What is the Solution to our Stressful and Anxious Lives? Go to the Center. | Archdiocese of Washington

In yesterday’s Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, the Lord described a kind of self-destructive cycle that assails us and then proposed a solution. In this post there is an attempt to focus in a bit more on the solution proposed by the Lord.

But to review the problem, the self destructive cycle recall this text from yesterday’s Gospel:

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. (Luke 21:34-35)

To describe the cycle of the problem in more modern terms:

Read more . . .

Year of Faith or Year of Fluff? What Will it Be? – Truth and Charity Forum

If the new evangelization means in part trying to bring the lax and the “no-shows” at Mass and Holy Communion back to their senses and practice their faith, it will take a lot more than speeches, programs, and homilies by the hierarchy. It takes exceptional efforts at prayer and penance on the part of the few to save the many.

Before one tries to restore truth to the blind of mind and the dull of heart, we must remember that exceptional graces for others require more than ordinary efforts. We know from our faith that no one can merit grace for others from the perspective of justice but only by appealing to God’s mercy in friendship.

When St. Catherine of Siena wanted to save several of her friends from dying unrepentant, she would beg God to send her the punishments due to their sins so long as he would grant her wish that they repent. After accepting much suffering often for many months, she would “win” back their souls, something some of us can admire but not imitate since it would be based on a great deal of false motives, especially presumption.

Read more . . .

Catholicism: the Reason for My Hope Part VI

The Saints and the Mystics of the Church

What are saints but the heroes of faith? They are declared by the Church to be holy men and women who led heroic lives to keep themselves in the state of holiness or in some cases gave their lives to defend their faith; those faithful martyrs. They are the few who are the rarest of humans; who dared to attempt in this life what Christ challenged His followers to do, “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.”[1] Though they fell over and over in life, most of these men and women came as close as we could ever dream, to doing just what Christ had asked of us: reaching spiritual perfection.

The Catholic Church gives the proper veneration and honor to these heroes of the faith. As the world gives honor to its heroes, the Church gives honor to Hers. Our Catholic children have the most proper and appropriate heroes to hold in esteem and to guide their lives.

To become a saint is not a simple matter because the Church requires of God his stamp of approval, His seal of authenticity if you will, on the heroic nature of any declared saint of the Catholic Church. Each must have at least one miracle attributed to them before their death and another attributed to their intercession after their death. Now that is a tall order but God is up to the task, having stamped His approval on a multitude of saintly heroes over the course of these 2000 years. They have been ratified by their miracles and in some cases by the miracle of becoming incorruptible; that is, their body does not decay after death.

The biographies of these individuals and their own spiritual writings have given us a library of valuable spiritual help and encouragement. No other church has so many spiritual heroes to draw upon. Their stories give us encouragement in facing trials and what to do when we fail those trials. Their prayers help us fashion our prayers to God, leaving our needs in His hands while praising Him and praying for others. They are the warriors in the spiritual battles against evil in this world and have shaped countries, continents and the history of our Church. They have taught us how to teach the faith by living the faith as it was meant to be lived.

These are the people who walk this earth as other Christ’s; “And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me.”[2] They effectively, “. . . put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.”[3] They are what we are all supposed to aspire to in the Christian life. They fought the good fight and ran the good race having persevered to the end and winning the crown. God loves a saint.

As Scott Hahn has said, the best way to honor an artist is admire his art. In this way God is honored when we give honor to those who are His finest handiwork of human beings. And how much more true is this of Mary, the Mother of God; The Saint among saints. She is the singular boast of our broken nature. Only she, among the history of man was found worthy to be spared the stain of original sin, won for her by the grace of Christ’s redeeming death, at the moment of her conception; she who is ever-virgin and sinless and stainless though she possessed a human nature. She was chosen by God before all ages and she gave her will entirely over to His request. She is a singularity and God is pleased when we give her the heightened honor that she deserves. For she is God’s finest handiwork of the human creature; it is to honor her to praise God for His gift of her to mankind. Without her yes, where would we now be? Would we still be awaiting the Messiah and someone who might be worthy to bear Him, care for Him and protect Him as an infant? We need not worry of such things for she used Her will to do only His will. Hail Mary, full (not just partially filled) of (God’s) grace.

