73 Steps to Communion with God – 55

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel

MIchael Dubruiel

The previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 55th step:
(55) Not to love much boisterous laughter.
Written in the context of rules for monastic living this one is easily understood by anyone who has ever visited a good monastery. There is an atmosphere of silence that permeates the monastic environment and loud boisterous laughter would destroy such an atmosphere.
The maxim is not to “love much” explosive laughter. Again there is no prohibition against humor here but rather there is a caution of making a show of it. If one has ever been around someone who regularly explodes with loud laughter there is something rather unsettling about it–making one wonder about the sanity of the individual displaying it.
Loudness of any sort displays an excessive ego, “look at me I’m laughing.” A good laugh is good for everyone, but the one who explodes in laughter is someone who is overdoing it. Parents often have to caution their children against this, it is even more embarrassing in an adult.
The obvious fault with this type of loudness is that it intrudes upon the space of those outside our immediate circle. The joy that we feel and those we are speaking to may share may not be shared by those who are loud laughter will inflict itself upon at a distance.
To not love explosive laughter can save us from much embarrassment and also preserve the decorum of respect of the people we live with.
There are those who will think that this injunction is not in keeping with the New Testament but read what the Letter of James says: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you,” (James 4:7-10).
The genius of the maxims of St. Benedict is that they embrace all of Scripture, while most of us choose to only exchange a handshake with the word of God.

St. Francis Cabrini – November 13

A novena to Mother Cabrini is included in The Church’s Most Powerful Novenas by Michael Dubruiel

The Church’s Most Powerful Novenas is a book of novenas connected with particular shrines.  Michael Dubruiel wrote in the introduction to this book he compiled:

A novena to Mother Cabrini is included in the 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. 

"michael Dubruiel"

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.

St. Leo the Great – November 10

 -Michael Dubruiel, 2005
I attended an early mass at St. Leo the Great’s tomb one morning while in Rome and as I read the office of readings for today by him, I thought how death makes this even more apparent.

St. Leo, pray for us!
-Michael Dubruiel

From the Office of Readings:

Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of
members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists
as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: We are all one in Christ. No
difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through
lowliness, from the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our
community is undivided. There is a common dignity, as the apostle Peter says in
these words: And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy
priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through
Jesus Christ. And again: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy
nation, a people set apart. For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by
the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy
Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all
spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers
in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like than to find
yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And
what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer
him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart? Because, through
the grace of God, it is a deed accomplished universally on behalf of all, it is
altogether praiseworthy and in keeping with a religious attitude for you to
rejoice in this our day of consecration, to consider it a day when we are
especially honoured. For indeed one sacramental priesthood is celebrated
throughout the entire body of the Church. The oil which consecrates us has
richer effects in the higher grades, yet it is not sparingly given in the lower.
Sharing in this office, my dear brethren, we have solid ground for a common
rejoicing; yet there will be more genuine and excellent reason for joy if you do
not dwell on the thought of our unworthiness. It is more helpful and more
suitable to turn your thoughts to study the glory of the blessed apostle Peter.
We should celebrate this day above all in honour of him. He overflowed with
abundant riches from the very source of all graces, yet though he alone received
much, nothing was given over to him without his sharing it. The Word made flesh
lived among us, and in redeeming the whole human race, Christ gave himself
entirely

.-Michael Dubruiel

St. John Lateran – November 9

A visit to St. John Lateran, from 2006, by Michael Dubruiel:

After a quick lunch (pizza, what else?)we headed toward the Metro station to catch the A Train to St. John Lateran’s to meet up with Zadok who had so generously agreed to give us a tour of two of Rome’s greatest Churches. We were still pretty green when it comes to the whole Metro system and walked (rather than took a bus) to the station, so by the time we finally arrived we were late and Zadok was nowhere to be seen (at least not at the Metro station where Amy had thought he had said he was going to meet us). So Amy went out the other possible exits and Katie, Joseph, the baby (on my back) and I went a bit further and bought a bottle of water. When Amy came to say that he could not be found, we decided to go on further to the Church and see if he might have gone on there when we had not arrived on time. Sure enought there he was…
I should mention that at this point we had already walked quite a bit (given two treks through St. Peter’s, a good half mile to the Metro and another two or three blocks from the Metro to St. John’s) while we stood and listened to Zadok’s interesting history of the surrounding landmarks, Joseph sat.

