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How to die to see God

Mystical Prayer in the Holy Spirit

St. Bonaventure - Doctor of the Church

This reading on mystical (contemplative) prayer, taken from St. Bonaventure's Journey of the Mind to God (Cap. 7,1 2.4.6: Opera Omnia, 5, 312-313), is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast (liturgical memorial) of St. Bonaventure on July 15.

Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fir is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!

This is an interesting read, because in our times everything points to the opposite way of believers reaching to God's presence. Christians are trying to find God mostly by experiencing Him, and the cavalcades of worldly distractions might suggest that the same intensity of emotional engagement with "spiritual" things (think: cool, relevant Christian church) will overpower the former and bring the soothing presence of God (with His blessings = answers to my prayers). Not so, says St. Bonaventure, and many mystics. Cherishing death is the way.

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how to raise a saint and a martyr in the heart of Europe today

In just few hours Marianna Popieluszko will be present at the Mass for the Beatification of her son, father Jerzy Popieluszko (Yeh-zhee  Poh-pye-woosh-koh), who was murdered over 25 years ago. She will carry the relics of her own son to the altar.

Father Jerzy Popieluszko was a Solidarity chaplain and became a spiritual leader of those who were pursuing non-violent liberation of Poland from Communism. You can read father Jerzy's story in many places now, but I wanted to find more about his upbringing, childhood and the role of his parents in raising a present day saint and martyr.

These are few nuggets that I found around the web, mostly from his mom's interviews.

Father Jerzy's family lived in a small village Okopy in the far East of Poland, which is almost exactly the geographical center of Europe. His parents were peasants, lived simply and were very devout Catholics, as most of Poles in that region. When Marianna was pregnant with her son, she consecrated him to the glory of God and to Mary, and prayed that he will become a priest one day. She says that she doesn't know if her prayers were answered, or maybe someone else's prayerful petitions, but Jerzy, born on the Feast of the Cross, became a priest.

"God gives grace, and if a person responds to it, and walks God's way, he will receive this grace."

Since his childhood, Jerzy was fascinated by priesthood. He would walk 5km (3 miles) daily before the school to serve as an altar boy at the Holy Mass, and after school he went to church to pray Rosary. People thought that he was to spiritual. His mom was told by the elementary school principal that Jerzy spends to much time in church.

"After seventh grade he wanted to join lower seminary in Niepokalanow (Maximilan Kolbe's City of the Immaculate), but I told him that he was to young then. When his friends finished high school and were celebrating the High Scholl Ball - he took the train to Warsaw for the seminary. I was happy when he became priest and I was praying constantly that he will be faithful to God, because this is the most important thing in life".

She was teaching her children daily how to pray, kneeling before the small home altar with the figure of the Holy Mother. On Wednesdays - they prayed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, on Fridays - to the Heart of Jesus, on Saturdays - to Black Madonna of Czestochowa. In May the whole family would recite Litany of the Blessed Virgin, in July - Litany to the Blood of Jesus, in October and throughout the rest of the year - the Rosary. During the storms she would lit a candle and pray.

"His first seminary was in his home."

"He was a nice, obedient child, but every child can be that way, if parents will keep them straight. All my children were the same. I did not punish them, there was no hitting, just very stern words: You have to do it! My kids were not into mischief. Whoever prays well, this person has no place for silliness in life."

"Death of Jerzy for me is like a stone for my whole life. It is a great pain. This wound is opening over and over, for who can forget such a thing. But I do not judge no one, and I do not demand no one's death. God Himself will judge them one day. And the murderer's will have to bare their penance. But I ask Jesus to forgive them. I would be the most happy if they would come to God."

John Paul II concluded meeting with Marianna: "Mother, you have given us a great son". And she responded, suprising even the pope: "Holy Father, I did not give him, but God has given him to the world through me. I gave him to the Church and I can't take him back." The Pope kissed her and hugged her.

What is the most important thing in life?

"To be faithful to God and, as much as one can, to serve others.

She feels his presence.

"Once my legs were hurting me greatly and I should go for surgery. When I came to the grave of father Jerzy, the pain dissapeared. Now I can digg potatoes even for the whole week without a break" (she was over 80 years old when she said that).

How does it feel to be a mother of a martyr?

"You will know it only if you live through it. You have to receive the will of God. God chooses his martyrs. It is not possible to become one without His grace."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXTSy5xYUIA&feature=player_embedded

What do you pray while you pray Rosary?

"I pray for repentance of sinners, priestly vocations, and I thank for received graces."

What is the most important thing in life?

" God. If God is first, everything will take its rightful place. After you wake up, think about God right away. Then Rosary - one part. And then you start your day.

Do you pray to father Jerzy?

"I pray to God."

But through father's intercession?

