30 October 2010

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading, Wisdom 11:22-12:2
The opening verse of this Reading describes the unfathomable immensity of Almighty God. Compared to Him, the unknown vastness of the universe is like a grain or drop of morning dew. This verse actually doesn't do Him justice but there are no words in any language, nor is there any reachable level of human thought to properly define the boundlessness of our Creator. Since we are incapable of visiting this level of spirituality, the rest of the Reading is all the more incredible - but true. He loves all things, spares all things; He is a lover of all souls, and therefore rebukes and warns us of our sins. Why would this incomprehensible Being Whose power is indescribable care one iota about us? Why does He want to share in our joys and feel our pains? Why does He listen to our prayers? Why does He desire an intimate, deep, personal relationship with each and every one of us? These are questions that even the most gifted theologians and philosophers cannot finitely answer; but then again we are reflecting on the infinite Most High. The proof of the pudding, though, is when He made His uncontainable Self containable in the womb of a Virgin; when He walked among us, taught us, healed us of our infirmities, suffered and died for us; rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and opened the eternal gates in order to fulfil His longing and our longing to spend eternity together. And for as long as we remain in this valley of tears, He gives us a taste of heaven by leaving us a memorial of His Love - His precious Body and Blood. If we were capable of comprehending all of this, our hearts would explode.

Second Reading, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
Saint Paul's words here give you the sense that this prayer of his extends far beyond the Thessalonians. Can you hear him in heaven praying for us using these very same words? There's a story about Saint Francis of Assisi in which he asked one his brother Friars to accompany him into town to preach. When they arrived in town, they quietly walked all through the town and then Saint Francis said to his brother Friar, ‘We're finished, let's go back’. His brother Friar said to him, ‘I thought you said we were going to preach’. And Saint Francis replied, ‘We just did’. Faith in action speaks louder than shouting from the highest mountaintops and manifests itself in many ways. How do others perceive us? Even without mentioning our Lord, do we conduct ourselves in such a way that others would be able to deduce that we are Christians? The joy that flows from a strong faith reveals itself naturally because of God's grace and could leave the most indifferent of souls asking themselves, ‘What do they have that I don't have’? Faith is not a part time job to earn extra credit in heaven. True faith envelops us and dictates our way of life and is not easily alarmed or shaken.

Gospel, Luke 19:1-10
As devout Christians we are well-represented by Zacchaeus. He was a little man. In the grand scheme of things, how often do we consider ourselves to be insignificant? Part of this may be credited to some level of humility but there's always that inner self-demoralizing voice that asks, ‘How is it possible that I matter to God’? The answer is simple but not necessarily understandable: We are sinners which bewilderingly qualifies us as recipients of Christ's love. It is in our inner house that He dwells so that He may stay with us always. Through prayer and silence we may visit that inner house to be with our Lord where that self-demoralizing voice is overpowered by the Voice that says: ‘Salvation has come to this house’. As qualifiers of salvation, we are indeed descendants of Abraham. While Jesus may never require us to literally give up half of our possessions, He does ask for detachment from them. ‘The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost’. For Christians this is a most comforting verse because the word ‘was’ is past tense. In salvation history there was a time when we were among the lost, but through Baptism and by surrendering our lives to Christ's care and accepting His gift of salvation we can now joyfully look ahead without ever having to look back. But the push forward should be an ongoing process of spiritual growth.

28 October 2010

Simon and Jude

Today on this Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, the Carthusians at Matins listened to an excerpt from the ‘Commonitory’ of Saint Vincent of Lérins. It is believed to have been written somewhere around the year 434. While the author identifies himself as ‘Peregrinus’, it was Gennadius of Marseilles who credits it to Vincent of Lérins. This Treatise is sometimes referred to as a ‘Remembrancer’, because Vincent’s goal was to provide himself with a principle to identify what is Catholic truth and what is error. Thus, he wrote this Treatise as a handy reference in which he could keep the truth ever fresh on his mind. Scripture, for example has many interpretations. Vincent of Lérins supports the idea that the proper interpretation(s) of Sacred Scripture must be supported by the ancient traditions and the universality of the Church – the deposit of faith, ‘the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15), handed down to us by the apostles, like Simon and Jude, the pillars of faith. All other interpretations contrary, according to this Treatise, are to be rejected. Here is that excerpt:

It is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation. In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity and consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we do not depart from those interpretations which were held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if we embrace the definitions and doctrines of almost all the bishops and doctors.

The true and genuine Catholic is one who loves the truth of God, who loves the Church, who loves the Body of Christ. He esteems divine religion and the Catholic Faith above every thing, above the authority of man, above his regard, above his genius, above his eloquence, above his philosophy. Disregarding all these things, he continues steadfast and established in the faith, resolves that he will believe only that which the Church has always and universally believed. Whatsoever new and unheard of doctrine he shall find to have been furtively introduced by someone or another, contrary to that of all the saints, this, he will understand, does not pertain to religion, but is permitted as a trial, being instructed especially by the words of the blessed Apostle Paul, who writes thus in his First Epistle to the Corinthians: ‘There must also be divisions, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you’ (1 Corinthians 11:19). This is the reason why God doesn’t immediately eradicate errors, that it may be apparent of each individual, how tenacious and faithful and steadfast he is in his love of the Catholic faith.

But some one will say, shall there, then, be no progress in Christ's Church? Certainly -- all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on the condition that it be real progress, not an alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself; by alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same interpretation. The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same.

There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant's limbs are small, a young man's large, yet the infant and the young man are the same. Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had when children; and if something new appears, these were already present in the embryo, so that nothing new is produced in them when old which was not already latent in them when children. This, then, is undoubtedly the true and legitimate rule of progress; this is the established and most beautiful order of growth, that the mature age ever develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator had already framed beforehand in the infant. Whereas, if the human form were changed into some shape belonging to another kind, or if the number of its limbs were increased or diminished, the result would be that the whole body would perish or become monstrous, or at least weakened. It behooves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress. It needs to be consolidated by years, develop over time, and refine by age.

Our Fathers in the past planted in the Church the good seed of faith. It would be most unfair and unseemly if we, their descendants, instead of the authentic truth of grain, should reap the counterfeit error of weeds. On the contrary, from doctrine which was sown as wheat, we should reap, in the increase, the wheat of dogma, so that when in the process of time any of the original seed is developed, and now flourishes under cultivation, this is cause for joy. There may be changes in shape, form, variation in outward appearance, but the nature of each kind must remain the same. God forbid that those rose-beds of Catholic interpretation should be converted into thorns and thistles.

Therefore, whatever has been sown by the fidelity of the Fathers in this husbandry of God's Church, the same ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and ripen, the same ought to advance and go forward to perfection. For it is right that those ancient doctrines of heavenly philosophy should, as time goes on, be cared for, smoothed, polished; but not that they should be changed, not that they should be maimed, not that they should be mutilated. They may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic properties. For if once this license of impious fraud be admitted, I dread to say in how great danger religion will be of being utterly destroyed and annihilated. For if any one part of Catholic truth be given up, another, and another, and another will thenceforward be given up as a matter of course, and the several individual portions having been rejected, what will follow in the end but the rejection of the whole?

If what is new begins to be mingled with what is old, the profane with the sacred, this disorder will spread universally, till at last the Church will have nothing remaining intact, nothing unchanged, nothing sound, nothing unblemished. Where formerly there was a sanctuary of chaste and undefiled truth, thenceforward there will be a brothel of impious and shameful errors. May God's mercy avert this wickedness from the minds of His servants; be it rather the frenzy of the ungodly. The Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, and does not appropriate what is another's.

Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practiced negligently should thenceforward be practised with double solicitude? This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of divisions, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils -- this, and nothing else -- she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those ancient days only by tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name.

27 October 2010

Unity and Distinction

The Spirit of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, murmurs only one word: Father. The soul feels a slight breath pass through it, the breath of the divine life that the Father communicates eternally to the Son. At this breath, the soul feels turned round, powerfully drawn and carried up to Him Who is giving Himself to it. The Spirit raises up the soul, takes it out of itself, breaths into it light and energies of which it is not aware. It wants to resemble, to take to itself and be united with that Spirit, Who is the Spirit of God. It recalls the words of the Son of God in the Gospels: ‘Be perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Saint Matthew 5:48). Or the word of God recorded in Leviticus: ‘Be holy because I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:44). It understands that this reflection of the divine Beauty in it seems to make the Father grow greater, and gives Him joy and glory. It asks and wants that joy and glory for Him Who imparts to it His life and the glorious light of His love.

It asks it for itself and for others, for the greatest number possible -- for all men. It cannot understand why all men are not carried away and transformed by this desire. It calls them, invites them, it sings: ‘All you works of the Lord, bless the Lord, praise and exalt Him above all for ever. Earth exult, break out into cries of joyfulness; angels of heaven, virtues of earth, stars of the firmament, zephyrs of the air, showers and dews, ice and snow, mountains and hills, waters and the sea, birds of the air and fish from the waters which animate them with their rapid motions; children of men and the people of God, priests and devout servants of the Most High-praise Him and bless Him, sing that He is great above all these things, unite in that praise so that it fills heaven and the earth, time and eternity, for ever’ (cf. Daniel 3:52 ff.).

Before this picture of the whole of creation praising and blessing, the Spirit shows the indifference and incomprehension of men -- souls that revolt and give voice to hatred instead of love. We see divine Love despised and above all misunderstood. Under the very Eyes of the Father, crowds unnumbered are in danger of being hurled into the abyss, insensible to His Voice, to all the evidence of His love, to their own true interests. There are others who pass long years before this spectacle, which for them becomes living. It enters into their very soul and crushes and shatters them. Jesus allows them to share, from afar, very afar, the hours of His agony in the Garden of Olives and His supreme abandonment on Calvary. At the sight of these things which crushes and overwhelms them, they perceive what a Heart infinitely tender and delicate -- much more so than that of any mother, spouse or friend of all time -- has had to suffer in these hours. There are others whom the feeling of justice invades, fills and raises up. They ask, they demand and indeed insist on the punishment of so many crimes. ‘My God’, they say, ‘Your Eyes are purity itself; they cannot bear the sight of iniquity. How can You put up with those who do evil, and keep silent when the wicked persecute the just’ (cf. Revelation 6:10).

Again, there are some who no longer seem to see anything or to wish for anything. They enter into a deep silence. For them God is like a distant and hidden place of retreat. These souls remain there with Him; they savor Him as one savors a ripe fruit. They listen to the beauty of His Voice, and His words fill them with delights of which nothing can give any idea here below. An immense peace fills them, wraps them round, cradles them like a mother cradles her child. They seem to have crossed for an instant the threshold of the abode where one loves and is loved in the light and the truth, and they understand that to remain there is the true life. In this life, such a repose is short, such satisfaction rare. We must resume our journey and our effort; we must be resigned to continue our pilgrimage to our true home, like children loved but still in exile.

These varying forms of prayer are all part of a deep unity. The same divine Breath inspires them, the same Love directs them, the same Word speaks to them, the same Father utters this Word in the depths of their heart. Unity and distinction -- divine characteristics marking all life like all being. It is the same God still giving Himself to souls, with the same love and in the various attitudes that He assumes in their regard when they pray.

This diversity of attitude is very strange, at least at first sight. Is it not opposed to love? Do we see the same kind of thing in the relations between a mother and her child, which is the nearest comparison we can get in the realm of human tenderness? Maternal affection and all human affections are comparisons, but only comparisons. They give us some idea of the reality, but they do not reproduce it wholly. Further, we are guilty and sick souls. An erring child is still loved, but it has to be made to realize its fault, and if it is for its good it must be punished. A sick child is surrounded by the most delicate attentions, but if a painful operation is necessary, the parents do not hesitate to agree to it. When we love, we want the good of the one we love, and all that can procure it. The various attitudes of God towards our prayers have no other explanation.

~ Dom Augustin Guillerand ~

26 October 2010

Desire the Truth

Below is a work of the ‘Meditations of Guigo, Prior of the Charterhouse’ which as the Introduction states, that within these meditations ‘are to be found more than glimpses of the beauty of the human soul in its highest hopes and achievements’. Guigo de Castro or as he was known in his native French, Guiges du Chastel, became a monk of La Grande Chartreuse in 1107 and only three years later was elected Prior. This is the same Guigo who as the Introduction points out wrote the ‘Consuetudines’ which ‘have always remained the basis of all Carthusian legislation since their composition in 1127 or 1128. In fact, it may be said that to Guigo the Carthusian Order in great measure owes its fame, if not its very existence’. Interestingly, the intended audience of Guigo’s reflections was his own soul. Many of us are familiar with ‘lectio divina’ or prayerful reading; in the case of Guigo, however, one might call this prayerful writing – writing to one’s own soul which is inhabited by the Most Holy Trinity. Let us begin:

Truth ought to be displayed as something beautiful. Judge not if someone shuns it, but be compassionate. And you, why do you, since you desire to arrive at the truth, spurn it when you are upbraided for your vices?

See how much truth suffers. To the drunken it says, ‘you are drunk’, to the voluptuous, to the gossip, it speaks in like vein. And it is the truth. Yet, straightway, they are in a rage, and the truth in its preacher they persecute – they kill (cf. Saint Matthew 23:34). But see how a lie is honoured. It says to human dregs who are the slaves to all the vices: ‘Ye good masters’. They are assuaged, they are gay, and the lie itself in the one who speaks thus, they worship.

Truth without beauty and comeliness (cf. Isaiah 53:2), and nailed to the Cross (cf. Colossians 2:14), must be adored.

Demand your wages from him according to whose will you employ yourself. Therefore, you should live so as to owe nothing to yourself, because you are able to give nothing back to yourself. For ‘let not the wages of him that has been hired by you remain with you till morning’, says the Lord (cf. Leviticus 19:13; Tobit 4:15). Therefore, the Lord will take vengeance of you for yourself (cf. Acts 7:24).

He who does everything according to his own will, let him demand all retribution from himself. When he cannot wrest it from himself, let him call up against himself the just Judge, God (cf. Psalm 7:11). If, then, you loved yourself, never would that service – that is, of yourself – of whose reward you would despair, be sweet to you.

Why do you lay more claim to yourself than to any random man or field, since you have created nothing more in yourself than in them? By what right do you claim for yourself any one of those things which you have not created any more than yourself?

See how much easier is the way to life through unpleasant things than through pleasant. It is easier to check lust and the other concupiscences where nothing beautiful or flattering has come in.

You ought to be united to your flesh not by delight in and love of it, that is, by sin, but only by feeding it. From as many loves for things which you would have lost or would have caused your loss has the Lord, the Truth, freed you (cf. Saint John 8:3; 14:6), from so many fearful and sad sorrows has He loosed you.

See what the good must be whose traces are themselves traces, I mean temporal things. They are sought after with so many great laborious and bloody risks by so many rational and irrational beings.

