29 June 2011

Congratulations Holy Father!

60 Years of Priesthood!

Ad Multos Annos!

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.

25 June 2011

Blessed John of Spain

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.

23 June 2011

O Pretiosum et Admirandum Convivium

Today’s reflection comes from Saint Thomas Aquinas. It is taken from the Second Nocturn at the hour of Matins in the 1961 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.

21 June 2011

An Obligation to Honour the Heart of Jesus

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.

18 June 2011

Sanctissimæ Trinitatis

First Reading, Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
Saint Thomas Aquinas concluded [from the original Latin]: “Quod impossibile est per rationem naturalem ad cognitionem Trinitatis divinarum Personarum pervenire” -- “It is impossible by natural reason to attain to the knowledge of the divine Persons of the Trinity” (Summa Theologicæ). Interesting, though, is that Saint Thomas believed that the existence of God can be reasoned. Arguably the greatest theologian the Church has ever had, Saint Thomas had a most peculiar but incredibly fair way of presenting his arguments: He would state his case, answer all oppositional objections and even produce objections no one ever thought of and answer those too. As far as the Trinity being “three Persons” Saint Thomas said that this doesn’t mean three separate individuals in the subject of God. In other words, the Trinity is not as sometimes portrayed in artwork with the Father as the older, white-haired Man with the patriarchal beard, while the Son is the younger, brown-haired Man, and the Holy Spirit is the Dove. Saint Thomas thinks of the Trinity as relationships within one God. These relationships within God depict His knowledge of Himself and His Love. This means that the Paternity of God is God. God’s superior knowledge of Himself is the Filialness or Son of God and the relationship of Love between God and His Self-knowledge is the Holy Spirit. The Angelic Doctor explains it this way: “Quicumque enim intelligit, ex hoc ipso quod intelligit, procedit aliquid intra ipsum, quod est conceptio rei intellectæ, ex vi intellectiva proveniens, et ex eius notitia procedens. Quam quidem conceptionem vox significat; et dicitur verbum cordis significatum verbo vocis” – “Whenever we understand, by the very fact of understanding, there proceeds something within us, which is a conception of the object understood, issuing from our intellectual power, and proceeding from our knowledge. This conception is signified by the spoken word; and it is called the word of the heart signified by the word of the voice” (ibid.). Granted, that explanation from the gifted mind of Saint Thomas Aquinas is not an easy read but the truth is that no one possesses the intellectual capacity to fully comprehend and hence define the Trinity. The Most Holy Trinity is a great, sacred mystery. There are some interesting comparisons in this First Reading with events in the New Testament. Moses, early in the morning, ventures off to meet his Lord and receive His commands which were to be engraved on stone tablets. In Saint Mark’s Gospel, Jesus, early in the morning, went off to a lonely place to pray (cf. Mark 1:35) just before He was to preach God’s commands which were to be engraved on the tablets of the human heart. As Moses is confronted with the Presence of His Lord he bows down to the ground in worship. Likewise, on a mountain, Jesus is Transfigured and the disciples fall on their faces (cf. Matthew 17:1-7). Moses begs for God’s pardon and asks Him to receive His people as His own. Jesus Christ makes the ultimate Sacrifice, securing our pardon and conferring upon us the joy of being received as God’s own sons and daughters. No longer will we find scrolls and tablets in our Tabernacle. Our Tabernacle now contains not only the New and Everlasting Covenant but the Covenant Maker Himself. John the Baptist proclaimed that God could raise children of Abraham from the stones (cf. Matthew 3:9). And from the stone tablets of the covenant is raised a Child of Abraham and a fulfillment of the covenant Who is the Son of God. In the desert the devil tempts Jesus and tells Him to turn the stones into loaves (cf. Matthew 4:3). Not even Satan could have foreseen that the Almighty’s Law and Identity written on stone tablets would eventually stay with God’s people in a more intimate way as the Bread of Life.

