Monday, May 31, 2010

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"If we follow the writings of St. John of Damascus, St. Athanasius, and others, do these not oblige us to call Mary by the name of Queen, since her father David doth receive the highest praise in Scripture as a renowned king, and her Son as the King of kings and Lord of lords, reigning forever?  She is Queen, moreover, when compared with the Saints who reign like kings in the heavenly kingdom, co-heirs with Christ, the great King, placed on the same throne with him, as saith the Scripture.  And as Queen she is second to none of the elect, but in dignity is raised so high above both Angels and men that nothing can be higher or holier than she, who alone hath the same Son as God the Father, and who seeth above her only God and Christ, and below her all creatures other than herself.

The great Athanasius said clearly: Mary is not only the Mother of God, but also can truly be called Queen and Lady, since in the fact the Christ who was born of the Virgin Mother is God and Lord and also King.  It is to this Queen, therefore, that the words of the Psalmist are applied: Upon thy right hand did stand the Queen in a vesture of gold.  Thus Mary is rightly called Queen, not only of heaven, but also of the heavens, as the Mother of the King of Angels, and as the Bride and beloved of the King of the heavens.  O Mary, most august Queen and most faithful Mother, to whom no one doth pray in vain who prayeth devoutly, and to whom all mortal men are bound by the enduring memory of so many benefits, again and again reverently do I beseech thee to accept and be pleased with every evidence of my devotion towards thee, to value the poor gift I offer according to the zeal with which it is offered, and to recommend it to thine all-powerful Son."

-- From a Sermon by St Peter Canisius

** Note: This feast is celebrated today in the 1962 Liturgical Calendar, but the ordinary calendar observes the Visitation. The Queenship of Mary is celebrated on 22 August in the ordinary calendar. It falls on a Sunday this year and, thus, will not observed. The 1962 LC observes the Visitation on 2 July, which is a ferial day in the OC.

Memorial Day in the USA

Today we celebrate Memorial Day, a day in which we honor and remember the fallen military service men and women who died in combat, peace-keeping missions, terrorist attacks or police action. May the Lord reward them for their patriotism and service to our nation. And may we never forget their service and sacrifice for us.

"Almighty God we stand before you in supplication, asking your Divine Mercy and protection, to envelop with Your invincible armor, our loved ones in all branches of the service. Give them courage and strength against all enemies, both spiritual and physical, and hasten their safe journey, back to their homes and families. If it be Your Holy Will that they be gathered to Your bosom, with the eternal vanguard of the saints, let their journey to Your everlasting arms be swift and painless, where they may stand in honor and glory, praising You for all eternity. Amen."

Eternal rest grant onto them, O Lord, 
and let perpetual light shine upon them. 
May they rest in peace. 

** Prayer from Catholic Online

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

"The Faith which the holy Patriarchs and Prophets received from God before his Son was made Flesh, the Faith which the holy Apostles heard from the Lord himself present in the Flesh, the Faith which the same Apostles learnt by the teaching of the Holy Ghost not only to preach by word of mouth, but also to leave behind them in their writings for the healthful instruction of all that should come after, that Faith teacheth that the Trinity, that is to say, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is but one God.  But we could not truly call the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost a Trinity, if One and the Selfsame Person were named Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

For if as the Being of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is One Being, so were there but One Person, then were it untrue to say that God is a Trinity.  On the other hand, if, as the Persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are distinguished One from Another by that which is proper to Each, so were they diverse by difference of nature, then were it untrue to say that God in One.  But since concerning the nature of the One True God, who is a Trinity, it is the Truth to say that God is One, and the Truth to say that God is a Trinity, therefore the True God is a Trinity in Persons, and an Unity in nature.

Through the Oneness of nature all that the Father is is in the Son and the Holy Ghost.  All that the Son is is in the Father and the Holy Ghost, and all that the Holy Ghost is is in the Father and the Son.  Of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, None is without Other, None is before Other, None is greater than Other, None is mightier than Other.  The Father, as touching the One Divine Nature, is neither before nor greater than the Son and the Holy Ghost: neither is it possible that the Eternity and Infinity of the Son, whether as before or greater, should be before or greater than the Eternity and Infinity of the Spirit."

-- From the Book on the Faith, addressed to Peter by St Fulgentius

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial of Bl Elia of St Clement

