Monday, August 28, 2017

My Daily Bread: A Treasure Trove of the Spiritual Life

My Daily Bread reading, reflection, and prayer: A Right Intention in All Things
Book One, The Way of Purification, Part One, Chapter 3, Conversion: A Right Intention in All Things

Living a Spiritual LIfe is not something that is so readily understood. Some may consider going to Mass once a week on Sunday and the recitation of a few prayers as sufficient to live such a life, but there is much more to it than that. Consider the following questions: 

  • Have you ever made a resolution to improve your Spiritual Life at Confession, during Mass, at a retreat, during a pilgrimage or some other moment of grace and failed to follow through on it?
  • Have you been struggling to give Christ an honest, daily effort in following Him?
  • Do you seem to lack a genuine compunction of heart?
  • Are you going through spiritual tepidity?
  • Do you seek a closer friendship with God?
  • Are you finding it difficult to conquer bad habits?
  • Would you like to have a true devotion to Jesus?
  • Are certain sins exceptionally difficult to overcome?
  • Would you like to live a Spiritual Life, but do not know what that entails?
  • Do you lack the knowledge and understanding about the spiritual combat, life's daily warfare?

If you have answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, then you may want to seriously consider purchasing a copy of My Daily Bread.

For conscientious Catholics striving to follow Christ with a greater love and fidelity, this book is a treasure trove to draw from; a summary of the Spiritual Life made simple and easy to follow with daily readings, reflections and prayer. 

The book was authored by Rev. Anthony J. Paone, S.J. and was first published in 1954. It is considered a Christian classic that to date has sold over 1 million copies.

So many people have had the opportunity to purchase this book due to the efforts of the Confraternity of the Precious Blood in Brooklyn, New York—originally founded in 1890, and dedicated to supporting the historic Monastery of the Precious Blood in Brooklyn, and the religious sisters who call it home—who are well known for publishing many other pocket devotionals including: My Daily Life, My Imitation of Christ, and My Meditation on the Gospel.

One of the many benefits of making My Daily Bread your prayer companion is the noticeable, lived-experience of a deep interior life. As it states in the Foreword, "This book must be read, not only with the head, but with the heart. We must think and pray. This daily exercise will transform belief into realization, theory into practice."

In addition to better understanding your faults, imperfections, and sins, this book invites each individual to lead a virtuous life and to grow in God's grace; explained like no other book that I have ever read, reflected upon, and prayed about.

My Daily Bread is divided into three books that treat respectively the three ways of the Spiritual Life: Purification, Imitation, and Union. Each book is further divided into various parts that begin with a brief introduction, setting the tone for the many chapters that follow. It is during the chapter readings that each individual is invited to, "listen, think and answer Him."

Whether you are newly converted to the Catholic faith, a daily communicant or somewhere in between, My Daily Bread, is perhaps "the" book to acquire to truly understand and live the Spiritual Life.

The Way of Purification

The Way of Purification is the first stage of the Spiritual Life; a life long task and a daily goal.

Purification is a process whereby we reform what has been deformed in us by sin. It consists of five parts: Conversion, After ConversionTemptation, Conquering Bad Habits, and Self-Conquest Through Mortification.

The daily effort entails that each individual strive to rid oneself of all serious sin and any predominant venial faults that may lead to mortal sin. By doing so a foundation is laid for the development of virtues, which will be practiced in a more positive manner rather than in opposition to present faults.

To get a sense of the "treasure trove" contained within this book, below is an excerpt from Part One, Conversion, Chapter Three, A Right Intention in All Things:
[Christ] MY CHILD, In all things I want you to have a right intention. This means I want you to have a supernatural purpose in whatever you think, do, or say...
A right intention, however, may have different degrees of perfection. Thus, when you do something simply to please Me, your intention is higher than if you think of your own advantage. Still, whatever be the degree of your right intention, it always seeks to fulfill My Will, and it always brings you a greater good than any intention which seeks only your earthly welfare.
Regardless of feelings, moods, prejudices, or preferences, strive to maintain a right intention at all times...
Do not let life's daily events disturb nor affect you too much. Seek to know My Will and to accept it in all things. With this pure intention, you will have a deep interior peace. This is my gift to those who let Me govern their lives...(6)

The Way of Imitation

This second stage invites the reader to a greater following of Christ and consists of four parts: Following Jesus in Daily LIfe; Virtues Leading Directly to God; Man's Relation With His Neighbour and With Himself; and The Spiritual Combat.

