Father John J. Lombardi
This past summer some
laypeople made a retreat called "Disciplined
Desire: Living God's Virtues in a Stress-Filled
World." Here is the teaching from the last
Spiritual conference: the ABC's of Virtue and
the Spiritual Life.
Always practice good:
This is the first principle of Holy
habits-always, everywhere, practice holiness,
virtue and goodness. We can't merely pick and
choose when we want to form habits, virtues and
holiness within: "In season and out of season…"
(II Tim 4:2) be a vessel of Jesus and Mary.
Begin Anew: You may have
sinned recently; you may sin frequently. Don't
despair: get up and keep trying. We have to
continually make new beginnings and never give
up. Despair is our enemy
Clearly knowing Truth
sets you free (Jn.8:32) from the self and
sensuality of the world. Illusion, ignorance,
falsity is of Satan, they all are imprisoning.
But God's laws, commands and Spiritual Truths
will liberate you. Memorize this Spiritual
Equation: Effort Plus Knowledge Plus love = Holy
Habits and Virtues. We need all these elements
combining and re-practiced continually until
they become dispositions within us.
evil/inordinate attachments sets you free to
love, to serve. Don't be a prisoner! The Three
Main Inordinate Attachments we humans have are:
possessions, people and thoughts. How do you
need liberation from these? Good, ordered, holy
attachment to these things, though, is helpful
Effort: we have to exert
and use energy. Just as Olympian athletes used
all their strength to train and win medals, so
too spiritual athletes must train. "I train my
body and train it so I myself…" (I Cor. 9:27).
Laxity is the enemy here. Give until it
hurts….No pain no gain.
Fortitude means: when
the going gets tough the holy get up and keep
going. This virtue means we will not relent;
will not give up or give in…Remember: Inch by
inch it's a cinch.
Generate goodness: The
classic Latin saying should be memorized and
then practiced- "Bonum diffisum est= Good is
diffusive of itself." Negatively put: bad
company spoil morals. But holy people inspire
other good people and actions. As one person
described a holy man, may this describe you:
"When I'm around him, I feel holy."
Heaven and Hell. Tom, a
"wanderer" and holy guy, once said to me at the
Grotto one light-filled spring day: This is
beautiful but Heaven is beautiful, too...And,
oppositely Hell is not only worse than we think;
it worse than we can think." Practice the Holy
Habit of meditating on the Four Last
Things-which are not to scare us, but to convert
us to holiness: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell.
(Skull and crossbones not necessary).
Life: Do you have one, do you seek, embrace and
cultivate an inward disposition? Or are you
constantly looking for new fixes and highs from
continuous stimulation from outside? Mediate,
pray, sit in silence. Practice daily. No
Joined to the Lord. This
comes thru the Holy Habit of prayer, love,
Sacraments and constant devotion to Him. "Those
who are joined to the Lord are one spirit with
Him" (I Cor.6:17). Now, can you think of
something or Someone more important? J
Knowledge of virtues. We
need to KNOW in the head and intellect what is
good and bad for us; determine what our enemies
and weaknesses are. This is called objective
knowledge, objective truth: things which never
change, which we must conform to. The world
wants to dismiss these, but the soul intuitively
and inspirationally wants and needs to know
these to grow. Form your soul and conscience by
studying the Bible, Catechism, Spiritual reading
and saints' teachings. The alternative:
ignorance and suffering, mistakes and confusion.
Lord: This means we are
His, we are His servants. Is He Lord of your
Life? Does He reign in your heart? How will you
Mary is the first and
most perfect disciple. We can become like her,
beautiful and even Immaculate in the soul, only
by God's help and our constant conversion and
supreme love-like hers. Pray the Rosary, get an
icon for your house, office, car-emulate her
precisely because she became a living virginal
Tabernacle for God. Like her, "Magnify the
Lord". Don't allow anything to get stuck on
sinful, selfish self so you cannot magnify God.
Clean the soul-window within-magnify Him! Pray
the Rosary with your heart-meditatively, slowly,
No to evil, flesh, and
sensuality means "Yes" to God, holiness and
Light. Practice the Holy Habit of rejecting bad,
evil things, and embracing good, radically holy
things and disciplines.
