Wednesday, January 31, 2007

ST JOHN BOSCO - Founder (1815-1888)

Spiritual Bouquet: Do not give to dogs what is holy, neither cast your pearls before swine. St. Matth. 7:6

Saint John Bosco accomplished what many people considered an impossibility; he walked through the streets of Turin, Italy, looking for the dirtiest, roughest urchins he could find, then made good men of them. His extraordinary success can be summed up in the words of his patron Saint, Francis de Sales: “The measure of his love was that he loved without measure.” John’s knowledge of poverty was firsthand. He was born in 1815 in the village of Becchi in the Piedmont district of northern Italy, and reared on his parents’ small farm. When his father died, Margaret Bosco and her three sons found it harder than ever to support themselves, and while John was still a small boy he had to join his brothers in the farm work. Although his life was hard, he was a happy, imaginative child. Even as a boy, John found innocent fun compatible with religion. To amuse his friends he learned how to juggle and walk a tightrope; but he would entertain them only on condition that each performance begin and end with a prayer. As he grew older, John began to think of becoming a priest, but poverty and lack of education made this seem impossible. A kindly priest recognized his intelligence, however, and gave him his first encouragement, teaching him to read and write. By taking odd jobs in the village, and through the help of his mother and some charitable neighbors, John managed to get through school and find admittance to the diocesan seminary of nearby Turin. As a seminarian he devoted his spare time to looking after the ragamuffins who roamed the slums of the city. Every Sunday he taught them catechism, supervised their games and entertained them with stories and tricks; before long his kindness had won their confidence, and his “Sunday School” became a ritual with them. After his ordination in 1841, he became assistant to the chaplain of an orphanage at Valocco, on the outskirts of Turin. This position was short-lived, for when he insisted that his Sunday-school boys be allowed to play on the orphanage grounds, they were turned away, and he resigned. He began looking for a permanent home for them, but no “decent” neighborhood would accept the noisy crowd. At last, in a rather tumbledown section of the city, where no one was likely to protest, the first oratory was established and named for Saint Francis de Sales. At first the boys attended school elsewhere, but as more teachers volunteered their time, classes were held at the house. Enrollment increased so rapidly that by 1849 there were three oratories in various places in the city. For a long time Don Bosco had considered founding an Order to carry on his work, and this idea was supported by a notoriously anticlerical cabinet minister named Rattazzi. Rattazzi had seen the results of his work, and although an Italian law forbade the founding of religious communities at that time, he promised government support. The founder-priest went to Rome in 1858 and, at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, drew up a Rule for his community, the Society of Saint Francis de Sales (Salesians). Four years later he founded an Order for women, theDaughters of Mary, Help of Christians, to care for abandoned girls. Finally, to supplement the work of both congregations, he organized an association of lay people interested in aiding their work. Exhausted from touring Europe to raise funds for a new church in Rome, Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888. He was canonized in 1934 by Pope Pius XI. The work of John Bosco continues today in over a thousand Salesian oratories throughout the world. No modern Saint has captured the heart of the world more rapidly than this smiling peasant-priest from Turin, who believed that to give complete trust and love is the most effective way to nourish virtue in others.

Text after Magnificat

St John Bosco vision of hell

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"In the Hands of the Living God" - fragments of chapter 4 of the book entitled "In the silence of Mary- the life of Mother Mary of Jesus Carmelite Prioress and Foundress 1851-1942". In this chapter we shall follow Sister's Mary of Jesus spiritual development and growing intimacy with God - described mostly in her own words. Part 2.

Together with this purification went the old fear, lulled by her having attained to Carmel, but awakened now with deeper intensity than ever before, that she would never reach God, that He would always reject her. 'My grief at the delay of my Profession was great, for this delay seemed to me a new rejection on God'a part. I could not see how the attitude of the Sisters would ever change, or that they would ever accept me. Yet my soul could not doubt that from all eternity God had intended me for Carmel. I knew and felt that I was unworthy, not only of being the spouse of Christ, but even of living in Carmel. In the thought that I was only being tolerated out of charity, and that I deserved to be sent away, I had great peace and real happiness in my will.' This period deepened the bond between the novice and her Prioress, to whom, in every way, she owed much. There was the support, not to be underestimated, of knowing that Mother Mary of Blessed Trinity still believed in her vocation. The sympathy was there, even if it rarely found expression. The Prioress was too spiritual to interpose her own human comfort between any soul and God's action. She was also too prudent to attempt to conciliate opposition by any display of protection or indulgence. The only way to help the Sisters through their part of the trial was to offer them practical and incontrovertible proof of the virtue of the novice they were tempted to refuse. Therefore, both for that reason and in order to second the work of God in the soul confided to her care, she adopted towards her a most unwanted severity. In Chapter and out of it, in public and in private, the novice was scolded and humbled constantly, often for faults she had not, in fact committed. Years later, an English novice who had heard rumours of these unmerited reprimands, asked Mother Mary of Jesus: 'But how could you keep silence, Mother?' 'Oh, that was not difficult' was the answer, 'if I had not committed those faults, there were many others of which no one knew but myself'. In spite of this severity, Sister Mary of Jesus was conscious of a great bulwark of love and understanding. Once, speaking to one of her own daughters in England, she told how she had one day paused absent-mindedly before a long window in which she was clearly reflected, and had proceeded to adjust a part of the Habit which had slipped awry. This unconcious violation of the religious rule that forbids mirrors was committed in public, in full view of several older members of the community, and at the next Chapter she heard a good deal about the vanity and ignorance of any novice who could so far forget herself. At the end, however, Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity added, with something suspiciously as a twinlke: 'At least I have not to reprimand you for trying to conceal your fault!' 'Oh! I was very much ashamed' said Mother Mary of Jesus, in relating to the incident, 'but Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity understood: sha had made a few little mistakes in her own time, you see!' Another vivid little impression is of the Prioress slipping unobserved into the novice's cell one evening, to attend herself to a pair of hands that had once more come to grief at a wash. She felt it unwise at that point even to send the novice to infirmary for a bandage, lest this should be interpreted as a sign that she was too delicate to observe the Rule. As in her postulancy, only twice was the darkness relieved. 'Following on a confession that I looked on as preparatory to my Profession, though this was indefinitely remote, after Holy Communion, the most Holy Trinity seemed to be in the centre of my soul by a very special presence, pardoning me and telling me that It, the Trinity, was purifying my soul and dwelling within it'. 'On the feast of my patroness, St Mary Magdalen, the anniversary of my Clothing, I was grieving because the community did not wish to profess me, and I could see myself delayed for an indefinite period: a supernatural fire, a new love was kindled in my soul, and has endured therein ever since; it is a spiritual flame without any feeling, unless it be an impression as of fire that consumes.'
Her Professsion, in actual fact, was not delayed as long as she had feared, for it took place on the feast of our Lady's Nativity, 8 September. She does not indicate how it came about that the community accepted her in the end. It seems clear that suffering of one sort or another encompassed the whole episode. The old English Sister notes: 'At the time of her canonical examination she suffered cruelly from the agonized entreaties of her mother, so much so that her father intervened, saying: "You will kill her!" ' She gives no details herself, save that her preparatory Retreat and the ceremony itself were equally barren of any sensible devotion. Moreover, it left her still unsatisfied. 'I was in port, inasmuch as I now belonged to God for all eternity, but, for my soul, true Profession lay in union, and I was far from having reached that.'

