What Every Catholic Should Know Before Responding to a Teaching of the Magisterium

By now most of you have heard about the stir regarding something that Pope Benedict XVI reportedly said in a recent interview about the use of condoms and AIDS. If you tend to watch EWTN you likely caught newsman Raymond Arroyo’s interview of theologian George Weigel (11/25) on the matter. His response was – in short – “That’s not Magisterial teaching”.

Just what is Magisterial teaching? It comes from the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. Magisterium is a Latin term meaning “teaching”. The Magisterium has three “levels” to it: Papal, Ecumenical councils and various synods of bishops. These three are the official interpreters of Sacred Scripture (a word which means “writings”) and of Apostolic Tradition (meaning the handing on of something). However, these groups are not the possessors of Divine Revelation (what God has revealed). The entire Church is in possession of the Word of God. To use an analogy (of sorts), our Federal government in divided into three branches – Executive (the President), Legislative (Congress) and the Supreme Court. While the U.S. is in possession of the Constitution, its official interpretation belongs to the Supreme Court.

How does the Magisterium work? The Pope has the “Divine right” to pronounce dogmatic definitions as often as he deems necessary – both by way of what we call an Infallible teaching when he speaks “ex cathedra” and by way of non-infallible teachings.

Let’s look at this for a minute. An Infallible teaching is a doctrine of the faith that is solemnly defined/proclaimed and MUST be believed by the Faithful. An example of this (and the last time the Pope spoke in “ex cathedra”) is when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in 1950. Proclaiming something “ex cathedra” rarely happens; the pronouncement is irreversible and irreformable.

An example of a non-infallible teaching is that embryonic stem-cell research is wrong. It must be obeyed but it has not been solemnly defined. Non-infallible teachings are the more frequent way that Pope teaches.

Back to Church councils (rather than the Pope acting alone) teaching infallibly: Read about the very first Church council of the Church in AD 53 – it is the entire chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles whereby it was decided in council that Gentiles coming into the Christian community did not first have to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses by living as a Jew for awhile. This decision was binding on the Church – from AD 53 till now that decision has been held (this chapter in Acts is also all you need to prove that Church councils are indeed biblical).

The next “level” of Magisterial teaching can come from various groups of Bishops. Nationally, the U.S.C.C.B. is working on documentation about the issue/debacle of immigration in the U.S. Locally, Cardinal Sean can also issue decrees that must be followed within the arch-diocese if the need is there.

However, what is officially defined must already have been a part of Church teaching and pertain to faith and morals. They cannot proclaim anything new – such as deciding to add Mary and Joseph into the Trinity. As I said above, what is defined must be done with the intention of binding the faithful.

What should be our response to the teachings of the Church? There are three appropriate responses: (1) Credenda, (2) Tenenda and (3) Obsequium Religiosum.

1. Credenda: the assent of Divine Faith – “I believe”, which is self-explanatory.

2. Tenenda: firm holding or assent – speaks to an issue that has been settled for the sake of unity. In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared that the matter of all-male priesthood is closed. Because the Church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests, it cannot ever be brought forward to someday be reconsidered.

3. Obsequium Religiosum: a religious submission of mind and will to teaching as presented. A person may not like the teaching (such as that of embryonic stem-cell harvesting) but the person is still bound to assent to it.

Why do we need a Magisterium to begin with? St. Peter insists in his second letter (ch. 2, v. 20) that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation”, because “…untaught and unstable people twist (Scriptures) to their own destruction” (2 Pet 3:16). The Magisterium is the official interpreter and guardian of the Word of God which gives the Church its unity.

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Choosing Light and Life in an Age of Darkness

This month we remember the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade (1/22/73) that gave women in America the legal right to terminate the life that grows within. “Women have the right to choose” is the battle cry. But choose what? The right to choose is never an end in itself. The right to choose is about being able to choose that which is good. “Women have a right to do what they want with their own body”. Do they really? If a pregnant woman is found to be abusing drugs (whether illicit or even prescription drugs) or alcohol, she can be arrested and held in custody until the birth of the child – and subsequently charged with endangering the life of an unborn child. Somehow, the Supreme Court came to the determination that it is perfectly legal for women to use abortifacient drugs and other means to kill unborn babies but that engaging in substance abuse while pregnant with a “wanted” child is “endangering the life within”. And why is it that when the child is wanted it is called a baby, but when it is not wanted it is merely referred to as a fetus?

