Saturday, July 31, 2010

Memorial of St Ignatius of Loyola

"St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French. A cannon ball and a series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521. While St. Ignatius recovered, he read the lives of the saints, and decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of the Catholic Faith. Soon after he experienced visions, but a year later suffered a trial of fears and scruples, driving him almost to despair. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises". After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many first hated St. Ignatius because of his humble Lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted several followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order called The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. There are 38 members of the Society of Jesus who have been declared Blessed, and 38 who have been canonized as saints. He died at the age of 65."

-- Biography from Catholic Online


"I ask and implore you, by the love and reverence you have for God our Lord, to make every devout effort to honor, support and serve His only-begotten Son, Christ our Lord, in so great a work as the Blessed Sacrament, in which His Divine Majesty is present both in His divinity and His humanity, so wonderfully and so entirely, so powerfully and so infinitely, as He is present in heaven. . . I am firmly persuaded and I believe that by so acting you will make considerable spiritual progress."

-- Monumenta Ignatiana: Epistolae et Instructiones by St Ignatius of Loyola

Friday, July 30, 2010

It is you I desire and seek; it is you I am claiming

"This eternal beauty, ever supremely loving, is so intent on winning man's friendship that for this very purpose he has written a book in which he describes his own excellence and his desire for man's friendship. This book reads like a letter written by a lover to win the affections of his loved one, for in it he expresses such ardent desires for the heart of man, such tender longings for man's friendship, such loving invitations and promises, that you would say he could not possibly be the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth and at the same time need the friendship of man to be happy.

In his pursuit of man, he hastens along the highways, or scales the loftiest mountain peaks, or waits at the city gates, or goes into the public squares and among the gatherings of people, proclaiming at the top of his voice, "You children of men, it is you I have been calling so persistently; it is you I am addressing; it is you I desire and seek; it is you I am claiming. Listen, draw close to me, for I want to make you happy" (Prov. 8:4). And the better to attract men, Wisdom says to them, "It is through me and through my grace that kings reign, princes rule, monarchs and sovereigns bear the sceptre and crown, I inspire legislators with the ability to enact just laws for the good of their people. I give magistrates the courage to administer justice fairly and fearlessly."

"I love those who love me and those who seek me diligently find me," and in finding me they will find good things in abundance. "For riches, glory, honours, dignities, real pleasure and true virtue are found in me; and it is far better for a man to possess me than to possess all the gold and silver, all the precious stones, and all the wealth of the whole universe. Those who come to me, I will lead along the paths of justice and prudence. I will enrich them with the inheritance due to rightful children and fulfil their greatest desires (cf. Prov. 8:15-21). Rest assured, it is my greatest pleasure and purest delight to converse and to abide with the children of men" (cf. Prov. 8:31).

"And now, my children, listen to me. Happy are those who keep my ways. Hear my instructions, be wise and do not ignore them. Happy is the man who listens to me, watching at my gates every day, waiting beside my door. He who finds me finds life and obtains salvation from the Lord, but he who sins against me, wounds his own soul. All who hate me love death" (Prov. 8:32-36).

Even though eternal Wisdom has spoken so kindly and so reassuringly to win the friendship of men, he still fears that they, filled with awe at his glorious state and sovereign majesty, will not dare approach him. That is why he tells them that "he is easily accessible, is quickly recognised by those who love him and is found by those who seek him; that he hastens to meet those who desire him and that anyone who rises early to look for him will have no trouble, for he will find him sitting at his door, waiting for him" (Wisd. 6:13b- 15)."

-- Eternal Wisdom's letter of love by St Louis de Montfort

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Memorial of St Martha

"Martha was the daughter of noble and wealthy parents, but is best known as having been the hostess of the Lord Christ.  After that he was ascended into heaven, Martha, along with her brother Lazarus, her sister Mary Magdalene, her waiting-woman Marcella, Maximin, who was one of the seventy-two disciples of the Lord Christ, and who had baptized the whole of the family, and many other Christians, was taken by the Jews, and turned adrift upon the open sea in a ship without sail or oars, to meet with certain wreck, but by the governance of God the ship came to land at Marseilles with all safe.

Through the miracle and the preaching of the Saints, the people of Marseilles first, and then those of Aix, and of the uttermost tribes, believed in Christ, and Lazarus was made Bishop of Marseilles, and Maximin Bishop of Aix.  Mary Magdalene  sat still at Jesus' feet being altogether given to prayer and the contemplation of heavenly blessedness , that that good part which she had chosen might not be taken away from her, withdrew herself to a great cave in an exceeding high mountain, where she lived for thirty years, utterly cut off from all conversation with men, and every day during that time carried up by Angels into the air, to listen to them that dwell in heaven praising God.

Martha, by the wondrous holiness and charity of her life, drew upon herself the love and wonder of all the inhabitants of Marseilles.  She withdrew herself in company with some other honourable women into a place out of the way of men, where she lived long, with great praise for godliness and discretion.  She foretold her own death long before, and at last, illustrious for miracles, passed away to be ever with the Lord, upon the 29th day of July.  Her body is held in great worship at Tarascon."

-- From the 1911 breviary of St Pius X

** The photo shows the reliquary preserving St Martha's relics in Tarascon, France

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Memorial of St Pedro Poveda

"The ‘Work’ is Jesus Christ. He inspired it. He is its support, its life, its model, theory and practice. He is the system, the method. He is everything. With Jesus Christ as our model and our love, the members of our family will have an identical spiritual formation, and they will live united in Christ and through Christ, in whom we should all love one another. Your first concern should be to know the life of Jesus well. With this in view study the Gospel, doing ¡t with love and a pure intention, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten you with a true and fruitful knowledge of Christ's life and doctrine. There you will find the prototype to imitate."

 -- From the writings of St Pedro Poveda

** Today we celebrate his memorial. To learn more about this saint of the carmelite family, please visit this site.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Memorial of Bl Titus Brandsma

"Jesus called himself the head of the Mystical Body, of which we are the members. He is the vine, we are the branches. He laid himself in the winepress and himself trod it. He handed us the wine so that, drinking it, we might lead his life, might share his suffering. Whoever wishes to do my will, let him daily take up his cross. Whoever follows me has the light of life. I am the way, he said. I have given you an example, so that as I have done so you may do also. And when his disciples did not understand that his way would be a way of suffering, he explained this to them and said, Should not the Christ so suffer, in order to enter into his glory?

Then the hearts of the disciples burned within them. God’s word had set them on fire. And when the Holy Spirit had descended on them to fan that divine fire into flame, then they were glad to suffer scorn and persecution, whereby they resembled him who had preceded them on the way of suffering.

