Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Practice of Lectio Divina or Sacred Reading

English: Lectio Divina Português: Leitura Oran...

The simple prayer practice of Lectio Divina takes us through four movements, as we are drawn closer to God through each prayerful reading of the chosen passage.

Choose a short passage- just a few verses.

Make yourself comfortable in a place that is as free from interruptions as possible. Begin with a time of silence, humbly asking God to quiet your heart and make you aware that you are in His loving presence.

When you are ready, begin reading and praying through the four movements:

Lectio (READ): On the first reading, simply open yourself to the presence of God. Read the passage slowly and prayerfully, allowing short pauses between sentences. (Over time you will discover whether it is more helpful for you to read silently or out loud- try them both…) As you read, take in the words and the overall flow of the passage. Then allow a time of silence following the reading- continue to open yourself to the Spirit of God.

Meditatio (REFLECT): On the second prayerful reading of the passage, listen for a particular word or a phrase through which God wants to speak to you. You will notice your attention being drawn to something (or if this doesn’t happen, just choose a word). Once you have “received” the word or phrase, begin to silently meditate on that. Reflect on why God would highlight this for you today, ask Him any questions that come to mind, and note things that seem important as you meditate on what He has given you. Remember that the focus is on listening to what God has to say to you.

Oratio (RESPOND)On the third prayerful reading of the passage, listen now for God’s invitation, and respond from your heart. The Living God is always inviting us in some way… to let go of something, or to take up something; to do something or be something… the invitation can take innumerable forms. Following the reading, continue to listen for His invitation and then respond silently or out loud from an honest heart.

Contemplatio (REST):The focus of the fourth prayerful reading of the passage is to simply rest now in the love that God has for you. Let the words wash over you- there is no further need to reflect or respond- allow God’s Spirit to draw you close and fill you with His love, grace and peace. Linger in this place of deep connection, for you are being filled and refreshed for your continuing journey.

We encourage you to take a word, phrase or image with you when it is time to return to the day… something to which you can return throughout the day… something that will remind you of the love of God for you, and the special message He had for you today.

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Filed under Devotional reading, Lectio Divina, Meditation, Sacred Reading

How Liturgy Shapes & Makes Us

These thoughts on the role of liturgy in our lives are very meaningful to me. I would suggest that you give them some thought.

the long way home


UPDATE: I posted a brief history of liturgy and its movements.

A couple of nights ago, those that help lead and facilitate the worship service at my church met to discuss how we should continue to grow and remain faithful to our mission in the city of Philadelphia through our liturgy and music. It reminded me once more of how much I love being a part of this church and its tradition, and how excited I am to live life with these people.

Meditating on these discussions about our liturgy, I was reminded of the myriad of ways that the structure of one’s worship service forms the people that sit there each Sunday. I thought of how liturgy functions. If you go to a church, it has a liturgy: some structure that proclaims a certain story and shape of existence, and it changes people to fit into that shape and story.

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Filed under Community, Liturgical Worship

The Living Flame of Love

The Ladder of Divine Ascent is an important ic...

I share the poem of John of the Cross as a sacred reading for the day.

              O living flame of love

              that tenderly wounds my soul
              in its deepest center! Since
              now you are not oppressive,
              now consummate! if it be your will:
              tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!
              O sweet cautery,
              O delightful wound!
              O gentle hand! O delicate touch
              that tastes of eternal life
              and pays every debt!
              In killing you changed death to life.
              O lamps of fire!
              in whose splendors
              the deep caverns of feeling,
              once obscure and blind,
              now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
              both warmth and light to their Beloved.
              How gently and lovingly
              you wake in my heart,
              where in secret you dwell alone;
              and in your sweet breathing,
              filled with good and glory,
              how tenderly you swell my heart with love.

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Filed under Ascetics, John of the Cross, Poetry, Sacred Reading

The Unknown Target

He also said, ‘Satan does not know by what passion the soul can be overcome. He sows, but without knowing if he will reap, sometimes thoughts of fornication, sometimes thoughts of slander, and similarly for the other passions. He supplies nourishment to the passion which he sees the soul is slipping towards.’

———–Abba Matoes of the Desert


The wise old man gives us a very important truth, Satan is not all knowing. Far too many people give the evil equal standing with God. Emphatically, he is not! We need not worry that the devil can overcome us without our help.  In every sin, we become his partner by enjoying the forbidden fruit. The passion is as much our enemy as the evil one. Our challenge is to recognize those areas of our lives that make us vulnerable to sin, and to give those to God. That task is not an easy one, but it can be accomplished by a lifetime of spiritual disciplines. All of us must seek God in prayer every day, and know that He will be found. The real gem we get from the old man is that the devil does not know our sore spot, and we, through prayer, can find it and give it to God.

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Filed under Ascetics, Desert Fathers, Evil, Monasticism, Mystics

Didache 1

The title of the Didache in the manuscript dis...

