Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Daily Lenten Meditation

  

The Cross of Christ Teaches Us. . . How to Pray 




In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. HEBREWS 5:7 

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. MATTHEW 6:7–8 


 Praying as a Follower of Christ 


Throughout the centuries, Christians in the East and the West have signed themselves with the cross. When it is done with little thought or care, the sign loses much of its power. Contemplating both the action and what it symbolizes as you make the sign, on the other hand, is the perfect way to begin any conversation with God.

As you make the sign of the cross, you place your entire being in the shadow of the cross of Christ. By invoking the Trinity as you make this holy sign, you immediately call to mind that  facing the cross is something we dare not do alone, but only in God’s presence. Every moment, we must choose between the way of the cross of Christ and the way of perdition. Every minute, the battle for our salvation is being lost or won.

“Do not pray like the Gentiles,” Jesus instructed his disciples. Some Christians see this as a prohibition of repetitive prayers, but clearly this isn’t what Jesus was condemning. The admonition had scarcely fallen from his lips when he proceeded to teach his disciples one of the most beloved prayers of all time: the “Our Father,” or “Lord’s Prayer.” Not only did Jesus teach his disciples to pray using a certain form; in the gospels we read that Jesus himself prayed the same words over and over in the Garden of Gethsemane, “He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words,” (Matthew 26:44).

When we share in Christ’s Passion we will often find ourselves able only to mouth the same words over and over. The early disciples of Jesus, those most familiar with his teachings on prayer, developed litanies and other repetitive prayers. For example, the “Lord Have Mercy” litany has remained in the liturgies of the East and West to this day, and is drawn from several gospel accounts, most notably the two blind men in Jericho who voiced this prayer repeatedly in desperation to Jesus, and who voiced it all the louder when the crowd tried to rebuke them (see Matthew 20:29–31).

Similarly, the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) is taken from the story of a blind man in Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 18:38). In the early church, Christians prayed with their bodies as well as their minds. Congregants often prayed with their hands outstretched in the “orans” position, lifting their minds and hearts to God as well as identifying with the crucified Christ. There have been attempts to restore this practice within the church; others choose to pray this way in private. In this way not only do we imitate the cross of Christ, we acknowledge that all of our prayer is through Christ and in Christ. It is also a good way to express one’s abandonment to God’s will. As our arms tire, we remember that our strength cannot save us; we need help both from God above and from our neighbors below.

So what are the “empty phrases” of the Gentiles that Jesus condemned? He objected to the mindless offering of prayers without faith. While times of “spiritual dryness” are a normal part of the Christian experience, we must guard against “going through the motions” for the benefit of others, and persevere with faith and trust.

In times of doubt, we must strive to embrace the cross of Christ in our lives. Refuse to give in to the passions, or to be held captive by sin. The way of the cross is the way of healing. As Father Benedict Groeschel rightly points out, the only thing that Jesus promised his disciples in this life was persecution. Yet many of us get caught up with the “cares of this world” and forget about the cross we are to carry as followers of Christ. May the cross with which we sign ourselves, and the cross we place before our eyes, always keep us mindful of what we are doing and what is at stake.

The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Daily Lenten Meditation

  

The Cross of Christ Teaches Us. . . How to Pray 

More from Michael Dubruiel 

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. HEBREWS 5:7 

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. MATTHEW 6:7–8 
While visiting the Holy Spirit Trappist monastery in Conyers, Georgia, I wandered into the abbey church one afternoon to spend a few moments in prayer. A young woman with two small children was already there. Although she prayed inaudibly as her two small children circled about her, I could tell by her raised hands and her tears that she was pleading and reasoning with God. I have no idea what the woman was praying about, only that she was praying the way Moses is described in the Letter to the Hebrews, “. . .seeing him who is invisible.”
 As the Israelites battled the Amalekites (see Exodus 17), Moses lifted his hands in prayer, holding his wooden staff over his head as the battle raged in the valley below. So long as Moses’ hands remained in the air, the Israelites were victorious; as Moses' arms grew tired and began to fall to his sides, the battle turned to the enemy’s advantage. When they realized what was happening, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses, holding his hands aloft, until the battle was won.
To the early church fathers, the prayer of Moses in the battle with the Amalekites foreshadowed the victory Christ won on the cross. Like Aaron and Hur, we have an opportunity to stand with Christ, interceding for the salvation of souls. Of course, Moses, Aaron, and Hur had an advantage that we do not: They could see the effects of Moses’ intercession on the battle raging below. How our prayer life would change if God gave us the ability to see the effect our intercessions—or lack thereof—have on the battle that is being waged daily for souls.
The letter to the Hebrews draws a strong connection between the cross and prayer. Because every moment of our earthly existence is threatened by death, and we know neither the day nor the hour when that existence will come to an end, we, too, need to cry out to the God who can save us. Like Moses, we need the help of our fellow Christians to hold up our arms when they grow tired. We, too, need the help of the Holy Spirit to make up for what is lacking in our prayer.
The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Daily Lent Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

  

The First Luminous Mystery: The Baptism of the Lord
Our Lord, though innocent, takes on our sins as He enters the water of Jordan and is baptized by John. His mission of our salvation is blessed by the Father's praise and the Spirit's descent. Ask Our Lady to help you pray this decade, pondering the light that comes from submission to the will of God.
--from Praying the Rosary: With the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and & Mysteries by Michael Dubruiel and Amy Welborn.

