73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 29

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 29th step:

(29) Not to return evil for evil (cf 1 Thes 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9).

St. Benedict references two Scripture passages with this counsel. The first is from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, “See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all,” (1 Thess. 5:15). The next is from the First Letter of Peter, “Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing,” (1 Pet. 3:9).

The motivation for this is clearly stated in Peter’s letter when he says that the Lord is against those who do evil. Get it?

If we return evil for evil, then we are evildoers.

If we are in God, then we will only have love and peace to give. Like Christ we will forgive our enemies, we will return their hatred with God’s love.

Doesn’t it sound humanly impossible to do this? It is, but for God all things are possible.

These steps continually make us aware, like a mega examination of conscience that we need to pray continuously. Prayer is essential because in order to live out the Gospel message, God must be in our every breath.

Our prayer should always be for the other’s good.

Is there anyone that could make heaven hell for you? Then you’d better pray for that person. Pray that good will happen to them, that their heart will be touched, and that in the process your heart may also be changed to accept them.

Often love and hate are flip sides of the same coin.

Our Lord’s cross is for a sign of victory, for the world it is a sign of defeat. Jesus told his disciples that he has overcome the world, how we respond to evil in our lives shows who we belong to—Jesus or the world.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 27 by Michael Dubruiel

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 27th step:

(27) Not to swear, lest perchance one swear falsely.

To “swear” in this case means to take a vow. St. Benedict warns in this counsel that we should not take oaths out of fear that we might do so falsely. Why would this be the case?

Jesus commanded his disciples not to swear. In the Gospel of Matthew, he says, ” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil,” (Matthew 5:34-37).

Our Lord knows well that we do not know ourselves very well. When He told his disciples that one of them would betray him, they all denied it. Peter spoke the loudest and Our Lord warned him that he would betray him before the cock crowed twice. Notice what Peter does at the crucial moment:

“Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man.’ And immediately the cock crowed,” (Matthew 26: 74). He swears falsely.

Unfortunately people continue to swear oaths that they may humanly incapable of fulfilling. It is interesting that within Christianity this command of Jesus has slowly been abrogated. But the truth of what Jesus said and here St. Benedict counsels remains.

None of us knows what the future holds. None of us knows if we will be able to fulfill any vow five or ten years from now. We can promise, ask God’s blessing upon our promise and go where God leads us. But as Jesus says anything else is from the evil one.

Beheading of John the Baptist – August 29

From the Office of Readings:

“He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptised in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptise the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.

Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

Homily of St. Bede

More about Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 26

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 26th step:

(26) Not to forsake charity.

There are times when our hearts can grow cold and we can close ourselves off from either accepting love or giving it. Often this is because of some evil that we have either had done to us or have experienced in some way.

No matter how bad it gets, St. Benedict here wisely counsels us to never forsake charity–love.

When our hearts grow cold, we need to open the door to the Lord’s love and ask him to burn away anything that keeps us from being vessels of his charity both to ourselves and to others. It is His Love that conquers all and it ultimately is His Love that heals all wounds.

If we feel at anytime that we really do not feel like being loved or loving–we need to examine ourselves and to see what has crept into our lives and is taking the place of God. A coldness of heart is always an indication that we have put something else in God’s place in our lives.

“Not to forsake charity” applies in all circumstances in life. Charity as a translation for caritas, which can also be translated “love”, is a good way to remind us that love is always requires “giving.” When we do not wish to give, it is often because we feel we have nothing to give. But if we allow ourselves to be filled with God’s love, we will always have more than enough.

One need only think of a Mother Teresa, frail and old, walking and greeting all that cross her path. Or a Pope John Paul II bent over with age, ignoring no one. It is not physical strength that allows a person to act in this manner but Divine Love.

It is available to you, in the same way as it is available to them.

Do not forsake this great gift that God wishes to give you, nor to share it with all who cross your path this day.

73 Steps to Communion with God – 25

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 25th step:

(25) Not to make a false peace.

This may catch us by surprise. We might reason, wouldn’t some semblance of peace be better than war. But, again if we think about the ramifications of someone who we think is at peace with us but really isn’t, we can see how damaging this “show” of peace can be in the long run.

St. Benedict isn’t saying that we shouldn’t be at peace with everyone, he is telling us not to make a “false” peace with anyone.

We are to be honest, as the previous counsel has instructed us. We are to make peace with our brother or sister that is genuine this step counsels us.

