Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sorrow for sin is consoling

"Sorrow for sin is consoling. But the fretting of soul that arises because we have not come up to our own expectations is not true sorrow for sin. Sorrow for sin arises from a conviction that we have not come up to God’s expectations. Remorse is indeed painful, but remorse is merely the clamor of conscience scolding the soul for its failures; it may lead to sorrow for the past, or the rebuke may be silenced by the new and repeated excesses.

But true sorrow for sin is consoling. Pride may chafe us, because we are not as good as we thought we were; right reason may torture us, because we have acted through passion and wrong reason. Sorrow for sin, however, is humble and is submissive and obedient to right reason. Penitence is healing of the contrite in heart."

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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A divine darkness covers the soul so well prepared for pure contemplation

"May the Holy Spirit be served in granting his aid, and whatever is said here be for the glory of the same God.

This Lord says, that in the beginning when God made the heaven and the earth there was darkness over the abysses, and the spirit of the Lord walked over the waters. When his Divine Majesty wants to grant favor to a soul, He makes it remain in nothing and empty of all, remaining so broken-down and lost from itself as if it weren't , that it may truly receive his divine spirit, having completely gotten rid of all affections and appetites, conquered and beaten all passions, erased from itself all the images and forms that could disturb it. Being as it were a flat and smooth board, without a smudge, and without anything that in itself that would remove or disturb the new paint for which it is disposed, then, to this soul so well prepared, a divine darkness covers its deep abysses of its capacity, in the immensity of God; because this is a pure contemplation in which the soul receives communication from God himself in its very substance. And because the immensity of light of this divine being of God excels so much at the sight of the soul, this divine light becomes for it darkness in terms of what it can receive from him; that the blinder it is and He with immensity in himself is brighter, the darker it seems; and the more it receives from him (the greater the brightness that it receives from him), that greater clarity leaves it blinder in terms of itself and its natural operations."

-- Transformación del alma en Dios, 1 by Cecilia del Nacimiento, ocd
translated by ocdsister

Friday, January 29, 2010

Feel bold confidence of becoming a great saint

“Then I received a grace which I have always looked upon as one of the greatest in my life because at that age I wasn’t receiving the lights I’m now receiving when I am flooded with them. I considered that I was born for glory… After seven years in religious life, I still am weak and imperfect. I always feel, however, the same bold confidence of becoming a great saint because I don’t count on my own merits since I have none, but I trust in Him who is Virtue and Holiness. God alone, content with my weak efforts, will raise me to Himself and make me a saint, clothing me in His infinite merits.”

-- Story of a Soul by St Thérèse of Lisieux

Memorial of Bl Archangela Girlani

"Archangela was born at Trino in Monferrato in an undetermined year of the second half of the XV century, and in Baptism received the name of Eleanor. She soon manifested her intention of becoming a religious, and for that purpose was placed on trial in a monastery near her own city. But here the nearness of her family was not to her liking. In 1477, after having overcome parental objections, she was clothed in the Carmelite habit at Parma, in the recently erected monastery of the Mantuan Congregation; and shortly after her profession she was elected prioress of this monastery. When a new foundation was to be made in the city of Mantua, Archangela was transferred there, and on Feb. 18, 1492; the monastery of St. Mary of Paradise was inaugurated under her direction. But her direction lasted only about three years, for she died on Jan. 25, 1495.

Buried at first in the common grave, a little later her body was exhumed and placed in a casket in the choir. At the suppression of the monastery in 1782 at the command of Joseph II, the body was transferred to Trino, to the convent of the Carmelite nuns, where it remained, however, for only twenty years. For in 1802, when this monastery was also suppressed, the body was brought into the church of the Hospital of St. Lawrence, where it still rests. Her cult from time immemorial was approved on Oct. 1, 1864. Her feast is celebrated in the Carmelite Order on Jan. 29."
-- Biography by Fr Louis Saggi, OCarm

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Memorial of St Thomas Aquinas

"St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church, patron of all universities and of students. His feast day is January 28th. He was born toward the end of the year 1226. He was the son of Landulph, Count of Aquino, who, when St. Thomas was five years old, placed him under the care of the Benedictines of Monte Casino. His teachers were surprised at the progress he made, for he surpassed all his fellow pupils in learning as well as in the practice of virtue.
When he became of age to choose his state of life, St. Thomas renounced the things of this world and resolved to enter the Order of St. Dominic in spite of the opposition of his family. In 1243, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Dominicans of Naples. Some members of his family resorted to all manner of means over a two year period to break his constancy. They even went so far as to send an impure woman to tempt him. But all their efforts were in vain and St. Thomas persevered in his vocation. As a reward for his fidelity, God conferred upon him the gift of perfect chastity, which has merited for him the title of the "Angelic Doctor".
After making his profession at Naples, he studied at Cologne under the celebrated St. Albert the Great. Here he was nicknamed the "dumb ox" because of his silent ways and huge size, but he was really a brilliant student. At the age of twenty-two, he was appointed to teach in the same city. At the same time, he also began to publish his first works. After four years he was sent to Paris. The saint was then a priest. At the age of thirty-one, he received his doctorate.
At Paris he was honored with the friendship of the King, St. Louis, with whom he frequently dined. In 1261, Urban IV called him to Rome where he was appointed to teach, but he positively declined to accept any ecclesiastical dignity. St. Thomas not only wrote (his writings filled twenty hefty tomes characterized by brilliance of thought and lucidity of language), but he preached often and with greatest fruit. Clement IV offered him the archbishopric of Naples which he also refused. He left the great monument of his learning, the "Summa Theologica", unfinished, for on his way to the second Council of Lyons, ordered there by Gregory X, he fell sick and died at the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova in 1274.
St. Thomas was one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time. He was canonized in 1323 and declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V."

-- Biography from Catholic Online

** Those following the 1962 Liturgical Calendar observe St Thomas Aquinas on 7 March, the actual day of his death. The ordinary calendar observes his memorial today, when the translation of his relics to Toulouse occurred in 1369.


"Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act. 
   It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.
   If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.
   If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ's patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.
   If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.
   If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.
   If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in who are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.
   Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."