The mystical saints are the few who have tried to explain to us what is unexplainable. They try to speak the unspeakable, and describe the indescribable. However mystical are their writings, one gets a sense of the mysteries that are revealed to those who are so disposed to seek God through mystical prayer. Their writings are so sublime that they fill the reader’s soul with joy and grace. You, as a reader, know that you are listening to someone who truly spoke to God and what an indescribable grace it is to see Christ through such a thin veil. They are a rare breed who reaches the level of mystical prayer which is described as spiritual union: the marriage of their souls to Christ’s. It is a bliss filled encounter that transforms these saints into love itself, just as God is Love Himself. Their writings serve as a proof that the God of our prayers is truly God and truly present to us. No protestant church has such sublime heroes to lead them to an assurance so gratifying to the ordinary soul.

So now you have my reasons for hope in Christ as found through the intellect and through the spirit. They were all delivered to me via the Holy Catholic Church who is now and will remain forever the Mystical Body of Christ (with Christ as Her head) and the future Bride of the Bridegroom (with Christ as the Head of the espoused pair). Our human marriages only reflect the Wedding Feast of Heaven where the Church becomes one with Christ: like our earthly weddings, “two in one flesh.”[4]


[1] Matthew 5:48

[2] Galatians 2:20

[3] Ephesians 4:24

[4] Genesis 2:24

If You Thirst, Drink

St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) was one of t...

If you are thirsty, then drink. “If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.” (John 7:37).

It is common sense and yet we wrestle with demons within ourselves and find no peace. We all have many decisions in life that require some internal search to enable us to choose wisely: careers, friends, ideologies, political beliefs and such. However, the vocational struggle is the most soul wrenching of all. To live a married life, a single life, a life alone, a life in community, a life for God Alone are the toughest on the mind, heart and soul: for they are the essence of how we should live for the rest of our lives. They are the game changing decisions. Careers, friends, ideologies and the like are all decisions that may mutate and change as we come to see our lives differently and we grow in knowledge but the vocational decisions are deep and lasting. They are reminiscent of our choice to choose God and act upon the gift of faith that God pours into our earthen vessels. If we refuse to act by exercising our gift of free will, then our call to faith will seep from us slowly causing us to wither and live our lives in accordance to the ways of the world rather than the divine call to holiness.

If you are weary, then rest. “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee…” __ St. Augustine

Were my children wrestling with a decision concerning the spiritual life or the worldly life I would hope that they might have help from a Spiritual Director who knows the deepest desires of their souls and has examined their character for some appropriate amount of time. I would be much too emotionally invested and not objective enough in my evaluation. After all, it is not my decision. It is between God and the soul He calls and, God willing, a Spiritual Director who can advise and console the deep gut wrenching struggle taking place in the seeker’s soul.

That being said, I do however think that there is some wisdom in answering a call from Christ when it causes a soul a great deal of pain in evaluating. I say this because of the following; the evil spirits do all they can to dissuade souls from entering into a decision of living a life for God Alone. If you are thirsty, drink. If you are weary, rest. Christ is there to quench our thirsts and to give us rest. It is abandonment to divine providence.

I know a woman who had become a sister in a convent in France when she was much younger. It was all she ever wanted to be. However, she got sick and the order sent her home. Ever since, she has lived her life according to the rules of her old order, as sort of a hermit or consecrated virgin. She had not envisioned anything like this but God must have known that it suited her soul better to be alone rather than live in community. We must accept God’s decision once we put the decision on His shoulders.

