Archive for the ‘christian prayer’ Category

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

One of the greatest influences in my spiritual life is an audiotaped lecture called “A Spirituality of Waiting” by the late Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen. Over the years I have returned to this wonderful lesson during Advent, always finding its message fresh and meaningful. I have come to realize that having “a waiting heart,” as Fr. Nouwen suggests, not only fits well with the Advent theme of waiting; it also describes a very basic, central stance of the spiritual life.

Fr. Nouwen begins by stating the obvious, that waiting is “something that goes against our grain.” Few people look forward to a situation in which they know they will have to wait. Being told that we have to wait seems to force us into passivity. Our society looks at waiting as a “kind of desert between where we are and where we want to be, and we don’t like that place.  We want to get going.”

However, the waiting attitude that Sacred Scripture invites us to embrace is not passive but rather “active waiting — waiting on God’s promise to be fulfilled,” which is much different from how we usually think of waiting. The people we meet in the first pages of St. Luke’s gospel are all waiting: Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary. All of them hear, in one way or another, the words, “do not be afraid, I have something good to tell you.” It is then that they are able to wait for something new to happen. The psalms are full of this attitude of waiting: “My soul is waiting on the Lord … more than the watchman for daybreak.” This message reverberates throughout the Hebrew and New Testament Scriptures.

During Advent, the community of the faithful wait, as did the waiting Israel, anticipating the coming of Christ into our hearts bringing peace, healing, and wholeness. We will not be disappointed. Some ways we can help nurture the attitude of waiting upon the Lord include participation in special Advent liturgies; songs and opportunities for community prayer; silent reflection; prayerful reading of scripture; simply having conversations with God; faith sharing opportunities; and the practice of spiritual reading. No matter what we do, we should remember these words from Anthony DeMello’s  book, “One-Minute Wisdom,” about how the light of Christ comes to us:

Novice:  “Is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?”  

Abbot:  “As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”

Novice:  “Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?”

Abbot:  “To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.”

As stewards reflecting Christ, let us wait, watch, and wonder, as the light of Christ born anew begins to rise in our hearts during the holy season of Advent.

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By Charles W. Sidotiauthor of these two inspirational books!

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NEW BOOK!!  Click to view and / or learn more about “SIMPLE CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY” on the publisher’s website: http://amordeus.com/giftShopProductDetails.aspx?itemID=520

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“Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” – on Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X

 

 

BE MINDFUL OF HOW YOU TREAT THOSE FROM WHOM YOU HAVE NOTHING TO GAIN

By Charles W. Sidoti

The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) is so powerful because it sums up endless volumes of spiritual writing, laws, the teaching of the prophets, and religious debate into two simple sentences. In Mathew’s Gospel, when asked which commandments are the greatest, Jesus uses the following words echoing the ancient books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your entire mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).

Author and poet Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) once said, “The true measure of a man or woman is how he or she treats someone who can do them absolutely no good.” LikeThe Golden Rule, Johnson’s statement cuts to the chase. When I read it, my heart sinks a little. It sinks because the standard that Johnson’s words set are quite high and because I know myself. I know that my behavior can be influenced by the presence of someone whose favorable impression I think will benefit me. Perhaps you can relate. We tend to perk up a bit or “put our best foot forward” when we are with our boss, our professor, or some other person that we consider to have some kind of power over us. We want to impress them. To a degree this behavior is perfectly natural, and we should not be too hard on ourselves about it. The wisdom of Johnson’s words rest not so much in that they cause us to change our behavior when we are in the presence of someone whose regard for us we consider to be important. Rather, the statement needs to inspire us to reflect upon our treatment of those from whom we think we have nothing to gain. It is helpful to remember that it was precisely such a marginalized person that the prophet Isaiah described in foretelling what the coming messiah would be like.

“He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem” (Isaiah 53:2-3).

The Contemplative Connection: Gracious God, may I reflect your merciful love to those in my life who stand in need of my mercy. Help me to acknowledge with gratitude your merciful love for me. Amen.

