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Contemplation: Vulnerability

Dear reader, I borrowed vulnerability from Brené Brown. During my recent contemplation her vulnerability message has become important for my spiritual life. I urge everybody to understand vulnerability better.

Vulnerability is not a weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.

– Brené Brown, Rising Strong, p. 4

The opposite of vulnerability would be a protective shield that goes up if we are concerned we might get hurt. When I think about this shield I am reminded of Star Trek and the force-field that surrounds the vessel when there is a “Red Alert.”

I am also reminded of the words in the Deutero-Pauline epistle Ephesians:

Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.
– Ephesians 6:14-16

There you have it; take your shield of faith to quench all the flaming darts. I would be remiss if I didn’t explain that I have been on both sides of this shield. To my shame I have  used this shield to tell others just how wrong they were, and I have struggled to be heard when others used this shield to tell me just how wrong I was. This utter lack of vulnerability impedes our salvation.

If you understand this passage in Ephesians as just defending one’s faith, you are not alone. We have seen the One Body of Christ fiercely divided, so much so that groups will do things to hurt us all if it helps advance their own religious agenda. I am sure this is nothing new but in my lifetime this “shield of faith” is a growing concern to living side-by-side with our neighbors. When does defending our faith become more important than vulnerability?

In my world of traditional Catholic experience there are those who are telling us that we don’t have to tolerate other faiths or even the faith expressed by the current Vatican. We are told that our traditionalist Catholic faith must win and all others must lose.

Traditionalist Catholics, with this mindset, are opposed to even tolerating diversity. Their’s is the primary definition of the Catholic Church. Anyone who is critical of their beliefs is labeled an enemy of Catholicism (heretic).

Many Catholics are drawn to this mindset because it is attractive. It is seen as correcting past wrongs and taking Catholicism back for Catholics. However, only under the narrow definition of “Catholics” as rich, cisgender, and male dominant.

These are examples when defending faith is more important than vulnerability.

Now, I know what you are thinking. You are saying to me that I am a hypocrite. You are saying that I am not on the ultimate path because I have chosen.  You will say that I have labeled a group within the One Body of Christ and consider them (Catholic traditionalists) as “other.” You are saying that this is not vulnerability, but my own “shield of faith.”

The Holy Spirit has helped me to recognize my weaknesses. I am not perfect. This is a daily struggle and through my contemplative prayer I have recognized many of the criticisms that may be leveled against me. Feel free to add to the list. This blog allows comments.

Here is the vulnerability; I have been hurt by traditionalist Catholics. I desperately desire to find fault, lash out and inflict payback on the people who hurt me. I am human, after all.

[emotions] …prick us, they cause discomfort or even pain. After a while, the mere anticipation of these feelings can trigger a sense of intolerable vulnerability: We know it is coming. For many of us, the first response is not to lean in to the discomfort and feel our way through, but to make it go away.

-Brené Brown, Rising Strong, p. 63

I will leave you with this; my first response is not to lean in to the discomfort. I require the Holy Spirit to help me to lean in. I continue to engage and love my traditionalist Catholic neighbor, even though I know discomfort is coming. This is vulnerability.

May the Holy Spirit give you the strength to remove your “shield of faith” and replace it with the vulnerability of faith.


Contemplative Prayer Handbook Creed

The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) published a creed for rebuilding a foundation for contemplation. I included the text of the creed below.

The CAC recommends that we read this creed in the discipline of lectio divina.

“With the first reading, listen with your heart’s ear for a phrase or word that stands out for you.”

“During the second reading, reflect on what touches you, perhaps speaking that response aloud or writing in a journal.”

“After reading the passage a third time, respond with a prayer or expression of what you have experienced and what it calls you to.”

“Finally, rest in silence after a fourth reading.”

We believe in one Triune God. “There is one Body, one Spirit, one and the same hope . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God who is Father of all, over all, through all, and within all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

We believe that we are, first of all, a people, God’s movement in history.

We believe that our individual lives and our personal growth are for the sake of the generations to come after and built on the faith and the bones of those who have gone ahead of us.

We believe that we must build on the positive, on what we love. Creative and life energies come from belief and from commitment. Critics must first be believers who have learned how to say an ultimate yes.

We agree to bear the burden and the grace of our past. We agree to honor what is, including even the broken things of life: ourselves, church, state, and all institutions. Their dark side is a necessary teacher.

We are committed to building a world of meaning and hope. We recognize the clear need for prophetic deconstruction of all idolatries that make the worship of God impossible. True rebuilding must follow this temporary but necessary un-building.

