a thin line separating humans from animals. In terms of the intelligent progression of our Nature, humans were somehow raised up to a level of Nature not possessed by animals. This is why we can revert to our animal behavioral tendencies while animals can’t assume any characteristics of human Nature. Seen in the context of three separate universes (The Rule of Threes), in the physical universe, animals and humans share procreation, sexual emotions, and pleasures; in the mental universe, only humans exist, so humans, while sharing emotions with animals in the physical universe, have reason and free will to choose what animals cannot. An unintended consequence of humans is that they can revert to their animality in emotions surrounding sexuality and procreation. The sexual urge is, rightly so, our strongest inclination. Animals do not have the power to control it. Humans have reason and free will to help manage these strong urges, but even humans do not themselves have the power to act as intended by their Nature. Humans were not getting it, so God had to send His Only Begotten Son to tell us and show us how to use our minds and hearts to love others as Christ loved us.

What makes this usually good habit inappropriate is choosing purposefully to live in the animal part of our nature rather than the gift of adoption as a son (daughter) of the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

LEARNING POINTS FROM BEING A LAY CISTERCIAN

  • God has no part in this way of thinking.
  • The center of your life must be based on what the World says is an appropriate center. It might be power, sexuality, money, fame, adulation, or nothing.
  • This habit is deadly because I am tempted to replace my center with one of the seven deadly sins. I call this daily struggle a battle. Christ has won the war.

LEARNING HOW TO LOVE

I just dusted off an excerpt from some of the writings I made about my last retreat at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) sometime last February. I added some fresh ideas, much like putting new wine in old skins, so I don’t know if it is spoiled or not. You can judge.

When I think about it, while dwelling on Philippians 2:5, one of the few things Christ told us to do was the admonition to love one another as He has loved us. How simple! How utterly profound. If I want to love God with all my heart, soul, strength, and neighbor as myself, I should know and love as Christ has loved us. Here comes my problem. How does Jesus love us? After all these years, will I be the victim of my Ego and make Christ in my image and likeness, or is there a deeper meaning to what Christ says? I like to think there is a deeper meaning. There is. In silence and solitude, I seek (not that I have arrived) but still seek to be transformed by the love of Christ by sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and waiting for Christ. Waiting is love.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR CHRIST TO LOVE US

I had some thoughts during my Lectio Divina on what it means for Christ to love us.

EMPTYING SELF: The simpler the prayer, the more authentic it is. The most profound act of love is found in Philippians 2:5. It is the voluntarily emptying of self for the other. God emptied himself for all of us, me as an individual, and all of us, believers or not, that we all have a chance to love to the fullness of our nature. As a Lay Cistercian, these eight words in Philippians are my purpose in life, my center. Christ emptied himself first and then bade his followers follow his example. I must deny myself and take up my cross daily to follow Christ in whatever challenges the day brings for me. Emptying means turning your glass over so that every last drop of what is inside is poured out. Jesus emptied himself of his last drop of blood on the cross, the highest form of love so that we humans might have a way to claim our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Each of the martyrs, those we know about and those known only to Christ, emptied the last drop of their blood because of love.

I WANT TO BE WITH YOU: Philippians 2:5 again. Jesus wanted to be with us, even though Christ would not know each of us by name, God does, and Christ is God. God just gave us a chance to love others as Christ loved us. Jesus loving us means we should do no less than to love everyone. For me, that takes on wanting everyone to go to Heaven. Not everyone may make it there, but that is your decision. Opening up my heart to the heart of Christ means I long to be with Christ, just as He longs to be with me.

I look forward to my Lectio Divina and Eucharist because it is there that I can communicate with Christ and He with me.

I WANT TO SHARE WHO I AM WITH YOU: In marriage, the covenant of relationship between man and woman means I share who I am with you, physically, mentally, and, most of all, spiritually. Spiritual sharing is the most difficult but depends on how well you do with physical and mental sharing. Part of the genius of Jesus is that he left us a way to share Himself with us, despite the passing of each age. The simplicity of the message of love is like the body, and how we adapt to each age is like clothes we put on. Each age has different customs, but there is always just a straightforward message, love one another. The Eucharist is an example of Christ wanting to share the love with us. Christ gave us and continues to give us his actual physical body in each age until the end of time itself. We called the Real Presence a sign of contradiction to those without faith, but no answer is possible or required to those with faith. What is even more of a sign of contradiction is that the man who knew no sin entrusted his precious body and blood to sinful humans in each age. Remember Peter? Sinners, all of us, but Christ loved us so much as to give humans the power to make him Real in each age, despite all the foibles and follies of popes, bishops, and deacons throughout the ages, and add to that our own individual peccadilloes. Each time you receive the Eucharist, think about your sinful self containing the Real Body and Blood of Christ. Of course, not one of us is even remotely worthy of being called Christophers (Christ-bearers). It is only because Christ loved us so much that we know what love is, even if we sin repeatedly and grievously.

I don’t know if I will ever completely know who Jesus is, just as it is impossible to love with all my heart. Still, I can try to begin each day to love others and see the world as Christ would see it, giving glory to the Father in the Eucharist, asking for mercy and forgiveness in Reconciliation, and seeking to make all things new over and over in the context of a living Body of Christ, the Church.

I WANT TO SHARE THE DARK SIDE OF LOVE AS WELL AS THE LIGHT SIDE: Christ bids you to love those who love you back (light side of love) and love those who persecute you even if they kill you (dark love). Love can also be the extent to which you endure misfortune and suffering or even pain so that the one you love may thrive. Here are some thoughts from a recent blog I wrote on the dark side of love.

This topic can be misleading if not put into context. In my Lectio Divina a few weeks ago, Phil 2:5, I came across several thoughts that made me sit up straight and pay attention. If love is the purpose of life, Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:37, is love always easy and happy, full of peace, with no anxiety or stress? Is love without pain or sacrifice of self? Right away, I thought of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani. Matthew 26:38-40  This is genuine love but demands choice, an uncomfortable choice, the dark side of love. This dark side of one is not evil or wrong or less love than the bright side. The dark side of love is not the same as dark love, but the reality is that sometimes love demands great courage and sacrifice to remain steadfast. You have heard of the phrase TOUGH LOVE.

  • Dark love is like the marriage vow that says, I will love you in good times and in bad, sickness and health, no matter how rich or poor you may become.
  • Dark love is the person who must give up everything to be with their partner or child, such as someone who has leukemia.
  • Dark love is the mom and dad who sell all they have to keep their children healthy and off drugs.
  • Dark love is what Christ had for us when he knew he would have to suffer and die for our redemption. He became sin for us, even though he was without sin.
  • Dark love is the son who gives up his job to be able to feed and care for his mother with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Dark love is someone who puts up with verbal abuse and terrible personal discounts with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder or Anger Mood disorder.
  • Dark love is putting up with the hatred of children who accuse you of being in la-la land when you try to move from self to God.
  • Dark love is Phil 2:5.
  • With dark love, love does not count the cost or the suffering you must endure to be with someone who needs you.
  • With dark love comes living out the sign of contradiction, taking up your cross daily, loving those who hate you, not returning evil for evil talk, and loving those who do harm to you. Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict.

As one who aspires to be a Lay Cistercian, I view dark love as the price I must pay for the pearl of great price, the treasure I would sell all to possess, even though those closest to me don’t have a clue what that means for me.

FORGIVE OTHERS AS YOU WANT THE FATHER TO FORGIVE YOU. Don’t condemn others but rather have mercy on them as you want the Father to have mercy on you. Here is the part that many people conveniently leave out, that you should go and sin no more. Your behavior is not to be condemned if you see that you require change and redemption. The tricky part is committing not to do that behavior again, which most people either don’t or won’t do. Another way to say this is, don’t condemn the sinner but condemn the sin. We sinners must recognize that what we do is not consistent with Jesus loving us and therefore change our behavior. The dark side of love is accepting Christ’s love and acting upon it. Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we hold that adultery is okay and that love means you can have indiscriminate sex with your mother, your sister, your friends, your enemies, anyone, then you really don’t believe in what God is telling us love means. The love of Jesus is a stumbling block for those who consider themselves god.

PRAYER IS LOVE: The purpose for why Jesus, Son of God, came to earth was to save us from being locked out of Heaven…Forever. His mission in life was to give the Father glory, as only God can do, yet represent all of us, as only Christ could do. Read John 17, the priestly prayer of Christ. “…eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ you have sent.” Reflect on this beautiful passage in John in your Spiritual Reading. I suggest you read it several times in silence and solitude, the silence that comes from being open to God’s silent wisdom and the solitude that comes from loving others as Christ, as only you can. Prayer is lifting up the heart and mind to God. Knowing, loving, and serving others because of the love that fills our whole being when we realize in Philippians 2:5-12 the depth, the height, and width of Christ’s love for us. We can do no more, nor can we do any less.

GIVE YOUR LIFE FOR ANOTHER: If we want to love others as Christ loved us, we must be willing to give our life for another. To make sense of this statement, I do not think about a soldier laying down his life for another, although that is undoubtedly heroic and the ultimate sign of love. In the secular world, The love of which I speak is not dying for another person but living your life for others as Christ emptied himself and glorified His Father in the sacrifice of his death and resurrection for the sins of all humanity. Lest you go off the charts in being confused, think about this. We do not celebrate or honor a dead God like the secularists serve, but Jesus, who lives today. Christ gives his life to the Father every time we come together to proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again in glory (Eucharist) and the prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, or in the silence and solitude of our heart in Lectio Divina. We make Christ present when we love others as He has loved us.

LOVE: WHAT THE FLOWER CAN TEACH US  If you want to find out what love is looking for in nature. Think of yourself as a beautiful flower whose whole purpose is to be a flower. Things come; naturally, you do not have even to worry. You bloom, take in nutrients, have bees come around to pollinate your species, smell delicious to bees and insects, then die. This is the natural order.

Humans also have a natural order. Our nature is to be human, like our prototypes, Adam and Eve. We find ourselves in a world where we cannot live forever, where there are pain, suffering, and misfortune based many times on our choices. However, happiness, love, peace, joy, goodness, and thoughtfulness are also there. We are the conduits of good and evil for the world around us. The world is good, we are good, but we have suffered the effect of the relational sin of Adam and Eve and must pay the price until we die. For me, the Genesis principle is a very challenging tale of where humans find themselves and where we are headed.

MAKING ROOM FOR THE ONE YOU LOVE  If you love someone, you want to live with them forever. People get married because they want to be with each other as much as possible. If God wrote you love letters, would you not want to read them repeatedly? Would you not want to keep them in a particular place and honor them because they remind you of the one you love? Even though the one who sent you the love letters is not present, reading them somehow makes them present to you. That is Scriptures, love letters from God to humanity. These love letters make room in our hearts for the one who sent them (capacitas dei) and help us individually and collectively to love others as Christ has loved us, our only command from the Master.

WANTING TO BE WITH THE ONE YOU LOVE…FOREVER  If you love someone, you want to be with them every minute of the day, every day of the year, all the years of your life, even to the end of time and the beginning of Heaven. This love is not exclusive to marriage. You love your parents and want to be with them and your family in Heaven. Heaven, remember, is permanent. Your head tells you that it is good to be with the ones you love, your Church members, those you have prayed to in your lifetime, and those who need our prayers for purification. We want to be with all because all are One, and we will be able to love Forever without the effects of Original Sin and the temptations from the Evil One. Your heart allows you to feel that love and the desire to be with loved ones Forever. This feeling of the heart is prayer, loving Christ so much that Heaven becomes a destination that is anticipated because it is the fulfillment of your humanity, the purpose for which you were created, the relationship of someone that wants to be with you, Jesus.

DOING WHAT COMES NATURALLY The Church uses the natural order as the basis for morality and values. It also takes into account the effects of Original Sin. We are born of two parents, grow up with nutrients of knowledge and values, and reproduce, but we are different from the animals. We can know that we know to find meaning for a reason, to be able to expand our senses and minds to include love from God that sustains us for the trip to Forever. Humans are not destined for the earth. Earth is the incubator for growing and learning how to love, for it is love that is the language of God and the nectar of Heaven. The Church, the living  Body of Christ, is to feed us, clothe us, shelter us from that which does not lead to love, and allow us to love others as Christ has loved us. We do not automatically go to Heaven as if we had no free will, but we have the words of Christ in Matthew 11: 28-30, Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Jesus is our mediator with the Father, but he is also our Brother and has given us the gift of adoption to be sons and daughters of the Father. This he has not done for flowerS, even as beautiful and fragrant as they are. Why is that?

WHAT IT MEANS TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS BECAUSE CHRIST LOVED US

You have just read some ideas about what it means for God to love us. If sexual instincts which we share with animals in the physical universe are the most dominant of impulses we have to satisfy, then love, being from the mental universe, is one of the mysteries of what it means to be human that we have to master. Together, both physical and mental universes, the sexual appetites and how to use them authentically or, because of sin, unauthentically as a human,  I learned human perspective as the  World sees it from Eric Fromm, the author of the book, The Art of Loving, and an unlikely person to help me begin to understand what it means to know what love is, mainly because he is an atheist. These insights are astounding and astonishing, at least to a young spiritual novice in 1964. Some of my reflections as a Lay Cistercians on what it means for me to love others, using the love of Christ as my template.

Here is a quote from the art of which he speaks, The Art of Loving.

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

 

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

In this question about fierce love, we need to include love at all to go to the heart of what it means to be human rather than an Anteater.

LOVE IS LIKE A VALENTINE CARD

Love has two dimensions: the mind (knowledge and logic) and the heart (emotion and feeling). Remember when you were in Third Grade, and everyone exchanged Valentine’s Day cards? What did you do when you went home that day? Did you put them in a particular spot in your drawer where you could pull them out and look at them frequently? Did you think of the person who gave you the card with affection? Did you feel a sense of warmth and pleasure?

Love is one of the ways humans are different from other living things. It is a form of communication between two persons, heart to heart, thinking of others, and wanting to help others. It can be with two humans or groups of humans. It can be between single persons, homosexuals, heterosexuals, groups of people, with families and relatives. Love is a human phenomenon. Love does not exist between animals or between animals and humans, although we can love our pets. Animals can’t love back. So, what is this love? It is one of the thresholds through which all of us must pass.

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

THOUGHT

Love is thinking of the one you love all the time.

Love is having their picture on your desk and in your heart.

KNOWLEDGE—

Love is wanting to know as much as you can about your love.

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

CARE

Love is patient with the one you love as they explore life.

Love forgiving others, realizing that you are not perfect.

GIVING

Love knows that your loved one likes A-1 sauce on their steak, and you make sure you buy it at the store.

Love is learning the art of receiving from your loved ones, allowing them to love you in return.

RESPECT

Respect is wanting your love to succeed and do what it takes to ensure they meet their goals in life.

Love is taking the time to tame your others, waiting for them to grow and mature.

YOUR REFLECTIONS

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

LAY CISTERCIAN MEANING AND LEARNING POINTS ON LOVE

As one who only aspires to be a Lay Cistercian, I try to have Christ Jesus’s mind in me. I say try because I struggle to fight the influences of the secular world to make me into God, to say that, after all, everyone has an opinion as to what is right and who God is, and you should not force others to believe what you do. There are elements of truth in that statement, but a fundamental flaw. Do you know what it is?

  • What I have learned is to keep your prayer simple.
  • Venture inside yourself to find meaning and purpose, but only if you can get the answers from God and not your Ego.
  • God is love. Heaven is a place where there is only love that exists between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • We have our whole life to discover what love is, the sustaining type of love that “moth does not consume, or rust destroys.”
  • Humans by themselves could not reason to the purpose of what God has in store for us using mere human knowledge and logic. Science does not tell us what is meaningful but what is. Science is not bad, just not appropriate to take the next step with what love is.
  • God told Moses and Isreal how to live in a way that would get them to Heaven, but the people continued to rebel.
  • God had to show Israel through Christ what love meant, by giving glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, the God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages,
  • Jesus gave us the command to love one another as He has loved us so that we could continue his purpose on earth and bring others to a knowledge of how to get to Heaven so that they could experience love.
  • Obstacles to loving God with all our hearts abound. The biggest obstacle I have is me. That is why I must take up my cross daily and be aware of my purpose in life (Phil 2:5) and do Cistercian practices and charisms (humility and obedience to God’s will). Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule is my daily companion and reminds me of my humanity and how far I have to go each day to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5)
  • Each day, I begin with Lectio Divina for at least thirty minutes. It is always the exact eight words, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” but never the same results. Each day is a new attempt to love with my whole heart. At Night Prayer, my last Lay Cistercian attempt to love with all my mind and heart, I conclude not only the day but await the new day in the hope of making all things new once more in, with, and through Christ Jesus. If all this is, is a slogan, it will not endure. It does not last. What sounds like folly to the foolish is the simplicity and wisdom of God. The purpose of life is not to attain perfection but to realize that my imperfection is part of my quest to be One with The One.
  • What are the requirements to be a Lay Cistercian or a follower of the Master so that you can learn how to love as Christ loved us? As our late Monastic Advisor, Father Anthony Deliese, OCSO, told one of our members, “You must be a sinner.”” And I would add, “and want to grow from self to God, seeking God in all we think and do That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict

I have chosen to use silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community to help me conclude my journey to find out how to love as Jesus loved us.

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

YOUR REFLECTIONS

How is the heart important in converting you from self to God when you think of prayer? Do you struggle daily to keep your focus on the prize? What is the prize?

MY TOP TEN FAVORITE: Daily Sins and Failings

Now you have done it, you must be thinking. Here is a topic no one wants to talk about but actually dictates how we behave within ourselves and outside with others. In one of my Lectio Divina sessions (Phil 2:5), while reflecting on Christ emptying himself out for us, I thought about how he was like us in all things but sin. What sins? As we learned in Grade School, Sins, a kitchen or laundry list of actions we do that are mortal or venial? Who is to say what is a sin and what is not? It is quite a complex topic and adds to the mix of Satan and temptation. You get a seemingly Medieval approach to spirituality that is caught up in not doing certain human behaviors on a list made up by dodgy old men in the past. That is certainly one way to look at a sun-centered approach to life, preoccupied with not stepping on the mine of life in fear of being blown up. If you have this approach to spirituality and step on a mine, and nothing happens, then after a while, you begin to lose respect for sin and may fall away from the true meaning of having in you the mind of Christ Jesus.

Before I give you my list of top ten favorites, let’s go over some assumptions I have about sin and other related issues. Since this is my blog, I have the luxury of giving you my opinion on the subject. You have the luxury of attaching value to my thoughts or not. Choose wisely! Remember, this is all part of my Lectio Divina meditation.

ASSUMPTION ONE:   THE GENESIS EFFECT. I can’t think about sin or its consequences without going back to that marvelous, archetypal story of being human. If you remember Genesis Chapters 2 and 3, it is the story of creation, giving parameters by God and Adam and Eve, and their betrayal by wanting to be God. The Devil is also in the mix to muddy up Adam and Eve’s thinking. If you can pick it apart, Genesis is an excellent commentary on human foibles and failings. Here are some things that I thought about sin and grace.

God had a garden (I guess that was Heaven). In it were all the delights a person could ask for. It is the place God made for all creation. God’s garden was good. But God had a problem. Who could he get to manage his garden and take care of all his animals and plants? Being God, that was no problem. He just made someone, even taking him from the soil (Adama), and then he stood back and said to himself that something was missing, so He took a rib from Adam’s side and made a helper for him to tend the garden, someone so that Adam would not be lonely, someone to make little Adams and Eves. It takes two to tango, not one. Adam was good, not evil, because God cannot create Evil. St. Paul in Romans Chapter 5 speaks of sin coming into the world through one man and through sin death.

Can’t you just imagine a Bedouin-like tent with a fireplace and little children sitting around it with their grandpa, listening to him tell a story of why Grandma had to die and why they had to suffer cold, hunger, and even death themselves? This is an oral tradition handed down through the centuries. St. Paul uses it to contrast Adam and Eve with Christ and the place of sin.

ASSUMPTION TWO: Sin means I completely missed the point. Thinking that sin is just like a laundry list of things you do or don’t do is one of the big wins Satan has over humans. Sin is not a list of offenses, like speeding tickets or hitting another car in the parking lot. Sin is about relationships. The Ten Commandments are principles of right relationships. It is about your personal integrity. If you don’t do them, you not only break the relationship, but you begin to think that what you do is okay. You become God. Sin is missing the mark. Missing the mark is all about putting up the correct target. Putting up the correct target is all about knowing what is right and wrong. Knowing right from wrong is the sin of Adam and Eve. Shooting the bow to hit the target is moot if it is the wrong target. That is sin.

ASSUMPTION THREE: Every sin has consequences. You have to pay something to someone if you sin, in this case, God. We call that debt reparation or making up in us with a grace that we abandoned in sin. Sin is not just a one-time activity, although it can be that. Jesus does not condemn us for our sin, as in Matthew 11, but he adds, “…sin no more.” Do you see the implications of this statement? God knows humans don’t always do what they say. God knows us so well that he gave us a way to make all things new. Forgiveness of sins is another way of saying I want to start again. Like a diet, once you break it, you have no alternative but to start over again (or abandon it entirely).

Revelation 21:5-12 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

And the one seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. (emphasis mine)

Here are my top ten sins, along with where they are found in Scripture. I base them on their gravity and the toxicity they bring to the human heart. No one can serve two Masters. St, Benedict writes in Chapter 4 of His Rule,

“(41) To put one’s trust in God.
(42) To refer what good one sees in himself, not to self, but to God.
(43) But as to any evil in himself, let him be convinced that it is his own and charge it to himself.
(44) To fear the Day of judgment.
(45) To be in dread of Hell.
(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.
(47) To keep death before one’s eyes daily.
(48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.
(49) To hold as sure that God sees us everywhere.
(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one’s heart.” (emphases mine)

In my struggle to move from self to God, Chapter 4 provides me with a daily examination of conscience, against which I can measure myself to see if I have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. The difference between what I hope to be and where I am in my struggle to seek God where I am and as I am. Conversio mores (conversion of life) is my constant objective, Day and night.

ASSUMPTION FOUR: Since it comes from the archetypal choice of Adam and Eve, every sin has these components.

