Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Surrender is always a work of love

"Surrender is always a work of love. We may be brought in to a kind of service, an unwilling service, as so many are in the world, but this is not surrender. Surrender is something  that I  myself decide upon. When an army surrenders to the enemy it is because they have decided this is the best thing to do. Our surrender is never to an enemy unless we would choose it to be so. But it is to God. It is something that we decide upon. One can never force surrender. And so sometimes in war, forces that see they are outnumbered will not surrender. They would rather die than surrender. We would rather die than not surrender. It is a free choice, a free gift, and it must be complete. Now in the secular sense there are usually terms of surrender, so that armed forces will say through their generals, “We will surrender to you if and if and if.” Lifting this to the spiritual plane we see that sometimes our surrender is like this. “Yes, I will surrender my will, I will surrender my heart, I will surrender my spirit, if and if and if.” This is not what our holy Mother [Clare] is talking about. “Love him in complete surrender.” Complete. And when love’s surrender is complete it is immensely rewarding, it is the fountain of happiness within us. When there is anything grudging or anything that demands terms in spiritual surrender it is already doomed. In time we will chafe at a surrender which has never been true because it is not complete."


-- Peace in complete surrender by Mother Mary Francis, PCC

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pray for priests every day

"Without the sacraments, the Church would not exist or the Christian community survive. Sacraments are the lungs of the Church. They 'breathe' on us the breath of God! They are signs to us of his constant care and goodness. They bring us, as priests, into communion with others, in joy and sorrow. It is a privilege to be so close to people, to be trusted and loved for who we are, and what we do. Sacramental life is the main ministry of every priest and is a most rewarding one. It engages us every day of our lives. I love to celebrate Eucharist, which every priest must do every day. It is always a delight to receive people for the sacrament of reconciliation and help them appreciate God's mercy and love.

No one but the priest can say, with Christ's approval: 'I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' We say this with the authority that comes from Christ himself: 'Your sins are forgiven… go in peace' (Lk 7:48.50). What a blessing this is for God's people! No one can forgive sins, but God alone. Every priest is called to minister forgiveness to others, in Christ's name. We also feed God's people at the Eucharist. These changes happen, in the elements we take and to the people to whom we minister as priests. The priest helps to build Christ's Church, offering a service to the people of God that no one else can give. This is most humbling and very rewarding, when we ponder our role in the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ.

At baptisms, we are with couples and their newborn children. We welcome children into the Christian community, which is a great privilege and joy. The sacrament of confirmation, usually a ministry reserved to the Bishop, which I confer at St Anne's in his name, is a wonderful experience. To be with children as they receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit gives great hope. On First Holy Communion day, we see children receiving the great gift of the Eucharist for the first time. St Thérèse of Lisieux referred to her own First Communion as 'that first kiss of Jesus'. Holy Communion builds community, as it is meant to do. Being with children and parents is a real privilege for every priest. Weddings bring us very close to couples as they prepare to celebrate their marriage. Being with God's people, in this way, is truly a life-giving experience for every priest.

-o-

Priesthood, like all walks of life, has its ups and downs. When I neglect prayer and my spiritual exercises, as it were - when I am busy with doing - things can take a dive. I need prayer in all I am and do as priest. I cannot do the work of the Lord without having close contact with the Lord of the work. At times of low energy, I experience the goodness and kindness of brother priests, who are now Christ to me and welcome me when I need their care. I experience the Prodigal Father's welcome home for his wayward child, and am renewed. Receiving God's mercy 'seventy times seven' makes me aware of the need for my own ministry, and encourages me. I know at first hand my need of God's mercy! I know the wonder of it for myself and others. I know He is reaching out, reconciling and forgiving me. I can then go to others and minister to them, with this personal experience of God's mercy urging me on.

To sustain us, we always need the prayer of the Christian community. I particularly cherish the prayer support of our Carmelite nuns who, in the tradition of St Teresa of Avila, pray for priests every day, as a central aspect of their life and ministry. I am also aware that my wonderful mother and many faithful friends pray for me each day. This is a lifeline and a gift beyond price. 'How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise; I will call on the Lord's name' (Ps 115:12-13). This I try to do every day.

-o-

I would love to see many young men respond to Christ's call to follow him in priesthood and religious life. Yes, even in today's world. Yes, especially in today's world! When our Church is under siege and faith under attack, the priest must stand for what he is and what he believes. The priest welcomes every person in love - to love and to be love. 'God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them' (1Jn 4:16). This is what St Thérèse wished for: to be 'love in the heart of the Church'.

As a priest, I must strive to love in my ministry - for that is why I am sent. I cannot be Christ to others if I do not love! Just as love is central in every marriage, so, too, it must be what being a priest is all about! All priests - like people who live marriage - surrender their lives to God. Every good priest would, I believe, make a good husband and father, just as most fathers would make good priests. The essential thing is to respond to the call we have received from God, which determines how and where we serve Christ and his people."

-- Called to serve as priests: bringing Christ to others and others to Christ by Fr Willie Moran, ocd

** Picture of discalced friar Fr Willie Moran, who currently serves at St Anne's Church in Glasgow

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We serve others best when we do most for their souls

"WHEN did Christ redeem the world? When He died on Good Friday. How did Christ redeem the world? By His Passion and Death on Calvary. Why do we make the Sign of the Cross? To remind ourselves we have been redeemed by the Cross.

Of course we know that Christ, the First Apostle, was sent by the Father to save mankind by every word and action He performed during His visible stay on earth. But it was especially by His sufferings that we were delivered from sin and mainly by His Cross that we were saved.

We need to recall these truths in our day, when activism is being honored far beyond what it deserves. Some people feel “useless” because they are no longer as “active” in the service of others as they formerly were or as they would like to be.

They may suffer in a variety of ways: with some draining disease or crippling disability; with a natural, but no less painful, weakening of their bodily powers as they advance in years; with the awful sense of being no longer needed after decades of active service in the priesthood, religious life, single state or in rearing a family. Or the Lord may touch them early and they are disabled or confined or gravely handicapped in the prime of life.

No matter. The number of such persons in our society is large, and larger than most people would ever suppose. What they need to be told is that they can actually do more for others now than they ever could before.

Why should this be so? Because we serve others best when we do most for their souls. And we do most for their souls when we obtain graces from God for their numerous spiritual needs. If this means prayer, and it does, there is no more effective prayer than one that is joined with sacrifice, which in practice means prayer that is animated by the cheerful acceptance of the Cross.

The apostolate of suffering is not some exotic enterprise for only mystics or what we sometimes call “victim souls.” It is open to everyone who has faith, and love, and zeal for souls. Faith assures us that suffering must be noble, seeing that God became man in order to suffer and thereby save the world. Love enables us to make of every pain a willing sacrifice, seeing that it costs us so much. And zeal for souls urges us to actually rejoice as we are privileged to suffer something for the myriad souls redeemed by the blood of Christ.