Therefore, she did not fight and wrestle with the call to be a religious and live her life for God Alone. This woman made the plunge without any reserve. So after her dismissal, her health recovered and she now lives a life that suits her. She is a contemplative in her prayer life and subsists on very little money which I think was derived from her family; for much of her life is hidden even though I know her well. She is a type of ‘desert prophet’ of the ancient Church living in the midst of people who don’t really see her or know who she is. They would never know who she truly is by simply looking at her.

So in my simple way of thinking, it may be better perhaps to let go of the demons one is wrestling with and put the onus on Christ’s shoulders by choosing to let Him lead you to your vocation. Why else would you be wrestling if He had not put the thought in your heart and mind to begin with? Once you let go of the decision, you can step either to the left or right as you think is right. If it is wrong, then God will eventually put it right. I don’t think he would leave a soul, who gave themselves over to Him completely, to suffer in a vocation to which they did not truly belong.

I’m no spiritual director and only speak from my own knowledge: mostly from books and my dear friend, the sister in hiding. There are plenty of retreats to ponder a religious vocation that are offered in most dioceses. But, in the end, everyone must make their vocational decisions themselves, hopefully through prayer and deep meditation. I only wish it weren’t so painful for those poor souls who wrestle with these problems and also for their friends and families to witness their pain as well. But God is the Physician of Souls and we need trust that He will get them through it.

Pray for those who are considering a religious vocation as there are many demons that vex the mind and heart of these poor souls during the time of their discernment.

Living In the Presence of God

prayer..

It is our task in life to live in the presence of God continuously; “to pray without ceasing.” It is impossible for man but nothing is impossible for God. So we may think we are incapable but as we have already discussed everything is possible with Christ.

About 3 posts ago I wrote a post that nobody seemed to understand. It didn’t strike me until the comments all had a similar ring to them that belied the intended message I wished to convey. I finally had to give the commenter, Jay, an explanation of what the blog was intended to be and so I apologize: it’s not the reader, it’s the fault of the author when things are not understood.

The post was titled, Failure to Commit, and my explanation could be paraphrased as follows:

 My point of reference was myself, as I am the only one I can speak for with any certitude; and as the author I was afraid that if done poorly, it could sound as if I were pointing a finger at my readers.  It was written solely for the purpose of showing the reader that we all need God’s grace to accomplish anything: that even simple prayers for an increase in faith, hope and love, may one day help us in this task of making and keeping important commitments. I’m no saint and recognize that most people fall short as well; but that does not mean that any of us have lost the opportunity as long as God continues to hold us in existence upon this earth. I was just trying to get across our real need for increased grace and that I too must be realistic about my own failures. Our failures show a weakness; and the weakness usually resides in our own individual will. Only love can motivate the will sufficiently to make the hardest commitment of all: dying to self. Without this truth indelibly infused into our minds there is no hope of dropping the pose for the true inner experience that we desire. The death of our ego, which we should seek, must begin within us so that God can be allowed to live His life within our souls. He will not accept competition in this regard. Only a very strong love and desire to die to self and to be reborn in Him will allow this to happen. And we will all fail; over and over again. That is why our prayers for each other are so necessary and beneficial for our advancement. My final analysis was that successful commitments need a strong love and a strong sense of sacrifice. In short, sacrificial love.

 It is important to get this straightened out at the outset of this post should you have read the last three entries.

So we acknowledge that we need to develop sacrificial love in our hearts, agape love, the type that Christ had for us. As Christ perfects our souls in love through many trials, we continue to work on our virtues and our prayers, failing often but setting out again with the knowledge that Christ is teaching the soul and perfecting our love.

This action of repeatedly traversing from consolations to desolations and back again, occur both in our prayers and in our everyday living. This cycle brings us to a point where we begin to see God in all aspects of our lives. He is there in the joyous moments and even more present when our souls are suffering great torment. It is in this well-spring of spiritual life that God’s presence becomes the living water and an abiding presence that never leaves us.

