All posts tagged: charleskestermeier

The Way of the Pilgrim

When I teach Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in my literature survey course each semester, I need to take a certain extra amount of time to explain to my students just what these characters are doing by going on a pilgrimage: it is not something that younger people are often familiar with or find attractive, and yet I think that for Christians the idea of living the pilgrim life can be a very rich way of looking at the way we move through our days. In medieval times people undertook religious pilgrimages for a reason, ordinarily supplication or thanksgiving, although some people went out of simple piety. Whatever the reason, people wanted to show God or one of the saints how serious they were about their prayer for this or that. Depending on whom they were praying to or honoring, the pilgrims would choose a particular shrine from among dozens of possible sites, from Santiago de Compostela to the shrine of St. Ursula in Cologne, or even the Holy Land. They would ordinarily travel on foot, without …

Living as a Child of God

While we are vaguely aware that each of us is a “child of God,” we might reflect on what it means for us to be specifically a “child of God. As Jesus said, “I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become as little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). He himself was very aware of being the Son of God, as we see in his “Our Father” and in all sorts of ways in John’s Gospel, but what does being a child mean for us who have struggled so long to become adults? Each of us begins existence in the smallest of ways, the joining of cells from our parents which implanted themselves in the womb of our mothers and started to grow. Our life in the womb seemed uneventful, to say the least, and we might say that we suffered from a sort of sensory deprivation if it were not that we were completely unaware of any other way to live and were indeed not equipped to deal …

The Gift of Self in Religious Vows

One way that people dedicate or devote themselves to another, a way by which they give themselves away, is in the Sacrament of Matrimony. Another way—the way which will provide the focus of this article—is in the vows which incorporate men and women into various sorts of religious orders, congregations, and other pious institutes. These vows and this incorporation are not a sacrament, but the person involved can live this dedication just as seriously and with just as much love and joy as a married person lives his or her commitment. For religious such as myself, these vows are fundamentally a matter of hope. This hope is not a vague or formless attitude of “whatever,” not an inattentiveness to the realities of life, but a personal, active, and complete trust in the Father’s love for us as we try to imitate the Son as the Spirit directs and strengthens us to do. This is a complete abandonment of ourselves to the Trinity in loving gratitude and gift, imitating the “kenosis” of Christ which St. Paul …

Dealing with Distractions in Prayer

I don’t think that I’m wrong to say that we wish both to pray and to feel ourselves to be in prayer but that we blame “distractions” for not allowing us to achieve one or both of these aims. I do believe, however, that we are rather mistaken, in various ways, about what these “distractions” are and what they could mean to us. It might just be that distractions are far from being completely negative. I suppose it is obvious that we do no really serious prayer in the middle of a committee meeting, or when we are helping kids with their homework, or doing anything whatever that needs our full attention and thought. While that is not entirely true, for reasons and in ways that I won’t go into here, on the whole we do at least need to ground our prayer in a habitual time and situation when we can block out those exterior concerns and really focus only on being completely and intimately open to the most important Persons in our lives. …