Tuesday, July 13, 2010

PS 26 - My Foot Stands on Level Ground

Dear xxxxxxx,

Your prayer for judgment, asking God to take a look at your heart and mind, underlines the courage which you have been given, by Grace, to walk openly before God. (If I did not know you, I would have taken this as a 'dare' to God.) In it I hear the desire to walk the path of perfection, and the plea to resist the temptations that often can take us off that path. The fruits of your journey of discipline and love are, as you so wonderfully expressed, that 'God's love is before your eyes'.

I wonder though whether you have truly arrived at that place where your 'foot stands on level ground'? I understand that you may desire to avoid the places where liars and hypocrites and the wicked may go, but can anyone truly walk the path of perfection and avoid those places? There is a difference between avoiding those places and their temptations, and walking through them with the freedom that comes from loving God.

I would just like to hear more about those temptations, and perhaps together we can listen to God's call for us among the sinners and bloodthirsty men. What if God's desire wasn't to sweep away sinners, but to call you and I to attend to them, listen to them, and help them stand on level ground as well? What then would be your prayer?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ps 18- He brought me out into an open place

Dear xxxxx,

You speak in your letter titled Psalm 18 of a vision that you had- a vision with disaster, with enemies, with the breakers of death and cords of hell.
And then of God as "mounted on cherubim and swooping down on the wings of the wind, bringing you into an open place because he delighted in you".

Can you tell me more about what you think that these breakers of death and cords of hell represent for you?
Who are these enemies and what makes them so?

I wonder whether you have insight into the place that God brought you to- a place that was open? Can you tell me more about what that place looked like?

Perhaps, as an exercise, you could imagine a different kind of rescue where God does not come hurling thunderbolts and rocking the earth with his anger. Is there possibly a different kind of rescue from these enemies? Why do you think that the vision at this time called for such an angry and violent God?

Most of all I want to help you notice that God delighted in you, and this was the reason for your rescue. Perhaps the vision itself was just a vehicle for conveying that simple message.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ecce eris tacens: Behold, thou shalt be silent.

SSM 2v

Dear Thomas,

I hope you are beginning to see the invitations that surround you like dust that appears in sunlight as it beams into a room. As you stood on that corner in Louisville, you recalled "..how strange it was to see people walking around as if they had something important to do, running after buses, reading the newspapers, lighting cigarettes." And then "How futile all their haste and anxiety seemed."

Then you say your "heart sank within me" and recognized that you too had been pretending to do something important all of your life.

What is it that you are discovering there? What have you gotten a glimpse of there? Do you really need further guidance about vocation?

I understand your fear about asking for advice, one 'last time' about a vocation as a monk. It is usually true that once one has been told that they are not called to ordained ministry, it is not likely that they will hear a different answer later on. Not a hard and fast rule, but the discernment process is reliable when it is done correctly AND when the desire is not so limited as to rule out other options.
In your case, your fear that you will be rejected one last time and the dream will be over has frozen you into inaction, despite the fact that you are clearly experiencing the pull to some sort of monastic life.

Have you considered that a 'no' to monastic life with the Franciscans is not a 'no' to the Trappists, or Carthusians?

And so, you ask my thoughts on your experience (Augustinian as you point out) in opening the Bible and randomly pointing to scripture to designate the answer to your question of what you should do. Is this hocus pocus? Is this the Holy Spirit?
"I looked, and the answer practically floored me. The words were 'Ecce eris tacens'. Behold, thou shalt be silent.'
Not silent about your question, as if God would direct you to stop bothering him.
Silent as in the opposite of haste and anxiety.
Silent as in the space between musical notes that make up a wind quartet.

Follow your heart Thomas. Ask the question again, but this time open the question up a bit. Recall the first principle of Ignatius. Is it really about which order to join because you are looking to escape from the anxiety and haste? Or is it about the community that will hold you and lighten the path to serve and reverence and praise this God who is poking you with silence, this tacens.

Do not tarry.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Excellence, in proportion to obscurity

SSM 2iv

Dear Thomas,

You must free yourself of all dependence on the perceptions of others, or you will not be able to discern even the slightest whisper of what God calls you to. Are you able to hear the full mathematical set of answers, or will you only hear what you perceive to be your destiny as your desire drowns out the rest?

What does God desire for the world? Can you predict this, and then shape your own desire to fit it, like a dovetail joint?

