Saturday, September 30, 2017

73 Steps - 68 - by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous steps are in the archives to the right. This is the 68th step:

(68) Not to love pride.

A direct translation of the Latin for this counsel would be to "flee" pride. Yet it would be fair to say that I think few people actually flee pride these days. There is a reason it is a vice and sadly there is nothing worst than a vice that is presented as a virtue.

"Looking out for #1" became something of a slogan starting in the 1970's and with it an explosion of the love of pride. Pride for many is no longer a sin but a sign of psychological maturity. This is sad because pride always mask a secret belief that deep down I really know that I'm not all that good and that is a tragedy!

We all can relate to a person who constantly is blowing their own horn and how tiresome this can be. But imagine for a moment that the person who is doing this is your child. I think if you asked yourself why they were doing it and tried to enter their skin you would see that sadly they really don't believe it and they are proclaiming it hoping that someone will affirm it.

Unfortunately such pride merely leads to people heaping scorn upon the individual in unsuccessful attempts to bring them back down to earth. And the sad individual becomes mired in an ever deepening pool of self-pity.

Contrast this individual with the saints. Although esteemed by others they hold themselves in low esteem. They realized their faults and they realize their gifts. Their gifts they realize are just that, presents from a God and they thank God continuously for them.

The saints are truly those who look out for #1, and they manifest this in their lives. They live in reality and know that God is number one and seek Him in the poor, in others and most of all constantly in prayer.

Friday, September 29, 2017

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel - 67

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous steps are found in the archives to the right. This is step 67:



(67) Not to love strife.



Another way of translating this counsel of St. Benedict's is "not to love confrontation." There is not a counsel here to avoid it, but simply not to "love" it. There are some who literally love to pick a fight; who are entertained by creating an environment of unease.



The model must be Christ who was no stranger to confrontation or as our Lord say, "bringing the sword." His attitude is one of repairing the damage that has been inflicted or is in the process of being created by others. We should love the imitation of Christ at all times and seeking to do what Christ would do in any situation, mindful that we are in Christ.



This necessarily means confronting evil wherever we encounter it. But it does not mean loving that confrontation. There comes a point and it is a fine point where good people can become evil. Critics of Christianity often point out the damage done by "good" Christians. What they are highlighting is not the work of good Christians but rather the work of evil people who have allowed their love of strife to overtake their love of Christ.



The goal is never to destroy a person but rather to seek their salvation. Christ alone can save the person, not us. We can merely point out the way, most of the time painfully risking the loss of friendship from those who prefer darkness to light. This should grieve us too and move us to prayer.





Whether we live this counsel or not can be judged by our reaction to the way we deal with confrontation in our lives. Does it give us a feeling of satisfaction or sorrow? Our Lord was moved to tears when He approached Jerusalem because they did not know the time of their visitation. Is our response the same?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Padre Pio - September 23


Padre Pio...

From the Canonization Homily by Pope John Paul II:

"But may I never boast except in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal 6,14).

Is it not, precisely, the "glory of the Cross" that shines above all in Padre Pio? How timely is the spirituality of the Cross lived by the humble Capuchin of Pietrelcina. Our time needs to rediscover the value of the Cross in order to open the heart to hope.

Throughout his life, he always sought greater conformity with the Crucified, since he was very conscious of having been called to collaborate in a special way in the work of redemption. His holiness cannot be understood without this constant reference to the Cross.

In God's plan, the Cross constitutes the true instrument of salvation for the whole of humanity and the way clearly offered by the Lord to those who wish to follow him (cf. Mk 16,24). The Holy Franciscan of the Gargano understood this well, when on the Feast of the Assumption in 1914, he wrote: "In order to succeed in reaching our ultimate end we must follow the divine Head, who does not wish to lead the chosen soul on any way other than the one he followed; by that, I say, of abnegation and the Cross" (Epistolario II, p. 155).

-Michael Dubruiel 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Michael Dubruiel: 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 66

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous postings are available in the archives to the right. This the 66th step:



(66) Not to be jealous; not to entertain envy.



