Monday, September 25, 2017

Being Attentive to Unlikely Messengers - Encountering King Cyrus of Persia

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Depiction of Cyrus the Great by Jean Fouquet, 1470.

It is always fascinating when we read about or encounter someone who unexpectedly does something seemingly out of character, or obliterates our preconceived notions and judgements.  The Gospels are resplendent with such examples with such unlikely characters as Levi the tax-collector who becomes Matthew, the beloved apostle; Mary Magdalene, the worldly prostitute, turned contemplative who chooses the better part; and the murderous Saul, who becomes the spirit-filled Paul.  Perhaps no one causes me more pause than King Cyrus of Persia who we read about today in our First Reading from Ezra which recounts how this seeming enemy of the Jewish people during their exile in Babylon, is the very instrument through which God restores the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. 

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia,
in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah,
the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia
to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom,
both by word of mouth and in writing:
"Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia:
'All the kingdoms of the earth
the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me,
and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem,
which is in Judah.
Therefore, whoever among you belongs to any part of his people,
let him go up, and may his God be with him!
Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt,
be assisted by the people of that place
with silver, gold, goods, and cattle,
together with free-will offerings
for the house of God in Jerusalem."

So profound was the Jewish sense of gratitude towards this unexpected liberator, that they refer to him as King Cyrus the Great. His generosity and willingness to not only decree this, but to provide for the needs of the Temple with precious stones and raw materials gives one even more pause.  

I have been pondering a variety of headlines and little vignettes I have recently read or been informed of through my teenaged  children about well-known celebrities and world leaders, and some unlikely comments that they have made.  One pop star has publically stated that she is getting back to her Catholic roots and praying her Rosary diligently since chronic pain has debilitated her skyrocketing career. Another pop star known to have been battling an addiction to weed has been communicating with fans that he needs a break from touring so that he can concentrate on his spiritual awakening.  Some political leaders speaking tough political rhetoric one moment have then professed their love for Our Lord and Our Lady the next.   Although certainly not liberating an entire people, these are individuals who can profoundly impact and influence others.  At first glance, these individuals may have displayed behaviors quite contrary to the Gospel, and may continue to do so, but with some moments of grace they begin to make choices that indicate another side and reveal God within.

On a more personal level, it is sometimes those in my life with whom my spirit bristles that are sometimes the very ones who serve as unexpected messengers of God.  You know, the person that drives you crazy with their incessant complaining or whom you feel no natural affinity.  The individual who does not look like you, is outside your social and/or educational circle, or speaks in a brisk or abrupt manner.  These are the very ones who ofttimes bring the very message that God intends for my soul.  Like the time when a young man who was working at a property I was managing began to cry after explaining how he had been in prison and separated from his twin children for a year. Behind his expletive-laced speech, and plentiful tattoos, I saw a soul pining for love...Love of God and of family.  At a time when my life was not balanced and work was dominating my waking moments, he voiced God's call back to what was important.  As unlikely as it may have seemed, this ex-con was the voice of God in that moment. That is why we absolutely cannot judge another, and we must keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open for the inspirations of the Holy Spirit that may very well come in unexpected ways. As St. Teresa of Avila reminds us, "For the love of God, keep free from partialities however holy they may be. They are like poison."

The Jews could have held King Cyrus in suspicion and not interacted with him. They could have rebelled or been close-hearted.  Instead, they received words of freedom from a most unlikely source.  Let us allow God to use each person and situation as a call to holiness, and an invitation to build a little oratory or temple within our hearts.  By seeing each human being as equally loved and of equal dignity before God, we can harness the grace needed to exercise unconditional love over time.  We can hear the still small voice of God in the most unlikely of places and from the most unusual people. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

