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 

73 Steps to Communion with God 56

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel.The previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 56th step:

(56) To listen willingly to holy reading.

Another translation of this counsel has “to listen intently,” both are correct but for a culture where “will” is a weak term, “intent” probably communicates the sense of the counsel better. St. Benedict was referring to the daily table reading that would be done and the fact that one has to be counseled to “listen intently” shows that even a monk’s mind isn’t freed from the clutter that we all find our minds filled with.

We all listen to holy reading every time that we attend Mass and there perhaps is no better counsel then to listen intently to the reading of the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures are “living word” unlike much of what we read which consists of words that communicate a truth and usually little more. The Scriptures have the power to transcend their original purpose and to speak to us directly–if (and this is a big IF) we listen.

Listening is a lost art. I often think of myself as a good listener (my wife would disagree and she is right about most things, so I will defer to her on this manner). Truly listening requires an effort on our part. Too often we are planning our response while someone speaks, like the Prodigal Son who rehearsed his lines on his way home to the Father. God’s word cuts through our speeches and goes right for the heart.

If we want to hear God speak to us, there is no surer way for this to happen than to listen intently to the word of God proclaimed at Mass. Perhaps we are afraid of what God might say to us–so we intently do not listen. That is a shame if it is the case.

If you want to be in communion with God listen intently to what He has to say to you when the Scriptures are read.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 44

This is a continuation of the the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel, the previous posts are available in the archives to the right. This is step 44.

(44) To fear the day of judgment.

A recent visit to a large Midwestern city was filled with moments where I paused to think about the tragedies of September 11, 2001 and what could happen again or as the United States government often relates-something worst. One of the buildings in this city, that towers over all the rest is especially impressive and the thought of it tumbling like the World Trade Centers was almost incomprehensible. Milling around the streets with thousands of others it was hard to envision some nuclear attack suddenly wiping out a million people in an instance.

Although the sun shone and it was a beautiful day there was a hint of an impending storm that post-9/11 seemed to hang heavy in the air. It made me think of the words of Our Lord when his disciples marveled at the size of the Temple in Jerusalem and its beauty (it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), “As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down,” (Luke 21:7).

Driving home past abandoned motels and gas stations, I thought of the transitory nature of life. People that I once admired now lie cold in tombs, amusement parks that delighted me as a child now lie dormant, everything has a judgment day, everything!

St. Benedict says we should “fear” the day of judgment. It should be something ever on our minds. To keep “our” final end in sight has always been an important practice because it helps us to “order” our lives to that end. Most of us can point to our greatest lapses or sins as times when we had lost sight of our purpose in life.

Fear can be a horrible motivator or it can be a great one. When I was in basic training in the Army some years ago, I remember an incident where one of my fellow trainees was having difficulty producing urine for some medical procedure. He came out to the drill sergeant holding the empty container. The drill sergeant in response yelled in his face, “Go!” And he did, as the front of his fatigues darkened. I saw him a few minutes later squeezing what he could out of his pants into the container.

But Jesus also said, “Fear is useless, what is need is trust,” and while fearing judgment day can help us to refocus on what truly matters and what the right thing to do is in any situation, ultimately it should always lead us back to placing our trust in God. Fearing judgment should always drop us to our knees and reconnect with God. Every moment is an invitation to prayer and every second has its own needs that require that special help from God.

Queenship of Mary – August 22

Today is another Marian feast – the Queenship of Mary.  It’s also one of the mysteries of the Rosary, and so it’s appropriate to talk about the Rosary as we contemplate the feast. Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  Click on the cover for more information.

August 20 – St. Bernard

Happy feast day to my son Joseph, as he would say Bee-nard

From Asia News Italy:

The effectiveness of St Bernard, said the pontiff, lay in his ability to “put forward truths of the faith in a manner so clear and incisive that it fascinated the listener and prompted the soul to meditation and prayer.” But this was the fruit of a personal experience of “divine charity, revealed fully in the crucified and risen Christ”. The pope continued: “The echo of a rich inner experience, that he managed to communicate to others with amazing persuasive ability, is found in each of his writings. For him, the greatest strength of spiritual life is love.”

Benedict XVI also recalled a text that the saint dedicated to Pope Eugene III, his pupil and spiritual son, the De Consideratione, based on the fundamental theme of “inner meditation”. “One must guard oneself, observed the saint, from the dangers of excessive activity, whatever the condition and office covered, because many occupations often lead to ‘hardness of heart’, ‘they are nothing other than suffering of the spirit, loss of intelligence, dispersion of grace’ (II,3).” It is likely that Benedict XVI was making this emphasis with himself in mind, being so taken up by countless commitments of his work. He said: “This caution applies to all kinds of occupations, even those inherent to the government of the Church.” And he cited Bernard’s “provocative” words to Eugene III: “This is where your damned occupations can drag you, if you continue to lose yourself in them… leaving nothing of you to yourself.”

