Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Bit About Adel

Adel is the new member of the Order of the Present Moment. Gave permission to share some. May be helpful. She is married to a non-Catholic who does not hold favorable views of Catholicism.  Adel's plight is all the more interesting as a can-do example of spiritual soaring. 

Adel and spouse have two adult children, both reared in the Faith but somewhat lapsed, one divorced and living at home, seeking employment, sometimes accompanies her to Sunday Mass. Adel is lifelong Catholic. Year or so ago did not understand some aspects of the Faith, such as when daughter married outside the Church. Perhaps that time period helped her realize and desire more, along with having decided that year to choose a saint for the year.

This is a marvelous practice. "A" chose St. Francis de Sales. Read something about him, possibly online or remembered something about him. Adel began reading Introduction to the Devout Life--great saint and book.

Also during this time was going to Eucharistic Adoration at parish, weekly, and desired more. The Holy Spirit began working in her soul through the prayer and reading, as well as having kept up with weekly Mass and occasional weekday Masses, tucked around full-time work and trying not to upset the spouse. St. Francis de Sales worked in Adel's soul, as well. She became aware of The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Procured copy and volume of Christian Prayers (Morning and Evening Divine Office). Began reading/praying.

Adel was encouraged by a friend to get a regular confessor and go to this Sacrament more often. Had been going a couple or so times a year. She didn't know what priest, so the friend advised one over another due to insights on the situation. Adel was bent upon the one not advised. But she prayed about the unadvised one, and kept receiving inner "no" signals, as well as other external signs that convinced her to ask the other priest. All unfolded well, and she is thankful for praying, listening and heeding. Adel has been going to confession every two weeks for over a year with much benefit. 

Adel, however, remained connected emotionally and temporally to a popular apparition site and messages, spending time reading from an online group following a "sister" who led the internet group.  She was advised to not continue with this and was given facts as to why not. Yet Adel was not willing to give it up, including following some of the external practices that the internet group "sister" advised. 

Although also influenced to the group's validity through a book about the purported apparitions,  Adel finally broke from the grip of the group for two reasons.  A friend had said the spiritual friendship would have to cease due to her continued involvement in what is not valid, and Adel began praying to Mary, asking for guidance. Immediately she received an answer to turn to Our Lady of Lourdes. Adel did this, with more positive benefits.

Having ceased involvement with the purported apparition site and the internet group followers, Adel's spiritual life took a definitive change for the better. She increased daily Masses and spiritual reading, ceased viewing TV programs and filled in with religious reading or DVD's, or simply attending to more household matters, praying silently while doing so. 

Adel wisely followed the confessor's advice to sacrifice more outer spiritual acts in order to acquire peace in the home, as the spouse was becoming wary and upset by her increased time spent in visible religious endeavors. Still, her spiritual interior continues to grow and adapt, in accordance to humility, obedience and charity. 

At work Adel used to try to mentally pray the rosary but interruptions frustrated the attempts. It was suggested that she instead repeat one Hail Mary, or better, focus on the encounters with people in the work situation, and interiorly pray for them, be lovingly present to them--the pleasant as well as the difficult persons. This practice has yielded excellent results. She recently added going to the car at lunch break to practice meditation. 

Adel read about meditation (or mental prayer) by choosing St. Teresa of Avila as the saint for this year, although St. Francis de Sales described it, also. The St. Teresa book, while not the saint's own writing, was a short biography. She is now reading a fine author's explanation of St. Teresa's teaching on prayer.  Adel has learned to research authors to discern if the book is worth the sequestered time she has for reading. Once she became aware of St. Teresa's own writings, they are next on the list, and Adel is keeping St. Teresa as focal saint for another year. After St. Teresa's major works, she considers reading St. John of the Cross' Collected Works.

Adel continues to practice living omnia pro Deo (all for God), and has in various ways, for a long time. While doing household tasks, she sings within the heart, a short, original a song to Mary. Adel also takes time to praise God spontaneously, speak loving words silently or aloud if alone, and now practices the newly learned ways of meditation.

The practice of affective prayer is not formally known to Adel, but she is already praying with the affections, by inner prompting of the Holy Spirit--a grace probably given due to her genuine desire and efforts to know and love Christ in the present moment.

In the course of little more than a year, Adel has come to the point of desiring to climb the Stairway to Heaven all the more. A hallmark virtue in her attitude and disposition, is that of humility and the ability to take advice or even subtle suggestions, pray, then incorporate or make changes accordingly. This is the mark of a docile soul--docile to the will of God through the confessor, saints' writings, the Virgin Mary, and trusted spiritual friends. 

While Adel experiences trials and brief stumblings, the remedies are grasped firmly with quick turn-around made. More could be shared, such as her learning patience and discernment in quiet witness by befriending Chinese workers, or the gains made in consideration of the spouse's feelings and concerns, but this is enough to give example of a loving soul who is practicing Christ in the present moment, desiring the Stairway to Heaven ascent.

I Wish to Know Christ

Yes, St. Paul expresses what those of the Order of the Present Moment want.

