Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Millions of faithful join together today in prayers to pay homage to the Merciful Heart of Our Redeemer. This is devotion for our times, widely practiced around the whole world. Moreover, it produced splendid fruits in spiritual lives and Eucharistic movement. "This is the finger of God" (Exodus 8:19). But even with no particular Feast, the Most Adorable Heart of Jesus should be venerated with greatest devotion, because Heart is the most noble part of man-God's body in hypostatic union of humane and divine. Of any relic left with us, the Heart would be the most precious one, for It was the source of the most holy and most charitable life ever lived in this world! The Heart of Our Lord is the fountain of His Most Precious Blood that was shed for us and for the salvation of the whole world! The Heart of Jesus is the furnace of His flaming charity. We see the heart as a symbol of love, the kernel and center of love. If we desire someone's love we ask: "Give me your heart!" God Himself adopted this words and asks for the love of man: "Give me thy heart" (Proverbs 23:26). Therefore the Heart of Jesus is the source of unique love for us all - the flaming love that was manifested in Betlehem on His birthday, in Egypt, the place of His exile, and in Nazareth where He lived. The greatest possible charity was expressed best in the Eucharistic Mystery - for this love gave everything up for us on the Cross, and loves us for all Eternity in Heaven, "to make intercession for us." (Hebrew 7:25). Let us contemplate this Mystery of Our Lord's charity particularly today giving ourselves up to His love and begging Him:
"Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I implore, make me to love you daily more and more!"
Thursday, May 29, 2008
O my beloved Spouse and loving Word, you engender the Body of the holy Church in a way which you alone know and understand...By means of your Blood, you make a well-organized, well-formed body of which you are the head. The angels delight in its beauty, the archangels admire it, the seraphim are enraptured by it, all the angelic spirits marvel at it, and all the souls of the blessed in heaven rejoice in it. the Blessed Trinity takes delight in it in a manner beyond our comprehension ("The Complete Works of St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi" 3)
Selected from 'Drink of the Stream'
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Mary Magdalen's vision of the spiritual life is presented to us as on a twofold level: one develops in eternity, the other in time. The first introduces us into the depths of the divinity, in which the explanation of the second is rooted. The latter presents us with the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the path of man towards heaven. The explanation is based on love, which animates and resolves every situation. Essentially, God is love, the saint repeats innumerable times. Creation had its beginning as the terminus of excessive love and of exuberant fullness. Sin, freely committed, made the creature "incapable ... to receive God's gifts within himself". Man lost this capacity, but only partially; thus there was born in the Trinity "a new counsel of humility and love" to redeem man by means of the incarnation of the Word. A final "counsel of love "determined "to give sublime gifts and graces" to faithful creatures and "to each one according to his works". Mary Magdalen develops these themes unequally; by preference she lingers on the second plan dealing with the work of the redemption. Although, with other mystics, she repeatedly affirms that the Word would have become man even if man had not sinned, in fact, however, she presents Him as clothed in our flesh in order to redeem us from sin. The only motive for His coming was His great love, which led Him even to the "foolishness": Of the cross and made Him, as it were, "forget ... His wisdom"". The Word has redeemed us through His humanity, "the tabernacle" of God, which was possessed by the Holy Spirit "just as His own". Whoever does not pass through this sacred humanity cannot reach salvation: it is the "bridge", the "stairway", the "ship that leads to port". The Word Made Man, placed like "an anvil" between God's anger and men's wickedness, is the perfect instrument of redemption that began in sorrow and was consummated on the cross. No theme returns so insistently in the doctrine of the saint as the bloody and interior (mental) passion of Jesus, the passion often symbolized by Christ's blood, towards which Mary Magdalen nourished a deep devotion. The "re-creation" of mankind by means of the blood of Christ lifts mankind to a level of life superior to that oif original justice, even to the level of the angels. The love of God for man, before and after the incarnation, "is as different ... as light ... from darkness". The soul returns to such grandeur by faithfully recopying "the Book of Life", Jesus Himself. Its likeness to God is in proportion to its likeness to Christ. Just as the piety and the doctrine of the saint are decisively Christocentric, so also are they decisively Marian. She affirms the Immaculate Conception of the "Virgin Mary", her unique holiness - "the most holy person who has ever existed, both at present and as she must be for the future" - and her spiritual motherhood, her mediation of all graces. The return of man to God is conceived as a struggle between two loves: self-love and divine love, which is born of humility. After charity, there is no virtue on which she insists more than humility. Pride is destruction and disunion between God and man, between man and man. (Her description of pride and of the other vices, (II, 452, III, 24), is particularly effective on a psychological level). Humility establishes the union; it is, as it were, the mother of love and the gateway to grace. Freedom - both the greatness and the downfall of mankind - when dominated by pride, can place an obstacle to this grace. The return to the fatherland can be accomplished along one of two ways: one is broad, the other a narrow path. The laity take the first way, religious the second (II, 167:11, 132-3). The saint describes religious life on numerous occasions, detailing its specific virtues, its practices (with great emphasis on ascetical renunciations, and practically nothing on prayer), its possible defects, etc. Her doctrine is more theoretical in the