Second Reading, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Saint Paul writes, “Rejoice.” In the ancient style of writing, the Greeks customarily ended their writings this way. Paul, a Jew, apparently understood this when writing this letter to Corinth, a Greek city-state; and this is the end of his second letter to the Corinthians. Greeting “one another with a holy kiss” was customary for Jews and soon spread into Gentile Christian communities; and since it was a part of their ordinary living, the custom soon made its way into ecclesiastical assemblies. Interestingly, in the ancient world it was quite common for people to embrace each other before they shared a meal. And that custom moved into the sharing of a much greater Meal -- the Eucharist. In the Latin Vulgate this letter closes with the word, “Amen.” This is not found in the original Greek and actually was added by the Church of Corinth. The Holy Spirit did remarkable things at Corinth. This was a city that lived under the ideals of paganism and vulgar excesses. It took only four short years for the Gospel to make a life altering change in this community. With Saint Paul as the Paraclete’s instrument, the Corinthians began to receive lessons on morality which converted their hearts.

Gospel, John 3:16-18
You’re familiar with the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive.” True, but who could argue about the beauty of receiving when considering the riches we have received because God “gave His only Son”? The teaching of the Fathers of the Church is that Christ was not God’s Son only by reason of the Incarnation. He was the only begotten Son before God sent Him into the world as He is the Word from all eternity. Christ is and always has been True God and by the Incarnation also is True Man. Condemnation is not a popular subject but it cannot be completely ignored. Saint Augustine of Canterbury teaches: “Why is Christ called the Savior of the world, unless from the obligation He took upon Himself at His birth? He has come like a good physician, effectually to save mankind. The man, therefore, destroys himself who refuses to follow the prescriptions of the Physician.” As sinners, we all occasionally step off the path that Christ has put us on but our Lord remedies that through the sacraments. Condemnation is inflicted upon oneself and not brought upon by God. It is an obstinate refusal of God’s love, grace and mercy. And even if one chooses such obstinacy as their life’s path, who would dare underestimate or even attempt to comprehend the superabundance of love, grace and mercy that may arrive at the hour of death?

17 June 2011

The Heart of Jesus Performs All Things with Harmony

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 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.

16 June 2011

How do priests proceed at a divine pace toward perfection?

Below is a letter written by Sister Nazarena. She has been featured here at Secret Harbour previously. She was named Julia Crotta in her lay life, a gifted musician, living in the state of Connecticut in the United States. She felt called, however, to the desert and was led to 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 recently on April 2010 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.

14 June 2011

Becoming like unto the Heart of Jesus

They shall be inebriated with the plenty of Your house (Psalm 35:9).

All that is in You, all that can be ascribed to You, O Lord, should be ascribed to You in the full extent of its perfection, excellence, and infinite pre-eminence.

As then You possess all wealth and bounty, we know that Your riches are inexhaustible, and that Your desire to impart them in Your generosity is without limit and immeasurable. If You reward, it is a liberality beyond our imagination; if You give, it is with unlimited bounty. Your rewards are always far greater than our merits. For a passing virtue You bestow a happiness which will never pass away. For a very slight service rendered You, You give so great a recompense that Your servants will be perfectly satisfied, and all their desires will be fully realised. You give so amply that the greatness and depth of Your rewards will be equal to their duration. Hence the hearts of Your elect -- those human hearts which out of You cannot find their rest -- will become, in Heaven, like unto Your Heart. There they will enjoy an unchangeable and endless security. They will repose in You.

O Lord Almighty, You are truly the infinitely loving and amiable guest of the virtuous soul, which, after having served You faithfully and generously during the long exile, the painful journey, the hard bondage of this life, returns to You, the Father, the King and the Judge of the living and the dead. Oh how lovingly and kindly, with what readiness and fatherly goodness You receive the souls who, notwithstanding temptations, trials and persecutions, have always served You faithfully and have persevered to the end in Your service! Then You pour into their bosom the measure of which the Gospel speaks, ‘good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over’ (Saint Luke 6:38). They have esteemed and loved You above all things; and in return You give Yourself to them, You reveal Yourself clearly, You shot them Your great beauty and all the riches of Your glory; You bring them to Your Heart, and cast them into the centre thereof, into the Bosom of Your love, into the unfathomable depth of Your mercy. There, in Your Heart, You make known clearly how tenderly You have loved them from all eternity, and how great has been Your mercy in choosing them to enjoy unspeakable blessedness, in having predestined them to see, to praise, and to love You forever.