But what if we find ourselves incapable of being at peace with someone?

We must bring our warring heart to God.

People, from a distance, often are amazed at how certain groups of the same people can foster hatred toward one another over so many years. Sometimes it is religious belief (in the case of most religions, it is against the very belief that they fight over) that keeps people enemies. Military might is often used, sometimes by a third party to keep the peace. But as history proves time and again such peace is no peace at all. Soon the parties are warring with one another again often with a conflict that has inflamed while it was dormant.

What then?

If we hold peace with each other as a goal, then we must use every means to achieve that goal. Most of the time peace is achieved by simply acknowledging the others right to exist with dignity and to acknowledge their right to believe differently. What this requires for both parties to reach this goal mutually, is for both of their egos to die.

For the follower of Christ this is not an option.

“Love your enemies.” “If they press you to go one mile, go two.” “If they strike you on one cheek, offer the other.” “Forgive seventy times seven.”

Amazing how anyone who follows Christ could ever set out to make anything other than true peace.

Our Lord’s parting words to His disciples was, “My peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give.” He was probably referring to the fact that at the time (and even today in Israel) that people didn’t say “Goodbye” but rather they said “Peace.” The Romans said Pax Vobiscum, the Israelites said  Shalom.

But did they mean it? It was a convention and very well often was said with no conviction.

Our Lord’s peace is not a convention, it is true. We should follow His example and make true peace with all we encounter.

Gift for Catholic College Student

You can purchase Michael Dubruiel’s books here – 


Books like The How to Book of the Mass and How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist. 

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:

Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.

Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.

Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.

Respond” Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.

Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.

Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.

Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.

Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.

Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.

Queenship of Mary – August 22

Today is another Marian feast – the Queenship of Mary.  It’s also one of the mysteries of the Rosary, and so it’s appropriate to talk about the Rosary as we contemplate the feast. Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  Click on the cover for more information.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 24

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 24th step:

(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.

Our Lord is the way, the truth and the life. Anything that tempts us toward falseness is not of Him. Again, St. Benedict warns us not even to “entertain” the idea of deceit in our emotions, symbolized by the heart.

Everyone deserves the truth. As Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and it shall set you free.”

Unfortunately many people do not believe that the truth is helpful to others. To quote a phrase from the movie A Few Good Men, that was a favorite of students that I once taught Ethics to, “You can’t handle the truth,” seems to be most people’s guiding principle.

Doctors are not honest with patients who come to them expecting honesty. Parents, sometimes keep the truth from their children, leading them to search for it elsewhere. Even bishops now are not known for standing for the truth but rather hiding and trying to conceal it.

The result of such deceit lives with us for years. It destroys our capacity to trust. One can see how it could destroy a tight knit community like a monastery, but we should not let that excuse us.

A meditation on the effects of deceit that we have been on the receiving end might help us to appreciate why as St. Benedict counsels us, we should not even entertain the idea of being that way to anyone.

Everyone deserves the truth. The truth is a good and valuable commodity. Whatever perceived good we might think that hiding the truth from someone might bring, usually back fires.

St. Thomas Aquinas argued that the natural purpose of speech is to communicate the truth. Can you imagine a bird warning of an intruder to another bird , if in fact there is no intruder? A dog barking out lies to another dog?

Yet we humans can abuse this gift of speech that we have at our disposal.

Ultimately, it is a choice to reject God and to make something else a god in our lives. Whatever we feel is more important than telling the truth is what we really believe in. Our reputation, our pride or our sins all can keep us from fulfilling this counsel.

The confessional, then is a good place to begin. Opening our hearts to God and not even entertaining the thought of deceiving Him. As St. Paul says, “God will not be mocked.”

God not only can handle the truth about us, He can teach us the truth about ourselves. Something usually hidden from the deceitful person.

August 20 – St. Bernard

Happy feast day to my son Joseph, as he would say Bee-nard

From Asia News Italy:

The effectiveness of St Bernard, said the pontiff, lay in his ability to “put forward truths of the faith in a manner so clear and incisive that it fascinated the listener and prompted the soul to meditation and prayer.” But this was the fruit of a personal experience of “divine charity, revealed fully in the crucified and risen Christ”. The pope continued: “The echo of a rich inner experience, that he managed to communicate to others with amazing persuasive ability, is found in each of his writings. For him, the greatest strength of spiritual life is love.”

