Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Indwelling God - excerpts from "The Sixth Trumpet" by Solange Hertz, prominent writer for 'The Remnant" Catholic Newspaper

"I am the Almighty God: walk before me and be perfect" (Gen 17:1)

God wants us to remain in His Presence, it is certain, as He told Abraham these words: "I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be perfect". Whether we want it or not, we actually walk in His presence. As St Paul told the pagan Athenians, He's "not far from any of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:27-28). How can there be any difficulty about locating God, who is naturally everywhere and closer to us than we are to ourselves? As the Psalmist acknowledged, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy face? if I ascend into heaven, thou art there: If I descend into hell, thou art present...My bone is not hidden from thee, which thou hast made in secret!" (Ps 138: 7-8, 15).
By power, knowledge, and essence God is present even in pagans and sinners, because if He weren't, they would simply cease to exist; but in the soul of the baptized in the state of grace, the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity dwell substantially through incorporation with the Second Person, Jesus Christ, in a manner which is wholly supernatural, utterly beyond their nature. God is more than just accessible to these souls, because through faith, for them the Beatific Vision actually begins here and now on earth. as
the theologian Matthias Scheeben  points out in 'The Glories of Divine Grace',  "We shall do better to follow the Holy Scripture and call all creation the foodstool of God, on which the hem of His garment falls, while we call the soul of the just the throne of God, being filled with the divine splendour."
It is the realization of this truth that led Pope Leo to exclaim, "Recognize, O Christian, thy dignity!"Every time a Catholic makes the Sign of the Cross, he proclaims the abiding presence of God within him. Our Lord revealed this to us when He said, "If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and will make our abode with him" (John 14:23). Only willful mortal sin can drive God's substantial presence from us.
St Teresa of Avila, a mystical Doctor of the Church, was granted several visions confirming the truth of the divine indwelling. In her "Relations" she says: "The living God was in my soul. To know this truth is of very highest gain; and as I was amazed to see His Majesty in a thing so vile as my soul, I heard: 'It is not vile, My child, for it is made in my image'" (Chapter 9;17). In her autobiography she explained, "In the beginning it happened that I was ignorant of one thing - I did not know that God was in all things: and when He seemed to me to be so near, I thought it impossible. Some unlearned men used to say to me that He was present only by His grace. I could not believe that, because....He seemed to me to be present Himself: so I was distressed. A most learned man of the order of the glorious St Dominic delivered me from this doubt, for he told me that He was present, and hos He communed with us: this was a great comfort to me." (Life, 18:20).
"On the last great day" of the feast of Tabernacles before He suffered, our Lord proclaimed in a loud voice, "He that believeth in me....out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water", to which St John adds, "Now this he said of the spirit which they should receive who believed in Him" (John 7:37-39), teaching clearly that our sanctification has no other source than the divine Indwelling. As God told St Catherine of Sienna in "A Treatise on Prayer", "I am that fire which purifies the soul, and the closer the soul is to Me, the purer she becomes, and the further she is from me, the more does her purity leave her: which is the reason why men of the world fall into such iniquities, for they are separated from Me, while the soul who without any medium unites herself directly to Me, participates in My Purity."
As our Lord exclaimed to the Samaritan woman, "If thou didst know the gift of God!" (John 4:10). It is in our own souls, and not elsewhere, that the Holy Ghost enlightens each one of us, just as he did at Pentecost when, although He "filled the whole house," yet His tongues of fire "sat upon each one" of the disciples, bestowing His special gifts on each individually. From that day forth the Spirit of Christ has never ceased to direct the piety of the faithful inwardly, inspiring their activity and warning them of potential dangers. That great spiritual master Fr de Caussade assured his penitents, "Perfection is neither more nor less than the faithful cooperation of the soul with this work of God, and is begun, grows and is consummated in the soul unperceived and in secret." (Abandonment to Divine Providence, Bk I, sec.4)

More to follow..

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Dying to self

“She stood at the foot of the Cross: not to mourn –that would have been far too small, far too remote from Him, for the sharing in the Passion which was her part –she came there to die – to stand quietly by the cross and die.” The Reed of God, C. Houselander.

St. Benedicta of the Cross in her book, The Science of the Cross, explains “to take one’s cross upon oneself, means entering into the dark night actively.” She then provides the directions given by St. John of the Cross:

1) Sustain always the desire to imitate Christ in all things and to bring your life into conformity with his. You must therefore study his life in order to imitate it and behave always as he would.

2) In order to do this well, you must deny yourself every pleasure that presents itself to your senses, keep it far from you if it is not solely directed to the honor and glory of God.

St. Benedicta concludes this part of the chapter with a final quote from St. John reminding the reader that God needs to do the work in the soul in addition to personal effort.

“No matter how much individuals do through their own efforts, they cannot actively purify themselves enough to be disposed in the least degree for the divine union of the perfection of love. God must take over and purge them in that fire that is dark for them.”
The Science of the Cross, (ICS Publications: 2002), 48, 49.

To begin the process of dying to self, in imitation of Our Lady, I will read the gospel today to study His life and learn to imitate it.
St Louis de Montfort Fourteen rules to follow in carrying one's crosses

Main text after 'Mary's Vitamin'

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Sunday, September 27, 2009


In the Introit of the Mass, the justice and mercy of God are praised. "Thou art just, O Lord, and Thy judgment is right. Deal with Thy servant according to Thy mercy. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord."(Ps. 118). Glory be to the Father, etc.

Grant to Thy people, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to avoid the contagion of the devil, and with a pure mind to seek Thee, the only God. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.

EPISTLE Eph. 4:1-6
I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, With all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity. Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.

The words, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all," confound those who assert that a man may be saved in any belief. There can be but one true religion; they who profess it should be united by the bond of true charity, and their lives be worthy of their vocation to the true faith.

GOSPEL Matt. 22:35-46
And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets. And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: What think you of Christ? Whose son is he? They say to him: David's. He saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

Why is this commandment to love God and our neighbour called the great commandment?
Because in these two are contained all the others, so that he who fulfils these fulfis the whole law. For whoever loves God with his whole heart does not murmur against God; does not dishonour His name by cursing and swearing; does not desecrate the Sabbath-day, because he knows that all this is offensive to God. On the contrary, he hopes in God; gives thanks and praise to God; sanctifies the Sundays and holy-days, because he knows this to be pleasing to God; observes the precepts of the Church, because he knows it to be the will of God that he should hear the Church; honours his parents; does no injury to his neighbour; does not commit adultery; does not steal; slanders no one; bears no false witness; pronounces no unjust judgment; it is not envious, malicious, unmerciful, but rather practices towards every one the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; and all this because, out of love of God, he loves his neighbour as himself. Thus love fulfils all the commandments.

