Presentivity
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Presentivity

Father Zach Weber’s Journey to Abandoning Himself to Divine Providence, Third and Final Part

Story by Carlos Briceño

The Sunday before Ash Wednesday, Father Zach Weber’s screen on his iPhone cracked. Some people would see it as an annoyance. They might even get mad. What Father Zach Weber felt was peace.

Let’s take a peek into his mind to see how he arrived that peace, which serves as a lesson in how to surrender yourself to Divine Providence. In seeing behind the curtain, so to speak, you will also see who has influenced his journey to surrender and what tips he picked up along the way.

When events happen that are not in your favor, you have a choice: to accept it and be at peace, or react with anger or anxiety or in other ways that are the opposite of acceptance.

This is how Father Zach reacted to his cracked screen: “Thank you, Jesus. I don’t understand why my screen is cracked, but thank you.”

He shared “a total moment of grace” last summer when he felt under spiritual attack. He went to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and, instead of asking God to fix the attacks, he said, “Thank you, Jesus. I don’t understand it, but I thank you.”

He has reached a point in his journey of surrender where he was maturing spiritually in trusting God and abandoning himself to Divine Providence, and, when that occurs, supernatural grace becomes more accessible.

“You begin to say to yourself — instead of saying, ‘Why me in this suffering? Or why me with this cracked screen?’ Or whatever the cracked screen of your life may be — you say, ‘Why not me?’ Then you begin to open your heart more and say, ‘Our God was human.’ You’re blown away by the Incarnation,” he said. “You’re blown away by God letting you feel suffering, no matter if it’s physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological or social. And then it’s like when you get suffering, you don’t avoid it. You don’t look for it. You say, ‘Wow, you’re giving me a sliver of your cross. Let me feel what You felt. Feeling your passion.’ In a strange way, you say, ‘I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.’ That doesn’t always mean lollipops and gumdrops. What it means is you’re much more patient.”

The concept of patience is something that Mother Mary Catherine, the founder of the Missionaries of the Word religious order and a spiritual mentor, mentioned was necessary in his surrendering to Divine Providence.

“One thing she told me,” Father Zach said, “was to say that patience is nothing other than the willingness to suffer the present moment. When you learn how to do that, to say thank you to God when you don’t understand, to not lose your peace over the little pinpricks or even the big ones in life, there is so much peace and hope there. I’m not saying I’m perfect at this, but I can say that the fruit that its borne in my own soul, there’s nothing like living in the present moment.”

Father Zach shared that being contemplative helps him to stay in the present moment.

He gave an example of what that means. During my interview with him, he was on the phone where he lives, in Wisconsin, and I was on the phone where I live, in Illinois, and he started describing what it felt like at that moment.

“I’m sitting in my sitting room,” he said. “And can I absorb and acknowledge being mindful of what’s around me and take time to use my spiritual senses to engage fully in the present moment? Can I feel my body? Take time to do a body check. Feel my body against the chair. Feel the breeze of my fan blowing on me now. Can I take time and stop and listen to what I hear? And take time to be aware of my breath and to know it’s a gift from God. When I abandon myself and give myself time to be present and to feel and use my spiritual senses, there’s a deeper awareness of God.”

He continued: “But I think what inhibits that, being mindful, is we do so many things that we’re on auto pilot. We’re not slowing down to feel or not slowing down to acknowledge God.”

He said being mindful is a popular action and concept these days, but what he is advocating is much deeper. What he’s talking about is where you are engaging with God in the present moment.

“God knew for all of eternity that I would be sitting in this room,” he said. “God knew for all of eternity that I would be looking at this tree or doing the dishes or brushing my teeth. One of the biggest gifts of Abandonment to Divine Providence is that you slow down and you begin to absorb more. You’re more aware of God in everything, even in the crazy stuff. So many people have been trained to be on auto pilot, so to speak. To go through the motions. To not acknowledge themselves. To not acknowledge the presence of others or the presence of God.”

Slowing down has to then become a conscious act. But there’s a rub.

In a world that can throw tons of information/advertisements/stresses/change at you, it’s not easy to slow down.

Someone he knew in seminary, [the late] Dr. Gerry Girdaukas, a psychologist, taught him an important lesson.

“One thing he challenged me to do when I would meet with him as a psychologist after one of my appointments was that you’re going at 90 percent all the time,” he said. “You’re going too fast was his point.”

Dr. Girdaukas recommended he go at 10 percent, instead.

Father Zach paused. Then he described something he saw in the room he was in.

“I can look at it right now,” he said. “I have a big Post-it. It just says 10 percent on it. That’s all it says. He challenged me that day to begin to walk with my hands behind my back more often, because that’s what Jewish rabbis do because, if they walk too fast, they will fall on their faces. He said, I just want you to slow down everything.”

