31 May 2010

The Visitation

It seems that Saint Luke in his Gospel made great strides to delineate Our Blessed Lady as the New Ark of the New and Everlasting Covenant, the human Tabernacle of the Lord.

Notice some of the scriptural parallels:

In the Old Testament are these words:
‘The cloud covered the tabernacle of the testimony, and the glory of the Lord filled it’ (Exodus 40:32).
And in the New Testament:
‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God’ (Saint Luke 1:35).

In the Old Testament:
‘And David was afraid of the Lord that day, saying: How shall the ark of the Lord come to me’? (2 Kings [2 Samuel]6:9).
In the New Testament:
‘And whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me’? (Saint Luke 1:43).

In the Old Testament:
‘And David danced with all his might before the Lord: and David was girded with a linen ephod. And David and all the house of Israel brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord with joyful shouting, and with sound of trumpet’ (2 Kings [2 Samuel]6:14-15).
In the New Testament:
‘Behold as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy’ (Saint Luke 1:44).

In the Old Testament:
‘The ark of the Lord abode in the house of Obededom the Gethite three months’ (2 Kings [2 Samuel]6:11).
In the New Testament:
‘Mary abode with her about three months’ (Saint Luke 1:56).

Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa Theologica that ‘Mary would not have been a worthy Mother of God if she had ever sinned’, thus we must profess with the Doctor Angelicus: ‘You are wholly beautiful, my love and without blemish’. We are sinners, and so, we can also say with Saint Elizabeth: ‘Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me’? Nevertheless Our Blessed Lady would like to be invited to our house, not only the house in which we reside where she can guide us in family matters and parenting skills, but also the inner house, the temple of the soul. She brings Jesus with her. There she perpetually sings her Magnificat. And since she stayed in the house of Zachary for three months, we know that when invited, she will always arrive with a charitable heart. Let us permit Our Lady and her divine Son to take up residence at our inner house, where together they can clean this house of all temporal desires, that this house may always be called a ‘house of prayer’ (Saint Matthew 21:13).

29 May 2010

Handmaid of the Lord

On this Saturday of Our Lady, here’s more from the Carthusian Order:

‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word’ (Saint Luke 1:38). Our Lady’s reply to the angel was more than an obvious response to the message of the heavenly envoy, or merely the expression of a feeling aroused by the archangel’s words. Into this sentence, the mind, the heart and the life of Our Lady flowed, as it were, like a stream. By an obedience that knew no bounds, she yielded herself entirely to her Creator and Lord.

Submitting in everything and with all her heart to the divine good pleasure, Mary could do no less than abandon herself to it with a joyful eagerness, when it was manifested to her through human agencies. She obeyed Saint Joseph; she obeyed the commands of the Synagogue; she obeyed Saint Peter and the Apostles; and above all she obeyed the devout widows who had charge of the virgins in the Temple. Thus did she lay the foundations of the virtue which was to dominate the whole of her life, and so provide the religious of future ages with a model for them to imitate.

Having herself fulfilled the law so perfectly, Mary was able to exhort others to do the same. ‘Although in our life there are numerous and varied observances, let us hold it as certain, that they will be fruitful for us by virtue of obedience alone’ (Statuta Ordinis Cartusiensis, II pars, c.xviii, 31).

Without this virtue we shall never achieve the purpose and end of our vocation, which is union with God. Solitude of place, of mind and of heart are of little value without solitude of soul, which consists in perfect obedience. Let us listen to our Reverend Father Dom Le Masson (50th General of the Carthusian Order from 1675-1703), writing to the nuns of the Order. ‘Solitude of soul implies the cutting off of every attachment, so that the soul remains voluntarily stripped, not only of its affections, desires and cares, but even of itself. It no longer considers its own consolation, its own profit or happiness, but God alone! It is His glory that is its aim; all else is naught’ (Dom Le Masson: Subjects of Meditation, Montreuil-sur Mer, 1890).

28 May 2010

The Holy of Holies

This reflection on the Sacred Heart of Jesus was written by Dom Lawrence Wartenberger. He was born in Magdeburg, Germany around the year 1590. He was a Lutheran before converting to Catholicism. He was Prior of the Carthusian Charterhouse in Koblenz, Germany (Kartause Sankt Beatusberg). Here’s is his reflection:

The veil of the temple was rent in two. ~ Saint Mark 15:38

Jesus will not be crucified privately in the court of the praetorium, but like a King bearing His weapons, He will be seen upon the battle field. He will be placed on the Cross outside the walls of Jerusalem, in broad daylight, exposed to the gaze of a very large number of persons, who have come from all parts of the land to celebrate the great feast of the Pasch.

If you have any love for our Lord, recall to mind the pains which He endured; kneel in the shadows of the Cross in contemplation; and the fruits of His bitter Passion will appear to you inestimably sweet. Do I ask anything too hard when I tell you to think of Him Who has satisfied for you? Let not the Saviour stretch out His Hands before you in vain. Seek no more for unprofitable joys here below, but reserve yourself for the joys of eternity. O man, hear today the Voice of the Lord, and harden not your heart. God asks for your heart, and He would have it humble, docile, full of good will and of distrust of self, and set free from every sinful affection.

O unfathomable abyss of the ungrateful human heart! The earth quakes, the rocks are rent, the graves are opened when Jesus expires on the Cross, while the heart of man remains insensible and hard as adamant!

The veil of the temple behind the altar of incense hiding the Holy of holies, was torn from top to bottom, and the mysterious and sacred objects of the Jewish worship were exposed to view. Thus were the mysteries of the New Law disclosed when the true Holy of holies opened His Breast and drew from His Heart a new Tabernacle not made with hands, rending forever the veil that separated us from His Father.

You, O my soul, are the dove, the beloved of God; enter then into the open Heart of Jesus. Enter into the holes of the mystical Rock, whence no one can drag you against your will. There will you feel the fire that constrained that Heart to love you with such great love. Through the lacerated Side of your Redeemer, as through a grating, you will discern the treasures of Divine Wisdom and knowledge. Keep near to your God; the shadow that falls from the tree of the Cross is of admirable sweetness, it affected the thief and sanctified him. Let the remembrance of the Passion be ever before you. This is what is called in the Apocalypse, washing one’s robes in the Blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). Then will you be able to reach the tree of Life, and through the door of the Wounds of Jesus, you will enter into the Eternal City. He is but a thief and a robber who goes not in through the opening made in the Side and the Heart of Jesus.

26 May 2010

Saint Philip Neri: A Humble Priest

Today is the feast of Saint Philip Neri. The Venerable John Henry Newman had preached a couple of sermons on this great saint at the Birmingham Oratory. Here’s an excerpt:

Let us . . . inquire what Saint Philip's times were, and what place he holds in them; what he was raised up to do, how he did it, and how we, my Fathers of the Oratory, may make his work and his way of doing it a pattern for ourselves in this day. His times were such as the Church has never seen before nor since, and such as the world must last long for her to see again; nor peculiar only in themselves, but involving a singular and most severe trial of the faith and love of her children. It was a time of sifting and peril.

[The] Church . . . though full of divine gifts, the Immaculate Spouse, the Oracle of Truth, the Voice of the Holy Ghost, infallible in matters of faith and morals, whether in the chair of her Supreme Pontiff, or in the unity of her Episcopate, nevertheless was at this time so environed, so implicated, with sin and lawlessness, as to appear in the eyes of the world to be what she was not. Never, as then, were her rulers, some in higher, some in lower degree, so near compromising what can never be compromised; never so near denying in private what they taught in public, and undoing by their lives what they professed with their mouths; never were they so mixed up with vanity, so tempted by pride, so haunted by concupiscence; never breathed they so tainted an atmosphere, or were kissed by such traitorous friends, or were subjected to such sights of shame, or were clad in such blood-stained garments, as in the centuries upon and in which Saint Philip came into the world. Alas, for us, my brethren, the scandal of deeds done in Italy then is borne by us in England now.

It was an age . . . when civilization, powerless as yet to redress the grievances of society at large, gave to princes and to nobles as much to possess as before, and less to suffer; increased their pomp, and diminished their duties and their risks; became the cloak of vices which it did not extirpate, made revenge certain by teaching it to be treacherous, and unbelief venerable by proving it to be ancient. Such were the characteristics of Saint Philip's age; and Florence, his birth-place, presented the most complete exhibition of them -- and next to Florence, Rome, the city of his adoption.

It is not by powerful declamation, or by railing at authorities, that the foundations are laid of religious works. It is not by sudden popularity, or by strong resolves, and demonstrations, or by romantic incidents, or by immediate successes, that undertakings commence which are to last.

