Saturday, September 12, 2015

Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

September 12:  Most Holy Name of Mary

Eight days after the birth of the Blessed Virgin, her holy parents, Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, inspired by God, gave her the name of Mary. The name Mary means Lady, and also Star of the Sea. Just to say her holy name is a prayer. It gives everyone who does so favor with God and power over the devil.
Blessed Pope Innocent XI set up the feast of the Holy Name of Mary in 1683 to thank her for the victory which the Catholic army under John Sobieski, King of Poland gained over the Turks (Mohammedans), who were trying to sack Vienna and move in and conquer all the Catholics of the West. Mary’s name occurs in the first part and in the second part of the Hail Mary. In the middle of the Hail Mary, one speaks the Holy Name of Jesus.

Great apostles of the Holy Name of Mary have been Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux says, “O most holy Virgin Mary, your name is so sweet and admirable that one cannot say it without becoming inflamed with love toward God and toward you.” Others of particular note are St. Louis Marie de Montfort, St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Maximilian Kolbe. The Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II, choose as his motto Totus Tuus which is to say, “I am all yours (Mary).”
- See more at:

Let us call on Our Lady to stamp out any evil or temptation that assails us, and give our souls refreshment. We must not hesitate! Inspired by this reality, I wrote some time ago to Our Lady,

You are like aloe on burnt skin;
Fresh spring water upon parched lips;
Honey to sweeten any bitterness..

Indeed. So many saints acclaimed her name as a maternal refuge. St. Therese penned as such in her last poem entitled, Why I love thee of Mary'

 Fain would I sing, O Mother blest! the reasons why I love thee; 
 Why e’en to name thy name, with joy, O Mary! fills my heart; 
And why the glorious thoughts of thee, in greatness far above me, inspire no fear within my soul, so dear and sweet thou art. 
Yet, if I were to see thee now, in majesty stupendous, 
Surpassing all the crowned saints in highest heaven above, 
Scarce could I dream I am thy child, (O truth sublime tremendous!), 
 For I should think myself to be unworthy of thy love. 
 The mother, who desires to be her child’s best earthly treasure, 
Must ever share its grief with it, must understand its pain.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Create A New Heart Within Us, Lord

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
[Image by David Clayton retrieved from]

June is almost gone, and I've been thinking a lot about the Sacred Heart of Jesus during this month dedicated to Him and His Merciful Heart.  I've been thinking about the perfect love which always reigned within the Heart of Jesus, and how I am called to be transformed into a daughter of God who also loves perfectly, and imitates the ways of our Savior. Of course, this is no easy task. 

Scripture tells us that Jesus, "by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 16"THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," [Heb 10:14-16] In the Old Testament regarding the Ten Commandments, we are enjoined to, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds." [Deuteronomy: 11:8]. The question is how to do this. 

The lives of the saints are always good places to start. We have many fascinating examples of human hearts that were transformed from 'stony hearts into natural hearts.' A few amazing stories come to mind. St. Phillip Neri loved the Lord and his neighbor so overwhelmingly that it was said that on the eve of Pentecost, 1544, he was praying "when there appeared to him what seemed to be a globe of fire; it entered his mouth and afterwards he felt a dilation of the heart. Immediately he was filled with such paroxysms of divine love that he fell to the ground exclaiming, "Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no morel " When he had come to himself and risen up, he discovered a swelling over his heart, though neither then nor later did. it give him pain. The saint's heart had been dilated under the sudden impulse of love, and in order that it might have sufficient room to move, two ribs had been broken, and curved in the form of an arch. From the time of the miracle till his death, his heart would palpitate violently whenever he performed any spiritual action."  [See}

In the life of St. Ignatius the Godbearer and Bishop of Antioch, he was preparing to be devoured by the lions in Rome under Emperor Trajan. The pagans notices that he repeatedly said the Holy name of Jesus and prayed the Jesus Prayer. They asked him why he unceasingly remembered and repeated that name. He told them that he had the name of Jesus written in his heart and that he carried Him always within it.  After his martyrdom, by a miracle of God, his heart was preserved among his bones in tact. The infidels found it and remembered what he had said. They decided to cut open his heart to see if it was true. Inside, to their amazement, they found an inscription in gold letters: Jesus Christ. 

