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.

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.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 11b

This is a continuation of th73 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.

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.

How to Draw Closer to God, Part 10b

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 two:

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




None of us has to battle such odds. We are not God, but as the fruit of original sin we have all inherited the notion that we are supposed to be God. So most of us spend our lives not exercising the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with because we fear that we will fail to use them perfectly.

I wonder how many there are who have been graced with the gift of healing the sick but who never reach out to the sick because they fear the embarrassment that might come their way? Or how many talented leaders stand idly by while those not gifted lead?

Denying oneself means letting go of the fears that we do not possess abilities of god proportions and stepping out in faith knowing that God will provide what is lacking to our talents as we exercise them for the good of humanity.

Perhaps the most commonly told parable by Jesus about the Kingdom of God is that of the King or landowner who passes out talents before taking a trip. Those who invest in their talents are praised upon the Master’s return whereas the one who buries his talents is condemned.

Why did the servant bury his talents? Because he was afraid.

Why does Jesus tell the parable? So his followers will not fall into the same predicament. Yet how many Christians will hear the words, deny yourself and immediately interpret the Lord’s words as though he were advocating burying one’s talents? Unbelievable!

Deny the fear of making a mistake, taking a risk of what might happen if you follow Our Lord to Jerusalem. The disciples told Jesus that if they went to Jerusalem he certainly would be killed, did he not fear for his life? Thomas often cast as the doubter but in fact probably the supreme believer says, “let us go to die with him!”

When we let go of the fear of what others think about us when it comes to using the talents and abilities that God has given us then we will truly build the Kingdom of God. Denying that part of ourselves that would bury our talents our of fear is true humility.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 10 a

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.

 

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73 Steps to Communion with God – 9b

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 ninth Step, part two:

(9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).

I suppose that recognizing this, is the first step to diagnosing it as a problem that is destroying us as a society. St. Benedict’s maxim can serve as a corrective. The first step is to really feel, what it is that I feel.

How do I feel when someone smiles at me? It feels good, I feel important or at least that this person is well disposed toward me which is also a good feeling. If this is so I should offer a smile to those who life cast in my path today.

How do I feel when someone treats me in a manner that makes me feel that my existence is inconsequential to them? Probably not very good, then I need to even in a small way acknowledge everyone as an important part of God’s plan for me today.

We tend to be a society in touch with their feelings. It is a small step to return back to a more civil manner of existence where I believe that there is not just “me” but us on this planet. Everyone is important in God’s plan. My feelings are the key to defining how I should treat others in the way that God wants me to do.

 

 

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73 Steps to Communion with God – 9a

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 ninth Step, part one:

(9) And what one would not have done to himself, not to do to another (cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31).

The Golden Rule is well known across cultures. At an early age we are taught to treat others in the same way that we wish to be treated. Has this rule fallen on deaf ears though in our time?

Could it be that we no longer think about others or care about them? What is it that has desensitized us from the needs of others?

Forty years ago people marched upon the towns and villages of the south to protest the way people of color were still being treated; almost a century since the cessation of slavery. Something of the Golden Rule motivated those marches and when television cameras broadcast those images to the rest of the nation soon others changed their opinions too.

But forty years later it seems that the multiplicity of those images along with the dramatization of similar images has lessened the impact of reality. Like a collective hypnosis we seem not to be affected by the plight of our fellow human anymore. Like a callous that develops from constant friction, the flood of images of suffering and hurting individuals has dampened our ability to care.

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!

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God –

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 Seventh Step:

7. Not to bear false witness (cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20).

Lying about what we witness in life, is one of those sins that always has the appearance of not being all that serious, until it continues to escalate like a snowball growing bigger and bigger; until we are no longer sure of what the truth is. It is not in our interest or anyone else’s to not tell the truth.

Jesus identified himself with the Truth. If we are in communion with Jesus then we too will be fountains of the truth. But the temptation to choose other than the truth is a large one and it almost always has as an underpinning the sense that to do so is in our best interest.

It is not.

Many times our inability to tell the truth reveals a deep spiritual void within. We bear false witness because somehow it will make us appear better, which at it’s heart means that we feel that there is something wrong with us to begin with. The temptation to bear false witness about another or an event I have witnessed is an invitation for me to ask, “What do I feel is wrong with myself?”

Why do I feel the need to speak about an event or a person in an untruthful way? The answer is more self-revelatory than illustrative of any real happening outside of myself? My answer allows me to peer into the hole within my soul.

Oh God help me to see myself as a valuable part of your creation. Allow me to see that the life I experience is alive with your presence and that others will always benefit from it.

But what about the other reasons, like, I don’t want to hurt someone?

Does the truth ever hurt? The answer is a loud and thunderous, yes it can hurt terribly. But is that bad?

Pain is a fact of life and to try to avoid it only delays the pain. Confronting it and accepting it leads to resurrection. The cross is a daily visitor to everyone. The choice is often whether we love people enough to be honest with them not hurt them but to help them to face reality in life.

Perhaps there is nothing more definitive about salvation than the one word–reality. A person who experiences the saving grace of God lives in reality, the world as it is.

The unsaved person lives a lie, perhaps it is a world of their creation. It is their fiction. It is impossible for others to be invited into this world of theirs because it is a non-existent place that they themselves do not even exist in. There is nothing sadder then to experience this firsthand, but it is the lot of those who refuse to accept the pain of daily life.

There is the obvious consequence of bearing false witness that I have purposely left to the end. Consequences are of little matter here, but for many they are the guiding force of their daily actions. St. Benedict did not counsel in his maxim—“consider the end when giving a witness.” He did not do so because he has already laid out for us what the end-(the consequence of every action is)—it is God.

God is the consequence for anyone who sets out on this path. My concern is for doing what God commands. True compassion results.

All of our excuses and reasons for not doing so—usually rationalized from a concern for consequences, are derived from a lack of respect for others (Benedict’s second maxim). We do not believe in our neighbor’s right to “handle” the truth. This is very sad.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 6a

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

6. Not to covet (cf Rom 13:9).



St. Benedict attaches a scripture passage to this maxim which in many ways points to where he has obtained the previous four. In Romans 13:9 the Apostle wrote, “The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself, (Romans 13:9, NIV).”

The simple rendering not to covet is intriguing. We probably are used to the formulation that we should not covet our neighbor’s goods or our neighbor’s wife, but here there is just the simple injunction not to covet. There is nothing more difficult in the culture that we live in than to rid ourselves of desire.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha (enlightened one), based an entire religion on ridding ourselves of what he discovered was the source of all ill. In his four noble truths he stated, that all life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, the way to rid the world of suffering is to extinguish desire, that experience is Nirvana.

I remember teaching basically the same truth to teen boys in high school, and receiving a predictable response—“if you rid yourself of desire you wouldn’t move—you would just lie on the couch.” They, mirroring the culture that we live in, saw desire or coveting as a good thing. It is the very fuel that propels one to have great goals and to achieve great success.

But is it?

73 Steps to Communion With God

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.

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.

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.

"Michael Dubruiel"

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Communion With God: 5a

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 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.

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