  1. It must be a sin, or to put it in our vernacular, what you do if you are an archer must automatically cause you to miss the mark.
  2. God chooses what is good or bad. In Genesis, God is the grand gardener and hired Adam and Eve to be his caretakers. He told them that they were good and all creation was good.
  3. You must know it is wrong. God warned them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good or evil. If you do this, you will surely die, says the narrative.
  4. Knowing this is against God’s laws, you must freely choose against God and in favor of yourself.
  5. Since you break God’s laws, all sin is social; it has consequences that affect others, even if you disagree with that. The two types of sins in the early Church were those that cut people off from the social covenant you have with the community of the faithful and those which just damage your Spirit and cause you to fail in your efforts to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. Forgiveness of sins is also social, in that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a public prayer and not an individual devotion, even if you are in private with a priest. Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule lists these activities that, if we do them, Christ will increase, and we will decrease.

Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, not only as inspirational reading on the nature of what it means to be human redeemed in the blood of the Lamb but also what our heritage, the heritage you must protect, is.

“II. GOOD ACTS AND EVIL ACTS

1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting “in order to be seen by men”).

The object of the choice can vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts – such as fornication – that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.

1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder, and adultery. One may not do Evil so good may result from it.

1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three “sources” of the morality of human acts.

1758 The object chosen morally specifies the act of willing accordingly as reason recognizes and judges it good or evil.

1759 “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.

1760 A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together.

1761 There are concrete acts that it is always wrong to choose because their choice entails a disorder of the will, i.e., a moral evil. One may not do Evil so that good may result from it.”

TOP TEN SINS HUMANS MAKE

What follows are ten of the sins I hold to be those holding me back from having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5) and against which I am tempted the most. You may have a different set or even more of them.

SIN NUMBER ONE: Idolatry. “I want to be god.”It is no accident that worshipping idols is the number one sin. It is an archetypal sin of Adam and Eve, the one activity is forbidden to them because they could not achieve it, yet they chose themselves as God over their Creator. It sounds like they were out of their mind when you think of it. That is what sin is, not thinking clearly, not putting God as their center. False gods are the number one sin in the Genesis story and all succeeding behaviors. The Israelites worshipped the Golden Calf, even as Moses came down from Sinai to bring them God’s own commands. The whole of the Scriptures is to tell us what happens when we choose ourselves as God, such as living in the world rather than in the Spirit. The Israelites, time and time again, turned from God and worshipped false gods, like Baal and others. Even Christ was affected by sin but did not commit sin because there is no sin in God. He was tempted in the desert three times (all of these to tempt God, not man) and once in the Garden of Gethsemane (this temptation, “Do I really have to do this, Father?,” was to tempt his human self, something we know all too well). God tells us what is sinful or where not to step to avoid the minefields. Either God is God, or we are God. No one can serve two masters.

SIN NUMBER TWO: Idolatry. “I am the center of the universe.” Thinking that you are the moral compass for the world. Genesis is all about God as the moral compass for the world. Thinking that everyone has the right to choose is vastly different than believing that what you choose is right. What makes right and wrong? In the Garden of Eden, what was the one thing forbidden to Adam and Eve? Eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and Evil, or being the one who determines good and evil. God gave us the commandments of maintaining a relationship with God (the first three commands) and keeping the tribes from killing each other with pride and jealousy, who is boss, and who is God. Jesus fulfilled these relationship commands by giving us only one command: love one another as I have loved you. In the O.T., you keep the covenant if you keep these commands. In the N.T., you fulfill the Law and the Prophets if you love one another. How do we know what love is? (Philippians 2:5-12) It is that Christ loved us first.

SIN NUMBER THREE: Idolatry. “Beware of false teachers who use familiar words and activities.” Do you notice a pattern here? Remember when St. Paul was trying to write to the Church who were having problems with the Christ preached by various persons? The Church sinned by missing the whole point of conversion to Christ in their lives. This was the idolatry of pride, just as clearly as Adam and Eve. The authority is not Paul, Cephas (Peter), or Apollos, but Christ alone. I would like you to reflect on the whole page from I Corinthians to get the context. The Church is never without internal conflict (heresy) or individuals who think they are Paul, Cephas, or Apollos, even in our own Day. Beware of Churches that bear the name of their founder. There is only one Church that legitimately bears the name of the one who founded it.

On Divisions in the Corinthian Church

And so, brothers and sisters,[a] I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder, I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?[b] 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,

“He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again,

“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

21 So, let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

SIN NUMBER FOUR: Idolatry, authority from Christ. You have no authority to speak for Christ. You can speak as the result of the power of the Holy Spirit, but you speak for yourself, not the Church Universal. The big controversy among those who profess to believe in Christ is who has authority? False thinking is: Everyone is their own Pope, everyone is their own Church, everyone is their own God

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [d]

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah,[c] the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in Heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter,[d] and on this rock[e] I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” 20 Then, he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was[f] the Messiah.[g

One of the biggest challenges for any human is giving away power or trusting in authority. St. Benedict’s Rule has a chapter devoted to obedience. Obedience, to be effective, must be based on humility, another chapter in his Rule.

When I read the Holy Rule, I find it striking that the various Charisms Benedict, humility, obedience, and treating the person in front of you as Christ actually mitigate or help me be aware of my failings in authority. I remember reading about one of the Cardinals (name withheld) railing against what Pope Francis was proposing on how we should be environmental stewards of the world (second Adam and Eve). Authority is authority. Pope Francis was not speaking infallibly but as a teacher of the Church Universal. Humility allows us to listen to Christ speaking to us now, not twenty centuries ago. Remember who chose the Pope. It was not you but the Holy Spirit.

The sin here is far more than breaking any rule made by someone else; it goes against the core of who is God, you or God. This is the sin that says I have authority over my body, I am the center of moral thinking, and what is meaningful to me is what is moral. It flies in Chapter 4 of the Rule, where St. Benedict asks his monks and nuns to deny themselves to follow Christ.

SIN NUMBER FIVE: Idolatry. My body is mine to do what I want with it. This is a sin of pride, the core of all severe sins. My favorite saying comes to mind: “I am not you, you are not me; God is not you, and you, most certainly, are not God.” If this is true, then all matter, time, and energy come from God in ways we don’t yet comprehend. In the Old Testament, people could not take the life of another without being cast out of the tribe. At the core of modern morality is the sacredness of human life. Life is not sacred because of anything you do, but God is the author of all life. God makes the laws and the rules to allow the covenant to be sustained among the people.

What would happen if there were no humans, only animals, dinosaurs, and birds? What would be moral? The strong would eat the weak. Is that immoral? The strong would dominate the weak. Is that immoral? All life follows the natural law, or what happens as a natural consequence of just being alive. Life is natural when everything acts in its nature. When humans came on the scene, there were problems with humans wanting to pervert the natural law and do their thing. This is why we have the book of Genesis and the Genesis Effect. Genesis reminds us that humility and obedience to God are critical to human behavior. The problem comes when people don’t believe that God exists, so the default for moral certitude is Adam and Eve (or you).

As a Lay Cistercian, I must deny myself daily and take my cross to follow Christ.

SIN NUMBER SIX: Idolatry. “Do what I say, not what I do.” Even St. Benedict (c. 540 A.D.) cautioned his monks about an Abbot who acts differently than he talks. “9 Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16); 60 hate the urgings of self-will. 61 Obey the abbot’s orders unreservedly, even if his own conduct–which God forbid–be at odds with what he says. Remember the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3).” https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ This sin means I have two faces that I present to the public, the other one that I show to only a few people, such as my spouse or family.

The sins that are invisible to others or perhaps even to me are those that trip me up. If I make a promise as a Lay Cistercian and then break it by ignoring it or acting contrary to what I swore before God and the abbot (abbess), then I live a lie. Lying to self means thinking one thing in your heart and doing another in practice.

Over and over, Christ cautions his followers to mean what they say. You cannot love God and mammon. Over and over, we continue to get the message and fail to sustain our resolve to do good.

SIN NUMBER SEVEN: Idolatry. Happiness means doing what benefits me. Doing what makes me happy is the purpose of my life. So, what is the problem? While it is true that I am the center of my own Universe, I have reason and the ability to choose to make my world and my life better. Nothing wrong with that. How can I reach the next level if I realize that life is more than just what I see and my limited time on earth? I don’t possess or know where to get the energy to raise me up to the next level of my evolution. The Christ Principle is the sign of contradiction that allows me to offer the one thing that God gave me at birth that he does not have, reason and free will. To possess life, I must give it away. To live, I must die to myself. What can that possibly mean?

The “argumentum ad hominem” thrown up by followers of the Great Accuser is that Christ, especially, is against any pleasure in life. No true. What the Church is for is not making pleasure the center of why you are. The news Christ came to bring us is that pleasure or pain is neither good nor bad, but it is not powerful enough to place at your center to sustain you in the battle of free will.

SIN NUMBER EIGHT: Idolatry. “It’s only sex!” If the sexual drive is an integral part of all living things, including humans and God created humans, why do we think sex is nasty?. The answer is it isn’t bad, but, like love or any other human emotion, we need to control it. If we lack control or can’t control sex according to the parameters of our human nature, then the most dominant urge we have will kill what remains of our aspirations to always be what is noble and the highest result of our choices. We are not animals. We are not humans without a higher sense of what our sexuality can become. Remember, “No one can tell me what to do.” That goes for my sexual preference or whatever I think fulfills my sexual feelings and needs. The problem is not that humans need limits to their sexuality, but from where do we get the moral compass that says what is right and what causes us to become more like an animal than what our nature intended. Choice plays a crucial part in this movement toward being fully human. We can choose to be the source of what is good or bad, or we can choose to use the guidance that God has provided us in The Christ Principle to keep us from slipping back into animality.

Suppose the Genesis account of the tree of the knowledge of good and Evil is paramount to all moral choices. What is good or bad is the “take away” from Genesis. In that case, there is a difference between our ability to choose and the various options that choice provides with the help of our reason. Being a loving owner of the Garden of Eden, God hires Adam and Eve to tend his garden and take care of its animals. They are not animals. God gives Adam and Eve specific instructions not to eat the fruit of this tree because if you do, you will die. Enter Satan, a fallen angel whose cardinal weakness was that he did not want to do what God told him. Sounds like Satan is living today. Freedom to choose something against God without coercion is not the same as choosing an option without consequences. You can’t have a choice if there is only one option. That we are free to choose is the test of freedom from restriction. There are always consequences to any choice we make.

In Genesis, the Snake gives Eve an option that they will be gods if they eat this fruit. It is significant that Eve ate the fruit first, then gave it to Adam. Buried somewhere in the recesses of this ancient myth of the origins of choice are the emotions of Eve: jealousy, pride, envy, covetousness, seeking wealth, prestige, and being better than someone else. These emotions are woven into the very fabric of what it means to be human. Eve is the archetype of every human. The choices behind Adam selecting the fruit are all of the above, plus power, ego, lying, and denying what you did. Adam is the archetype of all humans who choose anything. It is what you select that is either good or evil. Genesis points out to its readers that God is the way, the truth, and the life.

The consequences of sin are dissonance in all reality. There is sin on the cosmic scale. God gave of Himself to bring resonance to all creation. Philippians 2:5. Christ takes away the world’s sin with his death on the cross and restores cosmic equilibrium. Baptism is when Christ accepts me as an adopted son (daughter of the Father), and I respond back.

SEX IN THREE UNIVERSES

Physical Universe: includes all matter, time, physical energy, and gases, including animals and humans. The unseen but felt urge to propagate the species within each of us. This urge is not bad or evil; it is just part of us. Humans have that. Sex is not nasty but an integral part of who we are. Like Genesis, humans have always had a difficult time managing it.

Mental Universe: With the introduction of human reasoning and free choice, things get complicated. Sin has not entered the world through one man, says St. Paul. Romans 5. Humans must now choose between two or more goods in each lifetime or between good or Evil. With our heritage from DNA, humans make choices but now, with emotions, sexual urges to propagate or feel intense pleasure from all kinds of sexual arousal, and it may or may not be good, depending on what each person puts at their center. All choices have consequences, intended or unintended.

Spiritual Universe: This is the opposite of what the world teaches about sex. You must die to yourself to rise above your animalistic tendencies. It takes work. It is difficult. The choice is sometimes between what is right and what is easy. Sexual promiscuity is always the easy way out. Jesus is the way out of all this chaos. He is the truth, that if placed in our center as The Christ Principle, doesn’t make our poor choices or sins disappear, but instead allows us access to the energy of God through the Holy Spirit. We join a School of Love (St. Benedict’s Rule and Cistercian practices and charisms interpret what being a member of this school means. We are citizens of two Jerusalems while on earth. One is the Jerulamen, that has citizenship in the world and uses a reality without God as the basis for discovering what it means to be human. The New Jerusalem means we are citizens of the kingdom of Heaven and are adopted sons and daughters of the Father. All we do while on earth is to discover what adoption means are live a life that will bring us to fulfillment of our human nature.

There is no marriage or giving in marriage in Heaven, says Christ. There is no gender or racial superiority, nor even one religion superior over any other one. There is no homosexuality in Heaven, nor is there any heterosexuality. Love is all there is. God is One, and there is One Lord, One Baptism. The sum of who you are, what made you make decisions, and how you finally figured out how sexual urges help you become the person you are as you stand before the Throne of the Lamb. Lest you think that your gender and racial and sexual orientation are not necessary, You would not be who you are as the fulfillment of your life were it not for the choices you make with your gender, the insights that your race gave you that make you unique not only in the world but also among your race, how your sexuality informed if God is the center of your life or some other false god.

Sex is good, but not all sexual activities align with what God says is good. We have choices about that.

Humans corrupted what nature had intended and introduced what is evil, what is good about our sexual urges, and how we should use them.

SIN NUMBER NINE: Idolatry. “There is no evil, only bad choices.” We all have made choices that have left us with eggs on our faces. Experimentation is one way that humans have to know what is good for us from the alternative. Another way is to listen to Christ, who gives us a map we can use to walk through the minefields of life without stepping on a mine. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a way for us to acknowledge that we bade a wrong choice, and maybe a sinful one, but that we recognize that it is terrible for us, and we ask God to make all things new in us, once more.

If the world promotes that there is no evil, no god, no lifting up of our nature to what is intended, then life is about finding out what hurts us or makes us stronger. The only thing that makes all things fall into place is The Christ Principle. 

Sin and grace are not equal. Evil and good are not on the same level. As depicted in legends and some myths, Satan and God are not equal gods. Evil happens because either angels (Lucifer and followers) or humans (those who place Evil at the center of their lives) choose it to be so. 

If Heaven begins with your adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, so does Hell when you put Evil as your center.

I can just picture Lucifer welcoming guests to Hell forever with that Hound of the Baskerville’s laugh lasting through eternity. “You believed me when I told you there was no evil, only what you thought was right. I lied! Claim your inheritance, you fool. You chose wrong.”

SIN NUMBER TEN: Idolatry. “I don’t have to take responsibility for my behavior.” An insidious sin seduces its believers into thinking that they can sin bravely because they have been doused with the grace of Baptism, like the world being converted by Sherman-Williams paint. Matthew 25 paints a quite different picture of responsibility for cotton candy Christianity which tastes good but has no nourishment. Everything you do will be known at the last judgment. You think you ask for forgiveness, and God automatically forgives. Actually, that is true, with one caveat. You must be accountable for what you do? This is why I am a penitential person as a Lay Cistercian. I constantly seek reparation for my sins, even though they are confessed and forgiven. 

LEARNING POINTS

Sex comes from God and, like all creation, is not evil.

Humans view sex from many different perspectives. (See Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving, which gives perspective on Love and Sex.) Some of them are authentic, and some are not.

All sin is idolatry at its root. All grace is love at its root. Christ says I am the way, the truth, and the life. How you make that part of how you approach the Father through Christ makes you accept your adoption as a son (daughter) of the Father.

Resist basing your life around not committing sin. Instead, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.”

Grow deeper in Christ by shedding your false self as these sins indicate.

FROM WEAK MINDS COME STRONG IRONY

My body. My choice. Help me.

It is amazing what happens when you change your perspective.

JUST BECAUSE YOUR ROAD IS ROCKY, DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE ON THE WRONG ROAD

Homily by Fr. Tom Dillon on the scandals in the Church and our challenge to deal with imperfection and sin.

 

President-Rector addresses Church crisis in the opening talk

Friday, August 31, 2018

Note: Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology began the fall semester this week with the Intensive Spiritual Formation Week. President-Rector Fr. Denis Robinson, OSB, gave the following opening talk to seminarians.

Opening Talk for Spirituality Week

Anyone can tell you that the major job of any pastor is to help establish the values and the principles by which a community lives. It is an important question for us as well: What are our values? What do we stand for, in both a general way and in a particular way? Of course, we know that in general we stand for the values of the Gospel. We stand for Jesus Christ. But what about the particular way? What about the ways of this community?

Every community is different and while, in a seminary, there are many similar, perhaps for our old hands here even familiar, if at times neglected goals, there are also varied ways of achieving those goals.

What are the values of this seminary? What do we hope to achieve in our time here? Today this question may be more important to ask than ever. There is no one in this room who is unaware of the current climate of crisis facing the Church in the United States. The double blow of the charges laid at the feet of Cardinal McCarrick and the appearance at long last of the Pennsylvania report have brought our Church, in many ways, to its knees, or at least I hope so.

My experience in reading the Pennsylvania report (every last word of it) was one of profound nausea. The report is almost nine hundred pages long. Can you fathom that, nine hundred pages of reporting on the sins of priests and the absolute corruption of a system that sought to cover up their criminal action? It is hard to believe, but it is also important for us to face, and to realize that the Pennsylvania report could probably be duplicated in many regions of the United States. There is, undoubtedly, more to come. That is hard to hear. That is bad news. But you must be asking if there is any possible good news. I know I am.

What does the Church today need? The Church needs what we all need: Conversion. But we might begin that conversation by asking another question: What does the Church have? Overall, I would say the Church has good and faithful priests, we have hard working priests, and we have men who are willing to get dirty and to take chances not for personal glorification, but that the Word of the Lord might be proclaimed in season and out of season. Some of us might say that we are currently out of season. That may be true, but even out of season the Church today needs men who are willing to be authentic shepherds in a time when the occupation of shepherd is, shall we say, underrated, even castigated. The Church needs heroic priests. Will you be those heroic priests?

I would like to think that this is just the sort of men that Saint Meinrad is preparing for service in the Lord’s vineyard. But let’s be honest, even in normal times (if there is such a thing as normality), there are other kinds of priests as well. They are, I believe, a minority, but as we know it takes only one bad apple to threaten the whole barrel. It takes only one encounter with rotten fruit to put us off forever.

Who are these priests? Not only are there those who grossly abuse others, there are also those who look to their own needs and their own values before they look to the needs and values of their flocks. We have some priests who are more like preening peacocks than servants. We have priests who laugh about intellectual pursuits and prayer. We have priests who regularly abuse their bishops’ good names. We have priests who want to be media stars. We have priests who absolutely must have their voices heard. We have priests who look for power and prestige before they look for opportunities for service.

We know those priests exist; they are part of a statistic. They are the men who either end up in the newspapers or in a filing cabinet in the Congregation for Clergy. They are among those who try to ease out of promises and vows made; they are the failures. Fortunately, very few of them are alumni of Saint Meinrad. How do we get to this impasse? How do we engage a formation program, if we engage a formation program, that ultimately produces nothing because it does not offer the Church a priest in the Order of Melchizedek, a man willing to sacrifice everything, especially his ego, for the sake of proclaiming the Glory of God in the Church and do that for the rest of his life?

Here is what we want, here is what I want, not only as a rector but as a faithful Catholic whose Church is hemorrhaging because of the rottenness of a few. I want men who are ready to be crucified with Christ for the sake of the Gospel. I want men who are willing to look for meaning outside their particular tastes in serving the people, a people often, perhaps very often, ungrateful. I want men who are perfectly satisfied with pouring out their lives in anonymity. I want men, we want men, whose hearts are broken not only for their own sins, but for the sins of the world and the sins of the Church. We want men who are willing to shut up and listen every once in a while. We want men who need to know and learn and not think they know everything already. We want men of talent, willing to turn every ounce of that talent for use in God’s Kingdom, proclaiming His reign, His justice, His world. That is what we want. Will we get it with you?

In my remarks today, I would like to focus on two images from the New Testament, touching upon our themes for this spirituality week: The first is from the Book of Hebrews.

Here is the text:

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

What is the Scripture asking here?

That seems obvious. Our task as Christian men and women is to do good and to share with others. It is also understood in the Word of God that this is a sacrifice, one that is pleasing to the Lord. Sacrifice is not a pleasant word for us to hear at times. That is something that touches the very heart of what we try to do here at Saint Meinrad. It means that true sacrifice, lives poured out, is not behavioral, although it certainly has that quality. True sacrifice is internal; it is about the person within, the person that is not seen at first glance.

One of the things I try to reiterate each year is the need for deep and extended vision. I rehearse this with faculty and staff and I try to convince each of you. Please do not be quick to judge your fellow seminarians. Do not be quick to judge the faculty and staff. There is a great deal happening here that we cannot always see, much less understand. Sometimes that is happening in others, sometimes in ourselves. That means that we have to begin all of our relationships with an act of faith, faith that something is going to unfold, something is going to be seen that is not there at first sight.

I do believe that priests should be good judges of character, but I also believe that arriving at that judgment may take some time and effort. We are going to give you time and we are going to make the effort, but you must do that as well. It also means that the sacrifice of good character also builds toward being an authentic person. When we look back at the problems the Church has faced, and is facing, it is built around men whose characters were essentially flawed and who were not willing or able to seek the help they needed into making themselves complete and whole men.

I will now move on to the Gospel of Luke:

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

We cannot serve two masters. There is a truth there that only comes with maturity. One of the most formidable tasks you face here is learning to live in this truth. You must learn that many of the things you value, many of the things you love, must now be set aside. You are conflicted, having built your life upon certain realities, you are now asked to forsake them, at least some of them. Brothers, I understand that nature within you. I also understand that it is incongruent with the pursuit of a vocation to the priesthood. Formation for the priesthood demands a singlemindedness that is unparalleled in the world we inhabit today.

