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OLOTA Spiritual Assistant's Monthly Messages
Br. Gerry Clyne ofm

 

 

MAY 2018

Prayer or spirituality is nothing more than developing a relationship with God. So, the same rules of relationship apply to prayer. For instance, to develop a relationship with anyone, you have to “make & take” time with that person. So it is with God in prayer. Likewise, to get to know someone, you have to dialogue with the person. An important form of dialogical prayer is “Lectio Divina”. Through the centuries it has had many names: Meditation, Meditative Prayer, Mental Prayer, Lectio

The Latin name “Lectio Divina” means divine reading. This could be a misnomer. It is not simply reading; it is Divine reading. What makes lectio different from ordinary reading is, WHAT we read WHY we read it and HOW we read it. In other words, Lectio becomes prayer when we read the right material, when we read for the right purpose; and when we read in the right way. Let us take a brief look at each of these aspects of Lectio Divina.

WHAT is Lectio Divina? St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ". And St. Isidore said, “When we pray, we talk to God; when we read (Scripture), God talks to us.” Lectio, then, is praying, using the Bible as the avenue for dialogue with God. The Bible is WHAT we read in Lectio Divina. As Christians and Catholics, we believe it is a special source of God’s revelation. God speaks to us through many avenues, but most importantly, through Scripture.

But Lectio is not Bible study. Studying the Bible is good and important. Catholics need to know Scripture better. Lectio, however, is "praying” Scripture. Bible study can be more objective. We tend stand "outside" the subject and observe it objectively. The emphasis is on leaning about something. In Lectio, we engage the Bible personally and subjectively.

In Lectio, it is good to have a systematic approach to the Bible. There are many such reading plans available. Often, however, their goal is to read through the Bible in one year. The amount of Scripture assigned for one day is too much for Lectio. There may be two to three readings assigned. Choose only one for Lectio. The other readings just read for further edification. I recommend the daily readings for the Mass – especially the Gospel. And use a modern translation of the Bible. Your old Douay-Rheims Bible might be quaint, but modern translations are more accurate and more understandable.

WHY do we engage in lectio? In Lectio, we are read for the purpose of prayer. We don't read primarily to gain knowledge as in Bible study, although we may gain knowledge in Lectio. Nor do we read primarily for pleasure as in a novel, although Lectio may also be pleasurable. In Lectio we read to develop our loving relationship with our all-loving God. This is the WHY of Lectio then, and it indicates HOW we read.

HOW do we engage in Lectio? The process of Lectio has been described in many ways, but a handy memory devise for the process is the “5 Rs”: Ready, Read, Reflect, Respond, Rest.
1st Step: “Ready” = Prepare yourself. Quieting your spirit. You may use preparatory prayers or a centering chant.
2nd Step: “Read” = Reading the daily Gospel. Read a short passage slowly, two or three times.
3rd Step: “Reflect” = Meditate, reflect while you read. “Pause & Ponder”. Be alert to words or phrases that stand out in your consciousness / awareness. Develop this spiritual sensitivity. Ask: “Why does this come to my notice?”, “What is it saying to me?” Speak to God conversationally, in your own language. Allow for periods of silence adoration.
4th Step: “Respond” = Resolution – Draw one lesson to apply to your life for the day.
= Resolve – Recommit, rededicate yourself to God especially as it might apply to the lesson.
5th Step “Rest”: = Rest in the Lord. The Prayer of Presence, of Being. Silent Contemplation.

“Form follows function”. After giving you this handy little structure, let me give you this precaution. All the spiritual masters through the centuries state that what is most important in Lectio is that a person communes with God. The actual process or “form” of prayer is secondary. So, if one enters into deep silent communion with God (Contemplative Prayer) before completing the process or even the reading, she/he should let the process go. The “Form” is only to accommodate the purpose or “function” – to develop your relationship with God.

May the lord bless you as you pray God’s written Word! Br. Gerry

APRIL 2018

The date of Easter coincides with the first day of spring. This means that Easter is connected to the beginning of the lengthening of days, the coming of more light after a long dark, cold winter. And what a winter it has been! Placing Easter at this time symbolically connects Jesus with light. With light so central at Easter season I thought it would be a good time to look at the symbol of light.

Space does not permit me to say even a little on the topic. It is such a primal symbol and the Old Testament is full of it - from the first day of creation, the Exodus, the Temple worship, and in the Psalms. With the symbol of light being so strong, it is not surprising that it is also present with reference to the Messiah. The symbol of light is associated with Jesus in two ways: 1. Jesus is described as light and, 2. he uses the symbol of light in his teaching. Unfortunately, we have only space to look at the first.

