Monday, July 30, 2018

The Rest of the Story - Bl Solanus Casey

Prayed for all of you at his tomb this morning (more pics below)

Today is the first official feast day for Blessed Solanus Casey. I prayed for all of you at his tomb in Detroit this morning. He has some really great advice for all of us, not to be missed! Podcast by Fr. Luke Fletcher, CFR.



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Monday, July 23, 2018


The only way I can have a conversation with my nephews, ages 18 and 12, is if I take away their phones. Even when I do that, eye contact is kept to a minimum and their bodies appear unable to relax without a piece of technology in their hand. Unfortunately, this is becoming true for many adults as well. In our age of smart phones, tablets, and social media, it seems that we spend more time listening to devices than to another person.

When I was in school studying spiritual direction, my teachers continually emphasized that spiritual direction is primarily a ministry of listening. After the lectures each morning, we were given the opportunity to practice our listening. Each student was paired up with another student. One was given the role of the director and the other was the directee. The directee was asked to share the contents of their prayer from the previous 24 hours, while the director was told merely to listen. The only time the director was allowed to talk is when he would summarize, in a concise manner, the content of what the directee was sharing. The reason for this was simply to make sure the director really heard, i.e., was listening, to what the directee was actually saying.

As I listened to all of my directees, who varied in age, occupation and vocation, I immediately realized a problem. I was only half listening, while my other half was problem solving. I wanted to give my directees advice, quote something from a saint, or impress them with my knowledge of the Bible and spirituality. If it was a younger person, I wanted to tell them my experience and what happened to me when I was their age. If someone began to cry, I wanted to console them and tell them it was going to be alright. What I really wanted, I realize now, was for them to stop telling their story and for me to start telling mine. 

Listening to another person, I learned, means to receive the other person as they are, in their joy and sorrow, happiness and pain, with their strengths and weaknesses, without turning their life into a problem that needs to be solved by me.

It means, essentially, to accept the mystery of the other person, and to allow that person to remain a mystery, without reducing them to our human categories, labels and stereotypes, which, unfortunately, we often resort to.

A few years ago I made an eight-day directed retreat with a priest who had a reputation for being a gifted spiritual director. After we met on the first evening, we had decided that I would pray four hours a day and meet with him each evening to discuss the contents of my prayer. On the second evening I met him in his room and he asked, “How was your prayer today?” I started sharing with him how my prayer was going and I would pause at times because I thought he would want to interject a correction, offer some words of wisdom or give me some advice. He was completely silent. At the end our time he said, “Ok, see you tomorrow.”

Even though he didn’t say anything, I knew that I was sincerely listened to. I did not feel judged, labeled, or analyzed. I did feel, however, accepted, in a way I may never have before. As my retreat continued, our meetings followed the same format. “How was your prayer today?” he would ask, and then I would start talking. Since I wasn’t expecting him to interrupt me anymore, I was given the freedom to explore all that God was doing inside my soul. Without projecting his own experience of God or life on me, I was enabled the freedom to discover my own. Needless to say, a whole new world was unearthed inside of me and through this spiritual director’s listening presence, the mystery of God’s ways and His healing became a tangible reality that I continue to marvel at many years later.

I have come to believe that not only is spiritual direction primarily a ministry of listening, but that life is primarily a ministry of listening. Whether it is prayer, marriage, or friendship, listening to another person—God, a spouse or a friend— becomes an opportunity for grace. Of course there are moments in life when listening may not be enough. A correction, a disagreement or perhaps a command needs to happen. What I have learned, surprisingly, is that even when those difficult moments come along, if I have genuinely listened to the other person, the reception of that correction or command is at least considered more thoughtfully.

The person who is being listened to acquires the freedom and the space to struggle with his life without immediately feeling judged or analyzed. The listener has the opportunity to participate in God’s patient and unconditional love. The challenge for both of them is learning how to do this in a world filled with noise and distraction. The guide for both of them is the One who always listens to us.

+ Fr. Jeremiah, CFR
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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Being a Christian is Risky

           I am glad you’re okay, honey; but I am also glad you took the risk. It’s a good word for a man to hear from his mother. It had been some fifteen years since I wiggled-on a water ski.At the first go, I tumbled hard. The water was as flat as a window pane—cloudy and grey like the evening sky through it. The day had spent itself throwing rain at Lake Hopatcong keeping the boats lassoed to the pilings and the boaters lounging in their slippers. The last raindrops fell late in the afternoon rippling a calm into the water. Nobody seemed to notice but us. 

I popped up straightaway at the second effort. Skidding left over the wake, I worked my ski wide, if timidly, through the slick untroubled slate. The speedboat sped me fast into my youth—Buckeye Lake, Arbutus Lake—every lake supported the ski with such unassuming grace. So many clean skies. So many oblong circles. So many spills. It was a game of equilibrium; it was a game of speed.

I tried, vainly (in both senses of the word),to kick up a rooster tail as I cut back toward the middle, tripped on the wake, and cut headfirst into the grey water. I botched the third try; took one more brief spin and, in kindness to my tremulous quadriceps, let the handled fly. It went skipping behind the smalling boat as I sunk easily—exhausted—into the soft and spacious hold of lake. It was quiet in the water, in that grey world, floating. 

          It wasn’t until I was back in the boat and the tanks were filling for the wakeboarders that our friend noticed blood at the back of my head. I was cut. In one of my tussles with gravity, the ski had bit me. Seven staples later and I was back at the house with a cut of steak on the tines of a fork and several spears of asparagus waiting on the white plate.

Thus, mom’s remark: “I’m glad you’re okay, honey; but I am also glad you took the risk.” There is a lot to be said for taking a risk. For one, on a natural level, it helps us find the narrow road of courage between the wider routes of foolhardiness or cowardice.One has to live the spectrum to know where he stands within it—what a certain situation calls for and what it doesn’t. A second (and related) reason is spiritual. To put it frankly, being a Christian is risky: the body will suffer; the ego, certainly, will suffer; the soul too suffers violence as it pulls away from its sinful inclinations. For the servant is not greater than the Master, and the Master was crucified. And that’s the other thing—somehow, a risk inspires trust—once we stand on the other side of what we thought would be (or even what, in fact, turned out to be) a harrowing experience, there is Christ. Even if we’re bruised or cut or worse, there is Christ with his own bruises, cuts or better.

My skiing accident is no great example of some noble and courageous risk. However, one does learn. There is something just and free in flying across the stillness of a lake on one skidding plank of wood. Something calls forth a whoop from the lungs. And as I made that cut toward the middle, I was seized by the more-than-this-world in this world. And, as it happened, that is when this world cut me. We need not take every risk, but if we fail to take any, we risk living trapped within the confines of our mortality, and that, I think, is a risk not worth taking.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Stillness - An Icon of God

Podcast by Fr. Jeremiah, CFR. Stillness is a disposition of reverent attention on God. In our hectic, faced paced and competitive world practicing stillness before God reminds us not only who we are but that God is paying attention to every detail of our lives. Listen to learn more!

Friday, July 6, 2018