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Selling Out

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The Master said; “One day a man found a treasure in a field. He was so happy that he went and sold everything he owned to buy that field. Another man went looking for fine pearls. When he found a very valuable pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.”

To sell everything one has takes certainty in what is being purchased. To know treasure when one sees it, an object of great value amidst the dirt and grime which surrounds it, takes a trained eye. If we aren’t sure of what we’re buying we could end up with junk and costume jewelry.

On the path of life we will pass many fields and have numerous shiny objects seek our attention. Knowing what’s worth buying and what’s worthless, what is eternal and temporal, wise and foolish, goes a long way in determining whether our life is filled with treasure or trash.

blessings,
bdl

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Foolish Wise Men

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An excellent and thought-provoking quote.

My first reaction when reading this was to think of folks I have known to whom this quote succinctly applies. However, wisdom teaches to move past the shallow critiques of others and deeply consider if it is applicable to me.

Scary. To think we may acquire knowledge and not become wise. To spend our lives accumulating that which can enlighten our path and still live in darkness is disconcerting. How do we ensure we are not someone to whom the quote; “Men can acquire knowledge, but not wisdom. Some of the greatest fools ever known were learned men.” can be hung on our lives?

A good step is to move past our initial reactions, our first thoughts. When knowledge is given to us, do we assume it is meant for someone else? Do we allow it to penetrate or just see it as data, a piece of information to file away somewhere in our minds? Do we chew on it, as a cow continuously chomps on a clump of grass, turning it over and over, drawing out all the flavor, each bit of nutrients, letting it become a part of us?

Wisdom is not the amount of knowledge we possess but if this knowledge possesses us.

blessings,
bdl

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To Feel

“Those that will not hear must be made to feel.” -German Proverb

In a world of talking, screaming, singing, social updates, breaking news, attention seekers, televangelists, highlights, lowlights and naysayers, it can be difficult to speak a word much less hear one.

To hear deep calling to deep is to shut out the shallow voices which demand to be noticed. It is to center our attention on the still small voice that beckons. To seek to listen in this cacophonous life comes from the desire to feel. When we learn to recognize the words spoken in stillness, when the stillness touches us, then we can reach out and touch the world.

blessings,
bdl

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A Spiritual Inventory

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Guest post by Kathleen Dowling Singh

The fact of death is the great mystery and the great truth that illuminates our lives. To face our own imminent death is to examine our lives with an urgency and honesty we may never have felt before.

A spiritual assessment is a helpful practice as we move close to dying. Such an assessment seems to arise naturally in the course of the profound psychological and spiritual transformations of dying. Since we all share the same human condition, many terminally ill people report asking themselves the same questions. These are many of the questions that those who have had a near-death experience report that they have been asked. They are questions that pierce through the frivolousness at the surface of life and confront us with the value and significance this precious gift of a human life offers.

It is not too late to take stock of our lives, even in the last weeks and days of terminal illness. And for those of us in the midst of life, in the apparent safety and security of our health, it is not too early. No matter how much time we have left to live, the answers to the following questions, voiced in the quiet honesty of our own hearts, provide direction to the rest of our living.

Who have I been all this time?

How have I used my gift of a human life? 

What do I need to “clear up” or “let go of” in order to be more peaceful? 

What gives my life meaning?

For what am I grateful? 

What have I learned of truth and how truthfully have I learned to live?

What have I learned of love and how well have I learned to love? 

What have I learned about tenderness, vulnerability, intimacy, and communion? 

What have I learned about courage, strength, power, and faith?

What have I learned of the human condition and how great is my compassion?

How am I handling my suffering? 

How can I best share what I’ve learned? 

What helps me open my heart and empty my mind and experience the presence of Spirit? 

What will give me strength as I die? What is my relationship with that which will give me strength as I die? 

If I remembered that my breaths were numbered, what would be my relationship to this breath right now? 

Who am I?”

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The Hallelujah of Thanksgiving

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Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

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Family Praying Before Dinner ca. 2001

Gratitude is not only the posture of praise. It is also the basic element of real belief in God.

