Saturday, January 23, 2010

Formation - another step

Last night we completed the material for the Inquiry Phase of formation. The next step is the "Admission of Candidates" - in my case, the "Candidate" since I'm still solo.

I'm not certain when that will officially happen. Our next meeting is a Day of Recollection with Father Anthony, so no "meeting" per se. The next meeting is scheduled for February 26.

We talked about my struggles with prayer. Not making enough time. Not remaining focused - mind wandering.

I often say the rosary while driving, for example. It's hard to meditate on the mysteries while worrying about that semi on the right. And I tend to read the Bible before bed - when my brain drifts off because I'm tired.

Someone previously suggested the Liturgy of the Hours as one practice. I dug out my book and said the morning prayers today. I will try to do that every day - and to cut down on pre-dawn wasting of time on the computer.

I will try to read the Bible during the day - and to spend some time meditating.

I will try to get in a rosary when NOT driving.

I'm good at saying all the right things, so I can seem like I'm progressing. But I will not really grow unless my prayer life improves.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pontiff praises Dominicans and Fransciscans

In his General Audience January 13, Pope Benedict XVI praised the Dominicans and the Franciscans - and secular orders.

He noted that these two orders were among the mendicant orders that arose in response to a need in the 13th Century.

"Of the Mendicant Orders that arose in that period, the most notable and most important are the Friars Minor and the Preaching Friars, known as Franciscans and Dominicans. They have these names because of their founders, Francis of Assisi and Dominic de Guzmán, respectively. These two great saints had the capacity to wisely read `the signs of the times,' intuiting the challenges that the Church of their time had to face."

He observed that some of the mendicant groups that arose at that time embraced poverty, but rejected the Church. But "the Franciscans and Dominicans, in the footsteps of their founders, showed that it was possible to live evangelical poverty, the truth of the Gospel, without separating from the Church; they showed that the Church continued to be the true, authentic place of the Gospel and Scripture. Thus, Dominic and Francis drew, precisely from profound communion with the Church and the papacy, the strength of their witness."

These two orders "taught ways to nourish the life of prayer and piety. For example, the Franciscans greatly spread devotion to the humanity of Christ, with the commitment of imitating the Lord. Hence it is not surprising that the faithful were numerous, women and men, who chose to be supported in their Christian journey by the Franciscan and Dominican friars, sought after and appreciated spiritual directors and confessors.

"Thus were born associations of lay faithful that were inspired by the spirituality of Sts. Francis and Dominic, adapted to their state of life. It was the Third Order, whether Franciscan or Dominican. In other words, the proposal of a "lay sanctity" won many people. As the Second Vatican Council recalled, the call to holiness is not reserved to some, but is universal (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 40). In every state of life, according to the needs of each, there is the possibility of living the Gospel. Also today every Christian must tend to the "lofty measure of Christian life," no matter what state of life he belongs to!"

I found his words affirming. I do wish he had gone further and encouraged people to join the secular orders! I guess that's up to us.

You can read the rest here.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Constant values, changeable applications

As part of my ongoing formation, I was asked to consider how one balances constant values (also called unchangeable principles) with ongoing adaptations (or changeable applications). And then I was asked about my own experiences.

Constant values in life include such things as honesty, fairness, respect for others' property, putting God first, etc. At the simplest level, following the Ten Commandments.

From a Franciscan perspective, that means the above, but also "living the Gospel of Jesus Christ," simple life-style, penance, and so on.,

The hard part can be the application.

Thou shalt not kill - well that's pretty straight forward. Few of us kill another person. But when we push further, that includes all acts of violence against others, physical, verbal, psychological.

Gossip. Sarcasm. Exaggerating. Insults. The silent treatment. I'm guilty of those and more.

We can't always predict how we will will be challenged. There's no rule book on stealing, for example, that touches on every single situation.

It's pretty easy to understand that shoplifting is wrong. But taking home office supplies? Using the work-place computer to do our Christmas shopping or our child's school report? Hanging out with co-workers to talk about last night's game instead of getting that report done? Talking to a friend on a phone while a customer is waiting to be served?

My understanding of all this is that we need to have the basic principles in place. We need to practice them constantly. We need to thoughtfully and prayerfully apply them as situations come up - when we have the luxury of time. And even in those instances in which we need to make a quick decision, hopefully we will have built up the habit of doing the right thing so that our instinctive reaction is to do what is right. That doesn't mean we won't make mistakes or judge incorrectly. But then we can learn from that and the next time maybe not make a mistake, or we'll be stronger so that when a new situation comes up we'll be more likely to make the right decision.

It's a matter of developing the habit of living according to these basic principles as best we can so that we can apply them in changeable circumstances. It's aa matter of being honest with ourselves about these principles, and not looking for loopholes.

One other thing I've realized is that as we progress, as our understanding grows, our eyes are opened. What 10 years ago may not have occurred to us was wrong we now realize was indeed wrong. And things we are doing now that we don't realize are wrong we may in 10 years see for what they are.

It's an ongoing process. One doesn't just convert and it's all over. Conversion is a day-by-day, hour-by hour, minute-by-minute process. It's a process we would not have the strength to continue if not for the grace of God.

Pax et bonum