The title of the Didache in the manuscript discovered in 1873 

From time to time I will be making entries on the Didache. What is the Didache? Simply stated, it is the writings of the apostles about the teaching of Jesus. You might even call it the quick “Quick Help” version of the red letter words of our Lord. The Didache has way of cutting to the heart of the teachings of Jesus. The apostles set this forth as a manual for Christians, and we would do well to make it our guide as well. The translation of the text that I am using was translated and edited by Tony Jones, and is under the protection of a Creative Commons license. I invite your comments

There Are Two Ways

There are two ways, one of life and one of death!  And there is a great difference between the two ways. The way of life is this: First, you shall love God who made you. And second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. The meaning of these sayings is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the heathens do the same? But you should love those who hate you, and then you shall have no enemies. Abstain from fleshly and bodily lusts: If someone strikes your right cheek, turn the other also, and be perfect. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two. If someone takes your cloak, give also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, don’t ask for it back. You really cannot. Give to everyone who asks you, and don’t ask for it back. The Father wants his blessings shared. Happy is the giver who lives according to this rule, for that one is guiltless. But the receiver must beware; for if one receives who has need, he is guiltless, but if one receives not having need, he shall stand trial, answering why he received and for what use. If he is found guilty he shall not escape until he pays back the last penny. However, concerning this, there is a saying: “Let your alms sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give them.”         —–Translated by Tony Jones

The most valuable lesson that anyone can learn is the difference between right and wrong. Many of us think learning such a lesson is basic, but not so. Often we throw up our hands and say, what has our world come to? Things never used to be this way. Yet here we see a document written about 2000 years ago that finds it necessary to address the two ways. Man has not changed so much after all.

The first way and the way that leads to eternal life is the way of selflessness .This way finds it far  more valuable to give than to receive, far more rewarding to love than hate, and above all, that love of neighbor is the path of blessing. “First way” people are generous and kind. They know that following Christ can sometimes involve pain, hurt and sacrifice. Proper carrying out of the mission of our Lord requires discernment and patience. The image of the “sweat in your palms” as you give alms is a prime example of the awesome responsibility of Christian service. Whether we are giving alms or helping a brother with a loan, we are given a heavy burden of doing as Christ would do. May we learn from the holy apostles?

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Filed under Christian Living, Didache, Evil, Faith

A Monk’s Story Part 4

I had the pleasure of meeting Becket while I was doing some personal soul-searching at St. Joseph Abbey. At the time he was a professing monk who had not taken his final vows. He has since left the monastery to become the personal assistant of the writer Anne Rice. In a recent conversation   has given me permission to reprint his story as he is posting it on Facebook. I hope you find these installments as fascinating as I do. I will be posting these installments on Monday.       Irvin

A Monk’s Story Part 4

by Beckett

For those new to this page, some have been asking me to relate some of my story. I have been sharing about the years I spent in a Benedictine monastery. For anyone still interested, I’d like to share about my first brush with Anne Rice. It happened while I was a novice.

There are three kinds of stages for many monks:

Stage 1: Novitiate.

Stage 2: Temporary Vows.

Stage 3: Solemn Vows.

Making solemn vows is like making marriage vows: Hopefully it’s a life long commitment.

Temporary vows is a 3 to 5 year process, beginning after the novitiate and ending with solemn vows. These are called “junior monks.” This is a discernment period, when a junior monk decides whether he is called to make solemn vows. Generally this lasts 3 years. But a junior monk can extend it to 5.

I extended mine to 4 years. But that story must come later.

Lately I’ve been sharing about my novitiate experience, coming soon to the day I made temporary vows.

As a novice I was not allowed to leave the monastery. No novice was. We were supposed to devote one year of our lives to living like a monk before we made temporary vows.

But it was because the monastery bent the rules for me that I had my first brush with Anne Rice.

In previous a post, I mentioned that I earned a BA in music composition from Loyola University New Orleans. I happened to study organ and harpsichord in my senior year. Once I graduated and entered the monastery, I was happy to discover that the abbey had both!

The organ was a new design, commingling technology with tradition: It was a pipe organ, but it was also wired to totally enhance its potential. The sound was gorgeous.

The harpsichord was beautiful too. Only another monk and myself could tune it and play it well.

One day, in the middle of my novitiate, the abbey gets a call from Anne Rice’s office saying that Anne Rice was having a book signing in her New Orleans home, and that she wanted someone to play the harpsichord while fans queued.

She paid well. And the monastery agreed. But only on the condition that the monks deliver it, and the monks pick it back up.

The other monk who could tune it was away from the monastery. So the abbot turned to me. It was one of the few times that a novice had permission to leave the abbey grounds.

Leaving was conditional, however. I could not leave alone. So the abbot asked a junior monk, Brother Bernard, to accompany me.

I hadn’t left the monastery for almost 6 months. Driving away with Bernard was awkward and fun. Like riding a bike again for the first time in years. Nothing forgotten. Everything renewed.

After the 45-minute drive across the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, we delivered the harpsichord to Anne’s house.