When we bow our heads in gratitude, we acknowledge that the works of God are good. We recognize that we cannot, of ourselves, save ourselves. We proclaim that our existence and all its goods come not from our own devices but are part of the works of God. Gratitude is the alleluia to existence, the praise that thunders through the universe as tribute to the ongoing presence of God with us even now.

Thank you for the new day.
Thank you for this work.
Thank you for this family.
Thank you for this daily bread.
Thank you for this storm and the moisture it brings to a parched earth.
Thank you for the corrections that bring me to growth.
Thank you for the bank of crown vetch that brings color to the hillside.
Thank you for the necessities that keep me aware of your bounty in my life.

Without doubt, unstinting gratitude saves us from the sense of self-sufficiency that leads to forgetfulness of God.

Praise is not an idle virtue in life. It says to us, “Remember to whom you are indebted. If you never know need, you will come to know neither who God is nor who you yourself are.”

Need is what tests our trust. It gives us the opportunity to allow others to hold us up in our weakness, to realize that only God in the end is the measure of our fullness.

Once we know need, we are better human beings. For the first time we know solidarity with the poorest of the poor. We become owners of the pain of the world and devote ourselves to working in behalf of those who suffer.

Finally, it is need that shows us how little it takes to be happy.

Once we know all of those things we have come face-to-face with both creation and the Creator. It is the alleluia moment that discovers both God and goodness for us.

Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

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Time, NOT ‘Deals’, Real Thanksgiving Gift

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Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal & The New York Post

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This week, America will kick off the sixth holiday-shopping season since the economy melted down in 2008. As everyone sits down to be thankful Thursday, too many people are still struggling to recover. Here’s a free-market way that everyone can show their concern about inequality: Don’t shop on Thanksgiving.

More than half a decade on, we’re still missing 976,000 jobs — and we’re missing 12 million jobs if you figure that jobs should grow as the population grows.

But it’s one thing to be economically afraid. It’s another to be cut off from fully celebrating America’s all-race, all-religion family holiday because you and your fellow Americans are fearful economically.

That’s what’s happening to millions of retail workers who’ve had to work on Thanksgiving for the past half-decade.

Stores aren’t opening on Thanksgiving because they’re doing well. Just the opposite: They’ll open because they’re not doing well.

And that’s because their customers aren’t doing well.

Consider: Walmart starts “Black Friday” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, pushed from 8 p.m. last year. Though it’s long offered drugstore-style round-the-clock hours at some stores, the company has grown markedly more aggressive since 2008, with Black Friday promotions on Thanksgiving Day.

And what Walmart (with its 150 million customers) does, other stores imitate.

Howard Davidowitz, chairman of the Davidowitz & Associates retail consultancy, calls it a “war-zone” retail mentality. The reason: Retail sales have recovered — but that recovery mirrors what’s going on in the economy. “The top 10 percent do 40 percent of the spending,” notes Davidowitz.

The top 10 percent are doing fine — so Tiffany and Saks are doing OK. What about everyone else?

Sales at Walmart’s US stores have fallen for much of the past year.

Before 2008, people could take money out of the rising value of their homes to pay for shopping, says Robert E. Schulz, a retail analyst at Standard & Poor’s. Today, people will buy a car if they need one, but they won’t buy a closetful of cheap clothes.

Discerning shoppers mean desperate retailers.

Other retailers “being open on Thanksgiving is almost inevitable, given what we’ve been seeing,” said Kristina Koltunicki, also of Standard & Poor’s. Plus, this year’s Christmas shopping season is one weekend shorter than usual.

But why should being open on Thanksgiving help?

Behavioral economics. Get people in for a “one-time only” deal, and even if “doorbuster” stuff is gone early, they’ll buy something to justify the time wasted.

This “doesn’t make any sense for anybody,” says Davidowitz. The stuff on sale now will be even cheaper in a few weeks.

And wealthier consumers know that. Davidowitz says the top 10 percent are “definitely not out there” on Thanksgiving. (The exception may be the foreigners who pour into Manhattan, but they can wait a day.)

There’s nothing wrong with marketing ploys. But there is something wrong with preying on people’s impulses to the extent that they are sacrificing time with their families for one day that shouldn’t be commercialized. Time is the real gift.

