St. Ignatius Loyola – July 31 by Michael Dubruiel

He says it all right here…

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this

means to save his soul.

And the other things on the face of the earth are

created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he

is created.

From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help

him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as

to it.

For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created

things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not

prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness,

riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short

life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive

for us to the end for which we are created.

Michael Dubruiel 

Solanus Casey – July 30

From 2004 by Michael Dubruiel Taming the Wild   Solanus had also been cultivating a patch of wild strawberries which he told the friars he was “taming.” Father Solanus: The Story of Solnus Casey O.F.M. Cap. p.174



I had been making my lunch time pilgrimage for several months when I read a chapter from Cathy Odell’s book on Solanus’ time in Huntington. I had literally walked the fields and woods throughout but had never come across any wild strawberries. They must have perished when some of the land was plowed, I figured.


It was a beautiful sunlit day, not a cloud in the sky and very low humidity. I started out walking the perimeter of the property, as was my usual route, and began to pray the rosary. Normally this meant finishing the joyful mysteries by the time I reached the far forest where an Eagle Scout had cleared a trail through the woods. There I would begin the sorrowful mysteries reaching the Capuchin graveyard about the time I reached the third sorrowful mystery (the Crowing with Thorns) where I would prostrate in the direction of the simple wooden cross at the head of the graveyard and pray the prayer of St. Francis, “We adore thee O Christ and we praise Thee because by thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” Then I would pray the third sorrowful mystery on my knees for the Friars and others buried there, at the same time asking for their intercession for my many needs.


Then I would retrace my steps backward in a slightly different path along the woods rather than through them. At about the same spot where I had discovered an apple tree left over from the orchard that Solanus had blessed, I looked down and spotted something red blooming. At first I thought they were small red flowers that had some how resisted the mowing the lawn had received recently. But on closer inspection I found wild strawberries almost ready to be harvested.


I thought of the irony of my discovery on the very day that I had first read about Solanus’ “taming” of wild strawberries, then I thought of the whole aspect of “taming” the wild.


Looking over the property of what had once been a flourishing center of Catholic spirituality, I could not help but be struck by the apparent failure. What had been tamed here and once again become wild.


It struck me as an apt symbol for the state of Catholicism in the United States at the beginning of the Twenty-first century. The in-roads that the Church had made in converting and bringing Catholic Christianity to this country seemed to have reverted back to its wild state. Those who call themselves Catholic pick and choose what they believe and how they practice their faith. In many ways they mirror the environment they live in with very little to distinguish them from their non-Catholic neighbors.


Of course it also struck me that I suffered from this as much as anyone.


Picking up the wild strawberry, I saw how immature it was. No doubt Solanus’ taming of the “wild” strawberries had resulted in them growing into substantial fruit that was enjoyed by the Huntington Capuchins. Now without that taming, the wild strawberry had once again returned to a small pitiful caricature of what it might have been.


Sadly this is what we also have become. Our influence in our culture is weak and we risk giving scandal to those who look to us as representatives of all that is Catholic. We are “wild” Cathlolics, in great need of being tamed by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. – 10

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 tenth Step:

(10) To deny one’s self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).

Denial has come to mean, not facing reality. This is not the type of “denial” that St. Benedict is promoting. Rather it is just the opposite, it is to deny the falsehood of the self that always feels threatened. This false “self” does not exist but is the result of Original Sin and we all struggle with it throughout our lives.

There is a part of us that feels that we must always be vigilant unless someone get one up on us. It is the part of our personality that puts up walls, that is afraid to be our true selves. Simply it is that part of us that fears being embarrassed, thought ill of or that we secretly fear is the definition of who we really are and we work tirelessly to keep everyone from learning the truth.

Of course, the truth is that this is not who we really are at all.

We are just the opposite of the Son of God. Jesus was God but as St. Paul says in Philippians, “did not deem equality with God.” Jesus ate and drank with sinners, he associated with some very ungodly people.

None of us has to battle such odds. We are not God, but as the fruit of original sin we have all inherited the notion that we are supposed to be God. So most of us spend our lives not exercising the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with because we fear that we will fail to use them perfectly.

I wonder how many there are who have been graced with the gift of healing the sick but who never reach out to the sick because they fear the embarrassment that might come their way? Or how many talented leaders stand idly by while those not gifted lead?

