St. Maximilian Kolbe – August 14

Today is the Feast of St. Maximillian Kolbe

From a letter he wrote, from theOffice of Readings:

It is sad to see how in our times the disease called “indifferentism” is spreading in all its forms, not just among those in the world but also among the members of religious orders. But indeed, since God is worthy of infinite glory, it is our first and most pressing duty to give him such glory as we, in our weakness, can manage – even that we would never, poor exiled creatures that we are, be able to render him such glory as he truly deserves.



Books by Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 27

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 27th step:

(27) Not to swear, lest perchance one swear falsely.

To “swear” in this case means to take a vow. St. Benedict warns in this counsel that we should not take oaths out of fear that we might do so falsely. Why would this be the case?

Jesus commanded his disciples not to swear. In the Gospel of Matthew, he says, ” 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 5:34-37).

Our Lord knows well that we do not know ourselves very well. When He told his disciples that one of them would betray him, they all denied it. Peter spoke the loudest and Our Lord warned him that he would betray him before the cock crowed twice. Notice what Peter does at the crucial moment:

“Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man.’ And immediately the cock crowed,” (Matthew 26: 74). He swears falsely.

Unfortunately people continue to swear oaths that they may humanly incapable of fulfilling. It is interesting that within Christianity this command of Jesus has slowly been abrogated. But the truth of what Jesus said and here St. Benedict counsels remains.

None of us knows what the future holds. None of us knows if we will be able to fulfill any vow five or ten years from now. We can promise, ask God’s blessing upon our promise and go where God leads us. But as Jesus says anything else is from the evil one.

 

5679b-michael-dubruiel2

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 26

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 26th step:

(26) Not to forsake charity.

There are times when our hearts can grow cold and we can close ourselves off from either accepting love or giving it. Often this is because of some evil that we have either had done to us or have experienced in some way.

No matter how bad it gets, St. Benedict here wisely counsels us to never forsake charity–love.

When our hearts grow cold, we need to open the door to the Lord’s love and ask him to burn away anything that keeps us from being vessels of his charity both to ourselves and to others. It is His Love that conquers all and it ultimately is His Love that heals all wounds.

If we feel at anytime that we really do not feel like being loved or loving–we need to examine ourselves and to see what has crept into our lives and is taking the place of God. A coldness of heart is always an indication that we have put something else in God’s place in our lives.

“Not to forsake charity” applies in all circumstances in life. Charity as a translation for caritas, which can also be translated “love”, is a good way to remind us that love is always requires “giving.” When we do not wish to give, it is often because we feel we have nothing to give. But if we allow ourselves to be filled with God’s love, we will always have more than enough.

One need only think of a Mother Teresa, frail and old, walking and greeting all that cross her path. Or a Pope John Paul II bent over with age, ignoring no one. It is not physical strength that allows a person to act in this manner but Divine Love.

It is available to you, in the same way as it is available to them.

Do not forsake this great gift that God wishes to give you, nor to share it with all who cross your path this day.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 24 b

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 24th step, part 2

(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.

St. Thomas Aquinas argued that the natural purpose of speech is to communicate the truth. Can you imagine a bird warning of an intruder to another bird , if in fact there is no intruder? A dog barking out lies to another dog?

Yet we humans can abuse this gift of speech that we have at our disposal.

Ultimately, it is a choice to reject God and to make something else a god in our lives. Whatever we feel is more important than telling the truth is what we really believe in. Our reputation, our pride or our sins all can keep us from fulfilling this counsel.

The confessional, then is a good place to begin. Opening our hearts to God and not even entertaining the thought of deceiving Him. As St. Paul says, “God will not be mocked.”

God not only can handle the truth about us, He can teach us the truth about ourselves. Something usually hidden from the deceitful person.

August 8 – St. Dominic

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

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 24 a

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 24th step:

(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.

Our Lord is the way, the truth and the life. Anything that tempts us toward falseness is not of Him. Again, St. Benedict warns us not even to “entertain” the idea of deceit in our emotions, symbolized by the heart.

Everyone deserves the truth. As Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and it shall set you free.”

Unfortunately many people do not believe that the truth is helpful to others. To quote a phrase from the movie A Few Good Men, that was a favorite of students that I once taught Ethics to, “You can’t handle the truth,” seems to be most people’s guiding principle.

Doctors are not honest with patients who come to them expecting honesty. Parents, sometimes keep the truth from their children, leading them to search for it elsewhere. Even bishops now are not known for standing for the truth but rather hiding and trying to conceal it.

The result of such deceit lives with us for years. It destroys our capacity to trust. One can see how it could destroy a tight knit community like a monastery, but we should not let that excuse us.

A meditation on the effects of deceit that we have been on the receiving end might help us to appreciate why as St. Benedict counsels us, we should not even entertain the idea of being that way to anyone.

Everyone deserves the truth. The truth is a good and valuable commodity. Whatever perceived good we might think that hiding the truth from someone might bring, usually back fires.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 22

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 22nd step:

(22) Not to give way to anger.

Whenever Christians think of anger, they usually think of Jesus cleaning house in the Temple. If Jesus got angry, then why is anger a bad thing, most reason? I could add a few more scenes from the Gospel. When Jesus’ disciples awaken him during a storm, he stills the storm and then reacts in anger–rebuking his disciples for their lack of faith (this should not be lost on anyone who has ever been awaken from a sound sleep–which obviously Jesus was enjoying and is a sign of his deep trust in God). When Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the religious leaders of the time, he does not refrain from reacting angrily to what they say and do.

So it is obvious that anger has a place in the perfect human life of which Our Lord’s is an example. There are times when anger is the right reaction. When we see someone being abused or misled it is appropriate and even holy to be angry–as long as we do something about the anger. It should motivate us to act out in a righteous way.