-- From a conference by St Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Memorial of St Henry de Ossó y Cervello

"Henry was born at Vinebre, Catalonia, Spain, on the 16th October 1840 and was ordained priest on 21st September 1867. He was an apostle to young people in teaching them about their faith and inspired various movements for the teaching of the Gospel. As a spiritual director he was fascinated by St. Teresa of Jesus, the great teacher in the ways of prayer and Daughter of the Church. (She is better known in the English-speaking world as St. Teresa of Avila.) In the light of her teaching, he founded the Company of St. Teresa (1876) dedicated to educating women in the school of the Gospel and following the example of St. Teresa. He gave himself to preaching and the apostolate through the printing press. He underwent many severe trials and sufferings. He died at Gilet, Valencia, Spain, on the 27th of January, 1896. He was canonized on 16th July, 1993, in Madrid, by Pope John Paul II."

-- From the Carmelite Proper Offices


"This is our main endeavor: to think, to feel, to love as Christ Jesus, to act and to speak as He—in a word, to conform our whole life to Christ's. No one can be saved unless they are formed in the image of Christ. To conform our life to Christ's, we need, above all, to study His life, know it, and meditate upon it, not only in its outward appearance, but by immersing ourselves in the thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams of Jesus Christ so as to do everything in union with Him. In His goodness, Jesus Himself invites us, both in word and in action, to do this. For example, if we do not know the sentiments of His heart so as to put them into practice, how can we learn from His gentleness and humility? Or how can we come into His presence each time we act in order to imitate Him? Christ lived, ate, slept, spoke, kept silent, walked, worked, sweat, got tired, rested, was hungry, thirsty and poor; in a word, He suffered and died for us and for our salvation. Why is it, then, that we cannot make or imagine Jesus as real and down to earth, but only in theory and as the ideal, which is the reason we do not love and imitate Him in everything, as we must? Jesus is our brother, flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood, bone of our bones. This is who our Jesus is, true God and true Man, alive, personal, and intimate. He let Himself be seen; He lived and spoke with us. For our salvation, being the eternal Word of God, He descended from heaven, became flesh, suffered, died, rose, ascended into heaven, and remained among us until the end of time to be our companion, our consolation, and our food in the Blessed Sacrament.

Eternal life, then, our only happiness in time and eternity, consists in knowing Jesus more intimately. How happy will be the person who learns this lesson and lives it daily. What an inspiring thought! I will live, sleep, speak, listen, work, suffer—I will do everything, I will suffer everything in union with Jesus, with the same divine intention and sentiments that Jesus had and with which He suffered, which is what Jesus wants of me. Whoever does this—and all of us are called to do it—will live in this life the life of the world to come and will be transformed into Jesus, able to say with St. Paul: I live—no longer I—but Christ lives in me."

-- From the writings of St Henry de Ossó

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Memorial of Sts Timothy and Titus

"Saints Timothy and Titus were disciples and assistants of the apostle Paul. Timothy had charge of the Church at Ephesus and Titus of the Church in Crete. The letters were written to them are called the pastoral epistles, for the contain excellent admonitions for the instruction of both pastors and laity."

-- From the Liturgy of the Hours
** The icon to the left is St Titus, the one to the right St Timothy
** Our brethren following the 1962 Liturgical calendar observe St Timothy on 24 January and St Titus on 6 February


"Though housed in a narrow prison, Paul dwelt in heaven. He accepted beatings and wounds more readily than others reach out for rewards. Sufferings he loved as much as prizes; indeed he regarded them as his prizes, and therefore called them a grace or gift. Reflect on what this means.To depart and be with Christ was certainly a reward, while remaining in the flesh meant struggle. Yet such was his longing for Christ that he wanted to defer his reward and remain amid the fight; those were his priorities.
   Now, to be separated from the company of Christ meant struggle and pain for Paul; in fact, it was a greater affliction than any struggle or pain would be. On the other hand, to be with Christ was a matchless reward. Yet, for the sake of Christ, Paul chose the separation.
   But, you may say: "Because of Christ, Paul found all this pleasant." I cannot deny that, for he derived intense pleasure from what saddens us. I need not think only of perils and hardships. It was true even of the intense sorrow that made him cry out:
Who is weak that I do not share the weakness? Who is scandalized that I am not consumed with indignation?
   I urge you not simply to admire but also to imitate this splendid example of virtue, for, if we do, we can share his crown as well.
   Are you surprised at my saying that if you have Paul's merits, you will share that same reward? Then listen to Paul himself: 
I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day - and not to me alone, but to those who desire his coming. You see how he calls all to share the same glory?
     Now, since the same crown of glory is offered to all, let us eagerly strive to become worthy of these promised blessings.
   In thinking of Paul we should not consider only his noble and lofty virtues or the strong and ready will that disposed him for such great graces. We should also realize that he shares our nature in every respect. If we do, then even what is very difficult will seem to us easy and light; we shall work hard during the short time we have on earth and someday we shall wear the incorruptible, immortal crown. This we shall do by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all glory, and
power belongs  now and always through endless ages. Amen."

-- From a homily by St John Chrysostom

Monday, January 25, 2010

Feast of the Conversion of St Paul

"Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead. When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.
     Thus, amid the traps set for him by his enemies, with exultant heart he turned their every attack into a victory for himself; constantly beaten, abused and cursed, he boasted of it as though he were celebrating a triumphal procession and taking trophies home, and offered thanks to God for it all: 
Thanks be to God who is always victorious in us! This is why he was far more eager for the shameful abuse that his zeal in preaching brought upon him than we are for the most pleasing honors, more eager for death than we are for the most pleasing honors, more eager for death than we are for life, for poverty than we are for wealth; he yearned for toil far more than others yearn for rest after toil. The one thing he feared, indeed dreaded, was to offend God; nothing else could sway him. Therefore, the only thing he really wanted was always to please God.
     The most important thing of all to him, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honored.
     To be separated from that love was, in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture.
     So too, in being loved by Christ he thought of himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.
     Paul set no store by the things that fill our visible world, any more than a man sets value on the withered grass of the field. As for tyrannical rulers or the people enraged against him, he paid them no more heed than gnats.
     Death itself and pain and whatever torments might come were but child's play to him, provided that thereby he might bear some burden for the sake of Christ."

-- From a homily by St John Chrysostom

* Painting by Juan Antonio Frias y Escalante

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Exercise care: do not become attached to temporal goods

“Spiritual persons must exercise care that in their heart and joy they do not become attached to temporal goods. They must fear lest, through a gradual increase, their small attachments become great… what is small in the beginning can be immense in the end… And they should never assure themselves that, since their attachment is small, they will break away from it in the future even if they do not do so immediately. If they do not have the courage to uproot it when it is small and in its first stage, how do they think and presume they will have the ability to do so when it becomes greater and more deeply rooted?”

