Friday, November 30, 2012

Preparing Our Hearts for Advent

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

It is hard to believe that we are celebrating St. Andrew the Apostle's Feast Day, and that Advent begins in just two more days!  The desire always stirs in my heart for  simplicity, quiet, and solitude during this holy season. Yet, I find that I have to fight for this and carve out time for the prayer, preparation and quietude that Advent requires to truly allow a deepening of the Christ Child to snuggle and attach to the womb of my soul.

Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote a compelling letter on November 29, 1905 to one of her spiritual directors, Abbe Chevignard, about the Carmelite approach towards Advent.  She writes,

The holy time of Advent is here; it seems to me that is is very especially the season of interior souls, those who live unceasingly and through everything wholly 'hidden with Christ in God" at the center of themselves. In expectation of the great mystery, I love to go deeply into that beautiful psalm XVIII, which we often say at Matins, and particularly these verses: "There he has placed his tent in the sun, and this star comes forth like a bridegroom coming from his bed, rejoices like a champion to run its course. At the end of the sky is the rising of the sun; to the furthest end of the sky is its course; nothing is concealed from its burning heat." Let us empty our soul so He can come forth in it and communicate the eternal life that is its own; the Father has given Him "power over the flesh" for that purpose, as we are told in the Gospel. And then, in the silence of prayer, let us listen to Him, for He is the 'Source' who speaks within us and who has said, "He who sent me is true, and I tell all I have heard from Him. " Let us ask Him to make us true in our love, to make us sacrificial beings, for it seems to me that sacrifice is only love put into action: "He loved me, He gave Himself for me." I love this thought, that the life of the priest (and of the Carmelite) is an Advent that prepares for the Incarnation in souls. In one psalm, David sings that "fire goes before the Lord." [Ps 96:3] Isn't fire love? And isn't our mission also to prepare the way of the Lord through our union with Him whom the Apostle calls a "consuming fire"? [Heb12:29] At His touch our soul will become like a flame of love spreading into all the members of the body of Christ, the Church; then we will console the Heart of our Master, who, showing us to the Father, will be able to say: "I am already glorified in them." [Col.1:24]

Help me, Monsieur l'Abbe, I have great need of it, for the more light there is, the more I feel my powerlessness. On Dec. 8th (since you are a high priest), would you consecrate me to the power of His love so I may in truth be "Laudem Gloriae"; I read that in Saint Paul and I understood that it was my vocation, even now in exile while awaiting the eternal Sanctus."  (Letter 250, 11/29/1905 from The Complete Works, Vol Two, Letters from Carmel, Elizabeth of the Trinity)

Like Bl. Elizabeth and St. Andrew, at the outset of Advent we are called to proclaim that "We have found the Messiah." (John 1:40) He is within our hearts if we allow Him room. He is found most especially in His earthly tabernacle, much like the womb of Our Lady who carried Him, in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Let us come and Adore Him. Let us be still and follow Him, and then let us bring others to Him, as St. Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, and as Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity silently did so as well through the power of her prayers made through His Indwelling within her.  Amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Long Live Christ the King!

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Our Carmelite tradition heralds Jesus as Our King and Majesty in many beautiful writings by our saints. St. Teresa depicts Our Lord dwelling in the center of our souls as a mighty King who seeks to unite us to Himself within the interior castle of our hearts. Our King of Glory tirelessly seeks to draw us ever closer to the center of our hearts in prayer where He resides and beckons us to come and sup with Him.  Unlike earthly royalty, Jesus is the gentlest of kings yet his Almighty power in loving us makes it hard to resist His invitation to give Him our whole heart.  Furthermore, St. Teresa knew that our Heavenly Father is also King of Creation and our majesty, and that His Son enables us to approach His throne as one "under this protection you can approach and petition Him, for then His Majesty takes delight in you."   (Sililoquies #7)
St. Teresa stresses that we must not be afraid to approach Christ the King who calls us to Himself in unfailing love and mercy. We must humbly yet courageously respond to His promptings and move ever close to His throne by dying to ourselves and ridding ourselves of all that keeps us from Him.  In the Book of Her Life she writes, 
O  King of Glory and Lord of all kings! How true that Your kingdom...has no end...There is no need for intermediaries with you! Upon beholding Your person one sees immediately that you alone...merit to be called Lord.
Oh my Lord! O my King! Who now would know how to represent your majesty! It's impossible not to see that You in Yourself are a great Emperor, for to behold Your majesty is startling; and the more one beholds along with this majesty, Lord, the more startling it becomes. Nevertheless, we can converse and speak with You as we like, once the first fright and fear in beholding Your Majesty passes; although the fear of offending You becomes greater. But the fear is not one of punishment, for this punishment is considered nothing in comparison with losing you." (Ch. 37)
Let us heed our Foundress, St. Teresa. Let us approach the Lord, Our King, with praise and thanksgiving and without hesitation.  Let us serve Him as His faithful servants. Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fr. Doug's Homily on Bringing About the Kingdom of God

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Enjoy this homily as a source of meditation and as a means of deepening the sense and realization of the Kingdom of God in your life and with all those around you.