He did His part to reconcile this sinful world with the Father. But the mercy that He merited by His Cross will remain sterile unless sinners cooperate with the graces He won for mankind. We must unite our cross with the Savior’s to help sinners respond to God’s mercy.

With St. Paul we can say to others what he told the Christians of his day: “It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that is still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church.” (Colossians 1:24). Christ is still redeeming the world, with our cooperation."

-- The Apostolate of Suffering by Fr John A Hardon, SJ

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Memorial St Augustine


"It becomes you, therefore, out of love to this true life, to account yourself desolate in this world, however great the prosperity of your lot may be. For as that is the true life, in comparison with which the present life, which is much loved, is not worthy to be called life, however happy and prolonged it be, so is it also the true consolation promised by the Lord in the words of Isaiah, I will give him the true consolation, peace upon peace, without which consolation men find themselves, in the midst of every mere earthly solace, rather desolate than comforted. For as for riches and high rank, and all other things in which men who are strangers to true felicity imagine that happiness exists, what comfort do they bring, seeing that it is better to be independent of such things than to enjoy abundance of them, because, when possessed, they occasion, through our fear of losing them, more vexation than was caused by the strength of desire with which their possession was coveted? Men are not made good by possessing these so-called good things, but, if men have become good otherwise, they make these things to be really good by using them well. Therefore true comfort is to be found not in them, but rather in those things in which true life is found. For a man can be made blessed only by the same power by which he is made good.

It is true, indeed, that good men are seen to be the sources of no small comfort to others in this world. For if we be harassed by poverty, or saddened by bereavement, or disquieted by bodily pain, or pining in exile, or vexed by any kind of calamity, let good men visit us, men who can not only rejoice with them that rejoice, but also weep with them that weep, and who know how to give profitable counsel, and win us to express our feelings in conversation: the effect is, that rough things become smooth, heavy burdens are lightened, and difficulties vanquished most wonderfully. But this is done in and through them by Him who has made them good by His Spirit. On the other hand, although riches may abound, and no bereavement befall us, and health of body be enjoyed, and we live in our own country in peace and safety, if, at the same time, we have as our neighbours wicked men, among whom there is not one who can be trusted, not one from whom we do not apprehend and experience treachery, deceit, outbursts of anger, dissensions, and snares, in such a case are not all these other things made bitter and vexatious, so that nothing sweet or pleasant is left in them? Whatever, therefore, be our circumstances in this world, there is nothing truly enjoyable without a friend. But how rarely is one found in this life about whose spirit and behaviour as a true friend there may be perfect confidence! For no one is known to another so intimately as he is known to himself, and yet no one is so well known even to himself that he can be sure as to his own conduct on the morrow; wherefore, although many are known by their fruits, and some gladden their neighhours by their good lives, while others grieve their neighbours by their evil lives, yet the minds of men are so unknown and so unstable, that there is the highest wisdom in the exhortation of the apostle:Judge nothing before the time until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God.

In the darkness, then, of this world, in which we are pilgrims absent from the Lord as long as we walk by faith and not by sight, the Christian soul ought to feel itself desolate, and continue in prayer, and learn to fix the eye of faith on the word of the divine sacred Scriptures, as on a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts. For the ineffable source from which this lamp borrows its light is the Light which shines in darkness, but the darkness comprehends it not— the Light, in order to seeing which our hearts must be purified by faith; for blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; and we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Then after death shall come the true life, and after desolation the true consolation, that life shall deliver our souls from death that consolation shall deliver our eyes from tears, and, as follows in the psalm, our feet shall be delivered from falling; for there shall be no temptation there. Moreover, if there be no temptation, there will be no prayer; for there we shall not be waiting for promised blessings, but contemplating the blessings actually bestowed; wherefore he adds, Iwill walk before the Lord in the land of the living, where we shall then be— not in the wilderness of the dead, where we now are: For you are dead, says the apostle, and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory. For that is the true life on which the rich are exhorted to lay hold by being rich in good works; and in it is the true consolation, for want of which, meanwhile, a widow is desolate indeed, even though she has sons and grandchildren, and conducts her household piously, entreating all dear to her to put their hope in God: and in the midst of all this, she says in her prayer, My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; and this dying life is nothing else than such a land, however numerous our mortal comforts, however pleasant our companions in the pilgrimage, and however great the abundance of our possessions. You know how uncertain all these things are; and even if they were not uncertain, what would they be in comparison with the felicity which is promised in the life to come!"

-- From a letter of St Augustine to Proba

Friday, August 27, 2010

Memorial of St Monica


"Monica was twice over the mother of St. Augustine, for, under God, he owed to her both earth and heaven.  When her husband was very old she made him a friend of Jesus Christ, and after his death she lived a widow in all purity and constantly occupied in works of mercy.  Her son Augustine had fallen into the heresy of the Manichaeans, and for his conversion she earnestly pleaded with God for years, with strong crying and tears.  She followed Augustine to Milan, and tenderly and constantly besought him to confer with Ambrose the Bishop.  This he consented to do, and at last, through the public sermons and private conversations of Ambrose, his eyes were opened to see the truth of the Catholic Religion, and he received baptism at the Bishop's hands.

The mother and son set out to return to their home in Africa, but after they had reached Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber, she was stricken down with a fever.  One day as she lay sick, she came to herself after her mind had been long wandering, and said: Where am I?  Then she saw who were standing by, and said: Let you mother lie here: only, remember me at the altar of the Lord.  On the ninth day this blessed lady surrendered her spirit to God.  Her body was buried there at Ostia in the Church of St. Aurea, but, long after, in the Popedom of Martin V, it was carried to Rome and honourably buried again in the Church of St. Augustine.

Augustine added these words after describing his mother's death : We did not think that hers was a death which it was seemly to mark with repining, or tears, or lamentations, seeing that she died not sorrowfully, nor at all as touching her best and noblest part.  This we knew, because we knew what her life had been, her faith unfeigned, her sure and certain hope.  And then, nevertheless, I remembered again what thine handmaid was used to be, her walk with thee, how godly and holy it was, and with us so gentle and long-suffering ; and that it was all gone away from me now.  And I wept, over her and for her.  And if any man will make it blame to me that I wept for a little while, when I saw lying dead before mine eyes my mother, who had wept over me so many years, that she might see me live, I say, if any man will make it blame to me, I pray him not to sneer at me, but rather (if his charity be so great) himself to weep over my sins before thee, who art a Father to all them to whom thy Christ is a Brother."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X

** Our brethren following the Traditional Liturgical Calendar observed St Monica's memorial on 4 May.
Painting Death of St Monica by Benozzo di Lese di Sandro Gozzoli

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Transverberation of St Teresa


"Amid the other virtues of Teresa, the love of God shone forth with particular lustre. It burned in her heart so strongly that the Confessors of Teresa marvelled thereat, and extolled it as the love belonging to the Cherubim rather than to man. Our Lord Jesus Christ increased it, in a wonderful manner, by many visions and revelations, for one He adopted her as His spouse, giving to her His right hand, and holding forth to her a nail. He moreover vouchsafed to speak to her in these words: Henceforth thou shalt be zealous for my honor like a true Spouse; now I am wholly thine, and thou art wholly mine.

