Sunday, February 28, 2010

Second Sunday of Lent - click to read

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Saturday, February 27, 2010


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Friday, February 26, 2010

When we read these prayer words written by St Therese we may realize the purifying value of suffering our Lord sometimes sends us. 

My God, I thank Thee for all the graces Thou hast bestowed on me, and in particular for having made me pass through the crucible suffering. With what joy I shall see Thee on the last day bearing the Cross as the emblem of royalty. As Thou hast made me a partaker of thy holy Cross, grant that I may one day be like to Thee, and bear upon my glorified body the imprint of Thy sacred wounds. (St Therese)

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Monday, February 22, 2010

St John Vianney on anger and patience - excerpts from 'The Little Catechism of the Cure of Ars' link

Anger is an emotion of the soul, which leads us violently to repel whatever hurts or displeases us. 

This emotion, my children, comes from the devil: it shows that we are in his hands; that he is the master of our heart; that he holds all the strings of it, and makes us dance as he pleases. See, a person who puts himself in a passion is like a puppet; he knows neither what he says, nor what he does; the devil guides him entirely. He strikes right and left; his hair stands up like the bristles of a hedgehog; his eyes start out of his head - he is a scorpion, a furious lion....Why do we, my children, put ourselves into such a state? It is, mind, because we do not love the good God. Our heart is given up to the demon of pride, who is angry when he thinks himself despised; to the demon of avarice, who is irritated when he suffers any loss; to the demon of luxury, who is indignant when his pleasures are interfered with....How unhappy we are, my children, thus to be the sport of demons? They do whatever they please with us; they suggest to us evil-speaking, calumny, hatred, venegeance: they even drive us so far as to put our neighbour to death. See, Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy; Saul wished to take away the life of David; Theodosius caused the massacre of the inhabitants of Thessalonica, to revenge a personal affront....If we do not put our neighbour to death, we are angry with him, we curse him, we give him to the devil, we wish for his death, we wish for our own. In our fury, we blaspheme the holy Name of God, we accuse His Providence...What fury, what impiety! And what is still more deplorable, my children, we are carried to these excesses for a trifle, for a word, for the least injustice! Where is our faith! Where is our reason? We say in excuse another sin. The good God equally condemns anger, and the excesses that are its consequences....How we sadden our guardian angel! He is always there at our side to send us good thought, and he sees us do nothing but evil...If we did like St Remigius, we should never be angry. See, this saint, being questioned by a Father of the desert how he managed to be always in an even temper, replied, "I often consider that my guardian angel is always by my side, who assists me in all my needs, who tells me what I ought to do and what I ought to say, and who writes down, after each of my actions, the way in which I have done it." Philip II, king of Spain, having passed several hours of the night in writing a long letter to the Pope, gave it to his secretary to fold up and seal. He, being half asleep, made a mistake; when he meant to put sand on the letter, he took the ink bottle and covered all the paper with ink. While he was ashamed and inconsolable, the king said, quite calmly, "No very great harm is done; there is another sheet of paper"; and he took it, and employed the rest of the night in writing a second letter, without the least displeasure with his secretary.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Sunday of Lent, Invocabit - click to read

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Refugium Peccatorum - Ora Pro Nobis

This meditation is very encouraging and consoling for us, poor sinners. Mary is our spiritual mother and our  refuge given to us by her Divine Son while He was dying on the Cross: "Behold, your mother!" (John 19:27)

MARY, being the Mother of our Redeemer, you receive sinners with loving kindness, and you do all you can to save them from damnation. What sacrifices you made for us during your earthly life! For thirty-three years—from the time you laid the newborn Savior in the crib of Bethlehem to the day when you stood beneath the cross on Calvary and watched Him die—you suffered a constant martyrdom, for the sword of sorrow continually pierced your soul. But you did not complain. You bore all these sufferings with patience because you knew that the salvation of men was to be brought about in this manner. You even willingly sacrificed Jesus that the sinful human race might be redeemed.

It is impossible for you not to have mercy on sinners. Now that you are in heaven, where you no longer have to make any sacrifices for their salvation, you cannot look on quietly and see how all that you and your divine Son have endured remains without fruit, and how those souls perish on whose account your Son shed His blood and you became the Mother of Sorrows. To the end of the world you will never cease to have mercy on sinners and to intercede for their salvation.

MARY, if you confer upon us so many temporal blessings, you will surely be all the more anxious about our spiritual welfare. The sinner, were he even the outcast of the world, is never rejected by you, but you welcome him with motherly kindness and do not leave him till you have reconciled him to His Judge. As the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour, you go about seeking whom you may save.

