Spiritual Life: July 2010 Archives

ENDOW.jpgENDOW (Educating on the Nature & Dignity of Women) is a Catholic educational program bringing women together to discover what it means to be a woman, made in God's image and likeness holding a God-given dignity known in being a person. ENDOW is a new feminism promoting the beauty of being a woman.

ENDOW is work was begun in the Archdiocese of Denver and because of its importance the archbishop gave ENDOW a moral standing in the Church by making it a private juridic person. ENDOW exists in 87 dioceses in the USA and a few in Canada. Before ENDOW begins its work in a particular (arch)diocese it asks the permission of the diocesan bishop for his approval and blessing.

The Religious Sisters of Mercy (Alma) helped to write the formation materials aimed at cultivating a true sense of what it means to be a woman through faith, friendship and formation. ENDOW is oriented to the various ages of women in the groups. Age differential helps women work with each other based on experience and wisdom. 

What is a woman's human dignity? Why is it important to have an appreciation for a woman's human dignity? First, we have to understand and accept that our value comes from God the Father; that the God created us specifically. Second, we need to have understanding that we live in a relationship of love of/with God, self and the other. Love is sacrificial (sometimes we have to give up our plans for the sake of another) and we find ourselves in giving ourselves to another. Only in self-giving love do know who we are as persons. Therefore, our personhood is not determined by the culture at large. John Paul taught us that all people, particularly women as we are speaking of here, can humanize the context of our lives (at work, home, among friends), it is a special gift of being woman. People like John Paul and Benedict, and others, have said that  the whole world change for the better if you can change woman's heart, form and heal the hurt of women. The culture has radically hurt women over the centuries that need for healing. Learning and living the truth of our personhood in light of what God intends for us to be will have implications for our lives in the areas of relationships, sex, work, having a healthy psychology, physicality, etc.

Find out by reading about a woman's dignity as developed on Pope John Paul II's Letter to Women and Mulieris Dignitatem.

This is not a self-help program. It is an educational program in contact with the Lord. God determines who we are as persons, made in His image and likeness. Courses proposed by ENDOW are offered for adults and youth; it's supposed to be parish based but some study circles may happen at home; groups of 8-12 are generally the norm. Study guides and leader training guides are available. The idea is to function more-or-less like a "book club" but the work done on a text is meant to dig deeply into faith formation of/for women among friends.

I would hope parishes and Catholic chaplaincies at high schools and universities would adopt the ENDOW methodology.
The work of holiness is supposedly on our lists of things "to do." Yet, we bounce from thing to thing, place to place, guru to guru without considering the true source of holiness and how holiness develops. Yes, it is a work but it is not something imposed on us by an external force. As St Gregory of Nyssa once said, "For the quality of holiness is shown not by what we say but by what we do in life." No gift can be imposed on someone, neither from God nor from another. We can never take a gift but only be open to receiving a gift. This is particularly true in meeting God and a friend.

Several other thoughts about our desire for holiness come to mind. Holiness is truly being yourself as God means for us to be. Holiness is an invitation made to us to be in a relationship with God; holiness is another way of speaking about a friendship with God through Jesus under the power of the Holy Spirit. It is taking our human needs more and more seriously right now.

I was reading the soon-to-be-made "blessed," John Henry Newman and as usual, he hit the nail on the head. So squarely did he diagnose my spiritual and fraternal problems that I shuttered. I wondered: can anyone be so completely transparent to another so as to truly honest and let all inhibitions fall to the side? Can anyone be so transparent to God? It's as though Newman is talking about standing completely naked before another, warts and flab and all and hear the words: I love you, I trust you; there is nothing that can dissaude me from loving you. Newman's words below completely went numb, then I felt relieved, then I was afraid, and so on. How could anyone get it so right? 

Read Newman's assessment and let me know if you agree.

Perhaps the reason why the standard of holiness among us is so low, why our attachments are so poor, our view of life so dim, our belief so unreal, our general notions so artificial and external is this, that we dare not trust each other with the secret of our hearts. We have each the same secret, and we keep it to ourselves, and we fear that, as a cause of estrangement, which really would be a bond of union. We do not probe the wounds of our nature thoroughly: we do not lay the foundation of our religious profession in the ground of our inner man: we make clean the outside of things: we are amiable and friendly to each other in words and deeds, but our love is not enlarged, our bowels of affection are straightened, and we fear to let intercourse begin at the root: and in consequence, our religion viewed as a social system is hollow, the presence of Christ is not in it. (Plain and Parochial Sermons, V, pp. 126-7).

