73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 54

This is a continuation of the the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruielthe previous posts are available in the archives to the right. This is step 54.

(54) Not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter.

Benedict has a great concern for the choice of our speech, reflecting Our Lord’s injunction in the Gospel to “let you no mean no and your yes mean yes.” Most of us suffer from an endless chatter that means little and lessens the effectiveness of our speech in general. There is a further clarification here and we are warned not to “provoke laughter.”

Is Benedict condemning humor or is this a warning not to appear silly to others? I think it is the latter.

Someone who talks endlessly might make others laugh at him or her but they probably will not be taken seriously. The danger here is that speech exists to communicate the truth and when it is not used specifically for that we misuse this great gift.

Benedict warns us not to use “useless words.” Words are powerful weapons and gentle comforters if they are used correctly. But when speech is misused it lessens its effective use at anytime.

Another way of stating this maxim might be, “choose your words carefully and sparingly.”

The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the “Word made Flesh.” There is a connection here with all the words that come from our mouth too. We should ever be mindful of The Word when a word comes to our lips.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 53

This is a continuation of the the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel, the previous posts are available in the archives to the right. This is step 53.

(53) Not to love much speaking.

Recently while a guest at the monastic table of a monastery I was privileged to be there on a night when talking was allowed in celebration of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Normally meals are taken in silence at this monastery, while a monk reads from the Rule of St. Benedict, the martyrology and usually a book that would be of interest to the monks (this final selection could be a current bestseller).

So on this night, after the blessing was said and we were seated there was a few minutes of silence while the lector read from the Rule and the martyrology before the abbot rang a bell signaling that we could speak. The one line that was read from the Rule was “not to love much speaking.”

I was seated with a monk who I had meant several times before, Father Louis, in his late 70’s he still leads a very busy life wearing a number of “hats” at the monastery not the least of which is to entertain guests. He told me that two of his heroes were fallen and that made him sad.

“Who were they?” I asked.

“President Clinton and Archbishop Weakland.” He responded.

He went on to say that Clinton had been for the poor and for the life of me I can’t remember what Weakland had done that enamored him to Father Louis, although Weakland was also a Benedictine monk so that probably had something to do with it.

We carried on a conversation about current projects that I was working on and Father Louis weekend parish work. It was an ironic visit, because we were both doing the very thing that Benedict counsels the monk not to do “to love much speaking.”

Why? Too often when we speak much we say things that might better be left unsaid. If Benedict were writing today, he might also add not “to love too much blogging” which could easily be a modern equivalent to “too much speaking.” Bloggers know that writing what you are thinking can come back to bite you sometimes.

God first, everything else second. We are to pray always, even before we speak. “God is this going to build the person up?” “Lord is this your will?” All should proceed what might flow too quickly from our lips and not be according to God’s will for us.

The flip side of course is that someone who loves to talk will hardly make a good monk. Since monks thrive on silence (and we should nurture ourselves with this too), someone who loves to talk obviously would be miserable in such a setting.

But the counsel is beneficial to all of us. “Think before you speak,” becomes “Pray before you speak.”

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 52

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 52:

(52) To guard one’s tongue against bad and wicked speech.

This counsel will be followed by another which was read while I was recently a guest at the monastic table of the monks at Saint Meinrad Archabbey-namely “not to love much speaking,” which solves much of the problems that we might encounter with this counsel. Guarding one’s tongue, catching oneself before one speaks, is a valuable maxim especially if you are an extrovert who speaks whatever crosses your mind. The same might be said for introverts who are apt to do the same in writing (and in the days of blogs, instant messaging and email–the dangers are plenty!).

What is “bad” and “wicked” speech?

If we look to the Gospels for an answer we might be surprised at what Jesus identifies as such–vows:

“Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 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: 33-37).

It seems like this says pretty well what we are to avoid. Yet isn’t it strange how this basic teaching of Jesus is ignored? How we still speak vows before God and man?

The teaching of Jesus is pretty clear that we are not God and we do not know what the future holds–God alone knows this. So any attempt on our part to declare that we will do something forever is actually rather unchristian–I know that this will be misunderstood so let me clarify. God is the source of our existence and our life. Every act that we do throughout the day should be dependent upon His Will for us. Anytime that our attitude is that we can do anything without his help we are as Jesus says doing something that “comes from evil.”

Novena to St. Therese

The Novena to St. Therese continues.  It’s included in this pocket-sized book.

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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73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 51

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 51:

(51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.

Having a trusted person to share our spiritual journey with is a fundamental aspect of the spiritual life. Catholics do this when they celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance to a degree, but it is done more completely when one chooses a spiritual director to guide them along their path to Christ.

