BKL#27 – The Meaning of Baptism – Building a Kingdom of Love w/ Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. Esseff reflects on the meaning of the “Baptism” and how it transforms us all.

Gospel   LK 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  He was ordained on May 30, 1953, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D. at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, PA.  Msgr. Esseff served a retreat director and confessor to St. Mother Teresa.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the missionaries of charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world,  serving in the Pontifical missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor.  Msgr. Esseff assisted the founders of the Institute for Priestly Formation and continues to serve as a spiritual director for the Institute.  He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians and other religious leaders around the world.    

 

 

 

HM-6 “The Church in the World” – A Handmaid of the Lord: the Life and Legacy of Adrienne von Speyr with Dr. Adrian Walker

With Dr. Adrian Walker, we reflect on various aspects of Adrienne’s insight on the Church and our universal call to holiness.Adrian-Walker

The Church in the World

The words of Christ appear to the world as a paradox; his commandments contradict what

people consider to be clever and useful. What these words promise is always heavenly; it comes from heaven and leads to heaven. What people do in sin and unbelief, on the contrary, leads to eternal damnation. Heaven and hell are always the ultimate alternatives, and every conversation between God and the still unconverted sinner is thus concerned with setting these two extremes into relief.

The Lord, however, did not throw his word against the unbelieving world unprotected. He founded his Church in the midst of the world. The Church has one side open toward the world. Indeed, she herself is the open door for the world, so that the world can enter into God’s Holy of Holies, where the mystery of bread and wine is celebrated. Around this mystery the Church is a way of believing and hoping and loving and working whose origin is heavenly. By entering and experiencing this mystery, man finds heaven. And God did not build his Church in such a way that she would be accessible to only a few select souls who live in the purity of faith. He built her as a communal, public place, right next to the street where everyone passes by and can enter when he wishes. Outside is the denial of everything eternal; inside is the receiving into the infinite God of everything transitory in the world. The Eucharist is the innermost event whereby the Church renews herself and makes herself known. But also every divine service, all the remaining sacraments, are encounters with the Lord who gives himself, who points toward his redemptive suffering, and who sends forth those who belong to him endowed with the Holy Spirit. They are called to proclaim the gospel outside and convert sinners. Thus the Church is always a place of encounter between the Lord and the sinner, between heavenly grace and the world. And because it is God who reveals himself in this place, this event is overwhelming and beyond all expectations.

The Church is nonetheless also a worldly reality, a gathering place for Christians that is visible also to others and that serves as a reminder to them. At Mass, in hearing the word and in praying together, Christians themselves are reminded that they are called to be a reminder in the world. They have to show what they have received; they have to bring out into the open the hidden mystery that lives within them. Continually, day after day, they must actualize in visible discipleship the once-only call that they have received from the Lord. The once-only and the multiple are reciprocally related and flow into one another. Indeed, in the man he meets, the Lord sees not only a sinner who will receive absolution, but also a brother whom he receives into his communion of life. In this way he also enabled the word that he spoke only one time on earth to be expanded into a perpetual and living validity. His word lives because Christ lives and because he does not cease to speak the once-uttered word anew and with the same precision it had then. His words appear time-bound to us because we understand them in time. Our understanding, however, is made possible through their connection to eternity.

We are struck and wounded by the word. We could not live apart from the word anymore even if we wanted to. We entered into the Church as nuts with a hard shell; the word broke open the shell. Now, without the shell, we are simultaneously more sensitive and less sensitive: more sensitive because we recognize the traces of the word everywhere and we can no longer live in naive worldliness; less sensitive because the allure of sin does not grab us as much anymore. It is not that it has become weaker, but that it holds less interest for us and God’s defense against sin penetrates all the way through us. At every encounter, God also gives us something to remember him, a gift, never something dead, but his living word.

We hear this word in the Church; we find it in undiminished vitality also at home whenever we open the Scriptures or when we return to the word in prayer. Prayer becomes an encounter with the Lord whose word we are permitted to hear without ceasing. We are personally addressed, and we are allowed to respond personally, and in this twofold personal contact, the word works on man until the true ecclesial man takes shape. With every new encounter, God continues to do his redemptive work on that which the Creator declared good at the beginning and for which the Son offered himself on the Cross, not only until we are brought to completion in ourselves, but until we become useful instruments in God’s hands for his work throughout the entire world. God’s workshop is his Church.