——-

This article is an excerpt from my book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.” Click below to view and / or purchase on the publishers website: http://amordeus.com/giftShopProductDetails.aspx?itemID=520 

Read the Introduction: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/introduction-simple-contemplative-spirituality-charles-w-sidoti-bcc?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

The Table of Contentshttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/simple-contemplative-spirituality-charles-w-sidoti-bcc?published=u

Our world and our individual lives are in the process of evolving.  It is not a question of rejecting the past but of letting the past flow into the present and letting this process guide us as to how to live in the future.  – Jean Vanier, From, Becoming Human

Written by Charles W. Sidoti, BCC 

Pope John Paul ll, speaking to church leaders about the mission of the church, once said, “We are not here to guard a museum, but rather to tend and nurture a flourishing garden.”  These words, spoken by one of the most popular and influential popes in modern history, eloquently describe the importance of having a healthy, positive attitude toward the constant change that is part of our lives. Referring to the church, his words challenge those who want their church, temple, synagogue, or mosque to remain as they have always known it to be, believing that it should not change in any way.

Life moves.  It is not the nature of life to be static.  Think about it, has your life ever stopped changing? New things, people, and happenings are constantly coming in and out of our lives.  We are personally affected by the continual movement and evolution taking place in the world.  Sometimes these changes take place slowly, sometimes in the twinkling of an eye.  Have you ever had the experience of looking at an old photo of yourself and trying to remember what you were thinking at that time?  It is impossible, because you simply are not there anymore.  You have changed and moved on from that place and time.  And you will continue to change and to move on from where you are now.  It is a good idea to come to terms with this most basic, inescapable fact about life: It moves.  Whether you realize it or not, this is a very positive truth.  Understanding it is crucial because so much of our struggle comes from our resistance to life’s continuous movement into the future.

Sometimes our response to this constant change is to cling inordinately to people or things, those we already know, those who are already a part of our life, the status quo. Fearing the unknown, which is inherent in all change, we try to hold on to what is familiar as we stand before and uncertain future.  Doing this, however, comes with a price.  In the words of Jean Vanier:

If we try to prevent, or ignore, the movement of life, we run the risk of falling into the inevitable depression that must accompany an impossible goal.  Life evolves; change is constant.  When we try to prevent the forward movement of life, we may succeed for a while but inevitably, there is an explosion; the groundswell of life’s constant movement, constant change is too great to resist.

In order to live peacefully in an ever-changing world, three things are essential: a healthy detachment, gratitude, and hope. Detachment can be seen as a decrease in our need to hold on to anyone or anything.  It is a way of thinking and being that gives us the freedom to flow with life.  Detachment gives us the freedom to be open to new possibilities and newness of life after something in our life changes or dies, even when we don’t understand how that newness will come to be.

Without gratitude, detachment is nothing more than indifference.  To live with detachment does not mean that we simply forget and move on from the past as though everything old is bad.  As stated in the opening quotation, it is a matter of allowing the past, with its enduring life values and principles – openness, love, wholeness, unity, peace, the human potential for healing and redemption, and most important, the necessity of forgiveness- to flow into the present and become integrated into what is happening today.

Likewise, we do not forget the loving people in our lives when they are separated from us by death, changes in circumstances, or when they can no longer serve our needs.  Detachment does not mean that we cast aside material things without a thought when we no longer have use for them.  Healthy detachment means that we look upon the people and material things of this life with gratitude.  We realize that they are gifts received from a loving God, gifts that will ultimately return to God.

It is only possible to practice authentic detachment when we are in a real relationship with the Living God; and such a relationship is always grounded in hope.  It is then that we are able to see and appreciate the people and the good things of this life for what they are.  When we really believe that it is God who is leading us, it becomes possible to let go of people and things when the time comes to move on in our life’s journey.  In this way, hope helps us to truly love and appreciate these people and things, without being possessed by them.  As the words of Ecclesiastes teach us, “For everything there is a time.”  The nineteenth-century Christian thinker Soren Kierkegaard, in discussing how hope forms the basis for Judaism and Christianity, described hope as “divinely sanctioned optimism, sheer promise for this life.”

Life will continue to move forward, taking us along with it, whether we like it or not.  The point is that we need not be carried along kicking and screaming, fretting over and trying to control every change that comes our way.  Through a healthy sense of detachment, with gratitude and hope in our hearts, we can choose to enter peacefully into the flow and evolution of life.  Strive to accept life’s constant change, trusting in God’s promise and presence to guide you through all of the changes that you experience.