But what of babies conceived in rape or incest? All persons have the inherent right to life and love. Father Frank Pavone’s website, http://www.priestsforlife.org, has many testimonials of women who had become pregnant as a result of rape and brought the child to birth. One of these young women, “Liz” shared her story on a recent episode of his show (on EWTN). Raped at a party by her boyfriend at age 17, she badly wanted an abortion to “get rid of the problem”. Her best friend was able to convince her that she was carrying a real baby and not just a mass of tissue. “Liz” stated that it was “really hard” to come to the decision to have the child. Once she did choose life, she opted to put the child up for adoption – an open adoption. “Liz” repeatedly insisted that once the child was born “all the pain was so worth it” and that he is a source of joy for her. She added that she “never sees her rapist in him”. Her closing remark was very poignant: “Every woman is strong enough to bring her unborn child to life”.

What if a young woman is pregnant and, as happens far too often, is kicked out of the family home? The Diocese of Worcester helps to support Visitation House (visit http://www.visitationhouse.org and give generously), a shelter for homeless pregnant women. Now in its sixth year, the program has helped many women bring their babies to life. Great marvels are done at Visitation House. Classes are held for those wishing to earn their GED, to learn English and to assist with making a resumé and job searches; nutritious meal planning and preparing (and sticking to) budgets are also part of the program.

Another option for assistance is Worcester’s Problem Pregnancy on Pleasant Street: http://problempregnancy.org/.

Can a person be both Catholic and “pro-choice”? No, the two are incompatible – an oxymoron. God declared everything He created to be “very good”; thus every time a woman gives birth she brings another image and likeness of God into the world (Gen 1:26).

For Catholics, being “Pro-Life” does not stop with the issue of abortion – it encompasses life in all its forms: from conception to the end of natural life. We are not simply “anti-abortion”. It’s why Catholic bishops speak out for just wages and work conditions and against euthanasia, assisted suicide and the death penalty; it’s why they insist on health insurance for all, the right to a clean environment and why they condemn war. Bishop (Emeritus) Daniel P. Reilly says it this way, “we are R.C. (Roman Catholic) and not P.C.” (Politically Correct). Jesus clearly showed a preferential love of the poor and the marginalized: “He (the Holy Spirit) has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Lk 4:18).

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What Catholics Should Know About Islam

Newt Gingrich is a new member of the Catholic Church. He was influenced by his Catholic (third) wife, Callista, and entered the Church on March 29, 2009. Recently they put out a video (Nine Days That Changed the World) on the role the late Pontiff, John Paul II had on the fall of Communism in Poland. However, his latest video, America at Risk makes the case that “America is at war with Islam”. On this serious issue Newt Gingrich does not speak for the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is not at war with Islam; rather, she has been engaged in dialog with Islam on many fronts for decades. An important Church document, Christian-Muslim Relations in the United States — Reflections…After Two Decades of Experience, makes the point that, “Even by September 11, 2001, there were ongoing, regularly scheduled dialogues in place co-sponsored by the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Muslim organizations and councils. During these gatherings, Catholics and Muslims dialog, study and pray together – in churches and in mosques; the Catholics attend Maghrib prayers (the 4th Salat/prayer of the day, said at sunset), and the Muslims attend vespers (http://www.usccb.org/seia/borelli.shtml). Additionally, several Catholic universities (BC, Creighton, Fordham and others) have established centers for inter-religious dialog.

One of the best books written on Islam, Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam (ISBN # 978-0195168860) was written by a Catholic priest, Fr. John Esposito, founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. The book is important enough that Muslims give it to other Muslims.

The fact that a tiny fraction of Muslims (out of a world population of over one billion) distorts certain teachings of Islam and engages in extremist acts against Western ideology does not negate the fact that Islam is indeed a religion of peace. Did David Koresh in Waco, TX (4/19/93) represent all of Christianity when he was stock-piling weapons within his compound and having sex with girls as young as 12? He was first born-again as a Baptist, then a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Did the Rev. Jim Jones, a pastor of the Disciples of Christ/Christian Church denomination represent all of Christianity when he convinced 909 people to drink cyanide-laced KoolAid® and so bring about their deaths in Guyana on 11/18/78? Surely no-one fears these groups.

What you likely don’t know about Islam is that they venerate all the prophets, including John the Baptist and Jesus (they do not believe in his divinity) and have great devotion to the Virgin Mary (Muslims believe – like Catholics and Orthodox Christians – that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus). They especially revere her under the name of Our Lady of Fatima – Fatima was the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) daughter.