Ecstasies, but exclusively practical in the Teachings; it offers nothing specific except the ardor and the great passion with which it is expressed. If the soul is led to God by means of the cardinal virtues (of which brief descriptions, Thomistic in tone, are given) it is, nevertheless, by exercising the theological virtues that it directly and intimately adheres to Him. Wholly taken up with love, St Mary Magdalen speaks little of faith, almost nothing of hope. Love, of which she gives us some classifications on the basis of its intensity and the effects that it produces in the keystone of the whole spiritual edifice. It guides every event of our divine-human history: "created by God ... for love and with love ... it is through this way" that we are to return to Him, Love measures the progress of the soul on this way of return. It is significant that her rather poor doctrine on the sacraments is not so in regard to the Eucharist, the sacrament of love. True love of God demands love of neighbor: "one cannot exist without the other". The apostolic aspect of love, stressed with particular care, rendered Mary Magdalen sensitive, even in doctrinal matters, to the preoccupations of her times; very significant in this regard are the fifth manuscript on the reform of the Church, the repetition of dogmatic themes that were then being discussed (grace, free will, purgatory, etc.), and also her devotions (to the humanity of Christ, to her guardian angel, to the holy souls), which were typically Italian and counter-reformation. But the principal function of love is to unite the soul to God. Union with God is necessary for man in order that he be happy; it is also a need of divine love, which "cannot bear to see anything that is not equal to" itself. This union demands radical purification, which assimilates and makes free, by means of the practice of the virtues - above all, of humility-love, which leads to annihilation. The soul must "will nothing, be able to do nothing, ... hear nothing and comprehend everything". The intervention of God, asked for in humility and proportioned to love, is painful, because it purifies and enlightens: the soul must receive it with humility and abandonment. The apparent renunciation of activity, which is alluded to in the manuscripts and which so pleased several quietists of the 1600's, is not static apathy, but the simple psychological impression of the subject: "continuing to work," according to Mary Magdalen, "is to leave ourselves completely dead in God, to such an extent that God works in the soul and the soul in God; and thus the soul, while working, in a way does not perceive that it is working". In order to reach transformation, in which all is peace in the depths of the soul, despite possible struggles on the surface, and in which one has a particular knowledge of God caused by love, one must transcend every created form, even the very humanity of Jesus. The transformed soul lives the life of God and it can no longer be separated from Him; it is most precious for the Church; it will not pass through the flames of purgatory; its death will be one of love for Mary Magdalen, therefore, the spiritual life is like a circle, enlivened with love, that has God both as its starting and as it finishing point. The doctrinal influence exercised by Mary Magdalen on the spirituality and piety, especially Italian, of the 17 and 18 centuries was noteworthy. There were numerous editions of her Ecstasies during these two centuries, and the bibliographical listings of Mary Magdalen reached almost three hundred. The most famous representative of this influence is perhaps St. Alphonsus, who uses the doctrine of the Florentine Carmelite in some of his ascetical works. In the 19 cent., a crisis loomed, but it seems that this is being gradually resolved in our own days.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Sister Mary Magdalen was born in the city of Florence on the 2nd day of April, 1566. Her father was named Sire Camillus di Geri de'Pazzi, and her mother Magdalen Mary, daughter of Sire Lawrence Buondelmonti. At Baptism she received the name of Catherine. On the following day, April 3, at 10 o'clock in the morning, she received Baptism in the oratory of St. John the Baptist. On Feb. 25, 1574, she entered the monastery of Little St. John of the Knights for the first time as a pupil, and was entrusted to the care of her maternal aunt, Sister Alexandra Buondelmonti. On March 25, 1576, at the age of ten, she received Holy Communion for the first time, in the church of Little St. John, which at that time was served by the Jesuits. On April 19 she made a vow of perpetual virginity to God. Towards evening on the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, Nov. 30, 1578, she had her first ecstasy, in the presence of her mother, Lady Mary, while she was in the garden of their villa of Parugiano near Prato. When Sire Camillus de'Pazzi, father of the saint, was sent as commissary to Cortona by the grand duke of Tuscany, Francis I, Catherine, on March 16, 1580, was again "placed in keeping" at the monastery of the Ladies of Little St. John. This was done in following the advice of the Jesuit Peter Blanca, on condition that she would be permitted to receive Holy Communion on all Sundays and holydays, an unusual practice in those times. On the feast of the Ascension, while she was still at Little St. John's, she experienced an excess of love and an extraordinary understanding of the greatness of God and of His grace, in 1581 she left the monastery of Little St. John and returned to her family. On Aug. 14, 1582, she entered the monastery of the Carmelite nuns of St. Mary of the Angels for a fifteen-day stay, in order to