As the Mother of Mercy, you are full of kindness and love, not only toward the just, but also toward sinners. Pray for the sinners of the world, especially for those farthest removed from God. Prepare them to receive divine graces. Stand between them and the just punishments of God. Plead for their sincere repentance that they may not be lost. Be their safe refuge and their hope for the sake of Jesus who died for them.

MARY, how well you know that mortal sin is the greatest offence against God. The infinite majesty of God is so great that all creatures in heaven and on earth are as nothing compared to Him. Teach me to understand that when I sin, I refuse obedience to God; I rebel against Him, even despise Him. I crucify Jesus anew by my sins, as the Apostle Paul reminds me, for by my sins I renew the cause for which my divine Savior suffered the death of the cross. Help me to understand more and more the malice of sin that I may hate it above all things and avoid it as the greatest possible evil. Let me rather die than commit a willful mortal sin.

REFUGE OF SINNERS, if I have the misfortune to fall into a grievous sin, let me have recourse to you at once. Obtain for me the grace of a sincere repentance and true contrition. With your help let me walk constantly in the way of penance so that as a penitent I may be saved.

O Almighty and merciful God, Who in the Blessed Virgin Mary have given sinners a refuge and a help, grant us, who are protected by her, the forgiveness of all our sins and the blessings of Your mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Feast of Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners, Aug. 13)

The illustration of this advocations of the Litany of Loreto included in the main text extols Mary’s role as advocate for spiritual and corporeal works of mercy and is of intricate composition. The cameo with mother and child is delimited by four anchors, symbols of hope, security, and stability. This central image is surrounded by five biblical scenes. Each one of them depicts in miniature size a situation of danger, temptation or fault with subsequent conversion and/or mercy:
In the lower half center, we see the rendering of Saint Peter’s vision of the large sheet filled with all animals of earth and sky (Acts 10:11-12). Peter will have to change his opinion about what is clean and unclean in order to comply with God’s will.
The miniature to the left of Peter portrays a safe harbor (Psalm 108:30). Those who went off to sea experienced distress, but God brought them to the harbor they longed for.
To the right of Peter’s vision is a town-like agglomeration of houses, churches and castles. They are a symbol of refuge for the needy, possibly reflecting 1 Maccabees 10:13,14 and the stronghold of Beth-zur.
The upper left miniature tells about the rescue of Nabal, the evil rich. His wife Abigail implores David to refrain from vengeance. David relents and praises her saying: “Blessed be your good judgment and yourself, who … have prevented me from shedding blood” (1 Samuel 25:33).
The fifth miniature, in the upper right corner, tells the story of Adonijah, who in an attempt to become king turned against David, his father. Abandoned by his followers, he “went and seized the horns of the altar” in search of refuge against Solomon’s vengeance. Solomon acted mercifully, and said to Adonijah: “Go to your home” (1 Kings 2:49ff).

The lemma reminds us that God loves all people (Psalm 87:4f.). It is Mary’s role to bring God’s love into the world, to be the intercessor for all, and to give hope and help to sinners.

Credits: text of the meditation was written by Fr Lovasik as Loreto Litany meditations and can be found on the Intermirifica webpage, whereas explanation of the picture of Our Lady Refuge of Sinners is after 'The Mary Page', relevant links on the sidebar in Rosary section of this blog.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

CHRIST HAD TO BE TEMPTED IN THE DESERT - St Thomas Aquinas "Meditations for Lent"

Temptations of various kind are allowed to make us solid in virtue by resisting them. We can resist strengthened with God's grace, for in this way we realize how merciful and loving He is. If we try to resist by our own means, sooner or later we will fail. Our Lady is particularly helpful in obtaining all necessary graces for us if we genuinely desire and keep praying for holy life always humbly asking her intercession.

He was in the desert forty days and forty nights: and was tempted by Satan. (Mark 1-13).

