30 July 2011

The Correrie Museum

A museum? The word is inappropriate. For there is no orderly display of works of art here, nor historical souvenirs regarding the Order of the Carthusians, but rather an evocation of Carthusian life. And this, on the very site on which, in 1084, André and Guérin set up their Brothers' cells, their oratory, their workshops, and their modest sheepfold. The buildings have undergone many transformations since then, but "the walls", so to speak, are authentic: tourists can walk around today in the place where Carthusian monks, especially the Brothers, lived, prayed and worked. All around stands the wonderful circle of mountains, forests and fields, the motionless and inviolable witnesses of nine long centuries of history. How vast it is, this museum!

An interesting point in the story of the Correrie is that in becoming a museum in July 1957, it was restored to its original purpose of 1084, which was to welcome tourists and pilgrims, and to protect the silence and solitude of the monks from outside noise. Today too it limits the access of coaches and cars, just as it did in times past, for the carriages of visitors and priors coming to the General Chapter.

The first thing we see if we look inside the Museum is the church: on the walls are Le Sueur's paintings of the life of Saint Bruno (1645), or, more precisely, copies of them, which the famous painter himself worked on. There are also some outstanding 15th century stalls, carved for the Charterhouse of Currière. We go from there along the cloister, still intact in its Carthusian simplicity. The other rooms present information on the history of the Order, a map of the Grande Chartreuse, and various aspects of the life of a monk. The opportunity for the visitor to go through the different rooms of a monk's cell, with the furniture and objects arranged as in any Carthusian cell, is no doubt the moment which leaves the deepest impression. In the words of the author of a brochure on the Correrie: "The Correrie has remained a monastery where the tourist, in his own way, can share in the life of the solitaries."

- Saint Bruno and the Carthusians -

29 July 2011

The Way to Find God

You should in no way be disturbed by the ups and downs in your spiritual life. We could never love seriously and solidly if our love depended on these inevitable fluctuations in our feelings. You should pay no more attention to them than our Lord does; He does not take offence, keep that firmly in mind.

Do not be afraid, believe simply and firmly that God is perfection in His handling of the souls who have put their trust in Him — that is to say, in His dealings with you. Abandon yourself in loving confidence to God Who loves you. Be brave enough to hold on firmly to the fact that God's care for you is a masterpiece of His loving choice — rest always in this unalterable conviction.

Say to yourself, God loves me beyond all I can imagine or put into words. Let this be at the heart of your being and become the whole of your devotion and never let go of it. You will soon find that this is the way to find God.

- Abbé Henri de Tourville -

28 July 2011

A Pilgrimage to the Original Chartreuse

What benefit, what divine delight, solitude and the silence of the hermitage bring to those who love them, only those who have experienced them can tell. Here is experienced that eye by whose serene gaze the Spouse is wounded with love; that eye pure and clean, by which God is seen. . (Saint Bruno, Letter to Raoul le Verd)

Anyone who wants to experience something of the Carthusian vocation in its original purity and force, must go past the actual Grande Chartreuse, a good mile further up in the valley, to the edge of the Desert: there he will have reached the place where the first hermitage stood. Let him wander around there freely, let him "sit alone and keep silence." There in the midst of these piles of fallen rock and the wild luxuriance of vegetation, he too will experience a detachment from "the fleeting shadows of this world," and a sense of "the things of eternity," flowing into his soul. All the values of his life will fall into place. His eyes and his heart will be purified, and he will be able to see God, and human beings, and objects, in the light of truth.

In this desert place, he will discover four memorials, which will help him to visualize the first Chartreuse: Saint Bruno's Chapel, the Chapel of Our Lady of Casalibus, Saint Bruno's Spring, the Cross of the first cemetery.

