30 June 2010

It is Consummated

To conclude the month of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, two Carthusians are featured: first, Dom Antonio de Molina, a Spaniard who was Prior at Miraflores; and Dom Heinrich Eger von Kalkar, Prior at both Cologne and Strasburg.

He loved them unto the end. ~ Saint John 13:1

It should be noticed that the Evangelist does not say that the soldier struck, tore or wounded the Side of Jesus, but that he opened it. He uses this expression to make us understand why Our Lord chose to receive this thrust. By opening to us His Breast, Jesus wished to reveal to us the very great love with which He burns for us, and to show us all that He has suffered, He has suffered because His Heart was wounded with love of souls; and to prove this, He has had His Heart opened and left always open, so that, through this wide door, we may reach the centre of His Heart, and find a place of refuge in temptations and dangers. It was thus that all those who escaped the deluge found safety by entering through the opening Noah had made in one of the sides of the ark.

The rock in the desert, wounded, so to speak, by the rod of Moses, poured out such a copious stream of water that it was sufficient to quench the thirst and supply all the needs of the Hebrew people. In like manner, the true Rock, which is Christ, was struck and wounded by the soldier's lance; and from the Side, and from the open Heart, sprang a divine stream, whence flow the Sacraments, like seven fountains always full of graces and salvation for souls.

Consider also that the Blood and Water which flowed from the Side of Jesus, could come out only by a miracle. The blood stops and congeals immediately after death, and a corpse bleeds no more, whatever wound is made in it; much less does there come out real and natural water like that which fell from the Side of Jesus Christ. This is then a great mystery, and here is the interpretation of it. The Divinity nevertheless remained united to it and imparted to it another life, a divine existence of which it made use to shed the little Blood which remained within it, in order to show us that His love made Him give even this last drop, hidden at the bottom of His Heart, where neither scourges, nor thorns, nor nails, had been able to penetrate.

When a man empties his purse, he shakes the bottom of it to be sure that nothing remains there. Jesus has done this with His Heart.

Dom Antonio de Molina

At the conclusion of this month, O most merciful Jesus, I offer myself to Your Majesty and Your Goodness, and humbly commend myself to You. By all the Wounds of Your Body, by each drop of Your Precious Blood, by the infinite tenderness of Your Heart, I beseech You to receive me into Your favour and to deliver and preserve me from all sin. May my soul be united to You, O my God, by the most perfect, most fervent, most faithful and unceasing love, so that, with all my heart and from the depth of my soul, I may love You, seek You, desire You, praise and bless You, in all things and above all things. O sweet Jesus, my God, may I think but of You, desire but You, know and enjoy but You; may I be attached inseparably to You only; may I spend my whole life and all the powers of my body and soul in praising, honouring and serving You!

Dom Heinrich Eger von Kalkar

29 June 2010

The Twin Light of the Eyes of the Body

On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, here is an appropriate homily by Saint Leo the Great.

When the twelve Apostles, after receiving through the Holy Spirit the power of speaking with all tongues, had distributed the world into parts among themselves, and undertaken to instruct it in the Gospel, the most blessed Peter, chief of the Apostolic band, was appointed to the citadel of the Roman empire, that the light of Truth which was being displayed for the salvation of all the nations, might spread itself more effectively throughout the body of the world from the head itself. What nation had not representatives then living in this city; or what peoples did not know what Rome had learned? Here it was that the tenets of philosophy must be crushed, here that the follies of earthly wisdom must be dispelled, here that the cult of demons must be refuted, here that the blasphemy of all idolatries must be rooted out, here where the most persistent superstition had gathered together all the various errors which had anywhere been devised.

To this city then, most blessed Apostle Peter, you do not fear to come, and when the Apostle Paul, the partner of your glory, was still busied with regulating other churches, entered this forest of roaring beasts, this deep, stormy ocean with greater boldness than when you walked upon the sea. And you who had been frightened by the high priest's maid in the house of Caiaphas, had no fear of Rome the mistress of the world. It was the force of love that conquered the reasons for fear: and you did not think those to be feared whom you had undertaken to love. But this feeling of fearless affection you had even then surely conceived when the profession of your love for the Lord was confirmed by the mystery of the thrice-repeated question. And nothing else was demanded of this your earnest purpose than that you should bestow the food wherewith you had yourself been enriched, on feeding His sheep whom you loved.

Your confidence also was increased by many miraculous signs, by many gifts of grace, by many proofs of power. You had already taught the people, who from the number of the circumcised had believed: you had already founded the Church at Antioch, where first the dignity of the Christian name arose: you had already instructed Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, in the laws of the Gospel message: and, without doubt as to the success of the work, with full knowledge of the short span of your life carried the trophy of Christ's cross into the citadel of Rome.

Then came also your blessed brother-Apostle Paul, the vessel of election, and the special teacher of the Gentiles, and was associated with you at a time when all innocence, all modesty, all freedom was in jeopardy under Nero's rule. Whose fury, inflamed by excess of all vices, hurled him headlong into such a fiery furnace of madness that he was the first to assail the Christian name with a general persecution, as if God's Grace could be quenched by the death of saints, whose greatest gain it was to win eternal happiness by contempt of this fleeting life. Precious, therefore, in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints: nor can any degree of cruelty destroy the religion which is founded on the mystery of Christ's Cross. Persecution does not diminish but increase the Church, and the Lord's field is clothed with an ever richer crop.

And over this band, dearly-beloved, whom God has set forth for our example in patience and for our confirmation in the faith, there must be rejoicing everywhere in the commemoration of all the saints, but of these two Fathers of excellence we must rightly make our boast in louder joy, for God's grace has raised them to so high a place among the members of the Church, that He has set them like the twin light of the eyes in the body, whose Head is Christ. About their merits and virtues, which pass all power of speech, we must not make distinctions, because they were equal in their election , alike in their toils, undivided in their death. But as we have proved for ourselves, and our forefathers maintained, we believe, and are sure that, amid all the toils of this life, we must always be assisted in obtaining God's mercy by the prayers of special interceders, that we may be raised by the Apostles' merits in proportion as we are weighed down by our own sins.

28 June 2010

Franz Liszt: The Blessings of God in Solitude

26 June 2010

Firm, Tender, Wise and Humble

Today on the Carthusian calendar is the feast of Saint Anthelm. A Carthusian monk tells us about him:

Anthelm of Chignin was born into a noble family of Savoy, France, in 1107. He chose the ecclesiastical state, became a canon and received important prebends and dignities. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, he refused to find his joy in these exterior possessions and human glory. He had a brother who was Procurator at the Charterhouse of Portes. Conversations with his brother when he visited him and with the Prior convinced him of the excellence of Christian abnegation in the monastic life. He asked for the Carthusian habit at Portes in 1135 and soon surpassed the other monks there in the monastic virtues.

This came to the ear of the superior of the Grande Chartreuse, Guigo, who asked the Prior of Portes to send Anthelm to the Mother house, where an avalanche had killed seven of the monks a short time earlier. So it was at the Grande Chartreuse that Anthelm made profession. Under Guigo’s successor, Hugh, Anthelm was made Procurator. He humbly accepted this charge, although he did not feel any attraction to it, and fulfilled his office with much profit for the House without overlooking his own spiritual needs.

When a new Prior was needed, the community, by a unanimous vote, elected Anthelm (1139). As Prior, he rebuilt the Mother house at a site less susceptible to avalanches. But his principal endeavor was the spiritual progress of the community which soon experienced his firmness, tenderness, wisdom and humility. He visited his monks with frequency in their cells and the gentleness of his words filled their hearts with peace. The sick, both in body and soul, had the particular interest of his fatherly care. He had a special gift in providing a remedy for temptations and in animating those who were discouraged. As regards those who were proficient in the spiritual life, he judged them worthy of all honors. He showed to them all the proofs of perfect esteem even going as far as to give them the right of way as they passed by and to stand up in their presence.

It was during his priorate that the wish was expressed by the Priors of the other Charterhouses for a more stable and more structured organization of the Order in the form of an annual General Chapter. Anthelm was open to this and welcomed the first General Chapter at the Grande Chartreuse in 1140. After the foundation by Saint Bruno in 1084, this first General Chapter was like a ‘second starting point’ for our Order.

