July 16, 2015

The Aspen Catholic Institute August 14-16

I have been invited to provide a presentation at the inauguration of the Aspen Catholic Institute on the Future of Christianity at St. Mary's in Aspen.  As Fr. Hilton has been cycling across the United States this summer, Catholic Spiritual Direction  has been posting his updates and sharing his progress. Underlying his enormous efforts have been our efforts to bring the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation to Aspen.
In August, we’re honored to be part of the inaugural event, “The Future of Christianity?” We expect it to be lively and engaging for everyone involved.

The Schedule

Friday, August 14
  • 5:30 PM – Mass celebrated by Fr. John Hilton, pastor of St. Mary’s
  • Catered dinner
  • 7:30 PM – Presentation by Dan Burke
Saturday, August 15
  • 10:00 AM – Outdoor hike with Fr. Nathan Cromly
  • 11:30 AM – Presentation by Fr. Nathan Cromly at John Denver Sanctuary
  • 5:30 PM – Mass celebrated by Fr. Nathan Cromly
  • St. Mary annual feast day potluck dinner
  • 7:30 PM – Presentation by Dr. Anthony Lilles
Sunday, August 16
  • 7:30 AM – Mass celebrated by Fr. Nathan Cromly
  • 10:00 AM – Mass celebrated by Fr. Nathan Cromly
  • 11:00 AM – Roundtable wrap-up with Dan Burke, Dr. Anthony Lilles, and Fr. Nathan Cromly
  • Coffee and donuts
There will be child care available each day.
Register to attend by clicking HERE. For a one-page document listing hotels in and around Aspen, click here (link opens a PDF file).

The Speakers

Dan Burke
Dan Burke will reveal how God drew him out of despair, which came from the profound spiritual, physical, and psychological suffering of his youth, and how his life-changing encounter with God relates to the future of Christianity and how we can engage even in the face of growing hostility.
Fr. Nathan Cromly, CSJ
  • Member of the Community of St. John
  • Founder of Eagle Eye Formation Program
  • Responsible for many forms of evangelization and outreach to all age groups
  • Author and Speaker
Fr. Cromly will preach, and will base his comments on the Gospel readings of the day. He will the following thoughts in his reflections:
  1. The five aspects of the “missionary spirit” outlined by Pope Francis at the end of Evangelii Gaudium.
  2. The need for confidence in the Holy Spirit to proclaim the “newness of the Gospel with boldness” in the face of secularism.
  3. The response to secularism offered by the thought of Pope Benedict.
  4. The courageous witness to truth lived with a spirit of solidarity found in the preaching of Pope John Paul II.
Dr. Anthony Lilles
This’ talk will on “Missionary Discipleship in the Wisdom of the Saints.” The presentation will propose Sts. Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Thérèse of Lisieux as witnesses to missionary discipleship that Pope Francis has asked the Church to embrace. These three doctors of the Church remind us by their witness and spiritual doctrine that such discipleship is only possible when we take time in our prayer to seek and enter into the mystery of God’s heart, opened for us by Christ Jesus. Just as each of these saints advocate this personal relationship in prayer, the future of Christianity requires Catholics to welcome and deepen this friendship with the Lord in new ways, not only for themselves, but also to provide the world the word of hope it needs to hear.

Register to attend by clicking HERE. For a one-page document listing hotels in and around Aspen, click here (link opens a PDF file).


Read more: http://www.spiritualdirection.com/2015/07/07/hosting-the-future-of-christianity-in-aspen#ixzz3g4eiEPk9

July 12, 2015

Christian Piety and Political Power in America

Is faith in the Risen Lord a true shield against a growing political and cultural absolutism in America today?  If so,  it may explain why a growing number of Catholics feel the need not retreat from the public square even as they seem to lose struggles for the sacredness of marriage and life. Instead, Christians and other people of prayer engage marketplace of ideas with even greater vigor. In the meantime, young people are responding to the call to ministry and lives of prayer with greater courage and enthusiasm than ever  Even as our churches in America and around the world are burned down and unbridled hatred is unleashed on our brothers and sisters in the Lord with horrific brutality, we have good reason to fall to our knees and pick up this shield again in prayer.