The prophets had already marked his way of suffering; the disciples now understood that he had not avoided that way. From the crib to the cross, suffering, poverty and lack of appreciation were his lot. He had directed his whole life to teaching people how different is God’s view of suffering, poverty and lack of human appreciation from the foolish wisdom of the world. After sin, suffering had to follow so that, through the cross, man’s lost glory and life with God might be regained. Suffering is the way to heaven. In the cross is salvation, in the cross is victory. God willed it so. He himself assumed the obligation of suffering in view of the glory of redemption. Saint Paul makes it clear to us how all the disasters of this earthly life are insignificant, how they must be considered as nothing and passing, in comparison with the glory that will be revealed to us when the time of suffering is past and we come to share in God’s glory.

Mary, who kept all God’s words in her heart, in the fullness of grace granted her, understood the great value of suffering. While the apostles fled, she went out to meet the Savior on the Way to Calvary and stood beneath the cross, in order to share his grief and shame to the end. And she carried him to the grave, firmly trusting that he would rise.

We object when he hands us the chalice of his suffering. It is so difficult for us to resign ourselves to suffering. To rejoice in it strikes us as heroic. What is the value of our offering of self if we unite ourselves each morning only in word and gesture, rather than in thought and will, to that offering which we, together with the Church, make of him with whom we are in the one body?

Jesus once wept over Jerusalem.

Oh, that this day you had known the gift of God!

Oh, that this day we might realize the value God has placed on the suffering he sends: He, the All-Good."

-- From the writings of Bl Titus Brandsma, OCarm

Monday, July 26, 2010

Memorial of St Anne

"The home of Anne is set before us, wherein to see an ensample both of married and of maiden life, the one in the person of the mother, the other in that of the daughter, whereof the one hath but now ceased to be barren, and the other is in a little while destined, beyond the course of nature, to become the Mother of the Messiah by a singular birth, specially designed by God to build up anew our nature.  It is with reason then that Anne, filled with the Holy Ghost, with joyful and jubilant spirit singeth aloud: Rejoice with me, for out of my barren womb I have borne the bud of promise, and, as I have longed, I nourish at my breasts the fruit of benediction.  I have laid aside the mournful garments of barrenness, and put on the joyful raiment of fruitfulness.  Let Hannah the adversary of Peninnah make merry with me, and join with me for fellow-feeling, in singing of this new and unhoped-for wonder that is wrought in me.

Let Sarah be glad that was joyfully pregnant in her old age, and was a shadow cast before of my conception that hitherto have been barren.  Let all the barren and fruitless break forth into singing, when they behold in what wondrous wise I have been visited from heaven.  Let all mothers likewise, that like Anne are gifted with fruitfulness, say: Blessed be he that gave their desire unto them that besought him, that gave fruitfulness unto her that was barren, and that granted unto her that from her should bud forth the joy-bringing Virgin, who, according to the flesh, was Mother of God, and whose womb was a heaven wherein he dwelt whom no place can contain.  Let us also with them offer our praises to her that was called barren, but now is become the mother of a maid-child; let us say unto her in the words of Scripture: O how blessed is the house of David from whence thou art sprung, and from that womb wherein God hath fashioned the ark of his holiness, that is, her, by whom he was himself conceived without man's seed.

Right blessed art thou and thrice blessed, whom God hath so blessed as to make thee to bring forth, as his own gift, the babe Mary, whose very name is highly honourable, out of whom Christ, the Flower of life, blossomed ; a maiden whose rising is glorious, and whose delivery is worth more than the world.  We also, O woman most blessed, do wish thee joy.  In sooth thou hast brought forth what we have all hoped for, and God hath given us, namely, the babe of promise.  Blessed indeed art thou, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  The tongues of all the godly do magnify thine offspring, and every glad word is spoken concerning her of whom thou art delivered.  Meet in truth is it, and most meet to praise her who received a revelation from the goodness of God, and bore for us such and so great a fruit, from whom sweet Jesus sprang."

-- From a sermon by St John of Damascus

** Painting: The Virgin and Child with St Anne by Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Feast of St James the Apostle

"James, the Son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle John, was a Galilean, and with his brother one of the first of his Apostles whom the Lord called, whileas they were in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets―and immediately left the ship, and their father, and followed him.  And he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder.  Peter, and James, and John, were the three Apostles whom the Saviour loved best; them he took and brought up into a high mountain apart and was transfigured before them; when he went to the house of the ruler of the synagogue to raise his daughter from the dead, he suffered no man to follow him save Peter, and James, and John; and at the last, just before the Jews took him, when he cometh unto a place called Gethsemane.

After that Jesus Christ was ascended into heaven, James preached how that he was God, and led many in Judea and Samaria to the Christian Faith.  A while afterward, he went to Spain, and there he brought some to Christ, of whom seven were afterwards ordained Bishops by Blessed Peter, and were the first such sent into that country.  From Spain, James went back to Jerusalem, where he taught the Faith to divers persons, and, among others to the Magian Hermogenes.  Thereupon Herod Agrippa, who had been raised to the kingdom under the Emperor Claudius, to curry favour with the Jews, condemned James to death for his firm confession that Jesus Christ is God.  The officer who led James to the judgment-seat, at sight of the courage wherewith he was ready to offer up his testimony, declared himself also to be a Christian.

As they were being hurried to execution, this man asked pardon of James, and the Apostle kissed him, saying, Peace be unto thee.  James healed a paralytic, and immediately afterwards both the prisoners were beheaded.  The body of the Apostle was afterwards taken to Compostela, where his grave is very famous.  Multitudes of pilgrims from all parts of the earth betake themselves thither to pray, out of sheer piety or in fulfillment of vows.  The birthday of James is kept by the Church upon this day, which is that of the translation of his body to Compostela.  It was about Easter-time that he bare witness to Jesus Christ with his blood, at Jerusalem, being the first of the Apostles so to do."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X

** Photo of St James' tomb in the Cathedral of St James in Compostela, Spain

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Memorial of the Blessed Martyrs of Guadalajara

"Among the first of the valiant witnesses to be martyred for their faith in Christ during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) were three Carmelite nuns, popularly known as the Guadalajara Martyrs. Blessed Maria Pilar of Saint Francis Borgia, aged 58, Blessed Teresa of the Child Jesus, aged 27, and Sister Maria Angeles, aged 31, were prepared for their heroic deed by the life of prayer and penance they had led in the Carmelite monastery of Guadalajara. All three martyrs showed a great love for God, were careful and joyful in observing even the smallest details of their religious rule, and accepted with a loving spirit any sacrifices they had to make.

All three nuns felt called to Carmel at a young age. The oldest of the martyrs, Blessed Maria Pilar, entered the Guadalajara Carmel at the age of twenty. She became known in Carmel for her love of silence and of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Whom she would call “the Living One”, because she felt His living Presence so strongly.

Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus felt called at the age of thirteen, and entered the Carmel of Guadalajara when she was only sixteen, in spite of obstacles in her way. In Carmel, she worked hard to master her determined and impulsive nature through mortifying her will in such things as food, eating vegetables, which she disliked. Her many acts of charity and her remarkable generosity also helped in her pursuit of holiness. She took as her motto “Charity above all”, and after her hard work she would say that she was happy to be tired. She loved to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, and would say that she was “sunbathing” because of the divine rays she received.

Sister Maria Angeles, although she felt called to be a Carmelite almost her whole life, had to wait until she was twenty-four years old to enter the Guadalajara Carmel. She spent only seven years there before she was martyred, and during that time she showed such holiness that her Prioress afterwards described her as “a little angel”. She had an intense missionary spirit, and was forgetful of herself, seeking rather to help others.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, all of the nuns in the Guadalajara Carmel were ready and willing to die for their faith. Sister Maria Angeles expressed a very deep desire to suffer and die for Christ, as did Sister Teresa. Sister Maria Pilar, just a day or two before her martyrdom, asked Our Lord that if He should desire a victim, He should allow her to be the one to be martyred, and spare the rest of her community.

On July 22, 1936, the anti-religious havoc that the war was causing in Guadalajara reached the point where the Carmelites had to put on modest secular clothes and leave their convent to hide with their friends in the city. On July 24, as Sister Maria Pilar, Sister Teresa, and Sister Maria Angeles were searching for a safer hideout, they were discovered by the militia and gunned down. Sister Maria Angeles was the first to die, and had no time to speak before she fell. Sister Maria Pilar was badly wounded, and suffered for a while before her death, saying during that time, “Forgive them, Lord, for they do not know what they are doing.” Sister Teresa was the last to die, and she did so crying out, “Long live Christ the King!” She had wanted to die with these words on her lips. Thus the three Carmelite nuns crowned the life of virtue they had led in Carmel with the ultimate act of faith, hope and love, by offering their lives for their Lord and their loved ones, reaching for life eternal in Heaven, and forgiving those who killed them."

-- Biography from the Carmel of St Joseph, Ontario

Friday, July 23, 2010

Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace

"Mary, Mother of God, we salute you. Precious vessel, worthy of the whole world’s reverence, you are an ever-shining light, the crown of virginity, the symbol of orthodoxy, an indestructible temple, the place that held him whom no place can contain, mother and virgin. Because of you the holy gospels could say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

We salute you, for in your holy womb was confined him who is beyond all limitation. Because of you, the holy Trinity is glorified and adored; the cross is called precious and is venerated throughout the world; the heavens exult; the angels and archangels make merry; demons are put to flight; the devil, that tempter, is thrust down from heaven; the fallen race of man is taken up on high; all creatures possessed by the madness of idolatry have attained knowledge of the truth; believers receive holy baptism; the oil of gladness is poured out; the Church is established throughout the world; pagans are brought to repentance.

What more is there to say? Because of you, the light of the only-begotten Son of God has shone upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death; prophets pronounced the word of God; the apostles preached salvation to the Gentiles; the dead are raised to life, and kings rule by the power of the holy Trinity.

Who can put Mary’s high honor into words? She is both mother and virgin. I am overwhelmed by the wonder of this miracle. Of course no one could be prevented from living in the house he had built for himself, yet who would invite mockery by asking his own servant to become his mother?

Behold then the joy of the whole universe. Let the union of God and man in the Son of the Virgin Mary fill us with awe and adoration. Let us fear and worship the undivided Trinity as we sing the praise of the ever-virgin Mary, the holy temple of God, and of God himself, her Son and spotless Bridegroom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen."

-- From the homily preached at the Council of Ephesus by St Cyril of Alexandria

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Memorial of St Mary Magdalene

"Mary Magdalene, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, through love of the truth, washed away in her tears the defilement of her sins, and the words of the Truth are fulfilled which he spake: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.  She who had remained chilly in sin, became fiery through love.  When even his disciples went away again unto their own home, Mary still stood without at the sepulchre of Christ, weeping.  She sought him whom her soul loved, but she found him not.  She searched for him with tears; she yearned with strong desire for him who, she believed, had been taken away.  And thus it befell her, that being the only one who had remained to seek him, she was the only one that saw him.  It is the truth that the backbone of a good work is perseverance.

At first when she sought him, she found him not ; she went on searching, and so it came to pass that she found him ; and this was so, to the end that her longing might grow in earnestness, and so in its earnestness might find what it sought.  Hence is it that the Bride in the Song of Songs saith as representing the Church: By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth.  We seek on our bed for him whom our soul loveth, when, having got some little rest in this world, we still sigh for the Presence of our Redeemer; but it is by night that we so seek him, for though our mind may be on the alert for him, yet still he is hidden from our eyes by the darkness that now is.

But if we find not him whom our soul loveth, it remaineth that we should rise and go about the city, that is, by thought and questioning, go through the holy Church of the elect: seek him in the streets, and in the broad ways, that is, walk anxiously looking about us both in the narrow and the broad places, that if we can, we may find his footsteps there; for there are some even of those who live for the world, from whom something may be learnt to be imitated by a godly man.  As we thus go wakefully about, the watchmen, that keep the city, find us; the holy Fathers, who are the watchmen of the bulwarks of the Church, come to meet our good endeavours, and to teach us either by their words or by their writings.  And it needeth but a little to pass from them, but we find him whom our soul loveth: for albeit our Redeemer in lowliness became a man among men, yet by right of his Divine Nature, he is still above men."

--From a sermon by St Gregory the Great

** Reliquary of St Mary Magdalene at the Basilique de La Madeleine, Vézelay, France

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A friend of the Cross

"A Friend of the Cross is one chosen by God, from among thousands who live only according to their reason and senses, to be wholly divine, raised above mere reason and completely opposed to material things, living in the light of pure faith, and inspired by a deep love of the Cross.

A Friend of the Cross is an all-powerful king, a champion who triumphs over the devil, the world and the flesh in their three-fold concupiscence. He crushes the pride of Satan by his love of humiliations; he overcomes the greed of the world by his love of poverty; he retrains the sensuality of the flesh by his love of suffering.

A Friend of the Cross is one who is holy and set apart from the things that are visible, for his heart is raised above all that is transient and perishable, and his homeland is in heaven; he travels through this world like a visitor and a pilgrim, and, far from setting his heart on it, he looks on it with indifference and tramples it underfoot with contempt.

A Friend of the Cross is a glorious trophy gained by the crucified Christ on Calvary, in union with his holy Mother. He is a Benoni or Benjamin, a child of sorrow and of the right hand, conceived in the suffering heart of Jesus, born from his pierced side, and baptised in his blood. True to his origin, his life embraces the cross, and death to the world, the flesh, and sin, so as to live here below a life hidden with Christ in God.