 And even looking at the front of the Church’s pavement now, makes me tired to think about even walking that distance. Most people think that St. Peter’s is the Cathedral Church of Rome, but it isn’t–St. John Lateran’s is. While the chair of Peter is in St. Peter’s, the Bishop of Rome’s chair is at St. John Lateran’s and this is the central feature of the apse of the Church, now that I think of it in a similar way to the way that the Chair of Peter is in the apse of St. Peter’s. When St. Francis of Assisi came to Rome to see the Pope, he came here to the Lateran and their are large statues of Francis and his crew directly across from St. John’s that seem to be in communication with the large statues that are on the facade of St. John’s. 

After his election as pope last April, Pope Benedict XVI came here to the Lateran to be formally installed as the Bishop of Rome (ever wonder why the Bishop of Rome isn’t an “archbishop”?).

St John’s has it’s own Egyptian obelisk (just like St. Peter’s) and a very impressive Baptistry which next to the Pope’s chair is what I remember most about this part of our tour. The Baptistry was huge (I had seen one at the ruins of St. John’s in Ephesus twenty-seven years earlier that was quite small in comparison). There was some type of festival going on outside of the Church that seemed to be a “Mardis Gras” or “Carnivale” type of celebration, remember this was just before the beginning of Lent. So next to the obelisk were booths, screaming kids and some people dressed in costumes giving the “pope’s church” the feel of a regular parish back home.
Across the street we visited the Scala Santa–the holy stairs, said to have been brought to Rome by St. Helena the mother of Constantine and to have been the stairs that Jesus would have walked on during his Passion when he came before Pontius Pilate. The faithful climb up them on their knees and as this picture will attest–there were no shortage of takes on the day we were there, in fact there were so many that it was really impossible to get near the steps to see them.
We walked up the side steps to another chapel called the Holy of Holies because it contained many holy relics and an image of Christ reported to have been painted by St. Luke entitled “picture painted without hands”….any student of Catholic piety knows there are many images reported to have been painted by St. Luke (Our Lady of Czestochova being one example). I had never thought about it much before, but I wonder if another meaning might be that Luke’s Gospel inspired the works? I doubt the people working their way up on their knees think so..

Around the other side of the Holy Stairs was the remains of the Papal dining hall and an impressive mosaic, as we were viewing this site a woman begging rather aggressively started coming at us, and we moved on toward the Church in the distance…St. Mary Major.
Walking along Zadok shared his knowledge of another area of his expertise the Irish Catholic Church begining with the Irish College, its history and various locations. We talked about the contributions the Irish priests had made to the world at large, Africa in particular and the United States (anyone who lives in the South knows the debt the Catholic Church owes to the Irish priests). What a marvel that where the Church is most vibrant right now is where the Irish planted the Faith. Pray for the Catholics in Ireland.
At this point I became very tired, I think the baby might have fallen asleep on my back and as we learned this made him very heavy. So we stopped and Zadok, Amy, Katie and Joseph had gelato. I sat.
Then up and at it again. A short visit into the Redemptorist Church where the original Our Lady of Perpetual Help is enshrined–a modern enshrinement, simple and I must say not much to my liking. Mass was being said so we weren’t able to really get close.
Next to Saint Prassede, a very interesting Church decorated in a more Byzantine style with beautiful mosaics. This church contained the column that Christ was bound to when he was scourged.
Evening was falling as we arrived at Saint Mary Majors, built on the spot where snow fell one August after Pope Liberius had dreamed that this would be a sign for him to build a church dedicated to Our Lady. As we entered the Church, the chanting of Vespers could be heard. My back was aching from the baby on it and I stole away from our tour to go into the side chapel and join in the praying of Evening Prayer. I grabbed a book and went to the first empty seat I could find which was in the front where I sat next to Cardinal Bernard Law. In spite of the comotion that I created, he did not even seem to notice. I fumbled around in the book trying to locate the point the prayer was at, but to little avail and after about five minutes Michael the baby decided to join in speaking loudly his own version of chant–at which point I made my exit. We toured the church and then started making our way back to the Metro station, thanking Zadok for his time and well presented tour.
When we arrived back on Borgo Vitorio we stopped at a restaurant that Amy had spied the evening before. It was in the cellar and proved to be an excellent choice. We had a meal where everyone had what they wanted, for me it was a pasta with cheese and pepper and it was great,Joseph had a cheese pizzza, Katie a giant calzone, Amy another pasta dish, the baby had some of it all.
Evening came, the second day.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 53c