become acquainted with the rule and to see if it would correspond to the divine call and to her particular tendencies. The rule fitted her intimate desires; and so she decided to choose this monastery. She was aided in her choice by the fact that the Carmelites, by exceptional permission, could receive Holy Communion every day. On Dec. 1, 1582, the Saturday preceding the first Sunday of Advent, Catherine crossed for ever the threshold of the cloister and entered to become a nun among the Carmelites of St. Mary of the Angels. On Dec. 8, the chapter of the monastery unanimously accepted the new postulant. On Jan. 3, 1583, Catherine de'Pazzi was clothed in the Carmelite habit and took the name of Sister Mary Magdalen, thus beginning her year of novitiate. During the Advent of that year she experienced an excess of love like that which she had had as a child in the villa of Parugiano. During the first days of March of 1584 a mysterious malady manifested itself: "one morning she was overcome by a high fever together with a harsh cough, with severe pains in the area of her chest and below her ribs... Day and night she constantly remained seated on her bed, without ever being able to lie down, because of the vehemence of her cough. She hardly ever slept or, indeed, did so little that it is something incredible. The same was true of her eating, so that she was wasting away little by little... After she had been sick for two months, the doctors gave her up for lost, whence the superiors /the prioress, Sister Victoria Contugi, and the mistress of novices, Sister Evangelist del Giocondo/ decided to have her make her holy profession. This was done on the 27th day of May, 1584, during the morning of the feast of the Most Holy Trinity" . Mary Magdalen made her profession "on a cot arranged before the altar of the Virgin" and was then immediately brought back to the infirmary. From that moment on there began a surprising period of ecstasies; every day after Communion she remained ecstatic for two or three hours. Sometimes she had new and repeated excesses of love during the day as well, with the renewal of the divine favors. The experience lasted uninterruptedly for forty days, during which the following mystical phenomena occurred and should be remembered: a vision of the drama of the Passion (especially noteworthy is that of June 8), the exchange of her heart with that of Jesus (June 10), the first invisible impression of the stigmata (June 28). Moreover, on July 6 she received the crown of thorns from Our Lord, in the presence of St. Catherine of Siena and of St. Augustine; and she was to suffer the mysterious pain of the crown for the rest of her life. She was cured on July 16 at the intercession of the Blessed Mary Bagnesi; and subsequently the life of Mary Magdalen became a succession of visions, ecstasies, other mystical phenomena, penances and trials. On the evening of March 24, 1585, the vigil of the Annunciation, St. Augustine wrote the words «Verbum caro factum est» /The Word was made flesh/ on her heart. On April 15 the invisible stigmata were imprinted on her soul permanently; on the 28th she received a ring from Jesus, the seal of her mystical espousal with Him. On Friday, May 17, she had the longest of any of her ecstasies until then. It began on the afternoon of Friday and was prolonged for forty hours, until the following Sunday morning. On the 21st she received the Lord's command to take only bread and water as nourishment, except on Sundays and holydays, on which days she would be able to take "Lenten foods". Furthermore, Jesus ordered her to rest only five hours a day, on a straw mattress, in satisfaction, for the offenses that are committed against Him.
On the vigil of Pentecost, June 8, 1585, began the second great cycle of esctasies, which went on uninterruptedly for eight days. «During all this time she constantly remained rapt in an excess of mind, both day and night, except that for the period of about two hours each day that was granted her to recite the office, take some little bit of food and a bit of rest. Seven times she received the Holy Spirit in different forms, each morning at the hour of Terce (9 o'clock)....On June 16, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, her great trial began; called "a den of lions", it was to last for five years. The saint had already spent a year in desolating spiritual aridity when, on July 20, 1586, "to the great wonder" of the nuns, she suddenly went into ecstasy while she was reciting the divine office. But this ecstasy was one of particular "affliction and sorrow". God communicated to her that He wished to alleviate the pressure of temptation and to mitigate the trial, "until October", in order to give her light and the ability to undertake a great work: "the renovation of the Church and particularly of religious" . From that day on Mary Magdalen had similar ecstasies from time to time. In the month of August she spent four days and four nights in continuous rapture, "except for the time when she said the divine office, ate a bit of bread and drank a bit of water ... which was only a short while". God revealed to her that the Church had need of reform. All were called to contribute their share. She, furthermore, had a special mission: to remind religious and the higher dignitaries of the Church of the urgency of their task. The saint trembled at this revelation, because it contrasted so enormously with her humility; she would have preferred death a thousand times. Fearing that she was deceived, she spoke of the matter to her superiors and asked counsel of several religious known for their prudence and holiness of life, such as Father Angelus, the Dominican, and Father Fabbrini, the Jesuit. All encouraged her to follow God's commands without hesitation, since these commands were clear, decisive, and repeated; therefore, it was absolutely necessary that she obey. And for this reason "in her abstraction of mind, she wrote some letters, in favor of such a renewal, to the Supreme Pontiff and to other prelates and servants of God".