Repent or Perish Luke 13:3
"I must decrease, He must increase" St. John the Baptist told his disciples after his encounter with Christ. Our submission to the will of God begins with our submission to Christ--our own dying with Him and rising anew in Him at our Baptism. But the act of submission needs to happen at every moment of the day. Every second brings with it a moment of prayer--will I submit to my will against His or will I bow down to His authority and choose Him. The world may cry out "I've got to be me," but the servant of God cries out "I've got to be His." St. Paul reiterates this when he declares, "I live, no not I, but Christ."
We fear this repentance. We secretly grieve that we won't be ourselves if we submit. Something within at a very early age urges us to resist (original sin) and it does not go away quietly. So many of us are slowly perishing, spending our demise judging others, living in darkness.
The biblical notion of this state of humanity is that of something that is lost. Will we continue to cling on to the lost being or will we allow ourselves to be found by Christ--at this moment and at every moment walking in His light and overcoming the darkness of the lost?


Michael Dubruiel

Sunday, February 21, 2021

February 22 - Chair of St. Peter

  More from Michael Dubruiel

The genesis of this book was inspired by a set of talks that Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R., gave several years ago in the Diocese of Manchester, NH. At the time while researching material for a project I was working on I came across an advertisement for the talks and found both the title and topic striking. The topic seemed to fit Father Benedict's lifetime of working among the poor and raising money to help their plight. I approached him, shortly after listening to the tapes and asked him to consider doing a book version. He liked the idea but was reluctant to pursue the project alone due to the shortage of time available to work on it.
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Unwilling to let go of the project, I approached another friend of the poor, Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Diocese of Charleston. I knew that Bishop Baker's priestly ministry had been devoted to finding Christ in the poor and with a wealth of experience he had in this area that if I could join his thoughts with Fr. Groeschel' s we would have a book that would be of great benefit to the rest of us. After approaching Bishop Baker with my request he agreed and then Father Benedict agreed to collaborate on this book.
While the Bishop and Father Benedict were working on the written text of the book I came across a stunning work of iconography one day while visiting an Eastern Catholic church. On the back wall of the church was an icon of the Last Judgment taken from Matthew 25. I found that the great iconographer Mila Mina had written the icon. I immediately contacted Mila and asked if the icon might be used as an illustration for this book, her response was "anything to make the Gospel known!" Thanks to Mila and her son Father John Mina for allowing Joyce Duriga and David Renz to photograph the icon at Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church, Clairton, PA.
Fr. Groeschel has written the introductory text that begins each section as well as the final "What Should I Do?" at the end of the book, and Bishop Baker has written the individual meditations and prayers contained in each of the six sections.
While this book was being written, Father Benedict was involved in a horrific accident that nearly took his life. At the time of the accident the text he was working on was in his suitcase. He had just finished the introduction to "When I was a stranger..." as you read over the text for that section you might sense that he was having a premonition of what was about to happen in his life-where he would soon be in an emergency room under the care of doctors, nurses and as well as his family and religious community.
You will find that this book provides you with keys to finding Our Lord in the poor, and to overcoming the fears and obstacles (represented by the seven deadly sins in each section) that prevent you from responding to His call.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

First Sunday of Lent Meditation

  The Cross of Christ Teaches Us. . . 

Our Mission


 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your ass these three times? Behold, I have come forth to withstand you, because your way is perverse before me; and the ass saw me, and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have slain you and let her live.” Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that thou didst stand in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in thy sight, I will go back again.” And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men; but only the word which I bid you, that shall you speak.” NUMBERS 22:32–35

 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. MATTHEW 4:10–11 

One of the strangest stories in the Old Testament recounts the mission of the prophet Balaam. A pagan king wanted to conquer the Israelites, and wanted Balaam to help him achieve this ambition by pronouncing a curse on the enemy. So he summoned Balaam.

At first Balaam refused to come, but eventually Balaam set out on his donkey to meet with the king. Although this story is found in the Book of Numbers, it is the Second Letter of Peter that gives us insight to Balaam’s motives: “Forsaking the right way. . . they have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Be’or, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a dumb ass spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness” (2 Peter 2:15–16).

