Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lovingly meeting God

Prayer is the activity especially intended for making fervent acts of charity. During prayer the soul lovingly meets with God. A soul that loves God does so with a pure heart; a heart that loves Him so much that it seeks only after His glory and His will. The prayer of a soul that loves God forgets itself and is ready to sacrifice every wish for Him. Its love grows stronger and will continue to grow as it performs all its actions with a whole heart and with all of its capacity for goodwill. A soul devoted to loving God has made the one necessary resolution in prayer which is to be recollected. Only then is it able to give itself entirely to God.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Acts of Love

The soul that truly understands that love is "the greatest and first commandment" (Mt 22:38) is a soul that is not preoccupied with unnecessary practices and exercises in its spiritual life. This soul aims straight at the heart. Love is its only concern. As love increases this soul lives in love actually. This soul strives to please God and to give Him glory. Of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, it is charity that holds primacy of place (1 Cor 13:13). Charity is the basis of the spiritual life and is necessary for a life of grace.

An Act of Love
O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

Contemplative souls make many acts of love throughout the day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Divine Image

Unfortunately, sin, vice and imperfections can disfigure the divine image in us and in our neighbor. This divine image remains, however, and it takes faith in order to know how to find it. We are all children of God even those who have moved away from God and live far from His grace. For those striving for contemplation it is important to exercise this faith and seek God in creatures. When a prayerful soul can do this then nothing can distract it from a spirit of recollection. Contemplative souls do not shy away from those whose outward appearance may be displeasing. They see and serve God alone in everyone they meet. A distracted soul sees and dwells on the sins and imperfections of others. Dwelling on the sins and faults of others leads the soul away from any union with God and disturbs its peace. A recollected soul keeps its eyes on God.

Everyone needs to love and be loved. Only with the grace of God can souls learn to see and recognize Him in every creature. A soul wanting in this grace asks for it and listening to Jesus, the master teacher, imitates Him.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Traces of God

Pouring out a thousand graces,
he passed these groves in haste;
and having looked at them,
clothed them in beauty.
~(Spiritual Canticle, stanza 5)

God created everything and He left some trace of who He is in them. "He passed" because creatures are like a trace of God's passing. Through them one can track down his grandeur, might, wisdom and other divine attributes (Spiritual Canticle). Everyone is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). This is our Faith. Therefore, it takes great faith to see God in His creatures. But what is it that disfigures the divine image in me and my neighbor?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Expand My Heart

"It is only charity that can expand my heart". In chapter ten of The Story of a Soul, St. Therese gives a kind of discourse on charity that began with Jesus' commandment to love our neighbor as He loves them. Of course, our neighbor isn't necessarily the person we like. We like our friends. Our neighbor, on the other hand, is someone we often have to bear with. In this discourse on charity St. Therese begins with how important it is to be charitable in thoughts about our neighbor because she clearly understood how the devil can be a great meddler here. Since the "devil tries to place before the eyes of my soul the faults of such and such a Sister who is less attractive to me, I hasten to search out her virtues, her good intentions, I tell myself that even if I did see her fall once, she could easily have won a great number of victories which she is hiding through humility, and that what appears to me as a fault can very easily be an act of virtue because of her intention."

We must never judge because we can be mistaken and judge acts of virtue for imperfections and take for virtue what may be an imperfection. All judgments about ourselves and others should be left for God who in the end is the judge of all.

St. Therese goes on in this discourse of charity to express other ways she went about loving her Sisters. She would pray for her Sisters, "offering Him all her virtues and merits". When tempted to answer back in a disagreeable manner, she would give a friendly smile and change the subject. If she did not have the courage to permit herself to be accused without saying a word, she would have recourse to flight in the situation. She would not lay claim to what belonged to her since she took a vow of poverty. She would give to those who asked of her considering herself a servant and slave of others, rendering them a service and consider it an honor and trying to anticipate their needs in order to do so. St. Therese would also allow someone to take what belonged to her without asking for it back and would try to do good to others without hoping for something in return.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Love of Jesus