Destitution itself or temporal adversity in the role of torturer forces us to desire the good things which are unlike them. But because we are grown accustomed only to temporal things and know nothing else, we crave things not much different from those we suffer; and from even their angry moods, that is, adversity, we seek either a momentary surcease by the control of a kind of compromise, or to undergo things not much different from these.

O, man who have your sorrow, do you wish to ease it?

I do.

For time or for eternity?

For eternity.

Desire, then, eternal easement, that is the Truth, God. For that is why He struck you, that you might desire Him, not herbs, not bandages.

25 October 2010

Return to the Lord with a Recollected and Quiet Mind

I wish that you should be continually with Me, and by being with Me enjoy all perfect felicity. But why do I not fulfil this? You may by My grace increase daily in goodness and at every moment be made richer in merit. Seeing that this is so, how foolish do you think them to be, and how much to be lamented, who spend the most precious time of grace that I have allotted to them, not only not to My honour and their own profit, but to the heavier aggravating of their damnation by a wicked life? Oh, if only you knew how much you might increase in the virtues of your soul, and in merit, by My grace every hour. For then you would undoubtedly take care with more diligence that the smallest moment should not pass you vainly, nor yet slip away without reaching some benefit for your soul. With the rising of the sun every day, there should arise a new joy in your mind, that I had granted you the commodity of that day, and by it so much longer space to honour and serve Me. Think, therefore, and say to yourself at every hour: Our Lord Who loves me has given to me this hour, this moment, and has prolonged the course of my life, that I should begin even now to turn to Him, and endeavour myself to please Him.

Above all things carry this opinion, that the present moment in which you live, is the first time you begin to do well, and contemn all that you have done before as worthless. Whatever the occasion, whatever business, whatever idle time, or any other thing that either may or shall happen to you, use them so as to employ them to My glory, and convert them to some benefit for your own soul. For I have stirred you up and excited you to depart from all vanities, by shutting the gates of the senses against them, and to return to Me with a recollected and quiet mind.

It remains now that I add to this, as it were, a rule to teach you how to live godly, which I have heard from you, by the inspiration of My grace, desire often at My Hands. For there remains yet bashfulness in you, which I well like, and which makes you ashamed in the opening of your infirmities, faults, errors, and negligence. But seeing that you desire to return to My grace, there is nothing that I likewise do more affect or desire. For what other joy have I in being among you, than to receive every sinner into My favour? How much more then do I desire, or rather long, to bring you home to Me, when you go astray, among the briers and thorns of worldly vanities; I am so desirous to recall you, as I will prescribe you a plain path, wherein you shall be sure to follow My Steps, and never wander again out of your way. Come, therefore, unto Me, and by your return procure Me a new joy, such as I delight in most, and desire ever to possess.

~ Alloquia Iesu Christi ad Animam Fidelem, by Lanspergius ~

15 October 2010

The more a soul humbles itself in prayer, the more God lifts it up

Today is the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila. From the Divine Office, at Matins, the Carthusians listened to this great Saint in her own words. Here’s what the monks heard.

In the beginning, when I attained to some degree of supernatural prayer -- I speak of the prayer of quiet -- I laboured to remove from myself every thought of bodily objects; but I did not dare to lift up my soul, for that I saw would be presumption in me, who was always so wicked. I thought, however, that I had a sense of the presence of God: this was true, and I contrived to be in a state of recollection before Him. This method of prayer is full of sweetness, if God helps us in it, and the joy of it is great. And so, because I was conscious of the profit and delight which this way furnished me, no one could have brought me back to the contemplation of the Humanity of Christ; for that seemed to me to be a real hindrance to prayer. O Lord of my soul, and my Good! Jesus Christ crucified! I never think of this opinion, which I then held, without pain; I believe it was an act of high treason, though done in ignorance.

The first consideration is this: there is a little absence of humility -- so secret and so hidden, that we do not observe it. Who is there so proud and wretched as I, that, even after labouring all his life in penances and prayers and persecutions, can possibly imagine himself not to be exceedingly rich, most abundantly rewarded, when our Lord permits him to stand with Saint John at the foot of the Cross? I know not into whose head it could have entered to be not satisfied with this, unless it be mine, which has gone wrong in every way where it should have gone right onwards. Then, if our constitution -- or perhaps sickness -- will not permit us always to think of His Passion, because it is so painful, who is to hinder us from thinking of Him risen from the grave, seeing that we have Him so near us in the Blessed Sacrament, where He is glorified?

No trial befalls me that is not easy to bear, when I think of You standing before those who judged You. With so good a Friend and Captain ever present, Himself the first to suffer, everything can be borne. He helps, He strengthens, He never fails, He is the true Friend. I see clearly, and since then have always seen, that if we are to please God, and if He is to give us His great graces, everything must pass through the Hands of His most Sacred Humanity, in Whom His Majesty said that He is well pleased. I know this by repeated experience: our Lord has told it me. I have seen clearly that this is the door by which we are to enter, if we would have His supreme Majesty reveal to us His great secrets. So, then, I would have you seek no other way, even if you have arrived at the highest contemplation. This way is safe.

Our Lord is He by Whom all good things come to us; He will teach you. Consider His life; that is the best example. What more could we want than so good a Friend at our side, Who will not forsake us when we are in trouble and distress, as they do who belong to this world! Blessed is he who truly loves Him, and who always has Him near him! Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul, who seems as if Jesus was never absent from his lips, as if he had Him deep down in his heart. After I had heard this of some great Saints given to contemplation, I considered the matter carefully; and I see that they walked in no other way. Saint Francis with the stigmata proves it, Saint Antony of Padua with the Infant Jesus; Saint Bernard rejoiced in the Humanity of Christ; so did Saint Catherine of Siena, and many others, who knew better than I do. This withdrawing from bodily objects must no doubt be good, seeing that it is recommended by persons who are so spiritual; but, in my opinion, it ought to be done only when the soul has made very great progress; for until then it is clear that the Creator must be sought for through His creatures.

When God suspends all the powers of the soul – by some means of prayer -- it is clear that, whether we wish it or not, this presence of the most Sacred Humanity of Christ is withdrawn. Be it so, then, the loss is a blessed one, because it takes place in order that we may have a deeper fruition of what we seem to have lost; for at that moment the whole soul is occupied in loving Him Whom the understanding has toiled to know; and it loves what it has not comprehended, and rejoices in what it could not have rejoiced in so well, if it had not lost itself, in order, as I am saying, to gain itself the more. But that we should carefully and laboriously accustom ourselves not to strive with all our might to have always -- and please God it be always -- the most Sacred Humanity before our eyes -- this, I say, is what seems to me not to be right: it is making the soul, as they say, to walk in the air; for it has nothing to rest on, however full of God it may think itself to be. It is a great matter for us to have our Lord before us as Man while we are living and in the flesh.

We are not angels, for we have a body; to seek to make ourselves angels while we are on the earth, and so much on the earth as I was, is an act of folly. In general, our thoughts must have something to rest on, though the soul may go forth out of itself now and then, or it may be very often so full of God as to be in need of no created thing by the help of which it may recollect itself. But this is not so common a case; for when we have many things to do, when we are persecuted and in trouble, when we cannot have much rest, and when we have our seasons of dryness, Christ is our best Friend; for we regard Him as Man, and behold Him faint and in trouble, and He is our Companion; and when we shall have accustomed ourselves in this way, it is very easy to find Him near us, although there will be occasions from time to time when we can do neither the one nor the other. We must not show ourselves as labouring after spiritual consolations; come what may, to embrace the Cross is the great thing.

