Saturday, October 31, 2009

Remain open to the unexpected

"God doesn't always send long-term solutions in response to our needs but often only little boosts, 'just for today.' That is enough for us to go on, provided we have confidence in God.

Following the small flame of faith, hope, and love that burns in the heart, the soul feels as secure as if it walked in broad daylight. Let us follow the indications arising from the humble acts of faith, hope, and love the Holy Spirit inspires us to make daily. We cannot go wrong in believing, hoping, and loving. God speaks today for today. We can't know what we will be called to do five or ten years from now. Knowing what we should do today is enough.

Someone with this attitude possesses flexibility and detachment. It is not good to want always to be in charge of one's life and to be rigid in scheduling as a result. To be sure, it's desirable to have an organized life and an orderly agenda, but only while remaining open to the unexpected. If we are too locked into our plans, we are in danger of missing God's calls."

-- Called to Life by Jacques Philippe

Friday, October 30, 2009

We are the laborers of the Father

"We must give ourselves; that is, we must bring forth from this interior sanctuary where we keep the best part of ourselves, some thoughts, chosen from among the best and most lofty, which, once they have gone forth from us, will become acts of love and words of life. We must firmly resolve to try to give our best, to do all the good we can. The unknown resources of strength, energy, and nobility lying within our depths must become the property of our brothers by a valiant effort and a generous surrender of our inmost personality.


God, in giving us life, assigns to each one of us a special task to do and a role in the fulfillment of His eternal plan. The important thing, then, above all, is to come to know this particular mission well, to discern the divine Will in our soul and in our life, and then to set ourselves to work, and to make of our entire life and death a means of salvation for ourselves and our brothers.

We are the divine Master's humble workmen, the laborers of the Father, and when the night shall come, we must be able to tell Him with cofidence that the harvest is ready and that the living Sun may now cause to grow the seeds that we have sown."

-- From Daily Thoughts by Elisabeth Leseur

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gorgeous Blogger Award

The last thing in my mind was receiving a blogging award... But Jen, from Laudem Gloriae, has been kind enough to bestow on me the "Gorgeous Blogger Award". I first blushed when I read it in her blog and then started wondering what that meant. Apparently, I have to post 6 little known things about myself and then mention six blogs I enjoy, thus passing on the award. So here it goes...

Little known things about me:

1. I'm a polyglot. That means you need two hands to count the number of languages I can communicate in / understand. I love languages and have a good ear for accents. And that, my friends, was not humble at all!

2. I know France and the United States better than my own country. (I'm a US citizen by birth, though!)

3. I had a private audience ("Santo Incontro") with Pope John Paul II in Rome a number of years ago. Yep, private. Got the pictures to prove it, courtesy of the L'Osservatore Romano photographer. I took the opportunity to tell JPII that I wanted to be a discalced carmelite.

4. English is not my first language and my brain thinks intermixing multiple languages. One time, many years ago, I was giving a presentation in English and I suddently switched to another language without realizing. When I finished, the moderator said "So can you now tell us what you just said in English?" Embarrassed doesn't even begin to describe how I felt. So if you see mistakes in the blog, now you know why.

5. I managed to go through 10 years of higher education in the "hard" sciences without ever taking a single class that mentioned evolution or Darwinism or the "idea" that the universe and life were created by random accident... In fact, most of my professors were practicing Christians, some of them Catholics, not one of them - to my knowledge - was an atheist. Yes, my dear readers, not all scientists are atheists. But please pray for all scientists- they need many prayers.

6. I am a rosary maker. I've been making rosaries for almost 10 years now. Rosaries, chaplets, way of the cross, you name it... No jewelry, just devotional items. Before Vatican II, it was not uncommon for people to pray the rosary and devotional chaplets throughout the year. It is my hope that more people come to appreciate our Traditions. For each bead I set, with the blessing of my spiritual director, I ask Our Lady to rescue one soul from Purgatory and the conversion of a poor sinner.

These are six blogs I recommend. There is a good number of blogs I try to follow in several languages so I decided to hide the list from my profile, lest some readers start scratching their heads wondering about my state of mind. *grin* Some of these blogs are not in English, but try using Google's translator... Expand your horizons...

1. A Voz do Silêncio - A Portughese blog on prayer and contemplation. Love it.

2. Vivificat! - Kept by an Oblate of St Benedict, this is a blog with comments on various global and catholic issues.

3. Seek His Face - Father Check's blog with spiritual reflections. Need I say more?

4. A Solitary Bird - Commentary on Carmelite spirituality and contemplative prayer. I love the way Rebecca writes.

5. Ermitaño Urbano - A Spanish blog on the heremitical life and the contemplative calling in the world. Contemplation, silence, solitude and detachment are some of the recurring themes of this blog.

6. Dichosa Ventura - Another Spanish blog on silence, solitude and contemplation. This one draws heavily from the Cistercian (Carthusian) traditions. Excellent read.

Just a little fun in an otherwise serious blog... :) God reward you, Jen!

The scourges of this present life may become means of sanctification

"It should be noted that Jesus does not exclude chastisements, for these may be necessary for the salvation of the world and of souls.

Jesus explained this thought on November 15th, 1935, during the economic crisis which gripped the world before the start of the war:
The distress which reigns in the world at the present time is not the work of My justice, but of My mercy. For fewer sins are being committed because money is scarce, and many more prayers are being raised to heaven by people in financial straits. Do not think that the sorrowful conditions on earth do not move Me; but I love souls; I wish them to be saved; and in order to achieve My end, I am constrained to be severe; but believe Me, I do it out of mercy! During times of abundance souls forget Me and are lost; in times of distress they turn to Me and save themselves. That is indeed the way it happens!

Note the luminous depth of these words which recall the divine instructions to the prophet Isaiah: 'Woe to the Assyrian, he is the rod and staff of My anger, and My indignation is in their hands.' And by the lips of Jeremiah, God spoke thus of Babylon: 'With you I will dash nations together, and with you I will destroy kingdoms.' This mystical concept of historic tragedies, which were brought about by heads of nations as mere tools in God's hands, does not lessen their responsibility for the evil they have done and for which they will have to render an account; nor does this prevent the omnipotence of God from having even human wickedness serve to carry out the designs of His Providence for eternal bliss. Thus the scourges of this present life, when accepted and patiently applied to one's own purification, may become means of sanctification and expiation.

And returning to the same thought later, again in response to Sister Consolata's prayers for peace, Our Lord declared on April 29th, 1942:
Pray, pray for humanity in order that I may mitigate these sorrows and save souls! If I permit so much sorrow in the world, it is for that one purpose, to save souls for eternity. The world is going to perdition, it is hastening to its ruin.

As with public disasters, so it is also with the misfortunes of families and individuals. Always, even in the most desperately sad cases when bewildered humanity is seeking for a reason, the reply from heaven is once again: Love, Goodness, the Mercy of God."

-- Jesus Appeals to the World: From the writings of Sr Consolata Betrone by Lorenzo Sales, IMC

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Feast of Sts Simon and Jude

"Our Lord Jesus Christ has appointed certain men to be guides and teachers of the world and stewards of his divine mysteries. Now he bids them to shine out like lamps and to cast out their light not only over the land of the Jews but over every country under the sun and over people scattered in all directions and settled in distant lands.

That man has spoken truly who said: No one takes honor upon himself, except the one who is called by God, for it was our Lord Jesus Christ who called his own disciples before all others to a most glorious apostolate. These holy men became the pillar and mainstay of the truth, and Jesus said that he was sending them just as the Father had sent him.

By these words he is making clear the dignity of the apostolate and the incomparable glory of the power given to them, but he is also, it would seem, giving them a hint about the methods they are to adopt in their apostolic mission. For if Christ thought it necessary to send out his intimate disciples in this fashion, just as the Father had sent him, then surely it was necessary that they whose mission was to be patterned on that of Jesus should see exactly why the Father had sent the Son. And so Christ interpreted the character of his mission to us in a variety of ways. Once he said: I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. And then at another time he said: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.

