The Basics Of Deep Prayer


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Contents of the Chapter:

Maintaining Consistency

The Boredom of Control

The Value of Time

The Vicissitudes of Life

The Crisis of Faith

Saint Teresa of Avila

Saint Francis of Assisi


The Blessed Virgin

Mother Teresa

Saint Colette

The Disruption of Routine
Maintaining Consistency:

    After consistency is established, the next issue is to maintain it. While maintaining consistency might seem simple enough, it is often more difficult than it seems, and in most cases, there are some very significant issues which need to be addressed. As a matter of fact, consistency is rarely established for more than a few weeks. In the few cases where consistency is established, it is usually lost in a matter of months.

    We tend to look at consistency as only having the discipline of maintaining a certain schedule, but almost everyone maintains a schedule while hardly anyone maintains consistency. Consistency puts us on the path towards deep prayer, deep prayer is the most powerful thing that can happen to a human. At the very least, it is a life changing event, and although few people realize it, the course history often revolves around it.

    For example, given the holy development in Avila, it is not surprising that the Spanish discovered the New World and converted most of it Christianity. Christianity went from a European religion to a North American, South American, and European religion. A secular historian would argue that it was a natural development of imperialism, but evangelism doesn't occur naturally. For example, look at Asia. The one country the Spanish took an interest in, the Philippines, is the only country in Asia that is mostly Christian, but all of Asia suffered from imperialism.

    The evangelical success did not occur because the Spanish were better at evangelization. The Spanish did not enjoy this measure of success either before or afterwards. The success occurred because the deep prayer brought God and the world closer together. It was a grace given as a gift between friends.

    While most of us would be highly skeptical that Avila had anything to do with the spread of Christianity, so many similar circumstances have occurred throughout history that the cause and effect can nearly be reduced to a mathematical equation. We only need to look at the impact and effect of the lives of Saints Dominic (of Guzman), Benedict, Thomas (of Aquinas), Paul (the Apostle), Francis (of Assisi), Colette, Clare (of Assisi), Catherine (of Siena), and many others. With possible exceptions similar to those of Dominic at Muret or Joan (of Arc) at Orleans, secular historians won't record the historical linkage which is why they can not foretell the future, but through the eyes of Faith, the Church knows well in advance the course that will be taken. As more recent examples of this phenomena, look to Fatima or "Humanae Vitae", and the historical examples, that could be used, would fill many books.

    Consistency changes things, and change doesn't come easy. The greater the change, the harder it is, and God is restoring the world to a sinless state. As we become consistent, we begin participate in God's venture of change. To say the least, we should expect consistency to be troublesome. This is most likely why consistency is such a rarity.

    Consistency requires that we at least attempt to focus our thoughts. If we lose our focus during prayer and allow ourselves to engage in idle chatter, we will find these prayer times to come much easier than deep prayer. To be perfectly clear, chatter is not consistency, because deep prayer requires focus. In deep prayer we listen to God (not vice versa).

    Many of us have been taught that prayer is talking to God. While this can be an accurate definition, in any reality, what are we going to tell God, that God doesn't already know? We can't participate in God's design, if we don't listen to it, or as Padre Pio puts it, "Don't be a nuisance."

    Since we know how difficult consistency is going to be, let us look at some practical problems we might encounter when trying to maintain consistency. These are common problems that people have after they found consistency.

    Before we get into the list, we should keep in mind that any list of this sort can never be exhaustive (although these problems are some of the more common ones), and we can easily have more than one problem at a time. Progress isn't made as much by solving the problem as it is by moving towards spiritual poverty which we might call the second step of deep prayer.

The Boredom of Control:

    For some of us, maintaining consistency is as easy as getting up earlier and praying. When we are able to do this, the greatest danger to consistency is probably dry (read boring) prayer times.

    Dry prayer times have a number of problems. For example, since the prayer times are boring, we might decide that the prayer times have little value which isn't exactly inaccurate, but we want to use virtue to eliminate the boredom. We don't want to give up the consistency.

    When we have so much control over what we do, we often control our prayer times, but at some point, we want God to control our prayer times. The same discipline that established consistency makes it difficult for us to, "Let go and let God."

    When we have this much discipline, we probably value our time. If we are not getting much out of the prayer time, at some point, we might decide that the prayer times are not working for us. We need to avoid this line of thinking. Since we are all called to love God, prayer times are for everyone. Boring prayer times are the result of bad technique (not good routine). God doesn't need good technique, but we have to work with who we are.

    The technique we need to escape boredom will be more fully developed later, but we will touch on certain points here.