In the Church, as experienced by priests or laymen, there is much that is unchangeable, and this occasionally goes against our spirit of modernization. If we attempt to see and understand with the eyes of love, then we discover that what is unchangeable in the Church comes from the word and its being beyond time. We come to see that, if the distance between the word and us has grown so great, then it is our fault. The word’s ultimate meaning remains veiled for us because of our sins and our lethargy. Only seldom are we able to see what is eternally valid in the word. Of course, a perfect hearing and understanding of the word could almost be compared to the beatific vision. Total understanding, as the fulfillment (to the extent possible) of our reason by the meaning of the word, is reserved for eternity. Nevertheless, when we encounter God and fix our eyes on the eternal, we understand from the triune God and the mystery of the Church all that is necessary for us to remain in a living faith and to embody in our lives what we have received from the encounter. We are given what is necessary in order to concentrate in our Yes to the vitality of today’s Church not only what we need, but also what is needed by our contemporaries for an encounter with God.

Adrienne Von Speyr, Man Before God(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009), 97-98.

adrienne_von_speyr1Adrienne von Speyr was a Swiss convert, mystic, wife, medical doctor and author of over 60 books on spirituality and theology. She’s inspired countless souls around the world to deepen their mission of prayer and compassion. She entered the Catholic Church under the direction of the great theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar. In the years that would follow, they would co-found the secular institute, the Community of St. John.

 

Adrian Walker is an editor of the journal Communio, an International Catholic Review, who received his doctorate in philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Dr. Walker has served as a translator for the English edition of Pope Benedict XVI’s, ” Jesus of Nazareth”, as well as numerous other theological works, including those of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr.

Our series recorded at “Casa Balthasar“,  a house of discernment for men located in Rome, Italy. The Casa was founded in 1990 by a group of friends and is directed by Rev. Jacques Servais, S.J.; Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) has been closely associated with the Casa Balthasar from the very beginning as it’s Cardinal Protector.casa-balthasar-300x224

 

 

 Many of Adrienne von Speyr’s books can found through Ignatius Press

 

St. Anthony of the Desert Novena Day 3 – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Day 3

From the Sayings of St. Anthony of the Desert:

“When the demons see Christians, specially the monks, working joyfully and growing in the spirit, first they fight them with temptation, and by placing obstacles to hinder their growth, trying to inject evil thoughts in their minds; but there is no reason for fear from their temptations because their offenses fail instantly by prayer and fasting, especially if you have had armed yourself with faith and the sign of the cross.”

 

Dear God,

St Anthony of the Desert accepted your call to renounce the world and to love you above all things.
He faithfully served you in the solitude of the desert by fasting, prayer, humility and good works.
In the Sign of the Cross, he triumphed over the devil.
Through his intercession, may we learn to love you better; with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, all our strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
St Anthony, great and powerful saint, intercede for us also for this special request (mention your request).
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen

St. Anthony of the Desert, pray for us.

 

The sayings  of St. Anthony us, as translated by the late Sr Benedicta Ward SLG , are taken from her  The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

St. Anthony of the Desert Novena Day 2 – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Day 2

From the Sayings of St. Anthony of the Desert:

Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

 

Dear God,

St Anthony of the Desert accepted your call to renounce the world and to love you above all things.
He faithfully served you in the solitude of the desert by fasting, prayer, humility and good works.
In the Sign of the Cross, he triumphed over the devil.
Through his intercession, may we learn to love you better; with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, all our strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
St Anthony, great and powerful saint, intercede for us also for this special request (mention your request).
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen

St. Anthony of the Desert, pray for us.

 

The sayings  of St. Anthony us, as translated by the late Sr Benedicta Ward SLG , are taken from her  The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

St. Anthony of the Desert Novena Day 1 – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Day 1

From the Sayings of St. Anthony of the Desert:

When the holy Abba Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by acedia (lack of care, sloth), and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, “Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?” A short while afterward, when he got up to go out, Anthony saw a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down again and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the angel saying to him, “Do this and you will be saved.” At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved.

Dear God,

St Anthony of the Desert accepted your call to renounce the world and to love you above all things.
He faithfully served you in the solitude of the desert by fasting, prayer, humility and good works.
In the Sign of the Cross, he triumphed over the devil.
Through his intercession, may we learn to love you better; with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, all our strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
St Anthony, great and powerful saint, intercede for us also for this special request (mention your request).
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen

St. Anthony of the Desert, pray for us.

 

The sayings  of St. Anthony us, as translated by the late Sr Benedicta Ward SLG , are taken from her  The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

BKL#26 – The Epiphany – Building a Kingdom of Love w/ Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. Esseff reflects on the meaning of the “Epiphany” and how we can manifest the light of Christ to the world.

From the USCCB readings fo the day:

 Reading 1 Is 60:1-6

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton.  He was ordained on May 30, 1953, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D. at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, PA.  Msgr. Esseff served a retreat director and confessor to St. Mother Teresa.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the missionaries of charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world,  serving in the Pontifical missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor.  Msgr. Esseff assisted the founders of the Institute for Priestly Formation and continues to serve as a spiritual director for the Institute.  He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians and other religious leaders around the world.    

