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 eleventh Step:

(11) To chastise the body (cf 1 Cor 9:27).

I work out in a gym about five times a week usually on my way home for work. There are a few regulars who are always there, both when I arrive and still there when I leave. They push their bodies to the absolute limit and their bodies show the results. Most people envy them but few are willing to put their bodies through the rigors required for such results.

I begin with this example for obvious reasons. When it comes to spirituality most people react negatively to the thought of monks beating themselves with flagelants or wearing hair shirts and I think rightly so, but as often happens when we reject a faulty interpretation, we seldom replace it with a correct one.

About a year ago I was giving a tour of a Benedictine Monastery, where I had attended college almost twenty years ago, to some visitors. Being a curious soul I know the place inside and out. Among the visitors was an author that I had worked with and her friend, along with another Benedictine Nun, all who were attending a conference at a nearby convent.

In the course of our tour we came upon the Chapter room of the monastery. The walls and ceiling of the Chapter Room were illustrated beautifully by a Swiss monk who had lived at the monastery in the early mid-1900’s. The ceiling contained the signs of the zodiac illustrating the whole of life, the walls illustrated some of the steps that St. Benedict mentions in his rule (the subject of this series).

He illustrated this step by showing several monks flogging themselves. I mentioned that this was from the rule and the Benedictine sister immediately said that it wasn’t. I mildly protested but she insisted. Later when we arrived at the bookstore, I openned the Rule of St. Benedict to the page and pointed out to her where it was. She was undetered, “It’s a poor translation.”

She mentioned another translation, but here again the wording was the same. Finally, she said,”well who believes that anymore?”

“Bodybuilders,” I answered.

Chastising our flesh is a way of mastering our bodies and our wills.

One of my favorite soon to be saints, Father Solanus Casey, jogged. I think I read somewhere that he did so to punish his flesh. Chastising the body can be a healthy enterprise.

A famous Franciscan friar, who is a little overweight and has had numerous heart problems, told me recently that he was finally taking care of his body since he saw hopeful signs in the church.

A recent country song perhaps gives us this point best in modern language, “She treats her body like a temple, I treat mine like a honky tonk.” If we believe that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then we will maintain it in a way that show that we treasure it.

 

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July 11- Feast of St. Benedict

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God based on the Rule of St. Benedict by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 28th step:

(28) To speak the truth with heart and tongue.

St. Benedict’s counsel here is geared toward a conversion of feelings, so that the truth I speak with my mouth, I also feel in my heart. Of course, such truth will be spoken with conviction.

Many of us know instinctively what is true, we just don’t feel like paying any attention to it. Conversion of “feelings” is an important part of opening oneself to God.

If you don’t feel like converting to the truth, it is because some untruth has grabbed your heart. Opening your heat to God’s love will have a surprising result–you will literally feel the truth.

Too often we look toward those who should model religious faith but instead wear their faith for all to see. Jesus condemns the Pharisees and hypocrites of his day because they keep the tax collectors and prostitutes from coming to the Kingdom of God by their example. In other words they make religious belief in God seem unattractive.

Our eyes should always be focused on Christ. We shouldn’t look to anyone else.

The people who encountered Him were drawn to Him. So will we be.

Then speaking the truth will be a matter of allowing the tongue to proclaim what the heart feels.

Catholic Spiritual Reflection by Michael Dubruiel

“There will only be children in the Kingdom of God,” Fulton Sheen once said. He could have been commenting on today’s Gospel reading. Jesus praises the Father for having revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom to “mere children” while hiding it from the learned and wise.

Isn’t it true that the more we try to figure it all out the more confused we become. Yet a simple child like pondering done in prayer before God often reveals answers that years of learning could not obtain. A child goes to its parent and asks “what is it?” We should lose any self-reliance we have and turn to God at every moment of our lives to make sure that we understand “what it is” that we are encountering at the present moment.

We may be surprised to find that the Kingdom of God will have finally come to us.

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How to Receive Communion by Michael Dubruiel

These were written by Michael Dubruiel many years ago.

We say the words of the Centurion before communion everytime we go to Mass but do we really mean it? “Lord, I am not worthy…”

Most of us probably think there are times when we aren’t worthy but plenty of other times that we are. The truth is that we are never worthy. The more we can foster that notion the less likely we are to sit in judgment of others, the less likely we are to ever think we know better than God.

If we are to truly look forward to the coming of Christ we have to foster within us a deep sense of our own unworthiness that creates space for Christ to enter into our lives. The Centurion realized that a mere word from the savior could save his servant. In faith we should open the Scriptures with the same belief and expectation.

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Reflection by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous postings are found in the archives to the right. This is the 72nd Step:

(72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.

