Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Contemplative Environment

The conditions of contemplation consists in being trained in calm, peace and serenity.  If one truly desires the contemplative life, that is, one that is calm, serene and peaceful, then the environment one finds oneself living in is of utmost importance. This environment should be one which permits the soul to be less occupied with material things. An environment that would be enveloped in silence where one could apply oneself in prayer and to wait. Wait, that is, in order to receive the gift of God: contemplation. 
People, especially today, are always in a rush - doing nothing at all! There is hardly ever a time when someone isn’t talking. However, whoever speaks much will not attain spiritual silence or the silence so necessary for a spiritual life. Then there is the constant noise: chatter, idle conversations, television, radio, music, etc. not to mention the numerous distractions that plague the modern sojourner. 
In 1 Kings 17:2-4 we encounter the journey of the prophet Elijah.
The LORD then said to Elijah:
"Leave here, go east and hide in the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan.
You shall drink of the stream, and I have commanded ravens to feed you there."
The Book of Kings contains the story of the prophet Elijah from whose spirit Carmelites get the germ of their Rule. The spiritual meaning of these verses summarizes the environment that contemplatives are striving for in their lives as they seek union with God.

“Leave here...” depart from the world.

“Go east...” turn toward God.

“Hide in the Wadi Cherith..." alone and in solitude. 

"Drink of the stream..." equals “living water” not stagnant water- symbolizes divine, infused contemplation.

"Ravens to feed you..." represents holy reading.

Start today on your journey by creating an environment that will allow you time, solitude and the silence that is needed to have a deep and fulfilling prayer life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Multitudes on Monday

Joining with the community over at A Holy Experience.....
Gratitude for His many gifts....

..........# 184-193

~ the smell of a lawn being watered by the mist of a clicking, hissing sprinkler system

~ the sound of wind rushing over my ears

~ snap peas sprouting up through the dirt

~ listening to my granddaughter tell me that she can now ride a
2-wheel bike after her seventh bike ride of the day

~ going for a walk with my husband in the evening after supper

~ all the laughter and joy with my fellow Carmelites at our meeting today

~ eating ice cream with my family

~ God's presence at every moment

~ visiting and catching up with a neighbor

~ the honking of a lone Canada goose

Friday, May 20, 2011

Checkmate this Divine King

It was humility that drew God down to knock on creation’s door, and it was humility that let Him in. The humble handmaid of the Lord was greeted by an angel and asked to be the Mother of God. St. Teresa of Avila writes of the humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was so necessary for the Incarnation. She sees the Incarnation as a chess match where Mary checkmates the King by her humility. 

“The queen is the piece that can carry on the best battle in this game, and all the other pieces help. There’s no queen like humility for making the King surrender. Humility drew the King from heaven to the womb of the Virgin, and with it, by one hair, we will draw Him to our souls. And realize that the one who has more humility will be the one who possess Him more; and the one who has less will possess Him less. For I cannot understand how there could be humility without love or love without humility; nor are these two virtues possible without detachment from all creatures.”
(Way of Perfection, 16:2)
And who possess Him more than Mary who bore Him in her womb? God was to give her a truly great gift, one that would cause all generations to praise her. Mary’s humility shows that we are to accept the graces and gifts God gives to us and to others. We are not talking of false humility. Humility that is false fails to recognize the gifts as gifts. The truly humble recognize their nothingness and see all as God’s gifts. This we see in the Blessed Mother’s actions and in her beautiful canticle - the Magnificat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Heart Like Mary's

Mary’s life was one filled with joys, sorrows, virtues and love for God. The Scriptures tells us that she kept all these things in her heart.
What things?

The shepherds go to Bethlehem and find Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger. They tell Mary and Joseph of the message they received from the angel. The infant’s parents are amazed at what they are being told. 
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. (Lk 2: 19)
Then, after having looked for Jesus for three days, the parents of this child find him in the Temple. They do not understand when he asks them why they were looking for him since he must be in his Father’s house. 
He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. (Lk 2: 51) 
The sayings and doings of Jesus were pondered in her heart. There in her heart she would ponder over them in order to live by them
One of the features of the First Saturday's Devotion that was popularized after Our Lady appeared at Fatima is to keep Mary company for 15 minutes, meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary. This can be done by reading the Scriptures that are relevant to the mysteries or by a simple meditation. 
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary comprises a devotion to her physical heart and to her interior life. We can imitate Mary and ponder all these things in our heart. Not only the things in the Scriptures but also all those ways that God is speaking to us each day and the things He is doing in our lives.

