FR. JUSTIN BELITZ TESTIMONIALS

Several articles from personal blogs have appeared online regarding Fr. Justin Belitz, O.F.M. These articles ultimately represent social media being used and abused as yet another demonstration of someone judging from the outside looking in, seeing only slivers, hearing only soundbytes, coming to blatantly erroneous conclusions, and portraying Fr. Belitz as a caricature. It is nothing less than crass stereotyping and echoes the words to the old song: “I don’t like what I don’t understand and it scares me half to death.”

Fr_Justin_OFM_0129

I am an Indianapolis native and former member of Friar Justin’s Hermitage (Former only because I moved out of state).  I met Fr. Justin through  the late Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer, a Benedictine priest, who happened to be the former director of St. Meinrad’s. I met Fr. Hilary at an art gallery showing  (the 431 galley) in the late 1980s.  At that time, I was a self-proclaimed atheist.

Having grown up in an abusive, evangelical church setting, I had mantled a lot of anger. Hilary and I became good friends, having countless discussions on art history, film, philosophy, and music. He even counseled me through a divorce. Slowly and astutely,  I became aware that there was indeed an artistic, intellectual side to the religious life; one that did not require me to dumb down.

Around a year later, when I approached the subject of spirituality and faith, Hilary said: “Every priest has a niche. You have inherent hostility when it comes to faith. I do not know what that is, but hostility is not my niche.  It is Fr. Justin Belitz’s niche. Here is his number. Call him.” I called Fr. Belitz and on my first visitation with him, I joined in a birthday celebration for a 102-year-old woman.

Fr. Belitz and I became friends. Between these two priests, the world of Hildegard, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, the Little Flower, and Thomas Merton opened up to me. Catholicism has one of the richest and oldest of mystical traditions. Ironically, some Either/Or adherents, primarily interested in dogma, often label and dismiss such mysticism as New Age, occultism, etc.

In the early nineties, I officially converted to Catholicism. This was in large part to Fr. Belitz, who became my spiritual director and has been for over twenty years. In a mural, commissioned by St. Vincent de Paul in Indianapolis, I included homage to both Fr. Justin Belitz and Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer.

Alfred Eaker %22Modern Spirituality%22 mural St. Vincent de Paul. Detail Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer, Fr. Justin Belitz

 Fr. Belitz teaches the Silva Method for universal audiences who want to explore meditation and contemplation without dogmatic attachment. A lot of people who come to Fr. Belitz, indeed, have a history of being scarred by religious abuses. I was and continue to be reminded of something the Archbishop Futon Sheen wrote: “Sometimes, we create prodigals, through our negligence, indifferences, and abuses.”

Fr. Belitz takes Christ words to heart: “Suffer not the children,” and many of us who came under his spiritual direction were as children (at least spiritually). I was in my early twenties when I first went.

Franciscan Hermitage. Communion

I took Fr. Belitz’ Silva class. He always says: “None of this will be for everyone. Not all of it is for me. I invite you to pick what you find worthwhile and throw out what you do not need.” This approach was extremely helpful.

Additionally, Fr. Belitz has his own teaching, Success: Full Living, (basic spirituality with an introduction into meditation) which leads students to the Silva workshops. I have taken both of these workshops, which are decidedly Franciscan, Catholic, and unquestionably spiritual. His third book: Success: Full Relating is his most spiritually pronounced and, promotes Creation Spirituality (which is the spirituality of Jesus) in conjunction with meditation techniques, which are for universal audiences.

For nearly two decades, I explored various mystery schools, including the Third Order Franciscans, as a seeker of authentic spirituality, spiritual community, and theology. It was Fr. Belitz who inspired me in this. Additionally, he encouraged me to seek a masters degree in theological studies, which I attained at an ecumenical grad school: Christian Theological Seminary.

What Fr. Belitz teaches is authentically Catholic, meaning egalitarian. Some people, myself included, interpret Catholic as all-inclusive universality. Others, apparently interpret Catholic as universality through compliance and subjugation, which attempts to shut doors opened by John XXIII, Vatican II and our present Pope Francis.

