The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lectio for Lent: Week Four


NOTE: Each week during Lent, I am posting a set of reflection questions based on the Sunday Gospel. There are no "answers." The questions are simply meant to help the reader (or group of readers) engage the Scripture for the corresponding week in the context of the Church's observance of Lent. Ultimately, the goal is to help one meditate on the following questions: What does this text mean for me? What is God saying to me through his Word--here and now? How ought I respond to it? I encourage you to spend some time reading and thinking about the Gospel passages indicated before turning to the reflection questions here. In the process, if you discern the "still, small voice" of God speaking to your heart and leading you into prayer, then go with it! -- Br. Francis
 
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A)
The Man Born Blind
(John 9:1-41)
 
In very physical fashion (with saliva, soil, and touch), Jesus heals the man born blind, declaring, "I am the light of the world."
 
The man washes in the Pool of Siloam, which means "sent." In other passages, Jesus is referred to as the one "sent " by the Father (e.g. John 3:17; 4:34; 5:36).
 
What is being conveyed here in terms of spiritual sight and blindness?
 
Have your eyes been opened by the one sent by the Father? How?
 

Sacred rhythms


Lent is a time of reassessment, reawakening, and reconciliation--a time to recharge spiritually, if you will, and return our gaze and realign our wills to that of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. It is he who leads us, and sometimes we need to hit the "pause button" in our lives in order to become reacquainted and reoriented.

Monasteries, of course, are good places to do that. But you don't necessarily have to be a monk or visit a monastery to incorporate such values and practices into your daily life. Whoever and wherever you are, and whatever you do, it is possible--and absolutely necessary!--to follow a sacred rhythm of life that allows space and time to listen with the ear of the heart to what God is saying to you. As we pray at Vigils in the monastery: "Today, listen to the voice of the Lord" (Psalm 95).

To that end, here are links to two helpful Internet articles I ran across today. They each deal with different topics and come from different sources, but nonetheless point in the same direction:

 

In addition, you may be interested in the following books from Path of Life Publications (the first one is brand new). Just click on the image for more information:

http://pathoflifebooks.com/product.asp?pn=20484

http://pathoflifebooks.com/product.asp?pn=20440

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lectio for Lent: Week Three


NOTE: Each week during Lent, I am posting a set of reflection questions based on the Sunday Gospel. There are no "answers." The questions are simply meant to help the reader (or group of readers) engage the Scripture for the corresponding week in the context of the Church's observance of Lent. Ultimately, the goal is to help one meditate on the following questions: What does this text mean for me? What is God saying to me through his Word--here and now? How ought I respond to it? I encourage you to spend some time reading and thinking about the Gospel passages indicated before turning to the reflection questions here. In the process, if you discern the "still, small voice" of God speaking to your heart and leading you into prayer, then go with it! -- Br. Francis
 
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A)
The Samaritan Woman
(John 4:5-42)
 
Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well, "Give me a drink." The conversation that follows changes her life.
 
However, this passage is not about drinking actual water; so, what does it signify?
 
What might the meaning be of the seemingly insignificant phrase, "the woman left her water jar"?
 

Friday, March 21, 2014

PAX


A Prayer for Peace
on the feast of our
Holy Father Saint Benedict

St. Benedict, you were a man of peace.
You walked the paths of peace your whole life long
and led all who came to you into the ways of peace.

Help us, St. Benedict, to achieve peace:
peace in our hearts,
peace in our homes,
peace in our sorely troubled world.
 
Through your powerful intercession with God,
help us to be peacemakers.
Aid us to work for peace,
to take the first step in ending bitterness,
to be the first to hold out our hands
in friendship and forgiveness.

Beg God to let peace permeate our lives
so that they may be lived in God's grace and love.
 
And at the end of our lives,
obtain for us the reward of peacemakers,
the eternal blessed vision of God in heaven.
Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sprung

"There is hope for your future."
Jeremiah 31:17


A few scenes from around the monastery this morning
after Morning Prayer and before Mass
on this first day of spring. -- Br. Francis



Friday, March 14, 2014

Lectio for Lent: Week Two

Apse mosaic of the Transfiguration from the monastery of St. Catherine,
Mt. Sinai, Egypt. Does it seem to resemble an eye, with Christ as the pupil?