-- The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St John of the Cross


"Love is at the heart of the spirituality of St. John of the Cross. Oftentimes, however, peo ple read his writings and become frightened by the absolute, stark, and radical language he uses, such as: all or nothing, self-denial, mortification, emptiness, renunciation, nakedness, contempt for self and creatures, and detachment. All these terms form a rich vocabulary to express the theme of negation and can appear repellent and inhuman if not understood correctly. They recur throughout John's works and are often the source of misinterpretation and fear that have distorted the beauty, depth, and humanness of his person and doctrine."

"To begin with, the starting point for approaching John's negation spirituality is the expe rience of being loved by God a God who desires to enter into a personal relationship of love with human beings and our response to that love. Any notion of self-denial, detach ment, renunciation, or emptiness that is not born of an experience of God's personal love makes no sense to John of the Cross. God always takes the initiative. "We love because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). In the beginning of the Spiritual Canticle , which sings of and recounts the Christian journey toward union with God in terms of love, John writes that the soul is only able to begin the journey of love in search for union with God because she first had an experience of God's love, and as a fruit of that experience, came to an aware ness that love is the purpose of existence (C, 1, 1). It is this experience of God's love that ignites the fire of love within a person so that one can begin the journey towards union with God through love."

"The final element of negation as a form of love and union with God is that the more one's love grows the more one's heart becomes concentrated on the Beloved, and as a natural corollary, whatever impedes the growth of love or attention to the Beloved, or whatever is superfluous to this love, simply falls away. In this sense, detachment in St. John of the Cross is a natural outcome of an ever deepening and concentrated love of God. Negation has nothing to do with a depreciation of material or spiritual goods, other relationships, having fun, or created reality. It is about a relationship of love, of making an option for Jesus Christ the Beloved. John of the Cross was an ardent lover of God and his whole message is to make God the love and the center of our lives because we exist for Love, for God, who is the fulfillment of all human existence and who offers us the fullness of life, love, and happiness. He maintains that the more we are "won over to love," the more we concentrate our love and attention on God and God's reign, the more our attachments, selfishness, useless desires, and even very good but superfluous things, will fall away as a result. This is the mystery of Love that by its very nature transforms and frees us."

-- Free to love: Negation in the doctrine of John of the Cross by Daniel Chowning, ocd

Saturday, January 23, 2010

He never ceases from giving us proofs of His goodness

"Who is He That watches over us with solicitous love and disposes of us by His Providence? It is the good God. He is so good that He is essential Goodness and Charity Itself, and in this sense "none is good but God alone" (Luke xviii, 19). There have been Saints who participated to a wonderful degree in the Divine goodness. Nevertheless, even the very best of men have possessed only a rill, or a stream, or at most a river of goodness, whereas God is the ocean of all goodness, goodness limitless and inexhaustible. When He has poured out upon us benefits almost innumerable, let no one think Him either wearied from giving or impoverished by His munificence. He has still an entire infinitude of goodness to dispense. In truth, the more He gives away the richer He becomes, for He gains the glory of being better known, loved, and served, at least by generous hearts. He is good to us: "He maketh His sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust" (Matt. v, 45). He never ceases from giving us proofs of His goodness, opposing to the multitude of our sins "the multitude of His tender mercies" in order by His goodness to conquer our malice. Sometimes He has to punish, because He is not alone infinitely good but infinitely just also, yet "even in His anger He is not unmindful of His mercy" (Hab. iii, 2).

This God, so infinitely good, is our Father Who is in Heaven. Just as He delights in this title of "the good God," and recalls to us His ancient mercies over and over again; in the same way He loves to proclaim Himself our Father. Because He is so great and holy and we so little and sinful, we might well have been afraid to approach Him. Therefore, to win our confidence and our affection He never tires of repeating in Sacred Scripture that He is our Father and the Father of mercies. It is "from Him all paternity in Heaven and earth is named" (Ephes. iii, 15), and there is no father like our Father in Heaven. He is a father in His devotedness, a mother in His tenderness. There is nothing on earth comparable to a mother's heart for self-forgetfulness, profound affection, and inexhaustible mercifulness; hence, nothing that inspires so much confidence and abandonment. And yet God's tenderness for us immeasurably surpasses that of the best of mothers. "Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee" (Is. xlix, 15). What can He refuse us "Who hath so loved the world as to give us His Only-begotten Son?" (John iii, 16). He knows well, much better than we, what we require for soul and body; and He commands us to ask it of Him, and only reproves us for not asking enough. Nor will He give a stone to His child when he asks Him for bread. And if He sometimes has to exercise severity in order to prevent us from ruining ourselves, it is always the love of the Father that wields the rod. He measures the force of each blow, and when He judges the chastisement sufficient dries our tears and pours soothing balm into our wounds. Let us have confidence in God's love for us, and never doubt His Heart of a Father." 

-- Holy Abandonment by Dom Vitalis Lehodey, OCR

Friday, January 22, 2010

The marvel of the love of our God

"No, it is not necessary to wait for the regeneration of the soul. St Paul tells us that we can restore all things in Christ and regain all that was lost; this regeneration takes place immediately in the soul, from the moment when she sincerely desires it and when she wills it fully. There again you have the marvel of the love of our God!" -- Sr Marie of Jesus, ocd

-- Alessandra di Rudini Carlotti: Carmelite by A Nun of the Carmel of Montmartre

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Memorial of St Agnes

"This is a virgin's birthday; let us then follow the example of her chastity. It is a Martyr's birthday; let us then offer sacrifices. It is the birthday of the holy Agnes; let men then be filled with wonder, little ones with hope, married women with awe, and the unmarried with emulation. But how shall I set forth the glory of her whose very name is an utterance of praise? It seemeth to me that this being, holy beyond her years, and strong beyond human nature, received the name of Agnes, not as an earthly designation, but as a revelation from God of what she was to be. For this name Agnes is from the Greek, and being interpreted, signifieth Pure. So that this saintly maiden is known by the very title of Chastity: and when I have added thereto the word Martyr, I have said enough. She needeth not the praise which we could utter, but do not. None is more praiseworthy than she for whose praise all mouths are fitted. As many as name her, so many praise her, by the noble title of martyr.

