Monday, August 31, 2009

Pray in order to be ready for His action

"We enter His Providence by prayer; we accept His will, sweet or painful, by prayer. We conform our wills to His by prayer and we learn to know His Mind by prayer. Prayer is the link between our finite spirits and God's infinite Spirit. Prayer is the window through which the Divine Light of God's Mind floods into the darkness of our finite minds. In prayer we learn that if we do not get our wills we will get His will which always works better. We may face disappointment in what we planned but if we accept that as His will, we will earn the most precious of all graces: the friendship of God.

Our prayer will not change His immutable will, but we know that in His wisdom He foresaw our future prayers and included them in the mystery of His dispositions of Providence. We pray not that we may change the Divine dispositions but that we may obtain what God has already ordained to be fulfilled by our foreknown prayers. Only God can change the course of events, but in any of the actions of Divine Governance, God has previously taken into account the prayers of His children and though certain things have been decreed to be from all eternity, the means of accomplishing them and the timing in history have been ordained to be dependent on the prayers of weak and fallible creatures. If evil appears to triumph, He is waiting for our prayer. If the course of action that we have pleaded seems to be at a standstill, He may be waiting for our dispositions to be changed as we pray in order that we be ready for His action when it comes... 'for we do not know how to pray as we ought.' (Romans 8:26)"

-- The Pathways of Prayer: Communion with God by Sr Immaculata, ocd

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sanctifying grace: the essence of the spiritual life

"Sanctifying grace is the essence of the spiritual life from its earliest stages to its full unfolding. As its name indicates, it is a gratuitous gift of God, Who, by His own free and merciful will makes mortal men sharers in His divine life.

This divine life is out of all proportion to human nature and its exigencies; yet, when offered it respects all the claims of the freedom and the personal dignity of man.

This is how the gift of God is at once a life-giving reality (it is at the root of the supernatural life) and a fact of life (it works within, not outside of, the vital egg and flow of the creature's freedom and responsibility). This is also why the Christian is capable of merit and personal sanctity.

It is by becoming a reality most intimately personal to a man and by working in him as a principle of divine life that sanctifying grace is directed towards action"

-- Everything is Grace by Fr Anastasius of the Holy Rosary, ocd

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Asceticism is the effort to cleanse the soul of everything that can hinder the action of God in it

"Asceticism is the effort put forth by the soul, under the action of grace, to overcome the unruly tendencies of human nature, to cleanse the soul of everything that can hinder the action of God in it, and to strive for union with God. Carmelite asceticism is definitely oriented towards contemplation. This is logical, since contemplation is the objective of Carmelite life. Carmelite asceticism has yet another characteristic: its center is love. There is nothing astonishing in this: love is the principal element of Carmelite spirituality; it is not merely its final goal, it is already there at its beginning and it is upon love that the soul relies all during its journey. Carmelite prayer is oriented towards contemplation, and while it does not undervalue reasoning, it 'consists much more in loving than in thinking.'

The efforts which the Carmelite will make to conquer his passions, his evil tendencies, and his defects, will therefore consist rather in acts of love for God than in a direct struggle against these unruly inclinations. At least this is the way recommended by St John of the Cross. He does not underestimate the efficacy of a direct struggle consisting in reflections on the ugliness and the malice of sin and the consequences it entails; or in acts of the virtue opposed to the defect of the temptation to be overcome. Instead, the manner of behavior recommended by him is to turn away from the temptation and to turn towards God and cling to Him by love. He considers this method easier, more fruitful, more perfect. In fact, not only does it free the soul from the attraction and attachment of created things, it raises the soul up to God and makes it grow in love."

-- The Spirit and Prayer of Carmel by Fr François Jamart, ocd

With John the Baptist, hope in and be zealous for the Lord

"John had heard in prison of the works of Christ. Ponder the admirable courage of this precursor of the Messias. He was not afraid of publicly denouncing the sinful marriage of the wicked king, but preferred chains, and prison, and death rather than concealing or being a traitor to the truth. Such ought to be the conduct of all good Christians, particularly of apostolic men. They ought to be full of zeal for the cause of God, to be constant and firm in asserting His rights, and they ought not yield to either threats or flattery.

John being in prison, he sent two of his disciples to ask of Christ, Art though he who is to come? The Baptist did not doubt that Christ was the Messias, but he wished his disciples to be confirmed in their faith. Charity always seeks the good of others. On your part, rejoice and give thanks to God for having come among us, and for not having held the world any longer in suspense. Be grateful for the benefits resulting from His Incarnation.

To this question Christ answers, Go and report to John what you have heard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them. Christ does not expressly declare that He is the Messias, to avoid even the shadow of boasting, but proves it by His works. Louder, says St Bernard, is the sound of works, than of words. It is your duty to prove that you are a good Christian and a follower of Christ in your own state of life, whatever it may be, not by words but by actions. Avowals are easily made, but they are of no avail unless they are supported by corresponding deeds. Let her works, says the wise man of the virtuous woman, praise her. Furthermore, since Christ has been so liberal in bestowing corporal favors, such as sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and the like, you have every reason to hope to receive spiritual benefits from Him."

-- Eternal Thoughts from Christ the Teacher Vol II by Richard Cardinal Cushing

Today's the memorial of the martyrdom of John the Baptist.

