God of Gladness and Tranquility by b.Mark

“To rest in the Lord and to see his joy is like a banquet, and full of gladness and tranquility.” St. Ambrose

The Hermits of the Holy Cross would like to express thanks to Richard, Roberta and Caryn Therese for their outpouring kindness joining our Hermits Staff. The Hermits of the Holy Cross is a Lay Christian Contemplative Association whose Spiritual Path is one of Enlightened Suffering for the physically disabled, some being homebound due to physical limitation. Even though the Hermits are physically disabled we are not limited in spirit. We continue to have a deep desire to love God and to serve our respective Churches through the offering of our suffering to God for all people and for our beautiful Earth. We have a deep desire for prayer, not only our own contemplative prayer of union with God, but most especially intercessory prayer for others who are seeking union with God in the Holy Spirit. We all need spiritual help in our daily lives. Personally, I need it every day. So, we created the Hermits Staff, that others can help pray for us as we Hermits struggle day to day attempting to make sense of it all. I still scratch my head when I try to understand what the meaning of suffering is. I’ve come to the conclusion that suffering is like gold or diamonds to God. When we offer our suffering, God transforms it into grace. Grace is like gasoline for our tanks, so that we can move closer to that Holy Mountain we climb each day. Grace transforms our lives. Grace is what keeps us going forward on this spiritual journey. If we don’t feel as if we’re getting enough grace (gasoline) to keep moving forward we have the holy Sacrament of Reconciliation to assist us. Even if we feel our sins aren’t bad enough for this Sacrament, we can still receive grace from this wonderful gift that has been given to all people from our loving and merciful God. Many believe if they are not Catholic they can’t receive God’s gift of forgiveness. I personally believe God who is the Creator of all His children does not limit His capabilities. All are called by God to be His children, for that is what we truly are. God created us to love and to serve not only Him but each other and ourselves. Each of us are wonderfully created. We are shinning stars in Gods eyes. And we are called to shine our brightest. And since this is the Lenten Season it’s the perfect time to give your life to Christ Jesus as sisters and as brothers of Him. Much like the Prodigal Son, we too will be embraced by our loving Father, if only we take the steps toward Reconciliation and Union. So, as we Hermits are praying for you and offering our daily suffering for you, our dear team of Hermits Staff are praying for us and we are eternally grateful to each of them. If you feel called by the Holy Spirit to join our Hermits Staff to assist us through your powerful prayers please let us know. We would be grateful to have you assisting us with our own ministry for our world. If you are physically disabled and feel God is calling you to become a Hermit of the Holy Cross please let us know. We welcome all Christian Faith Traditions with Love at its foundation. If you become a Hermit of the Holy Cross, you stay right where you are, in your own home, you assist us through your prayer and by offering your personal struggles to God for the “life of the world” just as Christ Jesus has taught us. “As the Bride of Christ, His Body, our sufferings are so united with Christ’s that we can offer them in union with His redemptive work for the salvation of souls” (Colossians 1:24). “Look at what is before your eyes. If any one is confident that he is Christs, let him remind himself that as he is Christs, so are we.” (2 Cor. 7) Even though we may be physically disabled, we are all God’s children. There is no shame in disability. And even though we may have physical limitations we have great spiritual gifts to offer and through these offerings and through prayer we assist Christ Jesus heal the world and all within it. Never forget we are all shinning lights of God who loves us beyond anything we can ask or imagine. And to our Hermits Staff, Richard, Roberta and Caryn Therese, as Bro. Joe, a great Capuchin-Franciscan once told me, “your reward in Heaven will be great.” Hold these words close to your heart for you are a treasure to us and to our world.
Peace to each of you. We thank God for the Hermits and the Hermits Staff.

contact info is @ dextraze13@yahoo.com

Pax et Bonum,
Your brother in Christ Jesus,
Mark

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

LENT: A Time To Surrender What Is Most False

“Repent” means “change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.” The call to repentance is the invitation to take stock of our emotional programs for happiness based on instinctual needs and to change them. This is the fundamental program of Lent.”
Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ

How am I to enter into Lent? What will my choice/s be?
How to “change the direction in which I am looking for happiness.“?
What shall I give up and of what shall I partake as food
for the journey to resurrected life? **Newsletter from Contemplative Outreach

The late Fr. Thomas Keating did much to assist us in the understanding of our ego-based desire body with all its cravings, and likes and dislike programming. He showed us all that we each have been conditioned from even before our birth, as a result of the prevailing mental and emotional states of our mothers. And after our birth, by our cultural and our societal norms. These learned dispositions were implanted within our sub-conscious minds long before we actually were able to choose our own beliefs and behaviors. And it is from these unconscious patterns that many of us still function. This is what you might hear referred to as EGO-ic Consciousness, or the “false Self”. Our Conscious Mind therefore Re-acts according to these patterns, rather than Choosing-to Act from the Freedom which Our Lord through His sacrifice on the Cross attained for us, and to which we have all been granted access, by His Infinite and Merciful Grace.

Today, with the help of God’s Grace, I choose with care to Act, rather than to Re-act to any and all events and circumstances of this day. I choose to think before speaking, whether it is to comment on the News or to engage the conversation of a Friend. And I choose to be Grateful every time I am consciously aware of the opportunities to practice in this way throughout all the days of Lent, one day at a time…Amen!

Contemplative Psalmody

“How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord God of Hosts!”

“Oh God, be gracious and bless us…”

“Why are you cast down my soul; why groan within me?” 

After years of praying the Psalms of the Divine Office (excerpts above), one would think that one’s meditations on words such as these spoken by a Prophet or King David himself would have long come to an end.  And they probably would indeed, if one were to remain at the level of Psalmody as Public Proclamation. However, when praying the Office over time and from the more personal perspective of one’s own Contemplative journey, the stage of one’s former discursive reasoning does end, but it is not a bad thing at all. It often happens when one is invited deeper into the mystery. It is said that a person of prayer is then ready to enter the next realm of meaning which for some, such as St. Anthony of the desert, may strike right at their heart and cause them to sell all they have to give to the poor and follow Jesus quite literally. That stage is known as understanding Scripture at the Moral Level.  The same words one may have heard in the past a hundred times suddenly have an urgency about them that compels the person to heed them immediately. It happened to St. Francis of Assisi in that same way.  Wow, right?!  But, Scripture really comes alive when one perseveres in prayer unto the Allegorical Level (or Tropological).  A way of understanding that transcends the literal meaning altogether, while not negating it.  Then, the “dwelling place” of the Lord spoken of above is not the intended literal Temple being spoken about in the Psalm, but more the spiritual heart within the individual. It is not, however, an intellectual knowledge that makes that understanding available to the person simply by explanations such as I have provided.  It is rather an “experience” from within that one awakens to. And, out of that experience, the words become as if one’s own.  The fourth stage of this wondrous process of spiritual growth in the prayerful understanding of Scripture is known as the Unitive level (or Anagogical) of understanding.  When that same “dwelling place” of the Lord is revealed to one either from within or from On High as the Heavenly Jerusalem itself! When one has been blessed to understand in this way, the Scripture becomes one’s very own story, as its life and aliveness.  A truly Living Word which is at one and the same time a history of Salvation in Time and Space and a Timeless and ever-Present Realty that transcends Time by its very NOW-ness.

I have been on my own Monastic journey for over 30 years.  It never ceases to amaze me what treasures there are in the Scriptures.  New understandings, new awakenings, and ever-new invitations to further conversion and deeper levels of prayer.  And on those days when my pain brings down a veil of gloom upon my heart and I can see no further than my own mood, I know that I can recall from my spirit memory the deeper meaning of the words, (as above) “why are you cast down my soul….Hope in God; I will praise Him still!” And I will know that my Hope is well-founded.