At another time she saw an angel, who pierced her heart with a fiery dart. She herself narrates the vision as follows: 'I saw an angel standing at my left hand in bodily shape. He was not large, but small, and most beautiful in form. Hes countenance was so bright and shining that he seemed to belong to the highest choir of angels, who are all on fire, or, in other words, to those who are called Seraphim. I saw that he carried in his hands a long golden dart, at the point whereof was a little fire. He more than once pierced my heart with his hard, even to my entrails, which he seemed to me to carry away with him when he drew forth the dart, thus leaving me all on fire with the love of God. The pain of the wound was so violent that it forced me to break forth into repeated groans; and yet so excellent is the sweetness to which this intense pain gives rise, that one desires not to be freed from it, and naught is pleasing to the soul save God Himself.'

In consequence of these heavenly gifts, the flames of divine love burned in her heart so strongly that, under God's guidance, she made a very difficult vow. She bound herself always to do that which she should see to be the more perfect, and that which might tend to the greater glory of God. After her death, moreover, she made known to a certain nun, in a vision, that she had died of the unbearable burning of divine love, and not from the attacks of illness. Her heart, which was incorrupt and adorned with the marks of the piercing, was placed in the church of the Most Holy Incarnation, belonging to the nuns of the Order of Barefooted Carmelites in Alba, and it has been venerated down to the present day by the large and devout crowd of Christians who flock thither. All these things having been carefully examined, the Sovereign Pontiff Benedict the Thirteenth, in order to recall the remembrance of this great miracle, permitted the celebration of this feast each year in that Order."

-- From the Bull of Canonization of St Teresa by Pope Gregory XV

** Sculpture in Seville by Romero Zafra.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Memorial of Bl Mariam of Jesus Crucified

"Born at Abellyn (Cheffa-Amar, Galilee), between Nazareth and Haifa, on Jan. 5, 1846, Mary was orphaned at three years of age and was brought by her uncle to Alexandria in Egypt, where she made her First Communion. Since she had set her heart on virginity, she separated, despite persecutions and maltreatment, from the young man to whom she had been engaged at the age of twelve.

In a moment of religious furor, a Muslim wounded her seriously in the neck with a scimitar, because she had refused to become a Mohammedan; and since he believed her dead, he wrapped her in a large veil and carried her outside the city. Healed miraculously by Our Lady, who appeared to her in a dream, Mary went into domestic service, first at Alexandria, and then at Jerusalem, Beirut and Marseilles. And here, in May of 1865, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. But in 1867, while still a postulant, she was dismissed because of the extraordinary experiences of her spiritual life. Because of them she was judged better suited to the contemplative than to the active life. The extraordinary events of which her life was to be full had already begun: on March 29, 1867, she had had the stigmata for the first time.

Mary entered the Carmel of Pau in 1867 with Veronica of the Passion, who had been her mistress at the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. She took the habit as a lay sister on July 27, 1867; and on Aug. 21, 1870, she left for Mangalore, where the vicar apostolic, Ephrem M. Garrelon, wanted to have the first cloistered monastery in India. She made her profession there on Nov. 21, 1871, and the vicar apostolic himself became her spiritual director.

Because of several extraordinary mystical manifestations that defied any explanation, the vicar Garrelon believed Mary was being led by the spirit of darkness. Mary, therefore, was obliged to return to Pau, in Sept. of 1872. Supernaturally spurred on to found a Carmel at Bethlehem, she worked to realize her dream until in Aug., 1875, she was really able to leave for Palestine. The monastery was inaugurated on Sept. 24 in temporary quarters; and on Nov. 21, 1876, the community moved into the definitive monastery. It was built according to the indications and under the direction of the servant of God, who was already thinking of the foundation of a new Carmel at Nazareth. But this idea was realized only in 1910, a number of years after her death, which overtook her on Aug. 26, 1878.

The spiritual life of Mary of Jesus Crucified, though replete with extraordinary facts, still shines with particular simplicity. Humble and unlettered, she yet knew how to give counsels and theological explanations of crystalline clarity. This was obviously the fruit of her uninterrupted prayerful communion with the Lord, of her faith and, above all, of the love that consumed her. Her ecstasies, her prophecies, her raptures were very frequent; her practice of the most solid and substantiating virtues like humility and obedience was sustained, despite an obsessive power that at times the devil seemed to have over her.

For a long time she shared in the sufferings of the passion. From the year 1867, especially during Lent, the stigmata appeared on her body. Only in 1876, after she had implored Our Lord, did she obtain the grace to have the exterior signs disappear, and only the painful participation in the sufferings of the Lord remained."

-- Biography by Fr Valentine Macca, ocd

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Teresian Reform

"As we come to treat of the monastery of St. Joseph, founded by Teresa of Jesus on 24 August 1562, it is as well to note that we shall be focussing primarily on Teresa herself, soon to become known as the Mother Foundress. She has reached the mature age of 47, with 27 years experience of religious life at the Incarnation behind her. Moreover her heart has been enriched with a deep and abiding experience of God, and is filled with a plan of living which she is convinced will make it easier for many consecrated souls to achieve that degree of union with God which she has reached herself after many years of searching and suffering. Note, too, that when her followers start to call he Foundress, they do so because they know that it was her creative spirit that gave birth to the communities into which they have entered, though she did so without breaking the continuity and connection with the whole previous tradition of the Church and of Carmel, as the last chapter makes clear.

Without further preamble, then, let us take a brief look at the most significant aspects of this new community which Mother Teresa has gathered round her.

The first important point is that she began this community with four postulants who entered directly from home. They were young, generous, ready for anything and Teresa was ready and willing to guide them in their undertaking and create with them a new community by organising their life in the way most suited to the achievement of their aims.

One aspect of Teresa's charismatic originality was this openness and availability to others; it enabled her to share her own experience with them simply and honestly, attract them by her example and inspire in them the desire to follow her on the path to the heights. Her mission among her own daughters was to help each of them to live in their own inimitable way what she had experienced herself. No amount of historical or theological analysis can give us a clear perception of this basic element. We can bring together all the words of wisdom which she has left us; we can collect quite a number of contemporary testimonies, but we will never succeed in knowing her ag well as any of those young nuns who had the good fortune to spend years in her company. Life is transmitted by living, and living together increases that knowledge which is later so difficult to pass on to others or translate into a set of principles. Nevertheless, in spite of that historical limitation of our knowledge, any effort to get as close as possible to the reality of life at St. Joseph's is justified.