Friday, August 28, 2009

St Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi's fundamental devotion

"Like her spiritual doctrine, St Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi's personal piety was based on her supreme recognition of God, Three in One. Herewith, therefore, we present some twelve rules and principles of the Saint's great devotion.
1. Hold dear and find joy in the divine attributes, namely, the power the wisdom, the goodness and the infinite love with which God loves Himself and all creatures.
2. Wish God all the good, the glory and the honor that He has and will have eternally.
3. Rejoice in the reciprocal communications that the Three Divine Persons have among Themselves.
4. Be glad that God is so great and infinite that He can not be understood by creatures.
5. Be glad of that infinite love with which God loves Himself, has loved Himself and will love Himself eternally. Rejoice that all creatures and all the blessed spirits are not sufficient to love Him as much as He deserves; and thank His divine majesty that It loves Itself infinitely.
6. Be glad of all those treasures and infinite graces that the Eternal Father gave and communicated to the humanity of the Word, such as that grace which the Word had of working miracles and attracting to Himself the hearts of creatures.
7. Be glad that the Eternal Father has given us creatures as an inheritance to the Word Made Man, and rejoice at the satisfaction that the Word takes in this fact and at the pleasure that He finds in the souls of the just.
8. Be glad of that love which the Word Made Man has for virginity.
9. Offer God to God Himself, in thanksgiving for all the glory, honor and blessedness that He possess and for the gifts and graces communicated to all creatures.
10. Tell the Lord: 'If at this moment I could give You all that glory, honor and praise that at this time the blessed spirits and all the just ones on earth give to You, I should do it willingly.'
11. Offer yourself to God and want Him to have that perfection that He is pleased to have, according to His will.
12. Bend your will to love creatures only because God loves them, and rejoice in that love that He has for them and in the perfection that He communicates to them. And, given the case (which is impossible) that God Himself would wish to grant to a creature the right to offend and displease you, nevertheless desire that that creature have all the perfection and glory of the seraphim, even though he possessed these qualities to use in offending you - thus conforming yourself with God by not wanting anything but what God Himself wants.
These rules make up what we can exactly call the Saint's fundamental devotion. For it was upon this foundation, essentially theological, that the Saint built the edifice of her own interior life."
-- Secrets of a Seraph: The Spiritual Doctrine of Saint Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi translated by Gabriel N Pausback, OCarm

All which is not my God is poverty to me

"The angels fell, the soul of man fell and they have thus indicated the abyss in that dark deep, ready for the whole spiritual creation, unless Thou hadst said from the beginning, 'Let there be light,' and there had been light, and every obedient intelligence of Thy celestial City had cleaved to Thee, and rested in Thy Spirit, which unchangeably is 'borne over' everything changeable. Otherwise, even the heaven of heavens itself would have been a darksome deep, whereas now it is light in the Lord. For even in that wretched restlessness of the spirits who fell away, and, when unclothed of the garments of Thy light, discovered their own darkness, dost Thou sufficiently disclose how noble Thou hast made the rational creature; to which nought which is inferior to Thee will suffice to yield a happy rest, and so not even herself. For Thou, O our God, shalt enlighten our darkness; from Thee are derived our garments of light, and then shall our darkness be as the noonday.' Give Thyself unto me, O my God, restore Thyself unto me; behold, I love Thee, and if it be too little, let me love Thee more strongly. I cannot measure my love, so that I may come to know how much there is yet wanting in me, ere my life run into Thy embracements, and not be turned away until it be hidden in the secret place of Thy Presence. This only I know, that woe is me except in Thee, -- not only without, but even also within myself; and all plenty which is not my God is poverty to me."

-- The Confessions by St Augustine

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St Augustine. Please pray for all those sons and daughters who are living in sin, that they may have a conversion of heart like St Augustine.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Memorial of St Monica

"St Monica was born at Tagaste in North Africa, in 332, of Christian parents. Although early instructed in the fear of God and her girlhood was one of singular innocence and piety, yet she was given in marriage to Patritius, a pagan of Tagaste. She obeyed and served him as her master, and labored to gain him to God by her affectionate behavior and holy life. One of the happy fruits Monica reaped from her patience was to see him baptized a year before he died.

They had two sons and one daughter, one son being Augustine, who was born in November, 354. When Augustine was seventeen, his father died. As he grew up his mother endeavored continually to instill into him sentiments of piety. While studying at Carthage he was seduced by the Manicheans and drawn into that heresy. Monica grieved bitterly and prayed incessantly for his conversion. In order to avoid his mother's entreaties, Augustine went to Rome. Upon his arrival he fell dangerously ill, and he attributed his recovery of the prayers of his mother.

From Rome he went to Milan in 384, where he taught rhetoric. While in that city St Ambrose convinced Augustine of the errors of the Manicheans, and he renounced the heresy, but continued to search for the truth. St Monica followed him to Milan, and upon learning that he was no longer a Manichee, she redoubled her tears and prayers to God for his conversion. Her sorrow was turned into joy when Augustine was baptized with some friends of his at Easter, in 387. They set out together for Africa. At Ostia, where they were to embark, St Monica fell ill. Conversing with Augustine one day, she said, "Son, there is nothing now to keep me here; I had but one object in life, and that was to see you a Christian and a Catholic. God has done much more, in that I see you now despising all earthly happiness and entirely devoted to His service."

St Monica suffered much during her last illness. On its ninth day she surrendered her holy soul to God, at the age of fifty-six, in the month of November 387. Her remains were interred at Ostia, but in 1430, they were translated to Rome and placed in the Church of St Augustine."

-- Heavenly Friends: A Saint for Each Day by Rosalie Marie Levy

* Manicheans believed that man has a good soul and a bad soul, and that the material world is evil. They denied original sin, and thus the need for Baptism.

Let us pray that we might be one flock

"...[I]f on occasion we happen to hear reference made to schismatics, heretics, evangelicals, protestants, etc., who are separated from us and consequently cannot fully benefit from the gifts bestowed on the church by the Lord... let us pray for them, and for all those who do not belong to the church, that one day they may be able to enter it...

