Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fr. Doug's November and December homilies

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

As always, we are blessed with the teaching of our community's Spiritual Assistant, Fr. Doug Lorig.  His two most recent homilies focus on themes that tie in perfectly with this last week of Advent, as we prepare for Christmas. 

In November, Fr. Doug spoke of Blessed Mother's fiat. Today, our Gospel Reading taken from Luke, chapter 1,  recounted Mary's encounter with the Angel Gabriel:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!"
29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."
34 And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"
35 And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing will be impossible."
38 And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Our Lady's fiat to God's Will was given, despite several dangerous uncertainties:

1. Due to her pregnancy she could be stoned to death or cause shame to her entire family
2. She faced possibly being without shelter or husband when giving birth

It should be noted that Mary, the Mother of God, did not know all. She would do whatever God planned, which often involved risks  ie Slaughter of the Innocents, Flight to Egypt

My yes - to say 'yes' to God and to one's neighbor will cost you. It involves sacrifice. ie. Openness to life The opposite of this is self-absorption, self directed and full of ego.

We must measure our 'yeses'.   Always say 'yes' to serve your family and others. This means saying 'no' to self. This is sacrificial love, when a husband or wife is totally focused on their family and being faithful to one another.  Family life and the priesthood involve lots of interruptions. It is sacrificial in nature. 

We are called to be gentle, humble servants to be lived out without being a doormat. We must say 'yes' with joy and determination. Jesus thanked His Mother for being so generous.

December Homily

This past weekend, Fr. Doug spoke of the purpose of being Catholic as the call of unitive prayer. Unitive theology concerns sharing in the divinity of Jesus. We must change because we are fallen. How? Jesus shows us the way. He changed all of human life, by assuming the lowest position, although He was the most powerful of the entire universe.  He made this descent first by becoming last. As He tells us, "The last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16). This is a complete upturning of our worldly power structure, where the rich and powerful are at the top and use their influence to increase power over those at the bottom, who are the nobodies of the world. i.e. the poor farmers, the homeless, etc.

Fr. Doug spoke of Archimandrate Zacharias' focus on the reversed power structure that Christ established. In Christ, Our Way and Our Life, he speaks of this reality as follows:

'Perfection is above all perfection in divine love. Fr. Sophrony identifies it with the 'greater love' (cf. John 15: 12-15) of Christ's sacrifice. He admires more than anything the example of Christ making his way alone to Golgotha, and enduring extreme sufferings to deliver mankind from death and bestow eternal, divine life upon all. Fr. Sophrony envisages as the 'ultimate perfection' the perfection of Christ's love, which overturns the pyramid of all created being and places Him at its inverted summit. Thus, Christ takes away the sin of all humans and takes upon Himself the curse of death, which had wounded them. This perfection flows from the incomprehensible love of Christ (cf. Eph. 3:18-19). It is the 'one eternal Act' of Christ's decent to the lowest places of the earth and His ascent 'above the heavens.' In a single act the 'only-begotten Son, co-eternal with the Father embraces heaven and earth and the nether regions' (Eph. 4:8-13). The descent and ascent of Christ are the source of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in those who follow Christ, they are the confirmation of the Spirit's presence. These charisms are heavenly gifts (cf. Jas. 1:17) and they lead those who partake of them with humility to the perfection of the 'stature of the fulness of Christ' (Eph. 3:13).

'The path leading to the acquistion of perfection is the one traced by Christ. It is the path of the Cross; the path of Christ's self-emptying. For Fr. Sophrony, kenosis and perfection are closely bound together; as Christ Himself showed, 'utter self-emptying precedes the fulness of perfection.' If monasticism is not a human invention but 'the third grace', (St. Theodore the Studite, quoted in 'Principles', p. 260) it is because it ensures the conditions for a man's potential downward progression, which leads to spiritual perfection.

The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of reversals. Humility and love take the top place and the proud are put at the bottom and come into the Kingdom last, if at all.   Jesus shows us this at the very outset, with the simple circumstances of His birth. May we contemplate this as we journey towards Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

St. John of the Cross - Maxims that bring us closer to the Miracle of Christmas

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today we celebrate the Feast Day of our Founder, St. John of the Cross.  Through his untiring determination to climb Mount Carmel through interior poverty and humility, he reached the highest peaks of union with God.  As we approach the last week before Christmas, our eyes are still seeking the Star of Bethlehem where we will find the Christ Child.

St. John has a couple of maxims that can assist us on this last leg of our Advent journey.

The first:
The poor man who is naked will be clothed, and the soul that is naked of desires and whims will be clothed by God with His purity, satisfaction, and will.

We know that this is exactly the way that Jesus entered the world. Naked. Poor. In Simplicity and silence.  By doing so, He was perfectly fused with the Divine Will of His Father at all times. Things were not overcomplicated. He grew up in simplicity with the Holy Family listening and learning, in obedience. When he began his public ministry, He prayed and fasted for forty days to prepare and do the Will of the Father. He rejected the enemy's temptations and empty promises. Our Lord listened attentively to each person's needs. He met them where they were at and was amongst the people, not the elite.  His soul was naked of any personal ambition, and He was truly clothed in purity and humility.  We can pray for the same grace and purity. We must cooperate with this grace by stripping ourselves of the attachments and vices that hinder us from realizing such purity in this nakedness of spirit. In these last days before celebrating His birth, let us look within and seek not to add more stuff, but to purge more of the superfluous baggage, whether it be material, emotional, physical, etc.

Second maxim:

The Father spoke one Word, which was His Son, and this Word He speaks in eternal silence, and in silence must It be heard by the soul.

We can only truly hear and subsequently listen to the Spirit's still, small voice if we strive to keep ourselves in a spirit of calm and quiet.  This is not easily accomplished in our day and age.  We need to foster the presence of Our Lord throughout the day, in the midst of our daily duties and routine by returning to brief loving thoughts of Him, when a moment of quiet sneaks up on us.  One can surmise that the reason the shepherds were the ones to hear the glad tidings of joy at the birth of our Savior was due to their quiet disposition and keen listening skills.  This doesn't mean we need to go live in the woods or desert to realize such an interior state of being, but we must make efforts and steps towards carving out such times of silence. He is the Word who can soak into our very being and transform us from the inside out.  This is the true miracle and promise of Christmas, and of the silence we seek in prayer each and every day.  The Christ Child offers us this hope in simplicity and silence, as long as the eyes and ears of our hearts stay open.

