THE TRIP

Up until the time I was 30 years old, I loved to travel. Jumping on a jet with a suitcase was as natural as a ride in my car. Packing was a cinch. And I could fall asleep easily on any mattress anywhere. Even the excitement anticipating the day I would depart was a thrill. Knowing I would be horse-back riding, renting motorcycles, and going to Clubs to dance the nights away, was all part of that excitement.

By the time I was 35, I was disabled by an acutely misdiagnosed Back vertebrae fracture that was made worse with every attempt a doctor or physical therapist would make to help heal it.  I wound up bedridden for 5 years in chronic and crippling pain and spasms. And what followed upon that resembled in no way all that had come before.  Every part of my life and identity as an independent, strong, free-spirited female was gone.  Gone were my days of teaching and practicing Yoga, too.  All fashion, style and whatever else had contributed to my self-image, obliterated. Friends whom I thought were friends, no where to be found. Just the Pain…and all the Time in the world to suffer it.

Fast-forwarding to today, over 35 years later, and for the First Time since those golden days of youth, I am planning A Trip.  Yes, I have to call and make special arrangements for a mattress to somewhat accommodate my Back pain.  I will need to carefully select what foods I can eat.  And, I will probably need a small suitcase just for my meds.  But, apart from these obvious differences, there is this One which is worth far more than all I have known of travel before.  I will experience things as I have Never done before!!  Since that altered course so many years ago, God has given me a new way of “See-ing” His Universe.  A way that takes it All in; every speck of beauty, whether there is rain in the sky or a brilliant sun blessing the Earth with its warming rays.  And with this kind of See-ing, there is also a deeply profound Gratitude for everything I See and will See . And for every person that I will meet.  If I’m thinking of anything in anticipation of this Trip, it will be thoughts like these that will fill my heart.  And, Praise…always Praise for God who offered me His World in place of the one I had lost, and helped me to become a better, more human person than I even knew I could be. 

So, this Trip…with all these new moments, people and experiences it will bring…this Trip will be a thing of Wonder!  A thing I believe has been ordained by God for my life exactly now.  I could never have even consented to consider it if God had not fortified my Soul with Grace. That’s how much fear I had been holding on to.  But here we are…and here we go!!  Praise God!!!


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A Rule of Peace

I read an article this morning from and on-line website called, Truth and Charity Forum. As a Benedictine Oblate, I was moved by the Author’s insights into The Rule of St. Benedict regarding Peace. Everything about the Rule speaks to Peace and a harmonious way of life for everyone who resides in the Monastery. But for those of us following the Rule while still living in the world, sometimes the stability and regular rhythms of the Monastery can be lacking in our less than consistent daily routines. So, I thought to re-copy the article’s most relevant points for finding Peace in our lives and post it here for all of us to consider, if we are so inclined. I hope it speaks kindly and gently to our hearts…

2014 Rule of Peace By Mitchell Kalpakgian, Ph.D.

Christopher Derrick’s The Rule of Peace draws from the wisdom of St. Benedict’s famous Rule for monastic life to teach the art of how to be at peace in the world as well as in the monastery. According to St. Benedict, four steps are needed to master the art of peace. First, a person must learn to be peace with his environment and learn to be at home in that part of the country or world where he lives and works; second, a person needs to be at peace with himself with his particular strengths and weaknesses; third, everyone must strive to be at peace with his neighbor. One cannot love God without first loving one’s neighbor. All of these forms of peace, then, prepare a person to be at peace with God. To be at peace with God, however, is not the world’s idea of living without difficulty or stress.

To be peace with one’s environment means, according to Derrick, “living gently and at peace with one’s natural surroundings” in the way a monk resigns himself to a life of stability instead of constant travel. Also, the monk who lives in tune with nature lives simply and economically. This Benedictine way of life opposes

the restlessness of wanderlust and the quest for ceaseless diversion. St. Benedict’s Rule teaches the art of staying at home and finding contentment in the regularity and rhythm of daily life with its balance of work and rest, the active life and the contemplative life. To enjoy being at home and enjoying one’s surroundings instead of always seeking new places and thrills develops a sense of belonging or rootedness essential for happiness. For many, however, the environment in which they are born, live, and work is not entirely in their control. But to be at peace, a person cannot be daydreaming or fantasizing about new sensations or faraway places that he imagines to be more perfect.

