73 Steps to Deeper Spirituality by Michael Dubruiel – 48

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 48:

(48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.

We read in the Book of Wisdom “To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and he who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care”, (Wisdom 6:15). Vigilance is a hallmark of monastic life, it is why silence has always been valued in that setting.

Vigilance requires attentiveness. Everyone has had the experience where they arrive home after driving the daily route only to discover that they remember nothing about the trip they have just made presumably awake. Much of life can become so routine that we are oblivious to those around us.

Monks have a practice of keeping “vigil.” I once tried something similar when I attended school at a monastery. I decided that I would simply spend the night with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I took along a Bible, a rosary and sat in a small oratory. Just the Lord and me. The time passed rather quickly. There were no great revelations during that period of prayer, but what I did notice was that during the next few days everything seemed more intense. It was almost as though the world was suddenly in “high definition” vs. the black and white that it usually seems to be.

Unfortunately, for me it was a one time event. But I have noticed that the more I pray, the more vigilant I become. The more I notice others that cross my path. The less I travel through my day on automatic pilot.

Most of us might raise the excuse of there being too many distractions in life for us to be truly vigilant. But therein lies the distinction–distractions demand our attention. What we call distractions are things that we are ignoring that are clamoring for our attention. The vigilant persons pays attention to everything they are doing and thinking.

The image of a psychic who seems to see and hear voices that no one else hears seems an apt representation of the vigilant person. All of us carry with us intense memories of past experiences, these play a heavy role in the way we act toward others. The vigilant person will discern the “other” people in the room so to speak when they encounter their daily contacts.

Prayer and discernment are both necessary to be truly vigilant in our actions. We need to truly see what creates our reactions to people and events and bring them to God. To free ourselves from inordinate attachments. As the Book of Wisdom says to be vigilant will “free us from all care.” No regrets, only gratitude.

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.

73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God – 47

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 47:

(47) To keep death before one’s eyes daily.

Momento Mori, “remember death” is an ancient spiritual maxim presented to us here by St. Benedict. Keeping one’s end in mind helps us to focus on what really matters. Many self-motivators have picked up on this and while avoiding “death” have sought to get people to meditate on what is really important in life.

Of course what happens after death matters a great deal if we are to focus on death. If one believes that nothing happens after death that focusing on it could be a morose practice that would only depress the person. If on the other hand one believes in the after life and a judgment then every decision I make in the present is moving me along a road in one of two directions–either toward heaven or hell.

Many people believe in a after life for absolutely no good reason. Many of them do not believe in God, but reaping the harvest of Christendom continue to carry around with them a vague sense that death is not the end. But this belief does not come from science.

Others, nihilists, belief in nothing but the present but in a rather dark manner, since death is the end that the whole of life is rather meaningless and existence is a bore.

Then there are the Epicureans who “eat, drink and are merry” for tomorrow we die. Their focus is on death, but it is one where death is looked at as the great enemy that must be avoided at all costs by throwing as much pleasure as possible at the body while it is still alive. These are the saddest of people. Often their bodies are racked with pain from the abuse that they have subjected it to in pursuit of pleasure.

The final group is made up of believers. Our focus on death is to be hopeful. It is to help us to get through the present moment when it is difficult. It is to inspire us in the present moment when it seems meaningless. It is to keep our eyes on the gift that sin promises-death and the redemption that God through Jesus promises-life.

This focus is one of reality. We are all going to die. By facing it daily it will not catch us unprepared nor unready for God’s judgment.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion -46

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 46:

(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.

I think that this is one of those maxims that would have been a given in previous ages. But now it seems that no one is brought up with a great “desire” for eternal life with all spiritual longing.

I remember as a child listening to a visiting priest preach about the importance of eternity in light of the present moment. It left a deep impression on my young mind and from that day forward every action that I undertook was charged with “eternal” implications.

The type of “longing” that St. Benedict counsels us to have is “spiritual” longing. This is a little more complicated that the normal type of longing but it is an important distinction. Too often people in the past approached their desire for eternal life with an earthly register–keeping track of their good acts, performing prayers with certain types of indulgences–all with a keen eye on where they were on the spiritual maturity meter. This is all the stuff of this life and a pretty sad indication that one really doesn’t trust in God at all.

A spiritual longing is much more focused on God and less on self. St. Paul desired eternal life with this type of longing when he wished if for his fellow men to the point that he himself would forgo it, if it would save them. Spiritual longing is always sacrificial and somewhat paradoxical.

Our Lord said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.” There is great wisdom in meditating on these words in light of St. Benedict’s maxim to “desire eternity with a spiritual longing.” We long to cleave to Christ, to imitate Him and to be united with Him, so to live with Him for all eternity.