What is the meaning of the question, "What think you of Christ?"
Christ put this question to the Pharisees in order that, by their own answer, He might convince them that He was not merely a lineal son of David, but that he was the Son of God, begotten from eternity, on which account He called Himself David's Lord. That Christ is the Son of God, our Lord, our Teacher, our Lawgiver, our Redeemer and Saviour, we Christians know well, for we daily profess it; but how many of us, in deeds, deny it, since we do not follow His teaching nor observe His commandments! What, then, will Christ one day be to such? What but a judge to condemn, and a God to punish?

Why must we love our neighbour?
Because we are all, not merely by descent from Adam, but much more through the grace of Jesus, children of God and members of one family. As children of God, we bear in us the likeness of God. But God loved and still loves all men; for the salvation of all He gives up His only Son, that all may be saved; shall we then love and hate another, and yet think to be like God? Through the grace of Jesus we are all redeemed, made members of His body, yes, partakers of His body and blood. Therefore St. Paul admonishes us: "You are all one in Christ"(Gal 3:28), "be therefore careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace"(Ephesians 4:3). How natural is it for the members of one body not to wound each other! Jesus, our Redeemer, gave His life for us when we were His enemies (Romans 5:10), and even on the cross prayed for His murderers. We are His disciples. But can we be allowed to call ourselves so without possessing this mark of His discipleship? (John 18:15). Thus everything incites us to love: the law of nature and of revelation, the example of Christ, all the promises and hopes that we have. In truth, how, without love, could we hope to enter the kingdom of love? There can be no answer to this reasoning: "Would you be a disciple of Jesus, an heir of His Kingdom?" then love like Him; and He has shed His blood for His mortal enemies.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Consolatrix Afflictorum - Ora Pro Nobis!

Consolatrix afflictorum - miraculous image of Our Lady of Kevalear

Be of good comfort, my children; cry to the Lord and He will deliver you. (Bar. 4:21)

My delicate ones have walked rough ways (Bar. 4:26)
Be of good comfort my children....for as the neighbours of Sion have seen your captivity from God, so shall they also shortly see your salvation from God, which shall come upon you with great honour and everlasting glory.
My children, suffer patiently the wrath that is come upon you....for He that hath brought evils upon you shall bring you everlasting joy again with your salvation (Bar. 4: 21, 24, 25, 29)

We all have afflictions, and for that reason this land of exile is termed a valley of tears. The happiest and most light-hearted will sooner or later have trouble and care. Oftentimes those who seem to have the least to bear have the most, for it is not always external trials that weight the heaviest on the heart. And we often have to endure our sufferings in silence for want of any one who can enter into and understand them; for to speak of them to unsympathetic ears only adds to the poignancy of our grief. In such straits where shall we turn if not to her who is the consoler of the afflicted? Whatever may be the cause of our sorrows, it will not be beneath her notice, for our Mother's heart is, above all, a compassionate...Let us go to Mary and reveal to her all that is in our hearts, telling her our troubles in a simple, childlike way, and through the rent made by the cruel sword place them in hers. it is large enough for them all. for great as the sea was her affliction. Our trials may come from others - we may be ill-treated, wronged, misunderstood; or from fortune - poverty and want may be our share; or from ourselves - oftentimes our own character, tempers, humours, are our greatest affliction; or again they may come to us through the sorrows of those we love. Be they what may, tell them to Mary; but surely, if there be one more than another that she can sympathize with, it will be this last. Was not compassion for her Son that pierced her heart? Let her be our refuge in grief. Let us say with the wise man: "I took her to live with me, knowing she would be a comfort in my cares and griefs." Our Lady will not only listen to us, but will help us is we let her. She will often show us, though with the utmost gentleness, that what seems a misfortune is in reality a blessing. If we have lost riches, she will let us see they might have proved a snare to our souls. If a friend is taken from us by death, she will whisper that Jesus covets the place in our hearts which that friend once occupied. If ill-health be our lot, she will lead us to recognize that it cuts us off from many dangerous pleasures and amusements; and in this way we shall become so consoled by her that we may end by positively rejoicing over those things which cause our tears. But there is one grief, Mother mine, which even thou must find difficult to assuage. How comfort those who mourn and weep that Jesus. their beloved, is hated without cause? Useless to bid them cease, for who could do so when the dearest of all who are dear to them is being mocked, ridiculed, driven from the hearts of men, nay, even crucified afresh, and that not once, but many times as there are mortal sins committed in a day? Yet even in this, the grief of griefs, she can whisper words of consolation, even amidst her own tears - for did not her seven swords of sorrow springs from the same source, and did she not realize this more than all the lovers of Jesus put together? - and remind such souls that he had said: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." For one day they will see that all these things will in the end redound to His greater glory, as showing forth the unspeakable love of that Sacred Heart shich, knowing what was before Him and all that would come upon Him, with full deliberation left His heavenly home and braved it all for the sake of rescuing from eternal misery those who were willing to listen to His voice and yield Him their hearts. Our heavenly Mother will teach such souls that, while mourning that he is hated without cause, they can also, at the same time, rejoice in the thought that He is infinitely good.
But there is yet another realm than earth where Mary exercises her power as comforter of the afflicted, and that is in purgatory. Oh, how those poor prisoners must welcome the sight of their august Queen, when from time to time she visits them, bringing consolation and renewed hope in her train! And what can she say to ease these sufferings, the greatest of which must be that of seeing how we have wasted our substance - the many graces bestowed on us - and disappointed the Sacred Heart by not attaining to that perfection and to that degree of glory which He had planned for us, and for which He gave us the means? Well, she can comfort them by putting before them that at any rate their present sufferings will make at least some atonement for the past, and thus they will learn some even to love those grievous torments; while those whose chief pain consists in the sense of loss will be reminded that compared with eternity their sojourn is not for long, and that soon they will be joined to the happy throngs awaiting them in the heavenly kingdom. "Be of good comfort, my children....for as the neighbours of Sion [your eternal home] have now seen your captivity from God, so shall come up you with great honour and everlasting glory." (Bar 4).
But Mary will have more than words to offer these suffering exiles. Can we think she will ever visit them without bringing a royal pardon for many of their number who will follow joyously in her train, speeding aloft towards Him whom they love and to whom their whole beings craves to be united?
And cannot we share in great measures our Mother's office of "Consolatrix Afflictorum"? Surely yes. Let us put self aside and enter lovingly into the sorrows of those around us, consoling, comforting and sympathizing with every form of suffering, no matter whence its source. Be it they have brought it on their own heads, that is no reason for hardening our hearts. Self-condemnation is one of the bitterest forms of trial; let us not add to it by our censoriousness. Who has appointed us to judge over them?
Then again for the souls in purgatory we can do most real work. Has not holy Church placed in our heands the means of paying their debts, giving us they key of the treasury of the Precious Blood, which on easy conditions we can sprinkle broadcast into the fierce flames, assuaging their heat and releasing their prisoners?
Here indeed we can be co-operators with our Mother Mary. Not a day passes but we can put a treasure into the hands with which to ransom those beloved one of God, many of whom we may have known in life, and who must often wonder at our not exerting ourselves more to obtain their release. Could time be better spent than freeing these holy prisoners who will bring immediate glory to God by their praise of Him, and who will surely in their turn not forget us, but will plead our cause before "the great white throne," when our time comes to pay the penalty of our neglect of grace?

