Sunday, October 31, 2010

Joy in Suffering

Was asked about a line in a written vow of offering: to suffer now and forever" if it be God's will.  We discussed pain in other dimensions or perspectives as joy.  I was asked  for Scripture and documented example, not signs and wonders.   Drew a blank although certain joy in suffering is in Scripture.  Later, bits of Scripture popped into the present moment mind, too late for earlier discussion.  Seems everything has a reason.

Perhaps Jesus preferred my slowing down the thoughts,  search the Bible, write out the supportive Scriptures, share them, ponder them.  So here they are, fresh from the New American Bible, The Catholic Study Bible, Second EditionI will not comment.  They each provide positive aspects of suffering and some suggest the mystical joy in suffering.  

As for suffering now and forever, the key is: if God wills.  The forever requires delving into mystical theology as well as private revelations in which Jesus has appeared to various saints as the suffering Christ, sometimes asking them to unite in His suffering, sometimes confiding he suffers for indifferent, neglectful, or unrepentant souls.  In such visions, Jesus may ask the person to whom He appears if the person is willing to suffer with him for souls.  The joy resulting from this very real suffering is mystical in nature, as the topic of reparative suffering is bejeweled mystery.  

[For more on topic see Pope John Paul II's Salvifici Doloris (1984) and Pope Pius XI's Miserentissimus Redemptor (1928) and Calitate Christi Compulsi (1932). Of note, also, is Pope Pius XII's call for a crusade of world-wide reparation in 1942.]

Now for some Scriptures relative to joy in suffering. 

Saint Paul: 

Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:3

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. Romans 8:17

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement which we ourselves are encouraged by God.  For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.  If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  II Corinthians 5:3-6

But whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.  More than that, I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:7-11

For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him.  Philippians 1:29

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.... Colossians 1:24  

Attributed to St. Paul as author of Letter to the Hebrews:

For the sake of the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

St. Peter:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (for whoever suffers in the flesh has broken with sin), so as not to spend what remains of one's life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God.  1 Peter 4:1

But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.  1 Peter 4:13

St. James:

For the sake of the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

Job in The Book of Job:

Even that God would decide to crush me, that he would put forth his hand and cut me off! Then I should still have consolation and could exult through unremitting pain, because I have not transgressed the commands of the Holy One.  Job 6:10

And from Jesus in the Gospel of St. John, on which we may educe that in suffering we will share His joy as stated in Jesus' words of invitation and exhortation:

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  John 15:10-11

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Major Turning Point

Learning to live in Christ in the present moment brings awareness, and within awareness are the moment-by-moment conversions, or turning points.  Last week prayed for awareness of turning points, knowing there would be a culmination.   They occur repetitively, the minor building to major, over and over like the cycles of nature.  We are in Christ in the spiraling cycles of present moments.

After Mass agreed to coffee with a person who is flustered with sales work. Discussed the matter, and reminded that Christ is in the sales work.  He knows all about sales.  Later in an e-mail from "Adel", said cannot use computer much because might take away from time with the Lord.  Responded that Christ is in the computer writing, for He is in our interactions as we are in the Body of Christ.  He is the Head.  He figures things out for us.  We must pray for and focus awareness that we are in Christ in the present moments, no matter if sales work frustrations or e-mails.  We remain in Him.

My spiritual director yesterday reminded me of the oft-repeated words of Jesus in the Gospel of St. John.  Remain in My love.  Jesus repeats it in images such as I am the vine; you are the branches.  He is explicit that if we are in Him, we will be in the Father, for the Father and He are one.  Perhaps our personal challenge is to have the faith to believe it.  

Another point the spiritual director made is to tell Jesus that I'd like a little more human interaction if it is His will, while continuing the mission He wills.  Novel idea, to me.  I had not thought about mentioning this desire to Jesus.  As soon as the director suggested it, the prayer was made, right in that present moment of connection between his speaking and my listening.  Present moment spark prayer.

Then he said something that I'm to do during Mass.  This seems pertinent to all in the Body of Christ. He told me that Jesus is knocking on my heart wanting me to unite with Him.  He wants to shower me with His love, for He loves me so much, even infinitely.  Jesus wants union with me.  We each can embrace and enact these words.  They are for every soul.  During Mass I had been cramming every intention as prayer for others into the situation in each Mass.  I thought I should utilize the graced Mass encounter  interceding for others.  