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Bishop, Doctor of the Church

Spiritual Bouquet: You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under the measure. St. Matt. 5:14-15

Saint Francis de Sales was born in 1567 near Annecy, of noble and pious parents, and studied with brilliant success at Paris and Padua. On his return from Italy he gave up the grand career which his father had destined for him in the service of the state, and became a priest. When the duke of Savoy resolved to restore the shattered Church in the Chablais, Francis offered himself for the work and set out on foot with his Bible and breviary, accompanied by one companion, his cousin Louis of Sales. It was a work of toil, privation and danger. Every door and every heart was closed against him. He was rejected with insult and threatened with death, but nothing could daunt him or resist him indefinitely. And before long the Church blossomed into a second spring. It is said that he converted 72,000 Calvinists. He was compelled by the Pope to become Coadjutor Bishop of Geneva, and succeeded to that see in 1602. Saint Vincent de Paul said of him, in praise of his gentleness, “How good God must be, since the bishop of Geneva, His minister, is so good!” At times the great meekness with which he received heretics and sinners almost scandalized his friends, and they protested when he received insults in silence. One of them said to him, “Francis of Sales will go to Paradise, of course; but I am not so sure about the Bishop of Geneva: I am almost afraid his gentleness will play him a shrewd turn!” “Ah,” said the Saint, “you would have me lose in one instant all the meekness I have been able to acquire by twenty years of efforts? I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity. God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a Lamb; God the Holy Ghost is a Dove; are you wiser than God?” When a hostile visitor said to him one day, “If I were to strike you on the cheek, what would you do?” Saint Francis answered, with his customary humility, “Ah! I know what I should do, but I cannot be sure of what I would do.” With Saint Jane Frances of Chantal, Saint Francis founded at Annecy the Order of the Visitation nuns, which soon spread over Europe. Though poor, he refused provisions and dignities, and even the great see of Paris. He died at Avignon in 1622.

Reflection. “You will catch more flies,” Saint Francis used to say, “with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar. If there were anything better or more beautiful on earth than gentleness, Jesus Christ would have taught it to us; and yet He has given us only two lessons to learn of Him — meekness and humility of heart.”

Sources: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul GuĂ©rin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

"In the Hands of the Living God" - fragments of chapter 4 of the book entitled "In the silence of Mary- the life of Mother Mary of Jesus Carmelite Prioress and Foundress 1851-1942". In this chapter we shall follow Sister's Mary of Jesus spiritual development and growing intimacy with God - described mostly in her own words. Part 1.

It is not without hesitation that one approaches the task of describing Sister Mary of Jesus' life during the reminder of her years in Paris. To reveal God's secret intimacies with a soul is always, in some sort, to violate a sanctuary. Nevertheless, without some knowledge of these years and of the development of her interior life, the story would be incomplete, for they have an indispensable light to throw upon all that succeeded them. References has already been made to the account which she wrote for her English confessor, under obedience. It is a brief and unadorned document that leaves much untold. In addition, there are other fragmentary papers which, at his request, she had collected together and copied for him, and which supplement the outline she had given in her account. Some are no more than mere jottings, tantalizing in their brevity and incompleteness. Some are letters, often unaddressed and unfinished, mostly, it is clear, to a priest, though it is not certain whether Pere Matognon or M. Dambers is here in question, and perhaps both may have been. This collection, copied for her by Sister Mary of St Joseph, for the latter was completely in her confidence, mercifully escaped the destruction which Mother Mary of Jesus made of the rest of her papers before her death, and thus survived to betray for posterity the secrets she guarded so well during her lifetime. The story falls more or less naturally into three distinct phases. The first includes the eighteen months from her entry to her Profession; the second extends from that point until 1876, and the third covers her remaining years in Paris and her first in England. Although they necessarily overlap to some extent and there is continuity in all three, it will be clearer to treat of them separately.

(i) APRIL 1872 - SEPTEMBER 1873

Her postulancy was comparatively peaceful, interiorly as well as exteriorly. 'My prayer' she says, 'was always more or less a sort of sorrowful contemplation in the presence of God, being purified and broken yet drawn to Him by his look and His love. To remain passive under His action, not only during my two hours of prayer, but always, was my way, my life, my tendency.My prayer was, therefore, to go out of myself to find God when He did not Himself bring about this separation by drawing the whole life of my soul towards Himself. My soul's part was either to tend towards this by an active contemplation and a look of love towards God, or else to suffer in silence and complete spiritual incapacity under His gaze. Although my soul still could not find God, prayer was its whole life, its strength and its support'.
nly twice was this silence broken. The first occasion was duting the first Vespers of Pentecost when 'the Holy Spirit entered my soul in a substantial way, invading it, with no sensible feeling but in a wholly spiritual way, by a presence that was as real as it was unknown to my soul.' The second was considerably less consoling. 'Before a relic of StJohn of the Cross, I had a very painful but clear view of the future. It was shown to me that soon my soul's suffering would steadily increase, as would its darkness, that the Sisters would turn against me, and that I would find myself with a Mother Prioress who did not understand me at all. The same light that showed these things urged me to accept them; my soul consented without any resistance and yielded itself up to God with all its strength of will; my nature shuddered, as did everything sensitive in my heart or soul'.
No sooner was she in the Habit than part of this prediction began to be fulfilled. She writes simply: 'It pleased the infinite mercy of God for my soul to raise many storms in the attitude of the community. With the exception of my Mother Prioress and perhaps two or three Sisters, the general attitude underwent a sudden and extraordinary change'. No precise details are known of this trial, though Sister Mary of St Joseph used to refer to it in very general terms later on, and to hold up as an example to her novices the humility and fidelity with which Sister Mary of Jesus had passed through it. The year preceding Profession is often one of those periods of which St Teresa writes that 'the soul will certainly suffer great trials at this time, especially if the devil sees that its character and habits are such that it is ready to make further progress: all the powers of hell will combine to drive it back again'. (Interior Castle - 2nd Mansion, Ch.i, 4th Mansion Ch.iii). In the case of Sister Mary of Jesus the storm was marked by its unusual duration, extent and intensity, in that it lasted for the whole year of her novitiate and affected the majority of the community simultaneously. Under the circumstances, an exclamation of Pere Matignon's (he was extraodrinary confessor of the community at that time) that 'hell seemed to be openly let loose against her' had some justification. There must have been acute suffering on both sides, and it says much for the supernatural spirit of the community that they were not defeated by it, but in spite of everything did finally receive Sister Mary of Jesus for her Profession. ...she writes that the suffering was intense. On the other hand, her sensitive nature felt distrust of the Sisters keenly, and their sudden unwillingness to receive her permanently into their number. She had been surrounded by love and confidence all her life, had never known even misunderstanding, and could not help suffering under it now. She realized that this experience had its work to do, for she writes once: 'There have been moments in my very small Religious life when much criticism has done me real good. It was the precious accessory of the interior suffering and humbled me exteriorly while God did His work'. On the other hand, any suffering of sensitive nature was far outweighed by the deeper pain of soul. 'My soul saw in it all simple justice, the result of my conduct; never for a moment had I any thought that people might be severe or waning to try me. On the contrary, this was my thought: "What must I be in reality before God, since creatures who see next to nothing find so much evil in me. What must I be to You, my God, Who, knowing everything, must surely find me worthier still to blame" '.

to be continued...

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mother of Christ pray for us!

In eighteen invocations of the Litany of Loreto we venerate Mary's Divine Motherhood in her Virginal purity. Six of the invocations glorify Mother of God with the title of Virgin whereas remaining twelve invocations glorify her with the title of Mother. Only the Holy Catholic Church could produce Litany so perfect through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost as Birnbach rightly remarked. With the title of 'Mother' - we venerate her motherhood to long expected Messiah, the dawn after night of sin and separation from God. How remarkable and full of honour is this title we can see foretold and pre-figured in the Old Testament. Sara, the wife of Abraham gave him son, Isaac, the sign of covenant with God, at the age of ninety (Gen 17:19). How remarkable were these circumstances and the child born! It does resemble us of Mary and Jesus! Rachel, the wife of Jacob, gave birth to Joseph who later on came to Egypt's rescue in their biggest misery and was announced "The saviour of the world"(Gen 45:46). Isn't it reminiscent of Jesus and Mary? In the year 1250 before Christ, Israel greatly suffered under the tyrannical rules of Jabin, king of Chanaan. The woman named Debbora became Israel' deliverer and mother by sending army against Jabin and overcoming him (Judges 4-5). Again it reminds us of Jesus and Mary who stand up against satan, the worst enemy of mankind. In the year 630 Assyrians invaded the land of Israel. But Judith killed Holofrenes, the general of invader's army, by cutting his head off, and again Israel was saved (Judith 13, 6-10). It reminds us of Mary's defeat of satan through Christ. In the year 470, Israel was oppressed by Persians. But again, the woman, Esther, succeeded remarkably in rendering harmless Aman, the worst enemy of Israel, and in making the king Assuerus a friend of Israel (see Book of Esther). Once again we can see parallel to Mary who befriended God and defeated satan through Christ. In comparison with all these pre-figures, however, we can recognize how different Mary was. Giving us Christ she gave us all at once - redemption, grace, salvation and life everlasting. How much we should thank her and love her for this! Let us pray with joy:" Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honour of our people" (Jud 15:10)
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Friday, January 26, 2007