Benedict XVI also recalled a text that the saint dedicated to Pope Eugene III, his pupil and spiritual son, the De Consideratione, based on the fundamental theme of “inner meditation”. “One must guard oneself, observed the saint, from the dangers of excessive activity, whatever the condition and office covered, because many occupations often lead to ‘hardness of heart’, ‘they are nothing other than suffering of the spirit, loss of intelligence, dispersion of grace’ (II,3).” It is likely that Benedict XVI was making this emphasis with himself in mind, being so taken up by countless commitments of his work. He said: “This caution applies to all kinds of occupations, even those inherent to the government of the Church.” And he cited Bernard’s “provocative” words to Eugene III: “This is where your damned occupations can drag you, if you continue to lose yourself in them… leaving nothing of you to yourself.”

To reaffirm the primacy of prayer and contemplation, the pope suggested praying to St Bernard himself and to the Virgin Mary. “We entrust,” added Benedict XVI, “this desire to the intercession of Our Lady, who he loved from childhood with a tender and filial devotion to the extent of deserving the title of “Marian Doctor”. We invoke her so that she may obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the whole world. St Bernard, in a celebrated discourse of his, compared Mary to a star that navigators gaze upon to avoid losing their way:

‘Wading through the events of this world, rather than walking on land, you have the impression of being tossed about among billows and storms; do not turn your eyes away from the splendour of this star if you do not want to be swallowed by the waves… Look at the star, invoke Mary… Following Her, you will not lose your way… If She protects you, you have no fear, if She guides you, you will not get tired and if She is propitious towards you, you will reach your goal’ (Hom. super Missus est, II, 17)”.

-Michael Dubruiel 

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 23 Michael Dubruiel

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 23rd step:

(23) Not to foster a desire for revenge.

One of the genius’ of St. Benedict’s steps is that he teaches the monk to pay attention to what it in his heart. In the previous step it was anger that he counseled we should not give “way to, now it is revenge that we should not “foster a desire” for. If you have been hurt by someone you have a choice how you will respond to that hurt. Our Lord counseled us to forgive, forgive, forgive.

Forgiveness is more than just saying, “I pardon you,” to those who hurt us. It also requires an act of the heart that we actually wish the best for our enemy–who may very knowingly and willfully have hurt us.

This usually shocks people.

“Why should I?” “Isn’t doing so, making what they did to me right?”

No, in doing so you are not making them or what they did “God” in your life.

Too often we are motivated by anger and desires that have nothing to do with God but everything to do with what other people have done to us. We are not free as a result, but merely puppets of those who have hurt or harmed us in the past.

Not fostering a desire for revenge may seem impossible in some cases–but everytime that we are faced with a task that seems impossible to us–there is a new opening to our great need for God.

That’s why these are “steps” toward communion with God, because they make us face our great need for Him at every twist and turn of our lives.

In the same way that “lust” can lead one to commit acts of infidelity–so too in this case fostering a desire for revenge can only lead to the victim becoming the perpetrator of an evil act themselves. Better to cut the growth of something evil at the very roots and “fostering the desire” of something evil is the root of an evil act.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 22

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 22nd step:

(22) Not to give way to anger.

Whenever Christians think of anger, they usually think of Jesus cleaning house in the Temple. If Jesus got angry, then why is anger a bad thing, most reason? I could add a few more scenes from the Gospel. When Jesus’ disciples awaken him during a storm, he stills the storm and then reacts in anger–rebuking his disciples for their lack of faith (this should not be lost on anyone who has ever been awaken from a sound sleep–which obviously Jesus was enjoying and is a sign of his deep trust in God). When Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the religious leaders of the time, he does not refrain from reacting angrily to what they say and do.

So it is obvious that anger has a place in the perfect human life of which Our Lord’s is an example. There are times when anger is the right reaction. When we see someone being abused or misled it is appropriate and even holy to be angry–as long as we do something about the anger. It should motivate us to act out in a righteous way.

But “to give way” to anger is another way of saying “to let it fester,” or “to let it take over”. We do nothing about it, but rather let it eat away at us. We allow it to grow into resentment and skepticism. This is neither healthy nor spiritual.

There is a certain school of spirituality that often counsels us to remain silent. Not to speak out but rather suffer silently. Of course, there is some truth to this and Our Lord’s example before Pontius Pilate is an example of when such a practice is right. But there are other times when such silence would be sinful, not spiritual.