Denying oneself means letting go of the fears that we do not possess abilities of god proportions and stepping out in faith knowing that God will provide what is lacking to our talents as we exercise them for the good of humanity.

Perhaps the most commonly told parable by Jesus about the Kingdom of God is that of the King or landowner who passes out talents before taking a trip. Those who invest in their talents are praised upon the Master’s return whereas the one who buries his talents is condemned.

Why did the servant bury his talents? Because he was afraid.

Why does Jesus tell the parable? So his followers will not fall into the same predicament. Yet how many Christians will hear the words, deny yourself and immediately interpret the Lord’s words as though he were advocating burying one’s talents? Unbelievable!

Deny the fear of making a mistake, taking a risk of what might happen if you follow Our Lord to Jerusalem. The disciples told Jesus that if they went to Jerusalem he certainly would be killed, did he not fear for his life? Thomas often cast as the doubter but in fact probably the supreme believer says, “let us go to die with him!”

When we let go of the fear of what others think about us when it comes to using the talents and abilities that God has given us then we will truly build the Kingdom of God. Denying that part of ourselves that would bury our talents our of fear is true humility.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 9 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 ninth Step:

(9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).

The Golden Rule is well known across cultures. At an early age we are taught to treat others in the same way that we wish to be treated. Has this rule fallen on deaf ears though in our time?

Could it be that we no longer think about others or care about them? What is it that has desensitized us from the needs of others?

Forty years ago people marched upon the towns and villages of the south to protest the way people of color were still being treated; almost a century since the cessation of slavery. Something of the Golden Rule motivated those marches and when television cameras broadcast those images to the rest of the nation soon others changed their opinions too.

But forty years later it seems that the multiplicity of those images along with the dramatization of similar images has lessened the impact of reality. Like a collective hypnosis we seem not to be affected by the plight of our fellow human anymore. Like a callous that develops from constant friction, the flood of images of suffering and hurting individuals has dampened our ability to care.

I suppose that recognizing this, is the first step to diagnosing it as a problem that is destroying us as a society. St. Benedict’s maxim can serve as a corrective. The first step is to really feel, what it is that I feel.

How do I feel when someone smiles at me? It feels good, I feel important or at least that this person is well disposed toward me which is also a good feeling. If this is so I should offer a smile to those who life cast in my path today.

How do I feel when someone treats me in a manner that makes me feel that my existence is inconsequential to them? Probably not very good, then I need to even in a small way acknowledge everyone as an important part of God’s plan for me today.

We tend to be a society in touch with their feelings. It is a small step to return back to a more civil manner of existence where I believe that there is not just “me” but us on this planet. Everyone is important in God’s plan. My feelings are the key to defining how I should treat others in the way that God wants me to do.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel – 8

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 Seventh Step:

8- To honor all men (cf 1 Pt 2:17).

Often honor is confused with adoring or worshiping someone. For example when the commandment to honor one’s parents is rejected, what is usually rejected is the concept that I have to worship my parents, but that is not what honor means.

To honor someone is to respect them as an individual who is part of the whole. I honor you if I acknowledge the uniqueness that you bring to the human race. I honor you as a fellow human being, giving you all of the rights and respect that every human deserves. Added to this, is a deep respect for your person, your individuality.

Too often our problems with other people is rooted in our inability to see them and accept them as different from ourselves. The other is more introverted or extroverted—we want them to be like us. The other is too right brained or left brained—we want them to be like us.

Honoring an individual means first and foremost that we accept them as the unique individual that God has created them to be.

One would think that monks in a monastery would have little individuality. But in reality the monks I have been privileged to know in my life have exhibited the greatest individuality of any people that I have known. They all dress alike, their lives follow a similar ritual everyday, but their personalities and who God has created them to be shines forth.

The “true self” as Thomas Merton termed the individual who is not trying to live up to the expectations imposed outside of the self can only be freed up by a deep trust in God. We can nurture the “true self” in others by honoring them as unique individuals with a mission from God.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 7 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 Seventh Step:

7. Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20).

Lying about what we witness in life, is one of those sins that always has the appearance of not being all that serious, until it continues to escalate like a snowball growing bigger and bigger; until we are no longer sure of what the truth is. It is not in our interest or anyone else’s to not tell the truth.

Jesus identified himself with the Truth. If we are in communion with Jesus then we too will be fountains of the truth. But the temptation to choose other than the truth is a large one and it almost always has as an underpinning the sense that to do so is in our best interest.