~ Denys the Carthusian ~

13 June 2011

Quem terra: the Hymn for Matins of Our Lady

Feria II Infra Octavam Pentecostes

What He [Jesus] says, is of this kind: Marvel not that I am to be lifted up that you may be saved, for this seems good to the Father, and He has so loved you as to give His Son for slaves, and ungrateful slaves. Yet a man would not do this even for a friend, nor readily even for a righteous man; as Paul has declared when he said: Scarcely for a righteous man will one die. Now he spoke at greater length, as speaking to believers, but here Christ speaks concisely, because His discourse was directed to Nicodemus, but still in a more significant manner, for each word had much significance. For by the expression, so loved, and that other, God the world, He shows the great strength of His love. Large and infinite was the interval between the two. He, the Immortal, who is without beginning, the Infinite Majesty, they but dust and ashes, full of ten thousand sins, who, ungrateful, have at all times offended Him; and these He loved. Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He says, that He gave His Only-begotten Son, not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants. Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He says, that He gave His Only-begotten Son, not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants.

Let us now be abashed at His love, let us be ashamed at the excess of His loving kindness, since He for our sakes spared not His Only-begotten Son, yet we spare our wealth to our own injury; He for us gave His Own Son, but we for Him do not so much as despise money, nor even for ourselves. And how can these things deserve pardon? If we see a man submitting to sufferings and death for us, we set him before all others, count him among our chief friends, place in his hands all that is ours, and deem it rather his than ours, and even so do not think that we give him the return that he deserves. But towards Christ we do not preserve even this degree of right feeling. He laid down His life for us, and poured forth His precious Blood for our sakes, who were neither well-disposed nor good, while we do not pour out even our money for our own sakes, and neglect Him Who died for us.

~ Saint John Chrysostom ~

11 June 2011

Vigil of Pentecost

When Jesus says: I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, He intimates that He Himself is also a Paraclete. For Paraclete is in Latin called advocatus; and it is said of Christ: We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. But He said that the world could not receive the Holy Spirit, in much the same sense as it is also said: The minding of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be; just as if we were to say: Unrighteousness cannot be righteous. For in speaking in this passage of the world, He refers to those who love the world; and such a love is not of the Father. And thus the love of this world, which gives us enough to do to weaken and destroy its power within us, is in direct opposition to the love of God, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who is given unto us.

The world, therefore, cannot receive Him, cause it sees Him not, neither knows Him. For worldly love possesses not those invisible eyes, whereby, save in an invisible way, the Holy Spirit cannot be seen. But you, He adds, shall know Him; for He shall dwell with you, and be in you. He will be in them, that He may dwell with them; He will not dwell with them to the end that He may be in them: for the being anywhere is prior to the dwelling there. But to prevent us from imagining that His words, He shall dwell with you, were spoken in the same sense as that in which a guest usually dwells with a man in a visible way, He explained what He shall dwell with you meant, when He added the words, He shall be in you. He is seen, therefore, in an invisible way: nor can we have any knowledge of Him unless He be in us. For it is in a similar way that we come to see our conscience within us: for we see the face of another.

But we cannot see and know Him in the only way in which He may be seen and known, unless He be in us. After the promise of the Holy Spirit, lest any should suppose that the Lord was to give Him, as it were, in place of Himself, in any such way as that He Himself would not likewise be with them, He added the words: I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. Accordingly, although it was not the Son of God that adopted sons to His Father, or willed that we should have by grace that same Father, Who is His Father by nature, yet in a sense it is paternal feelings toward us that He Himself displays, when He declares: I will not leave you orphans.

~ Saint Augustine ~

10 June 2011


Everything we do, our every objective, must be undertaken for the sake of purity of heart. This is why we take on loneliness, fasting, vigils, work, nakedness. For this we must practice the reading of the Scriptures, together with all the other virtuous activities, and we do so to hold our hearts free of the harm of every dangerous passion to keep it pure and in order to rise step by step to the high point of love.

It may be that some good and necessary task prevents us from achieving fully all that we set out to do. Let us not on this account give way to sadness or anger or indignation, since it was precisely to repel these, to destroy them in our hearts, that we would have done what in fact we were compelled to omit.

