73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 13a

 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 thirteenth step part one:

(13) To love fasting.


Most of us are not familiar with fasting, but we are with dieting. They are not the same thing. Dieting has to do with vanity, fasting has to do with a higher good. We all feel so many needs that are not real but remain unaware. Fasting is a traditional means of gaining the wisdom of what we truly need.

Notice that St. Benedict’s counsel is not simply to “fast” but rather to “love” fasting. He wishes that the monk’s desire be– to do without.

I am reminded of an old distinction made by Archbishop Fulton Sheen on his Life is Worth Living series. We have little choice over what we like, but love is an act of the will. We can choose to love something and we usually do learn to love both things and people that initially we may not have liked. We can also learn and choose to hate.

In a society such as ours fasting happens often enough but not for it’s own sake. People traveling or involved in work regularly skip meals for the sake of whatever has their focus. The problem is that in the long run we tend to be like camels and when we do sit down to eat, we gorge ourselves in case it might be awhile before we set down again.

MIchael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 12

 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 twelth Step:

(12) Not to seek after pleasures.

This is not a popular counsel in our culture. We may be the most pleasure seeking culture that has ever existed. Indeed it may well be that of all the maxims that St. Benedict gives us, this is the hardest. I suspect some will find it nearly impossible to accept even intellectually.

St. Benedict here is not counseling and individual to reject pleasure when it is experienced but rather he is saying that one should now seek after it.

Most of us actively look forward to experiences that we believe will give us pleasure based on our past experiences. As a child we looked forward to Christmas each year, because at an early age when gifted with presents that we had not expect, we were filled with pleasure. But something strange happens, when we start expecting the pleasure and actively seeking after it, the reality never seems to live up to our expectation.

The gift that we beg for arrives and quickly is seen for what it is–“a false advertisement”. The elusive relationship is finally gained but the reality never lives up to the fantasy.

The wise person learns this at an early age, but most of us become more creative in our explanations as to why our plans for pleasure are failing to pleasure us.When we seek after pleasure it become unattainable. Nothing ever lives up to our expectation. The act of seeking is a guarantee that we will not achieve the pleasure that we desire.

The longed after vacation, when it arrives, moves to quickly and is destroyed by the delays in travel, the lousy weather, etc.

If we are wise we will find that pleasure comes when we do not desire it but simply are present to the events of the present moment.

Our expectation is that God can come to us at any moment and this expectation will lead to pleasures and joy that we can not dream of.

The seeker lives in the past. He or she is trying to recreate the unplanned moment when everything seemed to be right. If only the moment could be recreated the pleasure would once again be experienced. But the reality is that that moment is past.

The reality is also that the future is ahead with all of its unexpectedness. “Seek first the Kingdom of God!” is the counsel of Jesus. Everything else is secondary. Everything else is illusion.

If I make it my goal to be totally present to the reality of the moment, rather than to be focused on some illusory happiness that lies in the future, I will find true joy right now.

The radical nature of this claim will find it’s confirmation when I am stuck in traffic or sitting in the waiting room of the doctor or dentist and I thank God for the extra time I have been given to relax, to read a magazine that I usually don’t have time for, to gently reflect on where God has led me in the past and how futile our my plans for anything without God’s co-operation.

“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the labors labor.” The future is ours only in so far as it is the Lord’s also. The pleasure seeker, seeks pleasure because they feel none in the present moment. In the seeking they suffer from their want.
MIchael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 11c

 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 part three:

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




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.

MIchael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 11b

 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 part two:

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




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.

MIchael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 11a 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 part one:




(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.

MIchael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 10 a

 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 tenth Step part one:

(10) To deny one’s self in order to follow Christ (cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).



Denial has come to mean, not facing reality. This is not the type of “denial” that St. Benedict is promoting. Rather it is just the opposite, it is to deny the falsehood of the self that always feels threatened. This false “self” does not exist but is the result of Original Sin and we all struggle with it throughout our lives.

There is a part of us that feels that we must always be vigilant unless someone get one up on us. It is the part of our personality that puts up walls, that is afraid to be our true selves. Simply it is that part of us that fears being embarrassed, thought ill of or that we secretly fear is the definition of who we really are and we work tirelessly to keep everyone from learning the truth.

Of course, the truth is that this is not who we really are at all.

We are just the opposite of the Son of God. Jesus was God but as St. Paul says in Philippians, “did not deem equality with God.” Jesus ate and drank with sinners, he associated with some very ungodly people.l

St. Thomas – July 3

 Originally posted on this blog on April of 2002 by Michael Dubruiel

This Sunday which now is the Feast of Divine Mercy is also the Sunday where we hear the story of the so called doubting Apostle Thomas. The lone Apostle who is not locked in the Upper Room with the other surviving Apostles. It strikes me that he always gets a bad rap, undeservedly so, I would say.

