Blessed Paul Giustiniani

Camaldolese: The Hermits Creed

Blessed Paul Giustiniani

Those who have never practiced the occupations of religious leisure imagine that a solitary is constantly overwhelmed by inactivity and idleness, bored stiff, full of regrets, like a sleepy man or an irrational animal that lets the time pass doing nothing. But, my Lord God, I in my solitude speak to You. How it enchants me to speak to You, and when I speak to You I cannot lie. I declare that long years of experience have proved that the more I am solitary, the less I am idle….More than any other life, it is active and laborious. Is it idleness to read, to study, to compose, to write? Is it idleness to examine our conscience, to regulate the soul’s affections, to recall our past life, to put in order carefully our present life, to provide prudently for the future? Is it idleness to repent our past misdeeds, to combat temptation and inordinate desires, to arm ourselves in advance against the near occasions of disturbance and downfall, to think of death and to place it before our eyes so that it may not catch us unawares? Is it idleness to meditate on human and divine realities worthy of ceaselessly occupying noble minds, and to ponder these, not in haphazard daydreams, but with order and concentration? Is it idleness to raise our voice frequently by day and by night in Psalms, canticles, and hymns, praising God the Creator, and thanking Him for all His benefits? Or with a voice still more ringing and effective to ascend by mental prayer toward the divine Majesty insofar as mortal man can?….

In the exercises of solitary leisure, that is, the contemplative life, the more I do, the more I see to be done…now that by Your grace, Lord, I am more solitary than ever before, I know that I cannot find time to do all I should do and would like to do in Your service…. Oh, how much reading I would like to do, were it not for lack of time and the demands of other duties! Not that I yearn to reread the books of pagan philosophers and poets, for I regret and repent having devoted more time than I should have to such study. But I would like to read many writings that would reveal the hidden and spiritual sense of Your holy Scriptures, many works that might spur my soul to devotion and compunction, much that would help me to distinguish, so to speak, one leprosy from another, one sin from another. Oh, how I wish I could carry Your holy Gospels ever in my hand next to my heart, as we read of the holy virgin Saint Cecilia, that I might never interrupt day or night that divine reading! You know, Lord, that I have often intended to do so; but either I lacked time or my soul was occupied with other things. Not only would I like to read, but I need to apply myself earnestly to understand what is read, to commit to memory the meaning rather than the words, to compare the opinions of several doctors, or several passages of one of them, and to do other similar things, that only those who study can understand…. To read and to write are truly the easiest tasks, the least absorbing and the most imperfect of the solitary’s life…. But he must also meditate, pray, and ascend as much as possible to the contemplation of heavenly realities; think over with bitter regret the ill-used days of his life; examine, describe, dispose, regulate, moderate the passions of the present day; commit the future to God’s service; think of death and prepare for it. After such meditation on visible and created things, what can we say of the quest of the invisible reality of God, of prayer? We must thank You, Lord, for Your favors, thank You for having created us, and for us having created the whole visible world. We praise You and thank You for the benefit of the Redemption that You accomplished. You who became incarnate, who lived among men, who taught them by example and doctrine, who died and was raised to life for them. We must thank You for the countless marvelous benefits that You have granted to all humanity, for the particular benefits that You granted us and that You continue to grant each day. We must praise You, adore You, offer You the homage of latria or adoration that is due to You alone. Our intellects and our wills must unite to invoke You, to offer ourselves and to consecrate ourselves to Your service, to submit and conform ourselves to Your will, to desire You alone and Your glory, to strive to know You ever better, to love You, to raise ourselves towards You, to make friends with You, to unite ourselves to You, to be transformed in You, to disappear and to be annihilated in You. Oh, how many acts are involved in the practice of prayer, the contemplation of Your invisible and ineffable perfections: Your eternity, omnipotence, immensity, wisdom, ineffable charity, and the justice that is inseparable from Your mercy. You alone, Lord, are an endless abyss, immense, capable of absorbing forever the attention of a countless multitude of souls, as You engross the countless multitudes of heavenly spirits….

On this path, nowise idle or inactive but rather active and laborious, I ever praise You, my Lord, and strive to know and to love You always, until through Your clemency alone, I may reach that land where I can endlessly and perfectly know You, and love You, and eternally praise You. There may I sleep and rest in peace with You, rest in the peace that is not inactive and idle but is more laborious than any other occupation, the peace which You enjoy, and with You all the blessed spirits. Amen.