    We can not expect to know much about meditation during our first session. As Jesus told Martha, we are worried and upset over many things, and during quiet times these things can percolate. In the "Song of Songs", the lover comes in the stillness of night and under the cover of darkness. We want to establish techniques that move us toward a productive stillness.

    For example, when most people begin to meditate, they can only hold their undivided concentration for maybe 2 to 6 seconds. In addition, concentration is as much emotional as it is mental. As we begin concentration techniques, emotional turmoil is likely to surface, and we will need inner healing to deal with these things in an effective fashion. The inner healing could come with the aid of others in our prayer group, but in most cases, so much healing is required that we need to understand at least some of the basics ourselves. We won't cover inner healing here, as there are many good books on the subject.

    After the inner healing phase, we usually go through the creative phase. All kinds of new ideas pop into our heads while we are trying to pray. Our concentration is getting better, and we are becoming more intelligent. These ideas are likely to be some of the best ones we have ever had, but we can't let them distract us from our march towards spiritual poverty. In other words, we need to ignore these creative urges. We can take advantage of them after the prayer time is over, but during the prayer, let us not forget to keep our undivided attention on the meditation.

    The phases are different for different people, but the following phases are typical for those of us who prefer discipline.
1. Interesting Activity: For example, we may feel ourselves developing a relationship with Jesus as we read the Bible.

2. Inner Healing: As we grow quiet (perhaps we are concentrating on a certain passage from the Bible), all kinds of past events, that haven't been emotionally resolved, come to interfere with our meditation.

3. Creative Impulses: Once we are quiet for short periods, we are likely to feel creative surges which must be ignored. As Saint John of the Cross put it, let us not be running towards Jesus through a field of flowers only to stop and smell the roses!

4. Boring Inactivity: When everything is quiet, we are likely to be bored. While the inactivity is necessary, we must double our virtuous efforts (i.e., practice faith, hope, and charity) to bring an bring an experience of God out of the quiet (Ed Note - Don't worry; we will cover this in detail later).

    Boring prayer times are neither necessary or desirable. Since they are unpleasant, we will find them emotionally repulsive. We can easily get frustrated with the lack of progress and start thinking that we will never make real progress. Boring prayer times are an indication that we are not making as much progress as possible. In other words, we are close, but we are not practicing good technique.

    Before the music resonates with the crowd, we need to have the right music playing to the right audience. Along the same line of thought, we want to pick a meditation that has the right theme with the right amount of activity.

    Let's consider the activity first. When we are new to deep prayer, our prayer times will need to be more active. As we gain control, the amount of activity in our prayer should be reduced. If there is too much or too little activity, we will tend to be bored.

    Activity is somewhat like clothes for our ego. At first our ego will be large, and we will need a lot of activity to fit it.

    As we find God, our ego becomes smaller, and we will need less activity. If we have too much activity, the clothes will get in our way. In other words, we will be spending time on the activity, when we could be spending time with something more meaningful.

    If the clothes of activity are too small for our ego, they will seem restrictive and confining. When the activity is too little, the prayer time can almost seem painfully rigid.

    Let's look at some examples of too much activity. Spiritual readings are highly active. For example, it would be considered highly active to read the Bible without stopping to ponder it. If we are reading the Bible for the first or second time, we will be finding out about Jesus, and this is the primary purpose of the Bible (as Saint Paula convinced Saint Jerome - Jerome compiled and edited the Bible as we know it). At this time, continous reading is probably the correct amount of activity.

    At some point, the study of the Bible begins to be less about the personality of God, and more about facts that surround the story of Jesus. For example, we might notice inconsistency, humor, and other items that will never lead us to spiritual poverty. Then, it is time to ponder.

    When we ponder, we can't worry about what clothes Jesus wore or roads He traveled. We need to ponder something that takes us into the infinity of God. In other words, we should ponder something mysterious. For example, it is unlikely that the pondering of who won the roll of dice for the clothing of Jesus will lead to much progress. It would be better to ponder, for example, why Jesus had to die.

    While pondering is not as active as reading, we won't reach spiritual poverty by pondering. We need to learn to relate to the person of God, but pondering tends to dwell on the attributes of God.

    We can also make the mistake of using too little activity. When this happens, we usually don't have enough structure to carry us through our own prejudice, bias and other personality quirks that we may have. In a typical example, we would be using too little activity if we tried to maintain consistency with the Jesus prayer. There is nothing specifically wrong with the Jesus mantra, except that it is usually too little activity for us.

    With too little activity, the mind wanders which is okay as long as we don't justify the distraction. To put this another way, any authentic prayer time has a structure and a goal. In terms of the structure, we use the commemoration to reach spiritual poverty. Then we drive the spiritual poverty with virtue to reach contemplation which is the goal. If this seems overly simplistic, we need to remember that God is infinitely simple. We are suffering a distraction any time that our heart, mind, or soul wander from the commemoration. With too little structure, we might wander from the simplicity and then justify the waste.

