Pivot with Ignatius

Today I start a mini-retreat hidden within the folds of everyday activities and life. Visit https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/centers/iajs.html.

Two items may support you taking and at home retreat. The first is an at home 12 week Ignatious guided retreat app available free (bottom left) of page. The second is the free portal containing a mini library of Jesuit material.

Or for a more intense experience with a nominal cost try: https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/centers/iajs/programs/retreat.html. This online 12 week retreat offers three introductory online retreats next week and follow up meetings throughout the 12 weeks plus the guide you purchase. If you sign up – see you there! Message me so we can connect!

Mysticism

Friedrick Nietzsche, German Philosopher, declared “God is Dead” in the late 1800s. In the 1980s I would author opposing papers regarding this assertion. The earlier version would assert an atheistic worldview and render belief in a personal God futile. The latter version would assert the opposite, that religion was dead, having lost its way and become a dead letter rather than anything representing a guide to a truly holy life. Post enlightenment and today we are far removed from the desert fathers or the mystics of the early Catholic Church.

After reading an article in America Media this a.m. “This is your soul on Mysticism” I wondered if Mysticism and prayer was “dead” in Catholicism and Christianity.

Mysticism is not dead. About a third of Catholic believers will report if asked that they have had a “mystical” experience. That is a pretty high number given few of us have a disciplined “mystical” or “contemplative” prayer life.

The pandemic has provided us with increased isolation and an awareness of our mortality. Confronting the power of prayer now or deepening one’s prayer life is a positive pandemic opportunity.

I don’t imagine us walling ourselves off like Julian of Norwich though sometimes I wish I could live a hermetical life. Take a look at this article. How has the pandemic increased or decreased your connection to God? Perhaps a spiritual retreat is in your future.

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/12/17/mysticism-covid-19-julian-norwich-239506

Pascal’s Wager – The Quandary of Faith

Pascal Wager

An opinion article in the NYT times entitled “Can We Learn to Believe in God?” by Agnes Collard takes a surface dive into the infamous Pascal Wager.[i]” 

Childhood morality and imagery of heaven and hell underlie this equation.  The means and the ends of faith do not fall neatly into this theoretical trap.  To seek God (or seek to learn to believe in God) is to accept an invitation to explore faith.  The article takes a look at “aspirational faith” and draws a parallel to other areas of aspirational goals.  It hints at if you aspire to believe you will come to believe.  In essence we often take leaps of faith pursuing the selves we want to become.  Aspiring followed by action often is a model for success.

Success

The path to becoming a lawyer, for example, requires many steps and skills be acquired prior to being an actual lawyer.  Hopefully apprenticeship and the means of becoming a lawyer give one a sense of good measure that actually being a lawyer and what “type” of lawyer at the end of the pursuit.  Pursuing a law degree is a huge gamble of faith.  Investment of several years of study, expensive tuition, and a highly competitive and political post-bar market, assuming you are able to pass the bar, is certainly a concrete gamble.  If you are not enjoying the “means” of the journey your predisposition for being a lawyer should be questioned, or at least the education you are being provided.  The means are as important, if not more important than the end.  If you get your law degree by mail order, evade detection, achieve practice and wealth, at the end of the day despite the shingle and the outward vestments of success you are still only a pretender.  Inside your victory is hollow.

Faith follows a similar and more abstract path.  Like law schools, there are countless religious institutions that can provide you their unique understanding of divine laws and provide various religious dictates and customs that may or may not bring you any closer to true faith.  Like law school you can studiously study these texts, laws, and institutions and weigh them with prudence against natural laws, history, internal consistency within the religious system, rationale human experience, and ultimately how well does any set of beliefs guide people to act and live in a manner that stands up to a divinely imagined (or interpreted) litmus test?    This is perhaps a bit of a challenge as well and probably best explored with a spiritual adviser.  Choose wisely.

