Tag Archives: spirituality

NO such thing as second class grace

I have to admit that I am not a frequent reader of the spiritual theology of Saint Josemaría Escriva but I am more and more interested in what he said because I think there is something that corresponds to my heart. Time will tell how he will affect my my life. 

Here the saint briefly speaks to the fact that we are called by the Gospel to conform to Christ –a message I tried to get across to the parish youth group. Of course, speaking of following AND conforming the self to the Will of God is a hard concept to get across to anyone let alone young people. As Christians we follow; we also closely adhere to the cross while looking to the resurrection. Be careful, you don’t get the resurrection without the cross coming first.

Back to the saint’s thought: Saint Josemaria said, for example, about the matter of sanctity and priesthood:

There is no second class
sanctity: there is either a continuous struggle to be in the grace of God and
conformed to Christ our model or we desert these divine battles. Our Lord
invites everyone to sanctify himself in his own state. In Opus Dei this passion
for sanctity–in spite of our individual errors and miseries–is not changed by
the fact that one is a priest or a layperson.

Saint Josemaría, Homily, Priest for Eternity, 13 April 1973

Daily Rule of Prayer: Mass, adoration, lectio divina…

For the most part, the time for priestly and diaconal ordinations have come and gone. Where I am for the summer, a newly ordained priest is due to arrive in a few days. Having heard plenty of ordination homilies over the years none are as insightful as Benedict XVI’s especially when he proposes a plan to be spiritually fit. Of course, all what is said is not restricted to priests but applicable to the laity as well. All of us reading this post are familiar with all the points made about developing a prayer life and seeing them together constitutes a serious plan. Father Mark draws our attention to one item that is near-and-dear to many of us: lectio divina. I am re-posting a portion of my friend Father Mark’s recent May blog entry because I think it’s helpful.

What is Father Everypriest’s daily Rule of Prayer according to Pope Benedict XVI? Let’s consider the elements of the Rule in the order in which the Holy Father presents them.

1) Daily Holy Mass. Daily. Not 6 days week, not 5, or 4 days a week, but daily. The liturgical cycle in its hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms is given us precisely to facilitate our “abiding” in Christ hour by hour, day by day, week by week, and year after year. Integral to the liturgical cycle is daily Holy Mass. The Eucharistic Sacrifice sends the divine lifeblood coursing through one’s spiritual organism. Without daily Mass, the priest will succumb to spiritual anemia.

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2) The Liturgy of the Hours. The Hours give rhythm and grace to daily life. They are a school of discipline (discipleship), a supernatural system of irrigation channeling grace into every moment of the day, a privileged way of offering thanks in communion with all who, “in heaven, on earth, and under the earth,” confess the Name of Jesus and bend the knee before Him. A priest who loves the Divine Office will enjoy an interior life that is sane, and sound, and wholly ecclesial. Fidelity to the Divine Office refines the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, sharpens one’s discernment, and imparts to everything the priest does a certain Eucharistic and doxological quality.

3) Eucharistic Adoration. Are you surprised? Eucharistic adoration has known a kind of springtime since The Year of the Eucharist (2004-2005) that was also the year of the death of Pope John Paul II and of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Two Americans known for loving their brother priests and ministering to them tirelessly –Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and Father Gerald Fitzgerald of the Holy Spirit– insisted on a daily hour before the Blessed Sacrament as a sine qua non of priestly spirituality. The priest who adores the Blessed Sacrament exposes his weaknesses and wounds to the healing radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. Moreover, he abides before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus as the representative of his people: of the sick, the poor, the bereaved, and of those locked in spiritual combat. The priest who looks to the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, and draws near to His Open Heart in the Sacrament of the Altar, will, just as the psalm says, be radiant, and he will not be put to shame.

4) Lectio Divina. Again — a monastic thing? No, a Catholic thing. The quality of a priest’s preaching is directly proportionate to his commitment to lectio divina. Neglect of lectio divina leads to mediocre preaching. Opening the Scriptures is like opening the tabernacle: therein the priest finds the “hidden manna” his soul craves. The four steps of lectio divina can be accommodated to any length of time: 1) lectio, i.e. the Word heard; 2) meditatio, i.e. the Word repeated; 3) oratio, i.e. the Word prayed;

4) Contemplatio; i.e. the indwelling Word. Lectio divina cannot be occasional;
it is not a random pursuit. Learn to say, “I am not available.” Get over feeling guilty about taking time for God!