It is not.

Many times our inability to tell the truth reveals a deep spiritual void within. We bear false witness because somehow it will make us appear better, which at it’s heart means that we feel that there is something wrong with us to begin with. The temptation to bear false witness about another or an event I have witnessed is an invitation for me to ask, “What do I feel is wrong with myself?”

Why do I feel the need to speak about an event or a person in an untruthful way? The answer is more self-revelatory than illustrative of any real happening outside of myself? My answer allows me to peer into the hole within my soul.

Oh God help me to see myself as a valuable part of your creation. Allow me to see that the life I experience is alive with your presence and that others will always benefit from it.

But what about the other reasons, like, I don’t want to hurt someone?

Does the truth ever hurt? The answer is a loud and thunderous, yes it can hurt terribly. But is that bad?

Pain is a fact of life and to try to avoid it only delays the pain. Confronting it and accepting it leads to resurrection. The cross is a daily visitor to everyone. The choice is often whether we love people enough to be honest with them not hurt them but to help them to face reality in life.

Perhaps there is nothing more definitive about salvation than the one word–reality. A person who experiences the saving grace of God lives in reality, the world as it is.

The unsaved person lives a lie, perhaps it is a world of their creation. It is their fiction. It is impossible for others to be invited into this world of theirs because it is a non-existent place that they themselves do not even exist in. There is nothing sadder then to experience this firsthand, but it is the lot of those who refuse to accept the pain of daily life.

There is the obvious consequence of bearing false witness that I have purposely left to the end. Consequences are of little matter here, but for many they are the guiding force of their daily actions. St. Benedict did not counsel in his maxim—“consider the end when giving a witness.” He did not do so because he has already laid out for us what the end-(the consequence of every action is)—it is God.

God is the consequence for anyone who sets out on this path. My concern is for doing what God commands. True compassion results.

All of our excuses and reasons for not doing so—usually rationalized from a concern for consequences, are derived from a lack of respect for others (Benedict’s second maxim). We do not believe in our neighbor’s right to “handle” the truth. This is very sad.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 6

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 Sixth Step:

6. Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).

St. Benedict attaches a scripture passage to this maxim which in many ways points to where he has obtained the previous four. In Romans 13:9 the Apostle wrote, “The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself, (Romans 13:9, NIV).”

The simple rendering not to covet is intriguing. We probably are used to the formulation that we should not covet our neighbor’s goods or our neighbor’s wife, but here there is just the simple injunction not to covet. There is nothing more difficult in the culture that we live in than to rid ourselves of desire.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha (enlightened one), based an entire religion on ridding ourselves of what he discovered was the source of all ill. In his four noble truths he stated, that all life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, the way to rid the world of suffering is to extinguish desire, that experience is Nirvana.

I remember teaching basically the same truth to teen boys in high school, and receiving a predictable response—“if you rid yourself of desire you wouldn’t move—you would just lie on the couch.” They, mirroring the culture that we live in, saw desire or coveting as a good thing. It is the very fuel that propels one to have great goals and to achieve great success.

But is it?

Doesn’t our desire or coveting rather blind us to achieving our goals, creating a false sense of what is needed to make us happy? What if we were to live each day with a sense of purpose but instead of being concerned about our plan we primarily were focused on God’s will for us.

This may seem too idealistic and we might retort, “How can I know God’s will for me today?” The spiritual writer Jean-Pierre De Caussade in his great spiritual work Abandonment to Divine Providence gave a simple guide to answering the question. The will of God can best be discerned by a simple acceptance of whatever the day brings and to a focus on that.

My spiritual director Benedictine Father Lambert Reilley once mirrored this thought when I complained about all the distractions that I was suffering from. “People keep showing up and interupting the work that I am trying to get done.”

“Why look at them as distractions?” Father Lambert asked me. “Instead see them as people that God is sending to you.” What Father Lambert (who now is Archabbot Lambert) was saying to me was mirrored in the Rule of Saint Benedict’s injunction that the monks were to welcome the stranger as though Christ himself were arriving at the monastery.

So this notion of coveting, covers not only material things and the relationships that others have, it also covers are very time and the way we view it. Time is the biggest culprit in the whole business of ridding ourselves of coveting. We want and desire to have _______________(fiill in the blank) right now rather than waiting until it comes our way.