St. Albert's Rule & Today's Gospel Message of Divine Mercy

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today is the Feast Day of St. Albert of Jerusalem, who gave the Carmelite Order a Rule of Life between the year 1206-1214.  In 1205, Albert was appointed Patriarch of Jerusalem and a little later nominated Papal Legate for the ecclesiastical province of Jerusalem. He arrived in Palestine early in 1206 and lived in Acre because, at that time, Jerusalem was occupied by the Saracens. In Palestine, Albert was involved in various peace initiatives, not only among Christians but also between the Christians and non-Christians. During his stay in Acre he gathered together the hermits on Mount Carmel and gave them a Rule. This written code of conduct would enable the monks who were living in the contemplative spirit of Elijah on Mt. Carmel to eventually become a mendicant order as they were forced to flee their homeland and move closer to Western European cities. It is the shortest Rule of all religious orders and based primarily on the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

The spirit of the order stresses living a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ "pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of the Master" (no.2)   This entails the following:

  • Seeking the Face of God in contemplation and in every present moment
  • Living as brothers and sisters in a spirit of charity
  • Meditating on the law of the Lord day and night and to "pray without ceasing" as St. Paul exhorts us
  • Praying together or alone several times a day
  • Celebrating the Eucharist daily, is possible
  • Doing manual work, if possible
  • Purifying oneself of every trace of evil
  • Embracing a spirit of poverty, materially and spiritually, placing all in common
  • Loving the Church and all people
  • Discern and accept the Divine Will of God in faith and carry it out in life

This links in well with the Parable of the Merciless Servant as told by Jesus to Peter in today's Gospel of Matthew.   In it, Jesus stresses the absolute importance of forgiveness that one must freely give to one another without measure and repeatedly. He suggests that one must forgive seven times seventy denoting full perfection in time.

unforgiving servant
The servant who cannot pay his debts, in a 17th-century 
French painting by Claude Vignon

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?" 
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants. 
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt. 
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan. 
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount. 
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
'Pay back what you owe.'
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
But he refused. 
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt. 
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair. 
His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! 
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt. 
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."

unforgiving servant
The unforgiving servant choking the man who owes 
him money; an Italian 17th-century painting by Domenico Fetti

In our quieter moments of prayer and solitude, it can seem easy to offer oneself to God and pledge our fidelity and willingness to lay down our lives for Him, as St. Peter promised just prior to Our Lord's Passion. Although his spirit was willing, his flesh was weak, and he failed to submit himself to that promise out of fear.  It can be romantic to tell ourselves that we are uniting our sufferings to Christ for souls, and experience a great desire for souls. But I have found that the greatest test is within my own home, life, and vocation.  If I cannot fully forgive and die to myself and my pride as a grain of wheat falls to the ground and perishes, how can I possibly be efficacious for the salvation of other souls? 

The Carmelite Rule tells us that we must live in community in a spirit of charity, which includes forgiveness seven times seventy.  It is easy to excuse a stranger and have compassion and longings for their souls. It is harder, I would argue, to live day in and day out with one another human being, being hyper-aware of each other's faults, and still extend charity,  love, forgiveness, prayer.   My final analysis is this - the Rule of the Carmelite starts at the hearth of one's home, whether it be in family or community life.  We must always carry before us that Our Lord has forgiven each one of us more times that we can remember or deserve. Jesus has paid the entire debit for us and shown us mercy and compassion "while we were still enemies'.  So we must do the same for one another.  If we do not, we risk erecting spiritual and physical blockages within our selves and find ourselves unable to heal and be one with Christ. Forgiveness and mercy leads to pure freedom and sanctity on our path to union. Let us not forget that we are debtors and must extend the alms of mercy to all others in our lives ad continuum.  So be it. Amen. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe's Love for the Little Flower, St. Therese

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today marks a beautiful memorial of a more modern-day saint who has captured the world's attention, due to his willingness to lay down his life for a stranger. When at Auschwitz, Maximilian volunteered to take a Jewish family man's place in the starvation bunker with 9 other men, which was punishment for a failed escape attempt of another prisoner. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for one's friends." [Jn. 15:13] Maximilian indeed accomplished some great deeds in life by establishing a magazine dedicated to the Immaculata, establishing a missionary presence of his Conventual Franciscan friar order in Japan and India, and founding an evangelical movement known as Militia Immaculata which encourages members to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order to defeat evil in the world and enemies of the Church, and to usher in the triumph of the united hearts of Jesus and Mary.  