We should always strive to remain at peace with everyone. One wonders how different life would be if everyone were to embrace this counsel and practice it in their daily life. Would there ever be another war? Would anyone have reason to live in fear anymore?

But such is not the case and I cannot live with my focus on what others are or are not doing. I can only put this counsel into practice myself. Do I allow the sun to set without making peace with those who I’m either angry with or those who are angry with me.

I have worked with people who practice this counsel and it can be rather tiresome when they come up to you to make peace and you weren’t even aware that you were at “war” with them. But in the long run it is much better to have these summits of peace than to have people around you stewing about some slight that you have committed against them.

And what of us?

Are we aware of the control that others have over us by their actions and words?

Really this is a counsel to make sure that any time God is Lord over you. When we make someone an enemy we are in danger of making them an idol that we worship and serve. They and the actions that they commit against us are not all-powerful and do not deserve the time and emotion that we often waste on them. Making peace with our adversaries means making peace with God first, asking God to empower us to forgive and acknowledging that God is the judge over all. We let go and let God be God in our lives.

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The Cross of Christ Restores. . . Our Freedom


 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ROMANS 6:22–23


“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”. . . “Truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” JOHN 8:31,34–36 

We live in a time when “truth” is often thought of, even among Christians, as something subjective and up for grabs. This has greatly weakened the ability of the Church to bring the gospel of Christ to the world. Any appeal to the Church as the guardian of truth is met with a litany of accusations against those who have preached one thing and lived another. The fact that members of the Church remain enslaved by sin, despite the liberating claims of the gospel, can be explained by our inability to “continue in the word” of Jesus. Jesus told his disciples that if they persisted in their faith, they would know the truth and it would set them free. Freedom would be theirs only  if they picked up their crosses and stepped out in obedience, following Christ even to death.

More than a few people are immersed in lives ruled by addiction—the most evident slavery to sin. Many wish to disassociate sin and addiction, arguing that those who suffer from addictions are not culpable of their acts. However, the effects of sin may be seen both in the life of the addicted person and in the people around him or her. In addition, behavior scientists are demonstrating that those with substance addictions to drugs and alcohol often engage in other activities that can be just as destructive. Some studies show a release of certain chemicals in the brain that mimic the high of drugs and alcohol and lead people to engage in other addictive behaviors to reach this “high.” All of this is proclaimed in the teaching of the New Testament, of course, and even the therapy devised to rescue someone from such behavior is biblically based. The Scriptures teach that sin is both destructive and enslaving. The destructive element is not apparent to the human eye—in the opening pages of Genesis, the forbidden fruit was “a delight to the eyes.” Unfortunately, by the time the person recognizes his addiction, he is already caught in its deadly grip. Sin is by nature enslaving, and we cannot free ourselves from it. We can be freed from future bondage only through a “higher power.” Jesus offers us this free gift, but we must continue in his Word in order to experience true freedom.

 Just Do It

Father Val Peter, executive director of Boys and Girls Town in Nebraska, wrote a book called Rekindling the Fires: An Introduction to Behavioral Spirituality. This spirituality is based not on feeling but on truth, a sort of “just do it” approach that encourages others to act on the truth of the gospel in faith, continuing over a period of time the “forced” activity becomes more natural. In many ways Father Val’s book is a modern version of living the virtues in order to become a virtuous person. Every parent grieves when they see a child make the same mistakes they once did; what most parents do not realize is that we are still bound by those “blinders.” The details change with age, but if we are not serving God, we are still slaves to some other master that in the end will bring us down to the depths of hell To the person obsessed with anything that is not God, being freed from that “master” seems impossible. Even taking the first steps toward Christ and away from the “master imposter” is painful, indeed a crucifixion. It is impossible to imagine any other way of living. Yet if we allow the words of Jesus to soak into our minds, bringing us to true repentance, we will wonder how we ever could have been so misled. As the late Orthodox theologian Father Alexander Schmemann once observed, there is a joy in following Jesus that transcends the suffering that is entailed by taking up one’s cross: “In the world you will have tribulation,” Jesus warns us (Jn 16:33). Anyone who would in the smallest degree follow the path of Christ, love him and give himself to him, has this tribulation, recognizes this suffering. The cross is suffering. But through love and self-sacrifice this same tribulation is transformed into joy. It is experienced as being crucified with Christ, as accepting his cross and hence taking part in his victory. “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The cross is joy, “and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22).

