Radical Transformation: Part IV

Dietrich Von Hildebrand: Transformation in Christ (Chapter 8)

On “Confidence in God”

Many Christians have been waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ.  It has been over two thousand years since he walked, preached, died and was resurrected.  Our Jewish cousins have been waiting perhaps as much a four thousand years for the first coming.  Jesus did not pass their mustard test of divinity.  Christians utilize prophesies in the Old Testament as predictions that Jesus fulfilled the first prediction.[i]  Regardless of this seismic division we still share a Messianic faith: 

The term “Messianic prophecy” refers to a compilation of over one hundred predictions (conservative estimate) in the Old Testament regarding the Messiah. They have undeniable accuracy even though these prophecies were recorded by numerous writers into various books over 1000 years. We are assured that these prophecies were not conspired after the fact due to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint. These items are existed prior to Jesus’ time on earth.[ii]

The idea of “Confidence in God” given our shared four thousand year period of “waiting for God” and our collective confusion and divergent interpretations of historical events, scripture, prophets, and the understanding of the historical life of Jesus Christ is intellectually mind-boggling.  It is in this context I am hesitant to write about “Confidence in God.”

With genuine humility and intellectual honesty I can assuredly say I cannot define a personal path for anyone to come to believe and share my faith and confidence in God.  My own faith I judge to be far too fragile and temperamental.   

I can however provide testament to having common concerns and doubts about God with my fellow man that have run deep in my life and come out of the darkness with a greater faith after many trials and divergent paths.  Challenges afforded to me have included philosophical existentialism, unexpected losses of family members, experience with personal failures and traumatic situations, a deep seated wrestling with the meaning and nature of suffering, criticisms of our religious institutions practices and beliefs (past and present), alternative explanations for spiritual experiences, psychological principles of individual development and sociological explanations for religiosity,  and personal “isms” of a less lofty nature. 

How can we ask anyone to have faith in God when facing a four thousand year waiting period for a messianic coming that we cannot define with any certainty while living in a secular world driven by temporal and material goals (ranging from basic survival to unimaginable wealth)? I cannot ask you to have faith.  I can share mine.  I cannot even give faith away.  It is not mine to give.  My journey is not even my own. 


I have an oar.  It is a very small oar.  All I can do is row and aim for the greater good.   I do not know what rivers I will face, what rapids lay ahead, or when my boat will rest on calm waters.  Sometimes I will have other rowers by my side and sometimes I will be utterly alone.  God is always there but sometimes in my fear or in my self-possession I will not see him or be aware of his presence.   In the poem below it is easy to forget the line “I thank whatever God’s maybe for my unconquerable soul.” Invictus[iii]   

And yet I am writing about “Confidence in God” for myself and I hope for you the reader.  Faith, like sports, is a full contact activity.  It requires participation, determination, and perseverance. It also requires transcendence past human abilities.  That is where “Confidence in God” comes into play.

I am still daunted by this release of myself into his hands without trembling.  The willingness to accept the consequences and responsibilities of a true and on-going transformation in Christ and Confidence is beyond my spiritual imagination.  Like my middle name, I still have bouts of doubt that arise at the most unfortunate times. I do not have the luxury presented to doubting Thomas:


The apostles who lived with and followed Jesus Christ struggled to believe in the entirety of Christ message.   How can we be expected to claim that faith any better than those who lived by his side?

I believe there is an answer here to part of the mystery of Jesus Christ death and resurrection.  We are called to be active and open to a spiritual life, open to living a spiritual life guided by the Holy Spirit and his teachings, and to do so without his physical presence and performance of miracles in our presence. 

I cannot define the messianic second coming.  I cannot defend if Jesus Christ should or ought to be accepted by the Jews as the first Messiah.  I cannot debate if we are living in the Messianic period or are still waiting for the Messianic period.  These are theological concepts beyond my pay grade!  However through my Catholic faith I am taught the following:  

In him human history and indeed all creation are “set forth” and transcendentally fulfilled.551”[iv]  

I am not to wait for the second coming.  I am to live a spiritual life now, every day, every moment and to strive, within the limits of my humanity, for “spiritual perfection.”

Dietrich presupposes you have bludgeoned these obstacles and are reading his work and searching and deepening your faith.  He delves right into God being omnipotent, omniscient, truly merciful, and a personal loving God.    Perhaps your head is nodding and you are saying “Ah yes, Dietrich I readily agree that God is all powerful, ever present, and that through our prayer the Eucharist, and our church that we have a personal relationship with God.  Dietrich you are the master of the obvious!”  Dietrich answers your thoughts with a warning about some of us who may fall into never being “roused into a full awareness of man’s metaphysical situation” and being truly cognizant of being in God’s hands (which can evoke appropriate awe, fear and trepidation):

“This pitfall of a comfortable smugness masquerading as religiosity we must studiously avoid; in full awareness of the gravity of our metaphysical situation, in penitent humility we must lift our eyes to God, and in constant effort work for our sanctification.  At the same time, we must bear in mind that it is not on the basis of our nature but through Christ and in Christ alone that a real victory over our sinfulness can be obtained.”   

Dietrich after throwing the above punch, recognizing our human limitations, jumps into God’s infinite love and mercy for each of us and then takes on the intrinsically sad things and intrinsically bad things (evil) and how we are to understand them and come to terms with feelings of being abandoned by God.  

It is dizzying to recognize that in a moment of prayer I am connected to the sins of humanity past and present and to the healing and saving grace of God.    It is overpowering to consider my part or lack thereof in righting the wrongs of today (poverty, injustice, violence, abuse, murder).  My prayers for the many suffering and for cessation of the countless evils being perpetrated are somehow seemingly irrelevant in the vast tide of human misery.    

Dietrich acknowledges the “impenetrable mystery of why God permits such a passing trial of evil at all.”    How many times have we heard or asked ourselves – God, how can you let this happen?  Or as it is said in the bible: 

my god

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, KJV). 

Jesus was not accepted by the Jews as the true Messiah as they expected the Messiah to be a new King to restore the Jews as a nation (among other reasons).  There was an expectation of immediacy.  Jesus Christ was not the Messiah the Jews expected.  Not even the apostles were prepared for his death or resurrection.  Jesus Christ perhaps modeled a response for on accepting suffering: 

“My father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass from me, Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt.”  (Matt. 26:39)

There is a teaching here for our prayer.  We can pray out loud to the father and call him by name. We can ask for what we want in our hearts (even though we know he knows our intentions and desires already).  And we can reaffirm our desire is to do or accept God’s will, not our own will.       