In short, a perfect Friend of the Cross is a true Christ-bearer, or rather another Christ, so that he can truly say, 'I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.'"

-- Letter to the Friends of the Cross by St Louis de Montfort

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Feast of St Elijah

"In divine contemplation the spirit is often abstracted to such a degree that it is already granted the joy of partaking a little, in image as it were, of that eternal freedom which eye has not seen nor ear heard, but then, hampered by the weight of its own mortality, it falls back into the depths and is held captive in penalty for its sins. It has glimpsed the delights of true freedom and longs to escape from its captivity but, since it cannot, it keeps its gaze fixed upon the imprisoning doors. This is why, when the Jews had been freed from slavery to Egypt, each of them stood adoring in the doorway of his tent when God spoke and the pillar of cloud was visible.

Wherever we direct our mental gaze, there we may be said to stand. That is why Elijah said: The Lord lives, in whose sight I stand. He did indeed stand before God, for his heart was intent on God. That the Jews gazed at the pillar of cloud and stood at the doors of their tents in adoration has this meaning: when the human mind perceives these high and heavenly things—albeit in image— the elevation of its thought has already lifted it free from the limits of its bodily habitation, and although it is denied sight of the divine substance, it humbly adores him whose power it can already see by spiritual illumination.

This is why Elijah is described as standing at the mouth of his cave and veiling his face when he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him; for as soon as the voice of heavenly understanding enters the mind through the grace of contemplation, the whole person is no longer within the cave, for the soul is no longer taken up with matters of the flesh: intent on leaving the bounds of mortality; one stands at the cave’s mouth. But if we stand at the mouth of the cave and hear the word of God with the heart’s ear, we must veil our face. For when heavenly grace leads us to the understanding of higher things, the rarer the heights to which we are raised, the more we should abase ourselves in our own estimation by humility: we must not try to know more than is fitting; we must know as it befits us to know. Otherwise, through over-familiarity with the invisible, we risk going astray, and we might perhaps look for material light in what is immaterial. For to cover the face while listening with the ear means hearing with our mind the voice of him who is within us, yet averting the eyes of the heart from every bodily appearance. If we do this there will be no risk of our spirit interpreting as something corporeal that which is everywhere in its entirety and everywhere uncircumscribed.

Beloved, we have already learned through our Redeemer’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven what the joys of eternity mean, and we know that our fellow-citizens, his angels, have appeared bearing witness to his divinity. Let us therefore long for our King, and for those fellow-citizens we have known. While our feet stand within the walls of his holy Church, let us keep our eyes turned toward the door; let us mentally turn our backs on the corruption of this temporal life, let us keep our hearts facing toward the freedom of our heavenly homeland. We are still encumbered, it is true, by the many cares of this corruptible life. If then we cannot leave the cave completely, let us at least stand at its mouth, and go out whenever we are granted the favor of doing so by the grace of our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen."

-- From a homily on Ezekiel by Saint Gregory the Great

Monday, July 19, 2010

Carmel is the natural retreat of the contemplative

"The Carmelite Order derives its name from the holy mountain of its beginning. In that eastern land where every mountain has its own great memories Mount Carmel has some of the most holy. Carmel is a name which is familiar in every part of the Catholic world; it is intimately known as no other, and its natural beauty seems to be exactly in keeping with its gracious associations. Its quiet outline may be seen rising above the waters of the Mediterranean and from its summit one may see the great plain of Esdraelon stretching away into the distance, where the contemplative soul looks down on the mystery of Nazareth.

Carmel is the natural retreat of the contemplative, and it is not unfitting that on its slopes should stand the Cloister of Carmel, the cradle of the Order. It stands above the turmoil of life, above the world's stormy sea; its solitude is beyond the reach of "life's fitful fever"; it is wrapped in the peace of God. Such a peace we naturally associate with Carmel, but it has other associations more stirring and more turbulent. The memory of the great spiritual warfare of Elias still clings to it. It was here he gathered together all Israel and flung reproach at their heads. "How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow Him." Here Israel heard his challenge in words of flame, as a burning torch. But here he was more than the Prophet of the sword, here he was also the first of a long line of those who would worship God in spirit and in truth. In his lifetime disciples gathered round him and learned from him the deep secrets of his prayer and communion with God. His double spirit passed to Eliseus, and from him to the school of Prophets, and so down through the ages, the life of Elias has been continued in these hermits who ever sought inspiration in their great exemplar."

-- Carmelite Mysticism: Historical Sketches by Bl Titus Brandsma, OCarm

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saint Teresa reformed the Carmelite Order with her irrepressible determination

"As I read on, I learned that after the Black Death of the fifteenth century the Holy See mitigated the original austere rule of silence, fasting, prayer and penance. It was thought the health of the people in fifteenth-century Europe could not stand such a rigorous discipline.

Then in the following century, at Avila in Spain, appeared the great organizer and mystic of Carmel, Saint Teresa of Jesus. After living as a nun for twenty years under the mitigated rule, she felt impelled to bring back to the Order all its primitive penance and prayer. When she hesitated, because of her sex and weakness, to attempt the restoration of the original rule of Carmel, Our Lord spoke to her: 'It is because men and theologians will not listen to Me that, despised by them, I come like a beggar to talk of what I want with humble women and to find rest in their company.'

How I admired the great Saint Teresa and her courageous confidence in God! Church dignitaries and ministers of state conspired against her. But once God's will became clear to her, there was no obstacle she could not overcome.

It was because Saint Teresa, with her irrepressible determination, succeeded in restoring the Primitive Rule of Carmel, the Rule followed throughout the world by all discalced (or shoeless) nuns, that I was thinking of Carmel. I discovered that monasteries of the Reform were established all over Europe. And, most exciting of all, I learned that in our own country the very first religious order of women to found a convent in what was then the United States was the Carmelite Order."

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

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Memorial of the Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne

"Among the victims of cruelty who shed their blood for the faith of Christ at Paris, towards the end of the eighteenth century, sixteen Carmelite nuns gave an admirable example of heroism. Their leader and Prioress was Teresa of St Augustine. At first they were driven from their monastery at Compiègne; then as the fury of hatred for the very name of Christian mounted around them, they were thrown into prison in June, 1794. Not long afterwards they were brought to Paris, their hands bound behind their backs, and exposed to the insults of soldiers and people, then imprisoned in a filthy jail. Without witnesses to testify for them, without legal counsel, in a disorderly court, they were sentenced to death for this one cause: that they remained faithful to their Religious Order. These brave women were filled with joy when they heard their sentence; because they were confident that this would bring them the crown of martyrdom. Walking with joyful faces, singing hymns alternately as though in choir, they went to the place of execution as though on a march of triumph. One after another, like fragrant roses, they were beheaded. Last of all, like the mother of the Macchabees, Teresa offered her head to the guillotine. The fame of this martyrdom spread far and wide within a short time and miracles soon enhanced its glory. These sixteen illustrious martyrs were added tot he list of the blessed by the Supreme Pontiff Pius X."