"The new Blessed was born in Bari, on January 17, 1901, the third child of Joseph and Pasqua (née Cianci) Fracasso. Four days later she was baptized in the Church of St. James by her uncle, Fr. Charles Fracasso, chaplain at the cemetery, and given the name Theodora. She was confirmed in 1903 by Mgr. Giulio Vaccari, Archbishop of the Diocese.
         Her family then lived in Saint Mark’s Square and supported by what the father earned as a master painter and decorator. Around 1929/30, after many sacrifices, he opened a shop for the sale of paint. Her mother was always busy with work in the home.
         They were both good practicing Christians and had in all nine children; four died in infancy. They were always a good example to their five remaining children (Prudence, Anne, Theodora Domenica and Nicola) for their human and spiritual development.
         In 1905 the family moved to Via Piccinni, to a house with a little garden, in which, the little Theodora – aged 4 or 5 – maintained she saw a beautiful “Lady” in a dream, who moved among the rows of blooming lilies, then suddenly disappeared in a beam of light. Later her mother explained to her the possible significance of the vision and Theodora promised that she would become a nun when she grew up.
         Theodora was sent to a nursery school run by the Stigmata Sisters, and continued her studies until the third elementary class. On May 8, 1911, after making a long preparation, she received her First Holy Communion. The night before she dreamt of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus who predicted to her: “you will be a nun like me”. Later she attended a work shop for sewing and embroidery near the same Institute.
         She entered the Association of the Blessed Imelda Lambertini, a Dominican nun with a special devotion to the Eucharist. Afterwards she joined the “Angelic Army” of St. Thomas Acquinas. She reunited with her friends from time to time in the dormitory where they would meditate and pray together, read the Gospel, The Eternal Maxims, the Imitation of Christ, the Fifteen Saturdays of Our Lady, the Lives of the Saints and in particular, the autobiography of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus.
         Her behaviour and the good influence she had on her companions did not go unnoticed by one of the teachers, Sister Angelina Nardi. In the meantime Theodora’s vague religious vocation was becoming clearer thanks to the advice of Fr. Peter Fiorillo, O.P., her spiritual director. He introduced her to the Third Order Dominicans, who accepted her as a Novice on April 20, 1914. She took the name Agnes, and made her profession on May 14, 1915, with a special dispensation because of her young age.
         During the difficult war years, 1915-1918, Theodora found an infinite number of occasions, beyond the confines of her family and her own experiences, to increase her apostolic work, her work as a catechist and helper, and there was nothing to stop her ardent desire to help her neighbour.
         Towards the end of 1917, Theodora decided to seek advice from a Jesuit Priest, Fr. Sergio Di Gioia. He became her new Confessor. About a year later he decided to direct her, together with her friend Clare Bellomo, the future Sister Diomira of Divine Love, to the Carmel of St. Joseph, Via De Rossi, in Bari. They went there together for the first time in December 1918.
         The year 1919 was one of intense spiritual activity, as, under the prudent and enlightened guidance of Fr. Di Gioia, she prepared to enter the convent.
         The new Blessed entered the community on April 8, 1920, and took the Sacred Habit on November 24, the same year, taking the name Sister Elisha of Saint Clement. She made her first simple vows on December 4, 1921: “Alone at the feet of my Crucified Lord, I looked at him for a long time, and as I looked I saw that He was my whole life”. Besides St. Teresa of Jesus, she took as her guide Therese of the Child Jesus, following the “little way of spiritual childhood where I felt – affirmed the Blessed – called by the Lord”. She made her solemn profession on February 11, 1925.
         Her journey, from the beginning, was not easy. Already in the first months of the novitiate she had to face not a few difficulties, which she did with a great spirit of faith. But the real problem arose after the Mother Prioress, Angelica Lamberti, in the spring of 1923, appointed Sister Elisha to be in charge of the embroidery machine in the girls boarding school attached to the Carmel; the head mistress, Sister Columba of the Blessed Sacrament, was of an authoritarian disposition, severe and with little understanding of others. She refused to see the goodness and gentleness with which Sister Elisha treated her pupils, and, so, after two years, had her removed from her post.
         Being always rigorously observant of the Rule and community acts, the new Blessed passed much of her day in her cell, dedicating her time to the embroidery that was given her. The Mother Prioress continued to esteem her greatly, and, in 1927, appointed her sacristan. During her painful trial Fr. Elias of St. Ambrose, the Procurator General of the Discalced Carmelite Order, was a great comfort. He had first come to know her in 1922, on the occasion of a visit to St. Joseph’s Carmel. The young Carmelite kept up an exchange of edifying letters with him from which she drew great benefit.
         In January 1927 Sister Elisha was struck down and greatly weakened by a bad influenza. She started to suffer from frequent head aches, but did not complain, in fact she bore them without taking any medication.
         When, a few days before Christmas (21st December), Sister Elisha also began to have a violent fever and other disturbances, they presumed it was just one of her usual illnesses, but each day her situation caused more concern. On the 24th December a doctor came to see her, who, even though he diagnosed possible meningitis or encephalitis, did not consider the clinical situation particularly serious. Only on the following morning were two doctors called to the bedside of the sick person, who, unfortunately, declared that her condition was irreversible.
         Sister Elisha of St. Clement died at 12.00 on the 25th December 1927. She made her entry into heaven on a feast day, as she had predicted: “I will die on a feast day”. Her funeral mass took place the next day and was celebrated by the Archbishop of Bari, Mgr. Augustine Curi, in the presence of the Servant of God’s family and many who had come to see her body.
         The young Carmelite nun left in everyone a fond memory, but also a great lesson: we must walk with joy towards Paradise because that is “the omega point” of every believer."

-- From the Discalced Carmelite Generalate

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ven John of Jesus Mary

"A native of Calahorra (Logroño), John [Juan de San Pedro, 1564-1615] came into contact with the Carmelites when studying philosophy at Alcalá University. At eighteen he joined the Order in Pastrana, and made his profession there on 30 January 1583. After his theological studies, probably at Salamanca, he was sent to Genoa in 1585, along with Fr. Fernando.

His chief role in the young Congregation was in the field of formation, something at which he was extremely talented. He is looked upon as the novice master par excellence, having filled that post almost without interruption from 1598 to 1611. The profession registers at Santa María della Scala testify to the fact that over 140 novices passed through his hands. We can still sample the fruit of his knowledge and experience in the two books that grew out of them: Instructio novitiorum and Instructio magistri novitiorum, two books which influenced other Orders as well as our own.

After three terms as definitor general, and having been general from 1611-1614, John of Jesus and Mary died at Montecompatri, where his body lies incorrupt to this day."

-- Teresian Carmel: pages of history by Idelfonso Moriones, ocd

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May my life be a prolonged "fiat"

I don't seek gifts or sweetness,
don't desire caresses or consolations,
not even that you draw back from me your veils:
I'm satisfied with the light of pure faith.

I don't ask that you plunge me in your science
for I love everything I believe and hope for.
I don't ask you for raptures; I only want
the ecstasy of love for obedience.

May my life be a prolonged "fiat"
that in ineffable and loving bonds
my will be knotted to yours,

until the longed for day arrives,
when I can sing between your arms
eternal "amen" and angelical "alleluia"...

-- Extasis by Inocencia of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (María Amelia Fé y Olivares), ocd
translated by ocdsister

** Sister Inocencia (1911-1975) was a discalced carmelite in the Carmel of Puzol (Valencia), Spain. Of benevolent and lively character, she died of glottic spasms after thyroid surgery. In case you don't know, the glottis is the space between your vocal chords. Sr Inocencia wrote this sonet in 1953, dedicating it to her fellow novices. Like St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Sr Inocencia entered Carmel at the age of 42 after having been teaching.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ven Margaret of the Most Holy Sacrament

"Margaret was born at Beaune (Cote d'Or) on Feb. 6, 1619. From her earliest childhood she gave proof of extraordinary virtue: she was only seven years old, in fact, when she would spend entire nights at prayer, even during the winter; moreover, she cared for the sick in the hospice and did not hesitate to kiss their wounds. After the death of her parents, when she was twelve and a half years old, she asked to be admitted among the Discalced Carmelite nuns of her native city (1630). Her youthful age not withstanding; her request was granted, thanks to the reputation that she enjoyed. Critical studies leave no doubt about this fact.

The young postulant thus entered into an exceptional environment, one profoundly permeated by the most authentic traditions of Carmel, among them a touching devotion to the Child Jesus. This devotion had its origins in two sources: the teaching of Cardinal de Berulle, and the practices of the Spanish foundresses of the French Carmel. Peter de Berulle, during the course of a trip to Spain, made in 1604 in order to study the introduction of the Teresian Carmel into France, had had occasion to meet with the protagonists of devotion to the infancy of Christ. At Alcalá de Henares he had been able to talk with the lay brother Francis of the Child Jesus, whose role in the development of this devotion was to be so important. Moreover, the cardinal had met the provincial of Castile, Joseph of Jesus Mary, the admirer and future biographer of the holy lay brother. Finally, he had chosen as prioress of the first French monastery Anne of Jesus, to whom Francis wrote that the foundation was willed and protected by the Child Jesus Himself.

It was for Margaret Parigot, who in taking the habit in the Carmel of Beaune had become Margaret of the Most Blessed Sacrament, to spread it among the masses, to bring closer to popular simplicity the devotion to the infancy as conceived by Brother Francis of the Child Jesus.

From the first months of her novitiate, in fact, Margaret saw herself chosen by Jesus to honor His infancy and His crib. She confided as much to the novice mistress, Mary of the Trinity, of Quatrebarbes: «The holy Child Jesus,» she said, «keeps me constantly intent on the moment of His holy birth, and He has made me concentrate on the first twelve years of His infancy in such a way that He has given them to me wall and an outwork beyond which He does not permit me to venture.» This mission, therefore, will be the grand, unique occupation of Margaret's life; and her entire existence will be a continuous dialogue with the Child Jesus, a total adhesion to His state.

Margaret's prayer was incessant, silent and meditative. She remained united to Him Who had completely separated her from the things of earth in order to seize her for Himself. It was He Who had destined her to experience, not one of those sorrowful states that purify the soul and transform it, as is the case with so many other saints, but one of those joyful states that adorn the soul with the rarest of virtues and add to the charm of purity and simplicity the graces of the divine infancy.

It was the privilege of the venerable to reproduce within herself, interiorly as well as exteriorly, this state of the Child Jesus. Frequently consoled by special illuminations on the state of God as a child at Bethlehem, she carried about «the impression of His holy and divine infancy.» For a long time she manifested exteriorly «a participation in the state of the Child Jesus in the crib,» even remaining «lying on the floor for many days without being able to rise, and from time to time emitting a little infant's cry. Her appearance and all the movements of her face were changed and became altogether like those of a new-born child...» During this period she received ineffable insights and knowledge about the state of the Child Jesus in the manger:.. His littleness, His divine weaknesses and His abasement..::. (Ms. n. 9, f. 255, of the Carmel of Beaune,. a text partially cited by Deberre, Histoire de la Venerable Marguerite, pp. 108-9).

For many years these divine favors remained Within the ambit of the community of Beaune, but after 1638 great changes took place. The Child Jesus called Margaret to work actively for the salvation of souls; He revealed to. her that in His divine infancy she was to find the means of obtaining the mercy of the Father. At the same time He taught her the way of honoring His holy infancy from the moment of His incarnation until his twelfth year. The Child Jesus wanted the project that He communicated to her to have as its title: «the family of the Child Jesus.» Following these directives, Margaret, beginning on March 24, 1636; brought together the «household and associates of the Child Jesus.» The associates were to celebrate the twenty-fifth day cf every month in memory of the Annunciation and of the Nativity, every day to recite the abbreviated rosary, called «the rosary, of the Holy Child», and to meditate, week after week, on «all the actions, words and mysteries» of the Child Jesus. But the fundamental obligation which they assumed when they inscribed themselves in the association was that of following the states of the Incarnate Word «in a holy union of heart and of spirit,» since the best way of «honoring the simplicity and the kindness of the holy Child Jesus is that of constantly practicing a most perfect simplicity, kindness, pleasantness and deep humility» (Manual of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Infancy of Jesus, established in the monastery of the Carmelite nuns of Beaune, in Deberre, Histoire, pp. 385-421, and ms. n. 23, ff. 1-5 of the Carmel of Beaune). In other words, it was necessary for the associates to submit themselves to the divine will with the candor of infancy.

Circumstances were to favor a rapid diffusion of the association, which.the Holy See was very soon to erect into a confraternity that is still flourishing. France was then in a very serious crisis, her frontiers were menaced on all sides, the future of the dynasty was uncertain. The royal family and the masses sought for help from all the praying communities. It was the moment at which, through the initiative of the Calvarine Anne de Goulaine, the consecration of France to the Blessed Virgin was being prepared in accord with the vow of Louis XIII that was reputedly imposed by Richelieu: Hence, as soon as the existence of the association of the holy Child Jesus became known, enrollments multiplied. Anne of Austria confided her worries to the venerable; for twenty years she had been praying in vain for the birth of an heir. The restoration of peace and the birth of an heir, which followed one after the other, increased the fame of the humble Carmelite.

During the course of the first world war an analogous phenomenon was to be verified: the confidence placed in St. Therese of the Child Jesus was to create a favorable climate for her glorification. Just as the Saint of Lisieux would protect the soldiers who were entrusted to her, so Margaret defended the interests that were entrusted to her and she became the symbol of the power of devotion to the infancy. Surrounded by veneration, she continued her mission of peace and of union — something that is illustrated with so much eloquence by the statue of the Little King of Grace still preserved at Beaune.

When Margaret died, on May 26, 1648, in an ecstasy of love; devotion to the infancy of Jesus was in its full flower. Associations were being created everywhere to honor the mystery of the crib, most often through the inspiration of the Oratorians, since the school of Berulle was not long in coming under the influence of Beaune. Works dedicated to the infancy of Jesus multiplied to such an extent that these themes were among those most often treated by spiritual writers of the XVII and even of the XVIII centuries. Any number of names could be cited, but it is sufficient to recall those of Father Barre, Minim; of St. John Eudes, who depends on both Berulle and Margaret; and of St. John Baptist de La Salle, who owes her so much.

-- Adapted (abridged) from the biography by Raymond Darricau


If you wish to learn more about this important figure in the Teresian Carmel and the devotion to the Infant Jesus, you may want to get A Gem from the Diamond Mine - The Life of Venerable Margaret of the Most Blessed Sacrament by Msgr P Fliche. It was recently republished (2009) by Treasures of Carmel Publication (ISBN 9780646521558). Lord willing, there will be some post from this wonderful book later this year.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Memorial of St Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi

"Carmelite mystics and authors continually speak of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as the one who through her beauty and virginal purity, in some sense, merited to be filled with God in the Incarnation of the Eternal Word. In many Carmelite texts Mary is compared metaphorically to a fertile land upon which God manifests his glory. Eloquent mystical texts are given to us by St Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi (1556-1607), a fascinating personality with a love for refined and beautiful things.

This Carmelite nun, well known among the Italian mystics, give importance to the correlation between Mary and purity which in turn is understood as beauty and spiritual transparency.  The spiritual experience and writing of Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi are filled abundantly with references, both direct and indirect, to the beauty and glory of God, or the Virgin Mary, and of the soul in the state of grace.  It is impossible here to give all references to her texts, which are full of symbolism. A selection of texts have been chosen to illustrate the line of thought and the mystical experience of this saint who, because of her many ecstasies, live a substantial part of her earthly pilgrimage in a sphere of consciousness beyond that of earth. The nuns who observed her during her ecstasies declared that she would have a very beautiful face with rosy cheeks, her face resplendent with such great majesty and grace, that she would not seem to be the same person.

For Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi, those who embark on the spiritual journey in Carmel are under the maternal protection and care of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The nuns of her monastery recorded that it was on “the 5th January, the vigil of the Epiphany while that beloved soul was hearing Mass in choir and thus while she was before the altar of the chapel of the Virgin, she was rapt as usual and she saw that the Virgin places us with great love under her mantle”. Our Lady puts us under her white mantle because she “desires to sanctify our body and soul, so that one can say of us what is said of her holy and immaculate virginity! The glory of a mother is the grandeur, the wealth, and the beauty of her daughter.” Living in a monastery dedicated to the mystery of the Assumption under the title of Santa Maria degli Angeli, St Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi in her ecstasies frequently contemplates this mystery at the end of the life of Our Lady. For our saint, the Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven because of her purity. It is also the purity of Mary which made possible the Incarnation of the Word: “The Eternal Father, fixing his eyes upon Mary, was pleased with her very great purity, because she had been the one who had drawn the Word from the Father and enclosed Him in her small womb”.

To receive the gifts of God from Mary, a pure heart is needed: “To make the heart suited to receive gifts, it is necessary for it to be pure, resplendent and strong. Into such a heart, so pure, resplendent and strong, Mary can infuse her gifts and graces.” For this reason, the vow of chastity in religious life binds and joins the soul with the Eternal Father “Who is Purity Itself.” Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi says that “this purity is one of the closest bonds and unions that the soul could have with God, through that conformity which the soul has with God by being pure”. After her profession on 27th May 1584, Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi said that Jesus gave her “purity of the Virgin Mary”. Those who enter Carmel seem to be given birth spiritually by the Virgin Mary. These are given a mantle as white as that of the Virgin Mary, taking care of it diligently so as not to ruin the purity of the most sweet Mother. It is during the religious profession that Our Lady makes the souls of the religious resplendent with this virtue. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi sees Mary as the model of mystical purity with which the soul has to be open to receive God. Mary purifies the Carmelite soul with the blood of Christ and also by feeding them her own milk, to transform these souls into white doves who fly into the five wounds of Jesus.

Even the Marian texts of St Mary Magdalene’s writings are highly Christological and deep in their theological content. In a Marian text found in The Probation, she contemplates the beauty and glory of the Word Incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She puts forward a parallelism between the womb of Mary and Mount Calvary. In the virginal womb of Mary, Jesus Christ has a beautiful face resplendent more than the sun, whilst on Calvary this beauty is hidden. In the womb of Mary, Christ is clothed with humanity, but in his passion he is clothed with a white cloak by those who scourged him and laughed at his innocence. Perhaps unconsciously, St Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi had in mind the Gospel text of the Transfiguration of our Lord. All through the text there is a continuous reference to the mystery of the kenois of the Word Incarnate:

“He descended into you, and the Holy Spirit formed and ordered the beautiful body of the Word, so small as it was. Nevertheless, that Word was and is so great the heaven cannot contain Him; yet he wished to be contained in the small womb of the little Virgin! But what creature has ever been able to understand Your grandeur, O Word? Those beautiful little eyes, which constantly saw that union which exists between the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Word Himself existing in the union, what creature could ever comprehend their beauty? I see You at the same time so little, little in the womb of Mary, and on the cross. Please tell me, O Word, where did You stay more willingly, on the cross or in the womb of Mary? The cross was planted on a dreadful mountain, in earth that was arid, dry and sterile; and the womb of Mary was that so joyous, pleasing, blessed and fruitful earth which was to produce You, the fruit of life. You were naked in the womb of Mary, and naked on the cross. In the womb of Mary Your face was more resplendent than the sun; on the cross You no longer had beauty or comeliness. Remaining in the bosom of the Father, You aspired to the womb of Mary; and remaining in the womb of Mary, you aspired to the cross! Mary clothed You in the garment of humanity; they (those who mocked Jesus) clothed You in a white robe, in mockery, making Your innocence manifest in spite of themselves. Mary veiled Your divinity; and they veiled your resplendent face! Mary melted in looking at Your beautiful face; and they deformed it with their fetid spitting”.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is almost always contemplated by St Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi as a companion in our spiritual journey towards Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity. Mary’s presence in the spiritual and mystical life of the saint is outstanding. The saint teaches us that we have to follow the Virgin Mary in her lifestyle so that we can participate with her in glory.

“O glorious Mary, and glorious the one who follows you! But then, to want to preserve our gifts and graces as Mary did, it is necessary to have what Mary had, whom after she was assumed into heaven, live a life lasting and eternal. The soul must have a perfect sight, in seeing God alone, it must have an unbelievable hearing, so that the soul through it may be doing whatever work you wish, great or small, or the most distracted that can be found, always takes its place before God and never leave aside what God seeks of it. Then it must have an agreeable and savour taste by which the soul, no matter what is placed before it whether sweet or bitter, goes on to taste everything in Christ crucified; for in this way one savours God, but crucified ….. I would wish to that such a soul, which has done what Mary does with the Word, that soul will crown Mary which will offer up all the merits of Mary, together with all the praise that has ever been given to her soul and with the merits of all the saints, with the desire of increasing her glory, however glorious that glory may be”.

Living the same life as Mary, is to become beautiful and glorious as Mary is. This entails letting oneself to be mystically purified by God through suffering. Participation in the sufferings of Jesus grants the disciples participation in the glory of their Lord. St. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi contemplates this in the life of the Virgin Mary, Queen of martyrs. It is Mary also who clothed us in the path of suffering following the footsteps of Christ on her example:

“The other mantle of her sacred martyrdom we must adorn by following her good example, her persevering faith, and living faith, because faith without works is dead. We must load it with the jewels of our anxious desires, when we have need of suffering all that she suffered – and much more, if it were possible (which it is not). For there is no creature that loves God as much as she loves Him. Who shares in Mary, let him become like Mary! Who shares in glory, let him become like in glory! Who shares in God, let him become like God!”"

Adapted from The Contemplation of Mary’s Beauty in the Spirituality of Saint Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi by Charló-Carmel M. Camilleri, OCarm

Monday, May 24, 2010

Live in faith and hope, even though you are in darkness

"In these days try to keep interiorly occupied with a desire for the coming of the Holy Spirit and on the feast and afterward with his continual presence. Let your care and esteem for this be so great that nothing else will matter to you or receive your attention, whether it may concern some affliction or some other disturbing memories. And if there be faults in the house during these days, pass over them for love of the Holy Spirit and of what you owe to the peace and quietude of the soul in which he is pleased to dwell.
If you could put an end to your scruples, I think it would be better for your quietude of soul not to confess during these days. But when you do confess, you should do so in this manner:
In regard to thoughts and imaginings (whether they concern judgments, or other inordinate objects or representations, or any other motions) that occur without being desired or accepted or deliberately adverted to: Do not confess them or pay attention to them or worry about them. It is better to forget them no matter how much they afflict the soul. At most you can mention in general any omission or remissness as regards the purity and perfection you ought to have in the interior faculties: memory, intellect, and will.
In regard to words: Confess any want of caution in speaking with truthfulness and rectitude, out of necessity, and with purity of intention.
In regard to deeds: Confess any lack of the proper and only motive—God alone without any other concern.
By such a confession you can be content and need not tell any other particular thing, however much it may battle against you. Receive Communion on Pentecost in addition to those days on which you usually receive.
When something distasteful or unpleasant comes your way, remember Christ crucified and be silent.
Live in faith and hope, even though you are in darkness, because it is in these darknesses that God protects the soul.
Cast your care on God, for he watches over you and will not forget you. Do not think that he leaves you alone; that would be an affront to him.
Read, pray, rejoice in God, both your good and your salvation. May he grant you this good and this salvation and conserve it all until the day of eternity."
-- The Collected Works of St John of the Cross translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, ocd, & Otilio Rodríguez, ocd

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost Sunday

"Dearly beloved brethren, our best way will be to run briefly through the words which have been read from the Holy Gospel, and thereafter rest for a while quietly gazing upon the solemn subject of this great Festival.  This is the day whereon suddenly there came a sound from heaven, and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles, and, for fleshly minds, gave them minds wherein the love of God was shed abroad; and, while without there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them, within, their hearts were enkindled.  While they received the visible presence of God in the form of fire, the flames of his love enwrapped them.  The Holy Ghost himself is love; whence it is that John saith: God is love.  Whosoever therefore loveth God with all his soul, already hath obtained him whom he loveth; for no man is able to love God, if he have not gained him whom he loveth.