I wish to know Christ and the power flowing from His resurrection; 
likewise to know how to share in His sufferings by being formed into the pattern of His death.

And for this to occur, we must live each moment now, seeking to know Christ. To do this we must have a change of attitude and perspective, to come to the spiritual view. But those things I used to consider gain I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ. I have come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ.

This attitude and perspective is ours for the asking and doing. Just ask. Just do it. Begin now in this present moment and continue in every present moment. Yes, it is a process for most of us, for we may not be in a position like St. Antony of the Desert whose parents died, leaving him wealth and a younger sister. He gave his sister over to women to teach and care for, gave them part of the wealth to do so, and gave the rest to the poor. He was taking Jesus' words literally, and seriously. This was all right in his time and circumstance. He learned from a hermit for awhile, on the edge of small city. When the hermit felt Antony ready, the young seeker of Christ went to the desert to be alone with God and to know Christ. Most of us know the rest of the historical and spiritual story.

 For anyone reading the complementary blog at www. orderofthepresentmoment., we will understand that we must consider our era and circumstance, individually, in the present moment. Few if any could or would be advised to do just what St. Antony did, or what St. Francis did, or what St. Seraphim the Seraph did, or what Bl. Teresa of Calcutta did. We are unlikely in their time, place or circumstance.

But we can do as they did, for we are to do as Christ did and does. This is as St. Paul did. For His sake I have forfeited everything; I have accounted all else rubbish so that Christ may be my wealth and I may be in Him, not having any justice of my own based on observance of the law. The justice I possess is that which comes through faith in Christ. It has its origin in God and is based on faith.

What we must do is to learn the interior spiritual way. Go to the inner and learn the spiritual view, make the spiritual changes and adaptations, for the inner will then alter the outer according to the will of God and not through our determinations or forced extremes. However, over many present moments, the effect may seem extreme to others because our inner and outer will change. We will have forfeited everything in essence, and due to this essential giving up and dying to ourselves and wishing to know Christ in all, we will not possess in the way we used to possess. 

This may mean we do not replace items or do not purchase items unnecessary to knowing Christ, or it may mean we are not possessed by these possessions, nor possessed by certain ideas of what we ought to be in relation to others in the world. We may wear the same clothes we always wore, but not care as we used to. We may put as primary, daily Mass, providing for other duties if those dependent upon us can come with us or we have arranged for their supervision while we are at Mass. If working at the time daily Mass is scheduled, we make spiritual Communions. We read the Missal and absorb the Mass readings. We pre-set and record Mass offered by EWTN if we have access and TV. 

This is but a couple of examples of how the inner desire will alter the exterior through an act of the will. There are as many examples as there are souls and present moments, as to other ways of knowing Christ, and thus forfeiting everything of our own will and possessions (including vices and thought distractions) in order for Christ to be our wealth, and our being in Him. We will be astounded to realize that soon, if not immediately, what used to seem so important to us is now not, but is rubbish, is loss, in the light of Christ.

We may think our present circumstances do not allow for forfeiting everything. But forfeiting all for Christ is more an inner disposition and act of will that can begin with attitude and thoughts, and then creatively, using the gift of imagination, extend to adapting life in Christ into our daily lives in fascinating and amazing ways. 

Practice seeing Christ in others, literally and figuratively. Add reading a paragraph of Scripture before bedtime or upon rising. Make ourselves get up five minutes earlier to pray a verbal prayer or meditate. Stay up five minutes later to do so. Utilize lunch break at work. Pray for people we encounter throughout the day, spontaneously in our minds and heart. Pray for God to use us in the night, for He will, and pray that the devil is bound from our soul then, and always. 

Instead of news or TV programs, cut them out in one fell swoop or one by one and exchange for quiet time of prayer or reading, and include family in this if possible. If not, excuse yourself for time with Christ. Read Scripture, even one a day or memorize one as a chant of praise, spoken in the mind. Exchange secular music for religious, or none at all and experience Christ in the silence. St. Paul did not have an iPod; he had birds and breeze.  

Sacrifice some expensive food item now and then, or regularly, or all the time. Use the saved money for the poor, even for those poor in spiritual life, such as buying a saint book for yourself or another. Take a present moment to read about virtues, one by one. Practice them in daily life. Exchange secular for spiritual, and Christ will be known to us more and more, and then through us, to others. All these ideas and millions more can be done in any era, culture, circumstance. 

Change the environment of our interior lives. Pray to the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, for ideas to know Christ in whatever interior and exterior circumstance we may be living. Ask Mother Mary to help us to learn loving to know Christ. Pray for help. Help will come. Begin when young or old, but begin in this present moment.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On Spiritual Reading

What we take into our eyes goes into our minds. The mind, the intellect, resides with the will in the center of the soul. Some include the memory as part of the intellect-will center of the soul. Regardless, what we read is a critical element of our souls' life and health. Spiritual reading is necessary as a facet of getting to know Jesus Christ and to find Him in all present moments.