Dietrich presents a compelling case for accepting suffering while maintaining confidence in God’s design no matter how incomprehensible the situation is or how reprehensible our actions have been in the past.   Our confidence must also be free of false expectations for repairing harms we have done to ourselves, providing us what we ask for when we want it, or even providing us an “enlivening touch of his grace.”  On this point I am spiritually impoverished.  I pray that I am not tested by long periods of spiritual dryness.  I beg for on-going support and revelation.  I announce my weakness and frailty at every opportunity in this regard. 

Like Thomas, I fear the loss of grace.  I fear the dark night of loss of faith.  I cannot imagine the trials and tribulations of the martyrs and saints that have went days, weeks, months, and even years without spiritual consolation. 

There is an absurdity here.  Who am I to demand spiritual consolation at all?  Who am I to take myself so seriously?     

I am a doubting Thomas – a man who believes in God but who is struck by fear and doubt.  In a moment of agony or pain I can easily forget the many graces I have received, demonstrate a lack gratitude for all that I have been given, and have a penchant (or petulance) for anger when disillusioned by a negative outcome that I perceived as not aligned with my manifest destiny.  In essence when life is going my way God is great – but let the boat rock a little and desperation can evaporate my sense of grounding and confidence.  This is not confidence in God.   Confidence in God is constant no matter what our circumstances are – no matter how dire our situation. 

When Jesus was resurrected he left us with a calling card:    

“What Jesus longs for in this post-resurrection encounter with Thomas is that we all might believe in him by handing over our hearts and our hopes that he might bring them to the fullness of joy.”[v]

Poor Thomas today still takes a chiding for what was only a natural skepticism.   If not for his skepticism how could we be taught to manage our own?    Sometimes it is simply better to just move on and take formative action or if I may say – trans-formative radical action.  Be confident in God and active in your journey no matter what your circumstance today.  


[i] http://www.clarifyingchristianity.com/m_prophecies.shtml

[ii] https://www.messianic-prophecy.net/

[iii] https://www.pinterest.com/pin/121949102384989926/

[iv] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c2a7.htm

[v] https://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2013-04/doubting-thomas-didnt-doubt


Radical Transformation: Part III

Transformation in Christ by Dietrich Von Hildebrand:


On Humility (Chapter 3: 149 – 188):

Take a few minutes and consider your personal reaction to the word Humility or Humble.  In American culture it can be seen as a great asset or great weakness.  It is context dependent.  The American Psychological Association[i] and Forbes[ii] business magazine see great utility in the trait of humility.  It is perhaps the antithetical to seek to be humble for personal gain – gain which is often aimed at material wealth or increased social status – but nonetheless even if starting out with an end goal that is perhaps not so humble – there is intrinsic value in being humble.  If you are interested in personal growth for personal gain stop reading here and visit the web links at the end of the article.

If you are interested in Humility as an aspect of your spiritual journey or development Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s chapter on Humility can humble your self-assessment of your possession of humility. On a 9 by 5 inch canvas each page is a round of jabs, hooks, and revelation.  At least in sixteen feet by twenty feet canvas you have a referee to stop the fight, a corner crew to tend to your wounds, and an end in sight – win or lose.  Humility on a theological plane has no end – it is a way of being that continues to deepen and expand.

Round 1:  Dietrich opens up with a series of body blows aimed at Pride.    The early round body blows are aimed at all efforts for at the “glorification of self” by seeking superiority, power, and wealth as an end in and of themselves to promote our own ego.

Round 2:   Mixing it up with taunts and occasional jabs he describes “Satanic Pride’s” ability to isolate and divide us from each other and from our God. In our perverted sense of our own free will we are given license to use our God-given talents for an “orgy of self-glorification and nourishment.”

Round 3:  Now isolated from each other and our God, we dig in and fight on acquiring vestiges of success wherever we can.  They become the measure of our worth and of the worth of others.

Round 4:  Wounding our sense of identity in worldly possessions and achievements he deftly seizes on refusal to truly have a sense of obedience to God, to accept help from others, and to be open to the sovereignty of God.

Round 5:  We are feeling creaturely now, human.  Revelation, if it has not come by this point, will not come at all by this book.  My awareness of my creaturely being relative to the divine is all too apparent.

Round 6:  Off the pages.  Where is pride negative in my life?  Without getting too much into the weeds of the “I” let me propose practicing humility is a form of spiritual healing.  If we truly believe in a personal God, in a higher power and ultimate creator, than any sense of pride is misplaced.  All belongs to our creator.  But let’s step it down a few planes to the depths of everyday human life.  How many anxieties and fears do we hold every day? What are they connected to and are they manifested?  It is 4:45 a.m.  I am fearful of certain work pressures.  I am fearful for the health, safety, and well-being of my family.  I am at times overly self-conscious of my presentation.  If I allow myself too much worry, I can fall into worrying about the abyss of missed opportunities of the past and potential challenges of the future (of which I can have no influence on today).  In a sense I can fall into a trap of having “false pride” that I alone can control my destiny and should have controlled my past in all things (controllable and uncontrollable) within the realm of my God given ability and limits.  Portraying a sense of confidence of mastery (false pride) over things that I aptly cannot control or worse yet have falsely presented as something I possess – will leave me in a state of fear and angst of discovery of my true ineptitude.  I am unworthy of what I have today.   Have you ever felt that way?  If I am afraid and fearful (without an unusual event being present like say an armed thief, as opposed to an unarmed thief where my insane pride thinks I can handle myself just fine) why is that so if I am truly humble, trusting in God, and not overly attached to any sense of material wealth, social status, or sense of my own importance?

Round 7:   Each of us has different situations and deficits when it comes to Pride and other barriers to true humility.  Dietrich explores these dimensions of barriers to humility, both grand and miniscule hindrances’ that creep into our lives.  The barrage of punches, revelations, and humorous depictions of the human condition blur into one elongated round of timeless confrontation with God.  Right hook to the jaw and down to the canvas for an 8 count:

“Against the background of what he has received from God, in the light of the gratuitous gifts of God and the high call addressed to him, he comes to understand that he is nothing by his own force, that he has made inadequate use of the natural endowments as well as of the supernatural gifts of grace he owes to God, that he is an unprofitable servant.”

Round 8:  Many of us have been on a conscious spiritual journey on and off our entire lives.  We may have perfected certain aspects of humility along the way and may not be so inclined to take a left hook to the jaw by an author questioning our humility.  There are many pitfalls even for the devout religious:

“The reason is, first, that humility implies our consciousness of our own frailty and of the constant danger of sin.  No one is truly humble unless he is imbued with the sense of the permanent menace which pride represents to fallen man.”

