Sunday, December 22, 2013

And rocked in their song an infant of one hour's age, who was as old as God

Where the Pictures Came From
Sister Miriam Pollard, O.C.S.O.

Angels are seldom overheard. But try.
Go listen.

They might be remembering.
They might be whispering about the night
they seeded the sky with embers.

All over the place, the sky took fire.
Astronomers, on various corners of the earth,
reported a shower of burning embers.

This was the night - angels will tell you -
when they clambered over the poles
and raced each other through the tundra,
and swarm a hundred mountain lakes,
shaking the water off like seals,
and kept on going.

They knew they were wanted.

It had to be night, they’ll tell you,
because night is so simple, so all one thing,
even when burnt with embers.
And God had poured himself so flawlessly
into a human heart
that nothing less simple than night
could venture an explanation.

The angels got there, they will tell you.
They ran up the hill, singing a song the color of darkness,
chanting like sea bells
in places of no horizon.

They stood in a circle on the floor of a cave,
and drew pictures on its walls
to entertain the visitors.

And rocked in their song
an infant of one hour’s age,
who was as old as God.

Sister Miriam Pollare is a Cistercian nun at Santa Rita Abbey in Sonoita, Arizona

- Magnificat, p 352-353, Dec 24, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Entering Advent - Reflections, Meditations and Books

Sunday, December 1st is the First Sunday of Advent so I thought I would create a post with some reflections, meditations and books that focus on the theme of Advent.
Truly a great book on Advent is Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings by Alfred Delp, S.J., a German Jesuit priest who was imprisoned in Berlin in 1944, then tortured, imprisoned, and executed on February 2, 1945. Fr Delp's writtings and sermons always challenged us as he would say, "we are called to be 'shaken awake'; we are called to integrity and authenticity to confess and proclaim our faith; and we respond to God with reverent amen." Fr. Delp wrote:
Advent is precisely the liturgical season in which the interior religious tension of our time is most conspicuously revealed. ...
The season of Advent is, first of all, the time of man's original religious instinct. Never will we experience our primeval homesick yearning for God more actively and alertly than in this season of ... Advent wreaths. Advent is the time of the God-seeker. The original longing within every human heart is a great impulse toward the hidden and distant God, a longing to wander in that far-off forgotten homeland of the soul. That longing is what the Church expresses, both in her inner attitude and in the liturgy of the season. 
In a reflection written in 1935, several years before being arrested, Fr. Delp directly addressed the increasing hostility toward "the original religious meaning of Advent." 
Stay awake, so that you may be ready!
"Each one of us is confronted with new religious ideas in one form or another. It is not enough to be faithful within the privacy of your own heart or home. This is the moment for public, serious, and faithful profession of our faith."

Father Albert Haase's book, Living the Lord's Prayer - The Way of the Disciple, is not on Advent however you might say it helps us prepare the way for it. He wrote: 
Remember your suffering. It need not be in vain. It can become the womb of compassion.
The womb is a place where something is in the process of being birthed - a place where something is formed.  Fr Albert goes on to say, 
Compassion makes us aware of who we truly are as it bonds us to others in relationships.
Interestingly, the word religion is a derivation from the Latin word, re-ligare: meaning, "to bind back." As we are beings in and of and for relationships - and as we are always falling in and out of relationships, we, by nature, are religious beings forever in the process of patching ourselves back together. And so I was struck by how suffering works in all this and how compassion is the out-growth of suffering. 

Richard Rohr, when lecturing on suffering and pain says; If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.  So at the point of suffering we have the breeding grounds of choice - either we are being transformed through our suffering or it is a source of transmitting the suffering on to others.  

During the Advent season we are ever reminded of Our Lord and how He came to awaken in us a self-donating transformation of suffering in the world.

Oscar Wilde once remarked on suffering:
Jesus understood the leprosy of the leper,The darkness of the blind,The fierce misery of those who live for pleasure,The strange poverty of the rich, And the thirst that can make people drink from muddy water. He penetrated the outward shell of things and understood that whatever happens to another happens to oneself, and whatever happens to oneself happens to another.
These words give us an image into our relatedness to one another. Embracing our sufferings as well as being with others during their sufferings is the beginning of the transformation of the world. It is the meaning of Advent. My friend and mentor, Gil Bailie, talked about entering into the biblical story this way: 
Advent Banner 
by Rebekah Holten
Jesus says, "take this cup," which is the cup of suffering. We don’t have to be melodramatic about it; there is suffering in our lives. The suffering that I should understand as redemptive is my suffering. The sufferings that I see other people undergoing I should not think that I am going to take it away, I won’t be able to, but I can be present with them in that suffering so they can feel that they are not alone in that suffering and perhaps feel the truth of the situation which is always, always, always that Christ is in it with them. They may not be able to experience that unless they know that I am in it with them. That act of being present with them may be their only entrée to the discovery that Christ is in it with them. Being in that suffering with others, and of course, that sometimes means helping to relieve the suffering, is our responsibility... (See link HERE to get the transcript of Gil's talk on Entering the Biblical Story.)
ISeek That Which Is Above: Meditations Through the Year the future Pope Benedict XVI wrote:
Advent is a time when a kindness that is otherwise almost entirely forgotten is mobilized; namely, the willingness to think of others and give them a token of kindness. Finally Advent is a time when old customs live again, for instance, in the singing of carols which takes place all over the country. In the melodies and the words of these carols, something of the simplicity, imagination and glad strength of the faith of our forefathers makes itself heard in our age, bringing consolation and encouraging us perhaps to have another go at that faith which could make people so glad in such hard times.

There is no better time to enter the biblical story then now during Advent. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Attraction Exercised by God is Like a Magnet

From the Magnificat, (Nov 12, 2013) this meditation from Father Maurice Zundel (1975) a Swiss theologian, a mystic, poet, philosopher, liturgist and author really struck a cord with me.  He provides an image that resonates with what spiritual direction is all about - helping people come to terms with those things in their lives that attracts as well as what repels them in their journey.

The attraction exercised by God is like a magnet, like the process of magnetization. We begin to exist, to be free, to be persons when we respond to this divine magnetization; then we begin to be saints. In the case of saints, the magnetization happens at a closer range, saints cling to the magnet more continuously. And we clearly feel that in Jesus’ humanity there is no longer any distance between it and the magnet. It no longer escapes the attraction of grace. It is projected into God with a force that is God. It is carried, lifted by the magnet.

In Jesus Christ, there is a total renouncement to any clinging of self. If you prefer, from the point of view of his humanity, Jesus is the man who has lost his self. There is no longer any self. There is no longer any possibility for him to cling to his self, to oppose his self to God, because he is completely magnetized, lost in divinity and projected into God by this magnet which is God, because in God each Person is a whole-hearted movement toward the other.

That means that the mystery of Jesus is a mystery of poverty, of infinite renouncement, and that it corresponds to a poverty found in God.

If God does not come through us, even if he is in us as he is in Christ – it is the same God who is always totally true to himself, the same God in our soul and in that of Jesus, the same God, I repeat, the same God as in the saints – if this God in us does not shine through, it is because we cling to our selves and prevent this infinite charity, this infinite poverty from shining through us.

We would be Christ himself if we were in this state of absolute, total, and unique poverty in which our Lord’s humanity is found, this humanity which is totally shorn of itself, which is no longer anything but a living relationship with God, which can no longer be a testimony to itself but is a testimony to the presence of God, of which every gesture, every word, whose total presence is the testimony of the divinity.

In this wonderful excerpt from Fr Zundel one can find an entire meditation every couple words.  The thought that I focus on here concerns our clinging to some psychological notion of a true or false self when in fact, as Christ as our model, there is no back and forth of a true self and false self - it is about total surrender. Like Saint Francis (and all the other saints) we become free persons only when we allow the mystery of poverty in God in us to shine forth from us.  In this state of being magnetized we attract others to freedom - to God being the instruments we were created in Christ to be. How awesome is that?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Healing the past with present action thus reconstructing our life in a new unity - a new meaning

Jesus said, "Do THIS in remembrance of Me." 

and they all, looking around at one another, wondered, "Do what?"

Father Bernard Bro has a lovely way of answering.

Not only do we become by means of the sacraments contemporaries of a past that is the very source of our salvation, but we become capable of recuperating the past, of retaking and reconstructing our life by giving it a new unity. We know that there is a distance between "me" and my history, between the depths of ourselves and our acts. Our actions commit us; but, once they are performed, they escape us and accumulate behind us and form the chain of our history. And this past can be crushing. 

