Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Value of Time

Something to reflect upon as we end the year and begin the new one.

Time passes and does not return. God has assigned to each of us a definite time in which to fulfill His divine plan for our soul; we have only this time and shall have no more. Time ill spent is lost forever. Our life is made up of this uninterrupted continual flow of time, which never returns. In eternity, on the contrary, time will be no more; we shall be established forever in the degree of love which we have reached now, in time. If we have attained a high degree of love, we shall be fixed forever in that degree of love and glory; if we possess only slight degree, that is all we shall have throughout eternity. No further progress will be possible when time has ended. “Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men” (Gal. 6:10). “We must give every moment its full amount of love, and make each passing moment eternal, by giving it value for eternity” (Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O. C. D.) This is the best way to use the time given us by God.

(Taken from Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. -#35 p. 103)

Mother and Child


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Carrying This Invisible Heavenly Treasure Within

Things changed since the reign of the divine King was interpreted in terms of the psalms and the prophets. The Romans remained the rulers of the land and the high priests and scribes continued to keep the poor people under their yoke. Anyone who adhered to the Lord carried his heavenly treasure invisibly within himself. His temporal burden was not removed from him; on the contrary, many others were added. Yet, what he bore within himself was an exhilarating strength which softened the yoke and lightened the burden. This remains true today of every child of God. The divine life which is enkindled in the soul is the Light that came into the darkness – the mystery of the Holy Night. The one who bears it within himself understands its meaning. For others, on the contrary, it remains an enigma regardless of any explanation

The Mystery of Christmas, Incarnation and Humanity – Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

Friday, December 25, 2009

One With Us

O wonderful exchange! The Creator of mankind, by taking on a human body, imparts to us his divinity. It is for this wondrous task that the Saviour came into this world. God became a Child of man so that the human race could become children of God. One of our race severed the bond of our divine adoption; one of us had to bind it up again and pay for the sin. No one from the ancient, sick and degenerate race could do it. A new, healthy and noble sprout had to be grafted. He became one of us; but even more than that: one with us. That is precisely the wonderful thing about the human race – that we are all one. If it were otherwise, were we all to exist as independent and separate individuals, then the fall of one could not have brought about the fall of all. Then, on the other hand, the price of sin could probably have been paid for us and charged to us, but his justification would not have passed on to sinners; no vindication would have been possible. But he came to be a mysterious Body with us: he as head, we as members. Let us place our hands in the hands of the divine Child, let us speak our ‘yes’ to his ‘follow me’. Thus we shall be his and the path shall be open for his divine life to pass over upon us.

The Mystery of Christmas, Incarnation and Humanity – Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Proclaimation of the Birth of Christ

Traditionally a formal “Proclamation of the Birth of Christ” is recited or sung at the beginning of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The text situates the birth of Jesus Christ within the context of salvation history. Jesus is truly a historical figure. Our present system of the calendar places Him at the center. This proclamation begins with the creation of the world, mentioning key events in the history of Israel, and concludes with the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior, Redeemer and King.



"The twenty-fifth day of December in the 5,099th year of the creation of the world from the time in the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth, the 2,957th year after the flood, the 2,015th year from the birth of Abraham, the 1,510th year from Moses and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt, the 1,032nd year from David's being anointed king, and the 65th week according to the prophecy of Daniel and the 194th Olympiad, the 752nd year from the foundation of the city of Rome, the 42nd year of the reign of Octavius Augustus, the whole world being at peace, in the sixth age of the world, Jesus Christ, the Eternal God and the Son of the Eternal Father willing to consecrate the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit and nine months having passed since his conception, (all kneel) was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary being made man (rise), the nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh."



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Refrain

The Virgin, weighed
with the Word of God
comes down the road:
if only you'll shelter her.

~St. John of the Cross

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Where the Star is Leading Us

"When the days grow shorter and shorter, when - in normal winter - the first snowflakes fall, then quietly and softly thoughts of Christmas begin to surface, and from the mere word a certain magic exudes that affects every heart. Even those of other faiths, or of no faith at all, to whom the story of the Child of Bethlehem has no meaning, prepare for the feast and even make plans to convey its joy here or there. Months and weeks in advance, there flows a warmth like a stream of love over the whole world. A festival of love and joy - that is the star which beckons all mankind in the first winter months.

For the Christian, and especially for the Catholic Christian, it is yet something else. Him the star leads to the manger with the little Child who brings peace to earth. In countless endearing pictures, artists have created the scene for our eyes; ancient legends, replete with all the magic of childhood, sing to us about it. Whoever lives along with the Church hears the ancient chants and feels the longing of the spirit in the Advent hymns; and whoever is familiar with the inexhaustible fount of sacred liturgy is daily confronted by the great prophet of the Incarnation with his powerful word of warning and promise:
Drop down dew from above and let the clouds rain
the Just One! The Lord is near! Let us adore Him!
Come, Lord, and do not delay! Jerusalem, rejoice
with great joy, for you Saviour comes to you!

From 17 to 24 December, the great O Antiphons to the Magnificat call out with ever greater longing and fervour their 'Come, to set us free'. And with still more promise (on the last Advent Sunday), 'Behold, all is fulfilled'; then, finally, 'Today you shall know that the Lord is coming and tomorrow you shall see his splendour'.

Yes, on that evening when the lights on the tree are lit and the gifts are being exchanged, that unfulfilled longing is still there groping for another ray of Light until the bells for Midnight Mass ring out, and the miracle of that Holy Night is renewed upon altars bedecked with lights and flowers: 'And the Word was made flesh'. Now the moment of blessed fulfilment has arrived. "

(The Mystery of Christmas, Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), January 1931)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We Watch Hoping

The preface that follows is said in the Mass from the first Sunday of Advent to December 16th:

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere
to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

When he humbled himself to come among us as a man,
he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago and opened for us the way to salvation.

Now we watch for the day,
hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours
when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.

And so, with all the choirs of angels
in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord...

(Taken from the Daily Roman Missal, Scepter Publishers, 1998)

Come Lord Jesus!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Spiritual Preparation for Advent

Advent comes from the Latin “adventus” and means “coming”. During this season we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christ’s coming into our world to redeem us. We also use this time to prepare for Christ’s Second Coming which we await in longing and great expectation.

There are many ways to spend the Advent season in preparation for the celebration of Christmas. The best way is to do some spiritual exercises that will aid and deepen the understanding of this beautiful season.

One good exercise would be to study, pray for and practice the virtues mentioned in a previous post, humility and simplicity. These were exemplified in the Blessed Mother and this season is certainly a season that includes her.