If it is our health, we want to feel better now, so we take drugs that in the long run ruin our immune system. If we are trying to lose weight, we want it now so we may injure our health seeking a quick solution. If we want material items why wait, put it on credit. All in all, coveting is a rejection of the world that we live in as it is, and the message of the Gospel is just the opposite, the world is not changed by wishing it to be otherwise, but rather by confronting the world as it is and dealing with it.

Why would we not sit around on the couch, if we rid ourselves of desiring? Because we would realize that we have work to do and it needs to be done now! The very act of coveting if we conceptualize it is that of a dreamer, not someone who is immersed in reality.

The opposite of coveting is acceptance.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 5

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.

Step # 5 of the 73

5. Not to steal…

It may seem strange that stealing is so high on St. Benedict’s list, but there is nothing more destructive in communal living than mistrust and there is nothing that can destroy trust like living with thievery. Once something no matter how insignificant is stolen everyone around becomes the potential thief.

There is a story I have heard so many times and so many versions of that I am not even sure where it is originally from but it goes something like this: An abbot of a monastery had become very disenchanted with the way the monks in his monastery treated one another. He ventured off to seek out the advice of an holy monk who lived as a hermit deep in the woods.

After the holy monk had listened to the abbot’s concern, he raised his hand and asked the abbot to wait while he prayed about this situation. Several hours passed and finally the hermit reappeared in the cell and made his solemn announcement to the abbot. “When you go back to the monastery tonight gather all of the monks into chapter and then announce to them what I have to tell you.” He then revealed what he had learned in prayer to the abbot.

That night the abbot did as the holy man had instructed, when the last of the monks had taken their place in the room, the abbot arose and announced to the gathered assembly, “The holy hermit has announced to me and asked me to inform you that God has revealed to him that the messiah is in our midst.” Afterwards the monks treated each other with great respect, wondering and not knowing if the monk they were dealing with might be the messiah.

The way we treat others and their property is largely based on how much we respect and hold them in awe. If we had a deep sense of love, respect and awe of each and every person we would never take anything from them. But too often we lack this basic sense of dignity that others deserve from us.

We reason that someone is wealthy and they won’t miss this or that item so we take it as though our attitude about someone else is reality. We reason that we have paid a just fee and that entitles us to more than what we know it does. All of our reasons are aimed at justifying something that we know is wrong and the very act of trying to rationalize our behavior makes us less not in God’s eyes but in our view of ourselves.

It is useful to remember that the men nailed next to Jesus on the cross are often referred to as thieves. The so-called good thief acknowledges that his sin has merited so horrible a death. There was something of the presence of Jesus that made him realize that. If we put ourselves into the presence of God we will come to the same conclusion that taking what does not belong to us is wrong.

73 Steps to Communion With God: 3

The Third Step of the 73 by Michael Dubruiel

3. Then, not to kill…

I still remember vividly an incident that happened when I was a child and my family was on vacation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On a particular day we had just arrived at the summit of the mountain where the “Old Man of the Mountains,” a natural rock formation is located (it is on the New Hampshire quarter). We were sitting on some rocks and nearby was a long haired bearded guy—a hippie.

There were plenty of hippies in New England in the 1960’s, so there was nothing novel about that, but the action of this one was very memorable. He kept brushing away flies that were surrounding him. The more they continued to land on him, the more he would gently urge them to find another place to alight. His gentle tone and the words he spoke to the pests made it clear that he did not want to harm them.

My mother bent down to say that she had figured out that he felt that it was wrong to kill even a fly. Later I would read about people of various Eastern religions that shared this belief, “that all life was sacred,” which of course is what we believe too–but we usually make endless distinctions.

St. Benedict’s counsel is simple. He does not elaborate about who or what we are not to kill. He keeps it simple and allows us the simple injunction to simple “not kill.”

This counsel follows after the first two; love God and love your neighbor. Now we are told not to kill. God is the source of all life and the Scriptures make it clear from the first pages of Genesis that to take back the spirit of Life is the domain of God and that blood spilt cries out to heaven.

It is also clear that in the first pages of Genesis that our neighbor is not only the people that surround us but every being in creation. We should respect all of creation in the same manner.

The hippie who allowed the fly to live on that vacation day in New Hampshire does not remain in my memory as some nut but rather as a prototype of a holy man who understands this fundamental truth. If you and I want to grow in holiness then we must reverence the life force that God has placed in all of creation.