May His Peace be with you. Amen.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Celebrating the Indwelling with Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today we celebrate the Memorial of Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, who held a special devotion and understanding of the Most Holy Trinity and His Indwelling within each person's soul. The secret to her sanctity was to let herself be built up into a little house of God, where Christ could dwell within. She wanted her soul to be like a little vase that could be filled up with Him so that she could communicate this living water to her brothers and sister in the Church. In her letters she writes that “In the little sanctuary of my soul, so intimate, I find him at every hour of the day and night; I am never alone: my Christ is there praying in me and I pray with him. My whole practice is to entire within, and lose myself in those who are there! It is so simple. The Divine Adorer is within us, so we have his prayer; let us offer it, commune with it, and pray with his soul. 
This is confirmed when Jesus reveals to us in Holy Scriptures that, "If anyone hears me calling and opens the door I will enter his house and have supper with him and he with me." (Rev. 3:20-21 )

Origen tells us in his notebook on prayer that is read for the Liturgy of the Hours on the Feast of Christ the King and known as 'Your Kingdom Come' that, "The Kingdom of God is within us, for the Word of God is very near, in our mouth and in our heart. Thus it is clear that he who prays for the coming of God’s kingdom prays rightly to have it within himself, that there it might grow and bear fruit and become perfect. For God reigns in each of his holy ones. Anyone who is holy obeys the spiritual laws of God, who dwells in him as in a well-ordered city. The Father is present in the perfect soul, and with him Christ reigns, according to the words: We shall come to him and make our home with him.

Thus the kingdom of God within us, as we continue to make progress, will reach its highest point when the Apostle’s words are fulfilled, and Christ, having subjected all his enemies to himself, will hand over his kingdom to God the Father, that God may be all in all. Therefore, let us pray unceasingly with that disposition of soul which the Word may make divine, saying to our Father who is in heaven: Hallowed be your name; your kingdom come.

Note this too about the kingdom of God. It is not a sharing of justice with iniquity, nor a society of light with darkness, nor a meeting of Christ with Belial. The kingdom of God cannot exist alongside the reign of sin.

Therefore, if we wish God to reign in us, in no way should sin reign in our mortal body; rather we should mortify our members which are upon the earth and bear fruit in the Spirit. There should be in us a kind of spiritual paradise where God may walk and be our sole ruler with his Christ. In us the Lord will sit at the right hand of that spiritual power which we wish to receive. And he will sit there until all his enemies who are within us become his footstool, and every principality, power and virtue in us is cast out.

All this can happen in each one of us, and the last enemy, death, can be destroyed; then Christ will say in us: O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? And so what is corruptible in us must be clothed with holiness and incorruptibility; death will be cast out, and our mortality will be clad with the Father’s immortality, so that, as God reigns in us, we may truly enjoy the blessings of rebirth and resurrection.  (See

Blessed Elizabeth realized the Kingdom of the Three wholly within the little cell of her heart and soul. She understood that we are to cherish our Beloved "whose name is Love" and "dwells within us at every moment of the day and night, and that he asks us to live in company with him." The key is to give our fiat to Our Savior, who is the living water and the source of this unitive love. "Let us be in communion all the time with Jesus who wants to tell us the whole Mystery..He is always at work in our soul; let us be built up by him and may he be the Soul of our soul, the Life of our life, so that we may be able to say with St. Paul, 'For me, to live is Jesus Christ!'  (Your Presence is my Joy, by Conrad de Meester
This all points to the sublime truth that our souls are temples of the Holy Trinity. We must constantly be beckoning Him to come into our abode, in response to His constant invitations to come into His presence in an ever deeper level. We can realize this more readily by by meditating upon Our Lady, who we know became, "a most holy Temple to Our Most High God, who by dwelling in her sanctified the whole creation and made our fallen nature godly." 
In the Akathist prayer we honor Our Blessed Mother by proclaiming, "Extolling your birth-giving, we all praise you as a living temple, O Theotokos. For the Lord whose hand sustains the world, having dwelt in your womb, sanctified and glorified you, and instructed all people to cry to you."
Rejoice, tabernacle of God the Logos;
Rejoice, holy one, holier than the holies.
Rejoice, ark that was gilt by the Spirit;
Rejoice, inexhaustible treasure of life.
Rejoice, precious diadem of godly kings;
Rejoice, honored pride of the pious priests.
Rejoice, the Church's unshakable tower;
Rejoice, the kingdom's unassailable fortress.
Rejoice, through whom trophies of victory are raised;
Rejoice, through whom enemies are defeated.
Rejoice, healing of my body;
Rejoice, my soul's salvation.
Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.