Pascals-Wager-Ra-Sun-God

Whatever your faith, humility and openness to questioning and testing your beliefs and actions is vital. Despite the humorous depiction above, within each religion of the three monotheistic religions are clearly people acting contrary to God’s law under the banner of faith creating much suffering and damage in God’s name.   There are many “false prophets” claiming ownership of “the way” for purely human motives and perhaps even more than a few genuinely passionate religous believers who simply may have got it wrong – with firm belief that they are divinely inspired.  At the end of the day you are responsible for what you do in this world in real time and, if God exist, in God’s time!    Responsibility cannot be laid off on blindly following a charismatic leader (religiously or politically!).     Pascals wager does not factor in false prophets and evil committed in God’s name.

There is perhaps another disturbing caveat.  Similar to being accepted to a law school, obtaining faith is not something you can achieve on your own.   God alone through grace can give you faith regardless of your efforts or in spite of your lack of effort!    Without God’s grace and gift of faith your efforts are reduced to being a philosophical journey – not necessarily a bad journey, but not imbued with the divinely inspired grace of God.

To further aggravate our human grasp of faith, we may face a seemingly insurmountable obstacle of profound disbelief accentuated by personal suffering and lack of any intuitive or direct consolation from God.  Other’s in our sphere maybe alive with faith and prayer, beaming with an internal light, while our spirituality is akin to the metaphysical “dark night.”   No formal letter of acceptance comes in the mail.    This can easily create an existential spiritual crisis (perhaps even several times over).

Darknight

My opinion is a genuine desire to seek God and pursuing opportunities to understand and find personal evidence of God will not go unanswered. However, answering the call to find God based on what is “good” for you as opposed to what is spiritually and divinely designed is perhaps not the best starting point.  What’s in it for me is probably contrary to a desire to transcend the human experience.   There are many paths for exploration.  (It is time for me, for example, to find a retreat to retrench soon.  Spiritual retreats can be very moving and helpful).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a rich description of man’s calling to faith (Profession of Faith) and the historical barriers believers and non-believers must face.[ii]   The profession of faith encapsulates what believer’s hold to be true – but must be a dizzying document for the non-Catholic.   I have included a reference to Catholic Church doctrine on theological constructs as I am only a wayfayer on my own journey without the authority to define faith as crystallized by 2000 years of Christine traditions.

Faith is a life long journey.  It is a never-ending study of the written word, examination of the living word (how do our actions or the actions of our religion hold up to a spiritual litmus test), and what does belief mean to me for everyday living and decisions.

When I encounter an entrenched atheist how can I explain the unexplainable?    I do not and cannot explain or prove the existence of God the same as the atheist cannot disprove the same.  I can share my journey and experiences in belief, in periods of non-belief, in struggles, and in times of consolation.  I can validate the mystical nature of my Judaism roots and the radical transformation of the living word provided by Jesus Christ.   I can acknowledge the failures of men and the failures of men of the cloth and grieve human suffering.  I can seek out common ground on shared moral beliefs.   I can offer the journey of seeking God and is never-ending and always being refined both intellectually and within my heart.   I can even share trivial coincidences that I take as divinely inspired guidance despite knowing others will see them as mere con-incidence.  I can write and express my readings.  Share my thoughts.  Most importantly I must strive to live according to my faith without dictating my faith to others.

Their path is their own!  At the end of the day, whether our spiritual pursuits leads to experiencing divine inspiration or not, it may bring us a little closer to being able to answer the following question:

meaning

When I am grounded in my spiritual beliefs I am closer to knowing the answer to this question.  When I am adrift, which has been sadly often in my life, I am easily consumed by activities and distractions that take away from living a truly “Holy Life.”  Glad there already is a St. Joseph – this Joseph has too many earthly affections to rise to the calling of the priestly or saintly cast!