Although Teresa always kept the end in view, and this was the same for everybody, she tried to teach it to her daughters according to the individual capacity of each one of them. Every soul has to live out its adventure alone with God, opposed by the devil and self-love. The search for God begins with baptism and goes on till death. And, since each person has their own particular dose of self-love, and is interfered with differently by the devil, the task of the guide is to show each individual what the right path is for him or her. Saint Teresa tried with all the means at her disposal to help her new companions understand that God is the prime mover, and, that while his ways are too mysterious for us to grasp, he does nevertheless need our cooperation, our effort. We may not be able to help him much, but we can certainly get in his way most effectively.

Those young nuns were quick to realise that Teresa's experience and wisdom were something out of the ordinary. To make sure that neither time nor her absence could remove such a treasure from their midst, they asked her to put her counsels to them in writing. Thus was born "The Way of Perfection" (1565): "This book treats of the advice and counsel that Teresa of Jesus gives to the nuns, her daughters." As if to say: this is what I tell them in our community meetings, in my conversations with them, and indeed whenever a favourable opportunity presents itself. The book was very quickly to become the extension of her personal presence. It was not just another book of theories, but a lived experience shared very effectively with anyone who approached it with an open mind and a desire to learn. While she was alive Teresa continued to teach them; when she died, the book continued to remind them of her teachings.

And so it was that in every new community, even in those founded after her death, Teresa was the real novice mistress. Each novice received her writings, and the appointed novice mistress felt she was there to help St. Teresa out by explaining any point the novice couldn't understand for herself. This aspect, fundamental to the understanding of the importance of the Way of Perfection in the history of Carmel, has caused some to call this book "The Teresian Gospel", and draw the parallel between the way in which the Gospels bring us to know Jesus and the way in which this book leads us to know Mother Teresa.

Bearing in mind then, that this book derives its effectiveness from the personality of its author st least as much as from the ideas it contains, let us recall the dominant themes that run through it, the basic ideas on which Teresa built her teaching in those first years at St. Joseph's - what, in other words, she wanted them to remember always.

They had come together in a humble abode, stripped of superfluous luxuries, few in members, like the apostolic college, to respond to the love of the Lord, to grow in friendship with Him, the better to deal with Him on behalf of their brethren. The whole Church, especially its priests, would be the subject of their conversations with their God-friend; their vigils and care would be for the needs of all souls.

The royal road by which one grew in God's friendship was life of prayer, a life which required three indispensable conditions: love of one's neighbour, detachment from the things of the world - especially from oneself - and humility, defined as walking in the truth.

The principles are only too clear and no one would quarrel with them. But when it comes to applying them in the circumstances of everyday life things are a little more difficult. It is then that the devil and self love let one down. Does the love of our neighbour mean saying yes or no to them? If we are detached from ourselves, do we defend ourselves or remain silent? Does humility mean that we must let our talents fade into oblivion, or, since humility is truth, ought we not make the most of them. The answer to those questions is not always easy; hence the digressions in the book. Every time Teresa remembers a useful experience-- be it her own or someone else's - she writes it down without bothering very much about where it might fit logically. All she is worried about is that when one of the sisters finds herself in a similar situation she will remember the incident and benefit accordingly. The basic ideas will never change, but their applications are limitless. People differ from one another; days vary. But if this treasure is properly assimilated it will always serve a useful purpose.

Teresa's daughters took the orientations she had given them seriously, and soon they found themselves free from care about material things and free of self-love. Recognising their spiritual poverty and helping one another with the sensitivity and sincerity born of true love, they revelled in the peace which Mother Teresa radiated and felt part of the marvellous environment she was creating around her. In other words, St. Teresa was able to create an environment in which people could see a whole new world open up before them, distant horizons to reach out to. (The Teresian novitiate does not so much teach a few things to be practised as set people on a journey, and show them the road they are to travel for the rest of their lives.) The horizon, and indeed the way there, is friendship with God, the Father in Heaven; whose name is to be sanctified, especially when the soul has experienced his Kingdom come within it; whose will is to be done, not from force of habit but deliberately, as long as the short "today" of this life lasts, with the help of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, though he be "so heavily disguised that it is no small torment to someone who has no other love or comfort"; whose forgiveness is obtained by really forgiving one's brethren, and not by penances or good intentions concerning reconciliation; and whose help is the only sure guarantee against the wiles of the devil dressed up as a angel of light, the only freedom from all evil.

The second part of the book is simply a commentary on the Our Father. Anyone who wants to lead a life of prayer cannot do better than follow the way Jesus himself taught.

Obviously, therefore, the Way of Perfection contains some basic ideas, clearly set forth. Teresa wants every novice who comes to her houses to assimilate these, to gradually make them her own in the measure of which she is capable, and to be committed to following this road, with God's help, forever; the novitiate, in fact, never ends."

-- Teresian Carmel: Pages of History by Fr Idelfonso Moriones, ocd

** The Discalced / Teresian Carmel began today, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, 448 years ago. Thank you, holy mother St Teresa! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all members of the discalced carmelite family!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are two flames of love

"St John Eudes was perhaps the first to speak of the 'Sacred Hear of Mary.' He was born in France in 1601, forty six years before St Margaret Mary Alacoque. He had a major role in the unfolding of God's plan for consecration to the Two Hearts. He composed the Mass and office of the Immaculate Heart and the Mass and office of the Sacred Heart. And he joined the Two Hearts. He spoke of them as one.

Also in the beautiful prayer taught by God the Father to Mother Eugenia, we say: 'I come to You with Jesus and Mary to ask...' And then after making petitions, we say: 'In union with Their Hearts, I offer You sacrifices, etc.'

The words may give us pause. But the reality, when experienced, is transcendentally beautiful. It is the realization that the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are two flames which God has joined together into one great flame of love for Him and for men. And we, poor creatures, can plunge the little love we have into that great flame where it, too, becomes one with it.

When we grasp this, we no longer pause. We take the leap of love. We are no longer worried about speaking of the Sacred Hearts as one. We know this does not mean that the Two Hearts are equal. Indeed, one is human and the other Divine. It merely means that the flames of Their love are as one flame. And we, as humans, identifying ourselves with the human heart of Mary, enter into that Flame of Love to be truly one with the Heart of Our Savior.

The words of Our Lord to St John Eudes seem to say it all: 'I have give you this admirable Heart of My dear Mother to be one with yours, so that you might have a heart worthy of Mine.'

This is not a matter of our choice, but of God's choice. This is not a matter of our planning as the way to become intimate with our Father God, but of His.

We deserve chastisement. God's final effort to save us is through love."

-- God's final effort by John M Haffert

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Immaculate Heart of Mary

"What man, unless secure in a divine oracle, may presume to speak with impure, indeed with polluted lips, anything little or great about the true Parent of God and of man, whom the Father before all ages predestined a perpetual Virgin, whom the Son chose as his most worthy Mother, whom the Holy Ghost prepared as the dwelling place of every grace?  With what words shall I, a lowly man, give expression to the highest sentiments of the virginal Heart uttered by the holiest mouth, for which the tongues of all the Angels do not suffice?  For the Lord saith: A good man bringeth forth good things from the good treasure of his heart; and this word can also be a treasure.  Among pure mortals who can be conceived of as better than she who was worthy to be the Mother of God, who for nine months had as a guest in her heart and in her womb God himself?  What better treasure than the divine love itself, which was burning in the Heart of the Virgin as in a furnace?

And so, from this Heart as from a furnace of divine ardour the blessed Virgin brought forth good works, that is, words of the most ardent charity.  For as from a vessel full of the richest and best wine only good wine can be poured; or as from a furnace of intense heat only a burning fire is emítted; so indeed from the Mother of Christ no word can go forth except of the greatest and most intense divine love and ardour.  It is also the mark of a wise woman and matron to speak few words, but words  that are effective and full of meaning; and so seven times, as it were, seven words of such wonderful meaning and virtue are read as having been uttered  by the most blessed Mother of Christ, that mystically it may be shewn she was full of the sevenfold grace.  To the Angel twice only did she speak; to Elizabeth also twice; with her Son likewise twice, once in the temple, and a second time at the marriage feast; and once to the attendants.  And on all those occasions she always said very little; with this one exception that she spake at length in the praise of God and in thanksgiving, namely, when she said: My soul doth magnify the Lord.  But here she did not speak with man, but with God.  Those seven words were spoken in a wonderful degree and order according to the seven courses and acts of love; as if they were seven flames from the furnace of her Heart."

-- From a sermon by St Bernardine of Siena

** The Traditional Liturgical Calendar observes this feast day in honor of Our Lady today.

Mater Immaculata, ora pro nobis!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Merge yourself into this divine fellowship of the Three Persons

"Lord Jesus, I say it and repeat once again: Thou art my God! I may call Thee so, for Thy Eucharist is Thy sacred humanity whole and entire, subsisting only in God, in the Word whom Thou art, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, I cannot cry out to Thee: My God, without calling at the same time upon that Father, that Son and Holy Spirit. It is even impossible for me to separate You, the three adorable Persons, when, O Jesus, I call Thee: My God! There is, there can only be, a single God, One in essence, Three in Persons.

When I receive Thee it is therefore impossible to do so without receiving the Father and the Holy Spirit. I am in the Father, Thou tellest us, and the Father in me... He hath not left me alone. But wherever You are, Father and Son, the two, there must necessarily also be the Holy Spirit, for without the Three together, there would no longer be God.

Is it not especially at this moment, now that I know Thou art in me, in the depths of my being, that the very sweet promise of Thy heart is fulfilled: If any one love me, ... my Father will love him, and we will come to him and will make our abode with him?

I am the abode of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; I am their temple, nay even the most secret sanctuary of that temple. Can I doubt it without calling in question the truth of the Gospel? Believe it, O my soul; believe it in the fullness of unwavering faith. Then, by that faith which disengages you from all things, immerse yourself in this mystery of the Father engendering His Son, the mystery of the Father and the Son from whom proceeds the Holy Spirit.

While you are in Jesus Christ who gratifies your hunger and thirst with all that He is, Man and God, merge yourself into this divine fellowship of the Three Persons, adoring the God, One in substance in the Trinity of these Persons.

Let yourself be absorbed in this mystery expressing in you an eternal Utterance, His only Utterance, entirely like, entirely equal to Himself, in which He speaks Himself, all that He is and all that He has, all His infinite perfections; essential, living Utterance known as His Word, or again His Son, Son of God, the only Son of the Father."

-- Pledge of Glory: Meditations on the Eucharist and the Trinity by Dom Eugene Vandeur

Friday, August 20, 2010

The motive power behind gentleness is always love

"Gentleness is the virtue that restrains the passion of anger. Over the centuries it has been variously described. Sometimes poetically, sometimes theologically. Where anger flares up, gentleness calms down. Where anger is a bursting flame gentleness is a gentle rain. Where anger asserts itself and crushes, gentleness embraces and quiets and soothes yet as we hear these and similar descriptions of gentleness we are liable to make the mistake as I dare say so much of the modern world makes the mistake of identifying gentleness with weakness.

A gentle person is a meek person. So most people think that a gentle person is a weak person. It is just the opposite. In order to be truly gentle and that does not mean soft or sentimental, one must be strong. Only strong people can be gentle, because gentleness restrains strength by love. Whether its strength of body that could destroy physically or strength of will that could crush volitionally or strength of mind that could devastate intellectually. It’s only such people that can even begin to be gentle. And the reason of course is because they’ve got something to restrain.

But the motive power behind gentleness is always love. Love of the other for whose sake I restrain myself. There are then two qualities that belong to the meaning of gentleness and they are strength and love. As we turn to the Gospels and ask ourselves where and how has the Savior commended this virtue to our practice? At first sight we may be shocked to learn that there is only one expressed occasion when Christ explicitly told us to learn from Him; now of course He was teaching constantly. But only once did He formally tell us, command us to learn of Him. Learn of me He told us, for I am gentle and humble of heart. So the first and primary lesson that we learn from Christ’s own telling us, bidding us, to imitate him especially in His gentleness is that if we are to be gentle as He was we must be humble like He was. Gentleness or meekness which are synonymous are impossible in the absence of humility. Why? If we’ve ever asked ourselves why do we get irritated with people. Why do they bother us? Why all these inner and sometimes outer flares of passion isn’t because somehow though we may not even articulate the fact to ourselves that we, well, don’t like what the person is doing because we feel the person has no right to be doing this. At least in my presence or I wouldn’t do this. Who does she think she is talking that way to me? If we wish then in imitation of Jesus to be gentle we must become humble. So much so that I do not hesitate to say that the best single barometer of humility which by its nature is quite hidden and not so easy to identify, the best single barometer of how humble we are is how gentle we are. Only humble people will be gentle. Because only they will honestly say to themselves why should I get angry with her, come to think of it I’ve just done the same. Or why should I be irritated? If I’m really honest I know there must be things that are irritating to him or her. So why should one irritant be irritated with another irritant?

If we are humble, if we look into our hearts, and not just at times, but constantly, what do we see there? If we look, you know we don’t see except what we’re looking for. If we look into our hearts we see sin, passion, weakness, ineptitude, crudeness, self-conceit. You name it and we’ve got it. All it takes is a good hard look but that takes humility. We are so prone, as the same Jesus has been telling us, we are so prone to see the faults even the minorest of them, the littlest thing that Christ calls speck in our brother’s eye, and we don’t see the beam in our own. And do you know why because maybe the beam is so big in our own eyes we can’t even recognize the fact that the person does have virtue, does have fine qualities. Remember this: we always see others through our own eyes. And our eyes are sinful eyes. So much and more that could be said about Christ’s teaching about gentleness is practice. Christ practiced his gentleness from the womb of His mother. No objections recorded by Mary or Joseph for having to trek the long miles to Bethlehem."