This article is an excerpt from, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time, by Charles W. Sidoti with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein.

 See it on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X

Check out my newest book: “Simple Contemplative Spirituality” 

The Table of Contents: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/simple-contemplative-spirituality-charles-w-sidoti-bcc?published=u

 Read an Excerpthttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-reflection-golden-rule-charles-w-sidoti-bcc?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

 

 

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

The phrase food for the journey is traditionally associated, in Catholicism, with reception of the Eucharist by the dying and their final journey from this life to eternal life through death.  This concept can be traced back to the days of Roman temple worship to the belief that the final meal of a dying person provided them with strength to cross over the River Styx, an ancient mythological river that is believed to separate the living from the dead. With Jesus having left us the Eucharistic meal in his memory, the early Christians adapted a similar custom in regard to Holy Communion. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was seen as the ideal food to strengthen a dying person.  By the year 325 it was a recommendation that Communion be given to the dying as Viaticum, a Latin word that means “food for the journey.”  It is something that we do to this very day.

Fr. Richard Leonard, S.J. wrote about the phrase in a July 2009 America Magazinearticle titled, Food for the Journey.  In the article Leonard discusses the phrase in a way that expands its meaning, making it relevant to our daily life.  The following is an excerpt:

In recent years this ancient phrase in relation to the Eucharist has reappeared and become popular. Rather than exclusively refer to the last Holy Communion we might take in this life, “food for the journey” (as used in the 21st Century) has come to mean the spiritual nourishment that the Eucharist gives us to live out our faith each day.

Whether we are nearing death or pursuing our normal daily activities we will always need this spiritual food to sustain us as material food is needed to sustain our bodies.

Vatican II tells us that the Holy Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen gentium, no. 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324).  However, many of us can recall from our Catholic religious formation that the Eucharistic meal within the Sacrament of Holy Communion is not the only place in which God is present and available to us.  We are taught that God’s presence is also revealed in the written word (Sacred Scripture) and in the other Sacraments.  In addition to these traditional teachings it is important to realize that God is present to us, is revealed to us, in the created world, in the ordinariness of our daily activity.  It is true to say that our daily lives are, in reality, not ordinary at all. This is true because of themystical presence of God that each individual moment contains.    In referring to the way in which God is present in our daily life, famous Catholic writer Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen often used the phrase, “The grace of the present moment.”

The reflections in “Simple Contemplative Spirituality” will help you to develop a contemplative awareness of God’s presence in the world.  Simply stated, a contemplative is one who acknowledges God in all of creation and strives to develop the awareness of God’s presence in daily living, in the created world, in addition to the written word and in the Sacraments. As Christians each one of us are called to approach life with a contemplative mindset. Spiritual growth is about becoming increasingly aware of the many ways in which God is always, everywhere, and in all things, present to nurture us with food for our daily journey from within the very circumstances of our life.

_______

This article is an excerpt from my new book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.”  Click below to view  and / or  purchase  on the publishers website:    http://amordeus.com/giftShopProductDetails.aspx?itemID=520

 

The Table of Contentshttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/simple-contemplative-spirituality-charles-w-sidoti-bcc?published=u

Read Another Excerpthttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-reflection-golden-rule-charles-w-sidoti-bcc?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

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“Simple Contemplative Spirituality”  Charles W. Sidoti – Amor Deus Publishing an imprint of Vesuvious Press Incorporated

Introduction: “Contemplative spirituality is inherent to Christianity”

The phrase food for the journey is traditionally associated, in Catholicism, with reception of the Eucharist by the dying and their final journey from this life to eternal life through death.  This concept can be traced back to the days of Roman temple worship to the belief that the final meal of a dying person provided them with strength to cross over the River Styx, an ancient mythological river that is believed to separate the living from the dead. With Jesus having left us the Eucharistic meal in his memory, the early Christians adapted a similar custom in regard to Holy Communion. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was seen as the ideal food to strengthen a dying person.  By the year 325 it was a recommendation that Communion be given to the dying as Viaticum, a Latin word that means “food for the journey.”  It is something that we do to this very day.

