"The Proof of Love" St Teresa Margeret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Presence of God - O Jesus Crucified, make me understand that the Cross is the greatest proof of love.
1. After the Incarnation, the Cross of Jesus is the greatest proof of His love for man. Similarly, mortification, which is suffering eagerly accepted for the love of God, is one of the greatest proofs of love that we can give Him. It means freely giving up a satisfaction or a pleasure in order to impose on ourselves, for love of God, something which is contrary to our own natural inclinations; we thus prove that we prefer to satisfy God rather than ourselves. Every act of voluntary mortification, whether physical or moral, says to God, “Lord, I love You more than myself!” And since a soul in love has an ardent desire to give proof of its love, it is very vigilant not to miss a single opportunity for renunciation. It was in this sense that St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus resolved “not to let a single occasion for suffering escape, as far as she was able - and always in silence between God and herself.” In fact, she made every effort “to find at each moment some occasion for suffering or bodily pain, so as never to satisfy the slightest appetite or desire, and she sought ways to make even what was necessary, painful and wearying to her body” (Spirituality). Her ardent love for God found an outlet in this generous, untiring exercise of mortification. Using a different expression, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus called this practice “scattering flowers”, that is, profiting by every least opportunity to suffer in order to give God a proof of her love. Knowing that the value of mortification depends upon the generosity of the dispositions with which it is done, the Saint said, “I shall always sing, even should my flowers be gathered from the midst of thorns” (Story of a Soul, 13).
2. The value of voluntary mortification consists much more in the good will with which it is practiced than in the intensity of the suffering which is imposed, although the latter may contribute to it in the sense that a more painful mortification requires more good will. The amount of suffering must be wisely proportioned, and limited to the physical strength of each one; but what must never be limited is the love, the spirit of generosity with which we perform each act of sacrifice. From this point of view, a slight mortification done with all the love of which a soul is capable has greater value than a painful penance performed in a material way, with no interior spirit. Hence before performing an act of mortification, especially when it concerns certain customary practices such as those which are used in Religious Institutes, it is necessary to arouse our good will and our sincere desire to suffer willingly for the love of God. This will prevent a mere mechanical performance of the act that has little or no value. Loving contemplation of the Crucified was the soul of all the austerities of St. Teresa Margaret. “This humiliated, suffering God, of whom she was constantly thinking, was the One who gave her the interior strength to overcome every difficulty, however arduous, and to take on spontaneously so many labors and works of charity and mortification; it was He who gave her an insatiable desire for suffering “ (St Teresa Margaret, Spirituality). Contemplating Jesus Crucified, the soul feels that, even if’ it is mortifying itself much for love of Him, its sacrifices and renunciations amount to very little, and instead of conceiving sentiments of vain complacency for the mortifications already practiced, it feels the need of humbling itself and of always doing more. “Have great love for suffering,” says St. John of the Cross, “and consider it very little to attain the favor of the Spouse, who hesitated not to die for thee” (Spiritual Maxims II, 15).
“O my Beloved, how shall I show my love, since love proves itself by deeds? I have no other means of proving my love than to strew flowers, and these flowers will be each word and look, each little daily sacrifice. I wish to make profit out of the smallest actions and to do them all for Love. For Love’s sake I wish to suffer and to rejoice: so shall I strew my flowers. Not one that I see but, singing all the while, I will scatter its petals before You. Should my roses be gathered from amid thorns, I will sing notwithstanding; and the longer and sharper the thorns, the sweeter will grow my song” (St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13). “O Lord, dispose of me according to Your will, for I am content with everything if only I am following You on the road to Calvary. The more thorns there are on this road and the heavier the Cross is, the more consoled shall I be, for I desire to love You with an effective love, with a patient love, with a love which is dead to self and entirely surrendered to You. O Lord, You on the Cross for me and I on the Cross for You! Oh! if I could but once understand how sweet and precious it is to suffer: to suffer in silence for You, O Jesus! O dear suffering! O good Jesus!” (St Teresa Margaret, Spirituality). Yes, suffering is dear to me because it permits me to give God proofs of my love; because in the darkness of faith, in which I must live here below, it gives me the assurance of loving not only in words, but with a strong, effective love. O Jesus, now I understand why St. Teresa of Avila asked for only one thing: “to die or to suffer,” professing to have no other reason for living except to suffer for love of You (Life, 40).
O Lord, may I too have such strong, true, and ardent love! Grant it to me, You who can give me all things, and who can, in one instant, transform this dry, cold heart into a furnace of charity.
"Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus"
Presence of God - O Sacred Heart of Jesus, teach me how to know You and to love You.
1. The object of devotion to the Sacred Heart is, properly speaking, the physical Heart of Jesus which is worthy of adoration, because it is a part of His sacred Humanity, hypostatically united to the Word. However, the ultimate object of this devotion is the love of Jesus, the symbol of which is His Heart. In other words, “beneath the symbolic image of the Heart, we contemplate and venerate our divine Redeemer’s immense charity and generous love” (Pius VI). This is the real meaning of the devotion to the Sacred Heart by which the Church asks us to honour the Heart of Jesus as the visible representation of His invisible love. “Your charity has allowed You to be wounded by the visible blow of the lance,” the liturgy of the feast sings, “so that we may venerate the wounds of Your invisible love” (Roman Breviary). Therefore, the principle object of this devotion is the love of Jesus, an uncreated love with which He, as the Word, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, loved us from all eternity, and from all eternity willed to become incarnate for our salvation. It is also the created love of charity with which, as Man, He loved us even to the death of the Cross, meriting for us by His love that same charity by which we are enabled to love Him in return. Here we find the most profound significance of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. St Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus had such a thorough understanding of this meaning that she made this devotion the centre of her life. The process of her canonization says that the Saint “saw the Heart of Jesus as the centre, the source of the love with which the divine Word, in the bosom of the Father, loved us from all eternity, and merited for us in time the power to love Him in return, on earth and in heaven, by our sharing in this love.”
"The Love of Esteem"
Presence of God - O my God, sovereign and infinite Good, grant that I may esteem nothing more than You and prefer nothing to You.
2. A further effect of this great love of esteem for God is “that the greatest sufferings and trials of which [the soul] is conscious in this night are the anguished thoughts that it has lost God, and the fears that He has abandoned it.” (St John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, II, 13, 5). Just as it is not concerned about acquiring any possession except the possession of God, neither is the soul concerned about any loss, if it be not the loss of God. Everything can be taken from it: health, riches, honours, esteem, trust, the affection of the most cherished creatures, and these creatures themselves; but never could the soul endure that God should be taken from it, or that it should be prevented from loving Him. Thus have the saints thought and acted. In her immense desire to love God, St Teresa Margaret Redi declared that she was ready to suffer even the pains of hell to obtain that grace; and to one who asked how she would be able to support such unspeakable torments she replied: “I think that love would render them bearable for me and perhaps even sweet, for of itself love makes all things else seem as naught.” (St Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus, Spirituality). That is also what St Teresa of Jesus thought when she wrote to her daughters these beautiful lines: “Let your desire be to see God; your fear, that you may lose Him; your sorrow, that you are not having fruition of Him; your joy, that He can bring you to Himself.” (Maxims For Her Nuns) Such is the characteristic of true love: to create but one preoccupation in the soul, one fear, one desire and one joy — all of which are concentrated on God alone.