-- From the 1966 Discalced Carmelite Proper

Friday, July 16, 2010

Solemnity of Our Lady of Mt Carmel

"When on the holy day of Pentecost the Apostles, through heavenly inspiration, spake in foreign tongues, and worked many wonders by the invocation of the most sacred Name of Jesus; it is said that many men, who were walking in the footsteps of the holy prophets Elias and Eliseus, and had been prepared for the coming of Christ by the heralding of John the Baptist, saw and were assured of the truth.  They at once embraced the faith of the Gospel, and began to venerate the most blessed Virgin (whose conversation and familiar intercourse they were happily able to enjoy) with a certain peculiar affection, so that they, before all others, built a chapel to that purest of Virgins on that very spot of Mount Carmel where Elias of old had seen a cloud arising, a remarkable symbol of the Virgin.

Therefore many times each day they came together to the new oratory, and with pious ceremonies, prayers, and praises honoured the most blessed Virgin as the special protectress of their Order.  For this reason, they began to be called the brethren of Our Lady of Mount Carmel everywhere, and by all; and the supreme Pontiffs not only confirmed this title, but also granted special indulgences to whomsoever should call either the whole Order or individual brethren by that name.  But the most noble Virgin not only gave them such a great title and patronage, but also the badge of the holy scapular.  This she bestowed upon blessed Simon the Englishman, so that the sacred Order might be differentiated by this heavenly vesture, and be protected by it from the evils that were assailing it.  And finally, since of old the Order was unknown in Europe, and on this account many were importuning Honorius III for its abolition, the most tender Virgin Mary appeared by night to Honorius, and distinctly commanded him to receive both the institute and its members with kindness.

The most blessed Virgin by many privileges hath distinguished this Order which is so acceptable to her, not only in this world, but also in another world (since everywhere her power and her mercy count for very much).  For it is piously believed, that those of her children who, having been enrolled in the Confraternity of the Scapular, have observed the slight abstinence and have said the few prayers prescribed, and have observed chastity as far as their state of life doth demand, will certainly be comforted by her maternal affection while they are being purified in the fire of Purgatory, and will through her intercession be taken thence as soon as possible to the heavenly fatherland.  Therefore the Order, laden with so many and such great favours, hath instituted a solemn Commemoration of the most blessed Virgin, to be celebrated year by year in perpetual observance, to the glory of that same Virgin."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X
The same entry, with a handful of words changed, is found in the 1966 Discalced Carmelite Proper

** Statue of Our Blessed Mother in the Cathedral of Cádiz, Spain

Queen and Mother of Carmel, pray for us!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Memorial of St Bonaventure

"Bonaventure was born at Bagnorea in Tuscany.  In his infancy he was dangerously ill, and his mother made a vow that, if he recovered, she would dedicate him to the Order of Blessed Francis.  While he was still a young man he entered the Order by his own wish.  Under the teaching of Alexander of Hales he advanced so quickly in learning, that in seven years he lectured publicly at Paris on the Books of the Sentences, with great applause.  He afterwards explained the same Books by a brilliant Commentary.  He was distinguished, not only for the profundity of his learning, but for the integrity of his morals, the innocency of his life, his humility, meekness, contempt of earthly things, and desire of heavenly treasures; and was fully worthy to be regarded as a model of perfection, and to be called a saint by blessed Thomas Aquinas, to whom he was united by ties of the closest friendship.  For Thomas, finding Bonaventure engaged in writing the life of St. Francis, said: Let us permit a Saint to labour for a Saint.

He was consumed with the flame of divine love, and had a special feeling of devotion to the Passion of Christ the Lord, which was the subject of constant meditation to him; and to the Virgin Mother of God, to whose service he vowed himself; and this devotion he strove also to arouse in others both by word and example, and he laboured to spread it by his writings and treatises.  And so came that sweetness of manner, grace of speech, and the charity which he extended to all, by which he completely and utterly conquered every soul.  Wherefore, when only thirty-five years of age he was elected, at Rome, by unanimous consent, Minister General of the Order; and having accepted the office, he fulfilled it for eighteen years with admirable prudence and the recognition of his sanctity.  He made many rules, useful for regular discipline and the increase of the order; which, together with the other mendicant orders, he defended successfully against the calumnies of their enemies.

He was summoned to the Council of Lyons by blessed Gregory X, and having been created Cardinal Bishop of Albano, he diligently performed a noted work for the council in very difficult circumstances; in which the dissensions of the schism were composed, and the dogmas of the Church vindicated.  In the midst of these labours he died, to the great grief of all, in the fifty-third year of his age, and in the year of salvation 1274, and his funeral was honoured by the whole council and by the presence of the Roman Pontiff himself.  Sixtus IV, after Bonaventure had become illustrious for many and great miracles, placed him in the list of the Saints.  He wrote many books, in which the highest erudition and the fire of piety are so united as both to touch and instruct the reader.  Sixtus V on this account worthily distinguished him by the name of the Seraphic Doctor."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X


" If you wish then to contemplate the invisible traits of God in so far as they belong to the unity of His essence, fix your gaze upon Being itself, and see that Being is most certain in itself; for it cannot be thought not to be, since the purest Being occurs only in full flight from Non-Being, just as nothingness is in full flight from Being. Therefore, just as the utterly nothing contains nought of Being nor of its conditions, so contrariwise Being itself contains no Non-Being, neither in actuality nor in potency, neither in matters of fact nor in our thinking. Since, however, Non-Being is the privation of Being, it cannot enter the intellect except through Being; Being, however, cannot enter through anything other than itself. For everything which is thought of is either thought of as Non-Being or as Being-in-potency or as Being-in-actuality. If, therefore, Non-Being is intelligible only through Being, and if Being-in-potency can be understood only through Being-in-actuality, and if Being is the name of that pure actuality of Being, Being then is what first enters the intellect, and that Being is pure actuality. But this is not particular Being, which is restricted Being, since that is mixed with potentiality. Nor is this analogous Being, for such has a minimum of actuality since it has only a minimum of being. It remains, therefore, that that Being is divine Being."

-- From the writings of St Bonaventure

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Memorial of Bl Kateri Tekakwitha

The last hour of the life of Catherine Tekakwitha 
(Holy Wednesday April 17, 1680 )
At three o’clock in the afternoon, “At three o’clock in the afternoon, the bell was rung to gather the Natives, who they had desired passionately to witness the death of this great servant of God.”