Remembering 9/11

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

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I was giving a talk at a Catholic parish in rural Ohio a few years ago about the topic of this book.When I had concluded my presentation someone asked,“Why do people care so little about their faith today?”

I told them of a man, a non-Catholic, I had known who cared little about his faith but attended Mass every week with his Catholic wife because he wanted to make her happy. He did this for years, to the point that several priests tried to convince him that he should convert to the Catholic faith since he had been attending the Eucharist for so many years. He refused.

Then he was diagnosed with bone cancer. His condition deteriorated rapidly. In a few months he went from being robust and strong to bedridden and totally dependent upon others.He called for a priest, who heard his first confession and then offered the Eucharist at his bedside, where he received his First Holy Communion. In the last months of his life, his Catholic faith was all that mattered to him.

This led a woman in the group to recall an incident when a tornado had wiped out her family’s farm and the family had sat huddled together in the storm cellar, praying the Rosary. At that moment their faith had mattered more than anything else in the world to them.

Someone else mentioned that in the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on this country he had noticed more people in the Church and more fervency in the way people seemed to pray.

Our faith is a matter of life and death and our faith is totally centered on Jesus Christ.The Scriptures reveal that Jesus did not leave us as orphans but founded a Church. He made the very human apostle Peter the first leader of this Church. He left a memorial of his saving death in the Eucharist and commanded his disciples to perform it.

Getting the most out of the Eucharist is an urgent task, then, because our very life depends upon Christ, and Jesus comes to us in the celebration of his passion, death, and resurrection at every Eucharist. Jesus said that he is the vine and that we are the

branches. In the Eucharist we receive the very life that connects us to Christ the Vine.

Jesus told a parable about what happens when a storm comes that lashes out against our very lives (see Matthew 7:24–27). He said that the wise person builds his house (his life) on solid ground,on rock (the image that he used to speak about his church and Peter). The foolish person builds on sand and is destroyed by the storms of life.

The work of building the foundation on which our lives depend takes place every time we participate in the Eucharist. While I was putting the finishing touches on this book I traveled to Florida, right after Hurricane Frances had made a direct hit near Stuart, Florida. I had been scheduled to give a talk in nearby Palm Beach Gardens two days after the storm had hit.The talk was canceled because the church, St. Patrick’s, was without power, but I had the opportunity to meet with the pastor of the parish, Father Brian Flanagan, and some of the parish staff. In the midst of much devastation what remains vivid in my mind is how peaceful everyone there was. I know Father Brian to be a man whose deep faith is rooted in the Eucharist, and what I experienced in those days immediately following Hurricane Frances was a literal exposition of Jesus’s parable — the storm had come,but because the lives of the people I met were built on solid rock, they were not destroyed.

Isn’t this what we all want, a joy that the world cannot take away, no matter what might happen? Our Lord offers it to us at every Eucharist. It is my hope that this small book will help you to better experience this joy, and to discover the richness the Lord’s Eucharistic presence can add to your life.

73 Steps to Closer Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel – 45

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 45:

(45) To be in dread of hell.

I think it is helpful to personally design our own notion of Hell. Jesus used Gehenna to describe it to the people of His day. “Gehenna” was the local dump (landfills were a long way into the future) for the city of Jerusalem. So when Jesus described Hell to the people they would have thought of Gehenna where a smoldering fire burned incessantly consuming the refuse of the people of Jerusalem.

Designing your own notion of Hell merely insists of imagining what the would be the worst possible experience that could happen to you and magnifying that by eternity. For most of this would involve pain and suffering that would never cease, but for some it might be an embarrassing situation. Sadly for many it might be an actual moment in their life that they play over and over again in their minds.

The point is that once you have some understanding of how horrible Hell would be for you that you should foster a “dread” of it. The only way we can end up in this eternal place of damnation is by rejecting the gift of salvation that comes to us from Jesus Christ. Accepting or rejecting that gift is a moment by moment yes or no, manifest by our actions.

Dread is a fairly good motivator. Most of us seldom do anything we dread. We keep putting it off. That is why so many people still mail in their tax statements on April 15th close to the stroke of midnight. To dread what is “really” evil is healthy. And what is really evil is “separation from God” which is the best definition of what Hell is.

It is true that if you take your own notion of what Hell is like and then place God in the picture that it become Heaven. I can imagine being quite happy in Gehenna if I was there with Jesus watching people dump their garbage. In fact I can imagine enduring the worst that life can give and being okay with it if I had a strong sense that God wanted me there.

We should dread anything that will separate us from God’s love and Hell is the final separation. Fostering this dread will increase our appreciation for the availability of God’s love in the present moment. The final judgment has not happened for us yet, there is still time. Time to confess and let go of past sins. Time to reform our lives and live in the grace of God in the future. Time to dread the fires of Hell and to live for the glories of Heaven.

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