To be at peace with one’s self means to accept one’s male or female nature, one’s unique temperament and individuality, and one’s particular gifts and inclinations as God-given. It means acquiescence to one’s ethnic identity, family background, and history. A person at peace with himself is not jealous of another person’s good fortune or special talents. Every person must accept his lot and the crosses of his life rather than making invidious comparisons with others who appear more prosperous or gifted. A true monk, in Derrick’s words, is filled with an “inner serenity and joy” because he accepts sufferings and difficulties as a fact of human life and learns to overcome anxiety and fear by an abandonment to God’s Providence. The monk knows that Christ’s words “Peace be with you” mean that man needs to live without anxiety, trust in God, and not be ruled by tension and stress—one of the reasons God created the Sabbath as a day of rest. This peace with one’s self never requires drugs, alcohol, or escape from life’s duties.

To be at peace with one’s neighbor also requires the same effort and skill as learning to accept one’s environment and one’s human nature because a person does not always choose his relatives, neighbors, or colleagues, but simply finds them present by accident. This aspect of peace demands patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and charity. Monks do not shout, slam doors, welcome loud noise, or speak with loose tongues, always practicing the virtue of courtesy because “ceremony is the friend of peace.” Monks know that the Devil wants persons to have arguments, lose their tempers, and not live in friendship and charity. Monastic life “includes all the family virtues of love and loyalty known to the ancient Romans as piety.” Just as the abbot rules in the monastery with both authority and gentleness—not as a autocrat—parents too must govern their families with both justice and mercy and children honor their parents with respect. With gentle authority and glad obedience men can live together in peace and avoid the many useless, trivial arguments produced by prideful egotism. Monastic life teaches the discipline of the tongue and recognizes that “too much talk is the enemy of the soul.” So often peace with one’s neighbor is destroyed “when somebody said something which never really needed to be said”— insensitive, offensive, or tactless words.

All the various kinds of restlessness—the pursuit of excitement, novelty, or diversion in the form of entertainment, travel, and endless change– result from failure to live in tune with the environment, family, and person that God created. To be at peace according to the Rule of Saint Benedict is to be centered and have a still point rather than being fragmented and divided by the centrifugal forces of the world that rend asunder the unity that dwells in the soul that knows peace. The Benedictine vow of stability centers a monk in the one place he will live and reside for a lifetime. The home centers a person in the society of the family he is bound to for life. The vocation a person chooses gives special priority to this one form of service that shapes the future.

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A Vocation to Embrace Suffering

A Vocation to Embrace Suffering – How can such a Calling possibly be Realized, Fully Accepted, and Lived Out by Anyone who is of Sound Mind and is in a state of basic Psychological wholeness and Emotional wellness? This is the astounding if not even somewhat mystical revelation of the Mystery of the Cross for the Hermits of the Holy Cross that I hope to be able to address in this Post.

Are we delusional?   Are we simply making the best of our crummy lot in life, hoping to find an excuse, however poor, for meaning, relevance or purpose in this world? Is it some irrational imagining to escape the reality of our chronic pain and sickness?

Some might wonder.   We, ourselves, at times, might even wonder. But, to linger in such thoughts would be, for us who experience this Genuine Calling, a definite Temptation against our Vocation. How do we know? We Know because the Grace to Understand what it is we “Know” in our deepest center to be True is part of our Vocation.

We do not need to imagine.   We do not need to escape. Nor do we need to romanticize what is the True Nature of our Calling in order to make it more palatable. On the contrary. What every Hermit of The Holy Cross Knows to be True is already contained in this mysterious Grace that is given to us, in order that we may embrace the Responsibility of the Call; to hold our place quietly, humbly, and in a hidden manner, according to God’s Plan and Purpose. We can thus share the burdens of humankind in silence, in union with our Lord, Jesus Christ, as we offer our sufferings for the Salvation of All the suffering souls in this World, both living and deceased, in Faith that God will bless and accept these offerings through Christ, our Lord, AMEN.

Blessings and Peace,

+ Theresa (HHC)

