St. Ignatius Loyola – July 31

 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” Catholics, in great need of being tamed by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

dubruiel


73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 23

 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.
dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 22

 This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe 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.
dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 21

  This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe 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)”

dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. 20 – b

  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, part b

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.

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 20a

  This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe 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.”

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 19

 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 nineteenth step:

MIchael Dubruiel

(19) To console the sorrowing.

Those who sorrow at the loss of a loved one can often seem inconsolable. In fact the Scripture passage related to the slaughter of the innocents comes to mind, “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more (Matthew 2:18).”

It is important to remember that death is not part of God’s original plan. When God creates Adam and Eve, he warns them not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or they will die. Death, is the result of original sin and indeed there is nothing that could console Rachel at her loss when the knowledge that death was eternal separation.

But for the Christian–there is Christ!

Death no longer is the final word. Jesus has overcome death and has opened up the possibility that all of us, if we believe in him, can share in his resurrection. The key, it would seem then to consoling the sorrowing, would be to remind them of the fruit of salvation and to point them to the mercy of God.

Yet having been there, many times, during the sad losses that people suffer–this is seldom the case. Instead, what usually occurs is the arrival of many well meaning people who announce loudly that it was God’s will that the child or adult die.

It is never God’s will that anyone die! Death entered the world because of sin-separation from God. God desires the salvation of all people. The angel of death that passes over the Egyptians is not a “good” angel but one who reaps the evil crop that had been sown by the Egyptians in the Book of Exodus.

Francis MacNutt and his wife Judith once presented a more accurate picture of God’s place in someone’s death. Speaking of how to console a sorrowful mother who has lost her child, they counseled the consoler speaking the following truth, “Death has taken your child, but God will take your child from death!”

To console, we need faith. Faith that in Christ, death is not the end.

Old churches still show forth the truth of the communion of saints, those who have died but are still very much alive and present. Most people intuitively grasp that their loved one is still alive, though not physically present. To console is to bring God’s truth to the situation, God’s message of salvation to the horror of a world steeped in sin.

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel – 18

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

MIchael Dubruiel

(18) To help in trouble.

St. Benedict counsels us to be “helpers” something that no doubt was implanted in most of us from our youth. How can we best help others and what might keep us from reaching out to others?

When Our Lord was thirsty he asked the woman at the well for a drink. Jesus needed help. The woman rather than just giving him a drink gave him a lot of excuses. First it was racial—“You’re a Jew.”

Funny how little our reasons for not helping others changes. Our excuse might be, “You’re not family” or “You’re not Catholic” or “You’re not American” or “You’re not the same race as I.”

If God is “Our Father” who is not our brother and sister?

Saint Benedict’s counsel is simple and indeed it is the Gospel message that we are to help those in trouble. If we use excuses as a buffer to exonerate us from our duty then we risk missing out with an encounter with Our Lord who comes to us often in the guise of the poor.

The Samaritan woman’s excuse, might have kept her from meeting Jesus, had Our Lord not persisted in his desire. If our desire is to help those in need, we will not miss meeting Our Lord throughout the day.

St. Mary Magdalene – July 22

 Mary Magdalene’s feast is July 22.

Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legends and Lies by Amy Welborn

was published by Our Sunday Visitor books some years ago, but is now out of print. A digital version is now available through Amazon Kindle. Click on cover for more information:

Are you interested in an objective examination of the life and lore of Mary Magdalene, a narrative that isn’t agenda-driven or saturated with ideology?
Do you just want to learn more about Mary Magedalene’s identity and role in Christian spirituality, literature and art?

I wrote this book for you.

There’s a great deal of material out there on Mary Magdalene, it’s true. Some of the scholarly material is really fine, but tooamy welborn many of the books for popular audiences are informed by one ideology or another, or fall completely into fantasy.

In De-coding Mary Magdalene I stick to the facts – what we know about Mary Magdalene from the Gospels, and then how Christian amy welborn tradition in both East and West continued to meditate on the figure of Mary Magdalene, seeing in her the model disciple – and weaving all kinds of fascinating legends around her as well.

Here’s the bottom line: The Da Vinci Code propogates the lie that Christianity through the ages marginalized and demonized Mary Magdalene as a “whore” in order to minimize her impact.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Mary Magdalene was the second most popular saint of the Middle Ages. And do catch that word – saint – Honoring someone as a saint (feastday July 22) is a truly odd way of “demonizing” a person. Don’t you think?

So – come meet Mary Magdalene – as she comes to us in the Gospels, as Christians imagined her through the ages as they contemplated her fidelity and discipleship, and how some contemporary interpreters get her so completely wrong.

Table of Contents

Mary of Magdala
“Why Are You Weeping?
The Real Mary?
Apostle to the Apostles
Which Mary?
The Golden Legend
Touching the Magdalene
To the East
The Penitent
Mary and the Mystics
The Magdalene in Art

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 16b

 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 sixteenth step, part two:

(16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).



I have visited the sick many times in my life, usually out of obligation. The reluctance, and hesitation to set out on those journeys remains. It seems that we are reluctant to meet a side of the other that we fear to meet within ourselves. We fear seeing ourselves as we really are.

Visiting the sick is a holy activity. We should bring the healing of Christ to those who are ill, and we should commend them to our prayers, as well as asking their prayers.

When I left to go to school, Pearl often wrote to me in the months before she died. She called me her “angel,” saying that I often appeared to her by her bedside. The fact was that she was my angel, a messenger from God pointing to the truth of the fleeting nature of this life and to the crucifix that she clutched to like a life preserver, to the Savior who has the power to save us



MIchael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 16a 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 sixteenth step, part one:

MIchael Dubruiel

(16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).

