Journey Toward the Incarnate Christ

I keep looking for ways to try to heal and move forward living with my disability, Proteus Syndrome. But, It’€™s been difficult for me to accept this disability and embrace it, even after 57 years of living. This is my Cross€. I have always tried my hardest to overcome obstacles that seem to stand in my way, and to keep pushing forward, but Proteus Syndrome has a life of its own and It’€™s taking over. I don’€™t like that. It’€™s like I’m at war with it, but since it’s part of who I am, am I at war with myself? I hope this doesn’t sound too nutty. My mind and heart want to walk again but my body says. “No sir, you’re not going to do that”€. It’s challenging. I am always thinking of new ways to overcome these obstacles I face, but now the Proteus has got me homebound. This is really difficult to accept, because I loved being with people and being a brother to everyone. I was a Capuchin-Franciscan for 12 years. I took my Solemn Vows in 1996. I felt so guilty that this disability was beginning to be so expensive, since I had no health insurance due to Proteus Syndrome being a “pre-existing condition”. No health insurance company would take me under their wing. This was my reality in 2000. The burden it placed on my Order became another source of guilt to me back then. In my heart, however, I am still a Capuchin-Franciscan. I pray every day that Christ Jesus will have mercy on the many bad decisions I made back then. I still have a deep desire to help save souls for Christ, so I began the Hermits of the Holy Cross from home. It’s a ministry in the Church for the physically disabled who still want to serve in some way but are physically unable to do so. In this ministry, the Hermits of the Holy Cross, we serve spiritually, offering up to God our sufferings that stem from our disabilities. We offer intercessory prayer for our world, our parishes, our families and friends. There are now five Hermits of the Holy Cross. Theresa, Stephanie, Marie, Audrey and myself. We are all living in different parts of the world, in Canada, New York, Texas and California. Our spirits are working together for Christ Jesus, in real time, helping Him heal our broken world. We try to be an inspiration to others. Suffering has meaning. No one suffers in vain. God created us the way we are for His purpose. We are His children. Despite our physical limitations, our suffering offered up or our prayers that ascend to Heaven for others and for ourselves, assist our Christ. So, in closing, I just wanted to reach out to you, my disabled sisters and brothers around the world, to hopefully lift your hearts up with encouragement and hope during this Advent and Christmas Season. We want you to know we are with you in spirit, in the struggles that life brings. Keep climbing the mountain, keep holding on to that cross you carry. Soon it will be traded for a crown. Have a most blessed Christmas from all of us in the Hermits of the Holy Cross.

Your brother in Christ Jesus,

Mark

Hermits of the Holy Cross

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!


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!