Tag Archives: spiritual life

Created good and love by God

Going along in my uncertainties I muddle over questions of life that affect me on the spiritual level. Perhaps others do the same. One of the things that Father Carrón is asking in his 2011 retreat for the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation is: do we recognize that despite our human weakness, or failings, that Christ still loves every part of me? Yes, but not always. Sometimes it is difficult to be aware such an expression of the Other. Why this is so, I am still trying to figure out. Let me know when you get the answer. The Abbot of Christ in the Desert in New Mexico writes a weekly online column which is often insightful. The following is a portion of that column that used for reflection:

Some people are insistent at times, to me, that it is
impossible any longer to lead a truly chaste and celibate life. My general
reply is that it has always been more or less impossible and is only truly
possible when there is a strong faith and a deep commitment to the Lord and a
trust that God will give us the strength that we need. Without a doubt that
have always been failures and there will always be failures, but that is to be
taken for granted in the human condition. Repentance and conversion are a part
of any Christian life and are always values and realities that struggle against
the brokenness that we find within us.

There is no doubt that all of us are
created good and that God always loves us. Our own understanding of ourselves,
though, helps us understand that our goodness has been compromised by others,
by ourselves and by situations outside of our control. The gifts of repentance
and conversion help us in our struggle against all within us that has been

This gift of the capacity to struggle against our brokenness is
one of the gifts of salvation given to us in Christ Jesus. Jesus is a model for
us in His humanity because He lived for truth and for the glory of His Father.
Jesus won and wins salvation for us by giving Himself up to death and by rising
from the dead.

Father Philip,

Abbot of Christ in the Desert Monastery

Examination of Conscience for priests

confession-6.jpgThe Congregation for Clergy published an examination of conscience entitled “The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy: An Aid for Confessors and Spiritual Directors” which hopes to reinvigorate the priest’s spiritual paternity by a recovery of the sacrament of Confession by penitent and confessor. Here is yet another aspect of the new evangelization called for by Blessed John Paul II and now Pope Benedict: the renewal of priests and people through Reconciliation.

“The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy” is the fruit of Pope Benedict’s Year for Priests. As Cardinal Piacenza notes, this “is a measure of authentic faith in the saving action of God which shows itself more clearly in the power of grace than in human strategic or pastoral initiatives which sometimes overlook this essential truth.” A sobering statement for one who works in a parish.

On the surface it seems that this text is exclusively for the clergy. Don’t be fooled into putting it aside.  I would recommend it to the laity as well. Be acquainted to the sacrament of Confession, the theology and practice of the Church and what the Church expects of her clergy. We have to help each other see Christ’s work among through concrete manifestation of Divine Mercy.

Consider the ideas found in the introduction (the link to the full text is at the end):

“It is necessary to return to the confessional as a place in which to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also as a place in which “to dwell” more often, so that the faithful may  and compassion, advice and comfort, feel that they are loved and understood by God and experience the presence of Divine Mercy beside the Real Presence in the Eucharist”.

With these words, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI addressed confessors during the recent Year for Priests, indicating to each one present the importance and therefore the apostolic urgency of rediscovering the Sacrament of Reconciliation, both from their viewpoint of penitents as well as that of ministers. Along with the daily celebration of the Eucharist, the availability of the priest to hear sacramental confessions, to welcome penitents, and to accompany them spiritually when they so request, is the real measure of a priest’s pastoral charity. By their availability, priests give joyful witness and in a certain sense take upon themselves their true identity, redefined in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and not reducible to a mere functionality. The priest is a minister, which is to say that he is at the same time both a servant and a prudent dispenser of Divine Mercy. To him is entrusted the serious responsibility “to forgive or to retain sins” (cf. John 20: 23).

Rembrandt The Return Of The Prodigal Son.jpg

Through him, and through the power of the Spirit who is the Lord and Giver of Life, the faithful are able to experience today in the Church the joy of the Prodigal Son, who after a life of sin returned to his father’s house in the manner of a servant but was welcomed with the dignity of a son. Whenever a confessor is available, sooner or later a penitent will arrive. And if the confessor continues to make himself available, even stubbornly so, sooner or later many penitents will arrive! Our rediscovery of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, both as penitents and as ministers, is a measure of authentic faith in the saving action of God which shows itself more clearly in the power of grace than in human strategic or pastoral initiatives which sometimes overlook this essential truth.