Only then can our will gain the loving resolve to accept God’s will in all things. We are ready, finally, to surrender ourselves to Divine Providence. A complete abandonment of our self-serving will: I am yours, O Lord, do with me what you will.

From the Depths of Despair to Sublime Subsistence

Our last post considered the wretched existence of our poor souls and our complete reliance on the benevolence and Goodness of Christ. I would like now to consider how this Divine Help is experienced during life and their salutary effects on the soul.

As Catholics, we have been given grace upon grace and yet we may be unaware of the majesty of these gifts and the mystical effects these graces supply to the soul. As a Catholic we were given the Sacraments of Initiation; Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. The grace that we receive from these gifts is given ex opere operato, by the very fact of being administered. These gifts are essential to our spiritual life. Without them we would continue our lives in complete despair, knowing that we, by ourselves, and in our present state cannot cure ourselves and moreover have no right to expect or warrant being healed by salvific grace; what we would call sanctifying grace. Without sanctifying grace, God will not recognize you; for it is the presence of His Son dwelling in your soul that gives you the ability, the dignity and the right to salvation. Your dignity resides wholly in Christ as long as Christ resides in you. His presence is essential for your spiritual life as well as your eternal life.

Our sacraments of healing are Christ’s gifts freely given to all who wish to abide in the Church, His Mystical Body. These sacraments, Reconciliation or Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, are meant to restore us to the state which we previously attained, after failing our Lord and our Church by sin; thereby falling, as it were, from a state of grace. Now the beautiful aspect of what was commonly called Confession is that we are expected to make an inspection of our lives on a regular basis. We are to examine how we have failed our commitment to live a life of virtue, whether by a committed act or by an omission of an act that we should have performed. This in and of itself is the constant inspection we are called to make while training our wills to be completely submissive to the Will of God.

Examination of Conscience is a valuable tool left us by the Church and can be utilized in a more effective way by the spiritual aspirant than most Catholics ever dreamt. For the ardent spiritual aspirant, being actively engaged in ridding themselves of sin and gaining the habits of virtue, can utilize the practice of the examination to great benefit. Often they determine their predominant fault and work on eradicating it by working valiantly on obtaining the very virtue that is opposed to the fault which continuously causes them to fail. This is called particular examen and is a method of catching oneself at the moment of committing the fault and making note of it immediately. Over time, a continuous examen, will allow the pilgrim soul to free itself from the attacks of evil and advance in the spiritual way.

Most valuable of all, for our strength in the climb to perfection, is the frequent reception of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is our spiritual food and drink for the journey; supplying us with all the graces needed. After all He is the Grace: the Gift that is freely given to the soul that supplies all our needs.  He remains in residence within our souls until we break with Him through sin. His Holiness will not allow Him to be present in a soul stained with serious sin. Therefore it is of the highest priority that one keep his soul pure; treating the soul as we would the Holy of Holies, free from the stain of sin and a welcoming home for Christ Himself.

Though we will fail from time to time, Christ is always eager to return to the soul at the next Eucharist to dwell within us should we but make the necessary amends in Confession for our mortal sins or by reconfirming our wills to eradicate our un-Confessed venial sins. Such is the forgiveness of a loving Father that will not abandon His children if they but turn back to Him. The Church and Her Sacraments allows the spiritual aspirant to prosper and advance in the spiritual life and are indispensable to anyone who truly is looking to climb from despair to a sublime subsistence in and with Christ Himself.

So, You Want a Deeper Spirituality?

Growth in our faith is something to which not every Catholic truly aspires. At the other end of the spectrum, some try to adopt all the Catholic devotions known to man and soon find that they have no time for their spouses, their children or their own lives. They live with the belief that if a little is good then more is better and if more is better then everything is best. Soon, tired and unhappy, they leave their journey or perhaps their loved ones leave them. It can be a recipe for failure.

It is amazing that people set out without a clear view of the essentials needed to prosper their efforts. We need help, and we should admit it. We need to stop and take stock of what we truly possess and what we don’t. Just like we would if we were leaving to go on an actually pilgrimage through a strange land, we would try to prepare ourselves as best we can for each eventuality.

