Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Did God Correct Himself?

Today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew poses a crucial question for our following Christ: How do we do it? The line that is frequently often misunderstand:

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it
was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no
resistance to one who is evil.

Several credible witnesses give a fruitful look at what it means to be a Christian today. Saint Basil the Great  (330-January 1, 379) wrote in Letter 2 that:

We must
try to keep the mind in quietness. For if the eye is constantly shifting its
gaze, one moment this way or that, then veering between upwards and down, it
cannot see clearly what lies directly in front of it
. It has to bring its
gaze to bear on this object so as to see it clearly in focus. In the same way a
mind distracted by thousands of worldly concerns cannot possibly bring a steady
gaze to bear
on the truth.

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Discovering the Way: El Camino de Santiago

pilgrim shell.jpgSalt + Light TV has given a wonderful gift in doing a terrific story on the ancient pilgrimage trail called in Spanish, El Camino de Santiago. The Way of Saint James. Alessia Domanico is the host of “Discovering the Way: El Camino de Santiago.”

I’ve been wanting to walk the Camino for years. I can think of no other pilgrimage to do with gusto than this one. It may still take me time to plan and go on the Way of Saint James, but I am resolved. You???
As was said in the video, the walk along the long trail to tomb of Saint James does many things but for me it seems to me that its most important aspect is one’s ability to notice beauty, to notice life. Recall that beauty is that theological datum that most speaks of God in a most authentically human and spiritual manner.
The Camino is truly about the Christian tradition, there’s:
  • a great adventure, go for a purpose: you’ll grow spiritually and physically
  • an opportunity to pray, to do penance, to be reminded of tradition
  • catechesis on the faith
  • an opportunity to learn Christian and civil history
  • to know your own humanity, that of the other
  • learn and experience the christian faith
  • have the goal to go to the Cathedral of Saint James to visit the relics of a great Apostle.
I would also recommend Monsignor Kevin A. Codd’s book on the making the pilgrimage, To the Field of Stars.
Monsignor’s blog To the Field of Stars introduces you to the pilgrimage.

Charity is the only good reason to do anything

The Cistercian
monk, philosopher and theologian Isaac of Stella (1100-1169) was featured in
the Office of Readings today: Charity is the reason why anything should be done
or left undone.

Charity is the only good reason to do anything, but it also
sometimes demands that we not do something we might think we want to do. There
are a lot of fine distinctions one has to make in this area to live spiritually
in common life and ministry. For example:

  • We are called to support one another,
    but not to enable maladaptive behaviors, debilitating addictions, and sins. We
    must bear with the burdens of others, and be willing to wash feet, but we
    should not take responsibility for the feelings of others.
  • We must seek ways to
    invite both individuals and institutions to benefit from our strengths, and
    invite them into the success that derives from them,
    but–again–we should be
    careful not to take interior or exterior responsibility for situations that the
    Holy Spirit
    has not, or not yet, seen fit to put in our care.
  • Sometimes the
    greatest charity–and often the most painful–is not giving someone what he
    thinks he wants
  • We must be good to ourselves, practicing good self-care, but
    that doesn’t mean taking it easy and just ‘being nice’ to ourselves. On the one
    hand, we must not be so hard on ourselves that our whole spiritual life becomes
    a rehearsal of faults and sins, for this is one of the devil’s tricks in making
    us fail to notice God, and on the other we must also be careful not be overly
    forgiving of ourselves so as to effectively give up struggling with certain
    selfishnesses and sins.
  • We must practice the sort of self-charity that
    nourishes our gifts and virtues
    , and is ruthless in the unwillingness to put up
    with sin.
Thanks to my friend Friar Charles for providing grist for the mill.

Breast cancer and St Agatha: supporting those who live with the disease

St Agatha GB Tiepolo.jpgThe Church has a ministry, a role, a work, in helping to restore a person to health and wholeness because the Church is the continuation of Jesus’ ministry of healing in the world today.

Last Friday and Sunday I spear-headed two gatherings for those who live with breast cancer for the feast of Saint Agatha, the patron saint for those living with diseases of the breast. These gesture of prayer and solidarity were done in conjunction with the Order of Saint Agatha, Dominican Friars Healthcare ministry and two churches.