"Carmelite Seed-Time" - fragments of the second part of chapter 3 from "In the silence of Mary- the life of Mother Mary of Jesus Carmelite Prioress and Foundress 1851-1942"
In following chapters we will read about Sister Mary of Jesus spiritual formation in Carmel, but first we meet her Prioress, Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity, who contributed a lot to Sister Mary of Jesus formation. Now we also meet her future Prioress, Sister Mary of St Joseph. Part 3

Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity was not altogether a stranger to her, for Father Faber had been wont to share his letters from Carmel, and the Mistress had thus begun unconsciously to communicate something of her own spirit to the future postulant. They were in fact, kindred souls, for all the disparity of age; each was characterized by the same singleness of purpose, generous ardour, unswerving fidelity , and all-consuming love of God. They were led by very similar paths, yet, so marked were the exterior differences between them, that a casual onlooker might well have failed to observe this. Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity, with her spontaneous charm of manner, musical voice, natural grace of movement and quick, deft fingers, all betokening a wide experience and practical competence, was born to be a leader. Sister Mary of St Joseph, on the contrary, suffered from painful shyness, which made her over-diffident and awkwardly self-conscious. Elected Sub-prioress after only four years of Profession, 'she gave great edification', wrote a contemporary, 'but her timidity and her conviction that she was incapable of anything prevented her from doing herself justice in the office.' Her shyness lent a tinge of formality to her manner that quite belied her affectionate nature, and her oddly deep voice had been a family joke at Arundel and became one in Carmel also. The talents were all of the imaginative and literary order, and did not include manual dexterity....Above all, she was endowed with a rare and lovely humility and a capacity for personal loyalty that, supernaturalized in Carmel, had grown into a singularly attractive example of the true spirit of faith in Superiors. Both as 'angel' and as Mistress of novices, which latter function she fulfilled both in Paris and in London, she was admirably fitted to give young Carmelites that solid grounding in regular observance which is a bulwark for the whole Religious life. Her training was strict and comprehensive, but saved from any suspicion of rigidity by her innate kindliness and her own humility. She taught even more powerfully by what she was than what she said, and the lesson above all others upon which she insisted was that of obedience, of going beyond the human person in any Superior, to find and obey God alone.
She used to love to tell, in later days, how she has cast an appraining glance at the face of the new postulant when she was being introduced, and had said joyfully to herself: 'She's made of the right stuff!' Further acquaintance with her charge only deepened this first impression. 'She always went on, never back' was her summing up of Sister Mary of Jesus' early days. Between her and the young Sister there grew up a deep friendship in God and for God, which was destined to last all their lives.
There is one further factor in the shaping of a Carmelite, namely, the work with which her days are occupied, which imperceptibly continues her training. Sister Mary of Jesus appears to have been placed now in this office, now in that; she worked in the Refectory, in the alpargate office, in the garden, and in the sewing offices. Everywhere, the old Carmelite methods were lovingly and scrupulously followed, not because they were necessarily the quickest or the most efficient, but because they had been proved by centuries of experience to be the ways most likely to help souls to pray and to be united to God. She learned that the ideal of a Carmelite officer, as she wrote herself when Prioress, is 'to love God and devote herself to her work: to change nothing, to inaugurate nothing, to be zealous for the perfection of holy poverty in all that she has to use; to let her only ambition to live and die in Carmel with no print of her own personality but only that of fidelity to God'. It was probably easier then than nowadays for a newcomer to grasp that efficiency is not an end in itself in Carmelite work, though perfection must be sought and an attitude of laissez-aller is equally to be depracated: that a phrase like 'labour-saving' can have no meaning where labour is synonymous with love and prayer...Another lesson she learned in the offices was that of selflessness and mortification. One picture gives a glimpse of her toiling up a long flight of stairs with the heavy stone water jar needed for the refectory. She must have looked weary, for an old crippled Sister who passed her draw her aside and whispered: 'Sister, you look so tired. I wish I could help you. Don't count steps, leave our Lord to do that'. Another story is that of her arriving at Recreation after a full day's washing in the laundry, with her hands badly skinned back and front and even bleeding. She was scolded for that a double as a sign of incompetent washing, and accepted the rebuke in silence. Only later did the Prioress discover that a double quantity of ammonia had been poured into the water by mistake, so that even the hardened hands of the Sisters of the White Veil had suffered. Yet a third story serves to show that she had learned early the art of bearing incidental suffering without fuss or complaint. One day, the Sister in charge of the garden came to her to say that she had permission to ask her to spend the hour of silence picking caterpillars off the cabbages; there was a plague of the creatures at that time, and the community vegetables were suffering. Ever since one had nearly killed her as a child, Sister Mary of Jesus had had so great physical horror of them that to touch one made her literraly sick. Nevertheless, whe went off at once and spent whole hour in the hot Paris sun, picking them off one at a time into a jar, and suffered the usual consequences without telling anyone.
...The community had taken to their heart the shy, fair postulant with the lovely voice and the winning smile, and had no difficulty whatever in accepting her for her Clothing. Nothing is known of the ceremony save that it took place on the feast of her personal saint, St Mary Magdalen, and that Madame Dupont's loving fingers afterwards made a chasuble out of bridal dress she wore. So the first part of her life in Carmel came to an end, and she entered upon a harder and more arduous way.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Carmelite Seed-Time" - fragments of the second part of chapter 3 from "In the silence of Mary- the life of Mother Mary of Jesus Carmelite Prioress and Foundress 1851-1942"
In following chapters we will read about Sister Mary of Jesus spiritual formation in Carmel, but first we meet her Prioress, Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity, who contributed a lot to Sister Mary of Jesus formation. Part 2

Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity had been Prioress some time before Sister Mary of Jesus knew her, and as the stories of her during the siege and the Commune show her government was firm, supernatural and selfless. When she had been appointed as Mistress of novices, not long after her own Profession, she had written to Father Faber: 'If only God helps me to draw some souls to give themselves wholly to Him and to tend with all their strength to union with Him, I cannot think of any vocation I should value more'. To another priest, she said: 'The only thing I can do is to try and keep as close to God as possible, to forget all else and to trust Him'. As Prioress, her way was still the same. Whenever she had to deal with any Sister, either for counsel or correction, she was wont to pray: 'Now, dear Lord, this is Your affair: make me say just what You wish'. She had but aim: to bring the souls under her care to the fulness of Carmel's life as soon as might be. She knew the price that has to be paid for the possession of God, but she knew, too, that each soul must be allowed its own time and way of reaching Him. She would suffer no deliberate compromise, no parleying with the enemy, but her mother's heart was wonderfully quick to sympathize and her love to soften, wherever it was possible, the asperities of the journey.
From the outset, she assessed the potentialities of Sister Mary of Jesus' soul for the deeps of Carmel's spirit, and treated her accordingly. Although they were so similar in temperament, and so closely united, it cannot be said that she showed any undue lenience towards the young Sister. One story is very revealing. It happened, once, that Sister Mary of Jesus asked to see her, being at the time in a state of special suffering of soul. A time was arranged, but when it came, the Prioress had been called away. The same thing happened, through no one's fault, day after day until three weeks had gone by. When finally the young Sister was able to kneel at her Mother's feet, she said sorrowfully: 'Oh, Mother, I have been in such suffering!' Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity looked at her for a minute, and then remarked drily: 'I see you have changed your contemplation: instead of looking at God you have been looking at yourself'.' Another small incident conveys the same impression, that the Prioress realized she had to do with a soul whose way was very simple and direct. She was one day scolding Sister Mary of Jesus of some faults, while annother postulant stood by, wearing, it seems, a slightly complacent expression. The Prioress turned to her: 'Yes' she said, 'Sister Mary of Jesus makes mistakes because she forgets herself, but as for you, you never lose sight of yourself sufficiently to make one!' One remark of the young Sister pleased her greatly. She had been explaining to her, only a few days after her arrival, that the hour of silence in the middle of the day was free time: she could so what she liked. 'But Mother' said the postulant, 'I have no like! Please tell me what you want me to do'.
One would give much to have more details of the external life of Sister Mary of Jesus at this period. The 'mistakes' to which references occur here and there seem to have been trivial things on the whole, and lapses of pure inadvertance, as when she availed herself of the permission given her to sing in her cell, but unfortunately chose the hour of silence in which to do so. What constituted a much greater obstacle to her advancement was her inability to open her soul to her Prioress. Natural reserve and the lifelong habit of suffering in silence both made it very difficult for her to speak of what was passing between her soul and God. In any case, it was all so dark and she understood so little of it herself, that all words seemed useless and even false. Nevertheless, Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity warned her, and she knew it to be true, that simplicity and candour with one's spiritual guides are the only safeguard of the dark ways of the spirit. Shyness, inarticulateness, reserve, must all be treated as so many enemies, and a constant effort must be made at least to try to and explain. There was no forcing of confidence on the part of the Prioress, but a valuable training in the necessity of abandonment into the hands of one's Superior. In a short time Sister Mary of Jesus was to need this habit even more than most souls do, and would have reason to bless the wisdom that had insisted upon its acquisition thus early in her Religious life. One other trait there was which Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity bequeathed to her spiritual child, the joy of soul which is the result of the complete gift of self to God. If she taught her to suffer, she taught her at the same time how to find true joy. 'I think your soul is made for it' she once wrote to her, 'for a joy which is even stronger for most intimate suffering, a joy which takes its rise, from our view, very clear but very spiritual, of the union of our will to the Divine will we love and adore. If you do not already know it, you will do so one day'. One of Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity's first tasks as Mistress of novices had been to welcome to the novitiate the eighteen-year-old Lady Minna Howard, the second child of the fourteenth Duke of Norfolk, who became Sister Mary of St Joseph in Religion, was a penitent of Father Faber, and had been sent to Paris with the same desire that she should return to England as a Carmelite. With her entry, the project of the London Carmel moved a very definitive step nearer realization, for, at the time of her Profession, the bulk of her inheritance, with the consent of the Paris Carmel, was set aside to form a financial basis for the future Foundation.
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him." John 2:11

Catholic marriage is like another Cana marriage, plentiful of God's grace and miracles. Catholic parents, even after hundred of years, can be a source of blessing to their children and grandchildren. That is why Catholic Church always pleads: avoid entering into mixed marriages! God Himself is against it, for when Israelites were about to enter the pagan country of Chanaan (Canaan), the Lord warned them: "Thou shalt not give thy daughter to his son, nor take his daughter for thy son: For she will turn away thy son from following me". Deuteronomy 7:3,4. Usually, a Catholic married to non-Catholic will sooner or later apostasise or become indifferent in their faith which is sadly proved by endless examples. Moreover, can we expect in mixed marriages a genuine unity of the souls? One side usually condemns what the other considers as truth. One spouse rejects with disgust and contempt the Holy Mass, devotion to the Saints, prayers for the dead, Sacrament of Penence, the Holy Communion and the sign of Cross, all that should be kept as a most holy devotion by the other. How painful and long-lasting could be disharmony like this! And what we can expect concerning children religious upbringing in mixed marriages? The child basically can feel confused. Is the father or the mother right? The father makes the sign of the cross, but not so the mother. The father attends Catholic Mass whereas mother goes to Protestant worship meetings. Any child living in family like this can be confused. In the end children will develop indifference in their religion. And what to expect in the matter of keeping the marriage vows? For we all know that Protestants do not accept the dogma of marriage indissolubility. Be then watchful and prudent as was Nehemiah. He made his people to swear not to enter into marriages with non-Israelites: "Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves." Neh 13:35 (KJV)
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Monday, January 22, 2007

"Carmelite Seed-Time" - fragments of the second part of chapter 3 from "In the silence of Mary- the life of Mother Mary of Jesus Carmelite Prioress and Foundress 1851-1942"
In following chapters we will read about Sister Mary of Jesus spiritual formation in Carmel, but first we meet her Prioress, Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity, who contributed a lot to Sister Mary of Jesus formation. Part 1

For a newcomer to Carmel there are three people who contribute to her formation as a true Carmelite: her Prioress, her Mistress of novices and, as far as external observance is concerned, her 'angel'. In the case of Sister Mary of Jesus, it was the first and the last who exercised the greatest influence. With her Prioress there were laid early foundations of a spiritual relationship and bond that were destined to be lifelong, and the part played by Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity was too considerable not to pause over it a little...A story how the former English Protestant came to find herself the Prioress of the first Carmel in France, and with an influence that extended beyond the enclosure, does not belong to this book. A few incidents, however, give an illuminating glimpses of the personality and character that appealed so much to Sister Mary of Jesus. Elisabeth Thompson was fifth child and eldest daughter of a large, prosperous and thoroughly God-fearing Protestant family. Stevenson's phrase 'steel-true and blade-straight' might have written of her. She was one of those essentially upright souls who are incapable of double-dealing either with God or man. her frankness found expression in a kind of unaffected spontaneity, while her soul was built for the great simplicities of Carmel. She united a man's clarity of mind and capacity for unbiased judgment with all a woman's power of love and tenderness. A swift sense of humour and a natural gracefulness make up the picture of this very charming personality. At fifteen she had resolutely cut out of her life the study of mathematics, which she loved and at which she was exceptionally brilliant, because she felt it was robbing God of His full room in her soul. So, later on, when the call to Catholicism came, there was no human hesitancy, though it meant a break with the family who idolized her, and most of whom she had mothered, ever since her mother had became a semi-invalid. But she was determined to act for God alone. At her introductory interview with Father Faber (it was through one of his book that she had first been moved) she sat, courteous but resolute, with her back to him the whole time; she had heard of his personal charm, and was not going to allow it to play any part in her search of truth. A few months later, in that same parlour, with everything set for her reception, she went through a last minute agony of doubt. Once again she turned her back on the Oratorian, and burying her face in her hands, implored God not to let her take the step if it were not His will. the priest sat by, praying silently with her, realizing that no words could help. Suddenly she turned, and wiht an almost fierce intensity, born of the stress of soul, she said: 'If in ten years i find that I have been mistaken today, I will undo it- not in private but publicly, before the whole church'. 'And you would do quite rightly' answered the priest quietly, 'but that day will never come'. As a child, in spite of her gaiety and high spirits, her favourite 'game' had been to hide away in a dark cupboard and think of God; after her conversion, she realized that real graces had been given to her in these hours of solitude with God and that they were a sign of her vocation to the contemplative life. Father Faber had already sensed this latter, and saw in her a possibility of carrying into effect a dream he had long cherished, of establishing a Carmel of the Primitive Observance in London. He had discussed it with cardinal Wiseman, who was equally enthusiastic, and had already sent one of his penitents, Miss White, to the Rue d'Enfer with the idea in mind. In Elizabeth Thompson he saw the qualities necessary to undertake such an enterprise: to imbibe the spirit of St Teresa in all its plenitude and to bring it back with her someday to London. Accordingly, he made arrangements for her to enter in Paris, stipulating that she should return to this country whenever there should be question of an English foundation. He gave it as his opinion that she 'would make a first-rate Prioress some day', and her own early experience in Carmel may certainly be said to have fitted her for the office, for it bred in an already sympathetic heart a boundless capacity to enter into the soul travail of others. Her affectionate nature was torn by the attitude of her family, to whom her vocation was utterly incomprehensible; it took time for so English a character to get to know her new French Sisters. She had scarcely any idea of what life in an enclosed Monastery would entail: her delicate health made her unusually sensitive both to extremities of the Paris climate and to fasting, while the weakness left by spinal injury received as a girl caused her much additional fatigue. Interiorly, instead of the consolations of her childhood, there was nothing but darkness and aridity. A few sentences of Sister Mary of St Joseph, written years later, explain why it was that in the face of so many obstacles she came swiftly to union with God, and won a position of genuine affection and veneration in the community. 'Her headlong love of God, which, although hidden and tasteless to herself at this time, preserved all its energy of action. Her generous fidelity to grace, together with the strength and ardour of her character, prevented her from remaining, like many weak and ungenerous souls in a hesitating, repining, half-and -half state, taking months or years of painful, intermittent warfare before bringing about the necessary breaking and death of their sensitive nature. She, on the contrary, had one desperate struggle, one violent wrench, and then all was over; the victory was gained and though the suffering might return, she no longer deigned to look at it.'
It must have been admiration at the heroism of this convert of thirty five that evoked the tribute from her Prioress: 'God would have founded the order of Carmel for that soul alone!'