Another practice, that would put the soul in the spirit of Advent while staying attuned to Holy Mother Church, would be to pray the Collects for the Sunday Masses during Advent while lighting the Advent wreath candles:

I. First Sunday of Advent
Stir up thy power, O Lord, and come,that by thy protection we may be rescued from the dangers that beset us through our sins; and be a Redeemer to deliver us; Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit,ever one God, world without end.
May be said while lighting the first Advent Candle

II. Second Sunday of Advent

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the paths of thine Only-begotten Son: that we may worthily serve thee with hearts purified by His coming: Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Often said while lighting the second Advent Candle

III. Third Sunday of Advent
We beseech thee to listen to our prayers, O Lord, and by the grace of thy coming enlighten our darkened minds: Thou who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
May be said while lighting the third advent candle

IV. Fourth Sunday of Advent
Pour forth thy power, O Lord, and come: Assist us by that mighty power, so that by thy grace and merciful kindness we may swiftly receive the salvation that our sins impede: Who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
May be said while lighting the fourth Advent Candle

One more beautiful practice during Advent would be to meditate on the richness of the words found in the Preface that opens the Eucharistic Prayer during the Mass. Read each slowly, reflecting on the words and their meaning. Let these enrich your spiritual life.


Come, Lord Jesus!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Humility and Simplicity

Let nothing
disturb you;
Nothing frighten you.

All things
are passing.

God never changes.

Patience
obtains all things.

Nothing
is wanting to him
who possesses God.

God alone suffices.


This is what has been attributed to having been written by St. Teresa and was found in one of her books. It is known as St. Teresa’s Bookmark. It certainly rings of peace and tranquility.
How can one come to this tranquil repose in the midst of any perturbing darkness that might happen to come upon the soul?

Two virtues are needed to come to the point where nothing would disturb or frighten you. First of all, humility is necessary to obtain and maintain a peaceful interior that would reflect in the exterior body of a soul. If we really ponder in great honesty all that disturbs us, and trace this disturbance to its root, we will find that our pride in some way has been wounded. Some contradiction, some change to our plans, some insecurity in our comforts; all these disturb our constant grasping for “my will to be done”. The second virtue for attaining peace is simplicity. Simplicity is looking only at God. Once a soul is purified of every passion and attachment it is then reduced to perfect simplicity. To reach this goal the soul must look to God for help; leaning on God at every moment seeking Him as sole support and strength. The simple soul does not waste time reasoning about the conduct of others. These souls see the hand of God in everything that happens and in every circumstance.

These two virtues, humility and simplicity, so perfectly modeled in the Blessed Virgin Mary, are necessary for a soul to rest peacefully in any given situation knowing and trusting in God.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tu Rex Gloriae Christe





Today will celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.



This feast marks the end of the liturgical year; falling on the last Sunday of the Church’s calendar year. Pope Pius XI inserted this feast into the Sacred Liturgy at the closing of the Holy Year in 1925. In his encyclical, Quas Primas (On the Feast of Christ the King), a very beautiful and often neglected one, which is of much relevance for our day, not only for the individual but also important socially and politically. In this encyclical the Pope writes the following about the Kingship of Christ:

“This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things. That this so the above quotations from Scripture amply prove, and Christ by his own action confirms it. On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honor and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.” (no.15)

Further, the Pope writes:

“… if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls." (no. 33)

(Taken from Pope Pius XI Quas Primas (On the Feast of Christ the King) – 11 December 1925)

St. Teresa of Jesus was fond of the image of Christ as King. In her writings, the Interior Castle, she writes about our souls:

“It is that we consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places. For in reflecting upon it careful, Sisters, we realize that the soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight. So then, what do you think that abode, will be like where a King so powerful, so wise, so pure, so full of all good things takes His delight?" (St. Teresa of Jesus, Interior Castle I, 1.1)

Christ is King and He should reign supremely in our heart and in our life for His law is the law of love; His reign is heavenly peace.

Preface of Christ the King


Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks. You anointed Jesus Christ, Your only Son,with the oil of gladness, as the eternal priest and universal king.As priest He offered His life on the altar of the cross and redeemed the human race by this one perfect sacrifice of peace.As king He claims dominion over all creation, that He may present to You, His almighty Father, an eternal and universal kingdom:a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace,a kingdom of justice, love, and peace. And so, with all the choirs of angels in heavenwe proclaim Your glory and join in their unending hymn of praise:


Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Property of Love

"The first sign of love is this: that Jesus has given us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. The property of love is to be always giving and always receiving. Now the love of Christ is generous. All that He has, all that He is, He gives; all that we have, all that we are, He takes away. He asks for more that we of ourselves are capable of giving. He has an immense hunger which wants to devour us absolutely. He enters even into the marrow of our bones, and the more lovingly we allow Him to do so, the more fully we savor Him."



"He knows that we are poor, but He pays no heed to it and does not spare us. He Himself becomes in us His own bread, first burning up, in His love, all our vices, faults, and sins. Then when He sees that we are pure, He comes like a gaping vulture that is going to devour everything. He wants to consume our life in order to change it into His own; ours, full of vices, His, full of grace and glory and all prepared for us, if only we will renounce ourselves."

(Heaven in Faith, Volume One, The Complete Works: Elizabeth of the Trinity, ICS Publications)





Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, Elizabeth Catez, was born in 1880 in France. She entered the Discalced Carmelite Order making her profession of vows in 1903. In 1906 she was called by the Divine Spouse "to light, to love and to life". Devoted to the Most Blessed Trinity, Elizabeth's short life was a "praise of glory" to the Trinity during her life of interior darkness and a severe illness.

~The property of love is to be always giving and always receiving.~

Monday, November 2, 2009

No Human Eye Can See

Each day we as Secular Carmelites are to spend half and hour in quiet prayer. At some point in our day we leave all our duties and earthly cares in order to place ourselves in intimate contact with God through prayer.

To begin this most precious time we must recollect ourselves and enter into the little heaven of our soul. Jesus exhorts all to this time of quiet prayer in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.

“But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

This does necessarily involve the physical withdrawal from exterior occupations and preoccupations. With everything temporarily laid aside we enter into solitude to be with God and to renew our spirit. This is a sacred time and shouldn’t be omitted lightly. During this time of prayer we are applying Jesus’ command to “Seek first the kingdom of God.” (Mt. 6:33)

This is a time for conversational prayer with the Lord. Here we speak to Him as to a friend. As St. Teresa of Jesus tells us in her autobiography, “mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than intimate sharing with friends; it means taking time to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” (Life, 8:5) This is our time to speak to Him directly, without any set formula, simply telling Him all that we are thinking, feeling, and desiring.

This time for quiet prayer is a time of grace. “No human eye can see what God does in the soul during hours of inner prayer. It is grace upon grace. And all of life’s other hours are our thanks for them.” (The Hidden Life, ICS Publications, The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 4)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Secular Carmelite Community of Madrid

The Secular Carmelite Community of Madrid has set up a blog : "Reading Together the Book of Life of St. Teresa of Jesus".

The site is in Spanish, but with Google can be translated into English. The purpose of the site is to invite participation in a shared reading project through the Internet about St. Teresa and her Book of Life. The community will be conducting this project through the year 2009-2010 as one of the preparations for the upcoming fifth centenary of St. Teresa's birth (1515-2015). This week the project is reading the prologue and chapter one. All are welcomed to leave comments as participants read through her autobiography during the year.

http://comunidadocdsmadrid.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 30, 2009

His Yoke

What's holding you back? What is keeping you from giving of yourself to God today? Not enough time? Do you say to yourself, "I'll consider doing that later, when I retire and have more time."