And it’s worst for people who are in the stores involuntarily.

Sure, firefighters and police officers have always had to work on the holiday. But they make good pay. Plus, saving someone’s life is different than selling someone a LeapPad2. (And yes, restaurant and hotel workers toil, too — but that’s no reason to make more people work than necessary.)

Some stores do stay closed — and their employees appreciate it.

Rob Petrella, the store manager at a PC Richard & Son in Manhattan, says this is “the one day out of the year I see everyone in my family.”

This year, he’s looking forward to seeing an aunt he hasn’t seen in several years — because she’s been working at Walmart.

Omotayo Riley, who works in sales at the same store, notes that with the day off, he’ll “go to my mom’s house and my wife’s mom’s house.” He’ll enjoy his mom’s cooking, and his mom can enjoy her nearly 2-year-old granddaughter and the toddler’s teenage sister. It would be “just terrible” to work, he says.

Gregg Richard, the PC Richard CEO, says that his firm has been running an ad noting their closure for 18 years. But people have only started noticing in the past few years — as more and more stores either open or lose sales to Walmart or to online-only retailers. “We feel it is a family day for our 3,000 employees,” he says.

It’s shoppers, not the government, who should force stores to close.

If you’re tempted to skip pie to go buy a cheap tablet, remember that the tablet will be obsolete by next Christmas — and your kids, too, will be a year closer to being grown up.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal & The New York Post

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Have I Seen? [TWS Guest Writer]

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TWS Contributor: Doug Blair

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Have I seen
Around the corner
Young mother in wheelchair
Pushed by sensitive son
Legs limp and thin
After the accident?
Or at the store,
Frail, neatly coiffed elder
Holding purchases
Mere inches from the eyes
Hiding her blindness?

Or young man
In the one good suit,
Files underarm,
Seeking again today
That job of promise
In the wake
Of broken promises?
Or single mother
In the parking lot,
Trying to contain
Three youngsters
Who cry, compete
And complain?

For so long they were invisible.

But then came
A Great Pain,
A faltering,
A disruption
In schedule
And in connection.
An embarrassment
A helplessness
A slip from the ranks
All in the mercies of Providence.

And I see them now,
And I feel the pulse
And reach out.

-written by Doug Blair

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The Appointment [TWS Guest Writer]

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TWS Contributor: Mark Dohle, OSB

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dohle-waiting-webNo matter what we are doing, or where we are at,
there is an element of inner waiting often not averted to,
as if something is moving towards us inexorably.

When young it was hardly noticed or thought about,
though it would be forced upon consciousness when someone’s time had come,
their number called and appointment time arrived,
causing a pause of sorts in our lives, but soon gone.

This waiting can be experienced in many ways,
some pleasant, others not, yet there always;
like an itch seeking our attention and perhaps contemplation,
though I suppose it is something not welcome most times.

The inner silence speaks to us in quiet whispers,
“listen to me, this is important”, yet often the voice ignored,
as the appointment moves forward a little closer
to its meeting point with us.

As the years fly by the voice harder to shut down,
for some fear grows, others a peace of sorts takes root,
many still able to ignore its gentle reminders,
to seek what they are really about, what they are for;
that life has deeper meanings than many suppose.

Some leave early, others late, very late,
yet when the moment comes and the meeting happens
it perhaps seems as if it was always so,
so fleeting the intervening years.

-written by Brother Mark Dohle, OCSO, of Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, GA

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What Binds You? [TWS Guest]

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TWS Contributor: Michael Brown

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Spider_Web-webYears ago, as I mention at our retreats, back around 1993, I was asked by the monks at the Trappist Monastery in Gethsemane Farms, Kentucky, to stay over on a Saturday night, a wonderful experience in that prayerful, peaceful place where — for decades — there was the vow of silence (no longer). In fact, the next morning, after Mass, when I had breakfast with all the monks, one of them told me he had been the room-mate of famed Trappist writer Thomas Merton’s for more than twenty years, yet had never spoken to him (if we can imagine!).

But that wasn’t what I most remembered about breakfast that day. It was our little round-table discussion on near-death experiences.

