Regnum Christi

August 30, 2023

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Reading to Pray

Life is busy. In our quest for productivity we often carve out time to read self-improvement books and business books, but when it comes to improving our spiritual lives, we need to approach reading in a different way. Fr. Shawn Aaron, LC, gives some wise advice.

 

Q. Often we look at reading as a means to learn or improve, hence the rise of the self-help genre, or the innumerable business books one sees being read on trains and planes.  Is Spiritual Reading like this?  Or should we approach it from a different paradigm?

 

A. This is a broad subject, for starters. Spiritual reading is “Faith seeking understanding”, to quote St. Anselm. In broad strokes we could say that spiritual reading should nourish all three of the theological virtues in my life. It is not information for the sake of information but information that nourishes these virtues and all the moral virtues.

 

Self-help books give us techniques about how to better ourselves in particular areas. There is a place for this. The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Larraine Bennett is very insightful and helpful but would not constitute Spiritual Reading in the proper sense. Spiritual reading nourishes a relationship with God, the Church, his children, the world and the living of the theological virtues in relation to each.

 

Spiritual reading provides knowledge about God and about who I am in relationship to God, and about communication between us. In this regard, Scripture can and should be included in spiritual reading.

 

At times there will be practical applications but this a corollary of what is being revealed. It is a relationship and not a technique or a series of practical applications.

 

Q. What are some books that are helpful in introducing us to God?

 

A. Spiritual reading must always have its roots in scripture and help reveal scripture to me. Besides revealing God, his actions in my favor and his criteria for my life, it also reminds me of who I am to God, my ultimate destiny and how I should relate to the world and others while on the journey. The Catechism should also be part of spiritual reading since it helps me see what we believe as Christians and why we believe it. Again, you can see that it nourishes and reveals.

 

Often good books for spiritual reading will be about the Spiritual life per se, and about prayer, since this is often where people feel they need guidance. It can feel ‘practical’ but again, prayer is a relationship and the conversation between lovers; no two saints pray alike. Such books should point us in a direction and give us criteria for maturing in our relationship with the Lord.

 

It is good to ask why the “classics” are classics. There is something about them that is universal and helpful for the above. At times it is helpful to have more contemporary authors help us even understand the classics.

 

Q. How do you select books that will help you pray?

 

A. This is where a spiritual director can be helpful. No two people pray alike. Consider that each apostle had a different temperament and a different relationship with Christ. Peter and John are so different even though they saw many of the same things. Much can be determined by what our Lord is already doing in the spiritual life of a person, ways that he is inviting them to go deeper, to increase something or decrease something. So, one will have to consider where the person is in their walk with the Lord and what our Lord is doing.

 

I have found that a book that helps one person falls flat for another. It is good to develop a list of books that are appropriate for different stages of the spiritual life. Scripture is good for all stages but not all scripture can be understood in some early stages and care must be taken in choosing scripture from the Old Testament (again, a Spiritual Director will help here).

 

Q. When you are sitting down with a book, when does reading become prayer?

 

A. When does anything become prayer? The moment something moves my heart to speak to our Lord, to praise him, to repent or to reflect deeper on a truth that has just struck me, etc… The same can happen with a sunset, a talk or even a tragic moment. Things can move me to lift my heart. In that moment, I stop reading and let prayer take its course.

 

It is always good to dedicate the time of reading to our Lord invoking the Holy Spirit simply and making it a time of active listening. In this sense it is also prayer in a broader sense but is not to take the place of meditation.

 

This article was originally published by Regnum Christi in 2018. Fr. Shawn Aaron, LC, is currently the territorial director of the Legionaries of Christ, and a member of the Regnum Christi territorial Directive College for the North American Territory. For more recommended books, check out this list from the RC Spirituality Center.

August 30, 2023 – To Be or Not to Be

 

 

 

 

Wednesday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time

 

Matthew 23:27-32

 

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”

 

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe that you are “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). I humbly come before you today. I trust completely in you, and therefore I want my life to be an open book where you write the pages of my life story.

 

Petition: Lord Jesus, grant me a sincere and humble heart.

 

  1. What You See Is Not What You Get! One of the sternest reprimands Jesus gave was against the hypocrisy of those charged with the grave task of leading God’s people. They were called to transmit the hope of God’s promise of deliverance: “They shall be my people and I will be their God” (Jer 24:7). Yet their vain righteousness was nothing but self-indulgence that burdened the flock of Israel to the point of despair. Instead of helping the people of God to turn from sin to a life of fidelity to God’s love, they preyed upon the spiritual sensitivity of the people for their own sordid gain.

 

  1. Guillotine of Saints or Saints to the Guillotine? Human respect is the “guillotine of saints.” It has a suicidal effect and a deadly capacity to cut short the action of a zealous heart. Human respect renders love of God and souls sterile because it is nothing but pride disguised as fear, doubt, or the sophism of not wanting to hurt others’ feelings. True charity, on the other hand, gives testimony to the truth, regardless of the consequences this may bring—even persecution or the sword (cf. Rm 8:35). Shunning human respect may lead us to the “guillotine” of ridicule or persecution, but then we are on our way to becoming saints.

 

  1. Like Father, Like Son; Hypocrites All: The Pharisees’ ancestors killed the prophets for chastising the people in God’s name. Now, Jesus ironically urges the Pharisees to prove themselves worthy of their heritage. Jesus separated himself from the religious leaders of the time. Unlike the Pharisees and Temple priests, who had become like mercenaries for the flock of Israel, Jesus was the Good Shepherd. Jesus instituted a new priesthood, based on his own: that of the Suffering Servant, the Paschal Lamb, the Messiah, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He made all things new and in truth set us free from sin.

 

Conversation with Christ: O Jesus, I thank you with all my heart for redeeming me. You let me hear your voice gently calling me. Strengthen me in faith and fill me with your love so that I can one day join St. Paul in saying, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

 

Resolution: I will be an enemy of hypocrisy and insincerity in my dealings with others today.

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!