Fr. Richard Leonard, S.J. wrote about the phrase in a July 2009 America Magazine article titled, Food for the Journey.  In the article Leonard discusses the phrase in a way that expands its meaning, making it relevant to our daily life.  The following is an excerpt:

In recent years this ancient phrase in relation to the Eucharist has reappeared and become popular. Rather than exclusively refer to the last Holy Communion we might take in this life, “food for the journey” (as used in the 21st Century) has come to mean the spiritual nourishment that the Eucharist gives us to live out our faith each day.

Whether we are nearing death or pursuing our normal daily activities we will always need this spiritual food to sustain us as material food is needed to sustain our bodies.

Vatican II tells us that the Holy Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen gentium, no. 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324).  However, many of us can recall from our Catholic religious formation that the Eucharistic meal within the Sacrament of Holy Communion is not the only place in which God is present and available to us.  We are taught that God’s presence is also revealed in the written word (Sacred Scripture) and in the other Sacraments.  In addition to these traditional teachings it is important to realize that God is present to us, is revealed to us, in the created world, in the ordinariness of our daily activity.  It is true to say that our daily lives are, in reality, not ordinary at all. This is true because of the mystical presence of God that each individual moment contains.    In referring to the way in which God is present in our daily life, famous Catholic writer Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen often used the phrase, “The grace of the present moment.”

The reflections in this book are intended to help us develop a contemplative awareness of God’s presence in the world.  Simply stated, a contemplative is one who acknowledges God in all of creation and strives to develop the awareness of God’s presence in daily living, in the created world, in addition to the written word and in the Sacraments. As Christians each one of us are called to approach life with a contemplative mindset. Spiritual growth is about becoming increasingly aware of the many ways in which God is always, everywhere, and in all things, present to nurture us with food for our daily journey from within the very circumstances of our life.

This book of theological reflections focuses on various aspects of living a contemplative life.  The Contemplative Connection found at the end of each reflection highlights the main point and suggests how the message might be integrated into the reader’s life.  In some instances The Contemplative Connection is in the form of a prayer.

Click to view on publishers website:      http://amordeus.com/giftShopProductDetails.aspx?itemID=520

 

Just because something could be said, does not mean that it should be said.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

Learning to appreciate and practice silence is especially meaningful in regard to our relationship with others.  On this topic Sacred Scripture is “anything but” silent.  The need to control what we say to other people is mentioned many times in both the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament.  About this St. James uses very strong, direct language, “If a man who does not control his tongue imagines that he devout, he is self-deceived; his worship is pointless” (James 1:26).   Most of us have said things in our life that looking back we wish we had not said, or could take back.  The words of St. James, though powerful, are not said in condemnation, or to dishearten us.  Rather, they are intended to get our attention in order to help us realize the importance and impact of what we say to others.  A similar type of statement is made in the Book of Proverbs, “Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).  The second part of the verse, “…but the tongue of the wise brings healing” is especially helpful toward the goal of becoming a more peaceful person.

It is very important to realize that the words we speak have power.  They can be used to build up, to console, to heal, and to encourage others.  On the other hand, words can be used to tear down and to emotionally destroy someone.  Most of us can relate to having used words for both purposes.  The words we speak have a powerful effect not only upon those they are spoken to, but also upon the person that speaks them.   The question we need to ask ourselves before saying words that are potentially confrontational or harsh is, “Is it worth the emotional price that will have to be paid after the words have crossed my lips?” Is it worth the emotional price to me as the speaker, or to the person being spoken to?  Will my words accomplish anything positive?  Sometimes the answer will by “yes.”  There are certainly times when sharp directive words need to be spoken.  Often, however, our sharp words are spoken as a knee-jerk reaction to what someone has said or done.  Most of the time everyone involved, including ourselves, would be better served by us holding our tongue.  We can usually address the issue later with the other person if we still feel it is important to do so after having stepped away from the situation for a while.  It is helpful to remember that just because something could be said, does not mean that it should be said.

In my work as a hospital chaplain prayer is nearly always a part of my spiritual care visits.  When I offer a prayer for someone at the bedside it is clear enough that they are comforted and appreciate it very much.  I have found, however, that one of the most healing things I can do for someone as a chaplain is to listen to their story, the whole story, without interrupting or judging them.  The visible gratitude, the sense of peace and hope that patients often feel afterward always communicates to me that a kind of inner healing has taken place for them. The person feels listened to, understood, and accepted for who they really are.  This is spiritual care at its best.  In ministry there is a time for our input, our prayer, perhaps even our advice, but it is always after keeping silent, after giving the other person the gift of our listening to them.

