Suffering, An Ingredient in God’s Grace

“It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent, the day draws near, so let us cast of deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13: 11-12

As the Church, a Community of Believers, we have now entered into the Advent Season in our Calendar. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity made a sacrifice by coming to us as a member of the human family

“that we may share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity”

God emptied Himself for all of us that we could share His holiness. God did not have to humble Himself in this way. He could have stayed in His Heaven ordering us all to do this or do that, condemning us for the smallest infraction. Christ, in the depth of His love choose sacrifice, compassion and eternal love for us His children. For those who have raised children, I’m sure you in your compassion and love, you can remember the many times you sacrificed for them. Most parents have desired more for their children than for themselves.

As Hermits of the Holy Cross, our sacrifice to God is our own sufferings that we endure each day because of our physical disabilities. These sufferings can be emotional, psychological, and physical. Society teaches us that our sufferings have no meaning at all and that we should do everything we can to eradicate it. Sufferings are just a nuisance. But we all know through experience we cannot completely eradicate our suffering in our daily lives. Therefore, they cannot be completely removed. But, that’s not to say, that we shouldn’t try to alleviate them. We do try because we want to experience peace in heart and mind. Christ taught us through His own sufferings that they have meaning.

Personally, here’s what I believe, I believe our sufferings, when offered to God through our free will, assist God in the creation of grace. Sounds odd I know. Christ Jesus tells us that we make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the Church.” Col 1:24

Through the suffering, and death of Christ upon the Cross he taught us suffering has purpose. God does not waste it, but uses it. Think of grace as spiritual fuel for our daily lives. Plants and trees need rain, our bodies need food, cars need gasoline, many products need electricity. Our spirit too, needs grace to grow closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This Advent and Christmas Season ask God

“to fill you with the knowledge of His will with all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.” Col: 1:9 Have you ever seen the painting of Christ Jesus knocking upon the door to be welcomed in but there is no door knob on His side of the door. This reminds us that Christ doesn’t barge in but patiently waits for us to open the door to allow Him in. The spiritual life is a give and take between two lovers. Try giving God your sufferings this, the Season of Incarnation, and ask Him to help you to understand why suffering is in our lives. Grace will be there for you. Through our suffering offered to God we participate in the creation of Gods gift, transforming grace.

Have a wonderful Advent and Christmas Season.

You are in our prayers each day. If you would like us to pray for any special intention please email bro.Mark at dextraze13@yahoo.com Its free.

Your brother in Christ Jesus,

Mark

Hermits of the Holy Cross

Loneliness Dissipates

Many in our society today are slowly dying, not from something that’s physically discernible yet it has the energy to cause physical scars. loneliness. We are social beings. We are intended to be social. The majority of us have grown up in a family dynamic. Our first steps are usually taken when we’re with others, like our parents. This was the place we learnt about life and how to treat one another and ourselves. We learned to speak our first words in front of our parents or family. Family was the dynamic we learned to trust, not only ourselves but how to trust others. “Remember that ol’ phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child. It’s so true. Many in other Countries still abide by this saying. But here in the West we’ve left it to the “Nuclear Family”. Some grew up in families that believed we were to move out at 18 and begin a new life with our spouse or ourselves. Family is often experienced only at Thanksgiving and Christmas or on other special occasions. During those times we often just put up with each other until everyone went home. We’d breathe a sigh of relieve.