-- Gentleness by Fr John A Hardon, SJ

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A contemplative attitude dwells in the present

"An active attitude, even though it be directed to the attainment of a purpose important in itself, is always typically distinct from a contemplative one. Thus, if we undertake a journey in order to see a beloved person again, or if we perform a lofty moral action, our intent is not contemplative. For first, it is filled by a tension towards the future: the thought of something which does not yet exist and which is to be brought about. And, secondly, in contemplating an aim we do not accord to the good we intend to realize that broad, undivided attention which is implicit in contemplation proper.

Our attention to the object conceived as an end for action, express and emphatic as it may be, always retains a certain narrow and functional quality (akin, in some measure, to a technical attitude of abstraction and formalization), which also manifests itself in the fact of our advancing towards our end through a succession of means.

The contemplative attitude, on the other hand—such as the contemplation of an object of great beauty and the pure, restful joy it yields—is free from that dynamic tension towards the future; it implies, not a hastening forward but a dwelling in the present. Further, the attention we accord to the object is direct, unqualified, broad (as it were); it is undivided, instead of being limited by attention given to other objects as well, as is necessarily the case when we intend an object purposely in action, which we cannot do without also devoting ourselves to the means."

-- Transformation in Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Memorial of the Bls Martyrs of Rochefort


"Fr Jean-Baptiste Duverneuil is thought to be born in Limoges 1737 or at Saint-Trielx on January 7th, 1759. In religious life he was called Fr. Leonard. Fr Michel Louis Brulard, was born at Chartres on June 11, 1758. His religious name is not known. Fr Jacques Gagnot, known in religious life as Fr. Hubert of St Claude, was born at Frolois on February 9, 1753.
Loyal to God, the Church and the Pope, they refused to take the oath of the civil Constitution for the Clergy imposed by the Constituent Assembly of the French Revolution. Persecuted and condemned, they were imprisoned on a boat in Rochefort Bay, on the Atlantic coast of Charente-Maritime, waiting. to be deported for forced labour in French Guyana or in Africa. This never happened. They were left massed like animals on the slave trader Deux Associes, anchored in a small inlet between the islands of Aix and Madame. During 1794, on this old ship or “Ponton” the first two Carmelite religious died: Fr Jean-Baptiste on July 1 and Fr Michel-Louis on July 25. They were buried on the island of Aix. Towards the end of August a widespread plague of frightening proportions broke out aboard the ship. Those prisoners left alive were disembarked on the island of Madame and housed in tents in conditions that continued to he horrifying. Fr Jacques died there on September 10 and was buried on the island. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II in Rome on October 1, 1995, together with 61 other martyrs who were likewise victims of the French Revolution (1794-1795)."
-- From the website of the Discalced Carmelites of the Australia-Oceania Region

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Memorial of Bl Angelus Mazzinghi

"Angelus was the son of Augustine, of the Peretola branch of the Mazzinghi family which lived in Florence. The date of his birth is not known with exactness, but it can probably be placed before 1386. About 1413 he entered the Carmelite Order and was, as the necrology of the Florentine Carmel attests, the first son of the nascent “observance of the Selve” /the Woods/ — the Carmelite reform begun in the convent of the same name, near Lastra a Signa, and which later grew into the so-called Mantuan Congregation. About two years later he was already a priest, and was charged with preaching in the same convent, where he was also prior for the years 1419-30 and 1437. In 1431-34 and in 1436 he preached the Lenten sermons in Florence. He was prior of the Florentine Carmel in 1435-37. He also filled other offices in and outside the Order. In 1434 he was given the title of lector.

The necrology mentioned above, in the notice written immediately after his death, which occurred on Aug. 17, 1438, relates of him: most virtuous, of solid doctrine, a master in counseling, well-known and holy, a very famous preacher. His confrere and contemporary, Nicholas Calciuri of Sicily, who had lived with him for some time, reports that he heard, from witnesses "worthy of belief", that while the blessed was preaching in Florence, roses and flowers were seen to issue from his mouth; these flowers were gathered together by two angels and woven into a crown around his head. This is the iconographical motif with which the blessed is represented.

The casket containing his body was first elevated above the floor; but in 1575 it was placed under the Manetti altar in the Carmelite church of Florence. The Bollandists, in publishing the Acts of the Saints of August in 1737 did not believe the holiness and the cult of the blessed sufficiently proved, and therefore listed him among the praetermissi /left asides/; but they were prepared to take up the matter again when proof would be forthcoming. Two years later there was another translation of the blessed to the Brancacci chapel of the same Carmelite church. Dominic Mary Manni published his Life in 1739.

The diocesan process for the recognition of cult from time immemorial was held in 1758; that of the S. Cong. of Rites ended on Dec. 22, 1759; and the decree of confirmation of cult is dated March 7, 1761. Since 1930 the remains of the blessed rest under the high altar of the Carmelite church in Florence. He was always venerated by the people of Florence, especially under the name of Blessed Angiolino /Little Angelus/. His feast occurs on Aug. 17 as an optional memorial among the Carmelites."

-- Biography by Louis Saggi, OCarm

Monday, August 16, 2010

Memorial of Bl María Sagrario

"She was born Elvira Moragas Cantarero on 8th January 1881 in the town of Lillo (Toledo). Her father, Ricardo Maragas Ucelay, a pharmacist, was transferred to Madrid before Elvira was four years old. He opened a pharmacy there and became supplier to the Royal Household.

When she was six years old she received the sacrament of Confirmation in the Parish of St. Teresa and St. Elizabeth. She studied in the College of the Mercedarian sisters where she made her first Communion. Right from childhood she had a tenacious and strong character that needed controlling by her parents. On finishing her primary studies she began her secondary schooling in 1894. Five years later, in 1899, she graduated with distinction.

At the turn of the last century in Spain there was little opening for women in university studies. It was surprising then that both herself and her parents were receptive to the idea that she follow a university career in a field that was almost exclusively a male one. After six years of study in the University of Madrid, in 1905 she became the first woman to qualify in pharmacy. She was then 24 years old.

As a pharmacist she helped her father run his business. In 1909 her father died and two years later, her mother. She was left alone with her younger brother. To him she revealed her desire to consecrate herself to God, but that she would wait until he became established in his career.

In this time of waiting to consecrate her life to God in Carmel, Maria del Sagrario worked on in the pharmacy serving the customers herself. She did not limit herself to administration but related personally with the sick people encouraging and consoling them. While offering them remedies she shared their suffering. As well as per personal work she helped with catechetics in the parish and on Sundays went to the suburbs to give charitable assistance to the poor.