This is no easy task for either the one giving direction or the one receiving it. It requires trust and openness. Above all it requires being open to the action of the Holy Spirit. There is always the danger in this process for abuse and one should never allow their “director” to lead them away from Christ.

But what if we are scrupulous and not trusting in the mercy of Christ? Then we should allow our spiritual mentor to direct us to the Gospels to encounter the Christ who forgives seventy times seven.

But what if our problem is a sin that we commit over and over again?

Then we should allow our spiritual father to point out to us that our trust is to be placed in God’s power and not in our own ability to reform.

A trusting relationship with a spiritual father can greatly aid our spiritual growth, but we should never allow this “advice” to become anything more than that. Too often people have fallen greatly because they made their spiritual father into their “god” rather than as a means to grow closer to God.

Sinful thoughts can grow in the dark. By bringing them to the light to someone who is wise in the spiritual life we shed light on our darkness. This has the effect of causing the cockroaches to scurry back into their hiding places. Naming our demons makes exorcising them a possibility.

RCIA and Confession

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

73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God – 50

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 50:

(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one’s heart.

St. Benedict’s counsel is wise. Our Lord gave his disciples “power” and that same “power” is available to us, we should avail ourselves tof this powert when we most need it. We need it most when evil thoughts are at their very infancy within our emotions, when they “rise in one’s heart.” At that moment we should run like a little toddler to Our Lord.

Being a disciple of Our Lord requires this child like faith. In fact the greatest evil thought that can arise in our hearts is to start thinking that we are finally “mature” enough in the spiritual life and don’t need to do this. As Our Lord said when his disciples returned from a very successful missionary journey, “I saw Satan fall like lightning!” Pride over the gifts that we have been given can quickly cut us off from the source of our salvation.

So with child like faith we move through life ever vigilant over our thoughts, scrupulously turning to Our Lord at every moment where evil seems to lurk.

Benedict’s image of ‘dashing against” calls to mind a clutching disciple, grabbing hold of Our Lord’s garment lest we fall. It is a good image because the desparation that it suggests is what we are faced with in our daily lives. As St. Paul said, “Examine yourselves, lest you fall.”

73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God 49

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 49:

(49) To hold as certain that God sees us everywhere.

Almost all of us were raised with this notion, which was a useful tool that parents could use to insure that when they weren’t around there was another, bigger and far meaner parent in the sky. The last part is the most unfortunate part of this. God is not meaner but far more loving than any human could ever be toward us.

Again because most of us were taught this as children it tends to immediately make us think of whether we are good or bad. But really another way to think of it is God is always there looking out for us. Always ready for us to call upon His name. That he watches over us and protects us.

Reflecting on this counsel, I think you can see is colored by your image of God. Does that image reflect what Jesus Christ showed God to be like or does it reflect what your parents, or some other religious figure revealed to you that God was like. More importantly, does whatever I was taught match to what the Gospels reveal about Jesus?

This is the “type” of God who sees us no matter where we are, a loving God. One who is not up there waiting to strike us dead and send us to Hell, but one who is willing to come down and become a man and walk in our midst and to suffer and die when we reject Him–and then to come back again to offer us forgiveness. “His mercy endures forever.”

Today, and everyday be mindful of the presence of God, always with you no matter if you believe or not. In the words of an old Latin saying, Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit, “Bidden or not bidden God is present.”

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 41

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 41th step:

(41) To put one’s trust in God.

As if to remind us what all this is about, in the middle of these counsels, Saint Benedict gives this counsel that refocuses on the real issue here. Going through the counsels we can lose sight again that almost everything that is negative, not to do this or not to be this is all about a positive to “do this,” to put our trust in God.

Most of us probably would say that we put our trust in God. But our reaction to all of these counsels of Saint Benedict is like a giant mirror that reveals whether we really do or not.

There is a story that I have heard so many times that it has lost it’s punch for me, but perhaps not for you-so here it is. A man is walking along a mountainside when suddenly he hits some lose soil and goes tumbling over a steep precipice. Luckily he grabs on to a tree branch as he falls down.

Looking down, he sees that if he hadn’t grabbed the branch he would have fallen to a certain death. But looking up he can see no way to reach the safety of the path again, and he realizes that he can’t hold on forever. He yells for help, “Is anyone up there?”

A voice booms, “I’m here, it’s God.”

The man says, “Thank God! Can you save me?”

“Of course,” God says, “but you have to do exactly what I tell you.”

“Okay,” the man says, “what do I need to do?”