Offer it up. A friend,
Fr Sam once said, regarding some trouble, "You
know, in the end, this situation means three
words: Offer it up." That means give it to
Jesus. Use it to lose it.
Persistence/perseverance/patience. These words
say it all: Don't give up. Our heroine of Mary's
Mountain, Mother Seton, persevered thru the
deaths of her husband and two of her children;
trials of community strife in beginning a new
family/religious order; and persecution after
converting to Roman Catholicism. But, whenever
she fell, she got back up. Do the same. Pray:
"Mother Seton, help us climb the mountain of
Holiness!" It's a climb - one holy step at a
Quiet, quell the
passions, versus spewing forth like volcanoes.
How? Bite your tongue (yes, if necessary,
literally); count to three; call on Jesus' Holy
Name. Deny yourself. Fast. Embrace
mortifications (hard things). Study a Crucifix.
Rehearse for Union. The
Bible is just this-about preparing us for union
with God, the Blessed Trinity. But there is
little time-don't postpone. Thru prayer,
meditation, Bible reading, Holy Mass and
Confession, you are called to oneness with Him.
The saints practiced these Holy habits and
embraced union with God-will you?
Singular minded vs.
multi-tasking. I was typing this very bulletin
while talking to a client on the phone. The
client, suspecting this, asked: "Father, are you
typing?" Got me: convicted! I stopped. We both
laughed. Another Latin adage-Age quod aegis: Do
what you are doing. As a priest I'm supposed to
be a good listener, focused and single minded.
But I sometimes try to multi-task. We all need
help! Keep helping your priests!
Tenacity. If there's one
virtue and trait I recall from a summer with the
Missionaries of Charity and Mother Teresa of
Calcutta, it's this: tenacity, which means
grasping, holding firm. She and they held firm
first to love of God and second, loving God in
the poor, the sick and dying, and in lepers,
going so far as to look for castaway babies in
dumpsters and trash dumps. She never wavered.
Many things would seemingly help her and the
Missionaries in the short run (air conditioning,
televisions, computers), but in the long run,
they didn't. Don't compromise. Grit your
Understanding. Are you
using your Catholic understanding to interpret
the world, work and others-and your own self?
Remember-it must be Catholic. A priest friend
recently shared how his mother made the sign of
the cross before crossing the street, while
baking bread, etc. She even named her son
Lawrence so that his name would be mentioned
every day at Mass (in the older Eucharistic
prayer I). That's a Catholic understanding about
being-in-the-world! Do likewise. U
Vocation. Learn about
your calling (married, single, religious life);
love it and also, especially today, defend it.
Discern what God wants you to do; then
decide-make a reasonable decision with another
holy person-and just do it. Don't waver. God is
calling you to be holy. How will you fulfill
your unique call?
Win Grace. We absolutely
need grace-God's gifting Life of Himself-for
salvation. We can "win" this grace by prayer,
sacrifices, Mass and constantly asking for it.
Then we must cooperate with it so the Lord's
Gift does not go unused or neglected. So…ask;
cooperate and then multiply graces.
X-out sins and bad
desires. Are you stealing or lying? Then stop!
Gossiping? Stop now! You may have attachment to
sins and faults but, basically, we all need to
cease these bad impulses, thoughts and actions.
Blot them out. Immediately!
Yes to God is the Virgin
Mary's answer : "Do whatever He tells you"
(Jn.2:5) Say "Yes!" to Him - without
reservation. At least hold this as your
perfection point because if you keep strings
attached or do it halfway, that's what you'll
get - lukewarmness. Remember: Total abandonment.
Zeal is like a holy
gasoline in your soul, ignited for God and
others. Do you have a keen, fervent desire for
God, the spiritual life, for saving other souls?
The saints did. What do you need to do to
cultivate this? We all get tired, discouraged.
How can you keep cultivating this virtue thru
"Be perfect as your
Heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 6:48).
Our Lord counseled, and
impress within your soul: "Fear is useless,
Trust is needed"
other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi