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By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

As a child growing up in a Christian family, I had a belief in Santa Claus that was a fun and exciting part of the Christmas holiday. When I had children of my own, I enjoyed seeing the excitement on their faces as they heard the story of magical jolly fellow who lived at the North Pole and delivered gifts on Christmas Eve to all of the good little children. All of this he did while riding on his magic sleigh with eight tiny reindeer! What could be better? One day my eight-year-old son, Charles, and I were taking a walk with our dog when he asked me, “Dad, is God like Santa Claus?” I had to pause for a moment. The last thing I wanted to was explain away the wonderful childhood fantasy of Santa Claus for him.

The reasoning that led Charles to ask this question is very easy to understand. To him, it seemed completely logical that God should exist in exactly the same way as a character like Santa Claus. Think about it. A child never actually sees Santa, although children do see Santa’s “helpers” at the department store. Children are told that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and keeps a close eye on kid’s behavior, rewarding the ones who are good and disappointing the ones who are bad. As the words of the ever-popular children’s Christmas song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, say:

He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

At approximately the same age that children are told about Santa, they also begin to learn about God. To a child, God is also explained as someone with seemingly magical powers. Children are told that God is watching over us from heaven, a place that seems as remote as the North Pole. They learn that God is also someone who cares about them, knows everything about them, and wants them to be good. Children learn that God’s helpers are called angels, who are all around but never seen. Santa’s workers are called “elves,” and we can’t see them, either! And just as with Santa, we never see God. It is little wonder why Charles asked me if God was the same as Santa.

At some point, we need to grow beyond a child’s understanding God. Our relationship with God must grow and evolve with us into adulthood or it will cease to contain meaning, just like our relationship with Santa. Every meaningful relationship grows and changes or it simply dissolves. Our relationship with our parents is a good example. A small child sees his or her parents as all-knowing, all powerful beings. If our relationship with our parents is a healthy one, it evolves as we grow into adulthood. It is then that we are able to see and appreciate our parents for what they really are, human beings.

What determines if a relationship grows or ends? The difference is communication. With Santa there is no real two-way communication, because there is no real Santa. With God it is different. Growing in the awareness of God’s presence in our life and becoming aware of God’s constant communication are what is meant by learning to live a contemplativelife. For our relationship with God to be meaningful and real as adults, we need this awareness of God’s presence and recognition of the many ways that God communicates with us.

The transition from believing in a magical, Santa-like God to growing in relationship with the Living God happens in ways that are as individual as we are. Each person’s relationship with God is different. Personally, my exposure to the monastic tradition, especially the writings of Thomas Merton and other contemplative authors, has had a profound impact on my own spiritual development.

One of the greatest gifts that the monastic tradition can bestow upon a person is what I refer to as the development of a contemplative mindset. By a contemplative mindset, I am referring to the realization that God comes to us from within creation, indeed from within our very selves. God isn’t “up there” somewhere, removed from this world. God is present within the context, the events, of our everyday lives. It is within the events of our everyday life that God desires to meet us, guide us and heal us. The awareness that all of life is Sacred, that all of God’s creation is good and the place where God dwells, is a profoundly healing realization. It is the fruit of attentively waiting upon the Lord through the events and the circumstances of our lives. When you see God in this way, it is impossible to think of God as a Santa Claus like figure, somewhere far removed from us and looking down. No, God is very close, indeed an in-dwelling presence.

Connecting Point: Your image, the way you think of (or see) God, should grow and evolve as you journey through life. Do you think yours has? Ask God in your own words to place in your heart the desire to grow in that relationship.

Prayer: Lord, help me to grow in relationship with you, the “Living God.” Direct my heart that I may wait patiently upon you to reveal yourself to me. May I become increasingly aware of the many ways that you communicate your love and presence to me every day. May I respond sincerely through my life with others and in the solitude of prayer. Amen.


This article is from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time

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

By Charles W. Sidoti, From: “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time”

Thomas Merton once compared living a spiritual life to standing before a field of fresh fallen snow that you must cross, his 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 life 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, and 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 eventually 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.


Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” – Traditionally Published

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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 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 “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 newest book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.”  This is a traditionally published book.  Click below to view and / or purchase on the publishers website:

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

The Holiday Season, for many of us, holds deep religious meaning. Much of that meaning is centered around the need for hope in our personal lives, and in our world. During this time we may participate in religious observances in which we seek enlightenment. The following words are from Anthony DeMello’s book, “One-Minute Wisdom,” they speak about how enlightenment 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.” (Anthony DeMello, One Minute Wisdom)

In this Holiday Season our world represents many faith traditions. In the spirit of love, light and peace that our various traditions represent let us wait together in the hope that our inner eyes will be open as the sun begins to rise.


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Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time

A book by Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

An excerpt: No one likes to wait.  We often find it difficult to accept, and yet so much of our life’s journey seems to involve waiting for God to reveal the hidden meaning behind the changes that take place in our lives.  It is important to realize that not all waiting is the same.  Waiting on God is not like waiting for a red light to turn green, where nothing really changes except the color of the light.  As we wait on the Lord, there are significant and purposeful things occurring behind the scenes.  These “things”  are God’s work taking place within the changes that occur in our lives.  The reason you and I have to wait is because God’s work is accomplished and revealed to us in the daily unfolding of our lives, slowly and over time.


This is the perfect book to read during Advent and great gift idea for someone that you care about.  In, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Timeyou will find insights that can help you to face the times in which you are forced to wait out a situation, and do so with hope in your heart.  It is my prayer in writing this book that it help you to see the time that you spend waiting on the Lord as a time that is full of promise – God’s promise.

Read the Introduction, Table of Contents and a Sample Chapter on the Twenty-Third Publications website:

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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.


By Charles W. Sidotiauthor of these two inspirational books!


NEW BOOK!!  Click to view and / or learn more about “SIMPLE CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY” on the publisher’s website:


“Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” – on Amazon