During that chat the monks described how there had been a short, jovial, and uplifting brother-monk who’d recently died, a treasure of a man who was always smiling and making others feel good about themselves. In my mind I pictured a monastic version of Mickey Rooney: energetic, jolly.

What I remember most is the description of how this monk died.

The monk, in his older age, had fallen into a deep coma, they told me; they took turns holding vigil around him. I don’t recall if it was for hours or days. The upshot was that after an extended time of total unconsciousness the monk had shocked them by suddenly coming to, sitting up with a start, looking at them happily, calling out, “Ciao!” — and then collapsing back into a coma and death with a smile on his face. That’s the way I’d like to go: with cheer. With a smile. We all can.

This was a monk, I would speculate, who enjoyed purity; who had accomplished what God had for him to do; who was free from the shackles of this passing world because he had released what he had to release and cut himself free from his last hold.

Have we? Have you? What binds you? What may be your last hold” — or holds (plural)? What might still keep you tied to this earth and cause fear? For we all have holds — burdens, “hang-ups,” sin challenges, inclinations, temptations — that we must shake free from to avoid purgatory. What keeps you “hanging on”? What do you hold onto? What are the “hang-ups” that could trip you up on the way to the best entry into the eternal?

A hold is a root cause of imperfection.

And it’s like the web of a spider, a thread that is nearly invisible and yet super-strong.

Like what a spider spins, it can grow and interconnect with other threads that entrap us and keep us bound to this place of exile with fear instead of joy. It can be lust, which at its base is the inclination to generate a powerful force or emotion, including anger, jealousy, gluttony, greed, and sinful sexuality. Lust is a root hold. So is anger. So is pride — for sure. Ego. Money. We hold on to such imperfection like a first-time parachutist might hold onto the door of a plane not wanting to make that first jump. Every cardinal sin is a “root hold.” As author Janice Brown Carbon points out, in her book, Fully Alive!, some of us remain caught in an infantile mode; we have traits that are narcissistic, that are selfish, that are “me, myself, and I,” that cause us to be impulsive and difficult to get along with; that compel us to self-gratification. We lack empathy. I would add that we are argumentative. There is also the childish thinker, the person — those among us — who avoids conflict, who seeks to get along with everyone, who has a good heart. That’s all fine — as long as it doesn’t include insecurity and trouble saying “no” even to evil. A childish spirit can be a real benefit if it isn’t motivated by fear and guilt.

There is the adolescent in us.

Hallmarks of that: motivated by anger, oppositional, reactive, no respect for authority, claims not to care, self-defeating, difficult, has trouble saying “no,” but also, writes Carbon, will not accept “no” for an answer.

What is your “last hold”? What weighs you down? What repeats (and repeats, and repeats). What transgression or inclination and temptation or unforgiveness do you still hold dear?

Like gunk, we must ask God to reach His Hand through us — to the very bottom of our souls — and remove it.

Every last drop of sullied water must be emptied or it will sully the pure water poured into us.

No water is pure once it’s mixed with tainted liquid, no matter how vaguely tainted the mixture is.

This should accompany Confession.

We all can do it.

We all have time.

And when it happens, we are light as a bird. We’re free. We are untethered and fully feathered (for full eternal flight).

On a deathbed, we may even be able to wake from a deep swoon to send final love on those who love us with the simplicity of a word like, “Ciao!” and a smile before passage into what is timeless, through stars that, as in time-lapse photography, form a passage around us.

— Michael H. Brown

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Indelible [TWS Guest]

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TWS Contributor: John Schroeder

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Any properly catechized Catholic will tell you there are seven sacraments. I’m thinking of starting a movement for the Church to recognize an eighth (or at least, perhaps, a “Seven.A”)—one called parenthood.

The notion occurred to me last week, when we were in California to celebrate our son Chris’ ordination to the diaconate. At some point, the conversation turned to the special qualities of the sacrament of Holy Orders—including the fact that it’s one of three (along with Baptism and Confirmation) that’s said to conferan indelible mark on the recipient.Great word, indelible:

adj. 1. Impossible to remove, erase, or wash away; permanent.