Despite, these undeniably grand accomplishments, St. Maximilian referred to St. Therese's Little Way and Oblation to Our Lord's Merciful love in his letters and notebooks frequently. He saw this little saint as a key component and exemplar of the movement of consecration to Jesus through Mary, by the writings and spirituality that she taught and lived so heroically. He was so impressed by her life, that he visited the Basilica at Lisieux dedicated to her, while it was still being constructed.  He set foot inside the monastery church where she died and noted that, "on the main altar the statue of St. Therese has been lit up; beside her tomb, at the foot of the Immaculata - yes- I prayed. In my mind, I commended everyone and everything..." [Daily Notes, Notebook III 1930 #990 C]

When he arrived in Southeast Asia in 1933 seeking to establish mission churches there, he sought to head "first to the church of St. Therese of the Child Jesus" which the Chinese of Singapore had recently built in her honor...Inside, he reports that Jesus was in center in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and there was 'a large statue of the little saint against the backdrop of a stained-glass window, depicting episodes of her life.' He comments on how his prayer time was spent speaking with this young girl who was 'Patron of all missions' and noted that 'She was able to carry out missionary work, so much so that the yellow, almond-eyed citizens of the far away Singapore even built her a temple. Yet she never cast her gaze beyond the walls of the small convent in Lisieux." [Daily Notes, Notebook IV 1930-1933 #991 T]

He viewed St. Therese as a great intercessor working with Our Lady to bring lost souls to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart. He noted that a terminally ill patient was resisting receiving confession and extreme unction and was close to death, despite the hospital nurses' best efforts.  He was asked to convince the stubborn man to prepare his soul for his seemingly certain, impending death.  He first gave him a Miraculous Medal and then prayed to St. Therese to interceded for this patient, in order for him to come to the Fountain of Merciful Love.  Indeed, when he returned the next day, it seemed that the patient's heart was changed, he became willing to wear the Miraculous Medal and to have his confession heard. Yet another Pranzini snatched from death without the contrition. [Rycerz Niepokalanej "The Victories of the Immaculata" August, 1924 p. 148-150]

In another article written for his calendar of Rycerz Niepokalane in 1926, St. Maximilian called St. Therese "The Little Flower of the Divine Mother" [p. 62-83, Articles #1109]  It is of such import and shows his devotion and pure belief in the help of our little Carmelite saint that it bears being copied here:

Who does not know the 'little Therese'? St. Therese of the Child Jesus, secluded for most of her life in the solitude of a monastery, has, today, sent from heaven in every part of the world a 'shower of roses,' of graces. Like all saints, so too this 'little flower of the Divine Mother" - as she wished herself to be called - grew in love for God and perfected this love under the powerful protection of the Immaculata, Queen of heaven and earth. Here are her confessions, relative to the most importants of her life.

- In childhood the Divine Mother heals her back to health.
- After the first Holy Communion, she consecrates herself to the Blessed Virgin.
- She entrusts to the Divine Mother the problem of her entrance into the monastery.
- During the trip to Rome she visited Paris, where, however, nothing interests her except the Blessed Virgin.
-During her last illness, she expresses her love for Jesus and Mary. [p. 1110]

What a beautiful kinship and connection these two saints offer to us, as we seek to ponder the Face of Jesus by imitating the ways of Our Lady and consecrate ourselves to Her Immaculate Heart.

St. Maximilian Kolbe...Pray for us...

St. Therese of the Child Jesus...Pray for us!

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Lessons from Lourdes on Community

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

As I sit down to write this, I am still marveling at the graces and blessings received from our family trip to Belgium and France in general, and the pilgrimage I made with my 16 year old daughter to Lourdes, in particular.  I will be reviewing and unpacking the gifts received for the rest of my life, I am certain.  I feel compelled to share something that happened immediately upon arriving, and which is connected with our OCDS Constitution, our rule, and the 6 M's [Mass, Mary, Mission, Meetings, Meditation, Morning and evening Prayer] that we study at the very beginning during the aspirancy period of formation. 