The first step in the development of an authentic and valid spirituality is to find out who you are: not as a psychologist might look at you from a distance as an object but in conspectu Christi. That means to examine oneself in the Presence of Christ. Looking at ourselves and our past as a dispassionate image of an actor in a movie is not going to cut it. We will have to enter into a real understanding of who we are and what we are. What we possess and what we lack.

This inspection of self requires a serious and mature personality that desires to find true humility and knows that this examination must be made with the light of Christ (lumen Christi). Only through this lens will we ever know who we truly are in relationship to God and how much we need and depend on Him for any chance of transformation to occur in this life or for gaining salvation in the next. We rely solely on Him. If you cannot bear to see yourself as you really are and witness the wretched state of your being then the spiritual life may not be something that you desire at this time. But we are all called to the spiritual life, make no doubt about it. The first step then is the one that most of us forget and usually skip. It’s forgotten because it is unpleasant.

You might wonder how long this might take so we can move on to the next step. My answer is: a lifetime.

The first step is in a way the last step. You will not know if you are growing unless you are put to the test. Repeated tests are needed so that you may examine your progress or your regression. Humility is being built all throughout our spiritual pilgrimage. It starts slowly and progresses slowly but it is a growth in knowledge of Christ and knowledge of self. It is the naked viewing of Reality, as it truly is, it is not covered over by our egos, our desires or our good intentions.

What do we possess? Almost nothing! And even that was a gift we neither deserved nor earned. It is free will. It is the only thing we possess that God has given every individual to use: for our good or for our self-destruction.

What are we lacking? Everything! We are solely dependent and we need come to a True Realization of our need-fulness. It is only through this realization that we develop the plasticity needed for Christ to mold and change us as He would. In this way Christ may make us into His own image: transformed in Christ.

What can I do to gain this transformation in Christ? First and foremost, stop thinking you can do anything to accomplish it. It is Christ who will do the accomplishing within you. All you need do is lay yourself at the Mercy of Christ and see yourself as you truly are. By doing so you will commit your life and your will to whatever your Lord has in store. To give of your will is the first, last and only gift you possess that can be given back to God. It is a requirement if we are to be capable of dying to self so that Christ may live in us. To put on the new man; to live, not I, but Christ lives in me. How few are willing to make the commitment.

To realize the Love of God and to respond to His love is essential. Knowing the miserable state of our souls and our nothingness when placed before the All Good God lets us free ourselves from any misconceptions we have of ourselves; freeing us to let go of our wills and do die to self. Our sacrificial love can then be given out of love for His Supreme Act of Sacrificial Love which was given us first. It is the pinnacle that we seek and that which He wills for us. Love is the “the one thing necessary.”

Failure to Commit

"It is love alone that gives worth to all...

“It is love alone that gives worth to all…” _ St. Teresa of Avila

Sometimes a failure to commit is telling us something quite different than what we usually take away from the experience. For instance, in my case, I have a long history of these events and they have carried over in life to the present day.

While attending Long Island University in Brooklyn back in the 60’s I had a desire to get my degree in philosophy and eventually teach at the college level. However, as a philosophy major, I blamed the philosophy courses and especially the teachers for being second rate at best. So, using the wisdom of my twenty some years of life, I changed majors to English Literature and after a few more years of boredom quit college to pursue my real attraction: worldly distraction. It was a fall not unlike that of Adam. Strike one, for failing to commit. The question which I now pose to you is, was the fault in someone else or within me?