In Oct. of 1586 the saint left the novitiate. Her brother Alamanno died on July 14, 1587; and she saw his soul painfully suffering in purgatory. On Feb. 25, 1588, she contemplated Jesus in His passion, and from Him she received the singular gift of "the bundle of His passion, as He gave it to St. Bernard". On Nov. 25 of the same year the dire trials to which she was exposed (the temptations to leave the convent and to kill herself) reached their peak. On Sept. 30, 1589, Mother Evangelist del Giocondo was elected mistress of novices and Sister Mary Magdalen received the charge of assistant mistress. On Easter Sunday, April 22, 1590, the Lord asked her to make "another Lent of fifty days, and she fasted in her usual way, on only bread and water", until the feast of the Holy Spirit (June 10). On this feast she was finally freed from the "den of lions". As her reward, she received great gifts and divine communications. On Aug. 24, 1590, her mother, Lady Mary Buondelmonti; died. Mary Magdalen contemplated her as "happy and content in the pains of purgatory", and understood what great joy had been prepared for her in paradise because of the good and the charity that she had done to her neighbor during her lifetime. Fifteen days later, on Sept. 7, she saw her mother join the saints in paradise. In 1591 the confessor and administrator of the monastery, Father Augustine Campi da Pontremoli, died; Canon Francis Benvenuti succeeded him. On March 26, 1592, in a prolonged ecstasy, Mary Magdalen shared in the sorrows of the passion, as she had already done seven years before. On May 3, 1592, the year in which she was entrusted with the office of sacristan, she had a great excess of love: she ran through the monastery, she rang the bells to call all souls "to love Love" . On May 1, 1595, she asked the Lord for "naked suffering". This request of the saint is personally attested to by Mother Evangelist del Giocondo, by Sister Pacifica del Tovaglia, by Sister Mary Christine Pazzi, and by Sister Mary Grace Pazzi, the saint's niece. But the Lord was to grant her this grace only nine years later. In this same year, 1595, she was elected mistress of the newly professed; and in the chapter of Oct. 2, 1598, she was chosen as mistress of novices. With June 24, 1604, on which date she remained in rapture all day, the ecstasies ended and the period of "naked suffering" began, to continue until her death. Contrary to her desire, in the elections of 1604 the chapter elected her sub-prioress. A short while later she became ill; this was the beginning of three years of physical and moral sufferings never before experienced by her. After Francis Benventi died in 1605, Father Vincent Puccini, the first and principal biographer of the saint, was chosen confessor of the monastery. On May 13, 1607, Mary Magdalen received the anointing of the sick; at eight o'clock of Friday, May 25, her agony began and at two o'clock in the afternoon she died. The sisters who surrounded her recited the Creed of St. Athanasius, the profession of faith in the Trinity that had made the saint ecstatic from the first years of her life. A year after her death the nuns obtained permission to bring the remains of their saintly sister into the cloister, and Father Puccini presided at the exhumation of the body. As soon as the coffin had been opened, this body appeared fresh, whole, flexible. Only the clothing was wet, because the place where she had been buried was humid, and water had oozed through. In 1611 the processes for beatification were begun, after many miracles had been granted through her intercession. All the religious who had known her were invited to testify, and this they did "in a convincing and precise manner". Noteworthy for their extent and content were the testimonies of Mother Evangelist del Giocondo and of Sister Pacifica del Tovaglia, an intimate childhood friend of the saint. Pope Urban VIII beatified Sister Mary Magdalen on May 8, 1626; and in 1662 the process for canonization was opened. Pope Clement IX proclaimed her a saint on April 28, 1669.
after carmelnet "St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. Life" - a compilation of informations taken from various sources made by Herman Ancilli
Sunday, May 25, 2008
MORAL LESSON CONCERNING THE VICE OF IMPURITY
From this foolish excuse it would seem as if married life were an obstacle to arriving at the heavenly banquet, whereas lawful, chaste, Christian marriage is, on the contrary, a means of eternal salvation for those to whom the gift of continency is not given. The excuse of this married man was not grounded on his station in life, but on his inordinate inclination for carnal pleasures which render the one who gives way to it, unfit for spiritual or heavenly things, for the sensual man perceiveth not the things that are of the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:14). Unfortunate indeed are they who suffer themselves to be carried away by their sensual lusts, who give away the priceless jewel of chastity and purity of heart which makes man equal to the angels, (Matt. 22:30) who for a momentary enjoyment of sinful pleasure lose that white and precious garment in which chaste souls will shine for ever in heaven before the face of God! What benefit does the impure man derive from the gratification of vile lust? He gains the anger and contempt of God; intolerable disgust when the sin is consummated; the torment of a remorseful conscience, and unless he repent, the eternal torments of hell, for the apostle says: Do not err: neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate shall possess the kingdom of God, (1 Cor. 6:9, 10)
It is seen from the examples of the Old Law, how much God hates and abominates the sins of impurity;
Why did God regret having created man? (Gen. 6:6)
Why did He destroy all except a very few, by a universal deluge? (Gen. 6:17)
Why did He lay the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha in ashes by pouring upon them fire and brimstone? (Gen. 19)
Why did He punish the two brothers Her and Onan, by a sudden death? (Gen 37: 7, 10)
Why did He permit the whole tribe of Benjamin to be extirpated? (Judges 20)
Because of their detestable sins of impurity.
