Tag Archives: spirituality

Facing our reality, a monk tells

Facing our own reality, as it is present to us right now, can be an extraordinarily painful experience. Living in either the past or the future is not of the Holy Spirit. But we sometimes find ourselves nursing old wounds, angers, being scared by weaknesses. However, experience tells us if we look carefully, that living reality is superbly beautiful and freeing and loving, too. Fr Giussani points us to keep life real, to be faithful to life and to accept the grace of recognizing that Christ is in the center of life. Easier said than done most days. One’s sin can be overwhelming and it has the ability to define our being if we are not careful. I found the following paragraph of Abbot Alban’s to be helpful and real; he names the virtues we need to live as God wants us to live. Perhaps you’ll take some solace from Abbot Alban’s brief note, too,

Time and again, during our life, we shall meet with
hardships which are the inevitable accompaniment of any attempt to lead a
supernatural life on this earth. These will arise not only from the temptations
which … are the consequence of our own weakness and fault but also from all
those trials and problems that arise from circumstances and people beyond our
own control, things which will demand from us much humility, fortitude,
generosity, forgiveness, patience with the “personality problems” [of others],
patience with ourselves…. Only the spirit of compunction of heart will enable
us to accept them … [and] to transform them from bitter frustrations into a
patient and even joyful sharing of the sufferings of Christ.

Alban Boultwood,
Alive to God: Meditations for Everyone (Baltimore: Helicon, 1964), 64.

Saint Joseph Cafasso: patron for prisoners and spiritual directors

St Joseph Cafasso.jpg

The Pope’s weekly general audience address today was
dedicated to Saint Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860), a member of the “St Francis of
Assisi Institute,” a priest (ordained in 1833) who died 150 years ago. He is
most known as Saint John Bosco’s spiritual father (director) from 1835 to 1860.
Cafasso died in 1860; Pius XII canonized in him 1947. In 1948, Pope Pius XII named him the patron of Italian
prisons and, in 1950, proposed him “as a model for priests involved in
Confession and spiritual direction.” His uncle is Blessed Joseph Allamano. Saint Joseph Cafasso’s feast day is June 23.

I never heard of Saint Joseph Cafasso
until today, partly because I am not well attuned to the life of Saint John
Bosco of which he seems to be most connected. According to the Benedict, Joseph
Cafasso’s ministry helped to form “the true pastor with a rich interior life
and a profound zeal for pastoral care: faithful in prayer, committed to
preaching and catechesis, dedicated to the Sacraments of the Eucharist and
Confession, in keeping with the model incarnated by St. Charles Borromeo and
St. Francis of Sales, and promoted by the Council of Trent. St. Joseph Cafasso
sought to establish this model in the formation of young priests so that, in
their turn, they too could become formators to other priests, religious and lay
people, thus creating a unique and effective chain.” AND how could anyone NOT take Saint Joseph Cafasso as a paradigm for Christian life?

A theme that I am picking
up these days from some of the Pope’s addresses is the constant need to stay in
the “state of grace.” You might say, “no Kidding, Paul! Really?” Mock if you want, but there is an increasing distancing from God, especially staying close to God by means of staying in
a state of grace through the sacrament of confession. We know that the pure of heart are the ones who inherit the kingdom of God. One of the things we know
of Saint John Vianney is that he devoted himself to confessional. Cafasso, the
Pope said, “loved the Lord totally, he was animated by a well-rooted faith and
supported by profound and prolonged prayer, he showed sincere charity to
everyone. He knew moral theology but was equally well aware of the condition of
people’s hearts for which, like the good shepherd, he took responsibility.”

XVI explained that that Saint John Bosco never copied his master. Not an
insignificant point: we need to take under consideration those who guide us but
we also need to assert our independence from a “master teacher” in order for
grace to flourish.  Otherwise we
merely parrot the other in an unthinking manner. The Pope said, “He
imitated him in the human and priestly virtues – defining him as a ‘model of
priestly life’ – but maintained his own attitudes and his own specific
vocation. … This is a precious lesson for those involved in the formation and
education of the young generations.”

What may be interesting for us to
know is that Saint Joseph Cafasso was renown for his “concern for the lowest, especially for prisoners
… who lived in inhuman and dehumanizing conditions.” Characteristic of Cafasso’s
work with prisoners is remembered today as he “often delivered great sermons
that came to involve almost the entire prison population, with the passage of
time he came to favor individual catechesis, made up of conversations and
personal meetings. While respecting the individual situation of each
individual, he tackled the great themes of Christian life, speaking of trust in
God, adherence to His will, the utility of prayer and the Sacraments, the
culmination of which is Confession, the meeting with God Who, for us, becomes
infinite mercy.”

Pilgrimage to Chartres

Pilgrimage 2009.jpgGoing from point A to point B whether it is a physical move or a spiritual one is a pilgrimage. Something happens to the person making the move between points. Traditionally speaking a pilgrimage is not a tourist event nor is a undertaken for frivolous reasons. Tourism is fine and necessary but I want to think about a different type physical and spiritual journey not often talked about in Catholic circles today. It is a journey; it’s a path walked; it is a time to review your life. A pilgrimage is time spent either alone or with others on a path to a change of heart, a conversion. Often we take on the burdens and the delights of a pilgrimage to gain a deeper insight into our lives as Christians asking questions about how the experience of Christ has changed me, or where I need to change based on what I discern the Lord to be asking.