It seems that we are afraid that if we take on something for God that He will lay on us a heavy burden, one that we just cannot bear right now.

But Jesus never asks of us or gives us more than He knows we can handle. He tells us to take His yoke upon us. "For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." (Mt 11:30)

We probably never really think about a yoke these days. But in the time of Jesus, a yoke was a familiar object. It is a wooden beam that is used to pair a couple of oxen together to allow them to pull a load. Of course, Jesus is speaking metaphorically here in the Gospel of Matthew. The etymology of the word "yoke" comes from the verb to 'join' or 'unite'. What Jesus is asking of us is to submit to Him and to be connected or united to him as with a yoke.

So what are you waiting for? Start today. Give yourself to Him. Consider spending time with Jesus today in prayer, in love, in service to someone or to His Church.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Much More

Now someone approached him and said, "Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?"

He answered him, "Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."

He asked him, "Which ones?"

And Jesus replied, " 'You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother'; and 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

The young man said to him, "All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?"

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
(Mt 19:16-22)

St. Teresa of Jesus when speaking of some causes of dryness at prayer, says that she had this young man in the Gospel of Matthew in mind. "For we are literally like him; and ordinarily great dryness in prayer comes from this, although it also has other causes."

Dryness in prayer is an interior trial. Although interior trials involve much more than just a lack of devotion, dryness (or aridity), is a common phenomenon among those souls who have taken up prayer.

To make an issue of dryness, according to St. Teresa, shows a lack of humility.

In her work The Interior Castle, she encourages us on to "Enter, enter, my daughters, into the interior rooms; pass from your little works. By the mere fact that you are Christians you must do all these things and much more."

St. Teresa writes that those who have entered the third dwelling places, souls of which there are many of in the world, long to not offend God and they even guard themselves against venial sins, they have well-ordered lives, practice penance and works of charity toward their neighbors. They are much like the young man in the Gospel.

"In my opinion," writes St. Teresa, "there is no reason why entrance even into the final dwelling place should be denied these souls." "But since there is need of still more in order that the soul possess the Lord completely, it is not enough to say we want it."

(St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, III:1, 5-7)

Friday, October 23, 2009

St.Teresa on Self-denial

"Now, then, the first thing we must strive for is to rid ourselves of our love for our bodies, for some of us are by nature such lovers of comfort that there is no small amount of work in this area."

"It seems to me an imperfection, my Sisters, to be always complaining about light illnesses. If you can tolerate them, don't complain about them."

"Remember how many sick people there are who are poor and have no one to complain to... Learn how to suffer a little for love of God without having everyone know about it."

"A fault this body has is that the more comfort we try to give it the more needs it discovers. It's amazing how much comfort it wants... The poor soul is deceived and doesn't grow."

"Shouldn't we suffer just between ourselves and God some of the illnesses He gives us because of our sins? And even more so because by our complaining the sickness in not alleviated."

(Taken from Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life, Volume 4, St. Teresa of Avila, Ignatius Press)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Craftsman and Selfishness

The third enemy to conquer is one’s own self.


The way to combat this enemy is to first think of everyone as artisans that are present in your life in order to prove you. In order to “free yourself from the imperfections and disturbances that can be engendered by the mannerisms and attitudes of (others) and draw profit from every occurrence, you should think that all in the community are artisans”.


“Some will fashion you with words, others by deeds, and others with thoughts against you; and that in all this you must be submissive as is the statue to the craftsman who molds it, to the artist who paints it, and to the gilder who embellishes it.”


St. John of the Cross want us to get along well with others in the communities in which we live and in order to do so we need to overcome our sensuality and the way we feel. His goal for us is to attain peace and free us from many stumbling blocks that will trip us up on our way to live charitably with everyone.


Our selfishness and sensuality can keep us from doing something we ought to do because we find it disagreeable. Or it can move us to only do those works that we find delight or satisfaction in doing. St. John of the Cross sees this as a weakness within the soul. We should do whatever is fitting for the service of God. Doing those works we find disagreeable, and doing them well, will aid our striving to conquer our weakness and gain constancy.


Another sensual weakness that needs to be overcome stems from becoming attached to pleasant feelings that can be found in spiritual exercise. This attachment can lead one to carry out these spiritual exercises only for the satisfaction that is experienced in them. St. John of the Cross also counsels, “nor should such a person run from the bitterness that may be found in them, but rather seek the arduous and distasteful and embrace it. By this practice, sensuality is held in check; without this practice you will never lose self-love or gain the love of God.”


(St. John of the Cross Collected Works, ICS Publications, The Precautions)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Inspired by St. Teresa


St. Teresa of Avila was born in Spain in 1515. She is most known for her spiritual perfection and for the many mystical revelations that she received. After entering the Carmelite Order as a young woman, she soon began to have a desire to live her religious life more ardently. This caused her to attract many companions and eventually lead to the reform of the Carmelite Order. She is one of the few women that have been declared a Doctor of the Church. She died in 1582 in Alba, Spain.

October 15th is the feast day of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church. It is also a Solemnity within the Carmelite Order. On this day it would be good, inspired by St. Teresa, to begin to live our religious life more ardently. All of us, whether a priest, bishop, religious or layperson, can foster this desire to live our religious life more perfectly.

Today is a new day; a day to begin again. Today we can begin to say our prayers faithfully and to say them well. Today we can begin to remain in the presence of God throughout our day and while doing our daily duties. Today we can begin to partake in the sacramental life of the Church more regularly and with greater devotion. Today we can begin to practice more self-denial and be at the service of others.

Father,
by your Spirit you raised up our Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus,
to show your Church the way to perfection.
May her inspired teaching
awaken in us a longing for true holiness.
Grant this through our Lord. Amen.

(from the Carmelite Proper of the Liturgy of the Hours)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Obedience and Humility

The way to combat the Second Enemy.

The devil more commonly deceives spiritual persons under the appearance of good rather than evil. The devil knows that spiritual persons will not reach out and choose an obvious evil. “Thus you should always be suspicious of what appears good, especially when not obliged by obedience.”

St. John of the Cross wants us to do the right thing and in order to be safe in such a matter he counsels souls in three ways regarding the wiles and deceits of the devil.

First, he counsels that those striving for perfection should never take upon themselves, without the command of obedience, “any work - apart from the obligations of your state - however good and full of charity it may seem, whether for yourself or for anyone else inside or outside the house.” We should always strive to be obedient to our duties that correspond to our state in life.

Obedience
is what is being asked; in little things as well as big. To neglect being governed by obedience in all things you will soon find yourself in error. The devil loves to deceive in this way by playing on our pride, you know, I am right!

The second counsel is on a matter that many fall into to their own loss and harm. It is “that you always look on the superior as though on God, no matter who he happens to be, for he takes God's place.” This can apply to any one who is regarded as our superior: a boss, spouse, religious superior, bishop, or priest. To dwell on their character flaws, behavior, ability or their methods will do you harm because you will change your obedience from being motivated by visible (human) traits of the superior and not be basing your obedience on the invisible God whom you serve.

The devil can induce us to dwell on the things that others do to annoy us or to let their good qualities please us and make us happy. He does this because it interferes with our obedience.

The third counsel is “that you ever seek with all your heart to humble yourself in word and in deed, rejoicing in the good of others as if it were your own, desiring that they be given precedence over you in all things; and this you should do wholeheartedly.” This is a good practice and will increase charity within our soul. Always remember that the devil’s aim is to cool charity in souls and in this way wins them over.Overcome evil with good and “try to practice this more with those who least attract you.”

Finally, “ever prefer to be taught by all rather than desire to teach even the least of all.”

God wants obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22)

(Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, ICS Publications, The Precautions)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The World, the Devil and the Flesh

St. John of the Cross instructs souls that want to become more recollected, to practice more silence and to be more “poor in spirit” in his work titled, The Precautions. In it he says that in order to enjoy the peaceful comfort of the Holy Spirit and reach union with God (and who wouldn’t want that!), souls must be freed of obstacles that come from the world, defended from the deceits and cunning of the devil and liberated from ‘self’.

In other words, the battle we are all faced with each and everyday takes place on three fronts: the world, the devil and the flesh.

St. John of the Cross tells us that “the world is the enemy least difficult to conquer; the devil is the hardest to understand; but the flesh is the most tenacious, and its attacks continue as long as the old self lasts.”

To overcome these enemies of the soul one has to vanquish all three of them. When one enemy is weakened the other two are weakened as well. Once all three enemies have been overpowered then there is no war in the soul.

All of what our saint advises in The Precautions require our active efforts and, of course, recourse to grace.

Against the World

First of all we should love everyone and love them all equally. “Do not love one person more than another, for you will err; the person who loves God more is the one more worthy of love, and you do not know who this is.” Loving one person more and another one less doesn’t help in holy recollection. We need to keep our affections, our hearts, directed towards God.

“Do not think about others, neither good things nor bad.” Thinking about others, their good or bad qualities, will keep us from recollection and opens us up to a number of imperfections. The devil is a nasty meddler in this area and can harm our souls by deceiving. We should always guard our thoughts, for thought is power, the beginning of action.

Secondly, souls should free themselves from worldly goods. We shouldn't desire them or worry about them. This includes food, clothing, possessions, status, positions, and honor.
“Direct this care to something higher - to seeking the kingdom of God (seeking not to fail God); and the rest, as His Majesty says, will be added unto us (Mt. 6:33).” St. John of the Cross promises silence and peace in the senses by this practice of seeking the kingdom of God.

The last advice he gives to fight against the world is on how to guard ourselves in the community in which we live, be it a religious community, social community, workplace or family. “Carefully guard yourself against thinking about what happens in the community, and even more against speaking of it, of anything in the past or present concerning a particular religious (or person): nothing about his or her character or conduct or deeds no matter how serious any of this seems.”

We are to never be astonished or scandalized by anything we may see or hear of, but rather, preserve our peace of soul and forget what we may have learned of or seen. He doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t correct someone. We should do so ,but only at the proper time and to the person who should know of it.

“Forget these things entirely and strive to keep your soul occupied purely and entirely in God, and not let the thought of this thing or that hinder you from so doing.” Failing to do all this will result in a loss of peace in the soul and a fall into many sins and imperfections. Our tongue is a great disturber of peace; ours and that of others. St. John of the Cross reminds us of this fact and counsels us to quiet the tongue, interiorly and exteriorly. For more counsel on the tongue, read the Epistle of James in the New Testament.

(The Precautions, ICS Publications, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Take it Easy!

The duties and cares of the day ahead crowd about us when we awake in the morning (if they have not already dispelled our night’s rest). Now arises the uneasy question: How can all this be accommodated in one day? When will I do this, when that? How shall I start on this and that? Thus agitated, we would like to run around and rush forth. We must then take the reins in hand and say, “Take it easy! Not any of this may touch me now. My first morning’s hour belongs to the Lord. I will tackle the day’s work which He charges me with, and He will give me the power to accomplish it.”
(Edith Stein Collected Works, ICS Publications p. 143)

We can’t go about our day disturbed and agitated. In today’s society we live with almost constant stress in our daily lives. Many things need to be done and physically we can feel overwhelmed if not totally exhausted.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stien) quoted above in her essay on Principles of Women’s’ Education has the answer for us. Our first duty each day should be to spend time with God in prayer. Ideally, it should be spent at Mass where we participate in the great offering of reconciliation and are purified and made happy. As we participate in Mass we lay all our doings and troubles along with the sacrifice on the altar.

And when the Lord comes to me then in Holy Communion, then I may ask Him, “Lord, what to you want of me?” (St. Teresa). And after quiet dialogue, I will go to that which I see as my next duty. (Edith Stein Collected Works, ICS Publications p. 144)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Rosary a Daily "Pause for Prayer"

October is traditionally the month devoted to the Rosary. October 7th was the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Rosary is a daily “pause for prayer”. It is a spiritual aid that shouldn’t be underestimated. Praying the Rosary is not always easy and our praying it is in constant need of renewal in order to keep it from becoming dry and performed out of routine thus losing its spiritual fruitfulness.

Perhaps a look at Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter on the Rosary can help us to renew our efforts to pray this beautiful prayer better. Rosarium Virginis Marie was written in October 2002 and in it the Holy Father added the new Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary and presented a catechesis on this devotion.

When praying the Rosary it is good to announce each mystery. A biblical passage that is related to the mystery should be read to help meditate and to supply the biblical foundation to this prayer. Long or short biblical passages can be used before each decade. Making use of an icon or picture of the mystery also aids in focusing on the particular mystery.

After the biblical passage is read a short period of silence should be included to nourish listening and meditation on the Word. A pause in order to focus on the mystery is quite appropriate before moving on to the vocal prayers. This way while praying the Rosary we are listening to the Word, focusing on the mystery and lifting our minds up toward the Father as we say, “Our Father…”.

The 'Hail Mary’s' should be recited with great love and affection for our Blessed Mother. It should be noted that this prayer with its two parts hinge on the name of Jesus. Each time we say the Hail Mary we are praising His name and telling our Blessed Mother how much we love her.

The 'Gloria' should be given prominence in our hearts. This prayer in praise of the Trinity is the high point of contemplation.

The Holy Father suggests that at the conclusion of each mystery a personal prayer be included for the fruits specific to that particular mystery. For example, after praying and meditating on the First Joyful Mystery we can add a personal prayer for the virtue of humility or for openness to God’s will.

The Rosary is a beautiful meditation on the Gospels and a path to contemplation. With renewed efforts to praying it well and a commitment to praying it daily, especially as a family, we can grow closer in our union with God.

(http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_20021016_rosarium-virginis-mariae_en.html)

Monday, October 5, 2009

St.Therese's Definition of Prayer

"I do like children who do not know how to read, I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences, and He always understands me. For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus."
(From St. Therese's autobiography ~Story of a Soul)

Friday, October 2, 2009

St. Therese and the Year of the Priest

The principle aim of the reform of Carmel that St. Teresa of Jesus set out to do was to pray for sinners, but also to pray for priests. St. Therese of Lisieux had always believed priests to be “as pure as crystal” and thought that praying for their souls was a puzzling idea.

