31 December 2008

Our Conversation is in Heaven

"When you pray, enter into your room, and having shut the door, pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (Matthew 6:6). Our faith is never meant to be a private matter because we're all connected. We are the mystical Body of Christ -- we need each other. But in order to be an effective part in this mystical Body, we must permit ourselves to have our inner temple emptied of the clutter so that it may be filled with the Most Holy Trinity.

Saint Caesarius of Arles tells us that through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have become temples of Christ. God does not live only in shrines built by human hands, but above all He lives in the soul, made in His Image and built by the great Craftsman Himself. Saint Caesarius asks the question: "Do you want this basilica to be spotless?" He tells us how by avoiding sin because God wants to come into our soul (cf. Sermo 229). Saint Paul also teaches us that we are the temple of the living God and also recalls that God said He will live in us and walk among us (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16).

Confession will absolve sin but filling up with Christ will leave no room for sin. In the opening quote of this entry Jesus commands us to make private time with our God. If Jesus left us an example to follow, then what does Sacred Scripture tell us about our Savior's private time with His heavenly Father? I think these verses speak for themselves:

"Having dismissed the multitude, He went into a mountain alone to pray. And when it was evening, He was there alone" (Matthew 14:23).

"And rising very early, going out, He went into a desert place, and there He prayed" (Mark 1:35).

"The fame of Him went abroad the more, and great multitudes came together to hear and to be healed by Him of their infirmities; and He retired into the desert and prayed" (Luke 5:15-16).

"And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray; and He passed the whole night in the prayer of God" (Luke 6:12).

In the Statutes of the Carthusian Order is the following:
"In the Old Testament, and still more in the New, almost all God’s secrets of major importance and hidden meaning, were revealed to His servants, not in the turbulence of the crowd but in the silence of solitude; and you know, too, that these same servants of God, when they wished to penetrate more profoundly some spiritual truth, or to pray with greater freedom, or to become a stranger to things earthly in an ardent elevation of the soul, nearly always fled the hindrance of the multitude for the benefits of solitude" (Book One - Prologue, Chapter 2, Verse 3).

Being alone with the Trinity is intimate and helps us grow in the knowledge of our God, grow in our love for God and our love for each other.

30 December 2008

She Experienced Jesus Supernaturally

Her name is Julia Crotta (1907-1990). She was very devout when it came to her Catholic faith. She studied dance in New York seven days a week but never once missed Sunday Mass. After returning home in 1926 she went to the Hartford Conservatory for violin, piano and musical theory. In 1932 she received a diploma from the Yale School of Music and planned on another two years there. In September of that year, as she was walking to the campus music building she heard a voice telling her to quit Yale and join Albertus Magnus Women's College, a Catholic school well-known for its liberal arts course. Remarkably obedient, she asked for a transcript of her grades because she was leaving Yale.

In March of 1934 at the registrar's office, one of the Sisters asked Julia to join them for a Holy Week Retreat. After a couple of refusals, Julia finally agreed. During the Retreat she found that she was attracted to the bare altar. While alone in the convent chapel, she heard a voice calling out her name. She looked but no one else was in the chapel; and then she heard her name called out again. Then she saw a man weeping and stretching out his wounded hands calling her to the desert promising her his abiding presence. Her response was "yes" but it was unspoken. After that, the vision of the man was gone, the chapel was once again silent and Julia was crying tears of joy. Soon after, the Sisters were in choir as Julia listened to the Psalms and the Lamentations of Jeremiah. She would later say that this vision transformed her entire existence.

At the advice of a priest she headed to Rome. She experienced many sufferings along the way to find where she belonged -- her place in the desert. Julia would receive a papal rescript giving her permission to enter the Camaldolese monastery of Sant'Antonio but not as a novice, instead as a recluse, a lay anchoress and was given a room that was isolated from the rest of the religious community. She was granted permission to enter this Camaldolese Benedictine monastery to live out a secluded and eremitical life.

Her days at the monastery were divided between prayer and work and necessary materials were left at the door of her cell. Her meals were strictly vegetarian which were also delivered to the door of her cell. Her bed was simply boards and needed blankets and her cell was furnished only with a table and a bench. On her wall was a Cross and an image of the Immaculate Virgin. This very ascetic life was given approval by Pope Pius XII. In this vocation she was no longer Julia but Sister Nazarena. She lived as an anchoress for 45 years until her death.

Her detailed story is in a book titled: "Nazarena, an American Anchoress" written by Thomas Matus, a Camaldolese Benedictine monk. The book is published by Paulist Press.

I've read it and loved it!

29 December 2008

Perpetual Gratitude for Her "FIAT"

Now that we have celebrated the birth of our Lord, every year I find it difficult to exit the Season of Advent. I love the liturgies in both the Mass and Offices and that great expectation of the coming of the Lord. It's also a Season in which I often think about our Lady's fiat.

In the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary during Advent, something I find particularly moving occurs during the hour of Lauds and the fifth antiphon, which is:

Ecce ancilla Domini: Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Your word.