And is not this vice an object of the just wrath of God? By these sins an impure man disgraces his body which should be a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Ghost; he disgraces his soul the image of God, purified and purchased by the precious blood of Christ, and lowers himself beneath the animal, which, void of intellect, follows its instinct; he weakens the power of his body and soul, and ruins his health; he loses the respect of the good, scandalizes his fellowmen, voluntarily separates himself from the communion of saints, deprives himself of the sanctifying grace of God and participation in the merits of Jesus and His saints, and, if he continues like an animal to wallow in this vice, he finally falls into such blindness and hardness of heart that eternal truths, death, judgment, hell, and eternity no longer make any impression upon him; the most abominable crimes of impurity he considers as trifles, as human weaknesses, no sin at all. He is therefore but seldom, if ever, converted, because the evil habit has become his second nature, which he can no longer overcome without an extraordinary grace from God. This God seldom gives, because the impure man generally despises ordinary means and graces, and therefore despairs and casts himself into the pool of eternal fire, where the worm dies not, and where with Satan and his angels the impure shall be for ever tormented.
Do not suffer yourself to be deceived, Christian soul, by the words "love and friendship", which is sought to cover this vice and make it appear a weakness clinging to man. This impure love is a fire which has its origin in hell, and there it will eternally torment the bodies in which it has prevailed. That which God so much detests and so severely punishes, certainly cannot be a trifle, a human weakness! Impress deeply on your heart that all impure thoughts, desires and looks, to which you consent, all impure words, songs, exposures, touches, jokes, and 'such things, are great sins which exclude you from the kingdom of heaven, into which nothing defiled can enter. Remember that he who looks at a woman with a lustful desire, has already, as Christ says, committed adultery in his heart. (Matt.5: 28) We must, then, carefully guard against "such trifles", as the wicked world calls them, if we do not wish to expose ourselves to the greatest danger of losing our souls.
Although it is difficult for an impure person to be converted, yet he should not despair. God does not cast away even the greatest sinner; Jesus forgave the adulteress in the temple, and forgave and received Mary Magdalen. But he who wishes to repent must make use of the proper means to regain the grace of God, and prevent a relapse. Those who have not defiled themselves by the sin of impurity can make use of the following means:
- Constant prayer. Hence the admonition of the wise King; "As I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave it, I went to the Lord and besought him." (Wisd. 8: 21)
- Mortification of the flesh by fasting and abstinence. Jesus says these impure spirits can in no other way be cast out but by prayer and fasting. (Matt. 17: 20)
- The frequent meditation on the four last things, and on the bitter sufferings of our Lord; for "there is," says St. Augustine, "no means more powerful and effective against the heat of lust than reflection on the ignominious death of the Redeemer."
- The quiet consideration of the temporal and eternal evils which follow from this vice, as already described.
- The love and veneration of the Blessed Virgin who is the mother of beautiful love, the refuge of all sinners, of whom St. Bernard says: "No one has ever invoked her in his necessity without being heard."
- The careful mortification of the eyes. The pious Job made a covenant with his eyes, that. he would not so much as look upon a virgin (Job 31:1).
- The avoidance of evil occasions, especially intercourse with persons of the other sex. "Remember," says St. Jerome, "that a woman drove out the inhabitants of paradise, and that you are not holier than David, stronger than Samson, wiser than Solomon, who all fell by evil intercourse."
- The avoidance of idleness: for idleness, says the proverb, is the beginning of all evil.
- The immediate banishing of all bad thoughts by often pronouncing the names of Jesus and Mary, which, as St. Alphonsus Ligouri says, have the special power of driving away impure thoughts.
- The frequent use of the holy Sacraments of Penance and of the Altar. This last remedy in particular is a certain cure if we make known to our confessor our weaknesses, and use the remedies he prescribes. The Scripture says that frequent Communion is the seed from which virgins spring, and the table which God has prepared against all temptations that annoy us.
Inflame, O Lord, our loins and hearts with the fire of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may serve Thee with pure bodies, and please Thee with clean hearts. Amen.
In Florence feast is celebrated on 25th of May
It would be easy to concentrate on the mystical experiences God gave this saint, rather than on her life. In fact, it would be difficult to do differently, so overwhelming were those gifts from God. The temptation for many modern readers (including the author) would be to see little to identify with in these graces and walk away without seeing more. The other temptation would be to become so fascinated with these stories that one would neglect to dig deeper and learn the real lessons of her life. But Mary Magdalene de Pazzi is not a saint because she received ecstasies and graces from God. Many have received visions, ecstasies, and miracles without becoming holy. She is a saint because of her response to those gifts -- a lifelong struggle to show love and gratitude to the God who gave her those graces. In fact Mary Magdalene saw her ecstasies as evidence of a great fault in her, not a reward for holiness. She told one fellow sister that God did not give this sister the same graces "because you don't need them in order to serve him." In her eyes, God gave these gifts to those who were too weak to become holy otherwise. That Mary Magdalene received these gifts proved, in her mind, how unworthy she was.
Born in Florence on April 2, 1566, Mary Magdalene (baptized Catherine) was taught mental prayer when she was nine years old at the request of her mother. Her introduction at this age to this form of prayer which involves half an hour of meditation did not seem to be unusual. And yet today we often believe children incapable of all but the simplest rote prayers. At twelve years old she experienced her first ecstasy while looking at a sunset which left her trembling and speechless. With this foundation in prayer and in mystical experience, it isn't surprising that she wanted to enter a contemplative monastery of the Carmelite Order. She chose the monastery of St. Mary's of the Angels because the nuns took daily Communion, unusual at the time. In 1583 she had her second mystical experience when the other nuns saw her weeping before the crucifix as she said, "O Love, you are neither known nor loved."