For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Accordingly, in affirming that they are sent by him just as he was sent by the Father, Christ sums up in a few words the approach they themselves should take to their ministry. From what he said they would gather that it was their vocation to call sinners to repentance, top heal those who were sick whether in body or spirit, to seek in all their dealings never to do their own will but the will of him who sent them, and as far as possible to save the world by their teaching.

Surely it is in all these respects that we find his holy disciples striving to excel. To ascertain this is no great labor; a single reading of the Acts of the Apostles or of Saint Paul's writings is enough."

-- From a commentary on the gospel of John by Saint Cyril of Alexandria (Liturgy of the Hours)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A prayer for guidance

Dear God,

Today as I reflect on
what's ahead for me
I ask for guidance
to make decisions that
bring me closer to you.

Help me to know your voice
and believe in the power
of your gifts in me.

I trust that you will lead me
amidst the uncertainties of life.

Give me the courage to follow
you today as you
lead me to tomorrow.


-- Prayer by Saúl García

Rediscover the Old Testament

"The inspired books speak of God and, in a certain sense, speak only of Him. Or rather, in the inspired books God Himself expresses Himself. His voice should be heard in preference to all others, for 'God rightly speaks of God.' The message of the Old Testament announces the New Testament and prepares for it, but it does more than prepare the road; it manifests in advance Him to whom the road leads, upon whom all its perspectives converge. Christ reminded His apostles of this: 'Search the Scriptures, for you think in them to have life everlasting; and the same are they that give testimony of Me.' Even the Samaritan woman was aware of this truth: 'The woman saith to Him: I know that the Messias cometh (who is called Christ); therefore, when He is come, He will tell us all things.

Tradition asserts that each Testament sheds light on the other and that their viewpoints complete each other. This is especially evident on the plane of essential values...

Some truths were revealed to man before the coming of Christ, right from the beginning of time. Later God strove to make these truths penetrate more deeply into the mind, the heart and the soul of humanity. Other truths, and by no means the least important, were revealed only by the Son of God. But even in this case the Old Testament provided the ground on which the edifice of faith would be erected, showing man a God who is one and transcendent, spiritual and living, omnipotent and infinitely holy. Thereby it laid the indestructible foundations of subsequent revelations and also of all spiritual life.

The Bible speaks to us first of God, then of man confronting God. Again the essential values are elucidated: the depth of man's nature, his inherent misery, his basic aspirations, his irrepresible impulses. Then the Old Testament tells us of the bonds between man and God, recalling that we were made by Him and for Him, that He is always with us and truly ours. We learn the nature of the bond which unites us to God - a bond of charity, having two requirements stated in the two great commandments: love of God ('the greatest and the first commandment') and love of neighbor (the 'royal law').

Not only does the Old Testament present theological and moral doctrine, but it also teaches man how he is loved by God; and here we are undoubtedly at the very heart of  its message. To convey this message to us, the Old Testament used not only words but also acts, gestures and the divine lessons of things whereby God revealed the features of His face. Gradually man discovered in Him the Creator, the Master, the Father, the Savior and (most wonderful of all!) the Lover... Indeed a wonderfully rich spiritual and mystical theology can be derived from the inspired books of the Old Testament, especially the prophetic books. This theology, however, depends entirely upon the person of the one who is constantly predicted, the Messias, the Savior. Only He will bring us this mystical doctrine to the plane of actual experience. Thus the theology of the Old Testament postulates Christ. Man's union with God, the goal of the spiritual life, likewise depends entirely upon Christ. Without the Savior this union between God and His sinful creature would be impossible. But in Him and by Him the nuptials are prepared, for He redeems and espouses humanity. Henceforth this God, who is Father and Savior, may be seen also as the Lover for whom man is destined, the wooer of souls."

-- Spirituality of the Old Testament vol 1 by Paul-Marie of the Cross, ocd

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lijit search working

The Lijit search wijit stopped working properly at least one week ago. This also caused problems with Lijit's visitors map such that visitors from certain countries were not counted nor identified in the map. In theory, the problem is now fixed. Those of you using Lijit, please check your stats to see if there's anything unusual. I would appreciate if some readers would test the search and let me know if they encounter any problems.

Merci! Danke!  Grazie! Gracias! Thank you!

Cast yourself into His arms like a child

"...Without a doubt, we must resolve again and again to unite ourselves to God in order that we may keep such resolutions. But in your fervors, I do not want you to desire temptations or occasions for mortification. Since, by the grace of God they will not be lacking to you, there is no need to occupy your heart in desiring them. Instead you should occupy your heart in preparing and readying itself to receive them - not when you wish, but when God wishes to give them to you...

But as for the complaint that you are miserable and unfortunate, my dear daughter, one must guard against this in every way. For beside the fact that such words are dishonorable for a servant of God, they come from a heart that is too dispirited and arise not so much from impatience as from anger.

Look here, my dear daughter, make a particular exercise of gentleness and acquiescence in the will of God, not only concerning extraordinary things, but chiefly in these little daily irritations. Prepare yourself for in in the morning, after dinner, in saying grace before supper, after supper, and in the evening; and make it your standard practice for a time. But do these exercises with a tranquil and joyous spirit; and if distractions arise, humble yourself and start again.

It is a good thing to aspire in a general way to the highest perfection of the Christian life, but we do not need to know its nature in detail, except insofar as it concerns our improvement and advancement in daily affairs. From day to day, refer the progress of your general wish for perfection to the Providence of God; in this matter, cast yourself into His arms like a child who, in order to grow, eats from day to day what his father gives to him, confident that his father will give to him in proportion to his appetite and his necessity.

Regarding your temptations to envy, practice what I advise in my book concerning these [Introduction to the Devout Life, part 2, chapters 45 & 52]. Because Holy Communion is profitable to you, receive it with spiritual fervor and a clear conscience. Live always joyously even amid your temptations. Do not do any other penance for the time being, and resolve yourselve in a spirit of gentleness to bear lovingly with your neighbor, to visit the sick, and to have good courage..."

-- From a letter from St Francis de Sales to Madame de la Fléchère (February 1609)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A serious spiritual life becomes a continuous effort - with a glance enlightened by supernatural faith

"Good sense and sound judgment, by which are meant the practical use of our thinking faculties, bring us to see things as they really are, as they exist in the world around us. It goes without saying that there can be no perfection of the soul without them. They are, so to speak, the groundwork of perfection, matters of the first importance.

St Teresa, whose views in this matter are universally acknowledged to be right, had no wish to have people in her convents who were too limited in these areas, and for this reason: with them there is little hope of any spiritual progress being made. 'If a person is going to reform himself' she says, 'and to advance in virtue, then he must first of all be a person of intelligence, of sound judgment.'

St John of the Cross takes the same view. 'Enter into accound with thy reason,' he writes in his Maxims. 'He that acs according to reason is like one that eats of substantial food.'

In one way or another all Carmelite spiritual writers give evidence of this same fundamental confidence in reason which joins the life of devotion to natural realities in the same way that a healthy vine-stock is rooted in the soul which nourishes and feeds it. And in this attitude they take toward reason we already have the rough sketch of their whole philosophy of the spiritual life.

Nevertheless, above and beyond the light of reason, there is the more brilliant sun of faith.

In the light of faith, another Reality - An Infinite Reality - is indissolubly linked with the realities we already know by reason. This is the Reality of God - 'He Who is.' This is that 'sea of glass, like unto crystal' (Apocalypse 4:6) which stretches farther than the eye can see before the throne of God.

Through faith and reason joined to one another in this way, the Christian has a kind of supernatural good sense which  leads him to see things as they are actually seen by God, to see them as they truly are. A spiritual life which is at all serious thus becomes a continuous effort to be true, to see all circumstances in proportion and perspective - with an eye made clear by purity of intention, with a glance enlightened by supernatural faith."