The Lord of grace Himself . . . grew up in silence and obscurity, overlooked by the world; and then He triumphed. He was the grain cast into the earth, which, while a man ‘sleeps and rises, night and day, springs up and grows whilst he knoweth not’. He was the mustard seed, ‘which is the least of all seeds, but, when it is grown up, becometh a tree, and shooteth out great branches, so that the birds of the air dwell under its shadow’. He grew up ‘as a tender plant, and as a root out of a thirsty land’; and ‘His look was, as it were, hidden and despised, wherefore we esteemed Him not’. And, when He began to preach, He did not ‘contend nor cry out, nor break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax’; and thus ‘He sent forth judgment unto victory’. So was it in the beginning, so has it been ever since. After the storm, the earthquake and the fire, the calm, soothing whisper of the fragrant air.

St. Philip was a child of . . . the convent of Saint Mark; here he received his first religious instruction, and in after times he used to say, ‘Whatever there was of good in me, when I was young, I owed it to the Fathers of Saint Mark's, in Florence’.

Reverend Father Philip, an old man of sixty, who, they say, is an oracle, not only in Rome, but in the far-off parts of Italy, and of France and Spain, so that many come to him for counsel; indeed he is another Thomas à Kempis, or Tauler. But it required to live in Rome to understand what his influence really was. Nothing was too high for him, nothing too low. He taught poor begging women to use mental prayer; he took out boys to play; he protected orphans. He was the teacher and director of artisans, mechanics, cashiers in banks, merchants, workers in gold, artists, men of science. He was consulted by monks, canons, lawyers, physicians, courtiers; ladies of the highest rank, convicts going to execution, engaged in their turn his solicitude and prayers. Cardinals hung about his room, and Popes asked for his miraculous aid in disease, and his ministrations in death. It was his mission to save men, not from, but in, the world. To break the haughtiness of rank, and the fastidiousness of fashion, he gave his penitents public mortifications; to draw the young from the theatres, he opened his Oratory of Sacred Music; to rescue the careless from the Carnival and its excesses, he set out in pilgrimage to the Seven Basilicas. For those who loved reading, he substituted, for the works of chivalry or the hurtful novels of the day, the true romance and the celestial poetry of the Lives of the Saints. He set one of his disciples to write history against the heretics of that age; another to treat of the Notes of the Church; a third, to undertake the Martyrs and Christian Antiquities; for, while in the discourses and devotions of the Oratory, he prescribed the simplicity of the primitive monks, he wished his children, individually and in private, to cultivate all their gifts to the full. He, however, was, after all and in all, their true model, the humble priest, shrinking from every kind of dignity, or post, or office, and living the greater part of day and night in prayer, in his room or upon the housetop.

And when he died, a continued stream of people . . . came to see his body, during the two days that it remained in the church, kissing his bier, touching him with their rosaries or their rings, or taking away portions of his hair, or the flowers which were strewed over him; and, among the crowd, persons of every rank and condition were heard lamenting and extolling one who was so lowly, yet so great.

Would that we, his children of this Oratory, were able -- I do not say individually, but even collectively, nor in some one generation, but even in that whole period during which it is destined to continue here -- would that we were able to do a work such as his! At least we may take what he was for our pattern, whatever be the standard of our powers and the measure of our success. And certainly it is a consolation that thus much we can say in our own behalf, that we have gone about his work in the way most likely to gain his blessing upon us.

My brethren, I do not feel it to be any want of devotion or reverence towards our dear Father, to speak of him as looking out to be taught, or willing to be governed. It is like his most amiable, natural, and unpretending self. He was ever putting himself in the background, and never thought of taking on himself a rule, or seizing on a position, in the Church, or of founding a religious body. He did not ask to be opposed, to be maligned, to be persecuted, but simply to be overlooked, to be despised. Neglect was the badge which he desired for himself and for his own. He took great pleasure in being undervalued. And hence you know, when he became so famous in his old age, and every one was thinking of him mysteriously, and looking at him with awe, and solemnly repeating Father Philip's words and rehearsing Father Philip's deeds, and bringing strangers to see him, it was the most cruel of penances to him, and he was ever behaving himself ridiculously on purpose, and putting them out, from his intense hatred and impatience of being turned into a show.

We have determined, through God's mercy, not to have the praise or the popularity that the world can give, but, according to our Father's own precept, ‘to love to be unknown’. May this spirit ever rule us more and more!

24 May 2010

Our Blessed Mother's Example of Poverty

This particular piece from a Carthusian monk focuses on the poverty of the Virgin Mother of God, in order that she may ‘preserve her unique treasure’. Jesus tells us to ‘make to yourselves . . . a treasure in heaven which does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth corrupts. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ (Saint Luke 12:33-34). The possessions of this world’s goods or the lack thereof, causes much stress in the heart of humanity. Our fallen nature renders us ‘control freaks’, making it difficult to surrender totally to our Lord and trust in His Providence. Jesus encourages us however, when He said: ‘Fear not, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you a Kingdom’ (ibid. verse 32).

Our annals record the apparition, in the year 1137, of Our Blessed Lady to a simple lay-brother of La Correrie near La Grande Chartreuse, to whom she said, having delivered him from some grievous temptation: ‘Keep on advancing always in the life of perfection. Love the coarse food, the poor clothing allowed you by your Rule, and spend yourself in manual labour’.

These are the counsel of a Mother, herself imbued with a great love for poverty, a virtue of which during the whole of her life she gave a wonderful example.

Daughter of David and the descendant of the kings of Judah, Mary counted it her glory to live hidden from the eyes of men. She heard herself spoken of as a carpenter’s wife, and rejoiced in it, just as her Son was happy to pass for a workman’s son.

Rich in the possession of her divine Son, Mary deprived herself of the goods of this world, in order to preserve her unique treasure. And yet as she was Queen of creation, she knew that she could have been trusted always to make use of created things in a lawful and holy manner. We too, therefore, should remain detached from the vanities of this world, if we would possess Him Who in truth only gives Himself to those who can repeat with the poor man of Assisi: My God, and my All!

The prospect of the unfading crown which will encircle the brows of those who conquer for Christ’s sake should make us generous in our detachment, like those athletes of whom the apostle speaks, who strip themselves of everything in order to fight in the arena (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25). Did not Joshua once see his army put to flight by the enemies of God in punishment for a theft committed by a son of Israel, who had stolen objects vowed to the pagan gods?

Holy Mary, Mother of God: pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

22 May 2010

I Will Not Leave You Orphans

Today in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass for the Vigil of Pentecost, Jesus said, as recorded in Saint John’s Gospel: ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments’ (Saint John 14:15). Love for God can get thrown around rather generically. Anyone can say: ‘Yes, I love the Lord and the Lord loves me’. But statements like that seldom consider the responsibility of love. What does it mean to say ‘I love the Lord’? How do I show my love for Him? Jesus assigns us a responsibility: ‘Keep My commandments’.

In our culture today, it’s quite evident that Our Lord’s assignment on how to commit to Him is not being met. In fact, efforts have been made and continue to be made to do just the opposite. In 2003 the Ten Commandments monument was removed from the rotunda of the Alabama state judicial building, even though 4 of 5 Americans disapproved of that decision. In 2006 at Tennessee, bills introduced in the General Assembly which would permit the Ten Commandments to be displayed in courthouses were defeated. There are many stories ranging from the Ten Commandments being removed, the right to pray denied in public schools, bibles not allowed in the workplace, the continuing efforts to uphold the culture of death, etc., all of which demonstrate how God is being pulled from our public lives.

In this same Gospel today, Jesus said that if we keep His commandments, He will ask the Father and He will give us the Paraclete, that He may abide with us forever (cf. Saint John 14:16). The Paraclete is the Spirit of Truth. It should come to us as no surprise that our culture is caught up in rampant secularism: Jesus prophesied it in today’s Gospel: ‘The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it doesn’t see Him or know Him’ (Saint John 14:17). But Jesus in turn says to those of us who see Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life: ‘But you shall know Him because He shall abide with you and shall be in you’ (ibid.).

Dear friends, we truly are, as Saint Peter tells us, ‘strangers and pilgrims’ (1 Saint Peter 2:11). Saint Paul warned us in tears that many are enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, who mind earthly things (cf. Philippians 3:18-19). Why does he tell us this weeping? Perhaps it is because of the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave us: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind’ (Saint Matthew 22:37); and, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Saint Matthew 22:39). If we truly love others as we love God, how can we not weep at what we see? As a people committed to the Lord, however, it dictates that we are a people of prayer: ‘Our conversation is in heaven’ (Philippians 3:20). There is always hope, ‘and hope does not disappoint’ (Romans 5:5) because the charity of God is poured forth into our hearts, Who is the Holy Spirit (cf. ibid.).

While the outlook may often seem bleak, Jesus promises us: ‘I will not leave you orphans’ (Saint John 14:18). May the gift of the great Paraclete continue to transform us and our world; and may we, a people of God, grow in intimacy with His Spirit, Who resides in the recesses of our souls!

A blessed and transforming Pentecost to all!

