Tag Archives: spirituality

Teen suicide: how do we cope?

The tragic death of Michael Blosil, 18, son of Marie Osmond, the other day brings light to the sad reality of teen suicide. Noted by friends and family of the Osmonds, Michael had been battling the demons of depression.

The seriousness of the problem is seen in the statistics by the National Conference of State Legislatures:
19.3 percent of high school students have seriously considered killing themselves.
14.5 percent of high school students made actual plans for committing suicide.
900,000 youth planed their suicides during a major depression episode.
The Center for Disease Control said that suicide is the third leading cause of teen deaths between the ages of 15 and 24 behind accidents and homicide. And it is the fourth leading cause of children age 10-14.

For those interested in the subject, the Catholic Information Service published a booklet on suicide, Coping with a Suicide: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice. You can also listen to the booklet as a download.
This booklet provides a helpful look into defining suicide and it helps the reader to identify the signs while giving some helpful resources.
May the saints lead Michael into paradise.

Practice prayer … it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done (as least lately)

Practice prayer from the beginning. Paint your house
with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of
justice. Decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the
walls and stones of faith and generosity. Crown it with the pinnacle of prayer.
In this way, you will make it a perfect dwelling place for the Lord. You will
be able to receive him as in a splendid palace, and through His grace you will
already possess Him, His image enthroned in the temple of your spirit.

Saint John
Chrysostom, homily read at Office of Readings, Friday after Ash Wednesday

How are you approaching Lent this year?

Grant, O Lord, that Thy faithful may begin the solemn days of Lent with fitting piety and may persevere therein with steadfast devotion.

It is time to “begin the time of fasting with joy, submitting ourselves to spiritual struggle” in preparing to live fully the Paschal Mystery of the Lord (His saving life, death, resurrection and Ascension). “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 540).

St Gregory delivers soul of monk GBCrespi.jpgWhat is asked of those who make the claim to follow Christ? It seems to me that the path to understanding and living these 40 days of Lent in order to live the rest of the year as a true, honest, loving Christian. Lent, oddly enough, is a joyful time when we have a focused embrace of the spiritual struggle played out in acts of contrition, purification and prayerfulness. Often we hear Lent reduced to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. True enough, those are the hallmarks of Lent. But to broaden our sense of Lent let’s think that there is time for fasting, abstinence from certain foods, ways of thinking, acting, speaking, simple living (frugality), restriction of personal desires, intense prayer, confession of sins, and similar ascetic elements are essential to the period of Lent. Lent is a time for good work on the soul and the heart (and the body if need be). No doubt if we take Lent seriously and actually do some these spiritual works, they may be burdensome obligations or unbearable duties. We may even feel a bit despondent or dejected. The spiritual fathers and mothers all tell us that to truly follow Christ with any degree of honesty we have to work on changing our lives by conforming the self to Christ, even if it hurts. How do know how conform the self to Christ? Do lectio divina (see entry 1 and entry 2), pray the rosary, go to confession, do charitable work, spend time in silence alone in personal prayer, adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and go to Mass. And read a good book on the Catholic faith.


The liturgical season of Lent is 40 days -not a long period of spiritual training–and it ought to be regarded as an invaluable and divine gift from a God who loves us and wants us to be in relationship with Him. It is a sacred time of divine grace, which seeks to detach us from things material, lowly and corrupt in order to attract us toward things superior, wholesome and spiritual (see Catechism 1434-9). As one Christian leader said, “Lent is a unique opportunity to remove from the soul every passion, to rid the body of everything superfluous, harmful and mortal. Accordingly, then, it is a time of immense rejoicing and gladness. Lent is a genuine feast and time for exhilaration!”

Fasting expected of us by the Church, as well as the abstinence, frugality, restriction of personal desires and unnecessary pleasures or expenses, literally constitute a prescription for salvation. This is especially true this year, when our world has experienced a global economic crisis, filled with imminent danger of bankruptcy not only for individuals and companies, skyrocketing unemployment, the creation of entire hosts of people plagued by poverty, nihilism, depression, crime, and other societal ills. Lent is an education that labors to instruct us in a particular daily journey with not a great sense of “success,” without the arrogance and entitlement of extravagance, waste and bravado. It encourages us to surrender all forms of greed and ignore the challenges of commercial advertising, which constantly promotes new and false necessities (see Catechism 1430-3).