In the Holy Qur’An, Maryam is the only woman mentioned specifically by name. Chapter 19 is even named for her and is one of the “most beautiful” chapters in the Qur’An. Muslims have great devotion to Mary and it is not at all unusual to find Muslims on pilgrimage at many Marian Shrines. When Our Lady appeared in the town of Zeitoun, Egypt (April 2, 1968 and into 1971) it was Muslims who first saw and recognized her. Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, in Mary’s Immaculate Conception and that it is He (not Muhammad, pbuh) who will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.

On March 24, 2010, Sheik Mohammad Nokkari (a Muslim), was able to have the government of Lebanon pass legislature that makes March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation) a national holiday where schools, the government and other institutions are closed for the day. Sheik Nokkari is a professor of law at St. Joseph University in Beirut. He describes the Virgin Mary as “a tender and uniting mother who is our mother Mary”.
(www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1001236.htm). He says, “I felt something in my heart telling me that Mary is the one who is going to unite us”. Catholics and Muslims have more in common than most people realize.

Let us (Catholics and Muslims) unite ourselves in prayer to our Blessed Mother Mary, our Sayyida (Lady) and confide ourselves to her maternal, unifying love. Moreover, let us invite our “dear and esteemed Muslim friends” (as Pope Benedict XVI calls them) to our novenas, processions and other festal Marian events and let us receive them in fraternal love. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love…”

Posted in Catholicism

New Catholic Saint Has New England Ties

On the morning of Sunday, October 17, tens of thousands of people will be at the Olympic Stadium in Montréal, Canada to watch the canonization of six new saints of the Catholic Church on jumbo screens live from the Vatican. One of those new saints will be André Bessette who built St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montréal – the largest church in the world dedicated to St. Joseph.

 

Born Alfred Bessette in 1845 in Mont St. Grégoire, he was one of 10 children of Isaac and Clothilde (Foisy) Bessette. A very sickly child due to stomach problems he still could neither read nor write at the age of 25.  After his parents died, he went to live with his aunt & uncle, Marie-Rosalie and Timothée Nadeau.

 

Later, he was said to have lived for a length of time in Woonsocket, R.I. working in the mills – until it was discovered that he could do so little because of his illness.  He also lived and worked in Moosup, CT at the American Woolen Co. on Route 14. Two of his brothers, Claude and Léon, and a sister, Léocadie, later settled in Sterling, MA.

 

Because of his frailty, the religious community (Congregation of Holy Cross) he entered in Montréal only gave him the position of doorkeeper.  He had a great devotion to St. Joseph and would anoint people who came for prayer with holy oil kept near the small space dedicated to St. Joseph.   His reputation grew far and wide but he would get angry with any who suggested that André himself had healed them rather than glorifying God through the intercession of St. Joseph.  In time, he was given permission to build a church in honor of St. Joseph if he could find the money. And find it he did.  Donations poured in. 

 

So what is it about us Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox Christians) with our devotions to saints? St. Paul exhorts us (in Hebrews 12:1) to be confident about our faith journey…because we have “so great a cloud of witnesses”.  We have both the witness of their lives and their continued prayer.  “Pray directly to God”, you say?  We certainly can and do.  However, I like to think of the Communion of Saints as my spiritual support group – people who have gone before me – been there, done that, so to speak.  If I can ask parents, friends, and fellow parishioners to pray for me, why can’t I ask someone who is already in God’s presence?  It is neither idol worship nor putting the saints on a higher plane than Jesus.  Some people I know who question invoking the saints have no qualms themselves about keeping photos (and other mementos) of deceased family members on display in their home…some even “talk” to them. Why not, then, have pictures and mementos of heroes of our great faith? 

 

Why does the Church make saints to begin with?  The Church does no such thing. Never did.  It is God who raises up certain ones for a special purpose.  He always has: Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Israel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II and countless others through the ages.  The Church simply celebrates God and the great mercies He has shown these people.  None of these “made it” of their own accord.  Both Jews and Muslims make pilgrimages to the graves of their holy people. Muslims have a great devotion to the Virgin Mary and visit Marian shrines.  In fact, a young Muslim sheik in Lebanon recently pushed through legislation that marks the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and asked her to be God’s mother) as a national holiday! Schools and businesses are closed on that day…it is hoped that government entities will soon follow suit.