The Lord of all consolation was Himself forsaken: they left Him alone in His sorrows. Do not let us forsake Him; for His Hand will help us to rise more than any efforts we can make; and He will withdraw Himself when He sees it to be expedient for us, and when He pleases will also draw the soul forth out of itself. God is greatly pleased when He beholds a soul in its humility making His Son a Mediator between itself and Him, and yet loving Him so much as to confess its own unworthiness, even when He would raise it up to the highest contemplation, and saying with Saint Peter: ‘Go away from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man’ (Saint Luke 5:8). I know this by experience: it was thus that God directed my soul. Others may walk by another and a shorter road. What I have understood of the matter is this: that the whole foundation of prayer must be laid in humility, and that the more a soul humbles itself in prayer, the more God lifts it up.

I come, then, to this conclusion: whenever we think of Christ, we should remind ourselves of the love that made Him bestow so many graces upon us, and also how great that love is which our Lord God has shown us, in giving us such a pledge of the love He bears us; for love draws forth love. And though we are only at the very beginning, and exceedingly wicked, yet let us always labour to keep this in view, and stir ourselves up to love; for if once our Lord grants us this grace, of having this love imprinted in our hearts, everything will be easy, and we shall do great things in a very short time, and with very little labour. May His Majesty give us that love -- He knows the great need we have of it -- for the sake of that love which He bore us, and of His glorious Son, to Whom it cost so much to make it known to us! Amen.

13 October 2010

Their Faces are Uncovered and Radiant

Today, the Carthusians honour all those of their Order who are now heavenly intercessors, residents of Paradise – the Saints and the Blessed. At Matins, the monks had proclaimed to them a very familiar teaching of our Lord from the Gospel of Saint Matthew. This was followed by an excerpt from what is considered a spiritual masterpiece in Syrian spirituality titled: ‘Le Livre de la Perfection’ by the seventh-century writer and martyr, Sahdona. Here are both the Gospel from Saint Matthew and the excerpt from Sahdona’s masterpiece.

From the Gospel of Matthew, 6:5-6, 16-21
Since the disciples had gathered around Jesus on the mountain, He told them: ‘When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites who love to pray standing in synagogues and at the street corners to be seen by men. Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward. But when you shall pray, enter into your chamber, and having shut the door, pray to your Father in secret, and your Father Who sees in secret will repay you. And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But you, when you fast anoint your head, and wash your face; that you appear not to men to fast, but to your Father Who is in secret: and your Father Who sees in secret, will repay you. Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust and moth consume, and where thieves break through, and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth consumes, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where your treasure is, there is your heart also’.

(My translation)
From ‘Le Livre de la Perfection’ by Sahdona
To all those who care about their salvation, Christ our hope and our God, has taught us in the Gospel to distance ourselves from the world, waiting for God alone, devoting ourselves to prayer and spiritual contemplation. By His words and His example He has shown that no place is more suitable for both prayer and being fixed on God than a place of solitude, away from traffic and favorable to recollection.

There, in fact, the body quiets itself, because the excitements of the external senses are extinguished while at the same time the soul is no longer agitated by internal impulses. As the worldly tumult subsides, it brightens the spirit; the mind becomes liberated from dark earthly concerns: in short, man emerges purified and freed from all physical and spiritual pollution. The discerning eye of his inner light shines and it is good to know himself, to improve and guide his behavior on the clear path of justice. Under these conditions, the man is rushed into the spiritual heights, he stands before the Lord and perceives something glorious, and feels extremely blessed by the Lord Who created him.

He dwells in God alone due to holy purity of life, and God constantly abides in him, waiting to envelop him with the great remembrance of His own manifestation, to burst from the body and impulses man’s thoughts, until the last day, entering into the clouds of heaven, where his covered face will be uncovered and radiant.

Blessed devotion! Your wonders have manifested themselves since the beginning with Adam, our ancestor, and have grown through all generations and achieved miracles for us. These marvelous effects shine in those wonderful beings who are men of truth, who have been able to contemplate its significance. They have taken flight far away from the world and its distractions in order to quiet themselves, body and soul, withdrawing to the desert; by these means they strive for total peace which is rendered to them, the incredible recollection, infused by the Lord supernaturally.

Our Lord, mighty, victorious and holy, source of all holiness, courage and victory, and Who has not disregarded the toil of fasting! Who among us carnal beings can ignore or dismiss You, weak and sinful as we are, continually stuck in the mud of passions?

No one would dare to say that the adverse passions of the flesh have ever been able to touch the Lord's Body, the Receptacle of perfection, the magnificent Temple of the Divine. Yet, although He did not have the slightest need, the Lord Jesus did not renounce the laborious practice of fasting; in order to better teach the great virtue and holiness that He confers on those who observe it.

Just as He was baptized to teach us in our turn to receive baptism and follow His example, thus He fasted to teach us to fast in His likeness. Every baptized person should feel compelled to fight against evil, as did our Lord, and so to be attached to the weapons of fasting even though we have received the fullness of the Spirit.

We fast according to the will of God, sincerely and wholeheartedly, without altering our fasting obligations to the criteria of Satan. This would occur if fasting hypocritically, being seen by others, in order to please men and receive the reward of vain praise from the people; we would thus be excluded from the divine reward, just as our Lord warned about the Pharisees, blinded, discouraging imitation: When you fast -- He said -- do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward.

Behold, rendered wholly perfect by fasting from all evil, hungry and thirsty for the spirit of felicity that comes from God, we will be able to escape the threat of misery and famine in the last days reserved for those who shall be satisfied on earth. We will merit instead the blessing of contentment that Christ Jesus has promised to the hungry in these terms: Blessed are those who hunger, they shall be satisfied.

12 October 2010

If You Knew the Gift of God

Our destiny is to a life of the greatest intimacy with God Himself. This union between the soul and its Creator was established when God raised our first parents to the supernatural state. But by sin, they revolted against God, and the bond between heaven and earth was broken. It needed a man-God to heal that rupture, and it is now, by the Passion and merits of our divine Saviour, that we can once again become children of God, and share in the divine life.

We received that life in baptism and, if it is our misfortune to have forfeited that life by sin, Our Lord gives it back to us through the merits of His Precious Blood every time we receive absolution.

Now we realise how absolutely essential it is for us to avoid sin if we are to preserve the most precious gift God has given to man. If you knew the gift of God . . . (Saint John 4:10). God grant that Our Lord’s words to the woman at the well may never become a reproach to us.

All the evils in the world are nothing compared to one sin, for one grave sin robs us of the divine life. In order to understand something of the gravity of sin, think of what it means. What Christian would dare to enter a church furtively and violate the Tabernacle, scattering the sacred Hosts from the dishonoured ciborium? Even if we thought of such a thing, would we have the unhappy daring to do it? Surely, even the most lukewarm Christian would not dare to commit such a sacrilege to the Body of Our Lord. Yet what does sin in fact do? Does it not banish God from our hearts, and deliver us over to the power of Satan?

~ Dom Jean-Baptiste Porion ~

11 October 2010

Ecce Mater tua

Today on the 1962 liturgical calendar is the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary. Saint Louis de Montfort had written: ‘The Holy Spirit gives no heavenly gifts to men which He does not have pass through her Virginal hands’. The feast itself was instituted in 1931 by Pope Pius XI in memory of the 1500th anniversary of the Council of Ephesus. The calendar reforms of post-Vatican II in 1969 removed all the ‘minor’ feasts of Our Blessed Lady. Here is a Carthusian writing, posted previously at Secret Harbour, which reflects on the Motherhood of Mary.

