Presentation Talks

5/30/18

Spiritual Development Series
Reflections from Fr. Dan

(Excerpted from the 5th Sunday of Easter homily)

“We heard St. John tell us in the second reading: “Let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.” We are inspired by heroic and noble deeds. We are inspired by
those who dedicate their lives to helping others. Those who are doing those kinds of things
are bearing much fruit in their life because they have stayed close to Jesus Christ. He is

their vine, and they truly are branches on that vine receiving strength and God’s grace from
him.
There are literally thousands of inspiring stories about the saints. They loved not in
word and speech but in deed and truth. In addition, I imagine we have all been inspired by
movie characters who do great and heroic things. Just one example is Frodo Baggins in the
Lord of the Rings Trilogy. When we read inspiring stories of the saints, when we read
about heroic things that other people do, and when we see heroic characters in the movies,
do we think to ourselves: I should try to be a bit more heroic and courageous in my life.
We have run into a problem though. We live in a culture that loves to be inspired by other
people, but does nothing to promote the kind of sacrificial love that is required to live a life
that will inspire others.

While we are waiting for someone to inspire us, the world is waiting for us to in-
spire them. The world is waiting for someone to give them a reason to hope. God does-
n’t want us on the sidelines waiting for someone to do something. That is loving in word

and speech only. God wants us to get into the game, so to speak, and to love with our ac-
tions, and live a virtuous life.

When we allow the love and mercy of Jesus Christ to profoundly change our hearts
we no longer are preoccupied with taking care of ourselves. We know that the purpose and
focus of life is not ourselves, but God and neighbor. Amen? When we stop focusing on

ourselves and begin to focus more on God and on others, then we begin to change our fami-
lies. When families change for the better, then our culture will change for the better.

Amen? “

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May 2018

CONTEMPLATION

My good Brothers in Christ, tonight I am going to speak to you about Mystical Contemplation. In my previous talk, we learned about Meditation methods. The next step is to learn about BEGINNING CONTEMPLATION. It is the bridge into mystical prayer, which is Contemplation.

1, What is Contemplation?

  1. What are the Types of Contemplation?
  2. How do we practice it?
  3. What are the benefits?
  4. What are the problems?
  5. We will all later practice it briefly.
  6. Followed by your questions.

What is contemplative prayer? The Catechism (#2709) St. Teresa (Doctor of the Church) answers this way: ‘Contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with HIM who we know loves us. Contemplative prayer seeks HIM ‘whom my soul loves’. It is Jesus, and in HIM, the Father. We seek HIM, because to desire HIM is always the beginning of love, and we seek HIM in that pure faith which causes us to be born of HIM and to live in HIM. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord Himself.”

St Teresa calls mental prayer/ Contemplation “THE ROYAL HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN”. It is not a single exercise, BUT A WHOLE NEW WAY OF LIVING. I first began to practice Contemplation as a Novice in the Utah Trappist Monastery, at age 19.

It is an Introduction into a new life of intimate friendship with Jesus. When one has begun to meet Christ, daily on this level of friendship, his entire relationship with God will be changed

Christ will no longer be a remote historical figure who lived 2,000 years ago. He will, instead be my living, personal best friend. It is in close contact with our Lord.

WE know that we can ramble through long periods of prayer without once meeting Christ, directly. Remember when God complained: “ This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” True Contemplation removes this danger by turning the soul directly into the presence of Christ. Our soul waits and quietly listens in the presence of God. Jesus said: “when you pray, go to your room, close the door and pray in private, don’t babble on with endless vocal prayers like the pagans”.

If we begin and persist in meditation and beginning contemplation our prayer life will become rich, satisfying and pleasing to God and we will, while still on earth, receive some of the joys of heaven. Meditation/ Contemplation is the ROYAL HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN”. Let us practice it for the love of God. and our happiness in Heaven

Ascent of the Soul to holy Union happens in four stages, Autobiography Ch10 22

The first, Devotion of Heart, is mental prayer of devout concentration/contemplation. It is the withdrawal of the soul from external, things of the sense and especially by the devout observance of the passion of Christ and penitence.

The second, Devotion of Peace, is where human will is surrendered to God. This is by virtue of a charismatic, supernatural state given by God, while the other faculties, such as memory, reason, and imagination, are not yet secure from worldly distraction. While a partial distraction is due to outer performances such as repetition of prayers and writing down spiritual things, yet the prevailing state is one of complete quiet.

The third, Devotion of Union, is absorption in God. It is not only supernatural but an essentially ecstatic state. Here there is also an absorption of the reason in God, and only the memory and imagination are left to ramble. This state is characterized by a blissful peace, a sweet slumber of at least the higher soul faculties, or a conscious rapture in the love of God.

The fourth, Devotion of Ecstasy, is where the consciousness of being in the body disappears. Sense activity ceases; memory and imagination are also absorbed in God or intoxicated. Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space. This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. The subject awakens from this in tears; it is the climax of mystical experience, producing a trance. Indeed, Teresa was said to have been observed levitating during Mass on more than one occasion, for this reason.

 

Mental Prayer is a progressive experience that begins as simple meditation and evolves into Mystical Contemplation. Lying between these is a third stage that has some of the characteristics of both types. But it is a distinct phase of development in prayer. It is called ACQUIRED CONTEMPLATION. Some have called this the Prayer of Simplicity, Prayer of Recollection and Active Contemplation.

What is Acquired Contemplation?

After some practice of Mental Prayer, one begins to be comfortable in the regular experience. The need for extensive periods of considerations decreases and the periods of actual conversations with Christ are extended. In addition one is able to spend some quiet time in a silent Love of Christ.

As the next phase develops the soul is beginning to experience difficulty in performing any mental considerations at all, such as spiritual reading or the bible. It has becomes used to to spiritual things and God bens to bring it into the state of Contemplation, which can happen quickly in those who are deeply spiritual, such as religious who have renounced all for Christ. For most, they must persist in Meditation, until God calls them to the next stage, after some extended time in Mental Prayer and they have become detached from attachments to things and pleasures of the world, as God gives them a more spiritual, unselfish experience and desire to please God.

At this stage the senses become dry as you enter into a TIME of aridity, like Mother Teresa, for 20 years And St John of the Cross in “THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SENSES AND SOUL. God is totally in control at this stage when He give His Divine Love, Wisdom and Blessings, as long as we are receptive and cooperate with Him. We are like a little helpless child on the lap of Jesus. Think of the good thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus and asking for Mercy.

 

The 3 essential signs that the soul is in tis stage and ready for it.

 

1st sign is the realization that one can no longer meditate or reason with his imagination, or take any pleasure in it, as he did in the beginning, but instead of pleasure he finds dryness and aridity. By itself this is not conclusive proof that he has advanced to acquired Contemplation, because it may arise for a variety of other causes.

 

2nd sign is a realization that his soul has no desire to fix his attention upon other particular objects, exterior or interior. This excludes the possibility that any affection for sin or creatures may be the cause of one’s inability to focus on God, rather than created matter.

3rd and surest sign is that the soul takes pleasure in being alone and waits with loving attentiveness upon God, without making any particular meditative considerations, in inward peace, quietness and rest.

This affectionate attentiveness to God is the keynote of aquired Contemplation. If this sign and the other 2 signs are present one may safely conclude that God is calling him to the practice of acquired Contemplation. St John of the Cross stresses that all three must be present at the same time.

The soul gradually develops the experience of this new manner of prayer, occasionally for short periods of time, before entering completely into it. Also one who has been enjoying acquired Contemplation for some time may be compelled to return to ordinary meditation, for some period

To demonstrate the power of this prayer I will relate a personal experience that happened to my middle son at age 27 about 40 years ago. He had been practicing a cult religion and came to me after work one day, with a look of terror. He said I have been seeing a huge dragon and pointing to the floor said, it is right there. My wife and I took turns praying with him all night, while sprinkling holy water every 30 minutes. The next day he was relieved of this experience and never returned. One day later he was hit by a car, while walking beside an off ramp. His leg was one inch shorter after the surgery and he got Aids from the transfusion.