A true sense of vocation means pursuing an end relentlessly and with such focus of heart, soul and mind that it cannot be set aside, even for a moment. The death of the vocation is doubt. The death of the vocation is duplicitousness. You cannot serve both God and mammon. You cannot serve two masters. The Gospel life calls us to a simplicity, not only acknowledged in simplicity of life, but acknowledged foremost in an unwavering pursuit of the ends of God, the telos of God, which have become our ends, our telos.

What does the Gospel tell us: Do not be anxious. God provides. A test for us today is to ask ourselves how deeply, how thoroughly, we believe that: God provides. The providence of God is a major theme of formation. To a great extent, your success here is dependent upon your willingness to cast all of yourself onto the providence of God. Give everything to God. Give him your hopes and dreams. Give him your cares and concerns. Give him your sin. Give him your virtue. Give him your sexuality. Give him your celibacy. Give him your intellect. Give him your stupidity. Give him your sense of wonder. Give him your depression. Give him your seeking.

Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you. Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Care about yourself today and foster one thing during these coming days: a deeper, more personal, intimate relationship with the Master in prayer. If we have that, we have everything. If we have that, we can overcome anything, including the nastiness of the scandals that are surrounding the Church today. If we do not have that, then we have nothing, no matter how well-stocked our liquor cabinets are.

Brothers, many blessings as we begin this spirituality week. I pray that you take it seriously and that you gain immense benefits from it. Use this time to deepen your resolve and your faith. Use this time to become more fully the man you are called to be. Use this time to love more deeply. Use this time to mend fences both here and at home. Use this time of prayer and reflection on God’s providence to extend that providence to all you know and all you meet. Entertain the unseen God as readily as you entertain one another. Learn from God as easily as you learn from your professors. This week will yield a harvest of as much as you are willing to sow. God has promised and he will do it.

UIODG

SPIRITUAL READING RECOMMENDATIONS

I was fumbling around trying to wrap my mind around the “Nature of God” concept when I decided to look it up. Where would a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian temple of the Holy Spirit look to find out about what our heritage is? The answer surprised even me. It was the Catholic Catechism. https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church

The astounding thing I realized as I perused it is that it is an excellent spiritual reading book. It is readable, unlike the more scholarly Catholic Encyclopedia contained in https://www.newadvent.org/

https://www.vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html

Recommendations

  • If you want to know about Christ and our heritage as Catholics, go to these sources, not some other attempts to say what it means to be Catholic.
  • The primary function of the Church is to be a repository of authentic teachings from Christ to our day. Christ gave authority to the Apostles to interpret what is authentic and what is heresy. Where would you find such documents?
  • It takes work to discover the way, what the truth is, and live the life based on that way and truth. Lay Cistercian practices and charisms, based on Cistercian interpretations of the Rule of St. Benedict as promulgated by policies and practices, provide me with the spiritual ground floor to seek Christ daily.

Read Psalm 34 and reflect on its wisdom.

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

I

2I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall be always in my mouth.a

3My soul will glory in the LORD;

let the poor hear and be glad.

4Magnify the LORD with me;

and let us exalt his name together.

II

5I sought the LORD, and he answered me,

delivered me from all my fears.

6Look to him and be radiant,

and your faces may not blush for shame.

7This poor one cried out and the LORD heard,

and from all his distress he saved him.

8The angel of the LORD encamps

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

9Taste and see that the LORD is good;

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

10Fear the LORD, you his holy ones;

nothing is lacking to those who fear him.d

11The rich grow poor and go hungry,

but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

III

12Come, children,* listen to me;e

I will teach you fear of the LORD.

13Who is the man who delights in life,f

who loves to see the good days?

14Keep your tongue from evil,

your lips from speaking lies.

15Turn from evil and do good;g

seek peace and pursue it.

16The eyes of the LORD are directed toward the righteous

and his ears toward their cry.

17The LORD’s face is against evildoers

to wipe out their memory from the earth.

18The righteous cry out, the LORD hears

and he rescues them from all their afflictions.

19The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,

saves those whose spirit is crushed.

20Many are the troubles of the righteous,

but the LORD delivers him from them all.

21He watches over all his bones;

not one of them shall be broken.i

22Evil will slay the wicked;

those who hate the righteous are condemned.

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

and none are condemned who take refuge in him.

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

A GATHERING DAY

Yesterday (Sunday), the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) gathered together to meet with the Holy Spirit and share some ideas about our journey in life and how we each have realized that Christ is walking with us each day. Although we realize that each of our paths is different in how we approach reality because of the heritage and life experiences we have had that are unique to each of us, what we do share is our seeking God together based on the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Trappists monks and nuns. https://www.trappists.org/history-of-the-trappists/

In writing this blog, I am actually doing my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) on the computer and trying to write down what comes to my mind. You might notice that these ideas may be disjointed. All I do is take dictation. This is similar to what the Old and New Testament writers did when reflecting on Christ’s teachings. Are there errors? Possibly. These are the thoughts of a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian and do not reflect any official statements or pronouncements of either the Cistercian Orders or Lay Cistercians.

Let’s go back to the Gathering Day. We were all online, all fifty of us (+ -).

SEEKING GOD WHERE YOU ARE, AS YOU ARE

I will share an exercise I used with the Wakulla Correctional Institution (Florida), Main, and Annex inmates. My purpose was to share my own ways of looking at a deeper view of reality than the World sees. This exercise came from one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5)

FIRST: I ask you to look at the photo of a cup and tell me what you see. Look at this for ten minutes and write down everything that you see. Limit your responses to what is actually there. This is the universe of what it is. This is the physical universe in which we humans find ourselves alive. We share this universe with other living things, matter, energy, time, and space. Why is that?

SECONDLY: Once more, look at the photo of the cup and tell me what you see. This time, realize that you can look at it and ask more questions other than WHAT. This is the mental universe, and only humans live in it. No animals, no plants, no fish, no fowl are here. Just us. This is the universe where we look back at the physical universe and ask WHY, WHO, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, AND SO WHAT. These interrogatories distinguish us from all other living species. Why is that? This is where we humans use our reasoning and our ability to choose to help us find meaning and how all of this fits together. Science helps us peer deeper into the truth by using different languages (Mathematics, Logic, Chemistry, etc…) to quantify what is. But this is a different level of reality than just existing. We are given reason for a reason and the ability to freely choose what we discover as the truth and what life is all about. What we choose either limits us or lifts us up to the next level of evolution, to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

THIRD TIME: Once again, what do you see? This time think of the cup as the sum of what you have learned from The Christ Principle and what you will present to God as a gift? This is the spiritual universe, one that we inherit but one that takes a dying self to be able to see the contradictions with the World. In baptism, Christ chose you. In Confirmation, you chose the cross as your way to the truth so you could have eternal life.

Leonardo DaVinci Drawing of Life

I am Pro-Choice. My choice is life. Can you help me?

To be fully human ourselves, we must make sure everyone has a chance to be Pro-Choice. We are the sum of our choices.

SIMILI EST REGNUM COELORUM

I apologize for brushing off the dust of my old Latin texts of the Scriptures. This means “the kingdom of heaven is like…” Matthew 13. The Old Testament was all about the forecast of the one to come, the Messiah. The New Testament is all about the fulfillment of the plan of salvation that shows us what to do once God made known to use our adoption as one to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36)

Did you know God has a problem (in human terms only), and that is, “How do I tell humans how much I love them to make them my adopted children and how can they claim that inheritance with us in Heaven, which is impossible for the human nature to know, love or serve without blowing out their circuits?”

The Holy Spirit was commissioned to solve the problem, and did He ever. God allowed the energy of the divine nature to permeate and enter humans without destroying their human nature. The tongues of fire came upon the Apostles to give them God’s knowledge, love, and service to share with others that come after them. The Apostles not only received the gift of the Spirit but were given the task to share this energy with others, even though humans were subject to the effects of Original Sin and were prone to commit departures from God’s will. As the Universal collective of those gathered together in Heaven, on earth, and awaiting purification in Purgatory, the Church is the living Body of Christ, which individual members must link into this grace through the Church as linked from Apostles to each other person. This is the continuity of the Spirit, unbroken from Christ and present to us in the Holy Spirit present each time we gather to celebrate the death of the Lord until he comes again in glory.

The Scriptures are the core document, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to show us how to love others as Christ loved us. In a very real sense, God literally reached from divine nature to enter our human nature to give us what we could never have reasoned or attained by ourselves, how to recalibrate our thinking from that of the world to the Kingdom of Heaven, into which we are reborn by Baptism and the Spirit. But what is this Kingdom of Heaven, and what does it look like? Jesus tells us in the Scriptures that no one has seen the Father but only the Son or anyone to whom the Son revealed Him. Jesus is the buffer between what we can never attain, complete knowledge of who God is (Adam tried but fell short). We can only see the Father when we see Christ, and to add to that, we only see Christ when we are present to the Holy Spirit in each of us, those good and those not so good. No one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us a clue of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like when he gives stories and parables.

WHAT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE

Matthew 13 gives us a picture of how Jesus, as the Master, uses parables to tell us about the kingdom of Heaven. He does not use examples we could not possibly understand but looks around at everyday events and says the kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed. Read one such example of a parable to see how the kingdom of Heaven might just be closer than you think. I have added the footnotes at the end of this Chapter so that you might have some context. May I suggest that you read the following Chapter through very slowly? Let the words and images have a chance to impress your mind. Next, read it for meaning. Again very slowly, identify the types of parables contained. Do they refer to the abstract next life, or are they meant to describe and not make a definitive statement about what is happening now? Third, read it through again to realize that you are reading a description of what your Heaven will be like later on. Remember that the kingdom of Heaven begins for you personally, with your baptism, as you are on earth to learn about what Heaven will be like after you die. You take with you that which you have sewn with the golden thread of Christ.

The Parable of the Sower. 1* On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.a2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.3* And he spoke to them at length in parables* saying: “A sower went out to sow.4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.5Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,6and when the sun rose, it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.7Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.8But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.9Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The Purpose of Parables.10The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11* He said to them in reply,” “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them, it has not been granted. 12b To anyone who has, more will be given* and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.13*c This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand” 14Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

‘You shall indeed hear but not understand,

you shall indeed look but never see.15Gross is the heart of this people,

they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes,

lest they see with their eyes

and hear with their ears

and understand with their heart and be converted,

and I heal them.’

The Privilege of Discipleship.*16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.17Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

The Explanation of the Parable of the Sower.*18 “Hear then the parable of the sower.19The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.20The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.21But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.22The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.23But the seed sown on a rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold”.”

The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.24He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.25While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds* all through the wheat, and then went off.26When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.27The slaves of the householder came to him and said ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come fro’?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them ‘p?’ 29He replied, ‘No if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.30Let them grow together until harvest;* then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters “s, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.'” g

The Parable of the Mustard Seed.*31h He proposed another parable to t “em. “The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.32*i It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”

The Parable of the Yeast.33He spoke to them another para “le. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast* that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” j

The Use of Parables.34*k All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables,35 to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:*

“I will open my mouth in parables,

I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation [of the world].” l

The Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds.36Then, dismissing the crowds,* he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37* He said in reply, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,38the field is the world,* the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one,39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age,* and the harvesters are angels.40Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom* all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.42m They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.43*n Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.

More Parables”*44o “The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,* which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.45 Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.47 Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.48 When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away.49Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Treasures New and “ld.51 “Do you understand* all these “hings?” They answered” “Yes.” 52* And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and” he old.” 53 When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.

JESUS, THE KINGDOM, AND THE CHURCH

The Rejection at Nazareth.54* He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.p They were astonished* a “d said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?q55 Is the carpenter’s Son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?r56 Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get “ll this?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said “to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his “own house.” s58 And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.

THE PROFOUND LESSON OF ORDINARY LIVING

Jesus presents the kingdom of Heaven through everyday events, probably those that He had witnessed as he was growing up and learning how to be the Messiah. As God, Jesus possessed absolute pure knowledge of the past, the present, and the future. As humans, Jesus was like us in all things, except sin. If so, he had to learn as we learn, through his senses, with the experimentation of what works and what doesn’t. If Jesus did not experience humanity fully (he emptied himself of his divinity), there could be no appropriate gift of reconciliation with the Father due to the fall of Adam and Eve. Like Mary is the Mother of God and not just the Mother of Jesus, God suffered as we suffer, got cold as we get cold, experienced grief and sorrow as with the death of Lazarus, and underwent the temptation in the Garden of Gethsemani. He was like us in all things but sin. Philippians 2:5-12 describes it this way:

5. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,*6 Who,*. However, he was in the form of God and did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped.*7 Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness;* and found human in appearance,e8 he humbled himself,f becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.*9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name*that is above every name,g10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,*of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,h11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,*to the glory of God the Father.i.

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS WITHIN YOU

Jesus uses parables to describe and not define the Kingdom of Heaven because it is beyond the mind’s human experience and capacity to grasp it as God truly is. Christ became one of us to tell us about it in ways that we could understand. If the kingdom of Heaven begins for each individual with baptism and belief in Jesus as Lord, then my Heaven is what I make it now, within each day, within each minute. What follows are some ideas I had when I looked around my life during the past ten days and looked for the kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like… an orange tree in my front yard which was planted from another tree given to us by our friend. This tree produces abundant fruit that is nourishing. We share this fruit with our neighbors and friends so that they may share our plenty. Sharing makes us happy.

The Kingdom of Heaven is my wife’s painting of a rose with watercolors. It gives warmth and beauty to all who see it. They marvel at her creativity and skill at painting.

The Kingdom of Heaven begins now, but so does your Hell, if you so choose it.

DO YOU BELONG TO THE CULT OF MARY?

The following blog is what I wrote down in my Lectio Divina Meditation several months ago.

I had to swim in the pool at Premier Gym in Tallahassee, Florida. A particularly loquacious former minister was holding court in the pool, telling people what they believed, as someone who fancied himself judge, jury, and executioner. The subject turned to Mary, and he asked about my religion, which I told him. He said, and I quote, “Oh, you belong to the cult of Mary.” I told him I did not consider myself in a cult, but his opinions did not change, accusing me of worshiping Mary and not God. I told him, “If, as you say, I am of the Cult of Mary, and you don’t accept that it is not what I believe, then, by the same logic, you must be from the Cult of John Wesley.” He said he was not a member of any cult. I replied, “and neither am I.”  He immediately changed the subject. This encounter got me thinking about how many people can hear the words, Mother of God, and not have an appreciation for the role of Mary in our salvation.

How can Mary be the Mother of God?  Mary was the mother of Jesus. Her role was like St. John the Baptist, to prepare the way for the Lord. Mary has a primacy of honor in the Church, not the primacy of authority (that belongs to St. Peter). An unlikely place that helped me explain the role of Mary was the U.S. Army Chaplaincy. As an Army Chaplain, I was assigned to many commanders in my short stint.  I learned that the religious program was for all soldiers, not just Roman Catholics. However, I had direct responsibility for the Roman Catholic services for Roman Catholics and their families. It did not matter if soldiers believed or did not. In fact, the religious program belonged to the Commander, who had a responsibility to see whether soldiers had the opportunity to workshop or not. Some Chaplains got along with the Commanders, and some did not. From the wise advice of a great Command Sergeant-Major, I learned early on that I did not have any authority whatsoever as a Chaplain, but I could have tremendous influence if I did not make an ass out of myself.  That was some of the most remarkable advice I ever received, and it worked.

When you think of it, Mary was not God and did not have any authority, but, like the Chaplain, she could be a tremendous influence on Christ (and still does). The great advice Mary has for us is, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)

Take a few minutes and do this exercise. Just answer the questions.

  1.  How many natures does God have? Name them.

2. How many natures does Jesus have?  Name them.

3. How many natures does Mary have? Name them.

ANSWERS:

  1. God is one. God has a divine nature.
  2. Jesus has both divine and human nature.
  3. Mary only has a human nature.

Mary cannot be the Mother of the God the Trinity, but she is the mother of Jesus, both God and Man. This controversy was very intense in the early centuries of our formation. The mother of God’s side won this argument. The heresy of Nestorius was based on the belief that Mary was just the mother of Jesus and not God. Mohammed, the Prophet, got his notion of Mary from a Nestorian traveler and incorporated this idea into his religion.

Do Catholics worship Mary?  We do not adore Mary, but she does have primacy of honor among believers.  Mary is not God; she is a human, like us in all things but sin (God’s grace overshadowed her, and she was filled to the brim of her humanity with the Holy Spirits.

Do Catholics pray to Mary?  We only pray to God, through, with, and in Christ. We honor those who have patterned their lives after Christ, such as early Church martyrs. We ask those living as the Church Triumphant before the throne of the Lamb to pray for us to the Father.  Some people will never accept this, whether someone should even rise from the dead.  (Luke 16:30-31)

From the 11th century, Cistercians and Lay Cistercians had Mary as their Patroness and celebrated that fact on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Why does any of this matter? Here are a few of my assumptions.

  1. We don’t die when we die. So, where do we go, and what do we do?  Early church practice has those left on earth awaiting their passing, praying through Christ to honor a particular saint, martyr, or figure that excelled at having in them the mind of Christ Jesus. We pray to be like them in their love of Christ. Mary is the first of those that we look to have the energy of God in them.
  2. Those who die are alive in Heaven. God judges those according to their works and separates the sheep from the goats. Good is rewarded and evil punished.
  3. Those who are alive in Heaven can intercede for us with Christ. Pre-imminent among the saints is Mary.
  4. Those who intercede for us with Christ are not God, not divine, nor

DID YOU JUST MAKE ALL THIS MARY STUFF UP RECENTLY?

You be the judge. https://aleteia.org/2017/04/29/the-oldest-known-marian-prayer-is-from-egypt/

Here is a Marian prayer from the early beginnings of our Catholic Universal Church, c 250. It was in use well before that date.

We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD

Without comment, here is the prayer of abandonment recited by Saint Charles de Foucauld. He and ten others were raised to Sainthood to be venerated by the Church Universal as worthy of our imitation.

CONVERSIO MORAE: Ten habits of highly successful people who move deeper into Christ Jesus.

One of the great lessons I have taken away from being exposed to Cistercian spirituality is the sheer simplicity of allowing God to shine on your behavior. This life-giving energy replenishes Faith with grace and conversio morae, growing more like Christ and less like the worldly you.

I will offer my thoughts about the conversion of heart as I understand it from being exposed to the traditional concepts of Cistercian spirituality. Being a Lay Cistercian has taught me to assimilate the practices and charisms of the Cistercian Way and apply them to how I seek God every day with awareness and passion. As is my habit of thinking these days, I look at one reality as having three distinct universes (physical, mental, and spiritual). By depth, I speak of both vertical growth (within the person) and horizontal growth (from point A in time to point B). Like most things in my life, nothing happens without it being purposeful. To move from my false self (sin) to a sustainable life in Christ, I need to rely on habits.

THE HABIT OF CULTIVATING HABITS

The human tendency to form habits in their lifestyles is at the heart of what it means to be a Lay Cistercian and someone who wants to move from where they are to where they want to go. My life has been a succession of habit-forming and discarding. I would always start on the left side and move to the right when shaving. I know people who, when they eat, eat one type of food before moving on to the next one. Habits for humans are habitual. The Art of Contemplation is no exception. My premise is that, like love, contemplation is an acquired skill that takes practice as a Lay Cistercian who tries to seek God each day as I am, and as God is, the formation of habits in my search for God is critical. Each day begins anew because of Original Sin, starting from scratch. I am not the same person because I have accumulated the product of those habits (capacitas dei), but I live in a world where I can progress or regress in my resolve. Habits help me maintain a momentum of spirituality that serves me well most of the time.

Characteristics of a habit as I use it.

  • Habits are characteristics of both animal and human repetitive behaviors that are neither good nor bad (progressive or regressive). There are good habits (adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) and bad habits (e.g., drugs, alcohol abuse, and orgiastic sex, according to Erich Fromm in his book, The Art of Loving).
  • Habits exist in The Rule of Threes. I use the Rule of Threes as my progressive lens to parse the meaning of words in three separate categories (physical, mental, and spiritual). I use this method when I try to see if “habits” fit within my view of reality.
  • In presenting the habits I use to move from my false self to my true self as an adopted son (daughter) worthy of redemption, these are not my suggestions that you do what I do. Rather,
  • The art of contemplation means I must seek God each day. Habits help me to keep my focus on sustaining The Christ Principle in my life.
  • Habits, as I use the term, are those Cistercian practices and resulting charisms where I place myself in the presence of Christ, both intentionally and unconsciously.
  • Part of my emptying of self is bringing into my way of behavior habits conducive to “having in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). Follow what Christ does, not what I do.

TWO TYPES OF HABITUAL DIRECTIONS

Moving Forward: Conversion (moving forward) and Reversion (regressing backward). The question of movement is interesting in the physical and mental universes because there is only one direction humans can move. Biological movement is autonomous; it happens because of our nature as humans. We grow older, not younger. Everything in the physical and mental universes has a beginning and end, so there is insufficient mental energy to propel humans to the next level of evolution beyond our capability and capacity. The mental universe exists to allow us to choose something, but what? Nothing in just the mental universe will allow us to move forward to the enigma that seems to be lurking “out there” but can’t entirely be conquered by science and logic, much less be comprehended in a way that makes sense of what we know is the reality that we can experience with our five senses alone.

Applying the Christ principle, everything I use allows me to make sense of life when I solve using the Divine Equation. My assumption, based on all that I have experienced and assimilated with my reason as meaningful (but just cloudy enough to be blurry, or as St. Paul states, “we see through a foggy glass” ), is that there is the next step to my human evolution, albeit one that is based on my physical and mental universe in which I live. This universe doesn’t make sense when my reasoning challenges the assumptions that there are three universes and that I must enter this third one (spiritual universe), not through the natural section process of the physical universe, but by choice.

Now the choice is not a characteristic of the physical universe, although it is the basis that allows humans to exist. Exist for what? Animals exist, but there is something about the human species that is different. We have collectively evolved our reasoning (we build on what went before). Still, we can now ask the interrogatories (who? why? what? how? where? when?) and receive information that we can group into shared communication or languages. The Sciences are such a language and are unique products of the human urge to take these interrogatories to their limits. Science is wonderful. But something is missing. Human reasoning does not produce the energy needed to move to the next stage of our evolution. It can produce energy to take us to the stars, astounding. Yet with all this energy, we have, or any energy that we discover, we still live in the physical universe, one with a beginning and an end.