To reaffirm the primacy of prayer and contemplation, the pope suggested praying to St Bernard himself and to the Virgin Mary. “We entrust,” added Benedict XVI, “this desire to the intercession of Our Lady, who he loved from childhood with a tender and filial devotion to the extent of deserving the title of “Marian Doctor”. We invoke her so that she may obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the whole world. St Bernard, in a celebrated discourse of his, compared Mary to a star that navigators gaze upon to avoid losing their way:

‘Wading through the events of this world, rather than walking on land, you have the impression of being tossed about among billows and storms; do not turn your eyes away from the splendour of this star if you do not want to be swallowed by the waves… Look at the star, invoke Mary… Following Her, you will not lose your way… If She protects you, you have no fear, if She guides you, you will not get tired and if She is propitious towards you, you will reach your goal’ (Hom. super Missus est, II, 17)”.


-Michael Dubruiel 

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict

by Michael Dubruiel…from 2007



I think with the release of this book (which I got yesterday and read straight through) the pope is positioning himself to be the St. Thomas Aquinas of our age. How or why do I say this? Because like St. Thomas who answered the objections to the Faith in his day, this pope is doing the same.

A few months ago someone asked me what book I would recommend that they give to their adult children who no longer practiced the faith, without hesitation I named this book as the one. At the time I had only read some excerpts available online from Germany and Italy. It was an act of faith then, now that I have the book I know that my recommendation was justified.

This is a great book, magisterial (even though the pope doesn’t want it thought of in that way). It is not just another book about Jesus, it a revolutionary book about Jesus…in that it recaptures why people have had their lives changed by their belief in Jesus for over 2,000 years.

What makes this book so special? It is like a modern Summa (those who know St. Thomas Aquinas will understand me here) in that it answers modern questions of doubt, skepticism and even inquiry on not only who Jesus is, but why Jesus is the most important person anyone has ever or can ever know.

The pope’s methodology is to take a scene from the Bible, like the Lord’s baptism and then to draw on that scene from the entire Bible, to show what modern scholarship has done to help us to understand the historical context of the scene, tell us how the early Church fathers interpreted the scene, how would it have been viewed in Judaism (he uses the reflections of a Rabbi when discussing the Sermon on the Mount) and then to give the reader the meaning of this event for them. Along the way he answers questions to the many objections modern people bring to their encounter with Jesus.

As someone who has studied theology for a number of years and been exposed to every screwball theology out there, I found this book to be a corrective lens to refocus and correct my vision of who Jesus is and what following him means. What impresses me (and I’m not easily impressed) is that the Pope takes on the “screwball (my term, not his)” theologies in such a way as to making them seem silly (although he is incredibly charitable in his approach).

This book will have a great effect on renewing the Church and centering it on an image of Christ that is Biblical and credible, erasing years of poor and faulty preaching and teaching.

If you are not Catholic, but a Christian you will love this book too. In fact I predict you will be come a big fan of Joseph Ratzinger and will want to read his many published works to encounter someone rooted in Scripture and conversant with modern attacks on it. If you are a non Christian I think you will find in the book an excellent introduction to what Christians believe about the God-man from Nazareth. To all you parents out there who sent your kids to Catholic schools and now wish they would practice their faith, give them this book and reintroduce them to Jesus of Nazareth.

Feast of St. Dominic – August 8

Today is the Feast of Saint Dominic

From the Office of Readings:

Frequently he made a special personal petition that God would deign to grant him a genuine charity, effective in caring for and obtaining the salvation of men. For he believed that only then would he be truly a member of Christ, when he had given himself totally for the salvation of men, just as the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of all, had offered himself completely for our salvation. So, for this work, after a lengthy period of careful and provident planning, he founded the Order of Friars Preachers.

In his conversations and letters he often urged the brothers of the Order to study constantly the Old and New Testaments. He always carried with him the gospel according to Matthew and the epistles of Paul, and so well did he study them that he almost knew them from memory.

Two or three times he was chosen bishop, but he always refused, preferring to live with his brothers in poverty. Throughout his life, he preserved the honour of his virginity. He desired to be scourged and cut to pieces, and so die for the faith of Christ. Of him Pope Gregory IX declared: “I knew him as a steadfast follower of the apostolic way of life. There is no doubt that he is in heaven, sharing in the glory of the apostles themselves”.


Books by Michael Dubruiel

%d bloggers like this: