Friday, September 19, 2014

Hello, again

Every once in a while, an acquaintance either tells me or emails me: "You must be busy, because you haven't posted anything on your blog for a while."

Well, no one has said that lately, but I recently realized that I have not, indeed, posted much of anything here in quite some time. Such is life. If I were able, I would try to post something fresh (and, hopefully, something prayerful or thought-provoking) nearly every day. Perhaps I can attempt to make more progress in that regard.

In the meantime, however, I thought I would provide an update of what I've doing lately, as well as a preview of a "coming attraction" (hinted at in the photo above).

I've been spending a good deal of time lately reading and writing in connection with the courses I'm taking as part of the spiritual direction certificate program I've involved in here at Saint Meinrad. I'm quickly approaching the last year of the three-year program. One course, Spiritual Direction and Discernment, began in July and runs until early December. (Courses already completed have covered Scripture, the history of Christian spirituality, and human development and Christian maturity) In January, the other members of the program cohort (there are about a dozen of us) and I will begin a Pre-Practicum course--which will be followed by a full year of engaging in supervision and self-evaluation of interaction with directees, which in turn will be followed up with a Post-Practicum course before the certificate is awarded.

It has been a very rewarding program (the other cohort members and I are the "guinea pigs" of this inaugural endeavor), and I have learned a lot. I also learn a lot from those I am currently directing, and I am grateful for their trust in this "novice." Being a spiritual director (not to mention a writer) after the pattern of my patron namesake, St. Francis de Sales, is something I feel deeply called toward, and is something I genuinely enjoy doing.

In any event, the current course I'm enrolled in, as well as preparations for the pre-practicum course, are keeping me quite busy. Along with quite a bit of reading, there are short papers and reflections to write, and required online discussions to engage in with other cohort members--all of which has been very fruitful. Together, it amounts to the equivalent of essentially two simultaneous classes.

In addition, I'm involved with the Benedictine oblate program here at Saint Meinrad, and in recent weeks, I've been preparing the conference I will be giving at oblate chapters throughout Indiana and Ohio in the coming months. My conference--guided by this year's overall theme of the "Presence of God in the Life of the Oblate," which is chosen by the oblate director--is titled "Being with God in Prayer."

And, of course, I continue to work in the Publications division of the Abbey Press. In addition to the normal round of proofing catalogs, editing manuscripts, and attending staff meetings, I have been particularly focused on shepherding the development of a new gift-book series called "Focus on Faith" (to be released in December). Each 84-page, full-color book in the series will focus on a different aspect of one's Christian faith, providing an insightful, inspiring, and attractive presentation of the topic at hand. Each book in the series is designed to be a prayerful guide to empowering one's faith--putting it to work in day-to-day circumstances, and is filled with short meditations, colorful photographs and illustrations, inspirational quotes, and reflection questions.

There will be four books released in December to begin the series, dealing with the topics of patience, envy, doubt, and worry. I have authored the one on worry, tentatively titled Why Do I Worry? (the photo above is one version of the cover). Everything has been written, edited, and designed, and is currently in the pre-press phase (lots of proofing and fine-tuning!). This has been a unique project in many respects, and has involved a number of people here at the Press. It will be interesting to see how the series fares.

So, that is what I've been up to of late. I'm especially looking forward to the practicum phase of the spiritual direction program. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to do a little more writing as well. For now, here is the introduction to the upcoming "Focus on Faith" book Why Do I Worry?:

Don’t worry. We’ve all said that to someone, or have had someone else say it to us. Yet, worrying is something everyone does to some degree. We worry about our jobs or studies, finances, health and safety, and relationships. We worry about what’s happened in the past, and what may happen in the future. We worry about the state of today’s world.

And those are just the “biggies”—we worry about many other things as well.

As real as our worries seem, we know, deep down, that worrying is pointless.  It solves nothing, and often leads to potentially more serious problems—like sleeplessness, irritability, lack of concentration, arguments, substance abuse, etc. A recent British study found that the average Briton spends one hour and 46 minutes each day worrying about such things as being out of shape, aging, and finances—amounting to five years and two months of solid worrying over the course of the average lifetime! What’s more, high percentages of those studied said their worrying (not what they were worried about) directly affected their health, job performance, and relationships.

Gerontologist Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D, a professor of human development at Cornell University who has researched and written extensively on aging issues, asked hundreds of senior citizens what they most regretted about their lives. He was surprised by the recurrent answer: “I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life worrying.” He concludes: “Their advice on this issue is devastatingly simple and direct: Worry is an enormous waste of your precious and limited lifetime. They suggested training yourself to reduce or eliminate worrying as the single most positive step you can make toward greater happiness.”

Hopefully, this book will help you do that from the perspective of our Christian faith. Let us follow Jesus, the Light of the world (cf. John 8:12; 9:5), who says to us all: “Do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25; Luke 12:22). “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1).

Br. Francis Wagner, O.S.B.
Why Do I Worry?
©2014 Abbey Press Publications

Sunday, August 31, 2014

True desire

"What we love
indicates the sort
of people we are,
and therefore
making a decision
about this should
be our one concern
in choosing
a way of life."

--St. Augustine

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


"May my teaching drop like the rain,
my speech condense like the dew."
Deuteronomy 32:2

No, it's not manna.

After all, nowadays we have the Eucharist (cf. John 6:27-51).

Not manna, but spiders! Or, more specifically, spider webs. Hundreds of them.

This was the scene around the Archabbey early this morning after Vigils. It has been rather moist around here of late. We had some good, soaking rains over the weekend, and since then it's been quite humid. Last night, the moisture built up in a big way and left the Hill and surrounding area enveloped in heavy fog and mist. The dew was left clinging heavily to anything at ground level, exposing the spiders' intricate handiwork.

Those webs are always there, of course. We just rarely see them unless something like heavy dew brings them to light. It left me contemplating how often we pass by an untold number of such wonders each day without noticing. Truly, grace builds on nature -- if we're willing to let it permeate below the surface of things.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The narrow way

"Clothed with faith and the performance of good works,
let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide."

of St. Benedict, Prologue 21

Congratulations are in order for Br. André DeDecker (formerly known as Novice Dane), who professed his temporary vows on Wednesday this week. In addition, the monastic community of Saint Meinrad Archabbey welcomes two novices who were invested on Tuesday with the monastic scapular -- John Avery II and Charles Peñalosa.

Through the intercession of Our Lady of Einsiedeln, our Holy Father St. Benedict, and St. Meinrad, may God confirm and strengthen all three in their discernment of the monastic way of life.

The monastery is expecting a few additional candidates to arrive this fall. Keep praying for vocations to this house!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The peace of God

"The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:5-7

The answer to our prayer is not the immediate fulfillment of a specific request. Rather, the answer is a living relationship with the "peace of God." What we receive most of all in this amazing venture with God is a deepening clarity of relationship ... What we receive is wisdom. We receive hearts and minds molded and taught in the ways of life and love. What we ultimately receive is the assurance that God is with us, regardless of the way our life changes.

-- Dwight H. Judy
Discerning Life Transitions:
Listening Together in Spiritual Direction

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pearl of great price

A prayer based on the Mass readings
for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
[1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52]

Lord my God,
Grant me a heart
full of wisdom
and understanding
so that I may
as you see,
treasure your treasure,
and then joyfully
share that vision,
that treasure,
with the world.


                                                                                --Br. Francis Wagner, O.S.B.