What we gain from fasting does not compensate for what we lose through anger. Our profit from Scriptural reading in no way equals the damage we cause ourselves by showing contempt for a brother. We must always relate our fasting, vigils, withdrawal, and the meditation of Scripture and all these similar things, which are merely effects and consequences of our piety, to the principal end to which we must tend, that is, to this purity of heart which is nothing other than charity.

~ Saint John Cassian ~

07 June 2011

What the Heart of Jesus Contains

The writer of this reflection on the Sacred Heart of Jesus is unknown. It was translated in the year 1552 from old German into Latin by Lawrence Surius, a Carthusian monk in Cologne. The original manuscript is dated from the first years of the fifteenth century. Its theme conforms very well to the many writings on the Sacred Heart that have been penned by Carthusian monks.

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3).

In order that your soul may be inflamed with the fire of divine love, I will give you three burning coals which will kindle in you this very desirable flame. They are three meditations that you should make:

The first is on what Jesus Christ is to you as God and Man, namely, supremely worthy of your love. The second is on what Jesus Christ is to you if you consider what He has done for your sake; for in all His acts we find proofs of an incomprehensible love. The third is on what the Heart of Jesus feels for you; and that is a love which is transcendent and infinite.

We have not in any way deserved the love that Jesus our most affectionate friend gives us so freely. This love is incomprehensibly great. It is altogether boundless. That your soul may be more and more filled with the fire of divine love, know that the Sacred Heart, the tender Heart of Jesus, is filled for you with so immense, so excessive, so incomprehensible a love, both human and Divine, that it greatly surpasses all that men and angels could wish for or even imagine; for, I repeat it, this love is truly immense, being without limit and without end. The love of all mothers for an only son, compared to that of the Heart of Jesus, is but a little spark by the side of a vast conflagration. If all the love arising from natural attraction, relationship, or divine grace, which is to be found in the hearts of all men upon earth and of all angels and saints in Heaven were gathered together and put into the heart of one mother for her only son, it would not bear any comparison to the love of our God for us.

It is quite certain that nothing in Heaven and on earth is better, more perfect, more desirable, sweeter and more amiable than the very faithful love of Jesus Christ. Is it not then surprising and enough to make one weep bitterly, to see how seldom and in how small a degree the love of our Lord Jesus Christ is found even in the hearts of many Christians? Perhaps you, dear reader, may be suffering from this unfortunate and dangerous error, and may not know the happiness and sweet joy that the friends of God experience even in this world. I therefore conclude by begging you to recall to mind the numerous and wonderful proofs your Creator and Redeemer has given you of His love. I ask you to observe that this most loving and most tender Heart burned for you with a love so free and so generous that truly one can say with Saint John Chrysostom: ‘Plus quam amore tui ebrius et amens’. Jesus is inebriated with love. He is foolish, if I may so speak, and more than foolish with love of souls! Ah, if it were possible that during this life, your heart could contain for Jesus a mere nothing of the love with which His Heart burns for you, it could not hold it; but kindled suddenly by so ardent a heat, your heart would be in flames; it would be torn and would break. I earnestly invite you to meditate very often and very attentively on what I have been saying.

06 June 2011

The Holy Spirit Enlightens the Soul

The Holy Spirit’s doings tend towards what is good and salutary. His coming is gentle; the perception of Him is fragrant; His burden most light; beams of light and knowledge gleam forth before His coming. He comes with the tenderness of a true guardian: for He comes to save, and to heal, to teach, to admonish, to strengthen, to exhort, to enlighten the mind, first of him who receives Him, and afterwards of others also, through him. And as a man, who being previously in darkness then suddenly beholds the sun, is enlightened in his bodily sight, and sees plainly things which he saw not, so likewise he to whom is given the gift of the Holy Spirit, is enlightened in his soul, and sees things beyond man's sight, which he knew not; his body is on earth, yet his soul mirrors forth the heavens.

Oftentimes a man for the sake of Christ has been outraged and dishonoured unjustly; martyrdom is at hand; tortures on every side, and fire, and sword, and savage beasts, and the pit.