Mary Magdalene's life is a contradiction of our instinctive thought that joy only comes from avoiding suffering. A month after being refused early religious profession, she was refused she fell deathly ill. Fearing for her life the convent had her professed from a stretcher at the altar. After that she experienced forty days of ecstasies that coexisted with her suffering. Joy from the graces God gave were mixed with agony as her illness grew worse. In one of her experiences Jesus took her heart and hid it in his own, telling her he "would not return it until it is wholly pure and filled with pure love." She didn't recover from her illness until told to ask for the intercession of Blessed Mary Bagnesi over three months later. What her experiences and prayer had given her was a familiar, personal relationship with Jesus. Her conversations with Jesus often take on a teasing, bantering tone that shocks those who have a formal, fearful image of God. For example, at the end of her forty days of graces, Jesus offered her a crown of flowers or a crown of thorns. No matter how often she chose the crown of thorns, Jesus kept teasingly pushing the crown of flowers to her. When he accused her, "I called and you didn't care," she answered back, "You didn't call loudly enough" and told him to shout his love. She learned to regret the insistence on the crown of thorns. We might think it is easy to be holy if God is talking to you every day but few of us could remain on the path with the five year trial that followed her first ecstasies. Before this trial, Jesus told her, "I will take away not the grace but the feeling of grace. Though I will seem to leave you I will be closer to you." This was easy for her to accept in the midst of ecstasy but, as she said later, she hadn't experienced it yet. At the age of nineteen she started five years of dryness and desolation in which she was repelled by prayer and tempted by everything. She referred to her heart as a pitch-dark room with only a feeble light shining that only made the darkness deeper. She was so depressed she was found twice close to suicide. All she could do to fight back was to hold onto prayer, penance, and serving others even when it appeared to do no good. Her lifelong devotion to Pentecost can be easily understood because her trial ended in ecstasy in 1590. At this time she could have asked for any gifts but she wanted two in particular: to look on any neighbor as good and holy without judgment and to always have God's presence before her. Far from enjoying the attention her mystical experiences brought her, she was embarrassed by it. For all her days, she wanted a hidden life and tried everything she could to achieve it. When God commanded her to go barefoot as part of her penance and she could not walk with shoes, she simply cut the soles out of her shoes so no one would see her as different from the other nuns. If she felt an ecstasy coming on, she would hurry to finish her work and go back to her room. She learned to see the notoriety as part of God's will. When teaching a novice to accept God's will, she told her, "I wanted a hidden life but, see, God wanted something quite different for me." Some still might think it was easy for her to be holy with all the help from God. Yet when she was asked once why she was weeping before the cross, she answered that she had to force herself to do something right that she didn't want to do. It's true that when a sister criticized her for acting so different, she thanked her, "May God reward you! You have never spoken truer words!" but she told others it hurt her quite a bit to be nice to someone who insulted her.
Mary Magdalene was no pale, shrinking flower. Her wisdom and love led to her appointment to many important positions at the convent including mistress of novices. She did not hesitate to be blunt in guiding the women under her care when their spiritual life was at stake. When one of the novices asked permission to pretend to be impatient so the other novices would not respect her so much, Mary Magdalene's answer shook this novice out of this false humility: "What you want to pretend to be, you already are in the eyes of the novices. They don't respect you nearly as much as you like to think." Mary Magdalene's life offers a great challenge to all those who think that the best penance comes from fasting and physical discomfort. Though she fasted and wore old clothes, she chose the most difficult penance of all by pretending to like the things she didn't like. Not only is this a penance most of us would shrink from but, by her acting like she enjoyed it, no one knew she was doing this great penance! In 1604, headaches and paralyzation confined her to bed. Her nerves were so sensitive that she could not be touched without agonizing pain. Ever humble, she took the fact that her prayers were not granted as a sure sign that God's will was being done. For three years she suffered, before dying on May 25, 1607 at the age of forty-one.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Because of your intimate union with Jesus as His Mother, and because of His tender love for you, the measure of grace which God gave you in the first instant of your life was greater than that which He imparted to the angels and saints, who were only His servants. In order to merit this fullness of grace for you, Jesus shed His precious blood.
MARY, you continually increased in grace as long as you were on earth. You did so in a far greater measure than all the saints of God. Not defiled by original sin, and hence free of evil inclinations, you had no obstacle to overcome in the way of sanctity. There was no self-love or love of the world in your Immaculate Heart; you gave all your love to God and dedicated yourself entirely to Him. This love urged you to do whatever you knew was pleasing to God. Since every good work is rewarded by an increase of grace, who can tell how great was the number of graces which you acquired in your life-time?
Mother of Divine Grace, help me to treasure sanctifying grace more than all the goods of the world because it. enables me to possess God Himself by divine love; it makes me His child and an heir to His kingdom. Let me rather die than lose this grace by a willful mortal sin. If this should ever happen to me, help me to recover at once, by sincere contrition and penitence, the grace I have lost. And since every good work is meritorious in the sight of God, and increases sanctifying grace if done for the love of God, aid me in being zealous in doing good.