My family was finishing our 2 weeks together traversing BENELUX, the Normandy region of France, and Bastille Day spent in Paris with wonder and a keen sense of gratitude, as we prepared to separate with the 'boys' returning to the States, and my daughter and I continuing on to Lourdes.  We had witnessed incredible art, architecture, churches, scenic drives, and an abundance of good food together. Our eyes were filled with awe and wonder as we watched the fireworks display at the base of the Eiffel Tower illuminate the Parisian sky and celebrate their independence with dramatic color and flair.  Amidst all of this joy and excitement, early the next morning, I experienced a medical complication that was unplanned and unprecedented.  My husband and I contemplated whether I should be taken to the hospital or if I could move forward on flying to Lourdes. Doubt and fear was cast on these plans, but I knew that I could never give up my dream of visiting Our Lady's special place in the Pyrenees. So we cautiously persevered and my daughter and I got on the plane from Orly to Lourdes with a bit of trepidation and concern, but also filled with anticipation and excitement. We were relieved to land without incident to our destination, and were able to get ourselves settled in our hotel and over to the Information Center for a wheelchair and then on to the breathtaking Basilica to begin to take it all in!

Upon entering the Basilica, I read a sign that there would be an ordination of 3 Discalced Carmelites the following day, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. That was indeed exciting as I had never been able to attend an ordination, and now had this special opportunity! As we explored the basilica and prayed at the various altars, a Carmelite friar named Brother Gabriel approached me and introduced himself. We began to speak quietly and he soon brought us outside in order to the introduce us to the two brothers who were to be ordained deacons the following day. I explained that I was a member of OCDS from Phoenix, Arizona. There was much excitement, and it was decided on the spot that the two of us would be their special guests throughout their pilgrimage to Lourdes, and the upcoming ordination. We were promptly taken around Lourdes, brought to the Carmelite convent perched on the hill overlooking the grotto, where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette for the very last time on July 16th, and introduced to the Carmelite sisters there. We were brought to all of the events which included the candle-lit Rosary Procession in the evening, as well as the Eucharistic Procession the next day following the Ordination. We were shown the baths, the Stations of the Cross, and the Adoration chapel.  I was invited to attend the talks about St. Elizabeth of the Trinity with the entire Toulouse OCDS community, one of which was given by Marie-Paul Stevens, the very woman who was cured of her disease through the intercession of St. Elizabeth! [See] 

Members of the OCDS Community even shared their picnic lunches with my daughter and I following the beautiful ordination, as we were unprepared and had no food. Everyone was greeting us, welcoming us to their special weekend of prayer and celebration, and interested in who we were and how we came there.   My teenage daughter immediately commented on how friendly every person in the Carmelite community was towards us and others. They radiated a joy and a spirit of generosity and love that was palpable.  Despite the two of us being unannounced and uninvited guests, we were made to feel that we were an immediate part of their group and family. There was no question that we were to be with them to celebrate this special occasion and that we belonged there.  

This struck me to the core, as recently ordained Deacon Kelvin kept reiterating that we were Our Lady's gift to him that weekend. This was indeed a mystery as he and his faith-filled companions and community had done all of the work, while we just received!  He insisted that his job as a deacon is to serve, and that Mirabelle and I had given him that opportunity. 

As we parted and went our separate ways after celebrating the Mass of the Martyrs of Compiegne on July 17th, there was sadness but also a resounding sense of unity and togetherness.  I knew that I had just encountered the unity, peace, and hospitality that Our Lord and Our Lady desire for all people in the world. On a smaller scale I saw the call of Carmelite community expressed and manifested as St. Teresa of Avila intended it.  We are told in our OCDS Constitution that, "As Carmelite Seculars, sons and daughters of Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, they are called to “stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God”, by means of a life of prayer, of service to evangelization and by means of the witness of a Christian and Carmelite community. “All the laity as a community and each one according to his ability must nourish the world with spiritual fruits (cf. Gal 5:22). They must diffuse in the world that spirit which animates the poor, the meek, the peace makers - whom the Lord in the Gospel proclaimed as blessed (cf. Mt 5:3-9). In a word, Christians (and Carmelites) must be to the world what the soul is to the body .