But the Holy Spirit softly whispers to him: Wait on the Lord, O man; what is now befalling you is a small matter, the reward will be great. Suffer a little while, and you shall be with Angels for ever. The sufferings of this present time art not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

The Holy Spirit portrays to the man the Kingdom of heaven; He gives him a glimpse of the Paradise of delight; and the martyrs, whose bodily countenances are of necessity turned to their judges, but who in spirit are already in Paradise, despise those hardships which are seen.

~ Saint Cyril of Jerusalem ~

04 June 2011

Ascension Sunday

First Reading, Acts 1:1-11
Saint Luke is the author of the Acts of the Apostles; and so, when he begins this book with the words, "In the first book," he is referring to the Gospel of Luke. Theophilus is probably someone that Luke knew personally but the name "Theophilus" means, "friend of God" or "one who loves God" which may indicate someone of honor or who was held in high esteem. Such a title, however, could be given to any devout person which may very well indicate Luke's intention of having this book read by all the faithful. In Luke's Gospel, he "dealt with all that Jesus did and taught." And at the conclusion of his Gospel he mentions our Savior's Ascension (cf. Luke 24:51) which means that the Ascension of our Lord in the Acts of the Apostles is not breaking news. Theophilus and the rest of Luke's readers are already aware of this phenomenal event. Saint Luke concludes the first sentence of this Reading with the words "He [Jesus] was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen." It's a rather strange statement and no one knows with any certainty what he meant. The most accepted explanation among scholars is that Christ formed the Church and He set up a governing authority to run His Church; and the decisions that would be made by the governing authority would be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the apostles, the governing authority of Christ's Church, were somehow, by means that only God can explain, given the grace and experience of the Holy Spirit's guidance upon them even before our Redeemer's departure. Regrettably, some English translations avoid the difficulty of this verse by suggesting that our Lord's instructions to the apostles through the Holy Spirit followed His Ascension. While that may be more intelligible, it is, however, unfaithful to the Greek text. Our Lord's appearance to a relatively small amount of people after His Resurrection has always raised red flags among skeptics. It's moments like these that great credence must be given to the Catholic teaching that Scripture and Tradition are the rule of faith – and not Scripture alone. For example, there's no mention in Scripture of Jesus ever appearing to His Blessed Mother. To entertain such a thought as being true would be ridiculous. There is, however, a tradition in the Church which states that Jesus not only appeared to her, but she was first on the list. Perhaps the Evangelists were protecting her, plus any written testimony involving her about her own Son's miraculous Resurrection would likely rouse even more suspicion for the skeptics. Scripturally, Jesus did not make His Resurrected Presence known to the masses although Saint Paul does record that Jesus was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:6). One could only speculate on the reason(s) why Jesus chose not to make His Presence known to larger crowds; and speculate, many scholars have done throughout the centuries. The third sentence of this Reading begins with the words: "While meeting with them." The exact meaning of the Greek words is a bit hazy. Our liturgical text's translation is more in common with the classical or Hellenistic Greek; but when Saint Jerome was translating the Scriptural texts into Latin he chose the Latin word "convescens" which indicates that Jesus was "eating" with His apostles. This very different rendering of the Greek actually predates Saint Jerome in the West and may go back as far as the second century. This interpretation made its way to the East in the third century and is present in the writings of Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius and Theophylactus. The baptism with the Holy Spirit of which our Lord speaks is a reference to Pentecost. The spiritual life is a tremendous battle even to those who walked, ate and were taught by Jesus; and the question to our Savior about