Faith Hope Charity

On into the Word

A translation of posted Spanish, the message sublime in savoring.

Unite the soul and God

There is an intimate union
As faith penetrates hope and love,
And hope penetrates faith and love,
And love is driven by faith and hope.

These are the virtues most important to the Christian life.

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Supreme Confidence

O voice of Christ, mysterious voice of grace that resoundeth in the silence of our souls, Thou murmurest in the depths of our hearts words of sweetness and of peace. In response to our miseries, Thou repeated the counsel so often given by the Divine Master during His mortal life: “Confidence, Confidence!”….Saint Thomas Aquinas defines confidence: a hope fortified by solid conviction…confidence has its source and root in faith..sacred writers designated these two virtues (faith and hope) by the same word: fides.

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Your souls wounded by misfortune, do not murmur over the abandonment in which you find yourselves reduced. God does not ask of you a sensible joy, impossible to your weakness. Just rekindle your faith, have courage, and, according to the expression dear to St Francis de Sales, in the “innermost point of your soul”, try to have joy.

Providence will eventually give you the right sign by which you shall recognize Its hour; It deprived you of all support. Now is the moment to resist the distress of nature. You have reached that hour in the office of the interior of the soul in which you should sing the Magnificat and put incense to burn. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice…The Lord is nigh!” Follow this counsel, you will feel the benefit of it.

–‘The Book of Confidence’, Father Thomas de Saint-Laurent

Magnificat

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”

the-book-of-confidence-12

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Hard line approach to faith

I was thinking about a personal incident I heard a former bishop present.  The bishop made a strong formative mark upon me through a severe one-on-one reprimand he inflicted upon me.  The stout stern bishop’s kindness will never be mistaken for weakness.  He does not tolerate fools, nor is he unafraid to unabashedly declare himself.  Religion is a serious game.  Personal agendas, the exercising of masquerading and delusional self-will is to be staunched.  Nonsense standing in the way of Godly pursuits must be slapped aside.

The Bishop’s story involves landing at an airport.  Walking through the terminal, an evangelical crowd confronted him, demanding introspection, declaratively, accusingly, asking the Bishop if he truly had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Asking the question in the manner they already knew the answer to be a ‘no’.  Instantly, the Bishop clearly and loudly resounded with a ‘NO!’  ‘Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?’  ‘NO!’  Holding the moment, meeting eyes with each individual, he allowed his negation to settle.  Continuing with words, he spoke to the bold spiritually immature inquisitive crowd: ‘I have a personal relationship, through prayer, with Our Holy Mother and the Saints.  With Jesus, my Lord and Savior, I demand more.  With Christ, through humility, surrender and service, through faith, hope, and charity, I work toward unification’.

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Necessity of a Sound Prayer Life

Prayer

The. glorious Apostle and Evangelist. St. John, in the fifth and eighth chapters of the Apocalypse, expresses admirably well the excellency and merit of prayer. ‘There came an angel and stood before the altar, having in his hand a thurible of gold, to whom was given much incense, to the end he should offer up. of the prayers of the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne of God. And the. smoke of the incense of these prayers went up from the hand of the angel to the presence of God’ (Apoc. viii. 3, 4). St. Chrysostom says that one proof of the merit of prayer is· that in the Holy Scripture, it alone is compared to thymiama, which was a composition of incense and of many other admirable perfumes; for as the smell of well composed thymiama is very delicious, so prayer also, when well made, is very acceptable to God,. and gives great joy to the angels and all the citizens of heaven. Thus St. John, speaking in such human language as we can speak, says that those heavenly beings hold in their hands pouncet-boxes full of admirable perfumes, which are the prayers of the Saints, and these they apply again and again to their most pure nostrils to enjoy that sweet odor (Apoc. v. 8).

St. Augustine speaking of prayer says, ” What more excellent than prayer? What more useful and profitable? What sweeter and more delicious? What higher and more. exalted in the whole scheme of our Christian religion?