 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 53 part 3

(53) Not 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 – 53b

-Michael Dubruiel, 2005

I attended an early mass at St. Leo the Great’s tomb one morning while in Rome and as I read the office of readings for today by him, I thought how death makes this even more apparent.

St. Leo, pray for us!
-Michael Dubruiel

From the Office of Readings:

Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of
members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists
as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: We are all one in Christ. No
difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through
lowliness, from the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our
community is undivided. There is a common dignity, as the apostle Peter says in
these words: And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy
priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through
Jesus Christ. And again: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy
nation, a people set apart. For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by
the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy
Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all
spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers
in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like than to find
yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And
what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer
him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart? Because, through
the grace of God, it is a deed accomplished universally on behalf of all, it is
altogether praiseworthy and in keeping with a religious attitude for you to
rejoice in this our day of consecration, to consider it a day when we are
especially honoured. For indeed one sacramental priesthood is celebrated
throughout the entire body of the Church. The oil which consecrates us has
richer effects in the higher grades, yet it is not sparingly given in the lower.
Sharing in this office, my dear brethren, we have solid ground for a common
rejoicing; yet there will be more genuine and excellent reason for joy if you do
not dwell on the thought of our unworthiness. It is more helpful and more
suitable to turn your thoughts to study the glory of the blessed apostle Peter.
We should celebrate this day above all in honour of him. He overflowed with
abundant riches from the very source of all graces, yet though he alone received
much, nothing was given over to him without his sharing it. The Word made flesh
lived among us, and in redeeming the whole human race, Christ gave himself
entirely

.-Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 53a

 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 53, part 1.

(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.”

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.”

Sacred Heart of Jesus

The promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of
My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall
have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

Michael Dubruiel

November Devotional Reflection

Standing up for truth.

Pope Benedict XVI recalls his own youth and a lesson:

My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew – infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion – before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good. Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.

Let us thank God that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights. Let us thank God for all those who strive to ensure that you can grow up in an environment that nurtures what is beautiful, good, and true: your parents and grandparents, your teachers and priests, those civic leaders who seek what is right and just.

The power to destroy does, however, remain. To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated. This is the essence of the hope that defines us as Christians; and the Church recalls this most dramatically during the Easter Triduum and celebrates it with great joy in the season of Easter! The One who shows us the way beyond death is the One who shows us how to overcome destruction and fear: thus it is Jesus who is the true teacher of life (cf. Spe Salvi, 6). His death and resurrection mean that we can say to the Father “you have restored us to life!” (Prayer after Communion, Good Friday). And so, just a few weeks ago, during the beautiful Easter Vigil liturgy, it was not from despair or fear that we cried out to God for our world, but with hope-filled confidence: dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds! (cf. Prayer at the Lighting of the Easter Candle).

What might that darkness be? What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope? A first group of examples pertains to the heart. Here, the dreams and longings that young people pursue can so easily be shattered or destroyed. I am thinking of those affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation – especially of girls and women. While the causes of these problems are complex, all have in common a poisoned attitude of mind which results in people being treated as mere objects ─ a callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being. Such tragedies also point to what might have been and what could be, were there other hands – your hands – reaching out. I encourage you to invite others, especially the vulnerable and the innocent, to join you along the way of goodness and hope.

The second area of darkness – that which affects the mind – often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister. The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations. I have already mentioned the many liberties which you are fortunate enough to enjoy. The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded. It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum. Yet freedom is a delicate value. It can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.

Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person? Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good. In some circles to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere. And in truth’s place – or better said its absence – an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism. But what purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong? How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life? Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others (cf. Spe Salvi, 28).

-Michael Dubruiel 

All Souls Day – November 2

One time in the late 80’s I was traveling with another friend of mine, Brian, on our way to Chicago. The first night we stopped at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA about twenty miles east of Atlanta.