NOTE: Each week during Lent, I am posting a set of reflection questions based on the Sunday Gospel. There are no "answers." The questions are simply meant to help the reader (or group of readers) engage the Scripture for the corresponding week in the context of the Church's observance of Lent. Ultimately, the goal is to help one meditate on the following questions: What does this text mean for me? What is God saying to me through his Word--here and now? How ought I respond to it? I encourage you to spend some time reading and thinking about the Gospel passages indicated before turning to the reflection questions here. In the process, if you discern the "still, small voice" of God speaking to your heart and leading you into prayer, then go with it! -- Br. Francis
 
SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A)
The Transfiguration of Jesus
(Matthew 17:1-9)
 
Peter, James, and John are granted a momentary glimpse into the eternal reality of who Jesus is. Place yourself among them on the mountain and see what they see.
 
Hear the voice from the cloud saying, "This is my beloved Son...listen to him," as well as Jesus' words to them, "Rise, and do not be afraid."
 
What does this experience reveal to you?


How do monks evangelize?


For our Lenten table reading this year in the monastery refectory (dining room), we are listening to Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel. The Holy Father offers many points of reflection, often challenging Christians (both lay people and religious) to sharpen their focus on the Christ-given ministry of evangelization and to express the joy that is inherent in genuinely receiving and sharing the Good News--which is what Gospel means.

Last evening during dinner, as I listened to the reading, a question came to mind that is often asked of monks and monasteries. Many people who come to Saint Meinrad for the first time, or who learn that I am a Benedictine monk, often ask this question. It typically goes something like this: "How does a monastery--which is "separated" from the world and seemingly disengaged from it, contribute to the Christian mission of evangelization? How can monks or nuns who stay in one place spread the Good News?"

That is a good question, and there are many ways to answer it. Primarily, I would say that there are many different methods and messengers of evangelization. The Church is big and varied. Each member of the Church fulfills his or her ministry in a different way within the circumstances of their lives. Some are married couples and families. Some are single; others widowed. Some are priests or religious. Many of these do "go out" into the world to minister and evangelize. But others are called to spread the Gospel right where they are. There is room for everybody. To borrow St. Paul's analogy, not everyone has to be a foot. Some are hands, others are eyes and ears, etc. We, though, many, are one body -- the Body of Christ.

In Catholic religious life, it is the same. Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Jesuits, various missionary orders, and many, many others, all strive to live and share Gospel values. However, each order has its own distinct charism. They live out this singluar vision of following Christ in different ways. All of them contribute to the building up of the Kingdom of God, just as teachers, laborers, farmers, and many, many other professions each have a different role to play in building up society.

Specifically, the Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey evangelize in numerous ways. Some are teachers and/or administrators in our seminary and school of theology, helping to educate and form young men and women for priesthood or lay ministry. Some monks are pastors in nearby areas. We have monks who work with prisoners, youth, and military personnel. Many monks give retreats and conferences--right here at Saint Meinrad, where many people come to visit, and across the country. Others are involved with health services, or minister to the poor in the surrounding area. I view my own ministry and evangelization through the lens of my writing and spiritual direction. There are many other works performed here as well.

However, important as all these various works are, they are not our primary means of evangelization as monks. We don't necessarily have to be monks to do any of those things. Rather, Benedictines have a very unique charism, in that our witness to the world is intimately bound up with our liturgical prayer and common life together. We pray for the Church and the world in a special way, and we live a Gospel life together according to the vows of obedience, stability, and conversion of life. This is our special charism as Benedictines, one that for centuries has drawn countless guests and pilgrims to monasteries all over the world. These visitors, in turn, carry forward into their own lives in the world what they experience at the monastery. In addition, all the other tasks and ministries we engage in as monks spring forth from this special charism, and are seasoned by it. It is the one thing that makes us monks. (Incidentally, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., speaks insightfully about this special charism in his "Throne of God" address from some years ago. He suggests that monasteries contribute uniquely to the mission of evangelization by creating "open spaces" for God to be encountered in our world. It's worth a read, if you have the time.)

Our own Br. William Sprauer, O.S.B., has an interesting perspective on all this as well. He calls monks "lighthouse evangelists," because we stay in one place to help guide and draw others by the light of Christ. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but it is a good analogy. Read his reflection on Lighthouse Evangelization by clicking on the link.

And may the Light of Christ "bring us all together to everlasting life" (Rule of St. Benedict 72:11).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lectio for Lent: Week One

 
NOTE: Each week during Lent, I will post a set of reflection questions based on the Sunday Gospel. No "answers" will be provided. The questions are simply meant to help the reader (or group of readers) engage the Scripture text for the corresponding week in the context of the Church's observance of Lent. Ultimately, the goal is to help one meditate on the following questions: What does this text mean for me? What is God saying to me through his Word--here and now? How ought I respond to it? I encourage you to spend some time reading and thinking about the Gospel passages indicated before turning to the reflection questions here. In the process, if you discern the "still, small voice" of God speaking to your heart and leading you into prayer, then go with it! -- Br. Francis
 
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A)
The Temptation of Jesus
(Matthew 4:1-11)
 
Led by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus is tempted and fasts for 40 days.
 