- Saint Bruno and the Carthusians -

26 July 2011

Sancta Anna, ora pro nobis

The figure of Saint Anne reminds us of the paternal home of Mary, the Mother of Christ. Mary was born there, bearing in her that extraordinary mystery of the Immaculate Conception. There she was surrounded by the love and solicitude of her parents: Joachim and Anne. There she learned from her mother, from Saint Anne, how to be a Mother. And although, from the human point of view, she had renounced motherhood, the Heavenly Father, accepting her total donation, gratified her with the most perfect and holy Motherhood. Christ, from the Cross, transferred in a certain sense His Mother's maternity to His favourite disciple, and likewise He extended it to the whole Church, to all men. When, therefore, as "children of (divine) promise" (cf. Gal 4:28, 31), we find ourselves in the range of this Motherhood, and when we feel its holy depth and fullness, let us think then that it was Saint Anne herself who was the first to teach Mary, her daughter, how to be a Mother.

"Anne" in Hebrew means "God has given grace". Reflecting on this meaning of Saint Anne's name, Saint John of Damascus exclaimed: "Since it was to happen that the Virgin Mother of God should be born from Anne, nature did not dare to precede the seed of grace; but it remained without its fruit in order that grace might produce its own. In fact, there was to be born that first-born who would give birth to the first-born of every creature" (Serm. VI, De nativ. B.V.M., 2; PG 96, 663).

- Blessed John Paul II -

25 July 2011

Feast of the Apostle James the Greater

Are you able to drink of the cup that I drink of? (Saint Matthew 20:22).

But let no man be troubled at the apostles being in such an imperfect state. For the Cross was not yet accomplished, nor the grace of the Spirit yet given. But if you would learn their virtue, notice them after these things, and you will see them superior to every passion. For with this object He reveals their deficiencies, that after these things you might know what manner of men they became by grace.

That then they were asking, in fact, for nothing spiritual, neither had a thought of the Kingdom above been manifested. But let us see also, how they come to Him, and what they say. We desire that whatsoever we shall desire of You, You would do it for us (Saint Mark 10:35).

And Christ says to them, What would you want Me to do for you? (Saint Mark 10:36), not being ignorant, but that He may compel them to answer, and lay open the wound, and so apply the medicine.

- Saint John Chrysostom -

23 July 2011

Dominica Septimadecima Per Annum

First Reading, 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Solomon’s unselfish and humble prayer is unique because it is not the norm of other ancient kings. Solomon was about twenty years of age at this time and his prayer shows a level of maturity far beyond what he calls “a mere youth”. In the Hebrew text, an “understanding heart” really means a willingness to hear God and obey God. God promises Solomon a heart that is wise and understanding; so much so, that there has never been anyone like him nor will there ever be anyone like him. Solomon’s governance indeed far excelled any of the kings of Israel. Moses and the apostles of Jesus, however, did have a more extensive understanding of the mysteries of God. As far as any future leader never being as wise as Solomon, prompts the question: What about Jesus? Certainly Christ is wiser than Solomon but we have to exclude Him because Jesus is God in Whom all the gifts of wisdom are contained and He is the Word Who made these promises to Solomon. Many of us at some point in our lives will be in positions of authority: pastor, committee chairperson, CEO, supervisor, teacher, principal, student body president, mom or dad, etc. Solomon’s prayer for an understanding heart is surely appropriate for any one serving our Lord in authoritative professions or vocations.

Second Reading, Romans 8:28-30
For all the trials that are faced in this life, how important it is to keep the opening verse of this Reading etched in our hearts. The Latin Vulgate translates a bit differently and perhaps gives a slightly better understanding of the fruits of loving God: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,” -- “iis qui secundum propositum vocati sunt sancti -- to such as according to [His] purpose are called to be saints.” Sainthood or taking up permanent residency in heaven is our hope. We are predestined to conform to Christ by following His example, His teachings, and by our patient endurance in suffering. Saint Augustine explains God’s foreknowledge: “This foreknowledge of God is not merely a foreseeing of what men will do by the assistances and graces of God’s ordinary Providence, much less a foreseeing of what they will do by their own natural strength; but it is a foreknowledge including an act of the divine will and of His love towards His elect servants; God therefore has foreseen that these elect, by the help of His special graces and by the cooperation of their free will, should be conformable to the Image of His Son, that so His Son, even as Man, might be the first-born, the Chief, and the Head of all that shall be saved.”