Let us reproach ourselves for the ingratitude, negligence, and inconstancy in our own response to so many graces... and let us promise to correct ourselves in the future. And in moments of doubts let us cry out, 'I believe in everything the church proposes to us for our belief.' In a word, in the difficulties of life and in the moments when we are tempted to go after false goods, let us hold fast to the bark of Peter, which is for us like Noah's ark at the time of the deluge, since we feel good everywhere but better in the House of God, where everything is done according to his will. In this house Jesus is with us until the end of the world.

The visible head of this house, of this (if you will) bark of Peter, ark of the covenant, is the pope; the invisible head is Jesus himself. To holy church all the peoples of the earth hasten, insofar as all the nations... will find a refuge in it. Our Redeemer, ever present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, extends his hands to everyone. He opens his heart and says, 'Come to me, all of you' [Mt 11:28].

Thus he calls and invites us, so that there might be one shepherd and one flock! Today's solemnity of the twenty-fifth jubilee of the pontificate [of Leo XIII] is, therefore, celebrated simultaneously throughout the world: in Wadowice, in Moscow (where there are in fact Catholic churches), in Germany, England, America, and wherever the church is present..." -- St Raphael of St Joseph, ocd

-- Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to His Life and Spirituality by Szczepan T Praskiewicz, ocd

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Transverberation of the heart of St Teresa of Jesus of Avila

"Moses declares in Deuteronomy, Our Lord God is a consuming fire, that is, a fire of love, which being of infinite power, can inestimably consume and transform into itself the soul it touches. Yet he burns each soul according to its preparation: he will burn one more, another less, and this he does insofar as he desires, and how and when he desires. When he wills to touch somewhat vehemently, the soul’s burning reaches such a high degree of love that it seems to surpass that of all the fires of the world, for he is an infinite fire of love. Because the soul in this case is entirely transformed by the divine flame, it not only feels a cautery, but has become a cautery of blazing fire.

It is a wonderful thing and worth relating that, since this fire of God is so mighty it would consume a thousand worlds more easily than the fire of this earth would burn up a straw, it does not consume and destroy the soul in which it so burns. And it does not afflict it, rather, commensurate with the strength of the love, it divinizes and delights it, burning gently. Since God’s purpose in granting these communications is to exalt the soul, he does not weary and restrict it, but enlarges and delights it, brightens and enriches it. The happy soul that by great fortune reaches this cautery knows all things, tastes all things, does all it wishes, and prospers; no one prevails before it and nothing touches it. This is the soul of which the Apostle speaks: The spiritual one judges all things and he is judged by no one. And again: The spirit searches out all things, unto the deep things of God.

It will happen that while the soul is inflamed with the love of God, it will feel that a seraphim is assailing it by means of an arrow or dart which is all afire with love. And the seraphim pierces and cauterizes this soul which, like a red-hot coal, or better, a flame, is already enkindled. For the soul is converted into the immense fire of love.

Few persons have reached these heights. Some have, however, especially those whose virtue and spirit was to be diffused among their children. For God accords to founders, with respect to the first fruits of the spirit, wealth and value commensurate with the greater or lesser following they will have in their doctrine and spirituality.

O happy wound, wrought by one who knows only how to heal! O fortunate and choicest wound; you were made only for delight, and the quality of your affliction is delight and gratification for the wounded soul! You are great, O delightful wound, because he who caused you is great! And your delight is great, because the fire of love is infinite and makes you delightful according to your capacity and greatness. O, then, delightful wound, so much more sublimely delightful the more the cautery touched the intimate center of the substance of the soul, burning all that was burnable in order to give delight to all that could be delighted!"

-- Living Flame of Love by St John of the Cross

Catholic Bible Study Resources

You may have noticed the Scripture Resources section featuring the links for St Jerome Biblical Guild (SJBG) and the Agape Catholic Bible Study (ACBS). These two sites are absolutely fantastic for anyone wishing to do some serious Bible Study, whether you're a homeschooling mom or a PhD theologian. And they are FREE. I do not receive any recompense by recommending them, and they did not ask me to do so, either. It is only because I consider them excellent resources, and I use them in my personal Scripture studies as an essential component of religious life, that I have provided the links.

Scripture reading is essential for our spiritual development. Simply hearing the Word proclaim at Mass is not enough. If you're so busy you only have 5 minutes per day to do some spiritual reading, please, read the Scriptures. All our Doctors of the Church, all our saints, based their spirituality on the teachings contained in Scriptures. Some passages are a little bit more difficult to understand than others, but with the aide of study guides like the SJBG and ACBS, it can be a very rewarding, and even addicting, experience. Moreover, a deeper understanding of the Scriptures will help you understand the wisdom and the spiritual wealth of the Magisterium of the Church.

One does not need to start with Genesis and finish with the Book of Revelations (Apocalypse). If you would like to keep track of your reading to try and read the Bible in a year (yes, it is possible and doesn't take much time per day), print a copy of the brochure
Read the Bible and the Catechism in a Year published by Coming Home Network.

So take the dust off your Bible, grab a cup of tea or coffee, and start reading. Your relationship with Christ and your love for the Church will grow much more than you ever imagined. By the way, the shortest Gospel is Mark's and its main theme is the Divine Sonship of Christ.

I am grateful to Mr Salvatore "Sal" J Ciresi and Ms Michal E Hunt for permission to reproduce the description text from their websites.

"The St. Jerome Biblical Guild propagates the study of Sacred Scripture with fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Our apostolate takes its name from St. Jerome, "The Father of Biblical Studies," and labors by God's grace to accomplish the following -- [1] explain the various Bible study tools and academic resources; for individual research or study clubs and groups, [2]present studies from Scripture on specific books (e.g., the Gospel of St. Luke) or general themes (e.g., the Biblical roots of home-schooling), [3] promote the classic exegetical methods and insights within Catholic Tradition; with attention to the Church Fathers and St. Thomas Aquinas, and [4] advance the doctrines of Biblical inspiration and inerrancy; the latter the main focus of the Guild. Time constraints prevent answering e-mail questions (the lone exception is for inquiries for speaking engagements). The site strives to be a modest repository of information on the Catholic Faith."