Finally.before leaving our Mother Mary, whom we have considering under so sweet and consoling an aspect as that of a universal consoler, let us call to mind that she was privileged to be the comforter of God Himself. Did she not share the griefs of her divine Son, the Man of Sorrows, and by her deep sympathy bring consolation to His Sacred Heart, from Its first pangs of disappointed love in the cave at Bethlehem, when It realized that the creatures for whom He was prepared to do so much cared naught for Him, to Its last sigh on the cross they had prepared for Him? And how she longs for us to imitate her in this loving compassion for the sorrows of the Sacred Heart! "Comfort Him, all you who are round about Him," she whispers; and Jesus, when He sees us approach Him, more full of His griefs and wrongs than our own, will recognize us as true children of Mary, and virtue will go out from Him into our souls, and we shall become more truly His friends than we have hitherto been, for in times of common sorrow hearts become knit together by strong and lasting lies.

            Comforter of the afflicted, pray for us.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the mountain of La Salette, Imprimatur by Mgr. Bishop of Lecce - click to read

Today we remember the Apparition of Our Lady at La Salette. She appeared there to a peasant boy and girl, Melanie and Maximine in 1846 in the mountain located in the French Alps south-east of Grenoble in the village of La Salette. Only sixteen years previously, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Catherine Laboure, a novice in the community of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. During the conversation Mary said to her, “My child, I am going to give you a mission”. Our Lady gave us then through St Catherine the Miraculous Medal, an extraordinary help in obtaining abundant graces. Appearing in La Salette Our Lady brought serious warnings for sinners to repent. Hence, Our Lady of La Salette is also known as Reconciler of Sinner. Soon after, in 1858, Our Lady appeared to St Bernardette in Lourdes. This time Our Blessed Mother brought us graces of extraordinary spiritual and corporeal healings. Let us meditate carefully on the message of Our Lady of La Salette, as relevant to us today as it was 163 years ago, on our unworthiness, the mercy of God, His love and care for us manifested through these three most famous apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, sole Dispenser and Mediatrix of All Grace and help of sinners -
"From day to day, from moment to moment, she increased so much this twofold plenitude that she attained an immense and inconceivable degree of grace. So much so, that the Almighty made of her the sole custodian of His treasures and sole dispenser of all His graces, so that she might ennoble, exalt and enrich all she chooses. She can lead them along the narrow path to Heaven and guide them through the narrow gate to life. She can give a royal throne, scepter and crown to whomever she wishes. Jesus is always and everywhere the Fruit and Son of Mary, and Mary is everywhere the true tree that bears the Fruit of Life, the true Mother who bears that Son." (from "True Devotion to Mary" St Louis Grignion de Montfort)

“Well, my children, you will pass this on to all of my people.”

....Simple reproduction without commentary or controversy of the original edition of Lecce in 1879.

Only the witness herself, Melanie, can, along with Maximin, give an account of the apparition. After giving it by word of mouth an incalculable number of times, she decided to write it all down in 1878. It was published at Lecce on the 15th of November 1879 – with the “Imprimatur” of Bishop Zola - and reprinted “ne varietur” at Lyon in 1904, a few months before Melanie's death. This slim booklet is now a rarity. The text is followed exactly here.....

From 'A Moment with Mary - Mary of Nazareth' on Our Lady of La Salette, Reconciler of Sinners

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Pastoral letter from the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols - click to read more

In the reading from the letter of St James, which we have just heard, the Apostle gives us a realistic picture of family and parish life. He describes our daily struggles, “these wars and battles between yourselves” (4.1), arising from conflicting ambitions and desires. He speaks of the wisdom “that comes down from above” (3.17) and the enduring kindness and compassion to which it gives rise, overcoming our temptations to
favouritism and hypocrisy.

This wisdom of which he speaks is, of course, Christ himself. So St James insists that our relationship with Christ, expressed in prayer, is central to the stability and fruitfulness of our lives. A sound practice of daily prayer is essential for our well-being.

Three people who illustrate this truth very clearly are being held before us in the weeks and months ahead.

The first is St Thérèse of Lisieux, well known as The Little Flower. She teaches us that prayer can indeed be part of our daily routine, knitted into the regular tasks of the day. Through her own prayer she came to understand that her vocation was to love.

She wrote in ‘The Story of a Soul’: “I had discovered where it is that I belong in the Church, the niche God has appointed for me. To be nothing else than love, deep down in the heart of Mother Church.” Her direct, wholehearted love of the Lord has meant that the hidden life of St Thérèse has become a gift to people all over the world. Everyone who seeks to know God in their own heart can draw inspiration from her example. True love such as hers is always creative.

The relics of St Thérèse – the tangible remains of her holy life – are coming to the Diocese during October. On Sunday 11th October, they will be in the Parish Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Kensington Church Street. From 12th -15th October, the relics will be in Westminster Cathedral. Many people find that, in her presence, their faith is strengthened, their prayer is deepened and they turn to God afresh, through repentance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I encourage you most earnestly to come to her in these two places during these few days. A plenary indulgence may be gained, in the presence of these relics, under the normal conditions of Reconciliation, Holy Communion and prayers for the Holy Father.

The second person being held before us at this time is Cardinal John Henry Newman. He is to be Beatified, most probably, in early summer 2010, the first English person to be recognised as a ‘Confessor of the Catholic Faith’ for over 600 years.

As you know, he came only gradually to the fullness of Catholic faith. It was a difficult journey for him. Yet, in his own words, he came to recognise our faith as “a working religion”, not concerned with ideas or vague generalities, but taking us up into the true worship of Christ himself. At the heart of Newman’s sense of the realism of our faith was the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, “as real”, he said “as we are real”.

For thirty years, John Henry Newman was a Catholic parish priest in Birmingham. When he died, in August 1890, over 20,000 people lined the streets for his funeral procession. They came to pay tribute to a fine and devoted parish priest. It is so providential that his Beatification will take place during this Year for Priests, established last June by Pope Benedict XVI....

During this Year for Priests, we are asked to pray for our priests in a special way, to thank and encourage them. The life of a priest has its own particular demands and we all know the crucial leadership given by the priest in the parish. So, I ask you, cherish your priests and care for them. Remember not only the sacrifice priests have made but also the gift of sacramental life they bring to you through their ministry and the pastoral care they give.

St Thérèse had a special love for priests. John Henry Newman was a great example of a faithful, hardworking priest. The third person in our sight at this time is St John Vianney, the famous Curé of Ars. He is the patron saint of priests. He too reminds us of the centrality of prayer and repentance in our lives, and of the astonishing gift we are given in the Real Presence of the Lord in our churches.