Perhaps the saddest of sins both of these arise from a failure to acknowledge and give thanks for tall the ways in which God has blessed us. Our focus is not on our own giftedness but rather on someone else. God has blessed us, and we are blessed right now. Looking at someone else as more blessed or focusing on their gifts as something that we want for ourselves is a waste of time.



This is especially true in the quest for sanctity. We do not become holy by becoming someone else. We become holy by being fully who God created us to be. Saints are as varied in their gifts as are people.



Knowing ourselves is not always self-evident. Many times everyone around us seems to know who we are better than we know ourselves. And often we know others better too and are able to admire the gifts that others possess more than the ones that we do ourselves. This is the crux of the problem.



Jealousy and envy should be treated in the same way we would treat a rash on our body--as an indication of a problem. The answer to jealousy and envy is to thank God also for the gifts that He has given to others. We need to look upon others not as a threat but as a blessing.





We need to thank God for the gifts that he has given us. Like the steward who took the gifts left with him by the master and multiplied them a hundredfold we need to focus on what God has given us and how it might benefit others. Our one goal should be that we use our gifts in accordance with His will.

Friday, September 22, 2017

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 65 by Michael Dubruiel

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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

How to get more out of the Catholic Mass by Michael Dubruiel

The Gospel readings at Mass during this time are focusing on the Eucharist via John, chapter 6.  Why not follow the Church's lead and learn more about the Mass during this time?

Michael Dubruiel wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 



How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:
  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond" Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.


Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 64

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



(64) To love chastity.



St. Benedict's counsel to "love" chastity applies to every Christian regardless of their state of life. The monk will be chaste in a way that is different than a married person but both are required to be chaste in their dealings with all people. Chastity is an attitude toward the other that sees the beauty of the person but does not wish to take or consume the other.



Being chaste means never making an object of anyone. While we think of this in sexual terms, sex is really just the tip of the iceberg. Seeing a person as a person and not making an object of them helps us to truly be reverent toward the person. Being chaste means being open to seeing others as God sees them. We desire to be in a good relationship with all people but we do not seek to enslave the other.



Some were shocked some years ago when Pope John Paul II stated that even a married man could commit a sin of lust with his own wife. What the Pope was pointing out was that even marriage does not give a man or woman the license to treat the their spouse like their property. In the same way we are called to treat all with respect.



In Latin this counsel is made up of two words, "love" and "chastity." In reality the two are equal. We are called to love all people chastely, in imitation of God who loves all of His creation.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel - 63



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 right. This is the 63rd step:



(63) To fulfil daily the commandments of God by works.



Most of us think of the commandments as "something" not to do, but this is not Benedict's take. He sees them as something that requires action on our part daily. The type of action required is either to "fight" against the urges that keep us from fulfilling God's commands or to "flee" the devil as we run toward God.



Fighting or fleeing are the actions demanded of the disciple of Christ. Most of us may find that we are moved to do neither. It could be that in our complacent lifestyle that following God's commandments doesn't seem to ask much of us. We peer out of the windows of our house or car and see the world outside of our selves and are quite unmoved by the plight of those who live down the street or in another neighborhood. We somehow listen to the Gospels and confuse Jesus with someone who "didn't care" and wouldn't have lifted a finger to help anyone.



If this definition hits close to home, then you know what you must "fight" in order to fulfill God's commands daily--indifference. If on the other hand this definition makes you angry and you don't like the mean guy saying that perhaps you aren't a "good" Christian after all, then you need to flee the devil who has taken hold of your life (coming no doubt as an angel of light) and run to God who will empower you to fulfill His commands.