–St Alphonsus Rodriguez ‘On Christian Perfection’

Without a prayer life we are left abandoned to our own devices, imperfect creatures able to access only self-will, functioning and interacting with the world based upon our terms.  Without prayer, genuine humility is impossible, spiritual progress only induces pride, leading us to believe we are spiritual superiors, tyrants onto the world.  No matter the amount or extensiveness of our efforts to know God, without a prayer life, the true means of communication is blocked. Our spiritual life is stifled and we become a danger to those advancing toward God. Centered upon self-will, plagued by self-consciousness, competition, the need to impress, selfish intent; whether positive or negative, we are constantly an affront, never able to offer others Our Lord, the ultimate master of prayer, His invitation to ‘take upon My yoke, and learn, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your soul’. Without prayer, we weary ourselves, forced to rationalize, forced to justify, forced to reason, forced to manipulate, forced to be a burden onto ourselves and all those willing to love us. With the purest of intent, functioning through self-will we fall short. We bring immense and intense tears onto ourselves, and others. In the ancient world, they used the term crocodile tears, huge tears shed through profound sorrow. I attribute the term to Homer. It always moved me. Another Homer term I borrow is ‘winged words’, words possessing immense inspiration, hope, and insight–I adapt the term to embrace words inspired by the Holy Spirit.

To reiterate, a lacking prayer life renders one unable to surrender to faith, hope, and charity, unable to prosper within infused virtues.

The Blindness post touched on remaining hidden as a contemplative, as well as, identifying those of suspect religious intent as possessing a hidden agenda. They are two distinct matters. As a contemplative, my interior life is protected, hidden, ‘cast not thy pearls before swine’. My natural self an employee, friend, man in recovery, father, brother, son, remains open, comfortable and easy for others to understand.  My hidden contemplative efforts do not make me a mystery to others.  I make myself vulnerable to others, placing myself at their disposal, while protecting my interior life. I am not overly clever, nor diabolical. I go to the extreme not to inflict self-will upon others. In regards to bringing others into intimate spiritual communication I exercise extreme caution. The telltale sign of affirmation is the witnessing of a fortitude in prayer. A strong prayer life, a presence developed, indicates a healthy spiritual person of advanced effort. Without words, manipulation, or awesomeness, such individuals present themselves in humility and peace. I am especially leery of church devotees overly ambitious to throw themselves at me, coming on hard to impress, making great claims of being a daily communal recipient for a vast number of years, knowing the Bishop or esteemed individuals of respected religious reputation, telling tales of great pilgrimages, or dominating congregational responses and song with brilliance and expertise. Once serious progress is made in prayer such individuals will force themselves upon contemplatives. In politeness, and if necessary sternness, I must safeguard my interior life. I am reminded of a lesson from my therapist, a Catholic psychologist, Dr. Lawrence Nitcha. I utilize all forms of healing in order to cleanse the vessel for proper filling.

Dr Nitcha on co-dependent behavior: …difficulty establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries, difficulty saying “No”, acting ‘nice’ when a tougher love is called for, and feeling overly responsible for the feelings or behavior of others.

Sadly, many Christians fall into the trap of justifying such behaviors as being examples of the call to ‘love one’s neighbor’. A variety of Gospel passages, each emphasizing the Christian call to service, is used to legitimize such behaviors. However, their use more often represents a distortion of the Gospel message.

One of the Gospel parables to which I frequently refer in helping individuals realize their rights is Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the 10 Virgins. In that parable the behavior of the five Wise Virgins is highlighted as exemplary. And what is the behavior they displayed? It is the antithesis of codependent behavior. When asked to share some of their lamp oil with the Foolish Virgins, the Wise Virgins in effect responded: “No. We are keeping what we have for ourselves. We are not sharing what we have with you.”

On the surface their response can seem downright cold to some. Uncaring. Certainly seems ‘un-Christian’. But it is not! The Wise Virgins were simply remaining committed to their fundamental call to be ready for the bridegroom. Despite the pain, suffering, and panic experienced by the Foolish Virgins, the Wise Virgins remained resolute. They had been prepared with enough oil for their own lamps and to have shared their oil would have put the Wise Virgins at risk of failing to live up to the primary call they had received. They were not being selfish; they were exemplifying enlightened self-interest.