MARY, you have conceived and brought forth Jesus Christ, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," and "in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2.3,9). You alone obtained the grace which was given to no other creature, namely, to be filled with God Himself, the Author of grace. Every saint has received graces to help save a certain number of souls, but you have received such a fullness of graces that, as Mediatrix of all graces, you were to cooperate in the salvation of the whole world.
Mother of Divine Grace, I have great confidence in you because God has made you the Mediatrix of all graces and Mother of Grace for the benefit of your children. Do not refuse my request when I ask you to help me to grow in the love of God to such an extent that I may reach that degree of holiness which God has destined for me.
O God, You gave the human race the grace of forgiveness through the virginal motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary; grant that we who call her the Mother of Grace on earth, may enjoy her happy presence forever in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Feast of the Virgin Mother of Grace, June 9)
Thursday, May 22, 2008
PRESENCE OF GOD: "The eternal tide flows hid in living bread. That with its heavenly life to be fed" (St John of the Cross 'Poems').
1. We have gone, step by step, in the course of the liturgical year, from the consideration of the mysteries of the life of Jesus to the contemplation of the Blessed Trinity, whose feast we celebrated last Sunday. Jesus, our Mediator, our Way, has taken us by the hand and led us to the Trinity; and today it seems as though the three Persons Themselves wish to take us back to Jesus, considered in His Eucharist. "No man cometh to the Father but by Me" (Jn 14:6), Jesus said, and He added, "No man can come to Me except the Father...draw him" (Jn 6:44). This is the journey of the Christian soul: from Jesus to the Father, to the Trinity; from the Trinity, from the Father, to Jesus. Jesus brings us to the Father, the Father draws us to Jesus A Christian cannot do without Christ; He is, in the strictest sense of the word, our Pontiff, the great Bridge-builder who has spanned the abyss between God and us. At the end of the liturgical cycle in which we commemorate the mysteries of the Savior, the Church, who like a good Mother knows that our spiritual life cannot subsist without Jesus, leads us to Him, really and truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar. The solemnity of the Corpus Christ is not just the simple memorial of an historical event which took place almost two thousand years ago at the Last Supper; rather, it recalls us to the ever-present reality of Jesus always living in our midst. We can say, in truth, that He has not "left us orphans", but has willed to remain permanently with us, in the integrity of His Person in the fullness of His humanity and His divinity. "There is no other nation so great," the Divine Office enthusiastically sings, "as to have its gods so near as our God is present to us" (Roman Breviary). In the Eucharist, Jesus is really Emmanuel, God with us.
Listen to Benedictine Monks of Clervaux singing the Lauda Sion hymn in the fifties HERE More info and text of Lauda Sion in English and Latin HERE
The Communion Hymn repeats a sentence of the Epistle, and reminds us that we receive the Body of the Lord worthily. Finally, the Postcommunion tells us that Eucharistic Communion is the pledge of eternal communion, in heaven. But in order to have a better understanding of the immense value of the Eucharist, we must go back to the very words of Jesus, most opportunely recalled in the Gospel of the day, "He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me and I in Him." Jesus made Himself our food in order to assimilate us to Himself, to make us live His life, to make us live in Him, as He Himself lives in His Father. The Eucharist is truly the Sacrament of the union and at the same time it is the clearest and most convincing proof that God calls us and pleads with us tp come to intimate union with Himself.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him? For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.
And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.
What is God?
GOD is the most perfect being, the highest, best Good, who exists, from all eternity, by whom heaven and earth are create, and from whom all things derive and hold life and existence, for of Him, and by Him, and in Him are all things. (Rom 11: 36)
What is the Blessed Trinity?
The Blessed Trinity is this one God who is one in nature and threefold in person, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Is each of these three persons God?
Yes, because each of them has the divine nature and substance.
Are they not three Gods?
No, because all three of these persons have one and the same divine nature and substance.
Is any one of these three persons older, mightier, or greater than the other?
By, no means, they are all three from eternity entirely equal to each .other in divine omnipotence greatness and majesty, and must, therefore, be equally adored and venerated.
Ought one to give himself up to the investigation of the most Blessed Trinity?
No; "For," says the saintly Bishop Martin, "the mystery of the Trinity cannot be comprehended by the human intellect, no one however eloquent can exhaust it; if entire books were written about it, so that the whole world were filled with them, yet the unspeakable wisdom of God would not be expressed. God who is indescribable, can in no way be described. When the human mind ceases to speak of Him, then it but begins to speak." Therefore the true Christian throws his intellect under the feet of faith, not seeking to understand that which the human mind can as little comprehend, as a tiny hole in the sand can contain the immeasurable sea. An humble and active faith will make us worthy some day in the other world, to see with ' the greatest bliss this mystery as it is, for in this consists eternal life, that by a pious life we may glorify and know the only true God, Christ Jesus His Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Credit: text from "The Church's Year" by Fr Goffine and "Trinity" painting by Luca Rossetti
The opening words of today's Introit are echoed again and again in the liturgy. Their meaning is profound - the Blessed Trinity is the origin of all grace. Men, and above all, the God-Man, Saviour of his fallen brethren, owe their existence to the decree of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
"Blessed be God the Father, and His only-begotten Son and His Holy Ghost; such mercy he has shown us." (Offertory)
Christ, the ambassador of God's true love, revealed to man, in confidence, the mystery of the Trinity. By His revelation of the trinity of Persons in the unity of the Godhead, He gave us to know something of its Being and its limitless life. Such a revelation is, of necessity, a sign of love. God reveals himself in confidence, because He reveals Himself in love. When He made a new alliance with man in Christ Jesus, His first act was to make Himself better known.