But “to give way” to anger is another way of saying “to let it fester,” or “to let it take over”. We do nothing about it, but rather let it eat away at us. We allow it to grow into resentment and skepticism. This is neither healthy nor spiritual.

There is a certain school of spirituality that often counsels us to remain silent. Not to speak out but rather suffer silently. Of course, there is some truth to this and Our Lord’s example before Pontius Pilate is an example of when such a practice is right. But there are other times when such silence would be sinful, not spiritual.

The early Christians called their movement not Christianity but “the Way.” Jesus had given his followers a new path to walk. This path is a way of truthfulness and life. Reflecting on the previous step, “to prefer nothing to the love of Christ,” in this step we reject making “anger” the way.

Anger has a place in creation, it was created by God for a purpose, but it’s purpose is not to control us but to motivate us to act.

The imitation of Christ is the sure “way” to making sure that we do not give “way” to anger.

Solanus Casey – July 30

From 2004 by Michael Dubruiel Taming the Wild   Solanus had also been cultivating a patch of wild strawberries which he told the friars he was “taming.” Father Solanus: The Story of Solnus Casey O.F.M. Cap. p.174



I had been making my lunch time pilgrimage for several months when I read a chapter from Cathy Odell’s book on Solanus’ time in Huntington. I had literally walked the fields and woods throughout but had never come across any wild strawberries. They must have perished when some of the land was plowed, I figured.


It was a beautiful sunlit day, not a cloud in the sky and very low humidity. I started out walking the perimeter of the property, as was my usual route, and began to pray the rosary. Normally this meant finishing the joyful mysteries by the time I reached the far forest where an Eagle Scout had cleared a trail through the woods. There I would begin the sorrowful mysteries reaching the Capuchin graveyard about the time I reached the third sorrowful mystery (the Crowing with Thorns) where I would prostrate in the direction of the simple wooden cross at the head of the graveyard and pray the prayer of St. Francis, “We adore thee O Christ and we praise Thee because by thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” Then I would pray the third sorrowful mystery on my knees for the Friars and others buried there, at the same time asking for their intercession for my many needs.


Then I would retrace my steps backward in a slightly different path along the woods rather than through them. At about the same spot where I had discovered an apple tree left over from the orchard that Solanus had blessed, I looked down and spotted something red blooming. At first I thought they were small red flowers that had some how resisted the mowing the lawn had received recently. But on closer inspection I found wild strawberries almost ready to be harvested.


I thought of the irony of my discovery on the very day that I had first read about Solanus’ “taming” of wild strawberries, then I thought of the whole aspect of “taming” the wild.


Looking over the property of what had once been a flourishing center of Catholic spirituality, I could not help but be struck by the apparent failure. What had been tamed here and once again become wild.


It struck me as an apt symbol for the state of Catholicism in the United States at the beginning of the Twenty-first century. The in-roads that the Church had made in converting and bringing Catholic Christianity to this country seemed to have reverted back to its wild state. Those who call themselves Catholic pick and choose what they believe and how they practice their faith. In many ways they mirror the environment they live in with very little to distinguish them from their non-Catholic neighbors.


Of course it also struck me that I suffered from this as much as anyone.


Picking up the wild strawberry, I saw how immature it was. No doubt Solanus’ taming of the “wild” strawberries had resulted in them growing into substantial fruit that was enjoyed by the Huntington Capuchins. Now without that taming, the wild strawberry had once again returned to a small pitiful caricature of what it might have been.


Sadly this is what we also have become. Our influence in our culture is weak and we risk giving scandal to those who look to us as representatives of all that is Catholic. We are “wild” Catholics, in great need of being tamed by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 21

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 21st step:

(21) To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

This is without a doubt the most quoted counsel of St. Benedict.

It an excellent guide for the spiritual life– to prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

One might ask, are we to focus on being loved by Christ or the act of loving Him? I think it is both.

In Mark 10:21 we have the account of the rich young man. The Gospel says that Jesus, ” looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Notice that when Christ loves the rich young man, He points out what the young man lacks. It is out of love, that Jesus tells him to get rid of all his possessions.

Being loved by Christ will reveal similar deficiencies in us.

Our Lord looks upon us and recognizes what we really need. We often come to him with our own ideas about what we need.

If we prefer our ideas to the love of Christ, we too will join the rich young man who walks away sad “for his possessions were many.” We may possess the world, but without Christ it is nothing!

In John 8:42, Jesus is engaged in a heated argument with those who oppose him. He says to them “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”

This takes us back to the first counsel of St. Benedict, to love God. Jesus is God and so we should prefer nothing to God and His love that Jesus has revealed to us perfectly.

How do we know if we truly love Our Lord? He addresses this in John 14:23-24 ” “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

A concrete way to always prefer the love of Christ throughout the day when faced with countless other choices might be to adopt the phrase that Jesus spoke to Peter and to hear it addressed to ourselves–continuously: “Do you love me more than these? (John 21:15)”

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 13c

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 three:

(13) To love fasting.


5679b-michael-dubruiel2

Yes, I need the Bread of Life, but thank God this meal has given me the nourishment that my body needs and now I am ready to go on to the next part of my day.

I am not talking about dieting here, but I am talking about an attitude adjustment. A metanoia, “a complete turning around”, is what is necessary here. Years of being told we need more and more have left us unsatiated no matter how much we have acquired or have placed before us.

To “love” fasting is to fall in love with the feeling of incompleteness that only God can fill.

St. Bonaventure July 15

From TheUniversalis: Office of Readings:

“Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert.

There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God?s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fir is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ”


Books by Michael Dubruiel

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.

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.

 

5ee25-cover-corrected

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.

%d bloggers like this: