Monthly Archives: November 2016

Still waters run deep

Romano Guardini ‘The Lord’


The Christmas liturgy includes these beautiful verses from…the Book of Wisdom: “For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne”. The passage, brimming with the mystery of the Incarnation, is wonderfully expressive of the infinite stillness that hovered over Christ’s birth. For the greatest things are accomplished in silence—not in the clamor and display of superficial eventfulness, but in the deep clarity of inner vision; in the almost imperceptible start of decision, in quiet overcoming and hidden sacrifice. Spiritual conception happens when the heart is quickened by love, and the free will stirs to action. The silent forces are the strong forces. Let us turn now to the stillest event of all, stillest because it came from the remoteness beyond the noise of any possible intrusion—from God.

Luke reports:

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, … and when the angel had come to her, he said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.’ When she had heard him she was troubled at his word, and kept pondering what manner of greeting this might be. “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he shall be king over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall have no end.’

“But Mary said to the angel, ‘How shall this happen, since I do not know man?’

“And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; and therefore the Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God.’

“But Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.’ And the angel departed from her.

How quietly everything occurred….


Morning thoughts after Thanksgiving

I shared an exchange with a friend regarding the importance of proper self-knowledge for spiritual growth.  It is much more than the realization we are sinners and God is loving, compassionate, forgiving, and omnipotent.  A brutal honesty must be engaged in order to grow in sanctifying grace.  If we do not properly identify who we are, our very foundation for living in accordance with Divine Will is toppled.  It is a grievance I find troubling with our current education system as it functions in the United States.  Somewhere in the last decade or so the education system has found it imperative to form children’s social conscious and self-identity, stripping the duty from the Church and family.  Of course, the disastrous results are only too evident in society, as well as the counter reformation movement through the preponderance and prosperity of home schooling amongst devout Catholic families and the rise in esteem of a Catholic education.  It is God’s will children are formed within a religious setting and family environment, so wonderfully laid out in the essential social justice encyclical, Rerum Noverum, by Pope Leo XIII.  The education system further errors by advancing their power over young minds by stressing the absolute need to pursue a higher education.  The pursuit of a college education by a vast majority has become a deplorable destruction of the ability to mature psychologically sound or within the confines of proper self-knowledge.  The over-emphasis upon politics (the manufacturing of disturbing social activist and agitators), sexual identity, pop culture (the extreme overabundance of artist and minds lost to watered down, intellectually immature, pop culture pursuits), just the wasteland of nonsense being perpetrated on college campuses is a blaring reality.  Then add in the immense amount of money being channeled into academia through grants and the burdens placed on the very individuals supposedly being advanced through student loans the whole mess proves impossible in growing through grace.  No matter how sincere in motivation and intelligent in scheming the profound improving of societal conditions cannot be accomplished; communal distress and individual deterioration is the inevitable consequence.  I did not mean for this to be so complicated, yet will continue.  The very ideas and examples presented through the Holy Family, the simplicity of vocation and being embodied by Mary and Joseph, as well as Jesus, are essential. It is not necessary for individuals to grow in intellectual pretense in order to grow in abundance within the plans of God.  In fact, to grow through a misguided, no matter how well intended, self-identity, believing one’s self to be something one is not through the encouragement of worldly standards and the accomplishments of advanced degrees amounts to individual enslavement and societal insanity.  