Christian Spirituality

This page contains four retreats from Fr. Don, two on growing your spiritual life and two on prayer.

Part One: Keep Your Eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)


How would I describe Catholic Spirituality? 

I would first ask…

Is God active in my life? 

Let me point out that Catholics have a set of Beliefs expressed in our Creed… 

I believe in one God, Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth… etc.

I think that Spirituality focuses on this God, active in our life… 

It’s not a series of concepts rationally accepted… 

It’s an experience of this God in our lives. 

For us Catholics, Jesus reveals God (Jn17:25-26)  

We ‘keep our eyes on Jesus’ (Heb 12:2)

Our personal prayer life is one important spiritual practice 

where we can experience God.

In this first conference on Christian Spirituality 

I want to present Jesus as the center of this Spirituality 

and Prayer as the pathway to Jesus.

In his letter to the Hebrews Paul encourages all of us:

Keep Your eyes on Jesus. (Heb 12:2)

What does that mean? How do we do that?

I Who is Jesus?

Here’s a question for you, one you probably seldom ask yourself:

Who is Jesus… to me?

We have our catechism answers…

We know what we’ve been taught…

But who is Jesus personally to me?

Another Question…

Do you ever talk to Jesus?

How do you address Jesus when you pray to him?

Do you pray to Jesus daily, once, or twice a week, or just on Sundays?

Do you read much about him…? 

his words, his teachings, and his actions?

Or is Jesus only a Sunday occurrence to you…

someone “up there” whom we approach on Sundays… 

but basically forgotten the rest of the week?

For some people Jesus is not important.

They never think about Jesus.

They never or seldom pray.

But then, they are not following Jesus –

Let’s look at this person, Jesus.

I might suggest here a wonderful book written by the Jesuit James Martin, entitled Jesus, A Pilgrimage

This book introduces us to the times and the locations 

where Jesus lived and ministered.

Fr. Ed Leen, a spiritual author of the mid-20th century, 

spoke of how we might get to know and love Jesus.

We need to read and study the Sacred Scriptures (SS) with # 1 and 2 in mind.  

The SS become alive and transformative.

This takes time.

The SS stories do not immediately illumine the mind, 

warm the heart 

or exercise any perceptible dynamic effect for the beginner. 

It takes time and perseverance and a desire to mold one’s life 

and discipline it and clothe oneself in Jesus.

We are Jesus’ disciples – 

We are Jesus’ disciples and so Jesus is important to us.

In Paul’s beautiful Letter to the Hebrews 

Paul encourages the early Christians:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, 

who both began and finished this race we’re in.  

Study how he did it.  (The Message translation, Heb 12:2)

In the introductory words on the Year of Mercy in 2016 Pope Francis beautifully reminds us that...

Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. (Misericordiae Vultus, #1)

These are the words of a man who has ‘kept his eyes on Jesus’. (Heb 12:2) 

II Celebrities

We live in an age of celebrities.  

Whom does our society keep its eyes on?  


Whom does so many in our society admire?


People Magazine, Super Market Tabloids, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, ESPN…

these News sources tell us the foibles, failures, and fortunes of our Stars… 

what happened to whom, 

who did what to whom, 

who divorced whom, 

who’s getting married again? … 


So many Americans never seem to tire reading about celebrities.  

And so often it’s Bad News…

not too uplifting, not too encouraging… is it?

What kind of role models are these to our young?

We Catholics must be careful lest we are seduced by celebrities and their way of life.  

We must be careful about keeping our eyes fixed on them.

III Keep Our Eyes on Jesus… Prayer

How can we spend more time with Jesus? 

Our Catholic tradition speaks of ‘prayer’. 

What is ‘prayer’?

Remember the old catechism description of prayer:

A lifting of the mind and heart to God.

I like Mother Theresa’s description of ‘prayer’.

Prayer is making room for God in our hearts’.

Look at ‘prayer’ in the Subject Index in the back of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

Part IV of the Catechism deals specifically with ‘Prayer’.

It is well worth studying. 

‘Studying’ vs ‘Praying’… 

Studying is not prayer… but will help us to understand more about prayer and hopefully develop our own prayer life. 

I believe we must ‘study’ all of our lives. 

If you play Bridge you have to study. 

If you are a corporate executive, you have to constantly update yourself. What are we willing to do for the sake of the Kingdom of God?

In the Subject Index of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

 there is one whole column dealing with many aspects of ‘prayer’… 

and this is not Liturgical Prayer – the Sacraments and the Divine Office.

This is our own personal prayer.

It would certainly be worthwhile for you to read these references in the Catechism. 

Call it some homework!  It’s studying. 

It might be a good Lenten practice.

More ‘studying’

I want to briefly mention one more example of studying 

as a way of growing our prayer life… 

and getting to know Jesus. 

Mathew Kelly is an Australian Catholic writer, 

famous for a number of good books 

including ‘Rediscovering Catholicism’ and ‘Rediscovering Jesus’. 

In the latter book he encourages us to spend 15 minutes every day 

reading the Gospels - Mathew, Mark, Luke and John… 

to help us to get to know Jesus better.