And then what follows is Psalm 148 in which virtually all of God's creation is called to praise Him: the angels, the sun, the moon, the stars, the heaven of heavens, all the waters above the heavens, dragons and all deeps, fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, mountains, hills, fruitful trees, cedars, beasts, cattle, creeping things, feathered fowls, kings of the earth, princes, all judges of the earth, young men, maidens, young children and all people.

Having this psalm follow that particular antiphon, it's as if the universe stood still, completely silent, waiting on Mary's answer; and then when she says: "Fiat, yes, so be it," then all of God's creation breaks out of this hush and praises Him as though everything and everyone understands the magnitude of our Lady's reply and what God was going to do through her. Eternally grateful for God's gift of salvation, may we never lose sight that it began with a Virgin girl who completely and unreservedly surrendered herself to God. She is our model for faith.

26 December 2008

Saint John: Apostle and Evangelist

Our Lord Jesus Christ drew His disciple Saint John to Himself in a three-fold manner, even so does He now draw all who ever arrive at the deepest truth. The first way in which our Lord drew Saint John to Himself is when He called him out of the world and made him an apostle; a second time when he rested on His Bosom; the third time, and in the most perfect manner, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostle. That day opened the door and he entered within.

Thus, like John, each man is called out of the world, when all his inferior faculties come to be goverened by his highest reason; you then learn to know yourself and to exercise your free self-guiding power, and to watch your words. Then you speak to everyone as you would want them to speak to you, also watching the movements of your heart, to see if it proceeds from God and tends towards Him, to watch your thoughts, in order not to detain voluntarily some bad or useless thought. What comes to you from on High is a purification, a preparation, to give a greater value to your works, that you may have a single eye to the glory of God and the welfare of mankind.

As to the second way, will you with Saint John rest on the loving Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ? Then you must be transformed into the beauteous Image of our Lord and earnestly contemplate Him. You must consider His sweetness, His humility, His burning deep love for His friends and His enemies, His great and docile abandonment which He manifested in all the paths in which His Father called Him to tread.

Next consider the boundless charity He showed to all men as well as His blessed poverty. Heaven and earth belong to Him but He never possessed them with attachment. In all His words and deeds He looked only to the glory of His Father and the salvation of mankind. And now you must gaze more closely and deeply into the glorious Image of our Lord Jesus Christ than I can show you with my outward teaching. Then look attentively at yourself, your unlikeness to this Image and behold your own littleness. Here, then, will your Lord let you rest on Him.

There is no better or more profitable way to rest on the Heart of our Lord than to receive worthily the Sacrament of His adorable Body, and to follow the counsel of one whom the light of grace shines on more brightly than it has on you. In the glorious likeness of Christ you will be made rich and find all solace and sweetness in the world. These two degrees of holiness are often found in many men who in their haste think they have conquered on their own the ground in which they stand, while they are yet far from the goal.

Even though John rested on the Heart of our Lord, he left his cloak and fled when Christ was taken prisoner. Therefore, how ever holy you walk in these two paths, see to it that, if you are assailed, you do not let your mantle fall through your hasty thought for yourself.

It is good and holy that you practice these two degrees, and let no creature turn you away from it, until God Himself draws you into a closer union with Him. Thus if Christ calls you to Himself, then let go of all forms and images, and allow Him to work through you as His instrument. It is more pleasing to Him and more profitable for you to permit Him to do as He wills in you for a moment, than you exercise yourself in inferior things for a hundred years.

In the third way, when the Holy Spirit was given to Saint John, then the door of heaven was opened unto him. This happens to some with a convulsion of the mind, and to others calmly and gradually. In it are fulfilled the words of Saint Paul: "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man." Let no man boast that he is continually drawing nearer to the highest perfection possible while here on earth unless the outward man has been entirely absorbed into the inner man; only then is a man introduced into the depth of God, to behold the wonders and riches of Him. Truthfully, my children, one who would know much about these matters of divine intuition, will often have to put themselves to bed, because their nature could not support all that. But, you know before that can come to past, of which we have been speaking, nature must endure many deaths outward and inward. And to this death corresponds eternal life.

My children, this is not the work of a day or a year. Do not be discouraged, it takes time, and requires simplicity, purity and abandonment.

It is the most perfect way; it is given to us, to you and me, from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

~ Sermon pour la veille des Rameaux, "Sermons de Tauler" ~

Saint Stephen, First Martyr

Princes sat and spoke against me; and the wicked persecuted me. Help me, O Lord my God, for your servant was employed in Your justifications. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. ~ Psalm 118 (119):23,86,1.

The birthday of the Lord which we celebrated was the one on which He was pleased to be born; the birthday we are celebrating of His servant is the one on which he was crowned. The Lord’s birthday we celebrated was the one on which He received the garment of our esh; His servant’s birthday which we are celebrating is the one on which he threw aside the garment of his esh. What we celebrated on the Lord's birthday was His becoming like us; what we are celebrating on His servant’s birthday is his becoming as close as possible to Christ. Just as Christ, you see, by being born was joined to Stephen, so Stephen by dying was joined to Christ. ~ Saint Augustine, Sermon 314.

25 December 2008