Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Back to the cross

English: Christ - Coptic Art

The Church gives us on this 12th Sunday of through the Year the gospel of Luke (9:18-24) focusses our personal reflection on the cross, redemptive suffering, self-abnegation. We can’t get away from answering the question: “But who do you say that I am?” AND we have to respond to the Lord’s declaration: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Francis the Pope tells us: “those who serve the truth serve Christ.” In his TheoDrama (Vol. 1), Han Urs von Balthsar tells us to do the truth. Does anyone really believe that you do the truth? Now, what does this look like? Preach with your life the Paschal Mystery, that is, Jesus Christ Present: here and now.

Perhaps a reflection from Saint Cyril of Alexandria might help us understand: “When the disciple Peter had professed his faith, Jesus charged them, it says, and commanded them to tell it to no one. ‘For the Son of Man’, he says, ‘is about to suffer many things, and be rejected, and killed, and on the third day he shall rise again.’ Wasn’t it the duty of disciples to proclaim him everywhere? This was the very business of those appointed by him to the apostleship. But, as the Scripture says, ‘There is a time for everything.’ There were things yet unfulfilled which must also be included in their preaching about him. They must also proclaim the cross, the passion, and the death in the flesh. They must preach the resurrection of the dead, that great and truly glorious sign by which testimony is borne him that the Emmanuel is truly God and by nature the Son of God the Father…He commanded them, therefore, to guard the mystery by a reasonable silence until the whole plan of the dispensation should arrive at a suitable conclusion.”

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In the face of life’s perils, can we really trust in the Lord?

We all have to face the contours of our existence. Not to do so seems to side-step the gift of freedom and to minimize our desires for happiness. Not knowing where we are going is OK. It is not the how, but the what of our lives that matters. For the Christian, the only reasonable way to engage one’s desires, one’s moral life, freedom, faith, other people is to trust in someone who is greater; the One who comes before all else that IS. The famed Thomas Merton begins to expand what our existence consists in. Give some thought to Merton’s guidance.


My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.


But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.


And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


Thomas Merton

Thoughts In Solitude

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Love your enemies, Jesus said

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Today’s Gospel ought to shock all of us into another orbit. One of Jesus’ most difficult teachings and expectations is made known. How have we heard the point “treat others as we would want to be treated”?  Probably many times. But treating others is the least we can do. Jesus opens the horizon a bit more by saying that we have to love our enemies; we are to show mercy to others. Mercy is not a one time event; it is a perpetual way of living; it is a way of living without conditions. Catholics can’t say this is the first time for hearing this Gospel. Love of enemies is what sets true believers from those who really don’t (or can’t). Do we really think that we can live by the words of the Living God without the Living God alive in us?

I think it is reasonable to follow what the Pope has indicated in thinking of the connection of the love for our enemies impoverishing us, because it makes us poor like Jesus who was made flesh and has shown us the true face of God. Jesus’ lowering of himself is one those pivotal points in salvation of history that we can’t avoid keeping in mind on a daily basis. A new insight into what mystery of our salvation is –is revealed anew.


Of course, we need to ask what love is. One working definition is that love is having concern for another’s destiny.

In this morning’s Mass in Rome, Pope Francis said:

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Anniversary of death of Pope John XXIII, the Mosul martyrs, and a Trappist

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In daily life most of occasionally remember the passing of a loved with a visit to the cemetery, saying a prayer for the peaceful repose of the soul, perhaps having a Mass offered for the loved. These are normal Catholic practices in remembering the dead. But when you are a pope similar things happen, but just like with loved ones, there comes a point that we just don’t actively remember anymore. Do we actively remember the dead? In my family, I think I am the only one to keep the memory of loved ones known, and try to beg God for mercy on the dead. This is a sad stage in our the evolving of our society.

Today happens to be anniversary of death that I am recalling, four people from widely different backgrounds and vocations:

  • Blessed Pope John XXIII‘s 50 years since his death
  • Aunt Helen, 2002
  • Dom Basil Pennington, OCSO, monk, abbot, and author, Spencer, MA, 2005
  • Father Raghed Ganni and 3 subdeacons killed in Mosul, Iraq, 2007
John XXIII, was the supreme pontiff less than 5 years, was the smiling pope who called the Second Vatican Council, Aunt Helen was a wife and mother, Dom Basil was a Trappist monk of St Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, MA who was a prolific writer on the spiritual life and on Cistercian life, and Father Raghed Ganni and the subdeacons we gunned down for being Christian in a context of Islamic persecution. Of note, pilgrims from Blessed John’s native region in Italy will be at Mass today and meet with Pope Francis. It is a good thing to remember our loved ones. They still are a part of our lives; they make up our DNA.
Let’s offer a prayer for all these people asking God the Father of Mercies to be gentle and loving. But let’s ask these people to ask God to bestow mercy upon us.

Order of Malta in Lourdes, France –a pilgrimage with the sick

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The 55th International Pilgrimage of the Order of Malta Lourdes, France has finished. It is reported that 6,500 people from 35 different countries –members of the Order of Malta, volunteers and pilgrims– went to take care of 1,300 who live with illness as part of their daily life. The American Association has participated in the Annual Order of Malta Pilgrimage to Lourdes since 1986.

The official title of the Order of Malta is The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta – founded in Jerusalem on 15 February 1113 with a bulla from Pope Paschal II – is a sovereign subject of international law and a lay religious order of the Catholic Church. Matthew Festing is the 79th leader of the Order. The Order maintains bilateral diplomatic relations with more than 100 States, 18 official representations and permanent observer status at the United Nations, the European Union and numerous international organizations. 

The Order of Malta is active in 120 countries, with 12 Grand Priories and Sub-Priories and 47 national Associations, as well as numerous hospitals, medical centers, day-care centers, first-aid corps and specialist foundations. The American Association is headquartered in New York City, and founded in 1927.

I have great affection for the Order of Malta, their history and the work they do for the faith and the sick. Each year people seek divine help through a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes to pray, to go into the healing baths and to enjoy the friendship of others living with illness. The witness of these people, the healthy and the ill, is a tremendous boost to my own struggles in life. Friends of mine in the Order give good example of what it means to live the Beatitudes and the Works of Mercy, spiritual and corporal.

The American Association of the Order of Malta, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, take time for their own conversion, learning the Catholic faith, helping the ill, bringing Holy Communion to the hospitals, prison ministry, working their parishes, and healthcare work in other countries like Haiti.

Our Lady of Philermo, pray for us.

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.

Blessed Gerard Tongue, pray for us.

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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