There are steps to be taken, decisions to be made, regarding what we read. We learn to desire what is best, holiest, healthiest for our souls. We learn by praying for discernment and desire for holiness in spiritual books and pray to lose appetite for what is not ranging from mediocre to desiring good, to better, to best.

For example, we pray to find ourselves losing appetite for earthy fiction, then good fiction, or from sensational news, then from repetitive news, then perhaps from all but headlines...or enough to know who and what for prayers.  Then we pray to find ourselves having desire and appetite for spiritual reading: books, newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets. And at this point, we must pray extra much for discernment. Why?

Because, among spiritual books there are steps ranging from mediocre to good, to better, to best. We must learn how to discern what is quality among the spiritual writings, and that includes prayer and research and developing a sensitivity and appetite to what ultimately is best. In the spiritual life, why waste present moments with Christ on less than best? Time is of essence!

Now we share present moment examples.
A priest admits being curious about a popular Protestant leader. He noticed a book with catchy title, and wondered what this famous man had to say about Revelation, last book in the Bible. He purchased the book and was half through it, when a friend came along who saw the pitfalls. How could a Protestant minister explain the Woman robed in the sun? Or the Blood of Christ?

A technique was used called scanning. They read aloud the first sentence of paragraphs through the latter half of the book, as the priest thought maybe the author would say something he didn't know about Revelation. In 15 minutes of reading first sentences of paragraphs, the book was scanned. Then they asked questions. Why did the minister simply skip over the entire chapter of Revelation that dealt with the Woman?

What did the Protestant minister actually know to discuss of the Blood of Christ--he who had never received the true Blood of Christ, nor consecrated the Blood--never held the Cup of Christ's Blood in his hands? But the priest had consecrated every day for 63 years. What could the Protestant minister write that the priest, 12 years in seminary, daily preaching, did not know? Through scanning, the book told about the minister's corporation, where to send donations, about the famous people he'd known in life, and the televised crusades he'd preached. Much of the book was about himself, in other words. The priest discovered nothing new or revelatory.  He was finished with that book. Today he is reading St. Bernard's Life of St. Malachy, a book by a Carmelite abbot on St. John of the Cross, Scripture, and Biblical commentary. Scanning is an effective tool.

In a previous post the example was given of the Catholic who considered reading a good book by a contemporary Catholic author rather than an excellent book by a Catholic saint and Doctor of the Church. It was pointed out that the reader was capable of reading the saint's writings, so why not read what a saint wrote over a person still on the journey, good as the book may be for those who are not yet prepared for reading the actual writings of the saint.

We can step up to primary source reading as opposed to secondary source. Primary source is reading actually what Jesus, the Scriptures, the saint said or wrote, as opposed to secondary source being what someone else thinks and writes about what Jesus, the Scripture, or the saint said or wrote.  The person in the above example realized reading the saint's actual writings on the set topic would be better than reading what a contemporary author thinks or writes about what the saint wrote on that topic.

In yet another present moment example, some Catholics in a religious order's associates group have purchased to read and study for a year, a book. It is unknown who selected this book but is approved by the group's sponsor. For at least one person in the group, it is a first saint book to be read in 25 years of being a Catholic. The person shares the book title, name of author, and list of saints covered. Included in the list are two people who are not saints. The reader is not aware of this. The reader is also not aware that the author is a priest.

Discernment is needed here, and some simple research. The internet is useful. By "Googling" the author's name or title of book, plus key words such as "review" and "criticism." We learn much. The book is reviewed as being as much a memoir of the priest as about the lives of the saints he writes influenced him. The author is editor of a Catholic newspaper. The Catholic newspaper is known for it's dissent in some critical areas of Church teaching.

The author is popular with the secular media, has appeared on a liberal comedian's program, favorably interviewed by anti-Catholic publications, and known for favoring causes that the Church deems immoral or indisputable. The author has admitted to lamenting the election of the current Pope. The author has been promoted by national radio programming known to support anti-Catholic agenda. 

While the book is positively reviewed for its humor as well as by those who subscribe to the views of the author, there is the question to be answered: Is this the better or even the best book on saints that a Catholic religious associates group could be reading and studying for a year? Is it the best saint book for a first-time reader of spiritual books?

The fact that the book is as much a memoir of the author as is a book of saints, would suggest no. The fact that two of the persons the author includes as saints, are not saints, suggests no. The author's questionable views of Catholic Church teaching in at least two areas, suggests no.  The author's admitted lament over the selection of the current Pope, suggests no. The facts suggest this is not a good choice of reading material for this group, and probably not for many Catholics, for there are plenty of outstanding saint books written by Catholics, saints' spiritual directors (proven by holy lives, tested by time), and also by canonized saints themselves.

Another question presents itself. Should a first-time saint book reader be informed of the facts? Should one who researches and discovers the facts, get a copy of the book and read it, also?

Some may advise to pray and not alert. The reader has purchased the book, contributed to the support of the author, and very likely would not want to go against the group who want to read and study it for a year. However, they may not use critical thinking skills or realize the influence of intimacy between reader's and author's souls, transmitted subtly in written thoughts.