Let us ask St. John of the Cross to intercede for us during this last week of Advent, whether we find ourselves in joy or in pain. He has experienced the transformational power of the Cross that leads to resurrection and rebirth.  His advice to adapt a spirit of naked simplicity and silence is well taken.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our Lady, the Immaculata, Light of purity in Advent

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated yeterday, a perfect time to reflect on our own purity of heart and where we have placed our treasures. Are the desires of our hearts gazing heaven-ward or are they earthbound? Are we carving out time to dwell in the silence of the All or have we added on unnecessary activities that are preventing our spirits from soaking in the purity of Our Lord within? Blessed Mother shows us the way, as in her immaculate being of mind, body, soul, and spirit she was completely enveloped in the presence of Her Son, while He was housed within the perfectly pure and peaceful abode of her womb. We need to go in there. We need to follow Her ways and then entrust ourselves to her as Our Mother within Her womb. This is the safest place for us as Her children. This is where the Babe resided for 9 months and can teach us His secrets and lessons, and as Our Mother, she can gently nourish and protect us in prayer and in our daily lives throughout this busy season of Advent.

Let us place ourselves in Her womb and commend ourselves to the Holy Family. St. Joseph, Our Lady, and Jesus Himself were preparing for His coming during the last weeks prior to His birth. They were on a journey for the mandated census, and were not sure of what they would find. They placed all of their trust in the Divine Providence of God. So must we, as we seek to come closer to the crib in simplicity and with open hearts. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary
And on one night when a great star swings free
From its high mooring and walks down the sky
To be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith's walled place,
With hope's expectance of nativity.
I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
Guarded and loved me, though I could not see,
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth's most amazing knowledge:
Someone is hidden in this dark with me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another Advent Meditation

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Peace and Joy!

Here is a simple, heartfelt prayer meditation by St. Anselm that is perfect for us as we continue our journey through Advent. Enjoy!

From the "Proslogion" of Saint Anselm
        Longing to see God

Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in him.
 Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek. And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.
  Lord, if you are not here, where shall I seek you when you are absent? But if you are everywhere, why do I not see you present? Truly you dwell in unapproachable light. But where is unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see you in it? Again, by what signs, under what form, shall I seek you? I have never seen you, O Lord, my God; I do not know your face.
  Lord, you are my God, and you are my Lord, and never have I seen you. You have made me and renewed me, you have given me all the good things that I have, and I have not yet met you. I was created to see you, and I have not yet done the thing for which I was made.
   Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you by loving you and love you in the act of finding you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

St. John of the Cross' Homily for the Second Week of Advent

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

I came across this lovely reflection by St. John of the Cross to continue to assist us as we journey towards that Star of Bethlehem this Advent season. May you continue to experience the joy and anticipation of the season.  This is taken from

This excerpt from The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St. John of the cross (Lib 2, cap. 22) is used in the Roman office of readings for Monday of the second week in Advent.  It is a clear and forceful expression of the faith of the Church that in Christ, God the Father has given us his complete and ultimate revelation of Himself and His plan for our lives.  The glimples of God and partial revelations of the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs find their completion in Him and we await no further revelation before his final and glorious return.

The principal reason why the Old Law permitted us to ask questions of God, and why prophets and priests had to seek visions and revelations of God, was because at that time faith had no firm foundation and the law of the Gospel was not yet established; and thus it was necessary that men should enquire of God and that he should speak, whether by words or by visions and revelations or whether by figures and images or by many other ways of expressing His meaning. For all that he answered and revealed belonged to the mysteries of our faith and things touching it or leading to it.

But now that the faith is founded in Christ, now that in this era of grace the law of the Gospel has been made manifest, there is no reason to enquire of God in that manner nor for him to speak to us or answer us as he did then. For, in giving us, as he did, his Son, who is his one and only Word, he spoke to us once and for all, in this single Word, and he has no occasion to speak further.

And this is the meaning of that passage with which the Letter to the Hebrews begins, trying to persuade the Hebrews that they should abandon those first ways of dealing and communicating with God which are in the law of Moses, and should set their eyes on Christ alone: At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, in the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son. That is, God has said so much about so many things through his Word that nothing more is needed, since that which he revealed partially in the past through the prophets, he has now revealed completely by giving us the All, which is his Son.

Therefore if someone were now to ask questions of God or seek any vision or revelation, he would not only be acting foolishly but would be committing an offence against God – for he should set his eyes altogether upon Christ and seek nothing beyond Christ.

God might answer him after this manner, saying: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him. I have spoken all things to you in my Word. Set your eyes on him alone, for in him I have spoken and revealed to thee all things, and in him you shall find more than you ask for, even more than you want.

I descended upon him with my Spirit on Mount Tabor and said This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him. You have no reason to ask for new teaching or new answers from me because if I spoke to you in the past then it was to promise Christ. If people asked questions of me in the past then their questions were really a desire of Christ and a hope for his coming. For in him they were to find all good things, as has now been revealed in the teaching of the Evangelists and the Apostles.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Preparing the Way of the Lord this Advent

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones-

It is hard to believe that the Advent season has commenced and we are in the final weeks of the calendar year. Of course, today marks the New Year for the Church as we begin to prepare for the Coming of Christ on Christmas.  Our hearts are to become cribs for Him to reside, our minds are to be filled with thoughts of Him, are hands and feet are to be following His light as we seek to make His Kingdom known and present here on earth among our fellow men.

One may wonder how these next four weeks of Advent are to become a time of reflection, penance, and fostering a deeper interior silence amidst the almost manic materialistic norms and preparations that so often eclipse spiritual preparations during this season in our culture today.  I would note that Advent used to be 40 days in length and was a time of penance similar to Lent. It was not about celebrating the birth of the Christ child now, but instead a time to prepare one's heart and soul through prayer and practices that lead to a more open soul in receiving Christ, His love, light, and truth. We seek a birth and rebirth in our souls, but must prepare for such an occurrence as evidenced by so many of our beloved saints. 

St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes wrote a beautiful letter just before the onset of Advent to her girlfriend, Herminia Valdes Ossa. (Carmelites are not allowed to write letters during Advent unless for serious reasons). The letter advises her on how to prepare during the season of Advent, which I wish to share with you today.

"Prepare yourself for the birth of Christ. Think every day, think of Jesus, who, though the eternal God, was born as a fragile Child. Though all-powerful, He was born poor with nowhere to go from the cold. He needed His Mother to live though He was Life itself. I'm sending you a list of things to prepare a set of baby clothes for Jesus; and, when you write, tell me if you did these things.

Little shirts to keep Him warm: Five acts of love a day and longings to receive Him in Communion. 'My Jesus, come to my poor heart, which wants to beat only for you.'

Little blankets to cover His tiny feet: Since He can't walk, you will go and do acts of charity to all, sacrificing yourself and setting aside your own comfort.

Swaddling bands to wrap around Him: Never grumble when they tell you to do something you don't like. Just do what they tell you.

Little cap: Study and do everything for Jesus, thinking of His love.

Crib: Don't sleep late in bed. Go to Mass and Communion.