The movement to the physical universe is not accomplished through merit or human intervention. There is a power outside of human nature that must share energy with us to “lift us up” to this next level of our human evolution. This spiritual universe is one of choice, but not what you think. The reason we have reason is to choose. Choose what? In this context, we choose the invitation to enter a third universe, the opposite of the one in which we live. This invitation does not come from anyone with human nature because one individual has neither the power nor the intelligence to convert human nature to something more. So, what could be more?

It is the Christ Principle. It is pure energy, love, knowledge, and pure service (the product of pure love). It is God, for lack of a better word. The problem comes when we try to possess God (knowledge is controlled) and control God. Herein lies the problem for human intelligence. God lives in a unique playground without matter, time, physical or mental energy, and space. So, how does that kind of nature communicate with a species that has evolved to the point that it can receive signals from beyond time and make sense of it? Does God speak German? If so, only Germans would understand? Is God male or female (what we humans know), or someone beyond gender, race, ideology, theology, cosmology, and all other “ologies.”

God does not speak with the human tongue or with the human ear. God speaks from the divine heart (love) to humans tuned in with the simplicity of loving others as God (Christ) loved us. In the Old Testament, God established a race to bring this message to all humanity (no favorites). All humans would get a chance at love. This love from God would be the fuel to raise us up (resurrection) to achieve our destiny at the end of our life (the physical and the universe has a beginning and an end). With the spiritual universe, God gives us a choice (saves us) from being confined to mere human constraints resulting from Original Sin. The Christ Principle became human from the security of being God (Philippians 2:5-12) because of love and so that we could share that love with our ultimate destiny, as sons and daughters of the Father. All of this is revealed through Christ (the Messiah). Not all see it. Not all ever know about it. To those who do know about it, it is a lifetime of conversion from our false self (influenced by the effects of Original Sin) to becoming what our nature intended, the fulfillment of our destiny.

II. Moving backward Reversion is losing ground as a human being. Those who seek to establish a habit of prayer do so within the confines of human nature. Human nature is characterized by having a reason for a reason and also the ability to choose what we think is good for us. Not all our choices are good for us.

B.F. Skinner has a way of looking at and explaining reality called operant conditioning. https://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html I use this way of thinking to help me explain why we choose things that are not good for us. This is the pleasure-pain dilemma at the core of what it means to be human. We share this will all other living things, but there is a difference. Humans can choose against pleasure when our minds tell us it is harmful. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that to be fully human means that whatever we choose to make us happy or fulfilled must be correct, just because we have the right to choose this over that. None of this makes sense when you say you have to go against what makes humans happy or what is pleasurable. In writing about habits and what is meaningful, my premise is that you must go against human nature’s natural inclination to make you happy to be fulfilled as a human being. This only makes sense when I apply the Christ Principle to the reality I see around me.

YOU ARE THE REASON WE HAVE REASON

I look around me (I first knew that I knew somewhere around the Eighth Grade) and ask why I am. What is my purpose? I only live seventh to eighty years unless I get in the way of a car, have cancer, have a heart attack, or have other conditions that can terminate my frailty as a human individual. I care about myself, which I should. I don’t know much at the age of 10 years, but I know I will die in the future. I know that I have a reason for a reason and that my freedom to choose is with some things that are good for me and some things that are bad for me (although I don’t always know why).

Imprinted into all physical and mental, God’s DNA automatically dictates that I am, but with a difference. I can choose NOT to accept anything I don’t want to have as part of my value system. I can even select something terrible, like thinking it is okay to murder anyone I want. No one can tell me I am wrong because each person is their own 80-year-old universe, although only a blip on the monitor of existence.

This freedom gives me power and the illusion of invincibility. My humanity can choose to live with me as a god or give up my freedom and choose a power outside me that has the energy to take me to the next level of existence.

Through other humans, primarily through Jesus the Christ, we learn that God wants me to be an adopted son or daughter and survive the minefield of false steps and promises of the world or walk as an adopted son (daughter of the Father). As Rev. Dr. Billy Graham was fond of saying over and over and over, Jesus is your personal savior. Let that one sink in. I am not you; you are not me; God is not you, and, most certainly, you are not God.

CONVERSIO MORAE

At the core of what it means to be a Lay Cistercian, and thus for me to be authentically human, is conversio morae. The term means:

  • Moving from false self to true self
  • Freely choosing that which seems to make no sense to the world in favor of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Christ.
  • Moving from where you were to where you want to be
  • Change in moral thinking to include hearing from what you want to listen to with “the ear of the heart” to the will of God in the silence and solitude of your heart. (St. Benedict’s Prologue to the Rule)
  • Continuously struggling with the effects of Original Sin to struggling to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)
  • Moving from just thinking about doing good to actually doing something for someone else
  • Moving from having sexual coveting as your center to the purity of heart
  • Conversion is a daily habit and also an art. Humans don’t automatically learn how to transform themselves from the physical and mental universes to the spiritual ones. The process is called Faith because this is the energy that comes from God as a gift and depends upon my belief to make it real in my heart.
  • Because we humans live in a condition where we must choose what seems good for us at the time, some of those choices are actually destructive to our human condition, while others just weaken us and our resolve to do God’s will. Seeking God’s will is not normal for a human. To make this choice takes unique energy that comes only from a power outside of myself, not from me.
  • The Christ Principle is a habit we must acquire through seeking God as we move from false self to true self in Christ Jesus.

FACTORS INFLUENCING MY HABITS

NO ONE IS GOING TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO — This classic temptation sets forth choices between the source of power being outside of and more significant than yourself and the source of power being within you. Genesis is an archetypal story of the consequences of choosing me as my own center of reality. The difficulty in judgment comes because I am actually the center of the seventy or eighty years I have existed. I have human reasoning and the freedom to choose good or evil without recrimination from God, but there are unintended consequences to the choices I make. The wages of sin, says Scripture, is death. No one gets away from selecting poorly rather than the truth. This is perhaps one of two or three core temptations that face every human. We face those same temptations Christ faced in the desert, adapted to our life situations. They are:

I. It is God’s playground we seek to enter, so we must use only those rules. We must learn on earth how to love others as Christ loved us. “For yours is the kingdom.”

II. Only God’s energy enables us to fill up in us that is lacking due to our sins and the restitution we owe God for being sinful. Our hearts rest near the heart of Christ to fill up in us that which is lacking. This is prayer. “For yours is the power.”

III. At birth, we are given human reasoning and the ability to choose what is good for us. It is the only gift God lacks, not that God needs it to be fully God, but that it fulfills the love he has for each individual and makes us complete. Jesus’ mission was to give glory to the Father; our mission is to give glory through, with, and in the Son to the Father, using the energy of the Holy Spirit. “For yours in the glory.

Conversion happens when you are in the presence of Christ and realize that He left the security of God to take on our nature to give all humans a chance to recover from the archetypal sin of pride and use our individual free will to choose God’s will be done on earth as it is in the heavens.

Conversion happens when you know God’s energy in you and not your own (belief).

Conversion is the result of an act of obedience where your will chooses God as the source of all that is, the center of reality. This act of obedience to the will of the Father has, as it types, Jesus the Christ, who struggled to achieve the mission he was given by His Father. (Philippians 2:5-12) Conversion is facing each day as though it is your last, and thanks to God for all his gifts that you don’t deserve. Conversion is seeking God each day purposefully and with

MY GOD IS BETTER THAN YOUR GOD

Adam and Eve messed this one, and so do many newly minted converted persons. The danger in conversio morae is that you anoint yourself as the authentic spokesperson for the Holy Spirit, more infallible than any Pope has claimed. You, and you alone, speak about God and what you speak is God speaking. This conversion is one of aberration and full of pride. When you hear anyone from any religion tell people that they will go to Hell if they don’t follow what they say and do, you know that this is the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees. Read this passage from Holy Scripture for how the author described the intensity of how Jesus felt when he talked about hijacking the Holy Spirit in favor of personal opinion. Read this passage three times, each time more slowly.

Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees.1a Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,2* saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.3Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach, but they do not practice.4b They tie up heavy burdens* [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.5*c All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.6*d They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’8* As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.9Call no one on earth your father; you have one Father in heaven.10Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.11e The greatest among you must be your servant.12f Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.13*g “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven* before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.[14]*15* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.16*h “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’17Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred?18And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’19You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?20i One who swears by the altar swears by it, and all that is upon it;21one who swears by the temple swears by it and by Him who dwells in it;22one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.23j “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes* of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others.24*k Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!25*l “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.26Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup so that the outside may be clean.27* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.28m Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.29* “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,* you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous,30n, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’31o Thus, you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;32now fill up what your ancestors measured out!33p You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?34*q Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town,35so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.36Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

The Lament over Jerusalem.*37r “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!s38t Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate.39u I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/23#:~:text=13*%20g%20%E2%80%9CWoe%20to%20you,to%20those%20trying%20to%20enter.

THE DIVINE EQUATION— Like the Collatz Conjecture, I recommend not wasting your time trying to prove the existence of God with human constructs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=094y1Z2wpJg Not only is God unsolvable with the current mental constructs of mathematics and other sciences, but we must use the proofs and measurements of Divine Nature, of which we know nothing, except what Christ shared with us. I call it the Mathematics of Being, for lack of a better idea. Instead, I have devoted my remaining time to seeking God in my daily events. I am using The Divine Equation to discover what it means to be human. The Divine Equation has nothing to do with proving that God does or does not exist. This equation has everything to do with identifying and calculating who I am as an individual living out my seventy or eighty years (actually 81+). Ironically, both the question and this equation’s answers come from outside my human nature, something my life experiences and logical thinking do not consider normal.

My life is about discovering these six questions and their authentic answers before I die. Because each of the six questions depends on solving what came before it, there is a degree of difficulty. It might take a lifetime of trying to discover these six questions, let alone the authentic questions that bring resonance to reality rather than dissonance. I am still trying to reach the bottom of the well with these six propositions. So far, no end in sight. The six propositions that begin to address what it means for me to be human in the context of dissonance are:

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

Remember, you get both the questions and the correct answers outside of yourself with a power that ties together all that is and enables you to become what you discovered, the next phase of human evolution, the endpoint of all that is. The spiritual universe, which God has to create from our physical and mental universes, allows us to solve the Divine Equation. The spiritual universe does not make sense because its results contradict what the world teaches, even though our humanity can be noble and fulfilling. “There is one Law, that you love one another as I have loved you.” “To be the greatest, you must serve others.” “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” “Take up your cross each day and follow me.” “Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole strength, and your neighbor as your self.”

Conversion is not a one-time event. This conversion uses the energy of the Holy Spirit each day to make all things new. Because of the dissonance of Original Sin, we experience not only “conversion” but sometimes “reversion” (sin). Our reason and free will use this power outside of ourselves to choose right rather than easy. It is the battle of the cross and the flesh. (Galatians 5) We can center ourselves in Baptism and have our sins washed in the blood of the Lamb, but our struggle is just beginning, and we cannot survive the onslaughts of the Evil One without actively seeking the help of the Holy Spirit each day. The secret of the Divine Equation is that there is no secret. It is open to everyone to discover. The questions and the answers have already been given to us from a power outside of ourselves. But, as you might suspect, there is a caveat; to discover what is authentic, you must play in God’s playground with God’s Rules, not yours. Luckily, there is only one rule: love others as Christ loved us. That’s all there is, but it takes a lifetime of struggle in the condition we call dissonance or original sin. The conversion happens when I must use my reason and my free will to choose to live as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. I am accepted (loved) so much that Jesus became the Christ Principle to allow me to live in three universes and not just two (physical and mental). (Philippians 2:5-12)

CHOOSING WHAT IS RIGHT OVER WHAT IS JUST EASY — Choice has always been one of my favorite topics because the pseudo-choices that the world puts forth seem to tout that a human fulfills our intended purpose in life by choosing those things which elevate our animal instincts over the consequences of choices that seemingly go against our pleasure, our happiness, what makes us powerful and dominant. B.F. Skinner would be proud of those who view the epitome of being human as choosing what is accessible and unencumbered by any pain, sacrifice, or discomfort. https://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

No one will tell you what to watch on television, how to think, nor even what to think (perhaps for delusional political parties who tend to see freedom as free if you agree with their thinking). Animals are controllable with operant conditioning; we can be controlled by pleasure rather than pain since we come from animal roots.

So, here is the conversion that accompanies this radical proposition from The Christ Principle that you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow a way of thinking opposite of the world in which you live. Even though we use words like “peace,” “love,” and “purpose” in the spiritual context, the meanings are totally different. It would be wrong to think that loving others as Christ loved us is somehow against human nature. Instead, if you accept the sign of contradiction as normative in the world you live in, this Rule of Opposites compliments our moving from old or false self to true self. That is conversion. It happens not just one time, but each day, each moment. Those who take the sign of the cross on their hearts are aware that the world’s ways will not lead to the fulfillment of human evolution. (See Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/)

The conversion of which I speak comes from the habit of humility, one which St. Benedict outlined in twelve steps in Chapter 7 of his Rule. This first step is critical because it is the conversion of the heart upon which all other habits depend. It is “Fear of the Lord.” Humility means you realize that, even though Jesus has two natures, divine, and human, you don’t forget this is God underneath humanity. Conversio morae mean that each day, you make a conscious effort to give glory to the Father through Jesus using the power of the Holy Spirit. I find this saying helpful: I am not you; you are not me; God is not you; and you, most certainly, are not God.” Who said that? I just did.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux says three “The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” ~ Bernard of Clairvaux Read more quotations from St. Bernard: https://www.azquotes.com/author/19601-Bernard_of_Clairvaux

The transformation from someone who lives and loves the world as good as possible to that of moving to the next stage of our human evolution happens only with, through, and in the Christ Principle.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF CHRIST BEING REAL AND PRESENT IN THE EUCHARIST– Here is a problem for you to consider using the concept of conversion from one who lives in a reality where there is a beginning and an end but who wants to change realities to live in such a way that there is a beginning but NO end. You must use the resources you have as a human being (remember, you only live seventy or eighty years) with the power that comes from you alone.

SPACESHIP TO FOREVER

I love watching YouTube videos from NASA and SpaceX on how humans will eventually colonize the Moon, Mars, and beyond. I want you to watch what I viewed so that we can both have the same wonderful experience of what it means to board a Spaceship to the Moon/Mars destinations. I used these YouTube videos for comparison purposes with what I propose is another flight, one to the Twilight Zone, in a way, one that is a way that I can convert this mind and soul to live forever. I call this The Divine Equation, for lack of a better term. I noticed a glaring omission in this and many other YouTube programs about space travel. There is no original sin or its effects. Think about it.

JOURNEY TO MARS USING THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL UNIVERSES

Let me share a Lectio Divina meditation I had (Philippians 2:5) on conversion and how someone who is merely human can possibly prepare for the trip to the unknown.

  • In the Book of Genesis, that early attempt at making sense out of the chaos of everyday living that the multiple authors witnessed around them and tried to write down from years of oral traditions, I am taking the sum of who I am (good and bad) and making an attempt to answer the question: how can I break the paradigm of everything having a beginning and an ending and convert to the next level of evolution?
  • To use this analogy of how humans must adapt to Mars, I think of how The Christ Principle gives us the training we need to live in a condition of pure love without our neurons being fried. You don’t just show up in heaven and get to do whatever you do in heaven. Earth is our astronaut training in how to survive in heaven. We need to practice it while on earth. This is called good works, and we have several books of instructions to help us know what to pack, thanks to Jesus providing the way, the truth of what to pack, and the life needed to survive in the next one.
  • We need to have a ticket on board The Christ Principle, which all humans have. It is a sign made on our foreheads in the sign of the cross, prepaid by Christ by his suffering and death on the cross for our passage, and activated by those who believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
  • You don’t have to be perfect to go to Mars, so it is with heaven. The only humans who get to pass through customs when they die are Jesus and Mary (and only because the Holy Spirit filled her humanity with grace up to the meniscus).
  • Heaven has been our destiny and heritage as humans (or any other sentient being anywhere) before the first atom (not Adam). Our evolution and complete fulfillment of what it means to be human is fulfilled by The Christ Principle. Instead of just a conveyor belt into heaven without any work, sin came into the world through the first humans (Adam and Eve). We now must each run the gauntlet of the choices of what is good or evil made famous by the knowledge of the tree of good and evil of Genesis 2-3 fame. The choice becomes the cornerstone of human existence, just as gravity is the dominant force in the physical universe (Stephen Hawking). We have reason to know, love, and serve God in this world to prepare to know love, serve God and be happy in the next. (Baltimore Catechism Question 6) The reason we have a choice is to prepare to fulfill the intelligent design of the cosmos from the beginning and be adopted sons and daughters of the Father in a condition that is hidden from human experience and because we are not either capable or have the mental capacity to even begin to comprehend its dimensions. So, Jesus, Son of God, Savior, came to tell us, “Here is what you need to pack for the trip to heaven, and this is what it is like (simile est regnum coelorum).
  • The pilot of this spacecraft is Jesus, not me nor any human. Christ knows the way, the truth of navigating to heaven, and the life we must lead now on earth to prepare ourselves. Life will only be changed when we die, not ended, and we continue the intelligent design intended before there was time itself.
  • We are leaving the planet for good and won’t be back. We need to pack for the journey. There is no limit to what you can bring with you if you know what to bring and how to store it. What would you take with you, items that have no matter, no physical energy, no 3 dimensions, and no weight? You pack all that in the spacesuit of your mind and heart.
  • After you die, the energy of the Christ Principle, your spaceship, safely protects you from any harsh consequences of travel until you reach the kingdom of heaven (it only takes a moment). Radiation is the temptation that leads to death if not protected. The wages of sin are death.
  • God is the energy of the spiritual universe, one that chose us to be adopted sons and daughters if we want, and also one to propel us through space and time to a condition of no matter and no physical time. We need to have a source of energy beyond just what is used every day to sustain ourselves on earth to even lift off the planet and propel us to heaven. This is the same energy that I use in my Lectio Divina when I sit down on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait for Christ in my heart. That which the whole world cannot contain is contained in my heart when I am in the real presence of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • We need astronaut training to survive in a spacesuit or space capsule. We need oxygen to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and some form of work to occupy us to don’t go crazy. God knows that we need all these things and even what we don’t think we need and has it waiting for us to arrive.
  • When we reach heaven, everyone must pass through customs. It is time to declare if you are carrying any foreign items or things alien to heaven. Jesus is there with outstretched arms to welcome us. He looks at the totality of our life, looks for the cross burned into our soul at Baptism, and how much we loved others as He loved us. His outstretched arms have bruises and cuts, his hands have the marks of the nails, and he wears a brilliant crown of thorns, his crown of victory over death. Immediately, everything we ever did, good or bad, is measured against The Christ Principle. We are measured by our heart against the heart of Christ (no one is perfect). We can tell how close we came to the way, the truth, and living the life of an adopted son or daughter of the Father. We stand in the presence of pure Love and are measured by the measure we use to measure others. We are admitted or told to go to a waiting room, a place of Hope, and learn the meaning of love. When we have learned it, we will be readmitted to full communion with all those gathered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe.

SPIRITUAL LAZINESS LEADS TO A LACK OF FAITH— If you are a boring person, then the life you experience is perceived as boring to you. This is called reactive existence. Proactive existence is living out in front of yourself (“existere” in the LATIN, live out in front of yourself). You purposefully choose your step before you make it. Life is not a problem to be solved nor a yin without a yang. Life is about choosing each day what is authentic in terms of the center that you have chosen for your life and moving forward.

A spiritually lazy person will let life dictate its terms to them; a person full of God’s energy is so full of grace that they cannot keep their joy to themselves. It is like taking a drink of concentrated orange juice. God’s energy is too vital for us to taste it; Christ is the water that dilutes God’s pure energy to the point that we can absorb it into our hearts. This is the Christ Principle, the source of all meaning and the mediator with the Father. Each day, we must be aware of the goodness of God in whatever comes our way and, using our reason and free will, transform ourselves to be more like Christ (capacitas dei) and less like our false selves.

Everything in our physical and mental universes has a beginning and an end. The physical universe is one that we can see and know about using the mental universe. It has both visible and invisible aspects). The spiritual universe takes what is confirmed in the physical universe, using the mental universe of reason and free choice to find out what is meaningful. This meaning is the opposite of what we can learn using only our reason. The spiritual universe begins on earth with my Baptism and continues forever without end.

PREFERRING THE MORALITY OF THE MOMENT TO THAT OF THE CROSS

When you received the sign of the cross on your forehead at Baptism, it became an indelible mark on your soul, one that defines your behaviors or does not. You are now a citizen of the kingdom of heaven and adopted son (daughter) of the Father, and heir to the kingdom, the power, and the glory. When you have left on earth, you prepare yourself to be worthy of God’s trust in you by learning how to love others as Christ loved you. There is a problem. Because you are also a citizen of the World, there is an existential tug between these two worlds. It is a struggle to maintain your adoption because you must still fight the effects of original sin and the complacency that comes from thinking that all this spiritual stuff is so much fluff.

Here are some habits that I try to keep placing and replacing in my consciousness to maintain my center as The Christ Principle. I don’t always think about these habits, but I do them as much as I can think about them, helping me move from my false self to my true self.

THE HABIT OF LOVE-– If love is the purpose of life, why is it so hard to do consistently? It is an acquired habit and one that never ends. Even after death, love is the fuel that energizes life. What I must do is learn how to love others as Christ loved us. I have joined the Lay Cistercians to learn how to love. St. Benedict’s Rule helps many of us focus on the School of Love.

THE HABIT OF FAITH-– Faith is that elusive virtue that, if you don’t have it, you can’t move spiritually, and if you do have it, you are constantly in danger of losing it without God’s energy to sustain it in your heart.

THE HABIT OF SERVICE-– Service is the product of love and faith. If this is a habit, I either do it so often that I don’t even think about it (like driving a car), or service is something that I must work to sustain in my tools of good works. St. Benedict’s Chapter 4 is a good listing of what I must do each day to consciously think of how I can have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

THE HABIT OF PENANCE-– Part of what it means for me to be a Lay Cistercian is being a person with a penitential approach to whatever life I have left. A penitential person realizes that this world, although good, isn’t good enough to reach heaven without help from Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is an awareness that even though I have confessed my sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I continue to ask God for mercy on me, a sinner.

