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.