If you have unquestioning faith and never have experienced the dark night – I am envious of your strength and gift of faith.  If you have no faith and/or cannot even fathom how or why to aspire for faith – I have no judgement or condemnation of your circumstance.  I pray for the mystery of God’s grace to unify us all, professed believers and atheist, to support us to act now in concert with divine his grace for the good of all humanity.     The problem of evil is still present and need be combated by believers and atheist alike.   Let us start with our own hearts and attentions.   Aspire to transcend oneself today!     It is a worthwhile journey.

aleksandrsolzhenitsyn1

[i] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/08/opinion/belief-aspirational-faith.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-4&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region

[ii] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c1.htm

 

The Benedictine Option

Glimpse the Glory of God

st-benedict2

On February 17, 2017 the Wall Street Journal printed a story by Ian Lovelett entitled:  “Wary of Modern Society, Some Christians Choose a Life Apart.”[i]  There is a movement here in the United States that mirrors monastic communities of early Christian times.  The actual rules of a Benedictine Monastery are quite exhaustive.  However, these families are choosing to set up Christian communities near Monasteries and model life on Christian values absent the temptations of secular life found in American communities.

What are these families seeking in pursuing the Benedictine Option?  St. Gregory described St. Benedict this way:

“the model of a saint who flees temptation to pursue a life of attention to God. Through a balanced pattern of living and praying Benedict reached the point where he glimpsed the glory of God.”[ii]

If you have never escaped to a spiritual retreat that provides solitude and prayer I recommend you read and consider an Ignatian retreat center.  An excellent book I have recommended (link below) prior can provide an at home retreat for 8 weeks.[iii]  How many of us can pick up, purchase land near a monastery, and find it possible to live the agrarian lifestyle successfully?

We do not need to flee from the United States, from our communities, from other Christian denominations, from Muslims, Jews, Atheist, Progressives, Liberals, and Conservatives.  Living in a secular society, if you have not been called to the priesthood or monastic lifestyle, is a calling in and of itself.  We live amongst non-believers and fellow believers to perform our calling while simultaneously living our faith as witnesses to Christ.

How do we do that as today’s gospel (February 19, 2017) calls for us to “reprove your fellow-countryman firmly and thus avoid burdening yourself with a sin.”[iv]  We have been far from flawless in this regard.  We have stepped way past reprove to being judge, jury, and hangman on many occasion – thus committing countless sins in the name of Jesus Christ.

ingnorant-reprove

Globalization trends, extreme politics, and scarcity of resources are leading people to make superficial decisions.  Today a segment of our society driven by Christian evangelization is attempting to codify via civil law our beliefs and to impose them on others rather than “reproving” sinners by preaching our beliefs (our churches and leaders) and living our beliefs as witnesses thru “a balanced pattern of living and praying.”  At a high level our policies are not supporting our beliefs and our trust in faith and God’s intimate knowledge of each one of us.  If we did we would not have our current President in chief be able to retain the modest popularity he has based on his “wall plans,” anti-immigration plans, lifestyle, and a host of other issues best left unmentioned here.

If we were confident in our faith we would be able to humbly reprove without the insecure need to demonize and attack non-believers.   As we have seen time and time again, when we are living the true faith non-believers will rise in insecurity to demonize our actions.  We must be prepared to not fall into the trap of committing the same sin.

reprove

We do need to reprove our politicians and fellow citizens.  I reprove abortion in general (not women) though I do not pretend to know the circumstances (medical, spiritual, psychological, economic, rape) or the depth of God’s mercy and intentions.  I reprove our nation’s decision to dismantle health care that helps the poor, to apply indiscriminate and harmful immigration actions for votes, to build a wall when we can be building humanity, and many other systemic injustices.   I reprove policy and presidential actions and words that through either active collusion or incompetence continue to promote racism, sexism, and religious intolerance.  I reprove our highest public servant directing his energies at serving the wealthy and his associates despite campaigning to do the opposite to help the poor and middle class.

However, at a deeper level, spiritual pursuit starts with me – not with the elected class.  Do I know that I am God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in me?[v]   How many times have I poisoned by body with alcohol or other acts of gluttony?  How many times have I filled my mind with other sins of the spirit (pride, greed, lust, glutton, wrath, and sloth)?

Take a look at Dante’s Inferno archetype descriptions art for each of these trap doors.  Or better yet take this fictional test:  http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-test.mv

dante

Now, Dante’s work is one of literary imagination- not spiritual or religious dogma.  But if you dared take that test – did it get you thinking a little more objectively about your balanced living and pray life?