Gospel, Matthew 13:44-52
Unlike the past couple of weekends, Saint Matthew, in this weekend’s Gospel, does not record the meaning of these parables. The meaning, however, is clear. They teach that the Kingdom of heaven is far more valuable than worldly possessions and is worth the sacrifice of all material riches. The morality of the characters in these parables is irrelevant to the point of these parables and thus need not be reflected upon. The teachings and example of Jesus Christ is the buried treasure. Our own free will determines exactly how valuable that treasure is to each of us. Studying the Gospels, responding to the call of evangelization, daily prayer, and regular Mass attendance speaks volumes of how important that treasure is to us. Evangelization is a hot topic in today’s Church and the reason is simple: As God’s created humanity, we have eternal value. Our souls will not perish with the gifts of this world. And if the Gospel of Christ is our hidden treasure, then that has to mean that you getting into heaven is as important as me getting into heaven. In other words, I must be as concerned for your soul as I am for my own soul. And how clearly was this truth acted out by our Lord when He became the sacrificial Lamb! To close, let us reflect on these words from Saint Teresa of Avila: “Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.”

21 July 2011

The Carthusian Mass

The Chartreuse has always had its own rite, different from the Roman rite, and most of its songs have been borrowed from the 11th century Church of Grenoble. Following Vatican II, the Carthusian Order, whilst modifying some of its ceremonies in order to return to a greater simplicity, has retained some of the particularities of its ancient rite: for example, the formula and gesture of offering the bread and wine at the offertory, the celebrant extending his arms in the form of a cross during the Eucharistic prayer, and the absence of a blessing at the end of Mass.

Mass can only be concelebrated on days which are marked by a communal character: Sundays, important feasts, special events in the life of the monastery. On other days, according to ancient custom, in conformity with the eremitical life, one priest celebrates the conventual Mass in which the community participates by singing and interior prayer; the other priests celebrate the Eucharist in their solitary chapels.

-Saint Bruno and the Carthusians-

19 July 2011

The Carthusian Liturgy

The exercises of piety of the Carthusian are varied: all forms of prayer, meditation, contemplation, mental or vocal prayers, and spiritual reading are available to everyone, according to grace and temperament. But most important in his life is the singing or psalmody of the Canonical Office "which expresses the prayer of the universal Church." He accomplishes this duty either in church or in his cell. As well as the Canonical Office, the Carthusians recite the Office of Our Lady each day in their cells: they have inherited from Bruno and Guigo a great devotion to the Mother of God; each of the hours of this Office is recited in parallel with the corresponding canonical hour. Once a week they also recite the Office for the Dead.

At the Charterhouse, Matins and Lauds are always sung in full, and not just chanted. During these nocturnal vigils of prayer in the church (when at certain moments all the lights are extinguished), the contemplative soul can peacefully dwell on the riches of the liturgical text. All Carthusians have a great love for this long Office (two or three hours) in the middle of the night.

The Carthusian liturgical Offices are characterised by the simplicity of their plain-chant and the sobriety of the singing. Descant and musical arrangements have never been accepted in the Charterhouse, and the melodies of the repertoire have been preserved practically unchanged, right up to our day. All musical instruments are forbidden by the Rule.

It is certain that, in the first centuries of the Order, the musical executions were very basic. This is not surprising, considering the small number of religious, the austerity of their life, and the climatic conditions of some of the Houses. The Carthusian is more concerned with sincerity, than with the beauty of the singing: "Simplicity and measure should so regulate the chant that its hallmark will be a gravity which will encourage the spirit of devotion. For we should sing and praise the Lord with mind and voice." Far from being put off by it, people from outside have always appreciated this unadorned style of singing, which perfectly expresses contemplative prayer.

-Saint Bruno and the Carthusians-

16 July 2011

Holy Scripture

Sacred studies, and particularly reading the Bible, have always been in honour in the Carthusian Order. This ardour and attraction comes from Bruno himself who for many years had been one of the most famous Masters of scriptural interpretation. There are unending praises of him on this account in the Funeral Notices. Titles such as 'Light of clerics', 'doctor of doctors', 'remarkable commentator of the Psalter', etc. are bestowed on him by those who had heard his teaching.

