Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Choose life

The news these past days about bishops being deposed, investigated or admitting to affairs with women is rather distressing. Whether we are in Paraguay, Kansas City, Limburg, or Arundel and Brighton or anywhere else on the globe, or an average Catholic we need to adhere to Christ. To be human is to acknowledge our need for forgiveness; that we are all sinners, that is, redeemed sinners. What do we need to know? How are we to act as Christians?

Precisely because are sinners made in God’s image and likeness and that we receive the sacraments we sinners  have a Savior and a Church whose nature is mercy.  Too often in parish life or in the broader Church one can recognize the experience that there is too much gossip, faithlessness, nihilism and dysfunctional behavior. No gloating in the sin of another; no putting on aires. But let us pray for the grace of conversion and the grace to sin no more.

Being merciful and just does not mean we do nothing and sit complacent. The Church and all that we are and have are given to us by God Himself. The charitable work we are to do is to educate our hearts and minds and to keep steadfast in building the Body of Christ, the Church.

Lastly, I encourage all of us to go to confession. Examine your own consciences, and not other people’s consciences. we need to do penance. Perhaps even observe the First Friday devotion with sincerity. But we don’t need to be self-righteous and accusatory. The book of Deuteronomy exhorts us to choose life: for the Christian choosing life means to do what Jesus did with the woman at the well. The spiritual life requires our clear attention to the points of sin and grace and to move on the path to a grace-filled life.

Stay in the Church, St Augustine exhorts

Today is the 19th Sunday through the Church year and we are reading at Mass Saint Matthew 14:22-33

A reflection on the reading from St. Augustine:

“The boat carrying the disciples – that is, the Church – is rocking and shaking amid the storms of temptation, while the adverse wind rages on. That is to say, its enemy the devil strives to keep the wind from calming down. But greater is he who is persistent on our behalf, for amid the vicissitudes of our life he gives us confidence. He comes to us and strengthens us, so we are not jostled in the boat and tossed overboard. For although the boat is thrown into disorder, it is still a boat. It alone carries the disciples and receives Christ. It is in danger indeed on the water, but there would be certain death without it. Therefore, stay inside the boat and call upon God. When all good advice fails and the rudder is useless and the spread of the sails presents more of a danger than an advantage, when all human help and strength have been abandoned, the only recourse left for the sailors is to cry out to God. Therefore, will he who helps those who are sailing to reach port safely, abandon his Church and prevent it from arriving in peace and tranquility?”

Rowan Williams promotes Jesus Prayer

Rowan WilliamsThe Orthodox Christian Network reports that Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, advocates the use of the Jesus prayer. The prayer, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The prayer is more than a self-help, it is really a game-changer in this sense: the prayer’s simplicity and profundity moves the heart to a new level of awareness of one’s relationship with the Lord; it opens the door to new a point of life in the Spirit. It is also a whole body experience in the way you position your body, how you breathe and your attitude. Difference it makes in one’s spiritual life is only understood to the degree that you are faithful to this gesture. That is, it takes years to see a personal difference.

He was asked “After God: How do we fill the faith-shaped hole in modern life?” The response is in the article, “Rowan Williams Promoting the Jesus Prayer as Answer to Modern Angst.”

In part Williams said,

The prayer isn’t any kind of magical invo­cation or auto-suggestion – simply a vehicle to detach you slowly from distracted, wandering images and thoughts. These will happen, but you simply go on repeating the words and gently bringing attention back to them. If it is proceeding as it should, there is something like an indistinct picture or sensation of the inside of the body as a sort of hollow, a cave, in which breath comes and goes, with an underlying pulse. If you want to speak theologically about it, it’s a time when you are aware of your body as simply a place where life happens and where, therefore, God “happens”: a life lived in you.

Williams is a long time advocate of Benedictine spirituality, and Orthodox theology. Westerners are familiar with the Jesus prayer.

What Christians call love

The distinctive love by which Christians are recognized is not merely the result of an affectionate nature or the acquisition of skills or a suitably nurturing social situation. It is a gift of God which both fulfills and simultaneously surpasses our nature’s desire to be loved and to love.

Christian love (or agape) is the infusion of the divine lovableness and love into the human spirit, repairing the damage which love’s absence has wrought and lifting up the human to the level of the divine. Simultaneously, it is an upgrading of our perception so that we are able to see just how lovable our neighbor is.

This gift enable us to see through the objective failings of other persons to reach the inner core of their being, where everything is beautiful. This not a human quality or skill but a gift of God that is both sign and guarantee that we are already living on a supernatural plane.

Michael Casey, OCSO
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Theology of the Body, briefly visited with St Gregory Palamas

St Gregory PalamasThe Eastern Christian Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) whose feast day is observed twice a year by Orthodox Christians –once on November 14 and then on the Third Sunday of Lent. For Catholics Saint Gregory Palamas is a great guide for our spiritual training in Lent.

John Paul II was very keen on the theology of the body for some very good reasons. One of which is that he thought that the recovery of certain biblical principles as they are related to the human body were essential for the truthfulness, goodness and beauty Christian life life to thrive. His massive tome on the subject takes times to digest. But he’s not the only one to use the theme of “theology of the body.”

Some tend to reject the idea that the human body has anything to do with spiritual life. Nothing can be further from the truth. Christians, especially liturgically oriented Christians like Catholics and the Orthodox, believe that the body  Saint Gregory, the archbishop of Thessalonki taught a great deal about the importance of the body in the prayer life. Gregory was a proponent of hesychasm, a Greek work meaning stillness, quite. As it is related to a form of prayer it attends to the inner prayer life. It is mental prayer. The Jesus Prayer is prayed.

The point is to prayer unceasing no matter what we are doing. We know this from Saint Paul the Apostle. Saint Gregory helps us to focus on the essentiality of inner prayer amidst the noise of life. No activity is outside of God’s grace because the material world is not contrary to the things of God. However, if the material world becomes an idol, then sin creeps in, which is not good.

Incessant prayer and the worthy reception of the sacraments lead to communion with God. Nothing, particularly, the body-ethic, is outside communion with God, through the energy, not the substance, of the Holy Spirit. This is called thesois. The uncreated energy is defined as grace. It is the uncreated energy of God which transfigures and illuminates us drawing us in communion with the Divine Majesty.

Don’t get grumpy as the mid-Lent blues set in… but keep focus on your mental prayer as it will lead to a deeper relationship with Jesus. Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance.

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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