21 May 2010

The Heart of Jesus: Source of the Supernatural Life

This writing on the Sacred Heart of Jesus comes to us from the Carthusian, Dom Juan Anadón, a seventeenth-century Prior of Cartuja de Aula Dei in Spain. In harmony with the Carthusian way, he writes that Jesus desires ‘to be with us in silent peace and in peaceful silence’. He died in the year 1682.

In me is all hope of life. ~ Ecclesiasticus 24:25

‘Longinus with a spear has opened for me the Side of Jesus Christ’, says Saint Augustine. ‘I have entered into It, and there will I dwell in security and repose sweetly; there I am comforted with delights and fed with deliciousness’. Yes, the Side of Jesus was designedly pierced near the Heart, in order to open for us a way and a door of access to that Heart. This is the opening in the ark, through which all those who escape from the deluge find entrance. Contemplate this Wound of the Sacred Heart, for therein is the source of your life. There indeed, has our heavenly Father regenerated us for the life of heaven. There we see unfolded for our contemplation the incomprehensible love of Jesus for us, for we see Him wholly immolated for us. He has reserved nothing for Himself, but has offered all for us. What more could He do? He has opened to us the hidden sanctuary of His Heart, and He introduces us as His intimate friends, for His delight is to be with us in silent peace and in peaceful silence. He has given us His Heart, all covered with cruel wounds, in order that we may be able to dwell therein until, having become purified and perfectly conformed to that Heart, we shall be deemed worthy to be taken and cast with Him into the Bosom of His heavenly Father. Jesus gives us His Heart to live in, and asks to live in ours. He gives us His Heart like a bed full of roses purpled with His Blood; and He asks for our hearts in return. We should present them to Him adorned with the white lilies of purity. Who will dare to refuse Him what He has lavished upon us with such generosity? Behold how He invites us to enter into His Wounds sweeter than honey, into His loving Side, which is wide open to receive us! It is the mystic store filled with all heavenly delights. ‘Arise’, He says, ‘My love, My beautiful one, and come, My dove, in the clefts of the rock’ (Canticle of Canticles 2:13, 14), that is to say, into My Sacred Wounds.

20 May 2010

Live in the Solitude of Your Soul

Much of this post is from the lips of the Blessed Virgin herself. She speaks to us as a Mother to her children, lovingly instructing us how to live in this life, so as to be prepared for the next. This includes a lesson on the rewards of controlling the senses and who to choose as friends. While a vow of chastity, as mentioned in this post by Our Blessed Mother, is reserved for those in religious life, everyone is called to chastity by living a life of virtue. Marie d’Agreda (pictured here), who was the recipient of Our Lady’s messages in much of this post, was a seventeenth-century discalced Franciscan nun from Spain. She was a mystic and visionary who frequently experienced ecstasies after receiving the sacraments of the Church.

One of our early [Carthusian] Fathers, when begging Our Lady to watch over our Order, received the reply: ‘I shall love the Carthusians as long as they begin and end the day with my praises. So long as they are faithful to this pact, my Son will give them the grace to persevere. Should there be any so unfortunate as to sully the reputation of the Order by grave faults, either they will repent of their sin or they will leave the Order’ (Nicholas Molin: Historia Cartusiana, Vol. I, Tournai, 1903).

It is our duty to watch, then, and pray in order that we may preserve in all its purity the lily which we have offered to the Queen of virgins. For that there is no more practical way than to profit by the counsel given by our heavenly Mother to Marie d’Agreda when she told her: ‘The vow of chastity comprises purity both of body and soul. Now this precious treasure is preserved in a castle which has many doors and windows. If these are not guarded or adequately defended, there will always be danger. You will only observe this vow faithfully, my daughter’, she added, ‘if you make an irrevocable covenant with your senses, to use them only according to the requirements for reason and for the glory of your Creator. Once the senses are dead or mastered, it will be easy for you to gain the victory overy those enemies that cannot get the better of you without their co-operation. For thoughts will not present themselves nor return again and again, unless the images of visible things have already entered by means of the external senses, and so give rise to them. Live in the solitude of your soul, like one who is not of this world – poor, mortified, wearied maybe, accepting the bitter things of this life, seeking neither rest nor consolation. Look upon yourself as a stranger in a foreign land, brought there to toil and struggle against powerful enemies. The flesh is, as you are well aware, your most implacable enemy. You must make every possible effort to live down your evil passions, and to resist the temptations of the devil. Rise above yourself; live in your higher self, in the shadow of God Who is the object of all your desires: under His protection you will enjoy a true peace. Give yourself entirely to His pure and holy love, and see in creatures only those who can help you and make it easy for you to love and serve your Lord’.

Above all, never fail to have recourse to the Virgin of virgins in the hour of temptation. Just as the vine in flower, according to Saint Alphonsus, puts to flight serpents, so does the name of Mary force back the legions of hell.

19 May 2010

The Treasurer of Divine Grace

We continue this month here at Secret Harbour to honour Our Blessed Lady through the writings of the Carthusian Order with some help today outside of the Order from Saint Bernardine of Siena:

It is through the neck that the nervous impulses pass from the brain to set in motion the organs and members throughout each part of the human body. In like manner, in God’s Church, Mary is the mystical ‘neck’ by means of which supernatural impulses reach those souls that are united to Christ, the Head of the elect. We receive no grace that she has not obtained for us by her prayers. Thus Saint Bernardine of Siena says: ‘Just as God is the sovereign Author of all the graces which are given to the human race, and as Jesus is the sovereign Mediator through Whose merits they are given, so is the glorious Virgin the sovereign dispenser of them’.

Moreover, the devil is no fool, and the tactics he employs to bring about the downfall of certain souls reveal the importance of this mediation. There is no more effective way of putting anyone to death than by severing the head: so, in Satan’s eyes, to cause a soul to lose its devotion to Mary is to sever the mysterious channel by means of which the redemptive and sanctifying power of Our Saviour comes to us.

Our Carthusian writer, Lanspergius, has written on this subject much that is full of doctrine and unction. Living in unsympathetic surroundings, he ardently defended this prerogative of Mary. The Reformers, while recognizing Our Lady’s title of Mother of God, denied her any intervention in the distribution of grace. Let us listen to our author pleading the necessity of the cult we pay to Mary, and the priceless advantages that flow from it. These are the words which he makes Our Lord use to the faithful soul.

‘O my child’, says our divine Master, ‘how strangely are these men deceived, how ingenious they are to find a way to harden their hearts, and to stand in their own light. These are they who speak without respect of the treasurer of My graces; who refuse to recognise her as their advocate with Me, just as I Myself am their Advocate with My Father. Can you conceive any way by which they could alienate My love more than by refusing to recognise her whose prayers have so often save the world from almost certain destruction’? (Lanspergius, Opera Omnia, Vol. 2).

Mary is, then, by the will of her divine Son, a mediatrix: she is the treasurer of divine grace. ‘In making Mary the treasurer of His grace’, writes Lanspergius elsewhere, ‘Christ, Our Lord, has willed that we should receive through her all that we ask of Him, although He can give it to us directly Himself. It is in this way that the poor and afflicted of this world receive from the hands of the royal treasurer the alms that the King is desirous of giving to them’ (ibid.).

This same writer insists especially on the condescension which God shows towards us in making our salvation thus dependent upon Mary’s bounty. ‘I have given her to the world’, says Our Lord to the Faithful Soul on another occasion, ‘as a powerful advocate and protectress. For in all distress she is a shelter and a place of refuge. All can have recourse to her without fear, and approach her with absolute confidence. That is why I have endowed her with such gentleness and compassion, such mercy and goodness of heart. She turns away no one, she gives herself to all. She opens her heart to all with a Mother’s tenderness, and never does she allow anyone who has recourse to her to go away not cheered and not consoled. I have made her the repository of such abundant graces and such sweet consolations, that even the most wicked, the most hardened sinner, cannot but love her. As a fisherman makes use of a hook and a tempting bait, so have I chosen her to draw sinful souls to Me. For when all other means have failed, those who are deaf to My pleadings are won by devotion to My Mother. For I awaken in these rebellious hearts feelings of love and trust towards her, and thus render them more receptive to My grace, and to further light’ (Lanspergius, Epistle of Jesus Christ to the Faithful Soul).

18 May 2010

God's Favours Come Through the Heart and Hands of Mary

As the month of May continues, here's more on Our Blessed Mother from the Carthusians:

Our Lord said to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: ‘No man has ascended into heaven, than He that descended from heaven, the Son of man Who is in heaven’ (Saint John 3:13). For only the Word of God can remain in heaven and yet dwell on earth; just as He alone remains in the Bosom of the Father Who generates Him.

Nevertheless, we can find something similar in our sonship of Mary. Mary gives birth to us by obtaining grace for us. But at each moment this grace is capable of receiving a new degree of intensity. Our Lady’s gift, therefore, is a continuous one. Her maternity is ever being exercised; there is no point at which she ceases to be Our Mother and to fulfil with wonderful tenderness her divinely given role.