The truth is that, rather than a science, the study of Scripture was for Bruno a delectable initiation into the mystery of God. In his letter to the Brothers of the Chartreuse, some of whom did not even know how to read, he writes: "We rejoice that the mighty God Himself -- since you are ignorant of letters -- is writing directly on your hearts, not only love but also knowledge of His holy law. Indeed, what you love, what you know, is shown by what you do." And in his hermitage of Calabria, Bruno had taken care to have around him "religious brothers, some of whom are full of knowledge."

The spirit that inspired Bruno is manifest. It is in order to nourish charity and contemplation, and to stimulate these, that the monk must apply himself to sacred studies. If he studies, let it not be "from an itching desire for learning, nor from a wish to publish books," but to give solid nourishment to his heart. So he is to keep to simplicity in his studies, and to thirst for limpid, living waters. Then, far from distracting the religious, his studies will immerse him in prayer, and will keep him in humility and recollection.

Denys the Carthusian, who was and remains one of the greatest Carthusian authors, wrote thus in the last years of his life: "I am not aware of having studied through vanity, on the contrary: it was so that working daily on the Holy Scriptures, I may live in accordance with their teachings."

It was all very well to want to read and study the Scriptures -- but with what books, at a time when printing did not exist and manuscripts were very costly? The Fathers worked therefore at copying sacred texts. When Guigo, in the Customs, listed the items to be contained in each cell, he wrote: "A writing-case, pens, chalk, two pumice stones, two inkpots, a pen-knife, two cutters for work on parchments, an engraving tool, an awl, a plumb-line, a ruler, a piece of wood for fixing the page, tablets and a style." Unfortunately, most of these precious manuscripts have been destroyed in successive fires and other calamities.

-Saint Bruno and the Carthusians-

13 July 2011

The Cell

Apart from unessential modifications imposed by climate, circumstances or requests made by benefactors, all the Charterhouses which were created in the course of nine centuries of history, were built according to the same fundamental principles: a group of individual cells for the Fathers, as far removed as possible from noise, and separated even from the cells of the Brothers, whose rhythm of life differs, however slightly, from that of the Fathers. The Fathers' cells open on to a cloister, which leads to the places where they meet as a community: the church, the chapter-room, the refectory. Although the Church with the Eucharistic Presence is the Holy of Holies of the monastery, and of the heart of each monk, the cell in fact is really for each of them their personal 'hermitage', where most of their life unfolds. "This is holy ground, a place where, as a man with his Friend, the Lord and His servant often speak together." In his cell, the monk prays, celebrates the hours of the Divine Office which are not celebrated in the church, and reads and meditates; there, too, he takes his meals, works, and sleeps.

We must therefore describe the Father's cell in more detail. Exteriorly, it looks like a little cottage, with a small garden adjoining. Inside, the main room is the cubiculum; this is large enough to include a place reserved for prayer and the recitation of the hours of Office, with a stall like those in the church, and a prie-dieu and Crucifix. For when the monk recites the Office in his cell, he follows the same movements as when he is in the choir stalls in the church: he begins when the bell rings, he stands, kneels, bows, and covers his head with his hood. The monastery is then transformed into a huge church, where praise and prayer rise, as it were, with one unique voice. Near the oratory is a bed in the form of a chest: a canvas covered a straw mattress, with bolster, sheets, and a woollen blanket. There is a table in the window-recess, on which the religious takes his meals, brought to him from the kitchen, and passed through a hatch beside his front door. And finally the cubiculum contains a little workspace, having for all furniture a table, a desk and a few books. A small stove provides heat in winter.

To the fore of the cubiculum is a smaller room, called the Ave Maria, because it contains a statue of Our Lady; here the monk recites an Ave Maria before entering the cubiculum. Alongside each cell is a covered walkway, and a small garden and workshop, for relaxation or manual work.

The Statutes of the Order state: "The cell is as necessary for the salvation and life of the monk as water for fish and the sheepfold for sheep." The monk only leaves it at times fixed by the Rule or with the prior's permission, or through necessity. It is in his cell again that, every year, for eight days, the monk makes a more strict retreat.