While dying in the hospital, he agreed to the Divine Mercy Novena with me though in great despair, saying he was damned to hell when he would die. After the Mwercy Sunday Mass, communion and confession , he was sure of salvation and died a holy death.

 

Higher contemplation

To distinguish it from acquired contemplation mystical union is called intuitive, passive, extraordinary, or higher contemplation. St. Teresa designates it simply as contemplation, without any qualification. Mystical graces may be divided into two groups, according to the nature of the object contemplated. The states of the first group are characterized by the fact that it is God, and God only, who manifests Himself; these are called Mystical Union. In the second group the manifestation is of a created object, as, for example, when one beholds the humanity of Christ or an angel or a future event, etc. These are visions (of created things) and revelations. To these belong miraculous bodily phenomena which are sometimes observed in ecstatic persons.

There are four degrees or stages of mystical union. They are here taken just as St. Teresa has described them with the greatest clearness in her “Life” and principally in her “Interior Castle”:

  1. incomplete mystical union, or the prayer of quiet , which expresses the impression experienced in this state);
  2. the full, or semi-ecstatic, union, which St. Teresa sometimes calls the prayer of union
  3. ecstatic union, or ecstasy; and
  4. transforming or deifying union, or spiritual marriage of the soul with God.

The first three are states of the same grace, viz. the weak, medium, and the energetic. It will be seen that the transforming union differs from these specifically and not merely in intensity.

Mystical union

The preceding ideas may be more precisely stated by indicated the easily discernible lines of demarcation. Mystical union will be called

  • spiritual quiet when the Divine action is still too weak to prevent distractions: in a word, when the imagination still retains a certain liberty;
  • full union when its strength is so great that the soul is fully occupied with the Divine object, while, on the other hand, the senses continue to act (under these conditions, by making a greater or less effort, one can cease from prayer);
  • ecstasy when communications with the external world are severed or nearly so (in this event one can no longer make voluntary movement nor energy from the state at will).

Between these well-defined types there are imperceptible transitions as descriptions: silence, supernatural sleep, spiritual inebriation, etc. These are not real degrees, but rather ways of being in the four preceding degrees. St. Teresa sometimes designates the weak prayer of quiet as supernatural recollection.

Transforming union

As regards transforming union, or Spiritual Marriage, it is here sufficient to say that it consists in the habitual consciousness of a mysterious grace which all shall possess in heaven: the anticipation of the Divine nature. The soul is conscious of the Divine assistance in its superior supernatural operations, those of the intellect and the will. Spiritual marriage differs from spiritual espousals inasmuch as the first of these states is permanent and the second only transitory.

Characters of mystical union

The different states of mystical union possess twelve characters. The first two are the most important; the first because it denotes the basis of this grace, the other because it represents its physiognomy.

First character: the presence felt

(a) The real difference between mystical union and the recollection of ordinary prayer is that, in the former, God is not satisfied with helping us to think of Him and reminding us of that presence.

(b) However, in the lower degrees (spiritual quiet) God does this in a rather obscure way. The more elevated the order of the union the clearer the manifestation. The obscurity just mentioned is a source of interior suffering to beginners. During the period of spiritual quiet they instinctively believe in the preceding doctrine, but afterwards, because of their preconceived ideas, they begin to reason and relapse into hesitation and the fear of going astray. The remedy lies in providing them with a learned director or a book that treats these matters clearly. By experimental knowledge it is understood that which comes from the object itself and makes it known not only as possible but as existing, and in such and such conditions. This is the case with mystical union: God is therein perceived as well as conceived. Hence, in mystical union, we have experimental knowledge of God and of His presence, but it does not at all follow that this knowledge is of the same nature as the Beatific Vision. The angels, the souls of the departed, and devils know one another experimentally but in an inferior way to that in which God will be manifested to us in heavenTheologians express this principle by saying that it is a knowledge by impressed or intelligible species.

Second character: interior possession

(a) In states inferior to ecstasy one cannot say that he sees God, unless indeed in exceptional cases. Nor is one instinctively led to use the word see.

(b) On the contrary, what constitutes the common basis of all the degrees of mystical union is that the spiritual impression by which God manifests His presence makes that presence felt in the way of an interior something with which the soul is penetrated; it is a sensation of absorption, of fusion, of immersion.

(c) For the sake of greater clearness the sensation one experiences may be designated as interior touch. This very clear expression of spiritual sensation is used by Scaramelli (Directoire mystique, Tr. iii, no. 26) and had already been resorted to by Father de la Reguera (Praxis theologiae mysticae, vol. I, no. 735). The following comparison will aid us in forming an exact idea of the physiognomy of mystical union. We may say that it is in a precisely similar way that we feel the presence of our body when we remain perfectly immobile and close our eyes. If we know that our body is present, it is not because we see it or have been told of the fact. It is the result of a special sensation (co-enaesthesis), an interior impression, very simple and yet impossible to analyze. Thus it is that in mystical union we feel God within us and in a very simple way. The soul absorbed in mystical union that is not too elevated may be said to resemble a man placed near one of his friends in an impenetrably dark place and in utter silence He neither sees nor hears his friend whose hand he holds within his own, but through means of touch, he feels his presence. He thus remains thinking of his friend and loving him, although amid distractions.

The foregoing statements concerning the first two characters always appear unquestionably true to those who have received mystical grace but, on the contrary, they are often a source of amazement to the profane, unbeliever. For those who will admit them, at least provisionally the difficulties of mystical union are overcome and what is to follow will not be very mysterious.

The ten characters remaining are the consequences or concomitants of the first two.

Third character

Mystical union cannot be produced at will. It is this character that was useful above in defining all mystical states. It may also be added that these states cannot be augmented nor their manner of being changed. By remaining immobile and being content with interior acts of the will one cannot cause these graces to cease. It will be seen farther on that the only means to this end lies in resuming bodily activity.

Fourth character

The knowledge of God in mystical union is obscure and confused; hence the expression to enter into Divine obscurity or into Divine darkness. In ecstasy one has intellectual visions of the Divinity, and the loftier these become, the more they surpass our understanding. Then is reached blinding contemplation, a mixture of light and darkness. The great darkness is the name given to the contemplation of such Divine attributes are never shared by any creature, for instance, infinity, eternity, immutability, etc.

Fifth character

Like all else that borders on the Divine nature this mode of communication is only half comprehensible and it is called mystical because it indicates a mystery. This character and the preceding one are a source of anxiety to beginners, as they imagine that no state is Divine and certain unless they understand it perfectly and without anyone’s help.

Sixth character

In mystical union the contemplation of God is produced neither by reasoning nor by the consideration of creatures nor still by interior images of the sensible order. We have seen that it has an altogether different cause. In the natural state our thinking is always accompanied by images, and it is the same in ordinary prayer, because supernatural operations of an ordinary character resemble those of nature.

But in mystical contemplation a change takes place. St. John of the Cross is constantly reverting to this point. It has been said that the acts of the imagination are not the cause of the contemplation; however, they may at least accompany it. Most frequently it is in distractions that the imagination manifests itself, and St. Teresa declared that for this evil she found no remedy (Life, ch. xvii).

We shall designate as constitutive acts of mystical union those which necessarily belong to this state, such as thinking of God, relishing Him and loving Him; and by way of distinction we shall denote as additional acts such acts, other than distractions, as are not proper to mystical union, that is to say, are neither its cause nor its consequences. This term indicates that an addition, whether voluntary or not, is made to Divine action. Thus, to recite a Hail Mary during spiritual quiet or to give oneself up to a consideration of death would be to perform additional acts, because they are not essential to the existence of spiritual quiet. These definitions will prove useful later on. But even now they will permit us to explain certain abbreviations of language, often indulged in by mystics, of which many erroneous interpretations have been made, misunderstanding having resulted from what was left unexpressed. Thus it has been said: “Often in supernatural prayer there are no more acts”; or “One must not fear therein to suppress all acts”; whereas what should have been said was this: “There are no more additional acts”. Taken literally, these abridged phrases do not differ from those of the Quietists. St. Teresa was suddenly enlightened in her way of perfection by reading in a book this phrase, though it is inaccurate: “In spiritual quiet one can think of nothing” (Life, ch. xxiii). But others would not have discerned the true value of the expression. In like manner it was said: “The will only is united”; by which was meant that the mind adds no further reasoning and that thenceforth it makes itself forgotten or else that it retains the liberty of producing additional acts; then it seems as if it were not united.