This counsel is against complacency. It is against thinking that we have ever arrived and now all we need to do is sit back and relax. It is a warning against the riches that can blind us to the truth of the Gospel which can neither be lost by the gnawing of a moth or the rot of rust. Works are demanded of us daily in order that God's will might be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

St. Januarius - September 19

Feast of St. Januarius



A sealed glass vial containing a dark unknown substance, allegedly the clotted blood of San Gennaro (St Januarius), is shown several times a year to a packed crowd in the Cathedral of Napoli (Naples). Whilst the container is being handled during a solemn ceremony, the solid mass suddenly liquefies before everybody's eyes. [1, 2]



This well-documented phenomenon is still regarded as unexplained [3] by believers and sceptics alike. Noted parapsychologist Hans Bender defined it the paranormal phenomenon with the best and historical documentation; [4] physicist Enrico Fermi seems to have expressed interest as well.



It is also one of the few recurrent non-medical, physical "miracles" that might be studied scientifically.




Above from CICAP, the Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims on the Paranormal

-Michael Dubruiel





Monday, September 18, 2017

73 Steps to Communion with God - 62 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the right. This is the 62nd step:



(62) Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called.



Holiness comes from God's grace. One's desire should be to be in a good relationship with God and not to be well thought of by others. In fact Our Lord declared that "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account," Matthew 5:11. It would matter little then, if people thought of us as vile and pagan if that were not the truth.



There was a group of holy men in Russia who sought to live this out quite literally, to no avail. They are know as the "holy fools of Russia" and would do everything humanly possible to be thought of us vile and "unholy" to the point of publicly fornicating with prostitutes, walking naked through the public squares and uttering every kind of vulgarity loudly. But the populace knew that this was all so that they would not be well thought of and so they revered them anyway!



We do not have to go to such lengths to avoid being well thought of by others but we shouldn't lose the point of their witness--that holiness is something to be rather than something that others think we are. Holiness is not an act but rather is the result of a relationship with God. Our motivation should always be to seek the Kingdom of God in our lives first and sometimes that will lead to others thinking poorly of us. But Jesus tells us that we are blessed and that is what matters.



The civil rights leaders of the late 1950's and early 1960's were religious people. They were motivated by their belief in God to reject the way black people were being treated in this country. They sang praise to God as they marched in front of State Capitals, sat at lunch counters or entered school buildings. Other so-called "Christians" reviled them declaring them to be atheists, troublemakers and Communists. But they were blessed and now we look upon them as saints and martyrs.





When we are gone from this earth, then we hope people will think of us as holy.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Gospel Reading - September 17

The Cross of Christ Teaches Us. . . About Repentance

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 CORINTHIANS 1:22–24 
This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. LUKE 11:29 
Some years ago I visited the Florida State Prison, accompanying a group of men from around the state who converged on the prison one Saturday of every month to have fellowship with men convicted of the vilest crimes imaginable. I introduced myself to Ron, who lived three hours away from the prison. After some pleasantries, I walked away, and then fell into conversation with another man, who introduced himself as Tom.
“You know Ron?” Tom nodded toward the first man, who had put his arm around an inmate.
“Just met him today.”
“See the guy he’s hugging?” I nodded. “Five years ago, that man murdered Ron’s only son. Now look at them. How does Ron do it—forgive him, I mean?” I didn’t know.
The first proclamation of the gospel by Jesus was that those who wished to follow him needed to “repent and believe.” We are prone to think of “repentance” as giving up sin—and to some degree that is true. However, in the time of Jesus the word would have been more accurately translated, “to radically change the mind, one’s way of thinking.”
The man visiting his son’s murderer every month had “repented.” His way of thinking would seem totally foreign to most of us; it makes sense only to those familiar with the gospel message of Jesus: Love your enemies. Forgive seventy times seven. See Christ in the least of his brethren—even in prison.