    The distraction is not that harmful and certainly not dangerous, unless we endanger our simplicity by letting the distraction become our destination. We might even make some progress while meandering here and there, but we are certainly not taking the shortest distance between two points.

    The structure can be either personal, social, or both. In our Jesus prayer example, a personal structure would be to empty ourselves as we are beathing out, and let Jesus us fill us as we breath in. When the breath is either completely out or in, we would ask ourself if we are on track. A social structure would be to quietly use the Jesus prayer during a social prayer such as a Mass or Rosary.

    Activity is something to be aware of, but the root cause of boredom is a lack of virtue. We need to practice virtue as we pray. Virtue is the key that opens the door to the contemplative experience.

    Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint John of the Cross, Pope John Paul the II, and others wrote about the connection between virtue and contemplation, but for most of us, it is still an area that lacks a general understanding. We can't cover what is needed about virtue here, but we will begin to explain what it is.

    Virtue and activity are somewhat related as Saint John of the Cross so adequately demonstrated. In other words, we should practice virtue in the meditation, and as we begin to leave contemplation, we reemphasize the virtuous meditation.

    To be more clear, when we pray, we don't doubt God; we believe that God loves us, and want to have a relationship with us. We believe that God will give us a deep contemplative experience to help us build a relationship with God.

    A virtuous meditation needs a focus (or actually a window) and only Jesus and Mary provide the perfect window (for they are without sin). The Saints provide good windows, and we should be able to see a little of God in just about anyone. In a hopeful meditation, we long to feel the presence of either Jesus or Mary.

    The stage before contemplation involves the surrender of our own agenda to feel and to belong to our focus (i.e., Jesus or Mary). This is the virtue of charity, because we give up ourselves to feel the presence of Jesus and Mary.

    We continue to feel and drive the virtues of faith, hope, and charity throughout the contemplative and meditative experience. Of course, we will cover this in much more detail in the chapter on virtue, but we can easily see that such feelings are anything but boring.

The Value of Time:

    Once a prayer time is consistent, it might take awhile to find the results. During this time, we might wonder whether the prayer time is being wasted. A number of years often go by before the prayer time becomes the central and critical event of the day. There will likely be many times where something else seems more important than the prayer time. Once a few prayer times are missed, we lose consistency, and in a short while, we are back at the beginning of the process.

    To resist succumbing to the importance of time, we need to keep our focus by going back to the greatest commandment. Our whole life should revolve around God. The value (as in most valuable player) of our lives is not dependent on what we do, but in how closely we follow God.

    For example Saint Francis of Assisi and Emperor Frededick lived at about the same time. Frederick was the ruler, and his time was valuable. As such, (it is safe to say because the fruit of his labor did not last) he did not have time to maintain consistency.

    On the other hand, Francis was considered to be a fool at first. His time was not considered to be as valuable as that of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire which was Frederick's title, but Francis used his time more wisely. Francis would not stay at a house unless it had a good private place to pray.

    Even though time was so much more important to Frederick than Francis, Frederick's contributions (either positive or negative) did not stand the test of time. In fact, Frederick died an early death, and his son lost the battles and influence almost immediately. On the other hand, the ministry that Francis inspired is still going strong.

    As we grow in God, we can feel God working through us, and God's work is both necessary and lasting.

    When we don't spend time with God, we are wasting our time. To put this another way, God gives us the grace to find the meaning in our life. When we ignore God, our lives become meaningless. In other words, the people who shape the world are the people of God. Everyone else is chasing the fame of their own ego.

The Vicissitudes of Life:

    The dramatic changes of life are probably the main reason we don't maintain consistency. Deep prayer novices are not aware and do not believe the power of deep prayer. When everything is done right, we should expect things to happen. When things do happen, we don't trust God enough to believe He is working in our best interests.

    In fact, even the suggestion of God helping us through hard times makes us bitter and resentful. In our pain, we ask, "God where are You?" During these times, most of us temporarily lose our Faith in God, and of course, consistency is lost completely for the foreseeable future. After years of healing, many of us will still not see the coincidence between the deep prayer and the painful times.

    Deep prayer is powerful. It was designed by Saints who knew God. With this close divine relationship, they were able to put together a package that delivers. We can be fooled when we see deep prayer as just another spiritual exercise. It is much more than that.

    When we begin deep prayer our lives will pivot toward our real identity. We will begin to become who we were called to be at our creation. Those things in our lives that stand in the way of our authentic identity will crumble. Vocational decisions are often reversed. Here are some common examples. The married person gets divorced. The business person goes bankrupt. The family person grieves the death of a close family member. The religious person is expelled from the community for embarrassing reasons. It is also common for there to be some combination of these and other calamities.