Whirlwind Sunday before Lent

A weekend full of work was offset with the celebration of Father Roger’s 50th birthday, a pleasant event.  The Cuban political science professor attended, providing an earful of conversation.  Her impassioned promptings guided to the Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput OFM.  She is insistent upon her college students taking interest in his latest book ‘Strangers in a Strange Land’.  Regarding my fascination with Native Americans, I was delighted when she informed me the esteemed religious is a proud American Indian, a member of the Potawatomi tribe.  Native Americans know full well what it is to have one’s spiritual life crushed.  Everything coalesces into the difficulties of embracing the religious life in a devastating world, entwining within my current captivation with Andrei Tarkovsky and Russian film making.  Life presents charm when last week I met an amiable Russian couple operating an international deli close to my home.  I have passed by the deli often, yet never took notice until tending to business across the street.  Exploring the deli/cafe, I came across an elderly man and woman filled with life and conversation.  They insisted I try several dishes, selling me on their Russian smoked salmon, an amazing oily raw chunk of meaty fish delicately presented.  The amount of natural fish oil oozing from the salmon makes for interesting eating.  I feel like a bear eating the delicacy, chewing on the skin and savoring the fat.  They also had me try a buckwheat breakfast dish that has established itself as an early morning favorite.  The couple sells commissioned artwork in their modest business.  Observing the paintings, I stopped at a huge childish image of a man in a red forest taking aim with his bow and arrow at a bear confronting him.  I exclaimed, ‘I like this one’.  The man became excited telling me his son painted this at the age of thirteen, although now as an adult he put aside his paint brushes to become a medical doctor.  The man pulled me by the hand, telling me he had to show me how Russians party.  He led me to his next-door establishment, a quaint series of wooden rooms with the center of the rooms being a sauna.  More of his son’s huge paintings from his early teens decorated.  He preceded to tell me how saunas were a traditional way Russians socialized.  They would come together for hours for relaxation and cleansing—he rents the sauna to groups for four hour blocks.  Prepared Russian food is served, vodka is drank, with a billiards table for fun as music plays, while men and women go in and out of the sauna, also utilizing the two massage rooms.  Inside the sauna, moist birch and oak branches are used to fan bodies, supporting the cleansing process.  I chuckled and asked if the vodka aided in the detoxing.  He just smiled and said it is the Russian way.  The discovery of the Russian couple—people of faith, Tarkovsky, and a Youtube video provider Gregory Decapolite I have been investigating, all illuminate the difficulty of devoutly remaining a person of faith under a totalitarian repressive government.  It makes me wonder about all the untold stories of individuals preserving in the Russian Eastern Orthodox faith during the dark days of the Soviet Union.  I posted a lengthy video by Gregory Decapolite at the end of this post highlighting a fascinating story of inspiring Russian nuns challenging their communist oppressors—the orthodox chants backdropping the videos is precious alone.

Opening to Archbishop Charles Chaput’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’


We, the ordinary people of the streets, believe with all our might that this street, this world, where God has placed us, is our place of holiness.

CHRISTIANS HAVE MANY GOOD REASONS FOR HOPE.  Optimism is another matter.  Optimism assumes that, sooner or later, things will naturally turn out for the better.  Hope has no such illusions.

Some men who experience neither spiritual devotion, nor desire to reform their lives, nor zeal for God’s glory nevertheless wish to enter religious life. And why?  Because they hope that religious life will give them some particular advantage which they prize: perhaps physical rest or leisure for reading and study.  In some cases, they want to be fed and clothed and cared for in sickness and old age.  Sometimes the motive is vainglory — the wish to be admired, to acquire a reputation for virtue, to live in a better situation and on a higher plane than they can reach as laymen.  But such desires must be discouraged.  A candidate showing such dispositions must be reminded of the Sage’s remark: “My son, if you enter God’s service prepare your soul, not for delights, honor, or rank, but for temptation. ”  We must point out to such a one, as Saint Benedict directs, all the hard and difficult things through which anybody who desires to follow Christ must pass. Such warnings will induce these aspirants either to refrain from entering religious life, or to rectify their intention.  