5) Holy Rosary. Yes, the daily Rosary. It’s a spiritual lifeline that has saved many a priest from spiritual shipwreck. The brilliant and holy exegete and founder of the École biblique in Jerusalem, Father Marie-Joseph Lagrange, was observed praying fifteen mysteries of the Rosary each day, and asked, “Why, Father, do you, a great exegete, need to pray the Rosary?” “Because, ” he answered, “it decapitates
pride.” I would add that not only does the Rosary decapitate pride; it decapitates each of the seven capital sins: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. With the passing of the years I have come to appreciate the profound wisdom of an old Dominican priest to whom I used to make my confession years ago. Invariably, after confessing my miseries, Father would ask, “Do you say the Rosary, son?” And invariably I would reply, “Yes, Father.” And then he would say, “Aye, then you’ll be alright.” A priest who prays the Rosary daily will be alright and, almost imperceptibly, will grow in purity and humility.

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6) Meditation. Meditation can mean many things, even within our Catholic tradition. It is integral to the prayerful celebration of Holy Mass and the Hours. “it nourishes Eucharistic adoration. It is the second “moment” of lectio divina. It is the soul of the Rosary. In my own experience, meditation is related to “remembering the things the Lord has done.” Saint Gertrude the Great, a model of the mystical life grounded in the liturgy, used to say, “A grace remembered is a grace renewed.” Understood in this sense, meditation, by recalling the mercies of the Lord in the past, infuses the present with hope, and allows the priest to go forward with a holy boldness.

Is it necessary to set a period of time apart for meditation as such? That depends on whom you ask. The Carmelite, Jesuit and Sulpician traditions would hold fast to some form of meditation as a daily exercise. The monastic tradition has, on the whole, taken a more supple approach to meditation. It is a daily practice, but one diffused in every form of prayer, including the liturgy itself. One learns to pace one’s prayer, to pause, to breathe, to linger over a phrase, a word, or an image. Whether one espouses the Ignatian way or the monastic approach, meditation is an integral to every priest’s daily Rule of Prayer.

Prayer for Memorial Day 2009

O God, our Father, endless source of life and peace, welcome into Your merciful embrace the fallen of the war that raged here, the fallen on all wars that have bloodied the earth.

Grant that they may enjoy the light that does not fail, which in the reflection of Your splendor illumines the consciences of all men and women of good will.


You, Who in Your Son Jesus Christ gave suffering humanity a glorious witness of Your love for us, You, Who in our Lord Christ gave us the sign of a suffering that is never in vain, but fruitful in Your redeeming power,  grant those who yet suffer for the blind violence of fratricidal wars the strength of the hope that does not fade, the dream of a definitive civilization of love, the courage of a real and daily activity of peace.

Give us your Paraclete Spirit so that the men of our time may understand that the gift of peace is much more precious than any corruptible treasure, and that while awaiting the day that does not end we are all called to be builders of peace for the future of
Your children.

Make all Christians more convinced witnesses of life, the inestimable gift of Your love, You Who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen,

(Pope Benedict XVI, Polish Military Cemetery, Montecassino, May 24, 2009)

Growing Christ requires openness to all reality

Jesuit Fathers Campbell and McMahon write in their book, Becoming a Person in the Whole Christ:

The essential foundation of our ability to become a person
lies in our ability to transcend isolation and to share ourselves as free gift
with another.

This capacity for openness to all of reality, the hallmark
of every spiritual being, is the essence of man as person, providing him with
potentialities for human growth that are unlimited. It is also the
“ground” of our capacity for religious experience, making it possible
for God to give Himself to us through a sharing in His divine life, and
ultimately in the fullness of open friendship with Him.

Trusting God enough to abandon the self to Him at all costs

There are very
few men who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves
entirely to His hands, and let themselves be formed by His Grace. A thick and
shapeless tree trunk would never believe that it could become a statue, admired
as a miracle of sculpture … and would never consent to submit itself to the
chisel of the sculptor who, as St. Augustine says, sees by his genius what he
can make of it. Many people who, we see, now scarcely live as Christians, do
not understand that they could become saints, if they would let themselves be
formed by the grace of God, if they did not ruin His plans by resisting the
work which He wants to do
… In this life a thing is good only in the degree in
which it serves eternal life. And it is evil in that degree in which it makes
us turn aside or away from it. In this way the soul, suffering contradictions
on this earth, enlightened and purified by the eternal dew, builds its nest on
the heights, concentrates all its desires on the search for Christ crucified
since, after being crucified in this life, it will rise to life with Him in the

Saint Ignatius of Loyola to Ascanio Colonna, Rome, April 25, 1543

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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