The following is the description for Agape Catholic Bible Study.

"This free Catholic online resource for the study of Sacred Scripture offers:

  • In-depth Bible studies in the living tradition of the Catholic Church
  • Accessing ancient and contemporary commentaries
  • Historical and archaeological information
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church references"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feast of Bl Mary of Jesus Crucified

Mariam Baouardy was born at Abellin (Ibillin), a small village in Galilee on January 5, 1846. Her family was of the Greek Melchite Rite. Miriam was not yet 3 yrs old when her father died, and her mother died just a few days later. Her brother Boulos (Paul) was then adopted by an aunt and Miriam was adopted by an uncle. After many hardships, including an attempted rape and murder, having her throat slashed and left to die, she entered the Discalced Carmelites in Pau, France, in 1867. There she received the name Mary of Jesus Crucified. Mariam was sent with the founding group to the Carmel of Mangalore in India where, in 1870, she made her profession. She returned to France in 1872. In 1875 she went to the Holy Land where she built a monastery in Bethlehem and began planning for another at Nazareth. While watching over the workers during a construction in the Bethlehem Carmel, she went to get water for the workers and fell down the stairs, braking an arm. Grangrene set in and she died a few days later, on August 26, 1878, at the age of 32. Mariam is also affectionately known as the Little Arab. As a "white veil" sister, Mariam did the hard labors in the community, such as cooking and cleaning, and did not have a vote in the decisions made by the chapter (which was composed of the "choir sisters"). Though she was a "white veil" sister, she is considered the foundress of the Bethlehem Carmel. Mariam was noted for her supernatural gifts, especially for humility (calling herself "the little nothing"), for her devotion to the Holy Spirit, and her great love for the Church and the Pope. Pope John Paul II beatified her on November 13, 1983.

Bl Mary of Jesus Crucified, pray for us!
Prayers of Bl Mariam:

Holy Spirit, inspire me.
Love of God, consume me.
Along the true road, lead me.
Mary my Mother, look upon me.
With Jesus, bless me.
From all evil, from all illusion,
from all danger, preserve me.


Source of peace, Light,
come and enlighten me.
I am hungry, come and nourish me.
I am thirsty, come and quench my thirst.
I am blind, come and give me light.
I am poor, come and enrich me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

St Bartholomew's day: Anniversary of the Teresian Reform

"What with one person and what with another, I had a great deal of trouble in getting the foundation sanctioned. Then there was my patient, and there were the workmen -- for the house had to be got ready very quickly, so that it would be suitable for a convent, and there was a great deal which had to be done to it. My companion was not here, for we thought it advisable that she should be away so that the secret might be the better kept. I saw that speed was of the first importance, and this for many reasons, one of them being that I was in hourly fear of being sent back to my own convent. So many were the trials I had to suffer that I began to wonder if this was my cross, though I thought it very much lighter than the heavy one which I had understood the Lord to say I should have to bear.

When everything had been arranged, the Lord was pleased that some of the sisters should take the habit on Saint Bartholomew's Day and on that day too the Most Holy Sacrament was placed in the convent. So with the full weight of authority this convent of our most glorious father Saint Joseph was founded in the year 1562. I was there to give the habit, with two other nuns of our own house, who chanced to be absent from it. As the house in which the convent was established belonged to my brother-in-law, who, as I have said, had bought it in order to keep the matter secret, I was there by special permission, and I did nothing without asking the opinion of learned men, lest in any way whatever I should act against obedience. As they saw what benefits, in numerous ways, were being conferred upon the whole Order, they told me I might do what I did, although it was being done in secret and I was keeping it from my superiors' knowledge. Had they told me that there was the slightest imperfection in this, I think I would have given up a thousand convents, let alone a single one. Of that I am sure; for, though I desired to make the foundation so that I could withdraw more completely from everything and fulfil my profession and vocation with greater perfection in conditions of stricter enclosure, I desired it only with the proviso that if I found that the Lord would be better served by my abandoning it entirely, I should do so, as I had done on a former occasion, with complete tranquillity and peace.
Well, it was like being in Heaven to me to see the Most Holy Sacrament reserved, and to find ourselves supporting four poor orphans (for they were taken without dowries) who were great servants of God. From the very beginning we tried to receive only persons whose examples might serve as a foundation on which we could effectively build up our plan of a community of great perfection, given to prayer, and carry out a work which I believed would lead to the Lord's service and would honour the habit of His glorious Mother. It was for this that I yearned. It was also a great comfort to me that I had done what the Lord had so often commanded me and that there was one more church here than there had previously been, dedicated to my glorious father Saint Joseph. Not that I thought I had done anything of all this myself; I never thought that nor do I now; I have always known that it was done by the Lord. The part of it which concerned me was so full of imperfections that I can see I ought to have been blamed rather than thanked for it. But it was a great comfort to me to see that in such a great work as this His Majesty had taken me, wicked as I am, to be His instrument. I was so happy, therefore that I was quite carried away by the intensity of my prayer."

-- Life: The Autobiography of St Teresa of Avila by St Teresa of Jesus of Avila

Today we celebrate 447 years of the Reform. "Happy Birthday" to all Discalced Carmelites!

Face life bravely and fearlessly

"Face life bravely and fearlessly. Yet let your courage be calm.

Courage without calmness is incomplete and imperfect. It is a promising bud, not yet open. Only when it has weathered seasonal storm and drought will it blossom and bear fruit."