-- The Simple Steps to God by Fr François of St Mary, ocd

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The efficacy of the word of God in us depends on our faith

"The Carmelite tradition is sometimes contrasted with that of the Benedictines and even set in opposition to it: as if Benedictine piety were liturgical and objective and Carmelite spirituality individualistic and subjective. On the basis of this oversimplified distinction, partisans can line up in opposing factions and argue with one another about the relative merits of the two 'schools.' It is inevitable that such divisions should spring into existence but we must regret them, for they diminish the horizons of the Christian spirit. In actual fact, both the Carmelites and the Benedictines of our day can and should appeal to a common monastic tradition with its roots in the Oriental Desert spirituality. If the Benedictines have maintained the emphasis on community and liturgy, the Carmelites are no less traditional in their emphasis on solitude and contemplative prayer. These two trends, far from being opposed to one another, actually complement one another. Without both these emphases the monastic spiritual tradition is incomplete.
One who seeks God seeks the supreme, though invisible Reality. He therefore exposes his whole life to anguish and to risk. He seeks supreme security in what seems to the world supremely insecure. How can he ever be 'sure' that he is seeking God, and much more, how can he ever be sure that he has 'found' Him?

Christ prayed at the Last Supper that His Apostles might be 'santified in truth.' The word of God is truth, the highest reality, planted in the depths of our being by our Creator and Redeemer. This word must grow in us like a seed. It must awaken to life, to knowledge, to love, to experience. Our whole interior life is centered on the spiritual 'activity' and 'dynamism' of this word which St Paul calls 'living and efficacious.' The efficacy of the word of God in us depends on faith, and out faith is itself a gift of God. The 'living and efficacious' word of God, received by faith, fully embraced by loving acceptance in the depths of our being, flowers into an experience of God as present to us. We come, in this experience of presence, to an inexplicable, yet utterly real, personal awareness of the Almighty Who loves us and dwells in our inmost heart.

To reach this spiritual awareness of God, this 'knowledge' of God in the obscurity of faith, we must first of all awaken to a knowledge of our true selves. And so we must pray, as did Saint Augustine: 'Lord, let me know myself and let me know Thee' If we do not know ourselves, we cannot know God either. But we must know ourselves rightly, as images of God. And so we must avoid a twofold danger. On one hand we tend to indulge in unhealthy instropection, analyzing ourselves without end. On the other, ignoring the reality both of ourselves and God, we tend to take God for granted and to assume that He is simply what we want Him to be. Instead of knowing ourselves as images of God, we contemplate a god who is the image of ourselves. That means our 'god' is an idol - the justification of our own illusion about ourselves. Under such conditions, the interior life is anything but real.
The combination of austerity and kindness, detachment and good humor, mysticism and common sense, is one of the characteristics of Carmel."

-- Fr Mary Louis, ocso, (Thomas Merton) in his introduction to The Simple Steps to God by Fr François of St Mary, ocd

Friday, October 23, 2009

Don't pass the buck! -respond to the call to holiness

"We all probably know in some way that we're called to holiness bur perhaps struggle to respond. Feeling the challenge of the call and yet seeing the obstacles, it is easy to rationalize delaying or compromising and avoid a wholehearted and immediate response.

It is not uncommon, for examole, to 'pass the buck' to others whom we deem in a better position to respond wholeheartedly. Those of us who are Catholic lay people often look at our busy lives and sluggish hearts and suppose that priests and nuns are in a better position to respond to the call. After all, we may think to ourselves, that's what we pay them for! We may think that when our kids are grown, or when we retire, or after a business crisis passes, or when we don't have to care for ailing parents, or when we get a better job, or when we get married, or ... that then we'll be in a better position to respond.

Unfortunately, being a priest or nun doesn't eliminate temptations to also 'pass the buck.' With the reduction in numbers, it is understandably easy for priests and nuns to feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and have such a busy pace of life that they might suppose that it's the cloistered orders who are truly in a good position to respond wholeheartedly to the call to holiness.

But even in cloistered orders, it's possible to rationalize and 'pass the buck.' What with caring for guests, overseeing building renovations, attending monastic conferences, or making cheese, bread, or jams, it's possible to suppose that it's the hermit who really can respond wholeheartedly.

But even being a hermit doesn't guarantee such a response. After all, hermits need to work out a rule of life, have meetings with superiors to review it, make sure their medical insurance is covering them properly, deal with internal and external distractions and temptations, and maybe even contribute to a newsletter for hermits!

What really holds us back from a wholehearted response to the call of Jesus, of Vatican II, of the repeated urgings of the Spirit, is not really the external cirumstances of our lives, but the interior sluggishness of our hearts. We need to be clear that there will never be a better time or a better set of circumstances than now to respond wholeheartedly to the call to holiness. Who knows how much longer we'll be alive on this earth? We don't know how long we'll live or what the future holds. Now is the acceptable time. The very things we think are obstacles are the very means God is giving us to draw us to depend more deeply on Him."

-- The Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Open your heart to the love of God: the gift of holiness is offered to all the baptized

"It is prayer which roots us in this truth. It constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness. When this principle is not respected, is it any wonder that pastoral plans come to nothing and leave us with a disheartening sense of frustration? We then share the experience of the disciples in the Gospel story of the miraculous catch of fish: "We have toiled all night and caught nothing" (Lk 5:5). This is the moment of faith, of prayer, of conversation with God, in order to open our hearts to the tide of grace and allow the word of Christ to pass through us in all its power: Duc in altum! On that occasion, it was Peter who spoke the word of faith: "At your word I will let down the nets" (ibid.). As this millennium begins, allow the Successor of Peter to invite the whole Church to make this act of faith, which expresses itself in a renewed commitment to prayer."

-- Novo Millennio Ineunte by Pope John Paul II


Read the entire Apostolic Letter here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spiritual journey: the stages of spiritual growth

"...[T]he purgative stage or way includes the initial phases of the spiritual life, including coming to conversion, turning away from sin, bringing one's life into conformity with the moral law, initiating the habit of prayer and the practices of piety, and maintaining a relatively stable life in the Church. (The first three mansions of Teresa [of Avila] deal with issues connected with the purgative stage.)

The illuminative stage is one of continuing growth. It is characterized by deeper prayer, growth in the virtues, deepening love of neighbor, greater moral stability, more complete surrender to the lordship of Christ, greater detachment from all that is not God, and increasing desire for full union. It is accompanied by various kinds of trials and purifications and sometimes be great consolations and blessings, including what are commonly referred to as 'mystical phenomena.' (Teresa's fourth, fifth, and sixth mansions deal with issues connected with this stage.)

The unitive stage is one of deep, habitual union with God, characterized by deep joy, profound humility, freedom from fears of suffering or trials, great desire to serve God, and apostolic fruitfulness. The experience of the presence of God is almost continual; great insight into the things of God is experienced; and while not without suffering, suffering now becomes primarily the grace of sharing in the redeeming suffering of Christ rather than the suffering of purification. This deep, habitual union is variously described as a 'spiritual marriage' or 'transforming union.' (Teresa describes the unitive stage in the seventh mansion.)

This three-stage division is a useful way of broadly characterizing the different aspects of the spiritual journey...

...[I]t's important to bear in mind that in practice no one's life perfectly matches any of the stages described... [D]ifferent aspects of these stages can be present in one's life simultaneously, although the direction of our lives, if we are making progress, should increasingly mirror the characteristics the saints point out as indicators of spiritual progress. As Catherine [of Siena] puts it, 'These are three stages for which many have the capacity, and all three can be present in one and the same person.'"

-- The Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Consider by a simple glance the mysteries of Christ and His love

"In [Interior Castle], St Teresa treats of persons who, having been raised to higher levels of prayer, cannot meditate as they did formerly. When once the understanding has enjoyed God, the soul can no longer seek Him as it formerly did by meditation. However, as the will is not always enflamed with love, the activity of the understanding is sometimes necessary to revive the flame. But there will be no need to have recourse to reasoning or other considerations, because the soul is no longer capable of these. It will be enough for the memory to recall the mysteries of Christ and His love, which the soul will consider by a simple glance, and this alone will be enough to enflame the will. In the same work, she speaks also of another type of prayer of recollection, in which the soul is passive and makes no further progress other than that which may properly be called mystic.