People: Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.
Because Bl. Elizabeth recognized that Our Lady like no other was drawn within into complete communion with Her Son in a perpetual Incarnation. She sought to enter into the soul of Mary and unite herself so deeply that, "Mary herself would overshadow her and carry her soul into the soul of her Son." Blessed Elizabeth wrote about Blessed Mother that, "She kept herself so little, so recollected in the presence of God, in the secret of the Temple, that she drew forth the good pleasure of the Trinity...the Father, stooping over this creature who was so beautiful, so unaware of her beauty, willed her to be in time the Mother of him of whom he is the Father in eternity."

As we journey towards plumbing the depths of the Indwelling within our souls, we pray that our hearts may be pure and open.  We ask that Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity help us by her stated mission: "In heaven, I believe, my mission will be that of drawing souls into interior recollection, helping them to go out of themselves, to cling to God through a movement which is wholly simple and wholly loving; and to preserve them in that great silence of the within, which allows God to imprint Himself on them and to transform them into Himself."  
Bl. Elizabeth, we ask for your prayers and intercession, along with that of Our Most Blessed Mother of Mt. Carmel, in moving our hearts deep down into the abyss of the Holy Trinity, where He resides deep within the recesses of our souls. Amen.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

St. Therese's Teaching on Purgatory

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Father Dr. Hubert van Dijk, ORC¹ has written a deep and thought-provoking account of the Little Flower's teaching on purgatory. Although controversial to some, perhaps many, the underpinnings of her beliefs are based on her Little Way of radical trust in the love and mercy of God, and that one must abandon oneself as little children to Him.  That means adopting a radical revolution of love within our own daily lives. By surrendering to God's love and will, we can be burned up by His love while here in our earthly lives.

According to Fr. van Dijk's article, and the saint's own comments as published in "Last Conservations" and "Story of a Soul", one must have complete confidence in the way of God's love.  His article presents the following, "While still only a novice, the saint commented about this with one of the sisters, Sr. Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to heaven without passing through purgatory:
You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.
She even said that we would offend God if we didn't trust enough that we would get to heaven right after dying. When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying: "Oh! How you grieve me! You do a great injury to God in believing you're going to Purgatory. When we love, we can't go there." ..It is true that God will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who... suffers when He has to punish His child and sees its suffering. The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment. And this really means that God does not want Purgatory! He allows that His children suffer, but only as if He had to look away.7

If St. Therese is correct that one does not need to be in Purgatory because God Himself does not want this and would love to help us, the thought that Purgatory can be avoided is suddenly not so far-fetched anymore. But first there is the problem of the
. aforementioned opinion which says that only few will avoid Purgatory. This is confirmed by great saints and mystics like St. John of the Cross who says, "Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love"8 (perfect love is necessary to go straight to heaven). St. Teresa of Avila also had the experience that only few will be able to avoid Purgatory.9 St. John Vianney said, "It is definite that only a few chosen ones do not go to Purgatory and the suffering there that one must. endure, exceeds our imagination."10St. Therese encouraged her novice, Sr. Marie de la Trinire to have the faith that it was possible even for her to get to heaven right away. She wondered "If I fail even in: the smallest things, " may I still hope to get straight to heaven?" St Therese, who knew well the weaknesses of her novice, replied: "Yes! God is so good. He will know how He can come and get you. But despite this, try to be faithful, so that He does not wait in vain for your love."11God is Father rather than Judge.
Once St. Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sr. Marie Febronia, who not only was sixty-seven years old but also was sub-prioress. She had heard that St. Therese encouraged the novices to believe that they could go straight to heaven. She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached St Therese. St Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sr. Febronia her point of view but with no success as Sr. Febronia clung to belief. For St. Therese God was more Father than Judge, and she took the liberty offinally responding, "My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires." 
The year had not passed when, in January 1892, Sr. M. Febronia together with other sisters fell prey to the flu and died. Three months later Sr. Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress and which was then documented: "O my Mother, my Sr. M Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for het:. She is in Purgatory, surely because she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord. Through her imploring behavior and her profound looks, it seemed she wanted to say, You were right. I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault. If I had listened to you I would not be here now."\

It is understandable that many find this teaching hard to accept. We should not be flippant about purgatory and we should not be presumptuous that any given person is in heaven. We must pray for all souls, and we must start with ourselves. Having said that, we need to let go of the notion that God cannot accomplish all things within us, if we truly approach Him as a Father. We need to lower ourselves and approach Him with empty hands at the end of our journey, so that Jesus can present all of His merits to Him on our behalf, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  As we dedicate this month to praying for the Holy Souls in purgatory, let us ask Our Merciful Lord to show us His ways of love and to teach us how to do so at a deeper more intense level. St. Peter tells us that "love covers a multitude of sins".