The Lord did the same when a certain man promised to follow Him everywhere. Jesus answered him: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.”  It is as if He had said to that man: “You say that you follow me, but perhaps you are hoping for an easier life or seeking fame and a high position in the world. Know that you will be disappointed.”  Know that Jesus Christ provides for His followers not ease but trouble; not honor but contempt, insults, dishonor, calumny; not rank, but utter subjection.  In God’s service even rank itself means service and subjection.  If anyone seeks to enter religion to be served rather than to serve, to relax rather than to become wearied, he should be told outright:  “Depart, my brother, depart. You think you will find rest in religious life?  You will find anxiety.  You expect to be praised, taken for good and holy?  You will be blamed and insulted; more often than not even your good deeds will be repaid with scorn.  You seek high rank?  I tell you that to enter religious life means to enter into constant servitude, perpetual subjection.  quoted by Dom Jean Leclercq in ‘God Alone with God’


Sacrificing for love

How many there are who believe they are spiritual and wish to enjoy bodily and spiritual rest in God, not for love of God but for love of themselves. They prefer their illusory consolations to works of obedience and fraternal charity. They dislike whatever deprives them of the rest they think they find in God, but which they really seek in themselves. Their whole concern is to find peace: not, it is true, in things inferior to themselves nor in themselves, but in God. Yet that peace is desired for love of themselves, not for God’s glory. On the contrary, souls that have attained perfect love no longer desire for themselves either virtues, or sensible devotion, or tears, or spiritual consolations, or ecstasies, or prophecies. If they have such gifts, they value them lightly; if they have them not, they do not seek them, for it suffices them to love God alone in God.

There are spiritual men who pass for saints and who rejoice in the progress of their order or their monastery. But so far as their neighbor goes, they are not exactly sad at his progress — for that would be a crime — but they rejoice less at it than at that which concerns themselves. If they will examine their attitude they will discover that they desire their progress or that of their monastery more than God’s glory: they do not love God in Himself. The soul which rejoices in God and in Him alone is willing to do without any consolation. If it could love God a bit more on condition that it never feel any actual devotion, spiritual tranquility, or sweetness, and be deprived of all hope of these gifts in this life or the next, it would accept this exchange. For it loves God no less when it feels no consolation, no actual devotion. These are gifts of God, and we love Him equally whether we feel them or are deprived of them. If, by hypothesis, we even had to lose God for His glory rather than lessening His glory by possessing Him, then the soul consumed with love would desire that by its damnation God receive a bit more glory.   –Blessed Paul Giustiniani quoted by Dom Jean Leclercq in ‘God Alone with God’


Divine humility

Jesus Christ as man was perfectly humble because He did not love Himself, but purely and simply adored and loved God. He was not glorified in Himself, but only in God. He humbled Himself in order that He might contemplate only His Father’s glory, and in that glory alone did He take satisfaction. By the light of Christ, therefore, we can define spiritual humility thus: Just as pride of spirit, the pride of Lucifer and of those who accept his dominion, consists in self-love and self-admiration, and self-satisfaction therein, so also humility means loving God, contemplating God, adoring God, and taking satisfaction in Him and in Him alone. Genuine, solid humility is nothing but this simple and pure love of God. Where such pure love dwells, no place remains for self-love. –Blessed Paul Giustiniani quoted by Dom Jean Leclercq in ‘God Alone with God’


Sublime entwining words

On the contrary, the soul lives in the flesh and communicates itself to the flesh, which receives from it the life by which it lives. So the soul, through a higher love, lives neither in itself nor in God, because it does not love itself either in itself or in God. Rather God alone lives in it, because it does not love itself in itself or in God, but only loves God in Himself. Let us rise still higher. The human soul lives because life lives in it. But it does not live in itself, for the soul has no life in itself, as God has. Moreover it does not live in life, because it has no other life by which it lives than life itself: only life lives in it. Thus, the soul lives by love: but it does not live in itself, nor does it live in God, nor does God live in it. Rather God alone lives in God, and the soul lives by the very fact that it is transformed in God, when it loves neither itself in itself, nor itself in God, nor God in itself, but only God in God.[228] These words are a constantly recurring refrain, the key to the whole eremitic mystery: “God alone in God. Solo Dio in Dio.”  –Dom Jean Leclercq ‘God Alone with God’