Does not Saint Augustine declare that all the elect exist in order to be made conformable to the likeness of the Son of God; hidden, so to say, in this life in Mary’s womb where they are preserved, nourished, sustained and cared for by this best of mothers, until she brings them forth unto eternal life?

Such is the principle which explains the office of Mediatrix which the eternal Father has charged her to fulfil, in regard to His adopted sons. For it is His will that all His favours should come to us through the heart and hands of a Mother, so that we may feel ourselves loved, even in heaven, with that unique love which is the glory of motherhood.

17 May 2010

Death: The Echo of Our Life

Towards the end of the last [nineteenth] century, there lived at the Grande Chartreuse a former general of the Russian army, Dom Jean-Louis de Nicolai, who as a Carthusian had a notable escape from death through the protection of the Immaculate Mother of God. One day early in December of the year 1880 – it was the evening of the 6th – he was returning to the Grande Chartreuse when he fell into the ravine which descends precipitously from the banks of the road leading to the monastery. Unable to move, and utterly helpless, he recommended himself with especial fervour to the Immaculate Virgin, whose feast it was on the 8th. The following morning, having passed two days in the snow, the looked-for help arrived, under the Providence of God, through the instrumentality of a shepherd boy, whom the poor sufferer regarded as an angel sent by God to save his life, which was, indeed, the case.

By practising the virtue of obedience throughout the whole of religious life, this faithful servant of Mary proved worthy of the great grace that even his death should be an act of obedience also.

It was the feast of Our Lady’s Purification. Seeing that his agony was being prolonged indefinitely – it had lasted eight days already – his confessor, Dom Vincent, the vicar of the House, said to him: ‘This is a beautiful day on which to die, dear Father. They will be ringing for Compline shortly; go to wish your Mother a happy feast in a better world’. Immediately, a perceptible change came over the features of the dying monk, and a few moments later he died. Thus did God receive his soul at the hands of Mary, on the very day when He had received Jesus from her in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Our death is but the echo of our life. If our whole life is passed in absolute submission to the good pleasure of God, and under the direction of our superiors, we shall die in the fullness of this act of abandonment to our heavenly Father – an act which has all the merit of martyrdom.

15 May 2010

Love God Above All

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI offered some wonderful speeches in Portugal which will hopefully turn the eyes of the Christian world towards heaven. In a world which is growing towards legalized immorality, where the boundaries of serving mammon continue to become larger, we who refuse to cross into those borders must rely on hope, which does not disappoint. Saint Bruno, while he sojourned the earth, also offered some edifying words of encouragement and warning, and now he speaks to us as a citizen of heaven. Here are some of his reflections extracted from his letters. He teaches us the path to follow based on the words of Sacred Scripture.

Remember lovely Rachel. Although she gave Jacob fewer offspring than Leah, he preferred her to the more fruitful one, whose vision was dim. The offspring of contemplation are rarer than the offspring of action; so it was that their father had more affection for Joseph and Benjamin than for their other brothers. Remember that better part, which Mary chose and which would not be taken away from her.

Remember the lovely Sunamitess, that virgin who was the only one in the land of Israel found worthy to attend to David and warm him when he was old. I should like for you, too, to love God above all, so that warmed by His embrace you may be aflame with divine love. May this charity take root in your heart so that the glory of the world, that captivating and deceptive temptation, will soon seem abhorrent to you; that you will reject the riches whose cares are a burden to the soul; and that you will find those pleasures, so harmful to body as well as spirit, distasteful.

You should always be aware of the one who wrote these words: 'If anyone loves the world and what is in the world — the concupiscence of the flesh, the covetousness of the eyes and pride — the love of the Father is not in him'; and these, too: 'Whoever wishes to be a friend of this world becomes an enemy of God'. Is there any greater sin, any worse folly and downfall of the spirit, anything more hurtful or unfortunate, than to wish to be at war against the One Whose power cannot be resisted and Whose just vengeance cannot be evaded? Are we stronger than He? If, for the moment, His patient goodness moves us to repentance, will He not at last punish the offenses of those who disregard Him? What is more perverse, more contrary to reason, to justice, and to nature itself, than to prefer creature to Creator, to pursue perishable goods instead of eternal ones, those of earth rather than those of heaven?

What do you intend to do? What, if not to believe God's counsels, to believe Truth Who cannot deceive? This is His counsel to you: 'Come to Me, you who are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you'. Isn't it a burden both unprofitable and unproductive to be tormented by concupiscence, constantly under attack by the cares, anxieties, fears, and sorrows that are the result of those desires? What heavier burden is there than that which makes the soul descend from its sublime dignity down to the underworld, where all holiness is held in contempt? Flee all this agitation and misery. Flee as from a pestilence, those who seek to corrupt you.

14 May 2010

Aflame with Divine Love

A letter dated this day nine years ago was sent by Pope John Paul II to the Carthusian Order on the occasion of the ninth centenary of Saint Bruno’s death. Here are the thoughts expressed by the Holy Father for this celebration:

To the Reverend Father Marcellinus Theeuwes,
Prior of La Grande Chartreuse, General of the Carthusian Order,
and to all the members of the Carthusian family,

At the time when the members of the Carthusian family celebrate the ninth centenary of their Founder's death, I with them give thanks to God who raised up in His Church the eminent and ever topical figure of Saint Bruno. Praying fervently I appreciate your witness of faithfulness to the See of Peter and am happy to join in with the joy of the Carthusian Order which has in this good and incomparable father a master of the spiritual life. On 6 October 1101, Bruno, aflame with divine love left the elusive shadows of this world to join the everlasting goods for ever. The brothers of the hermitage of Santa Maria della Torre in Calabria little knew that this dies natalis inaugurated a singular spiritual venture which even today brings forth abundant fruits for the Church and the world.

Bruno witnessed the cultural and religious upheavals of his time, in a Europe that was taking shape. He was an actor in the reform which the Church faced with internal difficulties wished to fulfill. After having been an appreciated teacher he felt called to consecrate himself to that unique Good which God is. What is there as good as God? Better still, is there another Good than God alone? Really, a holy soul who has any sense of this Good, of its incomparable splendour and beauty, finds himself aflame with heavenly love and exclaims: ‘I am thirsting for the strong and living God; when shall I go and see the Face of God’? The uncompromising nature of that thirst drove Bruno, a patient listener to the Spirit, to invent with his first companions a style of eremitical life where everything favours one's response to the call from Christ - Who indeed ever chooses men to lead them into solitude and join themselves to Him in intimate love. By this choice of life in the desert, Bruno invites the entire Church community never to lose sight of the highest vocation which is to remain forever with the Lord.

Bruno, when able to forget his own plans to answer the call from the Pope, shows his strong sense of the Church. He is conscious that to follow the path of holiness is unthinkable outside of obedience to the Church: and shows us in that way, that real following of Christ demands putting oneself into His Hands. In abandonment of self he shows us the supreme love. And this attitude of his kept him in a permanent state of joy and praise. His brothers noticed that his face was always radiating joy, his words modest. To a father's vigor he joined the sensitivity of a mother. These exquisite remarks from the obituary scroll show the fruitfulness of a life given to contemplate the Face of Christ as the source of all apostolic fecundity and brotherly love. Would that Saint Bruno's sons and daughters, as did their father, may always keep on contemplating Christ, that they keep watch in this way for the return of their Master ever ready to open when He knocks; this will he a stimulant call for all Christians to stay vigilant in prayer in order to welcome their Lord!

Following upon the great Jubilee of the Incarnation, the celebration of the ninth centenary of Saint Bruno's death acquires by this fact a supplementary emphasis. In the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte I invite the entire people of God again to take in Christ their point of departure, in order to permit those who thirst for meaningfulness and Truth to hear God's own Heartbeat and that of the Church. Christ's words: ‘And lo, I am with you always until the end of the world’ (Matthew 28:20) call all those who bear the name of disciples to draw from this certitude renewed energies for their Christian existence and inspiring strength for their path. The call to prayer and contemplation, which is the hallmark of Carthusian life, shows particularly that only Christ can bring to the hopes of men a fullness of meaning and joy.

How could one doubt for a second that such expression of pure love gives Carthusian life an extraordinary fecundity, as it were, for the missions? In the retreat of their monasteries, in the solitude of their cells, the Carthusians spin Holy Church's wedding garment (‘beautiful as a bride decked out for her bridegroom’, 1 Revelation 21:3); every day they offer the world to God and invite all mankind to the wedding of the Lamb. The celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the source and the summit of life in the desert, modeling into the very being of Christ those who give themselves up to His love. Thus the presence and the activity of Christ in this world become visible, for the salvation of all men and the joy of the Church.

At the heart of the desert, where men are tried and their faith purified, the Father leads them on a path of dispossession which questions all logic of having, being successful and finding fleeting happiness. Guigo the Carthusian would always encourage those desiring to follow Saint Bruno’s ideal to follow the example of the poor man Christ, in order to share in His riches. This dispossession passes through a thorough break with the world, which does not mean contempt for the world but a fresh orientation of one's whole life in a tireless search for the unique Good: ‘You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced’ (Jeremiah 20:7). The Church is fortunate to have at its disposition the Carthusian witness of total alertness to the Spirit and a life entirely surrendered to Christ!