-- Where Silence is Praise by A Carthusian

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Let us seek to realize that we truly can be in contact with God

"Only with deepest humility can we recognize how far we are from our goal. Only those souls who have attained a lofty level of holiness can truly acknowledge how far they still are from their total fulfillment. For example, the Curé of Ars considered himself more wretched than the notorious sinners to whom he ministered. He realized that many of these fallen souls, had they received the same graces that he had received, would perhaps surpass him in holiness. Only with humility can we recognize the torpor of our love.

Prayer is our primary duty. Prayer is the reason why God has placed us on earth. We learn truly to prayer, when we are in the presence and company of Christ. Therefore, we must contemplate Christ for long periods of a time and seek him out persistently. Consider those closest to Christ. Saint John the Apostle grasped what was indispensable for a clear understanding of his master. John never tired of probing and querying Christ. We can see how John thus gained richer insights and fuller explanations, precisely because he went to the bother of approaching and asking Christ to clarify each day's lesson. I picture John, walking close behind Christ, as he made his way about the Holy Land. Thus, John came to gain a wealth of intimate knowledge, which the other apostles did not acquire. Herein lies the explanation for the special character of the fourth Gospel. While the other apostles traveled across the then known world on their missionary journeys, John's unique apostolate was to remain close to the Virgin Mary, whom Christ had entrusted to him. Thus were these two great souls conjoined in love and prayer!

In silent solitude, let us seek to realize that we truly can be in contact with God. It is God whom we should aim to encounter in prayer. It is God who is both the breath and the fulfillment of our life." -- Ven Jacques of Jesus, ocd

-- Listen to the Silence: A Retreat with Père Jacques translated and edited by Francis J Murphy

Forbid suffering entrance to your soul

"We must not be slaves either of time or health; we cannot dispose of either as we will! If we thought of acting only when all the conditions were favourable, we would pass our lives doing nothing; or at least we would get out of life very little of what it can give us.

Go ahead! That is a phrase I like so much. Even if everything is far from perfect, we must learn to say it. And things will go ahead, since joy does not come from without or from circumstances. Its principal source is withing us.

That is why faith is such a sure source of happiness, even now. The faithful who keep themselves in a state of grace, or who see that they return to it without delay whenever necessary, possess in their souls God who is infinite Goodness. And it is his presence that keeps them in peace. Troubles and disturbing events will always cause suffering; it is a law of life, and we cannot alter it.

We shall never banish suffering in our life, but we can forbid it entrance to our soul, or at any rate to the higher part of the soul. We are there, as it were, on a mountain, and we regard our troubles as the dweller upon the mountain contemplates the storm sweeping over the plain.

But we do not reach that height all at once; we have to arrive at it by stages. The thousand and one petty annoyances that each day brings are our training. We must calmly watch them come and go. To want to avoid them all is impossible; to allow them to upset us is a weakness. There will always be some cloud on the horizon of our lives. But do not let any of these things stop you, or even affect you. In short: Go ahead!"

-- Where Silence is Praise by A Carthusian

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Feast of the Queenship of Mary

"...joyous hearts everywhere welcome the feast of Mary's Queenship with spiritual affection and experience a sense of deep interior peace of soul as they gather in spirit in her presence to dedicate and rededicate themselves to her as their loving Mother and Queen.

The Queenship of Mary is not an empty title or an honorary distinction which shows forth merely her excellence of virtue, of grandeur, sanctity or glory.

Mary is a Queen because the child whom she conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit and to whom she gave birth was truly a King. Pope Pius XII, in his radio message to Fatima, May 13, 1946, summarized the teaching of the Church concerning the Kingship of Christ and the Queenship of Mary in these words: 'Jesus is King throughout eternity by nature and by right of conquest; through Him and with Him and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest and by singular election, and her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion.'

How comforting to read these carefully chosen words of Pope Pius XII who was a loving son of our Lady and truly her champion. She was 'Queen by grace' since she was conceived Immaculate, free from the slightest stain of sin and her soul was literally inundated with divine grace. No wonder Gabriel could say 'Hail, you who are full of grace.' She is 'Queen by divine relationship' since she is related in the first degree of consanguinity in the direct line to our Lord and Savior, Christ the King, the Son of God. A Queen Mother is one whose son later becomes a King. Mary's child, however, at the moment of His birth, was already a King, the King of the world...

Our Lady is Queen also 'by right of conquest.' To understand this it must be recalled that our blessed Lord by His sufferings and redemptive death on the cross bought back the human race from the captivity of the devil, thus reconquering all as a King. Calvary was the scene of this conquest. At the foot of the cross Mary stood and her heart beat in unison with the heart of her divine Son and she shared intimately with Him in His sacrifice and the fruits of His redemption. 'As Christ is our Lord and King by a special title because He redeemed us, so the Blessed Virgin is our Lady and Queen because the unique way in which she cooperated toward our redemption by giving of her own substance, by offering Him willingly for us, and by desiring, praying for, and bringing about our salvation in a singular manner' (Pope Pius XII, Ad coeli Reginam).

At first it may be somewhat difficult to picture Mary as a Queen since our imagination is limited to the standards and customs of the royalty in this world. It does seem somewhat unusual, at least at first hearing, to speak of one as a Queen whose humility, obscure origin, profound spirit of prayer and sacrifice take her out of the setting in which ordinarily the nobility of this world is found.

Yet the difficulty quickly disappears when we re-hear in spirit the voices of millions of souls who have preceded us in the household of faith; when we glance even hurriedly at Christian tradition and Christian art as it sang of her queenship; and above all when we look into our own hearts which reveal that we simply love and rejoice to think of Mary as a Queen and to speak of her in these terms to one another and to the whole world.

Our Lady is indeed 'more a Mother than a Queen,' as St Therese of the Child Jesus wrote; yet, nevertheless she is a loving, queenly Mother. Her Motherhood is first, but her Queenship adds a glow and a warmth to that Motherhood. St Alphonsus in his Glories of Mary (a book still high on the list of those which reveal Mary to souls) has written of her in these beautiful terms. 'Mary, then, is a Queen; but for our common consolation, be it known that she is a Queen so sweet, clement, and so ready to help us that Holy Church wills that we salute her as Queen of Mercy.'