Others may advise to alert, give the facts, as well as to pray. If this action taken, the one alerting must accept that the one warned may not like being warned, may read the book regardless. As for those who have facts on the book, it is not wise to spend further time reading what already known is not better or best. There are many classic saint books, proven over time, that are best to read.

It is common enough to continue on a mediocre path of action and encourage ourselves by saying there might be some good that can come of it. Yes, we can make ourselves find good in just about anything--but is this for the best in our spiritual reading? Is it worth it or wise to hold a pretty snake?

From a letter to the Philippians by Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr: "For we live under the eye of our Lord and God, and we must all stand before the judgment seat of God, each to give an account of himself....Our observance of what is good should be meticulous, avoiding anything that might cause another to stumble; we must shun false brothers and those who assume the Lord's name hypocritically and lead the unwary into error....So let us abandon the folly of the masses and their false teaching, and return to the teaching that was handed down to us from the beginning...and in our prayers let us beg God, who sees everything, not to lead us into temptation...."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Some Present Moment Considerations

Obviously too much to write, how Christ is experienced in every present moment, but we are practicing the awareness of Christ in all matters, in all things, for He is in all and is All.  Some aspects of life become problems. Had bit of a big one yesterday and again today, and have turned it over to the spiritual director. Let him decide what action if any, and am praying to be totally submissive to his instruction, for the Lord is guiding him, this guardian of my soul.

However, I vented to three people about the situation unfolding, that involves someone who has become increasingly angered and showing the anger in passive aggressive ways that involve reception of Communion. But to vent to others besides my spiritual director, was wrong. One friend emailed: see #28 of Book Three, The Imitation of Christ,  Thomas a Kempis' wise counsel on "Slanderous Talk." 

While written from the standpoint of how one must deal with slander against oneself, and how not to lose inner peace, another aspect includes how not to react. "It is a wise course, when trouble comes, to say nothing, and to turn inwardly to Me, refusing to be upset by what men think of you."  Also, "If you are treading the path of the inward life, fleeting words will not carry much weight with you."  We must assume that fleeting actions ought not bother us, either. Christ teaches the humble stance in the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who are mistreated, misunderstood, etc. for His sake.

Thankfully, I only vented to three people. It could have been worse. But it could have been better had I simply left it to God and my spiritual director to know the situation and await counsel, while praying for the person involved. Am sure God will provide more practice situations so to learn humble silence. This includes humble thoughts, for we are to think more poorly of ourselves than others may think.

On another point, consideration is given to Pope Benedict's mention in Behold the Pierced One that we should address the Father as Jesus taught: Our Father.  In part, this is to remind us that we are part of the Body of Christ, one of many parts, and the Father is of us all, not just of one. Jesus may address the Father as His or My, because Jesus is the Son. We are children, and have many brothers and sisters in Christ, and thus Jesus instructs us to pray, Our Father.

A thought struck on other small counts. One is the use of some using the possessive pronoun my in regard to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady. I have heard the possessive used, such as my Jesus. Picayune, this may be, but after all, we are about fine tuning. Trying all the while to do better, to walk before God and be holy, as He has asked.  Perhaps it is best to address the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary as: our Father, our Jesus or our Lord, and our Lady or our Blessed Mother. In this way we are more conscious of our linkage with all other souls on earth, in purgatory and in heaven. For those souls who do not think of God in Three Persons or His mother, we are thus bringing them with us in our prayers and thoughts, anytime we address God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and Mary. A thought.

Another consideration has to do with spiritual directors. (Sometimes confessors take on the function in essence, of spiritual direction.) It seems in the readings of saints' lives, the spiritual directors (if not the confessor, always a priest) were always priests or monks. Only in recent times have I heard (usually) women mention they have a female spiritual director. This is becoming more prevalent with some women religious, even to the extent of their offering courses for lay people to become spiritual directors.

The context in which I've heard people speak of their women spiritual directors, has been that of a conflict or a problem in trust and obedience. It seems women have difficulty taking direction from another women, even if the woman is a traditional religious. Seems the one being directed may ask others for advice or feedback, and then might even agree that this is just what the director told them. One wonders why the person did not heed the director's advice to begin with? Then there has been the difficulty of the woman director's advice not taken at all, with some resentment following.

Archibishop Fulton J. Sheen mentioned flaws in female temperaments: envy, possessiveness and (I think) curiosity. For males, lust, anger and (I think) control. Besides these observations, we have the example of Jesus Christ as Teacher, Lord, Master, Savior, Son of God and Son of Man. The Father said: This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him. We have the Virgin Mary's words: Do whatever He tells you.

In personal observation and experience, it seems women tend to not take direction well if at all, from another woman. But when their confessor gives advice, or their priest spiritual director, obedience follows with peace of mind and heart. Some others have expressed this to me, of their spiritual lives. Perhaps it has to do with Holy Orders and Christ in the present moment of direction from a priest. Perhaps some is connected with temperaments, of women instinctively looking to and finding strength and solidity from a wise man's direction. (Note, wise. St. Teresa of Avila said it is better to not have a spiritual director if it is not the right one, a good one.)