In the prologue of the Gospel of John, Jesus is introduced as the pre-existing light of God: He is “the light of all people” (Jn.1:4) John says of this light: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn.1:5) Furthermore, the symbol of light is present at Jesus’ birth. Zechariah prophesied that Jesus’ forerunner John the Baptist, would “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Lk.1:79) Simeon also prophesied that the infant Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” (Lk.2:32) Likewise, in Matthew’s Gospel, it is the light of a star that guides the Wise Men to the baby Jesus. The Wise Men represented the non-Jewish people. This was prophesied earlier by Isaiah: “It is too little a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob … ; I will give you as a light to the nations…”.(Is.49:6).

Jesus, himself, states “I am the light of the world; the one who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn.8:12) and again “We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Jn.9:1-5)

The Transfiguration is another reference to Jesus connected with light. When He talked with Moses, “His face shone like the sun and His garments became as white as light.” (Mt.7:2) This story is symbolically connected to the giving of the O.T. Law where Moses’ face that shone: “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, (he) did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” (Ex.34:35) Using a like image of Moses and his shining face, the story of the Transfiguration represents Jesus as the new Law, the new Law giver & the new Moses. The shining face is a symbol of divinity & holiness. God Himself is described as such: “Let the Light of Your face shine on us O Lord”( Ps.4:6) (Ps.44:3) For Moses, his shining face represents his encounter with the Divine; for Jesus’ it represents His Divinity.

At Jesus’ crucifixion, we see the symbol of light or the lack of it. “Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth. (Mt.27:45). The light of dawn and day are connected with Jesus’ resurrection. It was at the “dawn” when Mary Magdalen came to the tomb. She encountered an angel who’s “appearance was like lightening” and who’s clothing - like that of Jesus‘ at His transfiguration - was “dazzling” (Lk.24:4) “white as snow” (Mt. 28:1-3). Jesus as the dawning light was predicted before His birth when Zechariah called Him “the Dawn from on Hight” who shall “break upon us, to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.”
Lastly, Jesus’ Second Coming is also depicted with light: “Wait until the Lord comes who will bring to light things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of the heart” (1 Cor.4:5).

Jesus, who is the “Light of the World”, also called us to be the light of the world (Mt.5:14-16). He said that “The one who follows me …. will have the light of life.” (Jn.8:12) It is our mission, then to “(B)e blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Phil.2:15) And the way we persevere in this is to keep our spiritual eyes always focused on Jesus “… as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Pt. 1:19)

Happy Easter Season!
Br. Gerry

MARCH 2018

We are half way through! My students in the Spiritual Assistants on-line course, just completed chapter six – which seemed particularly inspiring. It was so inspiring that one student stated that all Secular Franciscans should read it. Hmmm… that gives me an idea on what to write about this month. Thanks Padraig!

Chapter 6 is on “Secular Spirituality”. The word “secular” has sometimes gotten “bad press”. Sometimes it is used in opposition to the word “sacred”. We talk about “the sacred and the profane” – or secular. Furthermore, in some genres of Christianity, the word “secular” is used as synonymous with the word “worldly” or hedonistic. In other words, to be secular is to selfishly seek pleasure – especially sensual, physical pleasure – as the main orientation and drive in life and at the exclusion of God.

This, however, is NOT the way the Church uses the word in speaking about people. “Secular” is a designation used to distinguish anyone who is not a Religious. Very briefly, a Religious is anyone who lives under the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience and lives in intentional community for the purpose of ministry and prayer. In the Franciscan family this includes men and women who belong to the three branches of the OFM (First Order), the cloistered Poor Clare Nuns (Second Order) and the Third Order Regular (those belonging to active Religious Congregations which use the TOR Rule).

But this is to describe what seculars are by what they are not. What, then, is a secular stated positively? A secular is a person, married or single, who lives wholly inserted or imbedded in society. As Catholic, Franciscan Christians, Seculars are called to be IN the world, but not OF it. This is to say, they live in the midst of society, but do not participate in its hedonistic, consumeristic values. By living this way, they are a witness of Christ with their lives.

Building on this description of what a secular is, we can state that Secular Franciscans, are people who follow a Franciscan spirituality while remaining “in the world” - in “ordinary life” as the chapter states. Chapter six emphasized that being a secular is a VOCATION. It is a calling from God. It comes with a vision and a mission – to bring the Kingdom of God to the world in the midst of it. It has its challenges. Jesus said “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…” (Mt. 10:16) But, it is a call to evangelize from within society.

It is a legitimate vocation – as legitimate as that of a religious vocation. Seculars are NOT second or third-class Christians or Franciscans. A Religious vocation is not a “higher” calling. Secular Franciscans used to be called the “Third Order”. But, the “Third” here is a designation of chronology, not of degree of importance or legitimacy. Seculars need to own their vocation whole-heartedly. They need to respect it and be proud of it.