Balaam was not setting out to do God’s will; he was trying to profit by the gifts that God had given him. Balaam was stopped en route by his donkey, which saw an angel barring the path. When Balaam beat his donkey, the animal protested that he was trying to save his master’s life. Finally Balaam’s eyes were opened to the angel of the Lord, who affirmed that, indeed, the donkey had saved his life. The angel told him to go along to the king: “Go. . . but only the word which I bid you, that shall you speak” (Numbers 22:35). In the end, Balaam blessed the Israelites, accomplishing God’s purposes. However, Peter’s epistle reveals that Balaam’s temptation moved him along the path to do the will of God. He did not start out intending to do good, but God intervened.

Spiritual U-Turns 


A friend once told me of the time he decided to give in to a certain temptation that he had been fighting for years. As he went to get into his car that night, he discovered that one of his car’s tires was flat. Most people would see a flat tire as a momentary inconvenience; my friend saw the flat tire as a sign from God. He stayed home that night, and from that moment on the temptation left him. God used my friend’s momentary lapse to put him on the pathway to holiness.

 Scripture has many examples of God using Satan’s ploys to accomplish his own purposes. The Gospel of Matthew offers one such example. When Jesus was about to begin his ministry in Israel, he went into the desert to fast for forty days—symbolic of the forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert. During that time, Satan presented three types of temptations to Our Lord. Ironically, each of the particular temptations Satan chose was related to the mission that God had given to Jesus. Each of them was a perversion of Jesus’ true mission and purpose.

Bread of Life. First the evil one tempted Jesus to turn stones to bread. After all, Jesus was hungry from fasting. However, Jesus knew that his greatest hunger was not physical but relational: He had a hunger only God could satisfy.

The significance of this temptation became clearer on the night before Jesus died, when he took the bread and changed it into his own Body and Blood. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared. “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:48, 51).

Those who partake in the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine, wrote St. Cyril of Jerusalem, become “united in body and blood with Him.” Similarly, St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) observed that after communion, “the heart of Jesus and my own—allow me to use the expression— were fused. No longer were two hearts beating but only one. My own heart had disappeared, as a drop of water is lost in the ocean.” The miracle of the Eucharist is that Our Lord transforms our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

 Source of Life. In the second temptation, Satan tempted Jesus to demonstrate his power by throwing himself off the Temple roof, so the angels would rush to his defense. Jesus recognized that his enemy had twisted Scripture to achieve his own purposes. “You shall not tempt the Lord your God,” he replied firmly (Matthew 4:7).  The things that tempt us most in life can lead us to discover our true calling.

As with the temptation to turn stones to bread, Satan’s temptation was a perversion of the real mission of Christ. By dying on the cross, Jesus threw himself into the hands of the Father, trusting that God would raise him on the third day.

When Franz Jaegerstaetter, a saintly Austrian who refused to fight in the Nazi army, faced certain death because of his refusal to give in to the Nazis’ wishes, Franz wondered if he were committing suicide. It was a meditation on the mission of Jesus, who went to Jerusalem knowing that they were going to kill him there, that finally convinced Franz that standing up to the evil of his day, no matter what the personal cost, was the right thing to do.

 Prince of Life. Finally the Lord was tempted to bow down to Satan in order to win the world. However, just as Jesus rejected the attempts of his followers to make him king or to win the kingdom by the sword, so he rejected this bloodless solution. Jesus knew that real victory would not come easily, and that his kingdom was not an earthly one. His message was not a popular one; ultimately it led to his death on the cross. This “King of the Jews,” as the Romans named him, knew of but one way to win over the world: “. . .when I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).

Those who would be powerful continue to bow to Satan in order to win the world, selling their souls for a temporary advantage. Politicians, religious, and others who promote evil in order to win—whether the prize is power, approval, or other earthly glory—may succeed for a time. But such victory is fleeting, and leaves in its wake an emptiness that is as close to hell as one can get on this earth.

Find Your Mission 


Just as Satan tempted Christ with a perversion of his true mission, the things that tempt us most in life can lead us to discover our true calling. However, we will recognize God’s purpose for us only by the light of the cross. Using God’s gifts to achieve anything other than the divine plan will not bring long-term satisfaction. The path to true joy comes from placing our gifts under the control of the Holy Spirit, and allowing the cross of Christ to reveal Satan’s lies and deceptions for what they are. St. Augustine, who spent his early years tempted by the beauty of creation and even fathering an illegitimate child, later found in God the beauty he was seeking. “Too late, O ancient Beauty, have I loved Thee,” he wrote.

***********

The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.


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Friday, February 19, 2021

Lenten Podcast

  You can listen to an interview program with Michael Dubruiel about his book, The Power of the Cross. The interview is with Kris McGregor of KVSS radio. This is the second episodes.