(Note…If you have trouble understanding the Gospels, 

go to or, 

go to the search engine, and put in it the following…

Scott Hahn, Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Mathew, Gospel of Luke, Gospel of John. 

Buy the commentary on whichever Gospel you are reading…

it will help you have a better understanding of the Gospel. 

This is ‘studying’ the Gospel.

It will help you in praying the Gospel and getting to know Jesus.)

IV Personal Prayer Movements

Before I describe some of the forms of personal prayer, 

I would like to suggest three helpful preparations for our personal prayer.

Some Questions…

Questions # 1… Do you have a prayer space in your residence?

Many prayerful people find a ‘prayer space’ helpful. 

This could be anywhere that is quiet 

and perhaps a bit secluded in your residence. 

It might be a small table or a desk with a comfortable chair. 

On the table or desk, you might have a Bible, a Crucifix, a candle, a journal, a favorite spiritual book, or any combination of these. 

It helps if the space is near a window 

which overlooks some pleasant scenery – not necessary, but helpful.

This is your ‘sacred space’ where you go to pray.

Question # 2… Do you have a prayer time?  

It helps if you have 15 to 30 minutes each day 

set aside for your prayer in your prayer space. 

Many people find this works for them. 

Be sure it’s a time when you are not too tired or worn out.

Question # 3… How do you begin your prayer?

If you come in from work or from a busy day, 

go to your prayer space, 

sit down and begin to pray… good luc


My guess is that you will be distracted and find it hard to pray.

If you begin your prayer early in your day or late in the day, 

here is an exercise I suggest before you begin your prayer time. 

It’s a brief preparation for prayer

Sit in a comfortable chair and take some deep breaths. Relax. 

Let your shoulders droop and breathe deeply. 

Take your thoughts, your worries, your fears, and your troubles from the day 

and let them float away… maybe picture them floating away…

If they return, just push them away gently. 

You are not going to focus on these. You are at prayer.

Perhaps even put on some quiet music if it’s helpful.

After several quiet minutes, 

begin the prayer movement you want to practice.


In Part Two of this conference I will describe various types of Prayer… 

Fr. Don Ware, C.P.


Keep Your Eyes on Jesus, Part Two

Various Forms of Personal Prayer

A Lectio Divina     (Divine Reading)                   

(See, A Retreat with the Psalms, Enders and Liebert, Paulist Press, 2001, pp 21ff)

A monastic form of meditative prayer

Having a conversation with a text

No set amount of time… just what feeds the soul / 10 min at the beginning.

Choose a text… could be the Bible, or something from spiritual reading…

Your chosen text could be one of the psalms, 

or one of the stories of Jesus or a part of the Passion of Jesus… 

(If you have trouble understanding the text from one of the Gospels you are reading,

you might want to get a study guide first and read it… 

see Scott Hahn’s commentary on the Gospel you are reading.)

Four movements

(esp if the psalms) … 

till something feeds you and/or you desire to pause.

turn it over in your mind…til you feel like stopping….   

(This leads to memorizing the text or phrase, which then gives you words when you have no words of your own for prayer… 

and it gives you something to go back to during the day, 

time and time again…the text becomes your own.)

At any time during this process the mind can wander and we can become distracted… or we can simply “dry up” …

Simply return to the lectio if you want to continue the prayer.

Lectio Divino need not proceed according to the steps outlined… 

you can move from lectio to oratio to comtemplatio, then back to oratio and meditatio… 

You might want to take a few moments after your prayer time

to write down the major movements which you experienced….  

What happened while you were praying?

Keeping a prayer journal can be helpful…

Be patient with this type of prayer, 

and perhaps talk it over with your spiritual director 

or with a spiritually mature friend.  Don’t be a loner.

B Stations of the Cross… 

This is a beautiful way of walking the journey to the Cross with Jesus. 

When I make the Stations I ask Jesus to show me his heart and his feelings, besides the physical pain he went thru. 

We can also focus on Jesus’ virtues… 

his faithfulness, his trust in the Father, his courage, his patience, 

his forgiveness. 

There are also a few Booklets of contemporary Stations of the Cross 

which focus on the sufferings of people today 

as a participation in the sufferings of Jesus.

(You could ‘make the Stations’ while seated for prayer or you could move around a set of Stations… but try to relax, as noted previously, before you begin.)

C Talk with Jesus… There is a beautiful story about prayer with Jesus.

Story… The Empty Chair

The old man’s daughter had asked the local priest to come 

and pray with her father, who was ill and bed ridden.  

When the priest arrived, he found the man lying in bed 

with his head propped up on two pillows 

and an empty chair beside his bed.  

The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit.

 “I guess you were expecting me,” he said.

“No, who are you?” replied the old man.

“I’m the new associate priest at your parish,” the priest replied. 

 “When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.”

“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bed ridden man. 

“Would you mind closing the door?”  Puzzled, the priest shut the door.

“I’ve never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man.  

“But all of my life I have never known how to pray.  

At the Sunday Mass I used to hear the priest talk about prayer, 

but it always went right over my head.  

I abandoned my attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, 

“til one day, about four years ago, 

my best friend said to me, 

‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus.  Here’s what I suggest.  

Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, 

and, in faith, see Jesus on that chair.

 It’s not spooky because He promised, “I’ll be with you always.” 

Then just speak to Him and listen 

in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’”

‘So, Father, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day.  

I’m careful though.  If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, 

she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send my off to the funny farm.”

The priest was deeply moved by the story 

and encouraged the old man to continue.  

Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the rectory.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the priest 

that her dad had died that afternoon. 

“Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked. 

“Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, 

he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, 

and kissed me on the cheek.  

When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead.  

But there was something strange Father.  In fact, beyond strange – kinda weird.  

Apparently, just before daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the empty chair beside his bed.”

You can just talk with Jesus. 

Let him know how you are doing and what worries you.

Maybe he’ll say something to you.

Keep it simple.

Talking to Jesus…

Just look at the crucifix or picture a crucifix in your mind’s eye 

and talk to Jesus. Let him respond to you.

I do not make this my main prayer exercise, 

but I do use it once in a while. 

And remember, ‘keep your eyes on Jesus’.

D Meditation 

This is sometimes referred to as a Jesuit form of prayer.

Relax first… remember my firs tconference on Prayer.

Take a story from the Scripture… perhaps the Garden of Gethsemane. 

If you can, read the incident in one of the Gospels.

Try to imagine the scene in your mind’s eye. 

Imagine Jesus entering the Garden with his disciples.

He tells them to sit awhile and he goes a short distance to pray.

He begins to reflect on his coming sufferings… 

Perhaps he is fearful, perhaps he is anxious…


Can you imagine Jesus kneeling and intensely praying to his Father?

Can you hear him beg the Father ‘to let this cup pass’?

Observe Jesus… try to enter into his suffering… 

ask Jesus to help you understand what he is going thru…

Talk to Jesus and let him talk to you.

Or perhaps just take the time to watch Jesus, 

accompanying him in his upset and fear…

Just be with Jesus. ‘Keep your eyes on Jesus’.

Finally thank Jesus for his courage, his faithfulness, 

his love for you that he would do this for you.

Ask Jesus to give you the courage to watch with him 

and to live your life for love of him.

Take your time with this. 

If you get distracted, just let the distraction float away…

Try not to fight them or become obsessed with them.

You might begin with 10 or 15 minutes of this type of prayer.  

Some people find this type of prayer a beautiful experience.  Others do not. If you don’t, then move onto another form of prayer. 

But try this type of meditation once in a while just to stretch yourself.

E Litanies… 

Litanies are traditional prayers that give us many images to use 

as we pray the Litany… 

try the Litany of the Sacred Heart (my favorite) or the Litany of the Passion. 

As you pray the many images or phrases of the Litany, 

if something catches your attention, 

spend time with it, like you do with Lectio Divina (See above.)  

You don’t have to finish the Litany… it’s there to help you pray.

(Google: Catholic Litany Sacred Heart or Passion.)

F Prayer Before the Crucifix…

This is a beautiful traditional prayer. 

You might pray this slowly before a crucifix.

Remember to quietly prepare for prayer first. 

Loving Jesus, for how many ages have you hung upon your cross 

and still we pass you by and regard you not except to pierce anew your sacred heart? 

How often have I passed you by, heedless of your great sorrow, 

your many wounds, your infinite Love?


How often have I stood before you, not to comfort and console you, 

but to add to your sorrows, to deepen your wounds, to scorn your love?

You have stretched forth your hands to lift me up,

and I have taken those hands that might have struck me into hell 

and nailed them back onto the cross rigid and helpless. 

Yet I have only succeeded in engraving my name on your palms forever.

You have loved me with an infinite love 

and I have taken advantage of that love to sin the more against you.


Yet my ingratitude has but pierced your Sacred Heart

and forth upon me has flowed your precious blood.

Loving Jesus, let your blood be upon me not for a curse, 

but for a blessing. Amen.

G The Rosary 

(Study…  Wikipedia has a fine presentation on the history of the Rosary 

and description of what the Rosary is, and how to pray it, 

including the mysteries.)

The Rosary is a meditative prayer helping us to ponder Christ’s life 

and Mary’s life.

Do the relaxing exercise before the Rosary, 

then quietly pray the Rosary, 

trying to keep your gaze fixed on the mystery… 

perhaps on Jesus on the Cross (just that image), 

or Mary crowned Queen of the universe (just that image)… 

keep the image in your mind’s eye while reciting the our Fathers and the Hail Marys of the decade.

H Music

Many people find listening to music helpful in their quiet prayer time… perhaps Pachelbel’s Canon or Gregorian Chant 

or some of the beautiful songs of John Michael Talbot.

Google You Tube and put these into the search engine for a first listening.  These can help quiet prayer 

where we just quiet our mind and emotions 

and enjoy God’s presence and God’s beauty…

a number of people participate in this of prayer periodically.

I Other Simple Prayers During the Day

Morning Offering… 

Thank God for this new day. Offer your day to God, perhaps thinking of what you have to do today. Ask God’s presence and Jesus’ presence in your day. There’s nothing that will happen this day that you and Jesus can’t handle.

Meal Prayers… 

A time to give thanks and remember our blessings.

Evening Prayer… 

A time to ask, “Where was God in my day today?” 

“Did I encounter Christ anywhere today?” and “How did I respond?”

For what do I give thanks?

Is there anything for which I am sorry?

During the day…

Conversation with God… You can simply carry on a conversation with Jesus during the day. We talk to ourselves all day long – a conversation goes on in our head…  Try to include Jesus in that conversation. 

One of our Confraternity of the Passion members recently sent me this beautiful and simple description of her conversation with Jesus:

…Jesus is my best friend. It's so much easier to talk to him while driving than to be on the phone...and safer to! 

Simple repeated short prayers during the day… You can take a simple Bible phrase or a short prayer…  ‘God’s will be done’, ‘Help me Jesus’, ‘thank you Jesus’, ‘Be with me Jesus’… and pray that phrase often during the day.

Both conversation and simple repeated short prayers are a way of staying close to God during our day.

A wonderful traditional prayer that can be repeated frequently 

during the day (I do it at times during my daily walk) 

is called The Jesus Prayer… 

Lord Jesus, Son of God and Savior, have mercy on me a sinner

I just recite this (or any part of it) over and over and soak in it.

(Google ‘the Jesus Prayer’… interesting background and development)

J Centering Prayer

This is a form of meditation with which I am not too familiar. 

I know a number of people who use it.

It is approved by the Church.

(See Intimacy with God, An Introduction to Centering Prayer, 

by Fr. Thomas Keating.  See

Eucharistic Adoration

A prayer growing in popularity today is Eucharistic Adoration…

To spend quiet time before the Blessed Eucharist. 

During this time, you can use any of the prayer forms described above.

Do you have any favorite Prayer or way of praying you would like to share with us?  Let me know.


We have talked about Jesus.

Remember what the spiritual author David Leen taught. 

We have looked over a number of prayer and meditation forms of prayer.

Now we all need to pray to God for help in the discipline of prayer 

as we draw close to our loving God and to our beloved Jesus. 

Remember the Epistle of St. James, 4:8… 

… Draw close to God and God will draw close to you.

And remember,

… Keep your eyes on Jesus… (Heb 12:2)

Fr. Don Ware, C.P.


Growing Your Spiritual Life

Part One


In this conference I would like to talk about some elements of Christian spiritual maturity.

Many of these elements would apply, in my opinion, to any spirituality… 

for example, AA spirituality. 

In this Conference on Growing Your Spiritual Life I will reflect on the following:

(Appendix 1… Our Biases Get in the Way)

I Growing Your Spiritual Life… Prayer

In this conference I would like to describe some ways our life is transformed by ‘growing’ our spiritual life. 

I might describe this growth as a transformation or as a conversion… emotional, intellectual, ethical, and spiritual conversion… 

changing the way we usually view and live life.

Part of our spiritual life is growing our personal prayer life. 

For Christians our prayer life is centered in our relationship with Jesus.

I have dealt with that in my two conferences entitled ‘Keep Your Eyes on Jesus’.

Let me briefly say this about prayer. 


Abbi Abraham Heschel in an essay ‘On Prayer’ in the magazine Commonweal (6/18-27/’07) says the following:’

…All things have a home: the bee has a hive, the bird has a nest. For the soul, home is where prayer is… I enter this home as a stranger and emerge as next of kin. I may enter spiritually shapeless, inwardly disfigured, and emerge wholly changed.

Prayer is an absolute need for our spiritual life.

Mother Theresa said that prayer is making room for God in our hearts.

In my conferences  on personal prayer (Keep Your Eyes On Jesus)

I examine the foundation of our Christian spiritual life 

as built on our relationship with Jesus. 

The letter to the Hebrews 12:2 counsels us to ‘keep our eyes on Jesus.’ 

II Spirituality…Our Culture

Paul’s letter to the Romans, 12:2, 

speaks about a transformation of our lives. 

For Christians, our spiritual life is built on our relationship with Jesus. 

Our relationship with Jesus grows thru our prayer life.

Our spiritual life also grows through our life in community with others, 

and in service to others. 

Our spiritual life influences our entire life.

However, we live in 21st Century America. 

We must first ask how this effects our spiritual life.

Our Culture

As we mature there are some other questions we need to ask ourselves…

What does our society tell us life is all about

None of these goals are bad in themselves. 

However, is this all there is?

Some people think that we need to be in control of our life… 

our growing older, our careers and even our retirement. 

We need to have all the right answers.

We need to control our kids and then our grandkids.

Did you even hear the term ‘helicopter parents’?

The ideal for many people is called ‘expressive individualism’…

We need to be autonomous individuals, calling our own shots, 

in control of our lives, free to be what we want to be. 

Have it your way… and supersize it.

Of course, the problem is that we can never be in total control. 

Life tends to be messy. 

We want to be in charge… but…

People don’t want to do it our way.

They want to do it their way.

And they want us to do it their way. 

This can lead to hard feelings, frustration, anger, resentments… 

Isn’t it messy?

III Spirituality… Know Yourself

Part of spiritual maturing is getting to know yourself.

What is your life all about? 

What are your dreams and goals in life now? 

Have these changed over the course of your life? 

Have you changed over the course of your life?

Do you know yourself?

Let’s dive a bit more deeply into ‘know yourself’.