Humble as he was, he repeatedly asked to be dismissed as Prior. After twelve years, in 1151, he finally obtained this. But as the Prior of Portes had died at that time, the monks of Portes asked Basil, Anthelm’s successor as superior of the Mother house, to send them the latter as their new Prior. Anthelm had to accept this. During his priorate storms destroying the harvest in the region of Portes caused a scarcity of food. Anthelm distributed generously wheat and vegetables from the monastery storage rooms to the farmers. He also came to the financial aid of other monasteries.

Two years later the diocese of Belley, in which Portes is located, needed a new Bishop. The people there strongly wanted Anthelm to become the Bishop. He refused, but to no avail. Pope Alexander III ordered him to accept and ordained Anthelm in 1163. As Bishop he offered great services to the Church. Within the first year of his consecration he launched a reform of the clergy. He defended the rights of the Church against the powerful. A bitter conflict with Humbert, count of Savoy, ended with Humbert asking the holy Bishop’s forgiveness, which the latter granted him with great benignity.

He kept up the same monastic fervor as before. Every year he would withdraw for a few days at the Grande Chartreuse, where he had a cell like the other monks.

Recommending charity and concord to his priests, Saint Anthelm died on June 26, 1178. Because of the many miracles at his tomb he was soon venerated. Today he is the patron Saint of the diocese of Belley, where the cathedral preciously keeps his relics. His feast is kept both by the Carthusians and the diocese of Belley on June 26.

25 June 2010

The man of Providence

Today on the Carthusian calendar is the feast of Blessed John of Spain. Here’s what a Carthusian monk tells us about Blessed John:

Blessed John was born in 1123 in the kingdom of Leon in Spain. At the age of thirteen he left his country for France, both to escape the Moslems and for the purpose of studies. He settled in the town of Arles, in Southern France. At sixteen he felt drawn to the monastic life and entered a monastery in the vicinity. After some years, he heard about the recently founded Order of the Carthusians and their monastery of Montrieux not far away, founded in 1118, five years before he himself was born. Drawn to their austere and entirely contemplative life, he joined the Carthusians there. Once a Carthusian, he was ordained a priest, was named sacristan and eventually — still a man in his twenties — elected Prior. We may assume he was precocious on the natural level, but even more so by the early maturity of his virtues.

The nuns of the monastery of Prébayon in the vicinity, following the Rules of Saint Caesarius of Arles and of Saint Benedict, were so impressed with the fervor of Montrieux under John’s leadership that they asked to be admitted to our Order, which till then had consisted only of monks. The Prior of our Mother house, la Grande Chartreuse, and Superior General of the Order, Saint Anthelm, authorized this. He asked John to adapt the Customs of Guigo, which were our Rule at that time, to the nuns. He did so and this was the beginning of the female branch of our Order.

Various difficulties at Montrieux lead to his retirement from the priorship and he moved to la Grande Chartreuse in 1150. Just then, a noble lord in neighbouring Savoy asked for a monastery of Carthusians on his lands. Saint Anthelm saw in Blessed John the man of Providence. He sent him to make the foundation in Savoy, which was eventually given the name of le Reposoir. There he governed wisely as Prior for some years.

On June 25, 1160 John died, not yet forty years old. Through unusual circumstances he was interred not inside the enclosure, as the custom is, but outside. In fact, during his priorate, two servants of the monastery, having died in the mountains, under an avalanche of snow, had been interred in an inappropriate place, outside the enclosure, for which John had been reproved. To make amends he had made his monks swear that after his death, they would bury him at the same place as the two servants. This, however, permitted John’s tomb — with his renown for sanctity — to become the object of popular pilgrimages. The faithful prayed at his tomb and many miracles occurred in the course of the centuries, particularly cures of malignant fever. In 1864 Blessed Pius IX approved the cult of Blessed John of Spain, venerated since time immemorial.

24 June 2010

You knit me in my mother's womb

This reflection was delivered three years ago on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist by the Pontifical Household Preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. He uses the Readings proclaimed on this solemnity to touch on a very serious problem of today’s culture. Here’s an excerpt:

This is an ancient feast that goes back to the fourth Century.

The devotion to John the Baptist spread rapidly and many churches throughout the world were dedicated to him. There have been twenty-three popes who have taken his name. To the last one, John XXIII, the phrase from the fourth Gospel has been applied: ‘There came a man sent by God and his name was John’. Few know that the seven musical notes -- do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti -- have something to do with John the Baptist. They are derived from the first seven syllables of the first strophe of a liturgical hymn composed in his honor.

The passage from Sunday's Gospel Reading talks about the choice of the name John. But what we hear in the First Reading and the Psalm is also important. The First Reading, from Isaiah, says: ‘The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me’.

The Psalm returns to this idea, namely, that God knows us from our mother's womb: ‘Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb . . . When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. Your eyes foresaw my actions’.

We have a very reductive and juridical idea of the person that causes a lot of confusion in the debate over abortion. It seems that a child acquires the dignity of a person only when this is recognized by human authorities.

For the bible the person is he who is known by God, he who God calls by name; and God, we are assured, knows us from our mother's womb, His Eyes saw us when we were still being fashioned in the womb.

Science tells us that in the embryo the whole human being who will be is becoming, projected in each tiny detail; to this our faith adds that what we have is not some unknown project of nature but a project of the creator’s love. Saint John the Baptist's mission is entirely traced out before his birth: ‘And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways’.

The Church holds that John the Baptist was already sanctified in his mother’s womb by the presence of Christ. That is why she celebrates the feast of his birth. This gives us an occasion to touch on a delicate problem, which has become acute today because of the millions of babies who, above all because of the frightening spread of abortion, die without receiving baptism. What are we to say of them? Are they also in some way sanctified in the womb of their mother? Is there salvation for them?

My answer is without hesitation: Certainly there is salvation for them. The risen Christ says of them too: ‘Let the children come to me’. According to an opinion that has become common since the Middle Ages, unbaptized children go to limbo, an intermediate place in which there is no suffering nor is there the enjoyment of the vision of God.

But what we have here is an idea that has never been defined by the Church as a truth of faith. It was a hypothesis of theologians that, in light of the development of Christian conscience and the understanding of Scripture, we can no longer maintain.

When I expressed this opinion of mine a while ago, there were various reactions. Some expressed their gratitude to me for taking this position which lifted a weight from their heart; others reproved me for abandoning the traditional doctrine and minimizing the importance of baptism. Now the discussion is closed because the International Theological Commission, which works for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published a document in which they affirm the same thing.

I think it would be helpful to return to the question in light of this important document so as to explain some of the reasons that brought the Church to this conclusion.

Jesus instituted the sacraments as the ordinary means of salvation. Therefore, they are necessary, and those who, though able to receive them, refuse or neglect to receive them against their conscience, put their eternal salvation in serious jeopardy. But God is not bound by these means. He can also save by extraordinary means, when the person, by no fault of his own, is deprived of baptism. He did this, for example, with the Holy Innocents, who also died without baptism.

The Church has always admitted the possibility of a baptism of desire and a baptism of blood, and many of these babies have certainly known a baptism of blood, even if of a different nature.

I do not think that the Church's clarification will encourage abortion; if it did, it would be tragic and we would need to seriously worry, not about the salvation of the unbaptized children, but of the baptized parents. It would be making fun of God.

This clarification will give, on the contrary, some ease to the believers who, like everyone, are dismayed in the face of the terrible fate of so many children in today's world.

Let us return to John the Baptist. In announcing the birth of the child to Zechariah the angel says to him: ‘Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son who you will call John. You will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth’ (Luke 1:13-14). Many did indeed rejoice at his birth if, twenty centuries later, we are still here to speak of that child.

I would like also to convey those words to all the fathers and mothers who, like Elizabeth and Zechariah, are expecting or experiencing the birth of a child: You too can have the joy and gladness in the child God has entrusted to you and rejoice in his birth your whole life long and for eternity!