The purpose of the universal feast of the Queenship of Mary which we again happily observe and welcome this week is to stir up in our souls renewed love and devotion to our Mother and Queen and to invite all to rededicate themselves to her Immaculate Heart. These are indeed days of tension and worry throughout the world with talk of total destruction to mankind by nuclear weapons. Mary, however, our Queen and our Mother, has come to the rescue of civilization in the centuries that have passed. She will do it again if we but turn to her and beseech her for true peace throughout the world. Would that the prayer of Pope Pius XII to Mary our Queen be realized in the minds and wills of all. 'Reign over the minds of men, that they may seek only what is true; over their wills, that they may follow solely what is good; over their hearts, that they may love nothing but what you yourself love.'

...may we gather in spirit before her heavenly throne and humbly offer to her as our Queen and Mother the homage of ourselves, unreservedly, totally, prayerfully, and with the simplicity of abandonment that characterizes a devoted child. This will rejoice her motherly and queenly heart and bring about the realization of the prayer of Pope Pius XII that man may seek and know the truth and follow what is good and identify their love with the great object of her love, the Sacred Heart of her divine Son."

-- Mary: Queen and Mother - Marian Pastoral Reflections by John J Cardinal Carberry

Our embrace of God will be in accordance with our embrace of his will...

"Here then (...) is the fruit of Christ's prayer. Because he contemplates as any other human being and because His prayer is a constant heart-to-heart communication with God - or more precisely, a dwelling in God - it is a total and immensely heroic obedience. He has one care only: to obey God. He is rooted in obedience as faithfully as he is rooted in prayer.

We follow the opposite path. Christ started out from contemplation to come to the perfection of obedience. We must start out from the perfection of obedience to arrive at contemplation. This is the reverse route we must follow. In the depths of our being, our prayer is worth what our obedience is worth. Our embrace of God will be in accordance with our embrace of his will...

Let us consider, then, what constituted this profound prayer in the soul of Christ. Let us contemplate the great mysteries of the Beatific Vision and the Hypostatic Union. Let us go to work courageously to welcome God within us, so that we can know the immense nourishment to be derived from constant, deep prayer. We will reach out for this prayer with humility and obedience. To understand happiness for the presence of God and to have a foretaste of heaven here below, let us take the necessary steps, while repeating the words found in our Office: 'Taste and see the goodness of the Lord' [Ps 34:9]. May we experience the truth of his words and may we likewise know the road that leads to him."

-- Fr Jaques of Jesus, ocd
Cited in Père Jacques: Resplendent in Victory by Francis Murphy, SJ

Though Fr Jacques was addressing discalced nuns, his counsel of obedience applies to all. Obedience to whom, you may ask. Obedience to parents, obedience to superiors (ie, spiritual directors), obedience to the Magisterium of the Church. We may disagree with something, perhaps due to a lack of understanding or ignorance, but humble submission in a spirit of faith will bring us closer to Christ, help us grow in virtue. Moral theologians teach that unless we're asked to do something that is obviously a sin (ie, against Church teaching), we should be obedient to the best of our abilities. Look at Christ, already a grown man and God in the flesh, and He obeyed His Mother when she asked Him for help when the newly wed couple at Cana ran out of wine. And Denis the Carthusian said: "If you are doubtful whether a command is contrary to the law of God you should follow the command of your director because even if it is against the law of God, the one who obeys does not sin." It's not easy to be obedient, but we must try to be so, and ask for the virtue of obedience.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Love causes us to go out of ourselves and live in those we love

"God is at the deep centre of all things, and when we find him there we find eternal life. Every creature gifted with reason has received light to see in all reacted things both their own individual beauty and that of the Supreme Being, from whom they have received their being, and who sustains them in it. With the light given us we should see God in all things. Our gaze should pass beyond the shadows of created things in order that it may rest in the true Light hidden in beings without reason, but discovered by those who have reason. And with this Being we should make ourselves in harmony.
All material things are a source of beauty and enrichment. It is not their fault that we do not profit by them more. The fault is ours entirely, in that we have not the courage to break the husk and seek the fruit.
It is a law of life that we are slowly transformed by those with whom we are brought into contact. Love makes like. Love causes us to go out of ourselves and live in those we love. It moves us to make their thoughts and feelings our own, to share in their lives, and so become one with them. Thus admiration invites imitation. Almost irresistibly we feel impelled to imitate all that appears to us good and beautiful; we set it up as a model that we would copy.
Religion is such a contact. It creates ties which bind God and the believer. If our god is matter, we become material; if it is something beneath us, we are lowered. Union is only possible when two beings approach and meet on a common level."
-- Where Silence is Praise by A Carthusian

Draw near with a true heart: you that carry the vessels of the Lord

"How necessary it is to prepare beforehand to receive Holy Communion worthily...
The first condition necessary for a worthy Communion is a lively faith. Faith is the groundwork and foundation of every virtue and of every meritorious action. Hence St Paul says, Let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith. Excite, therefore, a lively faith in your soul, as often as you frequent this Holy Sacrament; reject every temptation arising from the dictates of the senses against a firm belief in the mystery; tell them that the veracity of God Himself, whose revelations are not to be judged at the tribunal of man's weak senses and limited understanding, is the pledge of its truthfulness.

