A Morning of Reflection
THE BENEDICTINE TEMPLATE has influenced Christian spirituality since the early centuries. We will look at the key elements which can enrich our spiritual lives. Join Yvette Lessard (Spiritual Director) in the Parish Hall of St. Peter Church, Main St. Danbury, CT on Thursday, July 11 from 10-11:45.
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Meditation: Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5
The revelation of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1)
Have you ever wondered what the Book of Revelation is about? You’re not alone. This book has baffled, bedeviled, and frightened readers for centuries. That’s mainly because the Book of Revelation is a different kind of writing that we’re not too familiar with in the twenty-first century.
Revelation is a prime example of “apocalyptic” literature. That means it uses dramatic imagery—cosmic signs and fanciful creatures—to interpret present-day events. In the case of this book, it is an interpretation of the readers’ own challenging situations: persecution, false gospels, complacency, and general hardship.
But that’s only one part of the picture. The overall goal of Revelation is to reveal Jesus himself, the One whose kingdom can withstand any challenge or hardship. It’s an unveiling—a throwing back of the curtain around heaven.
From now until Advent begins, the Church’s liturgy will feature readings from this beautiful but puzzling book. These readings will unveil a truly awe-inspiring Jesus. You’ll see him take his throne on a seat of glory. You’ll see him surrounded by myriads of worshippers crying, “Holy, holy, holy” (Revelation 4:8). You’ll even hear him speaking from heaven as he tells you that he has come, not only to destroy the old reign of sin, but also to “make all things new” (21:5).
For the next two weeks, begin each prayer time by asking the Holy Spirit to open your eyes so that you can see Jesus in the passages you will read. Then read through them. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination. Go ahead and picture the scenes. Imagine yourself actually in them. Let those pictures draw you into worship. If you find yourself struggling amid unfamiliar signs and symbols, that’s okay. See if you can find a commentary in your Catholic study Bible that might clarify these images for you. Footnotes can provide context or help you understand what the images mean.
Finally, trust that God is going to bless you. After all, he said, “Blessed is the one who reads” (Revelation 1:3)! Let this fantastical imagery help you imagine Jesus’ majesty. Let it convince you that no matter what life throws your way, Jesus is on his throne and in control.
“Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see the glory of Jesus.”
Published by Word Among Us – 19November 2018
For the past two years, I have been working a job that has required a daily commute of roughly two hours, more or less. Over time, it has slowly worn on me, not to mention my cars. It not only has had its effects on me, but my wife and my son also feel the impact of my long absence.
I’ve written and lamented in the past on how crucial it is for fathers to be home with their families as much as they can, and I very much still stand in that favor of that position. The absence of the father in a home can be very noticeable if we just observe.
On days when I’m able to show up at home immediately following a day’s work and I get to interact with my wife and son, the family feels more stable and the evening has a better flow to it. If I come home but I don’t interact with them, I find the tension gets high, and so do frustration levels (understandably so).
Most noticeably is the change in my son’s behavior when I can get home and just playwith my little guy. When I’m able to come home and get straight to playing, wrestling, rough-housing, or what have you, the evenings always go much smoother, my son is better behaved, and my wife is much happier and at ease and can relax a little.
In my own family, we have recognized how essential it is for me to get home and give my son my undivided attention and simply play with him. The difference in his behavior is night and day when I get to spend uninterrupted time with him versus when I don’t. Because of the noticeable difference and the desired result of a smoother evening, we’ve put rules in place where I put phones away and remove any other distractions for at least the first 30 minutes (or more) of my time in the evening and I focus entirely on my little boy. He has waited all day to see his ol’ man. I’ve had to wait too.
When we take these measures as fathers to give of ourselves entirely to our wives and children and set aside things that call our attention, I find that we live lighter and more freely. By engaging in selfless play with our kiddos, we show them the love of the Father and give them the confidence and assurance they need that they are deeply a part of us, and that we love them in a way they cannot fully understand.
This, I believe, will dramatically affect the way they relate to our Heavenly Father. We dads here on earth have an opportunity to help our children engage in receiving the love of our Father. Many times, I have met Christians who speak incredibly highly of their fathers and how impactful that relationship was to receive the Divine Love. I have also heard the reverse, of how a poor relationship with a father (or lack thereof) has led to an abandonment of the Lord. What a beautiful opportunity for us, but also, how intimidating!
Playing with your child is a gift. Play is done not as a means but as an end unto itself; it’s done for the sake of itself. Playing with our children reminds us to let go and enjoy the gifts that the Lord has given us, namely our children. To hear the laughter of your child as you play-tackle him to the ground, is one of the finest treasures in our lives as fathers.