Jesus gives us His own commandment on love in the Gospel of John. He says we are to "love one another as I love you" (Jn 15:12). We are to love our neighbor as Jesus loves loves our neighbor. This goes in quite a different direction than loving one's neighbor as oneself. St. Therese of Lisieux came to realize how imperfect was her love for her sisters when she came to understand that she did not love them as God loves them. "I understand now that charity consists in bearing with the faults of others, in not being surprised at their weakness, in being edified by the smallest acts of virtue we see them practice. But I understood above all that charity must not remain hidden in the bottom of the heart." (Story of a Soul, chapter 10) Oh, how often charity remains in the bottom of the heart! Charity does not consist in feelings; it must be expressed in deeds. Charity should begin in our thoughts towards others remembering that Jesus has said: "Stop judging, that you may not be judged" (Mt. 7:1). How impossible this seems; yet St. Therese found a way to overcome the weaknesses and imperfections of love she discovered in herself. She first came to understand that "never would I be able to love my Sisters as You love them, unless You, O my Jesus, loved them in me". Trusting that Jesus wanted to give her this grace and assured that His will is to love, she exclaimed, "Oh! how I love this new commandment since it give me the assurance that Your will is to love in me all those You command me to love! Yes, I feel it, when I am charitable, it is Jesus alone who is acting in me, and the more united I am to Him, the more also do I love my Sisters."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sacred Heart of Jesus

The symbolism of the Sacred Heart of Jesus begins with a revealed human heart, a heart of flesh. His love is the love of a human heart. The rays of light streaming from the heart and the cross signify His love for all mankind. The thorns surrounding the Sacerd Heart signify the suffering and pain He bore to expiate man's sins. The open wound is a symbol of rest and safety for the repentant sinner. The burning flames represent the fire of Divine Love.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus consists of Christ's heart of flesh and His love for us.

The Solemenity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated on the Friday following the Second Sunday after Pentecost. Jesus meek and humble of heart. Make our hearts like Yours.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Teresian Apostolate

This Friday, June 19, 2009 on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, begins the Year of the Priests set forth by Pope Benedict XVI. During this year the faithful are encouraged to pray for priests that they may be faithful to their sacred calling.

St. Teresa was concerned for the Church in her time and proposed to her nuns that they would be able to help the Church by praying for the "defenders of the Church and for preachers and for learned men who protect her from attack". In other words, the nuns should be saying prayers for the bishops, priest, ministers and theologians. Her logic was a very good one for she came to "realize that if the bishop is holy the subjects will be so too". Praying for the holiness of priests should be in the heart of all Discalced Carmelites. The leaders in our Church need our love, support, encouragement and prayers.

The apostolic element of the Tereisan Carmel can be clearly seen in the following taken from chapter three of The Way of Perfection:

"I beg you to strive to be such that we might merit from God two things: First, that among the numerous learned men and religious there be many who will meet these requirements I mentioned that are necessary for this battle, and that the Lord may prepare those who do not meet them; one who is perfect will do much more than many who are not. Second, that after being placed in this combat which, as I say, is not easy, they may receive protection from the Lord so as to remain free of the many perils there are in the world, and stop their ears in order not to hear the siren's song on the dangerous sea."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Seeking God First

Attachment is clinging to people, ideas and things that give satisfaction, comfort and pleasure.

Detachment is letting go of the need to find pleasure, comfort and satisfaction in these things and to center all our desires on God. Detachment is seeking God first.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Two Inseparable Sisters

In The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa writes about the virtues of humility and detachment saying that, "They are two inseparable sisters."

Our saint warns that souls need to not feel secure or fall asleep. She advises souls to be alert in "going against our own will". Going against our own will is humility. She points out that turning and being against ourselves is a difficult thing because. . . we love ourselves greatly. How true this is!

One important way to practice detachment is to detach from the love of our bodies which demand so much comfort and strive to be more faithful to our duties. Our bodies want so much comfort that the more we give it the more it demands.

St. Teresa suggests that souls try to remember that everything is vanity and will all come to an end. It is a great help for souls to remove any attachment it might have to trivial things and to center its thoughts on eternal things.

The soul should embrace these two virtues and by doing so, imitate Christ who "was never for a moment seen without them!" Another interesting thing about these virtues is that they "have the characteristic of so hiding themselves from the person who possess them that these persons never see them or manage to believe that they even have them".

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Our spiritual life cannot subsist without Jesus. And yet Jesus is truly with us, in the Eucharist. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote the following about the Eucharist: "Certainly, I think that if we were to approach the most Blessed Sacrament with great faith and love, once would be enough to leave us rich. How much richer from approaching so many times as we do. The trouble is we do so out of routine, and it shows. O miserable world, you have so covered the eyes of those who live in you that they do not see the treasures by which they could win everlasting riches!" ~ Meditations on the Song of Songs (Chapter 3)

May our reception of this Most Holy Sacrament never be just out of routine!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sion, lift thy voice and sing!