So, now may I offer a humble prayer for us all that God in His Mercy continue to “be gracious and bless us”…Amen! 

LENTEN PRACTICE – A Call To The Center


The MIND BELL is an App available from the Google Play Store or from Apple, if you have an iPhone. It’s a Free download and it works very well.  As a Lenten Practice, you can set it to Gong every hour on the Hour for 7 consecutive hours, to correspond with the Monastic Practice of Praying the Divine Office 7 times a day (Ps 119:164).  There is an additional setting to sound a second Bell at the end of 30 seconds.  So, when the first Gong sounds, one is signaled to stop whatever one is doing and Remember the Presence of God within. Then, one is to Meditate on that Presence for 30 seconds until the 2nd sound, the Bell, rings at which time you resume whatever you were doing.  I like to think of this Practice as A Call to the Center.  There are additional settings to either shorten or lengthen the period of time you will stop your activity to Meditate, also. 

Why is this such a worthwhile practice?  It is a training in Attention, for one thing.  An act of Obedience for another. As a Monastic Practice, a monk must be willing to stop immediately whatever he is doing when he hears the Bell that calls him to Prayer. It reminds him that his life IS Prayer, and his Service is to God. All other occupations must ever come second to that single-minded focus.  And so, it is also a Discipline which challenges one to put their own activities aside for the moment and follow the Lord’s more immediate Call. ( Of course, to do so, one needs to be in a situation and environment that makes it possible. I wouldn’t undertake this Practice while at Work or driving. )

This simple offering of one’s time and attention is easily practiced by people such as ourselves who have certain physical and health challenges that might prevent us from observing more strenuous Lenten Practices.  I know for me, personally, Fasting is no longer an option.  My health would be seriously jeopardized by such a Discipline.  So, this Practice of the Bell works well to remind me of what really matters during Lent.  I hope that you find something of value for yourselves, as well.  God’s Peace!

A SIMPLE LENTEN PRACTICE

In The Rule of St. Benedict it is written of the Monks that all of their life is meant to be lived as one continual Lent. But, that during the actual Season of Lent, an additional Practice is to be taken on. St. Benedict recommends nothing too difficult. Maybe an extra Book that the monk should read, cover to cover, omitting nothing and not skipping over any chapters because of one’s personal inclinations. In other words, if you’re bored with it, too bad! I say that with a smile, having recognized myself more than once in that passage. Why would that seem so important to St. Benedict, anyway? Maybe he had his reasons for the monks of that 6th Century. But, does that still have relevance for us, today?

I say an emphatic, YES it does! Reading a Book according to this instruction makes of the Book an acceptable Lenten offering to God. And, its prayerful reading, an acceptable Spiritual Practice. To read in this particular way requires a spirit of attention. A focused and vigilant effort to remain with the words of one page at a time. Patience. An open heart to receive what the message behind the words has to offer. A slow and measured reading also takes longer. It requires a certain commitment of one’s time. Likewise, it insures one’s self-will is not to be fed by denying the monk the opportunity to read only the chapters he personally prefers.

When I first read the Rule of St. Benedict many years ago, this part of Rule would have gone right over my head. I would simply have skipped it and wouldn’t even have looked back. My head would have recorded it as “Read an Extra Book for Lent”. And I would have done so, without any understanding of how it could matter on any other than the superficial level I had relegated it to. But, Today?!

Thanks be to God, Today…. I Prayerfully select a Book. Place it on my Altar. Make my Spiritual intention. Then, offer it to God with maybe a lighted candle or some incense to represent my intention. And when Lent begins, I read the words of every page, mindfully…prayerfully. I stop every so often to rest in silence. And then I go on. After 40 days, if I have remained faithful to the instruction of St. Benedict, I may actually have been blessed to have received a glimpse into Benedictine Humility. God be Praised! AMEN