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Reunited by b.Mark

If we want to resemble Christ Jesus we should follow his example found in the Gospels and in the letters in the New Testament. We are called to imitate the love of Christ. He welcomed the stranger, the alien. He plays no favorites. The poor, the forgotten by society, the rejected by society, Christ Jesus embraces. He never condemned anyone, but He always remained firm with those who turned away from doing the right thing. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Scribes who refused to show mercy. They became judge and jury instead of forgiving, having mercy, and loving each child of God. When those who strayed from the path of love, Christ Jesus compared us to lambs that got lost. He gently placed the lamb on top of His shoulders and He brought them back to the fold. I am not sure why people reject Christ Jesus today as they did 2000 years ago. He showed nothing but kindness toward others, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love toward others. He pointed us in the direction of hope. He conquered death and showed us that our soul is eternal. Every society, to remain healthy, have laws to keep us on the path of peace and happiness but God has always given His children chance after chance to get it right and opportunity after opportunity to love Him back. This is the meaning of the Lenten Season. God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit opens His arms for us to come home. Like the story of the Prodigal Son, we too have the opportunity to come home into the arms of love. Remember that song by Peaches and Herb called Reunited? I was reminded of this song this Lenten Season. That this is an opportune time to be reunited with our loving God. I honestly don’t believe God condemns anyone. We condemn ourselves. God does not want any of His children to be separated from Him. Why would He since He created us. He created the Earth to share His beauty with us and to guide us to Himself.
Some people ask, if there really is a God, why would there be so much suffering and brokenness in the world. Yet, even Christ Jesus suffered at the hands of men who misunderstood who He even was. They were looking for a political hero, or even a military hero that was going to destroy the Roman occupation and end their brutality toward the Jews. But Jesus came preaching, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” “My Kingdom is not of this world” for those who are weary and overburdened Christ calls us and promises peace and comfort. If only we open our lives to him and our hearts to him. He’s not here to condemn us, like the Pharisees and Sadducees want you to believe. He is not here to condemn but to heal and love. Baptism renews us into a life of grace. Grace is the fuel that protects and heals. When we receive these gifts we become examples of Christ in our daily lives. It is not just for the future but for the here and now. We are promised eternity in Heaven to begin on Earth through unity. Christ Jesus died for all people, not just for some. Meditate upon the Gospels. When Christ found the lost sheep He did not chastise the sheep, hurt the sheep, make the sheep feel terrible nor condemn the sheep. Therefore, we should not chastise each other. We should not look on others as if they are lost or beyond hope just as Christ does not treat us like that. So let us imitate Christ this Lenten Season. “Love one another as Christ has loved you.”

Love and Prayer,
Your brother in Christ,
Mark
Hermits of the Holy Cross

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Calendar Religion or Religion of the Spirit?

April will be a month of Catholic Holy Days starting with Palm Sunday.  Catholics and Christians everywhere will be planning which Holy Day Services they will be attending, and who will be coming over for Easter Dinner. In my meditation this morning, I pondered about our kind of Calendar Religion. It’s good in some ways, of course, but it does tend to keep people thinking in terms of Religious vs Secular-type divisions in our minds. Like, Sunday is special because it’s Church, but Monday is just my ordinary life again. 

If I think about what Jesus showed us regarding such practices, I see something different. I see Him rebuking those who tried to censure His freedom of the Spirit at every moment, by quoting “the Rules of Religion” at Him. But it was in fact His ordinary life that was the place of many of His greatest miracles and parables. He lived His Spirituality every moment of every day, not just on the Sabbath day.  Why?  Because He was always Awake and Aware of His connection to The Divine!  Attentive and Centered within Himself, He clearly understood that His Union with the Father was a very Present Reality; one that was ever-active, regardless of what the Calendar said. 

He had respect for the proper Services of His Faith, but He was not limited by them.  He participated in Synagogue Services, but He would also wake up early in the morning to go apart by Himself to pray. He wanted no divides between people.  He wanted them to understand Truth from their hearts.  But for that to happen, they would have to wake-up to their actual lives and step out of their automatic conditioned behaviors. Jesus knew that would not be an easy thing for them.  Thanks be to God, He had a plan! 

Jesus did not leave us the New Testament. That came years later, after having been handed down and finally written down, and then after having been filtered through a Greek translation. He did not leave us a Religion of the Calendar. Or a structured Church system.  Jesus did leave us something of much greater value to our eternal destiny.  His Holy Spirit!  When His message was preached everywhere to whomever would listen from their hearts, those people would receive the Holy Spirit. That Free Gift of the Holy Spirit changed their reality! They did wake-up! And their ordinary, everyday lives were transformed from within!

TODAY – I Am Awake to the Presence of God in my Ordinary Life. I am grateful! I am loved! I am blessed!  


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LOVE Divine

1 Corinthians 13 vs 2:If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a Faith that can move mountains, but do not have Love, I am nothing…”

In my experience, there can be no stronger evidence for God having been infused into an incarnate being, through the Holy Spirit, than when one can behold the Love of God – so limitless and blissful – radiating from within the heart of a true devotee of The One we Christians call our Father in Heaven. The verse quoted above from 1st Corinthians says it all; Without Love, neither the supernatural graces of prophecy nor an intellect of exceptional ability, nor even such gifts of Spirit as Faith, Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge would amount to anything without that one supreme Gift that holds all other things together…Love!