Pope Urban IV established the Feast of Corpus Christi. He requested St. Thomas Aquinas to compose hymns for it. Lauda Sion is one of the beautiful hymns Aquinas composed in honor of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Each verse explains what Catholics believe about the Eucharist.

Sion, lift thy voice and sing:
Praise thy Savior and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true:
Dare thy most to praise Him well;
For He doth all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.

Special theme of praise is thine,
That true living Bread divine,
That life-giving flesh adored,
Which the brethren twelve received,
As most faithfully believed,
At the Supper of the Lord.

Let the chant be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt to-day in every breast;
On this festival divine
Which recounts the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.

At this table of the King,
Our new Paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite;
Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead;
Here, instead of darkness, light.

His own act, at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
In His memory divine;
Wherefore now, with adoration,
We the Host of our salvation
Consecrate from bread and wine.

Hear what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.
Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending,
Leaps to things not understood.

Here in outward signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things, are all we see:-
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine;
Yet is Christ, in either sign,
All entire confessed to be.

They too who of Him partake
Sever not, nor rend, nor break,
But entire their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousands eat,
All receive the selfsame meat,
Nor the less for others leave.

Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food;
But with ends how opposite!
Here 'tis life; and there 'tis death;
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.

Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains
What was in the whole before;
Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form,
The Signified remaining One
And the Same forevermore

Lo! upon the Altar lies,
Hidden deep from human eyes,
Angels' Bread from Paradise
Made the food of mortal man:
Children's meat to dogs denied;
In old types foresignified;
In the manna from the skies,
In Isaac, and the Paschal Lamb.

Jesu! Shepherd of the sheep!
Thy true flock in safety keep.
Living Bread! Thy life supply;
Strengthen us, or else we die;
Fill us with celestial grace:
Thou, who feedest us below!
Source of all we have or know!
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the Feast of Love,
We may see Thee face to face. Amen

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rules for acquiring patience

1. Have a great esteem and desire for it.
2. Begin with your own interior; controlling your own interior powers.
3. Control the tongue. (James 3:5)
4. Don't be careless about order. Keep things orderly.
5. Bear the infirm tempers of others with kindness.
6. Manage your own evil temper. Be recollected
7. Overcome evil by doing good.
8. Keep your interior at peace.
9. Be patient with your own faults.
10. Remeber that all these trials, contradictions and sufferings are occasions for rejoicing because these will help you with detachment and help move you towards God!

(adapted from The Little Book of Humility and Patience by Archbishop Ullathorne)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Power in Gentleness

The virtue of meekness which Jesus so strongly recommends brings many blessings. "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land" (Mt 5:5) The meek soul is a gentle soul that does not easily get upset. These souls are calm, generous, patient, kind and self-possessed. Meekness is able to deflect and destroy the angry outbursts of another and therefore 'inherit the land". Humility and patience also accompany this virtue. Like all virtues, this gentleness needs to be practiced until it has been acquired as a sustained habit. A soul can be having a peaceful day until some trial, injury or contradiction comes along. Then peace disappears. This disposition needs to be more than just exterior; it should be interior as well. A meek soul has control over impulses and interior feelings like resentment, indignation and anger. When habitual, meekness is accompanied by a great peace. And who wouldn't want to inherit peace in their land? Our Lord Jesus is the perfect example of meekness. In examining his life as recorded in the scriptures, many passages can be found exemplifying his gentle character. The way he treated others, especially his enemies and those who opposed him, his forgiving those who injured him and even his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey all bear witness to his gentleness. By his meekness he conquered the world. This is power.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I am meek and humble of heart

Blessed Anne of Saint Bartholomew , whose feast day was yesterday June 7th, was chosen by St. Teresa of Jesus to be her companion and nurse. Blessed Anne later brought the Teresian Carmel to France and Belgium. She was born in Castille in 1549 and died in Antwerp in 1626. Below is an excerpt from her Meditations on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

"How truly he said in the Gospel that he came to serve and not to be served! What tremendous goodness! Can we fail to be shamed by your words and deeds, and the patience you show with us every day? How truly, again Lord, did you say: 'Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.' Where can we obtain this patience and humbleness of heart? Is there any way to achieve it except by taking it from Christ as he taught it to us with those other virtues we need - faith, hope and charity?"