1. it was by Christ's own will that he was exposed to the temptation by the devil, as it was also by his own will that he was exposed to the slain by the limbs of the devil. Had He not so willed, the devil would never have dared to approach Him. The devil is always more disposed to attack those who are alone, because, as is said in Sacred Scripture, If a man shall prevail against one, two shall withstand him easily (Eccles. iv.12). That is why Christ went out into the desert, as one going out to a battle-ground, that there he might be tempted by the devil. Whereupon St. Ambrose says that Christ went into the desert for the express purpose of provoking the devil. For unless the devil had fought, Christ would never have overcome him for me.
St. Ambrose gives other reasons too. He says that Christ chose the desert as the place to be tempted for a hidden reason, namely that he might free from his exile Adam, who, from Paradise, was driven into the desert; and again that he did it for a reason in which there is no mystery, namely to show us that the devil envies those who are tending towards a better life.
2. We say with St. Chrysostom that Christ exposed Himself to the temptation because the devil most of all tempts those whom he sees alone. So in the very beginning of things he tempted the woman, when he found her away from her husband. It does not however follow from this that a man ought to throw himself into any occasion of temptation that presents itself. Occasions of temptations are of two kinds. One kind arises from man's own action, when, for example, man himself goes near to sin, not avoiding the occasion of sin. That such occasions are to be avoided we know, and Holy Scripture reminds us of it.Stay not in any part of the country round about Sodom (Gen.xix.17). The second kind of occasion arises from the devil's constant envy of those who are tending to better things, as St. Ambrose says, and this occasion of temptation is not one we must avoid. So, according to St. John Chrysostom, not only Christ was led into the desert by the Holy Ghost, but all the children of God who possess Holy Ghost are led in like manner. For God's children are never content to sit down with idle hands, but the Holy Ghost ever urges them to undertake for God some great work. And this, as far as the devil is concerned, is to go into desert, for in the desert there is none of that wickedness which is the devil's delight. Every good work is as it were a desert to the eye of the world and of our flesh, for good works are contrary to the desire of the world and of our flesh.
To give the devil such an opportunity of temptation as this is not dangerous, for it is much more the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who is the promoter of every perfect work, that prompts us than the working of the devil who hates them all.

The picture represents Duccio's 'Temptation of Christ' 

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday and beginning of Lent- click to read more

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How to avoid Purgatory - excerpts from the classic book by Fr Paul O'Sullivan - click to read the book

1. In every prayer you say, every Mass you hear, every Communion you receive, every good work you perform have the express intention of imploring God to grant you a holy and happy death and no Purgatory. Surely God will hear a prayer said with such confidence and perseverance.

2. Always wish to do God's will. It is in every sense the best for you. When you do or seek anything that is not God's will, you are sure to suffer. Say, therefore, fervently each time you recite the Our Father: Thy will be done.

3. Accept all the sufferings, sorrows, pains and disappointments of life, be they great or small, ill health, loss of goods, the death of your dear ones, heat or cold, rain or sunshine as coming from God. Bear them calmly and patiently for love of Him and in penance for your sins. Of course, one may use all his efforts to ward off trouble and pain, but when one cannot avoid it let him bear it patiently. Impatience and revolt make sufferings vastly greater and more difficult to bear.

4. The greatest act in Christ's life was His Passion. As He had a Passion so each one of us has a Passion. Our Passion consists in the sufferings and labors of every day. Therefore, let us do our work, accept its disappointments and hardships and bear our pains in union with the Passion of Christ. We gain more merit by a little pain than by years of pleasure.

5. Forgive all injuries and offences for in proportion, as we forgive others, God forgives us. Go to confession. This sacrament does more than "just" rid us of our sins; it gives us a tremendous increase in sanctifying grace. It wins for us a higher place in Heaven, with increased union with God. Each time we go to confession, we are preserved from many dangers and misfortunes which might otherwise have befallen us. A devout confession helps us to hear the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and to hear and follow the advice of our guardian angels.

6. Avoid mortal sins, deliberate venial sins and break off bad habits. Then it will be relatively easy to satisfy God's justice for sins of frailty. Above all avoid sins against charity and chastity in thought, word and deed for these sins are the reason why many souls are detained in Purgatory for a long time.

7. If afraid of doing too much work, do many little things, acts of kindness and charity, give the alms you can, don't grumble or complain when things are not as you please, don't complain of others, never refuse to do a favor for others when possible. These and such acts are a splendid penance.

8. Do all in your power for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Pray for them constantly, get others to do so, join the Friends of the Poor Souls and ask all those you know to do likewise. The Holy Souls will repay you most generously.

9. There is no more powerful way of obtaining from God a most holy and happy death than by weekly confession, daily Mass and daily communion. Masses may be arranged after or before someone's death to expedite their time in Purgatory.

10. A daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament – if only for three or four minutes – is an easy way of obtaining the same grace. Kneel in the presence of Jesus with eyes fixed on the Tabernacle or Monstrance, sure that He is looking at you, then repeat little prayers like these: My Jesus, Mercy. My Jesus, have pity on me a sinner. My Jesus, I love you. My Jesus, give me a happy death.