Sign of Jonah

The people of Jesus’ day wanted him to perform a sign to prove that his message was true. Today many of us wish for the same. In reality, these signs are all around us but we are blind to them. Even if we see the sign, it doesn’t always convince us. I once attended a healing service where people were literally jumping out of wheelchairs. It didn’t make me believe; if anything, I left the service convinced that the healer was a fraud.
In the preceding gospel passage, Jesus called those seeking signs from him evil. They were evil because they refused to acknowledge the many signs that God had already worked in their midst that confirmed that the ministry and teaching of Christ were from God. Even though I am tempted to look with disdain on those who asked for a sign from Jesus in the gospel, I know deep down that I, too, often forget about the many “signs” that God has given me to confirm the truth of Jesus as the Son of God.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus promised the “sign of Jonah.” This sign is often interpreted as the preaching of repentance: Jonah preached in Nineveh for less than a day before his message  The Power of the Cross  produced a radical change in the hearts of the people. By comparison, Jesus had preached for three long years. If pagan Nineveh was so quick to repent, why were those who heard Jesus’ message so slow to give up their way of thinking? Earlier in Luke’s gospel, Simeon’s prophesy may hold the key to this question: “This child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against” (Luke 2:34).
The oldest interpretation of the “sign of Jonah,” which is also found in the Gospel of Matthew (16:4) comes from an unfinished commentary on this gospel, penned by an anonymous source dating from the time of the early church fathers. For this nameless wise person, the sign of Jonah was the sign of the cross. His reasoning? St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where Paul makes specific reference to the desire for signs among the Jewish people and what he gives them in response—Christ crucified.

Responding to the Sign

What will it take for us to trust in Jesus’ message? The cross of Christ can fill people with dread. And yet, it is at the heart of the good news that Jesus preached. It is diametrically opposed to the way the fallen human race thinks; enamored with forbidden fruit, from which it hopes to become “like God.” The world shuns the tree that bears the only true Source of life and wisdom. As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
To the world, it is foolishness to think that anyone could forgive to the point of embracing his son’s killer. As for me, the power of the cross is poignantly revealed in this holy man I once met in a prison in Florida. By embracing the cross, he was able to do exactly what God does when he invites us to his banquet. The cross of Christ either convicts us of murdering God’s Son or makes us into a new creation—a being who is truly remarkable to behold
The Power of the Cross  by Michael Dubruiel. 





"michael Dubruiel"

Saturday, September 16, 2017

73 Steps to Communion with God 61

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 61st step:



(61) To obey the commands of the Abbot in all things, even though he himself (which Heaven forbid) act otherwise, mindful of that precept of the Lord: "What they say, do ye; what they do, do ye not" (Mt 23:3).



The Abbot is the head of the monastery, and even though you and I may not be in a monastery we all have human authorities that we should respect and obey. Like the previous counsel where St. Benedict taught us to hate our own will, here we are taught to obey those whom God has placed over us even if the person in authority isn't the most God-like person.



Benedict quotes Our Lord injunction to obey the Pharisees who He says sat in the seat of Moses. A quick survey of the Gospels will find that Jesus often condemned the behavior of the Pharisees but in this passage says that they should be obeyed anyway because God had put them in their positions of authority.



We also have the example of Our Lord's journey to the cross where He is handed over by the High Priests and then made subject to Pilate. He tells Pilate that Pilate has no authority over Him unless it were given from above from God. So Our Lord accepts Pilate's authority to put Him to death.



This way of looking at authority should lead us to pray for those who God has placed over us that they too will seek to do God's will. The person who truly believes in God will trust that even a corrupt authority will unwittingly do the will of God. The Scriptures are filled with examples of evil kings doing the will of God even though they were unaware of it and might have had evil motives at the time.



The example of Joseph in Genesis, sold into slavery by his brothers who later bow before him imploring his mercy stands as the premier example of this trust that we all should have that God works through whoever He wills. Joseph faced with his brothers says, "what you did to me you meant for evil but God meant it for good to bring about the salvation of many."





Being obedient but without following the example of bad authority allows us to worship God alone.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Our Lady of Sorrows - September 15

In northern Ohio there is a church dedicated to Our Lady
of Sorrows; in the basement is a room containing signs of
weakness that have been left behind by those who have experienced
the power of God at that shrine. Among whiskey bottles,
cigarettes, crutches, and leg braces is a mat that once
carried a paralyzed man there—who left empowered by God
to walk again.