restoring the kingdom to Israel clearly shows a belief in the expectation of a temporal kingdom. It also is indicative of humanity's comfort zone with the physical life – trusting more in what can be perceived with the physical senses. In our own weakness perhaps we can find comfort at the expense of the apostles who were not always on the same page as Jesus but, nevertheless, loved infinitely by Him. Jesus gives the apostles their spiritual mission of being His witnesses. Interestingly, the Greek word "martus" is used which does mean "witness" but analogically it also means "martyr" which most of the apostles literally were. Certainly our Lord's call to be witnesses "to the ends of the earth" is not strictly limited to the apostles. The Church is very aware of this which is why she calls every Catholic to the mission of evangelization. When Jesus began His Ascension, eventually a cloud took Him from the sight of the apostles. Here we are today with our physical eyes still looking at the cloud – the veil of bread and wine which hides our Lord's true appearance. Saint Cyril of Alexandria, in his second letter to the Corinthians, writes about how those who possess the Spirit are rich in hope of the resurrection. He even goes on to write that possessing the Spirit means being immune from the corruption of the flesh. That sounds like a bold statement but what he is really talking about is not being confined to the physical world with all its corruption and its obstacles. In a homily by Pope Saint Leo the Great he says so beautifully that the day of Christ's Ascension is when our poor human nature was raised up beyond the highest heavenly powers to the very Throne of God the Father (cf. Sermo II de Ascensione). The Holy Spirit instructs us in the Letter to the Hebrews to lay aside every weight and sin surrounding us and run patiently to the fight proposed to us but always keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (cf. Hebrews 12:1-2). What this Scripture text and these saintly men of God cited previously are speaking of is a deep spirituality -- and one that every Christian ought to pursue. How sad it is that Catholics can go through life and never pierce through the cloud – never are able to experience an intimate union with Jesus even after many years of receiving Him in the Eucharist. If only showing up for Mass on Sunday within itself constituted a deep, transforming prayer life -- but it doesn't. If only showing up at Mass just in the nick of time or even late without any preparation time spent at the Master's Feet would be sufficient to have an intense encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist – but it isn't. If only a passionate love affair meant that only one Person needs to be truly in love and make all the sacrifices – but it doesn't. Being in love and desiring a close union with our Savior means trying to pass through the cloud and follow Him daily. It was deep prayer, silence, and a strong devotion to Saint Joseph that kept Blessed Andre Bessette in Eucharistic Adoration for hours upon hours and he would sometimes need to be retrieved by his brothers in order to fulfill his daily duties with his religious community. Obviously Blessed Andre was able to see beyond the cloud or the veil of bread and truly know what it means to love and experience Divine Love. Saint Leo, in the aforementioned homily, said that the visible Presence of our Redeemer has passed over into the sacraments. Indeed, but surely it is not the desire of our Lord to never again be perceived or experienced in an invigorating manner. Our spiritual selves are called upon to gaze at the God we cannot physically see. This requires passing through the cloud, pushing aside the clutter and all that weighs heavily upon us. Saint Augustine said: "Hodie Dominus noster Iesus Christus ascendit in cælum; ascendat cum illo cor nostrum" -- "Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with Him" (Sermo de Ascensione Domini). If our hearts are to ascend beyond the cloud to an intimate meeting with Jesus in the liturgy, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, offered this gem when he wrote: "Only within the breathing space of Adoration can the Eucharistic celebration indeed be alive. . . Communion and Adoration do not stand side by side, or even in opposition, but are indivisibly one." When the gaze is heavenward, the soul will ascend toward heavenly things. For Jesus said that He will draw all things to Himself (cf. John 12:32).