The second preparation requisite for a worthy Communion is purity of mind and conscience. In proportion to the perfection of this purity you will receive the benefits of the Sacrament. Hence Isaias exclaims, Be ye clean, you that carry the vessels of the Lord. The Church recommends the same purity to us; hence she has ordained that the Eucharist shall be consecrated on clean corporals. These corporals, says the Angelic Doctor, are first washed, then wrung, and lastly dried: so he who approaches the Sacrament must first wash away his sins by the tears of penance; he must then drain from his soul by mortification every affection to sin that may linger in it; thirdly, the fire of charity must expel from it every predisposition to relapse. Examine if these be your dispositions when you approach the Communion rail."

--Eternal Thoughts from Christ the Teacher Vol. II by Richard Cardinal Cushing

Thursday, August 20, 2009

He has given his angels charge over you to guard you

"He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. Let them thank the Lord for his mercy; his wonderful works are for the children of men. Let them give thanks and say among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. O Lord, what is man that you have made yourself known to him, or why do you incline your heart to him? And you do incline your heart to him; you show him your care and your concern. Finally, you send your only Son and the grace of your Spirit, and promise him a vision of your countenance. And so, that nothing in heaven should be wanting in your concern for us, you send those blessed spirits to serve us, assigning them as our guardians and our teachers.

He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instil confidence; respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection. And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you. But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need.

So let us be devoted and grateful to such great protectors; let us return their love and honour them as much as we can and should. Yet all our love and honor must go to him, for it is from him that they receive all that makes them worthy of our love and respect.

We should then, my brothers, show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father. We are God’s children although it does not seem so, because we are still but small children under guardians and trustees, and for the present little better than slaves.

Even though we are children and have a long, a very long and dangerous way to go, with such protectors what have we to fear? They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray. They are loyal, prudent, powerful. Why then are we afraid? We have only to follow them, stay close to them, and we shall dwell under the protection of God’s heaven."

--Excerpt from Sermo 12 in psalmum Qui habitat, 3. 6-8 by St Bernard of Clairvaux

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St Bernard, known as the "Mellifluos Doctor" because of his eloquence.

In difficult times, trust in God

"This is how God works:
when the soul believes
it no longer has anything to give,
He then also asks for everything!
saying: "This soul will she
hold on to end?"
... And when he sees that it remains faithful
against all odds,
it continues to serve Him, to love,
it accepts all undismayed,
then there it is, if I may say so,
the consolation of God!"

«C'est ainsi que Dieu agit:
quand l'âme croit
ne plus avoir rien à donner,
Il demande encore cela, puis cela, tout !
se disant: «Cette âme tiendra-t-elle
jusqu'au bout?»
...Et quand il voit qu'elle demeure fidèle
envers et contre tout,
qu'elle continue à Le servir, à l'aimer,
qu'elle accepte tout sans se laisser abattre,
alors, c'est là, si je puis m'exprimer ainsi,
la consolation de Dieu!»

-- Père Jacques of Jesus, ocd

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Believe without reservation and trust in His mercy

You cannot make an act more pleasing to God than to absolutely believe, without reserve, in His kindness, in His love, that you trust in His mercy. That is what glorifies Him the most! Trust in His Court, in His good Heart.

Vous ne pouvez pas faire d'acte plus agréable à Dieu que de croire absolument, sans réserve, à sa bonté, à son amour, que de vous confier en sa miséricorde. C'est cela qui le glorifie le plus ! Confiez-vous à Son Cour, à Son bon Coeur.

-- Père Jacques of Jesus, ocd

N.B. Not on the Eucharist, but still a wonderful thought by Père Jacques that would make a nice holy card.

Sin: an offer of grace?

"When God permits a sin, though it be that of Judas, there is in the very permitting of it an offer of grace which can be so great as to force us to cry: O felix culpa! With the aid of this grace humility can replace despair and lead one again to life.

When God permits that continual falling into infidelities from which a weak will does not know how to defend itself, His permission is at the same time the gesture of grace with which He lifts us up to brace ourselves in His arms, which have the strength of omnipotence and the tenderness of mercy.

When the consciousness of our weakness and anxious foreboding sow suffering in the heart, is not our Lord offering us the grace of His bosom as a sure refuge and of his Providence as a guarantee of His protection?

There is, then, no reason to despair. Even that which, in the light of Providence seems a shadow, such as sin and evil, is definitely an occasion of grace for the one who knows how to accept it and to place his trust in faithful abandonment by hope.

From this perspective - which is that of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus - the practice of abandonment is not only a general confidence in the future goodness and mercy of our Lord, but also, and above all, the expression of unshakable certitude in the continual and actual offering of graces like droplets bedewing all the things of life.

This certitude is what gives to abandonment the lilt of serenity and joy, far different from the clamor of desires."

-- Everything as a Grace by Fr Anastasius of the Holy Rosary, ocd

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Feast of the Blessed Martyrs of Rochefort

Fr. Jean-Baptiste Duverneuil (b. 1737 at Limoges), in religion Fr. Leonard, Fr. Michel-Louis Brulard (b. 1758 at Chartres), and Fr. Jacques Gagnot (b. 1753 at Frolois), in religion Fr. Hubert of Saint Claude, were among a group of 64 Martyrs beatified 1st October 1995, victims of the French Revolution who came from 14 French dioceses and from various religious Orders. In their loyalty to God, the Church and the Pope, they refused to take the oath of the Civil Constitution for the Clergy imposed by the Constituent Assembly of the Revolution. As a result they were imprisoned, massed like animals, on a slave-trader in Rochefort Bay, awaiting in vain to be deported into slavery. During 1794, the first two Carmelites died on board ship: Fr. John-Baptist on 1st July, and Fr. Michael-Aloysius on 25th July, both being buried on the island of Aix. After plague broke out on the ship, those remaining disembarked on the island of Madame, where Fr. James died and was buried on 10th September. Noted for their loving ministry to their fellow prisoners and their patience in accepting every type of outrage, privation and
cruelty, not to mention the vicissitudes of weather, hunger and sickness, our three Discalced Carmelite priest martyrs and their companions in martyrdom gave unsurpassed Christian witness to their faith and love.