Today's picture shows the copy of St Teresa sculpture from St. Peter's in Rome made for her Cloister shrine at Notting Hill in London
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Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim." John 2:7

Let us look at these words in a spiritual way as a good meditation for married people who should take: "the water of wholesome wisdom to drink". Ecclus 15:3 and stick to beneficial principles which in practice will bring happiness and blessing on the marriage and family life. What are those principles then? Most importantly is to be faithful to God always and in every circumstance through prayer, regular participation in the Holy Mass and the Sacraments and keeping the Lord's Day holy, for: "Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it." Ps 126:1. We are certainly no angels, then bear with one another for we all have some vices, faults and imperfections. Living together under the same roof can be often not easy. We need to be fair and tolerant and loving toward each other, trying to bear patiently even the smallest failings of the spouse if we want to be treated the same way in return. Family happiness should be the principal goal of the marriage. First, the spouses should adjust to their state of life and abstain from unnecessary money spending, for it is better to be economical than extravagant in that matter. This is our hearth and home! Child bearing is also a sign of God's blessing then be careful to avoid sinfulness of birth control. Remember that giving birth to the child is giving God a new worshipper. What a horrendous meaning is then in the words like marriage abuse, abortion or low birth rate, apostasy or atheism. Woe to those guilty on their judgment day! Be faithful to each other always, like Jesus is faithful to His bride, the Church: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it" Eph 5:25. The oath taken before the altar on the wedding day must be always kept even to the last moment of life and in every circumstances, for what: "God hath joined together, let no man put asunder". Matt 19:6. Do your best to keep the marriage holy - be very careful never to join any society, nor read or watch anything that sling mud at Christian Sacrament of marriage. Never!
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Third Sunday after Epiphany - ST. AGNES Virgin and Martyr - A.D. 304 or 305

ST. JEROME says that the tongues and pens of all nations are employed in the praises of this saint, who overcame both the cruelty of the tyrant and the tenderness of her age and crowned the glory of chastity with that of martyrdom. St. Austin observes that her name signifies chaste in Greek and lamb in Latin. She has been always looked upon in the church as a special patroness of purity, with the immaculate Mother of God and St. Thecla. Rome was the theater of the triumph of St. Agnes, and Prudentius says that her tomb was shown within sight of that city. She suffered not long after the beginning of the persecution of Dioclesian, whose bloody edicts appeared in March in the year of our Lord, 303. We learn from St. Ambrose and St. Austin that she was only thirteen years of age at the time of her glorious death. Her riches and beauty excited the young noblemen of the first families of Rome to vie with one another in their addresses who should gain her in marriage. Agnes answered them all that she had consecrated her virginity to a heavenly Spouse, who could not be beheld by mortal eyes. Her suitors finding her resolution impregnable to all their arts and importunities, accused her to the governor as a Christian, not doubting but threats and torments would overcome her tender mind, on which allurements could make no impression. The judge at first employed the mildest expressions and most inviting promises; to which Agnes paid no regard, repeating always that she could have no other spouse than Jesus Christ. He then made use of threats but found her soul endowed with a masculine courage and even desirous of racks and death. At last, terrible fires were made and iron hooks, racks, and other instruments of torture displayed before her, with threats of immediate execution. The young virgin surveyed them all with an undaunted eye and with a cheerful countenance beheld the fierce and cruel executioners surrounding her and ready to dispatch her at the word of command. She was so far from betraying the least symptom of fear, that she even expressed her joy at the sight and offered herself to the rack. She was then dragged before the idols and commanded to offer incense "but could by no means be compelled to move her hand, except to make the sign of the cross," says St. Ambrose.

The governor seeing his measures ineffectual, said he would send her to a house of prostitution, where what she prized so highly should be exposed to the insults of the debauchees. Agnes answered that Jesus Christ was too jealous of the purity of His spouses to suffer it to be violated in such a manner; for He was their defender and protector. "You may," said she, "stain your sword with my blood, but you will never be able to profane my body, consecrated to Christ." The governor was so incensed at this that he ordered her to be immediately led to the public brothel, with liberty to all persons to abuse her person at pleasure. Many young profligates ran there, full of the wicked desire of gratifying their lust, but were seized with such awe at the signs of the saint that they durst not approach her; one only excepted, who, attempting to be rude to her, was that very instant, by a flash, as it were, of lightning from heaven, struck blind, and fell trembling to the ground. His companions, terrified, took him up and carried him to Agnes, who was at a distance, singing hymns of praise to Christ, her protector. The virgin by prayer restored him to his sight and health. *

The chief prosecutor of the saint, who at first sought to gratify his lust and avarice, now labored to satiate his revenge by incensing the judge against her; his passionate fondness being changed into anger and rage. The governor wanted not others to spur him on, for he was highly exasperated to see himself baffled and set at defiance by one of her tender age and sex. Therefore, resolved upon her death, he condemned her to be beheaded. Agnes, transported with joy on hearing this sentence, and still more at the sight of the executioner, "went to the place of execution more cheerfully," says St. Ambrose, "than others go to their wedding." The executioner had secret instructions to use all means to induce her to a compliance, but Agnes always answered she could never offer so great an injury to her heavenly Spouse and, having made a short prayer, bowed down her neck to adore God and receive the stroke of death. The spectators wept to see so beautiful and tender a virgin loaded with fetters and to behold her fearless under the very sword of the executioner, who with a trembling hand cut off her head at one stroke. Her body was buried at a small distance from Rome, near the Nomentan road. A church was built on the spot in the time of Constantine the Great and was repaired by pope Honorius in the seventh century. It is now in the hands of Canon-Regulars, standing without the walls of Rome, and is honored with her relics in a very rich silver shrine, the gift of pope Paul V, in whose time they were found in this church, together with those of St. Emerentiana. * The other beautiful rich church of St. Agnes within the city, built by pope Innocent X, the right of patronage being vested in the family of Pamphili, stands on the place where her chastity was exposed. The feast of St. Agnes is mentioned in all Martyrologies, both of the East and West, though on different days. It was formerly a holyday for the women in England, as appears from the council of Worcester, held in the year 1240. St. Ambrose, St. Austin, and other fathers have written her panegyric. St. Martin of Tours was singularly devout to her. Thomas a Kempis honored her as his special patroness, as his works declare in many places. He relates many miracles wrought, and graces received through her intercession.