But, behold now, if I shall ask any one of you whether he loveth God, he will answer will all boldness and quietness of spirit: I do love him.  But at the very beginning of this day's Lesson from the Gospel, ye have heard what the Truth saith: If a man love me, he will keep my word.  The test, then, of love, is whether it is shewed by works.  Hence the same John hath said in his Epistle: If a man say, I love God, and keepeth not his commandments, he is a liar.  Then do we indeed love God, and keep his commandments, if we deny ourselves the gratification of our appetites.  Whosoever still wandereth after unlawful desires, such an one plainly loveth not God, for he saith, Nay, to that which God willeth.

And my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  O my dearly beloved brethren, think what a dignity is that, to have God abiding as a guest in our heart.  Surely if some rich man or some powerful friend were to come into our house, we would hasten to have our whole house cleaned, lest, perchance, when he came in, he should see aught to displease his eye.  So let him that would make his mind an abode for God, cleanse it from all the filth of works of iniquity.  Lo, again, what saith the Truth?  We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  There are some hearts whereunto God cometh, but maketh not his abode therein; with a certain pricking they feel his Presence, but in time of temptation they forget that which hath priced them: and so they turn again to work unrighteousness, even as though they had never repented."

-- From a homily by St Gregory the Great

** Painting by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Memorial of St Joaquina de Vedruna

"Joachina was born in Barcelona in 1783. She married Theodore de Mas in 1799 and bore him nine children before being widowed in 1816. Then in 1826 she was prompted by God’s Spirit to found the Congregation of Carmelite Sisters of Charity, which spread throughout Catalonia, establishing houses for the care of the sick and the education of children, especially the poor. She was greatly drawn to contemplating the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Her spiritual life was marked by prayer, mortification, detachment; humility and love. She died at Vich in 1854.

-- From the Discalced Carmelite Proper


"If only we were all on fire with love for God! If we were, we should preach love, proclaim love, and yet more love, until we had set the whole world on fire. We must have great desires: then God will give us whatever is best for us.

We must be careful to free our hearts from everything that might get in the way of the pure love of our beloved Jesus. He is love itself, and wants to give himself to us through love. Jesus is calling us all the time—how long are we going to remain deaf to his voice? No, let us keep our hearts ready, our wills completely for Jesus, our faculties and our senses for our Lord.

There must be no undue attachment in our hearts for created things: they must burn with love alone, love ever more fervent; for love never says enough, never rests until it is completely on fire. When our hearts are completely on fire with pure love for Jesus, everything that might hinder love from taking complete possession will be cast out.

We must not give in to weariness: we must spend every minute in loving God. God alone, the maker of heaven and earth, must be our rest and our consolation. The love of God is the only thing we can possess forever: everything else will pass away.

Love, love, and yet more love—love that is never satisfied! The more we love God, the more we shall long to love him. And when we have Jesus in our hearts, we shall have everything else in him and with him."

-- From the letters of St Joaquina de Vedruna

Friday, May 21, 2010

Silence speaks far more eloquently than many words

"What happens when we let go of our pious words and thoughts? We find ourselves thinking of what is for lunch or having an internal argument with someone who has wronged us in the past. When we become aware of this, we may very well feel that silent prayer is not for us, that we cannot do it and that we had better stick to meditation where we have something to occupy our busy minds. I suggest that this reaction, while understandable, is mistaken. What really matters in our prayer is not our words or thoughts, important though these are, but our desire. What do you really desire? As you know it is very possible for the lips to say one thing and for the heart to say the opposite. God reads the heart; God knows the desire of our heart even though our minds may seem to be far away Obviously when we become aware that we are distracted, we can choose to continue thinking about the distraction but that would be changing our intention to simply be in God’s presence. It is better just to renew our intention to be in God’s presence and to be open to God’s action and we can do so in many ways, for example by the use of a simple word or even an interior glance towards God. It may be that the use of many words or even holy thoughts is not helpful at this time. We have all had the experience in a human relationship where silence speaks far more eloquently than many words. Even very busy people can maintain intimate human relationships and so in the midst of our busy lives we are invited into an intimate relationship with God. Indeed with this relationship at the centre of our lives, all our activity will become much more fruitful."

-- The fundamental elements of Carmelite spirituality by Joseph Chalmers, OCarm

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Our lives must give birth to Jesus’ presence in our world

"Mary can be called blessed around the world because she looks familiar to every culture and society and race and nationality. Yet, Mary’s mission and message remain firmly focused on the Lord. The challenge for us is to do the same: to be open and to accept every culture and race, even within our own society and nation and neighbourhood. Jesus' command is exact: “Do for others just what you want them to do for you” (Lk. 6:31). Jesus never promises that we will always like what we have to do for others; sometimes it may be difficult, unpleasant, or inconvenient. Jesus addresses the way we desire to be treated when we need something done for us. But he also highlights the implications of our treatment of others: “Whatever you did to one of the least of these, you did to me... Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Mt. 25:40,45).

To the degree that we can adapt, we become people for the world, we bring Jesus to the world. Our adaptability will be most evident in our daily lives and work. It is relatively easy to be sensitive to the plight of other people and cultures as we see their struggle on television or read it in the newspapers. The true challenge of adaptability is to have that same sensitivity toward the people we encounter every day. Adapting and adjusting to family members, friends, co-workers provide us with ample opportunities to confirm or compromise the integrity of our spiritual journey. The prejudices with which we can classify all members of a particular group or age or race, or the many “isms” with which we can categorize people and strip them of individuality and even dignity, diminish our capacity for sensitivity and adaptability.

Mary had the unique privilege to become the Mother of God, to give birth to Jesus, to be the means by which God became part of our world. Our lives must give birth to Jesus’ presence in our world; our actions must continue his mission. We must live the example of Jesus among others. Then we will be people who adapt, people for the world. Then we, too, can be called blessed."

-- Learning from Mary in her own words: wisdom for the spiritual journey by Joel Giallanza, csc

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My soul never vibrated except for its Creator

"With true psychological insight, Marie-Angélique in her Autobiography (unedited passage) noted the dangers of the musical art: the amount of work which this art imposes is not reconcilable with a life of pleasure, nor even with too easy a life. But Yvonne [Sr Marie-Angélique's baptismal name], so vibrant, did not ignore 'the extraordinary development which it gives to human passions.' - 'If the artist does not vibrate for God, joy, sorrow, hate, love increase -in nature- all the more as the art makes it vibrate further.'