Pieces of Straw: Do some little act, like giving up candy or eating what you don't like.

Do it all for love of Jesus.

What a beautiful starting point to this Advent season, if we set our wills to caring for the Christ Child and being mindful of Him throughout the day. When we prepare room for Him in our inn, He will come to lodge within us. May you have a prayerful Advent season ahead. Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Celebrating the Bride of Christ- the Church

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

The past three days have pointed to the beauty of the Church.  We all walk into and out of our beloved Catholic Church each Sunday, if not daily. Perhaps we forget about the incredible freedom that we have in this country to worship as we wish, but also perhaps we have become complacent about the sublimity of the Church and where we tread when we walk into a sanctuary of prayer.

The Church is not just an institution, but a supernatural creation that reflects the Glory of God as Mother of the faithful. This is written of extensively by Bl. Francisco Palau y Quer, ocd, whose memorial we celebrated on Monday, November 7th.  He revealed that the person of the Church spoke to him in supernatural revelations concerning her person and how to relate to Her. He recorded what She stated as follows, "I am the Daughter of the Eternal Father and yours, I am the congregation in Christ of all those who have to be saved by his blood, I am your Spouse, the Church militant."  (p.152)  In another passage, "My name is Mary. I am the Virgin without spot or wrinkle or afflictions, I am the universal Church, I am the Queen and Lady of the world.  I am your Spouse, your Mother, your Queen." (p.149)  Our Lady explained to Blessed Francisco that She is not the Church Herself, but instead "a bright, pure mirror in which she is represented..See in me the image of the Church, your beloved engraved by the finger of God Himself." (My Revelations with the Church, 1861-1867, p. 72-73)

From these writings, it is evident that we are to relate to the Church in a very intimate way, seeking to find our role within her. We can move from the macro-level to the micro-level and look within. One way to do this is to look at the architecture of the structure of the Church itself.  We can start at the door and ponder on whether or not the door to our hearts is open or locked. Our Lord is always knocking, but He will not force His way in.   Fear, pride, or hatred can close our hearts to His grace and His entrance into the place that He wishes to reside the most - inside each one of us.   He wants to make our hearts the 'roads to Zion'  where he can 'build a spiritual house' in which He can dwell and radiate within.  If we open up to Him and trust, He will 'pass through the gates, prepare the way for the people. Build up the highway, clear it of stones, and raise up a standard.' (Is 62:10)

The porter at the gate is the Holy Spirit, along with Our Lady who is the gate of Wisdom, the one through whom we want to enter and pass into the interior of our temple.  Jesus' Word is the Divine Builder. He commands and it is done. We must surrender to His loving word, which is infinite as His commands are truth and everlasting life. We know that the foundation of our interior temples is Jesus Christ. St. Paul reminds is that, 'you are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you.' (1 Cor: 3:16) We are reminded that, "Every house is founded by someone, but  the founder of all is God' (Heb 3:4).  Furthermore, Jesus has been "placed over his house.  We are his house if we only hold fast to our confidence and pride in our hope.' (Heb 3:6). We must do His Will and keep His word, and then the  Holy Trinity will come to dwell in us.. Jesus will come to sup within.  

As always, Jesus gives us the road map. He tells us, "I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against the house but could not shake it because it has been well built' (Lk 6:47-48).

How well Blessed Elizabeth understood this reality, and realized the indwelling of the Holy Trinity within her through her surrender to His grace and loving movements within. She kept the gate of her heart open and allowed the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit to draw her ever more deeply into the foundation of her interior tabernacle to be united with the Three. She recognized Christ's desire to 'remain in me and I in him'.  She wrote many times of her special desire to allow him to build his little dwelling within the cell of her heart. She advised her mother in a letter, "Like me, you must build yourself a little cell within your soul; you must think that the good Lord is there and from time to time go there; when your nerves are on edge, when you are unhappy, quickly take refuge in there and confide it all to the Master. (Conrad de Meester, ocd Your Presence is My Joy, p.69)

Today we celebrate the Dedication of the Church of Saint John Lateran. As St. Augustine so eloquently puts it, "we too are a house of God. If we are a house of God, its construction goes on in time so that is may be dedicated at the end of time."  He points out that the key to this coming to fruition is the commandment of love and unity with one another.  If we cooperate as the saints did, we will be made into a joyful 'house of prayer' (Is 56:7).  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, and in imitation of our Blessed Mother we can ask that Our Lord shape our hearts to become His tabernacle, His temple. 

My Sweet Jesus,
My Master Builder,
My Divine Architect
The foundation upon which I live and breathe and am.
Rebuild the temple of my heart
into a spiritual home
fit for my King, my All.  Amen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The New Roman Missal Translation

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

I just viewed this excellent You Tube video on the new liturgy that is to take effect in just three short weeks. I want to share this with all of you. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Discalced Carmelites - Spirituality

Discalced Carmelites - Spirituality

JMJT!Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear ones-

This is a very beautiful slideshow with reflections. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The theme and its quotes embrace our Carmelite values- of finding beauty in simplicity.

May you all be blessed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mercy Abounds

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Carmel-

This first week of October has one recurring theme in my eyes. That theme is mercy. As we know, October 1st commemorates the life and holy death of St. Therese whose whole life was dedicated to singing the mercies of God.  For her, the heart of the Church is that love and mercy that knows no bounds and encompasses all vocations.  She even made an Act of Oblation to the merciful love of Our Lord to seek souls united to Christ in her sufferings.   She wrote this down to make her complete dedication to this quest real. Some of it is as follows:

O My God! Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to Love You and make You Loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish Your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory You have prepared for me in Your Kingdom. I desire, in a word, to be a saint, but I feel my helplessness and I beg You, O my God! to be Yourself my Sanctity!

Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His heart burning with Love.

In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!

May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.

I want, O my Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to You an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!

On October 5th, we celebrated the life of a newer saint in the Church, St. Faustina, who is known as the Apostle of Secretary of Divine Mercy.  St. Faustina also consecrated herself to Our Lord's mercy by writing and offering the following, "0 my Jesus, each of your saints reflects one of your virtues; I desire to reflect your compassionate heart, full of mercy; I want to glorify it. Let your mercy, 0 Jesus, be impressed upon my heart and soul like a seal, and this will be my badge in this and the future life" (Diary 1242).  Jesus revealed to her that he desired to share His infinite mercy with the whole world. "In the Old Covenant", he said to her, "I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to my people. Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful Heart" (Diary 1588).

St. Faustina's mission of mercy seems to have built upon that of St. Therese. In her three primary tasks given by Our Lord, we can see many similarities between the two.  Faustina's first task was to remind the world of the truth of our faith revealed in the Holy Scripture about the merciful love of God towards every human being. Secondly, she was to entreat God's mercy for the whole world and particularly for sinners (this of St. Therese's intercessory prayers for Pranzini), among others through the practice of new forms of devotion to the Divine Mercy. This included the image of the Divine Mercy with the inscription: "Jesus, I trust in you" as well as the feast of the Divine Mercy celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter, and chaplet to the Divine Mercy and prayer at the Hour of Mercy (3 p.m.).