We learn by tradition that this holy martyr testified in the thirteenth year of her age. We will pass by the foul cruelty which did not spare her tender years, to contemplate the great power of her faith, whereby she overcame the weakness of childhood, and witnessed a good confession. Her little body was hardly big enough to give play to the instruments of their cruelty, but if they could scare sheath their swords in her slight frame, they found in her that which laughed the power of the sword to scorn. She had no fear when she found herself grasped by the bloody hands of the executioners. She was unmoved when they dragged her with clanging chains. Hardly entered on life, she stood fully prepared to die. She quailed not when the weapons of the angry soldiery were pointed at her breast. If they forced her against her will to approach the altars of devils, she could stretch forth her hands to Christ amid the very flames which consumed the idolatrous offerings, and mark on the heathen shrine the victorious Cross of the Lord. She was ready to submit her neck and hands to the iron shackles, but they were too big to clasp her slender limbs. Behold a strange martyr! She is not grown of stature to fight the battle, but she is ripe for the triumph; too weak to run in the race, and yet clearly entitled to the prize; unable from her age to be aught but a learner, she is found a teacher.

She went to the place of execution a virgin, with more willing and joyful footsteps than she would have gone with to the nuptial chamber as a bride. The spectators were all in tears, and she alone did not weep. They beheld her with wonder, laying down that life of which she had hardly begun to taste the sweets, as freely as though she had drained it to the dregs and was weary of its burden. All men were amazed when they saw her whose years had not made her her own mistress, arise as a witness for the Deity. Consider how many threats her murderer used to excite her fears, how many arguments to shake her resolution, how many promises to bribe her to accept his offers of marriage. But she answered him: It is an insult to him whom I have wedded to expect me to comply. He that first chose me, his will I be. Headsmen, why waitest thou? Perish the body which draweth the admiration of eyes from which would turn away. She stood, prayed, and then bent her neck for the stroke. Now mightest thou have seen the murderer trembling as though he himself were the criminal, and the executioner's hand shake, and the faces of them that stood by turn white at the sight of her position, and all the while herself remain without fear. This one victim brought God a double offering, that of her purity, and that of her faith. She preserved virginity and achieved martyrdom."

-- Treatise on Virgins by St Ambrose

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Eucharist: the focal point of the works of God

"Who can tell the countless marvels worked in a soul by Holy Communion with Jesus Hostia! The Eucharist, sacrifice and sacrament, is the focal point of the works of God, one in Essence, three in Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; it is there to become the divine instrument of glorifying that same God, the Trinity whom we adore. Hence, when, by way of the Host, Jesus deigns to descend into us, invading our whole being, it is above all to restore us completely to the unity of the Blessed Trinity, our Beginning and our End. There is no other holiness.

First of all, Jesus Hostia, the Man-God comes to teach the soul how to adore this Trinity. He thereupon establishes her in that peace, as stable as it is profound, which enables her to remain under the creative action of Him who fulfills there in ever greater and better measure, the eternal, gratuitous plan of her predestination.

That she may yield herself fully to this action, the soul, filled with the strength of the Host, submerges herself in Jesus Crucified with all the power of her love. She consecrates and vows to Him all that she is and has. She begs to become identified with Him, henceforth to be naught but a radiation of the very perfections of her God. 

The Jesus Hostia draws her toward the contemplation of the Word, His adorable Person. In her docility to hearken to the living Utterance which is Himself, responsive to the impulse of divinizing grace, the soul lives and reposes peacefully under the brightness of the Light of Light, even were it to lead her through the most crucifying trials of the spiritual life.

Carried away to such heights in God, yielding, through the Host, to the transforming influences of the Holy Spirit, she calls upon His aid, beseeching Him to deign to make of her being, as it were, an additional humanity, another Christ, so to speak, renewing in this creature all the mystery of His life, of the states and graces of Jesus.

Thus the soul becomes, through the Host, a daughter of the Heavenly Father. In still greater measure than at baptism, He leans over her, recognizing in her more and more His beloved child; He delivers her over entirely to the power of grace which develops unceasingly within her mystery of divine adoption.

The soul has become God's prey. He does with her whatever His love demands. Jesus Hostia has vanquished her completely. She remains, as it were, buried in Him; therein consists the triumph of the Eucharist. God is all in all to that soul; she feels as if poised on the threshold of that vision which will one day fulfill her likeness to the God who had created her only for Himself. No longer has she any other expectation.

To the Trinity the soul has been lifted up through the Host."

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

His life was one of humility

"'And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them' [Luke 2:51]. He went down, he humbled himself - his life was one of humility. Being God, you took the appearance of a man; as a man, you made yourself the least of men. Your life was one of lowliness: the place you took was the lowest of all. You went down with them to live their life with them, the life of the poor laborer, living by working. Your life, like theirs, was one of work and poverty. They were obscure, and you lived in the shade of their obscurity....

I must believe no work beneath me, for Jesus was a carpenter for thirty years, and Joseph all his life.... I must welcome with love and readiness any occasion for humility...."

-- Charles de Foucauld edited by Robert Ellsberg

Monday, January 18, 2010

Christ has no body on earth but yours

"Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now."

-- St Teresa of Avila

A prayer for priests

"O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of the whole Church:  Grant it love and the light of Your Spirit, and give power to the words of priests so that hardened hearts might be brought to repentance and return to You, O Lord.

Lord, give us holy priests; You Yourself maintain them in holiness.  O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of your mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devil's traps and snares which are continually being set for the souls of priests.  May the power of Your mercy, O Lord, shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the sanctity of priests, for You can do all things.  Amen."  

-- Divine Mercy in my soul by St Maria Faustina Kowalska

** Photo from Una Voce Boston

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Learning to let God act

"[T]he most important thing in our lives is not so much what we can do as leaving room for what God can do. The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act. ‘Apart from me, you can do nothing,’ Jesus tells us. God’s love is infinitely more powerful than anything we can do by our own wisdom or our own strength. Yet one of the most essential conditions for God’s grace to act in our lives is saying yes to what we are and to the situations in which we ding ourselves.