“I lived in the company of many saintly priests for a month and I learned that, though their dignity raises them above the angels, they are nevertheless weak and fragile men.”

She had come to realize, as had St. Teresa, that holy priests means holy people in a holy church. “If holy priests, whom Jesus in His Gospel calls the ‘salt of the earth,’ show in their conduct their extreme need for prayer, what is to be said of those who are tepid? Didn’t Jesus say too: ‘If the salt loses it savor, wherewith will it be salted?’ ”

Carmelites are to pray for priests. Priests need our prayers, not our criticism. “How beautiful is the vocation, O Mother, which has as its aim the preservation of the salt destined for souls! This is Carmel’s vocation since the sole purpose of our prayers and sacrifices is to be the apostle of the apostles. We are to pray for them while they are preaching to souls through their words and especially their example.” (Story of a Soul, ICS Publications p. 122)

Prayer for Priest by St. Therese

O Jesus, eternal Priest, keep your priests
within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with Your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark
of the priesthood.
Let your holy love surround them
and shield them
from the world’s contagion.
Bless their labors with abundant fruit
and may the souls to whom they minister
be their joy and consolation
here and in heaven
their beautiful and everlasting crown.
Amen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Charity covers a multitude of sins. (2 Cor 12:5)

St. Therese of Lisieux was born on January 2, 1873 in Alencon, Normandy. She was the youngest of eight children born to Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin. Of the eight children, three died, and the surviving five girls all became religious. After Zelie’s death, when St. Therese was four years old, the family moved to Lisieux. St. Therese entered the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux at the age of fifteen. She died on September 30, 1897, at the young age of twenty-four.

St. Therese, of course, is most famous for her autobiography, Story of a Soul. In this story she describes her famous “little way” of spiritual childhood -a way of trust and surrender. It is well know how she would do “little” things with great love and how this is proposed to us to imitate.

What is little known or spoken of are the ways she would practice mortification. She never had any attraction to perform great acts of penance. She felt she was too cowardly. Her serious and mortified life consisted “in breaking my will always so ready to impose itself on others, in holding back a reply, in rendering little services without any recognition, in not leaning my back against a support when seated, etc.”

St. Therese made it a habit of always acting in a way opposite of the way she was feeling. There was s Sister in the community that she found quite displeasing to her in everything. She writes, “Each time I met her I prayed to God for her, offering Him all her virtues and merits, I felt this was pleasing to Jesus …and when I was tempted to answer her back in a disagreeable manner, I was content with giving her my most friendly smile, and changing the subject of the conversation.”

This saintly woman would resist the urge to give self-defense, to judge others, and to make claims to ‘her rights’. She would give what others asked of her and allowed others to take what belonged to her without asking for it back. These mortifications are heroic and are at the disposal for all of us to practice in our daily lives as well.

“I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works.”

“And it isn’t enough to love; we must prove it.”


(Story of a Soul, ICS Publications)


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Armor of God


The Armor of God:
chastity
meditation
holiness
faith
salvation
word of God

Since man’s life on earth is a time of trial, and all who would live devotedly in Christ must undergo persecution, and the devil your foe is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for prey to devour, you must use every care to clothe yourselves in God’s armor so that you may be ready to withstand the enemy’s ambush.


Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this — your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment. (Rule of St. Albert #18-19)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bishop and Lawgiver of Carmel


Feast of St. Albert of Jerusalem September 17th

Albert Avogadro was born in Italy in the middle of the twelfth century. He became a Canon Regular of the Holy Cross and was elected prior in 1180. In 1184, he was named Bishop of Bobbio and of Vercelli in 1185. In 1205 he became Patriarch of Jerusalem. Sometime between 1206 and 1214 he was approached by the hermits living on Mount Carmel with the request that he would prepare for them a written rule of life based on the traditional patterns of their contemplative communal life. This rule became known as the “primitive Rule”.

In 1238 the hermits living on Mount Carmel began to migrate into Europe. This migration changed their eremitical way of life. Among the changes was a mitigation of the Rule by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. In the 1500’s, St Teresa of Avila founded the monastery of St Joseph's in an effort to return to the life of the original Rule. Her reform efforts led to the eventual split of the Carmelite Order into two branches - the Order of Carmel, Ancient Observance and the Order of Carmel Discalced.

During a procession on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, St. Albert, who had been in the Holy Land for nine years now, was suddenly approached by a man in the crowd and stabbed three times. Dressed in liturgical vestments St. Albert dies on the spot asking for forgiveness for his attacker.

From the Rule of St. Albert:

“Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ — how, pure in heart and steadfast in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of the Master.” (#2)

“Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord’s law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty.” (#10)

The entire rule can be found at ~ http://www.ocd.pcn.net/ocds_Aen.htm

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Lady of Sorrows


We stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary while everything is thrown at the Lord: abuses, insults, attacks. Standing there with her we help to keep the world from going completely mad.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hail, Cross, our only hope!

Today, September 14th , is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The cross is more than ever a sign of contradiction.

“The followers of the Antichrist show it far more dishonor than did the Persians who stole it. They desecrate the images of the cross, and they make every effort to tear the cross out of the hearts of Christians. All too often they have succeeded even with those who, like us, once vowed to bear Christ’s cross after him. Therefore, the Savior today looks at us, solemnly probing us, and asks each one of us: Will you remain faithful to the Crucified?

In this particular writing, reflecting on the Elevation of the Cross, St. Teresa Benedicta asks Carmelites to consider what they have promised. Those in the Secular Carmelite Order have promised to “tend toward evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, obedience, and of the Beatitudes, according to the Constitutions of the Secular Order of the Discalced Carmelites”.

St. Teresa Benedicta uses her reflections of Christ on the Cross to expound on the virtues of obedience, poverty and chastity.

“Before you hangs the Savior on the cross, because he became obedient unto death on the cross. He came into the world not to do his own will, but his Father’s will.” To practice the virtue of obedience in imitation of Jesus, we are to have the same attitude. We have come into this world to do the Father’s will. Therefore, we are to renounce our own will. As a matter of fact, we should have no will of our own. We should have no other desire except to fulfill the will of God. This means we must listen! Listen as He speaks to us through our Rule and Constitutions. Listen as He speaks through the mouth of our superiors: of the Order, of the community’s council, of our pastors, of our spouse, and of our families. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks gently in our hearts. All this listening means we have to daily, even hourly, crucify our will and self-love. This “demands your obedience because your human will is blind and weak.”

“The Savior hangs naked and destitute before you on the cross because he has chosen poverty.”
To practice the virtue of poverty we must renounce earthly goods and gratefully receive whatever God sends to us. We are to be joyful in doing without. Our Holy Founding Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, tells us we are to be unconcerned about our body, which makes so many demands with its selfish inclinations. We are not to be concerned about today or tomorrow. He demands poverty because hands must be empty of earth’s goods to receive the goods of heaven.”

“ The Savior hangs before you with a pierced heart. He has spilled his heart’s blood to win your heart.” To come to such holy chastity we are to have a heart free of desires of this earth. Jesus is to be our desire. Let him be the object of our thoughts, longings, wishes and desires. “He demands chastity because only the heart detached from all earthly love is free for the love of God.”

“What you have promised is indeed beyond you own weak, human power, But it is not beyond the power of the Almighty – this power will become yours if you entrust yourself to him.”

“The arms of the Crucified are spread out to draw you to his heart. He wants your life in order to give you his.”

Ave Crux, Spes unica!


(Take and adapted from: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, The Hidden Life p. 94-95, ICS Publications, Vol. IV The Collected Works of Edith Stein)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bringing the Joy of His Presence to All


Blessed Mary of Jesus (Lopez de Rivas) was born in Tartanedo (Guadalajara, Spain) in 1560. She was clothed in the habit of the Discalced Carmelites on August 12, 1577. She spent the rest of her life as a Discalced Carmelite nun serving as sacristan, infirmarian, portress, novice mistress, subprioress, council sister and prioress. She helped with the founding of a monastery at Cuerva. She was known for her contemplation of the mysteries of Christ, often drawing inspiration from the Liturgy. She was highly esteemed by St. Teresa of Jesus. Blessed Mary of Jesus died on September 13, 1640 and was beautified by Pope Paul VI in 1976.

“O God, you granted Blessed Mary of Jesus the gift of profound contemplation of the mysteries of Christ, your Son, so that she reflected in herself a perfect image of his love; grant us through her intercession faith to see Christ in all things and love to bring the joy of his presence to all men; in particular, grant us the grace which we now implore….
Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

September 12 ~ Memorial of Blessed Mary of Jesus, Virgin

Thursday, September 10, 2009

No Exceptions!

“Even if some, by their sins, have become unworthy of God’s grace, as long as they live, they are always capable of being converted and of being readmitted to loving intimacy with their heavenly Father.” (Divine Intimacy #260 by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD) The extent of fraternal charity is that there are no exceptions.

We often tend to base our love for others on how our neighbor relates to ourselves.
Does he like us?
Does he show us consideration?
Does he serve us in some way?
Do we find him pleasant?

Love like this really shows how selfish we are in our relations with our neighbor. Selfishness profoundly effects our charity towards others. Time spent in reflection on our selfishness will help in planning for the future so that we can overcome these selfish tendencies and truly love our neighbor for God’s sake.

Look at one of the hard sayings of Jesus in Mt 5:43-45:

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

Love your enemies? Pray for those who persecute you? Isn’t our instinctive reaction just simply to avoid them? There is no desire to do good or bad to them and yet Jesus tells us to love them and to pray for them. To pray for them is to love them …for God’s sake with the hope that they will return to that loving intimacy with our Heavenly Father. God still loves them (no exceptions) for “he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good”. As children of this heavenly Father we should love them too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Confidently Entrust This to Mary

“On the feast of the Nativity of our Lady I feel special joy. When this day comes, I think it’s good to renew my vows. And once while I was about to do so, the Blessed Virgin, our Lady, appeared to me through an illuminative vision; and it seems to me I renewed them in her hands and that they were pleasing to her. This vision remained with me for some days, as though she were next to me at my left.” (St. Teresa of Jesus, Spiritual Testimonies #43)

St. Teresa of Jesus reformed the order dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She wore the habit of Our Lady and entrusted her life to Mary. As Secular Carmelites we too consecrate ourselves to Our Lady and should trust that she will prepare us for Our Lord. On this feast day of the Birth of Mary it would be good to imitate our holy founding mother, St. Teresa, by renewing our promise and consecration to so good a Mother.

And although we may not ever experience such gifts as locutions, vision and infused knowledge the way St. Teresa did, we can, as a source of hope, keep Our Lady at our side as we go about our day.

Desiring to follow the Crucified and Risen Christ in the Secular Order of Carmel, I renew my profession, and I promise to tend toward evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, and of the Beatitudes, according to the Constitutions of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. I confidently entrust my promise to the Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Seeking, Finding, Knocking

Prayer (oratio) is the personal response to the chosen text of Scripture that was used for meditation. With the help of grace, thoughts move to prayer. This is the response of the heart to ask for the grace that corresponds to the text or perhaps just to draw closer in union with God. Prayer is conversation that asks with love and with the intention to grow in the virtues. In this affective element of lectio the soul desires God.

Contemplation (comtemplatio) is the final element of lectio. It is a loving gaze at length where sometimes, by the grace of God, infused contemplation occurs and the soul is raised above meditation to experiencing the mystery and reality of the Scripture text. The experience is one of peace, harmony and quiet. God's presence is experienced as a loving awareness where His love is felt and lovingly returned.

In summary, reading seeks; meditation finds meaning; prayer demands; contemplation tastes God.

For a more excellent explanation on lectio divina check out the following link where in a ten minute video Dr. Tim Gray expounds on this ancient practice.
http://www.scripturesynod.com/base/article/286

Friday, September 4, 2009

Seek, Find, Knock

"Seek in reading and you will find in meditation, knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation" (Sayings of Light and Love #158 ~ St. John of the Cross)

Reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation make up the four elements of lectio divina. Lectio divina is the way the early monks and desert fathers prayed. It literally means, "divine reading".

Reading (lectio) is understood as reading and carefully repeating a short text of Scripture. Take a selection of the Bible, read it and when a thought, word or line stands out or captures your attention pause here to reflect on it, carefully repeating it and dwell on it for a time. If you become distracted, simply return to the repetition. Stay with the text until it is dried up and then move on with the reading until you become engaged in another thought, word or line.

Meditation (meditatio) is making an effort to grasp the meaning of the text and to make it relevant to you personally. The word meditate means 'to ruminate', to chew the word. Try to enter into the meaning of the text and identify with it. This is not hard work just make use of the faculties. Simply listen to the words. Let them suggest images, thoughts and reflections. Ponder and perceive the message that lies in the words.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hearing and Receiving God's Word

All Carmelites are to greatly esteem the Sacred Scriptures. They are an important part of their day. Prayers are recited from the Breviary which consists of Psalms and Scripture readings from both the Old and New Testament. These are prayed rooted in the tradition of lectio divina (literally, "divine reading"), which is a particular way of reading and praying over the Scriptures.

The heart of the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert is that "each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Law of the Lord (i.e. Scripture) day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty" (Rule no. 8)

However, our prayer life can become routine and performed more out of duty than of love. In The Imitation of Christ, a book well known and loved by St. Therese of Lisieux, the author tells us how we should hear the scriptures (the Word of God) and what our disposition should be in order to receive them.

"My words are spirit and life - John 6:69, and not to estimated by the sense of man. They are not intended to gratify a vain self complacency, but are to be heard in silence and received with all humility and great affection." (Imitation of Christ- Bk III ch 3 ~ by Thomas a Kempis)

They should be heard in silence. Exterior silence, of course, which is why the Carmelite is to stay in his cell, unless duty calls. But once alone and all is quiet the soul will need to approach the Scriptures in interior silence as well in order to hear the divine voice. All those extraneous thoughts and concerns must be calmed in the soul.

The Scriptures must be received in all humility, remembering who we are and who God is. The humble soul knows that it is in need of instruction, knows it is nothing and is open to what is being asked.

