Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Fraternal love and correction essential, Pope reminds

Christ washing the feet Tintoretto.jpgOne of the themes from Oblate retreat this past weekend was humility. And from within the Gospel and Saint Benedict’s vision of humility Brother John Mark spoke about love and fraternal relations, particularly rubbing elbows in true charity with your brother and sister in community. A stone is only polished when it meets other stones.

Pope Benedict brings up the human desire to be in community with other other people: how good it is for brothers and sisters to live in unity, St Paul says. But this unity and love have one condition: “You will love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:8-10). Some take this point as an easy thing to do. I assure you, it is not. This past Sunday’s Scripture readings teach this point.
In his Rule, Saint Benedict places a strong emphasis on mutual responsibility (“a reciporcal responsibility” the Pope calls it) and charity toward the other person is lived only in a personal way. Benedict XVI argues as Saint Benedict did before him, “that there is a co-responsibility in the journey of the Christian life: everyone, conscious of his own limits and defects, is called to welcome fraternal correction and to help others with this particular service [of forgiveness and healing injuries].

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No substitute for a personal encounter with the Lord

St Peter walking on water LBorrassa.jpgJesus invited us to meet. Saint Benedict’s talked about it; a plethora of saints have talked about it; Fr Giussani constantly talked about it; Pope Benedict XVI talks about it: nothing can substitute for personally knowing Jesus. Want to be a Christian? Go and meet Christ in Scripture, in the Holy Eucharist, in personal and communal prayer, in doing good works. In short, meet Jesus Christ by the ears of your heart and in your minute by minute human experience.

Saint Benedict asked a question that ought to be remembered:

What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life. Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who called us to his kingdom (RB, Prologue, 20-1).

After reading the Holy Rule, I read the following from The Way of the Disciple:

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Peter, you are the rock upon which I will build my church

St Peter recieving keys from Christ LMonaco.jpg

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16 13-20)

A challenging gospel passage for people who are skeptical about Christ being THE Way, and giving the keys to Peter and thus to the Church. We have to ask ourselves: Who do you say Jesus is? Do you take His words seriously? Is Peter’s confession of Jesus believable? Do you know the Church in a loving and faith-filled way?

The good zeal is not just for monks but for all Christians…

Service of monks.jpg

The daily grind makes us weary of the task at hand and sometimes we’re also weary of the “nonsense” of other people. There are times in which we are just ugly. Our own fragile and sinful lives can get in the way of things. Sadly, sometimes we get hurt, and we hurt others.

I was re-reading parts of Luigi Giussani’s Religious Sense this morning and then I saw that a friend made note of the Good zeal of monks (noted below) and I wondered… Why is it that we allow “wicked zeal of bitterness” to infiltrate our spirit and our relationships? Saint Benedict perceived a lack of coherence of what human beings say they believe and the lives lead. No doubt this same question/thought ought to concern every reasonable Christian if we are serious about faith in Jesus Christ and ultimate salvation. The tough thing about the Christian way of life is making sure that our faith informs our works and that we don’t replace faith with good works thinking that what we do will absolve our poor behavior. The good zeal Benedict exhorts his monks to have is really applicable to all baptized Christians and not merely the “professional Christians.”

Do we pay enough attention to reality? Am I too alienated from my own desires when I uncritically accept the ideas of others without doing the hard of work of verifying the truth of these ideas? Have I allowed wonder to take a back seat when looking at the reality I’ve been given by God? Have I sufficiently observed and understood what is in front of me? Have I love the Infinite, that is, the Triune God, to the best of my ability and without reservation? Where is my heart right now?

The Rule of Saint Benedict is insightful with regard to human nature: laziness, mediocrity, will not lead to ultimate happiness. That we have to put aside bitterness and that which does not build a deeper communion with God and neighbor. As Holy Father Saint Benedict and Father Luigi Giussani both said but in different ways: do we love?

Here is what the Rule of Saint Benedict says,

Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love…. (72.1-3)

Silence is the environmental condition to listen to God

Sand dune on the Sinai Peninsula.

Image via Wikipedia

Mentioned earlier this week, the Pope spoke of silence and monasteries as places of beauty and the environment that opens the soul to deeper things. I have a particular interest in what the Pope speaks: I love the monastic culture and the heritage it has given us in order to seek the Face of God. Here’s more of the papal text of August 10, 2011:

In every age, men and women who have consecrated their lives to God in prayer – like monks and nuns – have established their communities in particularly beautiful places: in the countryside, on hilltops, in valleys, on the shores of lakes or the sea, or even on little islands. These places unite two elements which are very important for contemplative life: the beauty of creation, which recalls that of the Creator, and silence, which is guaranteed by living far from cities and the great means of communication. Silence is the environmental condition that most favors contemplation, listening to God and meditation. The very fact of experiencing silence and allowing ourselves to be “filled,” so to speak, with silence, disposes us to prayer. The great prophet, Elijah, on Mount Horeb – that is, Sinai – experienced strong winds, then an earthquake, and finally flashes of fire, but he did not recognize the voice of God in them; instead, he recognized it in a light breeze (cfr. 1 Rev 19:11-13). God speaks in silence, but we need to know how to listen. This is why monasteries are oases in which God speaks to humanity; and there we find the courtyard, a symbolic place because it is a closed space, but open toward heaven.
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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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