The Catholic faith is about freedom because it is about the truth, the deepest truth about God and about our existence. It appeals to the deepest sanctuary of the heart. If it promotes social institutions, it does so to make space for the voice of conscience in human affairs. Whether it concerns the sacredness of marriage, or of motherhood, or of family, or of life itself, the Church has a responsibility to speak the truth in love.. The Risen Lord died that this voice might be made pure through the forgiveness of sin. All the baptized are obliged to propose hope with love, no matter how often it is rejected or how deeply it is despised.  It is about people being set free to thrive, to live life to the full, to come home to God where they most belong.

As it abandons Christianity, America is diminished under the weight of bad religion. We have enslaved ourselves by worshipping at the altar of political avarice. All too often, our leaders refer to God with manipulative sentimentality, cloaking with calculating hubris their hidden agendas with pious jargon. Our branches of government usurp the very place of God, desecrating the most sacred institutions of human existence, declaring as burdens and not blessings the dying, the unborn and the stranger. As a result, marriage, motherhood and family life are all vulnerable to the latest whims of the politically powerful while scoffing cultural thugs shame us into silence. 

Everyone is afraid of being called intolerant. But the greatest sin in America today is not intolerance. Indeed, intolerance toward Christians is heralded as a great social virtue. Fewer and fewer leaders find the courage to stand up for people of faith.  They are looked upon as a political liability, discussed as an unruly part of the political equation. It has long been the case that people of faith who question the wrong cultural conventions are deemed politically and intellectually anathema. To propose that there is another standard besides the whims of the powerful is a threat to popular convention and civil discourse. Christians find themselves compelled to propose just this and so they always find themselves as the special target of social hatred.  

True piety and humble prayer always take Christians into this beatitude. Real prayer leads us to question both ourselves and our conventions in the light of heaven. Such prayer is dangerous personally and socially for those who are attached to using others for their own projects and personal gain. Yet, for those who need a word of hope and a shield against tyranny, such prayer this kind of prayer is vital.

Prayer rooted in what God has revealed causes us to measure everything against the wonder of His love at work in our misery. Manifest in the very least of our neighbors, the glory of this Living God implicates us in the plight of the less fortunate and most vulnerable, because this is where He is. As a people without this kind of piety, without this loyalty to God for His own sake, we cannot find this standard of American greatness raised by our forefathers or provide the rest of humanity a sanctuary of true human liberty.


In this proclamation, our faith lives in the wonder of Divine Providence raising up the poor and lowly, and bowing down the powerful and self-satisfied. A piety rooted on this hidden truth purifies politics. It reveals those wolves that merely use people to gratify their will to power. It raises the most essential questions about the meaning of society and the proper role of government. Here, our faith protects what is most tender and noble about our fragile human existence.  

Christ crucified humbles us all.  Before Him we know that might does not make right, due process alone is not enough for justice, and even capitol punishment does not provide the last word about the truth. The earthly supremacy claimed by any court will pass away -- and He will remain. To Him, we will all render an account.

The greatness of the Christian religion, the power of the Cross, is how it raises us above ourselves and gives us the courage to seek and live by the truth. This is the freedom to question cultural convention and political powers, to renounce the absolute claims they make on our lives, to choose to live in the freedom of God's love. Under the shadow of the Cross, believers know that the land of the free and the home of the brave can be rediscovered in our time.  Under the shield of faith, we have every hope of finding the courage to defend those sacred institutions and values that make a nation great.

June 18, 2015

Pilgrimage and Prayer

The Lord blessed me with a pilgrimage just at the end of the academic year.  About thirty pilgrims from the Shrine of Saint Anne in Arvada together with others from a couple different parts of the country joined together for two weeks of walking in the footsteps of the saints of Spain.  Together with them I am praying for our families and loved ones, for deeper conversion, for a deeper faith in the One who walks with us.

These journeys are filled with beautiful moments of prayer and fellowship.  They also involve discovering treasures of culture and history, and thinking about the presence of the Lord in the midst of the shadows and bright spots of the Church in the world, walking with those who need a word of hope. In all of this there are glimpses of holiness, and there is the provocative witness of the saints we meet along the way.