So I invite the members of the Carthusian family to remain, by holiness and simplicity of life, like the city on the mountain or the lamp on the lamp stand (cf. Matthew 5:14-15). Rooted in the Word of God, quenching their thirst with the sacraments of Holy Church, upheld by the prayers of Saint Bruno and their brothers, let them remain for the entire Church and at the heart of the world a sort of place for hope and discovery of the Beatitudes, where Love leaning on prayer - source of communion - is called to become logic of life, and source of joy! The cloistered life as an outward expression of the offering up of one's whole life in union with Christ’s, shows the fleetingness of our existence and teaches us to count only on God. It increases the thirst for graces given in meditation of the Word of God. It also is the place for spiritual communion with God and our brothers and sisters, where the restricted character both of space and of contacts favours an interiorization of Gospel values. The quest for God in contemplation is indeed undissociable from love of our brothers, love that makes us recognize the Face of Christ in the poorest of men. Contemplation of Christ lived in brotherly love remains the safest path of all for a fruitful life. Saint John unceasingly reminds us of it: ‘Beloved, let us love each other, because love is of God, and whoever loves is born of God and knows God’ (1 John 4:7). Saint Bruno understood that well, he who never separated the primacy he gave to God in all his life from the deep humanity he showed his brethren.

The ninth centenary of Saint Bruno's dies natalis gives me the occasion to renew my trust in the Carthusian Order in its mission of selfless contemplation and intercession for the Church and the world. Following Saint Bruno and his successors, the Carthusian monasteries never stop awakening the Church to the eschatological dimension of its mission, calling to mind God's marvelous deeds and being watchful in the expectation of the ultimate accomplishment of the virtue of Hope. Watching tirelessly for the Kingdom to come, seeking to Be rather than to Do, the Carthusian Order gives the Church vigor and courage in its mission to put out in deep waters and permit the Good News of Christ to enkindle all of mankind.

In these days of Carthusian celebration I ardently pray the Lord to make resound in the heart of many young the call to leave everything to follow the poor man Christ, on the demanding but liberating path of the Carthusian vocation. I also invite those in charge of the Carthusian family to respond without timidity to the requests from the young Churches to found monasteries on their territories.

In this spirit the discernment and formation of the candidates presenting themselves necessitates renewed attention from the novice masters. Indeed today's culture marked by strong hedonistic currents, by the wish for possessions and a certain wrong conception of freedom, does not make it easy for the young to express their generosity when they want to consecrate their lives to Christ, to follow Him on the path of self-offering love, of concrete and generous service. The complexity of each one's itinerary, their psychological fragility, the difficulties to live faithfully over the years, all this suggests that nothing must be neglected to give those who ask for admission to the Carthusian ‘desert’ a formation spanning all the dimensions of the human person. What is more, particular attention must be given to the choice of educators able to accompany candidates on the paths of interior liberation and docility to the Holy Spirit. Finally, aware that life together as brothers is a fundamental element of the itinerary of consecrated persons, communities must be invited to live unreservedly their mutual love, and develop a spiritual climate and lifestyle in conformity with your Order's charisma.

Dear sons and daughters of Saint Bruno, as I reminded you at the end of my post-synodal apostolic exhortation Vita consecrata you should not only reminisce and tell a glorious past history, but make a grand history! Look towards the future, where the Spirit is sending you to do with you still great things. At the heart of the world you make the Church attentive to the voice of the Bridegroom whispering in her heart: ‘Courage! I have defeated the world’ (John 16:33). I encourage you never to give up the intuitions of your Founder, even if the impoverishment of your communities, the drop in vocations and the incomprehension, which your chosen radical lifestyle provokes, might make you doubt the fecundity of your Order and your mission whose fruits in a hidden way belong to God!

It is up to you, dear sons and daughters of the Charterhouse, heirs to Saint Bruno's charisma, to maintain in all its authenticity and depth the specific spiritual path, which he traced for you by his words and example. Your pithy knowledge of God, matured in prayer and meditation of His word, calls the people of God to look further, to the very horizons of a renewed humankind inquest of fullness of meaning and unity. Your poverty, offered for the glory of God and the salvation of the world, is an eloquent contestation of the logic of profit and efficiency, which often closes the hearts of men and nations to the real need of their brothers. Your hidden life with Christ, as the Cross silently planted in the heart of redeemed mankind, remains in fact for the Church and for the world the eloquent sign and the permanent reminder that anybody, yesterday as today, can let himself be taken by Him Who is only Love.

Entrusting all the members of the Carthusian family to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mater singularis Cartusiensium, star of the evangelization of the third millennium, I give them all an affectionate apostolic blessing, which I extend to all the benefactors of the Order.

Ioannes Paulus II, 14 Maius Anno Domini 2001

13 May 2010

Souls of Hearty, Fervent and Continual Prayer are Touched by God

Today is the traditional Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. At Matins, the Carthusians heard a homily by Johannes Tauler, a fourteenth-century German-born mystic of the Order of Saint Dominic. Here’s what the monks heard:

After Christ had eaten with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, and reproved them, that they had spent so long a time with Him and yet were still slow to believe, before their eyes He ascended into heaven. Children, imagine how agonizing was the pain of the hearts of the disciples, who loved Him so extraordinarily; for it was not unreasonable that they should be filled with a restless, sorrowful yearning to follow after Him – for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The Ascension of Jesus Christ wills to draw after Him the hearts and minds of all His friends, and all their powers, inward and outward, that we may not dwell with contentment and satisfaction among the things of time; but that our walk and conversation, pleasure and satisfaction, may be in heaven. It cannot be otherwise but that the members should follow their Head, Who, as on this day, has ascended into heaven to prepare a place for those who shall come after Him; therefore we should say with the Bride in the Song of Songs: Draw me, and I will come after You.

And who can stop us from following evermore after our Head? For He has said: I ascend to My Father and your Father. His origin, His end, His blessedness and our blessedness, is truly a blessedness in Him. We have proceeded from the same origin, and therefore are partakers of the same end. Dear children, let us meditate how Christ has gone before us into the glory of His heavenly Father. We must observe the Way He has shown us and trodden for thirty-three years in poverty and in bitterness, even unto death. Likewise, we must follow the same path, if we wish to enter with Him into the Kingdom of heaven. Although all our teachers were dead and all our books burned, yet we should ever find instruction in His holy life. For He Himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life; and by no other way can we truly advance towards the same consummation, than in that which He has walked as our Exemplar while He was on earth.

As a magnetized stone attracts iron, so does Christ draw to Himself all hearts that were touched by Him. When iron is touched by the force of a magnetized rock, it rises above its natural quality, and it follows the stone uphill, even though that is contrary to its nature, and cannot rest in its own proper place, but strives to rise above itself. For all the souls that have been touched by the magnet Who is Christ, cannot be chained down by joy or grief, but are ever rising up out of themselves to God. They forget their own nature and follow after the touch of God, and follow it with all the greater purity, truth and availability, and nobly they have been touched by Him. Now let each one mark for himself, whether his soul has been touch by God or not. Those who have not been touched by God often begin many excellent undertakings from which we might expect great things to happen; but if we watch them for a time, behold it all comes to nothing, for they soon fall back again, and they plunge into their old customs and their natural inclinations.

Children, if our souls have not been touch by God, we have no right to blame Him, as people often say: ‘God does not touch me or move me as He does with others’. God touches, impels and admonishes everyone equally. His touch, His admonitions and His gifts find a different reception and response in different persons. With many, when God comes to them with His touch and His gracious gifts, He finds the chambers of their soul occupied and defiled by other guests. So then, He must go His way, and cannot come into us, for we are loving and serving someone else. Therefore, His gifts, which He offers unceasingly, remain unaccepted. This is the cause of our eternal loss: the guilt is ours, not God’s. How much useless trouble do we create for ourselves; insomuch that we never perceive our own condition nor God’s preference, and thereby do ourselves an unspeakable and eternal mischief. There is no better remedy for this than hearty, fervent, continual prayer. We may obtain this steadfastness, together with a firm, and entire, and loving trust in the unfathomable mercy of God, in which lies all our salvation, and with a diligent and faithful watchfulness, to keep our goings in accordance with the will of God.

12 May 2010

Trials: An Effect of God's Mercy

In a Charterhouse in Germany, one feast day, the Prior had granted the customary recreation for the novices and had himself gone to join them. As he had that morning preached on extraordinary graces that we receive from God, he invited the religious to recount any such favours they had received. The last novice, with great simplicity, related the following story:

‘As at the beginning of my novitiate’, he said, ‘I was assailed by violent temptations, I took back my secular clothes in order to return to the world. Before leaving the cell, however, I knelt for one moment before the statue of Our Lady, which is in every Carthusian’s cell, and made a short prayer to her, protesting that it was only from sheer necessity that I was leaving, since the trials by which I was overwhelmed made it clear that I was not to remain in the cloister. Then Our Lady seemed to address me with the utmost kindness, and told me that these trials were nothing but an effect of God’s mercy, intended to increase my merit; and that I would do God’s will by staying in the holy state which I had embraced. From that moment I have never had to suffer any further temptation of that kind’.