Sometime after three o’clock in the afternoon, “After their return, she waited until everyone entered the cabin, which I saw this marvel with my own eyes. When the last one had arrived that she went into her agony and while everyone knelt around her. After three hours after noon, Catherine had entered into an agony that was the most gentle in the world.”

Sometime after half pass three o’clock in the afternoon, “A short half hour after her agony, which she had pronounced the Holy Names, ‘Iesos! Wari!’ (‘Jesus! Mary!’) Then, a slight spasm had come about at the side of her mouth, which she entirely lost the vigour of speech, but as her hearing was still very good and fully conscience until her last breath. She had died as if she was falling asleep and we were for a long time not certain of her death.”

Sometime after three quarters of an hour after three o’clock, “Then, her face had suddenly changed, which appeared so smiling and devout that everyone was extremely astonished – her face that had transfigured gradually in less than a quarter of an hour, because of smallpox that it left her face scarred from the age of four, which her infirmities and mortification had contributed to ruin her even more. Catherine’s face was so scarred from smallpox and before her death that she took a darken complexion. Then, her face had suddenly transfigured about a quarter of an hour after her death and became in a moment so beautiful, smiling and white. Her face assumed an appearance of a rosy colour that she never had and her features were not the same. Her face appeared more beautiful than when she had been living. I will admit openly of the first thought that came to me that Catherine might have entered into Heaven at that moment. After, reflecting back in her chaste body a small ray of the glory that she had gone to possess. This blessed soul had left her virgin body to go with her beloved Spouse and was to celebrate in Heaven with Him the triumphs of the Cross, which she had so much loved and attached her heart, affections, chaste and virgin body through this life of mortification. Catherine Tekakwitha had died as she lived that is to say, as a Saint. It was to be expected that such a Holy a Life, which would be followed with a most Holy Death, because she was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

-- From the narrations of Fathers Claude Chauchetière, SJ and Pierre Cholenec, SJ, published in Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Memorial of St Teresa of the Andes

 "July 13, 2000, was the centenary year of the birth of St. Teresa of the Andes (Juanita Fernández Solar). This centenary year fell within the great jubilee, which gives greater enhancement to the anniversary of the birth of the Chilean Carmelite. There have already been articles about Teresa of the Andes, so I limit myself by way of introduction to some following brief biographical notes for the benefit of those readers less familiar with Teresa of the Andes.
Juanita Fernandez Solar was born in Santiago, Chile, on July 13, 1900, to a family of Santiagan lineage. Her parents were Don Miguel Fernández Jaraquemada and Doña Lucía Solar Armstrong. The children of this marriage were Lucía, Miguel, Luis, Juana (who died a few hours after birth), Juanita (St Teresa of the Andes), Rebeca, and Ignacio. From her earliest years, she knew the suffering that came to the family due to her father’s bankruptcy. This came about perhaps from his poor administration of the great patrimony that the Fernandez Solar family had inherited. One after another, he lost all their properties. This situation caused a gradual distancing between Don Miguel and Doña Lucía.  He lived in the countryside attempting to administer the inherited properties while Doña Lucía lived in Santiago with her six children, trying to give them an education corresponding to their high position in society and trying to survive on the little money the father was able to provide. The most painful thing for Juanita was not the lack of money but the tension this caused between her parents. She herself was very caring and sensitive and a veritable angel of peace in the bosom of the family.

For eleven years, she was a student at the College of the Sacred Heart, or of “the English nuns,” as the sisters who ran the place were called. Of these eleven years, she spent three as an internal student. Especially at the beginning, it was a real martyrdom for her to be separated from her family, even though her sister Rebeca shared this internship with her. At the age of eighteen, she entered the Carmel of the Holy Spirit in Los Andes, where she spent only eleven months. A brief sickness ended her life on April 13, 1920.  On April 3, 1987, his Holiness John Paul II beatified her during his apostolic visit to Chile; and on March 21, 1993, he canonized her in Rome.

Today her mortal remains lie in the Sanctuary of Auco, a veritable citadel that has been built in honor of the saint and for the thousands of pilgrims who come there every month.
Another Carmelite Mystic

The Carmelite Order is clearly contemplative. It has its origins in Israel in the twelfth century and was reformed by St Teresa of Avila. It has been a seed-bed of saints and mystics who have been nourished by the charisma of St Teresa and St John of the Cross. But within this charisma, there is great diversity. In fact, each Carmelite lives it in the light of his or her own personal vocation. Numbered among the saints and mystics have been Teresa Margaret Redi, the little Florentine saint of the eighteenth century; Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Elizabeth of the Trinity, French women of the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries; St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), a German Jewess martyred in 1942 and recently canonized by his Holiness John Paul II. This is just to mention a few of the more well-known ones and without reference to the Carmelite friars. All these lived the charisma of the Order completely, but each one lived it according to their own time and according to their own personal temperament; moreover, each one had his or her own concrete mission within the Church.

Different from St Thérèse and Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity, who arrived at the highest degrees of union with God by a simple path, with few mystical phenomena, Teresa of the Andes had a rather extraordinary spirituality from her earliest years. She did not write her autobiography and so, to be able to understand her experience of God, all we have is her diary, sometimes interrupted by long time lapses; her letters, particularly those written to her spiritual directors Fathers José Blanch, CMF; Artemio Colom, SJ; some testimonies from those who knew her better like Mother Angélica, prioress of Los Andes and her mistress of novices; Father Avertano of the Most Holy Sacrament, OCD, her confessor in Carmel; and an extract from a letter of Father Fauvert, which tells of an ecstasy and levitation of Juanita described by Father Félix Henle, a Redemporist and eye witness of the event. Nevertheless, these few facts are sufficient to approach a little into the mystical phenomenology of Teresa of the Andes. But it is important to keep in mind that what interests a person approaching a mystic is not a kind of phenomena that has been experienced, but the experience of God, the acceptance of God’s will, and the work brought about by God in this person.

