Monday, September 21, 2009

The Armor of God

The Armor of God:
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 ~

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.

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.