Round 9-11:  The application of humility and how we treat others versus how we treat ourselves is delved into here with equal cleverness as the preceding rounds.  You cannot read this without reconsidering the folly of self-appraisal.  Seeking humility is not yet another personal gain or spiritual accomplishment.  Reflecting on your own spiritual wealth is to diminish your wealth simultaneously. We reflect on our faults and sins to seek being closer to God.   For others we seek the face and glory of God as evidenced in their positive attributes.  We do not judge and assume we are worse off than most, except for perhaps by the grace and mercy of God.

Round 12:  Why bother? I am content the way I am.  On the canvas looking up at the majestic sky:

“For it is only the humble soul, the soul that has emptied itself, which can be fully penetrated by the divine Life it has received in holy Baptism: and it is upon such a soul that there falls a reflection of the greatness and infinitude of God.”

To be honest, I did not know Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s pedigree[iii] before I embarked on reading this book.  Accidentally he has joined the ranks of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as one of my favorite writers and I am only a third of the way through this book.  Unlike Bonhoeffer, Hildebrand was Catholic though I do not hold that against Bonhoeffer. Both were German and heavily influenced by the evil era of Hitler’s Germany.  One fled and lived.  One returned to Germany and died a martyr’s death. He was a convert to Christianity.  Sometimes converts make better Catholics!  There are many famous theologians who were converts.[iv]

It is interesting to keep in mind the riches of the natural world and the literary world as resources for re-affirming our faith.  At the end of the day though we must be careful to ensure our mind and soul remains grounded and in concert with our held beliefs.

For Catholics it is the written word of the bible, the mass, the Eucharist and the rich tradition of the Catholic Church.  It is also recognizing the errors of the Catholic Church and avoiding false pride, grandiosity, judging others, and risk associated with organized religion being corrupted by man’s errors.

Whether you are Catholic or not, take time now:


I have come to believe that heaven is here on earth when we choose to be envoys of God, to live in Christ image, to the best of our ability.  In essence God was roused two thousand years ago and sent his only son.  We only need to be still awhile and be open to the word and presence of God.

Even Jesus went into the desert for forty-days before his formal ministry (today’s Gospel: Mark 1. 12-15)[v].  Where is your desert for sacred reflection and prayer?   Where is your dark night for confrontation with God?  With Satan?   These are lofty ideas defying the simplicity of humility and prayer.  Take care of these and you will be prepared for any dark nights.

Please share with family or friends during this Lenten season.  Now is a perfect time for spiritual renewal!


[i] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/17/benefits-of-humility_n_5578881.html

[ii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2015/03/01/13-habits-of-humble-people/#6916aa4649d5

[iii] https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/philosophy/the-forgotten-voice-of-dietrich-von-hildebrand.html

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_converts_to_the_Catholic_Church

[v] GospelMK 1:12-15


Radical Transformation: Part Two

Transformation In Christ, by Dietrich Von Hildebrand (Chapters 2 through 6):

After chapter one on Readiness to Change Dietrich dives into house cleaning:  Contrition, Self-knowledge, True Consciousness, True Simplicity, and Recollection and Contemplation! It has been about a month for me to traverse this material and attempt to reapply principles and practices revealed within these pages.  It is not an easy process as most of us have a fundamental belief that our spirituality and our intentions are generally aligned with being good.  A familiarity with prayer rituals, an investment in other people, a general intention to behave well, and an absence of atrocious behavior relative to others can leave one comfortable in blissful self-adoration, or at least not fully alive and receptive to the potentiality of God having greater or at least different expectations for us today.

If God were our employer, would it be good enough to ride the wave on what we have accomplished yesterday, to have good intentions, to lazily commit errors that we have identified in the past as requiring immediate and sustained improvement?

Thankfully God is not our employer.  I would have been terminated and Godless long ago if not for God’s infinite mercy and the saving grace of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

On Contrition:

The first action involved a trip to my spiritual director and a rehashing of prior sins, both recent and long ago.  A compelling need to place my imperfections before God and my spiritual director provided a base from which to seek and renew a process of seeking sanctification.  This step was taken pursue fluidity and continuity of my continued journey to seek proximity to God.  Dietrich describes our tendency to resist change this way:

“This tendency to self-affirmation and petrification, as opposed to the readiness for being transformed in all these points and for receiving the imprint of the face of Christ instead of the old features, is the antithesis to what we have meant here in speaking of fluidity.”

Contrition is an act that counteracts this tendency.  A conscious effort to clean house through informed and guided true penance:

“Turn away Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities,

Create a clean heart in me O God:

And renew a right spirit within my bowels,

Restore unto me the joy of Thy Salvation,

And strengthen me with a perfect spirit.”

On Self-knowledge:

The second action is to truly examine acquire the following:

  • Knowledge of any actions or behaviors that would offend God and
  • Knowledge of the “discrepancy between what we ought to be and what we are” including our metaphysical situation, our destiny, and our vocation(s)!

This is not a sociological, psychological, or philosophical knowledge – but an earnest examination of ourselves through the eyes of God, or at least as close as we can come to approximating his will and desires for us.

This is daunting.  It can be utilized to merely validate how good we have been or dive into the martyrdom of our long list of omissions, negative actions, missed opportunities, and regrets.  That is not the intention.  There is nothing that we may discover that God does not already know.  It is starting point or a re-engagement of our spiritual path.  It may require minor or drastic course altering’s in the now (temporary actions) or down the road.

On True Consciousness:

The pillar continues as Dietrich lies down foundational steps one on top of the other.  Achieving a mode of living in “true consciousness” where through the “conscious center of his soul a person comes of age morally and acquires the ability to utter the “yes” in the face of God which He demands of us.”

This is a steep hill as it is mode of living where everything is taken out of the mundane, out of the temporal, out of autopilot, and placed in the divine sphere – every thought, action and deed.  We all have different gradients spirituality.   I enjoy strategy games of chess and Texas hold’em poker.  How does my enjoyment and time given to these activities pair with God’s intentions? I am at the moment unwilling to give up either entirely as the first has been a life time hobby and the second a monthly social gathering.   For argument sake, let us say that through divine revelation or merely a recommendation by my spiritual advisor, that both these activities were deemed unworthy of any of my time.