Thirdly, she was to initiate the apostolic movement of the Divine Mercy, whose task is to proclaim and entreat God's mercy for the world and to strive for Christian perfection. The core precepts required the faithful to have an attitude of childlike trust in God, expressed in fulfilling his will, and an attitude of mercy toward one's neighbour. This way to God rings familiar with Therese's call to embracing one's spiritual childhood and following the "Little Way' of perfection.

Both of these saints give us tremendous hope concerning Our Lord's infinite mercy for even the greatest of sinners. Each provides a simple road map that can be used in throwing ourselves ever deeper into the ocean of His Mercy. Let us not hesitate, but in complete confidence take the plunge!

Friday, September 30, 2011

St. Therese Teaches us How to Be our True Selves

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Despite dying more than 100 years ago, St. Therese is a saint for us today in our modern age and can teach us so very much.  She knew what it was like to be falsely accused, to suffer physical and emotional pain, and to find the need to grow up so that she could begin to live maturely in the way Our Heavenly Father deemed fit.  For her this meant leaving her childishness behind, in order that she could embrace spiritual maturity in a seemingly contradictory state of spiritual childhood. 

St. Therese knew the pain of losing a mother at an early age, and then losing several of her subsequent 'mothers' who were her sisters to the convent.  She experienced severe psychological anguish because of this, and suffered from what amounted to a nervous breakdown.  She suffered from scruples and in this difficult state was compulsive about all of her faults, failings, and sins.  Despite all of these emotional challenges, she desired to know and love God truly and deeply.  Her pious family provided her with a beautiful example of love and trust in God.  

A true miracle occurred while St. Therese became seriously ill with a high fever and convulsions.  Her sisters and father were desperately praying for her cure, and were praying to Our Lady, when Therese was suddenly cured through Our Lady's intercession and her smile.  She would receive a further grace when she received a healing at Christmas time to leave her childhood behind, and to allow Jesus to completely transform her with His love.  From this point forward, her vision was clear and unobscured on what she wanted. She slowly began to embrace the childlike confidence and trust in Our Lord, that so many of us associate with her today.

What is amazing is that although one can imagine St. Therese as sweet and endearing, she was no spiritual lightweight.  Indeed, in the convent she demonstrated complete mastery over her feelings no matter the circumstance. She smiled when she felt annoyed, she remained silent when she wrongly accused, and she retained her gentle and joyful demeanor while in the throes of a painful illness that would eventually take her life. 

In addition to her amazing mastery over self, she became in a sense a wounded healer. Despite the fact that she lived in an era of Jansenism and many were taught a profound fear of God, St. Therese promoted the image of God the Father as a gentle and loving mother.  She did not seek severe penances, but instead took the opportunities provided her in daily life to shine God's love upon others, and to thereby serve Him.  As one who had suffered so severely from scruples, she now taught others how to have complete confidence in Our Lord's Mercy and offered herself as a holocaust of this love.

The fruits of St. Therese's transformation into Divine Love has resulted in nothing less than the conversions and healings of millions of souls around the world.   St. Therese shows us that Our Lord can use all of us for His Glory, when we abandon ourselves freely and completely to Him. Let us ask her to continue to intercede for us that we may not fear Our Triune God, nor life itself, but trust completely in the plans that Our Lord has for each and every one of us. Amen. 

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer 29:11

Sunday, September 25, 2011

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Yesterday my daughter and I had the opportunity to attend the public Thanksgiving Mass at Our Lady of Solitude Monastery in Tonopah, AZ.  (See This beautiful monastery is where the Poor Claire nuns of Perpetual Adoration now call home, and pray day and night before our Lord in thanksgiving for His gift of the Eucharist, to present the needs of the diocese, our communities, and for all souls in the greater world.

The architecture itself was a lovely reminder of how a church can raise one's mind to heavenly realities.  With its wood beams and archways, along with the stained glass windows of some of our most beloved saints, and of course the altar and tabernacle itself which depicted the Lamb of God, the monastery does a fine job of drawing one's mind and heart to higher mysteries. It is interesting to note that two Carmelite saints will eventually be depicted in the stain glass windows: St. Therese and St. Teresa Benedicta.  A beautiful statue of St. Therese of Lisieux already stands at the back of the church, showing us yet again how universal her reach and spirit.

The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Wall with a spirit of sincere thanksgiving and sharing of many memories over these past several years since the 'Desert Nuns' packed up their few belongings at the Mother House in Alabama, and came out to the desert with big hopes and lots of prayers.  During Mass, the nuns sat behind the grill with their visiting Dominican sisters who teach in many Phoenix area schools.  Their chanted hymns added another element that raised our hearts and souls to God. 

In such holy, prayerful, and joyful surroundings it was a good time for me to take stock of my own call to Discalced Carmel Secular Order whose vocation is to "undertake to live in the world and evangelical life of fraternal communion imbued with the spirit of contemplative prayer, in imitation of the Virgin Mary, and animated with apostolic zeal according to the example and teaching of Carmelite saints, and whose mission is to a life both contemplative and apostolic, to carry into the world the distinctive witness of Carmel: 'The Lord of Hosts lives, before whom I stand' 1 Kings 17,1.  

I asked myself:
1. Do I truly take the time in an attitude of humble thanksgiving to thank Our Lord for all that He has so generously bestowed upon me and my family? Do I recognize His gifts, and am I open to receive them? Is my attitude one of gratitude and joy no matter my exterior circumstances, or interior state?

2. Do I foster silence and contemplation in my daily life? Do I use words only as an instrument of peace and love, and seek to imitate Our Lady in all dealings with others?

3. When I do interact with others in the world, am I zealous only  for Our Lord's Glory or do I seek undue attention or praise for myself? 

In assessing these, I can truthfully say that much work still needs to be done to realize our charism within myself. I thank the Lord for His patience with me and His continual care for me in body and soul. Just as the desert nuns traveled far away without knowing how things would turn out, so we are asked to step out in faith and to journey our ascent of Mt. Carmel in a spirit of joyful thanksgiving, love, detachment, and acceptance of His perfect Divine Will.