The sacraments continually permit us to transcend this history, and to judge it, and, to a degree, to change its meaning and the value of the whole by means of new acts.... 

The sinner who has been reconciled to God in his person nevertheless drags behind him in his past a failure towards God, a failure towards love; it is true that at one moment in his history he failed the order of charity which should be reflected in every human undertaking. The event, this sin, remains a fact forever; but by means of the sacraments it can take on another meaning in the entirety of its history, and this by means of new acts repairing the disorder. It is possible for us to restore God's honor, not only in our heart, but in the course of our history which is still being written. It is possible to change the profile of our past acts by means of new compensating acts. This is a marvelous conversion which the sacraments place within our reach! We become capable of much more than a compensation for the past; we become capable of offering to God a life really ordered by love. This is where the reflection we mentioned above concerning healing the past by means of present actions takes on its force. The sacraments do not only remove the sickness from suffering; they go infinitely farther: they transfigure and trans value what was perversion and evil into an occasion and fruit of divine friendship. 

— FATHER BERNARD BRO, o.p.--A French Dominican priest, a distinguished theologian;  Magnificat, October, 2013, Pp. 68.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Brother Lawrence - Naming Our Possessions

Let us get acquainted with this simple uneducated man, Brother Lawrence who was born Nicolas Herman, in 1614 near the region of Lorraine in eastern France. At the age of 18 he had a watershed experience that forever changed the path his life took: 
"In the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the providence and power of God, which has never since been effaced from his soul." He said "that this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for God that he could not tell whether it had increased during the more than forty years he had [since] lived."
It would be 6 years after this experience, during which he fought in the Thirty Years' War and then worked as a simple valet, before entering the Discalced or Barefoot Carmelite Order. He was received in and immediately assigned to menial work that included kitchen detail. Nonetheless his sense of inner peace was so profound that others were drawn to him for spiritual direction. He never grew tried of sharing his efforts to stay riveted on God so to be filled with peace and joy.

Following Brother Lawrence's death, M. Beaufort authored a book in which he recorded the many conversations he had with Brother Lawrence, including letters by Brother Lawrence. The title of this book is Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence  and it is one of the books that you will find on everyone's list of classical works of spirituality.

The book is filled with remarkable quotes, but I just want to focus on a few here. 
“The time of business for me does not differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess GOD in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
I would like to draw out a couple imagines. First notice how he describes what we normally think of as two differing states of being or 'presence' - one is a rushing about and the other is of prayer. The former is caused by what we might say is our lack of possession thus our grasping for something or someone and the other is a result of being in possession of God. 

As a student of René Girard and mimetic theory I would like to bring out a second insight from this quote by Brother Lawrence and that is our notion of this term possession*. A word of caution here, we must not be fooled by a difference in our language: traditionally we refer to 'spirits' possessing people and usually this has a negative connotation. In turn when we refer to the Holy Spirit indwelling, or inhabiting the person we view this as a positive association. Please note however, the movement of relationship is the same in both cases. The difference is in our valuation of the quality of the "spirit" that is doing the moving. So in our reflection on Brother Lawrence's quote we note his allusion to how divisions of time/activity can in one moment cause us to fall out of God's indwelling only to be possessed by a spirit of distraction, fragmenting or separating us from peace - disconnecting us from God.

Brother Lawrence directs us saying that union with God is a surrender to the 'indwelling' or possession of God in each moment and for all activities. From his watershed experience at the age of 18 he came to know his calling, or it might otherwise be said, he was awaken to a particular state of indwelling, a deep sense of God's love for him, which throughout his life manifested itself in a difficult yet disciplined prayer life. 
"As often as I could, I placed myself as a worshiper before him, fixing my mind upon his holy presence, recalling it when I found it wandering from him. This proved to be an exercise frequently painful, yet I persisted through all difficulties." 
Gerald May wrote in his book, The Awakening Heart, that... "It is said of Brother Lawrence that when something had taken his mind away from love's presence he would receive 'a reminder from God' that so moved his soul that he 'cried out, singing and dancing violently like a madman.' You will note that the reminders came from God and were not his own doing."

Though Brother Lawrence glimpsed this 'high view of the providence and power of God' at 18, only when he reconciled himself to this lifelong struggle of surrender, that had at its heart to be only God's desire - God's possession, was he to realize the importance of prayer - not as an activity that he did but rather what God was doing through him.