Would I be able to disavow both entirely?   Would I be able to further develop my discipline to have such an “act of disavowal render the impulse in question nonexistent or to eradicate it; yet that the impulse is invalidated, as it were, and in a sense decapitated and deprived of its malignant potency?”     I presume I would struggle with this request from my human spiritual advisor but if I was so blessed with a vision of divine revelation they would not be hard to give up!

Our position in life, our strengths and weaknesses, our vocational calling will provide us guidance on how we direct out attentions.  What we attend to we become. How much do we attend to God’s presence and what if anything takes precedence over God?  That is not to say we are all meant to be cloistered Monks.  However, within our metaphysical position in life we do have to carefully discern our God-given minutes here on earth and how best to deploy their use in a conscious manner.

On True Simplicity:

Seventy-four pages in Dietrich bring us back to put it all together and decipher how to live on the “sacral sphere” as opposed to the “motley variegation of life.”  He states the goal this way:

“One supreme point of view governs our entire life and in subordination to that point of view all else is judged and settled.  It is the principle of conduct enjoined in the words of the lord”  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all things shall be added unto you.”  (Matt6.33)”

Or we can live on the flip side:

“The protean vastness of untruth, the maze of arbitrary and extravagant but witty errors and sophistries are considered with great interest – if only they divert the intellect from platitude and simplicity.”

Our intellects, important to guide our discernment of spiritual things and worldly matters, can easily be used to avoid the immense responsibility and obligations that come with living a spiritual life and seeking proximity to God.  Any number of human frailties can have us running towards the “cult of the abstruse.”  We see this every day in entrenched partisan politics. People run into their comfortable bubbles of ideological beliefs and utilize maelstrom intellectually dishonest strategies to defend their self-interest and position regardless of concrete evidence of the contrary.

Dietrich explores man traps and nuances of leading the simply life, more than I can enunciate here.  Suffice it to say “Metaphysically speaking, the higher an entity is, the greater its simplicity.  The soul is so simple as no longer to admit of a disjunction of form and matter.”

On Recollection and Contemplation: 

What is the difference? Recollection in my words, is freeze framing a situation and point in time.   We take control of our thoughts and our mind by slowing down the rapid-firing of neurological signals excited and engaged in current worldly concerns and pressures.   We become mindful of their presence but through recollection create the distance from our entrenched connection to and enmeshing of feelings and attitudes associated with human events.  From afar we can deconstruct and place complex situations on a table for deferment or right sizing against the backdrop of our spiritual orientation.  When we are able to “empty our soul of all current concerns and are no longer possessed by the things which fill our life” we can turn to contemplation.

Here is the rub:  “In order to recollect ourselves, we must shun everything that appeals to our craving for sensation.”  This seems rather unfair to me.  Has not my creator provided me five senses and a robust pleasure reception network to enjoy all that he has created?   Perhaps not all, but certainly more than my eye can see?     Dietrich takes us through the value of contemplation as when we are in true contemplation, with a focus on something greater than ourselves, something truly worthy of our adoration; we can come as close as we can to rest in the divine while still alive in our mortal skins.  The author in each of these chapters takes hard shots at my comfortable sense of Christianity, at my fragile practice of prayer, and at the lack of mental and physical discipline present in my life contrasted with seeking living a truly sanctified life.

There are roadblocks and always will be roadblocks.  The mystery here is God’s grace and mercy we seek to open our hearts to what is always within us, around us, and in proximity to our action and thought.  My journey is never-ending and is not a future place but being, truly being where I am right now.

Academically, philosophically, and theologically speaking this is an apparent truth of reality.  I cannot live in yesterday or tomorrow. Recollection and Contemplation in concert will and can inform our actions today and every day.  Action without either is highly vulnerable to answering to artificial hierarchies established by other men or by ourselves, unguided by a central and eternal uniting principle of diving guidance.

Talk about not creating obfuscation?  How is this simple?  He answers this from many vantage points.  For example, he says “First, we should consecrate every day space of time to inward prayer.”  Simple enough.  Leaving our worldly concerns behind he provides the following:

“I will forget everything that was, and is to come; nor think of what lies ahead of me.  Whatever I am wont to carry and to hold in my arms I will let fall before Jesus.  It will not fall into the void:  standing before Jesus.  I deliver it all up to him.  Everything belongs to him:  all burdening worries and all great concerns, both mine and those of the souls I love.  I am not abandoning them as I would abandon them in seeking diversion:  I know that in Jesus they are truly in a safe harbor.  When at his call I relinquish and abandon all things.  I am not casting them away; on the contrary, I am assigning everything to its proper place.”

There are many jewels in this chapter including the value of silence, solitude, appropriate rest.   At the end of the day these activities are primary to action, but nonetheless action is than required in all our activities.   The prose and elegance of his writings address the roller coaster of life and prayer.

So it is Ash Wednesday today.  A forty day pilgrimage begins.  Some devout Christians will sacrifice some element of themselves (actions, time, and commitments) and practice the prescribed attendance at Mass and perform various acts of fasting on specified days.

My spiritual director and I briefly discussed this Lenten period.   Without getting into the weeds of our discussions, here are some of his ideas and mine for lent that one can consider:

  • Prayer space and time: Establish a prayer space that provides you solitude and time without interruption.
  • A.M. prayer: Add a few extra minutes to your established prayer
  • Guided content: Consider reading daily scripture at the start of the day including commentary on the contest and meaning of the literary form.
  • Weekday mass: When possible add in weekday masses (Noon?) where the daily scripture can be revisited and of course the gift the Eucharist present.
  • 3 P.M. Pause: Set a bell or reminder for reflection at 3 P.M.
  • P.M Prayer: Consider the Ignatius Examen as a peaceful close to your day:
  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  5. Look toward tomorrow.[i]

Where to start?  Today’s reading is as true today as it was when it was written, now is the time:

20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[c]

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor: 5:11 to 6:2)

May you have an enriching Lenten journey with fruitful recollection and contemplation!


Addendum:  Check out Pope Francis message:

Pope Francis offers a “worksheet” for Lent: Check it out!

[i] https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen


Radical Transformation: Part One

Transformation In Christ by Dietrich Von Hildebrand (Chapter One: Readiness to Change)

“Put off the old man who is corrupted according to the desire of error, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind:  and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.” (Eph. 4: 22-24)

Dam.  I am stumped by Dietrich Hildebrand’s first line of Chapter one, Readiness to Change.  How many times have I been through a spirit of renewal?  At this age, can I really expect any more significant change?  What affections and desire for error that I still possess can I not just keep these rather normal human affections!   