Seventh character

There are continual fluctuations. Mystical union does not retain the same degree of intensity for five minutes, but its average intensity may be the same for a notable length of time.

Eighth character

Mystical union demands much less labor than meditation, and the more elevated the state the less the effort required, in ecstasy there being none whatever. St. Teresa compares the soul that progresses in these states to a gardener who takes less and less trouble to water his garden (Life, ch. xi). In the prayer of quiet the labour does not consist in procuring the prayer itself; God alone can give that, but first in combating distractions; second, in occasionally result caused by incomplete absorption which very often one is disinclined to perfect by something else.

Ninth character

Mystical union is accompanied by sentiments of love, tranquillity, and pleasure. In spiritual quiet these sentiments are not always very ardent although sometimes the reverse is the case and there is spiritual jubilation and inebriation.

Tenth character

Mystical union is accompanied, and often in a very visible manner, by an impulse towards the different virtues. This fact (which St. Teresa constantly repeats) is the more sensible in proportion as the prayer is more elevated. In private, far from leading to pride these graces always produce humility.

Eleventh character

Mystical union acts upon the body. This fact is evident in ecstasy and enters into its definition. First, in this state the senses have little or no action; second, the members of the body are usually motionless; third, respiration almost ceases; fourth, vital heat seems to disappear, especially from the extremities. In a word, all is as if the soul loses in vital force and motor activity all that it gains on the side of Divine union.

The law of continuity shows us that these phenomena must occur, although in a lesser degree, in those states that are inferior to ecstasy. At what moment do they begin? Often during spiritual quiet, and this seems to be the case mainly with persons of weak temperament. Since this spiritual quiet is somewhat opposed to bodily movements the latter must react reciprocally in order to diminish this quiet. Experience confirms this conjecture. If one begins to walk read, or look to right and left, one feels the Divine action diminishing; therefore to resume bodily activity is a practical means of ending the mystical union.

Twelfth character

Mystical union to some extent hinders the production of some interior acts which, in ordinary prayer, could be produced at will. This is what is known as the suspension of the powers of the soul. In ecstasy this fact is most evident and is also experienced in actual quiet, one of those states inferior to ecstasy, being one of the phenomena that have most occupied mystics and been the cause of the greatest anxiety to beginners. Those acts which have been termed additional, and which would likewise be voluntary, are what are hampered by this suspension, hence it is usually an obstacle to vocal prayers and pious reflections.

There is an intermediate state not yet mentioned, a frequent transition between ordinary prayer and spiritual quiet. St. John of the Cross, who was the first to describe it clearly, called it the night of sense or first night of the soul. If we abide by appearances, that is to say, by what we immediately observe in ourselves, this state is a prayer of simplicity but with characteristics, two especially, which make it a thing apart. It is bitter, and it is almost solely upon God that the simple gaze is incessantly riveted.

Five elements are included in this distressing state: there is first, an habitual aridity; second, an undeveloped, confused idea of God, recurring with singular persistency and independently of the will; third, the sad and constant need of a closer union with God; fourth, a continual action of God’s grace to detach us from all sensible things and impart a distaste for them, whence the name, “night of sense” (the soul may struggle against this action of grace); fifth, there is a hidden element which consists in this: God begins to exercise over the soul the action characteristic of the prayer of quiet, but He does it so gently that one may be unconscious of it. Hence it is spiritual quiet in the latent, disguised state, and it is only by verifying the analogy of effects that one comes to know it. St. John of the Cross speaks of the second night of the soul as the night of the mind. It is nothing more than union of the mystical states inferior to spiritual marriage but regarded as including the to spiritual marriage but regarded as including the element of gloom and therefore as producing suffering.

We can now form a compact idea of the development of mystical union in the soul. It is a tree the seed of which is first concealed in the earth and the roots that are secretly put forth in darkness constitute the night of sense. From these a frail stem springs up into the light and this is spiritual quiet. The tree grows and becomes successively full union and ecstasy. Finally, in spiritual marriage it attains the end of its development and then especially it bears flowers and fruit.

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2/28/18

Deputy Grand Knight Tom Mellinger pre-
sented A Study of Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s

book, Into the Breach, during the general
Council Meeting on February 12th. This
presentation is part of the continuing series

of Formation Development and Spiritual Re-
energizing of the Council.

‘Standing in the Breach’

Definition: A gap in the wall, barrier, or de-
fense, especially one made by an attacking

army or the devil himself.
“I begin this letter with a clarion call and
clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in
Christ and the Knights of Columbus 8386.
Men, do not hesitate to engage in battle that
is raging around you.
The battle that is wounding the dignity of
both women and men. This battle is often
hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily
spiritual, but it is progressively killing the
remaining Christian ethos in our society and
culture and even in our own homes. The
World is under attack by Satan.”
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

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1/10/18, Deacon Wayland Moncrief, Talk on FORGIVENESS

Forgiveness: Myths and Process

by Dcn. Wayland Moncrief

On August 10th, 1969, Susan Struthers entered her parents home and found the mutilated bodies of her parents lying on the floor. The horror of this bloody orgy sent her into shock, a nervous breakdown, and years of agonizing recovery.

We know God asks us to forgive, that He requires us to forgive, but how are we to forgive such hatred, violence, and utter disregard for human life and values? How are we to forgive such premeditated evil? How can we forgive the loss, the pain and suffering, that we have endured? How can we find love for those who attack us, subject us to violence, or slander our reputation? How can we restore peace in our hearts?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus grants the Church the authority to forgive sins. He says, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” But the power to forgive sins is certainly not limited to the Apostles. Nor is it limited to priests. While we don’t have the authority to grant absolution in God’s name, we all have the capability, and responsibility, to forgive.

While we all cherish being forgiven for our sins, forgiving ourselves and others can be difficult. Yet, as Christians, forgiveness is not only required, but it is critical for our community. It is critical for our own mental and spiritual health. As the Lord commands us to be generous, to be great givers of our resources, so we are commanded to be generous in love, and generous in forgiveness, just as the Lord is generous with us.

Adulterous Woman

Adulterous Woman
Artist: Unknown 1

Forgiveness is almost always difficult. Even the simplest gestures of insensitivity cause us anxiety. However, we often increase the difficulty of forgiveness by a lack of understanding. The hurt we feel when we are wronged almost always involves multiple issues. Not recognizing these issues as separate and distinct from the requirments of forgiveness makes forgiveness complicated, and finding adequate solutions difficult, if not impossible. So, what is forgiveness and how do we forgive? First, we need to look at a some common misconceptions about forgiveness.

Misconceptions about Forgiveness.

Forgive and forget:

  1. Forgive and forget: this is common advise, so why is it classified as a misconception?
  2. We are creatures with a memory. The truth is we can’t forget. Many of us can remember hurts that occurred five, ten, or twenty years ago. We can even remember hurts from our childhood. So simply forgetting is not usually possible.
  3. Even if we were capable of erasing our memory, doing so would be dangerous and just expose us to being hurt again.
  4. Forgetting the issues we face does not resolve anything. While resolution with our offender may not always be possible, ignoring the issues we face doesn’t even allow for resolution within ourselves. It is just an attempt to sweep dirt under the rug. The real issues will eventually resurface. True forgiveness requires resolution, especially a resolution within ourselves.
  5. Fortunately, forgiveness does not require erasing our memory. Quite the contrary it requires a realistic evaluation of events. It requires objectivity and truth: truth of ourselves, truth of the wrong done, and truth about our offender.