The perfect word, I realized, to describe the bond between parent and child, father and son. And it is a sacramental bond, in my experience—a physical sign, an often-corporeal action, that confers grace.

This “eighth sacrament” blessed me in an extraordinary way last Thursday evening, shortly after we arrived in Berkeley, and connected with Chris and his Jesuit community for daily Mass. As is the custom in our family, we joined hands at the ‘Our Father’ – Chris and I. And in that simple action, I was instantaneously transported back some 32 years in time …to when my then-infant son first wrapped his tiny hand around my index finger.

Chris at 6 months

Chris at 6 months

I knew in that long-ago moment that Chris had introduced me to a whole new dimension of love—a lesson that would only deepen with the birth of each new child in our family. I’d read about unconditional love, of course, and might have even considered myself capable of it prior to becoming a parent. But until these bearers-of-grace came into my life, I don’t think I really understood the concept in any substantial way.

Gerri and I with all our children (and grandchild!)

Gerri and I with all our children (and grandchild-on-the-way!)

Indeed, it may be the most profound gift parents receive from their children – this insight into how God loves. When you meet your child for the first time, you know the relationship is not performance-based. So, too, with the Holy One: Weneed do nothing… we can do nothing…to earn God’s love. It’s already there, from the very first glance or touch or smile. This is precisely what it means to be a child of God.

As they grow older, our children often find other ways—both simple and spectacular—to channel additional graces into our lives. I can now report that ‘ordination’ ranks right up there as among the most intense and memorable of such opportunities. I was blessed to be there last weekend in more ways than I can count…but the moment I was touched most indelibly came during Mass on Sunday morning – Chris’ first opportunity to preach as a deacon.

Receiving his stole from his uncle, Fr. John Reiker

Receiving the diaconate stole from his Uncle John

He chose to focus on a familiar theme, drawing from the words of St. Paul to Timothy: ‘You know from whom you learned it.’

‘It’s worth noting that, for most of us, this business of learning about God is a family affair,’ Chris said. ‘Even now, I can look around this room, and I see my first evangelists, my Godfather, my baptizers, my models of Christian joy, my community of love and acceptance…

‘We all have these stories. We have all received from someone who received from someone who received from someone. Which is the deeper truth in the end…None of us can stand up here in the middle of church and insist that we don’t owe anyone anything. We all have depended on the testimony of others in a vast web that reaches back all the way to the time of Jesus and beyond…

‘Today, I invite you all to join me as those who joyfully recognize our bankruptcy – our fundamental and total indebtedness. Whether in prayer or in conversation, I invite you to return to those faces, human and divine, who have preached to us the Good News of salvation. And I humbly suggest that you turn to them and say what I say here now to you: Thank you.’

Assisting at Mass with his uncle, Fr. Bob Reiker

Assisting at Mass with his uncle, Fr. Bob Reiker

And so I found myself being blessed once again – by a son, ministering to his father. I knew, as I heard Chris’ words, that it was definitely going to leave a mark on my heart. An indelible mark.

-John Schroeder

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Doing the Hard Thing [TWS Guest]

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TWS Contributor: “Feloreaw

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I have been sober since 1980. That’s 33 years now. That was a hard thing for me to do. It is not so hard now, but I still need my Father to do it… every day.

Just showing up to life is a hard thing for me to do. In fact, in order to keep my life together sober (plus do the other hard things), and to not blow up into a million pieces, I need to maintain a constant conscious contact with Him… from sunrise to sunset… so He can do this for me.

I have been obsessed with suicide since I was 5 years old. The hard thing was to put the suicide option down… for good. Today I am suicide obsession free. I’ve been free since 1997. That’s 15 years now. But what is on the other end of not committing suicide? It is living life here on this planet…. that is a hard thing for me to face. So I must rely on my Father also… to face this life with me.

Flock of Canada GeeseI was a hider from people most of my life. While growing up I never made a single friend. Being sociable, having social interaction with people, was a hard thing for me to try. But, with Father’s Love and Power, I have been trying to  do this hard thing for a while now. Through Him, I’m finding myself able to be sociable in my Bible study at church. With my Father’s Power, I have been practicing learning everybody’s names. I very much need Him near me, remembering the names… for me… and giving me the courage to go up to them and say “Hello”. Then I must rely on Him to help me interact with them in a sane manner.

donuts.

