Tag Archive | spiritual exercise

Silent Battle

A recent Dynamic Catholic reflection focused on a Gospel reading from Mark 9. The disciples are sent out to do ministry. Their final task is to exorcise a demon inside of a boy. They fail. They go back to Jesus and ask him why they were not able to succeed, despite the power Jesus has shared with them. Jesus tells them, “There are some demons that can only be cast out through prayer and fasting.” Matthew Kelly went on to point out that fasting is not about giving up chocolate but about looking at behaviors that keep us from being the best version of ourselves. In other words, we need to fast from and against demons. I’ve done work in the last few years in casting out demons, not only my own, but also protecting others from being harmed.

In popular culture, confrontation is the way to face challenges. This has been a growth area for me; I’ve been forced to develop these skills and have made progress. Confrontation is only one way to deal with difficult people or internal challenges.  Prayer and fasting cultivate discipline and faith; I consider these strengths though I could continue to grow.

The last few weeks have been better because I was more disciplined and reflective. I made the time to pray more and do spiritual reading. I completed my Dynamic Catholic exercises daily. It has made a difference. In revisiting this passage from Mark 9, I can continue to deepen my reflection.

This also reminded me of a character from the TV series, The Exorcist. (Yes, I know I’m obsessed. This has been going on for most of my life. Deal!) There is a group of contemplative nuns including the Mother Superior who keep silent hours. These women also strive to exorcise demons but go about differently than the priests.  Their silence strengthens them for their difficult tasks.

exorcist-8-bernadette

Mother Bernadette, sometimes the real MVP against demons

Silence is not simply being mute.  As someone who was drawn to contemplative life in the past, I understand that silence is a time to commune with God in prayer, to commune with nature or yourself, and offering those hours for others. While we may perceive this practice as being non-communicative, it is work to pray for the world and for strength.When I was single, a nun came to our parish to sell arts and crafts for her convent and to share her experiences as a contemplative. They lived in rural Mexico. Their mission was to pray for the world. 24 hours a day, these women took shifts praying for those who had asked for intercession and praying for everyone.  I was moved by their beautiful vocation.

Yes, you should tap into your #innermongoose and fight enemies. However, silence, prayer, and fasting can be battle strategies too. I’m a person of words. I may come across as introverted but I’m certainly writing and thinking about what I could say. When I refrain from speaking, that silence is powerful.  I have committed to helping others as my life’s work. That work requires me to be both confrontational and reflective.

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Before it’s too late

While I’m not being consistent about completing the Dynamic Catholic spiritual exercises daily, I have begun reading Genevieve Glen’s Lenten reflection book, “Not by Bread Alone.”. I picked up a copy from my parish on Ash Wednesday.  Though I don’t always read the reflections daily, I was taken by a passage called “Later.”

lazarus-and-the-rich-man

The gospel for the reflection was the story of the rich man and Lazarus. It was one of my favorite stories in my children’s Bible. Lazarus is a homeless beggar who sits outside a beautiful palace occupied by a rich man. The rich man is treated to sumptuous feasts and enjoys a luxurious lifestyle.  Lazarus sits outside with dogs as his only friends.  Both men eventually die. Lazarus goes to paradise. The rich man goes to hell. The rich man realizes the error of his ways and he wants his living siblings to repent now. Abraham tells him it’s too late.

Often I turn away from doing good works because I’m planning to do them at later times. I have other timelines to meet. I have various deadlines at work and in my job search. I’m always bound by time. I also believe I can do more for others later.

As part of the reflection, I was asked to identify three works of mercy that I keep delaying.  I have discussed my struggle with forgiveness.(Spiritual well-check) I don’t give enough time and money to works of service. I grapple with financial management.  This year I’ve been better about having a budget and being more practical with my spending. I do volunteer at my daughter’s school and organizations that meant so much to me.  But these are not enough.  I was supposed to serve dinner at Glide memorial but it was canceled for several reasons. I know I could be doing more for the homeless. My dance sisters have been providing lunch at a homeless encampment. They are doing so because they are women of faith. I need to take more initiative and take part soon.