What is wrong with a little self-righteous anger, a little self-centered pride and ego, employing sarcasm from time to time given how hard I have worked and how much I have done for people!  It is only human, it is me.  Am I not justified?


If it were only that simple.  Behind every thought and action phrase lies deeper motivations that can bring us closer or farther away from spiritual peace.  Dietrich immediately validates our human condition with a generalization of the old testament theme that man is flawed by original sin and his own sins, we are in need of redemption from the Redeemer, and only the Redeemer can “bridge the gulf that separates the human race” from the true face of God.  If we are redeemed by God, in the Old Testament, if we are purified, we will be able to appear before the unspeakable Holy One whose name we are not even fit to utter!

What a simple definition of the Old Testament:  man’s pursuit to bridge the gulf between God and the Human Race.   That pursuit led to many religious rituals and attempts at purification through sacrifices and religious laws and practices as the Jewish people sought and still seek to live a holy life and seek God.

For us Christians we are introduced to being active players by being called by Jesus Christ to actively be conscious of our need for redemption and a readiness to surrender ourselves to the power of Jesus Christ to not only redeem our sins (as he died on the cross) but to live and “modify our nature” to live a holy life now.  Jesus Christ bought spirituality to present moment.  It is not nearly the end of times that we are preparing for, it is living the sanctified life in the moment.

Oh hell.   We are not saints!  We cannot abandon our human lives and live up to the superiority of God’s virtues.  Heck, relative to our understanding of the Ten Commandments and our agreed consensus on what is morally right we are all doing probably pretty well.    Only a very small percentage of us fall into the category of heavy hitter sinners (mass murderers, rapist, and other high profile evil doers).

Let me define what I can and cannot do as I aim for “self-perfection” within what I define as the limits or lack of limits of my capacity!  To do otherwise would put me in constant despair (as I will never reach God’s measure of sainthood).  By man’s measure I am doing pretty damn well relatively if I don’t say so myself.  Look at all my activity and all that I do and have done.  Sure I could have done better – but look at the cards I was dealt.  There you have it.  I have escaped radical change by defining my life by “exclusively human standards” and probably choosing points of reference that by contrast make me feel pretty good about myself (or if I am into being a martyr) choosing reference points that make me the worst of the human lot.

Dietrich offers you an out here.  He writes not all are called or possess the radical readiness to change.  In fact he hints at many believe they have no need for radical change – which they have arrived at what they are and have reached the apex of their spiritual lives.  The dye is set and they hope they have lived a good enough life to pass the litmus test at the heavenly gates with a mixture of their own good deeds, a confession or two, and ultimately God’s grace.  A pervasive inertia has settled into their hearts.  Recollection and Contemplation[i] recede and are replaced by the mundane activities of human life, which are necessary in and of themselves, but deflated and alienated from divine inspiration.

At the heart of this first chapter is a message that our spiritual reformation is continual and always fluid and changing while God’s immutability is always constant.  Your skin regenerates itself every 27 days!  Why would we not expect our spirituality to keep pace!  In essence life is a series of dying and being reborn again with each waking day:

“Unless thou follow the call of dying and becoming, thou are but a sad guest on this dark earth.”  (Goethe)

Dietrich spends the next fifteen pages providing theological and spiritual guidance on the arduous task of navigating spiritual transformation versus our own limited version of packaged self-directed transformation that may have the very same errors and omissions that sparked our journey for spiritual attainment in the beginning:

“This tendency to self-affirmation and petrification, as contrasted to the readiness for being transformed in all these points and for receiving the imprint of the face of Christ instead of the old features, is the antithesis to what we have meant here in speaking of fluidity.”

Self-affirmation and petrification!  What a slap in the face!

Have you ever read an article seeking information to reaffirm your existing belief rather than to openly read the article with intent to truly and objectively see if your existing belief can withstand the test of external validation or at least contrast?   Too often in politics and religion we read and accept what validates our sense of identity and truth and disregard the rest (by omission or outright hostility!).

The first chapter also addresses concepts of continuity and that “supernatural readiness to change” should grow with age!  The idea of our spiritual arcs having continuity and revelations of the past connecting to our moments today and our future challenges is refreshing.  Transformation in Christ is not a negation of self – but a celebration and renewal of self with a daunting freedom that is tirelessly expansive.  Dietrich concludes the first chapter with this verse:


“Lord, what will thou have me do?” (Acts 9:6)

Next up:  Contrition and Self-Knowledge?

Disclaimer:  The impossibility of sharing my journey of sanctification has hit an impasse.  I often have motivation drawn from at least three sources (I hope) before my fingers hit the key board.  In this entry I credit the first chapter of Dietrich Von Hilderbrand’s “Transformation in Christ,”[ii] other recently read literature on faith and confession, scriptures, and the guiding hand of God.

I am not proclaiming here that God is directing my writing and that “I am” a messenger of God!  On the contrary my writings attest to my desire to seek God and my immense shortcomings and fragility with living a sanctified life.  That being said, anything I write is heavily shaped and influenced not only by the inspiration provided by readings and prayer but by a life long journey of seeking God punctuated by periods of alienation from God.    The use of the term “I” just seems terribly inadequate.   If I have any modicum of success in spiritual ascension my journey is not driven by me!

Anything you read here that has higher spiritual reverence credit to God.  Anything you read here that rings of human folly credit to me.  Everything in between give credit to the all the mentors and people in my life that serve as constant guides by which I can draw wisdom and relative contrast by which we can jointly measure ourselves against a truly divine life.

Anecdotal Co-incidence:  I asked “Alexa” to call God for me this morning at 8:36 and she was sorry to inform me that I had no number listed for God.  Returning to music the very next song was “Oh come to the Alter” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYQ5yXCc_CA) by Elevation.

Are you hurting and broken within?
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin?
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well?
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Oh what a savior
Isn’t He wonderful?
Sing hallelujah,…


[i] https://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/SIPTRANS.HTM

[ii] Transformation in Christ, Chapter One, by Dietrich Von Hildebrand

Jewels of Confession (Personal Reflection)

I am in my mind’s eye an amateur, a novice, a man sentenced to be an apprentice for life.  It is the epitome of grandiosity to believe anything else.  There are just too many barriers for me to join the ranks of those considered by men to be held as examples of a devout man, much less than to even consider judgement by God’s expectations to respond to living a life aligned with his desires.