If we forgive, then we’ll just be hurt again.

  1. As we have just said, ignoring the issues we face is dangerous. Forgiveness does not mean setting aside good judgment. Forgiveness requires truth and objectivity.
    1. Persons who have been abused must forgive, but they are not required to put themselves in danger.
    2. A wife that has been beaten is required to forgive, but she is not required to live with her offender.
    3. If someone robs us, that person is not automatically entitled to our trust. Trust is earned.
    4. If someone slanders us, or intentionally damages our reputation, that person is not automatically entitled to our friendship. No one has the right to damage our reputation, and we are always free to chose our own friends.

If we forgive, then we surrender our right to justice.

  1. Sacred Scripture tells us, “The LORD is slow to anger and rich in kindness, forgiving wickedness and crime; yet not declaring the guilty guiltless … ” (Numbers 14:18, NAB) Forgiveness in not a declaration of innocense, not does it ignore the offense.
  2. Forgiveness does not excuse our offender nor diminish the requirements of justice. In fact, forgiveness makes true justice possible, because it removes the bias and predujice of revenge. Only when the bias of revenge is removed is justice truly objective and fair.
  3. Our offender is still responsible and should be held accountable for his transgressions. He is still required to make restitution for loss and damages.
  4. The power to pardon is in our hands. Jesus, said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34, NAB) Notice that Jesus did not deny what they had done.

We can’t forgive until we are asked to forgive

  1. This is critically important. Forgiveness does not depend on others.
  2. Our offender will seldom know that we have forgiven them. Telling our offender that they are forgiven is a matter of judgement and not always advisable. If done, it has to be done in a way that will not reignite our differences.
  3. Forgiveness is ‘our’ path to healing. It is something we do for God and for ourselves. If we expect an apology we are most likely to be disappointed. If we wait for an apology, then we surrender control of our healing. Why would we want to put our happiness into the hands of the person who hurt us?
  4. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. Why would we want to carry around the burden of anger and hate?

If we forgive then we forfeit the possibility of change

  1. Forgiveness does not forfeit the possibility of change. It enables the possibility of change.
  2. Resuming a relationship is a complex matter, and it is not always advisable. We must truly forgive, but the best way to proceed in a particular situation usually involves finding solutions to many problems.
  3. Refusing to forgive makes finding appropriate solutions impossible.

So, what is forgiveness?

Forgiveness literally means ‘giving back life’. Forgiveness is an act of our heart and our will. It is commanding our heart to love those who have hurt us without surrendering justice, our human dignity, or our rights as Children of God. In it’s most difficult sense, it is loving our enemy and doing good to those who persecute us.

How do we forgive?

  1. The first step is asking God for the desire to forgive.
    1. The Book of Sirach tells us: “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner holds them tight.” When we are hurt, we hold the pain in our hearts. We want to protect our pride. Forgiveness requires recognizing and coming to terms with our pride.
    2. Forgiveness is a process and may take a long time. It usually starts in a desire to restore our own inner peace. We want to end the turmoil in our minds and hearts. In the beginning seeking inner peace may be all we can manage. However, that peace can only be fully restored in forgiveness. We start by asking God to give us the desire to forgive, and that desire needs to be nurtured, refreshed, and sustained in prayer.
  2. The second step is restoring the humanity of our offender.
    1. In recent wars we fought Krauts, Japs, and Gooks. Why? Because it is easier to kill a Kraut than a young German philosophy student. It is easier to drop a bomb on a Gook than to incinerate a poor Vietnamese farmer. Labels such as these dehumanize our offender.
    2. In our pain the one who hurt us is not entitled to respect. In our emotions he does not deserve compassion. He is no longer a member of the human family. He is no longer a spirit created in the image and likeness of God. No, he is a liar, a cheat, a jerk, an idiot, an animal, or a fool.
    3. Forgiveness requires restoring the humanity of our offender. The great golfer, Lee Trevino, once said, “Nobody plays with a full deck”, meaning no one has all the grace and skills he needs. Our offender, like us, ‘is a person tottering on the fringes on extinction. He is a hodgepodge of good and evil, decency and meanness, truth and lies, just like us’.
    4. By restoring our offender to the human family, our own vision is cleared and we see through a lens less smudged by hate and revenge.
  3. The third step is surrendering our desire to get even.
    1. The poet Homer once wrote, “[Revenge] tastes so sweet, we swirl it around on our tongues and let it drip like honey down our chins.”
    2. Revenge is an extension of our pride. We want our offender to suffer like we did – to feel the same pain, the same betrayal. We want him to turn and burn in hellish agony. Yet, in reality, the poison of revenge falls, not on our offender, but on us. It drips evil into our spirit, toxins into our humanity, and cancer into our souls.
    3. The act of forgiveness takes away the poison. By surrendering our right to get even, by leaving justice to the proper authorities and to God, we restore our own health. In turning our hurt over to God, the one perfect and just judge, we restore our own sense of justice.
  4. The fourth step is revising our feelings.
    1. Forgiveness requires courage. If we allow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to guide us, our desire for peace is transformed. Forgiveness then becomes an divine and holy act. Our will continually reminds us of our intent to restore peace, and commands our emotions to forgive. This sustains us in difficult times where triggers may reignite our anger and passions.
    2. In this step we ask God to change our hearts and to bless our offender. No matter how we tried to disguise it, what we felt before was simple hate. In seeking blessings for our offender, we team with God in a miracle of healing – and in the process experience the healing of God in our own hearts. The more ernest our prayers are for other, the more our hearts are transformed: releived of bitterness and wrath.
  5. The fifth and final act is not really a step to bring about forgiveness, rather it deals with maintaining our peace.
    1. In dispelling the myths we said that forgiveness doesn’t require forgetting our offender or the offense. The truth is we can’t forget, and even if we could it would be dangerous.
    2. Sacred Scripture tells us that true love ‘does not brood over injury’. The Book of Sirach takes this even further saying, “Do not give in to sadness, torment not yourself with brooding; gladness of heart is the very life of man, cheerfulness prolongs his days. Distract yourself, renew your courage.”
    3. This is advice well worth following. Brooding over our injuries gives them life and takes away our peace. As the Book of Sirach states, “Distract Yourself’. When we find our minds turning toward our injuries, that is an opportune time to count our blessings, contemplate the Goodness of God, and renew our spirit. If our brooding cannot be healed through reconciliation with our offender, then it can be put to death by redirecting our thoughts. As the text states, “Distract yourself … gladness of heart is the very life of man.”

While in prison, Tex Watson, the most brutal of the Manson Family murderers, experienced a spiritual conversion. Hearing of this, Susan Struthers began writing Watson anonymous letters. A year later she traveled to meet the man who had so brutally murdered her parents. After several visits, Susan knew that Watson’s remorse was genuine and she revealed her identity. With the memory of the mutilated bodies of her parents in mind, how difficult it must have been for Susan to forgive. Yet, in 1990, she testified at his parole hearing – in favor of his release.

Peter once asked the Lord, “How many times must I forgive my brother?” But Peter’s question views forgiveness only from one side – from his injury. He does not want to risk being hurt, but he doesn’t consider the dangers of refusing to forgive. But Jesus turned Peter’s question around. We too, need to turn the question around. So when Peter asks, “How many times must I forgive my brother?”, Jesus, in essence, replies, “How many times should I forgive you?”1

Topics for Meditation

  1. “Can we harbor anger against our brother and expect mercy from the Lord?” (Sirach)
  2. “Compassionate and merciful is the LORD; he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble.” (Sir 2:11).
  3. “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”
  4. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”. (Lk 23:34)

Topics for Discussion

  1. What are the consequences for refusing to forgive?
  2. Who are the beneficiaries of forgiveness?
  3. Why does God demand forgiveness?