The early Christians called their movement not Christianity but “the Way.” Jesus had given his followers a new path to walk. This path is a way of truthfulness and life. Reflecting on the previous step, “to prefer nothing to the love of Christ,” in this step we reject making “anger” the way.

Anger has a place in creation, it was created by God for a purpose, but it’s purpose is not to control us but to motivate us to act.

The imitation of Christ is the sure “way” to making sure that we do not give “way” to anger.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 21 by 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 21st step:

(21) To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

This is without a doubt the most quoted counsel of St. Benedict.

It an excellent guide for the spiritual life– to prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

One might ask, are we to focus on being loved by Christ or the act of loving Him? I think it is both.

In Mark 10:21 we have the account of the rich young man. The Gospel says that Jesus, ” looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Notice that when Christ loves the rich young man, He points out what the young man lacks. It is out of love, that Jesus tells him to get rid of all his possessions.

Being loved by Christ will reveal similar deficiencies in us.

Our Lord looks upon us and recognizes what we really need. We often come to him with our own ideas about what we need.

If we prefer our ideas to the love of Christ, we too will join the rich young man who walks away sad “for his possessions were many.” We may possess the world, but without Christ it is nothing!

In John 8:42, Jesus is engaged in a heated argument with those who oppose him. He says to them “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”

This takes us back to the first counsel of St. Benedict, to love God. Jesus is God and so we should prefer nothing to God and His love that Jesus has revealed to us perfectly.

How do we know if we truly love Our Lord? He addresses this in John 14:23-24 ” “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

A concrete way to always prefer the love of Christ throughout the day when faced with countless other choices might be to adopt the phrase that Jesus spoke to Peter and to hear it addressed to ourselves–continuously: “Do you love me more than these? (John 21:15)”

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. 20 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 twentieth step:

(20) To hold one’s self aloof from worldly ways.

If you are like me, you can readily come up with a list of what “worldly ways” means, but too often this list have very little to do with what most spiritual masters mean when they use the term.

St. Benedict, again is writing these counsels for monks. Monks take a vow of obedience to an abbot. The abbot, a term that could be translated “father”, watches over the monks and assigns them various tasks for the good of the monastery.

About a year ago, I visited a monastery where the abbot invited me to join the monks for dinner. During the meal taken in silence, while a monk read from one of the Fathers of the Church, several monks had to kneel in front of the abbot’s table. They were being punished for some infraction of the rule that they had committed during the day (one monk told me that he had forgotten to put his napkin back in its holder).

As I sat there, in my forties, and witnessed the grown men who were around sixty years old, I momentarily thought of the ways of the world and how foolish this all seemed. But then, I remembered the counsel of Our Lord, “Unless you become like a child, you can not enter the Kingdom of God.”

All of us must be like children in God’s kingdom. Worldly ways might best be defined as acting in a way of a “self made man.”

There is a story of a man’s employer coming to the man’s home for dinner one night. The employer was brash, rude and made inappropriate comments throughout the meal. All the while the young son of the employee stared at the man. Finally, the boy spoke, “my dad says that you are a self-made man.”

The employer beaming, said, “Well, yes son I am.”

“Why did you make yourself so bad?” The young boy asked.

Keeping aloof of worldly ways, means leaving behind any notion that we are ultimately in charge of our lives. It requires total surrender to God.

Jesus lays out the best commentary for this counsel in Matthew’s Gospel, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and body more than clothing?…So I do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil, (Matthew 6:25, 31-34).”

I like to carry the image of those monks, all dressed in black, sitting and silently eating and drinking while they listen to someone proclaim the Kingdom of God to them, as I go about my dealings everyday–never allowing myself to be drawn away from our true purpose here.

Feast of the Assumption – August 15

The Feast of the Assumption is today, August 15.   The Assumption is, of course, one of the mysteries of the Rosary, and so it’s appropriate to talk about the Rosary as we contemplate the feast. Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  Click on the cover for more information.

St. Maximillian Kolbe August 14

Today is the Feast of St. Maximillian Kolbe

From a letter he wrote, from theOffice of Readings:

It is sad to see how in our times the disease called “indifferentism” is spreading in all its forms, not just among those in the world but also among the members of religious orders. But indeed, since God is worthy of infinite glory, it is our first and most pressing duty to give him such glory as we, in our weakness, can manage – even that we would never, poor exiled creatures that we are, be able to render him such glory as he truly deserves.

Books by Michael Dubruiel

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