We have many instances chronicled in the lives of women saints and through the example of the Blessed Mother, of the nurturing, wise, advising, encouraging woman figure. St. Teresa of Avila led and gave counsel to her religious sisters, as well as wrote avidly and wisely on the spiritual life and prayer through her books, letters and poetry. Yet she did not consider herself a spiritual director. In fact, priests and priest monks were engaged as confessors and spiritual directors to the sisters, as well as for herself.

In the Order of the Present Moment, we consider these facts from history and from the saints. Having a regular confessor is one of the fundamentals of the spiritual life, yet in our era we realize the scarcity of priests trained specifically in spiritual direction or with time availability to be spiritual directors to individuals within their flock. 

But I maintain that the demand will help create the supply, and suggest, advise, encourage, nurture, wisely enthuse those striving to live in Christ in the present moment, to pray for and begin regular confession with one confessor. Within that context of the Sacrament, much benefit is derived in graces and even some counsel. If fortunate to be given by God a priest willing to spiritually direct, may God bless him! Either way, confessor or director: be humble, pray, ask direction, listen, obey, give thanks. And return for more. 

Perhaps the more we express the need for spiritual directors, more will hear the call to priesthood, seminaries will see the need for more training in spiritual direction, and God will provide more priests with more time and training to spiritually direct. Persevere in going frequently to a regular confessor and asking for spiritual direction. Persevere in prayers for men of quality to enter the priesthood.

As for lay persons or religious order friends, women and men, and also the Communion of Saints: cherish each others friendship, pray for wisdom, listen to or read trusted advice, offer humbly your trusted advice, encourage, pray for, and nurture loving support, one of another. Do not ask them what your spiritual director or confessor has already advised you. If not in keeping with the Church in faith and morals, then find another confessor or spiritual director. However, it does not seem the tradition or wise for women to take on the role of spiritual director, nor for women or men to seek women (or men without holy orders) as spiritual directors. 

 [These are my prayerful, studied, and experiential insights.]

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First New Member

The news is that someone e-mailed, having read the blogs, and wants to join the Order of the Present Moment. The person is happy with Catholic life, Mass, prayer, adoration, spiritual reading, family, work--but desires more. Something resonated with the call to seek and find Christ in the present moment, and also to climb the stairway to heaven.

The Lord surely desires this addition to process, for now there will be two test subjects, better in implementation. Of the two samples, one is single, parent of adult children, Catholic convert, physically disabled, lives alone. The other is married, parent of adult children, cradle Catholic, spouse non-Catholic, employed full-time. Would be desirable from an empirical standard to have even more in the test group, but whatever God wills.

One impression gleaned is that the Lord is providing a support network in what may become, in temporal communication, an online Order. Also, an "other" helps illuminate aspects I might miss, and will help check writing for clarification and relevance. No doubt about it, another person in this venture, on this side of the "veil", causes me to take the research and development phase more seriously. It is a responsibility.

In other moments today, an important point comes forth. After Mass a person shared briefly that someone recommended a book by a contemporary, popular Catholic writer. I mentioned that the book may be fine, but that perhaps the one to do the reading is really at a level of something more challenging, such as a book on the same topic by a saint. St. Francis de Sale's Introduction to the Devout Life came to mind, so suggested it. The person is capable of the saint's writing, and would reap quality by reading it. The book by the contemporary author is filtered. Why not get it straight from a saint who had union with Christ and is in the Communion of Saints?

The person replied that these other writers are good because people are at different places in their spiritual lives. Well, yes. That is not the issue, however. The point is that this person is capable and beyond that other "place". I let it drop. But this very tactic worked with the Da. He is now reading books commensurate with his 63 years as a priest.

Our new member to the Order of the Present Moment mentioned determination to practice meditation each day and is going to go to the car during lunch break at work, to enter into prayer with God through St. Teresa of Avila's advice on meditation.  This good practice caused me to re-read St. Teresa's writing on meditation, also termed mental prayer. Yes, I have prayed thus, but perhaps over time am slipshod, not formally practicing mental prayer as much as its becoming meandering prayer. This other OPM member is already helpful to me personally! Gloria Dei!

The contemplative saints recommend mental prayer or meditation, and provide examples and instruction. Went to the little library room here and pulled off the shelf the writings of St. Peter of Alcantara: A Golden Treatise of Mental Prayer.  He was one of St. Teresa of Avila's spiritual directors. Will be good to review this small volume, and to write some about mental prayer on this blog, or at least on the Order of the Present Moment blog. Prayer is part of the OPM's structure. Not everyone will read the saints who teach prayer, but perhaps a little review will encourage more to do so.

 Emphasize: It is not what I write that is good, but what I write about--the holy, outstanding books to read or holy practices to try--that may be helpful.