I suspect that the most powerful stories of healing, however,
come from those who were unable to leave anything behind.
Their weakness, whatever it was, remained with them; however,
they had been empowered to carry their weakness in the power
of God. This type of healing often goes unnoticed. Even so, it is
the greater healing, because it enables us to share in the cross of
Christ, to embrace our weakness in the power of God. For the
follower of Christ, weakness need not mean defeat!




-The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel
"michael dubruiel"

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Exaltation of the Holy Cross - September 14

Michael Dubruiel

Here's a link to a page with a free download of Michael Dubruiel's book The Power of the Cross.

It's in .pdf format.

Also on the page is a link to a series of interviews Michael did with Catholic radio station KVSS on the book.

St. Francis of Assisi taught his followers to reverence Christ and
his cross wherever they might find themselves. The prayer attributed
to St. Francis that begins, “Lord, make me a channel of your
peace,” was in fact not composed by St. Francis; it was misapplied
to him in a prayer book. The true prayer of St. Francis was one
he taught his friars to pray whenever they would pass a Church
or the sign of the cross made by two branches in a tree. They were
to prostrate themselves toward the church or the cross and pray,
“We adore you Christ and we praise you present here and in all
the Churches throughout the world, because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world.”

The cross reminds us of the true Christ, the one in the
Gospels who was constantly misjudged by the religious figures
of his day. If we are not careful, he will be misjudged by us as well.
We need to worship him alone.E

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

73 Steps to Communion with God 60

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 60th step:



(60) To hate one's own will:



Someone who seeks to be in communion with God has to learn to subject themselves entirely to God's will. Jesus who was the Son of God still prayed in His humanity that "not his will be done but the Father's." We all have "our way" of looking at life and "our way" of doing things and the Scriptures are quite clear that "our way is not God's way."



We all suffer because we believe that happiness lies in fulfilling our will. But if we have the gift to reflect on our past, we quickly come to the realization that much of what we "will" does not bring us happiness and in fact is quite fleeting and arbitrary--changing with the wind.



To fight "our will" does not mean going off into another direction but rather facing reality. Our "will" often pulls us away from what most needs our attention. We often will to be somewhere other than where we are, to be doing something other than what needs to be done and to be with someone other than the one we are with at the present moment. These are exactly the moments when we are to "hate" our own will and seek to do the will of God.





God had placed us where we are right at this very moment. He has also placed us in a situation that demands our attention at this moment. The person who is before us has been placed there by God. Being attentive to all that God has placed in our midst will bring a contentment that we will never find if we are constantly seeking to flee from the cross.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

73 Steps to Communion with God 59

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 59th step:



(59) Not to fulfil the desires of the flesh (cf Gal 5:16).



This counsel of St. Benedict's is a quote from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh," (Galatians 5:16). St. Paul saw the flesh and the Spirit at war with one another and one would suspect that so would St. Benedict. The flesh for Paul was an obstacle to being the person God had created us to be.



But less we project all of our own ideas about what the "flesh" means, let us look at what St. Paul means when he speaks about the "flesh": "Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God," (Galatians 5:19-21). If one peruses the list one will find that the "desires" of the flesh are all the ways that our desires can go mad and lead to our own destruction.



Contrast the works of the flesh with the desires of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," (Galatians 5:22). Notice the first three are all what the "desires'" of the flesh are motivated by, the desire to experience love, joy and peace, but of course they never lead to that, so we should strive to live by the Spirit.





How can w do it? St. Paul tells us, "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit," (Galatians 5: 24-25). We need to subjugate ourselves to Jesus and to trust in the Holy Spirit at every moment of everyday, so that we seek to fulfill the will of God and not of our flesh.

Monday, September 11, 2017

73 Steps to Communion with God 58 by Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Communion with God 58 by Michael Dubruiel

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 58th step:



(58) To confess one's past sins to God daily in prayer with sighs and tears, and to amend them for the future.



One of the areas of spirituality, which has been under attack for the past forty years, is the "emphasis on sinfulness" that seems to have dominated spirituality of all religions from the beginning of time. Those who have bought into this notion have found that after awhile God seems to slip further and further from the picture.