* concept borrowed from Jesus, The Forgiving Victim with James Alison

The Spiritual Journey is a Shared Journey

Shared Journey by Morgan Burton Johnson
Whether we allow ourselves to be fully embraced by this fact or not we must contend with the reality that our lives are shared and inter-connected. Most of us shrug our shoulders and say okay no big deal and to others they go rushing around hugging everyone. But what does it mean to be inter-connected? We generally agree that grace is poured out for one and all yet the reality check comes when we own up to the fact that we each are essential to one another - those we get along with and especially those who rub us the wrong way. And it is here where the spiritual journal begins. In a way the spiritual journey is a paradox - a going forth and a coming home. And most importantly, it is a shared journey that we never go it alone.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It is the Model from which our memories are interpreted that give us a clue as to who we are

The Gift of 9-11 
(from The Magnificat and Traces)

On September 11, 2001, 29-year-old Tiffiny Gulla, a successful facilities manager in downtown Manhattan, stood on a corner facing the Twin Towers when events that would change the course of her life transpired. She shares with Traces her life’s journey over the past ten years: “This disease has put Him front and center.”

Every time I have gone to the doctor over this time it is something new—losing my fingertips or feeling the hardening of my left lung… I am not thinking about all this while it is happening. I did not even realize how changed I was physically until 2006 when I saw a picture of myself and I said, "Wow, I am deformed!" 

My life, although successful, was chaotic. My mother, in the throes of her second bout with cancer, had just moved in with me—with my brother, so we could take care of her. I had a greater desire for meaning and was ready for any change. So, on the suggestion of a friend, I went on an interview for this job with royal blue financial corp. (now Fidessa) in 2000. I was hired not necessarily for my resume but, oddly enough, because I was on an amateur national golf circuit, and my would-be boss loved golf! I thought, “Maybe Providence is at work here!” As a facilities manager, I did everything from running around with a real estate broker, dealing with lawyers, to finally renting the office space; I would then design, manage, and upkeep the offices and data centers. Two months into the job, I discovered that there was a chapel 50 feet from my office, Our Lady of the Rosary, the Mother Seton shrine, and I made that my second home. This was an answer to my prayer, which by then was becoming, “Lord, I want You to be my full focus.” Because I was working there, I was downtown on September 11th. And that brought this disease, which has put Him front and center, as I had asked. It was almost a relief to know I would have to depend on Him now. 

God had to take each one of my gifts and talents away one by one for me to see what the real Gift is. My life is no longer who I know, all my contacts, what I can do—because I can no longer do what I was able to do physically. Now my life is just Him, on whom I fully depend. I still work in finance, designing office spaces. I can’t play music anymore but I still have my voice and I am composing music with the help of friends. I have to give everything to everyone because I am so dependent. But if I had not already been in a relationship of dependence on Christ, accepting so much help would be unbearable. Instead, my friends are signs of Him for me. I was even given a phenomenal doctor and friend ... named Franz. He has saved me physically more than once—and has helped me emotionally and spiritually as well. 

I know a lot of pain, and getting through the day is truly trying, but I cannot emphasize enough that God is there every minute. How can I not accept all this as a gift?! 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tough Gospel Reading Challenges Us in the Direction of Love

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 is often heard as the master being harsh on the servant who is full of fear and resentment. In our journey of faith all of us are challenged to get out of the myth of an autonomous self stuck in the world-view and instead enter into Christ, linking us to Him, those who have gone before and those whose lives we are intertwined, enabling us to recognize our talents as "what has happened to us, the heritage granted to us by faith." The reality is when we try to operate out of fear or resentment we not only suffer, but the fruits "can even be harmful...," and as my friend Gil Bailie alludes, it is a recipe for squandering the gift of being and our talents, and we become like withering branches that are collected and thrown on the fire and burned (John 15:7).

The following appeared in The Magnificat - it is an editorial from Traces Magazine, (Communion & Liberation International) 2011.