Of course, we remember the darts of love that transverberated the hearts of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of the Holy Face and Child Jesus. Both were DIscalced Carmelites who practiced a high degree of merciful love and charity towards God and those around them in profound humility. All of these saints and many more sought love of God and neighbor as the pinnacles of their existence. This came before all else.   Hopefully, we feel inspired by these examples, but we might also feel a bit overwhelmed and ask ourselves how we can cooperate with God to realize such a high level of agape unconditional love in our lives amidst all of the distractions and temptations. 

Thankfully, we have several blueprints that Our Lord has given to us, the first of which is the basic framework of the Ten Commandments. Without following these basic precepts, we are lost. These 10 commandments are ten laws of love and given to us as a means of fostering closeness with Our Lord and will our fellow human beings. Beyond this, we have the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy which are extensions of the Beatitudes given by Our Lord at the Sermon on the Mount. 

These acts of mercy include the following: 

The Works of Mercy

            The Corporal Works of Mercy
                To feed the hungry
                To give drink to the thirsty.
                To clothe the naked.
                To visit and ransom the captives.
                To shelter the homeless.
                To visit the sick.
                To bury the dead.

            The Spiritual Works of Mercy
                To admonish sinners.
                To instruct the ignorant.
                To counsel the doubtful.
                To comfort the sorrowful.
                To bear wrongs patiently.
                To forgive all injuries.
                To pray for the living and the dead   

If we look at the Beatitudes, we can see the profound connection between these works of mercy and these promises of blessedness and love set forth by Jesus:

The Beatitudes
                1. Blessed are the poor in spirit:
                    the reign of God is theirs.
                2. Blessed are the sorrowing:
                    they shall be consoled.
                3. Blessed are the lowly:
                    they shall inherit the land.
                4. Blessed are they who hunger
                    and thirst for holiness:
                    they shall have their fill.
                5. Blessed are they who show
                    mercy: mercy shall be theirs.
                6. Blessed are the single-hearted:
                    for they shall see God.
                7. Blessed are the peacemakers:
                    they shall be called sons of God.
                8. Blessed are those persecuted
                    for holiness' sake: the reign of
                    God is theirs.

As I've been bustling around this summer trying [many times, unsuccessfully] to divide my time between Mass and prayer time, my family, my job as an adjunct faculty member, and my designation as property manager for our 15 rental units, and overseer of a fix and flip property, I become lost in the maelstrom of it all. As I am trying to pray, I am thinking about the building project, and as I am driving all around Phoenix, I am thinking about my kids. I feel confused, and repeatedly ask Our Lord to teach me how to love Him before all else, and to love my family and all of humanity as myself. 

He is teaching me that love is unfolding at every moment, and that each moment is an opportunity for love regardless of what we are doing or not doing, how busy or slow we are, whether in sickness or in health, whether one is wealthy or poor.  Love is an act of the will. It is a choice. We can practice love and acknowledge the presence of God as each moment unfolds, or we can get caught up the chaos of it all and get agitated, thereby losing our peace and our mission as lovers. Each day brings new opportunities to love as Jesus loved. The question is do we choose it. Do I choose to have the shrunken heart of the Grinch and hold onto grudges and hurts, or do I have the heart of Christ who shows us how to forgive, love our enemies, and love God above all else? Each moment holds the key. If I fall one moment, I must get up, seek forgiveness, and make a conscious decision to love in the next moment.  I should always have time for love above all else. Repeatedly I must consider, 'What does love require of me right now at this present moment?'