How many of us put our own desire for status, financial security, power above the needs of people less fortunate than us through the arms of our nation’s wealth and might?  To be honest, in the short-term, Donald’s plan may benefit me financially in net pay.  However, it is devastating my spiritual beliefs in protecting the vulnerable in our society and the immigrants seeking refuge or already here.  Perhaps a 30 day Benedictine Monastic Month would be good for our nation!  That not being possible – all change starts with the smallest unit.  Me.

However, the family unit is a monastic unit of faith.  It is a calling.  Within our communities if the family units are living the faith, we will have a society and market that caters to that faith without the need for coercion or mandate.  By faith and individual and family action of living the word of God within our own walls we can carry the word of God.  And in our communities we can be replenished and supported by the church.  How many house hunters prioritize visiting the church before evaluating the schools, transportation, crime rates, and other factors that make communities important to us?

We know these things.  That our faith is dependent on our individual lives, family lives, and church being in order. Yet we look to our government, education system, and media to make it easy for us.  We expect them to do the hard work while we hypocritically are consuming the very things we rally against.  Fleeing to another land will not eliminate the turmoil within our own souls or within our church.

flight

So we find ourselves in a secularised community here in the United States.  Internationally people are dying today for their beliefs in Jesus Christ.  Our human inclination is fight or flight.

fight-or-flight

Today’s gospel has some advice on this topic:

“You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.[vi]

The magnitude of seeking perfection in a secular society is the hardest challenge of mankind.  It is what we are called to do with humility and steadfastness.  We may not be able to escape to a hermitage and probably have not been called to do so.  However, nothing wrong with taking refuge for a minute, an hour, a weekend in contemplative prayer when the seven temptations are at the door.

contemplatative

[i] https://www.wsj.com/articles/communities-built-on-faith-1487349471

[ii] http://www.osb.org/gen/benedict.html

[iii] http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/an-ignatian-prayer-adventure

[iv] 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

[v] Corinthians 3:16-23

[vi] Matthew 5: 38 to 48

 

The Energy of Prayer: How to deepen your spiritual practice by Thich Nhat Hanh

A renowned Vietnamese Zen master dicusses the power of prayer and meditation and its impact on the self.  Draws from all religions (Budhism, Christianity, Islam) and secular taught meditation.  Hammers and chisels away  at the limiting words we use to define the creator, the ultimate absolute being and where we may direct our prayers: G_d, Yahwey, Buddha, Allah.
Regardless of your chosen faith he makes the case for deep, conscientous, practiced prayer and meditation.  He even at one point reviews The Lords Prayer line by line to pullout mindful and insightful thought on each line.  The three great religions are monothiestic.  Lets assume they are all right.  Our paths to a universal absolute being may vary, but our aim the same.  In the end, compassion, love, and present moment awareness and action reign supreme.  How to live this way takes practice.  Rating: 8

Revelation?

revelation_chart1

Defining revelation for me is very challenging.  I have broken it down into four levels and one huge spiritual barrier. It is more personal and real.  It is not driven by the “Book of Revelation.”  I am not a mystic – though I sometimes wish I could be.  Than again, be careful what you wish for – you may get what you ask!

The first level that comes to mind is revelations that others have had (fathers of the church, the original apostles, martyrs, saints, Popes, and theologians).  Their experiences hover above and out of reach.

The second level is the New Testament and the parables of Jesus Christ serve as a basis point for reflections.  Interpretations by others help as well.  These are more educationally inspired and didactic in nature.  Scripture readings and the liturgy come into play here.  As well as celebrating the Sacraments.

The third level has been times in my life where I believe the hidden hand of God or the Holy Spirit has gently or not so gently knocked me on the head.  There have been fewer times when grace seemed overpowering.   Those very rare moments that dim with time and are susceptible to later doubts and criticisms of authenticity.     These have come at times of great turmoil or at times of extended and disciplined prayer life.  On the latter I am a light weight and drift in and out of prayer filled life.  The connectedness to an existential presence beyond my comprehension has been so fleeting and so rare that I can only call it a subjective spiritual journey.