Fr. Francis (originally a monk at Gethsemani and one of the founding monks of Holy Spirit, then in his 80’s) met us at the Guest House door, “Will you stay?”

Anyone who has read Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain knows this is what you expect to hear when you arrive at a Trappist monastery. There is a double meaning to the question…”Will you stay?” and join our community, “Will you stay?” in the guest house and finally since in the Rule of St. Benedict the stranger is to be welcomed as Christ…Will you stay? Lord as in “Stay with us Lord for the day is far spent.”

We answered “yes” as in yes we’ll stay in the guest house tonight, which we did and attended prayers and Mass–then left the next morning on our way to Gethsemani. We arrived in Gethsemani that afternoon (about seven hours later). No one greeted us or asked us if we would stay. There were a few other pilgrims wandering around but no monks visible. We were settled in the chapel for Vespers when the first monks began to emerge from the cloister and enter into the chapel. Brian leaned over to me and whispered, “Its the same guys.”

Well not exactly. Driving toward Birmingham and away from Gethsemani I thought of my friend Peter who has been a big fan of the Trappists from way back. I knew that he had thought about entering the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit at one timea and still made visits there frequently–I also knew that he had visited Gethsemani several times. His experience and mine of both monasteries knew that one welcomed strangers and the other saw them as an intrusion and to be fair because of Thomas Merton Gethsemani got a glut of strangers.

When I first stayed at Gethsemani the beds were very Trappist–really nothing more than a pallet with a two inch mattress on it. Years laters a beautiful, state of the art guest house was built that was more along the lines of mid range hotel. Now the Welcome Center–the times they are a changing.

I called Pete to share my views about the Welcome Center and I share them here because for the most part they were inaccurate as my return trip proved but they say a lot about how our minds process religious experiences. I told Pete:

“The first thing you notice when you walk in through the cloister wall and into the building is a coffin…it is open but empty. In some ways it is symbolic of immediately reminding you of your final end and asking you the question what am I here for? Several monks were available to answer the question.”

“Over the PA system there was an incessant crackling of flames–they made me think of the flames of Hell (another of the Last Things), when in fact a peak into the room to the left of the entrance showed that it was the Easter Fire being prepared and the flames providing the fire to illuminate the Easter Candle–symbolic of the light of Christ illuminating the darkness. The video featured the changing seasons…the crackling flames were replaced with crackling dead leaves falling from the trees surrounding the monastery, the barren trees introduced the funeral of a monk with living monks keeping vigil reading the psalms all night before the burial of their brother.”

I told Pete that all of this left me with the impression that the Welcome Center was designed as a sort of funeral parlor and that unconsciously the monks were providing the guest with a modern morality play that the visitor was the staring player. Walking out of the Welcome Center I made my way toward the Chapel for Vespers–passing by another gate where the words “God Alone” were engraved. Long time readers of this blog will remember that this gate once graced the right hand column of this blog…the Gospel in two words, a reminder that after death all that matters will be God Alone…a reminder that in this life ultimately what matters is God Alone.

Then the Chapel and monks bending in unison at the waist singing “Praise to the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit both now and forever, until the end of the ages.” punctuating the Psalms of praise and thanksgiving.

Death, Hell, Purgatory and Heaven all in a few minutes of each other. “Will you stay?”

No, not here anyway.

(Later my return to Getsemani later in the week and a more accurate description of the Welcome Center).
-Michael Dubruiel

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All Saints Day – November 1

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

A Moment Frozen in Time – Michael Dubruiel

We spent part of last week attending the National Catholic Youth Conference in Atlanta. One moment from all that I experienced continues to stay with me, perhaps I might say even to haunt me. While Joseph, Katie and I were walking back toward the exhibit area where Amy and Michael were, we suddenly notice a quiet and people stopping (in an environment that was much like walking through midtown Manhattan on a weekday). Then enmasse young and old dropped to their knees.

Advancing were youth holding signs “Silence and Kneel”…everyone obediently did so as cassocked men holding candles, one swinging incense advanced in front of a coped priest with humeral veil wrapped around the base of a monstrance held the Eucharistic Body of Our Lord aloft.