And of the danger of vanity: 'to be tempted to vainglory, one has to be truly an artist.'

'Personally,' she adds, 'although I went through only the early stages of art, I can say that, by divine grace, my soul never vibrated except for its Creator. I don't believe that there has ever been a false note in my chant, yes, I have always had Jesus Christ in view but I have not escaped totally from the temptation of vainglory, and in spite of my vigilance, if my Savior had not withdrawn me from there, it is certainly by this way what I would have been lost. Thanks to the zeal of the divine Master for preserving me from all evil, indifferent to things from without, I passed that year entirely with Him.' One of Sr Marie-Angélique's novitiate companions later noted with what insistence she said to her one day: 'One must have tasted human glory in order to realize how intoxicating it is, what fascination it can exercise on the soul.'

This preservation extended to her entire life int he world, and one person who knew her well, could say: 'Yvonne passed by without seeing anything, her eyes fixed on her ideal. Nothing evil touched her, even lightly. She was really the rose that blossomed among thorns.'"

-- Flame of Joy: Souvenirs, Autobiography, Letters of  Marie-Angélique of Jesus, ocd

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Lord 'calls everyone' to drink at the fountain of living waters

"On several occasions St Teresa clearly showed that the Lord 'calls everyone' to drink at the fountain of living waters, which is synonymous for her with infused contemplation. 'He calls souls to his,' she writes, 'publicly, and in a loud voice.' She makes this clearer when she says: 'All of us who wear this holy habit of Carmel are called to prayer and contemplation. Such was the purpose of our Order from the beginning.' Yet, she adds: 'There are very few who have the dispositions needed if God is to grant them this contemplation.' For this she demands a life of self-abnegation, humility, generosity, and the total gift of oneself to God.

St Teresa hardly doubts that those who possess these virtues will attain to contemplation. 'God truly has but one desire: to find souls to whom He can give Himself.' She exhorts her daughters to 'make strenuous efforts and not to stop halfway.' 'Sometimes the Lord is late in coming, but then He rewards handsomely, and He gives as much in a single visit as He gave others in small amounts over several years.'

According to St Teresa, all generous souls and all who give themselves completely to God are called to contemplation. Not that they will all be led by 'the way' of contemplation. There are two ways. But all will at least drink a little at the fountain of living waters, that is, they will occasionally receive some mystical grace. 'To those who want to follow Him,' she writes, 'God grants a great number of ways of drinking the living water, so that no one need be deprived of its consolations or die of thirst. From this source spring up streams, some large, others small.'

Although St John of the Cross stated that 'the way' of contemplation was not for all souls, he also recognized that those who resolutely make efforts to practise virtue participate in the passive nights and enjoy the favors of contemplation. Other Carmelite writers on mysticism repeat the same teaching. For them, as for their founders, infused contemplation is granted to all generous souls.

From these passages we can see clearly enough that infused contemplation is the ordinary and natural development of the spiritual life and is to be expected as a result of a life of generosity towards God. It is not an extraordinary grace. However, the way of contemplation is not the only way which leads to perfection. God leads some souls by another path, which will arrive at sanctity as well as the others."

-- The spirit and prayer of Carmel by François Jamart, ocd

Monday, May 17, 2010

God is the keeper of his servants

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.


"Peace and unwavering trust in God pervades this psalm [120/121]. It puts to rest all disquietude in the soul and even in our days inspires us to peacefulness; for what the psalmist says of his sanctuary on Sion and of the throne of God in the Holy of Holies may be said in a greater measure about the tabernacle of the Catholic house of God. The psalmist begins with a confession of confidence (verses 1-2). The Israelites when far away from the sanctuary were accustomed to pray facing Jerusalem on the Judean mountains, the Mount Sion on which the temple was built. So also the psalmist directs his view to the holy heights that greet him from the distance. There the Lord lives among his people; there his eyes are always watching the affairs and needs of those who pray to him; there his ears pay heed to their petitions. There the God-fearing man in faith and confidence may expect help in every visitation; for the God who broods there over the Ark of the Covenant is Yahwe, the invisible King and Father of Israel who has obligated himself to his people by a solemn covenant; it is the kind and eternal God, the almighty Creator of heaven and earth, for whom there are no impossibilities. If he has created the universe with one word, then he knows also how to banish the needs of men with one word. 

From the house of God or from his own deeply pious soul the psalmist hears the divine Amen to his confession of confidence (verses 3-7). The Lord will not let him stagger and fall who in the confidence of his love takes hold of his hand. God supports everyone who in humility does not rely on his own strength alone, but in the consciousness of his weakness seeks support from God. The good Lord continually watches over such a one. God's eyes do not tire; he does not fall asleep; he does not overlook the stumbling petitioner. It is unthinkable that Yahwe who has taken upon himself the protection of Israel will forget and be unmindful of what he voluntarily undertook. It is therefore out of the question that the enemy will sow destruction while the Lord sleeps. Whatever happens under the watchful eyes of God happens with his will and permission. The thought that God does not bother about the sufferings of the just should never enter one's mind. Indeed, God protects his children at all times and in everything that occurs. He is not far away but stands protectingly at our right. He is mightier than the guardian angel whom he has told to carry the just in their hands that they may not stumble upon a stone. He guards them against all evil by day and night, from the heat of the sun during the day and from lunacy at night. In the Orient those who became ill because of the chill evening temperature were said to become sick through the influence of the moon. There is no suffering from which the Lord cannot keep us; there is no danger from which he cannot save us. Under his protection is the going and coming of man; that is, man's doings and omissions are under God's powerful protection now, in the future, and throughout an entire life."