Last evening read in Pope Benedict's Behold the Pierced One, that prayer is the most important means to knowing Jesus. We enter into prayer and come to Jesus, and Jesus is in the Father, so we are also linked through prayer with and in Jesus, to the Father. I figure the Pope and all these saints know and live what they are writing about. As for the popular, current author, I assume he knows, but why take chances if one is (as our new member) wisely delving into St. Teresa?

And this is a point about our new member that may be helpful to this process. Our new member is now reading not only about St. Teresa, but also what the saint and Church Doctor explains and instructs. Right now, we see that choices are ours to make, and good-to-better choices are preferred. We must take care what enters our eyes (the window of the soul), as it will be what our mind absorbs. What our mind absorbs will affect the inner seat of the soul which contains the intellect and the will. Do our best, we must, to learn to love, love of trying.

The message is also a reminder that people are in different levels of their spiritual journeys, and people's personalities and temperaments are factors. One person may be open to suggestions, another may not. Some may know about meditation and mental prayer, and others not. Some may currently practice forms of prayer, and others not. There is a variety of materials for various levels of learning. Reading is but one way to learn, but as the saints haves shown, reading is an outstanding way to learn, or they would not have written for our edification, or during their lives, read books by saints in order to learn. Another glorious advantage in reading holy, quality books is that they cite much Scripture!

As St. Mark the Ascetic writes, "...grace may be hidden in advice given by a neighbor. It also accompanies our understanding during our reading, and as a natural result teaches our intellect the truth about itself. If, then, we do not hide the talent given to us in this way, we shall enter actively into the joy of the Lord."

Multiple benefits we gain in paying attention to the nuances of Christ in the present moments, throughout the day and night! Reflect upon them. Learn to anticipate and be open to the graces of suggestions, and cull the lesser from the greater. Always aim for that next step rather than the lower, for struggling just a bit to that which is challenging will keep us humble, even in something as simple as the book we choose. Enter actively into the joy of the Lord! It's what we seek on the stairway to heaven!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Persevere with Schnackenburg and Pope Benedict

Staying focused in the Order of the Present Moment means battling the demons of dejection and listlessness, especially if one struggles with chronic illness or pain. The options for active charity are lessened if at all. 

Silence and solitude can play tricks, such as the other morning when the mind said the writing is dismal and pointless, tedious and not useful. Happened while brushing the teeth, preparing to leave for morning Mass. Caught the demon, thankfully, by the grace of God, and prayed Hail Mary's, chasing away the dejection.

Again, on the drive home after Mass, the demon of listlessness tried to suggest reading the more challenging books would be too much, and why bother? What point is this existence, anyway--this nothingness? But no, had already decided to begin anew, venturing forth to live the Order of the Present Moment, to describe the Order as well as write about the process, to seek and find Christ in the present moments and to climb the stairway to heaven.

A first task at this point (for have done other aspects of training the mind toward living omnia pro Deo) was to really get to know Jesus. After having admired saints who wrote and spoke, influencing souls for God by their use of Scripture, realized it best for me to know Jesus in Scripture, and then also then to absorb Scripture. But first, would begin reading about Jesus, and that knowledge will augment the knowing of Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass and in confession.

Recalled Pope Benedict XVI's referencing a Biblical scholar in his Jesus of Nazareth, and I purchased some volumes by that scholar mentioned. Yes, on the shelf in the small library room here in my small house, I pulled Rudolf Schnackenburg's book about Jesus in the Gospels. Decided to get the overview first, then afterward will begin the first of three volumes on the Gospel of St. John. St. John was "the disciple Jesus loved."

Schnackenburg's text is not a quick read, at least not for me, but I am reading at least 15 pages per day, before noon when mind more fresh. Have notepaper and dictionary at hand but thus far have only marked four words to define, and am taking minor notes on Scripture passages and basic themes. Realize that anyone could read this, and that is why I decided to begin. 

Visited the Da in the afternoon and mentioned that we must not give up seeking Christ in any way possible, learning about Him through quality reading. What is quality for the Pope should be good for us, right? Even if we are only able to read one page a day...or one paragraph.

Actually, once a person familiarizes with the author's style (after reading a few pages or more), the reading begins to flow. That is because Christ is in the reading just as He was in the writing when the author wrote the book. And Prof. Rudolf Schnackenburg spent his entire life learning about Jesus, so Christ is very present in this book. Therefore I am gaining quality fruit. Thanks be to God!

Then last night decided to read a book that a young seminarian had recommended. Bought it and a year ago gave the copy to a newly ordained priest, since he saw it and was interested. He suggested we read it and discuss it, so I purchased another copy. We never did follow up, and he has good excuse as he is quite busy. I have not excuses, for I am not busy and am given many present moments. The Lord has cleared my life for the purpose of living and writing about life in Christ in the Order of the Present Moment.

So again I went to the little library room here and pulled off the shelf Pope Benedict's Behold, the Pierced One. Read two pages or so at bedtime. Read a few more this morning. It is challenging, also, but once into His Holiness' style of writing, and praying before I read, asking Christ in the present moment to help me comprehend Him through what the Pope writes...the reading shall flow by grace. Truly. I believe Jesus helps us.