Theological, sociological, psychological, and genetic realities have reinforced my understanding of my imperfections and inability to obtain or much less so maintain sanctification – to be set apart for God’s work, to be truly live a spiritual life in everything I am.  I can expound on original sin, on my socio-economic status, my troublesome youth, and my genetic disposition ad infinitum for “causation” of my falling short, for my mediocre, for my deepest failings.  At the end of the day excuses, rationalization, or deflection is not mine to give.   My apprenticeship does not absolve me from full responsibility for “my thoughts, my words, for what I have done or what I have failed to do this day.”[i]

My greatest accomplishments and must evil acts do not afford me special status in the ledgers of holy acts or Hades hall of fame.   I have not been called by God or by Satan to champion the ideological battle of Good versus Evil.  I am humbled by many.  Everywhere I turn there are people with greater faith than I when I choose to truly look for the warriors of God.   I can see and feel the vibrancy of interior peace in many faithful, the unquestioning tranquility of those who have truly surrendered, and the energy of those who perform many acts of service with seemingly tireless commitment.  It exhausts me and replenishes me simultaneously.

I have been blessed with a vocation of helping people oppressed by circumstances, homelessness, by poverty, by addiction, or by severe and persistent mental health disorders for 29 years (including two years of graduate school).  I have equally been blessed with the vocation of the sacrament of marriage and three beautiful and healthy children.  I have also been blessed with personal struggle and immense suffering from an age that included the devastating impact of addictions, family violence, premature deaths, and utter chaos in a very confusing youth.  The blessing of suffering has humbled me to be sensitive and compassionate with every human being I encounter.

Without a portrait of my background it is difficult to give weight to the jewel of confession.  In essence, what does it matter if I bring my sins to a confessor given my sins and my accomplishments relative to others would not move the Richter scale of human morality in any meaningful measurable direction?  I am no St. Augustine or Stalin.  I am neither rich nor poor.  I am neither exceptionally intellectual, exceedingly dim, or an idiot savant.    In an existential sense, I am “being and nothingness” exemplified as is most of humanity.

There is nothing I can bring a priest that he has not heard.  There is nothing I have bought to a priest that my God does not already know.  And to make matters worse, in my belief, although my actions are important, I cannot achieve any holiness on my own merit without God’s justification or saving grace.[ii]

Furthermore, I dare to say that I have had many a confession that was ill-conceived or perhaps even ill-received!  The confessor and the penitent cannot enter into the confessional without grounded intent and inspired purpose.  How many confessions of my youth was coerced ritual? How many confessors were limited by systemic rituals from practicing true teaching in the confines of the confessional time and space allotted?

Does any of it matter?  Yes.

In the hands of Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino my life story could be transformed onto the big screen into something unrecognizable to me by mere condensing of timelines, sharpening of dramatic events, and adept usage of poetic license to create an inspiring story of coming into one’s own or a depressing comedy of errors and sadness or both.   In other words, we do not truly know the impact we have on others during the arc of our short tenure of life.  Our stories cannot accurately be portrayed without capturing the offshoots and trajectories of other people’s lives that have been influenced by intersections with our own – for better or for worse.  Scorsese, Tarantino, and our very own self-defined sense of our own lives cannot accurately capture and define the individual lives we have led with any degree of certainty.

I remember an old man living in an “SRO” (single occupancy unit) on 28th street in NYC.  I saw him daily for a certain number of years before he passed.   His name was Eli.  Our conversations were never long or deep.  There was eye contact and a smile with each conversation that transcended words.   I was called one day when he had a coronary heart attack in the hall way.   I went and held his hand and looked into his eyes until the paramedics came.  I will never know what I meant to that man.  I know I knew him and he knew me as if we had a secret club, an unsaid bond.   He passed and I never fully knew his life story or how he came to be alone in New York City.

Meaningfulness:  The first principle of confession is that we have meaning beyond ourselves and our sense of self-importance or lack thereof.  What did I do for Eli or not do for Eli in those years preceding his death?  Were my actions aligned with God’s will?  How would I know it then or now?   When we accept we have a purpose and a meaning beyond our own definition we also must accept a challenge as to how we use our body, our minds, and our soul to fulfill our mission(s) in life.

There are many definitions of sin.  Most of them can be simply be defined as taking us away from our purpose in life – from what we are meant to do.   And each micro-aggressions (examples of seven deadly sins:  gluttony, lust, greed, pride, despair, wrath, glory, or sloth) against our purpose in life wears us down, deflate our strength, and weakens our resolve.  For some of us, the depletion is so complete that we are left with seeking refuge in synthetic intoxications of the worldly life as an end to themselves.

Acceptance:  The second principle is that in our fallibility we can easily be consumed and distracted from our source of purpose in this life by both external challenges and internal decay.  Where our attentions are our hearts will follow.  How many minutes, hours, days, months, or even years of our lives are spent attending to inconsequential or damaging activity that takes us away from our purpose or mission in life?  When is our pleasure or joy turned into selfishness or sin by direct action or omission of action?

Right now 1.6 billion people are estimated to have inadequate shelter, 795 million people are suffering from hunger, 208 million people are using illegal drugs, and 450 million affected by Mental Illness.  Let’s estimate I have directly or indirectly helped 1300 families achieve permanent housing, 14000 people with access to or support of treating mental illness or addictions, and gave occasionally to various charities and causes.    In this context, how much of my life’s activity should be directed at my own pleasure?  How much charity should I give?  What change opportunities have I shied away from during my life?   To put it simply, my work is never done if my true calling was homelessness, world poverty, and serving people with mental health issues.  The second principle is accepting my fallibility and even if I was to practice total self-denial I would not be able to end the misery associated with these conditions.  Balance and humility is called for at all times.

Informed confession (ACTION):  Accepting I cannot live a life of total self-denial, that our collective “sin” currently and historically is beyond my ability to reconcile, and that I still desire to pursue a holy life I have found that self-reflection and informed confession can help alleviate the wounds of our individual and collective failures so that we may continue on to do what we can within our sphere of influence.

An informed confession can lead to “a radical re-orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away of evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed.  It entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life.”[iii]

Confession is an opportunity for education and healing.  It is a time out to meet with another human being who is skilled in spiritual discernment (Priest) and bring your troubles (thoughts, words, deeds) to God for examination in a manner that allows you to seriously “repent, revoke, and replace” unwanted behavior, actions, or thoughts.

It is different from spiritual direction.  It is bringing to God a request to forgive your transgressions, heal your wounded self (as each transgression weakens your purpose), educate and enlighten your actions, and strengthens your resolve and commitment to continue along the road toward sanctification.   It can get down to the nitty and gritty of what is in your circle of influence to change.   A confessor help ensure you are not deceiving yourself or misguided in your application of theological applications – often to your benefit.