After bouncing around New York, earning rent and food money driving a cab, it struck me that it would be nice to follow my latest dream of being a blues guitar player. With guitar in hand I left for Boston. So I entered Berklee School of Music and pursued music along with some very talented people. But once again, I failed to commit. My excuse this time was that I just wasn’t good enough to continue this dream. The way I looked at it, was this: if I were an artist, my genius would most likely be in painting pictures of Elvis on black velvet with glow-in-the-dark colors. So whether or not I had the talent is not the question anymore because, for all my excuses, Berklee had accepted me into their musical studies program. Therefore, in their opinion, I had the ability to succeed. Strike two, for failing to commit. So I was back to driving cabs again; this time for many years. Was that failure based on lack of talent or lack of motivation or just plain sloth?

God had a plan to rescue me and I almost failed to commit here as well. But thankfully I did commit to my wife of thirty-four years who I fortuitously met while earning a meager living as a cab driver. Well it was about time that I committed to something. Halleluiah, for commitment number one! Was this commitment made because I saw the imperfections in my wife or in myself that would destine us to failure? Obviously not. True love it seems, makes the imperfect, perfect. It heals the wounds of life while making the impossible, possible. We become blind to any obstacles that might stand in our way.

Well life proceeds and I earned a living selling industrial products, becoming adept in electric motors, solenoids, transformers and industrial fans, to name a few. It supported my family a whole lot better than driving a cab and took me all over the country. I committed to a career in life which was made not because I loved selling and loved what I did but because I loved my family and their well-being. This commitment was also made for love and not for my own fulfillment. Another lesson to be learned.

My wife was a Catholic and I was a ‘nothing’ at the time we met and married. I had always been interested in religion but again, I could find nothing that I was willing to commit to or fully have faith in. I was a fallen-away protestant.

Years before I met my wife I had become a lover of Buddhist writings, especially in Tibetan Buddhism. But I did not get Buddhism: it was for an Eastern mind and that was just too abstract from my nature. However, some Buddhist writer, who I cannot remember, suggested to his readers the works of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. So I read Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross as well as another Catholic Book he suggested; The Cloud of Unknowing which had been written anonymously. Both of them are on Catholic mystical prayer. They had more impact on me than I realized at the time because I read them through the spectacles of Buddhist thought.

Years later, my wife was raising our children in the Catholic faith and as a dutiful but unbelieving father I would accompany them to Mass on Sundays. It was during this period, inspired by the Franciscan Monks who were the pastors of the church I attended (which looked like a Spanish mission from the Middle Ages), I began to read again the mystical writings of Catholicism. My reading accelerated as I became convinced of the truth of what I read. God tested my commitment by delaying my entrance into the Church by almost 3 years as I watched with sadness the old Franciscans, who were becoming a bit senile, forget that I was even getting religious instructions from them. So I awaited a new pastor and after he got his footings in his new assignment, I again started the whole process anew with him. Yes, maybe I can form a new habit of commitment after all: this was commitment number three. I had committed to read about the faith, to go through with the sacraments to gain membership to the faith and to abide as best I could, to the teachings of the faith.

My intentions and my desires, however, were not to merely be a pew sitter. I wanted more. I wanted what St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avilla had: a real substantial union with God while still in my human condition. In other words, I wanted to be a saint in this life; to enter by the “narrow gate.” My desire drew me to Carmel and to spiritual retreats given by traditionalists who said Mass according to the Missal of 1962; which is sometimes referred to as the Tridentine Rite or the Extraordinary Rite. I attended classes for the Third Order of Carmelites or OCDS. Once again, I saw my interest wavering. I judged everyone and everybody and only saw an order that did not live up to what I had imagined in the writings of the Carmelite Saints. Was it the Order that was changed by the modern world or was it me, once again? I could not commit and therefore retired to my own hermitage hidden within my family life. Strike three, you’re out!

Apparently not in God’s game of baseball. We get many balls to hit and many strikes that we take while we just watch them cross the plate, right in the sweet spot, without even taking a swing.