23 June 2010

Vigil of the Birth of the Baptizer

O house of Zachary greeted with a voice
The barren one’s infant leaps in her womb
Reproach removed, thy child doth rejoice
‘Tis the Ark, carrying the Victor over the tomb

Elizabeth, thy husband at the altar of incense
Met with great fear the angel hailed as Gabriel
Zachary, thy prayer has been heard, hence
Your wife bears a son, thinkest thou surreal

Armed with the spirit and power of Elias
His voice in the wilderness will cry for penance
More than a prophet, your son, and pious
Thy disbelief has reduced thee to silence

O priestly voice cut off from the outside world
Hear the inner Voice of God speaking to thee
His plan of salvation is about to be unfurled
Thy son preparing the way for this mystery

At thy house is the blessed who has believed
For three months she will stay with thy wife
She too, although a Virgin, has conceived
And she shall bring forth the Bread of Life

O house of Zachary thy kindred greets thy son
Circumcised before witnesses more than a few
Isaias foretold of this child of God’s creation
The dividing line of Testaments Old and New

What shall he be called, a kinfolk’s name no less
Zachary, the name given to his father the priest
Nay, the pronouncement of angelic lips: Ioannes
His name be, on locusts and honey shall he feast

Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel, Zachary speaks
For salvation from our enemies is made present
Ninety-nine may be safe, but one lost He seeks
Whether that be man or woman, rich or peasant

You, my son, prophet of the Appeaser of wrath
Prepare ye the way for heaven to meet earth
From the desert shalt thou make straight His path
This Child of Spirit presented by Virgin birth

The repentant shall come to thee to be baptized
The Jordan shall hear many confessions of guilt
And now comes to thee prophecies now realized
The Cornerstone on which the house of God is built

I should be baptized by Thee, the precursor pleads
For within Thee there is found not spot or stain
Suffer it be so now, fulfilling all justice’s needs
That which I do My heavenly Father ordain

Thou brood of vipers O Pharisee and Sadducee
Think ye not Abraham an enemy of the Lamb
Faith’s Father longed to hear: Ecce Agnus Dei
And see Him Who’ll be sacrificed for thy scam

The Tetrarch’s fear renders the baptizer incarcerated
The femme fatale of Herodias, a promise discussed
Dance for me and I give thee till thy heart is sated
The man of God beheaded because of Herod’s lust

The netherworld where waits Patriarch and Prophet
Ye men of God, let us continue with prayer and fasting
For He Whom thou hast preached of, thus have I met
He will soon join us here and take us to life everlasting

22 June 2010

Totally Absorbed in God

Peter the Venerable, imaged here with Our Blessed Lady and her Divine Son, was a twelfth-century abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Cluny, who described the Carthusian Order in its infancy in his book, ‘De miraculis’. Here’s an excerpt:

Among all the European forms of our monastic foundations in the region of Burgundy, there is one that surpasses many of the others in holiness and spiritual valour. It was founded in our own time by some Fathers, wise and holy men of great courage: namely, master Bruno of Cologne, master Landuino of Italy, and some others, fine men, as I said, and God fearing.

They fast almost continuously. Like the Egyptian monks of old, they dedicate themselves constantly to silence, reading, prayer, and manual labour, especially copying books.

In their cells, at the sound of the church bell, they pray part of the canonical Hours: namely, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline. For Vespers and Matins they all assemble in the church.

They change the daily routine on certain feast days, when they take two meals and, like the monks who are coenobites rather than hermits, they sing all of the Hours in the church and all without exception go to the refectory for their meals: one after Sext, then again after Vespers.

They remain very recollected. They recite the Office with their eyes cast down toward the ground and their heart fixed upon heaven. By the gravity of their demeanour, the sound of their voice, and the expression on their faces they show they are totally – interiorly as well as exteriorly – absorbed in God.

The Carthusians practise great detachment, wishing to have nothing except what is prescribed.

According to what is written in the ‘Customs’ by Guigo, there is one error in Peter the Venerable’s account: On certain feast days the Carthusians sing all the Hours in the church with the exception of Compline. Guigo wrote that ‘we always say Compline in our cell’.

21 June 2010

The True Absalom

This reflection on the Sacred Heart is from a seventeenth-century Carthusian monk named Dom Polycarpe de la Rivière, who has been featured previously at Secret Harbour.

He took three lances in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom. ~ 2 Samuel 18:14

Into the Heart of Jesus, O my soul, direct and take your flight. The Heart of Jesus, His Wounds, His Hands, and His Feet are your elements, your centre and the sphere of your supernatural abode. Long only to thirst after Him, ardently desire only what He is pleased to inspire in you. Beyond Him there is nothing to be gained; out of Him there is everything to lose. All is in Him, nothing after Him. With Him is all happiness, without Him every misfortune. Come then, come with quick footsteps and hasten to reach and enter there, or rather to be His, as we are already in Him. He is in you and you in Him, more than you are in yourself. There place all your words, thoughts, deeds, affections and intentions. Say with holy Job, that in this nest you will die, and as a palm-tree (or like the phoenix) multiply your days, and return to life from the ashes of your Redeemer's death. Give Him heart for Heart, love for love. Then shall you be indeed transformed into Him, when you have made your life entirely conformable to His, ‘not in glorious majesty, but in lowliness of will’, as Saint Bernard says; not desiring any other glory, or other life than Jesus Christ. Jesus is my life, my soul, the heart of my love and the love of my heart! The hart, pursued by hunters and parched with thirst, longs not more ardently for a stream of clear water at which to quench its thirst, than I long to endure all kinds of hardships and sufferings in this life, that I may be united more closely to my Lord and my God!

O God, my God! When shall all Christians follow You as the people of Israel followed Absalom, with their whole heart? Absalom -- without his faults -- has many similarities to the Son of God. Absalom was the son of a king, Jesus Christ is the Son of the King of kings. Absalom was the most beautiful of the children of Israel, and Jesus most beautiful among the sons of men. Absalom hung and died on an oak; Jesus hung and died on the Cross. Absalom, by his death, brought peace to the kingdom of all the tribes of Israel; and Jesus, by His death, saves and redeems the whole world. Absalom was the son of David; Jesus was born of the same race of David; both were put to death to the very great benefit of their subjects and dependents, and both were bruised and pierced by their nearest, most intimate and familiar friends. The name Absalom signifies in Hebrew ‘the Father’s peace’; but Jesus alone gives us true peace with His Eternal Father. A soldier killed Absalom by striking his heart, and a soldier pierced the Heart of Jesus with his spear. Absalom was pierced with three lances; Jesus with three nails, and a lance the point of which wounded and transpierced His Heart with three darts of unspeakable suffering. The first was the cruel blow of all the agonizing tortures of His most ignominious Passion; the second, the extreme anxiety He felt for the inconceivable sorrow and desolation of His most blessed Mother; the third, the hard-heartedness, stubbornness and eternal damnation of Judas and of the greater number of this ungrateful and unmindful people. How strange is this, that one thrust of the spear into the Heart of Jesus Christ, should deal three distinct blows, and wound very deeply three other hearts, those of His afflicted Mother, of Saint John, and of Saint Mary Magdalene!

17 June 2010

When Darkness is Holy

‘If I ever become a Saint – I will surely be one of darkness. I will continually be absent from Heaven – to light the light of those in darkness on earth’. These are the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Since her letters became publicly known, she has been under a microscope, and has received most of her criticism from the secular media.

The very deep, mysterious intensity of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life has been presented in the book, Come Be My Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C. He first met Mother Teresa in 1977 and joined the Missionaries of Charity in 1984. About her letters, the author wrote in his book: ‘Providentially, Mother Teresa’s spiritual directors preserved some of her correspondence. Thus, when testimonies and documents were gathered during the process of her beatification and canonization, the remarkable story of her intimate relationship with Jesus, hidden from even her closest collaborators, was discovered. In contrast to her ordinariness, Mother Teresa’s confidences reveal previously unknown depths of holiness and may very well lead her to be ranked among the greatest mystics of the Church’.

The Introduction of the book mentions that for Mother Teresa, ‘the paradoxical and totally unsuspected cost of her mission was that she herself would live in terrible darkness.