Scorsese and Taratino can take an inconsequential action and transform a characters destiny – imagine what God can do with a sincere and committed confession, however minute the conviction to change.

The third principle is with informed consent going to confession and partnering with a priest and God to make true amends and genuinely commit to ACTION to change as needed with the humble understanding that penance will probably be required sooner than later for similar offenses or new revelations of further refinement is required!

Spiritual DirectionThe Jewel of Confession is it informs one’s spiritual direction.  What endeavor in life does not require correction, improvement, refinement, and adaptation?  Ideally we would all have a spiritual director.

Confession and spiritual direction are not in vogue today.   Not every confessor or spiritual director is equal.  The Catholic Church holds this sacrament to be vital:  “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”[iv]

The theological and Catholic doctrine on Penance is quite in-depth.  As a lay person I have always had mixed feelings about the sacrament of Penance.  Today I do not have the same reservations – my reservations today is on what I can bring to the confessional box or room and what the confessor can help with as we are both in dialogue with the Trinity.   Alas, it is not confidential.   The weight of my faults, the collective weight of our societies failings, and all the messiness of pursuing a holy life can be supported and guided by a thoughtfully and genuinely prepared confession that is meant for sincere dialogue with God.

Done with reverence both the confessor and penitent can benefit and be guided by the mystery of the sacrament and better serve God’s plan on leaving the ancient confessional booth.

We are meaningful in God’s eye and plan despite the existential threats that surround us in the world today.  Accepting that each human being is special including ourselves and accepting our fragility as individuals and as a collective we are dependent on both our own actions and God’s saving grace.  Knowing this we seek informed correction through confession and pursue sanctification through ongoing spiritual direction despite the immense suffering in the world, in fact, because of the immense suffering in the world!



[i] http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1780[ii] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a2.htm[iii]

7 Secrets of Confession by Vinny Flynn

[iv] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c2a4.htm




the maid a novel of Joan of Arc by Kimberly Cutter


What would it be like to hear the voice of God or his emissaries?   Not an intuitive prayerful dialogue and raised spiritual consciousness but an actual thundering voice or even an apparition.   What lengths would you go to experience this grace if you could?  What lengths would you go to deny ever having had such an experience?  The Hollywood portrait above is inspiring.  But how about this version:

Joan at the end

Hearing the voice of God or seeing an apparition is perhaps the highest form of Mysticism.  Catholics practice mysticism every day.  An interesting Blog (the Main Event) describes our mystical beliefs in a review of the “war” between reason and mysticism.[i]  The blog interest me as its intent is to provide a forum for the proponents of each camp and sets up a dialectic that is very real in today’s world.   It presumes you cannot be both a person of reason and mysticism.   There is a cultural war to deny the existence of a “God” and all forms of mysticism on one side and to assert the existence of a God on the other.  The more extreme the mystical experience – the more extreme the attacks become by non-believers – and in some cases rightly so.   Authentic spiritual revelation is claimed by many in the course of history under many different names for many different purposes.

The story of Joan of Arc (Jehanne of Arc) exemplifies the difficulties in receiving a “Personal charism to witness god”[ii] and follow the message you have received.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church accepts people are chosen for such revelations.  They are chosen to share God’s word and vision – often at great expense to their own worldly status.

Pope Benedict the XVI excellently depicted her persecution by the Church itself as he stated on January 26, 2011 that the trial of Joan of Arc as a “is a distressing page in the history of holiness and also an illuminating page on the mystery of the Church which, according to the words of the Second Vatican Council, is “at once holy and always in need of purification” (Lumen Gentium, n. 8).” [iii]

This is interesting given a current controversy in the Church.  Certain Bishops have taken umbrage with the Pope on statements like “The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which must always be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of an individual with respect to his or her relations.” Pope Francis went on to say priests must inform Catholic consciences “but not replace them.”[iv]  What does he mean?

My opinion is that he recognizes the church has a rich tradition and is the defacto representative of authentic scripture and revelation but it is still up to the individual to follow their consciences and free will accepting the consequences according to their own spiritual discernment and God’s grace.  The Church is a guide but you remain an apostle and responsible for your own actions whether you live within or external to church doctrine.  In essence, if you seek God and  truly use spiritual discernment including using the gifts of sacred tradition and revelation, prayer and consult, you are yourself a mystic – perhaps not on the level of Joan of Arc – but a mystic nonetheless called to pray, act, and yes, sometimes suffer.

Joan of Arc canonization process started in 1855 and culminated in Sainthood in 1920.  A peasant who opposed the Church teachings and doctrines, defied papal authority, is made a saint 489 years after her death.   Saint Joan did not receive consolation from this world but from God.   Declaring her a Saint is our consolation for our miserable attempts with wielding “Scriptural Authority” and power over the centuries and a need for continual purification with our application of Holy Scripture.  The Church has that challenge.  However, what is your challenge to be a mystic?  Do you have a charism?

As for the book, the author has successfully provided a fictional account that includes a high degree of historical accuracy combined with spiritual imagination to see the events from the eyes of a fifteenth century peasant girl called by God to perform unthinkable heroic acts.

St. Joan has a rich prayer life.  If you are interested in seeking God I find Ignatian Spiritual exercises helpful at times when prayer is difficult.[v]   One contemplative method is to take any Gospel scene of interest and place yourself in the crowd or in the shoes of one of the characters and really explore your visceral response to the scene, to the words, and how you would respond if you were actually there than or how you would respond now is similar circumstance.  Now more than ever women are called to stand strong.    Men should help when they can as they would help anyone of either gender fight for what is right and just.


[i] http://reasonversusmysticism.blogspot.com/2014/02/what-is-catholic-catechisms-view-of.html

[ii] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p4s1c2a3.htm

[iii] https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110126.html

[iv] https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/11/11/pope-francis-reaffirms-primacy-conscience-amid-criticism-amoris-laetitia

[v] https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises


Praying the Psalms, Merton, Thomas[i]

A tight rope walk with Thomas Merton on one side of the chasm and King David (and several lesser known authors) on the other still leaves me struggling with the wisdom of the Psalms.  Our busy lives present many valleys to ponder.  Thomas Merton short book explores how the Psalms can be used in prayer to traverse chasms in life.