Upon joining Carmel, it is explained that meetings are an essential part of the Carmelite journey, in order to foster this sense of community and support for one another.  Priests, religious brothers, religious sisters and the secular order members are all a part of the same family. We are members of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and share the same charism, without any separation. We are a religious family in a sense, with the order as an umbrella over all of us.  Fr. Aloysius Deeney comments in 'Welcome to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites' that, 'You have Community. It is one thing to know the Carmelite Spirituality and another thing to be a member of the Order. They are two different things.."  He points out that one can be an expert in Carmelite saints and spirituality, but not a member of the order. He underscores the importance of this sense of community further, "So being part of the Community, being involved in forming the Community is what happens at meetings. Because you, Secular Order members, have meetings where you meet and talk with other people, and you decide things about your Carmelite life together and are responsible for forming yourselves as members of this religious family. Your part in that now is very much to take responsibility...So formation, information, fellowship- these are the three things that happens in meetings." [p. 34] 

My daughter and I encountered the fruit of this sense of Carmelite community. We were the recipients of this gift.  This was the first of many gifts granted to us during our pilgrimage to Lourdes. For this, I will be eternally grateful and never forget the sense of interconnectedness with other OCD and OCDS members throughout the world.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel... Pray for us!

Our Lady of Lourdes...Pray for us!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Carmelite Connections with Lourdes

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

As I write this, I am counting the hours until my husband, daughter, and I board our plane to embark upon a combined trip to Brussels, Belgium to visit our 18-year old son who is interning there, and to visit the sites of Normandy, Paris, and finally to make a pilgrimage with my daughter at the end of our trip to Lourdes. My spirit has been yearning for the living waters of Lourdes where we are invited to bathe in the purifying healing springs given by Our Lady to her children, through St. Bernadette for several years.  My heart is filled with gratitude and anticipation that we will be present for the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which was the date of the final apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette in 1858.  It is said that Our Lady said nothing at all, but radiated an intense beauty.  Many have since interpreted this last vision of our Blessed Mother in silence, as a call to embrace silence as a means of hearing God's promptings as that small, still voice.  The importance of this call to quiet in order to hear God speak in our lives is an integral component of the Carmelite call and dates back to the prophet Elijah, when he heard the voice of God not in the earthquake or fire, but as a gentle whisper. [1 Kings 19:12]

In my further musings and consideration of this last apparition, I remembered reading a fascinating article about some deep connections between Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in its beginnings as it became a place of pilgrimage.  I was able to dig up the article in an old issue of Carmelite Digest which explains this interweaving between the two.  Father Tadgh Tierney, ocd recounts how Hermann Cohen, the great Jewish pianist, who was miraculously converted to the Catholic faith and later became a Carmelite priest named Fr. Augustine Mary of the Blessed Sacrament [now Venerable], was to lead the very first pilgrimage to the front of the grotto, while barricades blocked access to the holy site. This occured on September 20, 1858 when he and father Rozier led a group of devotees to the site. At 3 am they celebrated holy Mass, prayed, and recited the Magnificat and other such prayers.  [Bernadette of Lourdes & The Carmelite Connection- 1858-2008].

At this time, an unusual miracle happened when Fr. Augustine dropped his breviary into the basin as he bent down to drink from the spring in the grotto. Fr. Rozies who accompanied him and witnessed it reported in a letter as follows, "A lady quickly tried to retrieve it, and the priest also looked to see if the pages had gotten wet. There was one particularly beautiful picture of Our Lady, which he expected to find soaked; but not only was the colored picture of Our Lady not spoiled, but a perfect  copy of it was imprinted on the blank page of his breviary."   Some years later, Fr. Augustine [Hermann[] would receive another miracle from Our Lady of Lourdes when his failing eyesight was fully restored after beginning a novena. His pain and all symptoms of his disease vanished, and he was able to resume his life in the desert dwellings of Carmel in nearby Tarasteix. 

The final apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette, depicted in the 'Gemmail' style
of layered stained glass typically found in Lourdes.