After traveling far west over highways, past Arizona farmland, to the exit of the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant, and on 6 miles over a bumpy dirt road, it was a blessed pilgrimage that enabled me to assess my own Carmelite calling and how this is developing in my own life.  The First Reading of the Mass captured this opportunity perfectly, "“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14

I pray that we will all avail ourselves of these opportunities of silence and solitude when they present themselves, and allow Our Lord to speak deeply within our hearts that we may become a 'Praise of Glory' to His Most Holy Name. Amen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Martyrs and Missionaries in Korea/Asia

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today we celebrate the Korean martyrs who died for their Catholic faith during one of several  government-sponsored persecutions that have ocurred over the course of several centuries. In his Canonization homily in honor of the 103 Korean martyrs we celebrate today, Bl. Pope John Paul II had this to say,

The truth about Jesus Christ also reached Korean soil. It came by means of books brought from China. And in a most marvellous way, divine grace soon moved your scholarly ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the Risen Savior.

Yearning for an ever greater share in the Christian faith, your ancestors sent one of their own in 1784 to Peking, where he was baptized. From this good seed was born the first Christian community in Korea, a community unique in the history of the Church by reason of the fact that it was founded entirely by lay people. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could already boast of some ten thousand martyrs. The years 1791, 1801, 1827, 1839, 1846 and 1866 are forever signed with the holy blood of your Martyrs and engraved in your hearts.

Even though the Christians in the first half century had only two priests from China to assist them, and these only for a time, they deepened their unity in Christ through prayer and fraternal love; they disregarded social classes and encouraged religious vocations. And they sought ever closer union with their Bishop in Peking and the Pope in faraway Rome.

After years of pleading for more priests to be sent, your Christian ancestors welcomed the first French missionaries in 1836. Some of these, too, are numbered among the Martyrs who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel, and who are being canonized today in this historic celebration.

As we approach the Feast Days of St. Therese (Patron Saint of Missions), and St. Teresa of Avila (who had great missionary zeal), it is important to renew our missionary spirit as Discalced Carmelites. Indeed, the order itself is a bridge between East and West. Furthermore, its charism is to share the face of Christ and His love with all our brothers and sisters worldwide. This is to be through active service as well as contemplative, passive means.

The first Mission Congress of OCD met in 2007 to discuss its missionary work in Asia, specifically India. It quotes some of the first friars who went abroad seeking the conversion of souls in the spirit of St. Teresa.  They wrote of the following confirmations of the missionary aspect of the order:

The first exceptional witnesses in the living tradition of Teresa’s missionary spirit are Fr. Gracián and Fr. John of Jesus-Maria, the Calagurritan. Gracián, according to our records, was aware of being identified with the Teresian spirit, which he also expressly confirms regarding the missions. He sent, when Mother Teresa was still living, the first missionaries to Congo; and later to Mexico (1585), and produced several fervent writings in favor of the missions. Fr. Gracián reminds always the apostolic spirit of Mother Teresa: “From here was born the fact that we all were formed from the beginning in this vocation to go and convert the Gentiles” (Escolias al libro de la Vida de la M. Teresa de Jesús de Rivera. Teresianum, 1981, 371). “As I spoke for a long time and with such intimacy with Mother Teresa of Jesus whose spirit was of zeal and conversion of the whole world, I am still more convinced of this way ” (Peregrinación de Anastasio, dial. III).

Fr. John of Jesus-Maria was the explicit supporter of the charismatic maternity of St. Teresa, and therefore was the doctrinal supportor of the missional spirit of Teresian Carmel. This is his definitive argument:

“Finally we either approve the spirit of Our Mother Teresa or not; Similarly we either venerate her as our foundress or not. Undoubtedly to disapprove of her spirit is reckless and questioning her founding is extremely ungrateful. It is obvious that that our Mother Teresa wanted the missions more eagerly than martydom itself. To this end she guided her works and prayers as well as those of her people, so that whoever devotes himself to the conversion of the heretics may be crowned with success. Who can deny that her idea was to obtain with our Friars, her sons, what she could not obtain with her daughters? (Assertum seu Tractatus quo asseruntur missiones, 1603).

The Venerable Fr Juan Vicente of Jesus Mary (1862-1943) was a missionary in India for seventeen years. Afterwards he was one of the greatest promotors of missionary spirit in Spain, with initiatives that endure still today. He had a strong contemplative vocation, he believed even that he had an eremitical vocation, and in fact was the restorer of the eremitical convent in his Province of Navarra. For that, his perception of the Teresian Carmel charism is very important as a witness of life and doctrine.

“The sons of St. Teresa have understood and professed always, that a Discalced Carmelite must, before all else, be profoundly contemplative, but must be decidedly active. That is to say, he must try, in all sincerity, to burn with the fire of contemplation with that love of God which is as strong as death, and from there proceed to love his neighbour for God, until he makes himself all things for all men, in order to win them all for ever. This is what makes the true Carmelite missionary. Action without contemplation would not be Carmelite; contemplation without action, would not be teresian” (“La Provincia de S. Joaquín de Navarra y su exposición de Paris”, Monte Carmelo 426, 1918, p 367).

The Teresian Carmelite is “contemplative until maximum, apostolic until you can do no more”, “the Carmelite must be a contemplative who is totally apostolic and an apostle who is totally contemplative” (“Way of meditating as taught by our Venerable Fr. St. John of the Cross”, in Mensajero de Santa Teresa, 1924-1925).

Today, South Korea is 10% Catholic. The OCDS community in America is blessed to have at least three different Korean communities in Los Angelos, Washington DC, and New York. But what of the spiritual wasteland of North Korea, or the persecuted underground Church in China? How about the dearth of prayer that was lamented even by the Prime Minister of Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami of this past March? Many countries in Asia remain in dire need of the Good News of Jesus Christ. As the Feast Days of St. Therese, the patron saint of missionaries, and our Foundress St. Teresa of Jesus approach, let us ask for their intercession that more may receive and accept the transforming love of Jesus throughout Asia and the world.  And we pray for our OCD missionaries who already stand barefoot on the soil of foreign lands, in Uganda, India, and elsewhere, that they may be upheld with our love, prayers, and assistance to perservere in the assurance that good fruit will be forthcoming. Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Triumph of the Cross

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

It is difficult to even begin to meditate on the mystery of the Cross. Our whole lifetime is spent trying to "work out our salvation' by picking up our crosses daily and following Jesus. Some days we do so with added vigor, courage, and strength, while other days we drag our crosses, fall, and sometimes even want to refuse to get up.  Yet, we have the saints who have walked before us and show us how to say 'yes' to God's perfect will and designs for our life.  I don't think that I can express anything as beautifully as St. John of the Cross did in his sketch of the Crucifixion of Jesus, or the beautiful meditation of Blessed Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) on this Feast Day. I will leave these for your contemplation on the mysterious glories of the Cross.

John saw it from Heaven's point of view.
In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.

Dali's Reflection on John's Drawing
My thought is how blessed we are
that our Father sees the cross
when He looks at us.