Now, Love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul has told us (Romans 5:5). And Love is what motivated the preaching and heroic actions of the Apostles and Saints ever since.  Such is the Love that is still the particular sign – the evidence, if you will – that a new believer in Christ offers as the reason they know they have been called to conversion. To a “change of direction” in one’s course in life.  To a “going into the higher mind”.  A “turning around”. These expressions are the more accurate translations of that word, “conversion”, though most are not aware of its deeper meaning. 

The power of this Divine Infusion of Love is so profound in the life of the spirit that its influence remains long after the experience has faded.  If anything, what was begun as a seed infusion of Love grows ever more transformative over time.  As it grows, it provides the strength needed for the person to be able to turn away from whatever in one’s past was not in accord with this new path that it has been offered.  A Path of Healing, Wholeness and Reconciliation with one’s true Self and with one’s neighbor. 

In my own journey, Love has been the magnetic force emanating from my deepest center that continues to draw all lesser desires, inclinations, and confusion-of-opposites toward itself.  Without that Love, that free, unearned Gift of God, nothing would have convinced me that there was even a reason why I should turn my life around.  It takes such a dynamic force as Love to shine a Light on one’s darkness’s. That silent Light revealed to me that what I thought were my identifying characteristics; my “personality” once upon a time, were really just the cleverly constructed façade of my ego in defense of itself.  It’s “identity”.  The ego fears nothing more than a threat to its identity.  But Love gently and powerfully overcomes all such resistance.  What one needs to do, and to continue to do, is to surrender to it and allow itself to be guided. As Jesus Himself has said, “The Spirit will lead you into all Truth” 

TODAY – I offer this Prayer to All those who are observing this Holy Season of LENT and to All those who are reading this, whatever their present state or Faith Tradition, or lack there-of, that you rest quietly for a few minutes at some point today, mute your phones, silence your devices, and send out a wordless yearning from your heart to the Divine. Invite the Love into your life; your heart, your center of being, your finances, your health, your family relationships, your job situation…. Invite that Love to Come Now! (“Maranatha” Come, LORD; the Christian Mantra of the Benedictine Monk Fr. John Main, if you prefer using a word to anchor your attention) Invite with Faith… Hope… Trust.  And if you feel it.  Or, if you feel so inclined, remain there quietly in silence for another 15 minutes.  Be Still, Open, Receptive, Awaiting,…. May you be richly and abundantly blessed this very day!

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The Sign of Jonas60 by Thomas Merton

read by Bro. Mark

thesignofjonas60.mp3

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The Sign of Jonas59 by Thomas Merton

read by Bro. Mark

thesignofjonas59.mp3

Posted in Audio Books MP3's, Christian Contemplative Practices, Christian Meditation, Contemplation, Hermits of the Holy Cross, Spirituality & Prayer, Thoughts in Solitude | Leave a comment

HOPE – The Perceivable Grace

“Why are you cast down, my Soul.  Why groan within me?  HOPE in God; I will Praise Him still….”                     (PS 43:5)

Yesterday, I spoke of a perceptible emptiness I called, Faith.  Today, it’s all about HOPE. I believe as Christians of this 21st century, we are in dire need of some language revisions to better communicate our spiritual journeys to each other. The language of years passed served the times for which they were intended.  But, unfortunately, those same word choices now carry the baggage of their years, as their meaning seems no longer to establish their original intention in a positive way.  One such word is, Grace.

In my youth, Grace was always one of those words that I had to accept as meaning something I could in no way see, feel, touch, taste or hear, yet it was a very real thing in the spiritual life of all Christians.  I knew I was in a “state of Grace” whenever I went to Confession and did my Penance.  I knew that receiving the Sacraments gave me Grace. I knew because I was taught as much. 

Here I now am as an Adult.  I have seen much failure, disappointment, un-happy endings, illness, deaths and suffered many losses, unforeseen changes, relationship issues, and so on…as have we all.  So, what of Hope, now that all the old definitions have lost their meaning?  It took me a while and several Meditation sessions to comprehend Hope in an entirely new way…as the perceivable Grace.  Why? Because that was the way it kept coming to me.  It wasn’t my idea.  But there it was…

During my time of processing, I again became Aware that, much like we already discovered with Faith, we all have spiritual faculties that can perceive very delicate energies, if we are attuned to them. But we must learn, through our Spiritual Practices and Disciplines, to focus our Attention on these energies, rather than on the more dense energies of our five senses.