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Prayer to the Trinity

O my God, Trinity whom I adore; help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my Unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery. Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place. May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action.
O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You...even unto death! But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to "clothe me with Yourself," to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to possess me, to substitute yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your Life. Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior. O Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to spend my life in listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You. Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance.
O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, "come upon me," and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery. And You, O Father, bend lovingly over Your poor little creature; "cover her with Your shadow," seeing in her only the "Beloved in whom You are well pleased."
O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey. Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.
-Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, November 21, 1904

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Looking only at God and referring all to him is the virtue of simplicity. A simple soul lives for God and has only one intention to please and serve him. All words and actions simply and clearly reflect the soul's thoughts and intentions. A simple soul is guided by God alone and relies on his power. In order to become a simple soul one has to set aside egotistic points of view and selfishness, reject the deceptions of the passions, and the false maxims of the world. Simplicity "places man in the presence of God; it is simplicity that empties and frees the soul from all fear today and on the day of judgement...It crushes evil nature underfoot, it gives peace, it imposes silence on the useless nosies within us...It is simplicity that hourly increases our divine likeness...will transport us into the depths where God dwells and will give us the repose of the abyss. "
~(Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity Heaven in Faith)

Friday, June 5, 2009

It sings sweetly.

The last trait of the solitary bird is that it sings sweetly. This soul must sing sweetly in the contemplation and love of its Bridegroom. This soul loves, loves sweetly and praises its Creator. This is most beautifully realized in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55). This soul joyfully tastes sips of eternal bliss.

It has no definite color.

The fourth trait of this solitary bird is that it has no definite color. It desires to do nothing definite other that the will of God. The Holy Spirit gives the soul what is lacking in it by strengthening it to love as he loves. The soul's will is not destroyed it is united firmly with God's will and with his love "so that there is only one will and love, which is God's "(Spiritual Canticle 38:3). The Blessed Virgin Mary was raised from the beginning to this high state of contemplation. "She never had the form of any creature impressed in her soul, nor was she moved by any, for she was always moved by the Holy Spirit." (Ascent 3:2,10)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

It holds its beak in the air.

The third trait of this silent and solitary soul is that it holds it beak in the air of the Holy Spirit, responding to his inspirations, that by so doing it may become worthy of his company. This soul realizes the need to rid itself of all attachments so that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be received and the soul be transformed. The soul possesses these gifts according to its capacity for receiving them and "pure contemplation lies in receiving". (LF 3:36) The delicate, hidden unctions of the Holy Spirit "secretly fill (this) soul with spiritual riches, gifts and graces". (LF 3:40)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

St. Joseph is the model of attentive service of Christ, of Mary and of the Church and is also the master of prayer proposed to us by St. Teresa. In honor of St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church and the special patron of the Carmelite Order, Wednesday's will be wordless.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It withstands no company

The second condition of the contemplative soul is that it withstands no company. This does not mean it is a soul cut off from others living in isolation. It is authentic solitude which is not necessarily physical solitude. It is a solitude of detachment for the sake of God. St. John of the Cross writes in The Living Flame that "in contemplation the activity of the sense and of discursive reflection terminates, and God alone is the agent who then speaks secretly to the solitary and silent soul" (LF 3:44) This soul has learned "to silence and quiet the faculties so that God may speak" (Ascent 3:3,4). Any attachment will gradually empty the soul of holy solitude and the spirit and joy of God. That is why this soul is so fond of silence and solitude that it does not tolerate the company of another creature. God alone. No other thought, person, idea, or desire is occupying the soul.

Seeking the highest place

The first condition of this solitary bird, this contemplative soul, is seeking the highest place; that is, to seek God. The contemplative soul lets God be the goal. Seek first the kingdom of God and to do this in everything. All works, words and prayers are to be done with and for God.

The contemplative soul rises above passing things; and 'all things are passing', to quote St. Teresa of Jesus' bookmark. Paying no more heed to them than if they did not exist...here there is the need for detachment, poverty of spirit, keeping the heart surrendered to God alone.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The traits of a solitary bird.

The traits of the solitary bird are five: first, it seeks the highest place; second, it withstands no company; third, it holds its beak in the air; fourth, it has no definite color; fifth, it sings sweetly. These traits must be possessed by the contemplative soul.

It must rise above passing things, paying no more heed to them than if they did not exist. It must likewise be so fond of silence and solitude that it does not tolerate the company of another creature. It must hold its beak in the air of the Holy Spirit, responding to his inspirations, that by so doing it may become worthy of his company. It must have no definite color, desiring to do nothing definite other than the will of God. It must sing sweetly in the contemplation and love of its Bridegroom.

~ The Sayings of Light and Love #121 by St. John of the Cross