Novena to St. Anne

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his Apostles to stay where they were and to “wait for the gift” that the Father had promised: the Holy Spirit.  The Apostles did as the Lord commanded them. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Nine days passed; then, they received the gift of the Holy spirit, as had been promised. May we stay together with the church, awaiting in faith with Our Blessed Mother, as we trust entirely in God, who loves us more than we can ever know. 

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Michael Dubruiel Reflection

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the seventeenth step:

(17) To bury the dead.

The most vivid memories I have of monastic life are actually those dealing with how the dead our buried. I have witnessed these events at several types of monasteries and while the particulars differ, they all share the common denominator of being terribly comfortable with a dead body.

I remember visiting a Trappist Monastery with a friend once who had never witnessed a dead body before. Somehow she had spent over 40 years on this earth without ever having been to a funeral or grave site. Protected from death by her parents, she had not bothered to confront it as an adult either. Until the fateful day when she stumbled upon it, on a visit for Evening Prayer at the monastery. Talk about shock therapy!

We were sitting toward the back of the Abbey Church with the rest of the non-monks. The monks themselves were gathered at the door awaiting the arrival of the body of their brother monk. Upon its arrival it was placed on a flat surface (no coffin) and brought forward a few feet, with the help of several feeble monks to stop a few inches from where my friend and I stood.

The pallor of the dead body, its lifeless shell spoke of the finality of the event. I’m sure my friend still wakes up in the middle of the night with the vision of that moment.

I had seen death many times before. I had even been blessed to be with several people at the moment of death, hearing their last breath escape, watching their eyes go up and out their head, giving me an understanding of why the ancients believed that the soul came in from the top of the head and when it left a body escaped from the same portal.

In some ways the moment of death can be likened to something of a whimper. It seldom is the drawn out affair of the actor who tries by their exaggerations to communicate the tragedy of what is unfolding. While birth may take hours, death often needs only the hundredth of a second.

The Trappist bury their dead by dumping the body into a grave and throwing some lime over the corpse to aid in the decaying process. The Benedictines that I have known, use a simple pine box. Both end their funeral rites by individually throwing dirt either onto the corpse or coffin—thereby fulfilling this counsel of St. Benedict to bury the dead.

Two images come to mind. The first of my friend who for over forty years had never witnessed a dead body. The second of the monks throwing dirt on the remains of their dead brother. I wonder what is the effect on both.

My friend is symbolic of those who in our present culture seek to keep death at a distance. Someone dies, we cremate the body and someone scatters ashes in the same way that a past generation might have emptied an ashtray.

This same culture visualizes death constantly in its movies and music. It seems that if we do not bury the dead that the effect on us is that we will endlessly be haunted by them.

The monks are not haunted by the dead but they are not abandoned by them either. They see in the brother who has passed from this life leaving behind the shell of their body and example. It reminds them of their purpose and the shortness of the opportunity to fulfill this purpose. They are reminded by death that ultimately all that matters is God!

Burying the dead may be as simple as attending the funerals of our friends and families. Praying for them and asking their prayers. The uneasiness that we feel is due to the inner knowledge that this to will be our end but like every unpleasant truth in life we can either face it or try to ignore it.

If we face it, we will prepare for it. If we ignore it we will be haunted by it. Burying the dead will help to put the ghosts to rest, while at the same time allowing the saints to intercede for us

RCIA Resources on Confession

Many people are looking for resources for RCIA this time of year. If you are looking for a good introduction to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, try this:

For a brief, pointed and helpful guide,

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All of Michael Dubruiel’s books listed on Amazon.

The Power of the Cross free download and audio files.

The New Version of the Stations of the Cross link

Book By Benedict Groeschel

The genesis of this book was inspired by a set of talks that Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R., gave several years ago in the Diocese of Manchester, NH. At the time while researching material for a project I was working on I came across an advertisement for the talks and found both the title and topic striking. The topic seemed to fit Father Benedict’s lifetime of working among the poor and raising money to help their plight. I approached him, shortly after listening to the tapes and asked him to consider doing a book version. He liked the idea but was reluctant to pursue the project alone due to the shortage of time available to work on it.

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Unwilling to let go of the project, I approached another friend of the poor, Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Diocese of Charleston. I knew that Bishop Baker’s priestly ministry had been devoted to finding Christ in the poor and with a wealth of experience he had in this area that if I could join his thoughts with Fr. Groeschel’ s we would have a book that would be of great benefit to the rest of us. After approaching Bishop Baker with my request he agreed and then Father Benedict agreed to collaborate on this book.

While the Bishop and Father Benedict were working on the written text of the book I came across a stunning work of iconography one day while visiting an Eastern Catholic church. On the back wall of the church was an icon of the Last Judgment taken from Matthew 25. I found that the great iconographer Mila Mina had written the icon. I immediately contacted Mila and asked if the icon might be used as an illustration for this book, her response was “anything to make the Gospel known!” Thanks to Mila and her son Father John Mina for allowing Joyce Duriga and David Renz to photograph the icon at Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church, Clairton, PA.

