Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We are all 'predestined to be made conformable to the image of His Son'

"Since contemplation is a gratuitous gift of God, is one justified in hoping for it?

Sometimes the question is asked whether it is not contrary to humility to hope for the gift of contemplation, and does not this open the door to illusions. Most Carmelite authors allow one to hope for it. Without excluding this hope, St Teresa thought it better to dispose oneself for it by humility and by the total gift of oneself to strive to realize the aim of their Institute, which is contemplation.

Can souls who thus dispose themselves to receive the gift of contemplation, merit this gift from God?

In the strict sense of the term merit, this is not possible, for contemplation is always a gratuitous gift. St Teresa and other Carmelite writers are quite firm on this point. But they are of the opinion that God rewards generous and faithful souls by giving it to them. This seems to lend authority to the opinion that one can merit contemplation in the wider meaning of the term."


As will be evident from the foregoing, Carmelite life is especially directed towards contemplation. The soul seeks to meet God in solitude and silence. There it strives to detach itself from created things, to purify its faculties from everything that hinders its union with God, and to occupy itself with Him alone. The Carmelite concentrates all his thoughts on God. He seeks Him and contemplates Him in the light of faith, which alone enables him to attain God. He is drawn to God with all the ardor of his soul filled with love. Prayer is his principal occupation. The Carmelite devotes his whole day to this. Even while he works he strives to retain a spirit of prayer. In this recollection he glorifies God; gives himself to Him; and is full of zeal for His glory. He is not unconcerned for the welfare of other souls, but knows that he will save more souls, the more he is united with God.

Thus the Carmelite strives for this union in all his thoughts and actions. He knows that God invites him to do this. On the other hand, he is conscious of the fact that God gives Himself to souls only when they have left all for him. This is why, with his eyes fixed on Christ whom he strives to reproduce in himself, with his heart tending towards Him, he produces a void in himself to make room for God and gives himself to God in the hope of finally achieving union with Him in the measure that God deigns to communicate Himself here below.

Carmelite life is open to other souls

It has been our special purpose here to give an exposition of Carmelite ideals. But these teachings are not so completely the property of Carmel that they cannot be suitable to other souls as well. Indeed, grace makes us all 'partakers of the divine nature'; we are all 'predestined to be made conformable to the image of His Son'; we have all within us the Holy Spirit, who prays for us 'with unspeakable groanings.' All of us, if we have true charity, may hope that the Holy Trinity 'will make Their abode with us,' and that we will be united to Them.

However, we shall not attain to this union unless we carry out the necessary retrenchments, purifying our faculties, and tending towards God by the practice of the theological virtues and meditative prayer.

The Carmelite doctrine can be proposed as suited to every soul which seeks to unite itself with God. St John of the Cross is the Doctor of Mystical Theology for the universal Church. St Teresa has the title of 'mater spiritualium,' the mother of all things spiritual, 'whose heavenly teaching ought to nourish every soul.'"

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

** This is the last entry from this spiritual gem by Fr Jamart. For those of you who enjoyed the entries, you may use the Lijit search box and type "Jamart" to find all the posts from this book.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

"Dearly beloved, in the joy of each and every holy feast the whole world may have a share.  For there is but one love of God, and whatsoever is solemnly called to memory, if it hath been done for the salvation of all, must needs be worth the honour of a joyful memorial at the hands of all.  Nevertheless, this feast which we are keeping today, besides that world-wide worship which it doth of right get throughout all the earth, deserveth from this our City of Rome an outburst of gladness altogether special and our own.  For in this place it was that the two chiefest of the Apostles did so right gloriously finish their race.  And upon this day whereon they lifted up that their last testimony, let it be that the memory thereof receiveth in this place the chiefest of all its jubilant  celebrations.  O Rome! these twain are the men who brought the light of the Gospel of Christ to shine upon thee!  These are they by whom thou, from being the teacher of lies, wast turned into a learner of the truth.

These twain are thy fathers; they truly are thy shepherds!  These twain are they who laid foundations for thee (that thou mightest upbuild the kingdom of heaven) better and happier than did the Romulus (from whom thou art named), when he first planned thine earthly ramparts; which same he polluted with his brother's blood.  These twain are they who have set on thine head this day thy glorious crown, so that thou art become an holy nation, a chosen people, a city both priestly and kingly, whom the sacred throne of blessed Peter hath exalted till thou art become the Lady of the world, unto whom the world-wide love for God hath conceded a broader lordship than is the possession of any mere earthly empire.  Thou wast once waxen great by victories until thy power was spread haughtily over land and sea, but thy power was narrower then, which the toils of war had won for thee, than that thou now hast which hath been laid at thy feet by the peace of Christ.

It was convenient for the doing of the work which God had decreed, that the whole multitude of kingdoms should be bound together under one rule, and that so the universal preaching of the Gospel should find easier entry unto all people, since all were governed by the empire of one city.  But this City, knowing not him who had been pleased to make her great, used her lordship over almost all nations to make herself the minister of all their falsehoods; and seemed to herself exceedingly godly because there was no false god whom she rejected.  But the tighter that Satan had bound her, the more wondrous was the work of Christ in setting her free."

--  From a Sermon by St Leo the Great

Monday, June 28, 2010

Memorial of St Irenaeus

"Irenaeus was born in proconsular Asia, not far from the city of Smyrna.  There he had already as a boy entrusted himself to the teaching of Polycarp, disciple of John the Evangelist, and bishop of Smyrna.  Under such an excellent master, he made remarkable progress in learning and in the precepts of the Christian religion.  When Polycarp was taken up to heaven by a glorious martyrdom, although Irenaeus was eminently versed in sacred letters, nevertheless, he burned with an incredible zeal to learn what articles of belief the others who were instructed by the Apostles had received, to be preserved in the deposit of faith.  For this reason he brought together as many of those men as he could, and whatever things he heard from them, he carefully retained in his mind.  Thus he could advantageously bring them to bear in the future against those heresies, which he saw were being diffused more widely day by day to the great detriment of the Christian people, and he diligently planned thoroughly to confute them.  Then, having set out for Gaul, he was appointed as a priest of the church of Lyons by Pothinus the bishop.  And this office he discharged in such a manner, labouring both by word and by teaching, that (according to the testimony of the holy Martyrs who, when Marcus Aurélius was emperor, were engaged in a vigorous combat for the true religion) he distinguished himself as an imitator of the testament of Christ.

These very Martyrs, together with the clergy of Lyons, began to be anxious concerning the peace of the churches of Asia, which the faction of the Montanists had disturbed.  And so they selected Irenaeus, whose person they considered of the greatest importance, as the one before all others whom they should send to Rome to Pope Eleutherius to ask, that, with the condemnation of the new dissidents by the authority of the Apostolic See, the cause of the dissensions might be removed.  Already the bishop Pothinus had died a martyr and Irenaeus succeeded him.  He applied himself so well to the duties of a bishop, that in a short time he saw not only all the citizens of Lyons, but also many of the inhabitants of other cities in Gaul cast aside their superstitions and errors, and enroll themselves in the Christian army.  Meanwhile, a dispute had arisen concerning the date of the celebration of Easter.  As the bishops of Asia were disagreeing with nearly all their fellow-bishops, the Roman Pontiff Victor had cut them off from the communion of the faithful.  Irenaeus, however, who was zealous for peace, admonished him in a becoming manner, and urged, by examples of the practice of previous Pontiffs, that he should not suffer so many Churches to be cut off from Catholic unity, on account of a rite which they said they had received from their ancestors.

He wrote many works, which are mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea and by St. Jerome, a great part of which have perished through the ravages of time.  There are extant five books of his against heresies, written down about the year 180, while Eleutherius was still ruling the Christian commonwealth.  In the third book, the man of God, instructed by those who, it is certain, had been hearers of the Apostles, gives to the Roman Church and to the succession of her bishops a testimony surpassing all others in weight and brilliancy, when he calleth her the faithful, perpetual, and most assured guardian of divine tradition.  For he said, that with this Church it is necessary that the whole Church (that is, those in all places who are of the faithful) should agree, because of its more powerful preeminence.  At length with almost countless others, whom he had himself brought over to the true faith and its practice, being crowned with martyrdom he passed to heaven in the year of salvation 202.  At that time Septimius Severus Augustus had commanded that all those who wished to remain constantly steadfast in the practice of the Christian religion should be condemned to the most cruel torments and to death.  The supreme Pontiff Benedict XV extended the feast of St. Irenaeus to the universal Church."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X

Sunday, June 27, 2010

May I always follow the straight road of pure good-will

"O Lord, may I come to you by the straight road of truth and simplicity!  Grant me a right intention, that single-minded regard of the soul that desires only to please you and is not concerned about how others interpret its actions.

    In my dealings with my neighbor, may I always follow the straight road of pure good-will, loving you in your creatures without seeking any natural satisfaction.  Let my relationships be inspired by sincerity, sisterly charity and holy freedom.      
    In the vicissitudes and unexpected events of life, make me know how to walk straight toward wherever you call me without any lingering or disctractions.  Teach me to follow the way of the love that does not know procrastination, and of the simplicity which knows no deviation, and of the trugh that knows no subterfuge.

    This is the way that pleases you, O Jesus, for you wanted to be called “the straightest way,” the way that leads to the Father, for you said; “No one comes to the Father but by me.”  It is the way by which the Holy Spirit guides us, for he “leads the just along the straight road.” Therefore, O God, I beg you with all fervor and desire: “create a pure heart within me and renew your Spirit within me.”"

-- From the writings of Sr Carmela of the Holy Spirit, ocd

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Memorial of St Josemaría Escrivá

"I am not at all stretching the truth when I tell you that Jesus is still looking for a resting-place in our heart. We have to ask him to forgive our personal blindness and ingratitude. We must ask him to give us the grace never to close the door of our soul on him again.

Our Lord does not disguise the fact that his wholehearted obedience to God's will calls for renunciation and self-sacrifice. Love does not claim rights, it seeks to serve. Jesus has led the way. How did he obey? "Unto death, death on a cross." You have to get out of yourself; you have to complicate your life, losing it for love of God and souls. "So you wanted to live a quiet life. But God wanted otherwise. Two wills exist: your will should be corrected to become identified with God's will: you must not bend God's will to suit yours."

It has made me very happy to see so many souls spend their lives — like you, Lord, "even unto death" — fulfilling what God was asking of them. They have dedicated all their yearnings and their professional work to the service of the Church, for the good of all men.

Let us learn to obey, let us learn to serve. There is no better leadership than wanting to give yourself freely, to be useful to others. When we feel pride swell up within us, making us think we are supermen, the time has come to say "no". Our only triumph will be the triumph of humility. In this way we will identify ourselves with Christ on the cross — not unwillingly or restlessly or sullenly, but joyfully. For the joy which comes from forgetting ourselves is the best proof of love."

-- Christ is passing by: homilies by Josemaría Escrivá by St Josemaría Escrivá

To learn more about St Josemaría Escrivá, please visit this site.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Make me Yours always

“I keep myself closely united to Our Lord within the home of my soul.  Whenever I go out on the street or to the theater or to take a walk, I tell Our Lord: “My Jesus, although perhaps no one here is thinking about You, but here is a heart that belongs completely to you.  I adore You, I love You.  Make me Yours always.”  In this way I keep myself recollected and removed from worldly things and every time we must go out, we must promise to remain united to Our Lord in the cells of our souls.”

-- From a letter from St Teresa of the Andes to Mother Angelica Teresa, prioress of the Monastery of the Holy Ghost in Los Andes, Chile

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Nativity of St John Baptist

"In addition to the most holy Nativity of the Lord, we find celebrated in the Gospel the birth of only one other, namely, that of blessed John Baptist.  As for all others among God's holy and chosen ones, we know that for their feast is observed the day whereon, with their work finished, and the world conquered and finally trampled down, they were born from this into a better life, even into everlasting blessedness.  Thus in others is honoured the day on which their merits were completed, that is, the last day of their dying life.  But in John is honoured the first day, for in him the very beginning is found hallowed.  And the reason that the Nativity of John is so much made of in Scripture is, without doubt, that the Lord wished John to be an attestation to his own first coming; for if Christ had come too suddenly and unexpectedly, men might not have recognized him.  And on this wise John was a figure of the Old Testament, and shewed in his own person a typical embodiment of the Law; for he heralded beforehand the coming of the Saviour, even as the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to the grace of Christ.

But as touching this, that he prophesied while yet in the hidden depths of his mother's womb, and while himself lightless bore testimony to the truth, we are to understand it as a figure how that while himself wrapped round with the veil and carnal ordinances of the letter, he by the spirit preached unto the world a Redeemer, and testified that Jesus is our Lord even while for himself, working under the law, the birth of the new dispensation was still in the womb of the future, and not come to day.  The Jews were estranged from the womb, that is from the Law, that womb heavy with the Christ that was to be; they went astray from the belly, speaking lies, and therefore John came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

But as for this, that when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, this is the Law sending to the Gospel.  For John here was a figure of the Law, imprisoned in ignorance, lying in the dark, and in a hidden place, and he was fettered through Jewish misunderstanding within the bonds of the letter.  But of him was it said, as is written in the Blessed Evangelist, He was a burning and a shining light, that is to say, that, when the whole world was wrapt in the night of ignorance, this Saint was kindled by the fire of the Holy Ghost, to shew before men the light of salvation, and at the hour of the thickest darkness of sin, appeared like a bright morning star to herald the rising of that sun so right gloriously radiant, the Son of righteousness, Christ our Lord.  And this is why John said of himself: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness."

-- From a Sermon by St Augustine 

** Painting by Fra Bartolomeo

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I carry the souls of all those who are to be saved in My Heart

"Whoever starts on a long and difficult course must gather his garments closely round him so as not to be retarded. In this way I united Myself closely with human nature and liability to pain, reducing the length of eternity to the shortness of man's life here below. I darted forward as a giant, in all his strength, having this difficult and painful course to run, wherein I should accomplish the redemption of mankind. Again, he who carries something precious and of great value girds himself carefully, for fear he should lose it, so I am carrying the precious treasure, man's soul, and have girded Myself with care, and I carry the souls of all those who are to be saved, with love and untold desires, in My Heart."

-- Words of Jesus to St Mechtilde

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ven Clare Mary of the Passion

"Born at Orsogna (Chieti) on April 11, 1610, of Philip Colonna, duke of Paliano, and of Lucretia Tomacelli, Clare Mary was baptized with the name of Joan Victoria. On Jan. 7, 1623, she was entrusted to the Augustinian nuns of the monastery of St. Joseph of the Ruffi, in Naples. Three years later, on Oct. 21, 1626, she was overcome by the grace of a complete conversion, marked by a first vision of Christ and strengthened the following year by a vow of virginity. In a vision God had shown her a monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns and gave her to understand that He wanted her among the daughters of St. Teresa. However, her confessor urged her to join the Augustinian nuns of the Ruffi; she followed his advice, promising to make her profession in their community.

Her family brought her back to Genazzano in 1627 and later to Rome, where she withstood her father and Louis William, prince of Paterno, who wished to marry her. By chance she learned of the monastery of St. Giles in Trastevere /Rome/, in which she recognized the small Teresian house shown to her in her vision. With the authorization of Pope Urban VIII, she took the Carmelite habit there on Oct. 4, 1628. On Oct. 4 of the following year she made her profession, taking the name of Clare Mary of the Passion. In 1643 she was elected prioress, an office in which she was afterwards confirmed. In 1654 she was sent to found the new Monastery of the Queen of Heaven, erected by her sister, Anne Colonna-Barberini; and after three years as vicaress, in 1657 she was elected prioress and reconfirmed three times. She governed the monastery with wisdom and prudence, maintaining a rare equilibrium full of faith and charity. She died on June 22, 1675; her remains lie in the church of the small monastery which the Carmelite nuns ejected at the foot of the Janiculum after the suppression of 1873 and the transformation of the old house into a penal institution. In 1676 the processes of beatification were begun, and crowned with the declaration of the heroic virtues of the venerable on Aug. 22, 1762.

The outstanding characteristic of Clare Mary is a deep spiritual life, enriched by mystical graces and extraordinary charisms which make her one of the exceptional souls of her time. She was in contact with great masters of the spirit, and had the good fortune for twenty years (1647-1667) of being under the direction of Father John of St. Jerome, a Discalced Carmelite (1579-1667), who followed her in an admirable manner and ordered her to record briefly what she was experiencing in her ascent to God. Everything was then gathered together and immediately transcribed by her wise director, who in this way put together a voluminous Report on the graces that God gave to Mother Clare Mary of the Passion, a Discalced Carmelite nun, during mental prayer and in the interior commerce that she had with His Divine Majesty, and of the virtues that she practiced in the same commerce. (Ms. in the general archive of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers in Rome). This is an unpublished document of very valuable mystical doctrine, in which the evolution and progress of the venerable can be followed almost day by day for twenty years.

Clare Mary appears as the recipient of God's action from the very first instant of her conversion. Faithful 1to the inspirations and to the activity of grace, she abandoned herself generously to the divine will, immersing herself in a climate of prayer which very soon showed the characteristics of infused contemplation. On her part, there appeared the will to detach herself from everything, the ever more compelling exercise of 'heroic virtues and, above all, an ever more profound Jiving of the theological virtues. On the part of God there was a passive purification by means of very painful «nights», after which, on Dec. 17, 1649, she was elevated -to spiritual marriage and to the divine transformation of love, with mystical graces that find a comparison only in the greatest saints. Repeatedly, and sometimes for long periods, she was admitted to the vision and contemplation of the greatest mysteries of God. She experienced the presence of the Trinity in her heart and often intellectually the presence of Jesus and Mary.

The influence of Christ and of His holy humanity on the interior and mystical life of Clare Mary was extraordinary. This life — because of its Christocentric, mystical ardor, because of its spirit of union with Jesus that tended to the imitation and assimilation of His life and His mysteries, because of the continual mortification and prayer sustained by an intense sacramental life and by unconditional attachment to the Church — remains one of the most interesting witnesses of authentic Catholic mysticism. This all occurred precisely at the time when in Rome, even among persons close to Clare Mary, the quietistic tendencies that were to find publicity with Michael Molinos, whose Spiritual Guide was published at Rome in 1675, were maturing.

Clare Mary had a noteworthy influence on the Church life of her time. She had blood relationship with noble families and so was sought out for counsel even by popes and cardinals; hence, guided by a constant supernatural spirit, she was able to use her influence to suggest useful reforms and for the good of souls. Urban VIII, Innocent X, Alexander VII, Clement IX, and Clement X held her dear. Bl. Innocent XI, while he was still a cardinal, was particularly fond Of her; and she repeatedly foretold his election to the papacy, even in writing.

She was especially devoted to St. Joseph, whose protection she was to experience in a miraculous way; and she labored untiringly to promote his liturgical cult. When she did not succeed in having his feast of March 19 raised to a double of the first class for the universal Church, as she would have wished, she worked so that the feast would have at least the rank of second class; and this was granted to her by Clement X on Dec. 6, 1670. She also used her influence to have John Cardinal Bona compose the proper hymns in the best manner possible. To her is also due the composition, on the part of Urban VIII, of the proper hymns and lessons for the office of St. Teresa (1629), of which she later obtained the extension to the whole Church with a rite of semi-double by concession of Pope Innocent X (1645).

Noteworthy too was her influence over Christina of Sweden, who wished to spend periods of retreat and solitude in the cloister of the monastery of the Queen of Heaven, experiencing the Carmelite life and communing with the venerable in conversations of prayer and mysticism upon «graces of contemplation and of union» (as the processes say) and in discussions on the doctrine of St. Teresa and of St. John of the Cross."

-- Biography by Valentine Macca, ocd

Monday, June 21, 2010

Memorial of St Aloysius Gonzaga

"Aloysius, eldest son of Ferdinand Gonzaga, Marquis of Castiglióne delle Stiviere, was hurriedly baptized on account of danger that he seemed to be born to heaven almost before he was born to earth, and he so faithfully kept that his first grace that he seemed to have been confirmed therein.  From his first use of reason, which he employed to offer himself to God, he led a life more holy day by day.  At Florence, when he was nine years old, he made a vow of perpetual virginity before the Altar of the Blessed Virgin, upon whom he always looked as in the place of a mother to him, and by a remarkable mercy from God, he kept this vow wholly and without the slightest impure temptation, either of mind or body, during his whole life.  As for any uprisings of the soul, he began at that age to check them so sternly, that he was never more pricked by even their earliest movements.  His senses, and especially his eye-sight, he so mortified, that he never once looked upon the face of Mary of Austria, whom, when he was for several years one of the Pages of honour of the King of Spain, he saluted almost every day; and he even denied himself  in part, the pleasure of looking on the face of his own mother.  He might indeed have been justly called a fleshless man, or an infleshed angel.

To this fettering of the senses he added torture of the body.  He kept three days as fasts in every week and that mostly upon a little bread and water.  But indeed he as it were fasted every day, for he hardly ever took so much as an ounce weight of food at breakfast.  Often also, even thrice in one day, he would lash himself to flowing of blood with cords, or prick himself with spiked chains.  He sometimes used a dog-whip, instead of a scourge, and the rowels of spurs instead of hair-cloth.  He privately filled his soft bed with pieces of broken plates, that he might find it easier to wake to pray.  He passed great part of the night, clad only in a shirt even in the depth of winter, kneeling on the ground, or lying flat on his face when too weak and weary to remain upright, busied with heavenly thoughts.  Sometimes he would keep himself thus for three, four, or five hours, until he had spent at least one without any movement of body or any wandering of mind.  Such perseverance obtained for him the reward of being able to keep his understanding quite concentrated in prayer without distraction, as though rapt in God in an unbroken ecstasy.  Desiring to give himself up to him alone, he overcame, after a strong opposition for three years, the objections of his father, procured the transfer to his brother of his right to the Marquisate, and joined at Rome the Society of Jesus, to which he had been called by a voice from heaven when he was at Madrid.

In his very novitiate he began to be held a master of all godliness.  His obedience to even the most trifling rules was absolutely exact, his indifference to the world extraordinary, and his hatred of self implacable.  His love of God was so keen that it gradually undermined his bodily strength.  Being commanded to give his mind some rest from thinking unceasingly of God, he struggled vainly to distract himself from him who met him everywhere.  From tender love toward his neighbour, he joyfully ministered to the sick in the public hospitals, and in the exercise of this charity he caught a deadly disease.  This sickness slowly wore him away, and soon after he had entered on the 24th year of his age, upon the 21st day of June, a day which he had himself foretold, after entreated that might be scourged, and laid upon the ground to die, he passed away to heaven.  What the glory is which he there enjoyeth holy Mary Magdalene of Pazzi was enabled, by the revelation of God, to behold, and she declared that it was such as she had hardly believed existed even in heaven, and that his holiness and love were so great that she should call him an unknown martyr of charity.  On earth God glorified him by many great miracles.  These being duly proved, Benedict  XIII inserted the name of this angelic youth in the Kalendar of the Saints, and commended him to all young scholars both as a pattern of innocency and purity, and as a patron."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In Him was revealed the fountain of all the gifts of grace

"Then, once more, by the Incarnation God placed Himself in like manner within the range of our hearts. There is nothing in the whole history of the world more fearful than the corruption of the heart of man under false conceptions of God. Heathenism is man without God, and for that reason corrupted. There is not a passion or a vice of human nature which was not deified by the pagan world. The very adorations which they paid to the monstrous gods of their own conception were, like their idols, horrible and not to be described. Therefore God, for the purification and sanctification of the human heart, placed Himself within the sphere of our affections: He has made it easy to know Him, and therefore easy to love Him. He revealed Himself of old to Prophets, to Patriarchs, and to His own people.