In the painful confusion presently surrounding us, only a few things are clear and certain. One of these is that we cannot live on the proceeds of the past any longer. For example, we cannot base our tranquility on political balances consolidated decades ago; they are collapsing in the most unforeseeable way... It is no longer possible to assume that wealth automatically produces wealth - as was the case in the past fifty years in Western countries - without re-investing it now, and at a risk. Even lifetime certainties like home or relationships can be swept away in a moment, or end up caged in by a threat of death that suffocates the future...
So, as you find yourself looking at those dramatic events... you realize that the challenge reaches you at a deeper, radical level. For your wealth, too, cannot be enough, even that wealth that once served to lay a foundation on solid ground - an encounter, a history behind you, an education - in a word: the Christian heritage, what many of us would define, quite rightly, as the crucial factor of life, that which has given form to our existence. We can't live on the proceeds even of that. A faith reduced to heritage, to an inherited treasure, doesn't automatically generate interest and dividends sufficient for living now, for surviving the onslaught of reality today. It's rather like the parable of the talents... in which the owner is angry with his servant who buries his talent in the ground to keep it safe, instead of making it produce a profit. 
The talents are... what has happened to us, the heritage granted to us by faith. If you don't risk it now, in time it is of no use. If there is not a presence that enables you to augment it and make it fruitful now, it is useless. It can even be harmful... 
"The Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead", as Benedict XVI reminds us... If you take this away, we are dead, because faith is reduced to "a series of interesting ideas" or "a kind of religious worldview", but it is "dead". All that's left is "our own judgement in selecting from his heritage what strikes us as helpful", and we find ourselves "left to ourselves", alone, unable to face up to the certainties that collapse, in a moment.

This is why Christ rose. He removes the stone from the grave, and he digs up the earth where we would like to hide what we have received, where at times we would have the temptation to bury the heritage of faith. He does it so as to give it back to us now, to make it bear fruit now, and to take away our loneliness from the world, for ever.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why Patron Saints and My Patron Saint

One practice of some Christians that is so misunderstood today is a devotion to patron saints. Spiritually and religiously from the earliest days of the Church, groups of the faithful have chosen a particularly holy person who has passed on to intercede, as well to hold up as a model, for the community in their walk with God. 

**Anthropologically this practice reveals a basic human trait - the individual is more inter-dividual, relying on the other, and that aside from the biological basics, we desire and yet we do not know for what. The fact that we are social animals taking our cues from one another, seeing others with certain status and/or goods, intuit that those things must be desirable, and then start wanting them ourselves - we begin to covet resulting in competition, rivalries and inevitably violence. From this very good and very basic human trait we can observe how easily the good may turn nasty especially when our model is our next door neighbor.
In choosing a patron saint, a Christian seeks guidance and intercession from one who, by having passed, will never be a rival, and by community standards will be a beacon in one’s path with God. So for me the process of choosing a patron saint was one where I discerned influences and interests in my life - researched the communion of saints and found St. Bernadine of Siena an excellent fit. A patron saint of advertising, public relations and compulsive behavior I felt a kin to him. (I’ll wait for a later posting to delve into the compulsive behavior trait)
The Catholic Church honors St. Bernardine of Siena on May 20. A Franciscan friar and preacher, St. Bernardine is known as “the Apostle of Italy” for his efforts to revive the country's Catholic faith during the 15th century.
Bernardine Albizeschi was born to upper-class parents in the Italian republic of Siena during 1380. Misfortune soon entered the boy's life when he lost his mother at age three and his father four years later. His aunt Diana cared for him afterward, and taught him to seek consolation and security by trusting in God.
Before becoming a preacher, however, Bernardine spent several years ministering to the sick and dying. He enrolled in a religious association that served at a hospital in the town of Scala, and applied himself to this work from 1397 to 1400. During that time, a severe plague broke out in Siena, causing a crisis that would eventually lead to the young man taking charge of the entire hospital. Inside its walls, up to 20 people were dying each day from an illness that also killed many of the hospital workers. The staff was decimated and new victims were coming in constantly.
Bernardine persuaded 12 young men to help him continue the work of the hospital, which he took over for a period of four months. Although the plague did not infect him, the exhausting work left him weak and he contracted a different sickness that kept him in bed for four months.
After recovering, he spent over a year caring for his aunt Bartholomaea before her death. Then the 22-year-old Bernardine moved to a small house outside the city, where he began to discern God's will for his future through prayer and fasting.
For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, and discerning his gifts he felt God calling him to preach. Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol—IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, in Gothic letters on a blazing sun. He had a twofold reason to promote devotion to the name of Jesus; first as a simple and effective means of recalling God's love at all times; and secondly, the symbol displaced the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions (for example, Guelphs and Ghibellines). The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings. Opposition arose from those who thought it a dangerous innovation. Three attempts were made to have the pope take action against him, but Bernardine’s holiness, orthodoxy and intelligence were evidence of his faithfulness.
When other priests consulted him for advice, Bernardine gave them a simple rule: “In all your actions, seek in the first place the kingdom of God and his glory. Direct all you do purely to his honor. Persevere in brotherly charity, and practice first all that you desire to teach others. By this means,” he said, “the Holy Spirit will be your master, and will give you such wisdom and such a tongue that no adversary will be able to stand against you.”
Bernardine was widely admired throughout Italy, and he was offered the office of a bishop on three occasions. Each time, however, he turned down the position, choosing to preach throughout most of Italy several times over, and even managed to reconcile members of its warring political factions.
Later in his life, Bernardine served for five years as the Vicar General for his Franciscan order, and revived the practice of its strict rule of life. Then in 1444, forty years after he first entered religious life, Bernardine became sick while traveling. He continued to preach, but soon lost his strength and his voice. St. Bernardine of Siena, at the age of 64 died on May 20, 1444. Only six years later, in 1450, Pope Nicholas V canonized him as a saint.
Sources include:
** From IDEAS producer, David Cayley: "Human beings, according to French thinker René Girard, are fundamentally imitative creatures. We copy each other's desires and are in perpetual conflict with one another over the objects of our desire. In early human communities, this conflict created a permanent threat of violence and forced our ancestors to find a way to unify themselves. They chose a victim, a scapegoat, an evil one against whom the community could unite. Biblical religion, according to Girard, has attempted to overcome this historic plight. From the unjust murder of Abel by his brother Cain to the crucifixion of Christ, the Bible reveals the innocence of the victim. It is on this revelation that modern society unquietly rests. Girard's ideas have influenced social scientists over his long career as a writer and teacher." - IDEAS producer David Cayley introduces this seminal thinker to a wider audience.