References

Thanks,

Deacon Wayland Moncrief

St. Germaine Catholic Church

7997 E. Dana Dr,

Prescott Valley, AZ 86314

wayland@parishdeacon.com

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12/11/17

Good evening fellow Knights, thanks to our worthy Grand Knight and worthy Chaplain for the invitation to speak with you about PERSONAL PRAYER. It is a serious responsibility and an honor.-

I am DON ROWLEY, a Third Degree Knight of this Council. And I have been a Knight off and on since 1958.

This evening I will explain:

What is Personal Prayer?

— Why should we pray?

The difference between Meditation and Contemplation

— Thinking and Feeling in Prayer and

How you can become more engaged in personal prayer.

Let us begin: IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN…

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that: Prayer is the lifting of the mind and heart to God and it plays an essential role in the life of a devout Catholic. Without a life of prayer, we risk losing the life of grace in our souls, a grace that comes to us first in baptism and later chiefly through the other sacraments and through prayer itself. ( CCC2558 )

In this series of presentations I will take us along on our journey in prayer, so that each of us can grow in our prayer life and faith.

The two primary forms of personal prayer taught me by the grammar school Nuns, the High School and Novitiate Christian Brothers, The Trappists and the Carmelites were: MEDITATION and  CONTEMPLATION. I will speak mainly now about Meditation and briefly about Contemplation now and in greater detail in later talks.

In Meditation, we use our minds to ponder the basic principles that guide our life. We pray over words, images, and ideas.

Contemplation is more about feeling than thinking. Contemplation often stirs the emotions and enkindles deep desires… In contemplation, we rely on our imaginations to place ourselves in a setting from the Gospels or from spiritual reading… We experience Scripture. We do not study it. Contemplation is the highest form of personal prayer and can lead to Union with God in this life and it can be a preview of Heaven on earth. I will explain Contemplation in detail in a later talk.

The foundation and fundamental prerequisites of a life of prayer are: humility, detachment and love of neighbor. .The attitudes of prayer are Patience, Gentleness and Perseverance. We must seek to align our will with that of God. That is the means to Holiness and Union with God..

The first pre-requisite of effective prayer is Humility. As we see in the lives of Jesus and Mary. God thirsts for us infinitely, that we might thirst for Him. So, we should pray because God wants it for our salvation.

The second pre-requisite for prayer is LOVE, Obedient, Trusting Love is the proper source of prayer. Mother Mary demonstrated this virtue when she said YES to God’s invitation and always humbly followed God’s Will…

The 3 rd pre-requisite is to Pray from the Heart. The Bible tells us this 1,000 times. That prayer must come from the center of your being, body and soul.

The fourth pre-requisite of effective prayer is FAITH. The Christian Prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man, in Christ.

True prayer requires our personal, interior participation — that is, our determination to communicate with the Father, even if all we can do is have an occasional moment of fear or longing. We have, at least made a beginning according to our capacity. It is up to us to practice it

St. Paul’s command in 1st Thessalonians 5:17  to “pray without ceasing,” can be confusing. Paul is not referring to non-stop talking, but rather LISTENING: in an attitude of God-consciousness and God-surrender that we carry with us all the time. Every waking moment is to be lived in an awareness that God is within us and that He is actively involved and engaged in our thoughts and actions.

Here’s an example of a day that we might “pray without ceasing,”

When you wake up, while still lying in bed, Praise God for keeping you safe and giving you this day to serve Him. Thank Him for creating you and all creation, for your family, our country at peace, our leaders, our religion, etc..

Next pray to the Holy Spirit (such as on the back of our song book)…

Then make your MORNING OFFERING of your entire day for the Glory of God, for your loved ones and all those that you promised to pray for…

PRAY BEFORE YOUR BREAKFAST. (and all other meals, snacks and for all God’s blessings.

While driving to work, or to a sports activity or to Church offer the Rosary for the conversion of all sinners, especially those in your own home, family, relatives, parish, those who want your prayers, those whom you promised to pray for and those who have no one to pray for them.

At work; with your morning offering you have already offered all that you think and do for the greater glory of God, but you can do it again before going in and starting work (so that you are praying always).

On your way home, thank God for your work, His help and guidance and resume the rosary where you left off this morning.

At dinner thank God for your meal…. Later take time for some spiritual reading.

At Bedtime do an examination of conscience and an Act Of Contrition.

If God should take your life during the night, you are ready, as your day will have helped you prepare.

MEDITATION… Next I will discuss the common form of meditation, that is – Mental Prayer.

By the practice of mental prayer, your whole spiritual life will be powerfully animated: by your attendance at Mass, Rosaries, spiritual reading, recitation of vocal prayers, pious sayings, novenas, etc.

St Peter Alcantara said: “In Mental Prayer, the soul is purified from its sins, nourished with charity, confirmed in faith, strengthened in hope; the mind expands, the affections dilate, the heart is purified, truth becomes evident; temptation is conquered, sadness dispelled; the senses are renovated; drooping powers revive; tepidity ceases and the rust of vices disappears.

St Teresa of Avila said: ”Meditation is the basis for acquiring ALL the Virtues”.

Mental prayer usually employs a set method… There are numerous methods in use, most of which are variations on the same general theme. Saint Ignatius proposes four distinct methods in his Spiritual Exercises. The elements seen in his outlines are contained in other methods as well, such as the Sulpician method, the Salesian method, the Ligorian method, and several others. — The Carmelite method is the simplest and the one that I currently follow as a professed, Discalced, Secular, Carmelite.

The rule of thumb for which method to choose is “Whatever works for you” . This means whatever makes you love and serve Jesus Christ better, because good mental prayer makes for a better Catholic: one more virtuous, more patient, more charitable, more zealous, and more self-denying, more conformed to the Mind of the Blessed Trinity than you were yesterday.

The body of Mental Prayer consists in six items: preparation, considerations, affections, petitions, resolutions, and conclusion, they are contained in every method.

The first is preparation. This consists in putting ourselves in the presence of God, contritely acknowledging our lowly sinfulness, and asking for God’s help to pray well.

The preparatory acts, that is petitioning God for calling down His blessings on our prayer … Our Lord said, “without me you can do nothing.” That applies to everything, but especially to the spiritual life. Taken together, these three preparatory acts of faith in God’s presence, contrition for sin, and petition for God to enlighten us, put us in a proper posture in regard to God. We recognize our nothingness in His sight and our total dependence on Him.

Considerations:

Prayer is primarily an act of the soul’s highest powers: of the mind, intellect and will working together under the influence of divine grace.

The considerations, or reflections are where we recall to mind the subject of our meditation, such as Jesus’ painful crowning with thorns and the humiliation of Our Lord.– The Roman soldiers drive the thorns into His Sacred Head, seat of Divine Wisdom, shouting “Hail, King of the Jews!” sending streams of blood in His hair, face and blinding His eyes.

Next we ask, “How does this apply to me?” We know that Our Lord did it for us and for our salvation. We know that He didn’t have to do it for us, but if He didn’t, that we would not be able to go to Heaven. We may consider who He is and what His dignity is, and that He has done this to pay the debt for the sins that we have commited and will commit.

The affections, petitions, and resolutions, form the heart of mental prayer, — the conversation with Jesus. There are different ways of fixing our gaze. In the Carmelite method, one generally reads the Bible or a book for a few moments in order to begin the considerations, like in THE LECTIO DIVINA. Of utmost importance is that the considerations bring us into a live contact with Jesus and give us strong convictions. These convictions will form a foundation, or a focal point for our affections, petitions, and resolutions.

Meditation is an act of the intellect; but affections, petitions, and resolutions are all acts of the will. Since the will is the “appetite of the intellect,” it only acts on something that the intellect presents to it. Saint Augustine said: “I cannot love what I do not know.” The intellect knows and the will loves.

Affections: Saint Teresa of Avila assures us that good mental prayer consists: not in thinking much, but in loving much.

Affections are “all those movements of the will towards God that are are acts of love, contrition, adoration, thanksgiving, resignation, conformity to God’s will, admiration of His greatness, fear of His anger, confidence in His promises, renunciation of self, desire for holiness, thirst for virtue, etc.