As aspiring contemplatives we can also imitate Mary's love for God, she is a model for us of virtues: particularly humility, gratitude, obedience and adoration. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Multitudes on Monday

In gratitude to God for all His gifts.......

- planting sets in the garden

- penciling out the garden plan on paper

- the smell of cheesecake baking in the oven

- speaking to all my children today

- windy days

- enjoying dinner and conversation with old friends

- children all dressed up in church in nice shirts and ties; in white dresses and veils all ready and eager to receive their First Communion

- crocuses blooming, yellow and purple

- the hum of the dishwasher working, washing dishes

- laughter with friends

- sorrowful tears healing my heart offering the pain for conversion

- a new hanging basket I designed and planted myself

- forever grateful for my daughter, Rachel

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

die ac nocte meditantes

die ac nocte meditantes -  Meditate Day and Night

meditating on the Lord’s law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers” 

This is the heart of the Carmelite Rule.
. . . to meditate on the law of the Lord
. . . watching in prayers
These two phrases are really synonymous. There is a bit of parallelism in them in the way they correspond to each other. Keeping in mind the end for which the Rule was written - that is, contemplation, what does it mean “to meditate” , and moreover, “day and night on the law of the Lord”? 
The law, taken literally, would be the law of Moses: the Ten Commandments. A second look, especially in considering where these phrases were taken, will give a deeper meaning and understanding as to what is being asked.
The first phrase “to meditate on the law of the Lord” is taken from Psalm 119 which praises the law of God. The psalmist expresses admiration of the law and desires to observe, to meditate and to fulfill it. 

To accomplish the law which is loved 
With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commands.~ Ps 119:10

To exert myself mentally on the law
Give me insight to observe your teaching, to keep it with all my heart. ~Ps 119: 34

To be occupied in keeping it
I will keep your teachings always, for all time and forever. ~ Ps 119: 44
To analyze it
I have examined my ways and turned my steps to your decrees. ~Ps 119: 59
To scrutinize it
Even at night I remember your name in observance of your teaching, LORD. ~ Ps 119: 55

and to see its moral value
May I be wholehearted toward your laws, that I may not be put to shame. ~ Ps 119: 80
To meditate on the law means to fulfill the law. How do we do this? By going to the Scriptures where the truth is found. The Scriptures make excellent matter for our prayer. Rather than going to other sources (words of men), St. Teresa of Jesus highly recommends the Word of God as a first choice for our reading (meditating). Frequent meditation on the Scriptures is a way to nourish the soul, to possess the truth and to live by it.

Now the second phrase “watching in prayers” will complete the first and will focus our attention on it -”to meditate on the law of the Lord”.
To always pray and to not lose heart (Lk 18:1-8) this was the Master’s command. St. Paul further exhorts us to “pray without ceasing” (1Thes 5:17). To pray and to watch - this is how we are  to understand this precept of the Rule. Our Lord taught us how we are to pray- “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.” (Mt 6:6). In silence and solitude we are to pray to our Father. Our Lord, Jesus, gives us the formula which begins with an act of love...  
"Our Father in heaven...” 
But the word “prayers” is in the plural, which for our Rule will be taken as vocal prayer, liturgical prayer, mental prayer, meditation and contemplation. Next, we need to consider “watching”, that would be continually. Obviously, this is not to mean a physical continuity. No one can be asked to do that not even in a convent. It would even be impossible to do so mentally, to try to do so would be mentally strenuous. 
To Watch! 
The emphasis should be to understand it as a moral continuity where one’s soul is occupied with God, recollected often. If one occupies itself with prayer faithful to the hours and times of prayer and seeks to be recollected, one will arrive at this continuity.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Contemplative Soul

Our Lady is not mentioned in the Rule of St. Albert. The reason why is clear -
        a Carmelite seeks to gaze upon and to love God,

to love God with mind and heart.
This is what Mary embodies - the contemplative soul.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Multitudes on Monday

Expressions of gratitude...with those over at A Holy Experience..