-Saint Bruno and the Carthusians-

11 July 2011

Benedict, a man of God

Today on this feast of Saint Benedict, at Matins the Carthusians reflected on the following from The Life of Saint Benedict:

Benedict, desiring rather the miseries of the world than the praises of men: rather to be wearied with labor for God's sake, than to be exalted with transitory commendation: fled privately from his family, and went into a desert place called Subiaco, distant almost forty miles from Rome: in which there was a fountain springing forth cool and clear water; the abundance whereof does first in a broad place make a lake, and afterward running forward, comes to be a river. As he was travelling to this place, a certain monk called Romanus met him, and demanded to know what he wanted, and understanding his purpose, he both kept it close, furnished him what he could, vested him with the habit of holy conversation, and as he could, ministered and served him. The man of God, Benedict, coming to this foresaid place, lived there in a narrow cave, where he continued three years unknown to all men, except to Romanus. He lived not far off, under the rule of Abbot Theodacus, and very virtuously studied certain hours, and likewise sometimes a loaf was given for his own provision, which he carried to Benedict. And because from Romanus' cell to that cave there was not any way, by reason of a high rock which hung over it, Romanus, from the top thereof, on a long rope, let down the loaf.

Not far from the place where he remained there was a monastery, the Abbot whereof was dead: whereupon the whole Convent came to the venerable man Benedict, entreating him very earnestly that he would vouchsafe to take on him the charge and government of their Abbey: a long time he denied them, saying that their manners were different from his, and therefore that they should never agree together: yet at length, overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent. Having now taken on him the charge of the Abbey, he took order that regular life should be observed, so that none of them could, as before they used, through unlawful acts decline from the path of holy conversation, either on the one side or on the other: which the monks perceiving, they fell into a great rage, accusing themselves that ever they desired him to be their Abbot, seeing their crooked conditions could not endure his virtuous kind of government. Therefore, when they saw that under him they could not live in unlawful sort, and were loath to leave their former conversation, and found it hard to be enforced with old minds to meditate and think on new things: and because the life of virtuous men is always grievous to those that be of wicked conditions, some of them began to devise, how they might rid themselves of Benedict.

Taking counsel together, they agreed to poison his wine: which being done, and the glass wherein that wine was, according to the custom, offered to the Abbot to bless, he, putting forth his hand, made the sign of the cross, and straightway the glass, that was held far off, broke in pieces, as though the sign of the cross had been a stone thrown against it: on which accident the man of God by and by perceived that the glass had in it the drink of death, which could not endure the sign of life. Rising up, with a mild countenance and quiet mind, he called the monks together, and spoke thus to them: "Almighty God have mercy on you, and forgive you: why have you used me in this manner? Did not I tell you before hand, that our manner of living could never agree together? Go your ways, and seek out some other father suitable to your own conditions, for I intend not now to stay any longer among you." When he had thus discharged himself, he returned to the wilderness which so much he loved, and dwelt alone with himself, in the sight of his Creator, Who beholds the hearts of all men.

As God's servant daily increased in virtue and became continually more famous for miracles, many were led by him to the service of almighty God in the same place. By Christ's assistance he built there twelve Abbeys; over which he appointed governors, and in each of them placed twelve monks. A few he kept with himself; namely, those he thought would gain more profit and be better instructed by his own presence. At that time also many noble and religious men of Rome came to him, and committed their children to be brought up under him for the service of God. Evitius delivered Maurus to him, and Tertullius, the Senator, brought Placidus. These were their sons of great hope and promise: of the two, Maurus, growing to great virtue, began to be his master's helper; but Placidus, as yet, was but a boy of tender years.

In one of the monasteries which he had built in those parts, there was a monk who could not continue at prayers; for when the other monks knelt down to serve God, his manner was to go forth, and there with wandering mind to busy himself about some earthly and transitory things. One day, Benedict came to the monastery, and when the singing of psalms was ended, and the hour come in which the monks took themselves to prayer, the holy man perceived that the monk, who used at that time to go forth, was drawn out by the skirt of his garment by a little boy. On seeing this, he spoke secretly to Pompeianus, father of the Abbey, and also to Maurus saying, "Do you not see who it is, that draws this monk from his prayers?" and they answered him, that they did not. "Then let us pray to God," he said, "that you also may behold whom this monk follows." After two days Maurus saw him, but Pompeianus could not. On another day, when the man of God had ended his devotions, he went out of the oratory, where he found the foresaid monk standing idle. For the blindness of his heart he struck with a little rod, and from that day forward he was so freed from all allurement of the little boy, that he remained quietly at his prayers, as the other monks did.