Anointing with blessed oil is a sacramental way in which the Church through her priests is concretely present to those in need spiritual comfort by complementing the medical and social practitioners in the ministry of healing. Any illness can have the effect of personal and communal isolation. What the Church is saying by this gesture of prayer and anointing is that the person is not alone, that we, the community of faith, empathize with the effects of illness and want to be in solidarity with the ill person. As was said, “breast cancer was the best thing to have happened to me because I’ve had to live life differently, more intently, and in a God-centered way.”
Why anoint someone? There are 5 identifiable reasons to administer the Sacrament of the Sick:
  1. curing and healing, a distinction here: we ask God for a cure, we ask also ask for a healing; the person is looking for God to bestow the grace of a comprehensive experience of restoration of body and spirit — “the whole person is helped and saved, sustained by trust in God, and strengthened against the temptations of the Evil One and against anxiety over death”; the relationship between God and the person is bridged in the sacrament;
  2. the gift of strengthening against debilitating effects of despair, depression, fear and anger; this Sacrament asks God for the grace to recognize and hopefully to unite any and all suffering to the experience Christ faced on the cross; the strength prayed for is not to allow illness to define their person because one’s humanity is more than a medical diagnosis;
  3. forgiveness of one’s sins: no human person –except Jesus (and He was also divine) and the Virgin Mary were sinless– and therefore sins are forgiven with this Sacrament; our human condition is frail and sickness can enhance the ugly side of ourselves and what we need and want is a healing of the soul; the effect of forgiveness is the reconciliation of the person to God, self and others; I think it is true that an illness has the potential to bring out of ourselves sinful attitudes, actions and patterns of speech that are not truly who we are as persons;
  4. a preparation for life with God, i.e., eternal life: no one is going to live for ever; perhaps the sickness is an opportunity to take stock in one’s life as it has been lived up to now and to patiently and lovingly make a life’s examination to see where there’s been love and to see where love has been absent; sickness is God’s way to call us to a deeper conversion that we’ve never experienced prior to this moment; here the Sacrament is asking us to look at our immortal soul with a degree of seriousness and the sickness as an education to greater freedom in Christ;
  5. conforming oneself to Christ crucified and risen: to be conformed to Christ means to adhere to Him, to listen to Him as we would listen to a loved one in friendship; there is a new reality in the life of a Christian –Jesus Christ is no longer dead, He’s risen; that Christ is risen and seated at the right hand of God the Father tells us of a new reality, a fact, in our human existence; the Sacrament brings us closer to cross Christ carried and died on and tells us that our salvation is there on the cross with Christ; we are not alone –we are with Jesus who is total love, total compassion; the healing offered in this sacrament is one of total trust and love in the One who made us, sustains us and carries us along with Him.
On Friday (2/4) evening in the context of the Friday Mass Father John Lavorgna, the pastor of Our Lady of Pompeii Church administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick for about 35 women and men.
At the Noon Mass on Sunday (2/6) at St Catherine of Siena Church, Father Jordan Kelly and three other priests administered the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to more than 125 women and men.

The New Evangelization TV (Currents on Net TV) in the Diocese of Brooklyn graciously covered the event for the second year in a row. Their story this year was titled “Victims of Breast Cancer find Spiritual Comfort” highlights the beauty of prayer and solidarity.
It was in the Middle Ages that it became the pattern of sacramental economy that the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick was given only when someone was on death’s door step and it was called the “last rites” or “extreme unction.” Human experience of civil strife –in the international and domestic scene– that propelled liturgical theologians to rethink pastoral practice and our liturgical imagination. The Sacrament of the Sick would sick be closely connected with those living with acute illness and those near death, but also the Sacrament would be administered more broadly to those living with chronic illness as well as those living with mental illness and the experience of old age. However, people –including priests educated since 1972– continue to refer this sacrament as last rites.
The question always remains: Who is to be anointed? In a terrific book on the subject, Understanding Sacramental Healing: Anointing and Viaticum, Monsignor John C. Kasza speaks of the Sacrament as given for the magna infirmitas which “…indicates a weakness, feebleness, infirmity, inconstancy, or sickness which debilitates a person’s functioning within society” (footnote, p. 215).
In 2010, the first time we observed the feast of St Agatha and praying for and with those living with breast cancer can reviewed here.

Real change in history not administrative but of the heart, Discalced Carmelite superior says

Personal and corporate renewal is always a timely topic. Recently, the Superior General of the Discalced
Carmelites, Father Saverio Cannistrà, speaking about the hope of renewing his
order answered a question in what he saw as essential to renewal. I think the renewal is not only for the Carmelites but for all us. Don’t you think?

In part Father Cannistrà said:
“it is rather like the way of prayer Saint Teresa [of Avila] talks about: a growth that
happens day by day, passing through moments of consolation and desolation, but
with the determination to forge ahead, without giving up. The real changes
which have had an effect on history, are not mere administrative reorganizations
they are changes of heart, as Scripture tells us. If we do not expose our heart
to the beneficial tempest of the Spirit, then generous and prophetic
initiatives cannot be born from it. Formation, both initial and ongoing, would
probably be the sole help that we could offer, as an institution, to tread this

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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