May these holy men and this holy woman pray for us. May these coming months bring blessings on our families and parishes. And from those sources of strength and encouragement, may we be renewed in our faith and in our generosity towards all in need.

Archbishop of Westminster

Very encouraging letter, nice thoughts about St Therese. I would love to read more about St John Vianney, patron Saint of all priests.

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost - click to read more

Instructions on the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentest

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Friday, September 18, 2009

In memory of Bl Mariam Baouardy, OCD and the story of Carmel in the Holy Land, part 1 click for link

The story of Carmel foundation in the Holy Land is closely related to the life of the Palestine Lily, the Little Arab or Bl Mariam Baouardy, Discalced Carmelite nun. She entered Carmel at Pau, France, at the age of 21. She was born on 5th January 1846 in I’billin (a.k.a. Abilene), the region of Hazafon, north of Israel, in the upper Galilee. Her parents were Christian of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Rite. She was beatified on 13th November 1983, sixty seven years after commencement of the diocesan inquiry for her beatification process.
Her parents were descendants of the Archeparchy of Antioch, the place where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. The family lived in the hill country of upper Galilee. Her father, George, came from Horfesch, Palestine; her mother, Mariam, came from Tarshiha, Palestine. Both villages were populated by Druse, Sunni Muslims, and Christians’ Arabs. The Baouardy's were very modest and pious folks.

Mariam bore her husband 12 sons; however, none survived their infancy to the great sorrow of their parents. Mariam, devoted to the Virgin Mary, prayed for another child, a daughter. She and her husband traveled to Bethlehem to beseech the Mother of God for a girl-child at the Grotto of the Nativity of Jesus. On January 5, 1846, their daughter, Mariam was born. Ten days later in the local Melkite Church she was Baptised, received Confirmation and the Eucharist. Two years later, to the delight of the parents, a baby boy was born. He was named Boulos (Paul). The tiny family had a short time together. Both mother and father died within a few days of each other. Georges’ last words, while looking at a picture of Saint Joseph were: “Great Saint, here is my child. The Blessed Virgin Mary is her mother. Please look after her, be her father”. The aunt from Tarshiha took Paul into her home whereas Mariam was adopted by her paternal uncle in Abilin. Mariam, would often recall beautiful and pictoresque surroundings of her native village with great nostalgia throughout her short life. To the north, the lofty mountain chain, the frontier of Lebanon could be seen.

On the northeast was mighty Jebel Shaykh, the Sheikh of the Mountains as the Arabs call it, snow-capped yearlong. In the east waves of hills slope down gently downward to Lake Galilee, also named Tiberias;

on the south the opulent Plain of Esdralon stretches outward till meeting Mount Carmel. Northwest beyond the sand dunes sparkles the blue Mediterranean.

For some time, Mariam lived in her uncle home safely and comfortably receiving all proper care and attention. When Mariam was eight years old her uncle left Palestine with the entire family and settled in Alexandria, Egypt. She was not to see her beloved Ibillin till shortly before her death in 1878.

Then at the age of 13, Mariam was promised in arranged marriage, without her consent, a common custom among Middle Eastern Christians. Mariam was deeply saddened and shocked. She was not prepared nor had any inclinations for the life of a married woman. She prayed earnestly for guidance and solace. Suddenly, she was able to hear a voice in her heart saying: "Everything passes! If you wish to give me your heart, I will remain with you". Mariam knew it was the voice of the only spouse she would have - Jesus. She spent the rest of the night in deep prayer before the icon of the Virgin Mary; she then heard the consoling words, "Mariam, I am with you; follow the inspiration I shall give you. I will help you". Her uncle was outraged when he realized Mariam would not marry, but would remain a virgin. Nothing would change her determination. As a punishment he resorted to treating her as a hired domestic, giving her the most difficult kitchen tasks and treating her like the lowest of his hired help. Due to this mistreatment, Mariam slowly sank into a sense of desolation and desperation. She wrote a letter to her brother inviting him to come and see her in Alexandria. In her isolation she turned to another domestic, a Muslim, and asked him to deliver her letter to Nazareth, revealing to him also all her personal troubles. He pretended to be sorry and outraged at her uncle’s treatment of her. Playing upon the mind and feelings of the young girl, he provided the way out of the situation and remedy to Mariam's problem through the conversion to Islam. She denied his advances and loudly proclaimed her faith in the Church of Jesus. "Muslim, no, never! I am a daughter of the Catholic Apostolic Church, and I hope by the grace of God to persevere until death in my religion, which is the only true one" - was her response. Her 'protector' became furious and violent at her refusal. Overcame by hatred he lost control and kicked her to the floor, drew his sword and slashed her throat. He dumped her lifeless body in a nearby dark alley. Years later Mariam described to her Mistress of Novices at Marseilles, France, what had happened to her after: "A nun dressed in blue picked me up and stitched my throat wound. This happened in a grotto somewhere. I found myself in heaven with the Blessed Virgin, the angels and the saints. They treated me with great, kindness. In their company were my parents. I saw the brilliant throne of the Most Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ in His humanity. There was no sun, no lamp, but everything was bright with light. Someone spoke to me. They said that I was a virgin, but that my book was not finished. When my wound was healed I had to leave the grotto and the Lady took me to the Church of St. Catherine served by the Franciscan Friars where I went to confession. When I left, the Lady in Blue had disappeared". Years later when in ecstasy, on September 8, 1874, the feast of our Lady’s nativity, Sr. Mary said, "On this same day in 1858, I was with my Mother (Mary) and I consecrated my life to her. Someone had cut my throat and the next day Mother Mary took care of me". Mariam supported herself by working as a domestic with the Najjar, the Arab Christian family. After two years she was directed by her confessor to the Sisters of St. Joseph and she stayed with the Sisters together with several other Palestinians and Arab postulants. Soon her health declined and mystical phenomena began. It was disturbing to the congregation. They became upset over her supernatural actions and aura and would not permit her to enter the novitiate. Her Mistress of Novices, Mother Veronica, her only friend there took Mariam to the Carmelite convent of Pau in France

