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.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fr. Doug Lorig's Summer Homilies for OCDS

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones-

It is always joyful to come together in community to celebrate our call to Carmel, to share our journey of faith, and most especially to pray together in meditation/contemplation and Holy Mass. As always, we are richly blessed with the wisdom, prayer, and experience of our Spiritual Assistant, Fr. Doug Lorig, ocds. I have been wanting to post his most recent homilies for some time, so I thought I would post the ones that Fr. Doug gave us during our Masses of June, July, and August as a community. These are based upon my own notes, so if there are any gaps, holes, or incorrect statements that I misunderstood I take full responsibility!

June: "It is What it is..."

It  is natural for life to destabilize. Despite this, we are called to be a joy-filled people. Jesus says, "Don't worry. Be happy!"

What do we do when no grace is coming and one is placed in complete darkness?

1. A zealous person is one who is intensely seeking God above all else. This person will face trials and withstand them. S/he will face spiritual death.  How firmly we stand will be measured. When we are transformed during this death it is a gift.  We must face this death in order to prove our love and desire for God. If we are not shaken, our faith will overcome this death.  
God initiates this and has His purpose in this. Are we going to walk away?

2. Other tragedies: a. Health, job, financial crisis: where is your faith? You must deal with this emotionally. b. Death in the family- esp. parents or a child. c.  Cultural disappointments

3 pieces to get you through and pull yourself together:

1. Acceptance: Accept the fact that it happened. Don't go crying, 'Why me?' It is what it is. We must ask for determination and perseverance.

2. Pray: We can vocally pray, "Help me to walk through this crisis, Lord."

3. Do what reason dictates: Accept what sounds judgement tells you to do.  Pray about this. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will lead to an unexpected and seemingly illogical direction. Always do what He tells you and what you discern.

4. Keep spiritual goals simple. If it is too difficult you will become discouraged, and it will result in sadness, depression, or spiritual rebellion.

July 16, 2011 Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Fr. Doug noted that our community has been praying the Rosary of Our Lady of Sorrows for the summer. Although this is a great feast within our order, he wants us to focus on Our Lady's sorrows and has three more to add:

8th Sorrow: The Great Schism: Division due to pride and power. In 1054 the official split occurred between East and West.  3 demands were made by Rome.  All were to be excommunicated for three different reasons:

1. change in Creed regarding the Holy Spirit
2. No married priests
3. No yeast in the bread

Here is a bit of background: The Great Schism of 1054 was the split between the Eastern and Western Christian Churches. In 1054, relations between the Greek speaking Eastern of the Byzantine empire and the Latin speaking Western traditions within the Christian Church reached a terminal crisis. This crisis led to the separation between the Eastern and Western churches and is referred to as the Great Schism of 1054. The Christian Church split along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographic lines. The split, the Great Schism of 1054, led to the development of the modern Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

9th Sorrow: Jansenism: redefines God and is a direct lie stating that God can't stand the sight of you and most are predestined to eternal damnation. St. Therese presented the antithesis of this and eternal truth of God's Divine Love by saying, "He loves you to madness."

10th Sorrow: Ethnic divisions throughout the world.  There was a weeping icon of Our Lady in Chicago. The Bishop went to visit alone and asked why She was crying. She responded that it is due to the fact that all these different ethnic groups call her 'Mother' and yet kill each other. The divisions between tribe, language, etc. are bringing death, hatred and destruction amongst her children. (See and

Fr. Doug concluded by stating, 'Only love climbs Mt. Carmel.' then all divisions disappear.

I will post our August homily from yesterday soon.

Peace and Love,

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pope Benedict: Blessed Mother- Exemplar of Meditation & Contemplation

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Carmelites-

Our Holy Father is now in Madrid, Spain to join with millions of youth from around the world in prayer and solidarity for the faith.  Before leaving, he gave a beautiful address on prayer which I would like to post below. He affirms that Our Lady is the perfect model of prayer that all Catholics, most especially us as Carmelites, seek to emulate.  While we are sandwiched between the Feasts of the Assumption/Dormition (August 15th) and the Coronation of Our Lady (August 22nd), this is a perfect time to continue to reflect on how Our Heavenly Mother can assist us in our prayer life.

On the Prayer of Meditation
"Consistency in Giving Time to God Is a Fundamental Element for Spiritual Growth"
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 17, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are still in the light of the Feast of the Assumption, which -- as I said -- is a feast of hope. Mary has arrived in heaven, and this is our destination: We can all reach heaven. The question is: How.
Mary has arrived there, and she it is -- the Gospel says -- "who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45). Therefore, Mary believed; she entrusted herself to God; she entered with her own [will] into the Lord's will, and thus it was that she truly took the most direct route on the road to heaven. To believe, to entrust oneself to the Lord, to enter into His will: This is the essential course.