The reverence shown by a subject for his queen and the loving and eager devotion which the members of her household bring to their service, is nothing compared to the devotion and tenderness of a child for its mother. The memory of a mother is the sweetest and strongest of human sentiments; it returns in even greater strength, and is the last to fade. Even when it is hidden, and seems completely suppressed in the depths of the most unmindful and perverse of hearts, it is often the only force which has power to soften and to bring peace.

As the eternal Father sought among all human qualities those which could lead back to Him His own handiwork, could He pass over the one quality – motherhood – which moves the child so powerfully towards her to whom he owes his very existence? Would it be possible for so sacred a tie not to find a place in a religion so clearly founded on human nature and human affection? In the Christian religion the whole of humanity forms in Jesus Christ one united family. We all have a Father Who is in heaven; we surely need, therefore, a Mother, if our heart is not a thing made by chance, and if the religion which so draws our affections comes from our Maker.

This Mother God has given to us: it is our Blessed Lady. The Mother of God’s only-begotten Son has become the Mother of the children of His adoption. When Jesus was about to die and so repair the outrage done to His Father and to pay our ransom, He said, speaking to Mary and turning to the beloved disciple: Woman, behold your Son. Then, addressing Saint John, He said: Behold your Mother. In these words we have the express declaration of Mary’s spiritual maternity, uttered at the very moment of the birth pangs of the Christian family. From Mary’s sword-pierced heart, we were brought forth to a life of grace, and Mary’s consent to the Passion of our Saviour became, freely given as it was, the cause of our birth to grace through the death of the crucified Christ.

But long before this, our Lady had already begun her work as a Mother. Before giving birth to us, so to speak, she had conceived us and had carried us in her heart. When, through the ministry of an angelic envoy, the Word had solicited her consent to the Incarnation, He did so as the Redeemer of men. As a consequence of the fatal fall of our first parents, all members of the human race, with the one exception of our Lady, came into this world deprived of supernatural life. By coming amongst us the Word of God wished to graft upon His own Person all the souls of men, and in this way to infuse into them the grace of which they had been deprived and which He possessed in all its fullness. But in the designs of the Father, this mysterious engrafting could only be effected by the Blood-stained Flesh of the God-Man. Hence, the Divine Son came down to earth to climb Calvary’s hill, and it was as the Victim of sin that He asked Mary to receive Him.

In response to the angelic salutation, the Maid of Nazareth gave an unconditional Fiat and it was at this solemn moment that she conceived us in her heart. Mother, according to His human nature, of our Divine Saviour, she became the true spiritual Mother of all Christ’s members. And in the Blessed among women whom He destined to be our Mother, God united all the gifts capable of calling forth and holding our filial love. Her beauty will ravish for eternity the souls of the blessed in heaven; while her goodness, second only to that of her Divine Son, will be beyond anything we can conceive here below. She has said so herself. Between the love of the most ardent of her servants and the love she gives in return to the least of her children, there will ever be a vast difference, as vast as that between earth and heaven.

O incomprehensible condescension of divine mercy to give us such a Mother! O tremendous desire for our salvation! The least we can do is to respond with a sincere and practical love. ‘If I love Mary’, Saint John Berchmans used to say, ‘I am certain of my salvation’. And Saint Aloysius, summing up the tradition of the early Fathers, formulated the well-known saying: ‘Servus Mariæ nunquam peribit – the servant of Mary will never be lost’. Now ‘the true servant of Mary’, as one of our founder’s own companions used to say, ‘is the Christian who has recourse to that beloved Mother as often as he should, whether it be to persevere in the grace and friendship of God, or to recover those blessings by a sincere repentance’.

09 October 2010

Our Lady's 'Doctor Ecstaticus'

One of the most prolific writers of the Carthusian Order was Denys van Leeuwen, but perhaps better known simply as Denys the Carthusian or his Latinized name, Dionysius. Denys was Belgian and a model Carthusian to say the least. After being educated in theology, philosophy and Sacred Scripture from the University of Cologne, he entered the Carthusian way of life in 1423. The many hours involved daily in praying the Divine Office, saying Mass, praying Our Lady’s Office, as well as other devotional practices -- all staples of the Carthusian charism – Denys also nearly on a daily basis spent many hours reciting the Psalter in its entirety. In addition to this, he was no stranger to spiritual reading. A couple of years before his death the list of what he read began to surface. He read nearly every ecclesiastical writer leading up to his time in life. Another monk revealed that Denys also read nearly every summa and most commentaries on Scripture; he was also fond of reading the works of Greek and Arabic philosophers. His favourite writer was Dionysius the Areopagite. As incredible as all this seems, perhaps more mysterious and even miraculous is how he found the time to write so much himself. Like all Carthusians, he was very fond of our Lady. Here are some of his thoughts concerning our Blessed Mother:

From his work, De Prœconio, one should be convinced that as long as Mary is present in the life of a sinful soul, that soul need not despair:

‘You are the consolation and the hope of the most guilty of men. He who has recourse to you can never complain of your severity and harshness. To your sons, even to the most ungrateful, you are kindness and tenderness itself; for all, you have the heart of a compassionate and indulgent Mother. Despite your high estate and the exalted privileges which you enjoy in heaven, if the most wretched, the most impure, the most despised of sinners appeals to you for help with a truly contrite and humbled heart, far from disdaining him you welcome him with a Mother’s love. You take him into your arms and, holding him close to your heart, you communicate to him a new warmth and then make his peace with the Judge he fears. How many are the afflicted, the sinners, the utterly abandoned, who rejoice that they have found in you, O Mary most merciful, salvation and life’!

In Volume VII of his Opera Omnia, Denys explains why we pray, ‘Blessed are you among women’, for Mary is indeed ‘full of grace’.

‘Many women have gathered together great spiritual treasures, but you, O Virgin most admirable, have surpassed them all. For if, according to Saint Jerome, no one is good when compared to God, in like manner no virgin is perfect in comparison with you’.

Also from his Opera Omnia in Volume XXXII, Denys tells the story of a Cistercian’s encounter with our Blessed Mother:

‘A Cistercian religious had such a great devotion to our Blessed Lady that he would never sit down to table until he had recited on his knees five decades of the Rosary. Now one day, when his relatives had come to see him, and he was about to share their meal in the company of a few friends, he suddenly remembered that he had not fulfilled his customary tribute to his heavenly Mother. Immediately he arose and withdrew from the company. And as he prayed, whom did he see but our Lady herself, clothed with a magnificent cloak studded with Ave Marias, in letters of gold. He was filled with confusion when, with a sweet smile, the lovely apparition said to him: See all the Aves you have said to me. Then, with a gesture she threw open her cloak and, showing him the inside, added: When your Aves have covered this side also, I shall come for you, and take you to my Son’s Kingdom’.

What a marvellous assurance that as we pray the Rosary, our Lady is indeed listening! With all of Denys literary achievements, none of it took precedence over his commitment to prayer. Perhaps there’s a lesson there, in that, if we are committed to prayer, all those other things in our life that we deem as necessary, our Lord, if He also deems it necessary, will see to it that it is accomplished. Finally, it should be noted that Denys the Carthusian was quite privileged in receiving ecstasies, many of which involved levitation. Because of this, he has been given the title of Doctor Ecstaticus.

07 October 2010

Oh Oui - Ave Maria - toujours, toujours

‘They will carry the Crucifix in their right hand and the Rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart’ ~ Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.

Human logic suggests that a Man put to death by crucifixion and a string of beads are improbable, and yes, impossible sources to keep humanity from eternal death.

It also seems unlikely by human reasoning, that the Battle of Lepanto on 7 October 1571 would be a victory for Christianity because the Christians sought the help of our Blessed Mother by praying on those beads.