    The fortunate few of us, who maintain consistency through these hard times, are rewarded with more than a conventional life time can deliver. It is greater than human love, material wealth, or any other combination of rewards from a normal life. If we stay with it, these hard times usually occur simultaneously with our first encounter of God. For example, we will probably experience the first flight of the soul (i.e., words used by Saint John of the Cross to to describe the first contemplative experience) during these hard times.

    It is easy to get mad at God when our lives are falling apart. We want answers, and we want them now. Yet, during these times, our emotions are hurt, and no answer is going to address our emotional pain. Furthermore, this state sometimes continues indefinitely. Instead of allowing God to put our lives on track, we turn our backs on God.

    Consistency and good technique don't necessarily bring us bad things. If our lives are already on course, we will simply see the doors of infinite spirituality open before us.

The Crisis of Faith:

    We can not continue to progress along the spiritual journey indefinitely, unless the spiritual journey is carried past the prayer time and into the day. At some point, we need to make progress towards integrating our prayer time into the rest of the day. Of what use is Church on Sunday, when it makes no difference to the rest of the week?

    To be more to the point, deep prayer moves us along the spiritual journey, and this is a life changing (even world changing) event. It is not just something we do with God that is nobody's business but our own. God has an agenda, and to maintain consistency, we will have to be vehicles of that divine agenda.

    While this might seem easy, it is often much more difficult. God is great, and He calls us to be like Him. There are many problems associated with this Divine Calling, but to save space, we will only look at four of the more common ones as they affected the lives of some famous holy people (namely, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Francis of Assisi, Moses, The Blessed Virgin, Mother Teresa, and Saint Colette).

    The reason that we are going to go into this with such elaborate detail is that the following discussion is nearly entirely unknown. Furthermore, it is absolutely essential, and yet, it seems completely ridiculous. Normal people would probably ascribe the following short biographies to the eccentricities of Saints, but deep prayer isn't normal. The Saints have a method to their madness that makes everything else either inadequate, insane, or both.

    To put this crisis of Faith in the proper context, why do we Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yes, Jesus told us to, but why did He prescribe these words? We know, from the Bible, how the early Church experienced and referred to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and many people have experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit throughout the history of the Church. For example, Saint Anthony of Padua spoke in tongues before the Pope and a large gathering of people at the Vatican on Pentecost. Just as with Saint Peter (as related in the Bible), each person heard what Saint Anthony was saying in their own language. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is about enthusiasm and evangelization.

    There is also the Baptism of the Son where we give our lives completely to Jesus Christ. This personal conversion is usually reflected in the turning away from sin and the associated redemptive graces. We try to live our lives with a personal Saviour and doing what He would do.

    Some of us think we received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit twice, but, of course, this is impossible. The Holy Spirit is such a strong, indwelling force that we can never forget it. We experienced two separate Baptisms. The Baptisms of the Son and the Spirit. History is replete with examples of each. The Baptism of the Spirit is described by Jesus, Saint John of the Cross, and the Biblical account of Pentecost. The Baptism of the Son is related many times in the Bible where Jesus forgives people their sins. There are many examples of people who underwent the same conversion such as Saint Augustine or Matt Talbot. After these Baptism(s), we personally know the Son, Spirit, or both.

    Jesus also told us to Baptise in the name of the Father. Jesus said a lot of things that seemed crazy at the time, but we now know that he meant what He said. The Baptism of the Father is no different. There is a Baptism of the Father, but it seems that few of us can recognize it. History gives us numerous accounts of this Baptism. For example, the Baptism of the Father is all through the Bible from Adam through Paul. This baptism is a radical calling from God where we dramatically decide to become the authentic person who God made. The Baptism of the Father is about indentity and vocation. At some point, we have to go back to being who we are if want to continue the spiritual jouney of deep prayer.

    Our crisis of Faith occurs when we are between a rock and a hard spot. On the one hand, we see the value of deep prayer, and we know we want to continue, but God often calls us to impossible and unreasonable things that seem too crazy to take seriously (our imitation of Christ?).

    It is a crisis of Faith because God doesn't necessarily appear to us with explicit testimoney. While the calling can be overt, it is more likely to be an interior urging. Will we have the Faith to proclaim from the rooftops, what we heard in secret?

    Since the Baptism of the Father seems to us to be an incredible reach, we might think of ourselves as egomaniacs rather than servants of God. Our false sense of humility may make us want to suppress these inner urgings, but the Blessed Virgin, a model of humility if there ever was one, had no qualms about the Magnificat. Few of us have the Faith of Mary that moves us to place ourselves in God's hands and be the subject of impossible circumstances.