A bedrock principle of spirituality is ‘know yourself’…

Growing Older

( In the Appendices at the end of Part 2 of this conference, 

on Growing Your Spirituality, I give a summary of Fr. Ed Leen’s thoughts on Growing Older and Spirituality, in his book In the Likeness of Christ.)

Who are my spiritual guides? 

Do I have any favorite spiritual authors? 

Sometimes there are very fine spiritual guides on YouTube, believe it or not. If you know any spiritual people ask them if they have any spiritual guides or mentors… 

Some of my favorites are Ronald Rohleiser, Henry Nouwen, Richard Rohr and Edward Leen… and the beautiful religious poetry of Sr. Jessica Powers. Other spiritual guides would include Paula Ripple, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Ann Johnson, Edwina Gateley, (Look for these authors on .)

IV Spirituality…  Know Yourself… Destructive Pitfalls

There are some destructive pitfalls about ourselves, some character defects, which we need to become aware of and seek the Lord’s help in dealing with them and seeking healing, lest they take root in our hearts.

(“Lord, help prune any of these deadly sins from my heart 

that I may always recognize and be grateful for your blessings in my life. May I always be willing to share my blessings with others.)

V Spirituality… Gratitude

I want now to look at some helpful characteristics of our spiritual lives. 

These will enrich us and others throughout our lives. 

These aspects will influence how we think, act, and emotionally react to life.

As we focus on growing our spiritual lives 

we hopefully begin to learn that our lives have been gifted…

As we grow in our spiritual life, 

I believe that gratitude becomes an essential part of a healthy spiritual life…


What is it? Gratitude is our response to the realization 

that all of our life is a gift.

The Sick Young Woman

It’s funny… often it seems that when I am working on a talk, 

stories about my topic pop up, unbidden. 

It’s almost as if God says: heh, check this out..   

I recently read this story and it touched my heart. 

A few months ago a young, beautiful, healthy college student, 

suddenly and without warning, 

lost control of her body and was paralyzed from the neck down.   

Her friends sent prayer requests to everyone they knew 

and fortunately a few months later, the girl recovered.

When she returned to school, 

her friends noticed that her smile was brighter than before. 

It was almost as if she had seen Heaven.  

There was a visible change of attitude; 

she was kinder, happier, and paid attention to people more than ever


She started sending emails to her friends and family 

expressing her love and gratitude for all they have done for her.  

She sent emails to her parents, 

thanking them for all the sacrifices they made for her since she was born.


Although everyone loved the change in her, 

they had to ask her what caused this change in her?


She explained that when she had been immobile in the hospital 

and thought she would never walk again or would maybe even die, 

that the most painful thing was the regret she was feeling 

that she had not lived her life fully.  

Now that it seemed to be too late, 

it all seemed so clear that she had not loved enough, 

or used all opportunities to serve.


She suddenly knew that all the grudges she held, 

and all the time lost thinking about those who had wronged her 

and how to avoid those she didn’t like,

 had been a waste of her precious life. 


She thought about how much time she spent being mad and miserable 

for all that went wrong, 

and how little time she spent rejoicing for what went right!  

In her remorse, she begged God in prayer 

to give her a chance to live again so that she could make things right… 

and God heard her prayers.

When this young woman recovered from her mysterious illness 

she responded with gratitude. 

Her illness had become a milestone in her spiritual growth… 

she had a conversion of heart… 

She changed the way she looked at her life and the people in her life.

She changed the way she emotionally reacted to her life.

Her view of God changed.

The way she prayed changed.

A person who practices gratitude notices the goodness and beauty in life, even among the small things. 

Gratitude to God becomes a part of our identity… of our spiritual life.

This gratitude overflows into recognition of the many blessings of our life and gratitude to others who have graced our lives.


Appendix 1

Beware of our Biases when developing our Spirituality…

Found in Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations, 3/3/’21

Confirmation Bias: We judge new ideas based on the ease with which they fit in with and confirm the only standard we have: old ideas, old information, and trusted authorities. As a result, our framing story, belief system, or paradigm excludes whatever doesn’t fit.

Complexity Bias: Our brains prefer a simple falsehood to a complex truth.

Community Bias: It’s almost impossible to see what our community doesn’t, can’t, or won’t see.

Complementarity Bias: If you are hostile to my ideas, I’ll be hostile to yours. If you are curious and respectful toward my ideas, I’ll respond in kind.

Competency Bias: We don’t know how much (or little) we know because we don’t know how much (or little) others know. In other words, incompetent people assume that most other people are about as incompetent as they are. As a result, they underestimate their [own] incompetence, and consider themselves at least of average competence.

Consciousness Bias: Some things simply can’t be seen from where I am right now. But if I keep growing, maturing, and developing, someday I will be able to see what is now inaccessible to me.

Comfort or Complacency Bias: I prefer not to have my comfort disturbed.

Conservative/Liberal Bias: I lean toward nurturing fairness and kindness, or towards strictly enforcing purity, loyalty, liberty, and authority, as an expression of my political identity.

Confidence Bias: I am attracted to confidence, even if it is false. I often prefer the bold lie to the hesitant truth.

Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: I remember dramatic catastrophes but don’t notice gradual decline (or improvement).

Contact Bias: When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged

Fr. Don Ware, C.P., 2023

Growing Your Spiritual Life, Part 2

As we continue to talk about ‘Growing our Spiritual Life,

I want to look at 

VI Pain and Suffering Transformed

How have the years of our life and especially the difficult times 

affected your life? 

Have the years flowed over us like water over stones – 

leaving the stones unchanged?

Years ago I picked up a rock from a stream bed and examined it. 

How many years had the stream’s water been flowing over this rock. 

On the outside the rock was wet. 

But when I broke it open, it was still dry.

No water had touched the inside of the rock.


I believe that we can grow our suffering, 

and even from a broken heart… 

and for some, or perhaps many of us, this is the only way we grow. 

Leonard Cohen in his song The Anthem sings… 

Ring the bells that still can ring / forget your perfect offering / there is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.

Life’s sufferings can deflate our grandiose ego… our imperial ego 

which tries to control life too much

which places me at the center of life too much

too given to self-pampering, 

and what Pope Francis called the ‘numbing of our conscience by comfort’.


Do we realize that life is not just about what we take from the table, 

but more importantly, what we bring to the table? 

In the experience of the young woman described above 

it was pain and suffering that broke her heart 

and the seed of God’s love was able to enter thru the cracks and flourish. 

Have pain and suffering helped to change our lives?

Has life made us jealous, angry, bitter, and even rageful

because it has not turned out our way? 

When we prayerfully look at Jesus on his Cross 

we can see that Jesus transformed His darkness into light.

In a wonderful book entitled The Noonday Devil by Andrew Solomon, 

the author describes in vivid detail his own experiences 

with his deep depression, 

and how he slowly rose out of it, 

with the help of his psychiatrist and his meds. 

He then turned his experiences into an insightful and challenging book.  Rather than deny his depression, 

or pretend he never had it, 

he shares four lessons, which he learned from his brokenness.

and from it I learned the value of intimacy… 

I can help others in their loneliness – not necessarily with answers, 

but with simple companioning.

I learned to examine my life and see the good in it 

and not take my friends and loved ones for granted.  (PP. 436 – 438)

The author learned the great value of adversity 

and discovered values and family and friends and a desire to help others, and not take joy for granted. (P 439)

The author learned that our needs are our greatest assets – 

we come to know ourselves through adversity – not illusions – 

and we open ourselves to others in our weakness. 

This can create bondedness. (P441)

We will all suffer at times in our lives. 

People hurt us, tragedies sting us, worries and disappointments burden us and fears can weave a cocoon over our hearts.


This suffering and pain can lead to resentment, anger, worry 

and self-centeredness. 

Or it can lead to understanding, sympathy, empathy and even forgiveness… 

People in AA learn how their pains and sufferings can help others in their addiction… 

they don’t shut the door on their past. 

They use their past in service to others.

For Christians, through our prayer and our walking with Jesus, 

our suffering can soften our heart rather than harden our heart.


Spending time at the foot of the Cross 

can bath us in the blood and water that flowed from the heart of Christ. 

We can learn to lead a life of compassion, patience, mercy, and forgiveness.

What a beautiful growth of our spiritual life and indeed our entire life.

VI Forgiveness

I want to stay with this topic of life’s difficult times.

I want to talk about forgiveness.

Ronald Rolheiser

Ronald Rolheiser in his wonderful book Sacred Fire, 

remarks that life is a conspiracy between God and nature 

to mellow our soul.

He says:

… All of us have been wounded. No one comes to adulthood with his or her heart fully intact. In small ways or traumatic, we have all been treated unjustly, violated, hurt, ignored, not properly honored, and unfairly cast aside. We all carry wounds, and, with those wounds, we all carry anger, bitterness and some nonforgiveness. (P 257)

These wounds can easily embitter and harden our heart. 

If our spiritual life is to grow 

we need to deal with these challenges in our life, 

to recognize God’s grace even in the midst of them, 

and to mellow our heart… 

rather than harden our heart through resentments, bitterness 

and even hatred.

Rolheiser continues:

As we age, we can begin to trim down our spiritual vocabulary, 

and eventually we can get it down to three words: Forgive, forgive, forgive! To die with a forgiving heart is the ultimate moral and religious imperative… All the dogmatic and moral purity in the world does little for us 

if our hearts are bitter and incapable of forgiveness. (P. 256)

Jesus’ Teaching

For the Christian, forgiveness is a way of life and not just a belief. Forgiveness is seen against the backdrop of the teaching 

and the life of Jesus whom we follow. 


A number of Jesus’ stories focus on forgiveness.  

The Prodigal Son of Luke (15) shows us the father’s mercy 

or undeserved forgiveness of his son who has squandered 

his part of the inheritance and shamed the family name.  

The father takes him back.  

And, of course, we know that Jesus goes further than this.  

He practices what he preaches. 

From the cross we hear Him pray:

Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing. (Lk 23:34)  

God’s dream for us, given us by Jesus, is that God wants to mend our world.  Mercy or undeserved forgiveness is part of God’s way of mending.

By our Baptism we are bonded to God’s dream and God’s mending work.