So here I am, still drawn to a life of prayer, to which I am not willing to commit. I pray but I am no prayer warrior. I am weak and suffer from the capital sin of sloth. My inabilities to commit in life always show me the same things should I care to watch and listen: commitment comes from love and sacrifice not just because we want it. Pray for me, that Christ might increase my faith, my hope and my love: and that through this increase find the courage necessary to make a sacrificial commitment to Him through my prayer and all my actions. Commitments are sometimes hard to make and even harder to keep. Pray for me, as I also pray for thee.__ a favorite form of ‘goodbye for now’ from my old and honorable friend and mentor, to whom I simply refer to as Monsignor. May his prayers from heaven have even more effect now than they did while he walked this earth.

Listen to the Silence

Vigil Mass

Let all mortal flesh keep silent, standing there in fear and trembling, let all things of earth vanish from our thoughts; for the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Christ our God, is about to be sacrificed and to be given as food to the faithful. Before Him choirs of Angels go, clothed with power and dominion, with faces veiled, chanting the hymn, Alleluia. __ St. James Liturgy, 4th Century.

What is the value of silence? It is nothing, it is emptiness, it communicates nothing and yet by abiding in it we gain all, we find fullness and learn everything we must know; God Alone. It is the desire of the Church that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be observed and participated in with a certain type of spiritual quiet. The instruction for the Missal requires that a period of silence be observed after the hearing of the Gospel and also after the reception of the Eucharist. It allows us to quiet our spirits and meditate on the moment. We do not obtain this stillness in a conversation with our friends or in the waving and holding of hands in Mass. Nor do we find it by smiling at all our friends that we spot in church. It is found in interior solitude. The exterior stillness is only a help and a symbol to aid the soul who wishes to enter that moment. The St. James Liturgy, the oldest existing liturgy known to us, knew the value of the silence of which I speak, as you can quickly see from the excerpt above.

Silence is the ultimate reverence. It is the humility and homage that Christ should demand of us. And if He doesn’t, we should demand it of ourselves. It is an expression of true dignity, respect and worship. How dare I make a sound lest I miss His whispers within my soul?  “What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language He best hears is silent love.” (St. John of the Cross)

As a dog shows his love by lying silently at the feet of his master, so too should a soul lay in quiet expectation for the slightest movement that His Lord might make: for whatever the Lord demands, that we should faithfully, willfully and lovingly fulfill. It is how we come to a complete reliance on God while ridding our minds of any consideration of self.  “The most generous choices, especially the persevering, are the fruit of profound and prolonged union with God in prayerful silence.” (Pope John Paul II)

Silence informs our prayers. We cannot possibly pray as we ought if we do not allow God to speak to us and our prayers become merely a list of personal requests and demands. “God speaks in the silence of the heart, and we listen. And then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart, and God listens. And this listening and this speaking is what prayer is meant to be….” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

We live in a noisy and busy world where we find it difficult to find time to be alone with God and feel continuously oppressed by the demands of our lives. Somehow, we need to make room for the benefit of both our minds and our souls. “Let us allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by St. Joseph’s silence! We need it greatly, in a world that is often too noisy, that does not favor meditation or listening to the voice of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

May we all find at least an hour during our week, especially during Mass, where our souls might have an opportunity to plumb its depths to that stillness, that quiet spot within our souls, where God abides, God speaks and we silently listen.

All Vocations have their Center in Christ

The Exhortation to the Apostles

There are a number of vocations that Catholics might consider before embarking on life’s journey. In brief, they could probably be categorized as the married life, the single life, the religious life, the priesthood, and the hermit or consecrated virgin. Such are the choices we have to choose and all are good and efficacious means to minister to one another and to keep Christ as the center of our lives.

The married state is the most common vocation and should be considered by those who have a great love of life. Those who are desirous of giving their selves completely to one another and who wish to be generous in that gift of self by dedicating themselves to their families: always keeping their expressions of love open to the prospect of new life. If one is not capable of such self-surrender, another vocation may be a better choice. The married state mirrors the life of the trinity – in as much as there is a certain unity expressed in various persons: the father, the wife and the children. Together they form but one family unit and separately they each have an equality of love and worth.