What I found was that with HOPE, there IS the perceivable Grace manifesting itself as something like Wonder in the face of what is unknown, unseen and beyond our rational Mind to understand, but, yet, a thing of Certainty.  We KNOW something.  Something greater than what our circumstances are showing us.  When life is upside down and we have exhausted all possibilities to rectify it, it is Faith that first steps into the Void our helplessness leaves us in.  A certain letting go from deep within that we learn to sense, followed by an acceptance of a sort. Nothing in our circumstances or in the world of our 5 senses has changed.  But we Know through a different way of perceiving that we have, in fact, experienced an interior change that is undeniable.  Only then, HOPE is born!  If you think about that moment, you will recognize that actual, dimly perceivable moment when Hope is suddenly there and a new energy to move forward has been activated within.  And you understand that you can Trust that “something”.  That… that Moment of Perceivable GRACE…  HOPE!


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FAITH – A Perceptible Emptiness

FAITH – A Perceptible Emptiness

Speaking now of Faith as one of the three Theological Virtues, and not the faith one has in one’s youthful strength or good health or strong will or financial independence.  Such faith has little to do with God and much to do with one’s erroneous confidence in one’s self and in the all the delights and comforts one has surrounded one’s self with through either one’s own efforts or by inheritance.  No, I am speaking of that Faith which makes itself known when one has come face to face with the Cross of Interior Emptiness and does not flee. 

In our usual ordinary way of thinking, our brain does the work of connecting us with instantaneous solutions to various stages ofdiscomfort, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.  If we are cold, a sweater is at hand that we automatically reach for.  If we are depressed, a pill is at hand to automatically relieve us.  If we are lonesome, facebook fills that void with the touch of a keyboard log-in. We associate these automatic solutions as us just being US…ours…our own…belonging to US. This part of “US” is the domain of the ego which understands that it’swork is to provide satisfaction to the US we believe ourselves to be and to restore our peace as quickly as possible by re-establishing the status-quo. 

Now, if one has been observing the Spiritual Practice of Meditation, a surprisingly new Awareness may have arisen. Between the thought and the action of its resolution, there is this barely noticeable, momentary void.  A Perceivable moment of emptiness.  In the gap of this emptiness, if one be still enough, all things of life and eternity are present. But it is not a presence that our ordinary senses can perceive. On the contrary, this “presence” makes our ordinary senses seek relief and escape, rather than perception. But, this emptiness as “presence” is perceptible to our higher and much more finely-tuned spiritual senses.  It is here where many of us first become aware of our true spiritual poverty. If we do not run from it or end our Meditation session pre-maturely, we are given the valuable opportunity to look into the abyss of our fearful and frightened, ego-identified, false self (sometimes called our lower self). And even just that momentary glimpse can terrify us.  I believe it is the reason why a lot of people do not take up Mediation as a Spiritual Practice.  They fear the stilling of their ever-active, ever over-stimulated thoughts.  They fear they will not know who they are without them as the constant, ready proof that they are alive.

Returning now to the Emptiness….  In the fraction of a second between the thought and its connection to other thoughts or acts, this emptiness is extremely important to note.  If one is self-aware and proceeding toward Christian Maturity, one may then begin to observe that even after one’s Meditation session has ended, there can now be ordinary daily moments when this “gap of emptiness” becomes spiritually perceptible.  As one learns to let go of thoughts more and more even in one’s waking hours, that gap lengthens.  And with years and Grace, one finds one’s home more and more within the gap, rather than distracted from this blessed and sacred emptiness by thoughts of entertainment, the phone or the internet.  What is this spiritually perceptible emptiness?  For me, it is Faith.  Why? Because whenever I have found myself in a crisis – whether health related or other –  and have exhausted all my own best efforts to resolve it to no avail, there It Is…that same perceptible emptiness.  That utter sense of my own helpless-ness whispering terror to my senses. In that very instant, it is Faith alone that tells me to Surrender. To humbly present myself to the Lord knowing my need for His assistance and my dependence upon His Grace.  I know if I can learn the lessons of Faith offered me in Meditation, then I can also learn to understand the value of Faith in practice. And the amazing Grace it offers!  As St. John of the Cross once said, we must “learn to be at home in the darkness”.

Today, with God’s Grace, I will consciously develop the capacity to remain in Faith.  I will not seek to fill in the gaps of the day with frivolous entertainment to distract me from this precious emptiness wherein I shall make my Home.

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