Responding to the appeal of the Holy Father and expressing his profound intent, this aid is intended as yet another fruit of the Year for Priests, to be a helpful instrument for the ongoing formation of the Clergy and an aid in rediscovering the indispensible value of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and of Spiritual Direction. The new evangelization and the ongoing renewal of the Church, semper reformanda, draw their life blood from the true sanctification of each member of the Church. It is clear that sanctifi cation must precede both evangelization and renewal, for it lays claim to and forms the necessary precondition for every effective apostolic effort, as well as for the reform of the Clergy.

In the generous celebration of the Sacrament of Divine Mercy, each priest is called to experience for himself the uniqueness and the indispensability of the ministry entrusted to him. Such an experience will help him to avoid the “ever-changing sense of identity” which so often marks the existence of some priests. Instead, his experience will cultivate within himself that sense of wonder which fi lls his heart, for through no merit of his own he is called by God, in the Church, to break the Eucharistic Bread and to forgive the sins of others.

Here’s “The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy: An Aid for Confessors and spiritual Directors”: Examination of Conscience for confessors and spiritual directors.pdf

Love is the means to overcome darkness of heart


Affability joined to love is an efficacious means of insinuating ourselves into the minds of men and of inducing them to embrace things that are most repugnant to human nature.

Saint Vincent de Paul

The spirituality of Holy Saturday

There was a day when Nietzsche was right: God was dead, the Word was not heard in the world, the body was interred and the tomb sealed up, the soul descended into the bottomless abyss of Sheol.” This descent of Jesus into the kingdom of the dead “was part of his abasement even if (as St. John admits of the Cross) this supreme abasement is already surrounded by the thunderbolts of Easter night. In fact, did not the very descent to hell bring redemption to the souls there?” It prolonged in some manner the cry from the Cross: Why have you abandoned me? “Nobody could ever shout that cry from a deeper abyss than did he whose life was to be perpetually born of the Father.”

Descent into Hell Duccio.jpgBut there remains the imitation of Christ. There is a participation, not only sacramental, but contemplative in his mystery. There is an experience of the abandonment on the Cross and the descent into hell, and experience of the poena damni. There is the crushing feeling of the “ever greater dissimilarity” of God in the resemblance, however great, between him and the creature; there is the passage through death and darkness, the stepping through “the somber door”. In conformity to the mission he has received, the prayerful man then experiences the feeling that “God is dead for him”. And this is a gift of Christian grace — but one receives it unawares. The lived and felt faith, charity, and hope rise above the soul to an inaccessible place, to God. From then on it is “in nakedness, poverty and humiliation” that the soul cries out to him.

Those who have experienced such states afterwards, more often than not, in their humility, see nothing in them but a personal purification. True to his doctrine which refuses to separate charisms and gifts of the Holy Spirit, the ecclesial mission, and individual mysticism, von Balthasar discerns in it essentially this “Holy Saturday of contemplation” by which the Betrothed, in some chosen few of her members, is made to participate more closely in the redemption wrought by the Spouse. We have arrived at a time in history when human consciousness, enlarged and deepened by Christianity, inclines more and more to this interpretation.

The somber experience of Holy Saturday is the price to be paid for the dawn of the new spring of hope, this spring which has been “canonized in the rose garden of Lisieux”: “is it not the beginning of a new creation? The magic of Holy Saturday … Deep cave from which the water of life escapes.”

Reading so many passages where this theme is taken up, we discern a distress, a solitude, a night — of the quality, in fact, as that experienced by “the Heart of the world” — and we understand that a work that communicates so full a joy must have been conceived in that sorrow.

Cardinal Henri de Lubac on the work of Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar

There’s no cheap grace in following Christ & the Church

The 40 days of Lent is leading to a dramatic climax in our
liturgical imagination: the prayer, fasting, almsgiving is pointing us directly
to what we’ve been promised and hoped for–salvation. These days of Lent offered
us an entrée into the Divine Mystery and yet I fear that a great many people,
including myself–may not have heard Jesus’ prophetic rebuke of the Pharisees
and others for their errors and for their self-righteousness and have missed
the essential purpose of our Lord’s sharp words. Certainly hearing Peter deny
Christ three times indicates that same tendency in us to stand back from that
which is life-giving. In the Scriptures we heard at Mass and in the Divine
Office we hear the Lord not condemning the people for love of God’s Law but
calling them to follow him more closely and in doing so enter more deeply into
the spirit of the Law. Christ makes it clear that living in the Kingdom of God
requires us to be sacrificial: to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel.
Here is the certainty we have: to follow Christ entails self-denial and the
acceptance of his cross as ours. No embrace of the cross, no life eternal.

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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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