The personal nature of God was known and understood by the line of the faithful at all times, and especially by the family of Israel, to whom God gave a large and abundant revelation of Himself in His divine personality by His incomprehensible Name, ' I am who am.' The power, the love, the mercy of God—all these great moral attributes were revealed to them. But that He might make them more intimate with the heart of God, He took for Himself a nature like our own; He came as a man into the midst of men; He came to gaze upon men with a human countenance, to speak to men with a human voice, to love men with a human heart, that men might see, united in His Person, the Creator and the creature, the Infinite and the finite, the Divine and the human, that is, in the hypostatic union of manhood with God. In Him was revealed the fountain of all the gifts of grace: the fountain of life which in eternity was in the bosom of God, on the eternal Hills. The River of life came down through the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and from Him has spread to all nations. 'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; and we saw His glory, the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' He revealed thereby the divine characteristics of love, pity, compassion, mercy, tenderness, long-suffering, and generosity. The Word made flesh bore upon Him the whole impress and delineation of God. The eternal character of God shone through the transparent perfections of His human character. It was the human interpretation of the divine nature. And what was the character so revealed? In one word, it was ' God is charity.' The essence of God is charity, and the essence of God is Himself. God is charity; and that Charity was incarnate, and that Charity came and was passible among men. He came to weep over the sins of men, to weep at the grave of the dead, to weep over the sins of Jerusalem, to suffer, to hunger, to thirst, to be in agony, and to be crucified. What, then, is our conception of the Divine Nature through the Incarnation? Love, sorrowing, suffering, and dying for us. It is not possible for the eternal perfections of the love of God to be more intelligible than God has made them by the Incarnation of His Son. ' No man hath seen God,' indeed, 'at any time; but the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father,' and Who was made man for us, to suffer and to sorrow and to die, 'hath declared Him.'"

-- The Glories of the Sacred Heart by Henry Cardinal Edward

Saturday, June 19, 2010

We must ask with faith

"“Ask, and it shall be given you.” (Matthew 7:7).

When we repeat the words of Christ, “Ask, and it shall be given you,” do we really dwell deeply on their meaning? They were said by Jesus Christ himself, who is truth itself. Christ never did or said anything in vain. So, these words of Christ mean exactly what they say: if we ask God for something, we will receive it. In order to get the significance of the words, let us consider the case in which we ask our fellow man for something. Suppose he tells us that we will receive it. He is speaking as an ordinary human being and we know it. We know in our heart that he may or may not be able to give us what we ask. He has the wish to do so, but he has not the absolute power. The power to give comes from God.

On the other hand, when we ask something of God, we know that he can give it to us. Jesus Christ is God and he has absolute dominion over all things. Moreover, he wants us to ask and he wants to give: “Ask, and it shall be given you.” But, we must ask with faith, believing that we will receive, if it is God’s holy will."

-- Christ our Model by Matthew Aherne, OCarm

Friday, June 18, 2010

Use care to avoid venial sins

"The soul that would please God, must keep herself free not only from mortal sin, but also must use all her care to avoid venial sins, making the same resistance to one of these lesser sins, for the alone love of God to whom they are displeasing, as she would to avoid a mortal sin for the fear of hell torments. This purity is of every great importance for arriving at the love of God; for as that wife would show but little regard to her husband, who would do nothing for him, but when he commanded with a dagger at her breast, so also that soul loves God but very little, that will only be careful to keep herself from commission of sins that are mortal. From this purity, proceeds a certain perseverance in abstaining from grievous sins, for as the wise man saith, He that despiseth small things, falls by little and little into great. And also with this holy candor, the spiritual sweetness and unction which is compared to precious balsam, is preferred and entertained in our souls. For even supposing that venial sins are but small flies, yet so it is, that the wise assures us, That dead flies cause even a precious ointment to cast forth a stinking savour. Eccl. x. 1.

The soul therefore that desires to be endured with this purity and candor, has care to do two things.

First, to be watchful against those particular venial sins into which she is most accustomed to fall; that she reckon them up, and set them often before her eyes.

Secondly, that she force herself with all her power to resist such venial sin, and not to fall into it, with as much watchfulness as she has used to avoid any heinous mortal sin. And after all this, if she should see herself fall often into the same faults, let her not be dejected, nor loose courage, for we read in the holy scripture, that the just man falleth seven times a day and riseth again, Prov. xxiv. 10. Let her therefore hope, that the progress which by these means she shall make in virtue, will not be small."

-- A Burning Lamp by Fr Jerome Gracián, ocd

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How powerful before Thee is one sigh

"Alas, my God, if we only knew how great is our wretchedness! If we do not know it, there is danger in everything: therefore it is good for us to be made to do things which show us how abject we are. And I consider one day of humbling knowledge of ourselves which has cost much sorrow and pain to be greater boon from our Lord than many days of prayer: how much more when the true lover loves wherever he is, and always keeps his beloved in mind! It would be a poor thing if prayer could be carried on only in corners. I myself find that I cannot now spend many hours in it. But, O my Lord, how powerful before Thee is one sigh, sent forth from a spirit which is troubled because not only are we in exile, but have not even opportunities of being alone, that we might enjoy communion with Thee!"

-- Foundations by St Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"“Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17).

When we reflect on our own prayers and the manner in which we say them, we will find ourselves beating our breasts and saying: O Lord, be merciful to me for my appalling ingratitude. How often has it happened that we have had some trouble that really worried us – illness, for instance. It may have been an illness that posed a real threat to our lives. We thought that it was something really bad. We prayed – prayed with humility and faith – and our illness disappeared. Yes, it was just gone. And we took it for granted, as if it were our due. The fact is that something very extraordinary happened to us as a result of our prayer. This has been the experience of all of us. No wonder the power of prayer is voiced so strongly. As regards our thanksgiving to God for granting our petitions in prayer, a good resolution would be to spend as much time in thanking God as we spent petitioning him for what we needed.

Such a suggestion may come as a surprise to us. Yet, God’s answer to our prayer is greater than all our thanksgiving. But, you say, I had been praying for years for this intention. Do I now have to keep thanking God for years? My answer to you is: no thanksgiving could be long enough in return for a favour from God. As for the length of your thanksgiving, don’t worry. Just make the sincere intention of putting this act of thanksgiving into all your prayers for the rest of your life. Do not neglect, however, to make specific acts of thanksgiving immediately after receiving a favour from the Lord."

-- Christ our Model by Matthew Aherne, OCarm

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Glorify God the Father

"To glorify God the Father, in making Him known, loved and served, such was the object of all the affections of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the motive power of all Its actions, the end of all Its sufferings. Not only at His entrance into the world, but in the accomplishment of each mystery, in each step of His career, our divine Lord repeated constantly: 'Behold me, O my Father, behold me: what wouldst Thou that I should do to glorify Thee? I have engraven this law in the depths of my heart, it shall always be my rule.' He was not troubled about Himself, nor His concerns, nor His own personal glory. 'I seek not my own glory. My glory is nothing.' John, viii. 50-54. Oh! what admirable zeal and what purity of love! In truth, the Heart of Jesus seeks for Itself only contempt, humiliations and shame. He imposes silence on those who praise Him, hides Himself from those who seek to make Him king, whilst He hastens to meet the executioners who, on the day of His passion, bring Him chains and a cross. It was by accepting humiliations, a thorny crown, and an infamous gibbet that He honoured His Father, and that the bleeding royalty of Calvary, which He so ardently desired, will establish the glory of God throughout the world. Then will He exclaim on the last day: 'I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.' Opus consummavi.

Consider, Christians, that it is impossible to love God and not to feel an interest in His glory. Thousands of apostles, missionaries and heroic women, have made the sacrifice of their country, their families, their possessions, their lives even, in order that God should be known, loved and served in childhood, youth and all ages of life. It was because these noble souls knew how to love, because each day they said, with hearts filled with a holy jealousy for the honour and glory of God: 'Our Father, who art in heaven, may Thy name be hallowed, exalted and praised. May Thy kingdom come in all hearts and command all affections. May Thy will be everywhere venerated and loved over the whole earth, as it is in heaven.' Let us examine ourselves and see if these are also our sentiments; if we have not too often preferred our repose and our interests to the greater glory of God; if in our hearts we feel for the evils which oppress the Church and religion, so as to be able to say with the Psalmist: 'The reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me.' Psal. lxviii. 10.


Grant, O Lord! that Thy glory may be the end of all our thoughts, words, and works, and that we may take as our motto these sublime words: 'All for the greater glory of God.' O Jesus, kindle in us this divine zeal, that it may consume us as victims and holocausts entirely sacrificed to the fire of Thy love. Amen."

-- Month of the Sacred Heart by Abbé Berlioux

Monday, June 14, 2010

Memorial of Bl Maria Candida of the Eucharist

"Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist was born on 16 January 1884 in Catanzano. Her parents, Pietro Barba and Giovanna Florona, returned to Palermo, Sicily, where she received First Holy Communion 3rd April 1894. In 1919 she entered the Discalced Carmelite Monastery, Ragusa, making solemn profession 23rd April 1924. She was Prioress and Mistress of Novices many times, radiating a sense of Carmelite holiness both within and outside of the community, influencing others with her love for the Eucharist, as well as by her numerous writings. She died on 12th June 1949, the solemnity of the Holy Trinity, and was beatified 21st March 2004."

-- From the Discalced Carmelite Proper

"To contemplate with deep faith our Beloved in the Sacrament, to live with Him Who comes to us every day, to remain with Him in the depths of our hearts, this is our life! The more intense this intimate life is, the more we will be Carmelites and make progress in perfection. This contact, this union with Jesus is everything: what fruits of virtue will come from it! You must have this experience. To live with Jesus and to live by His virtues, is to listen to His beautiful voice, to His most loving wish and immediately obey it, to please quickly Him. Our eyes close, longing to find Him again, to contemplate Him in the depths of our hearts: is this not the reason why He gives us Holy Communion in the morning? Is it not the attraction for Him that remains in the Blessed Sacrament, where He lives? I do not know how to separate the ciborium in the sacred Tabernacle from the ciborium in our hearts! Oh how many times, even though we are in the choir, before His sacred Presence, at times exposed, we experience the great need to go deeply into ourselves, and there rediscover and remain with our Jesus!

What mystery of love is this intimacy with our Beloved! I reflect on this, sometimes with emotion, and give praise to Him Who is Love! And with tears I contemplate this intimacy. Everything here on this earth is nothing for us, withdrawn as we are, far from Him Who loved us so much; our eyes no longer see anything: and even though we close them again to lose ourselves from the same sacred environment, we close them anxious to find Him again, to see Jesus! The most delightful Mystery of Love! He allows Himself to be found by the heart that searches for Him, by the soul that knows how to do without many things for love of Him.

To be close to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, like the Saints in Heaven, who contemplate the supreme Good, is what we must do, according to our Holy Mother Teresa. Seven times a day, we come together around the throne (of our Good God), the sacred Tabernacle, reciting the divine praises: oh how much faith merits such lofty activity, what dying to self! May adoration and love accompany and beautify everything!"

-- From the writings of Bl Mother Candida of the Eucharist, ocd

** Though Mother Candida (Kahn-dee-DAH) passed away on 12 June, her feast is observed on the 14th. I think this is because on the 12th, Bl Alphonsus Maria of the Holy Ghost (Mazurek, ocd) and Bl Hilarion (OCarm) are observed. Today is also the memorial of St Elisha. Why two carmelites in two days, not once but twice? Je ne sais pas.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our wounds will be our glory

"The first stage in the consoling of wounded hearts by the Heart of Christ is the restoring of faith. 'Bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless but believe.' A wound is not a reason for loss of faith in man and God. The wound of Christ is a proof of His divinity. Christ has not promised that our hearts will not be wounded, but He has proved that our wounds will be our glory; He has proved that if we go down into the dark hollows on the sea of sorrow, we shall mount again to the heights of joy. The trough of the wave of Calvary rose to the white crest of Easter.

The Heart of Christ is the healing of wounded hearts, because He has traveled all the ways of loss and separation. We can enter upon no path of sorrow where His Cross has not cast its shadow, where His feet have not left footprints of blood. He entered, too, into the valley of death. His body was made, it could be said, for immediate immortality, unlike ours, which must pass through dust to immortality. So, besides the deaths which, throughout His life, wounded His Heart - the death of St Joseph and of Lazarus and of many others - His own death, the separation of His soul from His body, gave Him the sharpest of wounds, and it was especially hard for His Heart to die, because death was not its due.


'So, you also who have a heart wounded by a humiliation, bring it here, and put it into my side,' Christ says to us all. 'I, who am true King and God of all, have been humbled to the dust. The hand behind the spearpoint was one to which I was reaching out my hand, that I might grasp it in love and lift a soul to Heaven. Many would have festering heart wounds if the one to whim they gave a cup of water would cast it in derision into their face. I gave of the brimming contents of my Heart, and mocking insulters have flung my unavailing blood back upon me.

'More than that, wounded heart, the very blow which festers within you fell upon my Heart. This is no exaggeration, no figure of speech. I died for all sins and for the selfsame sin that wounded your heart, and because I know God better and understand sin more fully, and because, too, I love you better than you do yourself, the wound that was dealt you was dealt to me and gave me more intense pain than it did or could possibly give to you. Bring here, then, your heart, whether wounded by loss or humiliation, and put it into my side, and you will find there a Heart more deeply wounded.'"

-- How to love as Jesus loves: unlocking the treasures of Christ's Sacred Heart by Francis P Donnelly, SJ

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Memorial of Bl Alphonsus Maria Mazurek

"Joseph Mazurek was born March 1, 1891, in Baranowka, Poland. He attended the Minor Seminary of the Discalced Carmelites and in 1908, received the Carmelite habit and the name Alphonsus Mary of the Holy Spirit. He was ordained a priest in July, 1916. Because of his ability as an organizer and educator, Father Alphonsus was made prefect and professor at the minor seminary he had attended as a youth. He continued at the seminary until 1930 when he was elected prior (superior) of the Carmelite monastery at Czerna. It was at this monastery that he would work and live until his death. The new prior threw himself into his new responsibilities. Although the monastery was far from town, Father Alphonsus rekindled the apostolic work of the group. He also organized Carmelite devotions. The prior impressed all with his zeal and dedication to his priestly and religious vocation. The Nazis had begun occupying the area in 1939, but this did not stop the Carmelites from living their religious lives to the full. In spite of the threat of retaliation, the Carmelites continued to accept novices into their community and helped the refugees as best they could. In August of 1944, one of the Carmelite novices was shot. Shortly afterwards, the Nazis forced the friars to another village to dig war trenches. Father Alphonsus Mary was separated from his community and forced into a car where he was assaulted. When the car finally stopped Father Alphonsus was pushed out and told to start walking. Soldiers fired at him and the priest fell. When the murderers realized he was not dead, they filled his mouth with dirt, put his body in a horse drawn carriage and drove to a nearby cemetery. Providentially, the carriage passed the other friars on their way to dig the trenches. One of his brother priests was able to give Father Alphonsus absolution before he died. Throughout his torture and death, the priest had a rosary clutched in his hands. The Carmelites buried their prior and despite the curfew, many people attended the funeral. Father Alphonsus was murdered on August 28, 1944, at the age of fifty-three. In a letter to Carmelites throughout the world, the Superior General of the Carmelite order calls Father Alphonsus’s martyrdom the “crowning of a life of fidelity”. Father Alphonsus himself, in his writings states: “All our sanctity and perfection consists in conforming ourselves to the will of God, which is the sole and supreme rule of perfection and of holiness.” For his fellow Carmelites and the people of the surrounding area, Father Alphonsus was immediately revered as a martyr. In September, 1945, the Carmelites at Czerna built a monument over the spot where Father Alphonsus was shot. On the monument it says, in part, “...We do not pray for you; because the enemy has snapped the thread of an innocent’s life; since, when the earth bled, the Lord looked for the victim who had overcome hatred by love.” Father Alphonus Mary was one of the one hundred eight Polish martyrs beatified in 1999."

-- Biography from the Discalced Carmelite Generalate

Friday, June 11, 2010

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

"Among the wonderful developments of sacred teaching and piety, by which the plans of the divine Wisdom are daily made clear to the Church, hardly any is more manifest than the triumphant progress made by the devotion of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Very often indeed, during the course of past ages, Fathers, Doctors, and Saints have celebrated our Redeemer's love: and they have said, that the wound opened in the side of Christ was the hidden fountain of all graces.  Moreover, from the Middle Ages onward, when the faithful began to shew a more tender piety towards the most sacred Humanity of the Saviour, contemplative souls became accustomed to penetrate through that wound almost to the very Heart itself, wounded for the love of men.  And from that time, this form of contemplation became so familiar to all persons of saintly life, that there was no country or religious order in which, during this period, witnesses to it were not to be found.  Finally, during recent centuries, and most especially at that period when heretics, in the name of a false piety, strove to discourage Christians from receiving the most Holy Eucharist, the veneration of the most Sacred Heart began to be openly practised, principally through the exertions of St. John Eudes, who is by no means unworthily called the founder of the liturgical worship of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

But in order to establish fully and entirely the worship of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to spread the same throughout the whole world, God himself chose as his instrument a most humble virgin from the order of the Visitation, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who even in her earliest years already had a burning love for the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and to whom Christ the Lord had very many times appeared, and was pleased to make known the riches and the desires of his divine Heart.  The most famous of these apparitions was that in which Jesus revealed himself to her in prayer before the blessed Sacrament, shewed her his most Sacred Heart, and, complaining that in return for his unbounded love, he met with nothing but outrages and ingratitude from mankind, he ordered her to concern herself with the establishment of a new feast, on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi, on which his Heart should be venerated with due honour, and that the insults offered him by sinners in the Sacrament of love should be expiated by worthy satisfaction.  But there is no one who knoweth not how many and how great were the obstacles which the handmaid of God experienced, in carrying out the commands of Christ; but, endowed with strength by the Lord himself, and actively aided by her pious spiritual directors, who exerted themselves with an almost unbelievable zeal, up to the time of her death she never ceased faithfully to carry out the duty entrusted to her by heaven.

At length, in the year 1765, the Supreme Pontiff Clement XIII approved the Mass and Office in honour of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus; and Pius IX extended the feast to the universal Church.  From then on the worship of the most Sacred Heart, like an overflowing river, washing away all obstacles, hath poured itself forth over all the earth, and, at the dawn of the new century, Leo XIII, having proclaimed a jubilee, decided to dedicate the whole human race to the most Sacred Heart.  This consecration was actually carried out with solemn rites in all the churches of the Catholic world, and brought about a great increase of this devotion, leading not only nations but even private families to it, who in countless numbers dedicated themselves to the Divine Heart, and submitted themselves to its royal sway.  Lastly, the Sovereign Pontiff Pius XI, in order that, by its solemnity, the feast might answer more fully to the greatly widespread devotion of the Christian people, raised the feast of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus to the rite of a double of the first class, with an octave; and moreover, that the violated rights of Christ, the supreme King and most loving Lord, might be repaired, and that the sins of the nations might be bewailed, he ordered that annually, on that same feast-day, there should be recited an expiatory form of prayer in all the churches of the Christian world."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Heart of Christ heals the contrite of heart

"Consider the perfection of the contrition found in the Heart of Christ. He could not be touched with sin, but 'He was reputed with sinners, and upon Him was laid the iniquity of us all.' And for all of us He made reparation and He sorrowed, including in His sorrow every quality found in our far weaker contrition.

Contrition should be interior, in the heart. 'Rend your hearts, not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God.' The rending of the Heart of Christ is witnessed to by a thousand messengers who have hurried out by every way they could to tell us in a language that cannot lie - the language of blood - that the sorrow of sin is crushing His Heart. The rending of His Heart is eloquent in the words in which He voices His contrition: 'Not my will, but Thine be done.' From the will - that is, from the heart - came that act of contrition.

Contrition must be supernatural. God must enter into the sorrow for sin. The Heart of Christ expressly excluded all thought of self, all motives that led away from God. Even the passing of the chalice that God's justice held to His lips was not to be effected by His will. God's will might remove it; Christ's will would not. So then, the draining of the chalice must be accomplished with the purest unselfishness: 'Not my will, but Thine be done.'

Contrition should be sovereign. Never did a heart have to make more fearful reckoning between the worth of God and the price of sin than the Heart of Christ made, and never was the infinite value of God's law asserted more emphatically. On one hand was the whole Passion to come, with all its tortures of body and soul; on the other hand was God's justice. Christ accepted the sorrow, the suffering, the disgrace and death. He laid His Heart upon the altar of God's justice and was Himself the priest who completed the sovereign holocaust: 'Not my will, but Thine be done.'

Contrition must be universal. Was there a single sin exempted from God's will? Was there a single wish of God's will that was not embraced by the Heart of Christ? Was there a single pang of pain, a single twinge of sorrow, a single drop of His blood excluded from the generous offer of Christ? There can be only one answer to these questions. The 'my' of Christ included all that the 'Thy' of the will He addressed included: 'Not my will, but Thine be done.'

It is, then, that great act of contrition which sweetens the chalices of our penitence; it is the signature of Christ's blood which gives value to what would be worthless paper in our soul's sorrow; it is the Heart of Christ which heals the contrite of heart."

-- How to love as Jesus loves: unlocking the treasures of Christ's Sacred Heart by Francis P Donnelly, SJ

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Love is the way to peace and harmony

"What does God desire of us today? What struggles must we endure to ensure the victory of God in our fragmented and highly secular reality, one that is gradually forgetting its God? It is not policies, or politics, or programmes or even economics that will change the world we live in. What can silently touch hearts and bring it peace but God’s love shining through our human weakness! It is the power of holiness. This little saint enables us to perceive a little way to holiness that is accessible. It is obvious that Thérèse still speaks to our world. Just look around you. Unlike a pilgrimage to a holy place, she has come to visit us. What mysterious rose might be handed to us today? Thérèse was aware of her weaknesses. St. Paul reminds us “when I am weak then I am strong.” Our saints are those who surrender to God’s merciful love. Love is the way to peace and harmony – there is no other way."

-- From a homily by Fr John Keating, OCarm, on the occasion of the visit of the relics of St. Thérèse to Aylesford Priory, England

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Serve God in Justice, strength and humility

"It is certain that the love of God does not consist in experiencing sweetness or tenderness of heart but in truly serving God in Justice, strength and humility."

-- St Teresa of Avila

Monday, June 7, 2010

Memorial of Bl Anne of St Bartholomew

"Anne of St Bartholomew was born in the district of Almendral in the diocese of Avila. Both her parents died when she was ten years old and her brothers put her to the humble work of tending their sheep. During his time she was frequently strengthened in spirit by the visible presence of Jesus Christ who appeared to her in the form of a child. Refusing offers of marriage and overcoming other obstacles, she entered the monastery of Discalced Carmelites founded in Avila. She was noted for her humility, her prompt obedience and her severe penances. The Foundress, Mother Teresa, chose her as her companion in her labors even though Anne was not educated. When the Seraphic Mother had been called from this earthly exile, Anne founded four flourishing monasteries, first in France, then in Belgium. She gave a singular example of unconquerable constancy and fortitude. The fame of her sanctity and her reputation for counsel and prudence spread everywhere. She was favored with rare gifts including those of prophecy and of infused knowledge. She rested in peace after a holy death in Antwerp in the year 1626. Benedict XV enrolled her among the list of holy virgins."