    Then, if we don't follow the Baptism of the Father, we can't maintain consistency because God requires Faith to make progress. God is the rock, and the practicality of life is the hard spot. While it might seem like we are faced with a dilemma, we are being given the infinite opportunity to accept ourselves for who we are which is children of God.

    To move forward in our spiritual journey, we need to follow the example of Mary and make this incredible leap of faith by saying, "Yes", to God. This radical decision can be made easier by becoming more familiar with it. Towards this objective, we will examine the Baptism of Father as undertaken by six heroic models. To pursue these accounts with discipline and structure, we will force each biography into a format that covers the same four difficulties (not that these are the only ones possible). Then we will look at how it all worked out for the glory of God. By going through these real cases, we will gain an understanding of how the Baptism of the Father occurs.
1. Committed: The person might have already committed to something else.

2. Outrageous: The calling seems so bizarre that we wonder how it could be from God.

3. Surrender: The calling often means that we need to give up everything we have to follow God.

4. Illogical: The calling isn't just impractical; it is impossible.

5. Anecdote: In this part, we will cover how God worked things out for the obedient servant.

Saint Teresa of Avila:
    Teresa was called to reform the Carmelite order which would involve either the conversion of convents to her way or the founding of new convents from scratch.
1. Committed: She was already a nun in a convent who had vowed obedience to her superior whom already followed a certain practice.

2. Outrageous: Why should she assume that God was talking to her and no one else? If God wanted the convent to undertake a different practice, why didn't God speak to the mother superior?

3. Surrender: She had to leave her sisters, friends, and the security of the convent to undertake a risky venture, and she had to trust her inner voice to do something that she had no way of doing.

4. Illogical: Besides taking the vow of poverty, she had no money or even friends who had enough money to undertake what God was asking. She didn't have anyone to join her. With her vow of obedience she couldn't try to find either money or other Carmelites.

5. Anecdote: God drew attention to Teresa by placing miraculous events in her life. For example, she would float in the air (especially when she was singing). After her reputation for holiness grew, she became very ill. Since the nuns could not take care of someone as ill as Teresa was, she was sent to a rich lady to die.

    At the rich lady's house, Teresa recovered, and the rich lady became a benefactress of Teresa's undertaking. Since Teresa had the miraculous reputation, some other nuns joined her.

    During the Spanish Inquisition, Teresa's new order was scrutinized because it was new. The Spanish Government confined Teresa to her original convent which was not part of her new order. While she was there, the convent, which had many nuns, decided to join her new order, and under Teresa's care, it became even larger.

Saint Francis of Assisi:
    Francis was called over several messages which is typical. On his first call, he was called to follow God instead of fighting for the Pope. After a while, he was called to rebuild the Church. At first, Francis thought God meant to rebuild the church he was in which he did by begging for building materials. After a while, Francis came to the understanding that God was calling him to rebuild the entire Church.
1. Committed: He had committed to go fight for the Pope, and he had left Assisi. If he returned to Assisi without fighting, he would be considered a coward. It was very expensive to outfit a knight, and his family had sacrificed to buy the gear that Francis had.

2. Outrageous: Are we not called to serve the Church to build the Body of Christ? Why would God wait until he was on his way to battle before calling him? How would Francis rebuild the Church through poverty when the Church had more money and property than most Kings? Everyone esteemed Francis for what he was doing, and everyone would pity Francis for what God would call him to do. How could Francis be right, and the rest of the world be wrong?

3. Surrender: He had to give up the chivalry and prestige of knighthood, and in their place he was required to do embarrassing things that would subject him to ridicule. For example, instead of wearing the fancy clothes as the son or a wealthy clothing merchant, Francis wore the rags of a beggar. While fate had reduced some people to misery, Francis chose to suffer poverty.

4. Illogical: How was he going to rebuild the Church by embracing poverty which most people found repulsive? He was not a Priest, and he didn't even belong to a religious order. Who would listen to a person whom had no credentials.

5. Anecdote: Francis followed his interior inspirations which generated a lot of talk around Assisi. Some people thought he was holy and others thought he was crazy. He did attract a few followers such as a 16 year old girl, Clare.

    The local bishop told Francis that he needed permission from the pope to start a religious order. At first, the pope said no, then God gave the pope a dream which caused the pope to change his mind.

    In another dream, Dominic saw a stranger and himself as working towards a reformation in the Church. The next day Dominic saw Francis for the first time and realized that Francis was the stranger in the dream.

    Besides their respective orders and their associated ministries, these two founders built a vision in the Church which focused on radical spirituality. By following this vision, people could aspire to the highest levels of spirituality.