Fr. Groeschel has written the introductory text that begins each section as well as the final “What Should I Do?” at the end of the book, and Bishop Baker has written the individual meditations and prayers contained in each of the six sections.

While this book was being written, Father Benedict was involved in a horrific accident that nearly took his life. At the time of the accident the text he was working on was in his suitcase. He had just finished the introduction to “When I was a stranger…” as you read over the text for that section you might sense that he was having a premonition of what was about to happen in his life-where he would soon be in an emergency room under the care of doctors, nurses and as well as his family and religious community.

You will find that this book provides you with keys to finding Our Lord in the poor, and to overcoming the fears and obstacles (represented by the seven deadly sins in each section) that prevent you from responding to His call.

How to Prepare for Mass by Michael Dubruiel

What will we say when the messengers of Our Lord come to us

and tell us that the time is at hand, and the Lord wishes for us

to prepare for his Passover? Will we open the door of our hearts

and welcome him?

Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori method of

learning, wrote a book in the early twentieth century about the

Mass for Children. She began by describing the inside of a

church: candles lit, altar cloths set on the altar. Something very

special must be about to take place here, she said. Just as the disciples

prepared for the Passover, the Last Supper of the Lord, so

we must prepare to welcome the Savior before we approach his

banquet.

Being prepared for Mass is essential to the disciple and follower

of Jesus Christ who wishes to be enriched with his teaching

and be fed with his Body and Blood. St. Paul’s admonition

to examine ourselves is paramount if we are not to eat and drink

judgment upon ourselves—but rather partake in the Way, the

Truth, and the Life.

From The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel available as a free download by clicking the cover below:

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Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the eleventh Step:

(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).

I work out in a gym about five times a week usually on my way home for work. There are a few regulars who are always there, both when I arrive and still there when I leave. They push their bodies to the absolute limit and their bodies show the results. Most people envy them but few are willing to put their bodies through the rigors required for such results.

I begin with this example for obvious reasons. When it comes to spirituality most people react negatively to the thought of monks beating themselves with flagelants or wearing hair shirts and I think rightly so, but as often happens when we reject a faulty interpretation, we seldom replace it with a correct one.

About a year ago I was giving a tour of a Benedictine Monastery, where I had attended college almost twenty years ago, to some visitors. Being a curious soul I know the place inside and out. Among the visitors was an author that I had worked with and her friend, along with another Benedictine Nun, all who were attending a conference at a nearby convent.

In the course of our tour we came upon the Chapter room of the monastery. The walls and ceiling of the Chapter Room were illustrated beautifully by a Swiss monk who had lived at the monastery in the early mid-1900’s. The ceiling contained the signs of the zodiac illustrating the whole of life, the walls illustrated some of the steps that St. Benedict mentions in his rule (the subject of this series).

He illustrated this step by showing several monks flogging themselves. I mentioned that this was from the rule and the Benedictine sister immediately said that it wasn’t. I mildly protested but she insisted. Later when we arrived at the bookstore, I openned the Rule of St. Benedict to the page and pointed out to her where it was. She was undetered, “It’s a poor translation.”

She mentioned another translation, but here again the wording was the same. Finally, she said,”well who believes that anymore?”

“Bodybuilders,” I answered.

Chastising our flesh is a way of mastering our bodies and our wills.

One of my favorite soon to be saints, Father Solanus Casey, jogged. I think I read somewhere that he did so to punish his flesh. Chastising the body can be a healthy enterprise.

A famous Franciscan friar, who is a little overweight and has had numerous heart problems, told me recently that he was finally taking care of his body since he saw hopeful signs in the church.

A recent country song perhaps gives us this point best in modern language, “She treats her body like a temple, I treat mine like a honky tonk.” If we believe that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then we will maintain it in a way that show that we treasure it.

 

July 11- Feast of St. Benedict

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God based on the Rule of St. Benedict by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 28th step:

(28) To speak the truth with heart and tongue.

St. Benedict’s counsel here is geared toward a conversion of feelings, so that the truth I speak with my mouth, I also feel in my heart. Of course, such truth will be spoken with conviction.

Many of us know instinctively what is true, we just don’t feel like paying any attention to it. Conversion of “feelings” is an important part of opening oneself to God.

If you don’t feel like converting to the truth, it is because some untruth has grabbed your heart. Opening your heat to God’s love will have a surprising result–you will literally feel the truth.

Too often we look toward those who should model religious faith but instead wear their faith for all to see. Jesus condemns the Pharisees and hypocrites of his day because they keep the tax collectors and prostitutes from coming to the Kingdom of God by their example. In other words they make religious belief in God seem unattractive.

Our eyes should always be focused on Christ. We shouldn’t look to anyone else.

The people who encountered Him were drawn to Him. So will we be.

Then speaking the truth will be a matter of allowing the tongue to proclaim what the heart feels.