Blessed Martyrs of Rochefort, pray for us!

Resolutions drawn up by the Priests imprisoned on the ship Les Deux Associes

"They will never give themselves up to useless worries about being set free. Instead they will make the effort to profit from the time of their detention by meditating on their past years, by making holy resolutions for the future, so that they can find in the captivity of their bodies, freedom for their soul.

If God permits them to recover totally or in part this liberty nature longs for, they will avoid giving themselves up to an immoderate joy when they receive the news. By keeping their souls tranquil, they will show they support without murmur the cross placed on them, and that they are disposed to bear it even longer with courage and as true Christians who never let themselves be beaten by adversity.

If there is question of receiving back their personal effects they will show no eagerness in asking for them; rather they will make the declaration that may be required of them with modesty and strict truth; they will receive without lament what is given to them, accustoming themselves, as is their duty, to despise the things of the earth and to be content with little, after the example of the apostles.

They are not to satisfy curious people they might come across; they will not reply to superficial questions about what happened to them; they will let people glimpse that they have patiently supported their sufferings, without descending into detail, and without showing any resentment against those who have authored and been instrumental in their suffering.

They will sentence themselves to the severest and most absolute silence about the faults of their brothers and the weaknesses into which they happened to fall due to their unfortunate situation, their bad health and the length of their punishment. They will preserve the same charity towards those whose religious opinion is different from their own. They will avoid all bitter feeling or animosity, being content to feel sorry about them interiorly and making the effort to stay on the way of truth by their gentleness and moderation.

They will not show grief over the loss of their goods, no haste to recover them, no resentment against those who possess them...

From now on they will form but one heart and one soul, without showing distinction of persons, and without leaving any of their brothers out, under any pretext. They will never get mixed up in the new politics, being content to pray for the welfare of their country and prepare themselves for a new life, if God permits them to return to their homes, and there become subjects
of edification and models of virtue for the people, by their detachment from the world, their assiduousness in prayer and their love for recollection and piety."

The Eucharist - mystery of love

O my Christ,
Is the mystery of Your love,
Is life for souls,
Is the sure salvation for those who
Understand and receive It.
Therefore place in my mind,
Fervent and clear thoughts,
Put on my lips ardent and
Enlightening words,
That I may illumine all these souls,
That I may enkindle in them
Love for Your divine Sacrament;
And that in them, your work
Of transformation may be fulfilled.

-- Père Jaques of Jesus, ocd

Monday, August 17, 2009

You truly carry Christ within you

"There is so much I still have to say to you about Christ, especially about his Incarnation for us in the Eucharist. The Word Incarnate is always there for us in the Eucharist. This overpowering mystery allows the unworthy hands of the priest to hold the same body of Christ that the Virgin Mary held in her arms and pressed to her heart. Yet it is the same Christ! The priest takes Christ in his hands and gives him to others! When you receive him, you are like the Virgin Mary during the months she carried her child. You truly carry Christ within you and want to be absorbed in profound thanksgiving. You carry him living within you! How necessary is silence so that the Holy Spirity can reveal to us the grandeur of this mystery."

-- Fr Jaques of Jesus, ocd
Cited in Père Jacques: Resplendent in Victory by Francis Murphy, SJ

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Feast of Bl Maria Sagrario of St Aloysius Gonzague

Today we celebrate the feast of Bl Maria Sagrario, a discalced carmelite nun from the Monastery of St Anne and St Joseph in Madrid, Spain. She was born Elvira Moragas y Cantero in Lillo (Toledo) in 1881, and was a pioneer woman in the area of pharmacy. She studied in Madrid to become a Pharmacist, and became one of the first women to be licensed by the Pharmacy Faculty by the Central University of Madrid. Elvira then worked in the pharmacy her father owned in San Bernadino Street (Madrid). When her father passed away in 1909, she took charge of the pharmacy. She entered Carmel in June 1915, at age 34, and received the name Maria Sagrario of St Aloysius Gonzague. In the convent she performed various duties, including infirmarian, turn sister, and Mistress of Novices. On July 1 she was elected, for the second time, Prioress of the community. On July 20, 1936, the monastery was assaulted and the entire community had to flee. She was detained in the "checa" (a type of secret service police jail) on August 14. Interrogated about "the treasures of the convent," she wrote on a piece of paper: "Long Live Christ the King!" She died by shooting that same night in the San Isidro prairie. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 10, 1998. The Polish Association of Pharmacists took her as their official patroness.

Bl Maria Sagrario, pray for us!

From the letters and writings of Bl Maria Sagrario:

"May Jesus reign always in my heart! The Lord asks me to be humble, to weep over my sins, to love him much, to love my sisters much, to mortify them in nothing, not to mortify myself uselessly, to live recollected in him wanting nothing for myself, completely surrendered to his divine will.

In this vale of tears, suffering will not be lacking, and we should be content to have something to offer to our most beloved Jesus who wanted so much to suffer for love of us. The most direct way to unite ourselves to God is that of the cross, so we should always desire it. May the Lord not permit that I be separated from his divine will.

Blessed be God who gives us these ways of offering ourselves up to his love! The day will arrive when we will rejoice for having suffered in this way. Meanwhile, let us be generous, suffering everything, if not with happiness, at least in close conformity to the divine will of him who suffered so much out of love for us. However great are our sufferings, they come nowhere near his. If you wish to be perfect, seek first of all to be quite humble in thought, word, deed and desire; learn well what this means and work tenaciously to carry it out. Keep your gaze always on our most beloved Jesus, asking him in the depths of his heart what he desires for you, and never deny him anything, even if it means going strongly against the grain for you.

Blessed be he who arranges everything for our good! In possessing him, we possess everything."