St. John of the Cross also tells us in Chapter XII of the Dark Night of the Soul, the following summary about the purgation of the spirit: 
(This horrible night is purgatory, and how in it the Divine
wisdom illumines men on earth with the same illumination
that purges and illumines the angels in Heaven.)

FROM what has been said we shall be able to see how this dark night of loving fire, as it purges in the darkness, so also in the darkness enkindles the soul. We shall likewise be able to see that, even as spirits are purged in the next life with dark material fire, so in this life they are purged and cleansed with the dark spiritual fire of love. The difference is that in the next life they are cleansed with fire, while here below they are cleansed and illumined with love only. It was this love that David entreated, when he said: Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, etc. For cleanness of heart is nothing less than the love and grace of God. For the clean of heart are called by our Saviour 'blessed'; which is as if He had called them 'enkindled with love', since blessedness is given by nothing less than love.

2. And Jeremias well shows how the soul is purged when it is illumined with this fire of loving wisdom (for God never grants mystical wisdom without love, since love itself infuses it), where he says: 'He hath sent fire into my bones, and hath taught me.' And David says that the wisdom of God is silver tried in fire—that is, in purgative fire of love. For this dark contemplation infuses into the soul love and wisdom jointly, to each one according to his capacity and need, enlightening the soul and purging it, in the words of the Wise Man, from its ignorances, as he said was done to himself.

Let us abandon ourselves to Our Triune God's Ways of love, and have confidence that through our spiritual littleness and growth in imitating this Divine Love, that we will be able to do our purgatory here on earth as St. Therese assured us. Amen.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy All Souls Day! Meditations on Purgatory

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Saint Teresa of Ávila Interceding for Souls in Purgatory

This special feast in remembrance of the Holy Souls dovetails perfectly following the Feast of All Saints. We know that one day the souls in purgatory will join their brethren to enjoy the Beatific Vision of our Eternal Lord in perpatual adoration and praise. We should never forget these beloved souls of our Lord.

The painting above is a reduced workshop version of a large altarpiece painted by Rubens about 1630 to 1633 for the Church of the Discalced Carmelites in Antwerp. The inscription on an engraving by Schelte a Bolswert after Rubens's altarpiece relates the scene to the story of Bernardino de Mendoza, a young Spaniard who had given Saint Teresa land on which to build a convent. Bernardino died before it could be built, and Christ appeared to Saint Teresa informing her that his soul could not be released from Purgatory until the convent was completed. Bernardino appears in Purgatory at the left of the painting. (See

St. Teresa of Avila had a vision of Purgatory once when she was praying her Rosary. She saw that at each Hail Mary those souls received a spray of cool water that relieved them in their burning torments. The holy Rosary is particularly effective as an appeal for them. Our prayers, then, sustain the Poor Souls as they make their way through Purgatory. We should never forget them and pay attention when the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray for someone who has died - even someone we do not know directly or personally. There are many souls in purgatory who have noone to pray for them.

May we keep this in mind and dedicate ourselves more fervantly to prayers for them and they will pray for us. Amen.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy All Saint's Day!

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones -

Happy All Saint's Day! What a tremendous opportunity to thank God for raising up such wonderful exemplars for us to follow on our journey up Mount of Carmel. As we ascend, we must stay focused on Our Lord Jesus as our beloved saints and blesseds did during their lifetime. All of them were rooted and anchored in love and humility, along with following the Ten Commandments and living a prayerful sense of God's abiding presence. Otherwise, each had his or her own unique spiritual journey that defined his or her soul's interactions with Our Triune God. As Fr. Doug so wisely counseled us in last weekend's homily, let's make sure that our shoes fit! In other words, let's not adopt a certain brand of prayer or spirituality within our Carmelite order that does not fit who God created us to be. Instead, we must ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we are to become great saints! Let's do it according to His plans and the way that fits our individual souls.

Enjoy this beautiful homily on how one cooperates with this grace.

Blessings and love this special feast day!