Right now I am in the middle of letting go of junk food. I think this might be one of the hardest things I will tackle in my life. Yet as I’m writing this post I know at this moment that if I want to get even closer to my Father I must face it. Letting go of the junk food is a very hard thing for me to do. But I know that, through Him, I can do this too.

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But there’s more to this than just doing a hard thing. The trick is you have tokeep doing it every day… day after day… week after week… year after year… without let up.

Doing it one moment at a time.

Girl climbing cliff-faceDoing the hard thing this way, for the long haul, can break a person in two. It can become earth shattering. But that’s the whole idea. Being broken, through pain, is absolutely necessary. You need to become broken in order to let God and Jesus fully into your life. Jesus said He wants us to be “broken”. Doing the hard thing… over the long haul… will break you.

“If your hand or foot causes you to sin,
cut it off and cast it from you.
It is better for you to enter into life lame
or maimed, rather than having
two hands or two feet,  to be cast into
the everlasting fire.

Matthew 18:8

It will be painful to do, there’s no doubt about that. We don’t do hard things precisely because they are painful. It can be, and hopefully will be a “buckling the knees” painful; a “fall on your face and beg Him for help” painful. This is a necessary step to becoming broken.

The pain will produce anger. For a little while, before you break, there may be lots of this. It can become a “I hate you God!” anger. That’s ok. But when you do get angry (and you probably will), don’t keep your anger from Him. Let Him have it with both barrels. He knows about the anger and He can easily handle it. Horribly angry or not, He loves you and His love is without conditions. He will never leave you just because you’re mad.

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31: 6 & 8

Then, as you continue doing your hard thing, you will come to understand what this “breaking” is all about. I cannot explain it to you. You will have to experience it for yourself. Only then, will you be forced to develop a very strong, and honest, relationship with your Father in Heaven. And, as you slowly break, you will come to the realization that it is no longer you who are doing the hard thing, it is Father doing it… with Love… through you. And you will know how strong a Love your Father has for you.

Standing on a Mountaintop

So pick your hard thing.

If you want to know Him in the most intimate way possible….

Pick your hard thing.

I dare you.      I double dare you.

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Peace and Feloreaw to You, dear Father in Heaven

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A Wilderness of Noise [TWS Guest Post]

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This guest post is written by Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT

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MV5BMjk5ODEzODUzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjc4OTA3MQ@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_We live in a wilderness, a wilderness of noise. Noise is not just about sound. It has to do with the constant barrage of stimulation to our senses, emotions and even our intellect, (read information overload.) The problem with all this noise, pure and simple, is that it is an obstacle to our own inner order and peace, and more importantly, to a living communion with God and with others. For some reason, many of us either seem afraid of silence, or, more likely, we have lost familiarity with the wonders of silence. Yet it is essential to our physical and spiritual well-being.

Authentic silence is not emptiness. Things come to us in the silence. We hear new languages. We are visited by penetrating peace, insight, God Himself, His wisdom, light, His perception and understanding. In authentic silence we hear new sounds and enter new worlds. In silence we come to know our own hearts.

It is interesting to note how often people observe that the sounds God has put in creation: wind rustling in the trees, birds chirping, the lapping of waves at the ocean, are a balm to the soul. This stands in stark contrast to the agitation and disturbance created by the sounds of the modern world driven by mechanical energy and a volume, a pitch that does violence to one’s nerves, stressing them beyond what they are meant to endure. Silence is almost completely exiled from our modern culture. Yet it is exceedingly important for us.

Silence in fact is so important to us that it may be one of the main reasons God has structured us to sleep a third of our days. We know that when we can’t sleep, when our bodies and minds are deprived of the stillness good sleep brings, we become sick. Anyone who struggles with insomnia knows the anxiety and frustration lack of sleep brings. “If I could just sleep, I would feel better,” is the all too common cry. For those saints who were able to pray the night away and not be ill-affected, it was because they entered a deep contemplative silence that so rejuvenated soul and spirit, the body was refreshed and strengthened by it…

In the Liturgy, given to us by God through Moses on Mt Sinai, and Jesus at the Last Supper, there are spaces for silence. That tells us that silence is part of a Divine Rhythm, part of the rhythm of life in Heaven…it tells us silence is a good thing, a medium for God’s communication of Himself to us. The lives of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph, in particular, bear striking witness to the inseparability of silence from great holiness.