    Many people were attracted to this new vision, and Francis, Dominic, and Clare were able to carry out the vocations that God gave them.

    Nearly everyone knows the story of the burning bush, but for those who don't, we summarize it. Moses grew up as royalty in Egypt. He ran into trouble and fled into the desert. He married a desert girl and settled down as a shepherd. Then, one day Moses saw a burning bush that did not burn. When he went to look closer, God told him to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to set the Hebrews free.
1. Committed: He had the normal family obligations, and in his day, the family was necessary for survival. He had both plans and responsibility that needed his attention.

2. Outrageous: How could he free his people? He knew that Pharaoh would not let his people go. He had no army to fight Egypt which was one of the stronger nations.

3. Surrender: He had to give up the peace and tranquility of his current home to go to a place where he was wanted for murder.

4. Illogical: Well, God gave Moses a staff that would turn into a snake and back to a staff and a brother who had the gift of gab, but these things were supposed to impress Pharaoh? Moses and the Hebrews didn't even know each other. How could he speak for them? Why would God speak to Moses when Moses had never practiced the religion of the Hebrews?

5. Anecdote: Of course, this is all found in the Bible. God worked a number of miracles, but He saved the best for the final departure. God led the Israelites with a cloud by day and fire by night, until He had them trapped by the Red Sea. Then God split the waters of the Red Sea to save the Israelites and destroy the Egyptians. Moses then led the Israelites through the desert for a number of years before they finally entered the promised land.

The Blessed Virgin:
    God asked Mary to be the Mother of His Son. She seemed to understand what this meant very quickly. For example, she went to visit Elizabeth immediately after Gabriel's visit, and in the "Magnificat" she outlines her vocation to Elizabeth with very good accuracy. Since Mary was without sin, the understanding and acceptance of her vocation was apparently very simple.
1. Committed: She was promised to Joseph, but she had not lived with him yet.

2. Outrageous: Mary was very young, perhaps 13, 14, or 15, when she was called. Had she told her high school (or junior high) counselor, what do you suppose the counselor would think?

3. Surrender: In Mary's day, being pregnant without being married was a big problem that carried significant penalties. Mary had to give up her reputation and risk being exposed to the law.

4. Illogical: In Mary's view, she wondered how she was going to have a baby without a male partner.

5. Anecdote: Since Mary was conceived without original sin, her story began before she was born. Not only does the dream of the Chosen People reach its fruition in Mary, but Mary becomes the perfect woman (the new Eve) that most accurately witnesses the feminine side of God. Holy people need to meditate on the life of Mary just as they meditate on the life of Jesus. For her part, the Church recognizes major Marian Feast Days such as the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception.

Mother Teresa:
    Mother Teresa was a nun in India when God called her to serve the "poorest of the poor." As she understood it, she would have to establish her own convents and attract her own nuns.
1. Committed: She had already promised to serve her current order.

2. Outrageous: How could she go work among the poor with no resources?

3. Surrender: She had to give up her friends and the security of the convent to go live in a dangerous environment and its uncertain future.

4. Illogical: Wouldn't she just become involuntarily poor like the people she was assisting?

5. Anecdote: One of the most extraordinary things in Mother Teresa's life is how she answered yes to God's call. If only more people would follow her example! Her yes was not just momentary. It lasted the rest of her life, and her sisters still celebrate the day of Teresa's call. The beginning of her journey was so difficult that she destroyed her journal of it, but she remained faithful to the call. Today her call, to serve the poorest of the poor, is a household phrase throughout the world.

Saint Colette:
    God called upon Colette to reestablish poverty as a central part of the Franciscan order.
1. Committed: In front of her entire town, she had taken solemn vows to be a recluse (this is like being in solitary confinement; usually along side of a church). Recluses were usually for repentant sinners who were in the autumn of their life. Colette's vows were sensational because they were for the prettiest girl in town. It would be difficult and embarrassing to break the vows. At first, Saint Colette resisted this as a matter of honor.

2. Outrageous: To reform the Franciscan order, she would need the support of some Franciscans, and she didn't even know any of them. How could she reform an order she knew nothing about? How could she reform any order if she broke her vows of a recluse?

3. Surrender: She had never undertaken a task of this sort before. She was used to serving God in some minor role. Therefore, she would have to give up her solitude to become a manager and organizer of a great undertaking.

4. Illogical: Why would God ask her to reform the Franciscan order when she was not a Franciscan? How was she going to get permission from the Pope to reform the Franciscan order when she was not a Franciscan? God did not ask her to join the order, but simply to go to the Pope to ask permission to start a reformed order of Franciscans.