Undoubtedly the Wise Virgins experienced some anguish over the Foolish Virgins’ situation. Yet, they were not disinterested and cold in their refusal to share. No hostility here! Quite the contrary, they came up with an idea: “Quick, go to the market and buy some oil.” In other words, take responsibility for your selves; follow the call you were given. Well, too little, too late for the Foolish Virgins. The parable does not discuss how the Wise Virgins felt seeing the Foolish Virgins miss the wedding procession, but I imagine that they felt sad. Not guilty (that would be codependent) – they did nothing wrong. But sad! A sadness with the accompanying experience of powerlessness in the realization that they had been helpless to prevent the results of the Foolish Virgins’ poor planning.

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Abbey of Gethsmane presentation

Abbey of Gethsemane is a Power Point presentation I put together many years ago. It covers my first visit to the monastery, a five day vocational discernment process. To view the photos is difficult. It reminds me of distant years, times of active alcoholism. The pain, struggles, loneliness, alienation are harsh upon the memory. In my heart, there was so much love, energy bursting to see the light, to give witness and testify, to authentically believe I possessed a vocation as a consecrated contemplative, and yet in reality I was a man unable to put my life in order, unable to bring others into my life, unable to allow God to become a loving and living reality. Reviewing the photos, the people I met I remember distinctly, everything about the first visit is precise in recollection, filled with wonder and hope. I remember the painter from Boston Ms. Walsh, conducting pencil drawings during her retreat, commenting to me that I seemed so sad. We would go on walks together, and I just could not verbalize. She was a beautiful woman, pleasant disposition, peaceful manner, honored she chose me for walks. I wanted to talk with her, yet words would not come forth. I wondered why she kept looking for me for walks when I was so dumbfounded and silent. I could not express myself. It reminds me of a scene I just watched in a film. I am making my way through the Teresa of Avila miniseries once again—a favorite viewing on so many levels. In the opening episode Teresa’s uncle gives her Francisco de Osuna’s “The Third Spiritual Alphabet”. The book would transform her spiritual life, introducing the idea of an interior castle. After receiving the book, clutching it to her chest, she tries to explain to her uncle what is bothering her. “I don’t have time to explain. I don’t understand myself….I always think things will be different. More bigger, you know, more…” Lost for words, her uncle provides his own response, “more heroic. Yes my child. The same thing happens to me. It’s hard to believe things are what they are.” I love how the film captures Teresa often looking about her normal environment, marveling, perceiving the miracle of existence, the totality of reality. I remember once as a young adult walking amidst a snowstorm. The falling snow, the accumulated snow, the historic neighborhood, the night, streetlights, and Christmas decorations all synchronized into a beautiful vision of existence, traversing the divide was comprehension, a momentary coalescing… It reminds me of a feeling of wonderful sadness that often fills me. Contemplative in the Mud posted words by an influence who touched on a profound sadness that is filled with joy. That is perfect. I did not mean to get started on the Teresa of Avila miniseries. I love it. An important point to take note of in this spectacular epic is the fact that Teresa, a mystic of renowned accomplishment, lived so actively and passionately in the world. The opening episode has nothing to do with convents, or cloistered religious being isolated from the world. Teresa is a Carmelite totally engaged in the world. I love the caravans Teresa and her cohort travel amongst. Everywhere she goes she travels with a crowd, people of diverse backgrounds, an abundance of things: wagons, luggage, and animals. Venturing through the world with Teresa is a conglomeration of people, animals and things, including song. Someone is always at her side, conversing advising or being advised. Her and her traveling entourage are greeted with welcome, and heightened expectation upon arrivals. Life is a grand extravagance for the drama queen, filled with people, experiences, and spectacle, yet still life is not satisfying her interior calling. Her exterior life is filled in abundance, yet it is not enough. Teresa is always open to life and individuals, while longing for more. Children climbing on her back, playing upon her, as she lies upon the ground reading mystical books. I love her companionship, intimate connection bordering on codependency with Juanita, recalling the companeros Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Teresa more than loved people. An accomplished mystic, a contagious loving and effective imprint, she could not live without people. She was always witnessing others, or being witnessed herself. Back to the Gethsemane PowerPoint presentation. I dug it up after viewing the Cistercian encyclopedia detailing the profile of Dom Vital Lehody. I became nostalgic for my experiences with Trappist communities. I did not anticipate the melancholy sweeping over me as I recalled those distant years. Words of Father Lehody come to mind. “Furthermore, regrettable as our faults may be in themselves, they become still worse in their consequences, when they give rise to uneasiness, discouragement or perhaps even despair. On the contrary, peace in repentance is a thing very desirable”. Excessive guilt is a trap. God is a forgiving God. To trust in God is to understand his mercy is absolute. On the path of perfection, there is no need for wallowing in misery. Amongst a conviction to expanding faith, hope, and charity, is the belief that hope surpasses personal experience. My hope in God is greater than my past.