In those who are progressing in prayer, in the inner experience of the presence of God, silence becomes a medium for God’s deeper and deeper communication of Himself to the soul. St. Teresa calls one of the early stages of contemplative prayer, the Prayer of Quiet. God begins to suspend, or silence or still the human activity of the mind, the will, the memory, the imagination, the passions, so that He can communicate Himself more deeply. And in that, the soul itself begins to be healed of its defects and weaknesses and disorder. St. John of the Cross poetically describes this as: “My house being now all stilled…” He goes on to say that once there is this stillness (which comes through real purifications) the soul is now able to go out to find God without hindrance or distraction. This, by the way, is often something one sees in those who are going through the process of dying. They become strangely quiet in the months and weeks preceding their deaths. It is as if they no longer have words. In the activity of God in their souls, as they are being readied to enter eternity, they often go through, all at once, the purifications as well as the sweet visitations of the Lord,
that the person who prays regularly, goes through over a period of time.

We are all interested in healing these days. This is the true healing we seek, that which comes to us from God Himself, the Divine Physician, and which heals us from the inside out and orders our inner being to bring it into communion with He Who is our ultimate bliss and fulfillment.

If we want to be healthy, we must cultivate spaces of silence in our lives. Not the isolating silence so many live in, but a silence that nurtures peace within and communion without. One place to begin is to keep our Churches as sanctuaries of silence, not places for chit chat.

Another concrete step is to actually set aside real time for silence. Silent prayer. Not vocal prayer but a prayer of presence, of being, in silence, in the presence of the Lord, even for 5 minutes a day, preferably in a place where there is no outside noise. (That may be early in the morning before the rest of the family rises.) Simply ask the Lord to take you into Himself for five minutes, to be still and know that He is God.

Over 100 years ago, Maria Montessori noted that children have an innate need for intervals of stillness and silence, silence for her, meaning the cessation of every movement:

“One day I came into class holding in my arms a baby four months old, which I had taken from the arms of its mother in the courtyard. … The silence of the little creature struck me, and I wanted the children to share my feeling. … To my amazement I saw an extraordinary tension in the children who watched me. It seemed as though they were hanging on my lips, and felt deeply all I was saying. “Then its breathing,” I went on, “how soft it is. None of you could breathe as it does, without making a sound…” The children, surprised and motionless, held their breath. In that moment there was an extraordinary silence; the tick of the clock, which generally could not be heard, became perceptible. It seemed as if the baby had brought with it an atmosphere of silence such as does not exist in ordinary life. This was because no one was making the smallest movement. And from this came the wish to listen to the silence, and hence to reproduce it.” Maria Montessori (The Secret of Childhood).

She created the “Silence Game” in which children begin practicing this kind of silence for small intervals at first (even 30 seconds), and then for longer periods. There is a joy the children, (and the teacher) experience, when they are able to do this. They later come to ask for the Silence Game when things become chaotic or noisy, recognizing that this silence has the power to restore their inner peace and equilibrium. Then, as a year progresses, the silence begins to happen spontaneously, within the whole group. The children will look up when this happens, smile, and go back to their work. The natural, contemplative spirit of the child, over time, is released.

It may seem like passivity to focus on silence when the world is screaming for answers and actions to address it’s many grave problems. Yet, “if The Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor.” Likewise, the walls of Jericho would never have come tumbling down, nor would the people have persisted in the right action, if they had not consulted and stayed faithful to the Lord’s rather odd directions.

It has become an almost urgent necessity today, to ask Our Lord and Our Lady to lead each of us to the kind of silence we speak of. The release of a true contemplative spirit among us, one in which the Lord lives and moves us, will, in the end, be the key to the salvation of our modern world.

– Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT,

Guest Writer @ www.thewannabesaint.com

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