In fact, the connectedness between these two devotions to Our Lady run so deep that a Carmelite convent exists adjacent to the property. Its history is explained as follows: 

The Carmelite Monastery in Lourdes was founded 18 years after the apparitions on 16th July 1876 by nuns from the Carmel of Tulle in central France. The Mother Foundress, coming to Lourdes to find a suitable site for the future monastery, was very attracted by the land facing the Grotto on the other side of the River Gave. However, the terrain was on a narrow band of rock where any construction would be very difficult. Despite its proximity to the Grotto, previous visitors to the site had decided against anything being built there. The Mother Foundress had the idea of transporting soil to even out the level of the slope. This idea was accepted by the building contractors, and so the Monastery was built in a very privileged location overlooking the Grotto.

In the years following the foundation, the number of vocations grew considerably. The community swelled to such a size that in 1893 a number of sisters went to found a Carmel at Le Havre in northern France. [see]

In fact, many of our beloved Carmelite saints in the past 150 years have taken pilgrimages to Lourdes seeking graces and healings from Our Mother.  St. Zelie Martin, the mother of St. Therese, comes to mind as she sought healing from the breast cancer that was wracking her body with pain.  She was totally surrendered to the Divine Will of God, and although she did not obtain a cure there, she was granted a gift of great peace and calm to embrace the final months of her journey in life. Hers was an emotional and spiritual healing. So too do we see that St. Elizabeth of the Trinity and her mother and sister, Guite, all sought the graces of Lourdes. At the age of 18, Elizabeth would offer herself and her vocation to Our Lady at Lourdes, and wrote in a poem to Our Lady asking, "May his will be mine; that is what you must obtain for me."

Indeed, I pray that my spirit may be filled with the docility of Venerable Hermann, St. Zelie, and St. Elizabeth as my daughter and I journey to this place of refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady. May she continue to form and mold me, and may His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May we be healed according to His perfect Will as He desires in mind, body, soul and spirit. Amen. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Flame of Love

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

We begin the month of May, dedicated to Our Lady, and walking with our beloved St. Joseph who perfectly honored the Blessed Virgin Mary and protected both Our Celestial Mother and our Savior entrusted to his care.  In tandem, we continue to celebrate the 50 day season of Easter and approach the 100 year Anniversary of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13th, where the apparitions began in this small town in Portugal.  So much to ponder!

Recently, I picked up a book that had been on my shelf for some time entitled, The Flame of Love. It is a spiritual diary written by Hungarian mystic Elizabeth Kindelmann from 1962 until the early 1980s.  In it she discloses spiritual revelations gifted to her by Our Lady along with Our Lord Jesus.  She describes a great gift that the Holy Trinity desires to bestow upon humanity through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Our Lady explains to Elizabeth that she wishes to "place a beam of light in your hands. This is the Flame of Love of my heart."  She then expresses the purpose of this flame.  "With this flame you will light all the hearts in the world. The miracle will be this. The flame will become fire, and with its shining light, this fire will blind Satan." This flame it to be receive and enkindled in the hearts of the faithful, and then passed along. In particular, this Flame is to be celebrated on the Feast Day of Candlemas, February 2nd.  Sacrifice, prayer, penance, faithfulness, reparation and love are all important components of this beautiful devotion which has been granted the Imprimatur. There are many beautiful aspects of this message that I encourage all to read at the or to pray and discern with the more in depth analysis of this special calling written by Mark Mallet at

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What I wish to do here is unpack the Carmelite tone of this devotion and Our Lady's message, especially since she specifically calls Carmelites to accept and pass on this movement which will renew the face of the earth. Elizabeth herself was a third order Carmelite. She was told by Our Lady that, "My Flame of Love will be lit first in Carmel. They are called to venerate me the most." Furthermore, Our Lady specified that Carmelite priests are to play a special role in venerating the Flame of Love.  "Let the Carmelite Fathers be the first to receive the Flame of Love and spread it. My flame will go forth from Carmel, because they are the ones most called to honor me."  Indeed, priests play a crucial role in gifting their flocks with this great gift of love. How we as Carmelites must continue to pray for our priests in the spirit of St. Teresa of Avila, as they continue to fight for souls on the frontlines of the battlefield.