This darkness is revealed in a letter to one of her spiritual directors as excerpted here: ‘This terrible sense of loss – this untold darkness – this loneliness, this continual longing for God – which gives me that pain deep down in my heart – Darkness is such that I really do not see – neither with my mind nor with my reason – the place of God in my soul is blank – There is no God in me – when the pain of longing is so great – He does not want me – He is not there – God does not want me’.

It is this type of language and these types of thoughts which led some on a mission to try and discredit the genuine holiness of Mother Teresa. It is nothing more than the devil himself trying to misconstrue what he himself knows is occurring – God’s great purification of His holy one.

This process was explained by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. He wrote in The Three Ages of Interior Life:

‘The reading of the works of Saint John of the Cross leads one to consider the night of the spirit chiefly as a personal passive purification, which prepares the soul for the perfect union with God, called the transforming union. This purification, which in its passive aspect is a mystical state and implies infused contemplation, appears thus as necessary to remove the defects of proficients of whom the author speaks in The Dark Night. The lives of some great servants of God especially dedicated to reparation, to immolation for the salvation of souls or to the apostolate by interior suffering, make one think, however, of a prolongation of the night of the spirit even after their entrance into the transforming union. In such cases, this trial would no longer be chiefly purificatory; it would be above all reparative. The common opinion is that the servants of God are more particularly tried, whether it be that they need a more profound purification, or whether, following the example of Our Lord, they must work by the same means as He used for a great spiritual cause, such as the foundation of a religious order or the salvation of many other souls’.

15 June 2010

The Image of Christ in Priests

As the Church has just concluded the ‘Year for Priests’, many wonderful reflections on the priesthood have come from the Church, most especially from our Holy Father. One last offering to priests, here at Secret Harbour, is from a letter written by Sister Nazarena. She has been featured here at Secret Harbour on several occasions. She was a gifted musician living in Connecticut in the United States. She felt called, however, to the desert and ended up in the Church’s most rare vocation, that of a recluse, which she lived out in Italy. In her ascetical life of solitude she wrote letters and offered advice to priests and religious, including the late Paul Augustin Cardinal Mayer, O.S.B., who went home to the Lord just this past April at the age of ninety-nine. In a letter to him, Sister Nazarena wrote:

God wants you to focus upon yourself in order to liberate yourself from yourself and deliver yourself with perfect docility into the hands of the heavenly Teachers, the Holy Spirit and the Immaculate Virgin. It was they who formed the perfect Ideal of the Priest, Jesus Christ, and this is how all followers of the great High Priest are formed. The principal agents in the transformation of a priestly soul are the heavenly Teachers. The Sanctifier of souls, the Holy Spirit, does not operate independently of the Virgin, in whose Immaculate womb was formed the Christ. Priests who abandon themselves blindly to their guidance and protection, who let them have free course to act in their own way, shall proceed not by giant steps, nor on eagles’ wings, but at a divine pace toward perfection.

If a priest is generous, docile, humble; if he withdraws and remains in silence so as to let himself be worked over, without wishing to know, understand, or see the work they are doing in his soul; if he holds himself in quiet and silence, trusting them like a little child; if he strives to silence the noise of the world, of creatures, and of the ego, and if he strives to learn the divine art of listening to God’s Voice, the heavenly Teachers will not cease to work in his soul, and quite soon, as a result, in him will be formed the adorable Image of Christ.

12 June 2010

Dominica Undecima Per Annum

First Reading, 2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13
Anyone who is serious about their spiritual life surely understands the destruction caused by sin. The images can be haunting. Sin is never more destructive, though, than when it crosses the line of venial and enters into mortal and builds a wall of separation between a soul and God. A daily examination of conscience and perhaps having a personal Confessor will help to identify the troublesome spots: i.e., the sins of constant repetition. Examining the personal sins of daily life can plague the heart and mind if it is not balanced by a daily recollection of the good things God does, seemingly irrespective of personal failures.

The fast pace of life quite often misses God passing by to bless a circumstance or situation. While it might be better for our soul to have a prophetic Nathan drop by and remind us of the good that God has done in our lives, as well as point out where we have failed Him; or have a Confessor like Padre Pio kick us out of the confessional for deliberately failing to confess certain sins, since these scenarios are a long shot, we have to take responsibility for the condition of our soul by a personal mandate to strengthen our relationship with God.

Sure, it would be embarrassing to be told by a prophet where we have failed God or to be jettisoned from the confessional by a supernaturally gifted priest; but the real shame lies in the inability to be honest with ourselves. An honest relationship with God will have us admit with David: ‘I have sinned against the Lord’ and embracing the Catholic teaching of Reconciliation assures that the Lord on His part has forgiven our sins.

A prophetic view of this Reading previews the love of God for His people and the humility of Christ. The Almighty and all-powerful God would clothe Himself in flesh and dwell among sinful humanity; and He would do so through the lineage of David, a lineage of murder and adultery, placing Himself in the all too familiar role of being a sign of contradiction. And yet the prophetic voice speaking to David saying: ‘The Lord on His part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die’ foretells a future of mercy and the unworthy opportunity to escape eternal death because of Christ's Sacrifice. This loving act of Jesus delineates both the justice of God and the mercy of God.

Second Reading, Galatians 2:16, 19-21
Saint Paul addresses this letter chiefly to Jewish Galatians who remained faithful to the old law. Saint Jerome has commented that by the evangelical law of Christ we are now dead to the ancient law and its ceremonies. As Saint Paul points out, if justification and salvation could be gained through the works of the law, then Christ died in vain and it was unnecessary for Him to become our Redeemer.

Saint Paul is expressing a kind of inner metamorphism: The law which he was faithfully attached to has died in him. Now he is so fully united to Christ and His Cross that he writes: ‘I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me’. This is a mystical death which comes through faith and baptism.

Now that Paul speaks out against the ancient law, it must be understood that he is speaking about its ceremonial aspects and not its moral content. Justification has only one Source which are the graces obtained for us by Jesus Christ.

Saint Paul's words in this Reading presents to us a mystical smorgasbord because they suggest that faithful Christians walk in the Spirit and if we dare be so bold, can say that we are in a sense another Christ by virtue of our union with Him and are receptacles of His graces; and certainly in the ordained priesthood this is even more profoundly true as priests are in Persona Christi as it is Christ Himself Who is present to His Church as the Shepherd of the flock, the Teacher of Truth and the High Priest of the redemptive Sacrifice (cf. CCC 1548). Because of that mystical union with Christ, our present physical life is a life elevated by our faith in Christ. It’s quite a calling to try to uphold and requires a committed approach like that of Saint Paul.

Gospel, Luke 7:36---8:3
‘Who is this Who even forgives sins’? This particular verse, one could say from a Catholic or Orthodox perspective, is a bit prophetic. Our separated brethren who do not share our belief in the Sacrament of Reconciliation will often ask how a man [priest] can forgive sins. In Christ are God and Man. In the confessional it is God through man. Our Lord told Saint Faustina: ‘When you go to Confession, know this, that I Myself am waiting for you in the confessional; I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in the soul’.

There's also an aspect of reverence leaking through in this particular Gospel. Worship, liturgical or personal, demands reverence. Our Lord Himself would seem to suggest this with His string of ‘you did not – but she has’ statements in this Gospel account; meaning that the woman in this Gospel has shown her Lord the proper reverence even though it comes into question by the Pharisee. But reverence cannot be exercised merely for reverence sake; it must be motivated by love as is the case with this woman as Jesus points out by saying that ‘she has shown great love’.

In the biblical days, feet were surely the dirtiest part of the body with only sandals or bare feet to tread through the desert sand. Jesus suggests that water would have been the least that could have been used to bathe His Feet, which the Pharisee failed to do; but the woman goes beyond what would have been sufficient and gives her all by bathing our Lord's Feet with her tears, an acknowledgement of her own unworthiness to approach even His dirt-covered Feet. By kissing His Feet and anointing them, she accepts her own nothingness and submits to the superiority of her Lord and offers thanks for the gift of being permitted to wash His Feet. All this is done not because of some sort of protocol, but rather it is an expression of her love for Jesus.