Let us not imagine that Juanita was born a saint. Like every human being, she had defects and limitations of which she was aware. She had a strong character, a great sensitivity; she had tantrums that at times she could not control; but none of this prevented her from modeling her personality according to the rhythm of God’s demands. Neither let us believe that her life was boring; on the contrary, she was a joyful young person with many friends, given the leadership in her temperament. She was very much into sports and enjoyed horseback riding, swimming, and tennis. She played the piano and had a beautiful voice. She was admired by many young people; but even though she accepted friendship, she never wanted to be enamored of anyone because from her childhood, she was enamored of God. This young woman whom we might call “modern” had nevertheless from her earliest years begun to perceive special graces that God bestowed on her. In a letter to Father Falgueras, she says: “From the age of seven, more or less, a great devotion to my Mother, the Most Holy Virgin, was born in my soul. I told her everything that happened to me, and she would speak to me …” (Letter of April 24, 1919).  From her tenth year and from the day of her first Communion, it is Jesus himself to whom she speaks and whom she is allowed to see. But Juanita didn’t see these things as exceptional, because she believed that everyone experienced the same thing. It was only when she told Mother Ríos, a religious of the Sacred Heart, about it that she was made to see that she was dealing with extraordinary graces; and on that account, she would have to be very generous in her response.
These mystical graces were building up the personality of this youth, and the work of God in her was not made to wait. She quickly began to struggle with her strong temperament—to make an effort with her studies and to avoid any friction with her siblings and her cousins. She was becoming gentler and was a sewer of peace."

-- Originally published in Spanish in Teresa de Jesús  and reprinted in Carmelite Digest by Sr Helena Esquerra, ocd

** This is the only photo of St Teresa as a novice in the monastery. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Memorial of Bls Louis and Zélie

"Louis and Zélie were luminous examples of married life lived in faithfulness, in welcoming life and in the education of their children.  A Christian marriage lived in an absolute confidence in God that could be proposed to families today.  Their marriage was exemplary, full of Christian virtues and human wisdom.  Exemplary does not mean that we should copy, photocopy their life reproducing all of their doings and gestures, but that we should use, like they did, the supernatural means that the Church offers to each Christian to carry out his vocation to saintliness.  Providence wanted their Beatification to be announced during the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of their marriage, 13th July 2008.

Why after such a long time?  Is such a family not far removed from our time?

In what way are the Martin parents modern?  Can they help our families to take on today’s challenges?

I am certain that a vast debate will begin around this couple at their Beatification.  Conferences, debates, discussion groups, will try to analyse and compare their experience with our very complex times.  On this, however, one must be very clear: The Church did not canonize a period of time, but examined their saintliness.  With the Martins, the Church proposes to the faithful the saintliness and the perfection of a Christian life that this couple achieved in an exemplary manner and, to use the language of the process, to a heroic degree.  The Church is not interested in the exceptional but underlines how in their daily lives they were the salt of the earth and the light of the world [Mathew 5.13.14].  The Servant of God, John Paul II declared: “It is necessary that the heroic becomes daily and that the daily becomes heroic.”  The Church established that Louis and Zélie made something heroic out of their daily lives and from heroism something daily.  This is possible for each Christian, whatever his/her state in life.  I am pleased to quote here a passage from the famous letter to Diognete on marriage and which the Martin couple knew exactly how to carry out:

“Christians do not differentiate themselves from other men by their territory nor by their language, nor by their clothing.  They marry as others do and have children, but they do not abandon the newly-born.  They live in the body but not according to the body.  They spend their life on earth but are citizens of heaven.  They obey established laws, but their way of living surpasses the laws.”

This letter traces a concrete model of a possible life, a route that all disciples of Jesus are called to follow, even today: to announce the beauty of a Christian marriage with its authentic experiences that are credible and attractive.  To carry out this one needs couples and parents who are mature in love.  Louis and Zélie embraced this form of married life to follow Christ.  Husband, wife, and parents in Christ, where marriage is welcomed as a call and a mission given by God.  With their life they announced to all the good news of love “in Christ”: the humble love, love that spares nothing to start anew every morning, love capable of confidence and sacrifice.  This communion clearly emerges from the letters exchanged between the two.

In one of his brief letters, which is practically a synthesis of matrimonial love, Louis signs in the following way: “Your husband and true friend, who loves you for life.”  To these words, Zélie echoes: “I follow you in spirit throughout the day, I tell myself: ‘He is doing such and such at the moment’.  I am so impatient to be with you, my dear Louis; I love you with all my heart and I can feel my affection doubling in your absence; it would be impossible for me to live far from you.”

What is the secret of this communion?  Maybe the fact that before looking in each other’s eyes, they looked directly at Jesus.  They lived sacramentally reciprocal communion, through Communion that they both cultivated with God.

This is what is new “Hymn of hymns”, not only must Christian couples sing it, but only they can sing it.  Christian love is a “Hymn of hymns” that the couple sings with God."

-- From the homily of Cardinal Saraiva Martins on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the wedding of Bls Louis and Zélie, 13 July 2008

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The supernatural life is essential for every man

"The supernatural life of grace is the great reality in the history of the soul and in the history of God's dealing with mankind. It explains the Fall and the Redemption, the old dispensation and the new, the tremendous importance of the sacraments, the policies and ideals of the Church, the ardors of martyrs and confessors, and the phenomena of our own spiritual experience. Every Catholic is taught to believe that above his physical life and intellectual life, immeasurably above, there is another life which he must life under the severest sanctions. We call that life the supernatural life of the soul, the life of divine grace.

The presence of the supernatural life is so essential for every man that without it the soul, in a most important sense, must be considered dead. In its absence all corporal, mental, and even moral endowments are so many dead men's bones. Physical strength and beauty are good; genius and intellectual accomplishments are good; moral excellence, as far as it can go in the natural order, is good. Why not? God made them. They are His gifts. He gave them to us to serve and to be transfigured by the higher life of grace. That is the divine purpose. If they do not minister to that purpose, if they thwart it, they cease to be admirable. A beautiful corpse is a phrase full of shudders, and it describes exactly the gentle and refined excellence and charm of a world which thinks it can get along for itself without divine interferences.

That is why Christ and the world, the Church and the world, have always been at odds with each other. Each despises what the other values. The world worships mere natural excellence; the Church, like Christ, attaches no importance to mere natural excellence. The world and the Church exist on different planets, in different dimensions, using different modes of thought and speech. While the Church can understand the language of the world, the world finds the language and usages of the Church simply unintelligible. To the ordinary Catholic the Church, in her speech and in her aims, is as simple and as clear as Christ. If there is mystery about her as a halo, it is the mystery that was about Christ; and that was mystery which never confounded hearts fixed in rectitude. The modern unbeliever, though he belong to the cultivated class, regards the Church, if he adverts to her at all, as a sinister and inscrutable portent, analogous to the dark and hideous worship of ancient nations, and full of menace to the intellectual and moral progress of the race. The Church canonizes saints; the world canonizes poets, philosophers, soldiers, and statesmen. While the world ignores most of the saints, the Church attaches a minor value to the characteristic excellence of the poets, philosophers, soldiers, and statesmen. The world and the Church seldom agree; and when they do, it is for different reasons."