Remember on the way to Jerusalem, one of the Apostles pointed out to Our Lord that a certain death awaited Him if He went to Jerusalem.

Jesus undeterred continues to journey toward Jerusalem.

It is then that John’s Gospel records the Apostle Thomas as saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” (John 11:16). These are the words not of a doubter (in the mission of the Lord) but rather a proclamation of a believer, ready to take up his cross and to die with and for Jesus Christ.

As they journey along and Jesus says, “You know the way that I am going,” and Thomas doesn’t understand Jesus he says so, “Lord we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” (John 14). Jesus replies, “I am the way.”

So now we reach the moment after the crucifixion has passed when Scripture tells us, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews,” (John 20:19). We find that Thomas is not with them.

Why not?

Remember that the Apostles were in the room for “fear” of the Jews, they were afraid that the same ones who had handed Jesus over to death might come after them next, but Thomas had said “let us go to die with him.” He was not afraid, he was out and about his business, if they came after him…so be it!

Is it any wonder then that when he returns to enconter the disciples still locked in the room, that he does not believe them. Why should he? If the Lord were alive, why were they so filled with fear? If they really had experience the Resurrected Lord why weren’t they proclaiming it with their lives? Why weren’t they back out on the streets?

When Jesus appears to Thomas, he believes!

Our Lord tells him and us that “Blessed are those who have not seen and believe.”

It is very easy to doubt that the Lord lives when we see modern day Apostles locked behind clerical doors for fear of the press, or scandal, or law suits, or the laity. It is easy to wonder if they really believe in the power of the risen Lord.

But what about us? Are we out in the streets ready to die with Him or are we too locked behind our own fears?

Saint Thomas, pray for us!

Lord have mercy on us!

MIchael dubruiel

73 Steps to Communion With God – 5c

 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.


Step # 5 of the 73 – part three


5. Not to steal…


We reason that someone is wealthy and they won’t miss this or that item so we take it as though our attitude about someone else is reality. We reason that we have paid a just fee and that entitles us to more than what we know it does. All of our reasons are aimed at justifying something that we know is wrong and the very act of trying to rationalize our behavior makes us less not in God’s eyes but in our view of ourselves.

It is useful to remember that the men nailed next to Jesus on the cross are often referred to as thieves. The so-called good thief acknowledges that his sin has merited so horrible a death. There was something of the presence of Jesus that made him realize that. If we put ourselves into the presence of God we will come to the same conclusion that taking what does not belong to us is wrong.

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Communion With God: 5b

 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.


Step # 5 of the 73 – part two


5. Not to steal…


That night the abbot did as the holy man had instructed, when the last of the monks had taken their place in the room, the abbot arose and announced to the gathered assembly, “The holy hermit has announced to me and asked me to inform you that God has revealed to him that the messiah is in our midst.” Afterwards the monks treated each other with great respect, wondering and not knowing if the monk they were dealing with might be the messiah.

The way we treat others and their property is largely based on how much we respect and hold them in awe. If we had a deep sense of love, respect and awe of each and every person we would never take anything from them. But too often we lack this basic sense of dignity that others deserve from us.

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Communion With God: 5a

 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.


Step # 5 of the 73 – part one


5. Not to steal…

It may seem strange that stealing is so high on St. Benedict’s list, but there is nothing more destructive in communal living than mistrust and there is nothing that can destroy trust like living with thievery. Once something no matter how insignificant is stolen everyone around becomes the potential thief.

There is a story I have heard so many times and so many versions of that I am not even sure where it is originally from but it goes something like this: An abbot of a monastery had become very disenchanted with the way the monks in his monastery treated one another. He ventured off to seek out the advice of an holy monk who lived as a hermit deep in the woods.

After the holy monk had listened to the abbot’s concern, he raised his hand and asked the abbot to wait while he prayed about this situation. Several hours passed and finally the hermit reappeared in the cell and made his solemn announcement to the abbot. “When you go back to the monastery tonight gather all of the monks into chapter and then announce to them what I have to tell you.” He then revealed what he had learned in prayer to the abbot.

michael dubruiel

How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis – part 7

  

"michael dubruiel"

Following is a series of posts originally written and published by Michael Dubruiel in 2002 – almost twenty years ago. 