Chapter six also emphasized the place of the Secular Franciscan Order in the greater Franciscan family. Truly the Franciscan family has to be envisioned a whole. It is a unity made up of EQUAL, INTERDEPENDANT parts. I already mentioned the religious Orders. Without the Seculars, however, the family is not complete. I know this on a very real, personal, experiential level. You Secular Franciscans have been an important part of my Franciscan journey.

I’ll end this article with mentioning two provocative points that Chapter six makes to draws out the importance of the secular vocations. The first is that JESUS Himself lived his life as a secular – especially the 30 years before his public ministry. Jesus was not a religious, or a priest. Before he became an itinerant preacher, he lived the ordinary life of a trades person in Nazareth. Likewise, the chapter points out that 99.88% of Catholics are seculars. This stat could even be higher now. It is nonsense, then, to think that only .12% of the Church has a real vocation! Secular Franciscans, understand, love and embrace your beautiful vocation! Br. Gerry Clyne OFM

January 2018

The year of 2018 is upon us, and it is the time that people make “new year resolutions”. As we all know, most good-intentioned resolutions often do not last very long. In fact, even by now, we may have already broken some of ours! This has caused some people, in a spirit of despairing resignation, to stop making resolutions altogether. But, having no goals to work for can lead to personal stagnation.

There is, of course, some good advice to help make resolutions more productive:

1. Only make a few resolutions. Making too many can be overwhelming and lead to none being achieved. Choose only one or two – maybe three.

2. Make them obtainable, realistic and incremental. Don’t say, for instance, “I’m going to reduce global warming.” Instead, you may say: “I’m going to reduce my contribution to greenhouse gases by walking to work one day per week for two months. After that I will increase that to two days per week for two months” … etc. Start off small and start off “slow and easy”. If you take on too much all at once you may get discouraged and give up.

3. Be specific. Don’t say “I’m going to be more patient”. Instead perhaps it might be: “With God’s help, I’m going to be more patient with my husband when we go grocery shopping.”

There are different areas of life that you may want to consider to round out your life: your physical health, your spiritual/prayer life (spiritual health), your church life, your social life, your involvement with social justice (JPIC, Justice, Peace & the Integrity of Creation) and your Franciscan life. Most of us probably need improvement in all areas. But, again, choose one or two (3?) that you think might need the most work. Becoming a more balanced person in these few areas will help improve all the other areas of your life.

You may know right away what areas of your life you need to most work on. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has been convicting you for some time about something. Then, again, you may need to take a little time to prayerfully reflect on your choice of resolutions. Take it to prayer.

When you make your choices, prayer about the ways you will realistically implement them. In fact, make your resolutions part of your daily prayer life. In this way, you may stand a better chance of not forgetting about them. And you will feel more “accountable” to God for them. Make your resolutions part of your daily “check in” with yourself and with God. I find charting my progress helps. I record my progress or regression. Then I can reflect on why I am growing or not growing and what I still need to “fine tune” to achieve growth.

Also try to hold the “greater goal” in sight. This is to say; how might these resolutions be for God’s glory and the betterment of others? St. Paul clearly says that in everything we do we should do it for God: “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord….”(Col. 3:23), “(W)hatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), “(W)hatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:17). Likewise, get a perspective of how your “personal improvement goals” benefits others. Jesus links serving others and serving God: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these… you did it to me…’ (Mt.25:40), “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me…” (Lk. 9:48). A perspective like this keeps us from becoming too self-centred and encourages us to see ourselves as part of a bigger whole.

Lastly, all this needs to be done in a spirit of discipline, but also in understanding and forgiveness. We need to practice “tough love” on ourselves, being tough, yet also loving. And love always forgives. So, be disciplined but gentle at the same time. Successful in fulfilling our resolutions should never be a condition for whether we love ourselves or not. God loves us unconditionally and so, we are to love ourselves unconditionally because we are to love as God loves: “I give you a new commandment, that you love…. Just as I have loved you…”. (Jn. 13:34) Even the Old Testament Law presumes as healthy self-love: Lev. 19:18, 34. God never puts a condition on His love for us. There is NOTHING, in fact, that we can do or not do that can stop God from loving us. We may reject His love, and therefore deprive ourselves of the benefits of God’s love, but He will never stop loving us. Let us, therefore, invite God into our resolutions so that we may choose them wisely and receive His grace to carry them out.                      Happy New Year, everyone!    Br. Gerry

To access/download pdf copies of Br. Gerry's Monthly Messages for 2015, 2016, & 2017, click on the blue text below.

2017 Monthly Messages

2016 Monthly Messages

2015 Monthly Messages