Perhaps the Da thought I was being self-righteous when I shared about how my life now must begin anew--since there have been vast dyings to various efforts and distractions of the past. He wasn't so sure about reading challenging books at his age, but by the end of our conversation, he agreed to read St. Bernard's St. Malachy the Irishman and finish the copy of Fr. Iaian Matthew's Encounter with God. The Da said the day before he had read two pages and got something good out of it--how God gazes upon us all the time. The Da is excited, too.

Sometimes the little steps seem not so much, and for some it might not be reading challenging books as much as reading any book about Jesus, or the saints, or the Church. To study and learn, by reading, is one major way to get to know Jesus and to know His Church and the Catholic faith. Just keep at it, bit by bit. Soon Jesus becomes known to us in ways we do not expect! 

Someone asked if living this was fulfilling to me. How could it not be? Living in the Order of the Present Moment, learning Christ, coming to know Christ intimately, seeking and finding Him in every present moment: this is and will be fulfilling! Persevere!

Awake in the Present Moment

Am up in the wee hours, nursing the bodily pain. And would write more about some present moment encounters and of finding Christ in them, or at least seeking Christ in them, which is akin to finding Him, for He is in every present moment.

God created and creates our moments, both while we breathe on earth and when we breathe a different kind of breathing in eternity.

However, am here to write that the adjunct blog site has the preface on it, in four sections. Mentioned to someone my writing is tedious, which it is, and the person said yes, it is tedious. Another said it is tedious but might not be for people who are interested in my life and the gardens.

Regardless, I have tried to do some editing of what I'd already written about the structure of the Order of the Present Moment, and that is why it took me a couple days to post the preface, in four parts.

And why I have not written anything more on this blog regarding examples of the present moments, of living out the OPM in a way of trying to find and climb the stairway to heaven.  There have been some good points from what I've read in these days, plus some conversation and thoughts, especially of the effort in trying remedies to various ploys of the demon of dejection. Maybe I will write some of it.

For now, am posting the site for the blog, Stairway to Heaven:

Again, all these blogs may be taken down in about three weeks if my spiritual director does not want me to post any of my thoughts in any published manner.  But for now, I'm testing how it is, and if anyone is interested in such topics. Plus, will pray about and attempt to not write so personally, but that has always been a kind of downfall, perhaps, for others reading. Yet it is rather therapeutic for the one writing, and if the topics not of interest to others, nor helpful in their lives, then perhaps the good is for the expression within my own life, for my soul's progression.

A friend commented that the writing is more like a diary entry and devotional, not something that would be published in Catholic periodicals, and I tend to agree. Also, the titles and topic are not the draw that such topics as hermit life or victim souls. People tend to have more curiosity about those. But I come to understand even in these thoughts, that I am not necessarily writing for what people may think they want to read. My life now, where it has evolved and stands in the present moment, is to write from me to Christ, and to kind of log the implementation attempt of living in the Order of the Present Moment.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Living Next Door to Jesus

Through the "Spiritual Laws" of St. Mark the Ascetic, I have read of the negative aspects for the soul in listening to or talk of others' sins. After first writing this post, my soul was not at rest. Could have been from recalling the ordeals. Regardless, in this present moment, now I revise what was written leaving out many of the details of harm, and emphasizing one of many Christian remedies: see Christ in others.

I live next door to Jesus in the Holy Lands. When people go on vacations, I have no need, for I experience a source of pilgrimage, a mission, and quite a trip--next door. This is the fourth summer of continuous harassment by my neighbors. The sheriff's department has been involved, Detective S., and the Postal Inspector. They, along with family, friends, and priest, have offered suggestions as to how to better protect and cope with the attacks.

Considering my entire yard is Mary Gardens, and that requires much work outside, the situation is rather sorrowful. It is also serious. Have been told to never park my car outside unlocked, to always have my cell phone on me, and now am in the process learning to record the rants, as they involve threats. 

I live with spotlights beaming into my yard and house most nights.
They did their best to shoot off as many large fireworks as possible into the gardens for the week prior to Fourth of July, discussing hopes of burning the trees. Bits of garbage have been tossed to attract geese and other pests. My photograph is taken repeatedly while I'm outside. The entire subdivision has been turned against me. Adults despise me, and children fear me, having been told lies (as have the adults) that I hanged their cat from my door.

It's been spread that I am a danger to children, have restraining orders against me by my own adult children, am a "whack job", and numerous other slanders. I was libeled in the city newspaper under a column in which people report good deeds of citizens as well as bad. The neighbor's story was published that I did in their cat in front of their little grandchild. Thus followed anonymous threat letters sent in the mail and strange packages left at my door from numerous sources, since what people read in the paper they believe.

By the way, their cat has been in the gardens on numerous occasions, and slipped in my house three times when the door was ajar. The cat is alive and thriving. Yes, I like cats. No, I do not want cats killing the birds and butterflies. These gardens are a haven for the more delicate and vulnerable creatures of God.