5. Anecdote: While Saint Colette's life would make good material for a movie, many people are unfamiliar with her life. Colette wasn't just holy; she was miraculously holy! She performed some first class miracles such as multiplying food and stopping the sun. When she went into a trance and communed with Heaven which happened with some frequency, she was encased in a white light. Perhaps her modesty prevails even in death.

    We have a very good record of her life because many people recognized her holiness when she was alive and several began writing her biography, but Colette found one of the better biographies and burned it.

    Saint Colette was called when she was a recluse. Since she did not want to break her vows, God had her go blind to help her see His way. She finally said yes, and God gave her sight back. A priest was called at the same time, and two worked together to have a bishop rescind her recluse vows.

    They then appealed to the Pope (at least to them, he was the Pope - there were two or three people who claimed to be Pope at the time) who granted them the right to begin the reformed order. The two carried out this work for the rest of their lives.

    Since Colette was so extraordinary, she attracted a lot of attention and support. She rejuvenated the ideal of poverty in the Franciscan order, and the reform eventually spread to the other orders.

    In these six examples, we can begin to see why many people fail to answer yes to the Baptism of the Father.

    It is not uncommon for the Baptism of the Father to come with some supernatural experience. In the examples above, there is a visit by an angel (Mary), a bush on fire that didn't burn (Moses), a talking crucifix (Francis), and other things. It is as if God uses these things to help us place more believabilty in the experience. Even with this divine aid, hardly anyone accepts the Baptism of the Father.

    Some people might hold the opinion that the Baptism of the Father is an experience only a few people have a chance to receive, but the way of the spiritual journey dictates that the Baptism of the Father is for everyone. A saint in development goes through the following steps.
1. Consistency in daily prayer
2. Spiritual poverty
3. Contemplation
4. Vocational development
    These steps are consistent with the methods of spiritual masters (e.g., Benedict, Dominic, Francis, Ignatius, among others) throughout the history of the Church. For example, Saint Dominic's motto, "Action through contemplation," sums up the last two steps. In another example, Benedict had a monk who pretended to go into ecstasy, and then he would leave daily prayer to do other things. Benedict took care of this problem by beating the monk with a stick while the monk was pretending ecstacy which shows that Benedict believed in consistency. Of course, daily prayer is required in all religious orders, but in this case, Benedict was concerned about a specific type of prayer that meets the definition of consistency we gave earlier.

    Perhaps the strongest case for spiritual poverty is made in the "Song of Songs" which is from the Bible, but the phrase, "spiritual poverty", was most likely coined, many centuries later, by Saint John of the Cross. Many other Saints, including Saint Catherine of Siena, wrote about the need for this singular desire.

    These four steps have been established for a long time, but they are not practiced by almost all people. God is inclusive, and all are called. If we practice these steps, we will be called to do something for God with the attendant attributes we listed in our six examples that were just given.

    While these four steps occur in order, the Baptism of the Father can occur at any time. It is not uncommon for the Baptism of the Father to occur before consistency, and in the case of Colette (and probably Mary and others) the Baptism of the Father did not occur until after the third step. Of course, it can't occur before the fourth step because we can't develop a vocation that we know nothing about.

    This leaves us in a predicament. We are all called, but very few are ready to be taken because we don't have the relationship with God to trust the call.

    In fact, many of us are called, and we don't even recognize the call. The call is often over several events, but we don't realize that the events are all different parts of the same thing.

    It is easy to tell when anyone accepts the call because God doesn't light a lamp and put it under a basket. Lamps are easy to see in the dark. This allows us to look across the world and see how many people accepted the call. In any single century, the number of people who accept the call can usually be counted on ten fingers.

    We shouldn't take this to mean that very few people are saved because we are judged by our appetites, but it does mean that many of our appetites won't be saved because we never developed our vocation. When we attempt the spiritual journey, we often face this crisis of faith. On the one hand, God requests something that is completely unreasonable, and on the other hand, we can't become the children of God without accepting our identity.

    There are those who would argue that this is not fair in some cases. For example, if we die as an infant, how can we develop our vocation? We need to remember that God judges us as a group as well as individually, and secondly our identity stays with us after we die.

    In other words, whether we are a minute or century old, we are judged by our appetites. An infant's appetites are mainly inherited (i.e., for example original sin but also the good deeds of the ancestors). Therefore, the ancestors which the infant favors play a large role in the appetites of an infant. While modern science now testifies to these facts, Aquinas actually proved this about 800 years ago.

    Let's look at this from a different angle. We are the recursion of smaller parts. In other words, we can be identified by these smaller parts. These smaller parts have a free will, mental capacity, and the independence to make their own choices. In turn, these smaller parts (most likely a cell) are made up of still smaller parts that have all the same characteristics. This process goes on to infinity in both the smaller and larger ways (from Aristotle or before). We, therefore, create a larger being (probably the human race) that has the capacity to be saved or lossed.

