St. Leo the Great – November 10

-Michael Dubruiel, 2005

I attended an early mass at St. Leo the Great’s tomb one morning while in Rome and as I read the office of readings for today by him, I thought how death makes this even more apparent.

St. Leo, pray for us!

From the Office of Readings:

Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of

members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists

as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: We are all one in Christ. No

difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through

lowliness, from the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our

community is undivided. There is a common dignity, as the apostle Peter says in

these words: And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy

priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through

Jesus Christ. And again: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy

nation, a people set apart. For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by

the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy

Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all

spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers

in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like than to find

yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And

what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer

him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart? Because, through

the grace of God, it is a deed accomplished universally on behalf of all, it is

altogether praiseworthy and in keeping with a religious attitude for you to

rejoice in this our day of consecration, to consider it a day when we are

especially honoured. For indeed one sacramental priesthood is celebrated

throughout the entire body of the Church. The oil which consecrates us has

richer effects in the higher grades, yet it is not sparingly given in the lower.

Sharing in this office, my dear brethren, we have solid ground for a common

rejoicing; yet there will be more genuine and excellent reason for joy if you do

not dwell on the thought of our unworthiness. It is more helpful and more

suitable to turn your thoughts to study the glory of the blessed apostle Peter.

We should celebrate this day above all in honour of him. He overflowed with

abundant riches from the very source of all graces, yet though he alone received

much, nothing was given over to him without his sharing it. The Word made flesh

lived among us, and in redeeming the whole human race, Christ gave himself

entirely

.-Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 65

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous entries are found in the archive to the right.

(65) To hate no one.

Christianity introduced a radical concept into the world that has seldom been lived out–to love everyone as God loves him or her. Our Lord counseled his disciples to “love their enemies” and to “love one’s neighbor.” When asked by one of His hearers who their neighbor was, Jesus used the example of what undoubtedly would have been the questioners idea of an enemy–a Samaritan as the good who was “neighbor” to the unfortunate fallen soul along the roadside.

Benedict’s maxim almost takes this a step further in counseling us in the first place to “hate no one.” This may seem impossible to do but only if we are convinced that we ourselves have been set up as the supreme judge over all people. Every person that we might “hate” is an invitation for us to turn to God again and to acknowledge that God alone knows what His designs have for both the person and us in question.

We should pray for those who abuse and mistreat us. We are to try to understand those who “hate” us. Hatred by its very nature is evil.

The example that usually drives the point home is to imagine that the person in question is your child. Could you hate your own flesh? Would you not wish for their salvation? If they are doing wrong would you not do everything in your power to help them to do right so that they might be saved?

In the Kingdom of God we are all brothers and sisters, God’s children.

The genius of St. Benedict’s counsel is that it does not play the game of saying that you can love someone but not like them–which I have always found rather ridiculous. We are to hate no one and to see “hate” as an obstacle to love.

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 – 54

This is a continuation of the the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruielthe previous posts are available in the archives to the right. This is step 54.

(54) Not to speak useless words and such as provoke laughter.

Benedict has a great concern for the choice of our speech, reflecting Our Lord’s injunction in the Gospel to “let you no mean no and your yes mean yes.” Most of us suffer from an endless chatter that means little and lessens the effectiveness of our speech in general. There is a further clarification here and we are warned not to “provoke laughter.”

Is Benedict condemning humor or is this a warning not to appear silly to others? I think it is the latter.

Someone who talks endlessly might make others laugh at him or her but they probably will not be taken seriously. The danger here is that speech exists to communicate the truth and when it is not used specifically for that we misuse this great gift.

Benedict warns us not to use “useless words.” Words are powerful weapons and gentle comforters if they are used correctly. But when speech is misused it lessens its effective use at anytime.

Another way of stating this maxim might be, “choose your words carefully and sparingly.”

The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the “Word made Flesh.” There is a connection here with all the words that come from our mouth too. We should ever be mindful of The Word when a word comes to our lips.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion -46

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 46:

(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.

I think that this is one of those maxims that would have been a given in previous ages. But now it seems that no one is brought up with a great “desire” for eternal life with all spiritual longing.

I remember as a child listening to a visiting priest preach about the importance of eternity in light of the present moment. It left a deep impression on my young mind and from that day forward every action that I undertook was charged with “eternal” implications.

The type of “longing” that St. Benedict counsels us to have is “spiritual” longing. This is a little more complicated that the normal type of longing but it is an important distinction. Too often people in the past approached their desire for eternal life with an earthly register–keeping track of their good acts, performing prayers with certain types of indulgences–all with a keen eye on where they were on the spiritual maturity meter. This is all the stuff of this life and a pretty sad indication that one really doesn’t trust in God at all.

A spiritual longing is much more focused on God and less on self. St. Paul desired eternal life with this type of longing when he wished if for his fellow men to the point that he himself would forgo it, if it would save them. Spiritual longing is always sacrificial and somewhat paradoxical.

Our Lord said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.” There is great wisdom in meditating on these words in light of St. Benedict’s maxim to “desire eternity with a spiritual longing.” We long to cleave to Christ, to imitate Him and to be united with Him, so to live with Him for all eternity.

73 Steps to Closer Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel – 45

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 45:

(45) To be in dread of hell.

I think it is helpful to personally design our own notion of Hell. Jesus used Gehenna to describe it to the people of His day. “Gehenna” was the local dump (landfills were a long way into the future) for the city of Jerusalem. So when Jesus described Hell to the people they would have thought of Gehenna where a smoldering fire burned incessantly consuming the refuse of the people of Jerusalem.

Designing your own notion of Hell merely insists of imagining what the would be the worst possible experience that could happen to you and magnifying that by eternity. For most of this would involve pain and suffering that would never cease, but for some it might be an embarrassing situation. Sadly for many it might be an actual moment in their life that they play over and over again in their minds.

The point is that once you have some understanding of how horrible Hell would be for you that you should foster a “dread” of it. The only way we can end up in this eternal place of damnation is by rejecting the gift of salvation that comes to us from Jesus Christ. Accepting or rejecting that gift is a moment by moment yes or no, manifest by our actions.

Dread is a fairly good motivator. Most of us seldom do anything we dread. We keep putting it off. That is why so many people still mail in their tax statements on April 15th close to the stroke of midnight. To dread what is “really” evil is healthy. And what is really evil is “separation from God” which is the best definition of what Hell is.

It is true that if you take your own notion of what Hell is like and then place God in the picture that it become Heaven. I can imagine being quite happy in Gehenna if I was there with Jesus watching people dump their garbage. In fact I can imagine enduring the worst that life can give and being okay with it if I had a strong sense that God wanted me there.

We should dread anything that will separate us from God’s love and Hell is the final separation. Fostering this dread will increase our appreciation for the availability of God’s love in the present moment. The final judgment has not happened for us yet, there is still time. Time to confess and let go of past sins. Time to reform our lives and live in the grace of God in the future. Time to dread the fires of Hell and to live for the glories of Heaven.

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.

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