Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Prayer at the Threat from Malevolent Winds and Sea Storm

An Orthodox friend of mine posted this prayer and icon in light of the weather storm Sandy coming our way, and I am reposting. State government predictions are sounding exaggerated right now, but one can really tell. In Connecticut, along the waterfront, it is predicted that four high tide cycles will be exceptional, and rough weather–high winds and rain– over 36-48 hours. In category four areas more than 362 thousand people expect some inconvenience. Let’s not tempt fate. In charity, let’s pray to the Divine Master, “A Prayer at the
Threat from Malevolent Winds and Sea Storms.”

Christ walking on water.jpg

O Master, Lord our God, Who by Thy
Consubstantial and Un-originate Word, and Thy Life-Giving Spirit Who is equal in
honor, hast brought all things out of nothingness into being; Who hast
established the sand as bounds to the sea, and weighed the mountains and the
valleys in a balance; Who hast measured the skies and holdest the water in the
palm of Thy hand; Who hast given to this visible world of the senses its laws
and rules, its harmony and order; Who hast appointed changes to the weather and
variations in the orbit of the sun; Who, through the mingling of the elements,
holdest all things together by Thine inexpressible power, and keepest them free
from harm and intact: Do Thou Thyself, O All-Good King, extending to us Thine
innate and customary love and goodness, visit the work of Thy hands. Do not
deprive us of Thy mercies and Thy compassion, and do not destroy Thine
inheritance, for Thou hast ineffably created us in Thine own image. 

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Goodness vs Greatness

Young man Memling.jpgToday’s gospel is the familiar narrative of the Rich Young Man: “go and sell follow me.” It is clear in Saint Mark’s rendering of the story that the young man is good. He does good things, he does what any respectable person would want to do; the young man asks the right questions; he follows what the tradition lays before him. So, the man actually is admirable according to the measure of this world. But the measure with which a person of faith judges is very different because it is a given, and not achieved. There is one that the young man’s not able to grasp: the greatness offered to him by God. He lacks the capacity to accept that it is not about the human will in attaining lasting happiness. As we know, it’s only the Infinite that suffices in answering the needs of the human heart. As the psalm indicates, filled with Love, we sing for joy. The eschatological hope we live in is one mercy’s face is more beautiful than any of the temporal riches we can conceive of. Jesus offers the young man the possibility of greatness and not mere goodness; the Lord shows him the path to eternal life, not just the best way to get through the city; God hands him holiness and not the safety of existence.

Our Lord offered the young man, and therefore us, the way to unity and deeper communion with him here, and in eternity — but the ultimate destiny for each of us is heaven. The young man’s response is understandable but not acceptable. Greatness, holiness, is a superior divine gift than being good. What do you want? What do you seek? How do you live?

God keeps us waiting because…

“Why does God, who is love, keep us waiting?
Because He is love, and seeks love. Love that does not know how to wait is not
love. To love is to give ourselves. No only for a fraction of a lifetime, nor
with a part of its strength: love is, and seeks, the total gift of self….
Delays in union [with God] are not time lost; far from it. God sees very far
ahead; He makes wonderful use of what we call evilof our wanderings, our
hesitations and detours
, although He does not love them or want them. It is at these
moments, above all, that we need confidence and perseverance. The prayer,
whether for ourselves or for others, that is not discouraged, which persists
and besieges Heaven, touches God’s heart; and that is why He tells us to

Dom Augustin Guillerand, O. Cart.
A French Carthusian monk (1877-1945) of the Charterhouse of La Valsainte, Switzerland

Christian living is a personal experience given by God

Recently I was reading some blog written by a Catholic extolling the virtues of a Melkite parish near to where she lives. Hurray! This woman found peace in the Byzantine East, and Melkite no less. What right-thinking Catholic would dismiss Eastern Christianity? All the things this blogger noted from icons, to incense, to singing the Liturgy, and the priest facing East are good and beautiful things; but the essential was missing from her comments. No mention of Jesus Christ and the personal encounter needed for the attainment of one’s Destiny. One can only say to her list of likes: so what!

The string of pearls this blogger noted are good and essential as they are constituent to an incarnational faith, that is, to our worship of the One Triune God. They are, however, meaningless if not backed by a familiarity with Scripture, an abiding love for the liturgical tradition of the Church, the clear, consistent teaching of the Church, the teachings of the Church fathers and mothers, a personal and ongoing conversion, and a humanity that is happy and making progress in working out salvation. Yet, let’s not confuse personal with private. Let me say it another way: an iconostasis doesn’t save – Jesus does; the icon of the Hospitality of Abraham doesn’t save – Jesus saves; the Trisagion doesn’t save, even if it’s a cool prayer – Jesus does. Unless there is a down-and-dirty conversion from sin to grace no piece of a religious aesthetic is meaningful or redemptive.

Remember that the Servant of God Pope Paul VI said: “the first fruit of the deepening consciousness of the Church itself is the renewed discovery of its vital relationship with Christ. A well-known thing, fundamental, essential, but never quite understood, meditated upon, celebrated enough.”

Yet, the icons, sacred music, gestures, prayers, and sweet smelling air, etc. do contribute to vitality of one’s spiritual itinerary. AND most of all, we need a renewed attention to the lex orandi tradition of the Church not just a moralist view that leads to individualism. “Church things” cultivate the beautiful aspects of Catholic living and thinking, they contribute to the process of conversion because they point to something deeper and more real than not. We are persons and not individuals who need to the beautiful, who need each other.

Today more than ever, following the indications “unto salvation’ of the saints and the angels, plus the authentic teachings and witness of church leaders like Pope Benedict, the Ukrainian Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Angelo Scola, Massimo Camisasca, Luigi Giussani, Julían Carrón, Enzo Biachi, Chaira Lubich, Sophia Cavelletti, Cristina Canetta and the like is critical for the flowering of the spiritual life. Some of these people are dead. But the point is that we are in desperate need of having a personal relationship with good men and women who point us in the right direction. These Christian leaders, through their writings and the communities they founded, are crucial because it’s only through the personal that we break out of our isolation and I dive into community, especially the community of faith. It is not easy for some to do this; all I ask is that you try. We know that the personal is respected and cherished.

The personal encounter with Jesus the Christ mediated through the Other is the logic of Christianity, indeed, that’s the point of today’s feast of the Guardian Angels: God so loves us that we have others to rely upon to help us on our way. The Guardian Angels help and support this encounter in the guided companionship we call the Church.

Following the Lord demands a profound conversion, Pope Benedict reminds

… as God himself revealed through the mouth of the
prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, / your ways are not my
ways” (Isaiah 55:8). This is why following the Lord always demands of man – of
all of us – a profound conversion, a change in our way of thinking and living,
it demands that we open our hearts to list
en, to let ourselves be interiorly
enlightened and transformed. A key point on which God and man differ is pride:
in God there is no pride, because he is the complete fullness of love and is
entirely disposed to love and give his life
; in us men, however, pride is
deeply rooted and requires constant vigilance and purification. We, who are
little, aspire to appear big, to be the first, while God, who is truly great,
is not afraid to abase himself and become last. And the Virgin Mary is
perfectly in “synch” with God: let us invoke her with confidence so that she
might teach us how to faithfully follow Jesus on the path of love and humility. 

Pope Benedict XVI
Sunday Angelus, excerpt
30 September 2012

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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