Why the desert and for 40 days?
 
How does this account parallel that (in Exodus and Deuteronomy) of the ancient Israelites?
 
How does Jesus' response to temptation differ from that of our first parents as recounted in the first reading (Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7)?
 
Since Jesus was fully human (and fully divine), what implication does this have for you today?

Friday, March 7, 2014

The seasoning of prayer

“Everyone will be salted with fire…
Keep salt in yourselves”
Mark 9:49,50 (cf. Leviticus 2:13; Matthew 5:13)


Prayer and conversation with God is a supreme good—it is a partnership and union with God. As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light. I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods, but continuous throughout the day and night.

Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe. Throughout the whole of our lives we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer if we devote a great deal of time to it.

Prayer gives joy to the spirit, peace to the heart. I speak of prayer, not words. It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by man but by God’s grace. The apostle Paul says: We do not know how we are to pray but the Spirit himself pleads for us with inexpressible longings [Romans 8:26].

When the Lord gives this kind of prayer to someone, he gives riches that cannot be taken away, heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. One who tastes this food is set on fire with an eternal longing for the Lord: his spirit burns as in a fire of the utmost intensity.

--St. John Chrysostom

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lenten prayer

Lord, God of Mercy,

You call me during these 40 days of Lent to renew my commitment to you, my Creator and Redeemer. Help me, by your grace, to turn to you deep within the inner room of my heart, so that I may truly become an "ambassador for Christ" through your gifts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Speak tenderly to me during this time of reflection and renewal, and help me to remember how you have always led your people through trial and affliction to the Resurrection. Reveal and remove all obstacles that impede me from truly seeking and following you. Roll away the heavy stone from the tomb of my sinfulness.

Let the light of the Resurrected Christ radiate through my every word and action, so that all people may know your love that saves the world and gives eternal life. Raise me from the darkness; open my eyes to your light and my ears to your voice, so that my heart overflows with the inexpressible delight of love as I drink in the dawn of Easter glory.

Amen.
-- Br. Francis de Sales Wagner, O.S.B.

Lenten journey


In his Rule for monks, St. Benedict writes that one must “keep death daily before your eyes” (Rule 4:47). The tomb, just as it received Christ’s lifeless body on Good Friday, awaits each and every one of us.

This is not a macabre admonition or an invitation to be perpetually morose. Quite the opposite, as the preceding sentence in the passage from the Rule demonstrates: “Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.” Like the ancient Israelites, we are sojourners under the watchful and protecting gaze of our compassionate God as we travel to the Promised Land of eternal life through the love of Christ.

Our annual observance of Lent is a reminder that the world as we know it is not the be-all and end-all. Something—or, more precisely, Someone—infinitely better awaits us. The joy of this knowledge, derived through faith, fills us with that holy desire needed to live radically here and now so that, as St. Benedict says toward the end of his Rule, Christ may bring us all together to everlasting life.

This is the hope that fills our days with joy without denying our deep sorrow. It is what makes us Christian. When things go terribly wrong, when failure and hardship seem to frame our days, and when people age and die, what we are really lamenting is the brokenness of Creation. We should feel sorrow, because the life for which God created us was not meant to be that way. However, we should also embrace the joy of knowing that in Christ, God has restored all things, and rightly ordered them as they are meant to be.

It is true that from our limited perspective, we cannot fully perceive that right-ordering. In Christ, however, the act has been completed, but is still growing to fulfillment. Similarly, when we plant a flower bulb in the earth during the lengthening shadows of autumn, we know that it will be months before it springs forth from the ground with life and color and fragrance—but its work has begun. The Incarnation continues to this very moment as the Body of Christ grows to maturity in each one of us. Truly, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

The moment has been redeemed, and eternity calls out to us from the dark moments just before the dawn. Listen, and from the silence of the tomb, cling to Jesus’ words to his disciples the night before he died: 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. You know the way to the place where I am going … I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
—John 14:1-4, 6
From Grace in the Wilderness:
Reflections on God's Sustaining Word Along Life's Journey
,
by Br. Francis de Sales Wagner, O.S.B.,
Abbey Press-Path of Life Publications, © 2013

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Circumstantial evidence

"Circumstances, good or bad--all of them--are ways through which the Mystery of God calls us. They are not, as we so often interpret them according to our measure, ... burdens that we must put up with. They have a very specific purpose in God's design."

-- Fr. Julian CarrĂ³n