I set it up and tuned it. Day’s work. Done.

Someone else would play it for the signing. I had to return to the abbey. Vespers, our evening prayer service, would be starting soon.

We never met Anne Rice. We were told that she was somewhere on the upper floors of her New Orleans’ home. Writing a novel, most likely.

Even so, Brother Bernard and I were given a tour of the first floor.

It was enough! It was a dream come true! You see: I’d been a fan of Anne Rice’s since before high school. Her books had been one reason I moved to New Orleans. Now I was inside a museum like no other. Rooms filled floor to ceiling with lifelike dolls, ancient statues, precious works of art, gorgeous antique furniture. I had walked into the house of someone whose literature helped me endure the loneliness of adolescence.

“Grateful” seemed like a word too small.

Brother Bernard and I were remunerated with a personal check from Anne Rice.

We would return it to the abbot later that evening. Over the coming weeks he would disperse the money throughout the community, according to the needs of the brothers.

Brother Bernard had a devilish wit. In the car, on the way back to the monastery, he pointed to the upper corner of the check.

There was Anne Rice’s name, address and telephone number.

Bernard turned to me with a cheeky grin. “Wanna make a prank call?”

I laughed.

We returned to the monastery in time for evening prayer. The monks were chanting Psalm 116.

I used to love chanting that psalm.

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A True Identity

Thomas Merton's hermitage (interior) at the Ab...

Thomas Merton’s hermitage 

“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny….To work out our identity in God.”

― Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Some would think a bit old fashioned to think of our lives as a vocational calling, but Merton hits this issue head on. We are all called to go far beyond mere existence, or simply to plod along in our weakness. Our God, and creator wants us to find our identity in Him. When that is accomplished our lives are transformed, and we soar to heights that only he can take us. You are a creation of a loving God, and He want you to claim that identity.

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Filed under Ascetics, Contemplation, Devotional Quotes, Monasticism, Thomas Merton

Kingdom of God

St John Baptist. Stained glass window, Chateau...

  • Jesus’ public life begins with His baptism at the hands John the Baptist.
  • Although sinless, Jesus chooses to identify Himself with the repentant sinners who flocked to baptism.
  • Before embarking upon His ministry, Jesus withdraws to the desert for a 40-day period of fasting.
  • The coming of God’s Kingdom means the destruction of the devil’s dominion over this world.
  • Jesus now goes forth to preach the “good news” of the coming of the Kingdom.
  • Jesus backed up His words with mighty miracles that inspired belief in Him.
  • Jesus gathers people to Himself, and this is the begining of the Kingdom of God.
  • Jesus emphasizes that everyone is called to enter the Kingdom. He reaches out to the poor, the marginalized and sinners.
  • In a very special way, the Kingdom belongs to the poor, lowly, humble of heart, those who know that they need God.
  • Jesus often illustrated His teaching by means of parables,and these stories call us to radical discipleship.

Live Your Faith

Rather than viewing the Gospels strictly as mini-biographies of Jesus, we should instead use our imagination to put ourselves into the stories.

Which people resonate the most with me? What would it be like to watch Jesus preach or perform a miracle?

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Filed under Ascetics, Christian Journey, Commitment, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Kingdom of God

Stop Looking at Yourself

Sketch by myself with effects applied.

“In order to find God in ourselves, we must stop looking at ourselves, stop checking and verifying ourselves in the mirror of our own futility, and be content to be in Him and to do whatever He wills, according to our limitations, judging our acts not in the light of our own illusions, but in the light of His reality which is all around us in the things and people we live with.”

Thomas Merton- from “No Man is an Island


Filed under contemplative, Devotional Quotes, Monasticism, Thomas Merton

Catholic Spirit

Stripped image of John Wesley

15When he left there, he met Jehonadab son of Rechab coming to meet him; he greeted him, and said to him, “Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours?” Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand. Jehu took him up with him into the chariot.

2 Kings 10: 15


Such a simple and straightforward message is found in the words of 2 Kings, and yet we fail to see how monumental it is. Jehu had has just conquered Ahab, the evil king, and purged the kingdom of his followers. He then went further and met Jehonadab and had that simple question for him, “Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours?” The heart is the key to the worth of a person. Too often, we attach labels and reputations to others that are undeserved.

John Wesley in his sermon, “Catholic Spirit,” reminds us that we are all called to love with an unfailing love, and that unity is found in the heart of a man. He states, “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs.” We make the mistake of demanding that all those around us see life in the way we see it-that they believe as we do, and even worship as we do.  Let us be reminded that God did not create robot clones, but persons of free will and persuasion. We find the unity of the church in allowing for these differences. Mr. Wesley calls that the catholic spirit, and I like it.

It’s time for the Church to get back on mission. The final command Jesus gave was not “get every nuance of theology right.” The command was, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” We serve the same God, are saved by the same sacrifice, and were given the same Commission. Instead of focusing on our differences, we should focus on the One who makes us the same.

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Filed under Christian Living, Faith, John Wesley, Methodist