The town, which is called Cassino, stands on the side of a high mountain, which contains, as it were in the lap thereof, the foresaid town, and afterward so rises in height the space of three miles, that the top thereof seems to touch the very heavens. In this place there was an ancient chapel in which the foolish and simple country people, according to the custom of the old gentiles, worshipped the god Apollo. Round about it likewise on all sides, there were woods for the service of the devils, in which even to that very time, the mad multitude of infidels offered most wicked sacrifice. The man of God coming there, beat the idol into pieces, overthrew the altar, set fire to the woods, and in the temple of Apollo, he built the oratory of Saint Martin, and where the altar of the same Apollo was, he made an oratory of Saint John. By his continual preaching, he brought the people dwelling in those parts to embrace the faith of Christ.

Once upon a time, while the venerable Father was at supper, one of his monks, who was the son of a great man, held the candle. As he was standing there, and the other ate his meal, he began to entertain a proud thought in his mind. He spoke to himself: "Who is he, that I wait on him at supper and hold him the candle? And who am I, that I should do him any such service?" Immediately the holy man turned and with severe rebuke spoke to him: "Sign your heart, brother, for what is it that you say? Sign your heart." Forthwith he called another of the monks, and bid him to take the candle out of his hands. He commanded him to cease his waiting, and to retire. Benedict, being demanded of the monks what it was that he had thought, told them, how inwardly that monk had swelled with pride, and what he spoke against the man of God, secretly in his heart. Then they all realized very well that nothing could be hidden from venerable Benedict, seeing that the very sound of men's inward thoughts came to his ears.

The man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose early before the time of Matins, his monks being yet at rest, and came to the window of his chamber where he offered up his prayers to almighty God. Standing there, all of a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light that banished away the darkness of the night and glittered with such brightness that the light which shone in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day. During this vision a marvelously strange thing followed, for, as he himself afterward reported, the whole world, gathered together, as it were, under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes. While the venerable father stood attentively beholding the brightness of that glittering light, he saw the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, in a fiery globe, carried up by Angels into heaven. All creatures are, as it were, nothing to that soul that beholds the Creator. For though it sees but a glimpse of that light which is in the Creator, yet all things that are created seem very small. By means of that supernatural light, the capacity of the inward soul is enlarged, and is so extended in God, that it is far above the world. The soul of one who sees in this manner, is also above itself; for being rapt up in the light of God, it is inwardly in itself enlarged above itself. When it is so exalted and looks downward, it comprehends how little all creation is. The soul, in its former baseness, could not so comprehend. The man of God, therefore, who saw the fiery globe, and the Angels returning to heaven, could, no doubt, not see those things but in the light of God.

09 July 2011

A Russian Carthusian goes home to God at the hands of Our Lady

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

It was the feast of Our Lady’s Purification. Seeing that his agony was being prolonged indefinitely – it had lasted eight days already – his confessor, Dom Vincent, the vicar of the House, said to him: ‘This is a beautiful day on which to die, dear Father. They will be ringing for Compline shortly; go to wish your Mother a happy feast in a better world’. Immediately, a perceptible change came over the features of the dying monk, and a few moments later he died. Thus did God receive his soul at the hands of Mary, on the very day when He had received Jesus from her in the Temple at Jerusalem.Our death is but the echo of our life. If our whole life is passed in absolute submission to the good pleasure of God, and under the direction of our superiors, we shall die in the fullness of this act of abandonment to our heavenly Father – an act which has all the merit of martyrdom.