Marriage is a holy state, instituted by God and in the order of providence and nature the general or most ordinary state of those who live in the world. Those, therefore, who upon motives of virtue and in a Christian and holy manner engage in this state, do well. Those, nevertheless, who for the sake of practicing more perfect virtue, by a divine call, prefer a state of perpetual virginity, embrace that which is more perfect and more excellent. Dr. Wells, a learned Protestant, confesses that Christ declares voluntary chastity, for the kingdom of heaven's sake, to be an excellency and an excellent state of life. This is also the manifest inspired doctrine of St. Paul, and in the revelations of St. John, spotless virgins are called, in a particular manner, the companions of the Lamb, and are said to enjoy the singular privilege of following Him wherever he goes. The tradition of the church has always been unanimous in this point; and among the Romans, Greeks, Syrians, and Barbarians, many holy virgins joyfully preferred torments and death to the violation of their integrity, which they bound themselves by vow to preserve without defilement, in mind or body. The fathers, from the very disciples of the apostles, are all profuse in extolling the excellency of holy virginity, as a special fruit of the incarnation of Christ, his divine institution, and a virtue which has particular charms in the eyes of God, who delights in chaste minds and chooses to dwell singularly in them. They often repeat that purity raises men, even in this mortal life, to the dignity of angels, purifies the soul, fits it for a more perfect love of God and a closer application to heavenly things, and disengages the mind and heart from worldly thoughts and affections. It produces in the soul the nearest resemblance to God. Chastity is threefold: that of virgins, that of widows, and that of married persons; in each state it will receive its crown, as St. Ambrose observes, but in the first it is most perfect, so that St. Austin calls its fruit a hundredfold and that of marriage sixty fold; but the more excellent this virtue is, and the higher its glory and reward, the more heroic and the more difficult is its victory; nor is it perfect unless it be embellished with all other virtues to a heroic degree, especially divine charity and the most profound humility.

(Butler's Lives of the Saints on CD-ROM - Harmony Media Inc.)


The picture is 'St Agnes' by Jusepe de Ribera

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

"His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye". John 2:5

This gentle, motherly admonition of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is for the advantage of those who think seriously about marriage. It should be also kept in minds of those who are already married, for in our times, the Sacrament of marriage is so often carelessly and easily profaned. Marriage is the union of man and woman for the purpose of procreation and is the root of all mankind. If the root will become rotten, the whole tree will suffer. Christ himself proclaims the simple law of inheritance: "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit." Matt 7:17. But ever so often people get into married life as if they were entering a funfair - with no serious plans nor responsibilities, and most importantly without prayer. Who does remember now that sins committed before marriage contributes heavily to marriage misery due to want of God's blessing. No matter how many tears are shed later on - all in vain and too late. Why there are so many unhappy marriages? Because the knots were tied recklessly and in the darkness of sin. It would be reasonable to keep in mind always the admonition: "Be prudent therefore, and watch in prayers." 1P 4:7. It is also prudent to see marriage as a step to happiness or to temporal and eternal misery. Those considering marriage should first have a humble and serious recourse to Our Lady to obtain her blessing and listen to the beautiful words of the young couple, Tobias and Sara: "For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God." Tob 8:5.
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Friday, January 19, 2007

"Carmelite Heritage" - first part of chapter 3 (fragments) from "In the silence of Mary- the life of Mother Mary of Jesus Carmelite Prioress and Foundress 1851-1942"
In this chapter we read about Madeleine life as a postulant in Paris Carmel.

...As the days passed, the first panic lessened. She was in the place where she felt God wanted her to be: the life, therefore, was in the right order. That brought comfort and a measure of peace. There was still no sign of His giving Himself; He seemed to be as far away as ever, but she would not dwell on that. The future was in His hands; she would live in the present, instant by instant, and abandon the rest to Him. Meanwhile, she had to learn her new routine, and to grow into her new Religious family. The latter is always a gradual process in Carmel, where there are few contacts with the rest of the community, apart from the two hours of recreation each day. Nevertheless, as time goes on, an everdeepening sense of the heritage of Carmel develops, together with a glad thanksgiving for the privilage of sharing it: "The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places; for my inheritance is goodly to me" (Ps xv. 6). So it was with Madeleine, now Sister Mary of Jesus, postulant of Carmel. (The Monastery was founded in October 1604) by six Spanish Carmelites, all inmates of the saint of Avila.... they had taken possession of their new home to the chant of the psalm Laudate, omens gentes. Of that lovely old Monastery hardly a trace remained above ground. The house into which Sister Mary of Jesus entered.....was only seventeen years old, a square, two-storied building constructed round a central quandrangle on what small remnant of their property the nuns had been able to repurchase after the Revolution. .....There was an0ther precious link with the past in the rather quaint old statue known as 'Notre Dame des Champs' or 'La belle Dame'. She had been over the high altar of the church in the days of the Benedictines, bu the Carmelites had taken her into the enclosure, and had venerated her as their special protectress. She was enshrined now in the ante-choir, in the very heart, as it were, of the life of the community. Her head had not always been inclined as it was now; tradition said that a novice, knowing that the Chapter were about to refuse her profession, had knelt before the statue, begging our Lady to change the attitude of the community in her regard, and promissing to amned her ways. The statue gently bowed its head, as if to acquiesce and ratify her pardon: the novice was received and became a very holy religious. That was an encouraging story for a diffident postulant, who could not have guessed then that one day her own name, along with five others, would be engraved on a medal inside a little silver-guilt 'heart', and hung about our Lady's neck, to ask for her protection upon the London Foundation.

The picture shows had carved figure of Angel from Carmelity Monastery in Notting Hill, London

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine." John 2:3

Very often in sermons on the wedding of Cana miracle, we hear about various alcohol consumption problems and remedies for them including temperance in drinking, or even abandoning drinking totally. In this spirit, future Pope Pius XII wrote in 1929 that a Catholic does not see in alcohol the poison but one of God's gifts, for a wine was given to us primarily for the purpose of the sacrifice of the Mass. However, excessive and uncontrolled drinking may become disastrous to prosperity, peace and happiness of both married and single people or even whole generations. Careful and recreational consumption of alcohol is not a sin, but abuse of alcohol drinking may become mortal sin even calling to heaven for vengeance when it is a cause of great misery both in families as well as in single person life. Temperance and abstinence are natural ways of self-control which on its own cannot produce strong characters. But when they are paired with strong will nourished with supernatural grace, they are valuable and necessary way to produce balance between body and soul, matter and spirit which God demands of us. Catholic Church cannot accept forced prohibition of alcohol consumption. Total abstinence is necessary when there is no other way to control drinking. Giving up drinking voluntarily to make satisfaction for sins of alcohol abuse, or to give a good example and to abstain from uncontrolled drinking is like apostolic mission which Catholic church wholeheartedly supports, recognizes, praises and blesses".
Let us follow then this pathways and we cannot lose our way following instruction: "let all things be done decently, and according to order." 1 Cor 14:40
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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Beatitudes of Contemplation and Union withh God. - part 5.

"Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for My sake. Be glad and rejoice, your reward is very great in heaven"
words of Christ kindled in the souls of the apostles the desire for martydrom, a desire which inspired the sublime utterances of St Andrew and St Ignatius of Antioch. These words live again in St. Francis of Assisi, St Dominic, and St Benedict Joseph Labre. Inspired by these words, these saints were "the salt of the earth", "the light of the world", and they built their houses not on sand byt on rock, houses that have been able to weather all storms and have not been overthrown.
These beatitudes, which, as St Thomas says, are the superior act of the gifts or the virtues perfected by the gifts, go beyond simple ascetism and belong to the mystical order. In other words, the full perfection of Christian life belongs normally to the mystical order, it is the prelude of the life of heaven, where the Christian will be "perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect" seeing him as He sees Himself and loving Him as He loves Himself.
St Teresa writes: "They read that we must not be troubled when men speak ill of us, that we are to be then more pleased than when they speak well of us; that we must desoise our own good name, be detached from our kindred...with many other things of the same kind. The disposition to practice this must be, in my opinion, the gift of God; for it seems to me a supernatural good." (Life, ch. 31, 12). In other words, this disposition goes beyond simple ascetism or the exercise of the virtues according to our own activity or industry; it is the fruit of a great docility to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, the saint says: "if a soul loves honours and temporal goods, it is vain that it will have practiced prayer or rather meditation for many years; it will never advance very much. Perfect prayer, on the contrary, frees the soul from these defects" (Way of Perfection ch.12). This is equivalent to saying that without perfect prayer a soul will never reach the full perfection of Christian life.
The author of The Imitation also expresses the same idea when speaking of true peace: "If thou arrive at an entire contempt of thyself, know that then thou shalt enjoy an abundance of peace, as much as is possible in this thy earthly sojourn" (The Imitation of Christ Bk III ch.25). This is why, in the same book of The Imitation, the disciples asks for the superior grace of contemplation: "I stand much in need of a grace yet greater, if I must arrive so far that it may not be in the power of any man nor anything created to hinder me.....He was desirous to fly freely to Thee who said, 'Who will give me wings like a dove, and i will fly and be at rest?' (Ps. 44:7.)....Unless a man be disengaged from all things created, he cannot freely attend to things divine. And this is the reason why there are found so few contemplatives entirely from perishable creatures. For this a great price is required, such as may elevate the soul, and lift it above itself. And unless a man be elevated in spirit, and free from attachment to all creatures, and wholly united to God, whatever he knows and whatever he has is of no great importance." (ibid, ch.31). This chapter of The Imitation belongs, properly speaking, to the mystical order; it shows that only therein is the true perfection of the love of God found.
St Catherine of Siena speaks in the same way in her Dialogue (ch 44-49). As we have seen, this is the very teaching given us by Christ in the beatitudes, especially as St Augustine and St Thomas understood them, that is the elevated acts of the gifts of the Holy Ghost or of the virtue perfected by the gifts. This is truly the full normal development of the spiritual organism or of "the grace of the virtue and the gifts." The beatitudes show it to us, nnot in an absence and theoretical form, bbut in concrete, practical, and vital manner.

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"How Long, O Lord?' - second part of chapter 2 (fragments) from "In the silence of Mary- the life of Mother Mary of Jesus Carmelite Prioress and Foundress 1851-1942"
In this chapter we read about Madeleine adolescence and her difficult task to inform herfamily that she will follow the will of God in her life and enter the cloistered life.

It was at this church (Jesuit Church in Paris) that the girl found the confessor who was to be more help to her than anyone else, even than M.Dambre. Pere Ambroise Matignon became her firm friend, followed her up even after her entrance to Carmel, and made the journey to London several times to help English Foundation in early days. She need not tell him about her vocation, for he saw it as plainly as others had done, and it may have been under his direction that she first ventured to speak to her mother, at the age of eighteen. One might have hoped that a blow so long expected would have fallen in consequence more lightly, but it was not so. Mme Dupont's grief was heart-rending, and a terrible suffering to her poor daughter. Detachment is not indifference, and the love of God makes a heart more, rather than less sensitive. The memory of her own suffering would be revived often during her long religious life, and all its anguish relived in the trials of her children. She told them then what she was learning now, that one can only trust those one loves to God, for Whose sake it is that one has to break their hearts. 'When we surrender unreservedly to Him, we trust to Him all those we leave for His sake. Then, with all love, He accepts the responsibility; he watches over them Himself far better than our filial tenderness could ever have done'. It would have been something if the end had been in sight, but the stricken mother forbade her to mention the question to her father before she was twenty-one, or even to refer to it again to herself. For her own sake as well as Madeleine's she would have been better advised to have yielded at once. The next three years, during which she clung so desperately to her daughter, were a period of what the latter described as 'reciprocal agony', in which each of them unwillingly became a source of pain to the other. Madeleine accepted her mother's decision as God's will, though she warned her that time could make no difference, since her resolution was irrevocably taken....She strove to be gay and cheerful; if sometimes the nostalgie de Dieu looked out of the grey eyes, who shall blame her? Amongst the family and friends, it had been long suspected that she was only waiting for the day when she would be free to enter Religion...
By the end of 1869, there were, of course, other subjects to occupy the minds of a good Catholic family. The Vatican Council, with all the controversy that raged round it, became the vital topic of conversation. Madeleine had a tremendous devotion to Pio Nono, which lasted all her life. In her old age she loved to recall for the younger generation the dramatic climax of the Council, when the aged Pope solemnly promulgated the dogma of Papal infallibility, with the lightning flashing round his head. 'It was magnificent' she used to say, her face aglow with enthusiasm; 'you feel that God is there'. The fearlessness and determination with which the decree was made in the face of fierce opposition made an appeal to her own unflinching loyalty to God's will. Did she hear the name of the Englich Archbishop who became one of the best known of all the Fathers of the Council? It is very probable, for Mgr Manning traveled to Rome with Mgr Mermillod, the Dupont's old friend. All through the anxious summer days of the Council, ...a storm of another kind was brewing over France, and on Tuesday, 19 July, the day after the Coulcil had solemnly ratified the Papal Decree, war had been declared and the first offensive taken....In January capitol surrendered, only to fall almost immediately under the worst affliction of the Commune.....Mr Dupont who remained in Paris was recognized one day by Communists at station entrance as a notorious Catholic and (mob) clamoured for his arrest.....Mgr Darboy, the archbishop, and many of his priests. including some Jesuit friends, had been shot in cold blood. Pere Matignon (Madeleine's confessor) had only escaped by a hair's breadth.
It was during this, her twentieth year, that Madeleine one day entered the chapel of the Carmel in the Rue d'Enfer for the first time. ..... The first impression of any Carmelite Monastery is rarely prepossessing; the high, forbidding walls, the bare, austere chapel with its formidable looking spiked grating do not offer any merely sentimental attraction to the Religious life, nor do they betray the joy of those who dwell within. Madeleine shuddered at the place, with its dingy environment, and noticed that it had a noisy barracks for nearest neighbour. What a contrast to Lavaur....Yet as she knelt in the chapel, it was said to her, in an interior and spiritual manner, that here and not at Lavaur, she would find true life, and would consecrate herself to God. At the same time, though less distinctly, she understood that her future
work for Him would lie in England.
She did not mention this intimation, even to Pere Matignon, since she never shaped her course by such things, but rather waited for events to prove their truth. Finally her twenty-first birthday came, and she faced the agonizing task of begging her father's consent to her departure. Of that interview she never spoke....Her father's sorrow was, indeed, immense, but he was too good a Catholic and too upright to refuse or stand in the way of her conscience; he gave her the permission she sought, though she knew what it cost him. Still she waited for some manifestation of God's will as to the place of His choice, hoping against hope that her intimation might have been wrong, and that Lavaure might still be her home. At the last moment, however, Pere Matignon refused to allow her to enter there , and told her to pray for eight days before deciding upon a Paris Carmel. The decision left her without regret, despite the natural sacrifice, for it was God she wanted, not a particular community. She carried out her confessor's injunctions, and again in her prayer, this time in the Church of Notre Dame des Victoires, the Carmel of the Rue d'Enfer was shown to her as God's choice. Pere Matignon himself effected the necessary introduction; his recommendation of her was succint and expressive: 'C'est une perle'. Arrangements were quickly concluded, and the date of her entry fixed for Low Sunday. On that day, 7 April 1872, after a last night of tears with her grief-stricken mother, and well-nigh exhausted by the protracted suffering of the separation, she crossed the treshold of Carmel, and the enclosure door shut behind her.

The second picture shows Madeleine and her mother, just before she entered Carmel.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Today I will present first fragment from the book describing the life of Mother Mary of Jesus, born Madeleine-Marie-Justine Dupont of noble origin, French Discalced Carmelite who came to England and founded more than thirty convents all over Britain between 1907-1938. She was much beloved prioress of the Notting Hill Convent in London. The book is entitled "In the silence of Mary - the life of Mother Mary of Jesus Carmelite Prioress and Foundress 1851-1942" (Nihil Obstat: Joannes MT Barton, STD., LSS, Imprimatur: William, Card. Godfrey, Westminster, 28th December 1962) and in loving but ordinary manner gives us a precious glimpse of the process of spiritual growth and maturity of the soul chosen by God for Him alone. I found this book edifying as it gives us the picture and description of the holy nun who did for Carmel in Britain more than one can imagine.