THE HABIT OF HUMILITY-– Humility is at the core of what I hope to become as a Lay Cistercian. It is at the very center of my purpose of being anything. Philippians 2:5 is my mantra, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” Humility is recognizing who I am in the sight of God. St. Benedict even has twelve steps to master humility, the first one being “Fear of the Lord.” With all the exuberance that comes with Faith, I remind myself constantly that the One I serve is God, even though I am an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. Appreciation.

THE HABIT OF OBEDIENCE- Without humility, I will never reach the obedience that says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Without obedience, I will never be fully human, giving back to God the one gift worthy to present, my obedience. It goes against everything human to die to self each day. It does not make sense to give anyone the one power that defines you as a human, but it lifts you up to a level you could not reach by yourself. This is how you know if someone is of God or the world, that you offer up that which is most human as a gift to the Father, as Christ did. “Father,” He said, “Let this cup pass from me, but not my will but yours be done.” Can you drink the cup you received at Baptism, one where, with the sign of the cross, is the sign of the resurrection and obedience to God as being God?

Can you drink the cup that I drink?

THE HABIT OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER — For each of these habits, the goal is to do them without thinking, like driving a car. This takes both consistency and constancy; consistency, in that you strive to do the same thing over and over in the same way, much like our Gathering Day agenda, where our schedule is the same each month, but what we do within that timeframe is always different; and constancy, the habit of seeking God daily, or reading Chapter 4 each day. Constancy is the frequency of consistency. Lectio Divina requires both consistency and constancy in prayer to move deeper each day with the power of the Holy Spirit.

THE HABIT OF AWARENESS OF THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE- At my center is the Scripture from Philippians 2:5, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” The problem is that my center wobbles when it comes into contact with the effects of original sin or when tempted to do the bidding of the Lord of the World (Satan), the Great Accuser, versus the Lord of All There is (God), the Lord of Lords. The Christ Principle is that one tiny mustard seed at the very center of my bulls-eye, that if you take it away, life is no longer resonant or incorruptible. The Christ Principle is the only way, the only truth, and the only life that leads to humans fulfilling what nature intended us to be before sin entered the world through Adam and Eve.

THE HABIT OF CONVERSIO MORAE-– Each day, I must seek God. To do this, I must keep focused on moving from my false self to my true self. Living in the corruption of the World (everything has a beginning and an end, plus all matter decays, and time inexorably moves from what is to what was), each day is a new lifetime, a chance to grow in Christ. In contrast, I decrease those habits in me that detract from loving others as Christ loved us. I don’t always succeed in my resolve, such as the invisible power of original sin, the condition I was born in. Baptism removed this stain on my soul so that I could replace it with the sign of contradiction, the cross, to give me the strength to die to self each day to rise to a new life in Christ. What remains is dual citizenship of the world but now a New Jerusalem, the citizenship as adopted sons or daughters of the Father. God won’t do live my life for me, for such is the importance of free choice that God.

THE HABIT OF SEEKING GOD EACH DAY-– Each day is a lifetime of challenges to keep The Christ Principle as my center. The energy of the World seeks to cause my center to deteriorate. It does so because of matter’s natural corruption, and the mind deteriorates. This means that I begin again the struggle to have Christ Jesus’s mind in me every day. (Philippians 2:5). The habit is one of being conscious of my challenge and using the Lay Cistercian practices and charisms to place myself in the presence of Christ and wait for instructions. This habit is also one that employs the martyrdom of the ordinary in its repetition of the challenge each day to seek God where I am and as I am. With the humility that comes from realizing the fear of the Lord, I seek not only mercy for my past occasions of indifference and lack of love for others but also God’s own energy in the form of Eucharist and Lectio Divina to replenish the energy I lost from fighting the good fight and keeping the faith. Each day.

The struggle that accompanies any taking up your cross daily by moving from our false self to our true self is part of the gift of praise and thanks we offer to the Father through, with, and in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

THE HUMAN RAMIFICATIONS OF VISIBILITY AND INVISIBILITY

“Why does human life find itself on a planet just far away from the Sun not to burn up, with just the correct mixtures of gases to exist, with just the correct protection from radiation not to be torched?” Added to that seeming statistical anomaly, humans developed on this planet with the awareness that they know and the ability to choose what they think is good for them. You have an astonishing coincidence if it is that. But, wonder if we are the only self-aware beings in the universe or universes?

One day, Enrico Fermi, a nuclear physicist, raised this question to his colleagues over coffee. He asked, “Where is everybody?” I am not so naive as to think that, with billions of Suns not counting planets, there might not be life, specifically sentient life. But, it is tantalizing to think that due to the radiation and sterility of what we know is “out there,” we human species (of all life species) ran the gauntlet of the corruptibility of matter and life to show up now. Why is that? I showed up eighty-one years ago as a product of my mom and day, which, in turn, were produced by other humans, and so on. Why is that? Rationality does not come from animality. A species by itself would seem to lack the energy to propel itself into the next dimension of its evolution, but that is precisely what happened. It is like humanity pushed itself up by its bootstraps from being an animal to being rational. Why is that? How is that? The Jesuit paleontologist/scientist Henri Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., puts forth what I consider the most compelling explanation of what and how our race became self-aware. I encourage you to watch two YouTube videos. My own notions of The Divine Equation have their fingerprints from authors such as Teilhard de Chardin, Erich Fromm, Martin Buber, Carl Sagan, and Steven Hawking. onhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCJgB7-jXmg All of these ideas, concepts, insights, and Lectio Divina meditations, I always measure against The Christ Principle, the center of all that I am.

THE RULE OF THREES AND VISIBILITY AND INVISIBILITY

When I apply the Rule of Threes to the question of visibility and invisibility and how it affects intelligent human progression (my term for natural evolution), like pulling apart the leaves of fresh cabbage, some exciting reflections come from it.

THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE –– This is the realm or universe of matter, energy, time, space, and the base for life itself. As you read this, this dimension exists from the beginning of what is to, at least right now. It is the WHAT of matter. To think that there are no rules to this universe is a mistake, even in the world of matter. The forces of visibility and invisibility are at work, even if no humans are around to see them. What influences this matter is time and energy, and all physical reality is invisible yet no less objective. Like magnetism’s pull on the face of a compass, it is present but not seen. Humans are not present to see the effects of what is invisible throughout the universe. However, we know it exists in forms such as dark matter, dark energy, and the effects of the four forces of quantum mechanics (strong force, weak force, gravity, and electromagnetism). https://www.newscientist.com/definition/quantum-physics/ My purpose is to use what I know about reality to look at “the big picture” of how all reality fits together. I seek to have a “theory of everything” combining all that we know about what we know, but I reject that the scientific approach is everything. It does not take into account all that is. When Enrico Fermi asked the famous question that I don’t think anyone has answered, “Where is everyone?” he should have asked another question. “In looking at the physical and mental universes alone, is that all there is?” This is the question I seek to pursue with my reflections.

It won’t come as a big surprise that all seven (or more) of these strings depend upon each other, although they are separate. An example is how visibility depends on the light in the physical universe. Light, in this sense, is the energy that a force emits, such as a hypernova or our own sun. Animals can see, taste, hear, feel pain, and have instincts as we do. We morphed from animality to rationality, so we carry the genetic baggage from our progenitors. Light is needed for survival. Living things have developed ways to capture the light and feed it to the brain to turn it into survival behaviors. Humans have something that turns light into enlightenment– human reasoning and free choice. When humans use light to see with their eyes, they can make observations, leading to conclusions and behavioral activity.

Visibility is essential to all living things, but only humans can use what is visible to look at a deeper level of reality, one that is invisible. Why is that? Visible light is composed of energy properties, but what about invisibility that has no mass, matter, gravity, or form? This is the problem that humans had to solve to move forward with the next level of their intelligent design. With God’s DNA, the answers are always present. The mental universe came into being not from the power of humanity but rather from a force outside itself, The Divine Equation.

THE MENTAL UNIVERSE– Humans alone inhabit this realm, one that uses intelligent progression to observe the physical universe and seeks to find the WHY and HOW, WHEN, HOW FAR, and ARE WE ALONE?

Human history is only a succession of individuals who live seventy to eight years (if they are strong) and hopefully pass on to future generations what they have learned about the meaning of life (How does everything fit together and how do I fit within all that is?). Put another way, only humans can ask and search for the answers to The Divine Equation, what it means to be fully human as the end product of intelligent progression (evolution).

Humans, most definitely, came up with the idea about all this God stuff. There was, and is, something in the human heart that yearns for immortality and closure. In the mental universe, we can reason (collectively and individually) plus the capability to use what we have learned to control our destiny through choice.

Humans have always had a problem with invisibility. Maybe that is because you can’t see it. Collectively what we see is the basis for humanity to move forward with social progression, which lasts as long as there are humans. Individually, I am the only one to see my particular world, and it lasts as long as I do. Visibility is essential to all humans, especially me, since I use my senses to inform my brain about my environments and react to them according to the accumulated choices and human emotions unique to me. I am not you, I am fond of saying; you are not me; God is not me, and you and I are certainly not God.

For humans, looking around at what gives purpose and meaning, we use our senses and reason to make choices each day. Our human world is a visible one, not an invisible one. Humans have developed reason for a reason and the ability to choose something. What is it? One of the reasons I think we have the power to reason and then choose what we reason as factual is to explore the realm of the invisible, the realms we cannot see but, like gravity, dark matter, and dark energy, exert an inexorable pull on the matter, time, energy and space (the physical universe).

THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE — If the physical universe is one where visibility exists, then the mental universe of humanity exists to allow us to discover the invisible universe if containing both visibility and invisible reality. We do this through our collective reasoning, which allows us to discover what is meaningful and has value for us. The spiritual universe provides the penetrating questions and answers to the question, “What does it mean to be a human being? and How to love fiercely?” The spiritual universe allows humans to discern what is visible and invisible and how it propels humanity (both collectively and individually). Only the spiritual universe provides both the answers and the questions that the physical and mental universes cannot address. It is The Divine Equation. There is one reality that contains six different questions and their correct answers to allow the resonance of all reality, the way to transverse the minefield of life without getting blown up, the truth that is incorruptible, not subject to deterioration, and most of all, how humans can accept their adoption as sons and daughters of the Father and fulfill intelligent progression as intended from the beginning of time.

Baptized and Eucharistic believers are a people of opposites and contradiction compared to the world. Several examples of this universe are right in front of us all the time, but some can see them, and many do not. It is available to all humans but, like a pair of glasses, you must know about its possibilities and try them on to see if they are helpful. As an article of our Faith in the Nicene Creed, we explicitly say that we believe in “the visible and invisible,” a reality that has matter but also one that has no matter whatsoever. We are saying that when we look at one reality, we see three universes, a physical one that is our base, a mental one that allows us to seek wisdom and truth, and a spiritual one that completes our intelligent progression in a state of invisible light. None of this makes sense without applying The Christ Principle as the key, the cornerstone of one reality with three distinct universes.

REVIEW

  • There are at least seven forces that tie all reality together.
  • There is but one reality with three distinct yet interdependent levels of existence, each with its own measurements and characteristics.
  • The physical universe is the base for matter, time, and energy and includes all life on earth, including humans.
  • The mental universe is the universe of transition, where we reflect on the physical universe and can ask and answer questions about WHO, WHAT. WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and the purpose of life. This universe is where humans learn to discover invisible dimensions of what is real. This universe cannot answer the questions of life using mere logic, scientific methodology, or values that come from living in only the physical and mental universes (the world).
  • The spiritual universe is the intelligent progression of the first two universes but exists entirely in the invisible dimension now and in the future. This universe has questions and answers to what it means to be human, but they come from divine nature, hence the Divine Equation.
  • Humans don’t do well with what they cannot experience with their senses. It doesn’t make sense.
  • Humans can sense but not define the feeling that there is a reason beyond death responsible for all that is.
  • Humans have developed systems of thinking from the beginning to relate to what is invisible but somehow lacking in their hearts. All religions are such an attempt at attempting to touch what is invisible. These ways of thinking have developed their own rationale and mythic stories of living, being happy, and being fulfilled. They all describe their relationship with the sacred.

Two authors have been instrumental in my thinking, and I want to introduce them to you.

James Campbell — probably best known for his work on mythology and its importance in advancing the notion of a universal hero throughout all mythic literature. He influenced my view of Christ as an archetypal hero and not just an isolated fantasy of one lone Jewish carpenter fantasizing about being God. https://www.tckpublishing.com/joseph-campbell-monomyth-heros-journey/

Mircea Eliade — best known for linking together patterns in the thinking of all religions. As I do with any writer, I read them in terms of the compendium of my collective knowledge and experiences of what I know to be true. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mircea-Eliade/Legacy

ANTHROPORMORPHIC REPRSENTATION

We like our gods to look and act like us (image and likeness) so that we can relate to them. The type of relationship throughout human history has morphed into a deeper and more profound meaning so that we relate to an invisible god using what we know from visible relationships. Humans created the gods. Where else would they come from? We like our gods to look and act like us, a virtual avatar of what we would like to be.

  1. A SYSTEM OF VISIBLE GODS AND GODDESSES– Both Roman and Greek societies developed a pantheon of gods and goddesses that they could see. Naturally, they molded them after the society where they experienced values and meaning. Each system had a monarchical caste system, a “them and us” distinction where humans were not gods. All the gods were visible, living on Mt. Olympus quite apart from the human condition. The gods did favors for people when invoked. This was a relationship but one with master and slave overtones. Ask the gods and goddesses for favors and give them offerings, and you might just get what you wished for.
  2. A SYSTEM OF COVENANTS —
  3. a. The Old Covenant: It all began with Abram, a wandering Armenian nomad. A god outside of him chose him to change the paradigm of god-human to that of God, choosing Abrahams’s descendants to multiply and form a new covenant relationship (Deuteronomy 6:5). The Old Testament books record the fidelity of God and the struggle Israel had with fidelity over the centuries. Those tribes who were faithful to keeping the law and listening to the prophets survived, and those who did not just fade away (ten lost tribes of Israel). The history of these chosen people morphed from just a bunch of twelve brothers trying to survive drought and oppression through electing judges, then kings to organize and rule them. They survived through the hegemony of Greek and Roman and Persian and Egyptian domination. Their country was no more than a gateway for the superpower to face each other. Israel was a watering hole. Yet, the covenant endured captivity and the return to Jerusalem as the holy city of God. The temple was built for sacrifices. With all the chaos, Israel hoped someone would lead them out of bondage once more, someone to save them from extinction, just as they do in 2022.
  4. b. The New Covenant: For those seeking a military leader, one to free Israel from the tyranny of Rome, Greece, and Syria, Jesus is not the way, and because Jesus taught a consolidation of the Law based on love, he was not the truth. So, the life of the Old Testament remains much as it is today, seeking to maintain tradition and territory for a remnant of the twelve tribes. It makes perfect sense that Jewish rabbis and believers don’t believe in Jesus. I don’t believe in that type of Jesus. What makes all of this so confusing is the sign of the cross, the signal that, with the coming of an invisible God in the human form, made visible (flesh).

VISIBILITY AND INVISIBILITY AS COSMIC THREADS — Cosmic threads shepherd reality much like the banks of a river shapes the course of how and where it flows but does not affect its progress. I would like to take you on a journey through time (from the beginning of what has matter and defined time (Alpha) to whenever in the future there is no matter (Omega). I choose to use the Rule of Threes (see above) as my thoughts.

  • In the physical universe of matter, there is visibility and invisibility. It is just that it does not know what it means outside of humans. Humans are part of this physical universe because it is a base where we exist along with all the other star stuff. Then, there is a paradigm shift. Of all the being that is alive, humans progressed to the point of having reason and the ability to choose something beyond the confines of their nature. St. Paul states that “Sin came into the world through one man, Adam.” Put another way, humans now choose good and what is evil for their nature. With the progression of free will, the urges we inherited from our animal DNA clashed with our freedom, and all of that against the freedom of other humans to seek their needs.
  • These needs are supported by a visible world, although now a mental one also, which now contains values and consequences of choosing behaviors. Humans began to use their choices based on what they could see and what they could not see. In the progression of time, the mental universe is where humanity learned to discover a visible reality but now one that is invisible. Why is that important? In my encounter with what I can see and not see around me, to move to the third universe, the spiritual one, demands that I suspend my assumptions learned over a lifetime of using my senses to discover purpose and how I fit into these few years I exist on this planet.
  • Dealing with invisibility is the most challenging aspect of being human. Love, for example, is invisible, but we know it is there because of its impact on me in particular and those around me in general. This is where the spiritual universe is the condition where I make sense out of all the chaos and seeming dissonance I find resulting from original sin. The Christ Principle, used as the mechanism to unlock the puzzle of life, can only be accessed by actually dying to the assumptions of the world (dying to self to access true life). The spiritual universe allows me to penetrate deeper into reality and discover the authentic meaning of what being human is. This is a sign of contradiction because the answers to the Divine Equation are all found in the invisible but natural realm of the spirit. That makes absolutely no sense to those who only accept what is real is what you can see or experience with human senses.
  • In the Old Testament, the tribes wanted a visible god, just like the idols they saw their neighbors have. Yet, God remained invisible. The people encountered God through physical representations, ones that they could see. God visits the people through activities (when God is with them, they prosper, when God is not with them, there is a disaster, such as the 10 lost tribes). The invisible God is visible through nature. The invisible God communicated to them through the ten commandments and manna (what is it?) and carried them on their journeys as the Ark of the Covenant. The Temple is the visible place where God dwells and where the people must gather to
  • The paradigm shift in the visible and invisible dynamic was God becoming human (Philippians 2:5). “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.”
  • During the time of Christ on earth, God is visible through the person of Jesus Christ.
  • After Christ died, his followers carried on the message first through the Jews and then to the whole world. Christ is visible through those who gather in his name (ecclesia).
  • But, Christ is also visible in a unique way even as each age approaches the invisibility of God. In the Real Presence, Christ is present under the appearance of bread in the breaking of the bread. Believers can receive the actual Christ in the recapturing of the Last Supper. They can stand vigil before the real Christ in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. They can be present to the Holy Spirit by doing the tools for good works in Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict, making what is invisible visible to those around them. They can contemplate the mystery of Faith in their hearts through Lectio Divina. All of these Cistercian practices and charisms are there to allow us to sanctify the moment in the presence of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • With the spiritual universe, those who are signed by the cross, the contradiction, make what is invisible visible in their hearts. Can is only possible with the invisible power of the Holy Spirit through Christ.
  • Invisibility is our destiny. We learn in the time we have on earth how what is invisible is essential to move forward in our intelligent progression (evolution) to be fully human and thus fulfill our destiny to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father…forever.

God’s cosmic string shapes us to move from visibility to consider what is invisible as part of one reality.

EVIL THOUGHTS

My latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) is a continuation of one that I wrote down nearly six months ago. The general theme of my thinking is The Christ Principle, and stains emanating from that one idea included Genesis 2-3 and its treatment of “What it means to be a human being.” The basic premise of Genesis is that humans are flawed but not immoral by nature (God can’t create evil).

Many scholars think four biblical sources wrote Genesis ( the J, the P, the Elohist, and the Yahwist). The writers of the two genesis accounts have two different creation accounts that give two archetypal accounts about humanity. (Yes, I know I used “accounts” several times.) If you are interested in reading more about this most fascinating of topics, look up the following site.

Click to access TX001002_1-content-The_JEPD_Theory.pdf

All of this speculating about Genesis brings up a problem with which I have had more than a casual interest. It is a problem “Where does evil come from?” Here are some quick thoughts in no particular order of importance.

  • This must have been a preoccupation by those descendants of Abraham because they saw actions that were quite noble and yet from the same person acts that were despicable to the human conscience. It persists with humans as part of their nature. But, how can good nature be capable of such heinous acts as the Holocaust and even justify it in the name of anything?
  • Evil must not be confused with our ability to choose freely what we want. It is invisible with no mass, no matter, and no properties of matter. Yet, when this is selected, it causes chaos, not resonance with our human nature.
  • Evil has no home except the human heart. We have a reason for a reason, to be able to choose. It is what we choose that can be good or bad. Again reverting to the archetypal story of what it means to be human, good or bad, is tied to what will allow us to be what nature intends or wrong for us.
  • Scriptures tell us that the wages of sin are death. What kind of death? Good dies when evil prevails. Evil prevails only when we choose it. This is why the individual person who lives their seventy or eighty years on earth is essential. I can choose what is good or bad for me based on my reasoning. I am the only one who can choose this or that activity as being good or bad. That comes from getting burned many times by those harmful consequences of sin.
  • I am just beginning to appreciate the condition of original sin. If humans knew in advance of the consequences of their choices, no one would ever choose evil. We have needs and emotions inherited from our ancestors that are defaults for how we behave. The default is not evil but the allure that we choose what gives us pleasure. Make no mistake that this choice is not about denying human inclinations and needs, such as our sexual needs. It does mean that the Great Accuser, Lord of the kingdom of Original Sin, continuously beacons each individual to choose his Way, his Truth, and his Life. If we choose it, which is characterized by St. Paul as “The World,” we choose a false god.
  • Sin causes a disruption in the resonance of my human nature. Sin causes spiritual depression because the mind and heart go against it, a natural consequence. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee,” says St.Augustine. Hatred and Love are oil and water. Hatred kills the human spirit by the toxicity of the soul; Love is the purpose of the human consciousness and that for which we strive to attain.
  • If your heart is a room (Matthew 6:5), then you can’t have both evil and good in the same room. The problem is that evil and the temptation to worship self and false gods roll over us each day, so we must start our struggle anew each day. Yesterday’s wins over Satan count nothing for today’s challenges to make The Christ Principle our center.
  • It is essential to realize that the condition or environment of human nature’s existence is
  • As a loving Father, God offers the extraordinary gift of adoption to those who die to themselves and have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). This overshadowing of the Holy Spirit does not give us a free Monoply pass to heaven just because we are adopted, sons or daughters. That would be prideful and presumptuous on God’s mercy. We must work each day to take up our cross. When we drop our resolve and make bad choices, God has graciously given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a way to restore equilibrium and make all things new, with one exception. Like Christ’s admonition to the woman caught in adultery, Christ does not condemn us for being sinful but adds. “Go, and sin no more.”
  • I have chosen the Lay Cistercian Way to refine my spiritual abilities to call Jesus “Rabonni” a teacher. It is the daily WAY I choose to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus as a Lay Cistercian. (Philippians 2:5); it is the daily TRUTH that I seek by realizing the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom (St. Benedict, Rule, Chapter 7, Step 1); it is the LIFE of the cross tempered by growing more and more in Christ each day while becoming less and less my false self (Dom Andre Louf, O.C.S.O., The Cistercian Way).
  • The struggle is who determines what is good or bad? There are only two basic types of choices: I choose what is good or bad and give my important choice of good or bad to God as a gift. The most crucial prayer Christ taught us is the Lord’s Prayer. It says,” Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • It might sound like all is lost for my growth in Christ and decreasing in my false self. It would be except that I have the opportunity to sit in the presence of Christ, both in from the Eucharist in Adoration and in the room in my heart (Matthew 2:5) and gain divine energy (as much as I can absorb, which is called capacitas dei). All it takes is for me to recognize that to gain the purpose of life and answer the six questions we need to become fully human is to die to my false self and rise with Christ to inherit the kingdom prepared for me before the beginning of whatever began.
  • If I want love in my heart, I must put it there. If I want Christ in my heart, I must ask to be present through Lay Cistercian practices and charisms. If I choose what is evil, I can also put that in my heart.
  • My choices are always the result of my DNA, the links in my past to human emotions, the selection of needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is an example), and my choice of what I make my center.