11. Wear the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. "Whosoever dies clothed in this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire." This is the Blessed Virgin Mary's Promise, made July 16, 1251 to St. Simon Stock. The Sabbatine Privilege is Mary's promise to release from Purgatory soon after death, all those who: 1) wear the brown scapular 2) observe chastity according to their state in life and 3) say the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary every day. To be eligible for this scapular promise, one must be enrolled.

12. Use holy water to remit venial sin. Because of the blessing attached to it, Holy Mother Church strongly encourages its use upon her children, especially when danger threatens, such as fire, storms, sickness and other calamities. Every Catholic home should have a supply of holy water. Sprinkle some holy water on the ground, then make the Sign of the Cross and pray: "By this holy water and by Thy Precious Blood, wash away all my sins and the sins of the Poor Souls in Purgatory, O Lord".

About Brown Scapular (from Appendix in Fr O'Sullivan book):

(The following official information was obtained from the National Scapular center, Darien, Illinois, May 9, 1986.)

Two wonderful promises of Our Lady of Mount Carmel are available to those who have been enrolled in the Brown Scapular.

The great promise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, given to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251, is as follows: "Whoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

Our Lady's second Scapular Promise, known as the Sabbatine Privilege (the word "Sabbatine" meaning "Saturday"), was given by the Blessed Virgin Mary to Pope John XXII in the year 1322 and is as follows: "I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death, and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free."

There are three conditions for obtaining this privilege: 1) the wearing of the Brown Scapular; 2) the practice of chastity according to one's state of life; 3) the daily recitation of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Those who cannot read can abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays instead of reciting the Little Office. Also, any priest who has diocesan faculties (this includes most priests) has the additional faculty to commute (change) the third requirement into another pious work for example, the daily Rosary.

Because of the greatness of the Sabbatine privilege, the Carmelite Order suggests that the third requirement not be commuted into anything less than the daily recitation of seven Our Fathers, seven Hail Marys, and seven Glory Be to the Fathers.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

St Therese and the sword - meditation from Arbp Fulton Sheen

Lent is approaching fast and we may need to think about our spiritual needs, imperfections, wants etc. What is the better way than to enjoy a crush course in the Little Way of our beloved Carmelite Saint, St Therese, the Little Flower, given by her disciple and third Order Carmelite, Archbishop Fulton Sheen? Let us see what he has to say....

The new way of St Therese is not to start thinking about how wicked you are, how sinful, but to begin looking at our Lord. And from that, you will see that you are not as good as you ought tobe, but yo will try to please the one you love. Let me give you some of her words along these lines. She said:

Jesus! i would so love Him, love Him as he has never been loved in the history of the world.

And one of the novices - for she was the Mistress of Novices - came to her one day, and she said, "Oh, I have so many virtues to aquire."

The Little Flower said, "No, you've got a lot of things to lose!"

That's the trouble. Our spiritual books tell us how to acquire humility. I told you about the 12 ways of St Bernard. Well now, you'll go crazy trying to develop those 12 ways. One of them is to love to be stomped on and trampled on. The Little Flower says, no, start loving the Lord, and then you'll no longer be proud. You cannot start acquiring, for example, the virtue of humility or fortitude. You can never fall in love with abstraction. You can only love a person. No one in the world ever fell in love with a theorem of geometry.

This is the trouble with secular humanism and materialism: There's no person to love. So then the new way of the Little Flower is....fall in love. Love the Good Lord, and then you will strive to please Him. And because you see that there are imperfections in you, you will love Him more so that they may washed away. This is not a little way, it's the new way because we've forgotten it. It's buried in Scripture. It's buried in Isaiah, buried in Psalms, buried in Zechariah, and she digs it out for us.

Now we come to the second point. What effect did it have on her? Now when we look at the picture of this frail little French girl, we think of her, yes, as the little Therese, frail, meek, humble. But does love make one that way? Real lovers are courageous.

Do you know what she wanted to be? She wanted to be a soldier. She used to dream about it. In one of her dreams, someone was conscripting soldiers for an army. And she heard a voice saying, "Maybe we ought to ask for Therese." And she said, "Well, I'm ready." She said, "I'm sorry it's not a holy war, but I'm ready to fight anyway."