III.2 ELEVATION OF THE CROSS September 14, 1939: Ave Crux, Spes unica [Hail Cross, Only Hope]

"Hail, Cross, our only hope!" this is what the holy church summoned us to exclaim during the time for contemplating the bitter suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. The jubilant exclamation of the Easter Alleluia silenced the serious song of the cross. But the sign of our salvation greeted us amidst the time of Easter joy, since we were recalling the discovery of the one who had passed from sight. At the end of the cycle of ecclesiastical feasts, the cross greets us through the heart of the Savior. And now, as the church year draws toward an end, it is raised high before us and is to hold us spellbound, until the Easter Alleluia summons us anew to forget the earth for a while and to rejoice in the marriage of the Lamb.
Our holy Order has us begin our fast with the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. And it leads us to the foot of the cross to renew our holy vows. The Crucified One looks down on us and asks us whether we are still willing to honor what we promised in an hour of grace. And he certainly has reason to ask. More than ever the cross is 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? Consider carefully! The world is in flames, the battle between Christ and the Antichrist has broken into the open. If you decide for Christ, it could cost you your life. Carefully consider what you promise. Taking and renewing vows is a dreadfully serious business. You make a promise to the Lord of heaven and earth. If you are not deadly serious about your will to fulfill it, you fall into the hands of the living God.

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 will, but his Father's will. If you intend to be the bride of the Crucified, you too must completely renounce your own will and no longer have any desire except to fulfill God's will. He speaks to you in the holy rule and the constitutions of the Order. He speaks to you through the mouth of your superiors. He speaks to you by the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit in the depths of your heart. To remain true to your vow of obedience, you must listen to this voice day and night and follow its orders. However, this means daily and hourly crucifying your self-will and self-love.
The Savior hangs naked and destitute before you on the cross because he has chosen poverty. Those who want to follow him must renounce all earthly goods. It is not enough that you once left everything out there and came to the monastery. You must be serious about it now as well. Gratefully receive what God's providence sends you. Joyfully do without what he may let you to do without. Do not be concerned with your own body, with its trivial necessities and inclinations, but leave concern to those who are entrusted with it. Do not be concerned about the coming day and the coming meal.
The Savior hangs before you with a pierced heart. He has spilled his heart's blood to win your heart. If you want to follow him in holy purity, your heart must be free of every earthly desire. Jesus, the Crucified, is to be the only object of your longings, your wishes, your thoughts.
Are you now alarmed by the immensity of what the holy vows require of you? You need not be alarmed. What you have promised is indeed beyond your 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, if he accepts your pledge of troth. He does so on the day of your holy profession and will do it anew today. It is the loving heart of your Savior that invites you to follow. It demands your obedience because the human will is blind and weak. It cannot find the way until it surrenders itself entirely to the divine will. He demands poverty because hands must be empty of earth's goods to receive the goods of heaven. He demands chastity because only the heart detached from all earthly love is free for the love of God. 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! The world is in flames. The conflagration can also reach our house. But high above all flames towers the cross. They cannot consume it. It is the path from earth to heaven. It will lift one who embraces it in faith, love, and hope into the bosom of the Trinity.
The world is in flames. Are you impelled to put them out? Look at the cross. From the open heart gushes the blood of the Savior. This extinguishes the flames of hell. Make your heart free by the faithful fulfillment of your vows; then the flood of divine love will be poured into your heart until it overflows and becomes fruitful to all the ends of the earth. Do you hear the groans of the wounded on the battlefields in the west and the east? You are not a physician and not a nurse and cannot bind up the wounds. You are enclosed in a cell and cannot get to them. Do you hear the anguish of the dying? You would like to be a priest and comfort them. Does the lament of the widows and orphans distress you? You would like to be an angel of mercy and help them. Look at the Crucified. If you are nuptially bound to him by the faithful observance of your holy vows, your being is precious blood. Bound to him, you are omnipresent as he is. You cannot help here or there like the physician, the nurse, the priest. You can be at all fronts, wherever there is grief, in the power of the cross. Your compassionate love takes you everywhere, this love from the divine heart. Its precious blood is poured everywhere soothing, healing, saving.
The eyes of the Crucified look down on you asking, probing. Will you make your covenant with the Crucified anew in all seriousness? What will you answer him? " Lord, where shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
Ave Crux, Spes unica!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

I thought that I would share this moving and heart-felt icon with everyone on this somber and prayerful day of remembrance.  Wishing everyone peace and that forgiveness and love reign in our hearts, as the Gospel invites us to experience and act upon today. Amen.

Lewis Williams, SFO
Artist's Narrative:
Our Mother of Sorrows offers healing liniment to those suffering from the tragedies of September 11, 2001. Old Spanish and Mexican images of Our Lady of Sorrows as well as the traditional icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help influenced the conception of this icon. The angels of the Perpetual Help icon, as well as their instruments of Christ's crucifixion are replaced by the American and United Airlines planes. The planes symbolize the victims at the Pentagon and Flight 93, as well as both planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. The planes invade the sacred space of the mandorla, the cloud of heavenly radiance that surrounds Mary. Represented by the almond shape and the radiating fiery rings, the mandorla is the intersection of heavenly and earthly realms. The stars of heaven surround Mary, the universal mother, in her sorrowful yet hopeful glance. The old church Slavonic lettering in gold leaf describes Mary as the Theotokos, the Mother of God.

Traditional images of Our Lady of Sorrows depict Mary's heart pierced by swords, symbolic of the seven times her heart was broken by the passion of her Son. Within Mary's embrace the oval which surrounds the World Trade Center symbolizes her sacred heart, but even more so her womb. In this icon, Our Mother embraces all those lost with her enduring love, just as she embraced the Child in her womb. The towers are depicted as they appeared on that bright, sunny morning in early September. The smoke, stylized and sanctified, bears witness to the ultimate sacrifice of so many on September 11.

Her feast day is September 15.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Times and Seasons

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones-

Time has a way of slipping away so very quickly! There are so many seemingly contradictory religious feasts and secular holidays and observances going on these first two weeks of September.  Yet in my mind, they represent the continuum of life as we experience the various seasons of work and prayer, life and death, sorrow and hope in the Resurrection. Monday was Labor Day when we as Americans celebrated a day of relaxation and a final wrap-up to the more relaxed pace of summer. My family was blessed enough to be able to go to a remote lagoon/beach near Puerto Penasco, Mexico. We found the respite from being "plugged in" to be quite refreshing and to give us a chance to just be together as a family and enjoy the beauty of God's creation.  For me, it reiterated what we already know as Carmelites - that we are called to just 'be' and that there is a need for silence to be carved our amidst the craziness of daily life to hear the Beloved's voice.