We believe in a personal universe where the divine image shines through all created things. It is therefore an “enchanted universe” where we can always live in reverence and even adoration before the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Along with St. Paul in Colossians (1:15-20), as Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is the clearest image of the unseen God. In him all things cohere, all opposites are overcome. He is the head of the living body, the One in whom all things are reconciled and overcome.

Dear reader, when I followed the lectio divina discipline and contemplated this creed I could not help feeling that perhaps some dual thinking has crept in. Allow me to explain;

“Critics must first be believers who have learned how to say the ultimate yes.”

“Critics” and “Believers” are labels used to separate groups within the living body. This seems rather like dual thinking to me and through my contemplation and prayer I have come to the conclusion that this sentence should be removed. The creed is wonderful and useful for contemplative prayer with this modification.

God bless,

Contemplative Prayer Handbook Ten Bridesmaids

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids


25 ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12 But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.


This parable is a contemplative prayer primer. If you have ever wondered about the purpose and benefits of contemplative prayer this parable opens the door.

I am guessing that we just read this parable of the ten bridesmaids. It was printed here to allow us to read it together. Did it leave us with the impression that we have a lot more work to do to grow in our spiritual relationship with God? “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”

Read the parable once again. Sense the urgency of being ready and to know God.  What does it mean to be ready? What does it mean, to know God? Readiness and knowing God are different for every person. We must ask ourselves, honestly, did we see ourselves as one of the five foolish bridesmaids?

Contemplative prayer is an introspective discipline that we can each learn to guide our preparation and to move each of us closer to knowing God. Allow me to guide us through the parable, and offer insights.


I would like to explain just a little about reading parables. Years ago, maybe 1986, I saw novelist and storyteller Megan McKenna speak about parables. Megan made it very clear that if we read a parable and are feeling good afterward we did not understand the meaning intended by the Gospel writers.

There are many ways to see ourselves in a parable, which is what makes those stories rich in learning.

To help us better understand the concepts that run through the parable, let us establish a definition of heaven, of knowing, and light.

Some folks desire to have an authoritative voice to reference in matters of faith, such as heaven. Included is a quote and link from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.”

“Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.”

In Hebrew and Greek the word for knowing includes understanding from experience, an intimate kind of knowledge involving the whole person, not just the mind. Parents warn their children that fire burns, but until a person experiences being burned by fire the knowledge is incomplete. Knowing = experiencing.

In Hebrew and Greek the word for light can be a reference to both natural light and spiritual light. This is very similar to English. It is understood that spiritual light expresses a wisdom or knowledge of God.


Matthew begins the parable with the statement; “the kingdom of heaven will be like this.” Some would say that this was intended by the evangelist as an eschatological theme for judgment day. Regardless, this is a wedding banquet that we do not want to miss.

In Matthew’s retelling of this parable there is no actual banquet with actual bridesmaids referenced here. These events and characters are all allegorical. We are clearly intended to identify as a bridesmaid in this parable. God is the bridegroom.

All ten bridesmaids took lamps to dispel the darkness (light from the lamp represents wisdom / knowledge of God).

All ten bridesmaids fell asleep. This can be interpreted many ways. Lulled to sleep is an idiom that is a pertinent in this situation. We are filled with a false sense of security and we feel secure in our situation when we should not.

When the time came for the bridegroom to arrive all ten bridesmaids awoke and trimmed their lamps. Only five of the bridesmaids, however, were truly known by the bridegroom. Only those five had the intimate experience and knowledge of God. Only those five were allowed into the banquet.

The remaining five bridesmaids were told “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” These five bridesmaids desired to attend the banquet. All five asked to be allowed into the wedding banquet, but lacked the intimate kind of knowledge expected from the bridegroom.

We might say to ourselves, why did the five bridesmaids with the flasks of oil not spare some for the others? Each person must experience God for themselves. Intimate knowledge cannot be purchased and it cannot be given, it must be experienced by the person.

If we seek to enjoy the beautiful wedding banquet, that is heaven, we need to truly know God. We need to experience God, in the same way we experience the burn from fire. We need to know God so deeply that if we fall asleep we will have that flask of oil to keep our lamp lit when needed.

Can we say that we know God to that deep level? This is where contemplative prayer can help.


Contemplative prayer traces its roots back to early Christian monasticism and the Desert Fathers. The writings of mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross pushed contemplative prayer along.

It is true that contemplative prayer was perceived as an extraordinary grace reserved to only a few for many years, but St. Gregory the Great explained that “contemplation expands and enlightens the soul with a love that is itself knowledge, for as man draws closer to God in loving union, he grows in the knowledge to reform his life.”

Each individual can learn the discipline of contemplation. This method of prayer seeks to cultivate the capacity to listen to God at ever deeper levels of inward attention. This brings us to a state of resting in the presence of God.