Time will show that Fr. Belitz is as much of the Vatican II spirit as is this current Pope. Not succumbing to the often traveled Either/Or route, Fr. Belitz subscribes to a Both/And spirituality and theology, as directed by Jesus.  He is both a progressive and traditionalist. In this, Fr. Belitz has followed the Vatican Council, which theoretically is the highest authority in the Church.

Overall, what I have gleamed most from Fr. Belitz is akin to a statement once made by the composer Haydn. When asked why his Creation was so jubilant, Haydn responded: “Because when I think of God, I smile.” Fr. Belitz promotes the image of a smiling God and anyone who has spent time with him, becomes astutely aware that he genuinely loves God.

Franciscan Hermitage . Justin blessing the wine

This is an image of God I needed and still do. I was assisting in RCIA at a local parish when the headlines blared: “Sixteen priests arrested in neighboring diocese for sexual abuse.” A third of the catechumens left. I felt as I had done that proverbial jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire thing. As an artist, it was time for me to respond. Part of that response was a film I made called: Jesus And Her Gospel Of Yes, which Fr. Belitz briefly appeared in.  It has since been used against him. Therefore, it is time for me to address it.

Jesus And Her Gospel Of Yes is a film in the Dada tradition. It attempts to sort through the chaos, the abuses, the infighting, the vulgarization, the crass commercialization, hackneyed language, kitsch, the oppressiveness sometimes found in religion and find, at its authentic core, the beauty of Christ, Our Mother via Julian of Norwich.

Here is an excerpt from a review of the film, by critic Richard Scheib:

“The point that should also be made is that Jesus And Her Gospel Of Yes is not intended as a satire of Christianity per se. Alfred Eaker identifies himself a progressive Catholic and a number of his painted works circle around religious and Biblical themes. Clearly, the film is an attempt to re-present the Christian word in a modern humanist light. For Eaker, Christ represents vibrant life, freedom and humanist acceptance of all persuasions and a refutation Old Testament-proscribed legalism.”

In hindsight, had I known the film would be used against Fr. Belitz, I never would have asked him to appear in it. His part in it amounted to little more than a cameo. He appeared in it as a personal favor to me, knowing the film to be a cathartic effort on my end.

Franciscan Hermitage . Justin reading

Salve never seeps in immediately. It takes time. Fr. Belitz has been and continues to be part of the salve I have needed and still need in my direction. He has a saying, which I am prone to quote: “The Spirit speaks directly to you. If you choose to ignore that direction, and go your own way, you will limit your life.”

That statement, unlike the tome of the aforementioned blog articles, is without judgment. It is merely a pragmatic observation.

One may take that for what it is (or not).

Alfred Eaker

Nostra Aetate; The Declaration On The Relation Of The Church To Non-Christian Religions, by Pope Paul VI, is essential reading.[1] This declaration vindicates the ministry and vocation of Fr. Justin Belitz.

* click on the links below to read or upload testimonials and letters concerning Fr. Justin Belitz.

Franciscan Hermitage . Fr. Justin Belitz

 

18 thoughts on “FR. JUSTIN BELITZ TESTIMONIALS

  1. Good of you to take up for Fr. Belitz. As for Jesus, it is not wise or acceptable to teach that he is a mother or that the Father is a/the Mother. It is okay to teach that their divinity bring both motherly and fatherly attributes though. No man can be a mother. Jesus, in his humanity, is a man and not a woman, and therefore, quite incapable,in his humanity, of being a mother. Attempts to characterize him as a mother sows confusion, don’t you think? Jesus’s mother is a mother.. What if we called Mary a/the father? What would we call Joseph…the brother? Why? See the confusion that can ensue here?