SUBSCRIBE TO CE
St. Peter Men’s Society invites everyone to a Night of Reflection at the Parish hall of St. Peter Church, Main St. Danbury, CT. The speaker is Michael Falbo, our Youth Minister. Come join us in prayer and reflection.
This year’s Conference is geared to build Christian camaraderie among the men who attend in order that they become more faithful fathers, husbands, brothers, sons and disciples. This is accomplished through presentations and seminars, opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for Eucharistic Adoration, and a closing celebration of the Eucharist with clergy from throughout Connecticut. All are invited! Visit: https://ctcatholicmen.org/detailed-overview.
Meditation: Luke 6:27-38
Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
One of the reasons Jesus’ teaching on mercy is so challenging is that we face many opportunities to practice it each day. Like many other challenges, our best defense is a good offense. We are better able to rise to these challenges if we prepare ourselves for them in advance. So what can we do? What attitudes come before mercy?
First there’s love. When Jesus commands us to be merciful, he is essentially telling us to follow the way of love. Love doesn’t seek retribution or “brood over injury”
(1 Corinthians 13:5). That’s why Jesus tells his followers to “bless those who curse you” and “pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). So out of love, when a family member says something hurtful, try to hold your tongue instead of lashing out. When someone cuts you off while you’re driving, pray for that person instead of reacting with anger.
There’s also understanding. Pope Francis has said that we are all “a complex mixture of light and shadows” (The Joy of Love, 113). So before you take offense or respond in a negative way, ask yourself, “What might be causing this person to act in this way?” If you step back and take the time to understand a person and the complicated factors that might lead people to do what they do, you may find it easier to be compassionate and thus merciful.
Third, there’s self-awareness. You too are a mixture of “light and shadows.” Yet it’s so very easy to see the plank in a brother’s or sister’s eye but fail to see the beam in your own (Matthew 7:3). When you regularly examine your heart, you are constantly reminded of your own weaknesses. As you become more alert to your own need for God’s compassion and forbearance, it becomes easier to forgive other people and show them mercy.
Because we are a work in progress, we will probably always struggle with the call to be merciful. But how blessed we are that God is merciful to us! As we do our part to prepare our hearts, he will pour out his grace upon us day by day. May we become his face of mercy to all we encounter each day!
“Jesus, grant me the grace this day to show mercy, just as your Father has shown me mercy.”
The Word Among Us
Word Among Us is an excellent Catholic publication that I read everyday. This one struck me today.
How does Christian friendship relate to friendship with God?
For a decade, Irene and Alyssa shared friendship — as singles, then as newly married women and mothers raising children in a Midwestern Catholic community. But they became close friends only when they also shared their suffering. When Irene was going through a difficult trial more than 15 years ago, she let her guard down and confided in Alyssa. Both women realized they’d been longing for a deeper Christian friendship. (Their names have been changed. They spoke on condition of anonymity.)
Irene said, “It’s higher than just helping someone carry a cross to take their pain as your own. I feel like she does that for me.”
Alyssa agreed: “I think others see that she helps me be a better person. She helped me find the Lord in a moment of despair.”
Bearing one another’s burdens “shoulder to shoulder” is a mark of spiritual friendship, as 12th-century English monk St. Aelred of Rievaulx wrote in his book of the same name.
Drawing on the wisdom of St. Aelred and others, as well as the experiences of Christian friends, what makes a friendship spiritual or Christian? How does it differ from other types of friendship? And how does Christian friendship relate to friendship with God?
Christian friends care for each other, share life and prepare for heaven together. They model virtue and grow in it together, sometimes with a common mission. Unlike other friendships, Christ is a third Person in their cohort, teaching them through his example and their lived experience. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
Since they were Jesuit novices in Spokane in 1974, Fathers Robert Spitzer and William Watson shared a love for God and truth, though they often reach conclusions differently. Father Spitzer’s analytical nature and Father Watson’s intuition have proven complementary.
The friends’ vision and love for the truth has strengthened their friendship, said Father Watson, 63, founder and president of Sacred Story Institute in Seattle. “It’s a desire to creatively and in different ways help people access that so they can believe in the Good News.”
Their differences also amuse them. “I might not have missed the 43rd premise in an argument, but I can miss the perfectly obvious,” said Father Spitzer, 65, president of the Magis Center in Garden Grove, California, and host of the EWTN series Father Spitzer’s Universe.