Thomas à Kempis

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In the Episcopal Church USA today is the liturgical memorial of Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471). He's not venerated as a saint in the Catholic but his liturgical prayer is worth noting, not least because of his famous spiritual work the Imitation of Christ. Read the encyclopedia article on Kempis.

Holy Father, you have nourished and strengthened your Church by the inspired writings of your servant Thomas a Kempis: Grant that we may learn from him to know what is necessary to be known, to love what is to be loved, to praise what highly pleases you, and always to seek to know and follow your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
I've had some spare time to read and so this morning I pondered the address given by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People at the 2010 Conference of European University Chaplaincies, 14-18 June 2010. The title of the address is "Young hearts and minds toward 'Peace, Reconciliation, and Social Justice."

A few paragraphs that I thought would be germane for reflection and deeper prayer.

Pope John Paul II ... wrote that "forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil. The measure of such a decision is the love of God who draws us to himself in spite of our sin.  Forgiveness therefore has a divine source and criterion. Forgiveness, as a fully human act, is above all a personal initiative (World Day of Peace message 2002). The ability to forgive lies at the very basis of the idea of a future society marked by justice and solidarity. Peace is essential for development, but true peace is made possible only through forgiveness and reconciliation" (ibid).

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Message to the youth in 2007, invited them to "dare to love" and not to desire anything less for their life than a love that is strong and beautiful: love that is capable of making the whole of their existence a joyful undertaking of giving themselves as a gift  to God and their brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love (cf. Rev 5:13). Love is the only force capable of changing the heart of the human person and of all humanity, by making fruitful the relations between men and women, between rich and poor, between cultures and civilizations.

Pope John Paul II in fact was convinced that the future far lies in the hands of the youth. The future of peace lies in their hearts. To construct history, as they can and must, they to free history from the false paths it is pursuing. To do this, the youth must have a deep trust in the grandeur of the human vocation -a vocation to be pursued with respect for truth for the dignity and inviolable rights of the human person. Pope Wojtyla felt the feeling of the modern youth indeed. He said that he saw them being touched by the hunger for peace; that they are troubled by so much injustice around them and sense overwhelming danger in the gigantic stockpiles of arms and in the threats of nuclear war; that they suffer when they see widespread hunger and malnutrition and are concerned about the environment today and for the coming generations; that they are threatened by unemployment and many already without work and without the prospect of meaningful employment and are upset by the large number of people who are oppressed politically and spiritually and who cannot enjoy the exercise of their basic human rights as individuals or as a community. All this can give rise to a feeling that life has little meaning. In this situation, some may be tempted to take flight from responsibility: in the fantasy worlds of alcohol and drugs, in short-lived sexual relationships without commitment to marriage and family, in indifference, in cynicism and even in violence. Pope John Paul II invited them therefore to be themselves on guard against the fraud of a world that wants to exploit or misdirect their energetic and powerful search for happiness and meaning. He invited them not to avoid the search for the true answers to the questions that confront them (World Day of Peace 1985).

L'Osservatore Romano
June 23, 2010

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.

Father James Kubicki, director of the Apostleship of Prayer, posted a note on his website inviting pray-ers/readers to send him possible prayer intentions.

As he said, "People often ask us where the Pope's prayer intentions come from. That's a great question with a great answer: they come from the Pope. And they can even come from you. If you have a prayer intention and would like more than 50 million people to pray for it, I invite you to send it to us, keeping in mind that it should be something that concerns the needs of the Church and the world. We forward intentions to our international office in Rome, where a number of them are selected to present to the Holy Father."

This is important to do. As you know, on the first day of each month I post for our prayer the intentions given by Pope Benedict to this Apostleship of Prayer. Well, they come from somewhere, written and proposed by someone, coming from real experience and real need that are placed before God.

You may send Father Kubicki your proposed prayer intention by reply e-mail or mail:

Apostleship of Prayer

3211 South Lake Drive, Suite 216

Milwaukee, WI 53235-3717

(414) 486-1152


PS: Don't forget to make your daily morning offering, today!

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

Spiritual Life: June 2010 is the previous archive.

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