Christmas tidings

Merry Christmas, everyone. May the joy of Emmanuel (God with us) lift your hearts and bring you glad tidings.

The Abbey came to life in a special way over the past couple of days, with festive colors of green and red, joyful sounds of heavenly choirs, and grateful hearts expressed on cheerful faces, as over a thousand of Christ’s flock came to celebrate the birth of our Savior during the Christmas Eve Vigils on Saturday night and the Christmas Day Mass on Sunday. However, before any of these wonderful celebratory feasts could take place, a lot of work went on behind the scenes, especially in the days and hours leading up to these blessed Eucharistic celebrations of Christ’s birth, to make sure everyone present had a joyful Christmas experience. As a member of this community, the joy of setting up the decorations, serving as acolyte for each of the masses, and preparing a meal for my confreres, reminds me not only why I’m a disciple of Christ Jesus, but also why I entered into community life in the first place: to serve my neighbor!

As we make our way through the Christmas Octave, let us remember each and every day, all blessings that our loving God has bestowed on us. Not only have we received from Him the best gift ever imaginable; His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; we also can be thankful for the gift of having one another to share our lives with during this most sacred and beautiful time of the year. God Bless!

The O Antiphons

The Lord is close at hand; Come, let us worship Him! One of the many joys I get to experience as a professed member of this Norbertine community, is the opportunity to Cantor for the Divine Office and Mass. On December 17th, the singing of the sacred O’ Antiphons began, letting us know that Christ our Savior is only moments away from entering into our world, so that we may know our Heavenly Father in the most intimate of ways.

How blessed are we to have a God that loves us so much, that He would want to take on flesh and the human condition, to dwell with us here on earth! Starting with the O’ Holy Wisdom antiphon, we acknowledge our limitations as created creatures and urn for the divine guidance that only Christ can give.

Speaking of wisdom, yours truly just finished final exam week at Immaculata University, and while I recognize there is a difference between wisdom and intellect, I’m blessed as an older student to be able to impart whatever human wisdom I may have on my much-younger and energetic student counterparts. All of my professors this semester have blessed me greatly with their expertise and dedication, passing on whatever they can, with the fruits of becoming a more well-rounded and knowledgeable human being.

However, none of this would possible if I didn’t have Christ Jesus to lead and nurture me through this academic experience, especially, when my Spanish class gave me such a run for my money this year…just kidding! God Bless.

A day of recollection

On November 30th, the Norbertine community was treated to a wonderful day of recollection, given by Rev. Francis Doyle, O.S.A. This presentation, held in our Divine Word Chapel, focused on the coming of our Lord, in this holy season of Advent. Fr. Doyle, blessed us with his spiritual wisdom and insight during the two daily conferences, and he also provided us with some spiritual food for thought, in the form of questions to ponder, during the quiet reflective times of this special day.

The highlight of this day of recollection for me was the sharing of the individual reflections from my confreres; a time of illumination for sure, on a spiritual idea or phrase, that really resonated with them from the earlier talks. Days of recollection allow us to slow down from our busy day, to properly center our hearts and minds on the splendor of God, the Church calendar, and the blessings of community life. Once this day of recollection is over, I find the talks and sharing of that day continue to bear fruit, as I journey deeper into the mystery of this blessed season.

I’m already looking forward to our Lenten day of recollection, but first, I’ll enjoy the coming weeks that lead up to the glory of our incarnational Lord and Savior. God Bless!

Advent blessings

A happy first week of Advent to all my friends in Christ Jesus! It’s been a while since my last posting effort, and so, I hope this finds you well. As a quick update… God has continued to bless me, since my last communication with you all, as I’m approaching my four-year anniversary (Jan 2017) with the Norbertines, at Daylesford Abbey. If that’s not enough of a blessing to report, I professed my vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, for a period of three-years, this past August 27th, in front of the entire Norbertine community, both professed and lay. I’m grateful to God, my confreres, family and friends, for all of their support and well wishes, as I took this big step in the vocation process.

As a seminarian, attending Immaculata University, I’ve been working hard on my theology, philosophy, and other required courses, in which the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters (IHM’s) are so lovingly passing on their collective wisdom to me. Now, with the Christmas Season at hand, it’s time to end the academic affairs of the past year, and find even extra space in my heart for the Lord’s coming.

We sing each and every morning the Gospel Canticle Antiphon “Take courage, the Lord our God comes to save us” which fuels us with hope and joy, reminding us all that something truly amazing is about to happen…May you remember this always, especially as you go about the busyness of the upcoming weeks ahead. God Bless!

My Evolution of Prayer…

In the past, I used to believe that God only wanted to hear from me in formally structured prayers that were prayed in some ritualistic type of way, always under the assumption that I needed to speak to God in a manner that St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine would offer up their prayers in their most famous works. At other times I would recite the Psalms word for word to be legitimately heard by God, as if He only cared about his holy servants thousands of years ago and not His present ones. This became all too predictable and formulaic after a while, and isn’t God really looking to hear from our own hearts what is troubling us anyway? We all have a unique voice with a diverse set of experiences that long to be in conversation with our Lord, so why not tell Him? Sometimes there’s the mystic in me when I pray, one who is always looking for some revelation to descend from the heavens and bathe me in divine light, providing a solution to the problems that I’m currently facing. Why not let my heart just be still and listen for the simple breath of God envelope me in a cocoon of silence rather than look for a visible sign or a Hollywood production? The good news is my prayer life is evolving as time marches on, for I find myself praying more simply or not even using words at all, letting my experiences do all the talking, which never would have happened years ago. Finally, my ultimate goal in my prayer life is to get to the point where I can pray without ceasing, instead of just praying at proscribed times of the day, and allow the non-verbal vibrations flow from my heart into the loving ears of our Lord and Savior.

