Sanctification in Daily Work
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Annual Retreat at Villa Maria Retreat Center

Villa Maria Retreat CenterIt is still Easter season and I was able to make my annual retreat. This was held at the Villa Maria Catholic Life Center near Springfield, IL. The retreat was put on by the Wespine Center in St. Louis, MO. Pictured is the chapel where we listened to talks from our priest, Fr. Mike Giesler, and held Mass and Adoration as well as just being able to sit in the presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle.

I always take a lot of notes during the talks and meditations. I’m sharing many of these on my Twitter account: @PathToHoliness. Feel free to follow and thank you.

I had not been able to go to an Opus Dei retreat for a couple of years and it was greatly missed. I needed it because it “recharges my spiritual batteries.” The biggest and pleasant surprise was that Fr. Giesler was here. He was the priest at my first retreat back in 1997! He has written several books that you can find easily online. I purchased “How Christ Saves Souls – With Us: The Mystery of Co-Redemption, which was published last year by Emmaus Road Publishing.

Meditating on the Beatitudes

One of my favorite authors of books that are excellent spiritual reading is Jacques Philippe. I have just started one of his recent books, “The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about the Beatitudes, “The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven”

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

These promises have always made me feel more secure even when I have suffered from anxiety and worry. I don’t know about you but today’s world seems to be an increasingly crazy place. So many people are only focused on themselves and don’t want any restrictions on what makes them “feel” good in the moment. However, that’s just not realistic. In fact, as we see so many strange laws and regulations being created, we’re losing personal freedoms and natural rights. It’s easy to despair and become depressed about this if you focus on it too much. Instead, I’m already finding that meditating on the Beatitudes helps release the worry, anger, hopelessness of our crazy world where I hear more and more people saying, “You just can’t make this up!” at the latest story making headlines.

So, I highly recommend this book for spiritual reading and hope you might find the same kind of value for your meditations.

The Concept of Holy Shamelessness

Here’s a concept many, many of us don’t really think about and may have never heard of. However, it is one that I first found in the writings of St. Josemaría in “The Way.” In writing about our sanctity he says, “If you have holy shamelessness, you won’t be bothered by the thought of what people have said or what they will say. (The Way: 391)” We should laugh at scorn and ridicule. Do you make a sign of the Cross when you say the blessing before a meal in public? I know I used to think other people would laugh at me so I convinced myself that just saying a silent blessing was enough. But why, when I don’t mind making a sign of the Cross at home or alone? Really, why should I care what others think when I believe that what God thinks is most important?

Anyway, this is just a concept that has really stuck with me because you can apply it to many things. Another personal example is when in a group conversation people start using profanity or making jokes about very inappropriate things> What do you do? Laugh along? I don’t anymore. I have asked people to not use the Lord’s name in vain when talking with me. That was very hard to do but I found out I didn’t get the kind of negative response I thought I would get. There are many more ways to look at this concept and how it can apply in anyone’s life.

Spiritual Reading: Catholic Guide to Depression

For anyone who has dealt with depression, either personally or with a loved one, this book is not only incredibly helpful but qualifies as excellent spiritual reading. You don’t have to be a theologian or priest to understand it. I am just finishing it and it has helped me with my own spiritual growth and helped me feel more positive than ever about my faith and the future.

Here is an excerpt from the description of the book.

Countless Christians — including scores of saints — have suffered profound, pervasive sorrow that modern psychiatrists call “depression.” Then, as now, great faith and even fervent spiritual practices have generally failed to ease this wearying desolation of soul.

In these pages, Catholic psychiatrist Aaron Kheriaty reviews the effective ways that have recently been devised to deal with this grave and sometimes deadly affliction — ways that are not only consistent with the teachings of the Church, but even rooted in many of those teachings.

You can find the book on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle versions.

The Joy of Knowing Christ

The title of this book by Pope Benedict XVI, The Joy of Knowing Christ: Meditations on the Gospels, is a wonderful phrase to describe the the feeling that comes from a faith in which you “know Him,” the son of God. It is my first reading of our Pope’s writings and I’m finding him very easy to read and understand.

It is my new spiritual reading as suggested by my new spiritual director. I haven’t mentioned Fr. Joseph Callipare, Vicar of Deacon Formation and Permanent Deacons, Diocese of Pensacola/Tallahassee, before. With this year’s move to Florida from Missouri it has meant many changes and one of the most important ones for me is good spiritual direction. I have only been meeting with Fr. Callipare for a couple months but am very happy and blessed to have found him.

In my experience of having regular spiritual direction there is no question in my mind that it is a benefit of extreme value to living a holy life in the middle of the world. Having someone who gets to know you personally and whom you receive the sacrament of Confession from on a frequent basis really helps keep you on track, especially is they are firm with you. The help keep you focused on your faith. That’s something we need much more of in today’s society!

True Devotion To Mary During May

May is the month dedicated to Mary. Pope Paul VI said the following about it in his encyclical, Mense Maio.

. . . a month which the piety of the faithful has long dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Our heart rejoices at the thought of the moving tribute of faith and love which will soon be paid to the Queen of Heaven in every corner of the earth. For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne.