where they both gained admission. Mariam entered Carmel at age 21 as a lay sister. After two months she began her novitiate and entered the cloister. She took the name of Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified. She was professed on 21 November 1871 as a Carmelite Religious. Before that she was subjected to severe supernatural trials. One of the most terrible was diabolic possession of her body for a period of 40 days. She persevered in her simple child-like faith in God the Son and His Holy Mother Mary. Her rewards were those reserved for the most privileged of humans. She was fixed with the stigmata of her crucified Savior, experienced levitations, transverberations of the heart, knowledge of hearts, prophecies, possession by the Good Angel, and facial radiance. Again and again she would say, "Everything passes here on earth. What are we? Nothing but dust, nothingness, and God is so great, so beautiful, so lovable and He is not loved".
Sister Mariam of Jesus Crucified had an intense devotion to the Holy Spirit, Possessor of the Truth without error or division. Through the Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Sayour, she sent a message to Pope Pius IX that the Church, even in seminaries, is neglecting true devotion to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. Her beautiful prayer to that great Unknown was: "Holy Spirit, inspire me. Love of God consume me. Along the true road, lead me. Mary, my good mother, look down upon me. With Jesus, bless me. From all evil, all illusion, all danger, preserve me." This simple prayer has gone around the world and is also included in the sidebar of this blog.
Sister Mariam was instrumental in the founding of a missionary Carmel in Mangalore, India, in 1871, and in Bethlehem of Palestine. Also she was the inspiration for the establishment of the Congregation of the Betharram Priests of the Sacred Heart.
On 5 January 1878, Sister Mariam entered her 33rd year of life. One day in August she fell while working in the convent injuring herself severely. Gangrene set in quickly and spread the infection to her respiratory tract. She never recovered from this trauma. On 26 August 1878, she suffered a life-threatening suffocation attack. She died soon after murmuring, "My Jesus, mercy." It was ten minutes past five in the morning.
Her tomb is engraved with this inscription: "Here in the peace of the Lord reposes Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, professed religious of the white veil. A soul of singular graces, she was conspicuous for her humility, her obedience and her charity. Jesus, the sole love of her heart called her to Himself in the 33rd year of her age and the 12th year of her religious life at Bethlehem, 26 August 1878".
She is still known today as "Al Qiddisa" (The holy one) in Ibillin, Palestine. On 13 November 1983, Pope John Paul II beatified her in solemn ceremony at Vatican City. She is scheduled for formal canonization this year placing her among the Saints in formal proclamation.
The "Little Arab", a living lesson of the virtues of humility and the love of God, His son Jesus and His Mother Mary, is a special inspiration to those who pursue the Truth as present in the Holy Spirit of God . . . And she was one of us, a Melkite Catholic and a Carmelite.

Reverend Amedee Brunot, SCJ, the author of the book “Mariam The Little Arab” writes: how can we fail to see that this child of Galilee and of the Eastern Church has a special message for those of her face and her rite? Accordingly how could anyone have ever maintained that the sap of sanctity no longer flows in the veins of the Churches of the East, that this land of anchorites and cenobites, of lauras and monasteries no longer produces flowers and fruits of grace? The Lebanese Charbel Makhlouf and the Galilean Mariam Baouardy are the indisputable answer to these pessimistic judgments. The divine power has always been pleased in these biblical lands to effect at times national resurrections, at other times individual prodigies; once more it is assuring to these peoples a subject of noble pride and a motive of hope. What is more astonishing than the trajectory of a saint? What a greater message of hope could there be today in the troubled Near East than to tell the Palestinians: here is a young girl of your race, your language and of one of your most honored rites?”

The story based on Mariam, the little Arab
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Thursday, September 17, 2009


Spiritual Bouquet: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, take no thought for its desires. Rom. 13:14

Saint Bonaventure, biographer of Saint Francis of Assisi, wrote that two years before his holy death he had been praying on Mount Alverno in a solitary retreat, where he had gone to fast for forty days in honor of the Archangel Michael. No one ever meditated more than Francis on the Passion of his Lord. During his retreat he beheld in vision a six-winged Seraph attached to a cross, and received at the same time a painful wound of the heart, which seemed to transpierce it. When the vision ended his own hands and feet bore the marks of the angelic crucifixion which he had seen in the vision. He understood by his vision that the soul must come to resemble Christ by the ardors of its interior fire, rather than by any physical, exterior means. We reproduce here a meditation of the saintly 19th century Abbot, Dom Guéranger of Solemnes in France:

“The Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis, whom we will soon honor again on his feast of October 4th, is not only to glorify a Saint; it commemorates and signifies something which goes beyond the life of any single man, even one of the greatest of the Church. The God-Man never ceases to live on in His Church, and the reproduction of His own mysteries in this Spouse whom He wants to be similar to Himself, is the explanation of history.

“In the thirteenth century it seemed that charity, whose divine precept many no longer heeded, concentrated in a few souls the fires which had once sufficed to inflame multitudes. Sanctity shone as brilliantly as ever, but the hour for the cooling of the brazier had struck for the peoples. The Church itself says so today in its liturgy, at the Collect: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, when the world was growing cold, You reproduced the sacred marks of Your passion in the body of the most blessed Francis, in order that Your love might also set our hearts afire.’ The Spouse of Christ had already begun to experience the long series of social defections among the nations, with their denials, treasons, derision, slaps, spittings in the very praetorium, all of which conclude in the legalized separation of society from its Author. The era of the Passion is advanced; the exaltation of the Holy Cross, which for centuries was triumphant in the eyes of the nations, acquires in the sight of heaven, as the Angels look down upon it, the aspect of an ever closer resemblance with the Spouse to the sufferings of her crucified Beloved.

“Saint Francis, loved today by all who know of him — and few there are who do not — was like precious marble placed before an expert sculptor. The Holy Spirit chose the flesh of the seraph of Assisi to express His divine thought, thus manifesting to the world the very specific direction He intends to give to souls thereafter. This stigmatization offers a first example, a complete image, of the new labor the divine Spirit is meditating — total union, on the very Cross of Christ itself, of the mystical Body with the divine Head. Francis is the one honored by this primacy of choice; but after him the sacred sign will be received by others, who also personify the Church. From this time on, the Stigmata of the Lord Jesus will be at all times visible, here and there on this earth.”

Today's picture is 'The Stigmata of St. Francis' by Ubaldo Gandolfi, 1728

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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Judith 13:22-25.
And they all adored the Lord, and said to her: The Lord hath blessed thee by his power, because by thee he hath brought our enemies to nought. And Ozias the prince of the people of Israel, said to her: Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth, who hath directed thee to the cutting off the head of the prince of our enemies. Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever, for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God.

Jn 19:25-27.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.

Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

Pope Pius VII - Litany of the Seven Sorrows
To read the meditations click on the 'Read whole post' below

Spiritual Bouquet: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom. 12:21

The Church twice commemorates the sorrows of its heavenly Mother. The Friday of Passion week, since the 15th century, has also been dedicated by the universal Church to Her Compassion. Why is this so? To understand this double liturgy, we must know that Mary is also the Mother of the Mystical Body. The present feast was instituted by Pius VII after his return from his captivity and exile, which lasted from 1809 to 1814. Christ no longer suffers, and for Our Lady also, all suffering as we understand it has ceased. Nonetheless, the prophet Jeremias in his Lamentations, asks: “To whom shall You be compared, O Virgin? Your affliction is like the ocean.” A mother who is happy in her home weeps just the same over the sorrows of her children. The statues and pictures of Mary all over Europe wept before the Revolution in France, and Her statues weep again today, in many places. The Passion of Christ continues in His elect, in particular in His Vicar on earth, from whom He does not separate Himself, and against whom the force of hell is deployed unceasingly. The mysterious compassion of the Mother is forever acquired for the Mystical Body of Her Son, which must reproduce the divine death in its human nature, elevated above its natural condition by the superhuman power of grace.