Sin essentially is anything that breaks my relationship with God. Remove sin from the picture and you are essentially removing God from the picture--because you are admitting that it really doesn't matter if you are offending God or not. It would be like being in a relationship with your spouse and refusing ever to admit any wrongdoing or to even consider that you are ever wrong (I've been accused of this before but I humbly submit that I am almost always wrong when it comes to my faults in my relationship with my wife), one would expect such a relationship to be in grave trouble.



Admitting that we are not living up to our part of the relationship is a healthy practice of constantly trying to stay in communion with God. Doing it with "sighs and tears" means that we are not just doing some per forma but rather are emotionally feeling what we are saying. St. Ignatius of Loyola would have retreatants pray for the gift of tears when they meditated on their sinfulness and this is a practice that should be restored.



I remember during a pilgrimage to Medjugordje in what is now Bosnia in the late 1980's standing in a confessional line and watching people emerge from the outside confessional stations (a chair with a priest, while the penitent knelt beside him) wiping tears away. It was touching, because it gave me the sense that these weren't just a listing off of faults but a heart felt conversion from a life without God to a life that the penitent truly wanted to live with the help of God. We should all pray for the gift of tears for our failings.



My great-grandfather would always be wiping tears away when he returned from receiving communion. I found this deeply significant as a child and it is something I've never forgotten. Involving our emotions in our relationship with God is a great grace that we should strive to have in our relationship with Him.





The final part of Benedict's maxim is to amend our lives. Real contrition for our sins involves a firm resolve to involve God in those parts of our lives that we have excluded Him in the past. By being aware of God's presence at all times we likely will amend our lives in the future.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

73 Steps to Communion with God 57 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 57th step:



(57) To apply one's self often to prayer.



The word that is translated "to apply" can also mean to fall down in adoration (prostration). It is worth mentioning because if anything has been lost in modern Christianity it is the sense of adoration that preceded or indeed was a part of prayer in previous ages. One can still see the ancient method most noticeably in the prayer or Moslems who fall down bowing their heads to the ground whenever they pray.



This reflects the way Christians would have prayed during the time of Mohammed. It has been noted in several biographies of Pope John Paul II that when no one is around that he also prays using this posture. Yet most Catholics have been taught that "standing" is the ancient method of prayer (which quite frankly is nothing short of a lie).



Anyway, "applying" oneself in this manner involves the body in a way that forces one to "pay attention" to what you are doing (also causes the blood to flow to your head). The early Church Fathers recommended this posture whenever anyone was having trouble praying and later St. Ignatius of Loyola instructed pray-ers to find some way to acknowledge that they were in God's presence at the beginning of every prayer period.



To pray continually was an injunction of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, "pray constantly," (1 Thess. 5:17) and if we understand that prayer is communicating with God, we can see that there is nothing more important if we are to be in communion with God.



Every moment of our day is an opportunity for prayer. There is nothing that we do in life that can not be brought to God. But it is important also to set aside time where we are not active and God is the focus of our undivided attention. Ideally this will happen as least seven times a day. Traditionally this would be when we arise in the morning, in the mid-morning, at noon, in the mid-afternoon, in the evening, when we retire and in the middle of the night. Of course the last one, in the middle of the night may seem the hardest but if you find yourself awakened in the middle of the night-there is perhaps no time when you can give God more of your undivided attention. The early Fathers felt that in the night (vigils) the spirit world was more visible and there was less to distract us.





Be creative in finding ways to pray throughout the day. Take the Scriptures with you wherever you go. While waiting in traffic read a few verses, standing in line recite prayers, turn idle moments into opportunities for spiritual growth.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Nativity of Mary - Pray the Rosary

Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  Click on the cover for more information.

"Michael Dubruiel"


The Gospels show that the gaze of Mary varied depending upon the circumstances of life. So it will be with us. Each time we pick up the holy beads to recite the Rosary, our gaze at the mystery of Christ will differ depending on where we find ourselves at that moment.

Thereafter Mary’s gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Lk 2:48); it would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross, where her vision would still be that of mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple (cf. Jn 19:26-27). On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) [Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 10].