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Day 1 – Our Mission
Day 2 – To Live the Gospel
Day 3 – How to Pray
Day 4 – About Repentance
Day 5 – How to Trust and Give Thanks
Day 6 – Reconciliation
Day 7 – How to Love

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Friday Stations of the Cross

  



In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Bible-based interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. This devotional guide invites readers to prayerfully walk in solidarity with Jesus on his agonizing way of the cross—from his last torturous moments in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.
Now with full-color station images from previously unpublished paintings by Michael O'Brien, this booklet creates an ideal resource for individual or group devotional use, particularly during the Lenten season.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Lent Meditation by Michael Dubruiel

 

The First Luminous Mystery: The Baptism of the Lord
Our Lord, though innocent, takes on our sins as He enters the water of Jordan and is baptized by John. His mission of our salvation is blessed by the Father's praise and the Spirit's descent. Ask Our Lady to help you pray this decade, pondering the light that comes from submission to the will of God.
--from Praying the Rosary: With the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and & Mysteries by Michael Dubruiel and Amy Welborn.

Repent or Perish Luke 13:3
"I must decrease, He must increase" St. John the Baptist told his disciples after his encounter with Christ. Our submission to the will of God begins with our submission to Christ--our own dying with Him and rising anew in Him at our Baptism. But the act of submission needs to happen at every moment of the day. Every second brings with it a moment of prayer--will I submit to my will against His or will I bow down to His authority and choose Him. The world may cry out "I've got to be me," but the servant of God cries out "I've got to be His." St. Paul reiterates this when he declares, "I live, no not I, but Christ."
We fear this repentance. We secretly grieve that we won't be ourselves if we submit. Something within at a very early age urges us to resist (original sin) and it does not go away quietly. So many of us are slowly perishing, spending our demise judging others, living in darkness.
The biblical notion of this state of humanity is that of something that is lost. Will we continue to cling on to the lost being or will we allow ourselves to be found by Christ--at this moment and at every moment walking in His light and overcoming the darkness of the lost?


Michael Dubruiel

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ash Wednesday in Rome

  From a 2006 trip by Michael Dubruiel

I often blog what the Pope says at his General Audience on Wednesdays, but I will never do so without the sense of what it is like to actually be there. Thanks to several people we knew that to get a good seat at the General Audience we needed to be there as soon as they allowed people in, around 8:00 a.m.(two and half hours before the audience begins, although one of our contacts told us that Benedict had been beginning them about a half hour early). So we were there, dressed for warm weather, because it was rather warm at the time. We found the shortest line and waited about ten minutes until the mad rush began. The security was fairly lax at the entrance point that we were at, police with wands, but not really using them. So once through the entrance we ran (sort of the way people were running through the columns when Pope Benedict was about to be announced as the successor of St. Peter last year).

 

We were able to get to the fourth row right against the center rail, which turned out to be a pretty good spot. The two men sitting in front of me were from Brazil, I think the people behind us were from Ireland. There was a group from Steubenville near us, as well as the St. Thomas folk who were just behind us.
Then it turned cool, the sun disappeared and the clouds covered the sky. The temperature must have dropped ten or fifteen degrees. I think Joseph fell asleep, as well as the baby and for the most part we sat in silence with some outbursts of enthusiastic groups now and then.
Ten o'clock arrived and we were hopeful that the pope might come out early, but not today. Then at ten thirty there was a commotion and suddenly there he was, well looking exactly like the pope! You can see how dark the skies were and the pope had on his winter coat.Pope Benedict has shunned the glass case that John Paul used after he was shot in 1981, when I saw Pope John Paul in Miami he was behind the glass of the popemobile when he drove through the streets of Miami,but then I saw him up close at Mass the next day (a Mass that wasn't finished because of a thunderstorm). I remember being shocked at how old Cardinal Ratzinger was when he celebrated the funeral of Pope John Paul, and even how he seemed bent with age as he entered the conclave to elect the new pope--but how youthful he emerged from the conclave!
Organ music is played as a background which gave the feeling of either a carnival or funeral but didn't seem to strike the right chord for the ceremony.
Now right after the Pope passed us the baby's bottle somehow dropped onto the pavement and went rolling down the path the pope had just passed. A Swiss Guard finally picked it up after it had rolled for what seemed like an eternity, and looked at it suspiciously. He finally walked over and handed it to me.After making the circuit the Holy Father's pope mobile drives up the steps and then he gets out and goes to his chair...Then you hear something along the lines of: 
Cari Fratelli e Sorelle,
Inizia oggi, con la Liturgia del Mercoledì delle Ceneri, l'itinerario quaresimale di quaranta giorni che ci condurrà al Triduo pasquale, memoria della passione, morte e risurrezione del Signore, cuore del mistero della nostra salvezza. Questo è un tempo favorevole in cui la Chiesa invita i cristiani a prendere più viva consapevolezza dell'opera redentrice di Cristo e a vivere con più profondità il proprio Battesimo. In effetti, in questo periodo liturgico il Popolo di Dio fin dai primi tempi si nutre con abbondanza della Parola di Dio per rafforzarsi nella fede, ripercorrendo l'intera storia della creazione e della redenzione.
Which I now know means:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, with the Ash Wednesday Liturgy, the Lenten journey of 40 days begins that will lead us to the Easter Tridium, the memorial of the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord, heart of the mystery of our salvation. It is a favourable time when the Church invites Christians to have a keener awareness of the redeeming work of Christ and to live their Baptism in greater depth.