Contemplative prayer, remaining silently and openly in God’s presence, “rewires” our brains to think non-dually with compassion, kindness, and a lack of attachment to the ego’s preferences.

In contemplative prayer we move beyond language to experience God as Mystery. We let go of our need to judge, defend, or evaluate, plugging into the mind of Christ which welcomes paradox and knows its true identity in God.

During contemplation we come to know that there is no separation between sacred and secular. All is one with Divine Reality.

We must be willing to let go and die to our small selves, our false selves, in order to enter this new sacred space. This is our first step toward gaining that experiential knowledge of God.


Lectio Divina


St. Francis de Sales

Salesians Rejoice.

Charlotte was Both

First, if you are not familiar with this saint whose memorial is Saturday the 24th…fix that! 

Bishop, evangelist, teacher, writer, spiritual director and friend.

Links to his works – start with the most familiar, Introduction to the Devout Life, and go on from there.  Don’t forget his correspondence with St. Jane de Chantal, either. 

From Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s General Audience presentation on Francis de Sales, back in 2011: 

In his harmonious youth, reflection on the thought of St Augustine and of St Thomas Aquinas led to a deep crisis. This prompted him to question his own eternal salvation and the predestination of God concerning himself; he suffered as a true spiritual drama the principal theological issues of his time. He prayed intensely but was so fiercely tormented by doubt that for a few weeks he could "amy welborn"barely eat or sleep.

At the climax of his trial, he went to…

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Homily: Second Sunday of Advent [B]

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring.
Isaiah 44:3

And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
Ezekiel 36: 27

Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerub′babel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
Zechariah 4:6

The readings for the Second Sunday of Advent (Mark 1:1-8) can be found here.

The Gospel verses are just a short snippet of the beginning of Mark, commonly referred to as the prologue. After this Sunday Gospel reading we meet Jesus immediately in the next verse and He is baptized, spends 40 days in the wilderness being tempted, and begins His public ministry.

The most important point of the prologue comes when John the Baptist says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Our Sunday Gospel reading only makes sense if we understand those words of John the Baptist.

Now, we don’t have to be scripture scholars to see that Mark begins the Gospel with a reading from the Old Testament. The author of Mark specifically identified Isaiah, the prophet, as the source of the OT writing, but the scripture scholar will tell you that not all the words are written in Isaiah.

Verse 2 actually come from Exodus 23:20 or Malachi 3:1, or a combination of both. Mark’s community clearly recognized these words as God’s promise to send a messenger to show Israel the way to the promised land. Now is the time for a new messenger to show us the way.

The actual words of Isaiah (40:3) come in verse 3 where a voice cries out to prepare a pathway for God. Some will say that John the Baptist was clearly that voice and that he prepared the pathway through baptism. The reality is that John the Baptist is the voice who cries out but the repentant people receiving baptism are the ones who prepare the pathway.

We are being asked today to repent, believe in the Gospel, and thus prepare the way for God.

Baptism was a ritual John the Baptist performed to ceremonialize God’s forgiveness of the person who changed their ways. To be baptized meant that you were willing to repent and believe in the good news. This willingness to repent and accept God’s forgiveness is how we begin to prepare that pathway for God.

We all know what it means to prepare a meal, or prepare a report. To prepare means to do something. We need to be actively doing something in order to prepare a pathway. The spark that ignites the activity is the belief that we can become different. Also, that God forgives our past behavior and lack of good judgement.

The Spirit is God himself, a merciful power establishing his reign over man’s heart, over the whole of man, inwardly present to man and apparent in his workings to man’s human spirit.
Hans Kung : The Church, p.163

The author of Mark was clear that John the Baptist used water, but we could expect to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Water is considered the source of life, and water has come to symbolize life. Baptism symbolizes regeneration and renewal, or a new life.

The Holy Spirit is God, who also is considered the source of life. God can regenerate and renew us to new life through the Spirit. The Spirit can show us the way prepare the pathway.

It is Advent and the leaders of the Church have asked us to prepare a pathway for God. If there is one thing you take away from this homily it should be that we need to change our ways as part of this preparation. Repent and believe in the Gospel.

I pray that you hear that voice of the Spirit deep within you calling you to take action. I also pray that you are willing to accept the forgiveness of God this Advent.

God bless,

Pope Francis and the unity of the faith

A message of mature faith and love. I liked the posting. I hope you will also.

In My Father's House

I’m not a Roman Catholic, nor do I think Pope Francis is the antichrist (or Obama, or whoever your latest villain is). Let me start there.

This post continues the “unity of the faith” theme of my last post.

Previously, I had mentioned the 1999 agreement between Roman Catholics and Lutherans to repair the centuries-old rift

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reflection for centenary thomas merton compilation

This is a must read, so please read it.