97. the pitter-patter of rain drops on the window

98. an unexpected Mother's Day card from a caring person

99. working in the dirt, preparing the garden

100. the diverse colors of flowers in the nursery greenhouse

101. naps

102. clean floors

103. grandchildren proudly coloring in coloring books

104. for my children and grandchildren

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day Roses and Silence

last year for mother’s day you gave me a bouquet of roses.
beautiful, red roses.
did I know then what I know now?
what you were saying to me with those petals.
I said you were just a bud
you were saying that you were a flower.
a red, ripe flower opening up and blossoming
to become a beautiful young woman.
and so you were.
just beginning to become a lady
young, fresh, fragrant - full of life, 
of love.
this year you will give me silence.
my heart torn open and bleeding
- red like roses.
like a blade of grass you rose up and then
evening came and all withered.
withered are the hopes and dreams
of children and family 
and a spouse.
I did not get to share these with you.
all turned upside-down, churned into chaos.
lost and broken
without any good-byes, I am sorry
forgive me, don’t cry.
I love you, don’t worry- are all unspoken
and how? and why?

I love you, too!
This is probably the most personal post I will ever publish on this blog.

As we approach Mothers Day, please remember and pray for all mothers who have lost a child. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011


“Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus...This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self.” (CCC #2715) 
The contemplative ponders the mysteries of the life of Christ, gazing at him while he gazes back. “His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men.” (CCC #2715)
Our inherited frail human condition elicited the compassion of Christ towards us.  Christ, the Divine Physician, was compassionate toward the sick which was evident by the many cures of every kind through his power. “His compassion towards all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: “I was sick and you visited me.” (CCC #1503)
Christ calls all, particularly the contemplative, to this compassion. There is, however, a difference that exists between feeling compassion and having the strength of will to be compassionate and to act compassionately when this action is called for. 
The Blessed Mother, our model of a true disciple of Christ, acted with compassion when she left her home to stay with Elizabeth for three months. Renouncing herself, she fixed her gaze on his truth seeing in her neighbor, Jesus.  And again, at the Crucifixion, we see her there with her Son. She, despite the painful difficulty, remained there with him as he suffered; unwilling was she to leave him to do so alone.  At the foot of the cross Mary suffered with Jesus. To “suffer with” is the root meaning of compassion.
Our actions of compassion bring comfort to those afflicted and to Christ himself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Taking Flight

The deepest, most spiritual meaning of purity is to “be detached from all creatures, free of a fixation on oneself and on others.” (Edith Stein Collected Works: Woman, p. 203)
This purity is so necessary to attaining union with God. It is a matter of the heart. The heart must not be allowed to be captivated by creatures, no matter how fascinating they may be. The soul longing for union with God will live among creatures and be occupied with them with all charity, but will not allow the heart to become attached to them or seek gratification in them. 
The most challenging part of this virtue is the detachment from ‘self’ which we carry around with us all the time and are never wholly free. This detachment requires us to renounce our preoccupation with ourselves: our way, our wants, our comfort, our rights -to name a few. 
When we become attached to something it prohibits our ascent to God. It is the virtue of purity that will help us to take flight and reach God. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Hidden Virtues

...in silence
...in retirement

This is how Mary gave Jesus to the world. 

This month is dedicated to Mary. Our devotion to her should consist in imitation of her life and virtues. For Carmelites, she is our teacher and model of the interior life, which is our apostolate. Not to discount or underestimate the exterior apostolate, the interior apostolate consists of prayer, love and sacrifice. The fruitfulness of all exterior activity rests on this interior apostolate. 
According to Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D, Mary’s apostolate “was a quiet one, free from ostentation; it was accomplished in the most humble, hidden and silent way.” (Divine Intimacy #184)
Mary shared in the whole life of Jesus, her Son: the daily life of a family, performing household duties, living with difficulties, making sacrifices, enduring trying situations, even sharing in His Passion. In all these ways she shared in the redemptive work of Jesus. His work of redemption still continues and, like Mary, we can share in that work.
During those times when we feel the pressure of the urgency of our works and become tempted to make these exterior activities the net worth of our apostolate, let’s turn to Mary who shows us how to love, pray and make hidden sacrifices - known only to God and are of infinite value - redemptive value.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Multitudes on Monday

Counting a thousand gifts with Ann over at A Holy Experience.....

64. a multitude of white fluffy clouds stretching across the sky for miles

65. two small children walking together holding hands and singing

66. freshly tilled earth

67. reading books with the grandchildren

68. crepes filled with yogurt, fruit and nutella

69. long phone conversation with a holy priest friend

70. God's infinite Mercy

71. the gift of life

72. a hug from a beautiful friend

73. snow covered mountain tops

74. cold breeze chilling fingers

75. little children at church

76. tears of sorrow, healing pain of loss

77. the peace that only the presence of Christ can bring