No, he said.  During Mass be receptive to Jesus' love. Remain in His love.  Let Jesus later on decide how He wants me to pray and do for other people.  So I tried it this morning during Mass.  I prayed to be receptive to Jesus' love for me, and for Him to take me into Himself.  Once Mass and the graces began, I tried obediently to not let the prayer intentions for others waft in.  Just receive His love, remain in His love.  Soon into Mass, I understood that I am in His love, but it was not possible to be just me in His love

Rather, it was clear that all of us are in His love.  Everyone in the Body of Christ, be receptive to His love and remain in Him.  I will report this to the spiritual director.  It seems an impossibility for one to remain in Christ's love and at the same time not be connected with all the souls in the Body of Christ.  So if one is receiving all His love, by the one connected with all, then all are receiving His love.

I prayed this morning at Mass to receive all His love, to remain in His love.  The experience is profound. All members of His Body touch me, as I touch them, whether or not aware of being touched, as I remain in His love. We connect one to another, created to receive all His love for us as He infinitely loves each soul of His Body.

Remaining in Christ's love during Mass is transcendent.  He knows already our prayer intentions. He wants His Mass for love, for Him to shower His love upon us.  We must each be receptive to His love.  But if others do not know to remain in His love, by our being in His Body, other members are lovingly, mystically touched.  We must remain in His love.

Jesus has reasons for the way our life experiences unfold in every present moment, for we are in Him in the moments.  When we forget this reality or when we distract from the awareness of being in Him, of remaining in His love, our souls' present moments in life unfold without spiritual savor.  

We don't have to consciously know, such as  salesperson in the midst of a demonstrating a product to a customer, but if we grasp and agree to remain in His love, in faith we are being loved by Christ in each present moment. We can seal the deal, and the actualization of remaining in His love grows.  Could this possibly be a step on the Stairway to Heaven? 

When we are climbing steps are we much aware that we are climbing?  Do we attentively consider each step in itself or the movements of our bodies?  We may be generally aware of the climbing movement, but we more have specific awareness of our purpose for the climb. 

We learn to ascend and descend to ascend again, repeatedly in our lives.  Minor turning points culminate in major turning points, the culmination of a gathering of turning points. The major one experienced as a culminating emphasis is that I am to continue on this prayerfully, purposeful project.  The director thinks this is a marvelous good to write, and he exuberantly encouraged the effort. 

Why did I expect Jesus to turn that moment another direction?  Don't know why, and it doesn't matter why something is decided one way and not another.  An important point: What Jesus decides in our present moments is what He decides, and we don't need to know why or why not unless He decides we need to know.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Turning Point Day

The turning points have been occurring ever since the intense prayer began a few days ago.  Turning points come in the events and circumstances when one prays for deeper conversions, for guidance, for Jesus to help us live fully in Him in the present moments.  But I felt that today would be the culmination of current turning points, with some mega-turning point presenting itself.  I remain watchful.

Some of the building turning points are encounters with people.  The mission of smiling to put others at ease, but within very much to pray love, peace and healing for them, is succeeding.  I let the Da know that this seems the only positive activity I am able to do for the parish--and if some realized I was doing even this much, there would be a campaign to make me stop smiling.  He mentioned the smile mission in his homily the other day, among some infamous for their unhappy faces.  Well it is an external, but is there peace and joy within when the visage is dour?  The minor mission continues.  Maybe we in parishes and monasteries are the poor.

Then another situation in which a couple people took great offense at a truth clarified, and took a supposition as to the root cause, quite personally, even histrionically feeling the victims.  It is amazing when generalities are addressed, that those most offended, even if not directly addressed, identify themselves as the culprits.  If the shoe fits, wear it?  We all know that to take offense admits pride.  Unfortunate, the situation, but yet another turning point.

A late phone call by a young woman needing to talk over some serious problems.  Had just settled in bed, groggy, but listened and affirmed until after midnight.  Prayers needed.  Issues from childhood unresolved flare sooner or later, thankfully.  Now there can be some healing, but the spiritual aspects may not be understood for some time.

A breakthrough at morning Mass, not only with smile mission but also with recognizing one with anger has calmed.  Needs control, externals in order, temporal stability.  Does not do well with the unknowns, nor spiritual anomalies.  Cannot be controlled.

Amazing encounter with young clerk in phone store.  Discussed her car accident and pain, and was able to make spiritual conversation once that door opened.  There is more freedom with strangers, in some ways, yet wants to meet for coffee to discuss more what lies beyond the open door....Turns out person is Catholic but parents lapsed.  More trials and spiritual disconnects there.  We will pray.