Mary’s great sorrows began at the prediction of Simeon that a sword would transpierce Her heart. Soon afterwards, She was obliged to flee with the newborn Infant, already object of a fatal search. She lost Him in the temple for three inexpressibly painful days; She met Him on the road to Calvary, and the sight indeed pierced Her heart. She saw Him die, heard His final cry, and witnessed the opening of His side with the effusion of His last drops of blood, mingled with water; She received in Her arms the inert body of the most beautiful of the sons of men. Finally, She was obliged to depose Him in a tomb, leave Him there and return with Her adopted son, John, to a deicidal Jerusalem.

The Queen of Martyrs has never ceased to encourage Her children on earth to bear their own crosses, which complement the Passion of Christ. He suffered first the ordinary contradictions of life; for three years He was taunted and regarded as a menace by those who should have recognized Him and His mission. He knew hunger, cold and fatigue; He slept so heavily in a boat amid a tempest, that we can only suppose He was exhausted. He knew what it was to be abandoned in need and to lose, to the empire of various passions, followers He had called His. Christ is our forerunner in all human sorrows and difficulties. Mary, as His Mother, offered to God with Him all the afflictions of His earthly life, and She continues to offer those of the Church, for its sanctification, for the souls in Purgatory and the salvation of souls.

More reflections on the Seven Dolours of Mary in preparation for the Feast of Seven Sorrows of Our Lady







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Monday, September 14, 2009


O God, Who on this day givest us joy by the annual solemnnity of the exaltation of the holy cross, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may deserve the reward of His redemption in heaven Whose mystery we have known upon earth. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, etc. Amen.

Brethren. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

GOSPEL (John 12:31-36)
At that time Jesus said to the multitude of the Jews: Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself. (Now this he said, signifying what death he should die.) The multitude answered him: We have heard out of the law, that Christ abideth for ever; and how sayest thou: The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man? Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while, the light is among you. Walk whilst you have the light, that the darkness overtake you not. And he that walketh in darkness, knoweth not whither he goeth.Whilst you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light. These things Jesus spoke; and he went away, and hid himself from them.


What is the Holy Way of the Cross?
It is a devotional exercise by which we meditate upon the passion and death of Jesus, and particularly upon His last way of sorrows, from the house of Pilate to Mount Calvary.
Tradition testifies that after Christ's ascension the Christians living in Jerusalem were accustomed particularly to venerate the holy places which had been sanctified by the passion of the divine Redeemer. But after Jerusalem fell into hands of the infidels, so that it became dangerous, and often impossible, to pass over the ground which Our Lord had trod, the children of St. Francis of Assisi began to erect in their churches the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross, by meditating on which the faithfull might, in spirit, accompany the pilgrims to Jerusalem on the way to Calvary, dwelling in thought on what Christ had suffered for men. Stations here means a place to pause, a resting-point for meditation. This devoution has been examined and approved by many Popes, enriched with indulgences, and earnestly recommended to Christians. It may be found in any prayer-book. No exercise is more profitable to our souls than this. What can bring before us the love of God and the abominabless and frightfulness of sin in a more vivid manner than the sufferings of the God-man? How can we any longer indulge in hate when we hear Jesus pray for His enemies? How can we give ourselves up to sensuality and lust when we see the divine Saviour scourged, crowned with thorns, and hanging on the cross? How can we murmur at our trials when we think that Jesus innocent takes up the cross for us guilty? In truth, we should see our coldness and indifference disappear, as ice melts in the heat, we should grow more and more zealous in the way of virtue, if we would but rightly meditate upon the passion of Christ.

How are visit to the stations of the Cross to be made?
Rightly to visit the Stations of the Cross, and to draw therefrom real benefit, we should at each station consider with attention, with devotion and sorrow, what Jesus has done and suffered for us. We should not content ourselves with merely reciting at each station the proper prayers and meditations, but should pause, to impress upon our hearts what is there represented, that we may be moved and quickened to wholesome resolutions. In order to gain indulgences we must endeavour to be in the state of grace, and therefore at least, by the way of beginning, we must have perfect contrition for our sins.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Love your neighbour with pure and generous heart - says His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in Angelus today

...Jesus did not come to teach a philosophy but to show us a way, indeed, the way that leads to life, said Benedict XVI during todays Angelus. Taking his cue from the Gospel of the day, the Pope recalled how faith itself is dead if is not followed by deeds. Every believer, therefore, is called to testify in practice the teachings of Jesus, who by his very existence has shown us that only love can change the world. "If you love your neighbour with a pure and generous heart - explained the Pope - it means that you really know God. If you say you have faith but do not love your brothers, then your are not a true believer. God does not dwell in you. On the eve of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy ..

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A New, Improved Missal - as seen on US Bishops website - click to read

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a new website that will inform and educate Catholics about the forthcoming English translation of the new Roman Missal. The information on the process of development of liturgical texts including sample text from the improved Missal, FAQ and glossary of terms will be provided regularly over the next months. The Missal will be printed and available in 2011. Stuart Reid provides a summary of the most important changes or rather corrections of wrong translations of Latin text and changes introduced by the first translators of the Missal. There are some excerpts:

....It seems that the work has been done with scrupulous honesty. All the offensive constructions in the Ordinary of the Mass - and so far we have only the Ordinary on the bishops' website - have been abandoned in this text: multis now translates as "many" instead of "all", and Credo becomes "I believe" instead of "We believe". In the Gloria, "sin of the world" becomes (as in the Latin) "sins of the world". If you overlook one instance of (justified) gender neutrality, the new Gloria and the Creed have an almost Tridentine splendour.

The big surprise to me, though, is that in the Confiteor we now have "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault". At first I thought that this was value-added, something perhaps smuggled in by a traditionalist disguised as a normal human being, but looking at the original Latin text I see it was there all along. The translators of 40 years ago just omitted it. No doubt they thought it was "vain and repetitious prayer", and came over all bossy boots and Protestant....
.... The new translation is not in itself a reform of the reforms, as I have said, but it could signal the end of the abuses. No one can perform a clown Mass with these new texts, especially if, as seems possible, priests are encouraged (even required?) to say the Eucharistic Prayer ad orientem.

Let's hope, meanwhile, that the new missal (to be published perhaps in 2011) is accompanied by robust rubrics. I'd like to see the return of the priest's double genuflection after the consecration and the congregation's single genuflection during the Creed. I'd also like to see Communion given on the tongue to people who are kneeling _- and for it to be administered by priests and not by extraordinary ministers....

....There will presumably be further changes to the missal in the years ahead. Perhaps some of the old prayers will return. "I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Thy House and the place where Thy glory dwelleth." Where was the harm in that? Where was the harm in the Offertory prayers that have been removed?

My feeling is, though, that the reform of the reforms will for the most part be accomplished by changes in rubrics, and in attitudes, customs and practices. The changes are occurring already. The religion of the Seventies has almost disappeared. When did you last see a priest with permed hair and Cuban heels?