-- For the 1966 Discalced Carmelite Proper


"According to Saint Bernard, it is the person who keeps silent and says nothing when things go wrong who is really humble. It is very virtuous, he says, to keep silent when people are talking about our true faults, but more perfect when we are slighted or accused without having committed any fault or sin. And though it is virtuous indeed to bear this in silence, it is more perfect still to want to be despised and thought mad and good-for nothing, and to go on, as our Lord Jesus Christ did, wholeheartedly loving those who despise us.

If Jesus kept silent, it was not because he hated anyone. He was simply saying to his eternal Father what he said on the cross: Lord, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. What infinite love burned in that sacred heart of yours, Lord Jesus! Without uttering a single word you spoke to us; without a word you worked the mysteries you came to accomplish—teaching virtue to the ignorant and blind. What our Lord did was no small thing. Where should we get patience and humility and poverty and the other virtues, and how could we carry each other’s burdens and cross, if Christ had not taught us all this first, and given himself as a living model of all perfection?

Blessed silence! In it you cry out and preach to the whole world by your example. Volumes could be written about your silence, Lord! There is more wisdom to be learned from it by those who love you than from books or study.

Our Lord became a spring of Living water for us, so that we should not die of thirst among all the miseries that surround us. How truly he said in the Gospel that he came to serve and not to be served! What tremendous goodness! Can we fail to be shamed by your words and deeds, and the patience you show with us every day? How truly, again Lord, did you say: Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart. Where can we obtain this patience and humbleness of heart? Is there any way to achieve it except by taking it from Christ as he taught it to us with those other virtues we need—faith, hope and charity? Without faith we cannot follow that royal road of the divine mysteries. It is faith that opens our eyes and makes us see the truth; and where faith is wanting there is no light, and no way leading to goodness."

-- Meditations on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Blessed Anne of Saint Bartholomew

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Which way should the Priest face?

"Much could be said too regarding the direction the altar faces. Msgr.Schuler of happy memory, the former pastor of St. Agnes, told me of saying Mass facing the people way back in the early 1950's in a downstairs Church in St. Paul. He thought at the time, “This will never last.” There was no law forbidding the altars from being turned around before Vatican II, and no law requiring them to be turned around after! As Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) quipped in the early 1990's, the fact that the Church never ordered the altars to be turned around is perhaps the reason it happened so quickly!   

When the altars were turned around many other things changed as well. On the upside was more personal connection with the priest, and seeing the words spoken as well as hearing them at Mass. One of the downsides was that the priest tended to become the center of Mass instead of Christ. It opened up to a lot of clowning around and dumbing down of the sacred liturgy. It broadly facilitated what became a refocusing of the Mass from being Theocentric (God Centered) to being Anthropocentric (Man Centered). Church design tended to become theater shaped and often the choir was placed up front. This in no way invalidates the Mass, but takes away many of the transcendent qualities. 

Now with forty years or more of experience many people are craving something more. Those who attend modern casual churches in the suburbs, which all tend to be anthropocentric, look forward to visits to the Basilica. They crave the beauty and dignity of that grand church. But I think they also crave order, with a sanctuary set apart and the focus on the altar. Rectangular 
  churches, much like the Meeting Tent of Moses, the Jewish Temple, and Christian churches, allow everyone to choose how close to come, to be in front or back, on the side or the aisle, to be seen or unseen, all of which is impossible in a church in the round, and in many modern churches.   

Which way should the altar face? The traditional direction is called “Ad orientem.” “Oriens” meaning “the rising sun” -- thus “the East” or “the dawn” – and with the preposition “ad” meaning “to” or “towards.” AD ORIENTEM means facing east. Churches were literally built so that the priest AND congregation both faced EAST during public worship. The reason was that the sun rose each day in the east. The Son of God rose from the dead on Easter morning, when the sun rose in the East. Hence, Christians were keen to respect that by facing east when they worshiped their Lord and Savior. Churches were built from Ancient to Mediaeval times facing east. The priest was not seen as ‘turning his back’ on the congregation, rather, BOTH priest and congregation were facing east TOGETHER. Does the bus driver or airplane pilot have his/her back toward the passengers OR rather is he/she facing the same direction of the destination everyone hopes to arrive at? 

So “ad orientem” is not the priest being bad mannered with his back to the people, but it is the whole people of God looking with awe and joy at the resurrected Lord Jesus and in expectation and hope looking for his coming in glory.   

Therefore, saying Mass facing “ad orientem” is completely lawful as things stand today in the Catholic Church." 

-- Which way should the Priest face? by Fr Thomas Dufner

** Fr Thomas Dufner is pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in St Louis Park, Minnesota. He's a very holy man active in the pro-life movement. For years he has been leading a Rosary praying group on Saturdays next to an abortion clinic - regardless of weather conditions!

I am alone on the altar for your love

"One day I was alone in my room.  Because of my illness they spoiled me so that I could not remain alone.  That day Lucita was sick and Elisea-a servant who took care of my dear grandfather, went to be with her. I then became envious and troubled and began to cry.  My tearful eyes began to fix themselves on a picture of the Sacred Heart and I heard a very sweet voice telling me: 'What!  I, Juanita, am alone on the altar for your love, and you cannot even suffer for a moment?'   From that time, the dear Jesus spoke to me, and I spent entire hours conversing with Him.  That is the reason I enjoyed being alone. He went on teaching me how I should suffer and not complain, and about intimate union with Him. Then He told me that He wanted me for Himself, that He would like me to become a Carmelite.  Ah!   Mother, you cannot imagine what Jesus was doing in my soul.  At that time I did not live in myself, it was Jesus who was living in me"

-- From the Diary of St Teresa of the Andes, ocd

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Memorial of St Boniface

"Winfrid, afterwards called Boniface, was an Englishman, and born in England, towards the end of the seventh century.  From his very childhood, he turned away from the world, and set his heart upon becoming a monk.  His father tried in vain to turn him from his wishes by the beguilements of the world, and he entered a monastery, where the Blessed Wolphard instructed him in all godliness and divers kinds of learning.  At the age of twenty-nine years he was ordained Priest, and became an unwearied preacher of the Word of God, wherein he had a gift which he used with great gain of souls.  Nevertheless, his great desire was to spread the kingdom of Christ, and he continually bewailed the vast number of savages who were plunged in the darkness of ignorance and were the servants of the devil.  This zealous love of souls increased in him in intensity day by day, till nothing would serve him, but, having implored the blessing of God by tears and prayers, and obtained authority from the head of his monastery, to set forth for the coast of Germany.

He set sail from England with two companions and reached the town of Dorestadt in Friesland.  A great war being the raging between Radbod, King of the Frieslanders and Charles Martel, Winfrid preached the Gospel in vain.  He went back to England, and betook himself again to his monastery, whereof he was, against his own will, chosen to be the head.  After two years he obtained the consent of the Bishop of Winchester to resign his office, and went to Rome, to seek an Apostolic commission to preach to the heathen.  When he arrived at the city he was courteously welcomed by Gregory II, who changed his name from Winfrid to Boniface.  He departed thence to Germany, and preached Christ to the tribes in Thuringia and Saxony.  Radbod, King of Friesland, who bitterly hated the Christian name, being dead, Boniface went a second time among the Frieslanders, and there, with his comrade St. Willibrord, preached the Gospel for three years with so much fruit, that the idols were hewn down, and countless churches arose to the true God.