The lives of the saints consisted of a progressive set of moments that were always carrying them towards the Heart of Christ in all that they did. Each moment presented an opportunity to practice charity regardless of where they found themselves at the time, and so it is with us. The question again, is whether we have the willingness to choose it- to choose love over hate and over worldly concerns. 
[retrieved from]

Holy Spirit, you who operated the life of Christ and the love found within His Sacred Heart, we ask you to give us the grace to say 'yes' to these moment by moment opportunities to love. May you give us the gifts needed to increase in the practice of Divine love. Amen.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Death & Resurrection as Revealed in Nature

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

I have been MIA for some time. My apologies...Life happens and I was unable to post anything, but God was working on my double-time during Lent so the Eastern blessings and joy are now abounding! I had two beautiful aha moments in the midst of Lent and on Good Friday that related to nature but so clearly spoke to my heart about the spiritual journey. 

During Lent, I continued to focus on the dying of myself, my will, my plans, agendas, and strongly held opinions and judgments. I worked on abstaining from commenting about every life event and gaining full[er] custody of my tongue. I was frequently reminded of the reminder on silence given by St. John of the Cross, "What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love. "  AND Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.

I was meditating on the metamorphosis of the caterpillar that is transformed into a butterfly, and praying that Our Lord would help m e to grow and change into a beautiful soul. I looked up the life cycle of the butterfly just to review this process, and was astonished by what I found. In this scientific description of the caterpillar weaving its cocoon, it reveals that the caterpillar digests itself! While doing so, it releases certain enzymes to dissolve all of the tissues, while certain cells known as imaginal discs survive the process and form the body parts for the newly formed butterfly.

Wow! Here I had been meditating on the Scripture passage from St. John that 'Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it bears no fruit." 

St. Teresa was more intuitively aware of how God helps our hearts to achieve metamorphosis or metanoia than she could have ever guessed. Indeed, just as the caterpillar must digest itself in order to be transformed, we must die to self and be empty to be filled with the fullness of God, 

The other event that happened relating to nature occurred on Good Friday. As my daughter and I were approaching an abortion clinic to pray the Rosary with our Bishop Olmstead, I spied a beautiful vibrant hummingbird on the ground completely still and presumably dead. I lamented this as I love hummingbirds, and have always likened them to the Holy Spirit, the Divine Providence of Our Heavenly Father, and related to a part of my own spiritual mission. I thought about the beauty of Christ being infinite, and yet Him becoming the unblemished Lamb that was slain for me and all of humanity on that day. I was crest fallen and really wanted to take this lovely intact bird home with me to bury it. After the Rosary, we gazed upon this little creature and decided to leave it. The entire weekend, this little hummingbird was with me in my mind. On Easter Monday, I finally decided to look up its symbolism and found an amazing explanation.

I discovered that this tiny bird is a symbol of the Resurrection in Christianity. This is because at night when the temperature drops, the little creature will go into what's known as torpor and become completely still and appear lifeless.  This is to slow down their metabolism and reserve their energy. As the sun begins to shine and they warm up, they pull out of this very deep sleep and seeming death and come to life again!  I pondered this beautiful metaphor of Our Lord's Resurrection and was so grateful that Our Lord was communicating to me the hope and promise of his Resurrection  and victory over apparent death, even on the very day when we were venerating His Passion and Death on the Cross. It brought me back full circle to when I was in the Holy Sepulcher in July, and was completely enveloped in the joy of the Resurrection while standing next to His tomb, and then when praying within it. It was overpowering. I could taste the joy and victory at that moment, and my soul understood better what Jesus had done for us. It was a moment I will never forget. I thank our Triune God not only for the big moments such as praying at Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem, but also the little moments of daily life, like seeing the delicate hummingbird in torpor that remind us of His Divine hand over all of creation, and His triumph over death which is apparent even in our darkened world.   