St John of the Cross also knew about this intermediary state between ordinary meditation and contemplation properly so called, or infused contemplation. He deals with it in his Ascent of Mount Carmel. What he writes there can be summarized by saying that after the soul has actively practiced meditation and has thus acquired an enlightened knowledge of the Most Blessed Trinity, its love is therefore increased; it derives from this form of prayer all the benefits to be found there, and it acquires the habit of recollection. Then, 'as soon as the soul puts itself into the presence of God, it finds itself plunged into a confused and loving knowledge of God, full of peace and calm,' without anything distinct or particular in this knowledge. Henceforth meditation becomes tasteless and impossible. If, nevertheless, the soul wanted to return to the practice of meditation, out of fear of idleness or from a desire to enjoy the sensible consolation to be found in it, the soul would only experience dryness and would lose the fruits of contemplation without obtaining those of discursive prayer.

'The soul must then be content to raise its attention with love to God, without making any particular acts. It must conduct itself passively, without making the least effort (of reasoning), applying itself to God with loving attention, simple and pure, as one does when one opens one's eyes to look on someone with love.'"

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


You may be wondering about my choice of a planetary nebula for today's excerpt. I've always been fascinated by galaxies, nebulae, etc, so much so that my favorite class in undergrad was astronomy. You'd be surprised at how many contemplatives I've met that are fascinated by the universe. If a picture like this is awe inspiring, just try to imagine what the Annunciation or the Resurrection, or any other mystery, were like. And that's why St Teresa stressed considering the mysteries of Christ's humanity regardless of how advanced we may be in the spiritual life; and St John of the Cross, in his Living Flame of Love, speaks of the soul "applying itself to God with loving attention, simple and pure..."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Memorial of the North American Martyrs

Between the years 1642 and 1649 eight members of the Society of Jesus were killed in North America. While on his way by canoe to the country of the Hurons, Isaac Jogues and several Huron Christians were captured by a war party of Mohawk Iroquois. They were taken back to the Mohawk village where they were tortured in various gruesome ways. Jogues had several of his fingers bitten or burned off by the Huron and Iroquois tribes. These brave missionaries gave their lives to bring the true faith to the natives of that region. Saint Isaac Jogues died on October 18, 1647, and Saint John de Brebeuf on March 16, 1648.

The names of the martyrs are:
  1. Jean de Brébeuf, SJ
  2. Isaac Jogues, SJ
  3. Gabriel Lalemant, SJ
  4. Anthony Daniel, SJ
  5. Charles Garnier, SJ
  6. Noël Chabanel, SJ
  7. René Goupil, SJ
  8. Jean de La Lande (layman)
To learn a more about each of these martyrs for the faith and the miracles that lead to their canonisation, please visit this site.


"For two days now I have experienced a great desire to be a martyr and to endure all the torments the martyrs suffered.

Jesus, my Lord and Savior, what can I give you in return for all the favors you have first conferred on me? I will take from your hand the cup of your sufferings and call on your name. I vow before your eternal Father and the Holy Spirit, before your most holy Mother and her most chaste spouse, before the angels, apostles and martyrs, before my blessed fathers Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis Xavier - in truth I vow to you, Jesus my Savior, that as far as I have the strength I will never fail to accept the grace of martyrdom, if some day you in your infinite mercy should offer it to me, your most unworthy servant.

I bind myself in this way so that for the rest of my life I will have neither permission for freedom to refuse opportunities of dying and shedding my blood for you, unless at a particular juncture I should consider it more suitable for your glory to act otherwise at that time. Further, I bind myself to this so that, on receiving the blow of death, I shall accept it from your hands with the fullest delight and joy of spirit. For this reason, my beloved Jesus, and because of the surging joy which moves me, here and now I offer my blood and body and life. May I die only for you, if you will grant me this grace, since you willingly died for me. Let me so live that you may grant me the gift of such a happy death. In this way, my God and Savior, I will take from your hand the cup of your sufferings and call on your name: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!

My God, it grieves me greatly that you are not known, that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to you, that sin has not been driven from it. My God, even if all the brutal tortures which prisoners in this region must endure should fall on them, I offer myself most willingly to them and I alone shall suffer them all."

-- From the spiritual diaries of St Jean de Brébeuf

He will make His presence felt and give Himself to the soul

"In the prayer of recollection, [St Teresa of Avila] says, one withdraws from all created things, recollects all one's powers, withdraws into oneself, and there contemplates God, the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, or Christ the Son. The soul represents Our Lord to itself in some one of His states which it prefers, and speaks familiarly to Him, now as a Father, now as a Brother or a Spouse, or as to its divine Master.

The senses, both interior and exterior, experience the effect of this recollection; the eyes close of themselves; and the soul, entirely occupied with Him whom it loves,  is enflamed with divine love. It is then on the right road to receive the gift of infused contemplation. Once the soul has freed itself from all created things and given itself entirely to God so that He can dispose of it as He pleases, He will make His presence felt and also give Himself to the soul. The better prepared oneself for this, St Teresa advises that recollection be prolonged during the day or at least that contact with God be renewed from time to time."

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We must undertake prayer with generosity and confidence

"We said that prayer will be fruitful only if one takes pains to perform it well. God, of course, will help us to do this, but in the begining it is we ourselves who must do the work. We must therefore undertake it with generosity and confidence. The greater the effort we make, the sooner we shall succeed. But we must be careful to avoid excesses. If we let the imagination work too much, we run the risk of falling into illusions. By wanting to meditate, to reflect and analyze too much, we run the danger of fatiguing the mind so as to make it incapable of any work requiring application. 'In any case, the important thing is not to do a lot of thinking, but to love much!' The affections themselves ought to be tempered so that the soul may not be drawn into an excess of sentiment. Medidation requires effort, but also moderation.

The Simplification of Prayer

When the soul has faithfully practised discursive prayer for a period of time, the acts which were so numerous at the beginning gradually become more simple. For souls given to the contemplative life, a life of solitude and recollection in prayer, a life ordinarily well nourished by instruction and reading, this simplification comes rather early.

First, the considerations entertained by the mind and discursive reasoning decrease. Once the soul is instructed and persuaded, it needs little reasoning to be enlightened and to make decisions. A few discursive moments, an idea or two recalling previous considerations, are enough to nourish the mind and move the will. The soul passes quickly to contemplation and acts of love. Prayer is then characterized by the affectionate colloquy , words of thanksgiving and praise, and acts of petition.

For this reason spiritual writers have called it affective prayer. Usually they consider this as a special type of prayer, or at least as the second defree in the life of prayer. But Carmelite authors, who regard prayer as esentially affective, see in this only the simplification of the same type of prayer. However, these affective acts, too, are reduced little by little. Immediately upon putting itself into the presence of God, the soul is recollected in Him or gazes with faith and love upon Christ, and without engaging in any reasoning processes, without any noise of words, the soul contemplates and loves. St Teresa treats of this type of prayer in her Way of Perfection under the name of prayer of actve recollection."

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

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Memorial of St Ignatius of Antioch

"Make yourselves gentle, and be born again in the faith which is the body of the Lord and in the love which is the blood of Jesus Christ. No one must bear a grudge against his neighbor. Never give the pagans the slightest pretext, so that the great majority who serve God will not be mocked because of the folly of a few. Woe to him on account of whose folly my name is blasphemed.

So turn a deaf ear to the talk of anyone whose language has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Descended from David, he was truly born of Mary, he really ate and drank. He was really persecuted under Pontius Pilate, and truly died by crucifixion, while heavenly and earthly beings and those under the earth looked on. He truly rose from the dead, being raised by his Father. Those who believe in him will be raised like him by the Father. We shall rise again in Christ without whom we do not have true life.

Avoid, then, those poisonous growths that bear deadly fruit; the mere taste of them is sudden death. Such growths are not of the Father's planting; if they were they would be recognized as branches of the cross, their fruit would be imperishable. The cross of Christ's passion is his invitation to you who are the members of his body.