Spiritual warfare comes into play for any revelation.  The dimming of a grace filled experience or increase of self-doubt.  There are many barriers to a sustained faith and openness to revelations.  Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are riddled for me with the challenges of historical context, biblical interpretation, purpose of literary devices, and the spiritual arc of development of people at the time of these revelations.   The wealth of Catholic dogma that has come after these revelations challenges me as well, both in its scope and in its accuracy.  Perhaps atheists are not born atheist – perhaps we create atheist with distorted scripture and over-zealous religiosity, institutionalized rigidity, and all too human leaders demonstrating unseemly hypocrisy?  (Presumptuous as not all atheist are atheist as a direct reaction to over-reaching believers – but in many ways we do not make it an easy bridge for others to find faith).  I contend with these contradictions by taking courses, reading, praying, and when I can get away on a retreat.    The Catechism also has this disconcerting guidance:

“The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”28 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.[i]

For this we need the fourth level, outside all the above and guided by the unseen:   revelations in the eyes of children, hidden in the sounds of music, in a stroke of paint on a canvass, in nature, in love and compassion between people, and in acts of selflessness that exceed any hint of personal motivation or glory.   These are where I am most apt to find spiritual strength.

[i] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c2a1.htm

 

Reconciliation Delayed, Reconciliation Gained

Coffee Cup to Grave Sin and everything in Between

confessional

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

Since Vatican II a greater emphasis has been placed on God’s action in the sacrament of Reconciliation, than by its former name known as Confession, where an emphasis was on man’s actions.  The Sacrament of Penance, yet another name for the same thing, calls for us sinners to approach the sacrament with sorrow for our sins.

On day one of a four-day retreat, I was ready to seek Reconciliation at 5:30.  I had my list of sins, doubts and my act of contrition ready to go.  The chapel was perhaps 25 yards away from my writing pad, my notes, and my room.  At 5:10 or so a deep slumber overtook me and the window of opportunity slipped by on day one.  Just as well says I, I have thirty minutes of spiritual direction the next morning that can help me refine my confession and address any of the doubts as well.

On day two, with an early morning spiritual chat about sin and its meaning, the dangers of relativism, the intersection of politics and religion, and our individual and collective roles and responsibility, I refined my confession.  It was a little longer, but I was ready in the chapel at 5:10.

At 5:30 a tiny Pious Asian women heads behind the church altar for the confessional room.  I position myself non-verbally that I am next in line, antsy to reconcile my sins and retreat back into prayer.  The pious woman is taking forever.  Does she not know how many people are out here?    She cannot have that many sins.  She emanated spirituality and goodness.  She finally comes out and I head up, genuflecting on the way, and ready to turn the corner to the confessor.  The pious women signals to me, a barely audible sound, I turn, and she is coming back up.  I say to her I thought you were done, do you have to go back!  She explains she went back there to wait for the priest but he never came!

Another evening and a day passes to carry my burden and refine my confession.  Saturday afternoon proves to be deeply moving and my sins and the sins of our society are enormous.  I get to the chapel at 4:30 for an extra 5:00 p.m. confessional offered by the priest who missed the day before.  The Pious One is first in line already, seated right next to the entrance way up on the side of the church.  She goes in at 5 p.m. with the priest who provided me guidance the day before.  I will be next and he knows my thoughts.  Time goes by, and by, and some more.  Finally she exits the confessional and heads back and just as I am about to go up a Nun (of immense size) heads back in front of me.  Oh well, it won’t be long now.  But it is long!  If she is that long, I may need a week in there.

I move to a seat close to the front, not to listen, but to be next.  Than others follow suit and we now have a legitimate line of sinners eager to reconcile their conscience with the priest.

Another priest and heads behind the church altar.  I think maybe the first priest called for backup with the Nun.  An elderly lady, several rows back, clearly more pious than the rest, and not in need of confession, caught my eye and told me via a hand gesture to go back.  I went back unsure only to find two confessional rooms back there.

I confessed to the new young priest, adding two more sins to my list, which was not minute, that included misjudging the Pious Asian women and thinking negative thoughts about the large Nun who was next door to us and cut the line.

