Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Humanity’s true glory is perseverance

To serve God does not mean giving him any gift, nor has God any need of our service. On the contrary, it is he who gives to those who serve him life, immortality and eternal glory.

He rewards those who serve him without deriving any benefit himself from their service: he is rich, he is perfect, he has no needs.

God requests human obedience so that his love and his pity may have an opportunity of doing good to those who serve him diligently. The less God has need of anything, the more human beings need to be united with him.

Consequently, a human being’s true glory is to persevere in the service of God

Saint Irenaeus
Against Heresies

Repentance and discipleship

Peter walking on water BorrassaToday’s gospel reading in the Missal of Paul VI proclaims Matthew (4:12-23). Two themes emerge from this selection: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and “I will make you fishers of men.” Repentance and discipleship go-hand-in-hand.

The question for us is: to whom do we belong?

Do we actually, concretely, with vigor, belong to Christ? This is the key question for Christians. Belonging means we give our heart in a total way. So often we make a mental reservation, perhaps holding back just in case we are invited to something else. What is proposed by Jesus is that everything is given to him: our work, our lack of faith, the desire of our hearts, our anxiety, our sinfulness in need to metanoia, etc. Like Saint Therese the Little Flower taught, we start first with doing the little things with love. There is our dignity as a child of the Lord.

I am thinking of what Pope Benedict said about discipleship: “faith does not simply provide information about Who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation.” And, in his final audience, Benedict called us to a radical point in faith by reminding us that “The barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His.” Our life belongs to Christ whether we know it or not.

Saint Eusebius has this to say about following Jesus: “Reflect on the nature and grandeur of the one Almighty God who could associate himself with the poor of the lowly fisherman’s class. To use them to carry out God’s mission baffles all rationality. For having conceived the intention, which no one ever before had done, of spreading his own commands and teachings to all nations, and of revealing himself as the teacher of the religion of the one Almighty God to all humanity: he thought good to use the most unsophisticated and common people as ministers of his own design. Maybe God just wanted to work in the most unlikely way. For how could inarticulate folk be made able to teach, even if they were appointed teachers to only one person, much less to a multitude? How should those who were themselves without education instruct the nations?…When he had thus called them as his followers, he breathed into them his divine power, and filled them with strength and courage. As God himself he spoke God’s true word to them in his own way, enabling them to do great wonders, and made them pursuers of rational and thinking souls, by empowering them to come after him, saying: ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’.”

How alive are you in God?

“After our long time of waiting, after our long separation, when the vision of God overflows and excites our hearts and causes them to throb, we will live by that divine joy that beatifies, and that reaches into the depths of our being. We are as yet only half alive, and we will only be fully alive once we are submerged in the life of God overflowing within us.”

Jean Cardinal Danielou, SJ

Christians thinking about death

It is a regrettable sophism to say (as it was sometimes said in sermons) that the death of a father or mother, husband or wife, or of a child, is no reason for sadness as long as they have died well, after receiving the last sacraments, as long as we can hope that they are with God. Of course the eternal happiness of one whom we truly love is the most important thing, but separation from the beloved, even if only for a time, remains a terrible cross. Whoever does not feel this cross, whoever just happily goes his way with the consolation that the beloved has found eternal happiness, is not directed to eternity in a special way—he is simply insensitive and does not want to be disturbed in the normal rhythm of his daily life. He is simply making a comfortable excuse when he emphasizes that the eternal salvation of the other is the most important thing. He has forgotten that even Jesus Christ, the God-man, prayed in Gethsemane: ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.’ He does not understand that a cross which has been imposed on us should be suffered under as a cross. Only then can we attain to the true consolation which lies in the perspective of eternity, to the true hope of eternal blessedness.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Devastated Vineyard (1973) p130

Theresa Neumann the mystic and stigmatist

Theresa NeumannThe mystical life of the Catholic Church is rich with a variety of experiences. Let’s think of many men and women through the ages: Francis and Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Padre Pio, Catherine of Genoa, Hildegard of Bingen, and Sister Nazarena, to name a few. There are those who, because of God’s will, bore the wounds of the Lord’s holy Passion, not for their own designs but to bring others closer to the Savior. This is key. Yet this is a remarkable claim to make. I am sure there frauds but the people I am mentioning here do not fall into this category. I can think of Francis of Assisi, Catherine de Ricci, Anne Catherine Emmerich, Gemma Galgani, Rita of Cascia. In the history of salvation the Church can name more than 300 persons, most of them women, who bore in their body the wounds of Jesus.

The Servant of God Theresa Neumann (1898-1962) is one such person who is known to be a mystic and stigmatist. She is a person who trusted deeply in the Lord. The teaching of the Church says mysticism is that “intimate union with the Divinity, or a system growing out of such a tendency and desire.” Mystics are intimately connected with what we believe about the Holy Spirit and discernment. And by “mystic” I do not mean Theresa Caputo the Long Island Mystic who is a fraud.

This afternoon, at the request of my friend Glenn, I watched a 50 minute film on the life of Theresa Neumann, a German mystic and stigmatist who faced controversy and yet was resolute in doing what God asked of her. Glenn studies the mystical phenomenon found in the Church. Without Glenn’s encouragement I wouldn’t be drawn to this form of discernment.

For looking for the remarkable, many are intrigued that Theresa Neumann subsisted for 36 years only the Eucharist; it wasn’t that Neumann lived on nothing –she lived on the Savior. She said, “The Savior can do all things. Did He not say that “my Flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink?”

Her visions were spontaneous and biblical; she was convinced that her life was guided The Little Flower (many of Neumann’s own healings coincided with Theresa’s beatification and canonization). Neumann experienced the Lord’s Passion 780 times except during the liturgical season of Christmas and Easter. For what it’s worth, Churchmen and scholars, laity and professionals say that they felt her visions and stigmata were a genuine supernatural manifestation.

Some who met her attested to Neumann’s visions being authentically biblical, even her speaking in the Lord’s tongue, Aramaic, and bestowing certitude in the Lord’s holy Passion and resurrection. But only in knowing Theresa Neumann could one say with certitude that she was doing the Lord’s work and not her own: knowing Theresa you came to know a woman who had a deep trust in God; skeptics left converted.

What I became interested in as a result of this film was Neumann’s humanity. Who was she as a person? Several things were revealed: she was not easily influenced, she was vivacious, warm, loved to joke and tease, a god mother, cared for the dying, loved nature and working, tended a garden and prefer the outdoors, not overly pious, loved horses, and like to travel. Sounds like a good woman to me!

What Theresa Neumann verified in her life with the wounds of the Passion was what Saint Theresa had said, “more souls are savers through suffering than by brilliant sermons.” She felt a deep responsibility to lead others to Jesus Christ, the Savior. And this central for us: do we feel the responsibility to show the face of Jesus Christ to others? Does our life lead others to a deeper communion with the Trinity?

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]yahoo.com.
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