As we pray the Rosary, then, we join with Mary in contemplating Christ. With her, we remember Christ, we proclaim Him, we learn from Him, and, most importantly, as we raise our voices in prayer and our hearts in contemplation of the holy mysteries, this “compendium of the Gospel” itself, we are conformed to Him.


How to pray a Novena by Michael Dubruiel





When Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his Apostles to stay where they were and to "wait for the gift" that the Father had promised: the Holy Spirit.  The Apostles did as the Lord commanded them. "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1:14). Nine days passed; then, they received the gift of the Holy spirit, as had been promised. May we stay together with the church, awaiting in faith with Our Blessed Mother, as we trust entirely in God, who loves us more than we can ever know. 

"michael Dubruiel"

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

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.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

73 Steps to Communion with God - 55

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 55th step:
(55) Not to love much boisterous laughter.

Written in the context of rules for monastic living this one is easily understood by anyone who has ever visited a good monastery. There is an atmosphere of silence that permeates the monastic environment and loud boisterous laughter would destroy such an atmosphere.
The maxim is not to "love much" explosive laughter. Again there is no prohibition against humor here but rather there is a caution of making a show of it. If one has ever been around someone who regularly explodes with loud laughter there is something rather unsettling about it--making one wonder about the sanity of the individual displaying it.
Loudness of any sort displays an excessive ego, "look at me I'm laughing." A good laugh is good for everyone, but the one who explodes in laughter is someone who is overdoing it. Parents often have to caution their children against this, it is even more embarrassing in an adult.
The obvious fault with this type of loudness is that it intrudes upon the space of those outside our immediate circle. The joy that we feel and those we are speaking to may share may not be shared by those who are loud laughter will inflict itself upon at a distance.
To not love explosive laughter can save us from much embarrassment and also preserve the decorum of respect of the people we live with.
There are those who will think that this injunction is not in keeping with the New Testament but read what the Letter of James says: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you," (James 4:7-10).
The genius of the maxims of St. Benedict is that they embrace all of Scripture, while most of us choose to only exchange a handshake with the word of God.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

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.

Friday, September 01, 2017

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God - 53

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 53.



(53) Not to love much speaking.



Recently while a guest at the monastic table of a monastery I was privileged to be there on a night when talking was allowed in celebration of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Normally meals are taken in silence at this monastery, while a monk reads from the Rule of St. Benedict, the martyrology and usually a book that would be of interest to the monks (this final selection could be a current bestseller).



So on this night, after the blessing was said and we were seated there was a few minutes of silence while the lector read from the Rule and the martyrology before the abbot rang a bell signaling that we could speak. The one line that was read from the Rule was "not to love much speaking."



I was seated with a monk who I had meant several times before, Father Louis, in his late 70's he still leads a very busy life wearing a number of "hats" at the monastery not the least of which is to entertain guests. He told me that two of his heroes were fallen and that made him sad.



"Who were they?" I asked.



"President Clinton and Archbishop Weakland." He responded.



He went on to say that Clinton had been for the poor and for the life of me I can't remember what Weakland had done that enamored him to Father Louis, although Weakland was also a Benedictine monk so that probably had something to do with it.

We carried on a conversation about current projects that I was working on and Father Louis weekend parish work. It was an ironic visit, because we were both doing the very thing that Benedict counsels the monk not to do "to love much speaking."

Why? Too often when we speak much we say things that might better be left unsaid. If Benedict were writing today, he might also add not "to love too much blogging" which could easily be a modern equivalent to "too much speaking." Bloggers know that writing what you are thinking can come back to bite you sometimes.



God first, everything else second. We are to pray always, even before we speak. "God is this going to build the person up?" "Lord is this your will?" All should proceed what might flow too quickly from our lips and not be according to God's will for us.



The flip side of course is that someone who loves to talk will hardly make a good monk. Since monks thrive on silence (and we should nurture ourselves with this too), someone who loves to talk obviously would be miserable in such a setting.





But the counsel is beneficial to all of us. "Think before you speak," becomes "Pray before you speak."