In Carmel

In 1915, the Fourth Centenary of the birth of Teresa of Jesus, Maria del Sagrario entered the Carmelite monastery of St. Anne and St. Joseph in Madrid, which had been founded in 1586 by the Venerable Anne of Jesus (Lobera). Her intense professional and apostolic work, united to family suffering, had affected her health. Because of this the Carmelites had asked her to wait a little before admitting her on 21st June 1915. The Mistress of Novices stated that she found her a woman of "strong and energetic character, capable of accomplishing the greatest ideals of sanctity".

On 21st December 1915 she began her noviciate accepting the material and cultural limitations of her community. Her first profession was made on 24th December 1916. Three years later, on 6th January 1920 she made her solemn profession.

Her journey in Carmel was characterised by the exercise of faith, hope and love. Her faith led her to discover in events the Lord's will and adhere to it. She reached maturity in hope by means of the difficulties and the effort to detach herself from everything that was not God. She lived love in self-forgetfulness and in service to her sisters.

Dynamic prioress and efficient formator

In April 1927 she was elected Prioress of the community. Thus began a time of commitment and service to her community. She exercised her office as an older sister, open to dialogue with her sisters. She also took care of the material aspect of the monastery, carrying out works and repairs that the convent needed to offer the minimum of humane conditions for life in the cloister.

When her triennium was over she became Mistress of novices. Statements from those guided by her emphasized that she knew how to mix understanding with firmness and that she taught mainly by example. On many occasions she spoke to her novices about her desire to be a martyr.

Prioress on the eve of the Spanish civil war and martyr for Christ

On 1st July 1936, Mother Maria del Sagrario was once again elected Prioress of the community. The winds of violence had begun to blow in Spain and on 18th July 1936 the civil war broke out. That same day the windows of the Church and monastery were smashed. In the evening, Mother Maria del Sagrario gathered the community together to tell them how bad things had become and to advise and beseech those who wanted to go to their family. On the 20th the convent was attacked by a violent crowd who sacked and destroyed many things. The Prioress was concerned for each and every one of her daughters and did not rest until she was able to get them to safety. With one of the nuns, she managed to take refuge in the house of the nun's parents where she stayed until taken to prison.

Her brother visited her many times, pleading with her to come with him to Pinto, where he lived with his family. However she refused to go with him because she had to watch over all her sisters. She took care of each one of them and managed to send them material and spiritual help where they were, exhorting them to be generous in accepting the will of the Lord "who suffered so much for our love".

On 14th August the "soldiers" discovered the place where she was hiding and took her prisoner together with the other nun with her. She was shot by the enemies of the faith on 15th August. Thus her journey came to a close by handing over her life confessing Jesus Christ to whom she had consecrated her life in the Teresian Carmel."

-- By Different Paths by Fr Camilo Maccise, ocd

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Please pray for pilgrims in Lourdes after bomb threat

30,000 Tourists Evacuated From Lourdes After Bomb Threat

CECILE BRISSON | 08/15/10 02:31 PM | AP
PARIS — Thousands of people, many disabled or ailing, were evacuated Sunday from the shrine at Lourdes in southern France after a bomb threat on the Catholic holy day of Assumption. The pilgrims returned after explosives experts scoured the area.
Some 30,000 pilgrims were at the site, whose spring water is reputed to have healing powers, when Lourdes police received an anonymous threat late in the morning saying bombs would hit the site Sunday afternoon, said the shrine's chief spokesman Pierre Adias.
In an announcement read in six languages, authorities ordered everyone evacuated just as a midday Mass was supposed to begin.
About 900 gravely ill pilgrims, including many on stretchers, were taken to a secure place while explosives experts with sniffer dogs fanned out around the shrine, Lourdes Mayor Jean-Pierre Artiganave said on France-Info radio.
While the site was off-limits to pilgrims, a scheduled prayer service was held anyway, in the shadow of the mountainside spring and a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Bishop Jacques Perrier sought to soothe believers. "We will not be afraid," he said in opening the service, attended by only six priests and shrine personnel and broadcast on the website of TV Lourdes. Dozens of pilgrims remained waiting outside the gates, watching from afar.
After about five hours, the shrine reopened and Assumption ceremonies resumed. "Inspection of the site allowed us to determine that it was an unfounded threat," Adias said.
The mayor said the evacuation was peaceful but acknowledged "the atmosphere is not one of the greatest calm."
The Aug. 15 holiday marks the taking into heaven of the Virgin Mary. It's a public holiday in France and several other countries, and one on which especially large numbers of pilgrims visit the Lourdes shrine.
Some pilgrims came to this year's ceremonies in wheelchairs, others supported by loved ones. During the bomb scare, many pilgrims waited just outside the gates to the large territory that includes the shrine and adjoining church buildings.
The Roman Catholic shrine in the foothills of the Pyrenees has special meaning for the suffering, many of whom believe its spring water has the power to heal and even work miracles.
The sick bathe in pools of the cool water and take it home in plastic jugs and vials in the shape of the Virgin Mary. Thousands of people have claimed to be cured there, and the Roman Catholic church has officially recognized 67 incidents of miraculous healing linked to Lourdes.
Pope Benedict XVI came to Lourdes in 2008, marking the 150th anniversary of visions of the Virgin Mary to a Lourdes peasant girl, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, who was later made a saint.
___
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in ParisPublish Post contributed to this report.

-- From the Huffington Post

H/T to follower Mari Kate

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


"Since indeed the universal Church hath at all times and throughout the ages manifested faith in the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and since the Bishops of the whole world by an almost unanimous agreement have petitioned that this truth, which is enshrined in Sacred Scripture and deeply rooted in the souls of Christ's faithful, and is also truly in accord with other revealed truths, should be defined as a dogma of the divine and Catholick Faith, Pope Pius XII, acceding to the requests of the whole Church, decreed that this privilege of the Blessed Virgin Mary be solemnly proclaimed, and thus, on the first day of November of the year of the Great Jubilee, nineteen hundred and fifty, at Rome, in the open square before the Basilica of St. Peter, surrounded by a throng of many Cardinals and Bishops of the Holy Roman Church who had come from distant parts of the earth, and before a great multitude of the faithful, with the whole Catholick world rejoicing, proclaimed in these words and with infallible statement the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven: Wherefore, having offered to God continual prayers of supplication, and having invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, to the glory of Almighty God who hath enriched the Virgin Mary with his special favour; in honour of his Son, the immortal King of ages and victor over sin and death; for the increase of the glory of the same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the whole Church, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that: The Immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, was, at the end of her earthly life, assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."