How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis The items that are filling the newspapers daily now, are the same items that I had to deal with daily almost twenty years ago when I was involved in the daily life of the church. I came very close to losing my faith. I contemplated joining the Orthodox Church among other things, but ultimately through a very trying period, that tested the very core of everything that I had been taught and believed–I have remained a Roman Catholic. Now, it is like reliving a nightmare, only everyone is in on it this time. I would like to share some points to contemplate on if you, like me, find yourself at a loss in the present situation in the Church. None of them by themself will convince you to stay, but I think if you try most of them you’ll find that God has a mission for you; to rebuild and to enliven the Church, that as St. Francis was told years ago by Christ, is falling into ruin.


(7) Meditate on the Work of the Enemy in the Church 
Since the devil is hardly ever discussed in the Church, it should not surprise us that we find it so hard to explain blatant evil that exists, when faced with it, as we are in the present situation. 
Read the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter13:24-30. Notice that in Jesus’ parable that the Kingdom of Heaven is not exempt from the work of the evil one. As the farmer sows good seed, the enemy sows bad. Both are allowed to grow side by side until the harvest. 
Contrary to our expectations the master (God) does not have his slaves go out and rip the bad from the good–out of concern for the good. In the end though the bad will suffer eternal fire. There are two reasons it is good to meditate on this parable. One, it shows that Jesus from the very start knew that the good that he would do, would be matched by the evil that would be worked from within. 
Secondly, it counsels us to be patient and turn again to God who will take care of them in good time. We must believe in God and avoid the temptation to search for him elsewhere. 

How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis – part 6

  

"michael dubruiel"

Following is a series of posts originally written and published by Michael Dubruiel in 2002 – almost twenty years ago. 

How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis The items that are filling the newspapers daily now, are the same items that I had to deal with daily almost twenty years ago when I was involved in the daily life of the church. I came very close to losing my faith. I contemplated joining the Orthodox Church among other things, but ultimately through a very trying period, that tested the very core of everything that I had been taught and believed–I have remained a Roman Catholic. Now, it is like reliving a nightmare, only everyone is in on it this time. I would like to share some points to contemplate on if you, like me, find yourself at a loss in the present situation in the Church. None of them by themself will convince you to stay, but I think if you try most of them you’ll find that God has a mission for you; to rebuild and to enliven the Church, that as St. Francis was told years ago by Christ, is falling into ruin.


(6) Let Go of Your Plan for the Church 
In the midst of the current crisis, everyone has a plan. 
In fact most of us always have a plan for how to make the Church, heaven on earth. Let go of it… 
The disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) had just witnessed the crucifixion and now on the third day they had also heard of an empty tomb and the presence of angels. All of this disturbed them a great deal, to such a degree that when the Risen Lord, who they mourned, joined them on the road they did not recognize him. When they told him what they were discussing, he opened the Scriptures up to them, and told them that all of these things that they had witnessed “had to happen”.
 Most of us suffer a crisis of faith because we believe just the opposite that “things didn’t have to be that way.” Jesus comes to us as a stranger in the midst of our lives and tells us just the opposite. It had to be.
 If for a second, you and I stop and think about that, applying it to our lives as they have been lived up to now, how does it make us feel? Do we not want to protest, no it should have been otherwise? But it was not and is no other way, than what it has been. 
Can God save us? 
Remember the story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph has a dream. The dream leads to his persecution. He is sold into slavery. He is falsely accused. He is sent to prison. He is there when two of Pharaoh’s servants are arrested. He interprets their dreams. The one who lives some years later remembers the Hebrew slave in prison who interpreted his dream. Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream correctly. Pharaoh makes Joseph master over his house. Joseph’s brothers are sent to Egypt by their father during the famine. Soon his family is reunited. 
At the end of the story the brothers tell Joseph that their father told them to tell Joseph to forgive them for what they had done to him. He says, “Who am I God? What you did to me you meant for evil, but God meant it for good–for the salvation of the many.”
 Many people do evil things, but God is all powerful. He can give life to those whose lives are taken from them by evil people. He can bring healing to those who are sinned against. The lesson for the disciples on the road to Emmaus and the lesson of Joseph in Genesis is to trust in God’s plan. 

Our Lady of Perpetual Help June 27

 An article by Michael Dubruiel, here:

The icon features the child Jesus fleeing into his Mother’s protective arms as the Archangels Michael and Gabriel show Him the instruments of crucifixion. The Greek letters spell out the first letters of Mary and Jesus’ names.

The icon arrived in Rome in the 15th century after a merchant who had heard about a miraculous image on the island of Crete went to the island and stole it. When he arrived in Rome with the icon among his wares, he fell very ill. As he lay dying, he ordered that a friend place the icon in a church, perhaps hoping that it would alleviate his suffering. The friend took the icon to his own home, where his wife hung it in their bedroom.