Previously in the first stage, the advancement of virtue occurred by resisting one's faults that the virtues were opposed to. In the second stage, one is lead to rise to a higher degree of union with God by imitating the example which Jesus gave us.

This second level is referred to as the "illuminative way, the way of enlightenment." One is drawn closer to God and comes to understand God more clearly, and appreciate Him more fully.

As in notes in Book Two, "Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life...Learn of Me...' Christ's follower must now take his eyes away from himself for longer periods, so that he may concentrate more and more upon his King and Model." (222)

The development of virtue is now aimed at demonstrating a greater love and fidelity to Christ. Here is an excerpt from Part One, Following Jesus in Daily LIfe, Chapter 2, The Divine Teacher:
[Christ] MY CHILD, My grace is richer, deeper, grander, and more glorious than any other possession or achievement on earth. It shows you what is better and more profitable for your eternal success. It strengthens you against all earthly attractions and makes you the true master of your own life...
I speak to different persons in different ways, according to their background, abilities, and efforts. I do not always use words when I speak within your soul. Often My message is received and understood in an instant. In your reading, reflecting, and prayer, I often speak to you. I help you to understand more clearly what you read in books or hear in sermons. The grandest sermon would be just so many words if I did not bless it with My grace. It is I who enable the listeners to understand it, desire it, and live it. (226)

The Way of Union

The third stage consists of three parts: Striving for Closer Union; Union Through the Holy Eucharist; Union Throughout the Day.

At this stage, the follower of Christ is now purified of all serious faults and most of the lesser defects, and after having proven to be unselfish and loyal, there is a longing for a more intimate union with God. 

The follower of Christ strives to give oneself completely to God, which He in due time, generously rewards by raising the soul to the highest spiritual level: The Way of Union.

As it states in Book Three, "The man in this stage of spiritual perfection finds his thoughts turning more frequently and more easily to God. He is constantly aware of God's nearness. His predominant desire in all his activities, is to give more of himself to God, by whatever form of self-sacrifice his daily obligations will permit." (365)

It is during this stage that one experiences a supernatural friendship with God and among all of life's trials and difficulties, Christ's generous followers experience peace and joy, a foretaste of Heaven.

The following is an excerpt from Part One, Striving for Closer Union, Chapter 3, Intimacy with God:
[Christ] MY CHILD, learn to converse with Me as a child talks with its mother. Let there be no barriers between you and Me. Why should you find it easier to talk to human beings than to Me? I know you better than anyone else.
Nowhere will you find the understanding, sympathy, and appreciation which I have. Nobody else is as interested in you as I am. I love you infinitely more than anyone else does.
You are never alone. I am always with you, ready to share your burdens and solve your problems. I walk with you at every step. No human being is capable of giving you the perfect friendship which I offer you. (371) 

The Ideal Standard, Jesus Christ

What the contents of My Daily Bread point to is the ideal standard, Jesus Christ. It is the only standard with which we should measure how we are living our lives and how to better live it; the one standard alone that will stand the test on judgement day.

Jesus gave us His example and teachings to follow; all that remains is for each individual to decide for Christ and follow His example. It doesn't matter how successful you are, because Jesus does not look at this, but rather, He looks at how much effort you put forth: did you give Jesus your honest daily effort to follow Him?

My Daily Bread, details how to do just that, encouraging each follower to, as it notes at the How to Use This Book page, "dream of becoming a better person." (VI)

Who amongst us does not want to become a better person? We can become that better person if we spend time listening to His precious words of wisdom, peace, and joy.

Jesus speaks to us far more often than we listen; He is much closer to us than we realize. We would go far in self-perfection if we, "...[P]laced ourselves at His feet for a few minutes each day, and heard Him tell us how to improve our daily lives." (VI)

Those who sincerely endeavour to remain at His feet each day will experience a time of divine intimacy. As in notes in the book, "Often, between the lines, He will give you a message which is meant for you alone. This will be the grace of that chapter." (VI)

It is through God's grace that we will be shown how to live a better life each day, and be given the strength and the resolve to do so. If we use these graces well, God will grant us even greater ones. Daily we will become more like Christ and less like our old self.

May many strive to follow the ideal standard and live the Spiritual Life.

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