 

Back to Brother André…on Sunday, October 31st, Mass will be celebrated in the crypt (at the Oratory) where his body lies.  That is the event I would want to be present at.  Family members will have reserved seating and with Bessettes, Nadeaus and Foisy in my family genealogy, I am referring to myself as his “petit cousin” – his little cousin.  It is the opportunity of a lifetime and already I am invoking Blessed André’s intercession so I can be able to make this pilgrimage.   Brother André died in 1937 at the age of 91.  One million people viewed his bodyBrother André was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982.

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About Women Priests in the Catholic Church

You may have read columnist Dianne Williamson’s statements about the Catholic Church’s stance on women priests (T&G, 7/18, p. B1); …let me explain/defend the Church’s teaching.

First, there is no such thing as a woman priest.  Such a person would be called a priestess – not priest. In his book, Catholic Christianity, popular Catholic apologist (and professor of philosophy at Boston College) Peter Kreeft states, “A religion with priestesses would be a different religion and would implicitly signify a different God” (italics are that of Kreeft). He continues, “…It is…a fact that Jews, alone of ancient peoples, had no priestesses. For priestesses represent goddesses and priests represent gods. God chose to incarnate himself in a man.” (p. 367)

From there, when a man is ordained a priest, he spiritually/mystically “marries” the Church in a very real way, in imitation of Jesus (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2) who shed his Blood for his Bride, the Church.  Just as God implants life into all human beings (spouses contribute flesh, blood & DNA whereas God provides the soul), so priests mystically infuse life into the Church (the Church as a whole and in particular the parish in which he serves).  Women by nature cannot infuse (or implant) life but rather they receive that life, nurture it and bring it forth – a very high calling indeed because “every mother brings a new image of God into this world” (Kreeft, p 368; see Gen 1:26); thus it is a “different kind of priesthood that a woman has…The two sexes therefore are equal in value, different in nature, complimentary in function”. (p. 368) The Church, too, as Bride, receives life from God through the priest, nurtures it and brings it forth to others. And because all souls are feminine – according to the great saints – men and women receive that spiritual life from God.

Second, because a (validly ordained) priest does stand “In Persona Christi” (In the Person of Christ), he can truly say “this is my Body…this is my Blood”.  A woman could only say, “this is his/Jesus’ Body, this is his/Jesus’ Blood”.

As I said, in order to confect the Eucharist, the priest must be validly ordained – not “done in secret” by bishops who “secretly support their cause”.  All Sacraments are gifts of God to the Church and therefore cannot be performed in secret.  The great exception to this is in areas where there is grave danger of persecution of the Church in some countries.

It must be pointed out that no woman has the “right” to ordination. Neither do men for that matter. Vocations are a gift of God to the Church – no one has a right to such a gift…otherwise it is not a gift.

Thus, the ordination of women as priests is indeed a grave matter against the Sacrament of Ordination and, from there, against the other sacraments as well because priests administer all. God becomes incarnate in today’s world through two means: the birth of a new child (see again Gen 1:26) and through the Holy Eucharist (see JN 6). Violating the Holy Eucharist with false priests, then, IS grave matter.

Ms. Williamson also makes the claim that “except for the Eastern Orthodox Church (which by the way is more than 100 million strong), the Catholic Church is virtually alone in its insistence on an all-male priesthood”. However, Protestants do not have priesthood.  They have ordained ministers – not priests — and that is a huge difference.  Their ordained ministers are roughly equivalent to the permanent deacons in the Catholic Church.  They may proclaim the Gospel, administer the sacrament of baptism and assist in other ways but they may not confect the Eucharist. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia “The deacon is an attendant of the priest, with no priestly powers”. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12409a.htm).  Anglicans believe in all-male priesthood, too:

“A Protestant minister is a minister. A Catholic priest is both a minister and a priest. The difference is both subtle and great. A “minister” is a preacher, pastor, teacher, counselor (and, of course, administrator). But he does not serve at the altar, he does not administer the Sacraments, and he does not stand in the unbroken line of descent from Christ’s Apostles.” http://www.christchurchanglican.org/ang_topix/male_priests.html

Other mainline Protestant faiths are split over the issue of women priests.  Many of today’s “newer” denominations do not allow women as clergy either.