 

 

HM-5 “Confession” – A Handmaid of the Lord: the Life and Legacy of Adrienne von Speyr with Dr. Adrian Walker

AdrianEpisode 5 – “Confession” – A Handmaid of the Lord: The life and legacy of Adrienne von Speyr with Dr. Adrian Walker, Ph.D.

With Dr. Adrian Walker, we reflect on various aspects of Adrienne’s insight into the nature of confession as described in her book of the same name.

An excerpt from “Confession” Chapter 1: Introduction – The Search for Confession

Let us assume you are my friend, and I say to you, “I can’t go on like this.” We discuss the situation together; perhaps we discover where I got off the track, and perhaps we even refer to my childhood. What we find will help me to make a new start. In every discussion of this sort, however, the individual is viewed as an isolated person, and it does not become clear that he lives in a community both of saints and sinners. Only God knows the laws both of the community of saints and of the community of sinners. In confession I am, of course, this individual sinner, but I am simultaneously a part of humanity, one of its fallen members. Thus conceptual factors are completely different in confession than in analysis. They are both personal and social; indeed, they comprise a totality that draws into focus the world as a whole, its relationship to God, and the first and last things, even if this larger context only falls into our field of vision momentarily and is experienced only indirectly. And since the situation is different, so also are the means of healing. The truth of God is involved, not the truth of the human being, nor the truth of his soul, his existence or the structure of his deeper being, but decisively the truth of God. None of the human techniques takes this divine truth seriously; at most they save it for the hour of death, and they do not help a man to become the kind of person he will need to be in that hour.

As long as aid for the human being is offered by other human beings and is mobile within the human sphere, it can operate only with human means. Everything approaching a person from external sources can be considered only as accidental and external and be supplied with a positive or negative label; the unity between interior and exterior, however, cannot be effected. The psychological session can offer me only “modes of behavior” applicable to the present, which themselves can and must change under altered conditions. Confession, on the other hand, brings a person face to face with his divine destiny and places him directly within it—within that which is final and ultimate.

As long as a person is not confessing, he feels free to speak or keep silent about whatever he wishes. What he then hates in confession is not the humbling experience of revealing himself, and not the fact that he is a sinner—he already knows that somehow—but the necessity of capitulating before and within total confession, the fact that the freedom of selection has been withdrawn and that the only choice remaining is to reveal everything or nothing. He is sick as a whole person and must be healed as such, and not eclectically. That is the first humbling experience. The second is that he is only one of many and has to accept the same conditions as do the others, even external conditions such as having to appear at the confessional at an appointed hour: a kind of marked condition, the elimination of all external differentiation—the factory owner and the watchman, the lady and her cook, all on equal footing. Precisely when one confesses that which is most intimate, one no longer has a choice or selection, is put on a level with all other sinners and is merely one penitent in the line of other sinners. The peculiarities of my particular “case”, which made it seem so interesting to me and which I would so gladly have explained to the listener, do not matter at all any more. Confession [Beichten] is above all precisely that: a confession [Bekenntnis] not only of my sins but also a confession to God and to God’s precepts and institutions, indeed to his Church with her own weakness and her myriad ambiguous, even disturbing, aspects.

The act of “speaking” with someone about my life does not oblige me further. Afterward, I can experience a certain feeling of gratitude or of awkwardness toward the person who has listened to me, but I remain the free person who can detach himself again. Confession is not an individual act in the same sense; nothing in it can be isolated. The act of confession expressly involves the whole person, his whole life, his whole world-view, his whole relationship to God.

Speyr, Adrienne von. Confession (Kindle Locations 180-209). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

adrienne_von_speyr1Adrienne von Speyr was a Swiss convert, mystic, wife, medical doctor and author of over 60 books on spirituality and theology. She’s inspired countless souls around the world to deepen their mission of prayer and compassion. She entered the Catholic Church under the direction of the great theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar. In the years that would follow, they would co-found the secular institute, the Community of St. John.

 

For more episodes in this series visit Dr. Adrian Walker’s Discerning Hearts page

Adrian Walker is an editor of the journal Communio, an International Catholic Review, who received his doctorate in philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Dr. Walker has served as a translator for the English edition of Pope Benedict XVI’s, ” Jesus of Nazareth”, as well as numerous other theological works, including those of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr.

Our series recorded at “Casa Balthasar“, a house of discernment for men located in Rome, Italy. The Casa, was founded in 1990 by a group of friends and is directed by Rev. Jacques Servais, S.J.; Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) has been closely associated with the Casa Balthasar from the very beginning as its Cardinal Protector.