Metaphorically, this opens up a can of worms when considering our own expressions of worship – how we enter a church, bowing and genuflecting, maintaining a reverent silence before the Tabernacle, attentiveness to the proclamation of the Scriptures, spending a few moments after Mass to offer thanksgiving for the phenomenal gift of the Eucharist, etc. Also, when entering deeper into this particular scene, washing away dirt speaks of Confession and how when partaking of that sacrament we are not only repairing the wounds of the soul but are in a sense washing our dirt off of Jesus which covers His Flesh, thus inhibiting us from kissing His Feet or more comprehensibly, having His Flesh, His Eucharistic presence, pass our lips. It’s something to reflect on when understanding the Church’s teaching that the Blessed Sacrament should not be approached for consumption if there is mortal sin on the soul.

Love is stronger than anything – even death. And He Whom we consume at Mass is Love. Our own preparation for such an unfathomable gift prompts the question that was asked of Peter three times: Do you love Me? (cf. John 21:15-17). If Jesus is the One in Whom we show great love, then, as Saint Cyprian puts it, our grief should be proportionate to our sins. How could one not grieve when having offended the Love of his/her life?

In the ongoing daily battle of conversion, if it is a true conversion, pious dispositions like faith, hope, love, charity and sorrow are joined together. This is evident in this Gospel and clears up any controversial theological arguments concerning sins being forgiven because of showing great love versus being saved because of faith. It also shows that faith is not merely an intellectual ascent but rather an expression and attitude of the whole person.

Sadly, because of our brokenness, what also cannot be ignored are our own prejudices and jealousies that can surface as portrayed here by the Pharisee. Depending on one's own willingness to love others, the pious expressions of others will either draw out admiration or even a sense of communion with that person or persons -- or it will render a first impression laced with jealousy and envy. Sometimes envy and jealousy are rooted in the misjudgement that one lugs around on his/her shoulders sins that are unforgivable. Once again, our Lord said to Saint Faustina: ‘The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy’.

There are countless writings from the saints on mercy. Here are but a few gems: ‘Everything that God does is born of His Mercy and His clemency’ – Saint John Chrysostom. ‘God is not the Father of Judgment, but only the Father of Mercy, and punishment comes from our own selves’ – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. And finally, ‘If God had not created man He would still indeed have been perfect in goodness, but He would not have been actually merciful, since mercy can only be exercised toward the miserable. Our misery is the throne of God's mercy’ – Saint Francis de Sales.

11 June 2010

The Infinite Love of Our Lord's Most Sacred Heart

Pope Saint Pius X referred to him as the ‘father, doctor, and apostle of the liturgical cult of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary’. He is Saint John Eudes. Here are some of his thoughts on the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus:

The first cause of those most painful Wounds in the Sacred Heart of Our Redeemer is our sins. We read in the life of Saint Catherine of Genoa that one day God let her see the horror of one tiny venial sin. She assures us that, although this vision lasted but a moment, she saw nevertheless an object so frightening that the blood froze in her veins and she swooned away in an agony that would have killed her if God had not preserved her to relate to others what she had seen. Wherefore she declared that if she were in the very depths of a sea of flaming fire and it were in her power to be set free, on condition that she should once more behold such a spectacle, she would choose to remain rather than to escape. If the sight of the smallest venial sin brought this saint to such a pass, what must we think of the state to which Our Saviour was reduced by seeing all the sins of the universe? He had them continually before His Eyes, and His vision being infinitely more powerful than that of Saint Catherine, He could behold infinitely more horror.

He saw the immeasurable insult and dishonour it caused His Father; He saw the damnation of a countless number of souls resulting from those sins. As He had infinite love for His Father and His creatures, the sight of all those sins rent His Heart with countless Wounds, such that if we were able to count all the sins of men, which are more numerous than the drops of water in the sea, we would then be able to count the Wounds of the loving Heart of Jesus.

The second cause of His Wounds is the infinite love of His Sacred Heart for all of His children, and His constant vision of all the afflictions and sufferings that are to happen to them, especially all the torments that His holy martyrs are to suffer. When a mother watches her beloved child suffering, she feels the pain more keenly than the child. Our Saviour’s love for us is so tremendous that if the love of all parents were centred in a single heart, it would not represent even a spark of the love for us that burns in His Heart. Our pains and sorrows, ever present to His vision and seen most clearly and distinctly, were so many Wounds bleeding in His paternal Heart. These Wounds were so painful and deep that they would have caused His death a thousand times over, even immediately after His birth, if He had not miraculously preserved Himself, because during His whole earthly life His Sacred Heart was continually pierced by many mortal Wounds of love.

Therefore we have the greatest obligation to honour the gracious Heart that sustained so many Wounds of love for us. With what affection should we embrace, and endure all our afflictions, out of love for Jesus, our Saviour, since He first bore them for love of us! Should they not be most sweet to us, since they have already passed through His most gentle and loving Heart? What a horror we should have of our sins that have caused so many Wounds and such intense grief to the divine Heart of our Redeemer!

Let us learn from the foregoing example that it is not our Redeemer's fault if we are lost. There are hearts so hard that, even if Jesus Himself were to come down from heaven to preach to them and they were to see Him covered with Wounds and bathed in His Blood, they would still not be converted. O my God, let us not be one of them, but give us the grace to open our ears to the voice of all the sacred Wounds of Your Body and Your Heart, which are so many mouths through which You call us unceasingly: ‘Redite, prævaricatores, ad cor -- Return, transgressors, to the heart’, which means to My Heart that is all yours, since I have given it entirely to you. Return to that most loving Heart of your Father, which is full of love and mercy for you, which will receive you home, heaping upon you blessings.

Of all the divine perfections mirrored in the Sacred Heart of our Saviour, we should have a very special devotion to divine mercy and we should endeavour to engrave its image on our heart. To this end three things must be done. The first is to pardon with all our heart and promptly forget the offenses done to us by our neighbour. The second is to have compassion on his bodily sufferings, and to relieve and help him. The third is to be compassionate toward the spiritual misfortunes of our brethren, which are much more deserving of our commiseration than corporal ills. For this reason we ought to have great pity on the numbers of wretched souls who have no pity on themselves, using our prayers, our example, and our teaching to safeguard them from the eternal torments of hell.

10 June 2010

The Mystical Store-House

On this eve of the liturgical celebration of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, this short meditation is from a seventeenth-century Carthusian named Dom Renatus Hensæus. In 1610 he became Prior of the Charterhouse at Brno, in what is now called the Czech Republic. He made his profession, however, at La Grande Chartreuse.

‘One of the soldiers with a spear opened his side’. ~ Saint John 19:34

Consider the Wound made in Our Lord's Side, and admire the ruling Providence of God, Who makes use of a soldier's cruelty for the production of this Wound. Enraged that Christ, by dying too quickly, has escaped so soon from the torments and insults of the Jews and executioners, this infuriated man wreaks his blind rage on the dead Body of the Saviour, and ruthlessly drives his spear into the Side with such violence that the Cross is shaken by the blow and nearly thrown down.

First point
God Himself willed that the Side of the second Adam, sleeping on the Cross, should be opened, in order that the Church might be taken from it. This is what Saint John would give us to understand when he so minutely and expressly states, that ‘immediately there came out Blood and Water’ (Saint John 19:34), which are the symbols of our salvation. This Blood and this Water, passing through the Sacraments, as through so many channels, come to us to cleanse and sanctify us. O how great is the charity of our Good Samaritan!

Second point
Moreover, the Lord would have the Side of Jesus opened in order that it might become the Door set in the side of the ark, through which all could enter who wish to escape this world's deluge.

Third point
Finally, Jesus had His Side opened so that by this visible Wound, we might behold the Wound of love which has pierced His Heart.

Enter then through this Gate of Paradise; come to the Fountain and the Tree of Life, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that you may see how He has borne you in that Heart. Enter by this Door into the mystical store-house. The Spouse of souls invites you there when He says: ‘Si quis sitit, veniat ad me, et bibat -- If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink’ (Saint John 7:37).