Silence + Composure leads to Being Someone

“Silence overcomes noise and talk. Composure is the victory over distractions and unrest. Only the composed person is really someone." Because of our restlessness, confusion, distraction and disorder... "we do not yet really exist as persons -- at least not persons God can address expecting a fitting response. We are bundles of feelings, fancies, thoughts, and plans all at cross-purposes with each other. The first thing to do, then, is to quiet and collect ourselves.” - Theologian Romano Guardini bridges thought that leads from art, from literature, from philosophy - to religion. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Thomas Merton - Freedom Under Obedience

Merton in chapter seventeen, “Freedom Under Obedience” of Seeds of Contemplation writes:  

Very few men are sanctified in isolation...

The most dangerous man in the world is the contemplative who is guided by nobody. He trusts his own visions. He obeys the attractions of an interior voice, but will not listen to other men. He identifies the will of God with anything that makes him feel, within his own heart, a big, warm, sweet interior glow. The sweeter and the warmer the feeling, the more he is convinced of his own infallibility. And if the sheer force of his own self-confidence communicates itself to other people and gives them the impression that he really is a saint, such a man can wreck a whole city or a religious order or even a nation. The world is covered with scars that have been left in its flesh by visionaries like these.

Henri Nouwen - Direction is key

A quote from Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen

How do we know that we are not deluding ourselves, that we are not selecting those words that best fit our passions, that we are not just listening to the voice of our own imagination?…Who can determine if [our] feelings and insights are leading [us] in the right direction? Our God is greater than our own heart and mind, and too easily we are tempted to make our heart’s desires and our mind’s speculations into the will of God. Therefore, we need a guide, a director, a counselor who helps us to distinguish between the voice of God and all other voices coming from our own confusion or from dark powers far beyond our control. We need someone who encourages us when we are tempted to give it all up, to forget it all, to just walk away in despair. We need someone who discourages us when we move too rashly in unclear directions or hurry proudly to a nebulous goal. We need someone who can suggest to us when to read and when to be silent, which words to reflect upon and what to do when silence creates much fear and little peace. (Henri Nouwen, “Reaching Out”)
To see more on click here: Henri Nouwen Society