The chance for spiritual blossoming on the individual level when ideas of intelligence, growth, and maturity prove impossible for penetrating self-awareness forces a vast proportion of young people away from the grace of a life embolden with enduring happiness and ultimate freedom.  Yet beyond a generalized societal view of modern conditions, I meant to steer this more towards intimate friends and the importance of knowing who we are on the deepest levels, able to free our lives from delusion.  If we live lives of delusion we place severe obstacles between ourselves and God’s ability, through Mary, to shower grace.  My mind goes to three friends who presently serve as lectors.  Without judgement, it is difficult to observe these three men read scripture during Mass when it obviously deters from spiritual growth.  The ultimate intent of Mass to transform and advance is lost.  No matter how strong the intent to pursue God exist within the mind, the heart and reality is usurped by pride and a concern for worldly advancement.  The loving grace waiting to pour forth from the hands of Our Heavenly Mother is rendered useless when an obsession upon reputation and the sensation of immediate gratification blinds.  Individual circumstances are created only through an overall approach and behavior arising from limited self-awareness.  To stop reading scripture during Mass for these three men would solve nothing.  An entire psychic change is necessary to grow in grace.  I am sure we can all easily identify such individuals within Church social environments.  The obvious importance is not to judge, yet to fortify one’s own self-awareness.  During yesterday’s Thanksgiving celebrations, another example of stunting spiritual growth, while employing the pursuit of God, lovingly presented itself.  A family member several years ago adopted two children under the auspice of a nondenominational church focused on evangelization.  Yesterday, the family member revealed the realization the adoptions were a mistake, conducted for improper reasons, while also demonstrating the strength and wherewithal to persevere.  The nondenominational church, a newly formed entity created by one couple and a wealthy core group, was encouraging members to adopt needy children, thus advancing in number their blessed flock through growth within worshipping families.  The participating family member, following the instructions, example, and competition set forth, preceded to adopt two children.  The individual and spouse were both in their fifties, already blessed with two of their own teenage children—blossoming wonderfully in grace.  God is good and all giving.  Now with the passing of years, the struggles with the adopted brother and sister, children removed at young ages from a drug addicted stripper mother and an imprisoned father, are driving a wedge within the family. It is a complicated situation, only properly understood through the eyes of God and love.  The point to be extruded is that good intentions (as well as the need for proper spiritual direction); the desire to do great things through the love of God, does not prove sufficient in meeting the demands to grow in grace, while the complications of self-imposed misdirection remain within the ever-expanding range of grace.  Grace always waits patiently within our mistakes.  Once again, God does not call for most of us to do great things.  Our dreams, fantasies, and reality must remain humble and simple in self-exertion.  The challenge to remain content and peaceful within a life of worship and prayer is enough to advance in grace.  As St John of the Cross presents the idea of ‘nada’, to do nothing, is profoundly a spiritual challenge.  The thought coalesces with an awareness emerging during my time with the Carthusians, an order dedicated to the non-doing of great things within the body of the Church.  There is an emptiness within my spiritual self-identity, bonding me with my paternal mother and father, an acceptance of mediocrity and struggle throughout my life, a life prone to the reality of failure, a life scarred and recovered from the ravages of severe alcoholism.  It is painful to accept, yet I am growing and nurturing the reality my life will never be glamorized through higher achievement.  I am mediocre at best and yet I comprehend God’s infatuation with my coming into acceptance with the fact, the understanding His love is enough, holding before me tenderly the images of Mary and Joseph.  Within the humbling fact of who I am is the birth of the immensity of who God is.  God is good and all giving.