Saints have made pilgrimages, sinners have made and continue to make pilgrimages. My own home parish priest just led a very beautiful pilgrimage to the Lourdes Shrine and other religious places in France this past April. Members of the lay movement Communion and Liberation makes an annual pilgrimage to the famous Marian shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (also here) or to the Shrine of Our Lady of Loretto and the Conventual Franciscans (and the Capuchins, CFRs and Dominicans [to sights related to Saint Dominic] do the similarly) often lead pilgrims to Assisi in order to be faithful to the path set out by Saint Francis of Assisi. The Benedictines of Saint John’s Abbey sponsor a regular pilgrimage to religious shrines and monastic foundations in Europe related to Saint Benedict and the Benedictine patrimony. OK, the point is not to catalog the pilgrimage possibilities but to give examples of current types of pilgrimages and to say that making a pilgrimage is not a dead, outmoded pious gesture. Real, good stuff happens to people on pilgrimage!

Chartres pilgrimage 2009.jpg

One such pilgrimage taking place on annual basis is the Pilgrimage to Chartres by an international group of young people numbering in the neighborhood of 10-15k. Their form of prayer is Catholic: rosary, litany, mortification, acts of asceticism, confession of sins and the Mass according to the missal of Blessed John XXIII.

Watch a most fascinating video on the experience… and the 2009 photo album …and the report with pictures of the 2010 pilgrimage in 4 installments from The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny.

“Why I am a Catholic?” is a good question to ask

McGill University professor of History John Zucchi, Canada’s national leader for Communion and Liberation, asks the provocative question in a brief essay, “Why I am a Catholic.” John is a great guy, he’s serious about his faith and he’s sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit, but no one would claim he’s a mediocre follower of Christ. The claims of faith in Christ, Zucchi tells us, have to have two criteria borrowing from Luigi Giussani: faith in Christ has to be reasonable and it has to broaden my humanity, a gift given by God Himself. Reason and humanity lead to and exude Mercy. Paraphrasing Cardinal Ratzinger in God and the World, to be a Christian means that you are sympathetic toward one’s humanity that of another; a Christian is accepting of one’s injuries and within these wounds a deeper healing is found.

I highly recommend you read, and re-read God and the World (2002),Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s conversation with Peter Seewald. It’s more than right on target….

Don’t let your words contradict your actions, St Augustine tells us

I am not sure you read the Office of Readings in the Divine Office, and if you don’t may I suggest that you begin; the readings from the Church Fathers is rich for meditation. The Liturgy, Mass AND the Divine Office is the daily magisterium for our faith. Today, the Church proposes a a sermon by Saint Augustine of Hippo, a portion of larger piece actually, titled “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Augustine says SO much worth chewing on, and so I find it difficult pointing out from the text only one item.

Perhaps one of the following points is worthy of our meditation today: “anyone who has learned to love the new life [new life in Christ] has learned to sing a new song,” or “what is the object of your love?” or that “God loved us first and therefore we are capable of loving,” or “do we know how to sing with our voices, our hearts, our lips and our lives?” or “is Augustine pointing ought the obvious that we can’t comprehend making sure our words don’t contradict our lives?”

Read Saint Augustine’s Semon 34….

Sing to the Lord
a new song; his praise is in the assembly of the saints. We are urged to sing a
new song to the Lord, as new men who have learned a new song. A song is a thing
of joy; more profoundly, it is a thing of love. Anyone, therefore, who has
learned to love the new life has learned to sing a new song, and the new song
reminds us of our new life. The new man, the new song, the new covenant, all
belong to the one kingdom of God, and so the new man will sing a new song and will
belong to the new covenant.

There is not one who does not love something, but
the question is, what to love. The psalms do not tell us not to love, but to
choose the object of our love. But how can we choose unless we are first
chosen? We cannot love unless someone has loved us first. Listen to the apostle
John: We love him, because he first loved us. The source of man’s love for God
can only be found in the fact that God loved him first
. He has given us himself
as the object of our love, and he has also given us its source. What this source
is you may learn more clearly from the apostle Paul who tells us: The love of
God has been poured into our hearts. This love is not something we generate
ourselves; it comes to us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

we have such an assurance, then, let us love God with the love he has given us.
As John tells us more fully: God is love, and whoever dwells in love dwells in
God, and God in him. It is not enough to say: Love is from God. Which of us
would dare to pronounce the words of Scripture: God is love? He alone could say
it who knew what it was to have God dwelling within him. God offers us a short
route to the possession of himself. He cries out: Love me and you will have me
for you would be unable to love me if you did not possess me already.

My dear
brothers and sons, fruit of the true faith and holy seed of heaven, all you who
have been born again in Christ and whose life is from above, listen to me; or
rather, listen to the Holy Spirit saying through me: Sing to the Lord a new
song. Look, you tell me, I am singing. Yes indeed, you are singing; you are
singing clearly, I can hear you. But make sure that your life does not
contradict your words
. Sing with your voices, your hearts, your lips and your
lives: Sing to the Lord a new song.

Now it is your unquestioned desire to sing
of him whom you love, but you ask me how to sing his praises. You have heard
the words: Sing to the Lord a new song, and you wish to know what praises to
sing. The answer is: His praise is in the assembly of the saints; it is in the
singers themselves. If you desire to praise him, then live what you express.
Live good lives, and you yourselves will be his praise.

Sermo 34, 1-3. 5-6:
CCL 42, 424-426)

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT, follows the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and is an Oblate of Saint Benedict, works as a monastery farmer and a keeper of honey bees. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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