For spiritual reading during this month a great book to consider is “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” by St. Louis de Montfort. You can find a pdf of it on the Montfort Missionaries website or buy it on Amazon. I also found it in the Amazon Kindle e-books and loaded it on my iPad.

Spiritual Reading For Lent

Here’s some good spiritual reading for Lent.

In this book, Fr. de la Palma provides an aid for meditating on the Passion. He recreates the events of Jesus’ life beginning with Holy Thursday and concluding with the burial of Our Lord and a powerful evocation of the coming resurrection. With vivid detail and a constant recognition of the role the Blessed Mother played in those days, Fr. de la Palma helps the reader enter into the Last Supper, the institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist, the arrest of Our Lord, the denial of St. Peter, the trials before Caiaphas and Pilate, the scourging and mocking, and finally, the Crucifixion. His meditations hew closely to the Gospel accounts, adding to them insights from other scriptures and frequently culminating in fervent prayers to Our Lord and Our Lady. Fr. de la Palma emphasizes that through it all, Jesus was offering Himself to the Father of His own fee will for the salvation of the world. This book is a striking reminder of the immensity of that offering of love.

Available from Scepter Publishers.

Interior Freedom

interior-freedomIf you’re working on developing your interior life then a good book to consider adding to your spiritual reading list is Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe.

I’m working my way through the book now and can tell you that he has really put together some very comforting and sensible thoughts on this topic. We all experience trials and so many times we let it disturb our inner peace. By meditating on sections of this book you will find ways to be more happy in your faith. He lets us discover that there is a place of freedom within us that no one or no circumstances can take away since its source is God.

Read About The Cure d’Ars

BookIn this Year for Priests a good book for spiritual reading is “The Cure D’Ars : St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney” by Abbe Francois Trochu. Here’s a description of the book.

The definitive life, based on the official “Process of Beatification and Canonization,” and thus totally factual and documented. Of humble education and assigned to a forgotten farmers’ village, he attracted the whole world to Ars and was proclaimed “Patron Saint of Parish Priests” in 1929. Ate one meal a day, slept only a few hours a night, heard confessions up to 17 hours a day, converted thousands. His body remains incorrupt. A grace-filled story of total love of God!

He is the patron saint of priests and the book is a very good look at his life like the description says. I’m only part way through it now but it is great reading and I highly recommend it.

Necessity of Interior Life

In my current spiritual reading I’m learning of the necessity of a well developed interior life in order to be an effective evangelist. It’s surprising to read about how ineffective people are when they don’t practice what they preach. We hear that a lot but do we really understand it?

I started this blog because I didn’t think that I was doing enough to evangelize the faith. I reasoned that since God has blessed me with the talent to communicate using new online tools like blogging, that this is something I can and should do. I quickly realized that just having a blog and posting things wasn’t working. By that I mean that I wasn’t devoting time to it, including meditating on what I would post here. That’s because I was only doing the minimum in keeping up with my daily devotions and not spending enough time in personal reflection and meditation which is so necessary to develop in interior life.

If I’m going to be a good example for others then I have to take time for prayer, spiritual reading, spiritual direction, reading of scripture and all the things that help me develop my own faith. I see how lots of “actions” can be a real waste of time, even if they’re for very good causes, if the person doing them doesn’t have a well developed interior life of prayer.

Avoiding Discouragement

How often do you get discouraged? Maybe things aren’t going well at work or you fail at a resolution you’ve made. At this time of year a lot of people are making resolutions and many won’t keep them. This is where a developed interior life comes in to play.

I know I have lots of discouragements and many of them are my own responsibility. In fact, by doing a good daily self examination it’s easy to see how much I am responsible for things that go wrong or how I could have done things differently.

One of my resolutions has been to be more diligent in my devotions and that includes my daily prayers and spiritual reading. In the “Soul of the Apostolate” Chautard has a chapter on the danger of the active life without the interior life. The last section deals with discouragement and how a well developed interior life is a defense against discouragement. It’s really difficult to be discouraged when we speak directly with God and spend time with Him. I know that’s hard for anyone who hasn’t done so to understand.

One of my prayers for people today is that they will take time to meditate more on their life and their relationship with God. Then I believe they won’t be so discouraged.

Develop Your Interior Life First

I just heard an advertisement for the People Magazine’s Best of 2008 issue that contains things like the top 25 celebrity quotes of the year and a whole bunch of other inane listings. It just made me consider how much our society seems obsessed with what other people are doing, saying, thinking or feeling. Then when I was working out at the YMCA I could see a certain cable news channel group of anchors sitting on a couch pontificating about their thoughts on “news” items. That brought up the same thoughts I’d had earlier. Our new information age seems to be focused on what everyone is doing (activities) and not much on how everyone is drawing closer to God on a personal level.

How about looking inside ourselves to figure out what we’re feeling and why and by the way, what about our relationship with God?

My latest spiritual reading is “Soul of the Apostolate” by Jean-Baptiste Chautard. I’m finding it a great read since it really helps you understand the absolute necessity of a well developed interior life. All the activity we participate in, including good works, can actually become a danger to our salvation if we don’t first devote time and attention to our interior life.

Somehow I think we’d all care less about what others do if we spent more time contemplating what we’re doing first.