Sunday, June 30, 2013

Religious Life and Joe Christian

We had our monthly spiritual retreat a few days ago and one thought really hit me. So often we see great saints like St. Francis of Assisi. They're intimidating, aren't they? I mean, I really do not think that I would be capable of living out my faith like he did. If Christianity means that, well, maybe Christianity is not exactly, entirely for me.

Ever felt like that? Well, the good news is that no, you and I are not called to live like that. God does not expect us to dive into thorn bushes, live half-naked out in the cold, or do nothing for our daily sustenance save daily begging for "daily bread." But...He does expect us live like that.

Religious life, and, by the way, St. Francis was a religious, is meant to be a sign of realities that all Christians are called to live. Religious may live aspects of the Christian faith in a more radical way but that does not mean that what they live is for religious alone. On the contrary, religious are living realities that all Christians are called to live.

For example, religious are to live detachment from ALL CREATURES. What does that mean? Well, it means detachment from phones, cars, houses, video games, movies, sports, etc...but creatures extends to everything that is not God- i.e. family and friends, too. Before you get all worked up about possible misinterpretations / ramifications of what that means, I will translate. All that means is that God has the first place in my life and takes priority over everything else. Religious are to live detached from everything with their hearts set on God above all else.

Does that sound good? Well, guess what? That applies to all Christians, too. Religious may just live it in a more radical way.

St. Francis and St. Clare

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Healthy Dose of Humility

The other day we watched a soccer game here at the seminary. First of all, it is always a big event because we only watch a handful of sporting events every year. It was Brazil vs. Italy and we have a good number of Brazilians here. They ended up winning the game 4-2.

I was talking with another brother after the game and was reflecting that I found myself pulling for Italy simply because of the perceived cockiness/over-confidence I perceived in some of the Brazilians, both in the audience and that we saw among the fans. I said, "you know, they just seem too cocky." The brother (a fellow American) responded, "yeah they're kind of like us!"

It hit me. Yeah, in the Olympics, we generaly expect to win everything and I probably transmit that same over-confidence when the United States is involved in something. That brother's ability to zoom out and see himself in a bigger context I found to be quite admirable. It made me think that there is always room to grow in humility.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Am I afraid of God?

God as Father. What does that mean to you? So often I equate following God with leaving behind so many things that I love- music, movies, sports, friendships with people I love... I know that if I decide to follow him all the way I am definitely going to pay for it. I've heard of the dark knight of the soul, yeah, and I know that saints suffered a lot. I am not exactly chomping at the bit, you know, to have a life like that.

Do you remember what Jesus said? "What father would give his son a scorpion when he asks for an egg? or a stone when he asks for a fish?" I asked my dad if we could go fishing, never "for a fish." And when I did so he never brought me to, like, the barber shop. When I was a bambino I hated going to the barber. Actually, that hasn't changed much. The point is, we often accept and believe the craziest ideas of what God must be like as a father. "He is going to send me the dark knight! I know it!" Ok- first thing: relax. Father's love their children and want to take them to baseball games, buy them gifts, watch movies with them, go fishing...they want to be happy together! Why would God be any different?

Fathers also want the best for their children which means, on occasion, correcting, steering, guiding- setting on a path for fuller, happier development even though it may mean a small cost initially. God wants us to be happy. That's the bottom line. God is a good father. And that's how we should think of him.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Don't drift!

Rule of discernment #1

In this rule St. Ignatius talks about what happens when I am drifting in my relationship with God. What happens? As can happen in any relationship, there is a lack of delicacy, negligence of details, little interest. So what does the devil do? Well, he is, of course, ecstatic that I am not growing in holiness. So he says, "you're doing great," while the Holy Spirit says, "wake up!"

The devil wants to be a catalyst in aiding our growing further from the Lord. Pretty obvious, right? So what does he do? St. Ignatius says in the rule that "the enemy is ordinarily accustomed to propose apparent pleasures to them, leading them to imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins." He is trying to attract us to that which leads us away from God. This could be something as simple as something I like which prevents me from getting to Sunday Mass.

In this stage of the game, says St. Ignatius, the "good spirit uses a contrary method, stinging and biting their consciences through their rational power of moral judgment." We have all experienced that, right? It's so easy, too, to try reasoning my way out of it. But something has to change and so the Holy Spirit employs this methodology.

But this all changes when I change direction.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Spiritual Football

Have you ever wondered whether or not something you wanted to do is coming from God? I am currently reading a book by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV called "The Discernment of Spirits." He discusses the rules of discernment of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits

One of the first ideas that grabbed my attention was this: I need to identify what's happening in my relationship with God. In this regard I can have one of two fundamental directions: towards God or away from God. Is our relationship developing positively or are we drifting apart? Confronting this question is fundamental because both the Holy Spirit and the devil apply different strategies depending on me and my life. It's like in football: when the quarterback gets to the line of scrimmage, he may have to change the play based on the look that the defense is giving him. Similarly, there are two "teams" battling for our hearts and they apply their strategies depending on how I am living.