That is because God is ‘realistic.’ His grace does not operate on our imaginings, ideals, or dreams. It works on reality, the specific, concrete elements of our lives. Even if the fabric of our everyday lives doesn’t look very glorious to us, only there can we be touched by God’s grace. The person he wants to touch and to transform with his love, is not the person we’d have liked to be or ought to be. It’s the person we are. God doesn’t love ‘ideal persons’ or ‘virtual beings.’ He loves actual, real people. He is not interested in saintly figures in stained glass windows, but in us sinners. A great deal of time can be wasted in the spiritual life complaining that we are not like this or not like that, lamenting this defect or that limitation, imagining all the good we could do if, instead of being the way we are, we were less defective, more gifted with this or that quality or virtue, and so on. Here is a waste of time and energy that merely impedes the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

What often blocks the action of God’s grace in our lives is less our sins or failings, than it is our failure to accept our own weaknesses – all those rejections, conscious or not, of what we really are or of our real situation. To ‘set grace free’ in our lives, and paving the way for deep and spectacular changes, it sometimes would be enough to say simply ‘yes’ – a ‘yes’ inspired by trust in God to aspects of our lives we’ve been rejecting. We refuse to admit that we have this defect, that weak point, were marked by this event, fell into that sin. And so we block the Holy Spirit’s action, since he can only affect our reality to the extent we accept it ourselves. The Holy Spirit never acts unless we freely cooperate. We must accept ourselves just as we are, if the Holy Spirit is to change us for the better.

We need to accept our limitations, but without ever resigning ourselves to mediocrity. We need to desire to change, but without ever refusing, even subconsciously, to recognize our limitations or accept ourselves.
The secret actually is very simple. It is to understand that we can only transform reality fruitfully if we accept it first. This also means having the humility to recognize that we cannot change ourselves by our own efforts, but that all progress in the spiritual life, every victory over ourselves, is a gift of God’s grace. We will not receive the grace to change unless we desire to; but to receive the grace that will transform us, we must ‘receive’ ourselves – to accept ourselves as we really are."

-- Interior Freedom by Fr Jacques Philippe

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Remain tranquil and recollected at the feet of Our Lord

"Lack of confidence, whatever be its cause, does us much harm and deprives us of great blessings.

When Saint Peter, in his eager desire to meet Our Lord, jumped from his boat into the lake, he walked upon the waters with an assured step. But the wind blew violently. Soon the waves rose angrily, threatening to engulf him. Peter trembled with fear. He hesitated …and began to sink. ‘O thou of little faith,’ Jesus said to him, ‘why didst thou doubt?’

And so it is with us. In our moments of fervor, we remain tranquil and recollected at the feet of Our Lord. When the tempest comes, the danger engrosses our attention. We turn our eyes away from Our Lord to fix them anxiously on our trials and our dangers. We hesitate… and then we sink.

Temptation assails us. Our duties seem tiresome and disagreeable. Disturbing thoughts take possession of us. The storm rages in our intellect, in our sensibility, and in our flesh. Passion overcomes us; we fall into sin; we give way to a discouragement more pernicious than the sin itself. Souls without confidence, why do we doubt?
Trials come to us in a thousand forms. Our temporal affairs are in a dangerous state; we worry about the future. People slander us, and our reputation is injured. Death breaks the ties of our deepest, most tender affections. We forget then the fatherly care that Providence has for us. We murmur, we rebel; thus we increase our difficulties and the bitterness of our suffering. Souls without confidence, why do we doubt?

If we had clung to Our Lord with a confidence that grew in proportion to the apparent desperation of our situation, we would have suffered ho harm. We should have walked safely and calmly on the waves; we would have reached the tranquil and safe gulf without accident. Soon we would have found ourselves on the sunny shore that is illuminated by the light of heaven.

The saints struggled against the same difficulties; some of them committed the same faults. …More humble after the fall, they rose without delay, relying henceforth only on God’s assistance. They preserved in their hearts the absolute certainty that, trusting in God, they could do all things. And their hope did not confound them. Begin, then, to be confident souls. Our Lord exhorts you to this. Your interests demand it. And, at the same time, your souls will have light and peace."

            -- The Book of Confidence  by Fr Thomas de Saint-Laurent

Friday, January 15, 2010

Is infused prayer necessary for perfection?

"It is quite certain that it is not necessary. St Teresa declares that her daughters, 'although devoted to prayer, need not all be contemplatives properly so called.' She says that is impossible. 'A soul will not be prevented from being perfect without this gift and can achieve perfection just as the greatest contemplatives do.' The way of contemplation is a 'short-cut' by which God gives powerful aid and accomplishes His work in a very short time. But He distributes His grace when He wishes, as He wishes, and to whom He wishes without taking account of time or the service one has rendered Him. 'He acts in this way for reasons known only to Himself.'

However, side by side with this way of contemplation, there is another, which is the way of conformity to the divine Will and which, too, can lead to perfection. 'Real union with God,' says St Teresa, 'can easily be achieved if we make efforts not to have any will of our own and to embrace everything demanded of us by the divine Will.' No doubt, this will demand more effort from us 'because the soul works more with its own energy,' but it will also have much more merit, 'and its reward will be greater. Ultimately, however, the infused kinds of prayer themselves have no other purpose than to bring us to that union of conformity in which true perfection consists.'

St John of the Cross is of the same opinion. 'God does not elevate all those to contemplation,' he writes, 'who are faithful in the practice of the spiritual life. Not even half of these are so privileged. Why? He alone knows the reason.' The reason, say the Carmelite authors who have interpreted this statement, is to be found sometimes in a lack of generosity in these souls, sometimes in the Will of God.

There are, then, two ways of arriving at perfection. However, even souls who do not walk in the way of infused contemplation or mystical prayer can sometimes be favored by contemplation."

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

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The soul must strive to keep its gaze fixed with love upon Our Lord

"St Teresa speaks also of special types of souls. These are, first of all, persons who do not know how to engage in discursive prayer and whose is imagination is not very lively, so that they cannot represent a subject to themselves. Their way is difficult, for if the will is not very firm and their love not fervent, they are exposed to many distractions and to dryness. They need a greater purity of conscience than do others, as well as patience to bear the struggle and dryness. Nevertheless, the soul must strive to keep its gaze fixed with love upon Our Lord, begging Him for His help. St Teresa urgently recommends that such persons use a book during the time of meditation. If they are faithful and generous, despite the dryness they experience, they will arrive even sooner than others at contemplation.

Some persons can practise only vocal prayer, or vocal prayer mixed with a few reflections; or they cannot keep their minds fixed on one subject. They need not be disturbed over this. Our Lord knows what is suited to them and what He thinks best. If they are humble and detached, they will receive as much as the others and perhaps more. They must be humble and persevering.