I had the privilege of growing up with a best friend who was from a Hispanic family. I’d often want to stay with them because their family was like the village I spoke of earlier. There was never a dull moment there. They would share and yell, discuss and accept. Reasons or times to be lonely were often not experienced in this dynamic and I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, for I grew up in a very loving and accepting family. My ma and pop were very good to me, but my brother was four years older than me. I have a dear sister that is one year older than me. We are still very close. But there was something to that village dynamic that always spoke to me. They had no concept of what a nuclear family was. There was never a chance to really experience a feeling of inner loneliness because when one felt down the others surrounded them and just shared their ups and downs with each other. They weren’t afraid to express their inner thoughts or their feelings. They knew how to communicate, but if they didn’t they often just tried no matter what the outcome would be. They weren’t afraid to get sloppy with each other because they learned life was often times messy. I believe what’s missing in society today is this type of communication. Often, when I could get out I’d see people communicate on their phones or through social media, but that face to face type of communication was often missing. Being together gives off an energy that we miss when we’re on our phone. This energy comes mostly from the feelings we are experiencing and sharing, while looking at each other, experiencing one another in the present moment. It’s almost impossible to read one another’s body language when we’re not in close physical proximity to one another. This absence of physical contact is what can cause an inner loneliness. If we’re not use to being alone it can become quite frightful. If we believe in a Higher Power, God, we have no one to talk with, to share our inner struggles or even our hopes and dreams. Loneliness can creep in rather quickly when alone. The longing for human contact grows when alone. Feelings get buried within the broken areas of our life. Loneliness can turn into resentment and resentment into hatred. Often times it takes but a smile or a hello when passing each other to change someone’s day. I think we’re often afraid these days to reach out to one another. We’ve built up a fear we might be seen as encroaching into someone’s privacy. We don’t look up in the subway for fear of locking with someone we don’t know. Often we grew up believing that we’re to be rugged individuals. We were taught we were to take care of ourselves. I can climb this mountain by myself and everyone will be so proud of me. But God didn’t seem to desire to want to create us to be alone. God seemed to have created us to be family, to be as village. When we haven’t experienced this we often times can grow-up being fearful of others. This is a tragedy. We grow through exchanges of ideas, when we have the willingness to express feelings when with one another in a safe environment. Feelings, when they bubble up inside of us, don’t seem so daunting to us. When we have others to share our daily lives with love blossoms and a new village is born. We grow within when we grow together as family and village. It may be a village of friends or a village of the like minded. In our brokenness we all desire to be accepted. Loneliness often times dissipates, love can blossom when in a trusting environment where we have the ability to look out for one another. If you know someone who is alone reach out to them. Often a few words of kindness or a wave and hello can go a long way to make one feel they belong to the larger family or village.

Have a most blessed week.

Peace and Goodness,

your brother,

Mark

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!!!


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.

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)

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!  


WATER

Earlier this week, I posted a blog about entering into one’s actions consciously, rather than from learned behavior patterns automatically performed from habit; reactive conditioned behaviors proceeding from the ego- portion of our conscious Mind, if you will.  Well, it seems Grace has provided me ample material for Practice in that last night, our Building Management informed us that they would be working on the pipes and plumbing to repair some breakage in the line all day Today.  And that we would have no Water for the entire day as a result. How one can be so ignorant of the extent to which the simple and humble resource of Water is essential to every part of one’s daily life is amazing to me!  The Water has been off since early this morning and already I have gone to the tap at least 15 times. And I am trying to remain Conscious…HA! There has been the pouring of water to take my medications, the water needed to brush my teeth, to wash my breakfast dishes, to make a cup of coffee.  There has been the flushing of the toilet, the washing my face, the rinsing off of food from my hands.  No laundry can be done today.  Water needed in the iron to iron my clothing.  Water to quench my thirst.  I had made it a Practice some time ago never to waste Water, turning off the tap in between teeth brushing and rinsing, etc. But, to be without it altogether….

Beyond my own needs, I thenthought of the people of Southern California, who so often suffer from the lackof rainfall.  I thought of the farmerswho beyond doubt are much more aware of the importance of Water for thesuccessful growth of their crops and harvest than I.  I thought of the thoughtless pollution of ourRivers and Streams which render much of our Water undrinkable. I think you getthe idea.

For Lent today, my opportunityhas been offered me by Grace to accept and make use of this sacrifice of Waterand all it entails.  To ponder thesufferings of others who suffer this regularly as part of their normal lives,as well as my own 24-hour inconvenience,for which I am already repenting my ignorance to Thank God daily for thiswondrous blessing, so easily taken for granted in our modern day and age.

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!