Of course, we were quite aware of the fact that there are so many who are without jobs, underemployed, and really hurting with the current economic realities, natural disasters, and other crises. There are so very many to pray for. It truly is a time to take stock of our blessings, both spiritual and temporal, and to fix our eyes upon what is truly important.  The simplicity and silence of the beach and the ebb and flow of the tides were a good reminder that Our Lord speaks to us so often in the pure simplicity of everyday life, if and when we are open to listening.  In the hardships and often times resulting simplification of life we are reminded that, 'Where your treasure lies, there also will your heart be.'

Yesterday was the beautiful Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.  How special to be able to honor the ark of the new covenant, who brought Our Savior into the world, through her humble fiat. As the new 'Eve', Blessed Mother was able to reverse the reality of death due to original sin by means of her perfect union with the Divine Will of Our Triune God.  Her Immaculate Conception and birth paved the way for our salvation to later be born into the world.  Like all mothers, our Lady wants us to celebrate as a family to honor the gift of her life, and the lives of all of her children.  This is indeed a great occasion for joy.

In contrast, on this coming Sunday we celebrate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a day forever etched on the memory of all Americans. The sorrow and sense of united purpose and fellowship our nation felt for one another following the attacks was notable. As St. Paul reminds us, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28) Despite our differences, we were focused on our brotherhood and bond as fellow human beings. As we pray for the souls lost on that tragic day, along with their family, friends, and survivors we can remember as Carmelites that love conquers all and the truth sets us free. We are to pray for peace in hearts, homes, and between nations, as well as the conversion of all souls, just as St. Teresa of Avila implored us to do nearly 5 centuries ago.

Perhaps fittingly, just three days following our commemoration of this sorrow, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th and the Feast of the Sorrows of Our Lady on September 15th. How many tears Our Lord and Our Lady shed both then and now for the hatred so rampant in hearts.  Yet, amidst the pain and tears is triumph and resurrection through Our Lord Jesus.  This feast is also known as the Triumph of the Cross. In this lifetime, there is no victory without the cross. Our Lord's arms were stretched out in the form of a "v" while hanging on those two wooden beams suspended between heaven and earth.  Good Friday was in fact our "V" day for the entire human family. 

And so it is today.  Life is full of the ups and downs, victories and defeats. We go from celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, to mourning the loss of a loved one, battling illness, losing a job, and a myriad of other challenges.  We go from the mountaintop of prayer to the seeming abyss of emptiness and spiritual purification.  It is the rhythm of life. It is our story told in so many unique ways and forms.  It is a sign that Our Lord loves us and intends for us to share in the Resurrection that followed His own sorrowful death.  It is where justice and peace kiss.

In a spirit of hope, we move forward, knowing in faith that all will be well. That each heartache within our own lives, that of family and friends, that of our nation, and of the greater world is a dynamic movement towards realizing new life, for He promises us this by reassuring us, "Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21 :5) We need only say yes to the Holy Spirit's movement and opening of our hearts, for a metanoia to take place that leads to an expansion of love within.

In closing, I leave you with this beautiful passage that encompasses the various seasons of life. May you be forever blessed.

Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything
 1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

 9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fr. Augustine-Marie of The Blessed Sacrament, OCD - Return of the Prodigal Son

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today's date is normally associated with the Feast Day of St. Augustine, a great saint and doctor of the Church.  We all know the story of how worldly Augustine was until experiencing conversion due to his mother, St. Monica's, continuous prayers and tears to Our Lord that he might change his life and ways.  It is a wonderful day to examine the lesser known Hermann Cohen, child music prodigy of Europe, who experienced a deep conversion after witnessing a blessing by the priest with the Blessed Sacrament in hand, while he was directing and playing the music.

His conversion is described as follows, "In May, 1847, Prince Moscowa asked Hermann to substitute as choral director for a service at the church of S. Valère (now demolished). At the close of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, (le Salut), when the priest raised the monstrance in blessing Hermann experienced a deep motion, sweet and powerful. Overwhelmed, he felt like the Prodigal Son, totally unworthy and in need to return home. Liszt  had once given him a bible when they were in Geneva. In it the Master had inscribed, "Blessed are the pure of heart." Hermann knew he did not qualify.

The same phenomenon occurred the following week and, even when he was off to Germany for a concert at Ems, Hermann burst into a flood of tears as he attended services in a little country church. Hermann had never known any priest except the Abbé Lamennais and was apprehensive about approaching one. A series of positive experiences, however, eventually led him to Father Theodore Ratisbonne, also a Jew, who would become his confidant and confessor.

At his baptism on August 28, 1847, Hermann experienced what he called an "apparition" of Christ, Mary, and the saints in a "brilliant light" and an "ecstasy of love."  By November of that year he had already resolved to become a priest. Before he could undertake this whirlwind venture, however, it was necessary to wipe out the considerable gambling debts he had acquired. It took him two years of teaching at the Collège Stanislas and private lessons with young ladies who were not at all happy at his turn from the world. During this time he lived in modest quarters and spent hours in prayer with young men who shared his enthusiasm. Once during this period he chanced to meet George Sand who formerly had lavished such affection on him. She turned away in disgust, "Get lost! You’re nothing but a vile monk."   (see

He would in fact become instrumental in restoring the Discalced Carmelite Order in England and establishing perpetual Adoration. He was even known to have been cured of an eye disease at Lourdes and to have assisted at one of the earliest Masses said there.

In closing, Fr. Augustine-Marie of the Blessed Sacrament is another more recent example of how Our Lord can turn the stoniest hearts into natural ones filled with holiness through His grace and the prayers of others. What hope this is to all of us as we continue our spiritual journeys!  I will leave you with these quotes about him. Enjoy!

Fr. Hermann was candid about himself. "When you knew me" he said to one of his friends after his conversion, "I was a prey to every sort of intemperate pleasure-seeking, irregularity and excess". He recognized that after baptism he remained eager, domineering and inclined to exaggeration, but little by little his character was modified and transformed by divine grace. Gentleness and kindly indulgence took the place of eagerness and severity. As his biographer observed: "He concurred generously and constantly with the action of divine grace until the hour when God, finding him purified and sanctified according to his will called his faithful servant to his reward".
Of himself Fr. Hermann said:
"I have a certain power of initiative, a certain vigor in overcoming obstacles, in short, the requisites, aided by divine grace, for the organization of works; then, scarcely are they set on foot, than Our Lord sends me away to a distance from them. ‘Leave to others’ he seems to say to me ‘the care of their development, the pleasure of gathering in their fruit; you, leave Lyons, Bagnères, London and set yourself to some new task’. And thus you see how, in spite of my conversion, I am always the Wandering Jew".
"I am detached from everything, even from my own works and I daily tell Our Lord that I am completely indifferent either to their success or their ruin. I put all into his hands and have regard only to his good pleasure".

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bernini's St. Teresa in Ecstasy

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Happy Feast Day of the Transverberation of St. Teresa of Avila's Heart! 