Let's avoid triumphalism in the meantime. Let's be kind and Catholic. Let's go by the book, and not force the pace of change (or regression). Liberals are often criticised, and rightly, for improvising with the texts. Orthodox priests must now be encouraged not to add their own traditionalist touches to the revised Mass.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009


It is my great joy today to present beautiful meditation on the power of Mary's name written by St Alphonsus. We can find there also valuable instructions on the spiritual benefits of devotion to the holy name of Mary -

Richard of St. Laurence states "there is not such powerful help in any name, nor is there any other name given to men, after that of Jesus, from which so much salvation is poured forth upon men as from the name of Mary." He continues, "that the devout invocation of this sweet and holy name leads to the acquisition of superabundant graces in this life, and a very high degree of glory in the next." Our Lady of Fatima The Abbot Francone, speaking on this subject, says, "there is no other name after that of the Son, in heaven or on earth, whence pious minds derive so much grace, hope, and sweetness." After the most sacred name of Jesus, the name of Mary is so rich in every good thing, that on earth and in heaven there is no other from which devout souls receive so much grace, hope, and sweetness. Hence Richard of St. Laurence "encourages sinners to have recourse to this great name," because it alone will suffice to cure them of all their evils; and "there is no disorder, however malignant, that does not immediately yield to the power of the name of Mary."
The Blessed Raymond Jordano says, "that however hardened and diffident a heart may be, the name of this most Blessed Virgin has such efficacy, that if it is only pronounced that heart will be wonderfully softened." Moreover, it is well known, and is daily experienced by the clients of Mary, that her powerful name gives the particular strength necessary to overcome temptations against purity.

As St Methodius says: "thy name, O Mother of God, is filled with divine graces and blessings". So much so, that St. Bonaventure declares, "that thy name, O Mary, cannot be pronounced without bringing some grace to him who does so devoutly." Grant us, O Lady, that we may often remember to name thee with love and confidence; for this practice either shows the possession of divine grace, or else is a pledge that we shall soon recover it.
On the other hand, Thomas a Kempis affirms "that the devils fear the Queen of heaven to such a degree, that only on hearing her great name pronounced, they fly from him who does so as from a burning fire." The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget "that there is not on earth a sinner, however devoid he may be of the love of God, from whom the devil is not obliged immediately to fly, if he invokes her holy name with a determination to repent." On another occasion she repeated the same thing to the saint, saying, "that all the devils venerate and fear her name to such a degree, that on hearing it they immediately loosen the claws with which they hold the soul captive." Our Blessed Lady also told St. Bridget, "that in the same way as the rebel angels fly from sinners who invoke the name of Mary, so also do the good angels approach nearer to just souls who pronounce her name with devotion."

Consoling indeed are the promises of help made by Jesus Christ to those who have devotion to the name of Mary; for one day in the hearing of St. Bridget, He promised His most holy Mother that He would grant three special graces to those who invoke that holy name with confidence: first, that He would grant them perfect sorrow for their sins; secondly, that their crimes should be atoned for; and, thirdly, that He would give them strength to attain perfection, and at length the glory of paradise. And then our Divine Savior added: "For thy words, O My Mother, are so sweet and agreeable to Me, that I cannot deny what thou askest." St. Ephrem goes so far as to say, "that the name of Mary is the key of the gates of heaven," in the hands of those who devoutly invoke it. And thus it is not without reason that St. Bonaventure says "that Mary is the salvation of all who call upon her." "O most sweet name! O Mary, what must thou thyself be, since thy name alone is thus amiable and gracious," exclaims Blessed Henry Suso.
Let us, therefore, always take advantage of the beautiful advice given us by St. Bernard, in these words: "In dangers, in perplexities, in doubtful cases, think of Mary, call on Mary; let her not leave thy lips; let her not depart from thy heart."

Names of Jesus and Mary
In every danger of forfeiting divine grace, we should think of Mary, and invoke her name, together with that of Jesus; FOR THESE TWO NAMES ALWAYS GO TOGETHER. O, then, never let us permit these two most sweet names to leave our hearts, or be off our lips; for they will give us strength not only not to yield, but to conquer all our temptations.
"The invocation of the sacred names of Jesus and Mary," says Thomas a Kempis, "is a short prayer which is as sweet to the mind, and as powerful to protect those who use it against the enemies of their salvation, as it is easy to remember."

Hour of Death
Thus we see that the most holy name of Mary is sweet indeed to her clients during life, on account of the very great graces that she obtains for them. But sweeter still will it be to them in death, on account of the tranquil and holy end that it will insure them.
Let us then, O devout reader, beg God to grant us, that at death the name of Mary may be the last word on our lips. This was the prayer of St. Germanus: "May the last movement of my tongue be to pronounce the name of the Mother of God;" O sweet, O safe is that death which is accompanied and protected by so saying a name; for God only grants the grace of invoking it to those whom He is about to save.
<>Father Sertorius Caputo, of the Society of Jesus, exhorted all who assist the dying frequently to pronounce the name of Mary; for this name of life and hope, when repeated at the hour of death, suffices to put the devils to flight, and to comfort such persons in their sufferings.
<>"Blessed is the man who loves thy name, O Mary" exclaims St. Bonaventure. "Yes, truly blessed is he who loves thy sweet name, O Mother of God! for," he continues, "thy name is so glorious and admirable, that no one who remembers it has any fears at the hour of death." Such is its power, that none of those who invoke it at the hour of death fear the assaults of their enemies."
St. Camillus de Lellis urged the members of his community to remind the dying often to utter the holy names of Jesus and Mary. Such was his custom when assisting people in their last hour.
"Oh, that we may end our lives as did the Capuchin Father, Fulgentius of Ascoli, who expired singing, "O Mary, O Mary, the most beautiful of creatures! let us depart together."
Let us conclude with the tender prayer of St. Bonaventure: "I ask thee, O Mary, for the glory of thy name, to come and meet my soul when it is departing from this world, and to take it in thine arms."

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Holy Communion unites you with Christ - a chapter from "The meaning of Life" by Archb AS Goodier

In the moments of preparation, receiving and thanksgiving for the Holy Communion, we have unique opportunity to develop the custom of genuine and spontaneous contemplation while adoring the Lord who comes to be united with us. The examples cited are all no more than suggestions to follow, so as the author says, "every soul is different, so will each have its own form of self-expression. Let it choose as it will and pray in the way it finds best."