The Next Phase…

One of the many blessings a Novice can experience during his first year of Novitiate would have to include the classes that increase his knowledge about the Order’s history, spirituality, liturgy, constitutions, and the process of discernment. Sadly, I’ve completed my last class today, and soon I will transition to Immaculata University, which will allow me to complete my undergraduate degree, helping me to fulfill some of the many requirements needed for ordination. It’s been a wonderful period of wisdom and insight, and I’m so grateful to the men and women who have passionately taught me all that they know. While the classes may have ended here at the Abbey, the dividends they will continue to payout over the rest of my life will be unending, as I’m more confident than ever about my choice of joining this Norbertine community. God has deeply blessed me over these last nine months and may I always do what is pleasing to Him in the next phase of my spiritual journey.

Moral Relativism Vs. The Golden Rule…

My classes have started at Immaculata University and I’m really digging the Christian Ethics class I’m currently involved in. Below is an excerpt from a posting I did in regards to the myth of moral relativism, as proposed by the author, Jonathan Dolhenty.

I agree with the author of this article that morality cannot be observed by proponents of relativism. Relativists do not believe that there is any one truth that binds us all together, but I’d like to propose at least one TRUTH that has historically done so…The Golden Rule. No matter if you’re Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, or Atheist, this ethical treaty would not be able to coexist with the theories of true relativism. As this essay so wonderfully pointed out, relativists want us to believe “what is good for you may not be good for me” and “everything is permitted”, if that so happens to float your boat, but how many of them would willingly subject themselves to being treated horrifically by another human being? The answer is probably close to none of them! This is why I believe that there has to be at least one ethic or principal that can be considered absolute. Relativism would negate the Golden Rule because sensitivity (empathy) to others is not a concern, thus unmasking hypocrisy, as all want to be treated with dignity and respect, even those that believe the selfish notion of “anything goes”.

Carrying the Cross…

Some thoughts on discipleship after reading The Gospel of Mark; which by the way the Church just celebrated his feast day a few days ago…

I’m most inspired by the discussion Jesus lays out for us on the condition of discipleship found in the Gospel of Mark. To take up one’s cross and follow Christ is the very essence of what it means to be His disciple. I have to die to myself and to the world around me if my vocation to the religious life is to be authentically lived. Living a vowed life through chastity, poverty, and obedience unites me more closely to Jesus Christ, and these vows should never be looked upon as crosses, for they are acts of supreme love towards our risen Lord. However, it’s not always easy pursuing these vows on a daily basis, and maybe it’s through this uneasiness that Christ’s cross is made manifest in my life. Only through hopeful perseverance of this daily cross will I gain a greater understanding on what it means to be a servant of God. This is perhaps the greatest challenge and struggle (cross) that I’ll ever have to face, but one that’s ultimately necessary to inherit the kingdom of God and make His kingdom known to all who are in need of a witness to the saving power of the Gospel message.

The Psalms and Me…

A small reflection by yours truly on the sacredness and the blessed gift of the Psalms…

I think of the Psalms as medicine for the soul, a balm or a salve that soothes an aching heart, a heart that’s feeling wounded and alone, either by my doing when sin rears its ugly head, or the times life throws me a curve ball that I was not expecting. Psalms are like poetic blueprints that I can go to time and time again whenever a particular crisis or cause for joy comes my way, and I’m in dire need of some words that will communicate my deepest thoughts to a God who loves me and wants to be in a relationship with his created likeness. As a Norbertine, I pray the Psalms each and every day, not alone, but together with my fellow confreres in the community; uniting us all with one heart and mind on the way to God. Whether it’s early in the morning, noon, late afternoon, or at night, I pray the Psalms through the singing of the Divine Office, thanking God for his steadfastness towards whatever my disposition happens to be, praising him for another beautiful day to get to know Him more intimately.

Invisible Light?

What better way to welcome in the beginning of Daylight Savings Time than to have a Lectio Divina session with one’s confreres, a session spent meditating on John’s Gospel 3:14-21. The word “Light” is used five times by the Gospel writer to show that God wants us to not live and dwell in darkness, but to thrive in the light and truth of Christ. Previously, I believed that my individual actions (works) could only reveal that light to others, but now I understand and see things in a whole new light (pun intended). Light can be revealed not only through the tangible Christ-like actions of feeding the poor, consoling those who grieve, and loving those who may be difficult to love, but also through the everyday “unseen” commitments made to Christ Jesus. For me, this is made manifest in my discernment as a Novice of this cannonry at Daylesford. The very fact that I’m working on dying to self and contemplating what the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience look like in the years ahead, all reveal light in a most special way. The point and message of this blog post is to communicate to you that a forecast for cloudy skies does not mean that the Sun is refusing to shine…no, it may just mean that we could be looking at things from a lower altitude and not from the height(s) God sees us from.

12