"I don't bother him, because people have more urgent needs, and he knows what I need and he is asking God for it."

Do you feel his protection?

" I feel protection of Mary, Queen of Poland. Mother understands the best and in her hands is everything."

Last words of father Popieluszko, before going on a fateful trip to another city:

"Let's pray so we can be free from fear and intimidation, but mostly free from the desire of revenge and retaliation"

Announcement of finding the body of father Popieluszko, where people gathered in the church and during the prayer Our Father, repeat three times "... and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".

The next day father Jerzy's mom in the church where Popieluszko served turned to the people and said: "I forgive. I forgive."

Marianna received St. Rita's International reward, which is given to people who forgive the murderers of their loved ones. She says she has forgiven the murderers of her son and she is praying for their conversion. She said that "they were fighting God, not my son", and that they were trying to fight the Church. Since then she can't recite other mysteries of Rosary than Sorrowful decades.

Polish late President Lech Kaczynski awarded posthumously father Jerzy Popieluszko with an Order of the White Eagle which is the highest decoration given to Polish citizens for their merits. Here he is kissing Marianna's hand and expressing his gratitude.

The mother of Father Jerzy Popieliszko, Marianna, second left, prays with family members at her son's grave in front of the St. Stanislaw Kostka church in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, June 5, 2010

Director's commentary:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfdtsdIXbME&feature=player_embedded#!]

English Language version of the movie is in preparation:

Sanctuary of Bl. Jerzy Popiełuszko

Marianna Popiełuszko in procession behind her son's relics:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keUio8MgLpU]

Update: Oct 2012 - new book called "Mother of the Saint" just came out. Once I get it and read it, I'll update this post. :-)

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25

About 25 years ago, I was awakened slowly into the new way of life (it sounds like it was soooo long ago, but it feels like just 5 years ago). Throughout the years I was a part of Hallelu Jah Fellowship. This October we were celebrating 25th anniversary... which was my main reason of going to Poland this time. This fellowship had a tremendous influence on my life, it shaped my inner being like nothing else I know of so far. Through the Hallelu Jah people God became my eternal love. They were speaking Christ, breathing Christ and loving me like He would.

It was very special to be present there, on that day.

church NMP na Piasku, where the Mass took place

beauty

bishop Siemieniewski, one of the guardians of the Hallelu Jah

the Mass

walking from the church to the celebration hall

kids were the sheep... don't ask me why...

tables with food

chleb ze smalcem - you don't want to know what this is...

people are gathering

father Zacheusz... the real monk

Janusz (one of the main leaders of Charismatic movement in Wroclaw) and Dagmara (my first small group leader)

Sophie

Jacek(present HalleluJah leader) and Grzesiek (many years of singing, soundman, actor, sailor, father)

one of the many humorous moments

father Marek, whos vocation grew withing our fellowship

Teah with dear friend Andrzej

Magda and Jola

cutting the cake

worship time

more worship

Zuzia

just a nice picture

one of my best friends, Agnieszka

what is he saying?

T shirts

if you think that this guy is wearing very eschatological shirt with a message: "Jesus come, Jesus", you are wrong!!!

it is French for "I am as I am" on the back of Mroczek :-)

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be fervent in spirit

Rynek (main square of the city). Sunday afternoon. Evangelism by Hallelu Jah Fellowship.There were 2 worship concerts, one with the prayer for the city, dramas, pantomimes. On a side of the main stage there were three tents: one full of ideas ministering to the kids, second one open to anyone who would like to get counseling (especially drug addicts), in the third one people could watch different evangelistic media presentations.

Although the weather was chilly, during the five hours of the continuous program, there were many people who were stopping by, intrigued by this event.

the cross is the reason

"40 and 30 on 70" band

(this is the most original name of a music group you've ever heard; the full name goes like this - "forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys" -  from Judges 12:14)

they play sort of folk music, but with a 'heavier' sound, it depicts Polish soul very well...

Robert Ruszczak, leader of the band and the main organizer of this event

people gathering around...

watching...                                  priest Wlodzimierz (try to pronounce that: Vwoh-dzhee-myezh)

pantomime...                                 interested....

watching

Open up the doors and let the music play

Let the streets resound with singing

Songs that bring Your hope, songs that bring Your joy

Dancers who dance upon injustice

from the song "Did you feel the mountains tremble"

one of the pantomimes

me with a famous preacher, Andrzej Dziewit, a true evangelist...

Andrzej sharing his testimony, I've heard it so many times, and every time it is moving and sobering, he really has a gift...

me with another legendary leader of Hallelu Jah, Mroczek, one of the greatest...

it was a good night...

kids watching

mime

worship and prayer for the city of Wroclaw

worship

prayer time

note in a local newspaper abot the event

most of the pictures above courtesy Hallelu Jah web album

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