The difficulty in visiting the sick is usually not their illness but rather something within ourselves that likes to hide from our own mortality. The sick too often remind us of the shortness of our own life and the transitory nature of our pilgrimage on this earth.

I remember as a young man that I would visit a young woman in a nursing home and bring her communion once a week. She was a few years older than I was at the time but was dying of terminal cancer. All of her hair had been shaved and she often wore a wig to hide the fact.

At first the smells of the nursing home and the lingering feeling of death, made the short trip to the nursing home a very difficult one for me to make. I would often speak to the young woman, whose name was Pearl, about the possibility of healing etc.—I realized all of which made me feel better—she just brushed off these comments.

Our conversations were often one sided even though we spoke to each other. She confessed that until she had been ill that she had not thought much about God, and claimed to have been a magnificent sinner. Once she even pulled out a photo of her before the cancer, only a few years before, that showed a vivacious beautiful woman laughing with her friends. Now clutching a crucifix, her constant companion in her bed of pain she smiled and said that she had accepted death.

I will never be able to measure the effect that my weekly visits with Pearl have had on my life or for that matter what continued influence she has on my life even now. Only in Heaven can I hope for a true accounting of this. But I do know that the image of her in her bed of pain clutching that crucifix remains with me even now. Like a mirror held up to the moments of my life—each event is measured by how well I use my time here.

More by Michael Dubruiel. l Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 15a

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 fifteenth step part one:

MIchael Dubruiel

(15) To clothe the naked…


For some reason the first thing that comes to mind when confronted with this counsel of St. Benedict is something that I read some years ago in a work by Peter Brown in a book entitled The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity -a book that among other things, looks at early Christianity’s view of the body. Brown speculates that the Church’s view of modesty in the Roman World is colored by the fact that nudity was the privilege of the wealthy.

Another thought that comes to mind, is the way in which Baptisms were done in the early church. The catechumen would strip naked leaving the clothing they entered the church with behind, as they entered the Baptismal pool and then as they emerged from the waters and had oil poured over their heads, they would be clothed in a new garment.

The young man in Mark’s Gospel (Mk 14:52) who fleas the scene of the arrest of Jesus naked, is another image that comes to mind. Whereas the apostles had left everything to follow Jesus, now at the crucial moment of decision this young man (thought by some to be the writer of the Gospel–Mark) leaves everything behind to get away from Jesus.

But it could be that this young man’s presence in the Gospel is also an indication of the early Church’s Baptismal practice. When you understand how Baptisms were done, and also what entering the waters of Baptism symbolizes (entering into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus) you will see the connection between the young man leaving his clothes behind and then reappearing after the Passion in the Empty Tomb, (in place of the Angels who are there the other Gospels).

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 14b

 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 fourteenth step part two:

(14) To relieve the poor.




A few of these poor souls, I recognized from my visits to the local pub in town. I did not judge them or deny them the tickets even though I knew that they had some money (at least some to buy drinks). One reason for my lack of judgment, was due to the fact that giving the monks food away, did not cost me anything. I wonder though, if the money had been coming out of my pocket, if I would have been as understanding.

Others came to the door looking for food of a different sort.

Thomas Merton in Bread in the Wilderness speaks of the psalms as God’s manna, given to feed the soul in the desert of life. The monk’s prayer, made up almost entirely of praying the psalms, provided that nourishment for many who had suffered loss or hurt from great struggles of faith.

All of us are poor. It is arrogant to think that I am somehow better than anyone else. If there is anything that I have hated throughout my life, it is those who look down on others. Sadly, it is also the part of myself that I hate the most—and the part that I know could ultimately condemn me if I do not let go of it.

Saint Benedict did not leave counsel to “help” the poor, even though we could interpret this counsel as concretely doing this. He told them to breathe life into them.

I could feed the poor with food, but if I made them feel like I was doing them a great service, I could leave them with their bellies full but still feeling very poor. If on the other hand, I fed them in the way I might some friend who I hoped to impress and win favor from, how might that leave them?

The famous, the wealthy and those in power often find that doors are opened for them and everything provided for them, although they usually have done nothing to deserve it. We may not have a “royal” family in this land of ours, but some are treated that way nonetheless. Why should some be treated that way and while others are neglected?

MIchael Dubruiel

I can not change the way the world around me acts toward the poor, but I can change the way I act. I also cannot tell, from outward appearances, who the poor are by the way they appear. This counsel of Saint Benedict’s does not apply to one or two individuals but rather to everyone that I meet.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 14a

 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 fourteenth step: part one:

(14) To relieve the poor.



I find the wording of this counsel of Saint Benedict rather interesting. In fact I felt that I had better check the translation to see if the one I was using was correct. What I found is that the word Benedict uses, that is translated as “relieve,” is “recreare” which literally means “to create again” or to “revive.”

With that in mind we see that the counsel that Saint Benedict is giving applies to a variety of the poor. The material poor as well as those who are poor in spirit.

While attending school at Saint Meinrad College I worked several work study jobs. One of these jobs was a weekend one where I assisted the Guestmaster at the Guest House. I greeted people who came to the guest house usually to inquire about the Monk’s schedule or the history of the monastery. But another group, that often made their appearance on a regular basis, were those looking for help–the poor.

Some of these were looking for food. The monastery had tickets, that I gave to those who asked for them, and they in turn would go to the monastery kitchen where food would be given to them. No questions were ever asked apart from how many members they had in their family which was a determining factor in how many tickets I would hand them.

MIchael Dubruiel
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