The Divine Spirit is a spirit of holiness. It is He who creates the Holy Church. He does not make it free from every stain, or make its members–even its heads–impeccable, but sets within it a source of sanctity. Just as a river runs swiftly at the middle and sleeps sluggishly at its banks or in its backwaters, so it is with the stream of sanctity in the church; and each of us, with the aid of God, may choose the pace that he wills. The essential thing is to reach these Waters.

Come, ye men, sinners in Adam, by yourselves always exposed to the danger of sin, guilt always to some degree, pitifully weak–come! Regeneration awaits you here, and with it strength and protection. –Father Sertillanges ‘What Jesus Saw from the Cross’



The future

“Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”  St Francis de Sales



Carthusian Vermont

The Carthusian life fits nicely.  The austere nature perceived exist, yet within there is an ease I did not anticipate.  There is a binder provided in the cell that outlines Carthusian life for a retreatant spending time at the monastery.  Words guiding a retreatant toward prayer in one’s cell demonstrates the nature of the ease with which an austere life of solitude and silence is presented.  In fact, a simple rule for you when you’re in Church would be to simply follow the monks’ postures.  When you’re in your cell, and to simplify matters for you, you may either kneel, stand, or incline on the mesirecord as your piety dictates.  Later on, when you become a postulant, God willing, the proper postures will be taught to you. Meanwhile, do what you can with calmness, peace, and recollection.  If your counting, that is three times a form of the word simple is used.  The novice master, an oriental priest, embodies the humble unpretentious manner employed toward a cloistered life centering upon prayer, solitude, and silence, obedient within the body of the Church.  His friendly disposition, emanating from a peaceful joyful personality, is unassuming in conversation.  Father is open, interested, and interesting.  He came alive when telling me the history of the Carthusian monastery in Vermont, embolden by a funny story involving the founder’s wife.  The founder was a doctor, although Father also spoke of him as a chemical engineer receiving important patens involving the nylon industry, as well as an important figure in designing atomic bombs.  He was a well-connected man with the United States department of defense.  A New Yorker, also living in California for a period, the founder decided to seek out large portions of land to purchase.  He settled upon a mountain in Vermont, the mountain he would leave to the Carthusian order, after passing away with no children.  Upon my arrival, I was led up the mountain by a man, a visitor to the monastery from Toronto, brother to the procurator.  The man led me to a mountain top mansion, strange in regard that the expensive furniture dated itself from the fifties or sixties.  The empty mansion was immaculate in cleanliness and good taste, obviously unoccupied for years.  In one sitting room, two enormous painted portraits individually displayed the husband and wife lording over the home, beautiful people of charm and distinction from years gone by.  I was left alone in the home, wandering out to an extensive wooden patio.  The nighttime view from the balcony was stunning.  There beneath me was the descent of the mountain, a valley and several rises leading to neighboring mounts.  I felt the area was desolate, yet now I saw the lights of hundreds of homes.  The surrounding population was much denser than imagined.  It was breathtaking.  I could only imagine how much the homeowners treasured their precious mountaintop view. Father explained how the founder used military connections to have a hydro damn constructed on the mountain, the monastery currently producing so much electricity it can sell some back to the surrounding community.  An interesting side note, a telling of the story of humanity, the founder is considered an invading outsider by much of the community.  He was regarded with disdain by many of the locals for coming in and buying out over seven thousand acres of prime property, offering amounts to poorer families who could not refuse his high offers.  He ended up owning the entire mountain.  Father, the novice master, told the story he found so amusing regarding the founder’s wife.  The woman was sitting on her balcony at night, watching over the community, when suddenly the lights for the homes began turning off one at a time, until eventually all the lights for the homes where silent.  During the time of the Cold War, the woman feared a Russian airstrike took out the electricity, convincing herself a Russian attack upon the United States had ensued.  It was one of the factors leading her husband to build his own massive generator.  Of course, there was no Russian attack.  Father found the story hilarious.  I found his inability to withhold his eruption of laughter hilarious.  He also made me laugh when telling me one of the workers, one of the four locals employed by the monastery to look over the property and hydro-damn, was off for the week deer hunting in Maine.  He told me how popular deer hunting was for the locals in Vermont.  I told him I understood as I stopped at nearby roadside woodcarving facility, an establishment that specialized in huge tree trunk chainsaw wood carvings of bears, deer, raccoons, and other such statues; there I heard a group of local men talking excitedly about deer season while dressed in hunting fatigues.  Father explained they determined there would be no hunting on their property since they often went for walks, plus the concern of accidents occurring.  He said the monks do not hunt because he does not think it would look right for the monks to be carrying around guns looking to shot animals.  His remark was so earnest and straightforward it aroused an internal chuckle and the words, ‘I think I see what you mean’.  He told how smart he thinks deer are because the monastery property is densely populated by deer during the hunting season.  Driving up the mountain, I remarked I witnessed three groups of deer.  Father and I held our conversation in my designated cell, warmed by a fire in the cell’s wood burner.  The wood burner has graced my visit with warmth and charm.  Centered in the room, the wood burner brings distinction to the Carthusian life.  Outside my cell, is a storage area, an entrance hall filled with stacked lumber.  The morning of my first waking I was startled to find inches of snow.  Winter was upon me and now God graced a wood burning stove.  I find it such a pleasure to work the wood burner, placing the fire-starting bark and paper first, then kindling, and finally larger pieces or birch wood.  At first, I was overstuffing the wood-burner, creating such immense heat I was forced to open my window and let the cold air in.  I have found a delicate balance, placing one piece of lumber at a time, allowing the stove to simmer by utilizing the damper, while also opening the windows when the heat becomes too much.  The wood burner reaches temperatures close to four hundred degrees thus overheating is a concern.  The rest of the monastery is quite cold, including the Church.  Concrete in construction, the walls become frigid—an austere strength and isolation exist within the confines of the monastery.  During prayers and Mass, coldness dominates.  Sunday midnight prayer, Matins for Monday, commenced for nearly three hours honoring the Presentation of Mary.  Profound in experience, it proved also suffering as the cold bore down heavy with the passing of hours.  I found myself longing for a return to the warmth of my cell, to the warmth of solitude and my wood-burner.  It is close to eight o’clock and time for sleep.

vermont-i vermont room-viewwood-burnerfire-woodcrucifix


God quiets

The lessening of all things eases away from brutality,
Brutality being the life of normality once endured,
Nothing appealing to the appetites, a sense and void,
Clashing abrasiveness replaced with silent acceptance,
Annoyed with internal noise opposed to observation,
Within the settling rumblings emerge, distant yet emanating,
Where once there was profound refuge emptiness appears,
Sufficient to breathe within the Body, adoring in prayer,