You must identify each and every reason that you wish to become a monk. Then you must place it on a cloud, and watch it, ask it to let you go, and then silently thank it as it washes away. Exhaust them all.
Can you free yourself from the imagination of every other person who might know of your desire to become a monk. Are you a monk in someone else's imagination still? Yes? Then you are not ready.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ignatius- 1st Principle and Foundation and Discernment

SSM 3i,ii

Dear Thomas,

Your movement to begin looking at monastic orders seems to be moving at a pace that even surprises me. I'm sure you will soon find that the abbot of the order will not move towards entry at the same pace as you might desire. There is good reason for this, proven by the endurance of each order. The desire to quickly enter an order is itself an attachment, albeit an attachment to the dream to escape whatever is causing you anxiousness in your life at this moment.

I would advise you not to strictly read up on the various orders in the Catholic Encyclopedia, or even Wikipedia. You must talk to the abbot, and you must meet with your spiritual director even more often during this period of discovery. I realize the attraction that you have for the Franciscans is genuine, but again you must not make a decision until you have overcome the false excitement of escaping your current life.

You must be prepared to hear 'NO' and be at peace with that response, even joyful at such a revelation of God's grace. The desire must be for the right answer from God, not for 'Yes'.

How to do this?

Aw, this is the good news!

You have already encountered the 1st Principle and Foundation of Ignatius, and in it, the guidance towards the exercise that will lead to a decision based on spiritual freedom.

The First Principle and Foundation

The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.

All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.

It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end.

To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition.

Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.

Begin by an examination of your day, your week, and this moment, and as Ignatius suggests, ask whether your action, your desire, your prayer is for the praise, reverence and service to God. And do not allow yourself to fool yourself by pretending that what is 'of God' is only, in fact, self serving, or self-falsehood.

This will take practice, but like all practices, you will soon develop a kind of memory for what Ignatius means by indifference.

The real fruit of this practice will be an awareness of all the things to which you are attached, and which lead you to trouble, anxiety, and confusion.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Make me a priest!

SSM 2iv

Dear Thomas,

As you talked about your experience yesterday I sensed that you were being drawn toward, rather than driven away. And then came your description of what was happening at that moment:

"It was a strong and sweet and deep and insistent attraction that suddenly made itself felt, but not as movement of appetite towards any sensible good. It was something in the order of conscience, a new and profound and clear sense that this was what I really ought to do."

Often a characteristic of the movement of God is difficult to describe, and so we use words like 'felt', and 'sense'.

Then, in my experience, and in my study of the works of Ignatius, I am prompted to look at the entire experience. For Ignatius says that:

"If in the course of our thoughts or our actions we find that from the beginning to end our eyes have remained fixed on the Lord, we can be sure that the good spirit has been moving us...."

So when you mentioned that you continued on your walk, and then 'some kind of instinct' prompted you to go St Francis Xavier church, I recognized the middle of the experience. Thoughts were leading to action, but the action of an explorer who trusted his guide.

The doors of the church were locked. Can you describe this moment? What was the spirit saying to you at this moment?

Then, a basement door catches your eye. And "ordinarily I would not have noticed such a door." Then you stated:

"But something prompted me: 'Try that door.'"

There it is! Do you see? The unknown that we only can call 'something' because we haven't enough experience to know what to call this presence, this 'something'. All that matters now is that you recall that moment, as God's own desire and your desire met. There it is!

You may think that the climax of the experience came later after entering the basement of the church to find yourself at the end of a novena service, saying aloud to Him- "Yes I want to be a priest, with all my heart I want it. If it is Your will, make me a priest-make me a priest."
But I tell you, it is that 'something' that you will return to, again and again.

A Saint?

SSM 2ii

Dear Thomas

I am not confused or disappointed that in response to my question about whom you wish to become you have settled upon, after first responding 'a famous author', the more ambitious 'a saint'. We often run away from that word because it conjures up some polished image of Ignatius or Francis or Theresa that ignores the humanness that surely was as present in them as it is in you.
Perhaps the desire to be an author, famous or not, and the desire to be a saint are not as disconnected as you think. Both are susceptible to attachments.
You stated that you see our community as full of people that want to be kind and pleasant and love good things and serve God, but they do not know how. And they do not know how to find out.
Was Benedict a saint because he performed miracles, or because he knew how to help his community of monks find out how to love and serve God? And he was, among other things, an author.
Start with this. Want to be a saint.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ignatius- 1st Principle and Foundation

We are created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord and by this means to save our souls.

The other things on the face of the earth are created for us to help us in attaining the end for which we are created.

Hence, we are to make use of them in as far as they help us in the attainment of our end and we must rid ourselves of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to us. Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. That same holds for all other things.

Our one destire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.