Abbey of Gethsemani

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The sound of heaven

blessed-virgin-mary-virgin-with-angels

Contemplation theme:the sound of heaven. Mary singing. I wait eagerly to hear the Blessed Mother celebrate in song. Accompanied by angels, saints, and heaven’s elect, I hold tightly to faith, hope, and charity in anticipation of hearing the Queen of Heaven resounding in praise for the wonder, mercy, and might of God the Father, her Ascended Son, and the peace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Pray for us in song Holiest of Mothers.

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Love and indifference

In my occupation as an industrial maintenance technician, I often have days of nothing to do. Today is one. I will utilize the time to expand upon my thoughts on love as opposed to indifference. First, I would like to stress how I view myself. I am not a theologian, nor a scholar. I base my blogging efforts upon a friend requesting I undertake the task. I do view myself as a writer, although this is in regards to my extensive reading background, mostly fiction, storytelling—film cherished. I feel I possess a unique insight, sentimentality and empathy, into my characters. That insight is based absolutely upon love. I love my characters, desiring to bring them to life and expression. The reason I feel qualified to write about the contemplative life, I am not as confident about. I am not an academic expert, or even the best read on the doctors of the Church. I even thought of changing the blog title or ceasing my effort. Once I did determine to focus the title of my page on Faith, Hope, and Charity, the contemplative life as a layperson, I came across the blog ‘Contemplative in the Mud’. The young man putting the blog together, I sensed is much better read and more intelligent than myself. I feel God guided me to the blog, a proper humbling. Yet I was not discouraged. I prayed over matters, feeling confident to precede, authentic in motivation. I will note that the fore mentioned blog, I read daily. It has become, and will be, a part of my daily religious practice. My friary days, my short lived postulancy as a Franciscan friar, established my confidence in God blessing me with an exceptional prayer life. All glory goes to God. I am most secure, joyous, and confident during mass, and then during pray before the Eucharist. The Rosary and Meditation are sheer delights. Our daily life in the friary intensely combined an introverted and extroverted spirituality.

I will take a side note and comment on an injustice I perceive. Jungian thought on introversion and extroversion is immaturely perverted by the majority of people using the terms. It is not an either or situation. I am not either an introvert, or an extrovert. Both the active and contemplative approach to life are a part of every person’s personality. It was presented to me that a good example of proper balancing of both approaches to life is John Paull II. John Paul, an introvert, accomplished phenomenal things as an extrovert. To even go above and beyond John Paul, Our Lord and Savior demonstrates the ultimate embracing of introversion and extroversion. Within a crowd, Our Lord was open and present for every individual. Supernaturally aware and tuned to hearts, He healed, taught, cajoled, and shared with the entirety of His being. Yet Our Lord mastered introversion on a level none can ever comprehend. Receiving the Holy Spirit through John the Baptist, Our Lord immediately went off to the desert for forty days of intense fasting, prayer, and meditation. Throughout his ministry, Our Lord found it necessary to recede from the crowd in order to communicate with His Father. Preparing for his ultimate test in the Garden of Gethsemane, His prayer efforts were so intense He sweat blood, providing for all the mightiest of wisdom: ‘Thy will be done’.