Our Blessed Lady herself was told at the Annunciation that ‘no word shall be impossible with God’ (Saint Luke 1:37). The battle of Logic versus Faith that wages within each of us must always find Faith as the victor. Not that there’s anything wrong with logic, it is a gift from God given to His human creatures. But interiorly, logic can only walk to the mountain; but faith can climb the mountain.

The Virgin Mother of God didn’t need to comprehend everything that was told to her by the archangel Gabriel; after all, logic would say, how could a virgin be with child? But faith doesn’t simply walk to the mountain and see a dead end; faith climbs, albeit with much difficulty at times, but climbs nevertheless, in order to reach celestial heights, seeking God in order to say what Mary said: ‘Fiat’!

‘And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And opening His Mouth He taught them’ (Saint Matthew 5:1-2). ‘And going up into a mountain, He called to Him those He desired Himself; and they came to Him’ (Saint Mark 3:13). God teaches from the mountain, God calls from the mountain.

‘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’ (Saint Luke 6:12). Jesus climbs a mountain to pray.

Combining these verses teaches us something about the life of prayer: it is a dialogue – God calls, go up the mountain where He offers the words of everlasting life to the human soul; afterwards, the soul can pray, whether that be through words or just resting in the warmth of His marvelous Light.

Our Lady is the quickest and surest path to our Saviour. She climbs the mountain with us. She knows where He is. In moments of weakness she takes our hand on that mountain and pulls us up past the more frightening crags. Saint John Berchmans said: ‘If I love Mary, I am certain of my salvation’. Saint Aloysius along those same lines said: ‘Servus Mariæ nunquam peribit’ – ‘The servant of Mary will never be lost’.

These prophetic words from Sacred Scripture the Church places on the lips of Mary: ‘I am the Mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the Way and of the Truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all you that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. He that hearkens to me shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting’ (Ecclesiasticus 24:24-28, 30-31).

Very powerful and faith building words!

On the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, 5 August 1935, our Blessed Mother told Saint Faustina: ‘Be courageous. Do not fear apparent obstacles, but fix your gaze upon the Passion of my Son, and in this way you will be victorious’ (Diary 449). This statement takes us back to the opening statement of this post from Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. In our left hand is the instrument in which we seek the help of our Mother and in our right hand is the means to help us keep our gaze fixed on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The beads, the beads, the beads! They are a great means to make our hearts rejoice because as our fingers travel on them, fifty-three times we begin our prayer with the words: ‘Ave Maria’!

In the Carthusian tradition is the story of a lay-brother named Bruno Lhuillier. He had a great love for the Blessed Mother. ‘Ave Maria’ constantly flowed from his lips. Many of his brother Carthusians, whenever they heard Brother Bruno Lhuillier proclaim those two words in praise of our Lady, they would respond using the same words. One day, one of his brothers, sort of beat him to the punch and was the first to say ‘Ave Maria’. Brother Lhuillier found great joy in that and responded: ‘Oh yes – Ave Maria – always, always’ (Abbé Berseaux: Le Chartreuse de Bosserville).

06 October 2010

Se il seme muore, produce molto frutto

From the Museo della Certosa is the Italian publication titled, ‘I Colori del Silenzio’. And in that publication is a loving tribute to Holy Father Bruno. It is shared here at Secret Harbour, on this day where around the world the Carthusian Order celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Bruno.

(My translation)
There are lives, my God, which may be approached only with respect, holy grounds where your mystery shines. No one can contemplate them without being enlightened by you, no one can find them without being inflamed by Your Spirit.

6 October 1101, Sunday, at the Hermitage of Santa Maria della Torre in Calabria, Italy there were some monks, and in the midst of them a man laid down. Tears were in their eyes and choking cries in their voices. The guide of their souls, their father . . . had reached the time of his birth into eternity. This man is you, Bruno. In this instant, your whole life, more than seventy years, is in your heart, the final offering to the Father.

Behold your first years in Cologne, where you were born, your departure for Rheims in France, that great and celebrated school of theology, your scholarly enlightened intuitions, and your appointment as canon of that church. The face of Archbishop Gervais, his decision of promoting you, at the early age of twenty-eight, to master of the most celebrated school of this time; students from all over Europe flocked together to listen to you, as your fame continually increased; then came the archbishop’s death in July 1067.

Behold the newly elected Manasse, his greed, his rages, the first discords, the increasing disorder, the scandals, while the Church reforms herself thanks to the Holy Father, Gregory VII; your sufferings, and the firm decision to voice your displeasure of the papal Legate. In the final months of 1076 came the retaliations of Manasse, depriving you of all your charges and goods – leading to the way of exile, a long and painful fight which lasted four years. At last the decision of the Pope: to depose, to dismiss the bishop from his See, while all eyes looked upon you to be the successor. But . . . in the silence of your heart, suddenly, another Heart! Your exile was the first stage of a long interior pilgrimage.

Behold the call of Christ: to leave everything so as to follow Him, to resume the way of the first fathers of the desert; the astonishment of all, the admiration for you, the light of Rheims, who was already fifty-five years old; then Sèche-Fontaine, the first attempt at solitary life with two other monks, but soon they defected and you searched for a second hermitage.

Behold your new companions: Landuin, two men named Stephen, and Hugh; these four were clerics, and with them were Andrew and Guérin, the first lay brothers. Their faces are still now in your heart, your brothers so beloved. And all seven were united as the flames of the archangels before the Almighty. You asked Hugh, the holy Bishop of Grenoble, for a place to live, hidden in God. Hugh of Grenoble was a friend of your heart. He helped you immediately without reservation; he had a dream about seven stars that guided him into the desert of Chartreuse to glorify God.

On June 1084, nearing the feast of Saint John the Baptist, you arrived at the place foreseen in the dream, to begin a great adventure still unknown. Behold your monastery, lost in the mountains, the first years, the ascetic struggle, the peace of the Spirit. Such fire in your souls, such love in your hearts! You, Bruno, already possessed pure praise and cries of amazement: ‘O Bonitas! O Bonitas!’ (O the Goodness! O the Goodness!).

Six years of toils, six years of joy; God, God, God always, only God, together with your brothers! Then, unexpectedly, the trial . . . In the first months of 1090 a courier of the Pope arrived with this message: Urban II, a former student of yours, calls you to his service at his side. The sun sets, it is night. Leaving everything, abandoning all, again, undoubtedly forever, your solitude in God, that blessed solitude, your companions of life, your friends. But in your heart, the ‘yes’, which is your love for God and for the Church. But the tempest overwhelms your brothers, the bewilderment takes them, and they disperse. To be without you, the master, the star of the journey: How could they? This way is so difficult. Everything collapses. Everything! Your heart is on the cross. It is the hour of your passion. Has the beautiful adventure reached its end? ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by! Yet, not my will, but Yours be done’. The sky opens, a new day is born. Your brothers again gather in the desert guided by Landuin. Your soul is suffering less, Bruno, at the hour of departure.

Behold Rome, the holy city, the heart of Christianity! But Rome is threatened. Shortly after your arrival, the Emperor Enrico IV and his protected, the antipope Clement III, launched their troops towards it. Urban II and his court fled to the south, near the land of the Norman allies. And still another trial: the Holy Father offers you the archbishopric of Reggio Calabria. What were you to do, Bruno? This is such a difficult time for the Church, as a brilliant future opens up for you – a counsellor for the Pope, a trustworthy man, admired by all. But in your soul still resounds the call, continuous, powerful, captivating, even stronger in the splendour of this court: Only God! Only God! To be His, completely His, only His, together with other brothers! Only God! Your heart, a cry of love for Him! Father, will You forget Your son? It is You Who has sown the cry in him . . . Bruno, the Lord responds, Urban II blesses your vocation: yes, you may resume your solitary life. ‘O Bonitas! O Bonitas! My life and my all, my beloved forever’. (Autumn of 1090).