There have been other turning points, for each moment turns to another moment and there is always a temporal point and a spiritual point, with many levels and degrees in all points.  What it seems point to, these turning points (and will be validated when the major turning point arrives today), is that truly the spiritual is somehow being missed among the temporal distractions.  Many of these distractions seem very good, and are good, to a temporal point.  This meeting, that group, another outreach, the family dynamics, people working, recreating, living active, busy lives.

But in each turning point event, this week and thoughtfully considered, the weak link has been the actualization of living in Christ in present moments.  We seem more living in ourselves, reacting to others, such as children growing up with emotional issues from parents who were busy living in themselves even if attending Mass weekly.  

Or the growing percentage of people with personality disorders: histrionic, borderline, narcissistic, obsessive compulsive, adolescent, etc.--and varying degrees and levels therein.  A problem personality disorders is that people do not recognize they have them.  If able to recognize, it can take years of counseling and effort to tone them to acceptable levels.  The root of disorders can be found in the vices.  Pride drives many of the identified personality disorders.  We all have aspects, for example, of narcissism.  Practicing the virtues can keep the vices from becoming disordered.  (I purport the psychological diagnostic manual should be re-written in the reality of ascetical and mystical theology!)

There are many other examples of how we are living our lives, doing what we know as the right things in our religious practices, yet missing the spark that can begin a fire, lighting the steps on the stairway to heaven.  These accumulating turning points I've collected this week, along with the major turning point today, are helping me know that insights thus far are yielding substance.  

We people have hurting internals while living externals right and left.  This is true in people who recognize, but also those who do not realize they have hurting internals.  Not easy to see ourselves on the inside when the outside seems pretty wonderful to our self-perceptions.

Was considering picking up and finishing the clinical psych degree when many of the turning points hit upon the need for inner help and healing. (Forgot to mention the woman who called to talk about her mother being near death, or the other woman who asked for prayers for her dad dying of cancer.)  But quickly had another turning point moment in which I could see that the recent reading of Jesus in the Gospels proves the spiritual power as preeminent.  

We need deeper spiritual conversions.  We have more than enough groups and sub-groups, and busy busy good things to be active in and do.  We have myriad holy distractions enough to keep us from any of the Nine s' of silence, solitude, slowness, suffering, selflessness, simplicity, stability, stillness and serenity.  

We may be skimming the surface of the spiritual life's three "ways": purgation of the senses, way of illumination, and way of mystical union.  We may be so caught up in ourselves--not realizing our sweetness has soured.  We may be equally blind to the Gospel reality of what Jesus preached and lived, or what He expects and demands of all of us.

So will continue on this path, praying for wisdom and for the six other gifts of the Holy Spirit given at our Confirmation but perhaps gifts never opened or utilized.  Will keep desiring and striving to live in Christ in the present moment, and to find and climb the stairway to heaven.   Then pray to write about our revealing, experiential moments along the way.

The buds in early spring remind me of turning points.  They are God's way of bringing us to the bursting point of growth in leafing out.  We must watch for them, wait for them, and accept their reality in the holy interactive unfolding of momentary temporal-mystical existences. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Saints Hunting Us Down for Christ

Ruth has written helpful comments that include use of a phrase I find intriguing--that of saints hunting us down for Christ. Saints do persist in wanting to help us come closer to Christ.  They love God so much and are in the beatific vision in heaven, having ascended and descended the Stairway to Heaven so many times while on earth, their souls being step-by-step perfected. They also would step back into the temporal fray, helping their contemporaries, while simultaneously being strengthened for the next step.

At some God-ordained moment, saints make a final ascent, depart physical bodies at death, their souls joining the Communion of Saints in heaven, praising God.  They also continue in His will which seems to include helping us through their prayers, encouragement, and sometimes by locutions, dreams, vision visits, and natural, temporal interventions.  

These helps can be of the inner and/or outer senses, mystical phenomenon, and seem to come at turning points, major shifts in our lives. They mostly arrive, unexpectedly, when we are not comprehending God's will.  Perhaps the supernal helps seem rare because we are not sensitized or are weak in belief.

However, with such matters come great responsibility, not so much because we may be asked to share some message, but because we need to discern for the deeper conversions of our own souls and lives.  We cannot afford to be tricked by the devil who can tweak our psyches.  Thus, it is always advised to never seek after such, as they come unbidden.  We pray for help, and God decides when and how. 

We do need to learn to discern spirits as well as develop awareness in our inner senses.  All this will come naturally--not forced and not some funky, supernatural wish.  We must not hang welcome and open house signs for the devil and his legions to effect home invasions of body, mind, and soul. 