Chapter 2
I will be His alone (fragments)

...She had come very early to that clear consciousness of God and one's own soul that marks the beginning of the spiritual life. It happened like this. A trivial incident at a family marriage when she was only three, stung her pride. When the children were paired off, French fashion, a boy with a girl, she found herself partnered by a tiny boy much smaller than she, and, crowning indignity, actually dragging a toy behind him on a string. Madeleine was indignant, and showed it: 'Go back to your nurse!' she said scornfully to her small partner. She was also jealous of her little cousin who, she thought, was better paired than she. Suddenly the eyes of her soul were opened, and in one blinding but illuminating flash, she saw for a second the infinite purity of God and her own sin, and realized the outrage one was against the other. From that moment began her suffering. That one glimpse, fleeting though it had been, was utterly irresistible. Deep in her child's soul there had woken that thirst for God which St Augustine crystalized for all time in his famous aphorism: "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee". With all the ardour of an eager, loving nature, the child longed to find God, to give herself to Him and to possess Him. She could not have formulated it, but she knew that this and this alone could bring her happiness. But, that fleeting glimpse past, she could not find Him; between them sha was conscious now of the barrier of her sinfulness; she had only the one standard by which to judge, since she had caught the faint reflection of divine purity, and she saw her sins, childish though they might be to others, in that light. The more she tried to eliminate them, the worse they seemed to grow. When she heard people referring to her as 'good', the mockery of it, in comparison with what she saw in herself, only deepened her suffering. It did not seem as though she would ever be able to reach God; sometimes, He even seem to repulse her, yet she could not but struggle to find Him and to give herself to Him. If she turned away from the pain of this continual interior struggle, and tried to find her happiness in the things of earth, to enjoy life as her companions did, to take pleasure in the natural beauty, or in the human affection that surrounded her, it was useless. There was only bitter taste in them all now, and she could find satisfaction in nothing. Heaven seemed as adamant, earth a wilderness, and its joys all Dead Sea fruit: small wonder, then, that her child's heart, hungering for the happiness for which she was created, came to know at times something akin to despair. But she would not give in; her tenacity of purpose stood her in good stead. 'You see very well' she would say to Him sometimes, with an almost piteous determination, 'that whatever I do, You do not want me. But I want to love You!'
One day, when she was about six years old, her mother found a slip of paper which had fluttered from the little girl's prayer book. On it, in big childish writing, she read the firm resolution: 'I will be His alone!' In tears, she took it to her husband, saying 'See what Madeleine has written'....At all events they said nothing, but set themselves all the more earnestly to fit her for the place they longed to see her take in the world, encompassed her with a very tyranny of love and tenderness. Madeleine was silent on her side, and until she was ten, confided in no one.....After a time, she began to suffer from attacks of temptation, so violent that it seemed as if Hell would wrest her bodily from God. 'I did not know then that they were temptations' she wrote later, 'although these feelings seemed to be foreign to my will; I thought i was guilty even when I was only suffering'. One night Ludovic (her older brother) heard her, as he thought, talking in her sleep, repeating over and over again the one word: 'Credo!' He ran to her bedside asking anxiously: 'Madeleine, what is the matter? Why are you saying "Credo" like that? She only smiled up at him and said affectionately: 'Go back to your bed, petit indiscret!' She was not yet seven years old.
If the child had been able to realize it, the fact that this interior suffering had no effect on her health, might have reassured her that things were in the right order, as also might the fact that, somehow, she was able to bear it all in silence, and even with a habitual gaiety that quite concealed it from tose around her......As she grew, the suffering grew with her, until it came to be not so much the background of her life as her real life, beside which lessons, games, music, were no more than a passing shadow. All that serves to bring joy and peace to most Catholic children, in her case only served to deepen the suffering and sense of loss. She had longed for the day when sacramental absolution would bring her some assurance at least of God's pardon and forgiveness. Alas, when the time came, the priest, in accordance with a custom apparently common enough at that time, gave her a blessing, but no absolution. Nor did it occur to him to explain to the child that the absention was based on the assumption that there is insufficient matter in a child's confession to warrant absolution......her anguish may be imagined....This continuous interior suffering, broken by crises of temptation, and also, mercifully, by tiny oases of light and peace, is the story of Madeleine's soul right up to her entrance into Carmel. Her tenth and eleventh years, however, seem to have marked a sort of milstone. In the first place, it was in 1861 that M. l'Abbe Dambre was appointed assistant-priest at St Alain, in Lavaur, and was asked to take charge of the young girls of the parish. ....Although only two year ordained when he came to Lavaur, the young priest had already acquired a reputation in the diocese for his zeal, and also for his wise direction....'M. Dambre was, all his life long, nothing more nor less than a sower of the good God'. He was quick to sense the potentialities in Madelein's soul, and to guide her as far as he could, but humble enough to admit that he could not follow more than a fraction of what God seeme to be operating within her. Thus, for the first time, the child began to receive a real help and support. It was M. Dambre who told her later on, ....that he was convinced that God had some special mission in store for her.
It was in the same year, 1861, that, one day, when the attack of temptation had grown even more violent than usual, Madeleine suddenly felt on her knees before a statue of our Blessed Lady, and, as if impelled by some force greater than her own, pronounced in Mary's presence a vow of chastity. For an instant, a great calm reigned, and the temptation ebbed away; some instinct told the child that she had done what God wanted.

to be continued.

The second picture shows Madeleine and her brother, Ludovic
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Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Beatitudes of Contemplation and Union withh God. - part 4.

That we may not be troubled by painful and unexpected events, that we may receive all from the hand of God as a means or an occasion of going to Him, we need great docility to the Holy Ghost, who wishes to give us progressively the contemplation of divine things, the requisite for union with God. Hence we receives in baptism the gift of wisdom, which has grown in us by confirmation and frequent Holy Communion. The inspirations of the gift of wisdom give us radiating peace, not only for ourselves but for our neighbour. They make us peacemakers; they help us to calm troubled souls, to love our enemies, to find the words of reconciliation which put an end to strifes. This peace, which the world cannot give, is the mark of the true children of God, who never lose the thought of their Father in heaven. St Thomas even says of these beatitudes: "They are a kind of preparation for future happiness."(Ia IIae, q.69, a.2). Lasly in the eight beatitude, the most perfect of all, Christ shows that all He has said is greatly confirmed by affliction borne with love: "Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The final trials especially, the requisites for sanctity, are indicated here. Christ's surprising statement had never been heard before. Not only does it promise future happiness, but it declares that a soul should consider itself happy even in the midst of afflictions and persecutions suffered for justice. This is an altogether supernatural beatitude, which is practically understood only by souls enlightened by God. There are, moreover, many spiritual degrees in this state, from that of the good Christian who begins to suffer for having acted well, obeyed, and given good example, up to the martyr who dies for the faith. This beatitude applies to those who, converted to a better life, encounter only opposition in their surroundings. It applies also to the apostle whose action is hindered by the very people he wishes to save, when they will not pardon him for having spoken the Gospel truth too clearly. Entire countries sometimes endure this persecution, such as the Vedee during French revolution, Armenia, Poland, Mexico, and Spain.
This beatitude is the most perfect because it is that of those who are most clearly marked in the image of Jesus crucified. To remain humble, meek, and merciful in the midst of persecution, even toward persecutors, and in the midst of torment not only preserve peace but to communicate it to others, is truly the full perfection of Christian life. It is realized especially in the last trials undergone by perfect souls which God purifies by making them work for the salvation of their neighbour. All the saints have not been martyrs, but they have, in varying degrees, suffered persecution for justice' sake, and they have known something of that martydrom of the heart which made Mary the Mother of Sorrows. Christ insists on the reward promised to those who thus suffer for justice: "Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for My sake. Be glad and rejoice, your reward is very great in heaven"

to be continued.
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