The Words of God should be received with great affection, reverenced and loved whenever they are read or heard. Fostering this attitude will aide the soul at prayer.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Love for Love

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to love the Lord incessantly in return for His love. St. Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart whose feast day it is today, was a Discalced Carmelite nun in Florence. She lived from 1747 until her early death at the age of 23 in 1770. She was devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was given a special contemplative experience concerning the words of St. John, "God is Love". Her life of heroic virtue, living a hidden life of love and self-immolation, is an example for all of us. Like St. Teresa Margaret we can cultivate a spirit of gratitude for the love God has shown us. Contemplating the great sacrifice of Christ for our salvation and for love of us can help us to cultivate this spirit of gratitude. In this spirit of thankfulness we can foster our love for God and for others. Loving God and our neighbor is to return Love for Love.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mary, our Model

"Since Mary is the prototype of pure womanhood, the imitation of Mary must be the goal of girls' education. Since the dispensing of graces is entrusted to the hands of the Queen of Heaven, we will find our way to the goal not only by keeping our eyes raised to her but by maintaining a personal trusting association with her. But the imitation of Mary is not fundamentally different from the imitation of Christ because Mary is the first Christian to follow Christ, and she is the first and most perfect model of Christ. Indeed, that is why the imitation of Mary is not only relevant to women but to all Christians. But she has a special significance for women, one in accord with their nature, for she leads them to the feminine form of the Christian image."
(Essays on Woman ICS Collected Works of Edith Stein p. 201)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Woman's Soul

The attributes of a woman's soul are termed by Edith Stein in her Essays on Woman as expansive, quiet, empty of self, warm and clear. The soul of a woman must have these attributes because of her nature which is determined by her original vocation - that of spouse and mother. The one depending on the other.

" The body of woman is fashioned 'to be one flesh' with another and to nurse new human life in itself. A well-disciplined body is an accommodating instrument for the mind which animates it; at the same time, it is a source of power and a habitat for the mind. Just so, woman's soul is designed to be subordinate to man in obedience and support; it is also fashioned to be a shelter in which other souls may unfold. Both spiritual companionship and spiritual motherliness are not limited to the physical spouse and mother relationships, but they extend to all people with whom woman comes into contact." (Essays on Woman, ICS Edith Stein Collected Works Vol. 2 p. 132)

The soul of woman must be expansive: "open to all human beings". Women naturally are interested in others and relationships. This natural bent can become one of curiosity and could lead to delving into areas of peoples lives and circumstances that degrades into unfruitful things like gossiping. But if the woman's soul goes out to others in search of and in order to bring out the hidden treasure that rests in every human soul, profit will come to her. It will also profit her if she is able to search and bring out the burden that is laid on every human soul. This requires the soul to go out of itself, not remaining outside, but seeking the other and the other's good.

The soul of woman must be quiet: if a woman's soul is constantly in commotion, filled with noise and easily agitated it will be unable to have the ears for those soft imperceptible voices that seek refuge in her soul so that they can find peace. Souls in commotion feel the urge to express the agitation within them and no other soul will want to be near it. It is in quiet women that others seek refuge from their disquiet and noise in order to find the rest and peace they need.

The soul of woman must be empty of self and self-contained: there will be room and quiet in the soul when the agitated self is gone and once quiet the soul can make oneself perceptible to others. To be empty of all selfishness and self-love is something no soul can do of itself. God must do it. Once emptied then the soul is capable of receiving. This is what God wants, to give Himself completely to her. Once He is there her soul can give Him to others.

The soul of woman must be warm: women come by this naturally, although not constantly. Often the soul fails to be warm when it is most needed. Instead of being warm, sparks fly! Thus, becoming fire destroying what should have been warmed. It is the heavenly fire of Divine love that consumes what is impure.

The soul of woman is clear: once all impurities have been removed and the soul illuminated by the Divine Light then all is bright, pure and clear. Contrary to this, the soul of woman appears dark and opaque to others and to herself.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Woman, Grace and an Alter Christus

Edith Stein in her Essays on Woman was concerned with women's education. Seeing that women just as men are individuals , she insisted that individuality be taken into consideration in educational work. Keep in mind that in speaking of education she is speaking of formation, the formation of the person. As human beings, men and women are given a common goal which is "to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." For this educational goal our eyes are to look on Jesus Christ. "To become His likeness is everyone's goal. To be formed to this through Christ Himself is the path for us all as members bound to Him as head."

"Whoever relinquishes himself unconditionally to this formation, not only will nature in its purity be restored in him but he will grow beyond nature and become an other Christ."

Since her interest was on woman she drew for us a picture of woman's soul that would correspond to the eternal vocation of woman. She termed the attributes of woman's soul as expansive, quiet, empty of self, warm and clear.

"Now I am asked to say something regarding how one might come to possess these qualities. I believe that it is not a matter of a multiplicity of attributes which we can tackle and acquire individually; it is rather a single total condition of the soul, a condition which is envisaged here in these attributes from various aspects. We are not able to attain this condition by willing it, it must be effected through grace. What we can and must do is open ourselves to grace; that means to renounce our own will completely and to give it captive to the divine will, to lay our whole soul, ready for reception and formation, into God's hands."

(Essays on Woman, Edith Stein) St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross



Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flame of Divine Love


Tomorrow, August 26th, is the memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus's Tranverberation. St. Teresa was best known for her love of God. Jesus Christ increased this virtue and many others in this saint. She experienced many visions and revelations from Christ. One time she saw an angel with a flaming dart piercing her heart. She explains this mystical experience in her autobiography, chapter 19:

“I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form…He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire. They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire. This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails. As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God. So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”.

This heavenly gift, this flame of divine love in her heart, which penetrated her being and made her so strong that she vowed to always do what seemed to her most perfect and for God's glory.

St. John of the Cross explains this fire of love in his work The Living Flame of Love:

"When he wills to touch somewhat vehemently, the soul's burning reaches such a high degree of love that it seems to surpass that of all the fires of the world: for he is an infinite fire of love. Because the soul in this case is entirely transformed by the divine flame, it not only feels a cautery, but has become a cautery of blazing fire."

"...it does not afflict it: rather, commensurate with the strength of the love, it divinized and delights it, burning gently."

May God's love transform our hearts and may our love of God grow, blazing like fire, burning gently.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Sum of Perfection

"Forgetfulness of created things,
remembrance of the Creator,
attention turned toward inward things,
and loving the Beloved."
~St. John of the Cross

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Master Teacher

"He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, "Lord teach us to pray..." (Lk 11:1) "He said to them, 'When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come..." (Lk 11:2)

St. Teresa of Jesus is well known for her commentary on the 'Our Father' that takes up the latter part of her work The Way of Perfection. In speaking of the 'Lord's Prayer', St. Teresa stresses the importance of this prayer being an act of love and to have the understanding of who this Father of ours is and "who the Master is who taught us this prayer". (Way of Perfection ch 24)

Let's consider how Jesus taught others. "You already know that His Majesty teaches that it be recited in solitude. This is what he always did when he prayed, and not out of any need of his own but for our instruction." (Way of Perfection ch 24)

Our Lord taught His disciples by His words and more importantly by His example. Consider, for example, how He taught others about mercy in the story of the woman caught in adultery and how He never used the word "mercy". He merely demonstrated the virtue in who He was and what He did. (John, chapter 8) When reading and meditating on Sacred Scripture it is good to always keep in mind that the Lord is teaching us something through His speech, actions, inaction or His silence.