When the Prior heard this story, he was unable to suppress a feeling of envy. ‘What’! he thought, ‘here is a novice, only six months in the Order, and he has already had a vision of the Mother of God. And I . . . I have served her to the best of my ability for so many years, and have never received any such favour’. This resentment became so bitter that some months later he made up his mind to leave the Order. He, therefore, asked the Brother Tailor for secular garments, put them on when evening came, and made his way to the door of the monastery. He could not, however, cross the threshold without going to kneel for a moment before the altar of Our Lady of Compassion, which was in the Brothers’ choir. While he was there, his heavenly Mother in her clemency appeared to him and reproached him for what he was intending to do, telling him that he had no justification whatever for his action. Her novice, indeed, had need of a vision to console him, and to fortify him against the interior trials which were beyond his strength. He, on the contrary, had had nothing but spiritual consolations from the moment he had entered religion. Why, then, should he need any extraordinary favours? The would-be fugitive humbled himself under the maternal admonition, and full of gratitude to her who, by giving it to him, had just saved his soul from so dire a peril, prostrated himself and became absorbed in a prayer of thanksgiving, which continued so far into the night that in the end he was overcome by sleep. The Procurator, and the Brothers with him, arrived in due course for Matins, and found their Prior prostrate on the ground, and dressed as a secular. They wakened him and, when he came to himself, he insisted on presiding at the Office dressed as he was. Then, leading the community to the chapter-house, he knelt down before them all and confessed his fault, and related the remarkable favour which had caused him to abandon his purpose.

Wherefore, he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12. Let us place our vows in Our Lady’s keeping, and beg her to obtain for us the graces that will make her motherly vigilance bear fruit.

10 May 2010

The Silence of Fruitfulness

Very recently our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI was a pilgrim in Turin, Italy to see the Holy Shroud, what many believe to be the burial cloth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict said some very profound things about the Shroud. Here is some of what he said:

One could say that the Shroud is . . . the Icon of Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday is the day when God remains hidden; we read in an ancient Homily: ‘What has happened? Today the earth is shrouded in deep silence, deep silence and stillness, profound silence because the King sleeps.... God has died in the flesh, and has gone down to rouse the realm of the dead’.

In our time, especially after having lived through the past century, humanity has become particularly sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. The concealment of God is part of contemporary man's spirituality, in an existential almost subconscious manner, like a void in the heart that has continued to grow larger and larger. Towards the end of the 19th century, Nietzsche wrote: ‘God is dead! And we killed him’! This day's darkness challenges all who are wondering about life and it challenges us believers in particular. We too have something to do with this darkness.

Holy Saturday is a ‘no man's land’ between the death and the Resurrection, but this ‘no man's land’ was entered by One, the Only One, Who passed through it with the signs of His Passion for man’s sake. And the Shroud speaks to us precisely about this moment testifying exactly to that unique and unrepeatable interval in the history of humanity and the universe in which God, in Jesus Christ, not only shared our dying but also our remaining in death the most radical solidarity.

In this ‘time-beyond-time’, Jesus Christ ‘descended to the dead’. What do these words mean? They mean that God, having made Himself man, reached the point of entering man’s most extreme and absolute solitude, where not a ray of love enters, where total abandonment reigns without any word of comfort. Jesus Christ, by remaining in death, passed beyond the door of this ultimate solitude to lead us too to cross it with Him. We have all, at some point, felt the frightening sensation of abandonment, and that is what we fear most about death, just as when we were children we were afraid to be alone in the dark and could only be reassured by the presence of a person who loved us. Well, this is exactly what happened on Holy Saturday: the Voice of God resounded in the realm of death. The unimaginable occurred: namely, Love penetrated ‘hell’. If love even penetrated the realm of death, then life also even reached there. In the hour of supreme solitude we shall never be alone.

This Face, these Hands and these Feet, this Side, this whole Body speaks. It is itself a word we can hear in the silence. How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with Blood, and Blood is Life! The Shroud is an Icon written in Blood; the Blood of a man Who was scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and Whose right Side was pierced. The Image impressed upon the Shroud is that of a dead man, but the Blood speaks of His life. Every trace of Blood speaks of Love and of Life; especially that huge stain near His Rib, made by the Blood and Water that flowed copiously from a great Wound inflicted by the tip of a Roman spear. That Blood and that Water speak of Life. It is like a spring that murmurs in the silence, and we can hear it, we can listen to it in the silence of Holy Saturday.

Our Holy Father of blessed memory, Pope John Paul II, said this during his pilgrimage to Turin:

The Shroud is an Image of silence. There is a tragic silence of incommunicability, which finds its greatest expression in death, and there is the silence of fruitfulness, which belongs to whoever refrains from being heard outwardly in order to delve to the roots of Truth and Life. The Shroud expresses not only the silence of death but also the courageous and fruitful silence of triumph over the transitory, through total immersion in God's eternal present. It thus offers a moving confirmation of the fact that the merciful omnipotence of our God is not restrained by any power of evil, but knows instead how to make the very power of evil contribute to good. Our age needs to rediscover the fruitfulness of silence, in order to overcome the dissipation of sounds, images and chatter that too often prevent the Voice of God from being heard.

08 May 2010

Climbing to Heaven

During the first half of the last [nineteenth] century, a Carthusian nun lay dying in the convent of Holy Cross at Beauregard in the Dauphiné in France. It has always been her delight to lavish every possible mark of her love on the Queen of virgins, above all by reciting the Rosary. As she lay dying it was noticed that her eyes rested with evident joy on a certain spot from which she seemed unable to withdraw her gaze. The Sisters who were attending her asked her what it was that she saw. ‘Oh, do you not admire’, she replied, ‘that wonderful succession of Rosaries which form a ladder by which I hope to reach heaven’?

This mystical ladder is within the reach of us all, and we mount a step of it every time we say with fervour: Holy Mary, Mother of God: pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

07 May 2010

The Heart of Jesus: The Centre and Resting-Place of Hearts

In honour of this First Friday of the month of May, below is a reflection on the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Dom Johannes Gerecht von Landsberg (1489-1539). He is perhaps best known by the single name of Lanspergius, which is how it appears in Latin. Lanspergius was an ascetical writer and a Carthusian monk born in Bavaria. He studied philosophy in Cologne and then entered the Carthusian Order at the young age of twenty. Twenty-one years later he became the Prior of the Charterhouse of Cantave where he was the Confessor of the mother of the Duke of Juliers. The austere life that Lanspergius had chosen for himself rendered failing health. He returned to Cologne and was the sub-prior of the Charterhouse there until his death. Lanspergius had written much on the subjects of asceticism and mysticism, as well as various homilies and meditations on the liturgical year. Basically, anything on the subject of the spiritual life, Lanspergius wrote about it. All his works were originally written in Latin except for a treatise in defence of the monastic life and a controversial dissertation on the errors of Luther, which were written in his native tongue of German. Here is one of his many reflections on the Sacred Heart:

My Heart shall be there always. ~ 3 Kings [1 Kings] 9:3

O Lord Jesus, Your odours, more penetrating than all the perfumes of earth, sweetly caress my senses now that they are set free from all desire for sensual and worldly enjoyments. Your fragrance draws me after You with delightful force. It attracts me to You and into You. I throw off the weight of earthly affections, and I hasten to come to You. I build my nest on the Altar of Your Heart, and deposit there the offspring of my soul, namely my works, my words, and my thoughts. I cast them into You, and You will sustain them. On the Altar of Your Heart, I find a safe haven, the tranquillity of which rough winds can never disturb. Yes, I find in Your Heart a resting-place, sheltered from the storm; and there do I experience pure delights which neither grow distasteful nor are liable to change. I find in Your Heart a profound peace that cannot be troubled by discord, a joy that no sadness can ever alter, an unclouded happiness, an unspeakable sweetness, a serene and perfect blessedness. In Your Heart I find the beginning of every good thing, the fountain-head of all sweetness and all holy joy.

From Your Heart, O God, Who are Goodness Itself, proceeds all happiness, sweetness, quietness, joy, peace, gladness, beatitude -- in a word, all good gifts. They proceed from It, as from their only and inexhaustible Source, to pass then into the hearts of all Your children, who are the holy angels and men. And what good could exist, and how could it be good, if it came not from You, O Lord, the True, the Supreme, the Only Good? Ah, how good it is to draw all that is good from this never failing Fountain of the Sacred Heart! How good it is to be inebriated from this Source of the chastest and sweetest enjoyments, from this stream which pours from its Bosom an impetuous torrent of the holiest and purest pleasures! How perfect, how delightful and incomparable is the fragrance of the precious perfumes of Your virtues, O my Jesus! It invites me to enter the sanctuary of Your Sacred Heart. It attracts those whom It invites; It leads those whom It attracts, and deceives not those whom It leads. On the contrary, It fortifies them, so that henceforth they can without peril rest from their labours in the peace of Your Heart.