St Teresa thoughts on Holy Communion:
I cannot say this without tears and great joy of soul! How You desire, Lord, thus to be with us and to be present in the Sacrament...You would be glad to be with us since You say that Your delight is to be with children of the earth. (1:138)

Sometimes...after receiving Communion I was at peace. And sometimes in approaching the Sacrament I felt at once so good in soul and body that I was surprised. It seems that in only a moment all the darkness of the soul disperse. (I:260)

When I approached to receive Communion and recalled the extraordinary majesty I had seen and considered that it was present in the Blessed Sacrament (the Lord often desires that I behold it in the host),....the whole experience seemed to annihilate me. (I:337)

O Wealth of the poor, how admirably You know how to sustain souls!...When I behold majesty as extraordinary as this concealed in something as small as the host, it happens afterward that I marvel at wisdom so wonderful. (I:337)

There is an instinct in us all, no matter how unaccustomed we may be to pray, that seems to tell us that if ever our prayer should be real and from the depth of the soul, it should be at the moment of Holy Communion. If the Blessed Sacrament is that which, on the authority of our Lord's own words, we believe it to be, His own true Body and Blood Soul and Divinity, there must no imitation, there must be a strong soul's genuine expression of itself, whenever we receive it into ourselves. Hence, the universal custom of regular preparation for Communion and regular thanksgiving after it, which in practice are made of almost as much account as the receiving of the Sacrament itself. Hence, too, the further common custom of spending the first moments after Communion in intent contemplation, as if we feared that the use of a book or anything else that might help our prayer might be almost a desecration of a moment so solemn.

Undoubtedly, the instinct is a good one, and both the resulting practices are good. At the same time, as with all things good, the importance of both can be exaggerated: preparation and thanksgiving are very often far from being the sacrament itself. To one who is wholly unaccustomed to contemplation, a book may help prayer when without it the soul will be wholly distracted, but not on that account should we decline to make the effort. Rightly understood, contemplation is less beyond our range than is sometimes assumed, and there are none who may not attain to it in some degree.
The following method of preparation and thanksgiving for Holy Communion is built upon this first principle. It is an easy form of contemplation . It is drawn from the three most elementary facts of Holy Communion. It is intended to be going on, no matter at what moment Communion is received, so that it is at once preparation and thanksgiving. It is reduced to be fewest possible words, for by many words, contemplation is often distracted. Instead, it endeavors to take the affections that are immediately suggested, crystallizes them in a single sentence, and offers them to the communicant to be held in the mind and meant by the heart for so long as mind and heart are able to retain them.
What, then, is the Holy Communion? It contains three facts: the fact of Jesus Christ, its Substance; the fact of myself, its recipient; the fact of the union between Him and myself, from which Communion takes its name. These three facts make three points, and they contain enough, for they suggest affections that will stay.

The fact of Jesus Christ. The moment I say this to myself, meaning it, I make an act of faith. Hence, with St John in the boat on Lake Tiberias I say, and repeat with even more realized meaning, "It is the Lord" (John 21:7). Or with the poor man appealing for his cure: "Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief."(Mark 9:23). Or with St Peter, I can cry with my whole heart, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt 16:16)
Knowledge is the forerunner of love. Of how many men and women is it said that to know them is to love them! And if this is true for ordinary mortals, how much more truer it be for our Lord!
The act of faith, then, persisted in and meant, insensibly develops into an act of love. If we go on saying and meaning, "Lord, I believe," we shall soon find ourselves saying: "Lord, I love." So in the words of Peter let my thoughts express themselves: "Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thou. Thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love Thou."(John 21:16, 17). Or with the spouse in the Canticle: "I to my Beloved, and my Beloved to me." (Cant. 6:2; or RSV = Song of Sol. 6:2). Or I can keep the words of a Kempis echoing in my heart: "Love Him, and keep Him for thy friend who, when all leave thee, will not forsake thee, nor suffer thee to perish in the end." (Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, Bk 2. ch.7).
But when I say this, I find that my act of love is insensibly going a step further. As knowledge leads to love, so love expresses itself in confidence and trust. As, then, an act of faith leads insensibly to an act of love, so an act of love falls naturally into an act of hope. Hence, once again with St Peter we say: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:69; or RSV = John 6:68), or with the psalmist, "The Lord is my Shepherd; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the keeper of my soul; before whom shall I tremble?" (Ps 22:1, 26: 1; or RSV = Ps. 23:1, 27:1). Or with the writer of Te Deum: "In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; I shall not be confounded forever."

The fact of myself.
What a contrast! What an opposite extreme! In circumstances such as these, in associations such as these, how inevitable is the act of humility, the act of self-abasement, whether we are saying with St Elizabeth, "Whence is this to me that my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43) or with the soldier, "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof," (Matt 8:8), or with the psalmist, "What is man that Thou shouldst be mindful of him or the son of man that Thou shouldst visit him?" (Ps. 8:5 (RSV = Ps 8:4). Not only of my nature am I, who am but dust and ashes, even at my best, but the work of His hands, compelled to humble myself before our Lord. I am lower down than that. I have lowered myself still more by misuse of that which He has made, by infidelity to Him, by sinfulness. In this way and that I have offended Him and soiled myself. So, as I approached Him, I can only say, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). Or with the prodigal, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in Thy sight, I am no longer worthy to be called Thy son." (Luke 15:21). Or, in the words of the Miserere, "have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy." (Ps 50:3, RSV = Ps 51:1)
And yet, even while I speak, "While I am yet a great way off," (Luke 15:20), He, like the father of the prodigal, comes to me and embraces me. This is the matter of fact; unworthy as I am, stained as I am and in rags, He will take me as I am if I will come. So I cannot refuse, I can only say, "take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty." (Prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola). I can only cry, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46). I can only plead, offering myself to Him in the meantime: "Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick." (John 11:3)

The fact of the union.
This is the climax. My Lord and I are brought together, made actually one, so far as that is possible. It is not to be wondered at that, at that moment, words seem to fail us. We can only adore, and adoration is best expressed by silence. Our thoughts can only repeat with St Thomas, "My Lord and my God", (John 2:28) or the words of the Te Deum: "Thou, O Christ, art the King of Glory," or with the other St Thomas: "Hidden Godhead, devoutly I adore Thee."
When at length, as it were, I recover my power of speech, and my heart longs to express itself, what else can it do but break out in words of thanksgiving? It says with the priest in the Mass, "What return shall I make to the Lord for all He had given to me?" (Ps 115:12 RSV = Ps 116:12). Or, "We praise Thee; we bless Thee; we adore Thee; we glorify Thee; we give Thee thanks." Or, again, in the words of St Paul: "Christ loved me, and gave Himself up for me," (Gal. 2 :20). But there is no gratitude, no proof of confidence, greater than that which makes further appeals; and even while I thank Him for all that He is, and for all that He has done, I seem to hear Him say, "Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be filled." (John 16:24). So I turn my prayer, or my prayer turns itself, to one of petition - that I myself may do His will: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6); that His will may be done in and by all His creatures: "Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven"; and that if this thing or that, dear to my heart, for myself or for another, is in accordance with His will, it may be granted.
This is, of course, no more than a suggestion and a guide. The variety of acts that each might make for himself is very great; the brief prayers that might be given are infinite. And as every soul is different, so will each have its own form of self-expression. Let it choose as it will and pray in the way it finds best.

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