“Not to kill” also extends beyond physical murder. We are to be a life force in God’s creation. Building up rather than tearing down. Uplifting rather than destroying.

I remember a friend in school who was fond of bringing up in the midst of conversations that were less than charitable about others a simple question, “How is this building up the body of Christ?” It really ticked off everyone at the table but like the hippie with the fly it has remained in my memory whereas the topics of our table conversations have long passed on into obscurity.

There are many ways to kill without actually taking someone’s physical life. Unfortunately there are too many walking dead in our midst who have had their spirit killed by those who were not careful in their speech or their judgments.

Lifting up these poor souls, reversing the damage done is a way to positively live out this injunction. It is not simply a matter of what not to do but to have an attitude of doing the opposite. The person who puts God first will carry with them an imitation of God who “breathes life” into inanimate clay.

What will this day be like if in every instance I put God first, treat all those who inhabit my environment with the attitude that I want to be a life giving force, a person of affirmation? Without God this is impossible and that is why prayer is something that is a 24/7 activity. We need to constantly turn to God, at every moment, in every encounter; to be silent until God is brought into the moment and then to be life giving as God is.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God: 2

Here is the second  posting of a series that Michael Dubruiel wrote entitled 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. These steps are drawn from Saint Benedict’s Rule, the reflections are his own. Originally published in 2003.

2. Love one’s neighbor as one’s self (cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27).

It is ironic but the way we treat our neighbor in many ways reveals what we think about ourselves. Whenever I run into a parent berating the child I always find myself equally feeling as sorry for the parent as the child. Negative views of oneself often lead to a negative view of others. This maxim follows the first that we love God above all things. It is from that maxim that a true sense of ourselves flows.

If I believe that God has a mission for me, then it is only a short distance of thought to believe that he has a mission for everyone else on the planet.

Daily we encounter opportunities to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The other day a woman carrying a bag of groceries bumped into me rushing to her car. She apologized and I immediately had the uncharitable thought of what in the hell is your hurry? But then I started to list the reasons for why she might have been in a hurry in my mind. Perhaps she was late for an important appointment or there was someone in dire need of something that she had just purchased at the store. In other words I strove to think of why I might be in a hurry and to afford her the same privilege.

Love our neighbor as ourselves ultimately means wishing them success. Success in their mission in life means success for us all. In the same way that loving God is foundational to the Spiritual life, so too is the love of neighbor. They all are pieces that fit into the same puzzle.

What of the most despicable people on the earth, how can we love them? What about those who ________ and __________(fill in the blanks with your favorite unforgivable sins)?

The answer is simple, we love them in the same way as we would if they were are own child.

I remember when the serial murderer Theodore Bundy was being executed in the State of Florida that his mother was interviewed. She was asked the question, “Do you still love your son?”

She answered, “Yes, I don’t like what he has done, but I still love him.”

I think it is easy to understand why she would. No matter what anyone of us do in our lifetime there is a part of us that is deeply lovable. No matter how hateful we are or what terrible things we do for whatever God known reason, there is a part of us that God has created and that is good, call it the “true self.”

The true self might be likened to that part of us that is the plan of God for each of us. It is that true self that we love in our neighbors and ourselves, because it is most truly who we are.

I remember a man who had undergone a conversion experience telling me in front of his family that he had never been that bad of a guy even before his conversion.

His daughters disagreed, as they in unison cried out, “yes your were dad, you were horrible!”

He then went on to explain how before his conversion he had “acted” in a way that he thought he had to, to be accepted; since his conversion he was truly himself.

I can think of no finer testimony of what life immersed in God’s love is like. We no longer “act” but we are who we are. It’s as simple as that.

Loving others can be difficult but doing so teaches us a lot about ourselves and who we truly worship as God.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion

Here is the first posting of a series that Michael Dubruiel wrote entitled 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. These steps are drawn from Saint Benedict’s Rule, the reflections are his own. Originally published in 2003.

This is step one:

(1) In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength…

Benedict begins what will be a list of simple practices with one that is above all others, the practice of a complete love of God. A love that is one that desires only God, symbolized by the heart; a love that meditates only on God symbolized by the soul; and a love that focuses all of its energy on exhibiting this love of God symbolized by my strength.

If we are honest, this is exactly what we all fear the most, an unconditional surrender of all to God.