Prayer helps us to understand what this means for our lives, 

as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Of course, the Question at times is:

Is forgiveness possible?  

Some would ask if it’s even healthy?

Forgiveness is not about forgetting,

nor is it pretending we’re not hurt or angry.  

It is not necessarily reconciling with the person who hurt us – 

at times that would be neither possible nor healthy.  

Forgiveness is not about getting back what we lost.  

Nor is it pretending that we messed up and are to blame.  

What is forgiveness?  

Forgiveness is more than just an individual act of forgiving.  

Forgiveness is a way of life, a lifestyle.  

It is a way of behaving which influences one’s whole life – 

a general tenor of our journey of life.

 (See appendix I for Jesus’ and Forgiveness)

I want to turn our attention to a “Forgiveness Story” which occurred during the first week of October, 2006, in Lancaster County, PA. 

A depressed and angry bus driver shot 10 young Amish schoolgirls 

in their one room schoolhouse in central PA.  

The entire Amish community reacted with grief, 

but also with words and sentiments of forgiveness 

for the disturbed individual who had perpetrated this crime. 


One of the parents of the slain schoolgirls 

went to the home of the killer 

and told his wife that the Amish community forgave her husband 

for what he had done.  

The Amish community also offered to share 

some of the monies that were given to them by fellow Americans…  

the family could use it for the education of their children.


The wife of the gunman who killed the girls 

released a statement thanking the Amish 

and others the Lancaster County community 

for their “forgiveness, grace and mercy.”  

She said that her and her three young children 

have been overwhelmed by the community support 

since the Oct 2nd shootings.

I remember seeing an interview on TV with a Mennonite midwife 

who had been present at the birth of many of the slain girls.  

When the interviewer asked her what her reaction was, 

she responded that she grieved for the loss of such innocent life, 

but that she, along with the Amish families, forgave the killer.  

The interviewer was stunned and at a loss for words.  

She didn’t know what to say.  

She stood there with the midwife, speechless.  

In our violent, revenge-soaked society, 

the midwife’s response made no sense. 


The interviewer asked, “How can you say that?”  

The midwife answered 

that this was her belief and the belief of the Amish community.  

Jesus showed us the way.  

Either we live with resentments, revenge, and rage in our hearts, 

or we forgive and walk in the footsteps of Jesus. 


Do we have a hard time understanding that?

Would we react in the same way?

What stories of forgiveness do you know?  

Have you met any Forgiveness Mentors? 

If so, talk with them.  Ask them questions.  And listen to their stories.

VII Blessing and Cursing

Another part of the development of our spiritual life 

involves Blessing and Cursing.

(See The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser, pp. 203ff)

Elements of blessing (and cursing)… 

that I am glad you are here… you bring something good and positive into my life 

(God blesses our world by creating it)… 

vs looking at someone we do not like – 

looking at someone and thinking, 

‘you’re an idiot, who do you think you are, 

you think you’ve got talent… you don’t – 

you’re full of yourself.

Unlike God, we try to deny joy, suppress life, squelch exuberance and shame enthusiasm.

(Body language can also get either of these attitudes across.)

Question… (Why do these things threaten us?)

vs being threatened by their energy and withholding positive words = cursing subtly. Or being downright mean and demeaning toward a person… perhaps making fun of him or her… or bullying that person.

vs cursing which demands that you give something that will build up my own life.

When was the last time you blessed someone 

either by the way you looked at them, 

or by the words that you used, 

or by sharing with them something of yourself 

which enriched their life… 

your time, your encouragement or some of your wisdom?

As our spiritual life develops and grows we recognize 

how much God blesses us and we take the opportunity to bless others. 

Life is not about what we can take from the table. 

Life is about what we can bring to the table.

VIII Communal Spirituality

I want to finally point to the fact that for Christians the spiritual life is communal… as it was for Israel at the time of Jesus and for the disciples of Jesus from the beginning.


For the early Church and over its history the spiritual life of individuals was always in the context of the worshiping Church.

Read the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially Chapter 11 and especially Chapter 12:1:

… Surrounded by this cloud of witnesses (Old Testament heroes like Abraham, Moses and many others named), let us lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead; let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith.

I sometimes like to see other translations of Scriptural passages.

Here’s how The Message puts it:

… Do you see what this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way (Old Testament heroes), all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. (12:1-2)

A vision of heaven and hell

Hell… Picture a circle of people sitting side by side, 

so close to each other that their shoulders are touching.  

In the center of this circle is a big pot of delicious looking and smelling stew.  The scent of it makes you want to try some right now.

The folks in the circle have a large wooden spoon with a long handle taped to their right forearms.  They are yelling at each other angrily, they looked lean and hungry… there was no happiness there.  The problem was that because they were so close together they couldn’t get a spoon of the delicious stew into their mouths.  They would bump into each other when them tried to feed themselves.

This is truly hell.

Heaven… Picture a circle of people sitting side by side, so close to each other that their shoulders are touching.  In the center of this circle is a big pot of delicious looking and smelling stew.  The scent of it makes you want to try some right now.

The folks in the circle have a large wooden spoon with a long handle taped to their right forearms.  These folks are happy and joyful, smiling and joking, and well fed.