02 July 2011

Dominica Quartadecima Per Annum

First Reading, Zechariah 9:9-10
A sign of contradiction is prophesied here since the prophet Zechariah speaks of a king who “shall proclaim peace to the nations”. No longer are prophecies coming forth which deal specifically with the nation of Israel. It was thought that the Messiah would be a mighty warrior and is now prophesied here as “meek”. Riding on a donkey is a reminder of Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 21:2-9). Indeed there are prophetic verses in Scripture which describe the Saviour as mighty and powerful but no one other than Jesus has fulfilled the prophecy of a Messiah with the combination of mightiness and lowliness. Matthew 21:2 mentions two animals, an ass and a colt as does this Reading. The Septuagint defines the two as a yoked animal and a young foal. The king’s dominion will be “to the ends of the earth”. This alludes to the extensive limits of the Promised Land but is really understood to mean Christ’s Kingdom.

Second Reading, Romans 8:9, 11-13
It helps to clear up any misconceptions about what Saint Paul means by “flesh”. He is not referring to the natural needs of the human body. Our bodies have needs which cannot be ignored. Our bodies thirst and hunger and thus are in need of food, drink, and sometimes medical attention. Our bodies, like our souls are a creation of the all-good God. So what is flesh? Basically it is an abuse of God’s gifts and a perversion of the natural law. Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is a gift from God; but when that intimacy ventures off into areas such as lustful thoughts, adultery, pre-marital sex, reading pornographic material or watching explicit movies, then these would be considered desires of the flesh. Work is a gift from God. Earning a living and climbing the corporate ladder falls well within the parameters of God’s holy plan; but if that climb should turn into a lust for power and material wealth, then that is a desire of the flesh. These are only some examples. Some thoughts or desires of the flesh may very well be unavoidable because they are the result of our own concupiscence. But stopping those thoughts from ever entering our minds is not what’s important since that is nearly impossible; but what’s important is a quick remedy. Today, some of these excesses described here are so commonplace in our culture that much of the population has almost become desensitized. The remedy is the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us. He is our Source for living in the spirit and being all that God made us to be. The Eucharist, a daily prayer life and spiritual reading are all great weapons for thwarting off any unhealthy passions. Recall the words of Jesus: “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Gospel, Matthew 11:25-30
The “wise and the learned” as mentioned here are likely those who set their hearts on the rewards of this life. It has nothing to do with anyone’s level of intelligence or education. The “little ones” are those who cultivate a humble heart, understanding the need for dependence on the Lord. Jesus defines His yoke as easy and His burden light. Actually for us, because of our weak nature, the yoke is quite heavy and burdensome; but our Lord makes it easy and less burdensome because He helps us to bear it as described by the prophet Hosea: “I will draw them with the cords of Adam, with the bands of love; and I will be to them as one that takes off the yoke on their jaws” (Hosea 11:4). Saint Bernard of Clairvaux explains it this way: “Our Saviour sweetens by the spiritual unction of His grace, all the crosses, penances, and mortifications of religious souls.” Saint Augustine of Canterbury testifies that before he knew the power of grace, he could never comprehend what chastity was, nor believe that anyone was capable of practicing it; but the grace of God renders all things easy. In addition to these thoughts from these great saints, it can certainly be said that trust in God which is nurtured through prayer leads to inner peace and makes all burdens, crosses and inconveniences light.

The Heart Molded by God

Mary is the great mold of God. Through her God fashioned by the Holy Spirit the human nature of Jesus Christ, Who is true God by the hypostatic union. Now, through her He also fashions through grace, men who are images of His Son. No godly feature is missing from this mystical mold. Everyone who casts himself into it and allows himself to be molded will acquire every feature of Jesus Christ with little pain or effort: as befits his weak human condition. He will take on a faithful likeness to Jesus with no possibility of distortion, for the devil has never had, and never will have, any access to Mary, in whom there is not the least stain of sin.

Dear friend, what a difference there is between a soul brought up in the ordinary way to resemble Jesus Christ by people who, like sculptors, rely on their own skill and industry, and a soul thoroughly tractable, entirely detached, most ready to be molded in her by the working of the Holy Spirit. What blemishes and defects, what shadows and distortions, what natural and human imperfections are found in the first soul, and what a faithful and divine likeness to Jesus is found in the second!

Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort

01 July 2011

De Fontibus Salvatoris

Two Carthusians are featured on today's post for the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: 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

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