As we practice the formative standard of the Nine S', we apply ourselves to the Gospel Rule and the virtues, truth, beauty, and goodness result.  We remain in God's will. The Holy Trinity, Virgin Mary, the angels, our guardian angel, and saints will provide what is natural and essential.  

As St. Teresa of Avila explained in her writings, while not everyone experiences contemplative prayer, everyone can become holy.  At certain levels of prayer, we can lend our efforts; at the point between meditation and contemplation, God takes over.  It is simply His choice and determination as to infusing contemplation, and reflects not on our efforts, exemplary though they may be.  One who prays lovingly, purely, a simple verbal prayer may please God and do much good for the soul, as much or more as one who meditates without love and humility. 

But now I turn to the following of Ruth's thoughts.  

"Your story about St. Teresa and the psychology prof. was really beautiful.  It almost seems like she was hunting you down for Christ.  It must have been an amazing receptivity to witness.  I could see why the New Age lady thought you were channeling spirits.  She probably knew or at least heard of the catholic ideas of saints, so talking or channeling the souls of saints may have been the first thing that came to mind.  You said that you were not catholic at the time, I just kind of wondered how shocked or excited you were to find out that the person who had spoken to you was a real person, who had lived centuries ago?"

I found the experience in the classroom to be humbling and awesome in the holy sense of awe-of-God.  I immediately knew from the content what the Medieval woman said to me, aloud for others to benefit if they wished, that God was consoling me from the painful news of the day before that I would bear a life-long cross of worsening pain. He also was laying out the challenge to learn to love in order to co-exist and be utilized in the suffering.  I have yet much to learn in loving.

I doubt the skeptical, new age woman thought of Catholic saints.  New age practitioners generally are an entity unto themselves, and they channel their own spirit guides who they invite and ask to speak or to "read" someone's life.  Channeling was this new age woman's sole experience, thus her comment. 
 I know I did not think of saints. Saints were not mentioned in my then 37 years of Protestant life.  To me, this was an amazing event, meeting the Medieval woman who spoke soul-thrilling wisdom that touched me deeply, personally, with loving help to my life of pain.  

But also, invaluable to note, the Medieval woman (who years later I recognized as St. Teresa of Avila), read the New Age woman's mind, asked her to speak, then took the reins by telling her lovingly but firmly the realities of dangerous, New Age ideologies.  

During the admonitions, I could hear and think, and I recall embarrassed concern that the New Age students would later lash out at me.  But, the Holy Spirit is indomitable, and after [St. Teresa] concluded her corrective discourse to the New Age woman, she bid adieu. She had accomplished what I and others needed to learn at whatever level we could absorb. While the the New Age woman did not relent her position, she was uniquely subdued.

More from Ruth: 

"I'm sorry for my curiosity.  I only ask because, I seem to have a saint that is currently hunting me and Sam [husband] down.  Nothing supernatural or anything like that, I just keep running into her everywhere and have since I was little.  But I didn't know who she was, much less that she was a saint until a third degree relic showed up in the mail (my Mom didn't want it, so she sent it to me as a surprise).  It was a bit of a shock, after all the 'run ins' with Mother Theodore Guerin, to suddenly find out she is a saint.  She "showed up" during a time of terrible distress for Sam and me.  But since her arrival Sam and I have had such changes of heart.  I don't really know if St. Mother Guerin's intersession or "presence" has anything to do with our yearning for spiritual growth, but the inspiration and will was not there before her relic arrived.  I wonder how much more inspired you were, to find the road to perfection, when you found out about St. Teresa of Avila?"

Ruth is describing a beautiful relationship that St. Mother Theodore Guerin has been commissioned to develop with Ruth, trying to awaken in Ruth awareness beginning years before the saint was canonized.  When we finally realize help has been available from heavenly saints or angels, and we have not been alert, we may feel remorse.  Why did we not recognize?  Why did we wait so long to believe?  Perhaps we have not known to live in Christ in the present moment, nor to exist in His spiritual order.  But God understands us better than we do ourselves, and the angels and saints are patiently persistent.  

We can recall situations that we wish we'd acted on a hunch or direct intervention.  Our turning point now is be watchful.  Simply ask for God's help and know in faith that He will help us in whatever way He determines.  The help may come as subtle thoughts or nudges.  Or He sends answers in a lucid or symbolic dream.  He answers through people in our daily lives offering wise counsel, expressing love, or through insights during silent prayer or in uncanny "coincidences" that snag our attention.  We recognize even more the value of learning to live lovingly, watchfully, in Christ in the present moment.