    Infant deaths, along with all other problems, are the result of sin in the human appetites. Without sin, we would all reach our vocation. An infant who dies is all part of this larger process. For example, in our age, the mothers who are assisted by medical personnel often kill their babies either at conception or a little latter. Our children can not reach their vocation when they are murdered. Is God not being fair by allowing us the ability to be able to be pro-choice?

    Original sin is not a grudge God holds against the human race. We have sinful appetites, and we can not escape this sin except through grace. This is one reason why we say that Mary is full of grace, because all grace flows through Mary. Mary can do this because she is without sin. We can never escape original sin without turning our appetites back to God. We pass these appetites to our children through heredity and example. The Church holds the keys that can solve this dilemma.

    From these philosophical facts, we can expect salvation to be both an individual and collective process. The process is more collective in an infant and individual choices play a larger role as we age.

    The Baptism of the Father is not required for salvation, but we need to develop our vocation if we want God to recognize the design He created. If we love God and follow His commandments, God will recognize some of our appetites. Without the development of our God given identity, however, we can expect fewer of our appetites will be saved. In some ways, we can receive the power of the Holy Spirit (Baptism of the Spirit) and be saved from our Sins (Baptism of the Son), and yet we might only be talking the talk. With the call to our identity (Baptism of the Father), we have to walk the walk.

    There isn't anyway to accept the call of the Father without living life in the Spirit and Son. While these Baptisms might be years apart, they are all interrelated. For example, call of the Father is a call to our identity, but the Baptism we receive first says a lot about who we are (from Abbot David of Pecos, NM).

    The crisis of Faith that the Baptism of Father emphasizes is the same problem we have in all parts of our lives. For example, as engineers, we might do the practical thing and support our family with a job that is a dead end, when we could have taken the step in Faith to pursue the invention that God is calling us. In aother case, we might decide to accept a prestigious position when we know that it is not from God. In each case, we bow to pressures from the community, family, or practicality, when we could have given ourselves to God.

    The vocation should not be casually or accidentally chosen. It needs to be from God and of God. We are likely to take the less traveled road for God's sake rather than taking risks merely for the sake of gain. We can not simply choose to be another person; we have to accept who we are.

    It doesn't mean that we won't fail. If we look at the lives of the Saints, we will find a number of times where they failed. For example, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, failed several times before the Jesuits got off the ground, and the same can be said for most other Saints.

    We have covered a lot of ground in this section. The Baptism of the Father is the "crisis of faith" for God calls us to some impossible task. Then our practicality kicks in, and we have a hard time of accepting who we are. We can't expect to continue the spiritual journey by pretending to be someone else. This means that our prayer times will suffer, unless we accept the call. This crisis of Faith has proved to be a major stumbling block for almost all of us.

The Disruption of Routine:

    Most of us have a routine that we fall into. In most cases, the routine is something that is established partly by chance and the rest by necessity. When we begin to establish consistency, our prayer times are often dependent upon our schedule. Every time our schedule changes, we are at risk of losing our prayer time.

    In a true life example, a man established a prayer time over the summer. His routine consisted of walking around a golf course before his prayer time. When fall came, he did not want to walk around the golf course in the dark, and his prayer time left with the walk.

    Relatives have a strong tendency to change our schedules and hinder our prayer times. While it is not common for us to establish a prayer time in the first place, we have even a harder time maintaining consistency when we visit relatives or relatives visit us.

    If our relatives won't respect our prayer time, then we can resort to tricks. For example, we can pretend to be reading a book or taking a nap, or we might just slip away to be by ourselves.

    Many of us try to justify missing prayer times due to busy schedules, but consistency won't come from excuses. Furthermore, we all have a number of things that we do everyday (e.g., eating, sleeping, dressing, etc.). The reason we are on earth is to love God through living our vocation, but we can't follow our vocation without striving for spiritual poverty. As we pointed out, spiritual poverty can only come from consistent internal meditation. When we miss prayer times, we are not getting the basics we need.

    One strategy is to tie the prayer time to a daily necessity. For example, we might decide to not eat until after our prayer time.

    Different problems require different solutions. If it is impossible to pray at home, we might leave earlier for work, and pray at a church on the way to work. If we have a constant companion, we might have the companion share the prayer time in silent reflection. If we have small children, we might still do the prayer time while letting some of their needs interrupt the prayer time. We could compensate by using a longer prayer time.

    Our schedules are supposed to help get the necessary things done. If our schedules are not letting us get our prayer times in, we need to rework the schedules. There isn't much reason for us to live, unless we live for God.

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