Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Good Shepherd - Laying His Life Down for His Sheep

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Carmel-

I hope all of you are enjoying a day of rest and allowing the imagery of the Good Shepherd that we heard in today's Gospel reading to permeate your souls.  Indeed, we have a Good Shepherd who loves his flock so intensely that not only does he protects and hear his sheep, but he goes after His lost ones and even lays down his life for each and every one of us. Every soul is that dear to Him.  If we think of what the shepherds signified in the days of Christ, especially at His birth, we see that they were the lowly, humble ones who listened. They had ears to hear and were the only ones open enough (other than the Magi), to hear the angels proclaiming the glory of God and to recognize who was in their midst.  St. Teresa of Avila captures this imagery in a poem entitled Shepherd, Shepherd, Hark that Calling.

Shepherd, shepherd, hark that calling!
Angels they are and the day is dawning.
What is this ding-dong,
Or loud singing is it?
Come Bras, now the day is here.
The shepherdess we'll visit.
Shepherd, shepherd hark that calling!
Angels they are and the day is dawning.
O, is this the Alcade's daughter,
Or some lady come from far?
She is daughter of God the Father,
And she shines like a star.
Shepherd, shepherd, hark that calling!
Angels they are and the day is dawning

Shepherds are humble, cultivate silence and solitude, and listen.  They are protective of their flock.  Our Lord Jesus is the ultimate shepherd who laid down his life for His sheep. He has also appointed shepherds in His Church to watch over the flock and ensure their safety and that they follow the narrow way that leads to eternal life. That is an integral part of our Carmelite charism- to pray for all priests and  bishops, our shepherds here on earth.

St. John of the Cross wrote a beautiful poem speaking of our Lord as a youthful shepherd who pines for his beloved. He is thirsting for the one he loves, and yet finds himself alone, and eventually dying for his loved one. Such is the love of Our Lord for each individual soul, as well as the Church universal.  I hope you enjoy this and have time to meditate on how Our Lord continues to thirst for union with you, and to call you not only to his flock, but to shepherd your soul closely and intimately with Him.

 The Youthful Shepherd

A youthful shepherd, wandering and feeling

far from his heart's content, goes sad and lonely,

his thoughts on one he loves, and for her only

his breast pierced by love's wound, deep and unhealing.

He weeps-not for the blows that love keeps dealing—

no, he has no regrets for the affliction

that tears him so: he weeps for his eviction

from her remembrance. How his heart is reeling
to know that she forgets him who is kneeling

before her! Just to think she has refused him

sends him afar, where strangers have abused him,

his breast pierced by love's wound, deep and unhealing.

He cries, “Unlucky she, forever steeling

herself against my love, she who retires

when I approach, frustrating my desires,

my breast pierced by love's wound, deep and unhealing!”

See him there where, at last, himself revealing

on a tree's branches, by fair arms extended,

he clings aloft, although his life has ended,

his breast pierced by love's wound, deep and unhealing. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Monday Chrism Mass

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
What a grace-filled event it was to be able to join so many others to celebrate Chrism Mass at St. Simon and Jude Cathedral last evening.  In union with Bishop Olmstead and Auxiliary Bishop Navarres, all the priests of the diocese gathered to renew their vows at the altar.  What a moving moment this was, especially as a member of the Discalced Carmelite order whose primary focus is to pray for priests and souls, to see such an affirmation of priestly dedication and recommitment to their vocation. 

Now is the time when our priests need our prayers more than ever. In the face of many challenges and temptations in the secular and political realms, priests need a double portion of courage and fortitude from the Holy Spirit.  Bishop Olmstead reminded them that their primary focuses must be on prayer and the healing sacrament of Confession. This is true for themselves and their flocks.  It is tempting in all of our lives to only engage in action and be 'productive' in the eyes of the world. Yet we know that as soon as we falter in our daily prayer life, we begin to see the many limitations of our well conceived ideas and plans.  We can do nothing without Our Lord, and we are limited in discernment if we do not have that quiet time to meditate and be in communion with Our loving God. Even if His presence seems elusive to us, He is with us and leads and guides us when we make ourselves available.

We know that priests must lead their flocks first by example. What a blessing that we have so many holy priests in our midst. For those who are not living up to their priestly vocation or have fallen (as all humans do), we join with St. Therese in our dedication to, "We pray, we suffer for them..., do you understand the cry of my heart? -Convent letter, cited by Cardinal Cordes, in Why Priests? pg 55.

As Discalced Carmelites we are to be spiritual brothers and sister, mothers and fathers to our brother priests. We are not called to criticize, but instead to sacrifice for them, to encourage them, and pray for them. How many graces and blessings have come to me through the hands of the priests! Most especially in the Most Holy Eucharist and absolution in the confessional. Where would I be in relation to Our Lord without them?

Let us join together in prayer for our priests, that this Holy Week and Easter may be a time of renewal in mind, body, soul, and spirit for them. We pray that they may imitate the life of Our Lord, the Eternal High Priest, and that of Our Lady, exemplar of holiness, prayer, and humility.  Let us ask that the healing oils of chrism be experienced by all the new members of our Church, the ill and the dying. Let us pray that we can receive the spiritual graces of this healing oil that we may have purity of heart. Amen.

Prayer for Priests

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Place your priests within the chamber

Of your Most Sacred Heart

Where they may hear the palpitations

Of your divine love,

And operate solely in union

With your divine heartbeats

May they give their fiat to your call

to love without counting the cost.

May they recognize

Your divine will and carry it out.

May they be covered in your Most Precious Blood

Within the confines of your heart in protection and provision.

May they be consumed in the sweetness of your Eucharistic heart,

So that your heart may replace theirs, and

They may become more perfectly our shepherds of divine love,

Leading their flock in truth and light, and

Feeding them with your pure spiritual milk.