The head cannot come to life without the members, since God, the very ground of unity, has foretold such a union.

The chains which I wear for the sake of Jesus Christ, praying all the time that I may come to God, are my plea. Continue to live together in that harmony of yours and persevere in prayer together. It is fitting that everyone, and especially the presbyters, should comfort the bishop and thereby honor the Father and Jesus Christ, and his apostles.

I beg you, if you love me, listen to me, so that this letter of mine may not witness against you. And pray for me, too, lest I be found unfit, for in God's mercy I need your love to make me worthy of the destiny that is mine.

And now, farewell in Jesus Christ. Be submissive to your bishop, as you would to God's command, and also to the clergy. As individuals, love one another with undivided affection. My life is being sacrificed for you, not only at this moment, but also when I shall come before God. Though I am still in danger, God the Father, through Jesus Christ, is my pledge that my prayer and yours will be heard. My desire is that, through him, you may be found without fault." 
-- From the letters of St Ignatius of Antioch. Today we celebrate his memorial.

No sacrifice can be accepted by God unless it is the result of a free and generous love of man

"The magnificent love of God has chosen creatures to be the object of His predilection, not with an exclusive love but with a love that surpasses all human loves, a paradoxical love, which intensely loves the individual simultaneously embracing all men; a love which is not simply limitless bur rather inexhaustible and ever increasing, directing all human affections back to the source from which they came, namely God. So marvelous was this love that Christ did not come to extinguish this mutual and reciprocal love found among men but rather to purify it so all men might come to love their neighbor in the heart of God. In a most solemn moment the divine Master proclaimed love the fulfilling of the law, the synthesis of all the obligations of men. 'A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another as I have loved you.'

The entire doctrine on love, as given by St John [of the Cross], can be reduced to three points:

1. No work, no matter how well accomplished it may be, is worthy of God if it is not permeated with charity.

2. No human love is acceptable to God, if it does not accord with the love God has for each of His creatures. 'I have given you an example, that as I have done, so you do also.'

3. The perfection of love consists in the fact that we love all men equally, in God and for God, showing to each the same love which God reserves for privileged souls.

Viewing the admonitions of St John from this point we find that his teachings are in complete accord with the teachings of Christ. He asks no sacrifice other than that asked by Christ Himself. Rather he teaches that we must love our fellow man as Christ has loved us. We know well that Christ loved men infinitely and because of this love He readily sympathized with them in all their trials and sorrows ever showing them the greatest affection and love. He loved His eternal Father more, even to the extent of not hesitating to separate Himself from he love of His creatures when the glory of His Father required it. The love of Christ for His Mother was incomparable, yet He did not hesitate to sacrifice His blood for all men even though this sacrifice of His life meant the breaking of His Mother's heart. With this double sacrifice of the Son and His Mother, Divine Providence was pleased to redeem the world. From the price demanded for the Redemption we can conclude that the moral world rests on the double column of love and sacrifice. No human act can be worthy of God unless it is accompanied by sacrifice; no sacrifice can be accepted by God unless it is the result of a free and generous love of man."

-- The Secret of Sanctity of St John of the Cross by Bl Lucas of St Joseph, ocd

Friday, October 16, 2009

Keep yourself simply and peacefully attentive to the prayer of Jesus within you

"Fear not, O my soul, these apparently extravagant expressions, this idea of submersion in God, of being invaded by God, which amounts to the same thing; for God never invades you except for the sake of submerging you, so to speak, in the ocean of light and of love which He is.

The Eucharist of Jesus leads you directly to this grace. Do not stand in dread of any foolish pretence or irreverent presumption. The Eucharist itself supplies you with wings strong enough to lift you so high, yes, even unto the Lord Most High, Jesus.

Remember, then, that just as it is now not you, but He who lives in you, so it is not so much you who pray; it is He who prays in you.

I implore you to let go all your reasoning; do not wear your mind with that philosophy. Rather, stop torturing yourself; keep yourself simply and peacefully attentive to the prayer of Jesus within you. Can one imagine any activity comparable to that of a soul who rises to her God through the very activity whereby Jesus lifts His gaze to His Father in the love of the Father and of the Son?

It is then that you find yourself, as it were, immersed in God, invaded by God. And it is the Eucharist living in you which obtains for you this ineffable privilege!

What Jesus did on the mountain when He passed the night in the prayer of God, He renews in you whom He constitutes, at this hour, a kind of mountain of God, a lofty mountain, a high-ridged mountain, a mountain in which it has pleased God to dwell.

What was it He was doing? Was He praying for someone greater than Himself? Yes indeed, insofar as He was man. Did He humble Himself, soliciting some grace? The Gospel tells us nothing; rather does it seem to suggest something sublime by those words: in the prayer of God.

What is that prayer? It is the eternal contemplation of God, of His beauty, of His infinite love. Can one imagine a more sublime prayer than that which God makes eternally within Himself, when He contemplates and loves His sovereign majesty? That is where the soul of my Saviour spent its nights and its days; that was His prayer. He would teach you to give yourself up to it with all your own soul.

Of course, Jesus here below lived at the same time in His soul as if in heaven; He was always in possession of the clear face-to-face vision, the vision of the Word and, through that Word, of the entire Trinity; Jesus alone could enjoy, even on earth, the fullness of the prayer of God.

He alone was thus in the full noonday of divine glory, in the bosom of that Father who became His sacred oratory. God He was, Himself, in His own prayer; it was Himself He contemplated, the Word of the Father, and loved eternally. As man, His soul entered into the prayer of the God who He was. He penetrated into God, immersed Himself therein. He contemplated the greatness of God, His infinite bounty; He loved them in God's contemplation of His own grandeurs and in the infinite love God necessarily bears toward them. What is that but entering into the prayer of God? Carried away by the impulse of love from the Holy Spirit, His blessed soul went forth to the Father, to the Son who He was, to the Holy Spirit, while at the same time it submerged itself in the abyss of the divine perfections.

Who has ever heard of such a prayer? Can it become ours? And, if so, what can it not obtain for us?

The Eucharist, living in the depths of our soul, introduces us to that prayer. At that moment, forming but one thing with Jesus Christ, entering into a mysterious participation in all that He is, all that He has, we are carried away by Him into the movements of His soul. Immersed in it, invaded by it, we participate in His prayer of God. Do we realized that?

Where does He lead us? Into the treasures of His wisdom and knowledge, into the riches of divine light and intensity. That is, of course, His privilege; but in proportion to our silent attention, our recollection and self-donation of the soul, at that most precious hour, this prayer inundates us with the graces of the Saviour.

What heavenly moments, yes, blessed moments, when ravished out of ourselves, we enjoy insofar as we are permitted to enjoy it here below, the most intimate communion with God, Father, Son, Spirit of Love; it is the prelude and the pledge of the beatific vision."

-- Pledge of Glory: Eucharistic Meditations based on the Prayer of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity by Dom Eugene Vandeur

Memorial of St Margaret Mary Alacoque

Margaret Alacoque, the fifth of seven children of Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn, was born at Lhautecour in old Burgandy, now East Central France, on July 22, 1647.

She was baptized Margaret, adding the name Mary only at the time of her Confirmation in 1669. At the age of four she took a vow of chastity, though "I did not then understand what I had done, nor what was meant by the words 'vow' and 'chastity'" From her earliest years she was tenderly devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin.

Her father died when she was eight. When she was eight and a half, she was sent to the school of the Urbanist Nuns at Charolles, where she received the only two years of formal education she ever had.

At the then early age of nine, she made her first Holy Communion.

"This Communion shed such bitterness over all my little pleasures and amusements that I was no longer able to enjoy any of them, although I sought them eagerly." Shortly after this she succumbed to long illness. "But I fell into so pitable a state of ill health that for about four years I was unable to walk. My bones pierced my skin.