The Virgin evidently was not pleased with this arrangement, and several times appeared to the man and told him that she wished for her image to be placed in a church. The man, despite the miraculous visitation, was not moved to relinquish control of the image. The Blessed Virgin next appeared to the man’s daughter and asked that the icon be enshrined in a church between the two very large churches of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. The daughter communicated this to her father and he relented, and so the icon was enshrined in 1499 in St. Matthew’s, the church that lies between the two larger edifices.

How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis – part 5

 

"michael dubruiel"

Following is a series of posts originally written and published by Michael Dubruiel in 2002 – almost twenty years ago. 

How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis The items that are filling the newspapers daily now, are the same items that I had to deal with daily almost twenty years ago when I was involved in the daily life of the church. I came very close to losing my faith. I contemplated joining the Orthodox Church among other things, but ultimately through a very trying period, that tested the very core of everything that I had been taught and believed–I have remained a Roman Catholic. Now, it is like reliving a nightmare, only everyone is in on it this time. I would like to share some points to contemplate on if you, like me, find yourself at a loss in the present situation in the Church. None of them by themself will convince you to stay, but I think if you try most of them you’ll find that God has a mission for you; to rebuild and to enliven the Church, that as St. Francis was told years ago by Christ, is falling into ruin.

(5) Practice the Prayer “God Alone” 

On the right hand column of this blog is a picture of the entrance to the cloister of Gethsemane, most known by people in this country for having been the monastery where Thomas Merton was a monk. Over the gate are simple words that the monk would encounter as he makes his way into the cloister. They are also words, that the visitor to the chapel also encounters. They have left a mark in my consciousness.

 In my better moments they haunt me. It is a good thing. Too often we create idols that interfere with our worship of God. Often these idols come crashing down around us. Jesus told the rich young man that the greatest commandment was to, “Love God with your whole heart, mind and soul.” The rich young man went away sad, because his “possessions” were many. 

Our possessions, the things that we either possess or possess us can keep us from God. All it takes is a blow to our health, the suffer of some financial loss, or some other malady to befall us for us to be faced with the truth of which they all are for us–items we own or are owned by. 

The practice of keeping “God Alone” always before us, can keep us focused on what really matters. It can help us to treat our fellow human beings with the dignity that they deserve, it can help us to see meaning in what other wise seem meaningless events. If we focus on the strength of the winds, the enormity of our problems we will sink. If we focus on “God Alone” nothing can defeat us.

How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis – part 4

Following is a series of posts originally written and published by Michael Dubruiel in 2002 – almost twenty years ago. 

"michael dubruiel"

How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present CrisisThe items that are filling the newspapers daily now, are the same items that I had to deal with daily almost twenty years ago when I was involved in the daily life of the church. I came very close to losing my faith. I contemplated joining the Orthodox Church among other things, but ultimately through a very trying period, that tested the very core of everything that I had been taught and believed–I have remained a Roman Catholic. Now, it is like reliving a nightmare, only everyone is in on it this time. I would like to share some points to contemplate on if you, like me, find yourself at a loss in the present situation in the Church. None of them by themself will convince you to stay, but I think if you try most of them you’ll find that God has a mission for you; to rebuild and to enliven the Church, that as St. Francis was told years ago by Christ, is falling into ruin.

(4) Visit a Catholic Church 
Step into the Church at a time when nothing is going on, when you can sit in silence; just you and Our Lord in the Eucharist. Pour out your heart to him, and then sit and listen. 
Bishop Sheen once commented, that most of the conversion he was credited with, came about from the practice of pointing people (non-Christians and former Christians) to this practice. 
I have a close friend who was born in Jerusalem, and later studied to be a rabbi in Brazil. While engaged in rabbinical studies, he became interested with what he heard from some Christian fundamentalists, that he encountered in the streets of San Paulo, one day. Considering himself a searcher for the truth, he walked into the first Christian Church that he came across on his way home. It happened to be a Catholic Church. Walking in, he told me, he encountered a huge crucifix. He went up to the front of the church and standing in front of the crucifix he looked up at the image of the crucified Jesus and said, “If it is true, that you are the messiah, tell me.” 
“What did he tell you?” I would ask my Jewish friend and always receive the same response, from my friend who now is a Catholic priest–“Well, I’m here now.”
 This same friend who experienced total alienation from his family and friends to follow Jesus, joined the Catholic Church because of what he heard that day alone with Jesus in the Church. 
Once when I asked him about the Catholic Church in Brazil, where it was highly rumored that priests openly lived with women and some were even openly married, he replied, “Yes, what you say is true, but in Brazil they say of the United States that the priest live with men.” 
Neither of these experiences dissuaded my friend, who endured many hardships from within and without the Church before being ordained a priest. His faith was based on the answer God had given him to a simple question and nothing else mattered. Take your doubts with you into the presence of God and let him answer them. 

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