Today, I am at Saint Michael's chapel above the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat ... Where a spiritual revival began about the time Columbus brought the Gospel to America.   After the reform of contemplation Cisneros initiated to reform this sacred place, Saint Ignatius came here and discovered the great grace that spiritual exercises offer the Church.  He would develop his own spiritual exercises not far away, at Manresa.

The Society of Jesus Saint Ignatius founded would also be enriched through the tireless dedication to prayer, preaching and conversion of figures like Saint John of Avila who preceded and then supported him. Like Ignatius, the encountered the Risen Lord and their lives were transformed with devotion and the burning desire to bring the Gospel to that ends of the world.  The Spanish Jesuits in turn supported the great Carmelite Reformer, Teresa of Avila.  And, it is Teresa of Jesus and the 500th anniversary of her birth that moved me to take up this journey.  

Together all these Spanish saints, and so many more, helped the Church discover her heart in the 16th Century.  The heart of the Church is prayer, an exchange of love between Christ and His bride.  Every Eucharist reveals this reality anew, every act of repentance returns to its living source, every effort to begin to pray is already taken deep into the greatness of this mystery.  

This kind of prayer animates the mission of the Church.  Through rediscovering prayer countless more men and women found the courage to take up the work of evangelizing a new continent.  Junipero Serra, soon to be canonized, was caught in the wake of this great movement of contemplative prayer, even centuries later.  Whether they went to the far West or East, the heartbeat of God's love resounding in the heart of the Church at prayer moved them and strengthened them to face every trial.
The spiritual renewal continues in our day and propels us into mission too.  I do not doubt the indispensable role prayer must play in our new evangelization today.  True prayer is an encounter with Someone who awaits us with love.  He is waiting to entrust us with a exquisite work of love, to implicate us in His tender concern for families and marriages, for all those in need of a word of hope. In this way, prayer opens up new beginnings, a renewal of fidelity and joy that only an encounter with Christ can bring.


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June 8, 2015

Prayer and Beauty, Love and Work

John Paul II greatly admired a poet named Cyprian Norwid.  His poetry connected work, beauty and love with the task of being human, of living life to the full.  Through this poet, Saint John Paul came to appreciate how men and women are meant to build bridges, to connect to one another and to God. These insights permeate many of his social teachings. Lifting our hearts to see what is beautiful, to allowing beauty to move us into love, this is also a good way to begin to pray. 

Saint John Paul and the Poet Norwid were convinced that what makes something beautiful is the love it discloses. This love disclosed in the truly beautiful evokes the response of love, and not to love, when we see what is truly beautiful, is to fall short of the noble calling of our humanity.  Here, in the face of beauty, the holiness of marriage, the sacredness of society and the necessity of prayer converge.  We find them leading to and flowing from the work of love that beauty inspires deep in the heart.

The work of love and our need for God coincide before the dynamism of beauty.  When a word of hope is most needed, God answers in heart piercing ways. The face of a neighbor, whether stranger or friend, is an icon through which heaven gazes on us.  Whether hidden in poverty or distress, if we seek God's glory that He has given us through His Son, we find the splendour of his beauty shine out once again.  A single glimpse of this beauty makes the work of marriage, family, and society not only possible, but worthwhile for a life time. Prayer knocks at the door of love, and through its humble petition finds this threshold open to all that is truly great, noble and wonderful about human existence.

People who search for and find what is truly beautiful in prayer become committed to the work of connecting with God and with one another because they believe in what they see. They burn with love to share the love they know. They feel the need to give themselves. In the beautiful horizons of God's particular love, they behold their neighbor as a gift and a task, and they would not want it any other way. This burning adoration causes them to be invested in people and in God. In this contemplation, what is beautiful has captured their gaze and expanded their spirit: no sacrifice is too great or too small.  