-- Herder's commentary on the psalms edited by Edmund Kalt

Sunday, May 16, 2010

St Simon Stock and the scapular

"The Brown Scapular is a Marian devotion which originated at about the same time as the Rosary, and like the Marian shrine at Walsingham, had its origin in England. In the thirteenth century, during the time of the Crusades, Simon Stock went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he met a group of hermits on Mount Carmel.
These claimed to be the successors of Elijah and his followers, and, attracted by their way of life, Simon returned with them to England when the situation became too dangerous in Palestine because of the Saracens.
They settled at Aylesford in Kent and in 1254 Simon was elected Superior-general of the now mendicant Carmelites, who were regarded somewhat like the other mendicant orders such as the Franciscans and Dominicans.
Simon founded other houses as the order began to grow but he faced many problems as the original 'solitary' ideal of the hermits changed towards the more communal approach of the mendicants. These weren't just internal problems, as older orders also resented the arrival of these newcomers with their own particular devotion to Mary.
Simon withdrew to his monastic room or 'cell' - probably at Cambridge by this time - to try and gain some relief from the problems faced both by himself and his Carmelite order, and in order to pray to Mary; it was then that he had his famous vision of her bringing the Brown Scapular to him with the following words, which are preserved in a fourteenth century narrative: "This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire."
The Scapular promise is based on the two elements of Mary's spiritual maternity and her mediation of grace, that is that she is the 'spiritual' mother of all mankind, as well as the 'channel' by which all grace comes to us, understood in the sense that she too is dependent on the sole mediation of Christ, her son.
This promise implies that Mary will intercede to ensure that the wearer of the Scapular obtains the grace of final perseverance, that is of dying in a state of grace.
The modern Scapular consists of two pieces of brown rectangular cloth, roughly an inch by an inch and a half,, which are usually decorated with appropriate Marian pictures, and are connected by two narrow brown cords, are worn around the neck and shoulders, hanging down to the front and back.
The Scapular promise has come in for criticism, on somewhat similar grounds to those argued against Walsingham, that is, a lack of early supporting documentation. However it seems that the above account was found in the earliest record of St Simon Stock's life, and it is unreasonable to expect written evidence from the thirteenth century, since the Carmelite order didn't produce much literature until it had grown somewhat larger in the mid-fourteenth century.
It was about this time that the wearing of the Scapular spread to the laity, and gradually over the centuries it has gained in popularity, particularly following promotion of the 'Sabbatine Privilege' by popes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This is an idea which probably grew out of a deepened understanding of the promise originally made to St Simon, and essentially involves the idea that Mary will intervene to help those who have worn the Scapular before death and now find themselves in purgatory, particularly on a Saturday, the day traditionally dedicated to Mary.
In order to be eligible for the Scapular promise, which is really a sign of consecration to Mary and hence to God, it is necessary for the wearer to have observed the virtue of chastity according to their state in life, whether married or single, and to have complied with the spirit of inner devotion which the wearing of the Scapular implies.
This is a devotion which has also been continually encouraged by more recent popes, and so it is not something which has lost its power, even if it may have become unfashionable in some circles. If, as in the case of the Rosary, a whole series of popes, have, by virtue of their unique position of authority, approved the Scapular devotion, then clearly it just cannot be dismissed out of hand, at least not by Catholics who take the teaching and pastoral authority of the Church seriously.
There is also an emphasis on the Scapular in the apparitions at Fatima which means it retains its relevance for today."

Sources: Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints; Carol, Mariology, Vol. 3

** From
Painting by Pierre Puget

Saturday, May 15, 2010

We belong to Mary

"Carmel is Marian. We belong to Mary. But if you notice, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is always depicted as holding the Child Jesus. Carmelites love Mary and honour her as the one who introduces us to Jesus. Strangely Mary is never mentioned in The Rule of St. Albert, the document that initially defines Carmel and its spirituality. In fact, Mary is mentioned relatively rarely in the ancient documents of the Order until the Book of the Institution of the First Monks which was composed in the final quarter of the fourteenth century. Furthermore, Mary is mentioned surprisingly rarely in the writings of St. Teresa or St. John of the Cross. Even St. Thérèse of Lisieux or Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity or St. Edith Stein mention her but rarely. Yet she is always present in the Carmelite tradition and her presence, though somewhat inconspicuous, is fundamental. When Mary is present in the Carmelite writings she is almost invariably eclipsed by her Son. It is a reminder that even though we cannot see the moon when the sun is shinning, the moon is always there, and it draws its light from the sun. In the same way, Carmelites remember that while our sight is focused on Jesus, Mary is still there. Like the moon she sheds not light of her own, but reflects the Light from her Divine Son."

-- Nine themes in carmelite spirituality by Patrick Thomas McMahon, OCarm

** Picture by Cofradía Pescadores

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Carmelite way of life is first and foremost about prayer

"The Carmelite way of life is first and foremost about prayer. Albert’s Way, as the Rule is sometimes called, is eminently a way of prayer. It does not simply ask us to pray, but rather it leads our lives to become prayer. In The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa does not just teach us how to pray, but shows us how to live a life of friendship and intimacy with the Lord that is far more than saying prayers. In the same way, the writings of St. John of the Cross are centred on how to arrive at union with God, not through prayer in the more narrow senses, but through various phases of life – “ascent” and “the experience of the nights”, “climbing the mountain of the Lord.” As the Carmelite matures in the spiritual life, prayer becomes not merely an activity in life, but the essence of who he or she is.

The Rule’s demand of the separate cell, the injunction to stay in one’s cell in solitude, its insistence on silence, the common life and the counsels, the law of work, the ascetical practices and liturgical worship, and the incessant pondering of the law of the Lord: all provide the basic framework for a life that is maturing into prayer. Availing oneself of these basic structures outlined in the Rule one finds that ultimately prayer becomes spontaneous; it continues; it encounters and liberates the deepest impulses of our nature and the hidden glorification of objects. It puts an end of Glory’s exile from the soul. This is because when the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person not longer simply prays but has become prayer, the Spirit never leaves him/her, for the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him/her. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in his heart. Prayer never again deserts him. At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously."

-- Carmelite heritage speaks across cultures by Insun Joanne Lee

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Ascension of the Lord

"After the blessed and glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (wherein was raised up in three days that true Temple of God which had been destroyed by the ímpiety of Jewry), there came by God's providential ordering a season of forty days, the annual commemoration of which endeth on this day.  The original great forty days, dearly beloved, were spent by the Lord in profitable instruction for our benefit.  On this wise, his bodily presence was still given to the earth during all these forty days, that our faith in his resurrection might be armed with all needful proofs.  For the death of Christ had troubled the hearts of many of his disciples; their thoughts were sad when they remembered his agony upon the cross, his giving up of the Ghost, and the burial in the grave of his lifeless body: and so a sort of hesitation had begun to weigh on them.

Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples who had been fearful concerning the death on the cross, and doubtful of the trustworthiness of the report of Christ's resurrection, were so strengthened by the clear demonstration of the truth, that, when they saw the Lord going up into the heights of heaven, they sorrowed not; nay, they were even filled with great joy.  And, in all verity, it was a mighty and unspeakable cause of rejoicing for all the holy multitude of believers, when they perceived that the nature of mankind was thus exalted above all creatures, even the heavenly spirits, so as to pass above the ranks of the Angels, and be raised beyond the heights of the Archangels.  For on this wise they perceived that no limit was set upon the uplifting of that nature short of the right hand of the Eternal Father, where it was to be Sharer of his throne, and Partaker of his glory; and nevertheless it was still nothing more than that nature of man, which the Son hath taken upon him.

Therefore, dearly beloved, let us also rejoice with fitting joy.  For the Ascension of Christ is exaltation for us.  And whither the glory of the Head of the Church is passed in, thither is the hope of the body of the Church called on to follow.  Let us rejoice with exceeding great joy, and give God glad thanks.  This day is not only the possession of paradise made sure unto us, but in Christ our Head we are actually entering into the heavenly mansions above.  Through the unspeakable goodness of Christ we have gained more than ever we lost by the envy of the devil.  For those whom our venomous enemy cast down from the happiness of their first estate, those same hath the Son of God made to be of one body with himself, and hath given them a place at the right hand of the Father: with whom he liveth and reigneth, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.  Amen."