Your heart would like to return to Chartreuse, to find your brothers. But the Pope asks you to stay in these lands and you accept his words as those of Christ. But where to dwell? A friend of the Holy Father, and soon to be your friend, Count Ruggero, offers you a vast desert territory. Behold your hermitage, Santa Maria della Torre, in the woods of the Serre, and the arrival of new companions, and later others, and yet more, up to thirty-three new sons. Nearby the hermitage stands the monastery of Saint Stephen where the lay brothers lead more a life in community; Landuin guides them, your faithful friend.

Eleven more years, eleven years of hard work and asceticism, eleven years of light and joy in praise, here, in this rich land of monks and hermits, whose history is blessed with their presence. And so, that your joy may be complete, Bruno, one day found the happiness of a visit: Landuin, who brings with him the love of your first sons, and their fidelity. ‘O Bonitas! O Bonitas’! -- so as to accept this friend of yours in this land that fills your heart, with an embrace and a gaze.

The autumn of life nears the end and your eyes rise towards eternity. Two years have passed since Urban II left this world; a year later, on his return journey, Landuin dies professing the faith in the prisons of the antipope; three months before that, in June, Ruggero died. Bruno, heaven calls you. Now . . .

The breath becomes briefer, perspiration bathes you, with your last brothers, you proclaim your faith, a hymn to the Trinity. The instant is near, time opens. Bruno, look at this grand light, so immense: ‘My Lord and my God’.

‘It is Me My friend, come! Enter into My Heart. Come! Come’.

‘O Bonitas! O Bonitas’!

Bruno, stay with us!

‘I will remain in your hearts’.

Everything stood still. Silence freezes us in its density. Fire has consumed the last twigs, the flame has vanished. Bruno . . . your face is so beautiful, illuminated by peace; and your eyes, open towards heaven, are overflowing with an infinite tenderness. A hand closes them in the ultimate sleep. Your life is hidden in Him, for all eternity. Fullness of joy! Ocean of love!

But your light still shines in our hearts and in your two letters, for your friend Raoul and your brothers of Chartreuse, who will bear witness forever to your mystery. You are so present in them, your profound humanity, finesse, your sweetness and goodness, your harmony throughout, your wisdom, all tenderness and humility, spiritual joy, simplicity -- Bruno, all-burning with your love of God, and the God-Love in you.

Yes, you are alive forever. And, like a planted seed, from you will rise a tree where different birds will make their nests. Are you not seeing it in the Eyes of God?

A life-flame of prayer still consumes itself roundabout you, Bruno; it burns in this place from where now you fly towards heaven, so as to make descend from there a great light of melody and love. Together with the first, behold all your sons and daughters, throughout the centuries, until this day and even further, all of us who, invisibly are around you on this 6 October, in this instant of your great birth, Bruno . . .

04 October 2010

A Humble Servant of the Lord

At Secret Harbour on this feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, who has been called ‘the most beautiful image of Jesus that has ever been in the Catholic Church’, today the Seraphic heavenly intercessor shares with us his letter which he offers to all the faithful. Here’s an excerpt of that letter.

To all Christians, religious, clerics, and laics, men and women, to all who dwell in the whole world, Brother Francis, their servant and subject, presents reverent homage, wishing true peace from heaven and sincere charity in the Lord.

Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my Lord. Wherefore, considering in my mind that, because of the infirmity and weakness of my body, I cannot visit each one personally, I propose by this present letter and message to offer you the words of our Lord Jesus Christ Who is the Word of the Father and the words of the Holy Spirit which are ‘spirit and life’.

This Word of the Father, so worthy, so holy and glorious, Whose coming the Most High Father announced from heaven by His holy archangel Gabriel to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary in whose womb He received the true flesh of our humanity and frailty, He, being rich above all, willed, nevertheless, with His most Blessed Mother, to choose poverty.

We ought to confess all our sins to a priest and receive from him the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who does not eat His Flesh and does not drink His Blood cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Let him, however, eat and drink worthily, because he who receives unworthily ‘eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord — that is, not discerning it from other foods.

Let us, moreover, ‘bring forth fruits worthy of penance’. And let us love our neighbour as ourselves, and, if any one does not wish to love them as himself or cannot, let him at least do them no harm, but let him do good to them.

Let us then have charity and humility and let us give alms because they wash souls from the foulness of sins. For men lose all which they leave in this world; they carry with them, however, the reward of charity and alms which they have given, for which they shall receive a recompense and worthy remuneration from the Lord.

We ought also to fast and to abstain from vices and sins and from superfluity of food and drink, and to be Catholics. We ought also to visit Churches frequently and to reverence clerics not only for themselves, if they are sinners, but on account of their office and administration of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they sacrifice on the altar and receive and administer to others. And let us all know for certain that no one can be saved except by the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the holy words of the Lord which clerics say and announce and distribute and they alone administer and not others.

We ought not to be ‘wise according to the flesh’ and prudent, but we ought rather to be simple, humble, and pure. We should never desire to be above others, but ought rather to be servants and subject ‘to every human creature for God’s sake’. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon all those who do these things and who shall persevere to the end, and He shall make His abode and dwelling in them, and they shall be children of the heavenly Father whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are spouses when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united to Jesus Christ. We are His brothers when we do the will of His Father Who is in heaven. We are His mothers when we bear Him in our heart and in our body through pure love and a clean conscience and we bring Him forth by holy work which ought to shine as an example to others.

O how glorious and holy and great to have a Father in heaven! O how holy, fair, and lovable to have a spouse in heaven! O how holy and how beloved, well pleasing and humble, peaceful and sweet and desirable above all to have such a Brother Who has laid down His life for His sheep, and Who has prayed for us to the Father, saying: Father, keep them in Your Name whom You have given Me. Father, all those whom You have given Me in the world were Yours, and You have given them to Me. And the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they have received them, and have known in very deed that I came forth from You, and they have believed that You sent Me. I pray for them: not for the world: bless and sanctify them. And for them I sanctify Myself that they may be sanctified in one as We also are. And I will, Father, that where I am, they also may be with Me, that they may see My glory in My kingdom.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. All to whom this letter may come, I, Brother Francis, your little servant, pray and conjure you by the charity which God is, and with the will to kiss your feet, to receive these balm-bearing words of our Lord Jesus Christ with humility and charity and to put them in practice kindly and to observe them perfectly. And all those who shall receive them kindly and understand them and send them to others as an example, if they persevere in them unto the end, may the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless them. Amen.

02 October 2010

The Guardian Angel

Dear Angel ever at my side,
How loving must thou be,
To leave thy home in heaven to guard
A guilty wretch like me.

Thy beautiful and shining face
I see not, though so near;
The sweetness of thy soft low voice
I am too deaf to hear.

I cannot feel thee touch my hand
With pressure light and mild,
To check me, as my mother did
When I was but a child.

But I have felt thee in my thoughts
Fighting with sin for me;
And when my heart loves God, I know
The sweetness is from thee.

And when dear Spirit, I kneel down
Morning and night to prayer,
Something there is within my heart
Which tells me thou art there.

Yes, when I pray thou prayest too,
Thy prayer is all for me;
But when I sleep, thou sleepest not
But watchest patiently.