The audience continues with the pope teaching a lesson in Italian. At the conclusion various Monsignors in different languages greet the pope in the name of the various language groups present. Some groups when they are announced sing, some just cheer. The pope acknowledges them with a wave, then responds with a summary of his teaching in that language. This pope like John Paul before him is fluent in a number of tongues and it is interesting to hear him speak English.
Finally the Pope gives his Apostolic blessing, blessing religious articles also.
Then he greets the Cardinals and bishops present. At this audience there was one cardinal (I believe it is Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez the very Cardinal who announced to the world last year Habemus Papam!) pictured here in the piazza afterwards. Then the sick and handicapped are brought in wheelchairs before him, pushed by nuns for the most part, and he gives each of them a blessing. I'm not sure what the history of this is or for how long this has been done, but I found it to be one of the most poignant moments of the audience. There was a long parade of these crucified memembers of the Body of Christ and they evoked from the Marian prayer "do you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, in this valley of tears." The wisdom of giving these souls the privileged position at the audience and the primacy of a personal meeting with the pope was incredibly Christian--a great witness. Would that all in attendance learn to see in those marginalized the truly important.
After this the pope walked over to the barrier to the left at which were standing a group of Moslems and he greeted them and spoke to them and then worked down the line. At the end of this line he mounted the popemobile and then passed along the barrier on the right and shook hands as he went along. Then the popemobile made its way down the steps toward me. (Click on any image for a full size shot)
Until finally, there he was right in front of me.
So I put the camera down for a second or two. Then after I gave him a wave, I picked it up again just in time because someone handed him a baby.
Then he was gone, as Joseph would say "back to the Pope cave (ala batcave)." The thousands that had gathered began to disperse. Amy had more Rome Reports video to shoot, so she went with the kids for the outside shots. I was to meet with Jeffrey Kirby to take a walk up to the North American College for a tour and lunch. While waiting, I spotted another group gathered for the pope's audience, a group of Eastern monks.
More about Michael Dubruiel 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Ash Wednesday Podcast

  The Power of the Cross. The interview with Michael Dubruiel is with Kris McGregor of KVSS radio.



Episode 1 – The Preliminary Lenten Days –
Michael discusses:
 Ash Wednesday – Eternal Life or Death?
Thursday – Jesus’ Invitation
Friday – How Much We Need Jesus
Saturday – A Matter of Life and Death


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Sunday, February 14, 2021

2021 Daily Lent Devotional

   The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.



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From the Introduction (part 4)

“What Do I Do Now?” 

Start reading this book. Each section is designed to be read and pondered on its own; read one of the entries each day, or take up  one section each week. There are parts of this book with which you may readily agree; other sections will probably anger you. Don’t worry about that; parts of this book elicit the same reaction in me. When faced with the cross, my inner demons rebel. Surrendering to the cross of Christ is the only way to rid oneself of whatever evil may be lurking in our lives. 

The way of the cross is the only sure way to joy and freedom. The world offers us happiness and rejects the cross, to be sure, but it is a happiness that is short lived. For those who embrace his cross, Jesus promises a joy that never ends. The evil one makes it hard for us to see the truth of Jesus’ claim at times. But those who seek the truth will experience—either first-hand or through living saints like Pearl—true reality: What the world promises is a lie. 

We are all headed to Cross City, whether we are following Christ or not. For those who follow Christ, Cross City is the gate to eternal life. For those who venture along that path without Christ, the cross brings only suffering and ultimately death. The crucified Christ is the Vine; we are called to be the branches. May his joy be in you, “that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).   More

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Saturday, February 13, 2021

St. Valentine's Day

  From the CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA:

At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under date of 14 February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and these two seem both to have suffered in the second half of the third century and to have been buried on the Flaminian Way, but at different distances from the city. In William of Malmesbury's time what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian Gate of Rome and is now the Porta del Popolo, was called the Gate of St. Valentine. The name seems to have been taken from a small church dedicated to the saint which was in the immediate neighborhood. Of both these St. Valentines some sort of Acta are preserved but they are of relatively late date and of no historical value. Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.