So, where does your evil come from, and can you win the cosmic struggle between corruptibility and incorruptibility to maintain your rightful inheritance as one who is fully human?

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FIRST STEPS AS A LAY CISTERCIAN

There is no doubt about it. When I first began my training as a novice Lay Cistercian, I took baby steps to implement a Lay Cistercian Way that would fit my particular situation in life (a retired, broken-down, old temple of the Holy Spirit). Eight years later, I find myself still broken down and still taking baby steps in my Cistercian practices and charisms. Now, I am more aware of my surroundings.

Here is an early blog on my applications of New Cistercian practices to my life. This applies only to me. You must discover your own application.

LAY CISTERCIAN PRACTICES AND CHARISMS

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

One of the ways to approach the Sacred is to follow a daily routine. Some people call it a habit. Do this every day for 30 days. If you are unable to do so, you might want to consider if your spirituality needs to go to the gym.  What follows is my exercise to move from self to God.

DAILY PRACTICES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EACH DAY, READ OR LISTEN TO SACRED SCRIPTURE — Some people read the Scripture to prove they are better than anyone else. How far away are they from the Kingdom of Heaven. St. John writes about why we have the Scriptures in John 20:30-31 when he says: “Conclusion.*30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s31But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”t

The biblical quotation is from a website you should bookmark under CATHOLIC UNIVERSAL. It is the website of the Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/20. 

EACH DAY, IN FACT, SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, DO LECTIO DIVINA.– When I first began doing Lectio Divina on June of 1963, I was very scrupulous to follow Guigo II’s Ladder of Contemplation. As I approach the end of my life on earth, I am much more forgiving of following the steps of Guigo II.  I pray Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) without realizing that there are steps.  Even seven years ago, when I first became interested in applying to be a Lay Cistercian, I have found myself having one, long session of Lectio. Now, my Lectio sessions total one, sometimes two hours per day, but I spread that out over three or four shorter sessions. My daily schedule is flexible, yet strict enough, that I pray at least once a day at 2:30 a.m. (twenty minutes), then do my Lectio Divina at my computer at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., after Compline.   

If you are looking for a challenging read, open this URL. http://www.umilta.net/ladder.html

The Steps for Lectio Divina: Spiritual Reading (source unknown)

Step 1. Lectio (lex-ee-oh), “Reading”
Read the Scripture passage. Try reading it out loud. Try reading it several times. Let the words sink in deeply. Open your mind and heart to the meaning of the words.

Step 2. Meditatio (med-it-tots-ee-oh), “Meditation”
Reflect on the Scripture passage. Think deep thoughts. Ask yourself questions such as the following:
 What does this passage say to me?
 Who am I in this passage?
 What do I see? What do I hear?
 What do I think?
 Which character do I most relate to?
 What do I most need to learn from this?
Try taking notes on your answers to the questions. Try journaling about the insights gained with meditation.

Step 3. Oratio (or-o-t-see-ah), “Prayer”
Move into the heart of the matter. Feel deep feelings. Consider the following questions as you respond to God:
 What do I want to communicate to God?
 What am I longing for in my relationship with God?
What do I desire in my prayer life?
 What secrets of my heart are ready to be expressed? Is there joy? grief? fear? gratitude?
Express your intimate self to God in your own personal way.

Step 4. Contemplatio (con-tem-plot-see-oh), “Contemplation”
Simply rest in the presence of God. Be passive and just enjoy God. Settle into the tenderness of God’s love.

(Variation) Step 4/ Additional Step 5. Actio (ax-ee-oh); “Action”
Ask yourself the following questions in utter honesty:
 How is God challenging me?
 Is there a good thing God is calling me to do?
 Is there a harmful thing God wants me to stop doing?
 What is the next step I need to take?
Decide on a course of action

MAGISTER NOSTER: God as Magister Noster

In the most recent wandering in my upper room (with doors locked), I wondered about how Jesus was a carpenter with his dad up until his public ministry. In my later years (and at 82 years old, I am about as late as you can get), I am becoming more recalcitrant about religion in general, is a strange, traditional way.

This latest Lectio Divina experience (Philippians 2:5) was about how humans know God through their human experiences. The problem is that it tells us a lot about ourselves but very little about God. One such example is seeing Christ as the Good Shepherd, the vine and branches, or living water. My thoughts in this Lectio took me to relate to God as a teacher, the Magister Noster (Our Lord, Our Master, or Our Teacher). Here are some of my thoughts on this subject.

GOD AS MAGISTER NOSTER

The best way to know the invisible God is to know as much as possible about what it means to be fully human. This is ironic at best but can lead to much confusion at worst. The best way to discover what it means to be fully human is to uncover the six questions in The Divine Equation that teach us how to reach the intended purpose of our species.

The best way to learn how to find the correct and authentic answers to life’s most fundamental challenges is to join the School of Love with Christ as headmaster.

The best way to join the School of Love is to die to your human self and accept adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, the creator of the School of Love. Everyone is eligible to join this school. You must want to attend and follow the instructions of the Headmaster.

There is only one rule in this School of Love: to love others as Christ loved us. It takes a lifetime of struggle to overcome and keep at bay the false teachings of The Great Accuser.

The Father is on the board of directors or school board.

The Son is the headmaster and our only instructor.

Alumni and alumnae are all those in the Church Universal, those in heaven, those marked with the sign of the cross on their foreheads while on earth, and those given a second chance to proclaim Jesus is Lord, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is our guidance counselor and gives us the energy to be able to relate to a God that is real but unseen.

The Scripture is our textbook where we get the answers to The Divine Equation.

Our curriculum is to answer six questions that answer the questions “What does it mean to be fully human? What is our destiny, the end result of our intelligent progression (evolution)? Each answer depends on getting the previous one correct because it is part of one reality all linked together.

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

Our final examination is when we die and get to provide answers to what we have learned about what Christ taught us about loving others as He loved us.

Next Blog:

CHRIST AS MAGISTER NOSTER

THREE BATTLES YOU MUST FIGHT TO WIN

In my latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I was struck by the notion of how difficult it is to live in the world and yet also be a citizen and adopted son in the Kingdom of Heaven. This dual citizenship causes anxiety sometimes and often a choice between what seems like conflicting goods.

What brings all this to mind is the controversy in the Catholic Universal Church between ideologies of freedom to adapt the Gospel to modern times versus the freedom that comes with following what the traditions and teachings of the Church have held since the beginning.

I follow the advice that Christ is giving me for my way, his truth, and the life I must lead to reach my destiny as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. The three battles I speak of are my own battles to move from my false self to my true self. I only offer these as struggles that I face, not those you have.

Here are the three battles (struggles) I face each day as I seek God as I am and wherever I am. As I become more and more aware of what is happening in my struggles, I am aware that these three battles take place in my mind. Still, the context of my humanity inexorably pulls at my free will to choose what I should do as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.

SOME ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT MY BATTLE

  1. I have been adopted into the kingdom of heaven as an heir, not just a worker.
  2. Once I had a rudimentary notion of what that meant, I knew that the battleground was my mind and heart. I made a choice that the source of my energy, my center of meaning, and how I become more human is to die to my inclinations of what the world tells me is what it means to be human and accept God’s invitation to be incorruptible and live as humans were intended.
  3. The struggle is that each day, these two world views clash on the battleground of my heart, sometimes pulling me in directions I do not want to do. St. Paul in Romans 5 says it has the best description of the struggle I face along with its resolution.

Sin and Death.*

13Did the good, then, become death for me? Of course not! Sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin, worked death in me through the good, so that sin might become sinful beyond measure through the commandment.i

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin.j

15What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.

16Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good.

17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

18For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.k

19For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.

20Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

21So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.

22For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self,

23l but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.*

24Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?

25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin.m

Being a human being and citizen of the world, I make good choices for myself. Some of these choices are not good for me and can actually cause damage to my promise to “Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)

THE BATTLE TO BE FULLY HUMAN AS A MEMBER OF THE WORLD (THE POWER TO GIVE MY POWER TO GOD AS A GIFT) I rarely think about my will and God’s will be in a tug of war, but it is true. I can feel the tension. My battle is to row against the current of life (die to self and the limitations of human love, power, trust, goodness) rather than just coasting down the stream. You know you are a member of the mystical body of Christ when you notice the struggle, and it is difficult (but not impossible). This is the struggle we have because we are of the human species (or any species with reasoning and free choice). In fact, using the rule of opposites, it is only when you give up your will to a higher power than yours that you become fully human. Using the assumptions of the world makes no sense. Using The Christ Principle as the source of power makes perfect sense, although I still do not comprehend how it works.

Characteristics

  • I am the center of my universe (the one that begins with I am born and ends when I die. I make choices that affect my next level of intelligent progression (evolution) during that time. I can reason for a reason and have the ability to choose what I reason.
  • These choices can either come from me or from outside me. My reason is to tell me what choices are good for me and what is terrible for my fulfillment as a human being.
  • My whole purpose in life is to move to this next step in my evolution, the spiritual universe. Not everyone gets to the point where they can even see this. This level is one of knowledge is one of its characteristics.
  • The only way I can move to this next step is by dying to myself (giving up my choice to be the center of my own universe and why I am). Only by dying I can rise to this next level, and only then because someone has accepted me as a citizen of another universe, the spiritual one.
  • Humanity, with all its nobility and faults and failings, cannot help me move higher in my evolution. This power is the Word that formed a base of the physical universe, one on which to build to the next level of evolution, life, but one that continues to progress due to the DNA imprinted by its founder.

THE BATTLE TO BE FULL HUMAN AS A MEMBER OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN– (THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION IN MY MIND AND HEART) It all comes down to this: Can you die to self and all the assumptions that keep our humanity from reaching its intended potential, even if it goes against your human senses and reasoning? The Divine Equation contains the six questions each person must answer to get to heaven as an adopted son or daughter of the Father and become fully human as nature intended. This is a battle between the world and the spirit. Because of human choice, we have the free will to select whatever makes us fulfilled but simply lack the energy to move to the next level of our evolution, the incorruptibility of the spirit. The Divine Equation is God becoming human to show us not only the Equation (hence the Divine part of the title) but also the answers. They are answers of the heart and require us to give up what we think our humanity is to possess what it truly is, adoption by the Father. This is a struggle because we made the free choice to give away our free choice in favor of “Having in us the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). We began this struggle when the cross was made on our foreheads, and God accepted us as adopted sons and daughters.

Characteristics:

  • I have reason for a reason, but I also can choose for a reason. The problem comes with human nature (good but flawed). The evil option is not a part of our choice (Genesis 2-3), and we can choose evil without recrimination in this lifetime from birth to death.
  • This power comes not from me or any other human who ever lived. The power of Love itself manifests through this Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us to tell us what to do and how to do it.
  • Like all humans, I have the power to say YES or NO to anything. If I choose YES, I become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven here on earth, preparing to live in incorruptibility and learning how to love with all my mind, heart, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36).
  • Christ is the Messiah because he taught those who will listen and be baptized with water and the spirit to say their individual YES mingled with the YES of creation. This power or energy comes through the Holy Spirit and enables each of us to say YES to the sign of contradiction (the cross) when reason says, “It doesn’t make sense.”
  • We have access to the KNOWLEDGE that can free us to move to the next step in our intelligent progress. We also can choose what is authentic and will lead us to incorruptibility due to The Christ Principle showing us how to move to the next level of our covenant relationship with the one God.
  • What is left is me, the individual, actually good what is good for me here in the world or what is good for me now which is suitable for my new creation as adopted son or daughter of the Father. It is not that the world is terrible (good and bad choices are part of being human).
  • The world lacks the way, what is accurate, and what is the life that we should live. I am a pilgrim in a foreign land (the world) when I am Baptized as the Father’s adopted son (daughter). All words, actions, and behaviors are the opposite of the ones we can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell).
  • I am not only challenged to love others as Christ loved me, but I also have the power to do that through contemplative Lay Cistercian practices of placing myself in the presence of Love and just waiting, hoping for mercy for my shortcomings, yet humbled by the opportunity to be called a friend by Christ. (John 17)

THE BATTLE TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE (THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD OR EVIL) There is another battle we face and must face until we die. It is the same battle Adam and Eve faced. It is the battle of knowing what is good for us and what is bad for us. If the first battle was one to know what is good or evil, then the second battle I must win (and it takes a lifetime of struggle to win) is that of using that knowledge to love as one adopted by God as heir to the kingdom. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that knowledge precedes love. I believe that. I might add that this must be the knowledge from God as revealed through Jesus Christ.

Characteristics

  • This third battle is about the Church Universal. As an individual, I show up for seventy or eighty years if I am lucky. Why? What do I add to what has already gone on? As one who has been accepted by God as adopted, and as one who has given his freedom to choose to God as a gift he does not have, I, and all those who are signed with the cross form a gathering of those who wait for the Lord until he comes again in glory. Wait where?
  • I wait on this earth until I can continue my citizenship as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. While I wait, I practice those charisms to be closer to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is called serving others. Matthew 25.
  • God is One. The Church is One with God; those who are still struggling to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) (militant), and those who are judged worthy of being in the present before the Throne of the Lamb (triumphant), plus all those not yet perfect and awaiting their second chance (Purgatory).
  • The Church Universe is a school of love with Christ as Magister Noster (our teacher).

What do we learn? The purpose of life is to KNOW, LOVE, and SERVE God in this world until death so that we can be happy with God as an adopted son or daughter, in the next life and fulfill what it means to be human.

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THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: WHAT IS YOUR MEASURING STICK?

This title seems like it is innocuous, don’t you think? A couple of days ago, in my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I thought of Christ as my yardstick to measure my behavior, approach to the Sacred, and obligations as a Lay Cistercian (www.trappist.net). I realize that I can never measure up to what Christ is, even though we have the admonition to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Wonder if your measuring stick is unable to be measured? “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.c Matthew 7:2 What are the implications of having a measuring stick that is The Christ Principle?

MY BEHAVIOR AS ONE WHO BELIEVES IN JESUS AS LORD

Jesus alone is the one against whom I must measure my behaviors to prioritize what I consider reality (physical universe, mental universe, and spiritual universe). Humans receive three gifts from God to discover their purpose and how they fit into that purpose. Not everyone will recognize these gifts as coming from God. Not everyone will discover three universes (the World exists in only two universes, physical and mental) comprising what is real. Not everyone will recognize how all of this fits together. Not everyone will grasp the meaning of fierce love (pure love of God’s nature). Not everyone will be able to move past just dying to the next phase of reality, the Kingdom of Heaven. And especially how the cross, far from being a symbol of derision and hopelessness, becomes our way, a way to be what is accurate, and a way to be what is the truth so that our life is our intelligent design (evolution) intended. What does not make sense to human experience using only reasoning and free will, makes perfect sense when I die to myself and my reliance on human energy to rise to what my human nature intended all along but was thwarted by the choice of Adam and Eve, our ancestors.

The only way to measure reality is by the cross, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly for the Gentiles.

Using the right measuring stick is vital that you will miss the spiritual universe altogether if you use the wrong one. To be aware of these three gifts, you must use God’s rules, not your own. To enter the Kingdom of Heaven is a gift of Faith that does not originate with you. Scripture tells us that Christ has chosen us and not the other way around. Why is that?

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE

Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, is not only the center of my life, personally but the center of all reality. That includes the physical universe of what is seen and unseen, the mental universe of what is visible and invisible, and the spiritual universe. Christ is a measuring stick in the physical and mental universes as both human and divine nature, one God, and the key that opened the spiritual universe to humans once again. At the same time, we live but are also incorruptible.

I happen to stumble into this ongoing saga of life for eighty years. Did all this happen by accident? Am I a product of my nature, a noble but flawed experiment? Or, am I what it intended from before there was a before? This is intelligent progress, intelligent design from a higher power, so beyond human conception that our collective hearts fumbled trying to satisfy the collective longing in our DNA to somehow relate to an unseen force within us. St. Augustine captured this existential longing to move from dissonance to resonance when he said: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Genesis is an early attempt to address our faulted human nature, at once noble yet so prone to do what is not suitable for us, in terms of our terminal intention to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father forever. Reason and free choice are so ingrained in human experience that it comes from the very DNA from which all reality evolves, a force beyond our comprehension that, with a Word (John 1:1) and a thought, began an improbable love study, one that embodies the emotions of Romeo and Juliet from Shakespear, the classic heroic myths of Ulysses and Beowulf, the triumphs of Saints who died to self as examples for us so that we might have the courage to do the same. It is the martyrdom of the ordinary life, not one of blood, although we might be called to such a sacrifice of love.

There are four treatments or applications that help me use The Christ Principle in my living out each moment of my existence in the framework of corruption of matter and mind using the incorruptible design of my ultimate purpose (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:38).

USE THE ENERGY THAT COMES FROM OUTSIDE OF MYSELF TO SUSTAIN ME –– To use this energy, you must know about it, you must be willing to learn how to use it, and then use it to move from your false self tied only to this moral universe of matter and mind to your true inheritance as the adopted son of the Father, paid for by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to reunite us with God again, to be a ransom for the many and The Christ Principle for all reality. Christ told us to follow his way, seek the truth that comes from his words and deeds, and share this life of God in us with those around us.

FOLLOW THE FOLLOWERS OF THOSE WHO WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CHRIST — All those who follow the way are sinners (except Jesus and his mother, and only Mary because the Holy Spirit overshadowed her with grace). To move from the corruption of the effects of original sin to incorruptibility is not a one-time act of belief, and then you are done. Human nature does not work like that. Divine nature does. Because of the effects of original sin, at each moment, we are in a battle between good and evil, the very same one Adam and Eve experienced, the archetype of what it means to be human. Each morning, the struggle begins. I can’t change my human nature from being so prone to evil (or noble and heroic). Our nature is not evil because God does create evil. The purpose of Genesis is to elaborate on why individuals are prone to doing bad things and yet are capable of so much good. In the Old Testament Scriptures, we can measure ourselves by what the tribes do or don’t do to keep the covenant with God. You can measure how well you do if you keep the Law. If you don’t, God is displeased, and bad things happen, such as losing the ten tribes of Israel. But keeping the Law itself does not move Israel forward.

Someone had to come to tell them and show them how to move to the next step without destroying anything essential to the covenant from the past. Some get this, while others do not. The New Testament Scriptures are a record of how Jesus is the Messiah and what to do to claim inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. John 20:30-31. This record is one of how to love and receive instruction from The Christ Principle. The Old Testament gives us a record of WHY and WHAT for the Messiah. The New Testament gives us another record of fulfillment by moving to the next step of spiritual progression, returning to Resonance, opening up to Incorruptibility, and finally claiming the inheritance intended from the beginning. All of this activity is just for me (and all the other me’s that are born and die within the parameters of our human nature).

I MEASURE THE ENERGY OF GOD NOT BY MY STANDARDS BUT BY MOVING FROM MY FALSE SELF TO MY TRUE SELF, THUS GROWING IN THE CAPACITY FOR GOD WITHIN ME. I get to choose God by a YES or NO. Within the crucible of my inner self, I mix humanity (humanity) and my new life in Christ Jesus in Baptism (adoption). Jesus gave me a way to keep the flames of faith from flickering out. It is not easy and demands work (original sin) to maintain my center and energy to keep the world and its false promises from overtaking the sign of contradiction (the cross). My human nature does not produce this kind of energy. I can only get it from one source, The Christ Principle. The profound reason I joined Lay Cistercians and practice Cistercian practices and charisms in my life is that it is a way I discovered that allows me to die to self so that Christ might grow and I might decrease. It is a daily battle, and I have on my body the many times I have failed to love others as Christ loved me. I carry that burden as part of who I am.

THE YARDSTICK IS NOT OF THIS WORLD. The yardstick to measure scientific problems is the tools of mathematics, chemistry, physics, and medicine, to name just a few languages that uncover the truth. The yardstick of the spiritual universe is The Christ Principle and the languages of faith, hope, and love. The Divine Equation is provided to humans by God becoming human and giving us the way to solve it, the truth to know what it is, and the remainder of our lives to practice being adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We know we got it right because our yardstick is not of this world. What we measure is not matter, time, the energy of physics, or distance, but how much we loved others as Christ loved us?

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE IS ABOUT DOING; DOING IS ABOUT KNOWING; KNOWING IS ABOUT LOVING; LOVING IS ALL ABOUT DOING. This is the doing that is incorruptible and lasts forever.

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WONDER IF… there is no god, no Jesus Christ, no holy spirit, no resurrection, no afterlife…

Human reasoning is a beautiful attribute that animals don’t share and, as far as we can tell, no one has but our species. I find t interesting that, using what I know of what the purpose of life is, the same reasoning that compels me to have a fierce love of Christ Jesus, also propels me to even raise the possibility that God does not exist, and that all of this religion stuff is the “opium of the people.” In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I entertained such thoughts and would like to share them with you.

IF GOD DOES NOT EXIST, AS ATHEISTS CLAIM AND AGNOSTICS SUPPOSE…

THEN, atheists do not exist, for how can you have someone for something that is not anything.

THEN, there is no heaven after we die, which means the only meaning we find is what we discover about life, which is not flawed but limited to whatever time we breathe.