Consequently I was removed from the convent at the end of two years. since no remedy could be found for my illness, I was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin with the promise that, if she cured me, I should one day be one of Her daughters. Scarcely had I made this vow, when I was cured and taken anew under the protection of Our Lady."

Though her father, a royal notary, had been in good financial circumstances, Margaret and her mother were after his death subjected to domestic persecution and captivity in their home by some of their relatives.

This drew the girl more to mental prayer, and brought her closer to Christ in His suffering. Eventualy, her mother again became mistress in her own house and prevailed upon her now seventeen-year-old daughter to consider marriage.

This brought about an inner conflict and a struggle began in her soul between the devil and the world on one hand and Our Lord and her vow on the other. Satan: "Poor fool, what do you mean by wishing to be a nun? You will become the laughing stock of the world, for you will never be able to persevere." Her Savior after the scrouging: "Would you take this pleasure, whereas I never had any and delivered Myself up to every kind of bitterness for love of you and to win your heart? Nevertheless, you would still dispute with Me!"

"I had indeed committed great crimes," she writes, "for once during the days of Carnival, together with other young girls, I disguised myself through vain complacency.

This has been to me a cause of bitter tears and sorrow during my whole life, together with the fault I committed in adorning myself in worldly attire through the same motive of complacency towards the persons above mentioned."

She was induced against her better judgement to apply for admission into the Ursuline Order at Macon, but was suddenly called home just "as they were ready to open the convent door to me".

On May 25, 1671, she paid her first visit to her "dear Paray,' where as soon as I entered the parlor, I heard interiorly these words: 'It is here that I would have you be'" She took the habit August 25, 1671, and made her profession November 6, 1672, as the first daughter, of the new superior, Mother de Saumaise, who was to figure so largely in her later life.

Christ had carefully prepared His servant for her great mission, through suffering, prayer and special guidance.

Her sufferings were to continue to the end, her prayer would become ecstatic, the Savior Himself would be her personal spiritual director till death.

In this way she would be able to present to the world the Devotion to the Sacred Heart in its modern form. Our Lord made many revelations to Margaret mary-perhaps forty. The most striking of these began on December 27, 1673; they ended with the greatest of them all, "Behold this Heart," in June 1675.

It was during this year that Claude de la Colombiere, a saintly young priest of the Society of Jesus, was providentially sent to Paray-le-Monail and appointed extraordinary confessor to the Visitandine community of which Margaret Mary was a member.

He encouraged and reassured her, and himself became an apostle of the Devotion of the Sacred Heart for the few years of life that remained to him. The notes of His Retreat made in London in 1677, where he was sent after only eighteen months in Paray, were to be a great instrument in promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Margaret Mary was mistress of novices from 1685 to 1686. Her death came on October 17, 1690. Her body still rests at Paray-le-Monial. The process with a view to her canonization was begun in 1715.

She was declared Venerable in 1824, Blessed in 1864, and became St. Margaret Mary on May 13, 1920.


"In order to be like You, who are always alone in the Blessed Sacrament, I shall love solitude and try to converse with You as much as possible. Grant that my mind may not seek to know anything but You, that my heart may have no longings or desires but to love You. When I am obliged to take some comfort, I shall take care to see that it be pleasing to Your Heart. In my conversations, O divine Word, I shall consecrate all my words to You so that You will not permit me to pronounce a single one which is not for Your glory.... When I am thirsty, I shall endure it in honor of the thirst You endured for the salvation of souls.... If by chance, I commit some fault, I shall humble myself, and then take the opposite virtue from Your Heart, offering it to the eternal Father in expiation for my failure. All this I intend to do, O Eucharistic Jesus, to unite myself to You in every action of the day."

-- The Letters of St Margaret Mary Alacoque by CA Herbst, SJ

Thursday, October 15, 2009


It's been brought to my attention that over the past several weeks a number of OCDSs have been using the blog as a spiritual resource. This is very flattering, considering that the closest OCDS group I have is about 4 hours away by plane.

If you are a new reader, OCDS or otherwise, welcome to louange de sa gloire! I hope you enjoy the blog. I have mentioned this in the past, but I'll repeat it for those who may have missed it: if you're looking for something in particular, please let me know. I may be able to help. I have an extensive Carmelite collection, and a decent Scriptural / Spiritual one. I cannot promise to be able to post something, but I'll try my best, especially if it's Carmelite. I don't know about the OCDS formation program, but if I can help those of you who belong to that part of the Carmelite family, please let me know via e-mail. If you ask for something and don't see anything posted in a couple of weeks or so, please remind me. If you have your own blog and would like to copy some of the material I post here, feel free to do so. I would appreciate if you quote or link me back and let me know, but I will not go "after you" if you do not. I am more concerned with doing what little I can to help spread God's love and mercy through spiritual works than with ratings.

I have been very blessed by the good Lord in more ways than I can imagine. When I used to study and then work, I spent my "leisure money" on Carmelite and catholic books. When I had to travel overseas due to work, instead of going to checkout the "night scene" or waste my money on vanities, I would go to monasteries, catholic churches and bookstores. My friends who are Carmelites in other monasteries (most of them 200 or more years old) would also share with me from their treasures. Over time, I accumulated over 1000 wonderful books, most of them Carmelite. It is not surprising that I have a "book blog". I come from a family of readers, so you can imagine what my parents' house looks like. *grin* (Some people want CD players for Christmas - we want bookshelves! *laugh*)

In a society that is thirsty for God, I think it is unfortunate that there aren't more Catholic bookstores with solid books in their shelves. Piety, tradition and doctrine have been replaced by new age, modernism and relativism. With God's grace, you will not find any of that in this blog - ever. Some of you may be in my current situation - essentially homebound and without access to daily mass. But there's personal prayer and spiritual reading to help satiate our thirst for God.

Whether you decide to join as a public follower or remain anonymous, enjoy your spiritual break. Please pray for me and for all those who read this blog, that we may all be open to and cooperate with God's grace. May St Teresa intercede for us and help us attain union with God.

Happy feast day our holy mother Saint Teresa! 

Solemnity of St Teresa of Jesus of Avila

Saint Teresa was born in Avila, Spain, March 28, 1515. She died in Alba, October 4, 1582.* Her family origins have been traced to Toledo and Olmedo. Her father, Alonso de Cepeda, was a son of a Toledan merchant, Juan Sánchez de Toledo and Inés de Cepeda, originally from Tordesillas. Juan transferred his business to Avila, where he succeeded in having his children marry into families of the nobility. In 1505 Alonso married Catalina del Peso, who bore him two children and died in 1507. Two years later Alonso married the 15-year-old Beatriz de Ahumada of whom Teresa was born.

Early Life. In 1528, when Teresa was 15, her mother died, leaving behind 10 children. Teresa was the "most beloved of them all." She was of medium height, large rather than small, and generally well proportioned. In her youth she had the reputation of being quite beautiful, and she retained her fine appearance until her last years (María de S. José, Libro de recreaciones, 8). Her personality was extroverted, her manner affectionately buoyant, and she had the ability to adapt herself easily to all kinds of persons and circumstances. She was skillful in the use of the pen, in needlework, and in household duties. Her courage and enthusiasm were readily kindled, an early example of which trait occurred when at the age of 7 she left home with her brother Rodrigo with the intention of going to Moorish territory to be beheaded for Christ, but they were frustrated by their uncle, who met the children as they were leaving the city and brought them home (Ephrem de la Madre de Dios, Tiempo y Vida de Sta. Teresa--hereafter abbrev. TV--142-143).

At about 12 the fervor of her piety waned somewhat. She began to take an interest in the development of her natural attractions and in books of chivalry. Her affections were directed especially to her cousins, the Mejías, children of her aunt Doña Elvira, and she gave some thought to marriage. Her father was disturbed by these fancies and opposed them. While she was in this crisis, her mother died. Afflicted and lonely, Teresa appealed to the Blessed Virgin to be her mother. Seeing his daughter's need of prudent guidance, her father entrusted her to the Augustinian nuns at Santa María de Gracia in 1531.