Those who have seen the movie “The Mission” with one of the best scenes ever filmed about the spiritual life will remember Jeremy Irons playing a priest holding the monstrance in the midst of battle all around him, himself falling and an indigenous man picking up the monstrance and continuing the procession. That is what popped into my mind as I instructed young Joseph to make the sign of the cross as Jesus passed in our midst.

I’ll bet that when all is said and done, I’m not alone in this being a moment that will be remembered by all. What is more I have realized that these Catholic prayer moments are the solid foundation that most Catholics never forget–long after they have forgotten most of what they were taught.

There is a lesson here for those of us who try to pass on the faith to our children–introduce them to Christ, like disciples on the road to Emmaus let Christ the stranger teach them, open the Scriptures to them so that they might recognize him in the breaking of the Bread–that they may pick up his Presence and carry it through the streets of life where a battle wages.

Such catechesis is the lesson plan of saints–may all the saints pray that we might take up that charge!

Catholics and Halloween

The Great Christian Feast-Halloween – by Michael Dubruiel

This is one of those thoughts that comes to you in a moment of clarity with such force that you wonder how it could be that everyone just doesn’t see the truth of it.

Last night when I made one of my few trips to the door to hand out candy, it just hit me. There I was confronted with a skull painted white on the face of an African American, who was standing there holding open a bag, expecting something from me.

A home invasion? No.

Trick or Treat!

I gladly obliged his request with a handful of candy and he turned and went on his merry way to join the other hordes of beggars that flooded our streets.

I had just fulfilled the mandate of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I had just welcomed Him in the guise of the hungry, “When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat.” Matthew 25!

“When did we see you Lord?”

“Whenever you did it to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.”

Is there anytime left in our year when Americans are so blatantly Christian, welcoming the strangers that come to their door? Is there anytime that we reward those who on purpose try to repulse us by their costumes?

Yet the thought that it is better to give than receive dominates this day and truly the day fulfills its purpose of being the eve of All Saints Day! For if we are ever to join the saints we must learn to make everyday Halloween!

So that today when we meet those we might otherwise demonize, we give what we have freely as though we were meeting Christ Himself in the streets (and if we believe the Gospel message we are in fact meeting him)!

I used to joke that strangers could in fact be demons, (this was when the angel rage was in full swing and I use to make the point that yes a stranger might be an angel but who is to say if it is a good one or a bad one–sort of a twist of the Glenda the Good Witch’s question to Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”), but I would ask you to reflect on Halloween a bit more with me.

If we give to the stranger, indeed we welcome them as Christ. But if we look at the stranger only as someone who has something to give and we judge them based on that we are apt to conclude that all strangers are demons!

For example if we start viewing every middle eastern looking Arab that we do not know personally as a terrorist we are forgoing an opportunity to see them as Christ (who happened to be of middle eastern descent). Abraham was visited by three strangers (one would presume of middle eastern descent) and he fed them–they turned out to be angels and they gave him a blessing! But let’s suppose that we in fact do come across some terrorists in our daily activities. What if our interaction with them, seeing them as Christ and giving them whatever we have to give at that moment (even if it is only a smile of acceptance) led them to change their whole way of viewing Americans?

It is sad to think that a day that is the perfect example of what it means to be a Christian has been protested by so many Christians in this country. Do they read the Gospels?

No one is celebrating or worshipping demons on Halloween. The children who dress up in their costumes are playacting and giving the individual behind every door an opportunity to imitate Christ.

It is also sad that many miss the point in the other direction. They overdo it in the name of “everyone else is doing it” and light their houses up as though it is Christmas, rather than encountering the little masked Christs in the darkness the way it is intended to happen and does happen in daily lives. The vacuous nature of their souls demands making a show of their giving. Sadly they have already received their reward–the empty praise of their neighbors and friends.

There have been moves lately among some Catholics to have children dress up as saints– this may be a fine thing to do on All Saints day but it totally misses the point of Halloween. We will never be saints, nor will we imitate them, until we open the door everyday and welcome the ghouls we encounter as though they are Christ.

Catholics and Halloween

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 52b

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 52 part 2

Michael Dubruiel

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

….

“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.”

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 52a

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 52 part 1

Michael Dubruiel

(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:

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