Other persons suffer from a state of dryness. Aridity, the inability to engage in discursive prayer, may come from a poor state of health. One must then avoid tiring the mind by thought. A few acts, the offering of one's condtion or one's illness, will be enough. Sometimes it would be better to take some rest, or to occupy oneself with active work. Aridity may also be merely a trial, accompanied even by frivolous or evil thoughts. We must then remember that prayer must mean giving something to God, not simply receiving, and that we engage in it to please Him, not to gain satisfaction for ourselves. We must try to be content with what He does. He knows what is useful to us. Just as He can make flowers grow without water, so He can also make our virtues increase without watering them with consolations. At such times we must think of what Jesus suffered for us. If we are faithful, He will reward us at the proper time."

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Baptism of the Lord

"Christ is bathed in light: let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized; let us also go down with him, and rise with him.

John is baptizing when Jesus draws near. Perhaps he comes to sanctify his baptizer; certainly he comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; he who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water.

The Baptist protests; Jesus insists. Then John says: I ought to be baptized by you. He is the lamp in the presence of the sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Bridegroom, the greatest of all born of woman in the presence of the firstborn of all creation, the one who leapt in his mother's womb in the presence of him who was adored in the womb, the forerunner and future forerunner in the presence of him who has already come and is to come again. I ought to be baptized by you; we should also add: and for you, for John is to be baptized in blood, washed clean like Peter, not only by the washing of his feet.

Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice bears witness to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honor to the body that is one with God.

Today let us do honor to Christ's baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received - though not in its fullness - a ray of its splendor, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen."

-- From a sermon by Saint Gregory of Nazianzus
** The painting is by Guido Reni.
** The General Liturgical Calendar observed this feast on 10 January. The 1962 Calendar observes this feast on the octave of the Epiphany, which is always observed on 6 January as opposed to the first Sunday after 1 January.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Meditation remains an excellent and very safe way

"...[I]t can be seen that between discursive prayer and infused contemplation there is a state of prayer which consists in keeping a loving, confused, and general attention on God, and in giving Our Lord a glance that is full of love, but not distinct or particular. Spiritual writers have called this prayer by various names: the prayer of recollection; the prayer of simplicity or the simple glance at God. They also call it active or acquired contemplation.

This type of prayer is already a form of contemplation, but it is not of the mystical or supernatural type, in the sense given to this word by St Teresa. We can acquire it by our own generous efforts, aided by God's grace. There is already to be found in it the influence of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, although these are hardly perceptible yet. This type of contemplation rewards the efforts of generous and faithful souls fairly soon, especially those who are in the religious life.

However, we ought not to try to attain to this type of prayer before the time for it has arrived; otherwise, we risk daydreaming and accomplish nothing. St John of the Cross indicates three signs by which we can recognize whether a soul enjoys this kind of contemplation:

First, one finds it impossible to meditate, as formerly, and finds only dryness in this kind of prayer instead of the satisfaction which one used to get from it, or instead of the activity which made it possible.

Second, one does not feel inclined to think about other things, either external or internal.

Third, one feels attracted to God and wishes to occupy oneself with Him in calmness and silence, without making any effort at reasoning.

When these three signs are found together, then the soul must leave meditation for contemplation. This does not mean that we must never go back to discursive prayer. For at the beginning the soul is not yet established in perfect contemplation. If sometimes it finds itself favored by this contemplation as soon as it places itself in the presence of God, it will at other times be unable to enter into this state except with the aid of some considerations.

Besides, this initial contemplation is not always of long duration; and as soon as the loving attention to God slackens, one must revive it by considerations. It can even happen that contemplation needs to be initiated by means of some brief considerations. Then we must at once take up discursive prayer. To maintain that we can no longer return to it because we have enjoyed the beginnings of contemplation, even supernatural contemplation, would be the result of pride and would lead to idleness.

Meditation remains an 'excellent and very safe way, until Our Lord raises us to other supernatural things.' It is a form of prayer which is within the reach of all souls. As St Teresa says: 'all that is necessary is the habitual practice of love. For God will always give us the opportunity to practice it if we desire it.'

Over and above this prayer of recollection or active contemplation come the different kinds of infused prayer. These are a gratuitous gift of God; none of our own efforts can procure them for us, and one must not try to attempt the on one's own. According to St Teresa, a soul which God has not elevated to this degree of prayer will do well not to try to undertake it of its own accord. It could only suffer harm and risk falling into deception."

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

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fear not - have confidence in God

Few Christians, even among the most fervent, possess that confidence which excludes all anxiety and all doubt.

The Gospel tells us that the miraculous draft of fish terrorized Saint Peter. With his habitual impetuosity, he measured at a glance the infinite distance that separated his own littleness from the greatness of Our Lord. He trembled with holy fear and prostrated himself with his face to the ground, crying out: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’

Like the Apostle, some souls have this terror. They feel their sinfulness and their misery so keenly that they scarcely dare approach Him Who is Holiness itself. To them it seems that the all-holy God must experience revulsion upon inclining Himself toward them. This unhappy impression hampers their interior life and at times paralyzes it completely.

How mistaken are these souls!

Immediately, Jesus approached the frightened Apostle and said to him, ‘Fear not,’ and made him rise.

You also, Christians, you who have received so many proofs of His love, fear not! Above all, Our Lord is concerned that you might fear Him. Your imperfections, your weaknesses, your most serious faults, your repeated relapses, nothing will discourage Him, so long as you sincerely wish to repent. The more miserable you are, the more He has pity on your misery, the more He desires to fulfill His mission as Savior in your regard. Was it not above all to call sinners that He came to the earth?

-- The Book of Confidence by Fr Thomas de Saint-Laurent

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family

"When God in his mercy determined to accomplish the work of man's renewal, which same had so many long ages awaited, he appointed and ordained this work on such wise that its very beginning might shew to the world the august spectacle of a Family which was known to be divinely constituted; that therein all men might behold a perfect model, as well of domestic life as of every virtue and pattern of holiness: for such indeed was the Holy Family of Nazareth.  There in secret dwelt the Sun of Righteousness, until the time when he should shine out in full splendour in the sight of all nations.  There Christ, our God and Saviour, lived with his Virgin Mother, and with that most holy man Joseph, who held to him the place of father.  No one can doubt that in this Holy Family was displayed every virtue which can be called forth by an ordinary home life, with its mutual services of charity, its holy intercourse, and its practices of godly piety, since the Holy Family was destined to be a pattern to all others.  For that very reason was it established by the merciful designs of Providence, namely, that every Christian, in every walk of life and in every place, might easily, if he would but give heed to it, have before him a motive and a pattern for the good life.