The barriers for me I believe is the context of King David’s time and the Old Testament language and experience being applied to modern times in modern vernacular.  More than that the Psalms are not meant to be read – they are meant to be sung in praise and celebration.  Experience any psalm played by talented musicians at the Psalm Project.[iii] Surely this how King David envisioned the Psalms to be used to praise God.

You can really feel the power of the psalms when attending charismatic churches that embrace full musical choirs.  It can be a powerful experiential spiritual journey.  Yet, even alongside hundreds or perhaps thousands of believers (mega churches), you can be left with only fleeting grace, fading before you exit the parking lot.  What is missing is substance.  Your substance:

The problem is therefore not to learn from the Psalms a totally new experience, but rather to recognize, in the Psalms, our own experience lived out and perfected, orientated to God and made fruitful, by the action of loving faith. Ultimately we do this by uniting our joys with the joys of Christ in the Psalms, our sorrows with the sorrows of Christ, and thus allowing ourselves to be carried to heaven on the tide of His victory.[iv]



Merton knows just how to state things so plainly, so intuitively that you may miss the depth of what such a simple statement implies.  The substance of the Psalms applied to our own life with sincere contemplation (meditation), shared devotion (songs of praise at church or temple), and action (a continual awareness of God’s presence and ability to have all of our actions and decisions be guided by humble discernment).

This is not as hard as it sounds.  Merton describes it as merely only listening and acting to what we already know:

  “I delight to do Thy will, O my God, and Thy law is in the depths of my heart.” [vi]

But there are real human barriers for us all to content with every day:

Obedience:  It is interesting how people struggle with the idea of obeying an omniscient God.  I ask where people think their sense of right and wrong is derived from as individuals and as a collective.  When we are at our best are we not intuitively listening to “something” instilled on our nature, something profound, something universal that we have all come to recognize that all humans share across nations?  Call it the human spirit.  We know when the human spirit is distorted.  We recognize it immediately in our guts whether wrong actions are committed by the individual (Charles Manson), by extreme religiosity (ISIS today, The Crusades, and other religious wars), or by nation states (Hitler’s Germany).

Politics:  Nation states are particularly frightening today recognizing that charismatic leaders can bring their nations down the road of evil through fear, intimidation, and false patriotism with massive arsenals at their disposal. We live in and have a responsibility to be engaged in society.  You can be deceived into believing you are fighting for goodness.  In America we believe we stand for righteousness.  One TV interviewer had a Trump supporter saying whatever Donald Trump says is what God wills. This is a distortion of epic proportions.  Some other nations believe we have it deadly wrong.  Our current President has shaken the world’s confidence that we can stand for moral principles in times of turbulence.  Internally our nation is divided and torn by both politics and race.  We have put our faith in men and parties rather than our minds on truth and God.

Discernment:  It is not political.  It is not a party.  It is not a nation.  It is an individual responsibility.  It is to be actively lived and to be actively engaged with the world.

Selfishness:  How often our own self-interest is put ahead of the world’s poor.  How often are we challenged by our own desires or simply to avoid boredom?

Estrangement:  As a nation gone astray we can especially feel estranged from discernment, feeling isolated and definitively alone with our struggles where we may exclaim something akin to Psalm 12:

 “How long, O Lord, wilt thou utterly forget me? How long wilt thou hide Thy face from me?”[vii]

It can be grueling when as believers we have a “feeling” of spiritual dryness, a struggling moment or many moments piled high days on days on days on end?  Some refer to this as the dark night.  I cannot say I have experienced the “Dark Night.”  I have had many dark nights and times of misery — though I fear experiencing the depth that some saints have experienced before me or even the dark nights that others are experiencing tonight as I sit hear contemplating God and writing about psalms.

All of the above challenges and many more can take us away from truly knowing God or having a proximity to conscious awareness of God’s way from which to draw on for support and guidance.  It is a terrible lonesomeness.

“As the hind pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and see the face of God? My tears have become my bread day and night, whilst they say to me daily: Where is thy God?”[viii]

Many great mystics and believers feel this same way often.  Many priest.  It is not something we can demand – it is a gift to have even a passing fragrance of God’s presence.

It is easier to fight man’s wars with man’s tools.   We can easily join the noise and fight fire with fire, anger with anger, violence with more violence — especially when we cannot “feel” God’s presence.  How weak are we that we need or year for that presence on demand when we are suffering? If we always felt God’s presence discernment and living God’s will certainly be a great deal easier.

Why turn to God’s way when revenge or counter attack seems called for and perhaps even on its surface, morally the right thing to do?

The reason why we submit entirely to His will is because He is good. We do not obey merely for the sake of obedience, but as a testimony to the supreme goodness of God Himself.[ix]

Again, Merton nails it with simplicity above.  Not with the nails of the cross, but with the reality of the majesty and unknowable goodness of God himself.  Meditating on why we should surrender to God’s way and continue to seek God’s way can be guided by spending serious time with different Psalms.  Doing so can prepare you for any circumstance every day, including the final circumstance, when our physical body surrenders to mortality.

 The Lord is my shepherd: I want for nothing; he makes me to lie in green pastures. He leads me to waters where I may rest; he restores my soul. —Psalm 22: 1-2.[x]

 We cannot by mere human ingenuity or talent exhaust all that is contained in the Psalms. Indeed, if we seek only to “get something out of them” we will perhaps get less than we expect, and generous efforts may be frustrated because they are turned in the wrong direction: toward ourselves rather than toward God.

God knows you – Psalm 139[xi]



End notes:

[i]               Citation (APA): Merton, T. (2015). Praying the Psalms [Kindle iOS version].

[ii] https://www.google.com/search?q=chasm+definition&rlz=1C1TSNJ_enUS718US718&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiwiq-Fh_vVAhVG64MKHQigAtsQ_AUICigB&biw=1366&bih=589#imgrc=-gYZF55lwKu83M


[iii]              http://thepsalmsprojectband.com/

[iv]              Page 25 · Location 161

[v]               http://overviewbible.com/psalms/

[vi]              Page 31 · Location 208

[vii]             Page 32 · Location 224

[viii]             Page 36 · Location 253

[ix]              Page 39 · Location 277

[x]               Page 41 · Location 287

[xi] Psalm 139New Living Translation (NLT)

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!

19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.


  1. 139:8 Hebrew to Sheol.
  2. 139:17 Or How precious to me are your thoughts.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


[xii] https://www.google.com/search?q=book+of+psalms&rlz=1C1TSNJ_enUS718US718&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiG4Ljqo_vVAhWIxIMKHQkbBowQ_AUIDSgE&biw=1366&bih=638