  2. Francis,
    thank you for your reply. However, I was hardly teaching that Christ was a mother per se. I was simply using a Julian metaphor. Julian uses that imagery as a symbol, just as the Marian image is one we can access as the Mother Love of God, God can imaged as both father and mother, et al. Both/and. Best

  3. I understand. I have done the same and received immediate, negative feedback from one who jumped to the conclusion. Thank you.

  4. Alfred, thank you so much for being there and taking up for Fr. Justin. He has been the most wonderful and inspirational friend to my husband and me. I have known him for over 20 years and was a constant volunteer at the Hermitage when living in Indianapolis. Fr. Justin gave me the guidance and understanding of Spirituality that brought me, on my own, back to my Catholic Faith. Without him in my life I would still be struggling with the understanding of the Real Truth of Spirituality and how it can fit into the dogma of religion. He is a wonderful priest and man that gives to others the ability to see their own truth.
    Thank you.
    Teena Weisman

  5. I want to commend Fr Justin for the Light he brings to spirituality. I have had his workshops at both churches where I served as senior minister. I was raised Catholic and wanted to be a priest at 9 years old. Of course, women then and now sadly are excluded from serving in this capacity. So, I left the faith and fulfilled my God given calling in another faith. Fr. Justin is an inspiration and a light in this world. The dark tirade against him is obviously by a soul has no idea of what true spirituality is. That person needs our prayers and love. Perhaps then his heart will open to Truth.

  6. I want to commend Fr Justin for the spiritual Light he brings to us . I have hosted his workshops at both churches where I served as senior minister. I was raised Catholic and wanted to be a priest at 9 years old. Of course, women, then, and now sadly are excluded from serving in this capacity. So, I left the faith and fulfilled my God given calling in another faith. Fr. Justin is an inspiration and a light in our world. The dark tirade against him is obviously by a soul has no idea of what true spirituality is. That person needs our prayers and love. Perhaps then his heart will open to Truth.

  7. It seems to me that Fr Justin is doing exactly what Christianity is intended to do: bring its message into all contexts and to all people. He should be aplauded for this work!

  8. I support Fr Justin for his openness to expression. Given that what we read now as the Bible was actually an interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation, already called to task for omissions and falsities, how can we possibly call anyone’s views blasphemy? Perhaps the original blasphemy occurred nearly 3500 years ago. After all, we all sing along to Louie Louie, but does anyone have the words right?

  9. I have participated in Fr. Justin’s Successful Living and other workshops and found them both entertaining and insightful; deep and loving experiences. Fr. Justin has a wonderfully positive outlook on life, and many important things to share. Having experienced the infectious warmth that Justin brings to his students I find the attacks on his character and teachings wrongheaded and heartbreaking. I fully support Fr. Justin Belitz and his programs. Anyone who thinks evil of him simply does not know him.

  10. I cannot help but fervently agree with the last line of Mr. Mannan’s response, “Anyone who thinks evil of him [Fr. Justin] simply does not know him.”

    Fr. Justin is among the most spiritually attuned, awake, loving, centered, grounded, compassionate spiritual directors our collective generation has been blessed to experience. Personally, I find Fr. Justin’s progressive yet committed dedication to The Way to be a high example of living consciously, lovingly, and with true grit.

    It is baffling that others have nothing better to do than tear down that which is making positive change in this world. For all of the blatant disharmony that exists in our world culture, it is shocking to see a man of such high moral fiber be town down repeatedly both by strangers and by those who know NOTHING of him personally.

    As a cradle catholic, I have met my fair share of priests that hold far less of a spiritual resonance for any number of reasons. When I first met Fr. Justin, I penned a haiku that began, “Sashay this way!” That was the playful summation of my first impression: this is a man who lives in love. Not the Hallmark version, but real love. He puts his heart into his work, his work into his heart, and lives as an example never for a moment stumbling over self-pity.

    I am also a highly educated and successful woman, who has dedicated her life to seeking Truth both via academia and via esoteric knowledge.

    My voice counts, and what I have to say matters: JUSTIN MATTERS.

    Righteously Outraged,
    Aja R. Gray, MA, PhD-C, INLSP

  11. Thank you for your words about our Brother Justin. I appreciate your testimony and insights. Peace and all good!
    Brother Ralph, OFM

  12. I have known Father Justin for almost five years as a Silva Graduate student; a mediation workshop he has been conducting for decades. I hail from a different country, have traveled, and have met representatives of various religious denominations. And yet, very rarely did anyone meet the criteria of compassion and service above all, as I have witnessed in Father Justin Belitz.
    On my first day as a Silva Graduate attending his workshop, I was impressed by his keen sense of analysis and egalitarian approach to life, as well as his gentle manner and sense of humor. Like myself, I have heard many, many other students during every workshop, remark on his enthusiasm for his teachings and genuine interest in helping students and strangers alike.

    I follow a different faith, but have chosen to address Friar Justin as ‘Father Justin’ out of admiration for his non-judgmental acceptance of everyone as fellow human beings and his compassionate attitude towards people. Where I am concerned, he has earned that through his selfless devotion towards the people that come to his life and for those who request his help and prayers.

    To give a small example of his spirit of helping fellow humans, I had requested his prayers and guidance on many occasions and on one particular instance, he not only held me in his prayers, but contacted people who may be able to provide me network and further contacts regarding that matter. He was in no way obligated to do that as he is an extremely busy person, but he chose to do so, because he lives his life according to his principles – which is humanity and compassion above all. I will always be full of gratitude for his help and for his presence in my life.

    It is not only utterly shocking but unbelievable to see people who have not known him slander his name and his purpose. If only these people would take the opportunity to attend his class or meet with him and talk to him, I am sure they would be able to see beyond their shroud of complete and inaccurate misinformation. It is extremely sad that they choose not to do so.

    A very special thanks to Alfred Eaker for this opportunity to allow people to share their experiences about Father Justin.

  13. I have been blessed to participate in some of Father Justin’s classes in Omaha. I have learned so much and am always inspired by him. Father Justin is one of the most well-versed and educated priests I have ever met. Without him I would have given up hope on all religion and I because of his teachings I am empowered and understand spirituality.

  14. I met Fr Justin at a course in Omaha. It called my attention his firm and strong will, that he handles with such a sweet manner, that is impossible not to be kind and want to befriend this special man. As long as I know, what Fr Justin tries to do is to teach a good approach on how can we gain control over ourselves. If somebody has a better approach, they should come forward and try to show us their techniques or the philosophy that bring that good. I just read above that some people say bad things about Fr Justin, and I don’t believe it at all. I am thankful to Fr Justin because he taught me something very important to my life and to the people I know. One German philosopher used to say something like “.. your first obligation in life is to be happy, because a happy person makes others happy.” And I think Fr Justin helps us to get closer to happiness. I don’t have nothing to object to Fr Justin, but to be thankful for spread his benefit around. There is some culture of selfishness very expanded that want us divided, they think we are just good to work for them, those must be Fr Justin enemies.

  15. Sad when an individual has the need to criticize in order to elevate self. Judging another with bile is how we mask an underlying void within. In this case, that void is an apparent lack of spirituality that embraces Christianity in its totality.
    “Judge not that you be not judged. With judgement, you will be judged and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

  16. I am deeply disheartened when fellow Christians can look into the face of good and call it evil. Throughout Fr Justin’s ministry the mainstay of his work and life has been to tell of God’s unconditional love. Since when has preaching unconditional love been anti-Catholic ?
    Justin’s loving approach has brought uncountable people to God, deepened the faith of believers and brought others home who had left the Church.
    In today’s troubled world we need more people like Fr Justin to hold out their hand to our brothers and sisters regardless of their colour or creed. Rather than trying to silence him we should be giving thanks to God for the work of Fr Justin and praying for more like him to bring people into a deep, meaningful and loving relationship with God where hatred and judgement has no part.

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