Now we never think of the Little Flower as having a saint whom she wanted to be like more than anyone else, but she did. Do you know who that was? Joan of Arc. Can you imagine her seated on a horse clad in armour? And she said: "If I were Joan of Arc, it would not be voices from heaven. It would be only the voice of my Beloved."

One of her favourite texts of Scriptures, therefore, was "I came not to bring peace, but the sword." (Matt 10:34)...And then St Therese said: "A sister showed me a photograph representing Joan of Arc, consoled by an interior voice. The saints encourage me from above, and they say to me, "So long as you are in fetters, you cannot fulfill your mission. But after your death, then will be the time of your conquest."

In other words, she said, "I'm going to be a warrior and a soldier after my death, I am in no battlefields, now except the battle of the spiritual life."

This figure gives you some idea of, for example, her powerful intercession. This, too, accounts for her love of missions. She is the patroness of the Propagation of the Faith, though she was never in mission lands. The reason she is the patroness of the Propagation of the Faith was because she loved missions, and she corresponded all her life with two missionary priests and offered up her sufferings for them.

Yes, that is true, but there is a deeper reason still. This woman was in love, and she wanted her Beloved known all over the world. That's why she loved the missions! As she put it:

"Like the prophets and the doctors, I would enlighten souls, I would travel the whole world to preach Your name and set up Your glorious cross in pagan lands. But one mission could never suffice for me. Would that I could, at one and the same time, proclaim the gospel to the world, even to the remotest of its islands. I  would desire to be a missionary not only for a few years but to have been one from the creation of the world and to continue to the end of time."

Love makes one a missionary. When we cease to love, we cease to be a missionary. Now it is sometimes asked, for example, why is there a decline of conversions today? It is  due to ecumenism? No, it's not due to ecumenism. It's due to the fact that we're not making Christ the center of our lives. And if we were deeply in love with Christ instead of with social programs and the like (all which have their place, but here I am speaking of primacy), if we gave the primacy to Christ, then we would be on fire to save souls. After all, the reason we are tired in body is because we are already tired in mind. We have no love. The fires have gone out. We are cinders, burnt out cinders floating in the immensity of space and time. And here is a young girl. It is almost as if she is locked up in a gilded cage, absolutely straining at the leash in order to become a missionary. Why? Simply because she loved!

As I told you, love does not mean just simply to have and to own and to possess. It's not sitting on the throne waiting for others to serve. It's the going out, the spending of oneself. Love is not the circle circumscribed bt self. It's like a cross outstreched to embrace the whole world.

Love isn't Buddha, fat, sleek, a well-oiled body, hands folded across the breast intently looking inward, thinking only of self. It's the picture of thin saints looking out for the mission to the world, as Therese looks out in many of her photos. And therefore, she loved this text, the sword. And she says many times in her writings that "I am entering Carmel to bring the sword to the monastery of Carmel." In other words, it needed a little fire. She entered it to change it. And her reason for doing so was right.

We are fond of talking peace today, but all we mean by peace is lack of disturbance. Our Lord said, "I came not to bring peace." God HATES PEACE in those who are destined for war! And we are destined for war, spiritual war. We've forgotten that we're in a combat. We are in genuine combat. When our first parents were driven out of the garden of Paradise, God stationed an angel with a flaming sword, a two-edged sword that turned this way and that. Why? To keep our first parents from going back to eat of the Tree of Life and thus immortalize their evil. And the only way we can ever get back again into paradise is by having that sword run into us. It's flaming because it's love. It's two-edged because it cuts, and it penetrates. It's not the sword that's thrust outward to hack off the ear of the servant of the high  priest as Peter did. It's the sword that's thrust inward to cut out all of our seven pallbearers of the soul, the pride and covetousness, lust, anger, envy, gluttony, and sloth.

This was the sword she loved. And this sword is what we've forgotten in our modern world with the dripping away of discipline, the ascetic principle. The disciplinary principle of the Christian world had moved to the totalitarian countries. And concerning the sword, I quoted the sword in relationship to the Garden of Eden, but in the prophecy of Zechariah, we read this:

"This is the very word of the Lord of Hosts: Oh sword, awake against my shepherd." (Zech 13:7)

Who is the shepherd? Our Lord. So Zechariah is having the heavenly Father say, "Sword awake! Awake against My shepherd, against My Son, against Him who works with Me." So when our Blessed Lord came to this earth, the sword of Herod was raised against Him. Did anyone ever raise a sword against a two-year-old Caesar? Or a six-month-old Stalin? Why the sword against Him? because He plays a role in salvation. It belongs to warriors. And as the heavenly Father ran the sword into His own Son, the Son ran the into His own Mother. Simeon said to Mary, "You, too, shall be pierced to the heart." (Luke 2:35) So the Father ran a sword into His Son, the Son into His own Mother, and Our Lord into us.