Michael Dubruiel's Books 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Ash Wednesday is February 17

  An Excerpt from One of My Books:





(Michael Dubruiel)





This is an excerpt from one of my books, "Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with Fulton J. Sheen". This entry is from Part I under the heading "The Sanctification of the Present Moment." I quote this because I noticed somewhere online today the popularity of a spiritual guru who Oprah is promoting, Eckhart Tolle (I think it helps to have an estoteric name in the modern world) who's "Power of Now" is quite the rave. There is nothing new in what Tolle is promoting and any serious student of spirituality can find it in Catholicism. Fulton Sheen was preaching this years ago and as I point out in this entry from the book a very famous work of Christian Spirituality also does:



Bishop Sheen’s “Now-moment” corresponds to the thinking of the great spiritual writer Jean Pierre de Caussade. In Abandonment to Divine Providence, Fr. Caussade gives the reader a sure way of knowing the will of God at any moment—by simply confronting the present moment with all its reality. It seems simple, but if we reflect for a second most of us will find that we spend most of our lives avoiding the present moment.



A few years ago an English translation of the Father Caussade’s work appeared in the United States changing the original title to read “The Sacrament of the Present Moment.” This captures the essence of Father Caussade’s work and Bishop Sheen’s meditation that in the present time we are presented with an opportunity that is truly unique. Each moment is sacramental.



Most of us are capable of presenting ourselves with some amount of reflection as we celebrate the sacraments. If we celebrated the sacrament of Baptism as an adult certainly we came expecting to be changed by God. Each time we enter a confessional surely we have examined our conscience beforehand and are penitent expecting to be forgiven by God. Undoubtedly every time we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist we expect to encounter God. But what about the other moments of our lives?



As we awake in the morning, is our first thought of God? As we greet our brothers and sisters throughout the day do we expect that God might be present? Every moment of our lives is an opportunity to encounter God who is always present.

Spend some time reflecting on the following:



1. Go over the events of the present day and ask yourself where God might have been in each of them. Is there a consistent pattern to your day?



2. Reflect on the life of your favorite saint, and meditate on how he or she dealt with the people they met in their daily journeys. How could you imitate this saint? What enabled the saint to act in the way he or she did toward others?



3. Imagine as you leave from this time of prayer that God wishes to continue to be present to you as you go forth. How will you react to his presence in others?



Prayer

Lord, help me to search for you in the garden of life in the same way that St. Mary Magdalene did when she found your tomb empty. May my search be rewarded as hers was by knowledge of your abiding presence.

Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Lent Stations of the Cross

  Lent begins on February 17. There's still time to order parish and school resources.


More from Michael Dubruiel


In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Bible-based interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. This devotional guide invites readers to prayerfully walk in solidarity with Jesus on his agonizing way of the cross—from his last torturous moments in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.

Now with full-color station images from previously unpublished paintings by Michael O'Brien, this booklet creates an ideal resource for individual or group devotional use, particularly during the Lenten season.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist - part 26

  

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

More from Michael Dubruiel



Michael Dubruiel




From Chapter 4 - Confess - Part 2

One area of spirituality that has been under attack for the past forty years is the “emphasis on sinfulness”that seems to have dominated the spirituality of all religions from the beginning of time. Those who have bought into this removal of sinfulness from their spirituality have found that after awhile God has very little to do with it.


Sin essentially is anything that breaks our relationship with God. Remove sin and you are essentially removing God from the picture — because you are admitting that it really doesn’t matter if you are offending God or not. It would be like being in a relationship with your spouse and refusing ever to admit any wrongdoing — one would expect such a relationship to be in grave trouble.
Admitting that we are not living up to our part of the relationship is a healthy part of the struggle to stay in continual communion with God. If we are doing it with “sighs and tears” it means that we are not just doing it out of habit but rather are emotionally feeling what we are saying. St. Ignatius of Loyola would have retreatants pray for the gift of tears when they meditated on their sinfulness, and this is a practice that should be restored.


I remember standing in a confessional line during a Marian pilgrimage that I made in the late 1980s and watching people emerge from the outside confessional stations (the priest sat in a chair, while the penitent knelt beside him, visible to all gathered there) wiping tears away. It was touching, because it gave me the sense that these people weren’t just listing off faults but experiencing a heartfelt conversion from a life without God to a life that the penitent truly wanted to live with the help of God. We should all pray for the gift of tears for our failings.


My great-grandfather would always be wiping tears away when he returned from receiving communion. I found this deeply significant as a child,and it is something I’ve never forgotten. Involving our emotions in our relationship with God is a great grace that we should strive to have in our relationship with him.