Vocation. The influence of Doña María de Brinceño, who was in charge of the lay students at the convent school, helped Teresa to recover her piety. She began to wonder whether she had a vocation to be a nun. Toward the end of the year 1532 she returned home to regain her health and stayed with her sister, who lived in Castellanos. Reading the letters of St. Jerome led her to the decision to enter a convent, but her father refused to give his consent. Her brother and confidant, Rodrigo, had just set sail for the war on the Río de la Plata. She decided to run away from home and persuaded another brother to flee with her in order that both might receive the religious habit. On Nov. 2, 1535, she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation at Avila, where she had a friend, Juana Suárez; and her father resigned himself to this development. The following year she received the habit and began wholeheartedly to give herself to prayer and penance. Shortly after her profession she became seriously ill and failed to respond to medical treatment. As a last resort her father took her to Becedas, a small village, to seek the help of a woman healer famous throughout Castile, but Teresa's health did not improve. Leaving Becedas in the fall of 1538, she stayed in Hortigosa at the home of her uncle Pedro de Cepeda, who gave her the Tercer Abecedario of Francis of Osuna to read.

"I did not know," she said, "how to proceed in prayer or how to become recollected, and so I took much pleasure in it and decided to follow that path with all my strength" (Libro de la Vida, the autobiography of St. Teresa--hereafter abbrev. V--4.6).

Instead of regaining her health, Teresa grew even more ill, and her father brought her back to Avila in July 1539. On August 15 she fell into a coma so profound that she was thought to be dead. After 4 days she revived, but she remained paralyzed in her legs for 3 years. After her cure, which she attributed to St. Joseph (V. 6.6-8), she entered a period of mediocrity in her spiritual life, but she did not at any time give up praying. Her trouble came of not understanding that the use of the imagination could be dispensed with and that her soul could give itself directly to contemplation. During this stage, which lasted 18 years, she had transitory mystical experiences. She was held back by a strong desire to be appreciated by others, but this finally left her in an experience of conversion in the presence of an image of "the sorely wounded Christ" (V 9.2). This conversion dislodged the egoism that had hindered her spiritual development. Thus, at the age of 39, she began to enjoy a vivid experience of God's presence within her.

However, the contrast between these favors and her conduct, which was more relaxed than was thought proper according to the ascetical standards of the time, caused some misunderstanding. Some of her friends, such as Francisco de Salcedo and Gaspar Daza, thought her favors were the work of the devil (V 23.14). Diego de Cetina, SJ, brought her comfort by encouraging her to continue in mental prayer and to think upon the humanity of Christ. Francis Borgia in 1555 heard her confession and told her that the spirit of God was working in her, that she should concentrate upon Christ's Passion and not resist the ecstatic experience that came to her in prayer. Nevertheless she had to endure the distrust even of her friends as the divine favors increased. When Pradanos left Avila in 1558 his place as Teresa's director was taken by Baltasar Alvarez, SJ, who, either from caution or with the intention of probing her spirit, caused her great distress by telling her that others were convinced that her raptures and visions were the work of the devil and that she should not communicate so often (V 25.4). Another priest acting temporarily as her confessor, on hearing her report of a vision she had repeatedly had of Christ, told her it was clearly the devil and commanded her to make the sign of the cross and laugh at the vision (V 29.5). But God did not fail to comfort her, and she received the favor of the transverberation (V 29.13-14). In August 1560 St. Peter of Alcantara counseled her: "Keep on as you are doing, daughter; we all suffer such trials."

Reformer. Her great work of reform began with herself. She made a vow always to follow the more perfect course, and resolved to keep the rule as perfectly as she could (V 32.9). However, the atmosphere prevailing at the Incarnation monastery was less than favorable to the more perfect type of life to which Teresa aspired. A group assembled in her cell one September evening in 1560, taking their inspiration from the primitive tradition of Carmel and the discalced reform of St. Peter of Alcantara, proposed the foundation of a monastery of an eremitical type. At first her confessor, the provincial of the Carmelites, and other advisers encouraged her in the plan (TV 478-482); but when the proposal became known among the townsfolk, there was a great outcry against it. The provincial changed his mind, her confessor dissociated himself from the project, and her advisers ranged themselves with the opposition. Six months later, however, when there was a change of rectors at the Jesuit college, her confessor, Father Alvarez, gave his approval. Without delay Teresa had her sister Juana and her husband Juan de Ovalle buy a house in Avila and occupy it as though it were for themselves (V 33.11). This stratagem was necessary to obviate difficulties with nuns at the Incarnation while the building was being adapted and made ready to serve as a convent. At Toledo, where she was sent by the Carmelite provincial at the importunate request of a wealthy and noble lady, she received a visit from St. Peter of Alcantara, who offered to act as mediator in obtaining from Rome the permissions needed for the foundation. While there she also received a visit from the holy Carmelite María de Yepes, who had just returned from Rome with permission to establish a reformed convent and who provided Teresa with a new light on the question of the type of poverty to be adopted by her own community. At Toledo she also completed in reluctant obedience to her confessor the first version of her Vida.

She returned to Avila at the end of June 1562 (TV 506-507), and shortly thereafter the apostolic rescript, dated Feb. 7, 1562, for the foundation of the new convent arrived. The following August 24 the new monastery dedicated to S. José was founded; Maestro Daza, the bishop's delegate, officiated at the ceremony. Four novices received the habit of the Discalced Carmelites. There was strong opposition among the townspeople and at the Incarnation. The prioress at the Incarnation summoned Teresa back to her monastery, where the Carmelite provincial Angel de Salazar, indignant at her having put her new establishment under the jurisdiction of the bishop, rebuked her, but after hearing her account of things, was mollified and even promised to help quiet the popular disturbance and to give her permission to return to S. José when calm had been restored. On August 25 the council at Avila met to discuss the matter of the new foundation, and on August 30 a great assembly of the leading townspeople gathered. The only one in the assembly to raise his voice against the popular indignation was Domingo Bañez, OP. A lawsuit followed in the royal court, but before the end of 1562 the foundress, as Teresa of Jesus, was authorized by the provincial to return to the new convent. There followed the 5 most peaceful years of her life, during which she wrote the Way of Perfection and the Meditations on the Canticle.

Foundations. In April 1567 the Carmelite general, Giovanni Battista Rossi (Rubeo), made a visitation, approved Teresa's work, and commanded her to establish other convents with some of the nuns from the convent of the Incarnation at Avila. He also gave her permission to establish two houses for men who wished to adopt the reform. The extension of Teresa's work began with the foundation of a convent at Medina del Campo, Aug. 15, 1567. Then followed other foundations: at Malagón in 1568; at Valladolid (Río de Olinos) in 1568; at Toledo and at Pastrana in 1569; at Salamanca in 1570; and at Alba de Tormes in 1571. As she journeyed to Toledo in 1569 she passed through Duruelo, where John of the Cross and Anthony of Jesus had established the first convent of Discalced Brethren in November 1568, and in July 1569 she established the second monastery of Discalced Brethren in Pastrana.

These foundations were followed by an interval during which Teresa served as prioress at the Incarnation monastery in Avila, an office to which she was appointed by the apostolic visitator, Pedro Fernández, OP. This duty she was loath to assume, and she had much opposition to face on the part of the community. However, with the help of St. John of the Cross, who served as a confessor for the nuns, she was able to bring about a great improvement in the spiritual condition of the community. On Nov. 18, 1572, while receiving Communion from the hands of John of the Cross, she received the favor of the "spiritual marriage." At the request of the Duchess of Alba she spent the first days of 1573 in Alba, and then went to Salamanca to put things in order at the foundation there. At the command of Jerome Ripalda, SJ, she started her Book of the Foundations the following August. On March 19, 1574, she established a foundation at Segovia, where the Pastrana nuns had been transferred because of conflicts with the Princess of Eboli. This marked the beginning of a second series of fonndations. The next was made at Beas de Segura in February 1575. There Teresa met Jerome Gratian, apostolic visitator of the order in Andalucia, who ordered a foundation in Seville. The bishop objected, however, and Teresa sent Ana de S. Alberto to Caravaca to make a foundation there in her name on Jan. 1, 1576, and that of the Seville convent was delayed until June 3 of the same year.