Yes, the sheriff warns the neighbors to stop. One year they moved out, put their house on the market, leaving a voodoo head in the gardens as a curse. The Bishop told me to pray, sprinkle holy water, and then burn it. Did that. But the neighbors moved back in after a few months, and tell people that the gardens prevented their house from selling.

The woman has repeatedly ranted, going into tirades of cursing, lies, and threats. The first time I called 911 was after she charged into my yard and stood in front of me screaming various epithets. She stopped just short of physical assault. 

This summer, goofy plastic crystals have been tossed into the gardens, perhaps some kind of attempted hex. It was threatened they'd paint 666 on my house. Youth of the neighborhood have been told I'm a witch and that someone needs to hang me.
Last night she asked her grandson to shoot his gun over my way. I had heard him saying earlier that he'd found more BB's, so I knew if shot, it would not be mortal. And by now, I realize being shot would at least bring an end to the continuous abuse. A couple years ago the priest said if they killed me, I'd be a martyr....

I have always prayed for them, from the start of this home venture. I'd had a dream after I purchased the house but before I moved in. I was in for some kind of soul assignment, at least with the husband. I had only seen him once from a distance when house-hunting, but in the dream he stood with a strange leer on his face, smiling. Concurrently, right behind him, I saw his corpse laid out in a coffin. 

The adult son has his own issues with honesty and destructive retaliation. His young son is being trained to fear and hate me. They all live next door. Sometimes another adult son and his son join in the evident game of trying to run me out of the subdivision. This is one of the threats. Yes, they are going to "take" me "down".

This summer I realized that praying for them is not enough, nor of offering sacrifices such as working extra in the gardens as penance, praising God and begging for their souls, using holy water, burying a blessed St. Benedict medal near the property line. 

No, I must offer more, for at times the fear threatened to overcome me, or more often, tears at the sheer sorrow of having made my largest and final investment in a small house and these lovely gardens--only to have on-going torment.

Must learn to see Jesus in them, literally, symbolically, and essentially. I trained my heart, mind and will. Jesus is now watching me in the front gardens. Jesus is now watching me in the back gardens. Jesus is watching me from the garage service door window, now the laundry room window, now the deck. Jesus is sitting in the idling car, watching me while I mow the front bit of grass. Jesus is talking about me all the while I'm outside. Jesus is taking photos of me. Click, click, click. Jesus is telling others about me as they walk by our houses, with me tending the gardens in view and earshot.

I stop short at thinking it Jesus who cornered me up against my shrubs with a lawnmower. I dared not look up or try to move, for the lawn mower was running and just six inches from my feet. Ah, but the man who plants for me saw the woman charge toward me with the running lawnmower, so he charged after. She abruptly turned the mower, charged back up the slope and put the lawnmower away. This was not Jesus, but I know that Jesus is there, so wanting them to not act like this. He loves them so much! I do know this!

Jesus allows them to shine the spotlights into the gardens and my house at night because He is the Light of the Neighborhood and He wants me to be reminded to pray for them and all neighbors. He wants me to be His light, too. Jesus is loving. I never have to turn on lights when I get up in the night to tend pain and cannot sleep. Jesus allowed them to set off the fireworks into the gardens because He wants me to pray for our country, and to trust Him that the trees and plants would not burn.

Jesus allows them to toss the plastic crystals--gems from Heaven!  He shows me where He wants me to plant another perennial or that He loves the tree or plant where the crystal is found. He reminds me of my late mother's creative treasure hunts for my childhood birthdays, a warm sparkling memory. Rejoice in the crystals!

I have the best life here. I live next door to Jesus in the Holy Lands. And, although it may seem contrived, the practice of training my mind to see Jesus and think Jesus in all they say and do, is helping me endure far better than in the previous three years of fears and tears. I am convinced Jesus is pleased, for the efforts remind me that I can see Jesus in every person and situation in every present moment. Because He IS.

"It is a great virtue to accept patiently whatever comes and, as the Lord enjoins, to love a neighbor who hates you....The sign of sincere love is to forgive wrongs done to us. It was with such love that the Lord loved the world."--St. Mark the Ascetic

I glued the silly plastic crystals on an iron cross that I painted gold, and call it the Cross of Triumph: a glittering reminder to me that in God we can turn any evil into good--if not tangibly, even better within our hearts and minds. When in the gardens, I can sing "Oh What a Friend We Have in Jesus," silently, in my heart. 

So I do live next door to Jesus. And yes, it would help if the neighbors spoke and acted more like Jesus who we know and love in the Eucharist, the Bible, and in our hearts. In faith, I hope some day to hear His voice coming from their deck. And I will glance over to see Him, arms around the neighbors, all smiling, admiring these glorious gardens that are His gardens...and His voice gently repeating: All peace on earth. All PEACE on earth!

A selection from the Breviary: On Pastors, by St. Augustine, bishop. "The sick person, however, is already ill by reason of some illicit desire or other, and this is keeping him from entering God's path and submitting to Christ's yoke....Now it is a part of the Christian's strength not only to do good works but also to endure evil....But there is at hand a consolation that will bind what is broken: God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (I Cor. 10:13).