The easy sin was placed out there first for the young priest.  Oh how I wanted the veteran next door.  A dunk in donuts clerk was rather discourteous and rude to me, and in her rush, did not charge me full price for a coffee product despite my inquiry.  It was crowded and I took the coffee mug and coffee at a discounted price and kept going, more out of anger than anything else.  Missing church and prayers were considered grave omissions.  “Capital sins are also considered grave matter. These sins may include vices that are contrary to the Christian virtues of holiness:  pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (acedia).” Dependent on one’s measuring stick; I suppose we are all guilty to some degree on anyone of these measures.  The gravest sins were for last, the sins of our society in their multitude.  You name the illness and depravity:  robbing or taking advantage of the poor, murder, adultery, and other sins of grave nature happen under our watch and society universally regardless of how you vote.

Wednesday, the first day, I did not have the wisdom or intuition to address the “sorrow for our sins” as deeply as I could on Saturday.  I do not rob the poor, work as an executioner, or commit other abominable crimes.   However, Christ came to save not my sins, but all of our sins.  We are in a betrothal period for union with the father, where we are all sinners and martyrs alike, unified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

No wonder the Pious Asian women and the Large Nun were taking so long.  They were in their confessing for all my sins!   The atonement was rather generic for me; attend Mass regularly and reconciliation often!  The details of reconciliation appear to be sacrosanct and personal – if you have a real need to know my sins, ask the Pious Asian Lady and the Large Nun. Clearly Reconciliation is the right word, for we truly need God’s sanctifying grace for the actions of the world we live in today, individually and collectively.

Reflection of Retreat (July)

Retreat Summary Review:
Wednesday:
• Am I open to God’s presence?
• Do I ask for what I must deeply desire?
• Do I know what I mostly deeply desire?
• Am I open to the treasury of the Catholic Faith, its signs, symbols, sacraments, saints?
Refrain:
• I am open to your presence.
• I desire consolation and union, the opposite of emptiness of spirit.
• Yes, union, guidance, healing, and purpose.
• Yes, with reflection and guidance.
Nicene Creed & Apostle’s creed meditation
Thursday:
• Father Paul McCarren 30 minute reflection on Priest
• Barriers to prayer (futile politics, worry, sleep, intellectualism)
• Keep it simple
• Transcendent in reality: Personal Creed
Friday:
• Prophet
• Union
• You are not alone
• Daily Examen
• Desolation and Consolation
• Commissioned, sent, not my words but his words
• The Stations of the Cross
• Rite of Reconciliation preparation
Saturday:
• King
• King of Men Vs. King in God’s world
• Always facing God and always towards God.
• Choose life and collective guilt
• 21 forgiving passages
• My immediate family

Retreat Excercise

My Personal Creed

July 18, 2015

Saturday Evening excercise

Retreat “Priest, Prophet, King”

Loyola Retreat House on the Potomac

20150718_200606

Transcendent Reality

Dear Unknowable;

I have come to know you as The Father, The Almighty.  I have come to know your son, Jesus Christ, through tradition, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, saints and martyrs, priest and religious people through the church, through life, and hopefully by your grace.  Still, despite two thousand years of history since the last prophet, the son of God, has walked the earth, you are unknowable as an infinite being to my finite flesh.  You have given me quite a treasury of role models, mediators, and false prophets from which to test what is truly your way or your desires.  The tool chest is vast, but the master mechanics are few.  I am afraid I will spend much time breaking what is not broken and little time reflecting on what needs repair.  I know this from my human experience with worldly things; imagine my bewilderment with approaching your direction, your will?  I must throw myself at your mercy and pray for divine providence and grace.

In the meantime, you have given me my bodily form with which to by trial and error, attempt to live a holy and virtuous life.  It has been a disaster from the start, and only more so as I have matured.  I have not achieved greatness in Satan’s den of thieves but nor have I achieved much more than perhaps an honorable mention, or perhaps only an asterisk for good attempt at a holy life.  I have, surely not by my will and individual merit, had great blessings with the sacrament of marriage, three beautiful children, fourteen years of serving the homeless, ten years serving the mentally ill, and the gift of other helping acts over time.  I have interrupted these blessings with periods of excess alcohol consumption, bouts of worry and anxiety, and general self-destruction tendencies.  I had crosses mind you, but mine were light and airy, like say carrying the cross as Simon of Cyrene did, knowing only physical exercise was required, and that at the end of the journey, the hard work would be done by your son.  You would not know it though if you listened to my tale of woes, because I had only my internal experiences, my misery, and my grief from which to judge.  I judged you a lousy referee on many occasions of the game of life.