Today, I do not wish to speak about the whole journey of faith, but only about a small aspect of the life of prayer, which is a life of contact with God; namely, about meditation. And what is meditation? It means to "remember" all that God has done and not to forget all his benefits (cf. Psalm 103:2b). Often, we see only the negative things. We also need to hold in our memory the good things, the gifts that God has given us; we need to be attentive to the positive signs that come from God, and remember these. Therefore, we are speaking about a kind of prayer that the Christian tradition calls "mental prayer." We are more familiar with vocal prayer, and naturally the mind and heart must also be present in this prayer, but today we are speaking about a meditation that does not involve words, but that is rather a making contact of our mind with the heart of God.

And here Mary is a true model. The Evangelist Luke repeats numerous times that Mary, for her part, "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (2:19; cf. 2:51). She keeps them; she does not forget. She is attentive to all that the Lord has said and done to her, and she ponders; that is, she makes contact with diverse things -- she dwells deeply upon them in her heart.
She, therefore, who "believed" the announcement of the angel and became an instrument so that the Eternal Word of the Most High might become incarnate, also welcomed in her heart the wonderful miracle of the human-divine birth; she pondered it, she dwelt deeply upon all that God was doing in her, so that she might welcome the divine will in her life and conform to it. The mystery of the incarnation of God's Son, and of the maternity of Mary, is so great [a mystery] that it requires a process of interiorization. It is not only something physical that God accomplishes in her; rather, it is something that demands an interiorization from Mary, who seeks to understand it more deeply, seeks to interpret its meaning, to understand its implications. Thus, day after day, in the silence of ordinary life, Mary continued to keep in her heart the subsequent wondrous events she witnessed, even to the extreme trial of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. Mary fully lived her existence, her daily duties, her mission as mother, but she knew how to preserve within herself an interior space for reflection on the word and the will of God, on all that was happening in her, on the mysteries of the life of her Son.
In our own time, we are absorbed with so many activities and commitments, concerns and problems. Often, we tend to fill up all the spaces of the day, without having a moment to stop and reflect and to nourish our spiritual life -- our contact with God. Mary teaches us how necessary it is to find in our days -- with all its activities -- moments to recollect ourselves in silence and to ponder all that the Lord wants to teach us, how He is present and acts in the world and in our life: to be able to stop for a moment and meditate. St. Augustine likens meditation on the mysteries of God to the assimilation of food, and he uses a word that recurs throughout the Christian tradition: "ruminate." The mysteries of God should continually resound within us so that they might become familiar to us, guide our life, and nourish us as happens with the food that is necessary to sustain us. And St. Bonaventure, referring to the words of sacred Scripture, says that they "should always be ruminated on so as to be kept in mind by the ardent application of the soul" (Coll. In Hex, ed. Quaracchi 1934, p. 218).

To meditate therefore means to create within ourselves an atmosphere of recollection, of interior silence, so as to reflect upon and assimilate the mysteries of our faith, and all that God is doing in us -- and not only the things that come and go. We can "ruminate" in many ways; for instance, by taking a short passage of sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostle's Letters, or a page from a spiritual author we are drawn to and which makes the reality of God in our today more present, perhaps taking advice from a confessor or spiritual director; by reading and reflecting on what we've just read, pausing to consider it, seeking to understand it, to understand what it says to me, what it says today -- to open our soul to all that the Lord wants to say to us and teach us.

The holy rosary is also a prayer of meditation: In repeating the Hail Mary we are invited to think back and to reflect upon the mystery we have announced. But we can also dwell upon some intense spiritual experience, on the words that have remained with us from our participation in the Sunday Eucharist. You see, therefore, there are many ways of meditating and of thereby making contact with God -- of drawing near to God, and in this way, of being on the road to heaven.