06 May 2010

Hugh's Enraptured Vision

This is how Hugh de Miromars describes the wonderful part played by Our Lady in his choice of the monastery where he received the Carthusian habit.

‘With good reason I had taken fright at the thought of a life in which honours, riches and pleasures combined only too well their attractions to render life easy and pleasant for me. Enlightened, however, by a ray of the eternal mercy, I determined to bid a last farewell to the world, and to withdraw to the desert of the Chartreuse, and embrace the austere Rule of the sons of Saint Bruno. The only question was which monastery I should choose as the blessed refuge of my soul, enamoured forever of the only lasting good? At the time, I thought of the Charterhouse of Montrieux, of which I knew nothing more than the reputation for sanctity enjoyed by the community. I did not even know where it was.

‘That was as far as I had got in my reflections, when one night I dreamed that I had to choose my bride. I found myself transported to a valley surrounded by high mountains. A spring gushed forth at my feet. It was there I awaited her to whom I was to be united for life. Long did I wait, but all to no purpose. Impatient at the delay, I began to pace up and down, thinking I would go away, when suddenly I found myself in the presence of a Lady whose modestly veiled countenance shone bright with nobility and beauty. I knew it to be Our Blessed Lady. She was not more than average height: her complexion was as pure as alabaster. Raising my right arm, she deigned to rest it on her shoulder; then her gentle glance penetrated to the very depths of my enraptured eyes. Beloved, she said, will you refuse me? As one distraught, I cried out: No, no, my Queen, a thousand times, No: I will not refuse you. At these words, the vision faded’.

On visiting the Charterhouse of Montrieux some time later, Hugh found exactly that same scene of which Mary had shown him a glimpse. Needless to say, he was not long in entering the House of God, to be united to the chosen Bride of his heart (Le Couteulx: Annales Ordinis Cartusiensis, Vol. IV, Monttreuil-sur-Mer, p. 94).

In our life of prayer and penance, O Mary, be to us our beloved companion, our support, our consolation and our strength.

05 May 2010

Devotion to Our Lady

Now that we’re in the month of May, Our Lady’s month, here’s a story from the annals of the Carthusian tradition.

It was in Rome, towards the end of the eighteenth century, one fine evening in May. A child of the poor had gathered his companions round him, and led them to a statue of Mary, before which a lamp was burning, as is the custom of that holy city. There, these fresh young voices sang the Litany of Our Lady. The next day, the little group, followed by other children, again gathered at the feet of the Mother of God. Next came their mothers, to join the assembly. Soon, other groups were formed, and the devotion rapidly became popular. Holy souls, troubled by the disorderly conduct which always increases and becomes graver at the return of the pleasant spring-time, saw in these growing practises the Hand of God, and they co-operated with the designs of Providence by approving and promoting this new devotion, as a public and solemn act of reparation.

Thus, opening out like a flower of love under the lovely Italian sky and with the approval of the Holy Father, was not slow to make its way into France and to every part of the Catholic world. It was like a tiny grain of mustard-seed, and grew rapidly, multiplying its flowers and its fruits beyond all expectations.

This feast of thirty days in honour of Mary is rich in possibilities for our sanctification. Saint Julien Eymard has written: ‘A devotion lasting a whole month covers its whole object, considers it under every aspect, and gives one a true and serious understanding of it. By meditations renewed day by day and by the unity of acts, virtues and prayers concentrated on the same subject, one eventually acquires a true and solid devotion in respect of any mystery thus honoured for the space of a month. Thought thus concentrated becomes strong and satisfying’ (La divine Eucharistie). Is it not precisely this focusing of one’s whole thought upon one object that constitutes to a great extent the power of the Exercises of Saint Ignatius to effect the transformation of the Christian soul? For four weeks, divided according to the subject of meditation rather than to the number of days, the saintly founder of the Society of Jesus make the soul that entrusts itself to his guidance climb speedily up from the dark places of sin to a life of union with God.

By following so prudent and safe a method, we shall endeavour to take by the hand one who is maybe but a novice in the love of Mary, and lead him gradually to the heights of union with her; so that, when the month is over, he can direct his whole life in such a manner as to produce, to the glory of his heavenly Mother, all the fruits that she expects from souls as favoured as those of her children. May she herself show us the path to follow, and by her maternal blessing guide therein our timid and faltering steps.

Some of these writings by Carthusian monks will be shared here on Secret Harbour over the month of May. There always seems to be a level of criticism from outside the Church that there is too much of focus on Our Blessed Mother. She has always been highly honoured since the early days of the Church – and before that, she received the greatest love from her Son. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux tells us that: ‘God wills that all His gifts come to us through Mary’. The Carthusians teach that: ‘Eternity will not be long enough for us to bless that infinite Goodness whose foreseeing providence is manifested in theses marks of creative Love, and the boundless goodness that is revealed in them. But do we not owe something to the privileged creature through whom these divine benefits have come to us, and whose share in their distribution has been the more active and personal in proportion as the gifts are higher and more supernatural. On the part assigned to Mary by almighty God in the dispensation of these gifts . . . our response to the advance of our gentle Mother should be one of boundless gratitude, even though, in her humility, she seeks our thanks only that she may unite them with the ceaseless Magnificat she sings to the divine Majesty’.

The popes as well have always sung Mary’s praises. Leo XIII in Adiutricem populi wrote that Our Blessed Lady has ‘practically limitless power’; Saint Pius X called her the ‘dispensatrix of all gifts’ (Ad diem illum), and Pius XII said that: ‘Her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion’ (Radio message to Fatima).

This Saturday, 8 May, on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) a Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Missa Cantata) will be offered in honour of Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces. Times are as follows:

United States – 8 A.M. Eastern, 5 A.M. Pacific
Canada – 8 A.M. Toronto, 5 A.M. Vancouver
Europe – 14:00 Rome & Berlin, 13:00 London & Dublin
Pacific Rim – 10 P.M. Sydney, 8 P.M. Manila
Africa/South Asia – 9:30 IST, 4:00 GMT

04 May 2010

Unshakeable Attachment to the Pope

Today on the Carthusian calendar is the feast of Saints John Houghton, Robert Lawrence, Augustine Webster and their companions. They were loyal sons of Saint Bruno and loyal sons of the Church who were martyred during the reign of King Henry VIII in sixteenth century England. Here’s their story as told by a Carthusian monk:

The Martyrs of our Order in England — Saints John, Augustine and Robert and their Blessed companions, to be entirely correct — were victims of the persecutions under King Henry VIII. His unlawful marriage to Anne Boleyn put him in conflict with the Church. In early 1535 he had Parliament pass an ‘Act of Supremacy’ making him Head of the Church of England. Those who remained loyal to the Pope were to be considered guilty of high treason. The Prior of the London Charterhouse, John Houghton, together with two other Carthusian Priors who happened to be in London at that time, Robert Lawrence of Beauvale and Augustine Webster of Axholme, went to see the king’s vicar, Thomas Cromwell, to ask to be excused from the unlawful oath of loyalty. In response, they were imprisoned in the Tower of London. They were tried, and the same royal official bullied the jury into declaring them guilty of high treason, for which the punishment was to be ‘hanged, drawn and quartered’.

On 4 May 1535, together with Richard Reynolds, a Brigittine priest, and John Hale, a secular priest, they were dragged lying bound on a ‘hurdle’ through the muddy streets of London to Tyburn, the place for execution of criminals. These five were the very first of the many Catholics to be martyred for the faith in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. They were first hanged, then cut down when still half alive, disemboweled and cut into four pieces, all the while praying for their executioners.

After their holy deaths, the question for the London Carthusian community was: shall we follow our holy Prior? Some thought that with some mental restriction they could swear the oath of supremacy ‘in order to save our monastery’, but most of the community took the right decision. Seven cloister monks and six brothers, thirteen in all, suffered martyrdom, some of them in the same way as the three Priors, but others died from ill-treatment in prison, thus being spared from the gruesome ordeal. The three Priors are among the ‘forty Martyrs of England and Wales’ canonized by Paul VI; the others are Blesseds.

Brother William Horn deserves particular mention. He was imprisoned in Newgate Prison in London, with nine other Carthusians, in 1537, to be starved to death. Only William survived and was transferred from Newgate to the Tower, eventually winning his martyr’s crown by being “hanged, drawn and quartered” at Tyburn on 4 August 1540.

Besides the four names already listed here, the name of the other Carthusian martyrs of England are as follows: Humphrey Middlemore, William Enxmewe, Sebastian Newdigate, John Rochester, James Walworth, Thomas Green, Richard Beere, Thomas Johnson, John Davy, Robert Salte, Walter Peerson, Thomas Scriven, Thomas Reeding, and William Greenwood.