09 June 2010

The Holy Lance

This reflection on the Sacred Heart is passed on to us from a seventeenth-century Carthusian monk named Dom Polycarpe de la Rivière. His religious life began as a novitiate with the Jesuits at Lyons, when not long after he asked to be admitted into the Carthusian Order. He made his profession on 1 May 1609. He was the author of many works. His writing career as a religious was more unusual than most. He wrote everything in French much to the dislike of his superiors who wanted him to write in Latin because he would then remain more faithful to the Carthusian ‘hidden life’, since Latin works at that time were inaccessible to the general public. He was Prior of the Charterhouse at Bordeaux and then later at Bonpas near Avignon.

‘Now then I will run him [King Saul] through with my spear . . .’ ~ 1 Kings [1 Samuel] 26:8

A soldier pierced the Side of Jesus with his spear. Ah! Now can you clearly behold the divinity of Jesus through the torn veil of His humanity! Now that the beautiful Face of my Jesus is bent towards you in token of mercy, know that by the death you have given to His life, He will give life to your death. As for me, I can live no longer since my life is dead, and I can see no more my living Jesus, Who was the light of my eyes and the life of my heart.

It is not, however, enough for your cruelty to see Him in this sad condition. What! Fierce madman, will you also rob Him of His Heart, the centre of His love, by this wanton thrust of the spear into His Side? O lance, spare at least my soul and cause not all my blood to flow away through the wound you make there! Do you not know that my life and soul are hidden in this Heart? Do you not understand that it is there I live and breathe? Pitiless lance, you wound, you bruise me; thinking to strike only One, you pierce me with Him. O unrelenting lance! Is your thirst then so acute? You have my breast, my body, it is enough; spare, I pray you, this Heart, and let my veins be emptied and all my blood poured out to save this Heart of Jesus, the love of my soul.

But what are you doing, my soul, in offering your heart for that of your God? Would you live without a heart, and shut yourself out of heaven? To enjoy the latter, it is necessary to open the former. I know you will say that it is from this divine Heart, and not from heaven, that you have taken your essence and your first form, and that you cannot do without its love, for you are like the moon, which of itself is not visible, and sends forth no light which it does not borrow from the sun. But reflect also that this Heart of Jesus performs all things with harmony and consideration, and that, being the first of the living and the dead, the Chief of the elect, and the Prototype of all perfection, it must be opened thus in order to become the Door of Paradise.

Do you now reproach the iron, which is the blessed key of your felicity? Oh no! Away with indignant thoughts and revengeful designs! I love you, glorious iron. I honor and venerate you as a cause of my salvation, the door-keeper of my everlasting glory. O Jesus! Who will make You all things to me and in me? Who will make me to possess You without fear of losing You? Or rather, who will transform me into iron, and the iron into a lance, that I may be plunged forever into Your Heart, which is the delight of mine and the destruction of my enemies?

Ah! Once only, only once, and that forever, so that I may never come out of it again! Let the good things of this world vanish away. They are only mire, scum and corruption, perpetual figures of death, and not to be compared to the greatness of my love which only longs for and clings to this Heart of my soul, to this Soul of my heart.

O God! When can I reach it? When shall I be cast into it? Do You not fear the vehemence of my desires, the strength of my affection? Ah! I am no longer an arrow, but the spear which can once more open Your Side and pierce Your Heart as sharply as that of Longinus. And who shall keep me back? Who shall drive me away, since it is so much greater a benefit to do this than to refrain from it? Yes indeed, and whilst I say it, O Holy Lamb, I marvel at the sweetness of Your loving kindness, which gives back life to him who slays You and pierces Your Heart.

07 June 2010

The Mystic Bee

This is the week that leads to the great celebration of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The reflection below is from a sixteenth-century Carthusian named Dom Anton Volmar who was Prior of the Astheim Charterhouse in Franconia, Germany. This is a mystical writing to match its mystical title, surely the fruit of much contemplation.

. . . that he might suck honey out of the rock. ~ Deuteronomy 32:13
. . . and the rock was Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:4

Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Wisdom of the Father. If you thirst for the water of true wisdom, your soul may drink from the Saviour's Wounds. Saint John leaned upon the Heart of Jesus and reposed there sweetly. It was from the Saviour's Heart that he imbibed all his wisdom, which enabled him to understand better than others the hidden things of God, and to penetrate them because he understood them.

Meditate attentively and devoutly on the sufferings of our Saviour. While thus employed your senses will be closed to earthly things, and you will draw in divine wisdom, and drink of the doctrine of salvation. You will then be able to discover the secrets of heaven, feel them, and enter into them. The knowledge of much which is concealed from others will be revealed to you, because the source of life, of truth, and of wisdom will flow abundantly into your soul.

It is through Jesus crucified and by continual remembrance of His Passion that the Kingdom of heaven becomes established in our inmost hearts. God reveals Himself to us; sin takes flight, and the soul, entering into the Wounds of Jesus, like ice thrown into a fire, is melted and absorbed in its God. Lay down then your heart on the Wounds of Jesus, you who long for divine consolation; for there you will find in abundance all that you desire. The Wounds of Jesus our Saviour are full of sweetness, delight and joy. No truer, greater, better or more salutary joy is to be found than that which is found in the Passion of Jesus Christ.

Ascend often to the tree of the Cross; dwell under its shadow, and gather its saving fruits. The tree of the Cross is always loaded. It comforts and satisfies the soul that plucks its fruits, and one can never take all that it bears.

‘I am come to cast fire on the earth’ (Saint Luke 12:49). This fire is the ardent flame of the divine love hidden in the Heart of Jesus. He who approaches it, is all kindled with fervour; he who remains at a distance, is indifferent, dry and frozen. Happy the soul that is inflamed with the fire of the sorrowful Passion of the Redeemer!

The Passion of Jesus is the treasure mentioned in the Gospel, hidden in a field (cf. Saint Matthew 13:44). He who buys this mysterious field, will find there a stream of graces unceasingly flowing from the Saviour's Wounds. When once the soul has entered into this field, it will drink from the life-giving stream, and will not go away. It will sell everything in order to buy this hallowed land. Oh, if the treasure hidden in the field of the Passion, and the well-spring of graces enclosed therein, were generally known, all would come to buy the field, dig there, and find that treasure. How slothful and foolish are those who enter not into this field, and who do not seek anything there! The Wounds of Jesus are fountains of living water that are never exhausted, but from which life, joy, and salvation are always flowing abundantly. Do you desire everlasting happiness? If so, have recourse to the Wounds of Jesus; seek it in His Side, and you will find it. You will live free from danger, and will be able readily to draw near to God.

The bee flitting from flower to flower, examines them, now closely, now at a distance; and when it discovers a flower containing a sweet substance, it advances, sucks it out and bears it away; and thus, with wondrous skill, it makes its honey. In like manner does the pious and devout soul, by constant meditation, alight upon the Saviour's Wounds, and taste of the sweetness hidden in each of them. Gradually the soul becomes filled with heavenly consolations, and the hive of its understanding is replete with divine honey, which overflows and pours supernal sweetness into the soul.

The bee that flies further than the others and hovers over more flowers, collects their juices in greater abundance and makes more honey. Thus the soul that is frequently lifted up by mental prayer to this most beautiful Flower of the field, Jesus loaded with shame and covered with Wounds; the soul, I say, that extends the circle of its contemplation, and considers more attentively the sufferings of Jesus, better understands each of the Saviour's Wounds, and finds honey in the openings of the mystical rock, which is Christ Himself. I will turn then to Jesus all covered with Wounds. I will never cease my endeavours to reach Him, until my soul shall be united to His Soul, my spirit to His Spirit, and my heart to His Heart.

Jesus, the last End of all things, is Himself the Light and the Way that leads to Himself. Jesus is a light placed in a lantern. He will be my guide. The light of His divinity is placed in His humanity, open by many Wounds from whence the light streams out.