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Léonie Martin, Sister of St. Therese, becomes Servant of God

framed leonie habit.jpg

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

How appropriate that on the Eve of the Feast Day of St. Francis de Sales, that Léonie Martin, who followed his way of Divine Love and the Devout life in everyday life and in all circumstances, along with the Little Way of her sister St. Therese, will be named Servant of God and her cause opened.  In our broken world riddled with so many suffering from abuse and mental illness and instability, her more visible role in the Church is timely indeed. Read below to learn more about this sister of St. Therese, who was said to have perfected and lived out the Little Way amidst her fragility and challenges. 

On Saturday, January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, Mgr. Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, will announce officially the opening of the diocesan process of beatification for Léonie Martin, the sister of St. Therese of Lisieux, according to stories in the French press.  La Manche Libre, Le Pays d'Auge, Normandie Actuand the French Catholic newspaper La Croix reported the news.  According to these reports, Father Laurent Berthout, the bishop's press officer, said:

“For many years, people have entrusted themselves to the prayers of Léonie Martin, coming to her tomb at the Monastery of the Visitation, where she was a nun from 1899 to 1941. These persons witness to graces they have received through her intercession. Léonie Martin lived a simple, hidden, humble life in the shadow of the cloister. She wanted to live the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, doing “all through love, nothing through force” in the words of St. Francis. She was blessed by the spiritual discovery of her sister, St. Therese, who taught her to live by Love in the most humble and the most everyday actions. Leonie gave witness by her life to the possibility of living it fully, even through her limitations: character, health, trials.”

The French press reports that Bishop Boulanger will announce the opening of the process when he celebrates Mass tomorrow at the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen.  He will officially confer on Léonie  the title "Servant of God."  The opening of the diocesan process (an inquiry into the life and writings of the candidate for sainthood) is the beginning of a long procedure that, for some candidates, leads ultimately to canonization.  The diocesan process for Therese was opened by an earlier bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux in 1910, and Léonie  testified at it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Finding a Slice of Carmel in the Beauty of Impressionism

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

I was blessed to visit the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth over Christmas week which was hosting a world-renowned exhibit entitled Faces of Impressionism - Portraits from the Musee d'Orsay. I felt as if I had been transported back to my time in Paris, when such beautiful works of art surrounded me and were a metro stop away, and I could drink in the beauty of such masterpieces at a moment's notice.  The striking beauty that these impressionist and post-impressionist painters created provided a profound sense of awe and peace within me.

Instead of staid portraits and strictly constructed landscapes, the impressionist school sought to capture movement, color, light, and ordinary objects in a less formal way. Such wide brush strokes and painting via plein-air techniques created pieces that captured the mood of its subjects and gave an almost whimsical and relaxed mood to the viewer. Post impressionists took this idea and modified it to use more abstract forms and geographical shapes and symbols to convey beauty and mood of the subject.  Such artists include Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cezanne. 

I was reminded of some truths among the beauty of these various paintings:

1. Seeing the vibrancy of colors and freedom of movement and subjects in the brush strokes stirred in my soul the sense that God does not work in rigid fashion and tends to color outside the lines. Just when we think that we have things figures out, He surprises us! We know that God's ways are indeed not our ways! 

2. In addition, the liberty with which the artists depicted the various subject matter, whether they be persons, objects, landscapes, or other scenes, reminded me of how much freedom is found in knowing God and allowing Him to shape and mold our lives. When we trust Him, He takes us on an unexpected journey and creates a canvas of interwoven colors and shapes as the final product. The key is to trust Him always, even when we cannot see the end point.

3. Experiencing beauty is pivotal to our spiritual growth, sense of joy, and fulfillment. We need beauty, like we need the air we breathe. It is necessary to seek true beauty wherever we can find it and to take time to savor it. We must let it soak into our very being, into our bones so that we can take this tiny reflection of God's divine nature within us. This gives us hope and fills us with a sense of purpose and that all will be well.  It stokes the fires of meditation and contemplation...the desire to see God or at least commune with Him more intimately.

St. Augustine tells us, "Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.

Let us then celebrate beauty and try to surround ourselves with it whenever we can. This will assist us in pondering on the law of the Lord day and night and getting ever closer to God, who is beauty itself. Amen.