The single life is at times not chosen but thrust upon individuals who never found another person that made them desirous to surrender themselves to another entirely. Or, if they did, were rejected or went unnoticed by the other. In this case the individual desires to live in the world and should try to live a chaste life in service to others. These persons are usually quite suited to working with the poor, the sick, the old or the orphaned. Christ again should be at the center of their life and they should consider themselves as other Christ’s walking among us to relieve suffering to those in need and want. We might say that their lives mirror that of Christ as healer.

The religious life is a calling that is not often heard though many may be called to it. Those souls who heed this call desire above all else to find God Himself continuously present in their life. They wish to make Christ their life’s constant companion and the spouse of their souls. These religious men and women strive through work and prayer to advance daily in humility, virtue and prayer that they might become holy in honor of the One who is Holiness Himself. It is necessary that these individuals are attracted to living in community with others who have the same aspirations. They must be generous and eager to live their lives in complete obedience to their superiors and to the rules of their order. They do not mind this structured life, in fact they desire to give up their personal likes, dislikes, pleasures and the like for the higher good. It is a total giving of self to God and so their natures are generously given over to a life lived without any say in any aspect of their day to day service. One might say that this life mirrors the heavenly union of the Bride and the Bridegroom, the Church and Christ, lived out on this earth within each individual.

The priesthood, obviously only available to men, is for those who wish to serve as an example to others, teaching their flocks about the love of God and dispensing the graces that were given them by their ordination.  This is accomplished by the application of the Sacraments entrusted to the Church and given to them in their apostolic function of the Church. They are the fathers of the family of God who looks out for the well-being and health of their flock: a spiritual physician that applies Christ’s ointments for healing and the strengthening of souls. Again many are called but many do not heed this invitation. For these rare men, seem to mirror Christ’s care for His Apostles and disciples. They are the very real embodiments of the powers that Christ gave to His closest friends: the Apostles. They act among us as an alter Christus[1] and they function while distributing the Sacraments, in persona Christi.[2]

The last of the vocations might be called that of an anchorite. These are the men and women who have withdrawn from the world to live their lives completely hidden from the world. Some live these lives among us and others live them in seclusion. It is a life that draws those who are desirous to live humbly and to never be recognized in this life. They are persons that are models for us in their humility and mirror Christ’s desire to veil His Divinity from us. Enfleshed as man Christ walked among us and opened the spiritual eyes of man to see the Reality of His being through sacrificial love. As Christ’s servants, these consecrated virgins, hermits and unknowns are quietly setting examples for all who might enter into contact with them. It is sufficient for them, that Christ knows them and that is all they truly desire in this life.

The last group of people I would like to speak of are not a specific vocation at all. They are, I think, the highest calling of all of humankind though they are not given any choice in it. They can come from any of the above vocations at any time or they can be born into it. They have been called and chosen by Christ to suffer for the rest of us. They are those taken ill or made helpless by natural misfortune. They are babies and children born with defects and illnesses who inspire us to find ways to serve them and attempt to ease their suffering during this life. They become helpless and sometimes abandoned and hopeless, as Christ Himself experienced when tortured and accepted an agonizing death upon the cross. These special individuals then represent Christ in the most glorious way of all: their union with the sufferings of Christ Himself. Some of these special individuals are known to us as victim souls. And through their sufferings, countless other souls are saved and a multitude of sins forgiven for those who are moved to help them, pray for them, and work unceasingly to ease them from their suffering.

Any of us can experience that which drowns us in sorrow or pain. Though burdened by these maladies, those who suffer can also offer their pain and suffering to Him Who suffered before us so that we might not suffer in eternity.

God loves us all and we should never forget that to whatever vocation or state we have drifted into, that Christ was meant to be at the center of our lives; that is if we live them as He would have us live them. Everyone is called to holiness. He wants each and every one of us to be a Saint with Him in Heaven.


[1] Another Christ

[2] In the Person of Christ