As we continue to grow spiritually we will come to appreciate that there is, as the book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.” We will learn that it is good to allow some measure of silence in our lives, some time to be alone.  In the silent stillness of our heart we will discover a holy solitude that will gradually give birth to the conscious awareness of our fundamental connectedness to all of creation.

____________


Check out “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time”   By Charles W. Sidoti with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

The perfect book for LENT or the Festival of Passover!  Get it today on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X

Have you ever wrestled with a personal issue and felt as if you wanted someone else to make a decision for you?  That is how I was feeling.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

Thomas Merton once compared living a spiritual life to standing before a field of fresh fallen snow that you must cross, with the advice: “Walk across the snow and there is your path.”  Being a trailblazer through the fresh fallen snow, as Merton puts it, involves walking your own unique, untrodden path.  As good as Merton’s advice sounds, it can be difficult to put into practice.  Many of us would much rather walk familiar, well-trodden paths.  Yet it is precisely the walking of a unique, untrodden path that each one of us, individually, is called to do in our lives if we truly desire to grow in our relationship with God and others. Reflecting on what walking your own unique path would mean in your life can make all the difference in the world.

In considering how to follow Merton’s suggestion, it is necessary to realize that it involves a paradox.  None of us walks through life completely alone.  We live out our lives among other people.  We have all heard the saying, “No man is an island,” by the great Christian poet John Donne.  Hopefully, the relationships we have with others are mutually beneficial in helping us to grow and develop.  On the other hand, it is also true that we are at times quite alone.  Our personal moments of loneliness remind us of this truth in no uncertain terms.  Taking the first step onto our own field of freshly fallen snow involves realizing this paradox and accepting it into our life.  Just realizing and accepting that these two things, loneliness and our feeling of being connected with others, are a natural part of life can be helpful.  There is a natural rhythm that exists between these two feelings, and at different times one of the feelings is dominant.

It is very helpful when we discover the relationship between our aloneness and our connectedness with others because the two work together in our lives.  The relationship was explained to me in a most interesting way on one of my visits to the Abbey of the Genesee, which is a Trappist Monastery and retreat house located in Upstate New York.  During a conversation with my spiritual director, Brother Anthony, I asked his advice about something I was dealing with at the time.  I remember wanting him to just tell me what to do about the situation. Have you ever wrestled with a personal issue and felt as if you wanted someone else to make a decision for you?   That is how I was feeling.

His answer to me contained wisdom.  He very kindly said, “Chuck, you know its kind of like making a loaf of bread.  You can find a recipe in a book and follow it. You can ask others about how they bake theirs, learn about other interesting ingredients and get advise about how others do it.  But in the end, everyone must bake his or her own loaf of bread.”

After this conversation, I realized that I would not want anyone else to bake my loaf of bread – make my decisions, live my life.  It is our involvement, our interaction with life, and the decisions we make that keep life fresh and alive. Once we reach the age of reason, no one can really make a decision for us.  When you think about it, would you really want them to?  Our lives are unique, just as we are, an therefore our relationship with life is meant to be unique.  Seek out the wisdom others have to offer, yes, but realize at the same time the precious and exciting opportunity you have in your life to bake your own loaf of bread.

Connecting Point:  Can you see a rhythm in your life between feelings of aloneness and a feeling that you are connected to others?  Sometimes it is the aloneness part that needs attention, so that aloneness may evolve into the positive state of being, called solitude.  You can do this by seeking out a little bit of time alone each day just to be quiet or pray.  Through this time, you will discover that you are never really alone.

Prayer:  Good and gracious God, place gratitude in my heart for the gift of life.  In times of difficulty, I don’t always see it as a gift.  Sometimes it feels like a burden, especially in times of loneliness.  Help me to make decisions that will lead me to the peace that you desire to give me.  Place in my heart the desire to bake my own loaf of bread – with you.  Amen.

——————-

This article is from my book “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time”  – The perfect last minute gift!

  Read the Introduction, Table of Contents and a Sample Chapter on Twenty Third Publications website:  http://store.pastoralplanning.com/liatgospiing.html

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