“We definitely appreciate one another’s strengths, and we feel very free to not critique so much as to point to the possible errors of omission in one another’s thinking or, in my case, feeling.”
Christian friends may have complementary gifts, but according to St. Aelred, they must possess loyalty, right intention, discretion and patience, said Redemptorist Father Dennis Billy, a professor at the Mishawaka, Indiana-based Graduate Theological Foundation and staff member at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua, New York.
Benevolence, actively seeking the other’s well-being and reciprocity also mark Christian friendship, he said.
Friends help each other grow in virtue, and because of virtue, they’re able to share a common purpose in life, said John Cuddeback, a professor at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, who writes about friendship at his blog “Bacon From Acorns.”
God reaches out to us through our human friends to prepare us for divine friendship, Cuddeback explained. “Christ offers us his love through our friends and hoping that friendship leads us back to friendship with him.”
Prayer, spiritual direction and study about friendship can help Catholics seeking Christian friendships, Cuddeback said.
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales advised forming friendships only with those with whom one can share virtuous things. “If your mutual and reciprocal exchanges concern charity, devotion and Christian perfection, O God, how precious this friendship will be!” he wrote. “It will be excellent because it comes from God, excellent because it leads to God, excellent because its bond will endure eternally in God.”
Scripture tells of special friendships Christ had with Sts. John, Martha and Mary Magdalene. Other examples of close Christian friendships include: Sts. Peter and Mark; Sts. Paul and Timothy; and Sts. Gregory Nazianzen and Basil. Of his friendship with St. Basil, St. Gregory wrote: “It seemed that in us there was only a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
Though they lived in different centuries, Blessed John Henry Newman and Father Henri Nouwen were both theologians and spiritual writers whose close Christian friends deeply affected their lives and helped them grow spiritually.
Cardinal Newman and Father Ambrose St. John were lifelong friends who entered the Catholic Church together in 1845. The friends shared life and were even buried together, a sign some say that their earthly friendship would lead to communion in heaven.
In a sermon entitled, “Love of Relations and Friends,” Cardinal Newman wrote, “The Ancients thought so much of friendship, that they made it a virtue. In a Christian view, it is not quite this; but it is often accidentally a special test of our virtue. … But what is it that can bind two friends together in intimate converse for a course of years but the participation in something that is Unchangeable and essentially Good, and what is this but religion?”
In the 20th century, Father Nouwen had many close friends to whom he wrote thousands of letters.
In his book Love in a Fearful Land: A Guatemalan Story, Father Nouwen wrote, “Friendship has always belonged to the core of my spiritual journey. God has given me many friends, and each of them has played a significant role in my thinking, feeling, thinking and acting.”
These and similar stories are common in good friendships, according to Cuddeback, because “we grow in our ability to live a truly human, and even a truly divine, life together by rolling up our sleeves and holding one anther accountable and striving together.”
Not only do Christian friends know one another, they also look outward — and upward toward God — together, he said.
Fathers Spitzer and Watson share a desire to evangelize. Before establishing their own ministries, they collaborated at two universities, sharing the faith and virtue.
“We not only came alive by giving those students those things, our friendship came alive,” Father Spitzer said. “We were on mission together. Our hearts individually and collectively came alive and made the friendship alive.”
As married women, Alyssa and Irene also share a common mission — caring for their husbands and raising their children in the faith.
Christian friendships ought to “begin in Christ, continue in Christ and be perfected in Christ,” St. Aelred wrote.
Christ-centered friendships resemble a triangle: Each friend has a relationship with Christ, and the bond in Christ’s spirit overflows into their bond with one another, according to Father Billy.
Christian friendship is very much needed, Father Billy said.
“We need to develop in our Church ways to help people look at their relationships and have discretion about whether this is a friendship to invest in.”
Holy, sacred friendship is necessary for those living in the world who want to live in true virtue, St. Francis de Sales wrote. “By this means they encourage, assist and lead one another to perform good deeds.”
Now living in different states, Father Spitzer and Father Watson meet less frequently, but they noted that St. Ignatius, who founded the Society of Jesus, and St. Francis Xavier also were close friends who mostly communicated by letter while St. Francis traveled as a missionary. “We have the kind of friendship that, within a minute of being together, picks up where it left off,” Father Watson said.
Father Spitzer and Father Watson haven’t had new opportunities to tour Montana in a red Pontiac Trans Am, as they did in 2001, but they remain longtime Christian friends on a mission.
Said Father Watson of his Christ-centered friendship with Father Spitzer: “We both know the One who makes everything work.”
Susan Klemond writes from
St. Paul, Minnesota.
National Catholic Register