Many of Adrienne von Speyr’s books can found through Ignatius Press

 

 

SD9 “Pre-Event” Desolation – Spiritual Desolation: Be Aware, Understand, Take Action with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcast

BA6 - "Refuse to Accept Discouragement" - Begin Again: The Spiritual Legacy of Ven. Bruno Lanteri with Fr. Timothy Gallagher

Episode 9  – Fr. Gallagher offers insights on a form of Spiritual Desolation he terms as “Pre-Event” Desolation.  He uses this description to define a type of desolation that can affect someone who, for example, is about to enter into a retreat or pilgrimage, or some type of spiritual or ministry based undertaking.

From  Setting the Captives Free: Personal Reflections on Ignatian Discernment of Spirits

It is liberating to know that spiritual desolation is an ordinary experience in the spiritual life, that every disciple of the Lord for two thousand years—including the canonized saints—has undergone this experience, that there is no shame in experiencing spiritual desolation, that times of spiritual desolation are normal in a well-lived spiritual life (SpirEx 6), and that, therefore, we are not the only ones. Experiencing spiritual desolation is simply part of what it means to live the spiritual life in a fallen, redeemed, and loved world. What does matter is to live the discerning life: to be aware of spiritual desolation when it is present, to name it for the lie of the enemy that it is, and to reject it. The principle focus of these fourteen rules is to help us do precisely that.

You can find this book here

Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V., was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Fr. Gallagher is featured on the EWTN series “Living the Discerning Life:  The Spiritual Teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola”. For more information on how to obtain copies of Fr. Gallaghers’s various books and audio which are available for purchase, please visit  his  website:   frtimothygallagher.org

For the other episodes in this series check out Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s “Discerning Hearts” page

HR-Soberness- 3 “Leadership and Soberness” – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB Podcast

A leader who is not sober can do a great deal of damage to those for whom he is responsible and, of course, harm the cause he is meant to serve. If you allow yourself to be seized with emotions, such as anger, vindictiveness, sadness, pride or envy – whatever “demons” you want to call them here – then you are not in contact with yourself and not in contact with your people. One is identified with the feeling and has no clear view of the truths. The task of the manager is to decide. However, to make the right decision requires a sober consideration of the alternatives that are given. The leader may need a break to make the right choice. The “discernment of spirits”, like those taught by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) is only possible if we can be completely free and open inside, sober and not driven by emotions.  One might follow this rule: When you are very upset, frustrated, angry, fearful, sad, whatever mood you might feel, make no decisions and do not respond immediately to those you lead. Give yourself one night to think about it and pray.  It often happens that after this break, which does not have to be long, you will find a completely different perspective and have time to assess alternatives.  If you do not spontaneously act out of feeling, step back until you are sober and compassionate enough to respond appropriately.

From the Holy Rule of St. Benedict:

CHAPTER XLVI

Of the Election of the Abbot

 He must, therefore, be versed in the divine law, that he may know whence “to bring forth new things and old” (Mt 13:52). Let him be chaste, sober, and merciful, and let him always exalt “mercy above judgment” (Jas 2:13), that he also may obtain mercy.

Let him hate vice, but love the brethren. And even in his corrections, let him act with prudence and not go to extremes, lest, while he aimeth to remove the rust too thoroughly, the vessel be broken. Let him always keep his own frailty in mind, and remember that “the bruised reed must not be broken” (Is 42:3). In this we are not saying that he should allow evils to take root, but that he cut them off with prudence and charity, as he shall see it is best for each one, as we have already said; and let him aim to be loved rather than feared.

Let him not be fussy or over-anxious, exacting, or headstrong; let him not be jealous or suspicious, because he will never have rest. In all his commands, whether they refer to things spiritual or temporal, let him be cautious and considerate. Let him be discerning and temperate in the tasks which he enjoineth, recalling the discretion of holy Jacob who saith: “If I should cause my flocks to be overdriven, they would all die in one day” (Gen 33:13). Keeping in view these and other dictates of discretion, the mother of virtues, let him so temper everything that the strong may still have something to desire and the weak may not draw back. Above all, let him take heed that he keep this Rule in all its detail; that when he hath served well he may hear from the Lord what the good servant heard who gave his fellow-servants bread in season: “Amen, I say to you,” He saith,”he shall set him over all his goods” (Mt 24:47).

If, however, anyone is found to break this rule, let him undergo heavy punishment, unless the needs of guests should arise, or the Abbot should perhaps give a command to anyone. But let even this be done with the utmost gravity and moderation.

Father Mauritius Wilde, OSB, Ph.D., did his philosophical, theological and doctoral studies in Europe. He is the author of several books and directs retreats regularly. He serves as Prior at Sant’Anselmo in Rome.