With this vivid imagery of fire within the Immaculate Heart of Mary which she wishes to pass on to her children, one cannot help but think of the classic poem of St. John of the Cross written so many centuries ago, The Living Flame of Love. In it, he describes a soul who has reached the highest levels of union with the Holy Trinity in spiritual matrimony. He describes the unbounded torrent of love flowing from the Holy Spirit to the soul of the beloved. 

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ST.1. O living flame of love
  that tenderly wounds my soul
  in its deepest center! Since
  now you are not oppressive,
  now consummate! if it be your will:
  tear through the veil of this sweet encounter! 

  ST.2. O sweet cautery,
   O delightful wound! 
  O gentle hand! O delicate touch
  that tastes of eternal life
  and pays every debt! 
  In killing you changed death to life. 

  ST.3. O lamps of fire! 
  in whose splendors
  the deep caverns of feeling,
  once obscure and blind,
  now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
  both warmth and light to their Beloved. 

  ST.4. How gently and lovingly
  you wake in my heart,
  where in secret you dwell alone;
  and in your sweet breathing,
  filled with good and glory,
  how tenderly you swell my heart with love.

St. John of the Cross then begins his commentary on the first stanza, explaining that "The soul now feels that it is all inflamed in the divine union, its palate is all bathed in glory and love, that in the intimate part of its substance it is flooded with no less than rivers of glory, abounding in delights, and from its depths flow rivers of living water [Jn. 7:38], which
the Son of God declared will rise up in such souls. "  

He goes on to explain that "This flame of love is the Spirit of its Bridegroom, who is the Holy 
Spirit. The soul feels him within itself not only as a fire that has consumed and transformed it but as a fire that burns and flares within it, as I mentioned. And that flame, every time it flares up, bathes the soul in glory and refreshes it with the quality of divine life.  Such is the activity of the Holy Spirit in the soul transformed in love: The interior acts he produces shoot up flames, for they are acts of inflamed love, in which the will of the soul united with that flame, made one with it, loves most sublimely."

This powerful description of the Holy Spirit's flame of love cannot help but be associated with his Spouse, Our Celestial Mother and Queen who received His Flame of Love in her Womb at the Incarnation.   She was indeed the first tabernacle of Our Lord, and was able to receive the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit due to her spotless soul which was as a mirror of the Holy Trinity, as the Immaculate Conception.  

The Catechism tells us that this symbol of fire denotes,"the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit's actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who "arose like fire" and whose "word burned like a torch," brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.37This event was a "figure" of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes "before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah," proclaims Christ as the one who "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."38 Jesus will say of the Spirit: "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!"39 In the form of tongues "as of fire," the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself40 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit's actions.41 "Do not quench the Spirit."42  

733 More than a century ago, St. Louis de Montfort prophesied that a new Pentecost will enflame the world and pull it out of grave darkness and sin. This will be through the hands of Our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces. He portends, "The Holy Spirit, finding his dear Spouse present again in souls, will come down into them with great power. He will fill them with his gifts, especially wisdom, by which they will produce wonders of grace… that age of Mary, when many souls, chosen by Mary and given her by the the most High God, will hide themselves completely in the depths of her soul, becoming living copies of her, loving and glorifying Jesus. [#217}  He further describes this little army of souls who are servants and slaves of Mary, as those who "will be ministers of the Lord who, like a flaming fire, will enkindle everywhere the fires of divine love. They will become, in Mary's powerful hands, like sharp arrows, with which she will transfix her enemies. {#56] —St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin,  Montfort Publications  

We are told that in the Catechism that  "God is Love" [1 Jn 4:8,1.] and love is his first gift, containing all others. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." [Rom 5:5.]. His love is described in the Letter to the Hebrews as 'a consuming fire.'  [12: 1] Indeed, Our Lady perfectly embodied this flame of love and held it 'within her heart.'  

Perhaps St. Therese understood the application of St. John of the Cross's treatise on the Living Flame of Love best. She penned her poem entitled, "Living on Love" using the imagery of this Flame of Love as the key to union with the Holy Trinity.

