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Tuesday 20 November 2012

To the young and not so young--on debt

If you are in debt, get out of debt. If you are not in debt, do not go into debt. The American government will demand payments for college and university debts. And, those who are debt-ridden will find themselves in greater danger of any independence, politically, in the future.

Some people, even Catholics, have told me that it does not matter if one borrows more money on the edge of a national fiscal melt-down. It does. Just as for years priests have not told youth that getting drunk is a mortal sin, so getting bogged down unnecessarily in debt, in order to live a certain lifestyle, is wrong.

I am not writing about necessities, such as medical expenses, but other things not really needed.

I am concerned about the soul of Catholics burdened by debt. Pray and act responsibly. I am convinced that exorbitant university debts must be avoided. To be in slavery to a government or institution connected to the government is dangerous.

Stop using a credit card. Go to local, community colleges if at all possible. Wait and work first even if the work is menial, as that is honourable as well. I am afraid that people think there will be no consequences for their debts in a complete economic rout. We have to face a Just Judge. Good stewardship is not merely being green or tithing. It is the courage to live a lower lifestyle than one may want. It involves the courage to be poor and seem poor.

Many of decisions on money will be made this week as it is the busiest shopping weekend for Christmas in the States. Pray and talk to your family about expenses. Be honest. Make things. Do something together which is not over-the-top. For your soul and for the greater good, do not go into debt this Christmas.

Where is the media outrage?

On the Contemplative Life

One reason I went into the monastery for two months is that I do have a contemplative vocation. I have known this for years. God has allowed me to have graces for hours of prayer and meditation, which moves into contemplation. I have also, in the past, been blessed with excellent spiritual directors. Not recently.

Nuns in the Benedictine monastery where I was do not receive spiritual direction at all. Now, this may seem strange, and it was hard for me in discernment, but the Rule of Benedict provides the format for discernment: that is, if one can follow the Rule, one is on the right track as it were. The nuns only have Confession once every two weeks, which I think is sad. There is a priest shortage. I went to the Cathedral once a week and the priests were excellent.

However, being trained in Ignatian spirituality and having done Ignatian retreats three times in the past, including the thirty day, I decided to use the tried and true method of the eight day shortened retreat for discernment. The reason I did this was that I wanted to know for sure my path, not merely from the physical perspective, but from the spiritual. I got my answer.

One must trust in the Indwelling the the Holy Spirit, which we are all given at baptism. Lay people are not taught to get in touch with God Who dwells within and, horribly, the new age people have taken some of the language of the saints and twisted it for their own ends.

SS. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross understood and practiced contemplative prayer. It is a grace, and I am convinced, for all Catholics. One must start with meditation, which is using the events in the Life of Christ in the Bible and entering into these events, much like meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary.  Good luck finding an orthodox, trained and holy spiritual director. Since I have been in Europe, I have found only one, and he is too busy to take on another person.

God will bless all of your efforts, and that is one of the consoling ideas I came away with in the past few days-God can do in the lay person what He does in the religious. The religious is focussed on perfection and holiness. The entire set-up of monastic life is geared towards that goal. We have many distractions. But, it is possible in God, as He calls us all to be perfect. The difference is the call in which this holiness is to be perfected. The nuns and monks have a ready-made situation and the fantastic Rule of St. Benedict, which gives a short-cut to sanctity.

By the way, one of the things which concerns me is that the monasteries, for the most part, and the one I was in particularly, are not self-sufficient. This is dangerous. That the nuns need to shop, rely on outside amenities, such as bulk laundry, etc. is not good.  One hopes for more vocations to create self-sufficient communities again. If this does not happen, the orders are vulnerable to the hard times to come. And, I am afraid there will not be many who care to help....In small communities where the majority of sisters are old, these nuns are very vulnerable, indeed.

May I also add, and this is not a criticism as much as a lament, that I strongly feel that the lack of the TLM and the Gregorian Chant replaced by modern versions is a loss of spirituality for some Benedictine monasteries. There is a sublimity in the EF and the chant, as well as the older translations, which has been set aside for less exact and less aesthetically pleasing modes of singing. There is more to this than mere "taste". This comment is based on my personal experience of growing in the TLM, as well as others, including parents, who have shared with me that their faith and the faith of their children changed once they went regularly to the TLM. We could discuss the difference of spirituality as the focus from people back to God. It is a sad fact that so many English and other communities have their own translations and own melodies. I wish the Pope would ask the orders to embrace the Latin Mass again, and the Gregorian chant.

On Holy Indifference

Today's Gospel in the EF reminds us that those who sell all and follow Christ merit the Kingdom of God. However, it is not merely the choosing of the simple life, or the getting rid of distractions which allows for holiness to grow in the mind and heart and soul.

Getting rid of things, or "downsizing"is the first step. The second step is not to care or to give up preferences. For example, in the last two months,  I at what was given to me for breakfast, dinner and supper. Whether I liked the food or not was immaterial. When I dressed, I dressed simply, for cleaning or for Church. When I washed, it could be in cold water or water out of a kettle depending on the situation the superior decided for me. The room was not my room, but anyone's room and so on.

What this type of detachment brings is the awareness that I still wanted things or food or drink. Not having fresh veggies was not a problem for me, but not having fresh sheets after one week was. I was not detached.

Not having disinfectants or cleaning materials, as the nuns only use a cream cleaner and water, and only water on the floors, for example, caused my American hyper-cleanliness sensibilities to rebel, especially in the guest house. I bought disinfectants.

This is not detachment, nor is thinking of real coffee or even a glass of wine now and then. Desiring the things of the world is not indifference. Indifference for most of us must be pounded into the soul by days, weeks, months of habit. And, of course, with grace.

To be attached to anything distracts one from the love of God. I like to think of this in a physical way. If my heart is full of desires for people or things or places, then there is less room for God. And, as my heart is small to begin with, this creates a need for prayer.

For one year I have been praying for God to take my puny, little heart and give me His. This has been a process. Ask and you shall receive, but do not anticipate the means.

Comment rule

Sadly, I have to write that comments with obscenities will not be posted. No one in my family speaks in my parents' house with such and when I had a house, the same. When I was teaching college, students were not allowed disrepectful speech in the classroom. This should be an obvious rule but apparently not.