SETTING - Bernini is praised for his synthesis of sculpture, painting, and architecture. The church was extended so that a hidden window could be added to cast light upon the sculpture, as if from the Holy Spirit. Cherubs painted on the entrance arch bear a banner inscribed with the words Jesus spoke in one of Teresa's visions: "If I had not created heaven, I would create it for you alone."
ANGEL - "He was not tall, but short, and very beautiful," related Teresa of her vision, "his face so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angel who seem to be all afire."
SWOON - Bernini brings all the passion and rapture of Teresa's story to represent, perhaps for the first time, the now-immortalized image of a swoon: head thrown back, eyelids half-closed, mouth slightly open as she moans in ecstasy.
GARMENTS - Teresa is covered in monastic habit, yet through Bernini's genius, the heavy garments reveal rather than conceal Teresa's internal state.
FOOT - Her dangling bare foot is emblematic of the Discalced ("Shoeless") Carmelites, the reformed religious order Teresa founded (from Matthew 10:10, "no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick").
CLOUDS - In translating Teresa's mystical vision into stone, Bernini first captured Teresa's reports of levitation by having her borne on a bank of marble clouds. (The clouds are hollow, to decrease the weight of the wall-mounted sculpture.)

As inspiration for his 1652 sculpture Saint Teresa in Ecstasy, Gianlorenzo Bernini kept returning to one passage in the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila:

It pleased our Lord that I would sometimes see this vision: very close to me, on my left, an angel appeared in human form... In his hands I saw a golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it, and he left me utterly consumed by the great love of God.

"The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish it to cease, nor will one's soul be content with anything less than God."

The Catholic church has celebrated the sculpture, which is captioned "Mother of Spirituality" and widely praised as a religious masterpiece. Its presence in the transept of Santa Maria Della Vittoria church in Rome has made the church one of the city's most popular sites for weddings.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Continued: Fr. Doug's August Homily

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Friends in Carmel-

It has taken a few days to get back to my intention of writing down the homilies preached by Fr. Doug this summer.  Before fulfilling this, I want to express my sincerest hopes that everyone is enjoying a holy feast day for Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified, whom the Church honors today. Our 'Little Arab' is the one who founded the Carmel in Bethlehem that we are closely connected with.  She was known for many supernatural gifts, and a special understanding of the Holy Spirit. She also bore the wounds of Christ.  Despite the rich gifts and suffering bestowed upon her, she was truly a daughter of Carmel, seeking union with Our Triune God in love and simplicity.  Such is seen in the following little prayer of hers, "O fraternal charity, O humility, be water to wash me, be light to instruct me. O simplicity, be bread to nourish me."

Tomorrow we will celebrate the Transverberation of the Heart of St. Teresa of Jesus. Let us ask our holy Foundress to intercede before the Throne of God, that we may grow in faith, hope, and charity to be completely united to His Divine Will as she was. Amen.

Now, to this beautiful homily we heard on Saturday. Fr. Doug's homily was inspired, in part, by the anniversary of the death of six Buddhist monks, a nun and two young students in their temple which tragically occurred some 20 years agoFr. Doug pointed out that we are of course Christians and cannot embrace many of the tenets taught in Buddhism.  Nonetheless, we are allowed to 'strain out the truth in a religion' and use those kernels of truth according to the teachings of Blessed Pope John Paul II.  

Fr. Doug first focused on our relationship with the natural world.  In our modern age, we have a very utilitarian relationship with nature, with God's creation.  Before science, man was attached to nature and recognized the fingerprint of God in all of his natural surroundings. In Scripture we are reminded of the goodness of God's creation, and how nature can partake in our personal lives and be used as a comfort, a warning, or a blessing.  For example, Elijah was fed by the ravens. Buddhism recognizes that all of the natural world is interconnected. 

How do we experience God?

Fr. Doug proceeded to share with us a story about his recent interaction with a little lizard while visiting breath-taking Sedona and waiting on a bench. Instead of ignoring the little reptile, he started to watch it intently and was amazed at how adept the lizard was in finding the cold spots on the concrete when he heard people coming and was seeking shelter and safety. After talking to this lizard and seeing it begin to approach him on the bench, Fr. Doug felt connected to this living creature and recognized God's presence in this amazing little scenario.  The lizard blended with the shade and all was peaceful.

St. Francis recognized the touches of God in nature. The story is told as follows: One cold day in very early Spring, the saint was standing in front of an almond tree. The tree was still dormant and leafless from the long Winter. St. Francis gave a command: "Almond tree, speak to me of God"! According to the story, the almond tree immediately burst into full bloom. (See

In this story, God made something beautiful that was once cold and dark. He can do the same with us. Now, Thomas Merton and a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh wrote on commonalities of Christian and Buddhist meditation/prayer.  The first thing a Buddhist will do is attempt to unite the mind and body. This is done by focusing on one's breathing first. You must place yourself in the place where you are at in the present moment.  Once you have slowed your breathing, you are able to unite your mind and heart together. Suffering (physical, spiritual, or emotional) can lessen and pain and anxiety decrease.   St. Therese lived always in the present moment, because she knew that one cannot fix the past or the future.

This initial focus on breathing, and then uniting the mind and heart is used in the Jesus Prayer.  This method of prayer is often used in the Orthodox or Eastern Rite tradition. (See

The Greek Orthodox Church shares this on its website as follows:

The anonymous author of The Way of the Pilgrim reports that the Jesus Prayer has two very concrete effects upon his vision of the world. First, it transfigures his relation ship with the material creation around him; the world becomes transparent, a sign, a means of communicating God's presence. He writes:
"When I prayed in my heart, everything around me seemed delightful and marvelous. The trees, the grass, the birds, the air, the light seemed to be telling me that they existed for man's sake, that they witnessed to the love of God for man, that all things prayed to God and sang his praise."
Second, the Prayer transfigures his relationship to his fellow human beings. His relationships are given form within their proper context: the forgiveness and compassion of the crucified and risen Lord.

As Fr. Doug reminded us, we must focus on compassion and on love who is God Himself.  The Holy Spirit dwells in creation because without His Spirit nothing lives. He is everywhere.  We can slow ourselves down for prayer by doing the following:

Breathing in say, 'I calm myself'.
Breathing out say, 'I smile.'

In closing, Fr. Doug mentioned that St. John of the Cross learned a lesson from a frog. A humble lay sister, Catalina de la Cruz, once asked him: "Why when I go to the garden do the frogs jump in the water?" Quickly seizing an opportunity to draw out a spiritual lesson, John replied that it was because they felt safe in the depth of the pool and "that is what you must do, flee from creatures and hide yourself in God."

There are so many lessons we can learn from our natural surroundings which are a part of God's creation. May we keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open for Our Lord's promptings from them. Amen.