                          Living on Love is holding You Yourself.
Uncreated Word, Word of my God,
Ah! Divine Jesus, you know I love you.
The Spirit of Love sets me aflame with his fire.
In loving you I attract the Father.
My weak heart holds him forever.
O Trinity! You are Prisoner
                Of my Love!
Living on Love is living on your life,
Glorious King delight of the elect.
You live for me, hidden in a host.
I want to hide myself for you, O Jesus!
Lovers must have solitude.
A heart-to-heart lasting night and day.
Just one glance of yours makes my beatitude.
                I live on Love!
Living on Love is not setting up one’s tent
At top of Tabor.
It’s climbing Calvary with Jesus,
It’s looking at the Cross as a treasure!
In Heaven I’m to live on joy.
Then trials will have fled forever,
But in exile, in suffering I want
                To live on Love.
Living on Love is giving without limit
Without claiming any wages here below.
Ah! I give without counting, truly sure
That when one loves, one does not keep count!
Overflowing with tenderness, I have given everything,
To his Divine Heart… lightly I run.
I have nothing left but my only wealth:
                Living on Love.
Living on Love is banishing every fear,
Every memory of past faults.
I see no imprint of my sins.
In a moment love has burned everything…
Divine Flame, O very sweet Blaze!
I make my home in your hearth.
In your fire I gladly sing:
“I live on Love!”
Living on Love is keeping within oneself
A great treasure in an earthen vase.
My Beloved my weakness is extreme.
Ah, I’m far from being an angel from heaven!
But if I fall with each passing hour,
You come to my aid, lifting me up.
At each moment you give me your grace:
                I live on Love.
Living on Love is sailing unceasingly,
Sowing peace and joy in every heart.
Beloved Pilot, Charity impels me,
For I see you in my sister souls.
Charity is my only star.
In its brightness I sail straight ahead.
I’ve my motto written on my sail:
                I live on love!
Living on Love, when Jesus is sleeping.
Is rest on stormy seas.
Oh! Lord, don’t fear that I’ll wake you.
I’m waiting in peace in Heaven’s shore…
Faith will soon tear its veil.
My hope is to see you one day.
Charity swells and pushes my sail:
                I live on Love!
Living on Love, O my Divine Master,
Is begging you to spread your Fire
In the holy, sacred soul of your priest.
May he be purer than a seraphim in Heaven!
Ah! Glorify your Immortal Church!
Jesus, do not be deaf to my sighs.
I, her child, sacrifice myself for her,
                I live on Love.
Living on Love is wiping your Face,
It’s obtaining the pardon of sinners.
O God of Love! May the return to your grace,
And may they forever bless your Name.
Even in my heart the blasphemy resounds.
To efface it, I always want to sing:
“I adore and love your Sacred Name.
                I live on Love!
Living on Love is imitating Mary,
Bathing your divine feet that she kisses, transported.
With tears, with precious perfume
She dries them with her long hair…
Then standing up, she shatters the vase,
And in turn she anoints your Sweet Face,
As for me, the perfume with which I anoint your Face
                Is my Love!
“Living on Love, what strange folly!”
The world says to me, “Ah! Stop your singing.
Don’t waste your perfumes, your life.
Learn to use them well…”
Loving you, Jesus, is such a fruitful loss!
All my perfumes are yours forever.
I want to sing on leaving this world:
                “I’m dying of Love!”
Dying of Love is a truly sweet martyrdom,
And that is the one I wish to suffer.
O Cherubim! Tune your lyre,
For I sense my exile is about to end!
Flame of Love, consume me unceasingly.
Life if an instant, your burden is so heavy tome!
Divine Jesus, make my dream come true:
                To die of Love!
Dying of Love is what I hope for.
When I shall see my bonds broken,
My God will be my Great Reward.
I don’t desire to possess other goods.
I want to be set on fire with his Love.
I want to see Him, to unite myself to Him forever.
That is my Heaven… that is my destiny:
                Living on Love!!!
As we know, the quickest way to Jesus' Heart of love is through the Immaculate Heart of His Blessed Mother Mary! May we as Carmelites be open to this grace and gift. May we ask for it, receive it, and then pass it along to all of humanity as best we can, as requested by Our beloved Lady. Amen.