Saint Teresa of Avila and other authors often refer to mental prayer as a conversation. It is important that we think of ourselves in a loving conversation with Our Lord, being open to His inspirations. In the early stages of Mental prayer, He frequently gives us CONSOLATIONS to encourage us to continue in this mental prayer. St Teresa refers to these consolations in her Fourth Castle Mansion.

The four ends of all prayer are: adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and petition. The first three acts are due to God. We owe them to Him. The last one, petition, is what we ask from His mercy.

Petitions are asking for something. We may ask for virtues or pray to overcome some fault, ask to discern the will of God in some present crisis, fortitude to do what we know to be right, the conversion of a friend or family member…. We should also have certain “stock” petitions, such as the good of the Universal Church, The Good of Our Order, the Holy Father, our families, the welfare of our nation, and especially its conversion, for those in religious communities, priests, students, co-workers, etc. The petitions should be simple, in our own words, and be sincere.

This connects our mental prayer to our daily life, which is essential if mental prayer is to make us better, which is one of its purposes. As Saint James said, “You ask and don’t receive: because you ask and do not put it into practice.” Mental prayer must make us better. Our Lord said “Ask and you shall receive” — supplicating God for the virtues also obliges us to practice them.

Resolutions: In this final part, we make concrete acts of the will to do some good thing or to avoid some evil thing.

It is good that, once you conclude what your predominant fault is, you strive to aim your resolutions at that fault. Start making resolutions contrary to that vice… Spending a long time on one virtue, maybe even months, is also recommended, until you make progress in it. Concluding acts: These are very brief. You should thank God for the graces He has given you in your prayer; express sorrow for any faults or negligence you have committed during this holy exercise; ask Him to bless your resolutions, your present day, your life and your death. This is one concrete way of joining your prayers with your every-day life, of praying always..

IV. Difficulties

The two most common ones are distractions and aridity (spiritual dryness). They correspond to our intellect and will… Both of them can be voluntary or involuntary.

Distractions attack our intellect. They are the mental wanderings that have us thinking about things other than our subject. As for involuntary distractions, they can come about by fatigue, illness, anxiety about our work, etc. Voluntary distractions can have the same causes, but are voluntary because we don’t discipline our minds and attempt to banish the distractions. Distractions can also be caused by bad mental habits, such as failure to control our thoughts in our every day life, or not giving proper attention to preparing our meditation the night before.

After distractions, the other main difficulty is aridity, or spiritual dryness, which corresponds to the will. Aridity is the inability of the will to easily make any affections. It is a lack of enthusiasm for, or even a repulsion to divine conversation. It has three causes: God, the Devil, and ourselves.

When God causes it, He deliberately withdraws any sensible consolations in prayer. This is something he does in the process of PURGATION which leads us to the higher grades of prayer, such as the Dark Night of the senses, or the Dark night of the Soul. When the Devil is the cause, it is to discourage us from the path of holiness. But the normal causes of dryness for most of us is in ourselves. The bad habits we don’t correct, our failure to live up to our previous resolutions, our negligence of the duties of our state in life, sensuality, lack of mortification of our lower appetites, attachment to venial sin: all these constitute causes of aridity and barriers to fruitful prayer.

V. Alternatives to Methodical Approaches

For those who try, but simply cannot get any fruit out of the methodical approach, there are alternative methods. They include meditative recitation of vocal prayers and meditative reading. Both of these methods were employed by Saint Teresa of Avila. She herself tells us that she spent 14 years unable to meditate without the aid of a book.

Meditative recitation of vocal prayers is the practice of reciting a prayer like the Our Father, phrase by phrase, carefully considering each phase, eliciting affections, and making petitions as you go. Saint Ignatius highly recommends this. Meditative reading is similar. Using Scripture, the Imitation of Christ book, or another book of meditations on the Gospels, we read a little bit at a time, pausing frequently to perform those same acts which constitute regular mental prayer.

Meditative reading is different than spiritual reading, which is almost completely, an act of the intellect. Meditative reading will be accompanied by those acts of the will which form the most important part of mental prayer.

Detachment is a key element for successful meditation and sanctity.

VI. General Helps to Mental Prayer

Praying better helps us live better and living better helps us pray better.

Another help is daily spiritual reading of 15 minutes or so. There are many good books for this, such as the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila. Those who have made the total consecration to Jesus through Mary would do well to read the works of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, or Saint John Eudes. The writings of Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri and Saint Francis de Sales are also a goldmine for the spiritual life.

The practice of spiritual reading elevates our minds to the supernatural truths. It also supplies us with subjects for meditation. Spiritual reading: must be digested bit by bit. Read a book by a recommended author slowly. Saint Thérèse (The Little Flower) had memorized entire passages of the book THE IMITATION OF CHRIST.

The next general help is a spiritual director. His job is to assist you with your interior life: helping you to find what resolutions you should work on, what faults to correct, and giving you counsel as needed to address the questions and problems that are bound to arise in your attempt at a more disciplined interior life.

How long should one spend in Mental Prayer?

The common recommendation is 1/2 hour to an hour. Those who cannot accommodate that into their schedule can cut it down even to 15 minutes. When should it be done? The ideal would be in our ADORATION CHAPEL. For me, the morning is best. For you, night time may be better.

How should the various parts of mental prayer be divided?For beginners, something short of half the total time of mental prayer should be devoted to the preparatory acts and considerations.

Many books on prayer usually address the higher grades of prayer which I will explain in a later talk, including Contemplation.

Also see the Biblical basis of Contemplation.

Catholic Prayer and Devotionals:  http://www.kofc.org/un/en/cis/devotional.html#/

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for your attention and encourage everyone to take up the exercise of mental prayer and to persevere in it.

Please note the many BLUE Reference links above, for your reference use and study..

If you have any questions, or comments, please leave them here under comments, at the bottom of this page.

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12/1/17

Be sure to attend the general meeting this month 12/11/17

for our
Spiritual Development Presentation

by Brother Don Rowley:

Meditation, Contemplation and Personal Prayer.

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11/14/17

Deacon Dale presented the following inspiring talk last night.

The Armor of God  

Thank you to our worthy Grand Knight and worthy Chaplain for the invitation to speak with you this evening. It is an honor. I am a Fourth Degree Knight of this Council. Admittedly, I am not as active as I would like, but more on that soon.

My topic for this evening is one near and dear to my heart: the relationship between our faith, our good works, our prayer life, and our Salvation. I preach often on aspects of this issue, but this talk is my first real effort to pull together seven basic principles that form the structure of those relationships, the last two bearing particularly on our role as Knights. Taken together, these principles are for us as Catholic men and Knights of Columbus, the Armor of God. They guide us on what God is calling us to do to help build His Kingdom.
The first essential of the seven basic principles that I want to discuss is that our salvation is a communal project. As with several of these principles, there is an important nuance—a subtlety—at work here. You see, we are to work together for our salvation as community, but we will be judged individually. At the Final Judgment, I would not expect Jesus to say, “Knights of Columbus Council 8386, come forward for your Judgment.” God calls us into community, but each person who has the capability to decide is responsible for his or her own salvation.
My second principle may surprise some people: we cannot earn our salvation. The simple fact is that we could do good works all day long and that, in and of itself, would not pay the debt of our sin. Some of you may think, well if my good works don’t help me get to Heaven, why am I even here at a Knights meeting?
Yet, the fact is that our salvation is a gift freely given by God, not something that we can earn. Our debt of sin against the unconditional and unlimited love of God is a debt that is simply beyond our ability to repay. Our debt-of-sin credit cards are maxed out. We are horribly overdrawn and bankrupt. If that were not the case, Jesus would not have needed to become incarnate and suffer and die for us. God offers us faith and redemption. We need only accept that offer and act on it.
It sounds as though I am saying that Martin Luther was right: by faith alone we are saved. But, Martin Luther added the word “alone” to the Bible text. It is not there in the original Holy Scripture.