The indictment of John Houghton, Robert Lawrence, Augustine Webster along with the Brigittine and secular priests on the 26 April at the Tower of London stated that they were ‘treacherously machinating to deprive the king of his title’ and they ‘falsely, maliciously and traitorously’ denied the king as head of the Church of England.

John Houghton was the first to suffer. He and the others, however, were given one final chance to accept the ‘Act of Supremacy’, but all refused.

The ‘Act of Supremacy’ of 1534 read as follows:

‘Albeit, the King's Majesty justly and rightfully is and oweth to be the supreme head of the Church of England, and so is recognised by the clergy of this realm in their Convocations; yet nevertheless for corroboration and confirmation thereof, and for increase of virtue in Christ's religion within this realm of England, and to repress and extirp all errors, heresies and other enormities and abuses heretofore used in the same: Be it enacted by authority of this present Parliament that the King our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia, and shall have and enjoy annexed and united to the imperial crown of this realm as well the title and style thereof, as all honours, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits and commodities, to the said dignity of supreme head of the same Church belonging and appertaining. And that our said sovereign lord, his heirs and successors kings of this realm, shall have full power and authority from time to time to visit, repress, redress, reform, order, correct, restrain and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offences, contempts and enormities, whatsoever they be, which by any manner spiritual authority or jurisdiction ought or may lawfully be reformed, repressed, ordered, redressed corrected, restrained or amended, most to the pleasure of Almighty God, the increase of virtue in Christ's religion, and for the conservation of the peace, unity and tranquillity of this realm: any usage, custom, foreign laws, foreign authority, prescription or any other thing or things to the contrary hereof notwithstanding.’

All-powerful God, You sanctified by martyrdom John and his
companions because of their fidelity to the Pope. Following
the example of their unshakeable attachment to the unity of
the See of Peter, may we be able thus to serve You in peace.

03 May 2010

The Bride of Christ is Pure

Today is the feast of Saints Philip and James, apostles of Christ. At the hour of Matins the Carthusians heard a piece from Saint Cyprian of Carthage, ‘On the Unity of the Church’, which is always a good topic, especially on the feasts of apostles. Here is what was read:

The Church is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness, as there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in the source. Try to separate a ray of the sun from its body of light, its unity does not allow a division of light. Break a branch from a tree -- when broken, it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up. Thus also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one Mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated.

The Bride of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the Kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his Mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, ‘He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who gathers not with Me scatters’ (Saint Matthew 12:30). He who breaks the peace and the harmony of Christ does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, ‘I and the Father are One’ (Saint John 10:30); and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, ‘And these Three are One” (1 Saint John 5:7). And does any one believe that this unity which thus comes from the divine strength and is united in heavenly sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God’s law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, and is separated from life and salvation.

For the Lord, when He would urge unanimity and peace upon His disciples, said, ‘I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth touching anything that you shall ask, it shall be given you by My Father Who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, I am with them’; showing that most is given, not to the multitude, but to the unanimity of those that pray. ‘If’’, He says, ‘two of you shall agree on earth’; He placed agreement first; He has made the harmony which comes from peace a prerequisite; He taught that we should agree firmly and faithfully. But how can he agree with any one who does not agree with the body of the Church itself, and with the universal brotherhood? How can two or three be assembled together in Christ’s Name, who, it is evident, are separated from Christ and from His Gospel? For we have not withdrawn from them, but they from us; and since heresies and schisms have risen subsequently, from their establishment for themselves of diverse places of worship, they have forsaken the Head and Source of the truth. But the Lord speaks concerning His Church, and to those also who are in the Church He speaks, that if they are in agreement, if according to what He commanded and admonished, although only two or three gathered together with unanimity should pray -- though they be only two or three -- they may obtain from the Majesty of God what they ask.

God is One, and Christ is One, and His Church is One, and the faith is One, and the people are joined into a substantial unity of body by the cement of harmony. Unity cannot be severed; nor can one body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn into pieces, nor have its limbs torn. Whatever has proceeded from the womb cannot live and breathe in its detached condition, but loses the substance of health. The Holy Spirit warns us, and says, ‘What man is he that desires to live, and longs for good days? Refrain your tongue from evil, and your lips that they speak no guile. Eschew evil, and do good; seek peace, and ensue it’ (Psalm 33:12). The son of peace ought to seek peace and ensue it. He who knows and loves the bond of charity, ought to refrain his tongue from the evil of dissension. Among His divine commands and salutary teachings, the Lord, when He was now very near to His Passion, added this one, saying, ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you’ (Saint John 14:27). He gave this to us as a heritage; He promised all the gifts and rewards of which He spoke through the preservation of peace. If we are fellow-heirs with Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are sons of God, we ought to be peacemakers. ‘Blessed’, says He, ‘are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the sons of God’ (Saint Matthew 5:9). It benefits the sons of God to be peacemakers, gentle in heart, simple in speech, agreeing in affection, faithfully linked to one another in the bonds of unanimity.

01 May 2010

Fifth Sunday of Easter

First Reading, Acts 14:21-27
The purpose of this particular missionary journey by Paul and Barnabas was to oversee the organization of new churches and to add to the numbers of those adhering to the Christian faith.

Saint Luke writes in this Reading: ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.’ Origen, one of the early Church writers, shares these words: ‘God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings. There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from Him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us’. The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds: ‘The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man. We must discern between being tempted, and consenting to temptation. Discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a delight to the eyes and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death’ (CCC 2847).

Truthfully, most of us would rather get through this life without any temptations or hardships. This kind of philosophy, however, cannot be embraced without first considering this warning from Denys the Carthusian: ‘Woe to you, lovers of this world, who wish to pass your lives without tribulation. Enemies of the Cross! Is the disciple above his Master? Did it not become Christ first to suffer, and thus to enter into His glory? Shall we pretend to enter by any other means’?

Evangelization is a hot topic in today’s Church. Evangelization can be done by preaching and teaching but perhaps the most powerful way to evangelize is to live one’s life in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Living our faith by example will often lead others to ask questions about our faith which opens the door for us to share our faith. As this Reading emphasizes ‘what God had done’, our opportunities to evangelize are available to us not by our own doing but by our willingness to allow God to work through us.

Second Reading, Revelation 21:1-5a
Saint John is given the vision of a new heaven and a new earth which is the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single Head, all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth (cf. CCC 1043).

The holy city or new Jerusalem is understood as the citizens of heaven: the angels and saints. This is the Church triumphant.

A voice from the Throne is heard saying: ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race’. The Latin Vulgate is translated as: ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God with men’. It expresses that we, the chosen sons and daughters of God, will dwell in His tabernacle forever and ever; and in this perfect existence sorrow will no longer be a part of our makeup. The Catechism refers to this moment as God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause His Bride to come down from heaven (cf. CCC 677). At this moment all is accomplished and all is made new.

Until we have arrived at that place, however, where ‘there shall be no more death and mourning, wailing or pain’ consideration should be given to the human tabernacle – the indwelling of Christ. As we expect to walk into our churches and see a tabernacle that is beautiful, those same expectations should be true of the human tabernacle. Christ deserves to dwell in a heart and soul that attempts to remain as spotless as possible, turning to our spotless Blessed Mother as our model and intercessor.

Gospel, John 13:31-33a, 34-35
There is a lot of glorifying going on this short Gospel, and it sounds confusing! It is much easier to grasp if you keep in mind that the Father is God and the Son is God, therefore the Father and the Son are One. Not even that is completely comprehended especially when you add the Holy Spirit to the mix.

Jesus said: ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him’. Christ is referring to the miracle of His death and Resurrection. Jesus is glorified as Man because He was able to rise from death which also glorifies God because rising from the dead is impossible without God.

Christ promises resurrection for us but this requires two beings: it requires us, that is, the human person who is to be resurrected and it requires God, Who does the resurrecting. With Christ’s Resurrection, only One Being was required as He is both God and Man.

Since we’re in the Easter Season, it’s best to forget that this Gospel story occurs before Christ’s death. It’s more beneficial to focus on the glorification of Christ as God and Man because of these events.

Jesus commands us to love one another. As human beings, when we think about strong bonds of love we tend to consider the love a husband has for his wife and a wife for her husband, and the love that parents have for their children. It’s difficult for us to apply that kind of intense love to acquaintances and perfect strangers; and without God, indeed it is downright impossible. Let us keep in mind, though, that if Christ commands it, it is very possible or else He would never have commanded it.

Faith assures us that our Lord supplies the graces needed to do that which human logic doesn’t consider possible. Our part in this is to be conformable to the will of God. Saint Augustine offers an excellent way of expressing this divine love for one another with these words: ‘As Christ the Saviour loved us, so charity should be a thirst for the spiritual salvation of our neighbours, all of whom God wills to be saved’.

A blessed weekend to all!