He remembers a time on campus at Mundelein Seminary, where he was a seminarian, when one of his friends, Father Stephen Durkee, who is now the vocations director for the Diocese of Grand Rapids, yelled out to him, asking if he were okay.

“He saw how slow I was moving,” Father Zach said. “I was just contemplating, acknowledging the present moment, acknowledging God, acknowledging the trees, acknowledging my feelings.”

It makes sense that one of Father Zach’s favorite songs is by a band called Trapt. The song — “Lost Realist” — has the following lyrics: “Why do I rush to slow down?”

Reminders. What helps him to slow down and stay in the present moment are reminders. Jesus’ mother, Mary, offered Father Zach a big reminder, which is why she is another huge influence on his journey to surrender.

Mary asked questions, he said. She had a pondering heart.

“When she gave God her yes, her fiat, and she said, let it be done, that is another way of thanking God ahead of time,” he said. “It was like saying she gave God a blank check for the rest of her life. She said, ‘I give it to you all.’ There are many different ways to say Abandonment to Divine Providence, but sometimes it doesn’t click.”

He continued: “So you have to figure out what language or what vocabulary do you need to make it click. You can say the Sacrament of the Present Moment, and a lot of people won’t know it means. Or you can thank God ahead of time.”

Here’s the part where the reminders come in handy.

“You can take 20 minutes a day,” he said. “Make a list and write down all your worries, and after each one, say, “Jesus, I trust in You, and I thank You for taking care of that for me.’ You are leaving it in His hands. That might work for some people. Some people want guidance. Some people want guided prayer, and that might be where they are at, and that might click.”

A true test of how you know that you’re growing in surrender is this: “When things are going poorly, are you still on your knees thanking and praising Him?” Father Zach said.

One of the things I’ve learned in my journey to surrendering myself to Divine Providence is the importance of humility and gratitude. And, for Father Zach, it was the same thing.

One day, one of the members of the Missionaries of the Word, Sister Bernadette, was walking next to him, and she told him that “God can’t form an ungrateful heart.”

Abandonment to Divine Providence will not make sense to those who are not grateful, he said. Later in the conversation, she repeated two words to him — “compare/despair.”

Compare, despair.

Compare, despair.

Those words rhyme for a reason, she told him. As soon as he starts comparing people or things to other people or things — that they have it better, for instance — then he is being ungrateful.

Those who have abandoned themselves to God’s Providence wouldn’t feel envy or jealousy, she told him. They would give thanks to God for that person’s gifts.

In other words, surrender becomes all about gratitude.

“You’re thanking God for this gift, that gift, this gift, that gift, or this situation, or that situation, or you start thanking God for the heat for the warm weather, or for the suffering,” he said.

The people who are able to thank like this are doing it because they want God to keep forming their hearts.

“Once their hearts become ungrateful, then they have no peace, and they can’t be with God, who is always with them,” Father Zach said. “I want to make sure that people hear that what I’m saying is that it doesn’t mean you are perfect, and it doesn’t mean you’re not going to have blow-ups. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to make any more mistakes. It just means you are going to be more peaceful.”

Having someone, a spiritual director or a guide, who can help you to abandon yourself is vital, he said.

“The devil could mess with a lot of this and make it every vain,” he said. “Humility is super important during this process.”

Humility, he said, paraphrasing the Venerable Fulton Sheen, is using the gifts that God gave you to glorify Him.

“All is a gift,” he said. “All is grace.”

So when someone you love dies, for instance, that person was a gift from God, he said. And you’re at peace with the death.

The Big Picture is that “we don’t belong here,” he said. “Abandonment to Divine Providence reminds you consistently that this is not your home; heaven is. The closest you can get to that is the Mass. I think part of Abandonment to Divine Providence is allowing yourself to be taken care of and being humble enough to ask for help.”

Another aspect of Abandonment to Divine Providence is that it teaches you how to die to yourself, he said, which is part of the detachment to things and people that is needed.

“It gives you special graces to get over yourself much faster,” he said. “To mature much faster or to see the bigger picture much faster.”

As Father Zach and I wrapped up our interview, he painted a picture of what Abandonment to Divine Providence looks like to him.

“The best image is you being in a car, and your vehicle is your salvation to save us,” he said. “If we abandon ourselves to it, and you’re in the car, who is in the driver’s seat? Whose hands are on the driver’s wheel? Whose feet are on the gas and brake pedal? Who is in the passenger seat? Someone who is aware of Divine Providence, they’re like, ‘I’m in the passenger seat.’ They would never put on the bumper sticker that I absolutely hate that says, ‘Jesus is my co-pilot.’ No, Jesus is my pilot. I’m just along for the ride.”

To read part 1 in this series, go to this site: https://t.co/qEkhwAP9Mq?amp=1

To read part 2 in this series, go to this site: https://t.co/jKW3RaKhfD?amp=1

For more information on abandoning yourself to Divine Providence, go to https://sotpm.design.blog/

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