So, my third key principle of salvation is that we are saved by faith but not by faith alone. Faith is the source and fuel for our salvation, but it is not simply that we accept Jesus Christ as Our Savior and that is the whole process of our salvation. Think of the initial seed of faith as a gift from God that is like a marriage proposal. We must accept that marriage proposal—say “amen” to the gift of faith. But, let me ask you this: how many of you are or were married? When you said “I do” on your wedding day, was that the whole story? Or did you then have to LIVE your life together after that wedding day? Did that one “I do” cover all issues for all time or did you have to keep working at it?
Our “amen” to God is a start, but it is NOT the whole story of our salvation. The key is to understand that our good works are a vital element of our salvation even though we cannot EARN our way to Heaven. You see, our good works are the fruit of our love for God and one another. Within our marriage, we are each called to make self-gift to one another. Pope St. John Paul II told us that only through self-gift can we become fully, truly human. Self-gifts actualize the commitment that we made at the altar. For me, I only consider my day well-spent if I tell my wife at least once that I love her and that she is beautiful—and if I do small acts of self-gift, such as doing the laundry or buying a little something for her. The best of those self-gifts I do without her knowing. In the case of God, of course, He ALWAYS notices what we do.
Think of Our Blessed Mother and the self-gift that she made. It was not easy being the Mother of God. And God knew that she would say, “Yes… amen… so be it” when He asked her, but He did ask. We call it the Annunciation, but she still had to freely accept to play that role… and thus to make an incredible self-gift to us.
So, our good works are a self-gift that reflects our love for God and one another. As such, they point to who we are. They are signs pointing to our love and faith. And, like our self-gifts to our wives, they do much more than simply point to our love and faith. They actualize that love and faith. They have a tangible effect.

My fourth principle of salvation is that our good works are effective or efficacious signs of our love and faith.
I use that $25 word “efficacious” intentionally rather than just sticking to the $1 word “effective” because our Church uses the phrase “efficacious signs” to describe something else that is important to us as Church. Anyone know what that is? Yes, the Sacraments are efficacious signs. They effect what they describe. Baptism is not simply symbolic, it also is an efficacious sign of our being cleansed from original sin. Holy Matrimony is not simply a symbolic joining of the lives of two people or a civil contract; it is an efficacious sign of them becoming joined.
So, our good works do not earn our way into Heaven, but, in a sense, they do something even more powerful. They have a sacramental quality that transforms who we are and the world around us. By doing good, we become good, and we make the world around us a bit better. We actualize our faith and love. “Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Remember that Jesus tells three parables in Matthew 25 that point to the nature and necessity of our good works: the ten virgins, the five talents, and the separating of the sheep and goats—that is those who help the poor and are saved and those who do not and are condemned. Fr. Dan gave a beautiful homily yesterday on the parable of the Ten Virgins and the idea that the oil in their lamps was their good deeds. It is interesting that Jesus uses this succession of three parables to make His point in an increasingly pointed and clear manner. By the time we hear about separating the sheep and the goats, we simply cannot ignore the message.
But, again, make no mistake. Nowhere in these three parables does the king or master say to those who performed the good deeds, “You have earned your reward.” Instead, the master says to the servant who made a profit for him with his talents, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” If we are good and faithful, Our Lord will give us the opportunity to share His joy forever in Heaven. It’s not that we earned it, but that we used the talents that God gave us to help build His Kingdom and prepare ourselves for Heaven.
In John chapter 15, verses 1 to 4, we read: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit… Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” So, Jesus is saying that He is the vine and we are branches and the fruit that we bear is our good works. God wants to keep those branches that bear good fruit.
And what does it mean that God prunes every branch that bears fruit? I can see two interpretations, both of which add value. The first is that the “prunes” refers to the things in our life that hurt us. God allows us to suffer in part so that we will feel more empathy toward others who suffer and thus do more good works. The second interpretation is that there are times when we are trying to do too many things, and God redirects us to concentrate on a smaller set of most critical tasks so that we get more done in those key areas. In short, the second and more positive interpretation is that God removes some of the God fruit that we are producing so that the remaining fruit will grow better. I have experienced God doing that to me.
Jesus also tells us, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” So, our strong relationship with Jesus is what calls us and empowers us to bear good fruit. Without that relationship, and thus without us doing our works through Him, our efforts to help in this world are unlikely to be as efficacious. We can do more good as a single cell in the Body of Christ than out in the world on our own.
The fact that Jesus used grapes as a symbol of our good works underscores their role as efficacious signs of our love and faith in Him. After all, grapes produce wine, and wine is an Old Testament symbol of the love of God for us. In the Mass, as the priest blesses the wine, he refers to it as “fruit of the vine and the work of human hands.” In other words, wine is the product of God’s gift and human effort. We collaborate with God by doing the good works that He wants.
My fifth principle of salvation flows directly from what we have said so far. Our prayer life provides direction and fuel for our journey of salvation and good works. Our prayer life, by deepening our relationship with Jesus, guides and fuels our efforts to express our love for God and each other through our good works.
Last week and this week, I gave a talk to RCIA about Divine Revelation, a talk to the Spanish-language parents about a 12-step plan for building your domestic church, the talk tonight, a talk this Thursday to Embry Riddle Catholic students about seeing Jesus in the face of people whom I have met in my mission trips to Haiti and Central America, and two talks this coming Saturday to the Religious Education Confirmation Retreat.
I am not listing these things to brag. I have my times when I feel overwhelmed. But I love what I do for the faith. My point is that I try to do the things that God guides me to do, and let go of those activities he tells me to let go of, even when that letting go can be painful. God told me directly that Deacon Dennis should take over the Baptism preparation class. I hated letting go of that, but turns out that God was right. He’s a smart guy. Deacon Dennis and Carolyn have done a much better job at those classes than I did. God also told me to invite Deacon Dennis to help with RCIA, with Robert’s permission, of course. I thought that God was going to ask me to give up RCIA, too, which I have done continuously since I came into the Church back in 1995. But He gave me clear signs that I am to continue doing that alongside Deacon Dennis for now. In the past, God had me be an acting Chaplain for the Knights at my old parish because our parochial vicar was too busy with other duties. God has not asked me to be directly involved with the Knights here at St. Germaine, but that does not mean that my heart is not with you and that I am not enthusiastic about the efforts to revitalize this Council.
Prayer gives me fuel and direction for these activities. As a member of the clergy, I pray Morning and Evening prayers, as well as the Office of Readings and sometimes daily prayers from the Office as well. I go to Mass at least five times a week, often going to the 7 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart. I do the Rosary each day and try to spend a couple hours per week total in Adoration. And I have a short prayer that I try to say periodically during the day: “Thank you, Lord, for all that I am and all that I have.” Again, I am not trying to brag or make an early case for my beatification, merely to say that my prayer life provides the rest and the fuel and the direction that lets me sustain such a busy schedule during a typical day.
My sixth key principle of salvation, as it relates to us as members of the Knights of Columbus, is that we should be men who are givers of life. All Christians are called to be givers of life, but men have a special calling that differs from women’s roles as givers of life. To understand this, a little etymology will help. Both Greek and Latin have a root word “gen-” which means birth or creation. The words “Genesis”, “gender,” and “generate” all stem from that root word.
In Genesis, God generated the world and gender. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
In terms of gender, we portray God as male, yet God is pure spirit and literally has no body or gender. So, why is He a he? The Word of God became incarnate as a male, despite having only a female human parent. What is going on with this?
Some people think that it was because society at the time was male-dominated and God is in charge, but God told Eve that her sin caused male domination. God made it clear that male chauvinism was NOT His plan. He told Eve that because of her disobedience, “your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
God is “male” because He gives to His Creation out of love and life is created. Every human life is a conscious choice by God given that He must breathe in a soul. In the marital act, man gives out of love and woman receives, and life is potentially created. Man imitates God in the role of Creator and life-giver, while woman imitates Creation in the role of receiver and life nurturer.
That leads me to my final key principle of salvation, as it relates to us as members of the Knights of Columbus: Our Brotherhood can build up the Kingdom of God. Given the symbolic role that men play as givers of life, a group of men who are devoted to working for the spreading of the faith and the betterment of society has a great potential to help build the Kingdom of God here and now on earth. As example, think of brotherhood as the Twelve Apostles, the priesthood, and the diaconate. When a group of faithful and motivated men work consciously for the greater good of the faith and to help society, the results can be transformative.
This has been the magic formula that propelled the Knights of Columbus to a pivotal role. In many parishes, including St. Germaine’s, pastors have found that the Knights can play key roles in service to the community and to God. That is our calling as Knights: to use our faith, love of God and each other, and dedication to service to transform our communities.