-- From a sermon by Pope Leo the Great

** Painting by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Our Lady of Fatima

In our Diocese we observe the Ascension of Our Lord today but I couldn't resist a little something on Our Lady of Fatima. In honor of Our Lady's request, please remember to pray the Rosary in her honor and in reparation for the offenses committed against her Immaculate Heart.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Confidence in His liberality honours Him

"The good God is powerful enough to grant us all the graces we ask of Him without any need of our offering Him compensations, as, for instance that we should ask for desolations for ourselves in order that others may be consoled. The Master is kind and merciful enough to console all of us. Confidence in His liberality honours Him far more than petty bargaining."

-- From the writings of Mother Isabel of the Sacred Heart, ocd

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Maintain the true traditions of an interior life to produce holiness

"...[W]here tradition of a true interior life is allowed to lapse, we see that the succession of holy souls begins to fail. Outwardly, we all may be well; the discipline, good; the zeal, unabated; but through the loss of the tradition no real progress is made. After twenty and thirty years in religion souls in such Houses may be heard to complain that they are almost where they were at the beginning of their conversion to God. They have unwittingly moved in a vicious circle.

This, we believe, is too often the true explanation why many reforms in more recent times have been without much real fruit. The reform has begun and ended with exterior discipline and observances, and these, however brave a show they may make, have in themselves but little power to effect a true interior reformation of life, without which the exterior appearance of virtue is of little worth. The remedy in all such cases is to take up the thread where it was broken: to go back to the point where outstanding holiness ceased, and to resume the old interior spirit, teaching, and tradition; and doubtless, the fruit of such a course will soon become apparent.

Where the tradition of a real interior life, from which alone holiness proceeds, has been carefully preserved and handed down in a community, a great responsibility rests on the shoulders of each succeeding generation to maintain it intact and to deliver it to those who shall come after them. Thus St Teresa finds fault with those who say, if only I lived at the beginning of the foundation, I should have been all right; I too would have become holy. For though it is true that where the teaching is fresh at the fountain-head the prospect of becoming holy is best; 'yet we should remember,' the Saint goes on to say, 'that we also are the foundations to those who come after us; and if we who are now living had not fallen away from the fervour of our predecessors, and if those who succeed us should not do the like, the building would always continue firm and immovable... The excuse we make in not belonging to the first beginnings is quite ridiculous, for we consider not the difference there is between our life and virtue, and the life of those saints on whom God bestowed such great favours.' That is so; hence the Religious House that maintains the true traditions of an interior life will continue to produce outstanding scholars of holiness."

-- Dom Benedict Weld-Blundell, osb

Monday, May 10, 2010

Carmelite nuns: mothers to souls everywhere

"In the elementary school department at Ladycliff there were a number of little boys as well as girls. Often I would be asked to supervise their evening play hour, and I loved to tell them stories and to answer their questions. Whether it was my natural penchant for storytelling or the maternal instinct that every girl has, I don't know; but I do know that these hours with the children were my greatest recreation. They were also the cause of many a silent struggle deep in my heart.

The delight I found in the children and their warm response to my interest in them sent waves of doubt and indecision over my soul concerning my calling to the solitude of Carmel's cloister. Maybe, I thought, my fondness for children was an indication that I should enter an 'active' order of nuns so that I might teach children daily in the classroom or go to mission lands and give myself to thousands of orphans. But in the silence of the Chapel where I would take my troubled heart peace and certitude would return, and I would dismiss all doubts as I poured out my love to Jesus. Deep within me, apart from all emotions, came the clear, persistent call of my Beloved to leave the world and to mother only the souls of these children - and the souls of all mankind everywhere with my prayers and penance from within the cloister.

How that could be done I did not at that time fully understand, but my years in Carmel's solitude have taught me that one does not have to be visible and physically present to ease the burdens of an anguished world."

-- My Beloved: The Story of a Carmelite Nun by Mother Catherine Thomas, ocd

** Photo is from the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in Ontario

Sunday, May 9, 2010

We are called to live a life of service

" Service is an integral part of our charism. As baptized people, we are called to live a life of service. Based on the value of the Gospel, our Rule mentions that the prior is the one who best serves of the needs of his brothers and so our leaders today serve the needs of the brothers and sisters — but we are all called, in turn, to serve others. Our lifestyle and our spirituality must be translatable into attitudes and actions capable of communicating our Carmelite spirit through an ongoing effort to inculturate our charism and the gospel message. We are open to every kind of service, apostolate or profession. As we bring Christ to people, we encounter Christ present in them by obedience to Christ’s command to “go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe my commands” (Mt 28:19-20). Our Order promotes the continuation of a long missionary tradition which reached its high point when St. Therese of the Child Jesus was made patron saint of the missions. We are confident that missionary work today will reveal in a new way the heart of the Carmelite charism as the Carmelite family goes into new cultures and nations. The Carmelites can cooperate with the Church in this most sacred duty because we participate with all Christians in the Church’s one channel of grace. But we have a unique vocation in the service of the people. The Carmelite, by virtue of our contemplative prayer, can help the Church to listen to the cry of the poor, the oppressed, the outcast, and the marginalized. We are willing to learn to work with others in the service of the Kingdom, to develop a special love for and interest in the Church and her mission. Thus, in whatever work we do, we focus more on the spiritual journey of those around us."

--  The carmelite charism at the service of the church today by Peter Hoang Nguyen, OCarm

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Apparition of St Michael the Archangel

"That the blessed Archangel Michael hath oftentimes been seen of men is attested on the authority of the Holy Bible, and also by the ancient traditions of the Saints.  For this reason such visions are held in remembrance in many places.  As of old time did the Synagogue of the Jews, so now doth the Church of God venerate Michael as her watcher and defender.  But during the Popedom of Gelasius I, the summit of Mount Gargano in Apulia, at whose foot lieth the town of Siponto, was the scene of an extraordinary appearance of this same Archangel Michael.

And it came to pass on this wise.  A certain man had a bull grazing with the flock upon Mount Gargano, and it strayed.  And when they had sought it for a long while they found it jammed in the mouth of a cavern.  Then one that stood there shot an arrow at it to slay it, but the arrow turned round and came back against him that had shot it.  They therefore that saw it, and all those that heard it, were sore afraid because of that which had come to pass, so that no man dared any more to draw near to the cavern.  But when they had sought counsel of the Bishop of Siponto, he answered, that it behoved to seek the interpretation from God, and proclaimed three days of fasting and prayer.

After three days the Archangel Michael gave warning to the Bishop that that place was under his protection, and that he had thus pointed out by a sign that he wished that worship should be offered to God there, with remembrance of himself and of the Angels.  Then the Bishop and the citizens made haste and came to the cavern; and when they found that the form thereof was somewhat after the fashion of a Church  they began to perform the public worship of God  therein: which sanctuary hath been glorified with many miracles.  It was not long after these things that Pope Boniface IV hallowed the Church of St. Michael on Hadrian's Mole at Rome, on the 29th day of September, on the which day the Church also holdeth in remembrance All Angels.  But this present day is hallowed in remembrance of the manifestation of the Archangel Michael."

-- From the Breviary of St Pius X (1911)