Crisis Between the Calced and Discalced. The entry of the Discalced Brethren into Andalusia was forbidden by Rossi, the general of the order, who opposed Teresa and Jerome Gratian in this matter. The general chapter at Piacenza in 1575 ordered the Discalced Brethren to withdraw from Andalusia, and Teresa herself was ordered to retire to a convent. The general put Jerome Tostado at the head of the Discalced Brethren. While the conflict raged between the Calced and Discalced Brethren, Teresa wrote the Visitation of the Discalced Nuns, a part of The Foundations, and her greatest book, The Interior Castle. The nuncio Nicholas Ormaneto, a defender of the Discalced Brethren, died June 18, 1578, and his successor, Felipe Sega, was less favorably disposed toward them. John of the Cross was imprisoned in Toledo. Against Teresa's will the Discalced Brethren held a chapter in Almodovar on Oct. 9, 1578. The nuncio annulled the chapter and by a decree put the Discalced Brethren under the authority of the Calced provincials who subjected them to some harassment. The King intervened, and four were named to advise the nuncio, among them Pedro Fernández, OP. Angel de Salazar was made vicar-general of the Discalced Brethren while negotiations were afoot for the separation of the Discalced from the Calced Brethren and the erection of a Discalced province.

Teresa then turned to visiting her convents and resumed the founding of new ones. On Feb. 25, 1580, she gave the habit to foundresses of the convent in Villaneuva de la Jara. The brief Pia consideratione, dated June 22, 1580, ordered the erection of a distinct province for the Discalced. On March 3, 1581, the chapter of the Discalced was held in Alcala, and Jerome Gratian, who was favored by Teresa, was elected the first provincial. Teresa's last foundations were: at Palencia and Soria in 1581, at Burgos in 1582; the most difficult of all, Granada (1582), was entrusted to the Venerable Anne of Jesus.

Teresa's body was interred in Alba. Paul V declared her a blessed April 24, 1614, and in 1617 the Spanish parliament proclaimed her the Patroness of Spain. Gregory XV canonized her in 1622 together with SS. Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Isidore, and Philip Neri.
Taken from


* With the change of the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, this date became October 15.
On September 27, 1970, Teresa of Avila was declared the first woman Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.

Holy Mother St Teresa, pray for us!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Suffering makes known to God the soul's need for Him

"Suffering is good: guard it as a precious thing. Far better than any words of ours can do, it makes known to God the soul's need for Him. What causes our suffering is the disproportion we see between what we are and what He is. A soul would be petty, indeed, if it did not suffer from that knowledge. But this suffering diminishes that disproportion, and comes from the very effort we are making to reach Him. With the effort, however, is given grace: He giveth grace to the humble. There you have true humility, and it is the reason for all the graces we have received (and they are much greater than we realize). Humility acknowledges these graces: it would not be true humility if it did not. What hast though that thou hast not received? St Paul does not overlook the hast, and we must never forget it either. But he reminds us that all that we have received is the gift of God - we have received it. And what we have received is the pledge of what we shall receive. We must never mind facing our misery, but we should always bring it to God's mercy, which is ever inclined towards it in order to raise it up."

-- They Speak by Silences by A Carthusian

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Mass is the greatest treasure of our lives

"The Mass, my dear friends, is the greatest treasure of our lives, along with Holy Communion. We should be very happy to have the privilege of assisting at it. It is one of the greatest privileges of our lives. We must, therefore, renew our fervor as to the manner of assisting at it. How, then, should we assist at Holy Mass?

Holy Mass is the most beautiful of all prayers. It is the prayer of our Lord Himself. In comparison with it, all other prayers are as nothing. It is an offering worthy of God. Holy Mass! It is more than a prayer; it is a sacrifice, the Sacrifice of God, and worthy of God. It is the same sacrifice as that of Calvary.

The Curé of Ars said: 'All of our good works united do not equal the offering of one Mass. Martyrdom is little in comparison with the Mass. In the Sacrifice of the Mass, God offers for men His own Body and His own Blood. Martyrdom is but the sacrifice of a man offering himself to God.'

Holy Mass! Nothing on earth is greater because it is the commemoration of the Passion of Christ. The Mass! It is the ineffable mystery of divine charity: God communicating Himself to us, bringing us His graces and His favors.

The Sacrifice of the Mass is not only offered by the priest who celebrates, but is also offered by all who assist. You, also, are priests. Does not the priest say, 'Pray, my brothers, that this sacrifice, which is also yours, may be agreeable to God?' We should assist at Mass with the greatest devotion. It is one of the most precious privileges available to us.


In what spirit should we hear Mass? It is a good practice to unite with the celebrant, to appropriate his intentions to ourselves. To unite with Jesus Christ - this is the best and highest exercise. We must follow the attraction of our hearts in all simplicity. These attractions vary for each soul, and vary at different times for the same individual. The best method for you today might now be the best method one year from today.


'On Sunday is it necessary to read the Missal prayers?' No, it is not absolutely necessary. Do you find devotion in the practice? Then continue it.


Let us examine ourselves to see if we have not something to reform in our method of hearing Mass. Let us see if we have not lost much from the Masses we have heard throughout our lives, and through our own fault. What an incomparable blessing is one Mass! Let us profit from this transcendent grace."

-- Seeds of the Kingdom: Notes from Conferences, spiritual directions, meditations by Almire Pichon, SJ

Monday, October 12, 2009

Can you be lonely when this loving Heart awaits you

"Our Lord does not dwell within the tabernacle solely to immolate Himself upon the altar, but also to abide in the midst of His people. We should be assiduous in our visits to the Blessed Sacrament made with profound respect and love. Our Lord repeats, ceaselessly, 'I have not wanted to leave you, to leave you orphans.'

There is no need for a servant to announce your visits, as the rich of this world require. You will always be welcome at the Court of Christ. There are no other nations so privileged as to have their gods so near to them. It is here that our Lord is truly Emmanu-el. God-with-us. It is here that we fully comprehend those words: 'Behold, I am with you even to the consummation of the world.'


How consoling it is to find oneself alone in a deserted church, alone with our Lord.


'What happiness,' said St Francis de Sales, 'to be there alone, alone with God, without anyone's knowing what passes between Him and us, in that heart-to-heart communion in which we share our most secret thoughts and desires.' He continued, 'You come before our Lord hoping that He will speak to you, but that is seldom. Ordinarily it is to speak to Him, to tell Him your troubles, your sorrows. But very often we come before Him to witness by our presence that we desire to belong to Him.'

In our visits to the Blessed Sacrament we must always observe a profound respect. There is the living God, the soul of our souls, the object of our love, of our faith. Of our faith, yes! Let that be shown in our attitude. He is there!


A living faith must be shown in your attitude before the altar. You are in the presence of your King - your Divine Captive.


The essence of our faith lies in the Real Presence of our Lord in the tabernacle.


We must pray with all our hearts at the foot of the tabernacle, in response to the tender invitations: 'My children, give Me your hearts. Come to Me, not as a servant, but as a friend. Come to bring Me your love, to share with Me your most intimate secrets.' If you desire that our Lord treat you as an intimate, then you must be confidential with Him.

Let us heed the loving invitation of Christ: 'You who are weary and heavy-laden, come unto Me and I will give you rest.'

'O hearts wounded, forgotten, neglected, I call you to Myself. I open to you My own Heart. How often have I longed to enclose you within My Heart, as the hen gathers her little ones beneath her wings, but you would not. Come now, through yourself into My open arms!'

Can you be lonely when this loving Heart awaits you? Are you friendless, while He begs for your love?"

-- Seeds of the Kingdom: Notes from Conferences, spiritual directions, meditations by Almire Pichon, SJ

N.B.: Fr Pichon was the spiritual director of St Thérèse and her family prior to her entrance to Carmel.