What’s the difference… ah, then you notice it.  Each person is dipping his or her spoon into the stew, and then feeding each other.  They are taking care of each other first.

We are on our journey with others. 

We are not isolated monads of self-interest, 

who are self-determining consumers, purchasing our way to happiness,

our conscience numbed by comfort.

(See Luke 16:19-31… The Story of The Rich Man and Lazarus.)

We Christians are on the road together and we need the Christian community to help and encourage and sustain us and bless us… 

as we encourage and bless them.


I conclude this conference on several practices for developing our spiritual life… Forgiveness, Blessing and Cursing and Communal Spirituality.

In the Appendices I have two extra presentations: Growing Older and Spirituality and Spiritual Mediocrity.  These are a summary of chapters in Fr. Ed Leen’s Book In the Likeness of Christ. You can go to our website for these appendices… 

Fr. Don Ware,  C.P. 2023

Appendix 1   Growing Older and Spirituality

(If you are not yet 50 years old, this is still good to reflect on.)

What have the years brought you spiritually? 

Do you understand that question?

Have the years  brought you anything lasting, eternal, abiding… 

What legacy will you leave -  to whom will you leave it?

Or will growing older merely lead to a decline of your powers 

and energies on which you relied so much?

No growth in wisdom, in power, in sanctity or depth of soul? 

Same faults, same tendencies, same superficiality 

or worldliness of judgment and sentiments… 

As you grow older will you have the same unamiable traits of character deepened, 

fair promises of youth blighted, 

generous impulses of early days and virtues dried up – shriveled up?

Has life transformed you or shriveled you with meaningless, barren years? 

Do you isolate, fearful and anxious at life’s seeming unfairness?

Were you mistaken about the meaning and purpose of life? 

As we age, can we put meaning and purpose into life, 

as our energies and power of mind and body slacken?


Or do we fritter away our last days preoccupied with futile, transient,

and unsubstantial concerns? 

Has our life been a wasted opportunity? 

Has anything good been wrought by us or in us?

It can be a challenge to examine our lives. 

David Thoreau encouraged examining our lives… 

where have we been and where are we going? 

Appendix 2

Fr. Ed Leen

Spiritual Mediocrity   

See In the Likeness of Christ, by Ed Leen, pp. 218ff

Why is there mediocrity in our spiritual life?

God and Jesus call us to be like Christ… why aren’t we?  

Is it impossible? 

Or do we fail to use our own powers enough, aided by God’s grace?

Are we in bondage to spiritual mediocrity… 

the years bringing us nothing lasting, eternal… 

no lasting spiritual accomplishments?

Have the years just brought us just decline 

of the powers and energies on which we relied so much?...  

No growth in wisdom, in power, in sanctity, in depth of soul? … 

Same faults, same tendencies, 

same superficiality or worldliness of judgments and sentiments?

Over the years do we lack good traits of character deepened, 

and fair promises of youth blighted, 

generous impulses of early days and virtue dried up and shriveled.

Have the years flowed over us like water over stones – 

leaving the stones unchanged?

Has life transformed us or shriveled us?

Have the years been meaningless and barren?

Were we mistaken about the meaning and purpose of life?

As we age can we put meaning and purpose into life, 

as our energies and powers of mind and body slacken?

Do we flitter away our last days, 

preoccupied with futile, transient, unsubstantial concerns?

Has our life been a wasted opportunity?

Has anything of good been done for others?

Has anything good been wrought in us?

The Problem:  

We allow our intelligence to be obscured as to the meaning and purpose of life.

To understand our own life we must look to Jesus – not just to his virtues, but to his mind, his understanding of life… Phil 2:5

Jesus’ whole life was spent in doing the Father’s will to the fullest of his abilities… out of love for the Father.  Jn 14:35, 12:49

In the Likeness of Christ, by Ed Leen, pp. 325ff

A forceful, energetic spiritual life

vs a spiritual life of faint, feeble pulsations, slight movements of grace, paralyzed thru want of exercise…

the soul’s forces are employed by a life lived on sheer impulse, imagination or at best sheer reason – human motives and human passions

arrested spiritual growth… no divine rigor… 

the supernatural is cramped, confined, and deprived of power.

Grace is not dominating.

Divine charity remains but a spark hidden beneath the ashes of self-love’s actions.

The soul is not glowing with God’s brightness 

because most acts spring from impulse, natural inclination,] or reason.

They can appear good and right, and can have some grace – 

but this is a feeble grace when contrasted with self-love, 

and leads to spiritual atrophy…

So many lives are empty, full of self-seeking hours in front of the TV 

or on the phone, or at the shopping mall, or playing video games.

There is no spiritual transformation…

The will should grow strong thru fortitude, temperance, justice, and charity.

The soul should love God and pursue God’s will and interests rather than its own…

This is not dependent on emotions or the strength of the human body… 

even the elderly can be spiritually strong.

But at least good people avoid evil.

Spiritual practices  are needed, making God the center of our lives, 

and helping us to do God’s will and love others.

Prayer is essential, as is spiritual reading.

See Conferences  ‘Prayer, Parts 1 and 2’

Fr. Don Ware, C.P., 2023