Man, by refusing to honour and to serve the God whom he now knows in three Persons, puts to shame the confidence which Christ reposed in Him. In the New Testament, the Blessed Trinity is, and must ever be, the very heart of our faith, our Christian life. It is a truth on which Holy Church repeatedly insists.
When a soul is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and becomes a member of the Church, it is the Trinity that gives her access to those sources of grace, the Sacraments. Every word of the liturgy, by which the Christian prays with the Church, is a homage rendered to the Three in One. By every sign of the Cross, by every Gloria, he confesses the greatest of all mysteries: the mystery of the Triune God, whom he thanks for his creation, his redemption, his elevation to the supernatural order.
When a soul is baptized in the name of the Father and confesses his faith in the Creed, he declares his belief in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, who became man; and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and life-giver, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
When, at Mass, he sings or recites the "Gloria in excelsis Deo", he says in other words, "Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost." He praises and blesses, adores and glorifies the King of heaven, the Father Almighty, his Lord and God, and the Lamb of God, Son of the Father, who with the Holy Ghost shares in the glory of the Father. Whether he chooses the words of the Te Deum to express his thanks, or employs the three-fold "Kyrie eleison" by which to obtain mercy, he addresses himself to the God in three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Whoever follows the text of the liturgy attentively, honours the Blessed Trinity. The doxologies are so frequent that he has no need to ask himself if he indeed honours as he should the Triune God.
To you be praise, glory, and thanksgiving, all-Holy Father, unending Majesty, who by your infinite power created me from nothing. I praise and glorify and thank you, all-Holy Son, reflection of the father, who by your infinite wisdom saved me from death.
I bless and adore you, Spirit of the Father and the Son, who by your love and goodness have called me to a life of grace.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen
Credits: text from "With the Church" - meditations on the Missal and the Breviary, by Fr M. Goossens OFM. Picture is by Flemish artist, Hendrick van Balen "Trinity" 17 century.
Friday, May 16, 2008
St. Paul points out three most important spiritual gifts, which we must all possess, and they includes: faith, hope and charity; but the greatest of them is charity (cf. 1Cor. 13:13). The reason for this is that all the other spiritual gifts will come to an end, but charity lasts forever (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-12). Indeed, charity is the virtue that rules in heaven; it is there that charity is practiced in its perfect state. That is why there is also purgatory, where souls are detained and purified of any atom of selfishness or lack of charity in them; any act that opposes loving God and showing God's love to one another, even murmuring, scorning or wishing evil to one another must be purified before we can enter heaven where perfection reigns (cf. Psalm 15, Rev 14:4-5)
Jesus said: “My command to you is to love one another” (John. 15:17); “children, our love must not be just words or mere talk but something active and genuine”(1 John 3:18); “let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8, 1 John 3:14-15). At this level of chairty, we are called, first, to carry out spiritual works of mercy to one another. Support and encourage the spiritual growth of one another, never be envy of your brothers spiritual gifts, and help even by prayers and desires to see that the light of the gospel gets to those who are in darkness and in the shadow of death. Pity the poor miserable sinners who have obstinately refused to benefit from the merit of the incarnation, life and death of Jesus Christ; think of the everlasting sentence that stands waiting for them for rejecting God's love: eternal pains, suffering, anguish, sorrows and regret. If you truly love, pray and make sacrifices for the graces needed for their conversion. Remember your obligation to souls in purgatory. This is very vital because everyone must answer how much love he has shown to souls imprisoned above, who can easily be helped by those on earth- “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7); “judgment without mercy, to him that had not shown mercy” (Jn. 2:13); “I was in prison and you never visited Me” (Matt. 25:43).
The second aspect of love at this level is the corporal works of mercy. First of all, we must be charitable with our tongue and the way we use our mouth (cf. James 1:26). If you are truly a temple of the Holy Ghost (I Cor.3:16), your tongue most be a channel that convey gracious words to one another and not for cursing nor to injure his soul (cf. Matt. 5:22). Try always to defend the image of your neighbour in his absence, be kind in speeches and absolve injuries and misunderstanding from others and forgive them for God's sake. Be tolerant to those who do not hold your views; love enemies and pray for them, wishing them well. In your thoughts, always fight to push away evil thoughts of hatred, malice, revenge, envy, greed, lust and wishing evil to one another. Finally, show your love by coming to the material needs of your brothers and sisters especially those in difficult situations -“pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father, is this: coming to the help of Orphans and Widows in their hardships, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world” (1 John 2:27); if one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on and one of you says to them; I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty; without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? In the same way faith, if good deeds do not go with it is quite dead” (James 2:15-17, 1 John 3:17)
To learn more about Ember days click HERE