O Jesus, the true, infinite, uncreated, substantial and supersubstantial Light, the cause, beginning, and end of all good, vouchsafe of Your goodness to have mercy upon me. From all the Wounds You have received, as from so many fountains of living water, pour out a stream of charity and life, and of Your clemency and longanimity forgive me my sins, through Your Wounds, Your Blood, Your Tears, Your Sweat, Your labours, Your sorrows; through the pains of Your Head, Your Body, Your Hands, Your Feet, Your Side, and through the anguish of Your Soul and of Your Heart. Amen.

06 June 2010

The Best Time Spent on Earth

Whenever I read or hear the words, ‘Be not afraid’, two souls immediately come to mind: Pope John Paul II, and this dear lady whose quotes follow – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Notice in the next to last paragraph the Marian influence of Eucharistic Adoration for Mother Teresa and her Sisters. Our Blessed Lady is the perfect adorer. She is never absent from adoration and when called upon she will gladly teach her children how to adore.

What we need is for every parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Hours of prayer. Perpetual adoration with exposition needs a great push.

Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration. I beg you to get closer to the Eucharist and to Jesus. We must pray to Jesus to give us that tenderness of the Eucharist.

The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in heaven, and will help bring about everlasting peace on earth.

We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist; the moment we do, something breaks. People ask, ‘Where do the Sisters get the joy and energy to do what they are doing’? The Eucharist involves more than just receiving; it also involves satisfying the hunger of Christ. He says, ‘Come to Me.’ He is hungry for souls.

In each of our lives Jesus comes as the Bread of Life, to be eaten, to be consumed by us. This is how He loves us. Then Jesus comes in our human life as the hungry one, the other, hoping to be fed with the bread of our life, our hearts by loving, and our hands by serving. In loving and serving, we prove that we have been created in the likeness of God, for God is Love and when we love we are like God. This is what Jesus meant when He said, ‘Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect’.

When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.

When the Sisters are exhausted, up to their eyes in work; when all seems to go awry, they spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This practice has never failed to bear fruit: they experience peace and strength.

Through Mary the cause of our joy you discover that no where on earth are you more welcomed, no where on earth are you more loved, than by Jesus, living and truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. He is really there in Person waiting just for you. Our holy hour is our daily family prayer where we get together and pray the Rosary before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, the first half hour, and the second half hour we pray in silence.

Our hours of adoration will be special hours of reparation for sins, and intercession for the needs of the whole world, exposing the sin-sick and suffering humanity to the healing, sustaining and transforming rays of Jesus, radiating from the Eucharist.

05 June 2010

The Eucharistic Soul

Here are some Eucharistic thoughts from Saint Pierre Julien Eymard, known as the Apostle of the Eucharist. On this day of Saturday, however, it’s always edifying to reflect on Our Blessed Lady as well. Saint Pierre Julien Eymard wrote: ‘If Saint John leaped in the womb at the approach of Mary, what feelings must have coursed through Joseph during those six months when he had at his side and under his very eyes the hidden God! Can we doubt that Joseph must often have adored Jesus hidden in the pure tabernacle of Mary? How fervent that adoration must have been: My Lord and my God, behold your servant! No one can describe the adoration of this noble soul. He saw nothing, yet he believed; his faith had to pierce the virginal veil of Mary’. Here is more from this great saint:

Love cannot triumph unless it becomes the one passion of our life. Without such passion we may produce isolated acts of love; but our life is not really won over or consecrated to an ideal. Until we have a passionate love for Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament we shall accomplish nothing.

The spirit of Eucharistic love will make you refer everything to the Holy Eucharist, for the Eucharist is the summary of all marvels. It is the permanent mystery in which we find all others. If you have this Eucharistic spirit, if your thoughts are tuned continually toward the Eucharist, the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament will never leave you.

God is immense, the universe is filled with God's presence, but the Eucharistic soul prefers to search and find God where He is sacramentally.

Just as the eagles assemble where the body is, so also Eucharistic souls are attracted instinctively, easily, and habitually to the Holy Eucharist. Therein is their happiness, their peace; there they find a supernatural knowledge of all things.

The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but heaven itself.

Our Lord so loved us that He could not separate Himself from us, even in His state of glory. The Eucharist is His Incarnation continued, multiplied, perpetuated to the end of time; but how few there are for whom Jesus sacramentally is the love of their life, their first love, their delight!

Hear Mass daily; it will prosper the whole day. All your duties will be performed the better for it, and your soul will be stronger to bear its daily cross. The Mass is the most holy act of religion; you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God or be more profitable for your soul than to hear Mass both frequently and devoutly. It is the favourite devotion of the saints.

04 June 2010

Calvary at San Giovanni Rotondo

It would somehow seem incomplete to have a week of Eucharistic meditations from some of the spiritual giants of the Church and not include Saint Pio of Pietrelcina . . . or perhaps more affectionately known as Padre Pio. It was this extraordinarily gifted Capuchin priest who wrote: ‘Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of the bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion may be the Light which disperses the darkness, the Force which sustains me, the unique Joy of my heart’.

Most of his days began shortly after midnight anywhere from 1:00 o’clock to 2:30 when he would rise and begin a prayerful preparation for his daily 5 o’clock in the in the morning offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That prayerful preparation often included his beloved Rosary, which he was seldom seen without. Seeking the comfort and wisdom of Our Lady is a great way to prepare for Mass as Padre Pio reminds us: ‘How can the Mother of Jesus, present at the foot of the Cross on Calvary, who offered her Son as Victim for the salvation of souls, be absent at the mystical Calvary of the altar’? Of course, she couldn’t be absent; she is always there with us.

Padre Pio’s Mass could last up to three hours. There were some complaints asking this great saint to shorten his Mass to which he responded: ‘God knows that I want to say Mass just like any other priest, but I cannot do it’. To witness his Mass was to witness Calvary. Padre Pio wrote: ‘My heart feels as if it were being drawn by a superior force each morning just before uniting with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. I have such a thirst and hunger before receiving Him that it's a wonder I don't die of anxiety. I was hardly able to reach the Divine Prisoner in order to celebrate Mass’.

Indeed, witnesses of Padre Pio’s Mass have said that he would approach the altar bent over as if under some heavy weight, like the Cross. William Carrigan, a member of the Air Force, in 1943 was told by two other soldiers about a priest at San Giovanni Rotondo who had the stigmata, the visible Wounds of Christ. This, of course, was Padre Pio. They went to witness Padre Pio’s Mass. William Carrigan said that they knelt down only ten feet away from Padre Pio and could see his every movement. Mr. Carrigan explains: ‘As he [Padre Pio] began the Consecration he seemed to be in great pain, shifting his weight from side to side, hesitating to begin the Words of Consecration which he would start and repeat, biting them off with a clicking of his teeth as if in great pain. His cheek muscles twitched and tears were visible on his cheeks. He reached for the chalice and jerked back his hand because of the pain in the wound which was fully visible to me. After his Communion he leaned over the altar for some time as if he was in Communion with Jesus. Later I learned that at this time he presented his many spiritual children to Our Lord offering his own suffering for them’.

Padre Pio said: ‘A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament’. He offered thanksgiving after Mass, a practice which desperately needs to return to our modern day. He explained it this way: ‘My thirst and hunger do not diminish after I have received Him in the Blessed Sacrament, but rather, increase steadily. Oh, how sweet was the conversation I held with Paradise this morning. The Heart of Jesus and my own, if you will pardon my expression, fused. They were no longer two hearts beating but only one. My heart disappeared as if it were a drop in the ocean’.

May Our Lord grant all of us such a burning desire for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!

03 June 2010

What Is More Wonderful Than This Sacrament?

Today’s reflection comes from Saint Thomas Aquinas. It is taken from the Second Nocturn at the hour of Matins in the 1962 Roman Breviary for today’s feast of Corpus Christi.

The immense blessings of divine favour, which have been showered upon the people of God, confer on them an inestimable dignity. What great nation is there, or ever was, that has a God so near to it as the Lord our God is to us! For the only-begotten Son of God, willing that we should share in His divinity, assumed our nature. He was made man that He might make man divine. And what is more, He gave back to us for our salvation, all that He had assumed belonging to us. For He offered to God the Father, for our reconciliation, His own Body as a Victim on the altar of the Cross. He shed His Blood, at one and the same time, a ransom and a purification, that being redeemed from wretched slavery we might be washed clean of all sins. But that the remembrance of so great a favour might remain with us, He left to be taken by the faithful, under the appearance of bread and wine, His Body for Food and His Blood for Drink.