I remember when I taught high school theology at a Jesuit School the response that I would always receive from my students whenever I would present to them Saint Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation which teaches that the purpose of our lives is to know, love and serve God and that everything else is secondary and is here to help us attain that purpose. Most of the Catholic students would become outraged, usually a few non-Catholic students in some cases nonbelievers would say it made perfect sense to them.

The issue of acceptance of this foundational attitude in spirituality is one of trust. Do we trust that God wants what is best for us. In our fears is an agenda that thinks that God will only get in the way of our happiness. Unfortunately it takes a long time for most of us to realize that what we think we want changes almost hourly.

We need direction in our lives. Our lives need to be oriented in some direction. The question is where will we seek that guidance?

The map pocket of my car is full of maps. The maps are only helpful to me if I know what my ultimate destination is and if I know where I am at the present moment. Recently while driving in a strange city with the map opened to that city, I knew where I wanted to go but had no idea where I was. Someone in the neighborhood I was in had torn down all of the street signs. I continued to travel up the street until finally I was able to locate a street sign.

Our lives can be the same confused mess that I felt on that day driving aimlessly up and down a city street. Who are we? Why are we here?

The Baltimore Catechism gave us a simple answer. We are here because God loves us. That is the starting point of the spiritual quest is to believe wholeheartedly that we are loved. A subtle but key ingredient to the fear that we feel in surrendering to God is that we do not believe that we are loved but fear that we are hated.

I remember as a child whenever I would be on my way to confession on a Saturday afternoon secretly fearing that God would try to see to it that I was killed before I arrived there. Where this fear came from I do not know, but it was real and it was only much later that I finally realized that God was the redeemer not the enemy.

The attitude we have toward God is all-important if we are to love God with our whole being. We must believe that God loves us first and want what is best for us. It is hard to do anything but love God with our whole being if we believe that God loves us. In an older translation of the New American Bible the words of Jesus are applicable here, “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” The words of the supplicant must be our words also, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.”

It may seem obvious that the first step that anyone would make toward perfect communion with God is to place God at the very center, but how many times we look everywhere else for the way? If we wish to have communion with God we must enter into God’s presence and offer our entire being to God.

Most of us have given the allegiance of part of our being to God but not the whole. I can say that intellectually I have always believed in God and placed my soul in varying degrees to the love of God, but my heart well that is another story. There have been countless times that what my heart has desired has been anything but God. I have thought that this or that would make me truly happy and I have gone down many paths ignoring God in the process.

If I believe that God has created me and knows me best and what is in my ultimate interest, I will seek God above all things.

I still remember the first time I encountered the simple engraving over the entrance of the Monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemane in Kentucky. I stood there for some time looking at the simple words etched in stone that seemed bigger than life, “GOD ALONE.” There was something shocking about the simplicity of the statement, but at the same time a truth that touched me deeply.

In the end when our life is failing nothing else will matter. If we can acknowledge that at this point why not see the wisdom of putting God first in everything today? The message of Benedict’s first step is to put God first in all things and to do so lovingly.

Spiritual Reflections for Catholics

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 40th step:

(40) Not to be a detractor.

The Christian is to be someone who builds people up, not someone who tears others down. Often detraction is a sign of our own insecurity or feelings of inadequacy.

Someone who puts God first in their lives will recognize their own self in an entirely new light as well as all others.

If we see someone who seems less in our eyes, it is we who have the problem not them.

This of course does not mean that we turn our eyes from those who commit grievous sins against others. They should be confronted, and if personal confrontation does not work as Jesus said, the matter should be brought before the whole Church, and if that doesn’t work they should be treated like a tax collector. Of course Jesus–welcomed tax collectors, so there is irony in the last part of his counsel.

Christianity is not a religion of castes. In Christ there is neither Greek or Jew, male or female–all are one. In order for that to be a lived reality we must see the importance of each individual and seek to build them up. In doing so we are aiding the Holy Spirit’s work of building the Kingdom of God.

How to Pray by Michael Dubruiel

The letter to the Hebrews draws a strong connection

between the cross and prayer. Because every moment of our

earthly existence is threatened by death, and we know neither the

day nor the hour when that existence will come to an end, we,

too, need to cry out to the God who can save us. Like Moses, we

need the help of our fellow Christians to hold up our arms when

they grow tired. We, too, need the help of the Holy Spirit to

make up for what is lacking in our prayer. 

The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel 

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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

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