The Lenten season provokes us to limit ourselves to what is absolutely essential and necessary in an attitude of dignified, deliberate simplicity. Christian leaders advise us not to be a consuming or compulsive herd of thoughtless and heartless individuals, but a culture of sensitive and caring persons, sharing with and supporting our “neighbor” that is in poverty or recession. Finally, Lent informs us about patience and tolerance in moments of smaller or larger deprivation, while simultaneously emphasizing the need to seek God’s assistance and mercy, placing our complete trust in His affectionate providence.

That is how Christ envisions Lent. That is how the saints lived Lent. This is how the Church Fathers undertakes the struggle of Lent. This is how our faith has traditionally understood Great Lent. This is how the Church in Rome observes Lent. What about you?

Sin is in opposition to God’s infinite holiness

I went to confession the other day. I try to go once a month and for the most part I make that commitment. For some reason, it was a about 8 weeks since I darkened the confessional. I was leaving that afternoon for my hermitage day (spoken of in another blog post below) and Lent was fast approaching. Going to confession was awkward, lonely, fearful BUT intensely gratifying, freeing, and loving. Facing one’s sinful nature is NEVER easy; it is NEVER anything but a hassle, it is NEVER anything but embarassing but it is the only way I know how to be honest with myself in front of God. As an Opus Dei priest tells me when I see him occasionally for confession: you’ve got sin, I’ve got the grace for you to live … by the ministry of the Church. Of course, this priest is echoing the notion that I am not confessing my sinful self to him personally (I really don’t think he cares one-way-or-another truely in the best sense) but ipse Christus –to Christ Himself. I read the passage noted below from a rather famous spiritual treatise today and the last line from sacred Scripture struck me: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself. Do you have a clear understanding of mortal sin? Have you gone to confession? How is your struggle with sin going in the face of grace?


Only mortal sin is completely opposed to God; this opposition is so great that it separates the soul from God. However, every sin, even venial sin, and every fault and imperfection, is in opposition to God’s infinite holiness. Therefore Jesus offers the perfection of his heavenly Father as a norm for our Christian life, and engages us in an intense struggle against sin in order to destroy in us its deepest roots and even its slightest traces.


This is what Jesus teaches in these few short words: deny yourself. We must deny self with all its imperfect habits and inclinations; and we must do so continually. Such a task is fatiguing and painful, but it is indispensable if we wish to attain sanctity. Jesus says: The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Mt. 7:14).


In echo of Jesus, all the masters of the spiritual life insist strongly on detachment and self-renunciation as the indispensable foundation of the spiritual life. St. John of the cross offers a soul who is desirous of attaining union with God the harsh way of the “nothing”.


But first and foremost, it is Jesus, the divine Teacher, who has pointed out to us the absolute necessity of passing through this way: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself (Mt. 16:24).


Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD

Divine Intimacy

Hermitage Days

Regina Caeli Hermitage.jpgBeing busy about many things affords one many distractions, which can be a good thing. Very often, being too busy and distracted offers no consolation and actually makes life less interesting, less thirsty for God, less able to hear the promptings of the Lord, less focused on substantial matters of life. Perhaps one can say less able to take serious our own reality. But life is not about measuring up to a standard as it is about a relationship, time spent in the company of the other person (though the other person be yourself).

Regina Caeli chapel2.jpg

For the last 2 days I spent time in silence and solitude (with no community, no internet and barely phone service). My Franciscan Friars of the Renewal friends offered me one of their hermitages for two days of prayer, reading, nap time, and holy leisure: an opportunity for real education. The Friars have restored the Capuchin custom of the “desert day” once a month in order to spend time away from the normal routine to renew energies, to concentrate on the divine-human relationship and abandon the self to the Other –that is, to abandon oneself completely to God. The abandonment of self that is aimed for here is the self-gift, of love, where the more one abandons oneself in love the more love becomes a reality. The hermitage time reminds me of a something Msgr. Luigi Giussani said about poverty that I think is applicable here: “Poverty belongs then to the dynamic of knowledge, for which detachment is necessary to see things and then to use them and enjoy them more.”Wood Stove Regina Caeli.jpg

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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