So Ruth has had these encounters with Mother Theodore Guerin, not realizing until recently a saint.  Now Ruth has made connection during a time of spiritual need.  The tangible relic received unexpectedly was an awakening touch.  Now Ruth can read about this saint, get to know life on earth, and also in faith begin thinking about her as she is now, a saint in the presence of God who desires helping Ruth and Sam in their spiritual yearnings.  

Once supernal, holy alliances grow, we become less interested in what previously may have filled spare time.  We find in Christ's present moment, there is no spare time.  Fiction does not satisfy, television and movies lose allure, and pointless other distractions drop.  However, we should not neglect our due responsibilities or become spiritually entranced or imbalanced.  Ruth knows this, but others may not.    

St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises gives wise council on discernment of spirits [Rules for the Discernment of Spirits; Other Rules for Better Discernment of Spirits]. One indicator of the Holy Spirit presence in situations is genuine peace bestowed as well as holy and right action.  Situations may require testing over time and discussion with a wise confessor.  Ruth cites good fruit coming from friendship with St. Mother Guerin: spiritually positive change of heart, plus the will and yearning for spiritual progress, the love of God, and eventual divine union.

Was I shocked or excited when later realized the Medieval woman to be St. Teresa of Avila?  I was amazed but quietly humbled, and somewhat embarrassed.  I did not speak further of the experience except to a psychologist helping me with pain management and career hopes.  Since I did not recognize the woman then, we explored more the experience than her identity.   

Years later when I recognized St. Teresa, it didn't seem necessary to tell anyone.  By then it was mediated by other experiences, and I felt it best to keep them to myself. I may have shared with a confessor.  Sometimes those we think should or would understand, do not.  Disclosure discretion is necessary.  While these experiences are significant to our own inner spiritual growth and as means by which God reaches us so that we will cooperate in His will, they can inspire others in faith.  God desires deeper conversions of faith, asks us to fulfill missions on earth, and/or gives consolations to strengthen us for further efforts. 

If sharing an experience helps others to not fear, but to learn to work with God in His will and purpose, then good. Primarily they are meant for the person experiencing, but there is benefit to being aware of supernatural realities--not seek the unusual but definitely not ignore God's gifts, messages or His messengers. 

Many people may have gifts from God that they do not know how to discern, unwrap and utilize.  Others may stifle God's subtleties out of fear of being disbelieved or misunderstood.  We need to grow in faith. Yet we also must be like explosive experts, able to detect bombs and defuse them when they are disguised tricks of the devil.

This post is lengthy but hopefully, prayerfully, helpful.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ruth's Point

"Ruth" e-mailed expressing desire to join the Order of the Present Moment.  That prompted the writing about what to do to join, which of course is nothing specific other than to pray and make assent to God's will, and then to begin in whatever present moment, living in Christ and desiring to climb the stairway to heaven.  

Ruth brings up a point about insights posted previously regarding the only group we need belong to is the Body of Christ.  She wondered about religious orders, for example.  I admit that the non-necessity of groups and sub-groups, for and as Christians, is an ideal.  

In the spiritual reality we are each and all to be in the Body of Christ. Groups and sub-groups are historically formed out of deprivation needs, even in instances of order reform.  Our need ought be fulfilled in Christ and His Church.  Conceivably, if need is fulfilled in Christ and His Church, there would not be need to create a group.  

Jesus did not exemplify a physically setting apart in groups from others.  He would go to a deserted place to pray, for hours or overnight, not for years.  More, He explained the inner room for prayer, within our hearts, in His Heart. Jesus heralded the kingdom of God, called all to be part of God's kingdom.  

As for temporal efforts within the temporal Catholic Church, if the spiritual focus is set, and we are through Him, with Him, and in Him, then we would function as Christ living in us, not as ourselves, as paraphrase of St. Paul:  

For through the law, I died to the law, that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me (Gal. 2:19-20).

However, the scrapping erupts--either voiced or silent, overt or covert--sooner or later, in groups and sub-groups from the smallest formed committee to the largest traditional religious order, we do not realize nor anticipate the spiritual power of the Body of Christ, and of our participation in the Church as spiritual beings living out the will of God, accomplishing all things in Him who strengthens us.  Pope Benedict in his paper on Communion, Community, and Mission, delves into the term communio to express what I have attempted to express as gatherings of one or many within the Body of Christ, doing the will of the Father, outpouring love in action.  

