Spiritual Life: January 2010 Archives

Praying for what God wants

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We tend to pray with great intensity for the things we want, but do we ever think of praying for what God wants?

Usually, when our desire for something "cools off," so does our prayer. It is very important, therefore, that when we pray, we move with the current of God's will, and not against it.

This is true even when we are praying for someone we love tremendously. When my husband Eddie was in a car accident and I was on my way to be with him, I prayed fervently that he might be well.

But in my mind, every second I forced myself to add, "if it be thy will." If God wanted to take Eddie home for whatever reason, I had to be willing to accept it. I had to mentally pronounce words to the effect that I was ready to do God's will and to move in its stream.

A person's greatest act is to do the will of God. You may ask me, "How do I know his will?" How do I know which ideas are mine, and which belong to God?

There is only one answer. To know his will, I must learn how to listen to him. This can happen only through prayer and under the guidance of a spiritual director.

Catherine Doherty
Grace in Every Season, pp. 34-5

Catherine de Hueck Doherty is the founder of the Madonna House Apostolate, Combermere, Ontario, a public association of the Christian faithful. More info on Madonna House can be found online here.

Leisure is under-rated

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Do you like leisure activity? Are ever in the mood to live life differently? When you tell someone you are being leisurely, or that you need some leisure time because "life" is getting burdensome, it is not uncommon to get a weird look, a tart comment or utter dismissal. The Protestant work ethic doesn't allow for holy leisure to rejuvenate mind, body and soul. The Catholic has a different approach to the subject principally because of the Doctrine of Creation and the Incarnation: savoring the beauty of creation or being engaged with real life but in a humane way taking account of the ways grace is operative. The classic work on the subject is Josef Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture (recently republished in 1998), which I highly recommend. In the meantime, Trappist Father Michael Casey offers this insight on the place of leisure in life from the monastic perspective which is also applicable to us on the other side of the monastery wall.

Leisure is not idleness or the pursuit of recreational activities. It is, above all, being attentive to the present moment, open to all its implications, living it to the full. This implies a certain looseness in life style that allows heart and mind to drift away from time to time.

Monastic life is not a matter of shoehorning the maximum number of good works into a day. It is more important that monks and nuns do a few things well, being present to the tasks they undertake, leaving room for recuperation and reflection, and expecting the unexpected.

Leisure allows openness to the present. It is the opposite of being enslaved by the past or living in some hazy anticipation of a desirable future. Leisure means being free from anything that would impede, color, or subvert the perception of reality. Far from being the headlong pursuit of escapist activities and having fun, authentic leisure is a very serious matter because it is the product of an attentive and listening attitude to life.

Strangers to the City
Father Michael Casey, OCSO
When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection. 

Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Former Superior General of the Jesuits, 1983-2008

Out of the depths I cry, Lord,
O Lord, please hear my call!
Let your ears be attentive;
I beg for mercy, Lord.
If you marked our offenses,
O Lord, who then could stand?
But you grant us forgiveness---
Therefore we stand in awe.

My hope is in the Lord's word
And for the Lord I waid,
More eagerly than watchmen
Yearn for the morning light.
Hope in the Lord, O people,
In his unfailing love.
With him is full redemption;
He will redeem his own.


We entrust all to the Lord and to Blessed Virign Mary with the Venerable Servant of God Pierre Toussaint.

I renew the plea for donations to assist the Haitian people. Good organizations are found here.

We're all asking the theodicy question. How could one -even person of solid faith in Providence--not ask why natural evil happens and why God permits it. In a recent interview Zenit asked the head of the Papal Charitable office, Cor Unum, Josef Cardinal Cordes, about the Haitian earthquake. As a first glance at the matter the Cardinal names something important, namely, if you claim to understand God, then your claim has nothing to do with the personal God of Christianity and that the Christian continues to believe God's goodness in the face of suffering. Hard ideas to grasp. BUT it is a beginning.

ZENIT: How much does people's faith help them through a catastrophe such as this?

Cardinal Cordes: The faith of the people who have suffered in this disaster will play a critical role in not only bringing relief to their physical injuries and losses, but also in addressing the spiritual dimension and meaning to be found in such a catastrophe. In visiting disaster areas before and talking with survivors, many express their gratitude to God for sparing their lives and for the generous outpouring of assistance made available to them by family, friends, neighbors, and Churches worldwide. Because of the large Catholic population (80% of Haitians are Catholics), faith and the concrete presence/witness of the Church will have a very important role in the present tragedy.

Our Pontifical Council Cor Unum had already planned that the next meeting of the Populorum Progressio Foundation would take place in Santo Domingo this coming July. The foundation, established by Pope John Paul II, is to help the indigenous peoples of the Latin American and Caribbean countries. In the past, we have given much help to Haiti and we shall continue to do so. Of course, our spiritual closeness is of primary importance. We shall be certain to celebrate the Holy Eucharist on that occasion with bishops coming from different countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Without faith, this tragedy would turn into a complete disaster. That is why it will be essential for our brothers and sisters to pray together; experience Christians worldwide sharing their burdens as members of God's family; know the compassion of our Holy Father. All these become sources of hope and energy. In His first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict invites us to recall "St. Augustine who gives us faith's answer to our sufferings: 'Si comprehendis, non est Deus' -- 'if you understand him, he is not God.'" The Holy Father adds: "Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the 'goodness and loving kindness of God' (Titus 3:4)" (No. 38).

ZENIT: Will good come from this tragedy?

Cardinal Cordes: This is a disaster that has caused immense loss of life and suffering. Many years will be needed for the nation to be rebuilt physically and the people to recover in their spirits. For this reason, the Church must remain present even as others move away.

But already we see good rising from the ruins. The eyes of the world are being open to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, whose long suffering was all but forgotten. This tragedy shows that we depend on each other and must care for our suffering brothers and sisters, just as we did during the Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. So we must ensure that the necessary assistance now being shown to Haiti continues in the long-term, for example through setting up better local Caritas structures and links with government development ministries of wealthier countries and help agencies.

We are witnessing and hearing of many selfless and heroic acts made to save lives and to rescue those in danger.  There are still thousands of others, who, coming from all over the world and without any accolades, are dedicating themselves to helping whoever is in need. People are being moved to give of themselves spiritually and materially to help the poor and suffering. In the coming days and weeks, I am convinced that we shall encounter in the midst of this catastrophe many examples of goodness.

Above all, it is with trustworthy hope in the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus that Christians face the present. In his encyclical Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict speaks of the sufferings of this moment being borne through hope in the future. It is not that Christians know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness: "Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well" (Spe Salvi, 2).

A Church that no longer raises up holy men and women among her priests, laypeople and religious is a sterile mother. In fact, what matters the most is not the construction of huge buildings or realizing great projects. What the Church needs most is the witness of saints. Holiness is the sign of the Church's credibility. They are her letters of reference.

His Beatitude Fouad Twal
the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
Beatification of Mother Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas
November 22, 2009
Our inheritance ... is the poor, the poor; pauperibus evangelizare misit me.  What happiness, what happiness!  To do what our Lord came from heaven to earth to do, and by means of which we too shall go from earth to heaven, to continue the work of God. 

Saint Vincent de Paul

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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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Spiritual Life category from January 2010.

Spiritual Life: December 2009 is the previous archive.

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