The reality is all I can do is pray daily to “overcome myself and to order my life” in so far as I can shy of your divine providence, your grace, and my tendency for human folly.  May my decisions be self-aware, aligned with your desire, and be demonstrated by my action.

Lucifer may have something to say here as he is “seated on a throne of fire and smoke, in aspect horrible and terrifying.”  He is reading the playbook, the scouting report of my weaknesses to his minions and yes, he is also reading to me when he is not seated on the throne of fire, he whispers so low, that I think it is me thinking aloud.

It isn’t really complicated.  All he has are the tools of things not God, things contrarian to God, worldly things!  The things you gave me God, to through trial and error, seek your divine will.

Here are some places where I request your help:

Suffering:

When suffering is at hand, may my integrity, my authentic self, and my character be supported by your grace to respond virtuously and willingly to my cross, however small or large is the crisis.  May I say and believe:  “Jesus, I trust in You.”

Pride:

Let not my pride surge or my soul dive into “morose self-pity” when confronted with successes or failures.  They are two sides of the same coin, egotism on a rollercoaster of human design.  These are driven by all our human passions:  belonging, love, friendship, money, food, leisure, power, and other worldly goods.  In and of themselves, these “things” are not evil; they become evil when they supersede you. They enslave my soul. Shame is perhaps the most crippling of all.  Is shame not a representation of lack of trust in the forgiving and healing power that you provide!  Help my faith be strong so I may be open to your healing.

Desolation and Consolation of the spirit:

Oh how lowly I am, I am most in need of your love? Or, I need your presence, I need your grace, I need to speak tongues, I need a sign?  My mood, driven by my earthly desires, can ricochet into depression, anxiety, listlessness.  My distorted thinking can elevate my circumstances, with help from Lucifer, into a spiritual crisis, or at the very least, a damaging moral crisis.  (Note to self: this is not addressing medical anxiety and depression that many people suffer without distorted thinking).  The prayer I need to recite is what do you desire for me?  Am I answering your divine will if I am too busy seeking your constant consolation?  If I cannot shoulder brief moments of desolation, how can I help others who have sustained grief?  Please help me find prayer in times of desolation.

Piety:

Knowledge of you is wonderful. “The World is Charged with the Grandeur of God” when we are open to your ways.  However, experiencing you, in everything, and finding you in our own image can be overpowering whenever we are blessed with a glimmer of the divine nature that is your way.  Did not the apostles struggle with who is the greatest?  I am no preacher.  My calling has been family man, social worker, and court jester.  The latter ensures I am never too pious. My human nature, though, is competitive.  Guide me to use that competitiveness in your service.

Reconciliation:

The nation of Israel wanted a king.  They knew not what they wanted.  Your nation is nation less.  Your kingdom calls for us all to be priest, prophet, and king.  The laws of our nations are failing miserably as well as the houses of worship (at times).  We are in disarray God.  Seven times seventy is not enough.

Judged on my accord, I am fearful of my frailties and under achievement.  Judged on our collective actions, without the saving grace of your son, we are doomed.  Please help me to seek confession often for myself, for my church, for the society of believers with Jesus Christ and the aid of any intercessor or mediators that are beyond my comprehension.  Help me to use the “examen” exercise often and meaningfully.

Eucharist and the Church:

Help me to receive the Eucharist at every opportunity and join the Holy Spirit and fellow believers in your home.

Mercy:

May I receive your mercy and forgiveness at every turn and hence forth the same compassion to others who have committed offenses against me, my family, or you.

Prayer:

Please guide my prayer life and let my prayer life infuse my ability to see the image of God in my fellow people.

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