Offering the Mass/Liturgy belongs to bishops alone and to the priests. Priesthood is male and from an unbroken line from the apostles and priests are “ordained for sacrifice” according to the Rite of Ordination itself.  Protestants took this wording out of their rite centuries ago.  Any so-called women “priests” in the Catholic Church automatically ex-communicate themselves.  Any functions they perform under such conditions are invalid.  Thus the bread and wine they claim to consecrate remain as bread and wine and as such is abuse and mockery of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Vatican teaching against women priests, therefore, is not an “out-of-touch missive” as Ms. Williamson proclaims.  The Church must remain faithful to what she has received from Christ her Lord…the very same Lord who willingly chose to become incarnate in the only religion that had no female priests. As a very active female in today’s Church, I accept the Church’s teaching.  Not because I have to toe any so-called Vatican line, but because I choose to.  I do personify Christ when I reach out in mercy and compassion and when I teach the faith to children and adults but I do not feel slighted at all in not being a woman priest. Allowing him to reach out to others through me is not on the same level as standing in the Person of Christ. It is the secular feminist movement (alive and well in only a few parts of the English-speaking world and only very recently at that) that is unaccepting of this Church teaching.

I have studied many other faiths but I have never considered them.  My love is with the Roman Catholic Church.

Update: The Telegram & Gazette (Worcester Mass.) was kind enough to publish my article as an opinion piece.

Posted in Catholicism

What is Spiritual Direction?

The Art – and Heart – of Spiritual Direction

In the midst of an ever-increasing secular society, more and more Catholics (and people of other faiths, including Judaism and Islam) seem to be discovering the beauty of Spiritual Direction.  For those unfamiliar with this form of Pastoral Ministry, Spiritual Direction is a deep sharing about God’s actions in a person’s everyday life with one’s director.  It is a means of helping a person to get in touch with what God may be saying in one’s life – not just in our hearts or in prayer but in our relationships, work, events and situations – whether good, bad or indifferent.  Many people seek to find the Holy in their lives, to get in touch with it and to draw from it. According to Fr. Thomas Dube, author of the great spiritual book Fire Within, “God reveals interiorly but it is confirmed exteriorly in Spiritual Direction”.  

 

Who goes for Spiritual Direction?  Anyone who wants to deepen his/her relationship with God – laity, clergy, monks, men and women religious, singles, married persons – even Spiritual Directors have their own Spiritual Directors! 

 

Where does one find a Spiritual Director?  At one’s parish church, Catholic College/University, a monastery or simply by asking around.  Many certified directors choose (but are not required) to hold membership in Spiritual Directors International (www.sdiworld.org). This website has many articles on various topics within Spiritual Direction such as how to interview a prospective Spiritual Director for yourself, ethical issues, misconceptions about Spiritual Direction and how to properly terminate the relationship if it is not working out.  Because a relationship within the context of Pastoral Ministry is an intimate relationship, a sudden phone call or email from one informing the other that the relationship has ended would be unprofessional and inappropriate. It would also need to be brought about with mutual consent after much prayer.  Many who come to direction may be going through difficult issues so the director must know how and when to let go of the relationship. Why would it terminate?  People move on or realize that it is not for them; some directees cannot handle going to Spiritual Direction and outside counseling at the same time (if that’s the case) and, yes, sometimes it happens that what a directee is sharing could be dredging up muck within the director that hadn’t been noticed before.  For this reason, Spiritual Directors should also participate in what is called Peer Supervision. 

 

Spiritual Directors International also has a global map that allows you to enter your location that brings up a list of all its members in that area.

 

What should a person look for in selecting a Spiritual Director? The person should be certified in the field, have their own Spiritual Director, participate in Peer Supervision, be a good match in terms of personality as well as spirituality, capable of being a good listener and maintaining confidentiality and, above all, a Spiritual Director must be a person of prayer.

 

Sr. Aline Plante, P.M. has been offering Spiritual Direction at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center (www.mariejosephspiritual.org) in Biddeford, ME for five years.   A former Provincial Superior for her community (Sisters of the Presentation of Mary) for twelve years and assistant General Superior in Castelgandolfo (Italy, at the community’s generalate) for six, she currently has 10 directees with whom she meets regularly…one of whom lives in Guam and “meets” with her by way of Skype!  Sr. Aline says that she meets with several non-Catholics as well as Catholics and adds that “they all hunger for the Lord…and…they have a sincere desire to grow in their faith”.  

 

Another way for growing in and sharing one’s spirituality is by way of participating in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Available at Campion Renewal Center in Weston, MA (http://www.campioncenter.org/programs/ignatianspirituality.htm); one can choose between a 30-day retreat (a.k.a, the Long Retreat which is done in silence), or the 19th Annotated Version or even the 18th Annotated Version for those unable to be away from home for 30 days.