THEN, there is no resurrection from the dead and no immortality as adopted sons and daughters of the Father because there is no Father, the source of pure energy, knowledge, love, and service.

THEN, there can be no Church, the living body of Christ on earth, in heaven, and in purgatory, a place of second chances.

THEN, The Ten Commandments do not exist, nor does God speak through Israel and the Prophets about the Messiah.

THEN, I am the center of the universe for whatever time I have on earth, which also happens to be true if I hold that God exists.

THEN, what is true is what I choose to make it, but I am limited by whatever societies or groups of people who have dominant ideas have (mental predators), and I am made to conform or suffer consequences.

THEN, there are only two universes, not three. I am god because no one can tell me differently.

THEN, no one can tell me what is good for my body, what I should believe, who should be my friends, why I am, and the meaning of love.

THEN, I revert to my animal instincts because I want to get as much money, power, authority, and pleasure for pleasure and territory as I can while I live.

THEN, Democrat or Republican platforms become my morality or other anomalies to intelligent human design.

THEN, suicide and euthanasia, abortion of any life, murder, and stealing become amoral. I do what I want when I want.

THEN, there is no sacrifice with love, no loving others as you want to be loved, and no helping others in need.

If there is no god, then by using all those ideas and practices that Jesus left us 2000 years ago, I can have a fulfilled life because The Divine Equation helps me become the human I was destined to be at the end of evolution.

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BALANCE IN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER: SLEEPING ON THE EDGE

This morning at 2:30 a.m., I make my pilgrimage to the bathroom. Usually, when I come back to bed, I do a mini-Lectio Divina with my patron Saint, Michael, and ask him to join me as we approach Jesus to give glory and honor to the Father with the Holy Spirit. I use the Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) to place myself in the presence of Christ and then just wait. This morning, true to form, I thought about waking up just fifteen minutes before and finding myself on the very edge of the bed, almost ready to fall off. When I came back from my break, I thought of being on the edge of the bed during my mini-Lectio. I am sure all of this happens in just a moment, but I thought of how the balance was important in my life as a Professed Lay Cistercian in that memory. What does balance mean in my approach to reality using the rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Trappist spirituality? Maybe balance in my spiritual life means I sleep in the middle of the bed and not one inch from the edge. Maybe balance means I take a step back and see if I am a perpetual dweller on the fringes of my spirituality. Using the bed analogy, what are the two fringes? Typical political commentators sometimes speak of a “right-wing” instead of the “left-wing.” I don’t like that description of the two opposing sides. Instead, If Christ is your bed, you can fall off one side or the other. Depending on what?

TOO MUCH CHRIST VERSES TOO LITTLE — Can there be such a thing as “too much Christ”? Yes and No. Yes, in that, when we use Lectio Divina as a platform to push our personal agenda about how others seek God, we think everyone must agree on my way or the highway. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Not just by reading and praying about it, but when all of that comes into our hearts, we proclaim that Jesus is Lord. We can’t do that without the Holy Spirit. No, in that Christ is in all and the fulfillment of our human nature, our destiny to re-enter the Garden of Eden, the reason why we have human reasoning and the ability to choose what is true. In the photo above, you see a cup that we receive at Baptism from the Father as a sign of our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. We fill this cup with God’s own life (grace), the energy of the relationship of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christ came to give us life and teach us how to love others as He loves us. John 10:10 puts it this way: “7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Christ would not leave each generation as orphans. The expressed reason for entrusting his mission, to give all honor and glory to the Father, to human and sinful people, is to ensure that we have the grace to call the Father “Abba.” Our heritage shows us how the Sacraments are all instituted by Christ to give us the grace to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Humans don’t produce grace. That comes from God alone. We can share it through our good works (Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s rule). Good works, in this sense, is the grace we receive from God for doing what He showed us, not that we have earned by saying lots of prayers. Faith informs our good works. We need balance.

When we pass over to new life in Christ, Christ will ask us to show us the results of our stewardship. All we have is our cup of salvation by which we have called the Lord to be saved and forgiven our sins. This brings up another issue, What happens to people who are saved but have not repented of their sins? Sin has consequences.

PURIFICATION IN FIRE VERSES HEALING NEXT TO HEART OF CHRIST — Purgatory has always been somewhat of an appendix to the Body of Christ for me. My faith, informed by reason, suggests that it is another way for God to show us his mercy. How so? I am not sure what it does, but it is all the same.

In the extreme sense of punishment for sins that are repented but not atoned for, Purgatory is one side of the bed. The other side is that we automatically get a “Pass Go” on Heaven and are automatically ushered before the Throne of God to enjoy the beatific vision forever. I would like to believe that, but I have some difficulties with the approach. First of all, it is too much like predetermination. You can “sin bravely,” as Luther suggests, because the blood of Christ has covered your rottenness much like the Sherman-Williams paint log has the world being doused in paint. I would love to believe this because I would be able to do anything that the World suggests is pleasure without consequences. Remember, I said all choices have consequences. This concept of the nature of man has no responsibility for sin, so there is no atonement needed. It is not consistent with human nature and what happened in Genesis 2-3. The consequences of sin are death, pain, suffering, murder (Cain and Abel), and living in a condition of imperfection. I have another view that I think is more consistent with human nature and reality.

Let’s say, for example, that someone steals $1,599 from your cookie jar at home. Five days later, they catch the thief, a friend of yours who knew how to break into your back door and where you kept the cookie jar. You confront him, and he tells you he is sorry that he just went crazy and will never do it again. You tell him that you forgive him, and the police take him away for trial. Until the money is returned, the forgiveness is hollow, it is genuine, but you must have restitution to resonate with this choice he made to rob you and break into your home. What is missing in this scenario? You still don’t have your money.

Here is another example for those who think that all it takes is to ask forgiveness, and you can get on the conveyor belt to heaven without restitution for your sin. All sin has consequences. You might be thinking that Christ never mentioned this in the Scriptures. You would be wrong. The most obvious example of restitution is Christ himself. In the Genesis story, Adam and Eve sin against God. This has consequences. Did you notice that the snake, Adam, or Eve did not say to God that they were sorry? What did they say? The snake made me do it, says Eve; Adam blamed his wife and did not take responsibility for the hurt they caused God. They are cast out of the Garden of Eden and suffer the effects of that sin. The Genesis story is a brilliant statement of where we find ourselves about God. It would not be until God Himself, in the form of Jesus, became human would save ourselves from being barred from a relationship with God again. Christ is the one who paid the ransom for Adam and Eve’s lack of awareness of what they had done to God. In restitution theory, Adam and Eve offended God. The offense is measured by the one offended, in this case, God. The unintended consequences of this disobedience were that Adam or Eve, representing humanity, could not say, “I am sorry, please forgive me, God, for having placed myself as God.” In His infinite mercy and love, God sent his only Son to reestablish the link. The Son’s mission was to show us how to live with love in our minds and hearts.

BALANCE AS A LAY CISTERCIAN

Here are some actual situations where I use balance to keep my proper perspective as a Lay Cistercian.

I do not wish to use the schedule used by contemplative monks and nuns in a monastery. This is a different context of contemplative practice from living in the world. Not better, just different. Balance for a contemplative might be different because the environments are different, but so is each individual Lay Cistercian or Trappist monk.

We pray with our being without even knowing we do so. If I am aware that I must seek God each day in whatever comes my way, I sanctify the moment, not a time or place. Being free from worrying about praying this or that or doing enough as a Lay Cistercian to pray as much as possible during the day is not what I call balanced.

I am not in a mental place where I can name all the people for whom I pray by name. Balance here means I gather all my intentions into one act of praise to the Father through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Balance means my prayers are short and straightforward. I tend to be short with my verbal prayer and long with my contemplative prayers in the silence of my heart. I do not judge others going on to pray out loud for ten minutes.

FIVE contemplative THOUGHTS IN SEARCH OF CLOSURE

You might have some different ideas about this. Five of my thoughts that I still romance after all these years follow. I guess I never will ultimately reach the depth of their significance in my seeking God in my daily living. “That in all things, God be glorified.” –St. Benedict

  1. EVERYTHING HAS A BEGINNING AND AN END: Everything in the physical universe (including you, me, all living things, matter, energy, and time) has a beginning and an end. We have a beginning and an end in the mental universe (only humans live here) (70 or 80 years, if we are strong). In the spiritual universe, we enter Baptism, where Christ chooses us to be adopted sons or daughters; we have a beginning (Baptism) and an end (Heaven). Look at the URL of Ozymandius: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4vk0TLrpcY.
  2. WE CANNOT KNOW GOD OR STAND IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD WITHOUT FRYING OUR NEURONS: Human nature and divine nature are two completely separate beings. That is why Philippians 2:5-12 is so essential in my spiritual thinking. When I first realized that I could not contain, much less understand the mysteries of Faith as God understands them (Baptism of Adoption, Eucharist, and why trust sinful sons and daughters of Adam and Eve with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to name a few), I just slightly began to comprehend the statement of St. Thomas Aquinas that everything he wrote about God to this point was so much straw, compared to who God really is. We don’t access God by knowledge alone but by Faith, and even that comes to us through the Holy Spirit. It is true, we can somewhat know God as looking through a frosty glass but never face to face. Christ alone is our mediator with the Father, who intercedes on our behalf to ask for mercy, the one who shares His very self (human and divine nature) with sinful people like ourselves.
  3. I WORRY ONLY ABOUT TRYING EACH DAY TO SEEK GOD AS I AM AND WHERE I AM: Do you remember the passage in the Scriptures where Jesus is trying to focus our thoughts on how to love others as He loves us? I love to look for patterns in reality, such as how all things fit together in the Old and New Testaments. One such pattern resulting from my attempting Lectio Divina each day is that of worry. I worry less about things I consider non-essential to my purpose (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36). Because I try to seek God every day as I am and where I am, I don’t worry about the external situations I find myself in, such as COVID 19. At 79.10 years old, I just age in place and take each day as a lifetime. Read the verses below about worry.

Do Not Worry25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[k] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
True worry is productive.

4. EUCHARIST IS CHRIST’S OWN BODY AND BLOOD GIVEN FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS. Perhaps the most conflicting and misunderstood of Christ’s commands is to believe that He exists under the appearance of bread and wine. It doesn’t fit today’s self-righteous relativism that glories in the worst part of our human nature, sin. If you really believe that Christ is present, body and blood, soul and divinity, why would you not want to spend your time in this precious gift of self, given just for you? I have dual citizenship that struggles to compete for my free will. The choice is the only aspect of each individual human that God does not have. The Blessed Mother was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, which is why she could give her YES. Faith is that gift from God that enables each of us who are Baptized to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. The problem is that there is a hidden but natural pull between belief and unbelief in my mind and heart. St. Thomas Aquinas says: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” I have accepted that my struggle is part of the love which I must endure to say Jesus is Lord. I do not have the power by myself to overcome the seductions that the Lord of Darkness beckons me to embrace. My struggle is a prayer to Christ to help me move from my false self to my true self. Each day, I must begin the struggle again, hoping that I will win the battle that day.

Last year, I just realized what the saying “The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” means. 5, THE CHURCH IS HOLY, BUT THE TEMPORAL LIVING OUT OF THAT HOLINESS IS MADE BY SINFUL PERSONS WHO CAN MAKE POOR CHOICES, AND THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO THOSE CHOICES. This occurred to me in a Lectio Divina when I looked at the contradiction between good and evil in Genesis 2-3. First, what God made is good. The butterflies, the fish in the seas, the clouds in the sky, and the animals, including humans. All have a good nature. Humans have something no other species has, the ability to reason and know and the freedom to choose. The problem comes not from the ability to choose but from what we choose and its intended and unintended consequences. Christ assumed our human nature to teach us how to love, which is the ultimate purpose of being human. Although St. Paul cleverly writes that “He who knew no sin became sin for us, Christ did not sin.”

The Ministry of Reconciliation.

11* Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we are clearly apparent to God, and I hope we are also apparent to your consciousness.g

12We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you an opportunity to boast of us, so that you may have something to say to those who boast of external appearance rather than of the heart.h

13For if we are out of our minds,* it is for God; if we are rational, it is for you.

14* For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died.i

15He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.j

16Consequently,* from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.

17k So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

18* And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation,

19namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.l

20So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.m

21* For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,n so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/2corinthians/5

Each individual who ever lived (except Christ and his mother, Mary) was born into sin. This is another way of saying that we have problems choosing what is good or bad. The Church is holy, but those in the Church Militant (left on earth to live out our lives until we die) must struggle against Satan to win the battle of what is good or evil. These days, relativism and erroneous doctrines compete for our belief. Each day, each person signed with the cross on their forehead at Baptism must choose. Sometimes we get it wrong, but Christ gives us a way to make all things new, over and over.

The struggle is important, not the potholes we step in so frequently.

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FERTILIZER FOR FAITH: The God of Second Chances

You know the parable of the good seed falling on good ground. There are three fertilizers that Christ told us to use to keep the soil of our Faith from drying up and becoming sterile. It is no accident that God is depicted as hiring Adam and Eve to take care of the Garden of Eden. The critical lesson of Genesis is that humans have a nature that is created by God (Genesis 2-3), and yet Adam and Eve (prototypes of all humanity) somehow messed it up. God gave us a choice of good or evil, but humans had no direction as to what was good or evil. Human nature is good, but we continue to mess up our choices individually, even today.

God does abandon us to our own folly but promised someone to save us from our own natural inclinations to mess things up by choosing ourselves as a god. Unlike human inclinations to harbor ill feelings and cut off those that do us evil, God is a God of second chances. He gave Adam and Eve (humanity) a second chance by sending His only -begotten Son to both tell us and show us how to use our second chance, but we humans killed Christ, the messenger. Even then, God gave us second chances by allowing us to be adopted sons and daughters with Baptism, feed us with Eucharist, and forgive us our folly and sinfulness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation by making all things new (over and over and over). Even when we are dead and have wasted our lives rejecting God and mocking his commandment to love one another as He loved us. He knew us well and had to become one of us to tell us and show us how to do it correctly, and we still do not get it. (Philippians 2:5-12) But this is not all there is. We did and are judged before the Throne of the Lamb, and no human, except Mary, can look Jesus in the eye and say, “I actually got it correct.” The Church is not immoral, but individuals within it have chosen the wrong path several times in the history of trying to do what Jesus intended. The Church is Holy, but all members (except Jesus and Mary) are sinful and inherit original sin from our ancestors. This is why we need constant conversion of morals each day. That takes work on our part. Being a Lay Cistercian and following its Charisms and Practices has allowed me to reduce complexity to simplicity and simply seek God each day where I am and as I am.

Baptism allows us to have dual citizenship as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and our kingdom is not of this world, but we still are citizens of the world until we die. Throughout history, the Saints have called us out when we have chosen our pitiful self as god over the one and true Lord of Hosts. It doesn’t help that the Lord of this world is the Prince of Darkness (lack of knowledge, love, and service).

After we die, we get yet another chance to say YES to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit in Purgatory, a whole realm of second chances.

ADVICE FROM ONE WHO STUMBLES DOWN THE ROAD OF LIFE SEEKING KNOWLEDGE, LOVE, AND SERVICE

Don’t be seduced by all those religious wanna-be’s who tell you the Pope is leading us down the wrong path. He is perfect? Of course not, but neither are you.

Don’t forget that the Holy Spirit has a special bond with our Holy Father: he is infallible only in faith and morals and only when speaking “ex-cathedra.” That only happened twice and only after much study and consultation with others.

Critics of the Church are often more infallible in their own minds than a Pope can ever be.

Don’t look for the speck in your brother’s eye; take the beam out of your eye before telling your brother to take the speck out of his.

Judging Others.

1* a “Stop judging,* that you may not be judged.b

2For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.c

3Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?

4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?

5You hypocrite,* remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/7

Here is a valuable resource for Catholics who want to know what the Church actually says versus somebody who has an ax to grind. As you sow, so shall you reap. https://www.ecatholic2000.com/saints/clist.shtml

We are facing a war in the world, one with the Devil as Lord of the World. You can listen to the siren call of the world or the challenge of the cross to die to self to rise to the newness of life. One of these will get you to heaven.

Don’t listen to politicians who, with purientis auribus (itching ears), advocate evil, hatred, and injustice. The wages of sin are death. Listen to the late G.K. Chesterton from http://www.azquotes.com.

“Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“A society is in decay, final or transitional, when common sense really becomes uncommon.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

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

“I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they shall be governed by the ten thousand commandments” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton.

“Truth can understand error, but error cannot understand truth.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“The modern habit of saying “This is my opinion, but I may be wrong,” is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying “Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy, and it suits me,” – the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

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

Each of us has reason for a reason. Freedom to choose is at the center of all that is, just like gravity or much more powerful.

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ARE YOUR MOM AND DAD OR FAMILY MEMBERS IN HEAVEN?

Those still making our trek to the heavens are fond of saying that those around us who have died are in a better place or are reaping the rewards of a life well-lived. Is this a pious saying, or do we actually believe it? A test might be: do you pray for your loved ones that they are loosed from their sins, and if they are in Purgatory (a place of second chances if you missed the first one while alive on earth)? All prayers go straight to God, but asking your loved ones to join in your prayer is intercessory prayer.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is my go-to site for all things Catholic. http://www.usccb.org

Look up prayers for the dead and dying: https://www.usccb.org/prayers/prayers-death-and-dying

The Vatican News site is an excellent source of the latest from Rome. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope.html

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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU READ: Does the Church teach that we should not seek to convert the Jews?

I was involved this last week in a bit of controversy over a statement in the press about how the Church does not have to convert Jews. As with all the reports that try to cast doubt on Christ and the Church, this one is subtle and seems to state that the Church teaches conflicting ideas (a favorite pastime of nonbelievers who don’t have enough to do with their time).

Peeling back the onion layers, I looked to actual documents and some articles I trust over the secular press. The issue dates from 2015-to 2016, so it is not relevant to today’s issues, yet, the fact that it surfaced and caused a ripple in the minds of some people, is to be taken seriously. This is my take (who else would it be?)

The article I received that started all this commotion is from National Public Radio. I will add a commentary on it from another article, followed by what I consider a balanced approach to how other beliefs and faiths need to be seen in the light of The Christ Principle. You be the judge.

THE HEADLINE:

Catholics Should Not Try To Convert Jews, Vatican Commission Says

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December 10, 20151:26 PM ET

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Pope Francis, seen here listening to music in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, has said “a rich complementarity” exists between Jews and Catholics.

Gregorio Borgia/AP

Furthering a thaw in relations that began 50 years ago, the Vatican has released a new document about Catholics’ historic ties with Jews, whom Pope Benedict once called the church’s “fathers in faith.” Among the panel’s conclusions: Jews don’t need to be converted to find salvation.

“While affirming salvation through an explicit or even implicit faith in Christ,” the Vatican document reads, “the Church does not question the continued love of God for the chosen people of Israel.”

Titled “The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable,” the 10,000-word document calls for Jews and Christians to work together to make the world a better place by combating poverty and human suffering.

NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports:

“The new document states that owing to the Jewish roots of Christianity, Catholic dialogue with Judaism cannot in any way be compared with dialogue with other world religions. It says Jesus can only be understood in the Jewish context of his time.

“The document was drafted by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations With Jews; the commission was created following the release half a century ago of the groundbreaking document called Nostra Aetate — ‘In Our Times.’

“That document repudiated the idea of collective Jewish guilt for Jesus’ death.

“The new document says that from a detached coexistence, Catholics and Jews have arrived at a deep friendship. And it says Catholics must refrain from active attempts to convert Jews.”

The Vatican commission includes the work of Cardinal Kurt Koch and the Rev. Norbert Hofmann. They presented the results of their work Thursday alongside Edward Kessler, founder of the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, U.K., and Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs.

While it seeks to deal with hundreds of years of history, the Vatican document also quotes the current pope:

“Pope Francis states that ‘while it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of peoples’ (‘Evangelii gaudium,’ 249).”

Discussing the document today, Rosen said, “the very fact that we can talk about complementarity is itself a powerful demonstration of how far we have come along this remarkable journey of transformation and reconciliation between Catholics and Jews over the last half century.”

The commission’s document also cites Francis’ immediate predecessors:

“Judaism is not to be considered simply as another religion; the Jews are instead our ‘elder brothers’ (Saint Pope John Paul II), our ‘fathers in faith’ (Benedict XVI). Jesus was a Jew, was at home in the Jewish tradition of his time, and was decisively shaped by this religious milieu (cf. ‘Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,’ 20). His first disciples gathered around him had the same heritage and were defined by the same Jewish tradition in their everyday life.”

Having had some red flags go up on this topic, I decided to look for an article that comments on the above article. Here it is. Note that both of these articles are from 2015 and 2016, respectively.

“Conversion” of Jews: What Does the New Vatican Statement Say?

17/01/2016 Rome, Italy. Pope Francis' visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome. Pope Francis' speech to the Jewish Community of Rome.

Pope Francis’ visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome. Pope Francis’ speech to the Jewish Community of Rome.

An American Catholic offers a reflection on the recent statement on Catholic-Jewish relations from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Initial news headlines on the recent document issued by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews were somewhat misleading (such as: “New Vatican document: Catholics should not seek to convert Jews”). The term “convert” in this context is usually used to describe the acceptance of Jesus Christ by Jews, a process that the headline seems to dismiss. But in fact, the document insists that Christians are still to bear witness to the fulfillment of Judaism in Christ.

A somewhat more accurate but far less interesting, the headline might have read something like this: “New Vatican document: Catholics must honor Jewish faith in Old Covenant but a witness to Christ as its fulfillment.” Nonetheless, I’ve used the term “conversion” in my title because it draws attention to the difference between what the document says and what many might guess that it says.

The document in question is The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable (Rom 11:29). Perhaps the first thing that wary readers need to know is that this was not intended to be an exercise of the Magisterium. To quote its own Preface: “The text is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, but is a reflection prepared by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews on current theological questions that have developed since the Second Vatican Council. It is intended to be a starting point for further theological thought with a view to enriching and intensifying the theological dimension of Jewish-Catholic dialogue.”

The Problem

The problem with the relationship between Christians and Jews is that it is a deep mystery. In the first couple of centuries, many Christians would have had a natural instinct to exclaim: “Come on, old friends. You are so close! All of God’s promises to you are true, so true that they have now been fulfilled in Christ!”