To all fathers of families, Joseph is verily the best model of paternal vigilance and care.  In the most holy Virgin Mother of God, mothers may find an excellent example of love, modesty, resignation of spirit, and the perfecting of faith.  And in Jesus, who was subject to his parents, the children of the family have a divine pattern of obedience which they can admire, reverence, and imitate.  Those who are of noble birth may learn, from this Family of royal blood, how to live simply in times of prosperity, and how to retain their dignity in times of distress.  The rich may learn that moral worth is to be more highly esteemed than wealth.  Artisans, and all such as are bitterly grieved by the narrow and slender means of their families, if they would but consider the sublime holiness of the members of this domestic fellowship, cannot fail to find some cause for rejoicing in their lot, rather than for being merely dissatisfied with it.  In common with the Holy Family, they have to work, and to provide for the daily wants of life.  Joseph had to engage in trade, in order to live; even the divine hands laboured at an artisan's calling.  It is not to be wondered at, that the wealthiest men, if truly wise, have been willing to cast away their riches, and to embrace a life of poverty with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

From the foregoing it is evident how natural and fitting it was that devotion to the Holy Family should in due time have grown up amongst Catholics; and once begun, that it should spread far and wide.  Proof of this lieth first in the sodalities instituted under the ínvocation of the Holy Family; then in the unique honours bestowed upon it; and above all, by the privileges and favours granted to this devotion by our predecessors to stimulate fervour and piety in its regard.  This devotion was already held in great esteem in the seventeenth century.  Widely propagated in Italy, France, and Belgium, it spread over almost the whole of Europe; thence, crossing the wide ocean, through Canada it made is way in the Americas, and finding favour there, became very flourishing.  Indeed, among Christian families, nothing more salutary nor efficacious can be imagined than the example of the Holy Family, where are to be found all domestic virtues in perfection and completeness.  When Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are invoked in the home, charity is likely to be maintained in the family through their example and heavenly entreaty; a good influence is thus exerted over conduct; the practice of virtue is thus incite ; and thus the hardships which are everywhere wont to harass mankind, are both mitigated and made easier to bear."

-- From the Apostolic Letter Neminem fugit of Pope Leo XIII

** The painting is by Murillo
** In the general calendar, this feast is observed on the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas or 30 December if Christmas is on a Sunday. The 1962 liturgical calendar observes it on the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany (between 7 - 13 January). This year, the general calendar observed this feast on 27 December, replacing the Feast of St John Evangelist.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Memorial of St Andrew Corsini

"Andrew was born at the beginning of the fourteenth century in Florence and entered the Carmelite Order there. He was elected provincial of Tuscany at the general chapter of Metz in 1348. He was made bishop of Fiesole on October 13, 1349, and gave the Church a wonderful example of love, apostolic zeal, prudence and love of the poor. He died on January 6, 1374."

-- From the Carmelite Proper Offices


Sing out with thankfulness Saint Andrew’s mighty deeds,
Trust in his fervent prayer for you are all his kin,
You who in faith and hope, hearts all with love aflame,
Seek fulfillment of endless life.

The saint was resolute, steadfast about his quest,
Knowing that earthly joy never could fill his heart;
Wealth, honors and high rank, compared with life in Christ,
Seemed more vanishing than the wind.

Like strongly growing tree planted in Carmel’s soil,
He persevered in prayer, fruitful in kindly deeds;
God gave him light to see how he could mirror Christ,
Serving others with constancy.

Adhering to the Cross, God’s servant soon became
Exemplary in life, wise, calm, mature in grace;
Set over other men; their profit was his care,
Their perfection his quest and aim.

Most Holy Trinity, hear his appeal for us,
That we may come to you when our life’s task is done;
There silence is your praise, there praise is melody,
Soaring, swelling while ages run.

-- Andreae meritis pangite gloriam

Friday, January 8, 2010

Memorial of St Peter Thomas

"Born about 1305 in southern Perigord, in France, Peter Thomas entered the Carmelites when he was twenty-one. He was chosen by the Order as its procurator general to the Papal Court at Avignon in 1345. After being made bishop of Patti and Lipari in 1354, he was entrusted with many papal missions to promote peace and unity with the Eastern Churches. He was translated to the see of Corone in the Peloponnesus in 1359 and made Papal Legate for the East. In 1363 he was appointed Archbishop of Crete and in 1364 Latin Patriarch of Constantinople. He won a reputation as an apostle of church unity before he died at Famagosta on Cyprus in 1366.


Whoever knows my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me. The foremost commandment is: Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one God, and you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest of the commandments. But you cannot observe it unless you love your neighbor, for whoever does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen; and so the second commandment is like the first: You will love your neighbor as yourself—that is, in the same way as you must love yourself and for the same reason.

Now what you must desire for yourself are those things which are truly good, not evil. If you wish yourself evil you are hating, not loving yourself, for whoever loves wickedness hates his own soul. This is the way, then, in which you must love your neighbor as yourself, wishing him good, not evil, for whatever you want others to do to you, you must do the same to them, and you should never do to another anything you would hate to have done to yourself by another. Love never wrongs a neighbor.

What you are to love in your neighbor, then, and do to him, are the things that will make him good if he is bad, or encourage him to persevere in virtue if he is good. Now it is for God’s sake, of course, not your own, that you must love yourself, for you turn the thing you love for its own sake into the ultimate object of your happiness and the crowning blessing of your whole life. All your present joy will consist in looking forward to its enjoyment. How unworthy it would be, then, for you to place your hopes for a life of blessedness in yourself, or in any other human creature! Woe to the one who puts his trust in man and relies on an arm of flesh, the one whose heart turns away from the Lord! It is the Lord you should take as the ultimate object of your happiness, it is to him you must look for a life of blessedness, for the apostle says: Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification, and its end, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

See things as they truly are, then, and you will find yourself obliged to love God for his own sake, and yourself not for your own sake but for God’s. And since you must love your neighbor as yourself, you will not love him either for his own sake or for yours, but for God’s, or rather you will love God in your neighbor, By this we know that we love God’s children, says the apostle John, when we love God and obey his commandments. If you love God for his own sake, and your neighbor as yourself for God’s sake, then you are doing all that is necessary to prepare your soul, for on these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."