Dear friends, consistency in giving time to God is a fundamental element for spiritual growth; it will be the Lord Himself who gives us a taste for His mysteries, His words, His presence and action, to feel how beautiful it is when God speaks with us. He will make us understand in a more profound way what He wants of us. In the end, this is the goal of our meditation: to entrust ourselves ever more to the hands of God, with trust and love, certain that, in the end, it is only in doing His will that we are truly happy.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Apostle of the Immaculata

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones-

How wonderful it is when a modern-day saint reveals through the Holy Spirit truths and practices for our times. St. Maximilian Kolbe is such a saint, who presents a Marian means of living out our Catholic and Carmelite calling to be united to Our Triune God, through complete consecration to Our Blessed Mother, the Immaculata.  As a brief overview, St. Maximilian Kolbe was born in 1894 in Poland and became a Franciscan. He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. Before his ordination as a priest, he founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady. After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled "The Knight of the Immaculata" and helped form, a community of 800 men, the largest in the world.

Kolbe's life was strongly influenced by a childhood vision of the Virgin Mary that he later described as follows:

"That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both."
In one of his conferences, St. Maximilian gave the following reason for such a consecration of everything that we have, possess, and are interiorly and exteriorly.  "If anyone wishes to contact a President, for instance, or some other high worldly dignitary, he does not go about it by himself; he takes an intermediary with him. The same can be true when we approach God; let it always be with Mary and through Mary. The saints who became holy most rapidly are the ones who were very zealous in glorifying Mary.  We who, compared to them, are so much poorer spiritually, should always take Mary with us on the road to perfection."

As Carmelites, we already wear the Brown Scapular as a means of showing our fidelity and coat of arms or flag for Our Lady. She is our Queen and we are Her children who revere Her, belong to Her, and ask for Her guidance and intercession to be pleasing to Our Beloved Jesus.  St. Maximilian spells out Our Lady's role as mediatrix, coredemptrix, and distributrix of all graces. In a private letter to one of His brothers, he shares the following, "The union between the Immaculata and the Holy Spirit is so inexpressible, yet so perfect, that the Holy Spirit acts only by the Most Blessed Virgin, his Spouse.  This is why she is the Mediatrix of all grace given by the Holy Spirit. And since every grace is a gift of God the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit it follows that there is no grace which Mary cannot dispose of as her own, which is not given to her for this purpose." (Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit: The Marian Teachings of St. Maximilian Kolbe: by Fr. H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, OP)

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity perfectly exemplifies this consecration to Our Lady in a very Carmelite context.  She consecrated her entire life and vocation to Blessed Mother. She writes, "On each of Mary's feast days, I renew my consecration to this good Mother. And so I have entrusted myself to her today, and have thrown myself once more into her arms. I have placed my future and my vocation in her care with the most complete confidence." She viewed Mary's whole being as drawn within, and as a perfect illustration of what Carmelites are called to emulate.  She united herself to the 'soul of the Virgin at the moment in which the Father was covering her with His shadow, while the Word was taking flesh within her and the Holy Spirit came upon her to accomplish the great mystery. It is the entire Trinity in action, yielding itself, giving itself; and is it not in these divine embraces that the Carmelite's life has to unfold.'

Bl. Elizabeth referred to Our Lady as Juana Coeli or 'heaven's gate' , and sought to imitate Christ by first reproducing Mary. As such, she placed everything in Her hands.  What a beautiful means of consecrating herself totally to Our Lady in a very personal and unique way according to God's workings in her individual soul. We can do the same. With Blessed Elizabeth let us pray,

"Mary, O tender Mother, I place myself in Your care,
Hear my prayer,
Bless my resolutions. (May, 1894)

(See The Spirit and Message of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, by Fr. Michael Gaughran, SSC for quotes from Bl. Elizabeth)

With St. Maximilian Kolbe let us pray,

O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to thee. I, N___, a repentant sinner, cast myself at thy feet humbly imploring thee to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to thyself as thy possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases thee. If it pleases thee, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of thee: "She will crush your head," and, "Thou alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world."

Let me be a fit instrument in thine Immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed Kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever thou enters, one obtains the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through thy hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

V. Allow me to praise thee O Sacred Virgin.
R. Give me strength against thy enemies.


Friday, August 12, 2011

World Youth Day Patron Saints

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Carmelite Brothers and Sisters-

As eyes turn towards the events ready to unfold in Madrid, Spain for World Youth Day early next week, it is with interest that we note that two of the nine patron saints for the event are Discalced Carmelites, and two others closely linked.  These patron saints are as follows:

The official website for World Youth Day gives the biographical sketches of our Carmelite saints as follows:

St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) Baptismal Name: John de Yepes
Birth: June 24, 1542, Fontiveros, Spain
Feast Day: December 14th
Title in the Church: Doctor of Mystical Theology
Known for: reforming the male branch of the Discalced Carmelites,
Relationship to a saint: spiritual son of and spiritual director to St. Teresa of Avila
Main works: The Ascent of Mt. Carmel, The Dark Night, The Living Flame of Love, The Spiritual Canticle
Patron Saint of: contemplative life, mystical theology, mystics and Spanish poets
Imitate the saint: Reach union of God through prayer, don't settle for mediocrity, cling to God in the face of persecution and never back down, turn every suffering into an opportunity to grow in holiness, don't be afraid of the tasks entrusted to you, trust in the guidance of Our Blessed Mother.
Did you know? St. John of the Cross was taken prisoner by his own brothers in the very order he was working to reform in December 4, 1577. He was taken to an ancient monastery in Toledo where he kept silent under the false accusations, deprived of celebrating Mass, tortured and beaten by his fellow friars. At the night of August 16, 1578, by the inspiration and guidance of Our Blessed Mother, he made an incredible escape from the monastery and found refuge in the convent of St. Teresa of Avila.

St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
Baptismal Name: Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada
Birth: March 28th, 1515; Avila, Spain
Feast Day: October 15th
Title in the Church: Doctor of Prayer (first woman proclaimed as a Doctor of the Church)
Known for: Her reform of the Carmelite order, founding 15 monasteries of Discalced Carmelites; lived an intense mystical life
Patron Saint of: writers
Relationship to a saint: spiritually directed by St. John of the Cross, who continued her reform in the male branch.
Main works: Her autobiography, The Interior Castle, The Way of Perfection
Imitate the saint: Center your life on prayer, give your heart to the Lord, live humility by standing in the truth about yourself, strive to practice the virtues in every moment
Did you know? When she was young, her and her brother Rodrigo liked to read the lives of the saints. They were fascinated by the fact that they would go directly to heaven after they died. It seemed to them that "they paid a really cheap price for going to rejoice in God". In this way, they decided to go to the land of the Moors (the mortal enemies of the Christians) in order to become martyrs.

Through various writings of Blessed JPII, we know he was a Discalced Carmelite at heart and even sought to continue his studies for the priesthood with them, but was advised to finish what he had started and become a diocesan priest.   His thesis paper was on St. John of the Cross and he was a tertiary member of the Discalced Carmelites.  

It is with interest that I read about St. John of Avila as well:

St. John of Avila (1500-1569)
St. John of Avila

Birth: January 6, 1500; Almodóvar del Campo, near Toledo, Spain
Feast Day: May 10th
Known for: celebrating Mass with great devotion, tremendous gift of preaching, encouraging frequent communion, efforts to reform the lay state and the clergy, apostolic and social works, wise spiritual council, charity, prudence and discretion.
Patron Saint of: Spanish secular clergy
Relationship to a saint: St. Teresa of Avila, Saint John of God, Saint Francis Borgia, Venerable Louis of Granada were among the disciples attracted by his preaching and saintly reputation.
Main works: Audi Fili and Spiritual Letters
Imitate the saint: cultivate a profound love for Jesus in the Eucharist, be a reformer of your day where there is a need, take your spiritual formation seriously, preach and live the truth even though you may be persecuted for it.
Did you know? In Salamanca, St. John became very close with the Society of Jesus. He guided many of the Jesuits, studied with them, wanted to transfer schools, and helped the order when it was experiencing many difficulties in Salamanca. Seeing the union between St. John and the Jesuits, St. Ignatius desired that he join the order. Though God's providence and St. John's sickness prevented this from happening, he continued to help the Jesuits tremendously. Much of the Jesuit expansion in Spain is attributed to St. John.

We know how many youthful blesseds and saints our order has produced with the likes of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of the Andes, Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, and St. Teresa Margaret (Redi) of the Sacred Heart.  How important it is in our day to pray for our young people that they may embrace the holiness that Our Lord has set out before them and to recognize that He has a plan for them.  Let's pray for all those gathered in the next few days to come for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and most especially that many young men may hear the call to the priesthood according to Our Lord's Divine Will, and young woman may respond to the call to religious life. Amen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Edith Stein tells us to be brave

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones-

Today is the feast day of a great saint of our times, Blessed Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, or Edith Stein.  This holy Jewish convert was a great intellectual in her day. I have a great aunt whose family (the Briefs) were academics during the Nazi Germany era and had to escape through Europe.  Her mother founded an all-girls school where Edith Stein attended. I asked her about this one time, and all she could tell me was 'Well, she was absolutely brilliant." 