 

In addition to Ignatian Spirituality, there exists Franciscan Spirituality, Augustinian, Thomistic, Carmelite, Benedictine and others.  Four of these types are described here in these self-assessments designed to help determine a person’s prayer type. Based on the temperament type of persons using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test, one can come to a better understanding of one’s prayer type preference that matches their temperament. For example, Francis of Assisi was able to best “meet” and experience God in all of God’s creation (his “Type” was thought to be ISFP) while Thomists tend to bring logic to their prayer experience. Is knowing your prayer type a pre-requisite for Spiritual Direction?  No but the assessments can give good insight on how you tend to experience and relate to God.

 

http://www.cpt.org/files/WS%20-%20Prayer%20&%20Temperament.pdf

http://www.nesynod.org/2008_convocation/2008_Prayer_and_Temperament.pdf

 

For those who might feel God’s call to become a Spiritual Director, a graduate school program in Pastoral Ministry at many Catholic Colleges or Universities would be a good route – but not the only one. However, most programs would require a student of such to have been going through Spiritual Direction for at least two years. It is truly a humbling experience to be called to guide a person on their spiritual journey – as Sr. Aline says it so eloquently, “It is awesome to see how God reveals himself in a different way to each person”.  

 

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Lectio Divina

Just what is Lectio Divina?  It is Latin for Sacred Reading…a five step “process” for guided prayer. 

Step 1 — Lectio:  the reading itself. Let’s use, for example, Mark 10:46-52 about the blind man, Bartimaeus.  The whole passage would be read slowly and prayerfully until perhaps, something strikes you.  Perhaps it is Bartimaeus’ humility in crying out to Jesus.  Perhaps it’s Jesus’ compassion.  Perhaps – the jeering crowd catches your attention.  Let yourself enter into the scene.  When Jesus asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?”…do you have the courage to name your need to Him?  Do you know your need?  You may need to read the passage more than once.  Pray first to the Holy Spirit to guide you.  Read it aloud in a very soft voice…sometimes we know passages so well we tend to just skim them…hard to do if you read it aloud. The great Carmelite Saint Teresa of Avila could scarcely ever get the words “Our Father” out of her mouth before she’d burst into tears because she was always so struck that the God and Father of Jesus Christ could also allow her to call him Father, too.  Some people stay with a particular passage for days or weeks, drawing all they can out of it.  My own scrolling marquee computer screen saver is, “The Father himself loves you” (JN 16:27).  I also enjoy “…in the tender compassion of our God…” (LK 1:78).  Tender compassion….whew!  A God of all creation, of heaven and earth filled with tender compassion…for the likes of me!  Lord, I am not worthy…but only say the word and my soul will be healed. 

Step 2 — Meditation (Meditation):   Meditate on the scene….what happens?  What is the “cloak” that you wrap yourself in to avoid notice? Sin? Pride? Terrible self-esteem?  Would you have the courage to run to him if he called you to himself? Do you know what your needs are to voice them to Jesus?  In another version of the same passage (Matthew 9:28) Jesus first asks the blind man, “Do you believe I can do this for you?”  Do you believe that Jesus can help/heal you?  Do you believe that he wants to heal you? Will you let go and allow him to heal you? 

Step 3 — Oratio (prayer):  Pray about this. What is your prayer?  “Lord, I want to see”, or, Lord, I am hard on others…I want to learn compassion”, or…

Step 4 — Contemplation (contemplation):  Just sitting in quiet presence/awe of the experience thus far

Step 5 — Actio (action):  What does this experience call me to do? Act on it.  Where does the Holy Spirit lead you?  What must you do?  If you were/are part of the jeering crowd surrounding Bartimaeus, whom do you need to be more merciful to? Are you jeering at our nation’s illegal immigrants?  The co-worker who is often late for work and doesn’t seem to ever get reprimanded? The person who wronged you 20+ years ago and you still speak of him/her with such fire in your voice? After you have named your need to Jesus, what happens next in your life? 

 For a far better explanation of what I can offer, I’ll let you read it direct from one of the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in spencer, MA: http://www.lectio-divina.org/

***  Interested in making a retreat on Lectio Divina?  Check out Marie Joseph Spiritual Center — www.mariejosephspiritual.org — and check their calendar which will be available online in September 2010.  I believe that Sr. Aline Plante, p.m. who lives there, is excellent in presenting Lectio Divina in the format of a day-retreat or a three-day retreat weekend. The prayer exercises she guides retreatants through are very spiritual and insightful. She also offers a powerful retreat on forgiveness.  Either retreat is well worth the price of the retreat…about $170.00 for the weekend version…retreat, room and fabulous meals – all with the ocean at their door.   

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