In medieval art, the cross of Christ is portrayed as the tree of life, both as a vine (referring to John 15) and as the source of the Eucharist. Angels are depicted as offering the bread and wine, the fruit of the cross, to those who stand at the foot of it. This image points to the alternative to enslavement that Christ offers us: to be fed by him at the foot of the cross, receiving from him what the others falsely promise. The false gospels lure us with promises of joy and fulfillment—yet in the end they ensnare us, delivering only misery and despair. Sometimes one has to follow these false masters down a long road to discover that truth. By contrast, the path on which Christ leads us appears arduous and dreary, one to be avoided. In reality, it is the path that leads to true joy, for it delivers everything that our hearts desire most. “Enter by the narrow gate,” our Lord urges us. “For the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13–14). Two roads, two gates. Which are you traveling?

The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel

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The Cross of Christ Illumines. . . The Way to True Unity

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. EPHESIANS 5:1–2 


So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. JOHN 7:43–44 

One of the most remarkable American Catholics of the last century was a humble Capuchin friar whose name in religion was Father Solanus Casey. Solanus served as a friar in Detroit, in New York, and in his final years in the town of Huntington, Indiana. Born of Irish parents, Solanus did not fare well in the seminary, where he was taught by German-speaking priests in Latin, so while he was ordained a priest, he was never allowed to preach a doctrinal homily or to hear confessions. Yet God gave Solanus the gift of healing, and people sought him out from all over. When he died in 1957, those who knew him regarded him as a saint. He now is recognized as a Venerable, the last step before being beatified by the Church.

Solanus was the community’s porter, the doorkeeper. Today we would call him a receptionist, someone who would greet visitors who came to the friary seeking prayers or material comfort.  Solanus did his job so well that people lined up to have a few moments of his counsel. People of all faiths would come to him requesting prayers and healings. What Solanus would ask of these seekers was rather unique. He told them to “thank God ahead of time”—in other words, to step out in faith, before any miracle had happened; to act before God as though it already had happened. The way that he normally asked people to express this thanks to God was for them to sign up to have Masses said by the Capuchin mission society, whether they were Catholic or not. Mass is the perfect “thanksgiving,” so it made sense to Solanus that if one were to thank God ahead of time, having Mass said was the perfect way to do this. People continue to seek Solanus’s intercession to this day, and they continue to “thank God ahead of time,” with remarkable results.


Unity 

What Solanus taught is what Jesus practiced. In John’s Gospel, before Jesus is arrested and crucified he thanks God, ahead of time. He trusts the Father entirely and he teaches his disciples to do the same. While the people are divided over Jesus and seek to arrest him, no one is able to lay a hand upon him until he gives himself over to them. He freely gives himself to the Father as the Father gives the Son to the world and as the Spirit will be given by the Father and the Son to those who believe and put their trust in God. The Spirit will unite what sin has divided. John’s Gospel tells us that “they wanted to arrest him,” but instead they were captivated by him. They were as divided in their purpose as we are when we sin—part of us wants to believe, part of us doesn’t. Division is one of the results of the original sin of Adam and Eve—and the cross of Christ is the ultimate sign of division, but ironically in that very cross, Christ will make us one.

Do we see this unity anywhere on earth today? In some ways we are more one now than we were fifty years ago, but in many other ways we are more divided. It is to be expected that the world is this way, because the world will remain fallen until Christ comes again, but it is a great scandal that division exists within the body of Christ—the Church. We cannot here worry about what someone else can do to undo this damage to the body of Christ, this further tearing apart of his flesh—we can only examine what we are doing to repair the damage ourselves.

 That They Be One

Father Solanus Casey was a pious priest who lived in the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council, yet one of the remarkable aspects of his life was how he welcomed people of all faiths to his doorstep. He did not change his belief for anyone; he didn’t need to because his faith gave him a command to love everyone and he strove with all his might and God’s help to do so. The gifts that God gave to him freely, he shared freely with all of God’s creation. St. Paul understood well the unraveling of original sin that Our Lord’s death brought about, God’s Spirit reuniting what had been torn apart by sin. He took the good news beyond the Jewish nation and religion that were his own, to the very ends of the earth. Sadly today the Church is wracked with division, in much the same way as the people were when Christ walked among them: They wanted to arrest him rather than be saved by him. Do we not suffer from the same ailment? Do we want to control Our Lord or be controlled by him? St. Paul tells us to “walk in love,” to offer ourselves up as a sacrifice to God. This means dying to all of those things that we like to focus on that keep us apart and focusing rather on the fact that God is the Father of all of us; we all belong to the same family. It means looking at the division that exists and thanking God ahead of time for bringing about the unity of the kingdom, even when we do not see it. Jesus’ journey to the cross was a walk of love, of giving thanks to God and bringing healing to those  who reached out to him. This should be our daily path also.

The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel .

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