-- From the Book of the Institution of the First Monks

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Any special drawing in devotion is a great gift from God

"A spiritual man may be defined to be one who has received a second life from God, a life which he lives privately with God, and which is itself a kind of Divine law to his outward life, standing in the relation of supremacy to it, and at the same time leaving free play to circumstances. This second life is heavenly. Its vitality is from Heaven. Its powers are Heavenly. It is conversant with heavenly things, and deals with earthly things only to transmute them into Heavenly things by the alchemy of grace. In nothing is this individual attraction of grace more observable than in a man's devotions; and, because of the relation in which devotion stands to virtue, in nothing is it more important. With some men it is the same all through life; with others it changes with the seasons and circumstances of life. Sometimes a man sees it plainly himself; at other times others can see it, while it remains invisible to himself; sometimes it is hidden altogether, yet not necessarily absent because it is hidden. In some souls it is so strong that it molds their entire life; with others it is so weak that their devotion seems to have no rule beyond that seemingly external rule, which is more mysterious and excellent than men believe, the Calendar of the Church.


Any special drawing in devotion is a great gift from God. It is one of the most powerful of all the secret influences of the spiritual life. It is therefore of great importance to a man not to mistake or overlook such a Heavenly attraction. Such a mistake is like a man's missing his vocation. Every man, doubtless, has a vocation: so every spiritual man has a devotional attraction, or a succession of them. For a spiritual man is one who dwells inwardly in the supernatural world, amid God's mysteries and revealed grandeurs. He is not a mere tourist who is struck by the sublime or the picturesque of theology, and admires the scenery as a whole, and has not such a familiarity with it as to enable him to break it up into separate landscapes, nor time to brood tranquilly over any of them so as to have a rational predilection for them. He dwells in the world of theology. He is like one whose fixed abode is in grand scenery. He sees it in the morning light and in the sunset's glow. He knows how it looks when the misty calm of summer noon is wafting fragrance over wood and water . He is familiar with it in the vicissitudes of storm and calm. When the distant mountains are hidden by summer's impenetrable rampart of green leaves before his window, he feels that they are there, and that winter's leafless woods will let them in upon his sight. He knows how the faces of the mountains change, according as the light strikes them in the front or from behind, and how a stranger, who has seen them in the morning, would in the evening, spite of all landmarks, be doubtful of their identity. He cannot help having preferences. Predilections are almost a necessity to him. Or at least he must honor, like a true poet, each coming season with an admiration which seems, if it only seems, to do injustice to the season that is past, like the souls who in devotion follow the Calendar of the Church, and honor most the feast under whose shadow they are sitting. So it must be to those to whom the supernatural world is a genuine home. Their life is a life of loves, and therefore of predilections also."

-- Bethlehem by Fr Frederick William Faber 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord

"Dearly beloved, rejoice in the Lord ; and again I say, rejoice.  Only a few days are past since the Solemnity of Christ's Nativity, and now the glorious light of the Epiphany is breaking upon us.  On that day the Virgin brought him forth, and on this he was made known to the world.  For the Word-made-Flesh was pleased to reveal himself by degrees to those unto whom he had come.  When Jesus was born, he was first manifested to the believing, but hidden from his enemies.  However, the heavens declared the glory of God and their sound went out into all lands, namely, when the herald-Angels appeared to tell the shepherds the glad tidings of a Saviour's birth.  And now the guiding star leadeth the Wise Men to worship him, that from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down thereof, the birth of the true King may be known abroad ; that through those Wise Men the kingdoms of the East might learn the great truth, and the Roman empire remain no more in darkness."

The very cruelty of Herod, when he strove to put an end to the new-born King whom he feared, was made an unwitting means to further this new dispensation of mercy.  For the tyrant was so intent on his horrid crime of slaying the little Child, that he did not perceive how his indiscriminate slaughter of the Innocents would serve to spread wider abroad the story of a new-born Babe whose birth as a great ruler had been announced from heaven.  Thus were these glad tidings loudly proclaimed, both by the novelty of their story, and the iniquity of their enemies.  Moreover, the Saviour was carried into Egypt.  And thereby that nation, so long hardened in idolatry, was (by the mysterious virtue which went forth from Christ, even when his presence was unknown) prepared for the saving light so soon to dawn upon them ; if so be, they might receive the Truth as a wanderer even before they had banished falsehood.

Dearly beloved, we recognize in these Wise Men, who came to worship Christ, the first-fruits of that dispensation to the Gentiles wherein we also are called and enlightened.  Let us then keep this Feast with grateful hearts, in thanksgiving for our blessed hope, the dawn of which we do commemorate on this day.  From the worship paid to the new-born Christ is to be dated the entry of us Gentiles upon our heirship of God and joint-heirship with Christ.  Since that joyful day the Scriptures which testify of Christ have lain open for us as well as for the Jews.  Whose blindness rejected that Truth which, since that day, hath shed his bright beams upon all nations.  Let us then honour this most sacred day, whereon the Author of our salvation was made manifest. As the Wise Men fell down and worshipped him in the manger, so let us fall down and worship him, enthroned omnipotent in heaven.  As they opened their treasures and presented unto him mystic and symbolic gifts, so let us strive to open our hearts to him, and offer him from thence some worthy offering.

-- From a sermon by St Leo the Great

** The painting is by Giotto.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

God descended mercifully

"Our Lord Jesus Christ, dearest brethren, who in eternity is the Creator of all things, was as at this time born of a mother and became our Saviour. It was as at this time that he willed to be born for us in earthly time, so as to lead us to the Father's eternity. God is made man, that man may be made as God. That man may eat Angels' food, the Lord of Angels was as on this day made man.

Now is fulfilled that prophecy: Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and bring forth a Saviour. He who made all things is therefore himself made, that those who are lost may be found. It is even as man is made to testify of himself in the Psalms: Before I was humbled, I went wrong. Man sinned and became guilty. God is born man, that the guilty may be delivered. Man fell, but God descended. Man fell miserably, God descended mercifully. Man fell by pride, God descended with grace.

O my brethren, what a miracle! what a wonder! The laws of nature are changed concerning man: God is born, a Virgin conceiveth without an husband; the Word of God is wedded to one who knoweth no man; she is at once Mother and Virgin. A Mother, yet ínviolate: a Virgin having a Son; knowing no man, ever sealed, yet not unfruitful. For he alone was born without sin. He alone was born without human embrace, begotten not of the will of the flesh, but of the obedience of the mind."

-- From a Sermon by St Augustine