This happens because love is that for which our hearts are made, that by which we exist at all. Whenever we see this ultimate purpose in the here and now, in this particular moment limited by these concrete circumstances, in the gift and task with which God entrusts us now, we are invited to cross a threshold, to pass through a doorway, to make an connection, to build a bridge. Our hearts; cannot be indifferent because the One who reveals the Beauty of the invisible God, the one who discloses the Father to us, He is the One who is present in such moments. If the bridge seems impossible, it is only because God is bulding it in a hidden way, and He needs our trust and our effort to make space for this beautiful work to be realized.

The bridge we feel ourselves compelled to build is like the one that God has fashioned to span the distance between our hearts and His. It is deeply established in the ground, rooted in the nitty gritty, and in this sense, radical in our basic human experience, our needs, drives, instincts, passions and desires. It reaches into heights, appealing to all that is noble and true, evoking a generous and great response. It extends out from our every effort to protect and makes space for what is more dear to us. Its expanse reaches across our fears and indifference, even our malice itself. One finds this pathway starting before our own past and racing ahead to a future that this life is too small to contain. This bridge from heaven to earth makes possible even on earth the things of heaven, even in the heart of men, the heart of God.

Those who glimpse this bridge, who gain a sense of the vast horizons love has opened before us, cannot settle for alienation or allow others to suffer loneliness, not without a word of hope. They must also build bridges to connect others with the beauty they have seen. To reach beyond their own humanity, they have seen, is what makes us human -- for what is humanity but a radiance of the beauty of God?

May 19, 2015

A Missionary Disciple and the Gift of God

The disciples of the Risen Lord are missionary.  They are sent out by Him into the world to be messengers of Divine Mercy, and their teaching is not their own. They know that they have been entrusted with a pearl beyond price, the mustard seed, the one thing that does not fail when all else fails around them. They declare what they have heard because what they hear has turned their whole world upside down and given them ground on which to stand, rock on which to build, "If you knew the Gift of God."

They are sent out because the One sent to them commands them.  Raised from their sight, and at the same time, always mysteriously present in new and surprising ways, they follow in the footsteps of their Crucified Master.  Their mission is to reveal His love in the face of alienation and hostility, to bring action filled words of hope into hopeless situations, to propose and re-propose faith for eyes yet unable to glimpse the glory of God. In all this and so much more, they long to satisfy the great thirst by which Christ cries out, "If you knew the Gift of God."

The One who conquered death asks the Father to send Tongues of Fire to these disciples whom He has sent. Thus, this Mysterious Breath from the Heart of Father and Son breathes in them, sealing the deepest interior of their hearts with the freedom to offer their lives in love. The Father and the Son have always delighted in this excess of joy because in sovereign freedom They forever seal their own love with this Consuming Fire.  Now in pure jubilation, because the Risen Lord has asked it and because all things are given Him, the frailest creature can also know this Uncreated Gift until one's whole being echoes, "If you knew the Gift of God."

Missionary disciples live by breathing in the Holy Spirit's animating presence through which with great delicacy He lavishes on them spiritual gifts of every kind. New and unfamiliar wonders bathe these souls as their whole existence aches with both the exultation of heavenly canticles and the heart-piercing cry of the most vulnerable, the very same music resounding in the depths of God. In this symphony of truth, the true disciple discovers how to rest in the tenderness of God and, even more, how to be so tender with God that He might rest in them, "If you knew the Gift of God."

The intensity with which the Fire of God's Love burns in them is the same intensity that propels them out into the most painful of life's problems.  Into the dangerous peripheries of society and into the troubled heart of a family, for the sake of both friends and enemies alike, the missionary disciple is not afraid to enter with the peace of Christ. Animated by the Spirit, these disciples breathe forth a hidden fruitfulness so super-abundant, this life is too short and limited to hold it all.  Even in their dying breath, one can hear them sing, "If you knew the Gift of God."

A missionary disciple is a soul lit ablaze, a fiery icon of love and truth, a window through which the joy of heaven shines with life saving splendor. By making of their bodies a living sacrifice, true spiritual worship, such missionary souls offer divine warmth, light and life to a cold, dark and dying world. Through these generous souls, even when brutally rejected and scorned unto death, the joy from on high is revealed here below, especially where it is most needed.  Because they have sung sealed with the Holy Spirit, others now sing "If you know the Gift of God."