That pretty much means if we dissolve the secular imprint of groups and sub-groups and comprehend the call to living in Christ in each present moment, seek, find and climb the stairway to heaven. Engage the spiritual ascent that assures death to self and life in Christ in actual and tangible manifestations. Recycle into the world: each of us as transformed enactors, loving God above all things and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Ruth comprehends this.  Ruth is a young, married Catholic,  expecting a little girl in about three months.  Ruth grasps the necessity for the spiritual life as Jesus expresses, explains, infers, implies, and lives (past, present, future) in His words, His life, and His living plan for the Church.  

Schnackenburg's Jesus in the Gospels fleshes the reality in clear citations, such as:  Mary chose the better part and Who are my mother, brother, sister?  Those who seek and do the will of the Father, among numerous other implicit and explicit examples.  Jesus lays out the ideal as a reality to be not only grasped, but implemented and lived now, by us, in Him--the will of the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why do some, perhaps embedded in outlook and practice, dispute?  The Irish Da, a priest two-thirds a century, is invigorated by and grasps the spiritual reality.  Perhaps those who dispute, mistrust my credibility.  I admit not having stepped beyond the heavenly stairway's stoop.  

Regardless, someone suggests God's creatures as validating groups.  The reasoning is that animals are in groups (flock, herd, bevy, gaggle).  But the very root of group means "to crop" [cut, sever, reduce].  Definitions include to classify, identify, set in order.  Jesus Himself said, Those who scatter will not gather.  

As for animal classifications and behaviors to model necessity of groups in the Body of Christ, we must note the instinctual nature of animal "groups"  for breeding, protection, feeding, and migrating.  We also note pecking orders, dominance traits, survival of the fittest, predatory and other base behaviors within and between animal "groups."  

Of course, animals do not possess souls as do humans, so they do not make a strong case for comparison.  However, as we often turn to nature for lessons in simplicity and God's creative beauty, animals may serve to augment the negative realities that surface sooner or later in human groups and subgroups.  But envision the spiritual ideal Christ teaches and lives.  Be as a hind's feet in high places.

Our newest adherent, Ruth, points out that in most family gatherings, we desire to interact with everyone for it is an opportunity to "catch up" in personal, loving exchange.  What about the family rifts, the black sheep?  Well, if the spiritual focus is set, and the identity is not of selves but as members of the Body of Christ, those with this spiritual identity will love as the father to his sons in the Parable of the Prodigal, or as the shepherd who stops at nothing to bring back the lost sheep, or as Christ who sacrificially loves, suffers and dies for the redemption of all.

One wonders what if's.  What if Mother Teresa had continued helping the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, with others joining in, wanting to help, as they did--but without eventually organizing into a specific, identifiable group or order? Could they, would they persist in the spiritual view that obviously infused and enacted the holy, Christ-like spirit and work?  Will the group, or has it already, develop fissures, or in future need reform?  

What if the foundress of the now-suppressed Intercessors of the Lamb,  had not left the cloistered Sisters of the Cross (now Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd) of her vows but rather remained...or if she had left but to live the spiritual life in Christ on the order of the present moment, as a member of the Body of Christ, as one among many?  

What if St. Francis lived his saintly life that others admired and followed, but had not (reluctantly) succumbed to their demands to write a rule by which they structured a religious order that he did not want? And even in his brief life developed divisions, within a century required St. Colette's reform, and 800 years hence has multi-fragmented into subgroups and/or cyclically reforming?  

What if the successors of St. Stephen of Muret had simply continued the spiritual life the saint modeled as a member of the Body of Christ, in Christ, rather than organizing into a group after his death with attendant group detriments, St. Stephen's spiritual purity lost?  

But we must not continue conjecturing the what if's. Nor must we reduce this discussion to a semantic debate, group or otherwise.  Rather, we must grasp and live the spiritual perspective of our true identity in Christ as a member of His Body, the Church, doing the will of the Father.  

We must radically relinquish our perceived, conditioned, set needs of group and subgroup mentality and function as Christians--no longer us but Christ living in us.  We will perceive and act in the temporal from the spiritual living waters, not as animals, not as birds, not as secularists, not this or that group label, not with our identities forged to any other than: Christ.  

Have written for several hours on something perhaps not interesting to most. Yet I continue to ponder not needing structured groups within the Church. Seems if we would spiritually actualize "being" in the Body of Christ, and let His reality permeate  all our relationships and gatherings, we'd be better off.  Seems that is what Christ exemplifies.