-- The Road to Peace by James J Daly, SJ

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Carmelite Rule

"The Carmelite Rule is among the briefest of the great rules. It is just over 1,500 words. The hermits living on Mount Carmel asked the local bishop, St. Albert of Avogadro (ca 1150-1214), then Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, for a rule or way of life sometime after 1206. These hermits lived in separate cells but were gathered into a fraternity by the Rule of Albert.

The Carmelite Rule consists of twenty-four short paragraphs dealing with the basic structures of the settlement on Mount Carmel, with liturgical and personal prayer, and with regulations concerning fasting, silence, work and spiritual warfare (based on Eph 6:10-18). A remarkable feature of this Rule is the number of times that the legislator inserts moderating clauses that allow exceptions depending on circumstances. The prior is appointed “by common consent;” places are to be “suitable and convenient;” refectory reading is prescribed if it “can be done without difficulty;” there is constant prayer, “unless there is another duty;” goods are to be distributed “according to need;” daily Mass is enjoined if “there is no difficulty.” In the two paragraphs on fasting and abstinence there are eleven exclusions with the reminder, “necessity overrides every law.”

You are to fast every day except Sundays from the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross until Easter Sunday, unless illness or bodily weakness, or other just cause counsels a lifting of the fast, since necessity has no law. You are to abstain from meat, unless it is to be taken as a remedy for illness or bodily weakness. Since you must more frequently beg on journeys, in order not to burden your hosts you may eat food cooked with meat outside your own houses. At sea, however, meat may be eaten. (nn. 16, 17) But the main asceticism of the Carmelite Rule will be found in the chapter on spiritual armour, based largely on Eph 6:10-17.

Since human life on earth is a trial and all who want to live devotedly in Christ suffer persecution; your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. You must then with all diligence put on the armour of God so that you may be able to stand up to the ambushes of the enemy.

Your loins are to be girded with the belt of chastity; your breast is to be protected by holy thoughts, for the Scripture says, holy thoughts will save you. Put on the breastplate of justice, so that you may love the Lord your God from your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole strength, and your neighbour as yourselves. In all things take up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the darts of the evil one; without faith, indeed, it is impossible to please God. The helmet of salvation is to be placed on your head, so that you may hope for salvation from the one Saviour, who saves his people from their sins. The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, is to dwell abundantly in your mouths and hearts. So whatever you have to do, is to be done in the word of the Lord. (nn. 18, 19).

Other ascetical norms are about work and silence. The very last words of the Rule are “See that the bounds of common sense are not exceeded, however, for common sense is the guide of the virtues” (utatur tamen discretione, que virtutum est moderatrix). The author is strictest not on fasting or other practices, but about work, serious and continual work: “earn you bread by silent work; this is the way of holiness and goodness; see that you follow it.” The broad and compassionate tone of the Rule has in a profound way left its mark on Carmel."

-- The meaning of Lent with some Carmelite insights by Christopher O'Donnell, OCarm

Friday, July 9, 2010

Memorial of Bl Joan Scopelli

"The virgin Joan Scopelli was born at Reggio in the province of Emilia, of respectable parents and from her infancy she gave abundant evidence of her future sanctity. While still a child she disciplined her body with penances and fasts. Remaining at home she took the Carmelite habit. Upon the death of her parents she betook herself to the home of a pious woman and formulated plans for a monastery of dedicated virgins where God could be served more freely. Overcoming the greatest difficulties, she brought this undertaking to a successful conclusion. Named superior of the new foundation, she showed herself an example of obedience, poverty, and all virtues. She recalled many from the snares of vices and worldly desires to the straight and narrow path of virtue. She is said to have been noted for the gifts of prophecy and miracles. At the precise time she had foretold to her sisters she fell asleep in the Lord on the ninth day of July in the year 1491. Her incorrupt body is held in the greatest veneration.


O God, you hear the petitions of all who call on you. You strengthened Blessed Joan Scopelli by the spirit of prayer and penance against the wiles of demons. Strengthen us also in that same spirit through her merits and her pleading for us. This we ask of you through out Lord."

-- From the 1966 Discalced Carmelite Proper

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I will shelter you under my wings

"But let me repeat: Have no fear, at least, no deliberate fear. Listen to Jesus Christ who tells you: "It is I, do not be afraid. It is I who have chosen you. I am your good shepherd and I know you for my sheep. Do not be surprised if the world hates you, but know that it began by hating me. If you belonged to the world, it would hold you dear as something of its very own but, because you do not belong to the world, you must endure its hatred, calumnies, insults, contempt and outrages."

"I am your protector and your bulwark. I hold you in my hands, little company," says our Eternal Father (cf. Gen. 15:1; Is. 49:16). "I have graven you on my heart and on the palms of my hands in order to cherish and defend you because you have put your trust in me and not in men, in my Providence and not in wealth. I will deliver you from the snares they set for you, from the calumnies they spread about you, from the terrors of the night and from the devil who roams at noonday to seduce you.

I will shelter you under my wings, I will carry you on my shoulders. I will provide your sustenance. I will arm you with my truth and you will find it such a powerful weapon that you will see with your very eyes your enemies falling by the thousands around you: a thousand wicked paupers on your left hand and ten thousand evil rich on your right. You yourselves have nothing to fear from my avenging power. It will not even come near you.

You will trample on the asp and on the basilisk with all its envy and calumny. You will crush underfoot the lion and the dragon of ungodliness with its proud fury. I will hear you when you pray and I will be at your side when you suffer. I will deliver you from all the evils that beset you. All the glory that I have will be yours and will be revealed to you after I have given you length of days and abundant blessings upon earth."

-- Letters to the Members of the Company of Mary by St Louis de Montfort

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"No sooner had I finished the Autobiography of Saint Thérèse than I searched out and read with my customary enthusiasm everything I could find about the religious order of Carmel.

The name of Carmel, I discovered, meant literally 'garden' or 'beautiful hill'; its mystical meaning - 'sacrifice' - was far more significant

I learned that Carmel was a small mountain, one of a chain of high hills that ran across Palestine, and that it was to Mount Carmel that the prophet Elias retired, to seek God in solitude, and to pray for his people. And this, nine hundred years before Christ was born. This same Elias was actually, according to the Carmelite tradition, the founder of the religious order to which Saint Thérèse of Lisieux belonged. I never dreamed  it possible that a religious order in the Catholic Church could trace its origin to a date before the coming of Christ. The beautifully impressive statue of Saint Elias, the prophet, that stands in the Vatican alongside the saintly founders of other religious orders is inscribed Elias, Founder of the Order of Mount Carmel.

Carmel was called the Order of Mary, and the early members of the society were called the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel; they were charged with the 'blessed duty of honoring her, and spreading devotion to her.'"

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

** Painting behind the altar of the chapel at the Discalced Carmelite Nun's Monastery in Haifa, Israel. Haifa is in the slopes of Mount Carmel.