It is a beautiful thing when we see someone of such gifted intellect who allows God to work through his or her heart.  This was precisely what happened to Edith Stein when she read Teresa of Avila's autobiography (Life).  As a former devout Jew turned atheist, she recognized the truth and embraced it without delay. She allowed this revelation to completely shape the course of her life and the movement of Divine Providence to mold and lead her.  After entering the Carmelite convent in Cologne and using her gifts of teaching and writing, she would eventually be asked to give her very life alongside her sister Rosa at the concentration camp at Auschwitz. 

What does Bl. Teresa teach us during these days of economic, environmental and political upheaval and uncertainty? Perhaps we find ourselves living with deep personal uncertainties and turmoil due to familial issues, health problems, unemployment, or any myriad of other burdens.  I believe her message is loud and clear: 'Be not afraid. Be brave and courageous, and walk with the Lord wherever He leads you.' I think this is what she would tell us today, echoing the words that Jesus gently spoke so many times in the Gospel.  What a perfect First Reading we had today to encourage this very same spirit of trust and faith in God.  We read,

"Then Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel
said to him, 'Be brave and steadfast, for you must bring this people into the land
which the LORD swore to their fathers he would give them;
you must put them in possession of their heritage.
It is the LORD who marches before you;
he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you.
So do not fear or be dismayed." (Dt 7-8)

We can know that no matter the circumstance, the seeming impossibility of a given situation, the rugged road that we must climb, we are not alone. Ever. We let our lives unfold minute by minute, step by step and He is with us, along with Our Lovely Mother Mary, the angels, and saints. The Holy Souls in purgatory even pray for us! 

Let us be brave, my dear brothers and sisters. We are loved and God has a plan. He is much bigger than all of us and our various challenges. In closing, we embrace the hopeful words of St. Paul that, "I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love." (Rom 8:38) Clearly, Edith Stein knew this in her heart and now rests with Our Triune God joyfully in her eternal reward. May she intercede for us and all of our needs, especially to receive the gift of courage. Amen.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Spiritual Motherhood for Priests

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

There is many a day that I wish that time would stand still in order that I could accomplish the multiple things on the 'to do' list.  And so here I am the day following the Feast Day of St. John Vianney, Patron Saint of Parish Priests, wanting to share just a few brief thoughts about this beautiful vocation.  Better late than never, right?  As Carmelites, each day is a day to think of and pray for priests. We embrace the call of St. Teresa of Avila to pray fervently for priests, that they may grow in sanctity and grace in order that their flock may follow in their footsteps.  Indeed, the priesthood is so very sublime, as it calls an ordinary man to become a spiritual father to those entrusted to his care; to act 'in persona Christi' when offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as well as the other sacraments, and when preaching the Word of God. 

For this, we can have no doubt of the need for a generous outpouring of prayer and sacrifices for our beloved priests who have accepted this call from God.  The numerous challeges of the present-day need not be listed here, as we are all aware that the priesthood is under attack on many levels.  Like St. Therese, we recognize that there are both good priests, as well as those who have much work to do.  We humbly plead for their souls that they who are called to lay down their lives may imitate the way of the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, and snuggle up close to the Virgin Mary under Her mantle and within Her Immaculate Heart. 

A beautiful means of praying for our priests is to become a spritual mother for priests.  This is certainly not to exclude men who may feel a calling to pray for a particular priest.  There is no doubt of the enormous impact that holy lay men and fathers have had and continue to have upon priests.  Spiritual motherhood is a very maternal, loving means of holding either one particular priest or a few up in prayer for one's lifetime.  The Holy Spirit should be listened to for this call. 

A wonderful paper that reveals this beautiful apostolate is known as Congregatio pro Clerics.  It describes the importance of this in the following way, "Spiritual maternity is a particular grace of the Holy Spirit by which a woman surrenders herself, body and soul, to the fruitful love of Christ, for the sake of His Bride the Church and for the glory of the Father, so that, through her offering, the particular priest entrusted to her, and all priests, may be purified, healed, and sanctified." It also adds that "This spiritual motherhood can be lived in any state of life; it is open to single women, married women, mothers of families, widows, grandmothers, and religious in both the active and enclosed forms of consecrated life. None of its obligations bind under pain of sin. The vocation to the spiritual motherhood of priests is also compatible with the spirituality and obligations of Benedictine Oblates and of those who belong to one or aother of the Third Orders: Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, Servite, etc."  (See and
Let us pray about what Our Lord's Divine Will might be in this regard, and humbly ask  Blessed Mother to show us how to become a spiritual mother filled with humility, love, compassion, and mercy for all, especially our priests. Amen.