“Let go,” says God.

“Is anyone else up there?” The man screams.

Putting our trust in God means more than just giving lip service to Him. It means, “letting go,” and whether we do or not ultimately decides whether we live or die-forever.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 40 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 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.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 39

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 39th step:

(39) Not to be a murmurer.

I like how the dictionary defines a murmur, “a confidential complaint.” Of course the complaint being offered confidentially is never directed at the person who is responsible for the complaint.

There are murmurers in the Gospel. When Jesus says to the paralytic “your sins are forgiven” the people present begin to murmur amongst themselves about what they perceive to be the presumption of Jesus to do something that is reserved to God alone, (this brings to mind the modern tendency for everyone to forgive sins or at least dismiss them as not really all that serious). Jesus hears the murmurs and addresses them directly.

If you have ever been caught murmuring by the person you are murmuring about–you probably know how they felt.

We should not murmur because we are not addressing the people that should be addressed. We should however speak out “unconfidentially” against injustices, against wrongdoing that harms others. But sometimes the things we complain about in whispered tones hardly rise to that level.

If God is God for us, there is less to murmur about. Many of the events of life that we might normally complain about will be seen to be part of a plan that is much larger than us. What we might perceive as the “wrong way of doing things” might actually lead to “God’s way of doing things” being done in the long run.

Again the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis provides an excellent meditation for us on this issue.

Feel like complaining, go to the chapel instead and complain to the boss. He can do something to remedy the situation while your co-worker will only add to your misery.

Our Lady of Sorrows – September 15

In northern Ohio there is a church dedicated to Our Lady

of Sorrows; in the basement is a room containing signs of

weakness that have been left behind by those who have experienced

the power of God at that shrine. Among whiskey bottles,

cigarettes, crutches, and leg braces is a mat that once

carried a paralyzed man there—who left empowered by God

to walk again.

I suspect that the most powerful stories of healing, however,

come from those who were unable to leave anything behind.

Their weakness, whatever it was, remained with them; however,

they had been empowered to carry their weakness in the power

of God. This type of healing often goes unnoticed. Even so, it is

the greater healing, because it enables us to share in the cross of

Christ, to embrace our weakness in the power of God. For the

follower of Christ, weakness need not mean defeat!

-The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel

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Exaltation of the Holy Cross – September 14

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Here’s a link to a page with a free download of Michael Dubruiel’s book The Power of the Cross.

It’s in .pdf format.

Also on the page is a link to a series of interviews Michael did with Catholic radio station KVSS on the book.

St. Francis of Assisi taught his followers to reverence Christ and

his cross wherever they might find themselves. The prayer attributed

to St. Francis that begins, “Lord, make me a channel of your

peace,” was in fact not composed by St. Francis; it was misapplied

to him in a prayer book. The true prayer of St. Francis was one

he taught his friars to pray whenever they would pass a Church

or the sign of the cross made by two branches in a tree. They were

to prostrate themselves toward the church or the cross and pray,

“We adore you Christ and we praise you present here and in all

the Churches throughout the world, because by your holy cross

you have redeemed the world.”

The cross reminds us of the true Christ, the one in the

Gospels who was constantly misjudged by the religious figures

of his day. If we are not careful, he will be misjudged by us as well.

We need to worship him alone.

How to get more out of Mass

Eucharist means…”thanksgiving”

Michael Dubruiel wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 

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.

Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 38

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 38th step:

(38) Not to be slothful (cf Rom 12:11).

The scripture passage that St. Benedict quotes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. I expected it to be the passage “if a man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat,” but its not that. The passage he quotes is “Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.”

Again, like in all previous counsels the motivation to not be slothful is to be animated by God’s Holy Spirit. How do we receive this Spirit, by serving the Lord (I like to think of this as “working for the Lord”).

Just as one might take a job with a certain company and enjoy certain benefits that the company offers, so too for the person who “works” for the Lord. The chief benefit that God provides to those who serve Him is that He gives them the power to fulfill the job. He also fills His workers with the desire and zeal to do the work.

Being lazy, or slothful is a sign that we have turned in on ourselves again; that we are “serving” ourselves and our own desires. So it is easy to see how this would stop us from being in communion with God.

What then of all the lazy Christians? Remember Benedict wrote these counsels for monks, men who had left everything to follow Christ in the life of the Monastery. But as Jesus prophesied the the “love of many will grow cold,” so too in religious life, people can lose sight of the great need that they have for God and start slacking off in prayer.

Which brings us to the greatest danger of being slothful–neglecting prayer. Communicating with God is essential if we are to live–we must never give up prayer.

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