The more that we can call other men into serving in the Knights—provided that is what God is asking of them—the stronger will our parish and the Kingdom of God be. May God bless you all in that role.

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10/31/17

Deacon Dennis Eagan presented a thought provoking session on the challenge of living a life. “Here and There,” living the Christian ideal of active contemplation, of attending to all the necessary aspects of the active life, at the same time, remaining in the presence of God. Using the passage of Martha and Mary, Deacon Dennis reminds us that just like Martha and Mary, we are free to choose how we will approach life.

The full text of Deacon Dennis’ presentation follows

                                       Here and There

Legend has it that in ancient times there was a king named Akbar, who had a brilliant and clever prime minister named Birbal. Akbar was always asking questions that he hoped would baffle Birbal, but Birbal was always able to answer and so save his life and his position as prime minister.

One day Akbar asked Birbal if he could bring him someone who was “Here” and not “There”. Birbal brought him a thief, saying, “This thief is only in the world trying to get money and goods to increase his wealth “Here.”

Then Akbar told Birbal, “Bring me someone who is “There” and not “Here”.” Birbal responded by bringing him a wandering monk and said, “He completely neglects all aspects of this world, including his body and his well-being, to focus entirely on the world beyond.”

“Very good,” said Akbar. “Now bring me someone who is neither “Here” nor “There”.” Birbal left for awhile; returned with a beggar and presented him to the king. Birbal said, “This man is neither “Here” nor “There”, because he is always envious of everyone else in the world. He is not participating in the world in any sense and, at the same time, has no concern for spiritual matters. Thus, he is in no way “There” either.”

“Very good, again.” exclaimed a pleased Akbar. “Now is it possible that there is anyone in the world who is both “Here” and “There”?”

“Yes, your majesty,” answered Birbal. He presented an honest, hardworking couple to the king saying, “This man and woman work in the world and tend to their family, but do everything with God in their thoughts. Because they do the work of the world and allow their spiritual practices to carry them through both the good and bad times, they are a man and women who are both “Here” and “There”.”

“Very well done, Birbal” said Akbar who immediately began to think of the next challenge he would give to Birbal.

The challenge of living a life that is both “Here” and “There” is the story of Martha and Mary. The well-known story is about living the Christian ideal of active contemplation, of attending to all the necessary aspects of the active life while, at the same time, remaining in the presence of God.

In the story, Martha is busy with the important task of hospitality but in the process has become anxious and upset about many things. It would appear that Martha is “Here” but not “There”.

Mary, on the other hand, seems to be completely “There”, as she sits absorbed in the word of our Lord. We feel sympathy for poor Martha, stuck with all the duties of hospitality while Mary enjoys the presence of Jesus.

The purpose of the story is not to make the contemplative life seem better than the active life. It is to suggest that our Christian life is not “either-or” but “both-and.” It is both “Here” and “There” at the same time. Mary and Martha are two sides of the same coin. No matter which side is facing up when you hand the cashier a coin, they will accept it as payment. In same way, Mary and Martha are two sides of the Christian ideal of contemplation in action.

It is important to notice that Jesus does not criticize Martha for her acts of hospitality. He does not say, “Stop what you are doing and come listen to my words.” The problem is not that Martha is active; the problem is that she is active in a worried, resentful and anxious way. She is not enjoying the opportunity to serve as the hostess. By being a good hostess, Martha could also be enjoying the presence of Jesus in a different way. What is needed is for Martha to make the same spiritual step as Mary. Jesus never suggested that either Martha or Mary leave the world of activity. Rather, they need to be both “Here” and “There” at the same time.

This has implications for us today.  We, too, are busy about many things.  We, too, are troubled and distracted.  We, too, need to choose the better part –– to sit at the master’s feet –– to steep ourselves in prayer –– to seek the Lord’s direction.  Only then can we be assured that our busyness will further the Lord’s business.  Only then can we expect the Lord to bless our work.

It is not easy for most of us to be both “Here” and “There”. Our active lives keep us firmly tied to the “Here”. Not even Jesus is suggesting that we ignore the responsibilities of our active lives. However, when we find ourselves becoming anxious, worried or resentful as we go about our daily tasks, it may be helpful to remember the words Jesus spoke to Martha. Choose the better part. As the saying goes, “Take time to smell the roses.” We need to seek and find an inner space within us where we can sit at the feet of the Lord, even as we do dishes, drive to work, mow the lawn, take walk in the neighborhood, work in the garden or what other task we are doing. The word of God can come to us even in the busyness of our daily lives. The good news is that it can easily take root in an open, quiet heart.

The Christian ideal of active contemplation is a way we can chose to approach life. In order for it to be successful, it must be cultivated and nurtured continually. We should ask ourselves at different times during the day: Where am I? Am I “Here”? Am I “There”? Am I both “Here” and “There”?

As Catholics we have a number of ways of living this ideal: In addition to Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday morning spending an hour of adoration one day during the week – the Adoration Chapel is open 24 hours a day. Saying an evening prayer or praying the rosary before we go to bed, reading a chapter of the Bible every day or even something as simple as praying for those around us while we wait in traffic – especially for the person that just cut you off or even in line at the grocery store. These are just a few examples of how we can be both “Here” and “There” at the same time.

Just like Martha and Mary, we are free to choose how we will approach life. Our goal is to live our lives “Here” so that one day we can spend eternity “There”. Why not choose a way now that is both “Here” and “There”.

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Guest speaker, Robert Maekawa

Our Council welcomed Robert Maekawa as a guest speaker before the September
general meeting. If you missed it, enjoy a summary of his presentation.

Men of God, Men of Prayer

When I was a Benedictine monk, I was taught something important about prayer. When the choir bell rang for prayer, we were to drop everything and run to the church—
like our lives depended on it! The reason was simple: God comes first.

The best reason to pray is because Jesus loves you. He wants to have a personal relationship with you so that “your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). If I don’t pray, I feel lost and empty inside. But when I spend time with Jesus, I feel a joy the world can’t give. He’ll give you what you’re looking for—because he loves you!
Here’s another compelling reason to pray. Jesus said, “without me you can do
nothing” (Jn 15:5). Think about that. Our lives and our ministries will fail without
Jesus. We can’t do it on our own. Therefore, we need to stay connected to Jesus
through prayer.
Was Jesus a man of prayer? Absolutely. The most significant events of his life
were marked by prayer. His time in the desert, his baptism, the choosing of the 12,
the Transfiguration, the Last Supper, the agony in the Garden, and on the cross. He
would pray all night, before dawn, on mountains, and in deserted places. He would
even withdraw from people to pray (Lk 5:15-16). If he needed to pray, how much
more do we need to?
The Dominicans have a motto: “to contemplate [pray] and to give others the fruits of contemplation.” In other words, prayer comes before ministry. Why? Because you can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t give people Jesus if you don’t have a relationship with him. Ministry without prayer is just social work. But if you pray,
you give people Jesus!
Here are some practical tips on prayer.

1) Pray an hour a day (not including Mass). This will deepen your relationship with Jesus and bring power to your life.

2) Talk to God. The greatest moments in my life have happened when I talked to God
from my heart.

3) Pray the rosary every day. It’s a spiritual weapon that changes the
world.

4) Read the Gospels. Learn from the master—Jesus.

5) Spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. There’s no substitute for the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus—it will change you! Try these things, and you will see a difference in your life.

Jesus loves you,

Robert Maekawa