St. Willibrord urged upon him to take the office of Bishop, but he deferred to seek it, that he might the more instantly toil for the salvation of the unbelievers.  Advancing into Germany, he reclaimed thousands of the Hessians from devil-worship.  Pope Gregory sent for him to Rome, and after hearing a noble profession of his faith, consecrated him a Bishop.  He again returned to Germany, and thoroughly purged Hesse and Thuringia from all remains of idolatry.  On account of such great works, Gregory III advanced Boniface to the dignity of an Archbishop, and on the occasion of a third journey to Rome, he was invested by the Sovereign Pontiff with the powers of Legate of the Apostolic See.  As such, he founded four Bishopricks, and held divers Synods, among which is especially to be remembered that of Lessines, held in Belgium, in the diocese of Cambrai, wherein he made his strongest endeavours to spread the Faith among the Belgians.  By Pope Zacharias, he was named Archbishop of Mainz, and by command of the same Pope, he anointed Pepin to be King of the Franks.  After the death of St. Willibrord, he undertook the government of the Church of Utrecht, at first through Eoban; but he afterwards was released from the care of the Church of Mainz and established his see at Utrecht.  The Frieslanders having again fallen back into idolatry, he once more betook himself to preach the Gospel among them, and while he was busied in this duty, he grasped the crown of martyrdom, being murdered by some ungodly savages, along with his fellow-Bishop Eoban, and many others, in a bloody massacre near the River Born.  In accordance with the wish expressed by himself during life the body of St. Boniface was carried to Mainz, and buried in the monastery of Fulda, of which he had been the founder, and where God hath gloriously honoured it by the working of many signs and wonders.  Pope Pius IX ordered the Office and Mass in his memory to be used throughout the whole Church."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X

Friday, June 4, 2010

What is devotion?

" The greatest trouble those persons suffer from who give themselves to Prayer is the failing in Devotion which they so often experience in it.  When there is no such failing, there is nothing sweeter, or more easy that to pray.  For this reason, now that we have treated upon the subject-matter of Prayer, and upon the manner of  praying, it will be well to consider the things which help Devotion, and also those which hinder it, and the temptations which most often assail devout people in it;  and certain other points that are necessary to observe in this exercise.  But first it will greatly help the matter to set forth what Devotion is, that we may know to begin with, what is the precious thing for which we are contending.

Devotion, says St. Thomas Aquinas, is a power which makes one prompt and ready for any virtue, and stirs and helps one to do well. (Summa II, II, Q. 82, Art. 1.)  This definition declares manifestly the great necessity and usefulness of this power, for it contains in itself more than some would think.  We have on this account to consider that the chief hindrance to living a good life is the corruption of human nature which came to us through sin, and from which comes the great inclination we have towards evil, and the difficulty and unwillingness we have in respect to what is good.  These two things make the path of virtue most difficult to us, while in itself it is the thing most sweet, most beautiful, most to be desired, most honorable in the world.  It is against this difficulty and unwillingness the Divine Wisdom has provided this most complete remedy in the power and succor of Devotion.  For as the north wind disperses the clouds, and leaves the sky clear and serene, so true Devotion drives away from our mind all that unwillingness and difficulty, and leaves it then free and disposed for all that is good.  This virtue so become as power within us as being at one a very special gift of the Holy Spirit, a heavenly dew, a succor and visitation of God attained through Prayer.  Its very nature is to contend against the difficulty of which we have spoken, and to overcome this luke-warmness, to give us readiness and fill the soul with good desires, to enlighten the understanding, to strengthen the Will, to kindle in us the Love of God, to extinguish the flame of evil desires, to teach hatred of worldly things, and abhorrence of sin, and to give us new fervor, new spirit, new power, and incentive to well doing.

For as Samson, wile possessed of his hair, had greater strength than any man in the world, and when this was taken away from him, became as weak as other men; so is the Christian soul strong when he has this Devotion, and weak when he has it not.

And this is what St. Thomas desired to show in his definition, and, without doubt, this is the greatest praise one could give to this virtue, that, being of itself only one virtue, it is a stimulus and incentive to all others.  Let not him then that would travel by the path of virtues, go without these spurs;  for without them he will never be able to arouse the evil beast of his nature form is sluggishness.

From what has been said it will be clearly seen, then, what is true and real Devotion.  For Devotion is not a certain tenderness of heart, or sense of consolation which those who pray feel sometimes, unless there be also a promptitude and disposition for good works, for, when at times God would prove who are His own, it often happens that the one is found and not the other.  The truth is that form this Devotion and readiness there often arises the consolation spoken of:  and, on the other hand, that very consolation and spiritual delight will increase the Devotion itself, which is the readiness and incentive to well-doing.  And, therefore, God's servants may, with good reason, desire and ask for these joys and consolations, not for the pleasure they give, but because they are the means of increasing the Devotion which fits them for well-doing, as the Prophet showed when he said, "I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou has set my heart at liberty," (Ps. 119:32) that is, with the joy of Thy consolation which was the cause of my readiness.

And now let us proceed to treat of those means by which this Devotion is to be attained, and, since with this virtue are united all others leading to the special knowledge of God, we will consider the means of attaining to the perfection of Prayer and Contemplation, to the consolations of the Holy Spirit and the love and wisdom of God, and to that union of our souls with God, which is the goal of all spiritual life.

And this, lastly, is to consider the means by which we may attain to the possession of God Himself in this life, which is that Treasure of the Gospel, the "Pearl of great price" for the possession of which the husbandman joyfully despoiled himself of all that he had.

Hence it is we see that the highest aim of our theology is, that from it we may learn the way to the Supreme Good, and may make this life to become a ladder by which we may advance step by step to the eternal happiness awaiting us."

-- Treatise on prayer and meditation by St Peter of Alcantara

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Feast of Corpus Christi

"Among the immeasurable benefits, which the goodness of God hath bestowed on the Christian people, is a dignity beyond all price.  For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is unto us?  The only-begotten Son of God was pleased to make us partakers of his divine nature; that is, he took our nature upon him, being himself made man that he might, as it were, make men into gods.  And this body, which he took from us, he gave wholly unto our salvation.  For, on the Altar of the Cross, he offered up his body to God the Father, as a sacrifice for our reconciliation, and thereon he shed his own blood for our redemption; that is, his blood is the price whereby he redeemeth us from wretchedness and bondage, and the washing whereby he cleanseth us from all sin.  And for a noble and abiding Memórial of this his so great work of goodness, he hath left unto his faithful ones the same his very Body for Meat, and the same his very Blood for Drink, with which we are fed under the forms of Bread and Wine.

O how precious a thing then, how marvellous, how health-giving, yielding royal dainties, is the Supper of the Lord.  Than this Supper can anything be more precious?  Therein there is put before us for meat, not as of old time, the flesh of bulls and of goats, but Christ himself, our very God.  Than this Sacrament can anything be more marvellous?  Therein it is that Bread and Wine become unto us the very Body and and Blood of Christ; that is to say, perfect God and perfect Man, Christ himself, is there under the veils of a little bread and wine.  His faithful ones eat him, but he is not mangled; nay, when the veil which shroudeth him in the Sacrament is broken, in each broken fragment thereof remaineth the whole Christ himself, perfect God and perfect Man.  All that the senses can reach in this Sacrament, all these abide of bread and wine, but the Thing is not bread and wine.  And thus room is left for faith.  For Christ, who hath a Form that can be seen, is herein taken and received not only unseen, but seeming to be bread and wine, and the senses, which judge by the wonted look, are warranted against error.

Than this Sacrament can anything be more health-giving?  Thereby are sins purged away, strength is renewed, and the soul fed upon the fatness of spiritual gifts.  This Supper is offered up in the Church, both for the quick and the dead; it was ordained to the health of all, all get the good of it.  Than this Sacrament can anything yield more of royal dainties?  The glorious sweetness thereof is of a truth such that no man can fully tell it.  Therein ghostly comfort is sucked from its very well-head.  Therein a Memorial is made of that exceeding great love which Christ shewed in time of his sufferings.  It was in order that the boundless goodness of that his great love might be driven home into the hearts of his faithful ones, that when he had celebrated the Passover with his disciples, and the Last Supper was ended, then, knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end, and instituted this Sacrament.  For this Sacrament is the everlasting forth-shewing of his death until he come again; this Sacrament is the embodied fulfilment of all the ancient types and figures; this Sacrament is is the greatest wonder which ever he wrought, and the one mighty joy of them that now have sorrow, till he shall come again; and thereby their heart shall rejoice, and their joy no man take from them."
-- From a Sermon by St Thomas Aquinas

** Most dioceses have transferred this feast to this Sunday, while the Vatican and those following the 1962 liturgical calendar observe it today.