But most of all I feel thee near,
When, from the good priest’s feet,
I go absolved, in fearless love,
Fresh toils and cares to meet.

And thou in life’s last hour wilt bring,
A fresh supply of grace,
And afterwards wilt let me kiss
Thy beautiful bright face.

Ah me, how lovely they must be
Whom God has glorified;
Yet one of them, O sweetest thought!
Is ever at my side.

Then, for thy sake dear Angel, now
More humble will I be:
But I am weak, and when I fall,
Oh weary not of me:

O weary not, but love me still,
For Mary’s sake, thy Queen;
She never tired of me, though I
Her worst of sons have been.

She will reward thee with a smile;
Thou know’st what it is worth!
For Mary’s smiles each day convert
The hardest hearts on earth.

Then love me, love me, Angel dear!
And I will love thee more;
And help me when my soul is cast
Upon the eternal shore.

~ Father Frederick William Faber (1814-1863) ~

01 October 2010

No Fruitfulness Without Suffering

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux wrote and spoke words which were nothing short of spectacular expressions of love. If we visually learned how to suffer by watching the life and papacy of John Paul II, then certainly those lessons on how to suffer can also be read in the words of the Little Flower. She was a Victim Soul of Divine Love. Her intimacy with Christ was mystical, as evidenced in her words, and the love she received as well as the love she returned was beyond human capacity. She had no personal desires – that is to say, she only wanted what God wanted. She completely gave herself to Him. Read her words below and see if you don’t find within yourself a mixture of amazement, wonder, and holy perplexity.

It is so sweet to call God, 'Our Father’! . . . I cannot well see what more I shall have in Heaven than I have now; I shall see God, it is true, but, as to being with Him, I am that already even on earth.

A few days after the oblation of myself to God's Merciful Love, I was in the choir, beginning the Way of the Cross, when I felt myself suddenly wounded by a dart of fire so ardent that I thought I should die. I do not know how to explain this transport; there is no comparison to describe the intensity of that flame. It seemed as though an invisible force plunged me wholly into fire. . . . But oh! What fire! What sweetness!

I have had several transports of love, and one in particular during my Novitiate, when I remained for a whole week far removed from this world. It seemed as though a veil were thrown over all earthly things. But, I was not then consumed by a real fire. I was able to bear those transports of love without expecting to see the ties that bound me to earth give way; whilst, on the day of which I now speak, one minute -- one second -- more and my soul must have been set free. Alas! I found myself again on earth, and dryness at once returned to my heart.

In this world there is no fruitfulness without suffering -- either physical pain, secret sorrow, or trials known sometimes only to God. When good thoughts and generous resolutions have sprung up in our souls through reading the lives of the Saints, we ought not to content ourselves, as in the case of profane books, with paying a certain tribute of admiration to the genius of their authors -- we should rather consider the price which, doubtless, they have paid for that supernatural good they have produced.

During my postulancy it cost me a great deal to perform certain exterior penances, customary in our convents, but I never yielded to these repugnances; it seemed to me that the image of my Crucified Lord looked at me with beseeching Eyes, and begged these sacrifices.

Our Lord's Will fills my heart to the brim, and hence, if aught else is added, it cannot penetrate to any depth, but, like oil on the surface of limpid waters, glides easily across. If my heart were not already brimming over, and must be filled by the feelings of joy and sadness that alternate so rapidly, then indeed would it be flooded by a wave of bitter pain; but these quick-succeeding changes scarcely ruffle the surface of my soul, and in its depths there reigns a peace that nothing can disturb.

Were it not for this trial, which is impossible to understand, I think I should die of joy at the prospect of soon leaving this earth.

I desire neither death nor life. Were Our Lord to offer me my choice, I would not choose. I only will what He wills; it is what He does that I love. I do not fear the last struggle, nor any pains -- however great -- my illness may bring. God has always been my help. He has led me by the hand from my earliest childhood, and on Him I rely. My agony may reach the furthest limits, but I am convinced He will never forsake me.

I am besieged by the devil. I do not see him, but I feel him; he torments me and holds me with a grip of iron, that I may not find one crumb of comfort; he augments my woes, that I may be driven to despair . . . And I cannot pray. I can only look at Our Blessed Lady and say: 'Jesus’! How needful is that prayer we use at Compline: 'Procul recedant somnia et noctium phantasmata'! ('Free us from the phantoms of the night'). Something mysterious is happening within me. I am not suffering for myself, but for some other soul, and Satan is angry.

Oh, how I love Our Blessed Lady! Had I been a Priest, how I would have sung her praises! She is spoken of as unapproachable, whereas she should be represented as easy of imitation… She is more Mother than Queen. I have heard it said that her splendour eclipses that of all the Saints as the rising sun makes all the stars disappear. It sounds so strange. That a Mother should take away the glory of her children! I think quite the reverse. I believe that she will greatly increase the splendour of the elect . . . Our Mother Mary! Oh! How simple her life must have been!

I know that just at this moment Our Lord has such a longing for a tiny bunch of grapes -- which no one will give Him -- that He will perforce have to come and steal it . . . I do not ask anything; this would be to stray from my path of self-surrender. I only beseech Our Lady to remind her Jesus of the title of Thief, which He takes to Himself in the Gospels, so that He may not forget to come and carry me away.

It is my dearest wish ever to bend beneath the weight of God's gifts, acknowledging that all comes from Him.

I shall die soon. I do not say that it will be in a few months, but in two or three years at most; I know it because of what is taking place in my soul.

This is my secret: I never reprimand you without first invoking Our Blessed Lady, and asking her to inspire me as to what will be most for your good, and I am often astonished myself at the things I teach you. At such times I feel that I make no mistake, and that it is Jesus Who speaks by my lips.

Some notes from a concert far away have just reached my ears, and have made me think that soon I shall be listening to the wondrous melodies of Paradise. The thought, however, gave me but a moment's joy -- one hope alone makes my heart beat fast: the Love that I shall receive and the Love I shall be able to give!

I feel that my mission is soon to begin -- my mission to make others love God as I love Him . . . to each soul my little way . . . I will spend my heaven in doing good upon earth. From the very heart of the Beatific Vision, the Angels keep watch over us. No, there can be no rest for me until the end of the world. But when the Angel shall have said: 'Time is no more'! Then I shall rest, then I shall be able to rejoice, because the number of the elect will be complete.

What draws me to my Heavenly Home is the summons of my Lord, together with the hope that at length I shall love Him as my heart desires, and shall be able to make Him loved by a multitude of souls who will bless Him throughout eternity.

I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in Heaven; my desire is to continue my work for the Church and for souls. I ask this of God, and I am convinced He will hear my prayer. You see that if I quit the battlefield so soon, it is not from a selfish desire of repose. For a long time now, suffering has been my Heaven here upon earth, and I can hardly conceive how I shall become acclimatized to a land where joy is unmixed with sorrow. Jesus will certainly have to work a complete change in my soul -- else I could never support the ecstasies of Paradise.

When I suffer much, when something painful or disagreeable happens to me, instead of a melancholy look, I answer by a smile. At first I did not always succeed, but now it has become a habit which I am glad to have acquired.

O my God! How good Thou art to the little Victim of Thy Merciful Love! Now, even when Thou joinest these bodily pains to those of my soul, I cannot bring myself to say: 'The anguish of death hath encompassed me'. I rather cry out in my gratitude: 'I have gone down into the valley of the shadow of death, but I fear no evil, because Thou, O Lord, art with me'.

And Thérèse’s last words on earth as she gazed at her Crucifix were:Oh! . . . I love Him! . . . My God, I . . . love . . . Thee!