Real contrition for our sins involves a firm resolve to involve God in those parts of our lives where we have excluded him in the past. By being aware of God’s presence at all times we likely will amend our lives in the future.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist - part 25

  

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel





Michael Dubruiel


From Chapter 4 - Confess - Part 1

If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
— ROMANS 1 0 : 9

One night when a group of believers had gathered to pray in a country where such a gathering was forbidden by law, a cry went out when two soldiers burst through the doors. They yelled out that they would give anyone in the room a chance to leave before arresting those who refused to do so.A few of the gathered immediately bolted out of the room.
As soon as they left,the soldiers closed the doors and said,“We are believers too, but we couldn’t trust those who were not ready to be arrested for their faith.”Putting down their guns,they joined the others in prayer.


When you and I hear the word confess we are apt to think of it in terms of our sins, but the word also means to acknowledge one’s belief.The two meanings, when it comes to Christianity,are very related. What we consider to be sinful has a lot to do with how much we really believe in God.


People throw their beliefs about God around quite freely these days,usually prefaced by “Oh,I don’t think God cares about that.”


Christians believe that Jesus has revealed God and what God is like to us. Jesus formed a group of disciples around him and told them that God’s spirit would stay with them until the end of time. This group was to hand down his teaching, baptize other followers, forgive sins, and teach all that Jesus, the Son of God, had commanded them to pass on. Peter had a special role in this group.


Jesus revealed the love of God to us by dying for us and leaving us a memorial of his death in the Eucharist.The word memorial had a special meaning for the Jewish people of Jesus’s time. It didn’t mean recalling the past, as it does for us today, but rather it meant making present a past event. Thus, when we come together at the Eucharist, we are present at Calvary and witness once again what God is like through Jesus.
People who die for any cause care a lot. Jesus has revealed to us that God cares a lot! God desires our salvation.


If we want to get the most out of the Eucharist, we need to confess: We must confess belief in God, as we do in the Creed, and confess that we are not always the greatest of followers of Jesus.


53

Monday, February 8, 2021

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist - part 24

  

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

More from Michael Dubruiel



Michael Dubruiel


From Chapter 3 - Adore. Part 11


FURTHER HELPS

1. Keep Your Focus on Jesus

When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, Our Lord rebuked the devil saying, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall  worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’”(Matthew 4:10).
When you are tempted to worship anything else, no matter how lofty it might seem, call to mind this incident from Our Lord’s life.

2. Learn from the Blessed Virgin Mary

When the Blessed Virgin Mary was called “Blessed among women” by her cousin Elisabeth she responded with “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” (Luke 1:46–47). She pointed to God and worshiped only him.
Following Mary’s example, we should seek to “decrease” in order that God may “increase” as we adore him above all.

3. Foster an Attitude of Adoration

St. Paul told the Thessalonians to Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”(1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).When we foster this attitude our hearts will be focused on adoring God at every moment of our lives.

4. Developing a Eucharistic Spirituality

A concrete way to prefer the love of Christ throughout the day when faced with countless other “loves” is to hear the words Jesus spoke to Peter addressed to yourself: “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15).

5. A Prayer for Today

Recite this prayer of St. Teresa of Ávila often:
Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid.
All things pass away.
God never changes.
Patience obtains everything.
God alone is enough.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist - part 23

  

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

More from Michael Dubruiel



Michael Dubruiel

From Chapter 3 - Adore. Part 10


Bless the Lord, fire and heat, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, dews and snows, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, nights and days, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord,light and darkness,sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.Bless the Lord,ice and cold,sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, frosts and snows, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Let the earth bless the Lord; let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.”
— DANIEL 3 : 4 4 – 5 2


There has been many a winter morning when I was scraping snow and ice from my car when the words of this prayer have come to my lips, often, I must confess, rather sarcastically.
Too often we forget that God has a plan that doesn’t quite match up to ours. If our plans and possessions dominate us, we can become very ungrateful in life and perhaps even feel cursed. Yet if we die to ourselves and adore God, giving thanks to God in all things, even when we are standing in the flames, or freezing in the ice and snow, we’ll find that God has a reason and purpose for everything. As St.Teresa of Ávila said,“There is no such thing as bad weather. All weather is good because it is God’s.”


There is an American friar whose cause for sainthood is currently before Rome. His name is Father Solanus Casey; he was a Capuchin Friar who ministered in Detroit, New York, and Huntington, Indiana. He died over forty years ago. I often walk the grounds of the former friary where he served in Huntington and think about his ministry. Born of Irish immigrants, he was sent to German seminaries where the priests taught him in German how to speak Latin. He didn’t fare too well — who would?


