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Leaning on Him: The Path to Victory

Toward the end of the Rule of St Benedict, there is a short chapter that can easily go unnoticed, but which is a perfect application of the Gospel: Assignment of impossible tasks to a brother (RB 68). Benedict knew well that if we want to follow the Gospel, sooner or later, we will be confronted with the fact that we are asked to do something that feels impossible to us. Do you what to know if you are really following Jesus and not a decaffeinated version of his message? You can ask yourself this question: does being faithful to your Christian calling feel impossible at times? If your answer is “yes,” you are on the right track because this is how it should feel—Peter trying to walk on water is a good example. St Bernard puts it very simply, As long as a man is without experience in the spiritual combat, he thinks that what is asked of him is easy ( Sermons on Conversion 8). What then? Are we called to be Christian superheroes? No, the path of the Gospel is for those who recogni
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The Table of Humility

Jesus told a parable about humility when invited to a banquet, he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor at the table (Lk 14:1, 7-14). At the parable's end, Jesus shows us how well he knows our human nature when he points out the words that each of us longs to hear: “My friend, move up to a higher position.” Christian humility is not about hiding our talents or denying our need for the love and respect of others. True humility is a path of self-knowledge and simplicity that sets us free, as St. Paul puts it, “It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself” (1 Cor. 4:1-5). In the Gospels, Jesus often presents the Kingdom as a banquet, a grand celebration. A clear message in these parables is that we don’t have to compete with each other because at this table all are fed. According to the monastic approach, the path that leads to the feast begins as we leave our pride behind and move forward in the

Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth!

  “Even clad in my form, how beautiful you are, Lord Jesus!” (SC 25:9). This is St Bernard’s cry of joy and admiration to the One who, beautiful in his own right, renounced his beauty and majesty for you and me to become one of us. Bernard cries out with even greater joy than Adam when he saw his Eve for the first time. Why? Because if Adam recognized himself in Eve, even more so did Bernard in Christ. In Christ Bernard found all that is familiar to us when He embraced suffering and death on the Cross. But he also found the response to his deepest desire: an unimaginable love that can transform and rise us up till we become one with God in the Spirit. Bernard understood that Christ had embraced all that is ours, the highest and the lowest, everything except sin, and clad in the humility of human form saved us and showed us the love that casts out fear. This is why today, at evening prayer, we begin to celebrate the feast of our Father St. Bernard. Many historians consider him the mo

Do We Really Love God?

Do you want to know if you really love God? You can ponder these words of our Father St Bernard. They can work as a form of testing if any love is authentic, but they are particularly good to see if we truly love God. This is what Bernard says in his treatise On loving God , “True love is content with itself; it has its reward, the object of its love. Whatever you seem to love because of something else, you do not really love; you really love the end pursued and not that by which it is pursued.” Are we looking for a reward for spending time in prayer or participating in the Eucharist? Bernard says, “No one, for example, pays a hungry man to eat, a thirsty man to drink, or a mother to feed the child of her womb. . . . How much more the soul that loves God seeks no other reward than that God whom it loves. Were the soul to demand anything else, then it would certainly love that other thing and not God.” In the Our Father and in many other forms of prayer, we present to our Father in he

There is More

Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration. The apostles had witnessed Jesus’ miracles and had heard his teachings, but on Mount Tabor, Peter, John, and James saw that there was even more. They didn’t know what to do because beauty can’t be grasped or understood; on the contrary, we are called to surrender to it and let ourselves be transformed, changed in ways we cannot explain but which are real, very real. Was St Peter thinking about this event when he wrote, “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pt 1:8-9)? These words always touch my heart. I want to see Him. I want to forget all troubles and like Peter say, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents (Lk 9:33).  And yet the way forward seems to be that of not seeing, and coming down the mountain: the

Friends on Earth and in Heaven

Our Cistercian Fathers like speaking about the benefits and sweetness of spiritual friendship. Often, they refer to Jesus’ friendship with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus of Bethany—the saints we celebrate today. They say that Jesus’ earthly friendships sanctified friendship itself and made it a form of preparation for encountering and welcoming the Lord. How? Saint Aelred explains the process in greater detail in his book on Spiritual Friendship . He gets practical, as monastic writers usually like to do, and offers ways to discern and form good friendships. In an earlier work, The Mirror of Charity , Aelred explains briefly one of the great benefits of friendship: my friend’s soul and good heart give me extra space to welcome the presence of God. In my friend, I can possess graces that would be a bit too much for me on my own. This would be part of the joy in heaven, don’t you think? There, our capacity to receive God’s love, beauty, truth, and goodness would be increased tremendously as

I found him whom my soul loves!

Today is the feast of St Mary Magdalene , the apostle of the apostles! Those of us who follow the monastic way of life consider her one of us. Why? Because she embodies the longing that is at the core of the monastic call. After having been healed by the Master, how could she abandon him? She alone remained, weeping outside the tomb, because her heart and soul were still clinging to the one she loved. Her hope didn’t disappoint. Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her,“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,”and then reported what he told her.  (John 20:16-18) The monastic vocation is the fruit of an encounter that heals and transforms us forever, showing us who we are and to whom we belong