As the centuries passed, however, the Jewish roots of Christianity tended to be undervalued in an overwhelmingly Gentile Church, and Christians too often viewed Jews as a stiff-necked people who had been rejected by God.

It took the post-Christian, semi-pagan horrors of the Holocaust in the 20th century to bring Catholics to the defense of Jews and to fuel a rethinking of the Christian-Jewish relationship. This rethinking went back to Scripture, particularly the Revelation we have received in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans — most notably in chapters 9-11.

The recovery of a deep respect for the mystery of the Old Covenant was moved to the forefront of Jewish-Christian relations by the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” (Nostra Aetate). Again, it is the purpose of this new text from the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews to reflect on the relevant theological questions as they have emerged and clarified themselves since the Council.

It was, after all, St. Paul who said of the Jewish people that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rm 11:29).

Key Points

This new document tells the history of Catholic dialogue with Jews since the Council, underscoring that it has a “special theological status”:

In spite of the historical breach and the painful conflicts arising from it, the Church remains conscious of its enduring continuity with Israel. Judaism is not to be considered simply another religion; the Jews are instead our “elder brothers” (Saint Pope John Paul II), our “fathers in faith” (Benedict XVI). Jesus was a Jew, was at home in the Jewish tradition of his time, and was decisively shaped by this religious milieu. [14]

This has important implications:

Fully and completely human, a Jew of his time, descendant of Abraham, son of David, shaped by the whole tradition of Israel, heir of the prophets, Jesus stands in continuity with his people and its history. On the other hand he is, in the light of the Christian faith, himself God—the Son—and he transcends time, history, and every earthly reality. The community of those who believe in him confesses his divinity (cf. Phil 2:6-11). In this sense he is perceived to be in discontinuity with the history that prepared his coming. From the perspective of the Christian faith, he fulfills the mission and expectations of Israel in a perfect way. [14]

For these reasons, dialogue between Jews and Christians cannot proceed as if these are two fundamentally diverse religions that developed independently or without mutual influence.

Moreover, while it is certainly true that the Church is the new people of God, “the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures” (23, quoted from Nostra Aetate, 4). Ultimately, God does not lie and He is always faithful. The covenant that God offered Israel is irrevocable and God’s elective fidelity is never repudiated.

In this light, any Christian effort to separate the two covenants, rejecting the Old Testament while retaining only the New, is a grave error. This is why Marcion was excommunicated in AD 144. Again, there is a deep mystery in the relationship between the covenants, in the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and in the relationship between Jews and Gentiles. As St. Paul wrote, “Just as you [Gentile Christians] were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy” (Rm 11:30-31).

17/01/2016 Rome, Italy. Pope Francis' visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome.

Pope Francis’ visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome

Avoiding Errors

But the text also cautions against two key errors. First, there are not two different but parallel ways of salvation for Christians and Jews: “The Church and Judaism cannot be represented as ‘two parallel ways to salvation,’ but…the Church must ‘witness to Christ as the Redeemer for all.’ The Christian faith confesses that God wants to lead all people to salvation, that Jesus Christ is the universal mediator of salvation, and that there is no ‘other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved’ (Acts 4:12).”(35)

Second, Jews are in fact called to membership in the Church: “The people of God attains a new dimension through Jesus, who calls his Church from both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Eph 2:11-22) on the basis of faith in Christ and by means of baptism, through which there is incorporation into his Body which is the Church” (41). And, “It is and remains a qualitative definition of the Church of the New Covenant that it consists of Jews and Gentiles, even if the quantitative proportions of Jewish and Gentile Christians may initially give a different impression” (42).

So where does this leave us? The Church must view evangelization of the Jews “in a different manner from… people of other religions and world views” (40). The text notes that the Church “neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews” — and, in fact, it is instructive to reflect that the Church has never, over 2,000 years of history, done this. This is highly suggestive that such a stance is part of her DNA.

But the call to evangelization must not be denied: “While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews” (40) and “Christian mission means that all Christians, in community with the Church, confess and proclaim the historical realization of God’s universal will for salvation in Christ Jesus” (42).

The upshot is that the Church uses a more nuanced language in speaking of her relationship with the Jews. It is not a question of “conversion” away from the Old Covenant, the law and the promises. Still less is it a question of hostility and rejection. It is rather a question of fulfillment in Christ. The Church does not see Judaism as a foreign and false religion, but as the root of her own development — a root which, for a mysterious reason, has not yet realized its fulfillment in Christ.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org, where this article originally appeared.

“The Logic of Peace”

“The violence of man toward man is in contradiction with every religion worthy of this name, and in particular with the great monotheistic religions,” Pope Francis said in his talk at Rome’s Great Synagogue during a January 17 visit. “Life is sacred, a gift from God,” he said. “The Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue says, ‘Do not kill.’ God is the God of life and always seeks to promote and defend it; and we, created in his image and likeness, are required to do the same.” “Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, independent of his origin or religious practice,” he said, recalling that God “extends his merciful hand to all, independent of their faith and their origin,” and “cares for those who need him the most: the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the defenseless.” “We must pray to him insistently so that he helps us to practice in Europe, in the Holy Land, in the Middle East, in Africa, and in every other part of the world, the logic of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and life.”—CNA

MY PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

What the word “convert” means depends upon how you use it. The beauty of the Church is that we have twenty centuries of trying to get it right, and even now, some have a problem.

Evangelization is letting the light of Christ shine in your heart so that others might see it and glorify God; proselytizing means you got to believe what I believe as I believe it, or you are not saved.

We evangelize all humans, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and others, because we want to share the “Good News,” but we don’t force it, and we don’t deny it. Christ told us in John 17 words that should comfort us. Read this Chapter prayerfully and as though Christ is speaking straight to you. He is.

The Prayer of Jesus.*

1When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven* and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,a

2* just as you gave him authority over all people,b so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.

3* Now this is eternal life,c that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.

4I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.

5Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.d

6“I revealed your name* to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

7Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,

8because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.

9I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours,e

10and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.f

11And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.

12When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.g

13But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.h

14I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.i

15* I do not ask that you take them out of the worldj but that you keep them from the evil one.

16They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.

17Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.k

18As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.l

19And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

20“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

21so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.m

22And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,

23I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

24Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am* they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.n

25Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me.o

26I made known to them your name and I will make it known,* that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

Read the encyclical Nostra Aetate. It gives a balanced approach to believing and not becoming God in how we treat others.  https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life says Christ. There is only one path to salvation, through, with, and in Christ. Scripture tells us, “Don’t you judge anyone in the Church, and let God judge anyone outside the Church.” 

Balance and trust that the heritage of the Church (guided by the Holy Spirit) won’t let us down, even when our clergy and laity sometimes do, is comforting.

LESSONS

All words have weight behind them. I use the saying: Whatever is received is received according to the disposition of the one who receives it. In the age where misinformation becomes an infallible truth (after all, the secular press would not knowingly deceive us with their own agenda), there is a need for critical examination measured against The Christ Principle.

SIX QUESTIONS YOU MUST ANSWER BEFORE YOU DIE, GRASSHOPPER.

Wait! Can you answer these six questions before you die? How do you know these are THE six questions you must answer before you die? How do you know they are not? This is my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) for today.

How is it you cannot?

In any event, I have the answers to these six questions. Who told you they were correct? The Holy Spirit told me where to look. How do you know the Holy Spirit told you where to look? How do you know these answers are correct ones? How do you know they were not?

The secret to answering these six questions comes with some strange requirements that I had to discover for myself.

1) The answers are available to any human who has reason and free will. They are not hidden, but you must know where to look.

2) Someone told me where to look and how to look, and this person never wrote anything down in a book.

3) The answers are without cost but will cost you everyTHING you possess.

4) What do you gain, or what is your reward? Nothing in this life, but everything in the next.

5)Wonder if I disagree with both your questions and your answers? It is your choice, but there are consequences with each choice we make.

6)In all that exists, you are self-aware if you are vital for seventy or eighty years. Why is that? In all that exists, you can reason and choose a YES or a NO. Only one behavior is core in that seventy or eighty years, and the rest are supportive (while some are destructive).

7)If we get the answers correct, we discover what it means to be fully human and the fulfillment of intelligent progression (evolution). Both the questions and the answers do not come from human nature but from divine nature. This divine nature wanted us to be fully human as intended and to be able to walk through the minefields of life without getting blown up by the Evil One.

8) God gave Himself to become human in all things but sin in the person of Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) This person died, giving us the key to unlocking these six questions with the correct answers. To ensure that this universal secret comes down to each successive human person, Jesus, Son of God, Savior, gave of Himself in the Real Presence of the Eucharist to sinful and wayward followers who struggle each day with the world’s cares. If you eat this bread, you will live forever. As the answers to these questions, this bread is available right now at no cost, and all it takes is a YES.

8)To get the correct questions and answers, you must die to yourself and be reborn as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father in Baptism. There are five gifts that God gave me to help me discover both the questions and answers.

  • A Book of Life in which everything you think and do is good and evil written in your heart with your mind.
  • A Golden String with which you are tread everything and everyone you want to join you in Heaven (sunsets, that good meal at Shula’s, the treasures of children and grandchildren, every prayer you ever said, all those who have died in the hope of the resurrection {even agnostics and atheists}). You can thread all your pets (I draw the line on mosquitoes) and take them to heave with you. How do you know all this is true? How do you know it is not?
  • A Compass to point me in the direction of the true way, the true truth, and the true-life in this world and the next.
  • A blackboard eraser with which I can use to cross out those failings and sins and rewrite the name of Jesus in its place.
  • A secret sign is known only to those who have received adopted by God (the sign of the cross made on your forehead when you were Baptized, once a year with ashes on Ash Wednesday, and when you are anointed with holy oil in Viaticum before you die and stand before God with the six questions with their six correct answers and receive judgment for taking care of God’s garden.

CAN YOU ANSWER THESE SIX QUESTIONS THAT SHOW THAT YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FULLY HUMAN?

To make things easier for you, I will give you the six questions that I received from the Holy Spirit. You may choose to use them or not. The answers come from The Divine Equation which identifies what it means to be fully human.

The answers must be done in succession, i.e., you must correctly answer the first question because you use that result to ask the next question on the list. It may take you a lifetime to answer these questions. Take your time, you have all the time there is.

A warning! Beware of getting stuck in front of the Mirror of Erisad. This is when you become more fixated on proving that there are different questions than the six and keep staring at the alternatives but NEVER answer the real questions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3GOhCA1HgA

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

If you won’t or can’t answer these questions, I urge you not to sit in front of the Mirror of Erisad.

Part II of this blog will give you more information about my journey to answer these six questions.

MAKE A PRIVATE RETREAT WITH THE SOUL OF THE APOSTOLATE: Ten Aides to Mental Prayer

I can remember reading The Soul of the Apostolate in College. This is the spiritual classic by DOM JEAN-BAPTIST CHAUTARD, O.C.S.O. (Abbot of Notre Dame de Sept Fons). This morning, the Holy Spirit tickled my neurons to bring up my previous encounters with this most revered of Cistercian writings. I not only enjoy reading this book, but I want to become what I read.

If you have not read it, use this opportunity to begin to do so. A warning: Reading this book is like drinking concentrated orange juice (you will need to water it down with your life experiences for a year). Take your time reading it. Like enjoying a delectable piece of German chocolate cake, savor each bit.

I offer you a site where you may choose to save it to your computer, then read so much every day or every week.

Click to access Dom-Chautard-The-Soul-of-the-Apostolate.pdf

I will print out for you the APPENDIX, which will give you a flavor of this book. Your challenge will be to take small bites from this masterpiece and mix it with your life experiences, then give glory to the Father through Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember your sign, the cross made on your forehead at Baptism and renewed on Ash Wednesday with ashes.

The Soul of the Apostolate By DOM JEAN-BAPTIST CHAUTARD, O.C.S.O. (Abbot of Notre Dame de Sept Fons)

TEN AIDS TO MENTAL PRAYER

Mental prayer is a furnace in which the watchfires of vigilance are constantly rekindled. Fidelity to mental prayer gives life to all our other pious exercises. By it, the soul will gradually acquire vigilance and a spirit of prayer, that is, a habit of ever more frequent recourse to God. Union with God in mental prayer will lead to intimate union with Him, even in the midst of our most absorbing occupations. 139 The soul, thus living in union with God, by custody of the heart, will draw down into itself, more and more, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the infused virtues, and perhaps God will call it to a higher degree of prayer. Dom Vital Lehodey’s splendid “Ways of Mental Prayer” (Paris, Lecoffre. Eng. Transl. Dublin, M. H. Gill) presents a clear and forceful summary of all the essentials of the ascent of the soul, through the various degrees of prayer, and gives rules by which we can ascertain whether a higher type of prayer is really a gift of God or the product of illusion. Before speaking of affective prayer, the first degree of the comparatively advanced prayer to which God ordinarily only calls souls who have attained custody of the heart by means of meditation, Fr. Rigoleuc points out in his fine book of “Spiritual Works” (Avignon, 1843, pp. 17ff.) ten ways of conversing with God when, after a sincere attempt, one finds it morally impossible to make a set meditation upon a subject prepared the evening before. We here summarise the suggestions of this holy writer: FIRST WAY. Take some spiritual book (New Testament, Following of Christ), read a few lines, pausing long in between — meditate a little on what you have read, trying to get the full meaning and to impress it on your mind. — Draw some holy affection, love, contrition, etc., from the reading. Avoid reading or meditating too much. — Every time you pause, remain as long as your mind finds it pleasant or useful to do so. SECOND WAY. Take some text of Holy Scripture, or some vocal prayer, like the Pater, Ave, or Credo, and say it over, stopping at each word, drawing our various holy sentiments, upon which you may dwell as long as you like. At the end, ask God for some grace or virtue, depending on what has been the subject of your meditations. Do not stop on any one word if it wearies or tires you. When you find no more matter for thought or affections, leave it and pass on quietly to the next. But when you feel moved by some good sentiment, remain there as long as it lasts, without going to the trouble of passing on to something else. — There is no necessity to be always making new acts; it is often quite enough to remain in the presence of God silently turning over in your mind the words you have already meditated upon, or savoring the affections they have aroused in your heart. THIRD WAY. When the prepared subject matter does not give you enough scope, or room for free action, make acts of faith, adoration, thanksgiving, hope, love, and so on, letting them range as wide and free as you please, pausing at each one to let it sink in. FOURTH WAY. When meditation is impossible, and you are too helpless and dried up to produce a single affection, tell Our Lord that it is your intention to make an act, for example, of contrition, every time you draw breath, or pass a bead of the rosary between your fingers, or say, vocally, some short prayer. Renew this assurance of your intention, from time to time, and then, if God suggests some other good thought, receive it with humility, and dwell upon it. FIFTH WAY. In a time of trial or dryness, if you are completely barren and powerless to make any acts or to have any thoughts, abandon yourself generously to suffering, without anxiety, and without making any effort to avoid it, making no other acts except this self-abandonment into the hands of God to suffer this trial and all it may please Him to send. 140 Or else you may unite your prayer with Our Lord’s Agony in the garden and His desolation upon the Cross. — See yourself attached to the Cross with the Saviour and stir yourself up to follow His example, and remain there suffering without flinching, until death. SIXTH WAY. A survey of your own conscience. — Admit your defects, passions, weaknesses, infirmities, helplessness, misery, nothingness. — Adore God’s judgments with regard to the state in which you find yourself. — Submit to His holy will. — Bless Him both for His punishments and for the favors of His mercy. — Humble yourself before His sovereign Majesty. — Sincerely confess your sins and infidelities to Him and ask Him to forgive you. — Take back all your false judgments and errors. — Detest all the wrongs you have done and resolve to correct yourself in the future. his kind of prayer is very free and unhampered and admits to all kinds of affections. It can be practiced at all times, especially in some unexpected trials, to submit to the punishments of God’s justice, or as a means of regaining recollection after a lot of activity and distracting affairs. SEVENTH WAY. Conjure up a vivid picture of the Last Things. Visualize yourself in agony, between time and eternity — between your past life and the judgment of God. — What would you wish to have done? How would you want to have lived? — Think of the pain you will feel then. — Call to mind your sins, your negligence, your abuse of grace. — How would you like to have acted in this or that situation? — Make up your mind to adopt a real, practical means of remedying those defects which give you the reason for anxiety. Visualize yourself dead, buried, rotting, forgotten by all. See yourself before the judgment seat of Christ: in purgatory — in hell. The more vivid the picture, the better will be your meditation. We all need this mystical death, to get dead flesh out of our soul, and to rise again, that is, to get free from corruption and sin. We need to go through this purgatory, in order to arrive at the enjoyment of God in this life. EIGHTH WAY. Apply your mind to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Address yourself to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, with all the respect that His Real Presence demands, unite yourself to Him and to all His operations in the Eucharist, where He is ceaselessly adoring, praising, and loving His Father, in the name of all men, and in the condition of a victim. Realize His recollection, His hidden life, His utter privation of everything, obedience, humility, and soon. Stir yourself up to imitate them, and resolve to do so according to as the occasions arise. Offer up Jesus to the Father, as the only Victim worthy of Him, and by Whom we can offer homage to Him, thank Him for His gifts, satisfy His justice, and oblige His mercy to help us. Offer yourself to sacrifice your being, your life, your work. Offer up to Him some act of virtue you propose to perform, some mortification upon which you have resolved, with a view to self-conquest, and offer this for the same ends for which Our Lord immolates Himself in the Holy Sacraments. — Make this offering with an ardent desire to add as much as possible to the glory He gives to His Father in this august mystery. End with a spiritual Communion. This is an excellent form of prayer, especially for your visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Get to know it well, because our happiness in this life depends on our union with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. 141 NINTH WAY. This prayer is to be made in the Name of Jesus Christ. It will arouse our confidence in God, and help us to enter into the spirit and the sentiments of Our Lord. Its foundation is the fact that we are united to the Son of God, and are His brothers, members of His Mystical Body; that He has made over to us all His merits, and left us the legacy of all the rewards owed Him by His Father for His labors and death. And this is what makes us capable of honoring God with worship worthy of Him, and gives us the right to treat with God, and, as it were, to exact His graces of Him as though by justice. — As creatures, we have not this right, still less as sinners, for there is an infinite disproportion between God and creatures, and infinite opposition between God and sinners. But because we are united to the Incarnate Word and are His brothers, and His members, we are enabled to appear before God with confidence, speak familiarly with Him and oblige Him to give us a favorable hearing, to grant our requests, and to grant us His graces, because of the alliance and union between us and His Son. Hence, we are to appear before God either to adore, to praise, or to love Him, by Jesus Christ working in us as the Head in His members, lifting us up, by His spirit, to an entirely divine state, or else to ask some favor in virtue of the merits of His Son. And for that purpose, we should remind Him of all that His well-beloved Son has done for Him, His life and death, and His sufferings, the reward for which belongs to us because of the deed of gift by which he has made it over to us. And this is the spirit in which we should recite the Divine Office. TENTH WAY. Simple attention to the presence of God, and meditation. Before starting out to meditate on the prepared topic, put yourself in the presence of God without making any other distinct thought, or stirring up in yourself any other sentiment except the respect and love for God which His presence inspires. — Be content to remain thus before God, in silence, in simple repose of the spirit as long as it satisfies you. After that, go on with your meditation in the usual way. It is a good thing to begin all your prayers in this way, and worthwhile to return to it after every point. — Relax in this simple awareness of God’s presence. — It is a way to gain real interior recollection. — You will develop the habit of centering your mind upon God and thus gradually pave die way for contemplation. — But do not remain this way out of pure laziness or just to avoid the trouble of making a meditation.

MAKE A CONTEMPLATIVE RETREAT IN THE SILENCE OF YOUR HEART

I made this contemplative retreat recently and found it to be life-changing and the most inspiring thoughts that I am still processing to assimilate into my personal spiritual worldview. I offer to share this with you, but be forewarned, it is not for the faint of heart, and you must go to a place where no one wants to look.

There is no cost to this retreat but making it will cost you everyTHING you have. There is no retreat director or spiritual director for this retreat. It is just you and Christ in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It does use a YouTube from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, and the subject is “His Last Words.” There are no discussion groups or comments to share from me or anyone else, just you and Jesus. There are four sessions to this retreat that you must complete. Turn on the closed caption for better viewing. I came up with this approach to Lay Cistercian spirituality to focus on silence, solitude, stillness in my heart, and just waiting patiently for Christ to speak through my overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. It works so well for me that I am still trying to assimilate all of this is who I am as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. The joy that comes from this experience is something the world can never give.

LAST WORDS: A contemplative experience

PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD

As St. Benedict points out in Chapter 7 of his Rule, it is essential to remember that we should approach Christ (who then can approach the Father) with fear of the Lord in our hearts. This is the first of twelve steps of humility in the Rule of Benedict. Another way of saying it is, “Don’t forget it is God in whose presence you are asking to sit.”

I prepared my heart for nine days (your time is up to you) by reciting in entire Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict, after which I opened my heart in silence and solitude for fifteen minutes and just waited. https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

LESSON ONE: Listen to the Word

1. In the YouTube below, I recommend that you find a time that is uninterrupted by the world, and you can view this video all the way through. Just click skip as soon as you see it on the screen. I apologize for the advertisements on the YouTube video.

2. Once you have completed this video, I ask you to sit in a chair somewhere for fifteen minutes and think about the three segments of Archbishop Sheen’s remarks.

LESSON TWO: Pray the Word

1. In the YouTube below, I recommend that you find a time that is uninterrupted by the world, and you can view this video all the way through.

2. Once you have completed this video, I ask you to sit in a chair somewhere for fifteen minutes and think about the three segments of Archbishop Sheen’s remarks.

LESSON THREE: Share the Word

LESSON FOUR: Be the Word in your heart.

1. In the YouTube below, I recommend that you find a time that is uninterrupted by the world, and you can view this video all the way through. Wait in the silence of your heart for the Holy Spirit.

2. Once you have completed this video, I ask you to sit in a chair somewhere for fifteen minutes and think about the three segments of Archbishop Sheen’s remarks. What three questions should you be asking?

LESSON FIVE: No Words are needed.

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

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If you choose to access this blog from various Trappist websites, hopefully, you will be as inspired as I was.

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