Second Reading, Ephesians 1:17-23
Saint James elaborates on the fruits of wisdom: "The wisdom that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation" (James 3:17). Anyone having such qualities surely possesses a most blessed knowledge of the Lord. The eyes of the heart portion of this Reading points to something similar to what was covered in the First Reading: exercising the spiritual life and coming to the knowledge of the glory that awaits us by keeping our gaze fixed on the prize and being in awe of the greatness of Almighty God. This is a deep absorption in prayer which many of the saints have attested leads to a wonderful closeness with our Lord. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "by prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom" (CCC 2632). This can be a difficult Reading to follow because much is covered in a lengthy sentence. Think of it as a blessing -- something you would bow your head to as these words are being prayed over you. It's mind boggling that in this vast universe each and every one of us is crucial. Jesus in His humility willed that He would be incomplete without His mystical Body. Humanity has been raised up higher than all of God's earthly creation to be participants in Christ's work of redemption.

Gospel, Matthew 28:16-20
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me." Theologians have been banging their heads against the wall for centuries over this statement and heresy has also reared its ugly head because of it. If Christ is God and equal to the Father, why would "all power in heaven and on earth" have to be given to Him presumably from the Father? We humans are inquisitive creatures and are more comfortable with having all the answers instead of being shrouded in mystery. The Trinity, however, is a mystery and thus there is no foreseen definitive answer to that question. Certainly we could consider Christ's Human Nature and suggest that Jesus as Man received this power. While that answer may be at least partially true, it would never satisfy every theologian or heretical mind the Church has faced in her history on this issue. Jesus commissions the apostles and their successors by virtue of this power to teach and "make disciples of all nations". And how do we know that Jesus also commissioned the successors to the apostles? It is because our Savior promised to be with them "until the end of the age". In the Latin Vulgate are the words: "usque ad consummationem sæculi" -- "even to the consummation of the world." The Greek text translates as: "until the conclusion of the eon." Astronomically, an eon is one billion years. Jesus, however, most likely meant the more generic definition -- an indefinitely long period of time. The text, therefore, clearly shows that "I am with you always, until the end of the age" extends far beyond the natural lives of the apostles, thus their successors are included. The second sentence of this Gospel reads: "When they saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted." That's not a bad verse to reflect upon either at Mass after the Consecration or at Eucharistic Adoration. It certainly delineates what is a very real aspect of the human struggle with the Blessed Sacrament on the battlefield of prayer.

03 June 2011

He is so near

Do you suppose it matters little what Heaven is and where you must seek your most holy Father? I assure you that for minds which wander it is of great importance not only to have a right belief about this but to try to learn it by experience, for it is one of the best ways of concentrating the mind and effecting recollection in the soul.

You know that God is everywhere; and this is a great truth, for, of course, wherever the king is, or so they say, the court is too: that is to say, wherever God is, there is Heaven. No doubt you can believe that, in any place where His Majesty is, there is fullness of glory.

Remember how Saint Augustine tells us about his seeking God in many places and eventually finding Him within himself. Do you suppose it is of little importance that a soul which is often distracted should come to understand this truth and to find that, in order to speak to its Eternal Father and to take its delight in Him, it has no need to go to Heaven or to speak in a loud voice? However quietly we speak, He is so near that He will hear us: we need no wings to go in search of Him but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us. Nor need we feel strange in the presence of so kind a Guest.

We must talk to Him very humbly, as we should to our father, ask Him for things as we should ask a father, tell Him our troubles, beg Him to put them right, and yet realize that we are not worthy to be called His children.

Avoid being bashful with God, as some people are, in the belief that they are being humble. It would not be humility on your part if the King were to do you a favour and you refused to accept it; but you would be showing humility by taking it, and being pleased with it, yet realizing how far you are from deserving it.

~ Saint Teresa of Avila, ‘The Way of Perfection’ ~

02 June 2011

Ascension Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

01 June 2011

Vigil of the Ascension

The Lord, the Only-begotten and coeternal with the Father, could in the form of a servant and out of the form of a servant, if such were needful, pray in silence; but in this other way He wished to show Himself as One Who prayed to the Father, that He might remember that He was still our Teacher. Accordingly, the prayer which He offered for us, He made also known to us; seeing that it is not only the delivering of discourses to them by so great a Master, but also the praying for them to the Father, that is a means of edification to disciples. And if so to those who were present to hear what was said, it is certainly so also to us who were to have the reading of it when written.

Wherefore in saying this, Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, He showed that all time, and every occasion when He did anything or suffered anything to be done, were arranged by Him Who was subject to no time: since those things, which were individually future in point of time, have their efficient causes in the Wisdom of God, wherein there are no distinctions of time. Let it not, then, be supposed that this hour came through any urgency of fate, but rather by the divine appointment. It was no necessary law of the heavenly bodies that tied to its time the Passion of Christ; for we may well shrink from the thought that the stars should compel their own Maker to die.

The glorification of the Son by the Father is understood by some to consist in this: that He spared Him not, but delivered Him up for us all. But if we say that He was glorified by His Passion, how much more was He so by His Resurrection? For in His passion our attention is directed more to His humility than to His glory, in accordance with the testimony of the apostle, who says, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross: and then he goes on to say of His glorification: Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name: that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. This is the glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ: that took its commencement from His resurrection.

~ Saint Augustine ~