-- From the Acts of Pope Pius XII


** Painting by Palma Vecchio

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Memorial of St Maximilian Kolbe

"St. Maximillian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894, and baptized under the name Raymond. In 1910, he entered the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans and was given his religious name Maximillian. He took his final vows in Rome in 1914 and three years later, organized, with six other confreres, the association of the Meletsia Immaculate, or The Militia of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Kolbe never forgot that while here on earth we are members of the Church militant. He was ordained in Rome in 1918 and in 1922 he began publishing the magazine, "Knight of the Immaculate," first in Polish and later in several other languages. St. Maximillian has been an outstanding promoter of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the modern media of writing, radio and, since his day, television.

In 1927, St. Maximillian began building a whole town with property donated by a wealthy nobleman, called the "Town of the Immaculate," outside of Warsaw. There he began training people with vocations among the laity and prospective Religious and Priests, to become apostles of Mary. The first Marian Missionaries to Japan were trained in the "Town of the Immaculate."

In 1930, Maximillian opened a Marian publication apostolate in Nagasaki, Japan – one of the two cities in Japan which would later be ravaged by a nuclear bomb during the Second World War. As popes have been saying ever since, God chose His most faithful people as a sacrifice to insure future peace in the world.

In 1939, Maximillian was arrested by the Nazis who had taken over Poland. Two years later, in 1941, he died at the infamous concentration camp Auschwitz. The common practice by the Nazis of randomly selecting prisoners to die claimed a young man with a wife and family. When he cried out for mercy on behalf of his family Maximillian offered his life in place of the husband and father. The SS guards took Kolbe instead and placed him in a cell where he was denied food and water. When the guards came to collect and dispose of the bodies, they found Kolbe was amazingly still alive. In disgust the guards inoculated him with a deadly poison. He was beatified by Pope Paul VI and canonized by Pope John Paul II.

Maximillian's Marian Spirituality

The spirituality of St. Maximillian is based directly on this truth: the Immaculate Virgin Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces. That is the first premise of his Marian thinking. If this were not so, Maximillian explains, all our strength and effort in the spiritual life would be in vain.

In other words, our spiritual life depends on grace. That's obvious, but it also depends on the grace that we must receive through Mary.

Second, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mediatrix of all the graces that any human being receives, believer or unbeliever, Christian or non-Christian, without exception.

Third, our life of grace depends on the nearness of grace that we have to the soul of the Immaculate Mother of God. It is an article of Faith that everyone receives sufficient grace to reach Heaven.
But the degree of grace that any person receives – always from Christ but through Mary – depends on the degree of grace which that person, at the time when the grace is needed, is near to, like to, assimilated to the Mother of Jesus. The more Marian we are, the more assurance we have of obtaining grace from Mary's Son through His Mother. That deserves to be memorized.

Fourth, the nearer a person's soul is to the Blessed Virgin Mary's soul, the more pure that person's soul becomes. That person becomes freer from sin, holier, and deepened in his faith, growing in understanding and firmly accepting God's revealed truth. In other words, holiness determines clarity; holiness determines intelligibility; holiness determines certitude in the faith that we already possess. Our faith will grow in the measure of our holiness approximating, at any given point in time, the holiness of Christ's Mother. Correspondingly, the greater becomes that person's virtues – theological and moral. This is a unique insight into Marian spirituality.

Our relationship with Mary, as Mediatrix is normative. Depending on how closely our life of grace approximates Mary's at any given time in our lives, she then becomes the standard of how much grace we are going to receive.

Fifth, Maximillian describes Our Lady in terms of her relationship with the Holy Trinity. The one created person in whom we can best recognize and find reflected the Holy Trinity, is the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the spouse, says Maximillian, of the Holy Trinity.

Everything which God does, outside of His own Trinitarian life – in the created universe of time and eternity – is always done by all three Persons, equally and simultaneously. Having created the world, the apex of the work of the Holy Trinity is the Incarnation and therefore Mary, who had to cooperate with her free human will with the Holy Trinity. Otherwise there would not have been the Incarnation.

Maximillian insists that although Mary is of course a creature, there is one and only one who is the most sublime model that God has created among human persons; one for us to both venerate and imitate, and that is the Immaculate Mother of God.

Sixth, unlike her Son Who is a divine Person, there are not, as the heretical Nestorius claimed, two persons in Christ, human and divine. There are two natures, one Person in Christ. Mary was not divine, but she was as closely united with the Trinity as any human person can be. The key words in Maximillian's Mariology are "human person." The only human person who was as closely united to the Holy Trinity as is absolutely possible, and therefore, the highest reflection of the love of the Holy Trinity; the most perfect human, living, visible, audible human being is the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Seventh, St. Maximillian spoke of the human soul as going with Mary to Christ, not going to Christ from Mary. He avoided that preposition of relationship.

Eighth, he stressed the importance of every Catholic consecrating him or herself to Mary and added that this could be done in one of a variety of ways. "We can consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate One in various ways," he said, "and express our consecration in different words or different forms. In fact, a simple act of the will would be enough for that really is the essence of such a Marian consecration." However, he did provide one formula as follows: "My Immaculate Queen of heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and Mother most loving; you to whom God entrusted the entire order of mercy. I am an unworthy sinner. I cast myself at your feet, humbly pleading that you ordain to accept me completely and totally as your property and possession and do with me, and all my powers of body and soul, and with all my life and death and eternity, whatever is pleasing to you."

Ninth, for St. Maximillian Kolbe, the outward sign of consecration to Mary was to wear, or at least carry, the Miraculous Medal. He explained, this is not absolutely essential, but then he added, "it is the integral sign and condition for our consecration."

Tenth, the most effective means of conversion is through Mary. His great hope was that the missionary evangelization and conversion apostolate of the Catholic Church into the future would be placed into the hands of Mary. He predicted that after 2000 years, only a fraction of the human race would even be nominally Christian. He said, "we need Mary for the conversion of sinners, for the bringing of tepid souls to sanctity, for bringing the millions of non-Christians to Christ.

Conditions for Conversion

St. Maximillian saw the prospects of converting sinners to a life of grace under two conditions. First, we will be as effective converters (or evangelizers or missionaries) as we are personally devoted to Our Lady.

Secondly, we must, if necessary, make drastic changes in our approach to those whom we want to bring to Christ or to a closer following of Mary's Son. We must promote our missionary and conversion zeal through promoting the knowledge, love and devotion to the Mother of God. Mary will do wonders, provided we use her name and her influence to effect what is so desperately needed in the modern world.

Given this logic, that Mary is the key to converting the world to her Son, St. Maximillian not only named but organized his special followers as the Militia or "Army of the Immaculate" following, as he said, on the promise that Yahweh had made in Genesis: that Mary would crush the serpent's head.

St. Maximillian Kolbe, zealous promoter of the veneration of the Immaculate Mother of God and martyr of charity, pray for us."

-- St Maximilian Kolbe: Apostle of Mary by Fr John A Hardon, SJ