Back to friary days. As friars, we evangelized to the extreme, knocking on neighborhood doors, visiting elementary, high schools and colleges speaking, holding court with the Knight of Columbus and other groups, mingling at dinner parties, watching the Super Bowl with benefactors in their home. There were prayer excursions to abortion clinics, homeless missions—all in all, a total effort of socializing. It was why I left. I could not take it. Recovering from alcoholism, I was not that psychologically sound in crowds, fear still dominating amongst others. In regards to the contemplative life, I prospered, flourishing during the two holy hours conducted daily and the communal Rosary before night prayers: Compline. The Holy Hours were conducted in the morning before mass, and one before evening prayers: Vespers. It was interesting to take note of the friars during the Holy Hours. The ones who grew excited during the evangelizing, playing in the musical band, well versed with people, skilled and loving with men, women, and children, struggled mightily during the Holy Hour, or read and/or wrote throughout the sacred time. The worst was a jovial chubby Philippine young man who played guitar, sang with delight, and was adored by all. There was no one who could say a bad thing about the brother. He was a blessed soul. Yet I would chuckle when I watched him walking apprehensively into the Holy Hour. He did not like them. He had such a difficult time sitting still, squirming all the time, just having a terrible time sitting still for such a long period of time. I say all that lovingly. That coincides with my idea that within the vastness of the Church we find our individual way—St Paul’s elaborations on the body of the Church. Back to the Holy Hour, I realized that was my time of strength. There was another brother who also shared my prayer tendency. The academic type read voraciously during the Holy Hour, others prayed the Rosary. There were only two of us who went into meditation. I would do nothing, concentrating upon my breath, mentally focusing upon the Eucharist. The priest in charge disdained the writing of Basil Pennington, Thomas Merton, and Thomas Keating, while loving John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. To him, the idea of emptying ourselves was absurd. We filled with the Eucharist during the Holy Hour. Through practice, I was able to go deep during the hours. It is difficult to explain. We would end the sessions with the ringing of a bell. Often when the bell rang, I felt as if I was being ripped back to a false life. During my best sessions, it was a struggle to cease the meditation. I did not want to return. I felt exhausted opening my eyes. That leads perfectly into the idea of indifference. That is the proper indifference. Being absorbed into the Eucharist through stillness and a holy environment the presence of God became an enveloping reality. It usurped all else, forcing indifference and abandonment into consciousness. However the key is that the Theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity expanded through the effort. I relate it to my love for my family. During these intense times of prayer, a profound love for my family developed. They were centered in my heart, their salvation and worldly concerns vital to my life. I tried to explain this amidst my family only to have my sister-in-law comment that absence makes the heart grow fonder. In my normal manner of clamming up when a know-it-all who does not know-it-all takes command of a conversation, I thought strongly ‘NO that is not it. It is not about them being distant. They were in truth closer to me the deeper my prayer advanced’. Back to proper indifference, I state that if infused virtues are not made greater through my religious efforts, than the indifference to worldly things is false, an error in effort, most likely, for whatever reason, an inability to love. I want to go back to a quote from the other day, where oddly enough, I touched upon the idea of indifference. The soul therefore, requires at least indifference of judgment and of will. Then, penetrated with the conviction that God is all and the creature nothing, one will desire to see and embrace in all things only the God whom one loves and yearns for and his holy will which alone can conduct one to one’s end. Happy the person, if one has also acquired what may be called indifference of taste, so that the world and its pleasures, the goods and honors of earth, everything, in short, that might estrange one from God, now inspires one with disgust, and on the contrary, whatsoever brings one closer to him, even suffering, delights one. So has it been with the saints who hungered and thirsted after God. Oh, how such indifference facilitates the practice of holy abandonment! Within the paragraph indifference is stressed, yet it is toward the things that take us away from God. If the bold text is not grasped the indifference becomes useless, 1 Corinthians 13 the obvious reference. The things that bring us closer to God must not be met with indifference, in regards to creatures they must be met with love, a sign of serous spiritual advancement would expand this to blissful love. We must love or we know nothing about God.

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