O precious and wonderful banquet, health-giving and full of all delight! For what can be more precious than this banquet, in which not the flesh of calves and goats, as in the Old Law, but Christ, true God, is set before us to eat? What is more wonderful than this sacrament? For in it the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and therefore Christ, perfect God and Man, is contained under the appearance of a small amount of bread and wine. He is therefore eaten by the faithful, but in no way is He mangled. Indeed when the Sacrament is divided, He remains whole under each particle. The accidents, however, remain here without any subject. And this, that faith may be exercised when what is visible is invisibly received, hidden under another appearance; furthermore, that the senses, which judge of the accidents according to appearances, may be preserved from error.

No sacrament is more health-giving than this one, in which sins are cleansed, virtues increased, and the mind enriched with abundance of all spiritual gifts. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all, may profit all. Finally, no one can adequately express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual sweetness is tasted in its source, and the memory is recalled of that most excellent love that Christ showed in His Passion. Therefore, to impress the immensity of this love more deeply on the hearts of the faithful, at the Last Supper, after celebrating the Passover with His disciples, and about to leave this world and go to the Father, He instituted this sacrament as a lasting memorial of His Passion. It fulfilled the foreshadowing of ancient rites, and was the greatest of the miracles He worked, which He left as a unique comfort to His disciples saddened by His absence.

02 June 2010

Here is Christ!

Part of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s spiritual life was a daily Holy Hour. It was the story of a little Chinese girl which inspired Archbishop Sheen to make a daily Holy Hour. As the story goes, she was an eleven year old Chinese girl who went unnoticed in the back of a church at prayer when the Communists came and arrested the priest and held him captive in his own rectory. In the church building the Communists entered the sanctuary, broke the Tabernacle, took the ciborium and threw it on the floor causing all the Eucharistic Hosts to be scattered on the floor. Once the Communists did their damage that night, the little girl, night after night, returned to that church to make a Holy Hour, and did so very quietly so as to remain undetected by the guard at the rectory. She concluded each Holy Hour by bending over to pick up a Eucharistic Host off the floor with her tongue and thus receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. She did this every night until there were no longer any Hosts on the floor. On that last night, however, a noise she made alerted the guard who chased her, caught her and mercilessly beat her to death. The priest witnessed her martyrdom from his bedroom window at the rectory. Archbishop Sheen made a promise to God that he would make a daily Holy Hour because of the inspiration this story gave him. Here are some inspiring words from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen:

The moment of communion is that special intimacy reserved to real lovers. There are three intimacies in life: hearing, speaking, and touching. Our first contact with anyone who loves us is to hear his voice, our second is to see him, the third -- and this is reserved only for intimates -- is the privilege of touch. We hear of Christ in the Scriptures, we see Him by the eyes of faith, but we touch Him in the Eucharist. He only asks that we should purge our consciences of sin and come to Him, ready to receive what He wants to give us for He knows that we need Him.

Holy Communion is incorporation not only to the life of Christ, but also to His death. To save our souls, the life of Christ must be duplicated in our own life. What He did in His birth, at Calvary, in His Resurrection, and Ascension, we must do. But we cannot enter into those heavenly blessings except through the touch of the Cross, namely, through penance, mortification, and self-denial, and a death to our egotism.

The Eucharist is not only a sacrament of life, but also the sacrament of mortification. Only when we are stamped with the Sign of the Cross will we be stamped with the glory of His Resurrection. The dying Christ is continually at work . . . urging us to represent it in our detachment from the seven pallbearers of the soul -- the seven capital sins.

The Blessed Sacrament is present in the Tabernacle day and night. There Christ dwells, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, under the sacramental appearances of bread. How do we know it? Because Christ told us so! Is there any other fundamental evidence? None other than that; but is there any other reason in the world as strong as the Word of God Himself? Hence, the Eucharist is above all other sacraments -- it is the sacrament of faith.

The faithful believe that Christ is as really and truly present sacramentally in the Tabernacle as you are present while you read this. It is this that makes the Church different from any other building. Not a pulpit, not an organ, not a choir, but Christ is the centre. As the tabernacle was the centre of worship in the Old Testament, so the tabernacle and the altar are the centre of worship in the New Testament.

Visitors to the Church say they ‘feel the difference’, though they know nothing about the Eucharist, as they might feel heat and know not the nature of fire. But to the faithful members of Christ's Mystical Body, here is Christ! Before His Eucharistic presence, the downcast eyes of sin find wealth of purging tears; here the heart wounded by betraying loves breaks its silence to the invitation of the Living Saviour: ‘Child, give Me thy heart’. Here the knee is humbled in genuflection and the heart exalted in adoration; here priests make their ‘Holy Hour’ in answer to the invitation of their Lord in the Garden. Here is the trysting place of love, for this is the ‘bread which is come down from heaven’ (Saint John 6:41-42) and will remain with us ‘unto the consummation of the world’ (Saint Matthew 28:20). Here Emmaus lives again as His disciples recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.

01 June 2010

Awesome is the Altar

In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite, this Thursday is the feast of Corpus Christi; and this coming weekend in the Ordinary Form is the celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Thus for this week it seems especially appropriate to focus our meditations on the precious gift of Our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Up first is this reflection from Saint John Chrysostom which is part of the Carthusian hour of Matins for this incredible feast.

We are one Body, and members of His Flesh and of His Bones (cf. Ephesians 5:30). In order then that we may become this not by love only, but in very deed, let us be blended into Our Saviour’s Flesh. This is accomplished by the Food which He has freely given us, desiring to show the love which He has for us. On this account He has mixed up Himself with us; He has kneaded up His Body with ours, like a body joined to a head. This is the witness and sign of a greater love. Job implied this, speaking of his servants, by whom he was loved so exceedingly, that they desired to cleave unto his flesh. For they said, to show the strong love which they felt, ‘Who will give us of his flesh that we may be filled’? (Job 31:31). Wherefore this also Christ has done, to lead us to a closer friendship, and to show His love for us; He has given to those who desire Him, not only to see Him, but even to touch, and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His Flesh, and to embrace Him, and satisfy all their love.

Let us then return from that Eucharistic table like lions breathing fire, able to terrify the devil, thinking of our Head, and on the love which He has shown for us. Parents often entrust their offspring to others to feed; but Jesus could say that He feeds you with His own Flesh, desiring that you all be nobly born, and holding forth to you good hopes for the future. For He who gives out Himself to you here, much more will do so hereafter. He has willed to become our Brother, for our sake He shared in flesh and blood, and in turn He gives out to you the Flesh and the Blood by which He became your kinsman. This blood causes the Image of our King to be fresh within us, produces unspeakable beauty, and permits not the nobleness of our souls to waste away, watering it continually, and nourishing it.

The blood derived from our usual food becomes not at once blood, but passes through intermediate changes. But the Blood of the Saviour straightway waters our souls and works in them mighty power. The Blood of Christ, if received worthily, casts out demons, while it calls to us angels and the Lord of angels. For wherever they see the Lord's Blood, devils flee, and angels rush together. This Blood poured forth washed clean the whole world. In the Letter to the Hebrews, this Blood cleansed the secret place, and the Holy of holies. In the midst of Egypt, when smeared on the door-posts, they were spared of death. If that foreshadowing was so powerful, how much more effective will be the Reality of Christ’s Blood?

Blood sanctified the golden altar; without it the high priest dared not enter into the secret place. This blood consecrated priests, this blood symbolically cleansed sins. But if it had such power in the types, if death so shuddered at the shadow, tell me how would it not have dreaded the very Reality? The Blood of Christ is the salvation of our souls, by this the soul is washed, by this is beautiful, by this is inflamed, this causes our understanding to be more bright than fire, and our soul more beaming than gold; this Blood was poured forth, and made heaven accessible. Awesome in truth are the Mysteries of the Church; awesome in truth is the Altar.