St. Therese of Lisieux, in her Story of a Soul, desired a director or teacher such as St. Teresa of Jesus would recommend, that is, a director that has knowledge and virtue. One day a good priest told her, "My child, may Our Lord always be your Superior and your Novice Master". Who other than Jesus could be said to have knowledge and virtue? The saint quickly took Jesus to be her Director and said "it was He who taught me that science hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed to little ones". (Story of a Soul, chapter 7)

Of course we should not forget those who teach us and have the duty to do so; both saints had recourse to this thought. "There is a large difference in teachers; but it is even a greater misfortune if we forget those who teach us her below. Especially, if they are saints and spiritual masters and we are good disciples." (Way of Perfection ch 24) St. Therese was quick to say: "I don't mean by this that I close my soul to my Superiors; far from it, for I tried always to be an open book to them. However, our Mother Prioress, frequently ill, had little time to spend with me." (Story of a Soul, ch 7)

It is wise to seek out and find wise and prudent spiritual people to help us in our spiritual life. But always keep in mind that Jesus is the Master Teacher.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Teachers

One can only teach what one practices. In many respects this means we are all teachers. Our principles and moral views will influence our reasoning and our conduct.

To teach does not mean to merely give what we have but rather what we are. What we are should be Christ. Christ should be in our thoughts and actions.

Of course to speak of teaching we must consider what is meant by the term education. Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) defined education as the formation of the human person and notes that "the first fundamental formation happens within the soul".

The purpose of education is to bring what is already there in seed form to its full potential. Edith Stein describes the process of education as taking place on three levels. She writes that the development of the human person is based on the person's humanity, gender, and individuality.

Teachers, therefore, will pay special attention to the uniqueness of their pupil, taking into consideration their natural qualities, and abilities, as well as, their limitations. This is something parents will need to do as they educate their children. In fact, we will all need to take these into consideration when working and collaborating with others.

In order to have any influence on someone there must be love. "Love and trust are necessary rudiments for every educational influence. The teacher must love consistently thereby winning this love and trust."

"Truly supernatural forces are needed to offer such equal, mothering love to all, even to the unlovable, the difficult, the intolerable...especially to them because, indeed, they are in the most need of it."

(The Collected Works of Edith Stein vol. 2, Eassys on Woman)

Teachers shape mankind.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Very Determined Determination

To reach the end prayerful souls need a muy determinada determinacion (a very determined determination) to persevere until they reach the end.

"To those who want to journey on this road and continue until they reach the end, which is to drink from this water of life, I say that how they are to begin is important - in fact, all important. They must have a great and very determined determination to persevere until reaching the end, come what may, happen what may, whatever work is involved, whatever criticism arises, whether they arrive or whether they die on the road, or even if they don't have courage for the trials that are met, or if the whole world collapses." (The Way of Perfection 21:2)

Prayer takes effort and the courage to continue despite any criticisms. So begin. Pray. Pray faithfully, everyday, always, at all times and never give up.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Plan your own retreat

Most retreats take place at centers set up specifically for this purpose. They are usually set in some quiet setting with natural surroundings away from any major activity of the general population. The facilities usually have comfortable private rooms and someone to cook all the meals. Most retreat centers have a chapel and conference rooms. Retreats are scheduled on certain dates and around a certain theme.

Distance, dates, times, costs and the particular theme of a retreat may make it impossible to get away and partake of a much need break and time to rest. Below are some suggestions and ideas for planning your own private retreat. They are only suggestions and, hopefully, a springboard to encourage and inspire a planned time to come away to rest for a while.

First, keep in mind the purpose of a retreat. This is to be a time away from the ordinary activities that fill our days to pray and commune with God. It will be your hope to come away from your retreat renewed, purified, converted and to give yourself an opportunity for some spiritual growth. Remember to maintain silence as much as possible during your retreat. This will include no television, radio, Internet and talking on the phone. You want to spend your time talking and listening to God.

Then begin to plan your private retreat.

Keep things simple.

Pick your dates and place. Find dates that will work for you and your family. Remember this is to be time for you to be alone and in solitude and silence. The place you choose can be a hotel, vacation spot or even your own home. The length of your retreat can be a day, a weekend or a week.

Plan meals that will be are already prepared or just need to be reheated or that would be very simple to prepare. Include some healthy snacks and drinks.

Choose a theme or select some part of scripture you would like to meditate and reflect on or a spiritual book to use during your retreat. Another idea would be to select an audio or video of a good spiritual speaker to use as your "conferences" throughout the time of your retreat.

Here are some suggestions for "conferences":
Universal Call to Contemplative Prayer
by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S. M. CD retreat talks

I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux
by Jean C. J. d'Elbee

Listen to the Silence: A Retreat with Pere Jacques
by Francis J. Murphy

Here are some suggestions for spiritual reading:
Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary of Magdalen, OCD
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection
Heaven in Faith by Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
The Gospels
One of the Epistles from the New Testament

Spend time in prayer and meditation. Pray the rosary, pray for your family, friends and needs of the world. If possible pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament at a nearby church or chapel.

Get outdoors, if possible, for a quiet walk and fresh air in some natural surroundings and enjoy God's creation.

Take a nap. Remember this is a time to rest and renew.

Keep a journal of any thoughts or insights you may have during your retreat.

Get to Mass and confession during the time of your retreat.

Be sure to thank God for this time and for any blessings you may have received.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Come Away and Rest a While

"The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. (Mk 6:30-31)

After his Baptism in the Jordan and before he began his public ministry, Jesus went out in the desert to spend time in solitude praying and fasting. In imitation of Jesus, we can spend some time on retreat which will benefit our own personal ministry among our family, friends and coworkers.

What is a retreat?

A retreat is a period of time spent in solitude away from the ordinary activities that fill our days. It is a period of time away from the usual surroundings and duties to a place of solitude in order to spend time in meditation, self-examination and prayer.

Many times a retreat is designed around a particular theme from scripture or some spiritual writing that is suited to the needs of the individuals involved. There are many different kinds of retreats; some are preached, others are directed or private. In a preached retreat the leader preaches through conferences scheduled throughout the time of the retreat, will lead prayers and be available for one-on-one counseling. A directed retreat consists of meeting with a spiritual director who will suggest scripture passages to the retreatant to pray and reflect upon. A private retreat is made without the aide of a leader or spiritual director. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola are well known and are used to come to the realization of and surrender to God's plan of salvation through a time of prayer and discernment usually thirty days in length.

Most retreats maintain a certain degree of silence with time for relaxation, healthy eating and some exercise. The emphasis however is always on prayer. The time spent on retreat allows one the opportunity to reflect on and examine their spiritual life. Time spent on retreat can become a time of recommitment, purification, conversion, and growth.