I have been experiencing frustration, anger, and helplessness this season. Nevertheless, I have many blessings. I should share my wealth through giving my time and money. There’s no later; there’s only now. I don’t want to be like the rich man. I do not want to waste my life on what matters little.

Days in the desert

During the second week of Lent, I had to reassess my progress with my Lenten challenges. Bagging up items I no longer need was going well. There are fewer items to discard though my house still looks cluttered. My writing is going well in producing drafts. I haven’t managed time well for revising and publishing. I spent four hours doing a week’s worth of posts. I have to come up with a new system or I have to let go and accept this will be the process. In terms of more prayer, I’m listening to gospel music daily. I’m not being diligent about doing my spiritual reading or truly taking time out of my day to pray.

Today’s prayer was for a better relationship with my daughter. While she may get upset by what happens in her school friendships or in dance competition, the biggest influence on her life is the relationship with her parents. When we’re hard on her, it hurts her. It’s a busy time of year with dance competition, Carnaval prep, and Lenten activities at my daughter’s school.   Busyness and multitasking keeps us from diving into each moment. I’m notorious for multitasking, especially at work when multiple devices are on.

I need to manage my time and stress levels. I’m working on a job search. My taxes haven’t been done. Work has been hectic. This is no one day Ides of March phenomenon; it’s been difficult for months.  Adult and youth behaviors show a lack of boundaries, self-control, and common sense.  It’s taxing to manage all of that.  On the home front, the 4th member of our household, my mother in law, arrives this week. That will change the family dynamics. The kitchen will be cleaner but I may have more interpersonal challenges.  My schedule may be called into question more often than usual.

Lent is a time of struggle. I’m put to many tests daily. I have to face them day by day, hour by hour. I really want to do minute by minute because I’m not enjoying the moments. There’s no quick fix. I have to sit in the desert hungry, thirsty, irritated, and tired and let the sun beat down on my head.

egypt-sitting-in-desert

 

Spiritual well-check

healthy heart

On the 2nd Friday of Lent, the Dynamic Catholic reflection discussed spiritual health.  We were encouraged to nurture our souls as we do our bodies. Matthew Kelly talked about the 10 minutes of prayer he has recommended for many years as part of his ministry. He also went over the Dynamic Catholic prayer process. That morning, I went through the process which then made me reflect on forgiveness. Forgiveness continues to be an area of growth for me.

I do hold grudges. It’s hard for me to get past wrongs that I feel folks have done to me or those I love. My anger may fade but doesn’t go away.   I’ll be civil and polite a la Ben Linus.

6x17_BenAndLockeAtTheEnd

Ben Linus knew better than to try to be up in the church

But this is actually deceitful, passive-aggressive, and petty. It’s duplicitous. So I prayed for those I have wronged through my words and judgments. Several individuals are people I work with daily. Some I avoid. Some I choose to make contact with more often. While that may sometimes be the Ben Linus effect, I am also pushing myself to be more open no matter what my personal opinion and feelings might be. These people have the right to dignity and respect. Why take the low road and not show kindness? I pray for the gift of forgiveness.

I also pray to be free of self-righteousness. I own my flaws.  But usually this leads me to consider myself superior to those I do not love.  I feel that I’ve done the work in becoming more aware of my weaknesses; why don’t these people get there? That sort of thinking is unfair and unkind. I stop thinking of these people as individuals with private lives and focus on my history with them. This person lied, created an unsafe situation, betrayed my trust, and disappointed me or any combination of these wrongs or all of the above. This person makes bad choices and I disapprove. This person needs to get right or get left. Yet I am unwilling to be a guide or a model. I disconnect and judge and don’t offer forgiveness.

I was part of a marathon meeting that week. Our organization discussed the ways we can alienate others in how we present who we are. It’s not that we shouldn’t be honest and air our grievances or share our opinions. It gave us an opportunity to own the behavior and to confirm that there is a time and place for certain conversations. I myself have struggled with this issue in my professional life. If I have personal problems with someone, it’s not fair to involve others. I strive to keep my personal grievances private and to make time for thoughtful analysis of my thoughts, words, and actions. It may be difficult but it is necessary.  In asking for God’s forgiveness, I must first forgive others.