Eventually he was ordained but not allowed to preach doctrinal sermons or hear confessions. In a time when there was more of a caste system in religious life he was given a “brothers’ job” as porter. People sought him out near and far.They found great wisdom in his words, and great miracles of healing were recorded after his prayer and touch. Many were converted.
In many ways, it would seem that he would have had much to be bitter about. He was obviously one of the most gifted friars in the community, but he was treated as one who had little to offer.

Yet he was not bitter, and his advice to people who requested prayer and healing is interesting. He told them to “thank God ahead of time”— as an act of faith.He often also had them enroll in a Mass association as a way of giving thanks to God.


This is a beautiful message for us: to thank God in all things, to be thankful for everything that life brings to us even if to all appearances it doesn’t seem there is anything to be thankful for, and to thank God ahead of time,trusting that in God’s time good will come from it all.
The Eucharist is all about “giving thanks,” and how much you and I can do so at any given moment is dependent upon how deeply we are adoring and worshiping God.Offering God our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving will help us to get the most from the Eucharist.

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist - part 22

  

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel



How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist - part 22

Michael Dubruiel

From Chapter 3 - Adore. Part 9

PROBLEMS VERSUS BLESSINGS

A prayer that is recited by those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours on every major feast day of the Church is an example of the kind of thanksgiving that should be the prayer of all believers. It is called the Benedicite, after the many times that the word “Bless” is used in it. In this case “Bless” is another way of saying “give thanks and praise.” The setting is found in the book of Daniel,where three young men are placed in a fiery furnace,something I’m sure even the most faithful among us would be tempted
to think of as a “big problem.” 


As they enter the fiery furnace to what would seem like a certain death,one of them,Azariah,prays:

Blessed art thou, O Lord, God of our fathers, and worthy of praise; and thy name is glorified for ever. For thou art just in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are true and thy ways right, and all thy judgments are truth.Thou hast executed true judgments in all that thou hast brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our fathers, for in truth and justice thou hast brought all this upon us because of our sins. For we have sinfully and lawlessly departed from thee, and have sinned in all things and have not obeyed thy commandments; we have not observed them or done them, as thou hast commanded us that it might go well with us.
— DANIEL 3 : 3 – 7


It is a prayer of thanksgiving, sounding very much like a Eucharistic Prayer that is prayed at the Mass we attend.Those trying to exterminate the three men, hearing the prayer, stoke up the flames, and the three pray a prayer that includes the following:


Bless the Lord, fire and heat, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, dews and snows, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, nights and days, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord,light and darkness,sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.Bless the Lord,ice and cold,sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, frosts and snows, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. Let the 
earth bless the Lord; let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.”

— DANIEL 3 : 4 4 – 5 2

Friday, February 5, 2021

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist - part 21

  

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel



Michael Dubruiel



From Chapter 3 - Adore. Part 8


ADORING GOD WITH PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING

One of my favorite quotes is from the journals of Father Alexander Schmemann: “God, when creating the world, did not solve problems or pose them.He created what He could call ‘very good.’ God created the world, but the devil transformed the world and man and life into a ‘problem.’ ”

If we want to adore God with praise and thanksgiving we are going to have to learn to stop seeing everything as a “problem” or “interruption” and begin to be open to seeing God’s goodness and interventions even in the most unlikely of places.

Many of the most horrific sins ever committed by human beings happen because people see problems where they should see blessings. If we do not adore God above all, we risk doing horrible things as we serve whatever else we have put in God’s place.

ELP FROM THE FATHERS OF THE HURCH
Human beings are created for the purpose of praising God.The Lord demands nothing else in the same manner that he requires praise and thanksgiving of us.For that reason he made rational beings and distinguished us from animals by our power of speech so that we might praise and glorify him continually.
— S T. J OHN HRYSOSTOM

Thursday, February 4, 2021

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist - part 20

  

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel



Michael Dubruiel


From Chapter 3 - Adore. Part 7


BEING LOVED BY JESUS

In Mark 10:21 in the account of the rich young man, Mark tells us that Jesus,“looking upon him loved him, and said to him,‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ ”


Notice that because Christ loves the rich young man,he points out what the young man lacks. It is out of love that Jesus tells him to get rid of all his possessions.


Christ’s love will reveal similar deficiencies in us. Our Lord looks upon us and recognizes what we really need. However, we often come to him with our own ideas about what we need. If we prefer our own ideas to the love of Christ, we too will join the rich young man who walks away sad, “for his possessions were many.” We may possess the world, but without Christ it is nothing!


O V I N G E S U S


In John 8:42, Jesus is engaged in a heated argument with those who oppose him. He says to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.” We know, therefore, that Jesus is God, and we should prefer nothing to God and his love, which Jesus has revealed to us perfectly.


How do we know if we truly love Our Lord? He addresses this in John 14:23-24: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” We love Our Lord by doing what he commands us to do.