Tag Archives: spirituality

Where is your attention focused?

Animals focus their attention on their prey. Human beings focus their attention within and, turning towards God, who descends into their being, flee from the world, ceasing to be attached to external objects.


For what they are trying to do is not to lose their concentration amongst the variety of objective things. Prayer is that spiritual means which forbids thought to become dissipated and remain attached to scattered objects.


The images produced by the rational faculty keep us tied to objective things. Prayer liberates us from their gravitational pull, without, however, abolishing them. Humanity reaches out to God and God responds.


Like a Pelican in the Wilderness
Stelios Ramfos

Spiritual maternity for priests

Do you ever think of the connection between holiness and priests? I am NOT suggesting a vague academic consideration of the topic but I am wondering about it in the concrete. Every now and again the notion –perhaps I can even say vocation– of spiritual paternity and maternity arises in me and I am not exactly sure where the idea comes from or where it is going. The matter of the holiness of priests –indeed, of all people, concerns me, but right now I am thinking specifically of the ordained’s holiness because it is a real need in our ecclesial life together today.

Friends, laity and clergy alike who work as spiritual fathers and mothers, live a beautiful vocation in walking spiritually with those who are ordained. They become familiar with the personal narratives of sin and grace, they hear about the presence of the Lord in daily living, and they know the struggles of faith, hope and charity. In a word, spiritual fathers and mothers see the reality of Divine intimacy at work.

So, let me say a very brief word about the idea of spiritual maternity for priests. Actually, let me point you in the direction of the spiritual maternity of Catherine Doherty, a well known mystic of the 20th century who had a special love for the priesthood and the enduring need of priests to be holy. Doherty said once, “I wish I could tell every priest that I share his pain and joy, whatever it may be, because I love the priesthood passionately.” But there are others as Cardinal Hummes indicates in a recent letter (see below), who have been called to this vocation.

What I am interested is real holiness, not fake spiritual sentimentality, not some vague “connection” with the divinity. Rather, holiness is a way of life centered on reality as it is given and lived in the light and tension of the Gospel, the sacraments and the Church.

Having CHummes.jpgconcern for priests, Claudio Cardinal Hummes wrote in 2007 to the world’s bishops asking for help in establishing in their dioceses places of eucharistic adoration and the development of a spiritual work that looks to women to assist in flourishing of holiness in the priesthood. That letter bears greater attention and so I have linked it here.

Cardinal Hummes says many memorable things in his letter on spiritual maternity but important item that needs to rememmbered is the following:

According to the constant content of Sacred Tradition, the mystery and reality of the Church cannot be reduced to the hierarchical structure, the liturgy, the sacraments, and juridical ordinances. In fact, the intimate nature of the Church and the origin of its sanctifying efficacy must be found first in a mystical union with Christ.

 For more information read my friend Father Mark’s recent essay on the subject.

The Acceptable Prayer

prayer1.jpgQuestion: How can a person know that his prayer is acceptable to God? (1 Pt 2:5)

Answer: When a person makes sure that he does not wrong his neighbor in any way whatsover, then let him be sure that his prayer is acceptable to God (see Ex 20:16-7; Mt 19:19). But if someone harms his neighbor in any way whatsoever, either physically or spiritually, his prayer is an abomination and is unacceptable. For the wailing of the one who is being wronged will never allow this person’s prayer to come before the face of God. And if indeed he does not quickly reconcile with his neighbor, he will certainly not go unpunished  his whole life by his own sins, for it is written that whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven (Mt 18:18).

Tim Vivian, ed., Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers. (Collegeville: Cistercian Studies, 2008).


Abba Antony said, ‘I saw the snares that the Enemy spreads out over the world and, groaning, I said, “What can get through such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, “Humility.'”

Tim Vivian, ed., Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers. (Collegeville: Cistercian Studies, 2008).

Is self-sufficiency enough? Or, is Christ and the Christian community enough?

Saint Basil the Great tells us that we can’t go it alone…

If anyone claims to be able to be completely self-sufficient, to be capable of reaching perfection without anyone else’s help, to succeed in plumbing the depths of Scripture entirely unaided, he is behaving just like someone trying to practice the trade of a carpenter without touching wood. The Apostle would say to such: ‘It is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law who will be justified.’ [Rom. 2:13]

Washing the feet.jpgOur Lord, in loving each human being right to the end, did not limit himself to teaching us in words. In order to give us an exact and telling example of humility in the perfection of love, he put on an apron and washed the disciples’ feet.

So what about you, living entirely on your own? Whose feet will you wash? Whom will you follow to take the lowest place in humility? To whom will you offer brotherly service? How, in the home of a solitary, can you taste the joy that is evident where many live together?

The spiritual field of battle, the sure way of inner advancement, continual practice in the keeping of the commandments, this is what you will find in a community. It has the glory of God as its aim, in accordance with the word of the Lord Jesus: ‘Let your light so shine before your fellows that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ [Matt. 5:16]

What is more, community preserves that particular characteristic of the saints which is referred to in the Scriptures thus: ‘All who believed were together and had all things in common.’ [Acts 2:44] ‘The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.’ [Acts 4:32]

Thomas Spidlik. Drinking from the Hidden Fountain : A Patristic Breviary: Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World. Minneapolis: Cistercian Publications, 1993. 215.

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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