"I have come not to bring peace, but the sword." This , then, is the way of the warrior and the little girl who wanted to be a soldier. And there was not much difference in her mind between a soldier and a missionary.

to be continued...

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quinquagesima Sunday - click to read Carmelite meditation

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

OUR LADY OF LOURDES - click to read more

Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, perfect moment to think about virtue of humility, and this virtue is most dear to God and Our Lady. St Bernadette, poor peasant girl, to whom Our Lady appeared in Lourdes, was made a very holy person through many trials in particular when she lived a hidden life of a nun. Her incorruptible body is preserved in the convent where she died in 1879. I recommend reading a very edifying story of her life written by Abbe Trochu more than fifty years ago in the book 'Saint Bernadette Soubirous' which may be found in some internet bookstores.
On the Immaculate excerpts from the writings of St Maximilian Kolbe
St Bernadette fragments from the book, "Recent Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary" by Stephen Breen published by The Scapular Press in 1952.

No sudden splendour broke the grey
And even tenor of your days,
No ecstasy made you forget
Your poverty in its high rays.

Mary, the lowliest can tread
With confidence the path you trod,
Your life the bright and shining star
That leads wayfarer to God. (St Therese)

"I was twelve years old when I first went to Lourdes, and the sight of some of those sick people was hard for me to bear. I wondered what the use was for some of them to travel, people who, logically, would have been much more comfortable in their beds.

Each day my father, as a doctor, went to the office of medical findings. On the third day, he came back very upset. In that office, he had seen a man seated at a table before a ham sandwich. Everybody watched with a sense of wonder a man who, that very morning, could not walk or eat normally. A few moments earlier he had stood up from his wheelchair and walked into the office. The medical certificates stating his condition declared that he was incurable.

The Church, being very cautious, acknowledged the authenticity of the miracle only later. "This man," I told myself, "was right to leave his room and come to implore Our Lady of Lourdes."

However, I later witnessed some events that in my mind were just as supernatural. As we boarded the train for our return journey, I saw some sick people embark, many of whom were very seriously ill. Overwhelmed with pity, I imagined that they felt some despair about not having been cured. But, on the contrary, many of those people had smiles on their faces. They looked happy, at peace, and a few of them even exchanged jokes.

And, in a more serious tone, a terribly crippled woman confided to her stretcher-bearer: "This trip did me so much good that I plan to come back next year... Maybe I'll see you again."

By Germaine Acremant and Jean Barbier in "For You, What Does Lourdes Represent?" After 'A Moment With Mary'
Photo credit to Fr Lawrence 

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Feast of St Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite and Martyr, Patroness of Europe - click for Vatican link

To read The History of Carmel - from the notes made by Edith Stein, please follow links below:
Part 1
Part 2

Photo of the entrance to Auschwitz camp where St Benedicta of the Cross was martyred. The sign above the entrance reads: 'Work makes free"

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

SEXAGESIMA SYNDAY - meditation from Carmel

PRESENCE OF GOD - O, Lord, I am here before You. Grant that my heart may be the good ground, ready to receive Your divine word.

1. Today Jesus, the divine Sower, comes to scatter the good seed in His vineyard the Church. He wishes to prepare our souls for a new blossoming of grace and virtue. "The seed is the word of God". Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, eternal Utterance of the Father, came to sow this word in the hearts of men; it is, as it were, a reflection of Himself. The divine word is not a sound which strikes the air and disappears rapidly like the word of men; it is a supernatural light which reveals the true value of things; it is grace, the source of power and strength to help us live according to the light of God. Thus it is a seed of supernatural life, of sanctity, of eternal life. This seed is never sterile in itself; it always has a vital, powerful strength, capable of producing not only some fruits of Christian life, but abundant fruits of sanctity. This seed is not entrusted to an inexperienced husbandman who, because of his ignorance, might ruin the finest sowing. It is Jesus Himself, the Son of God, who is the Sower.
Then why does the seed not always bring forth the desired fruit? Because very often the ground which receives it does not have the requisitive qualities. God never stops sowing the seed in the hearts of men; He invites them, He calls them continually by His light and His appeals; He never ceases giving His grace by means of the Sacraments; but all this is in vain and fruitless unless man offers God a good ground, that is, a heart, well prepared and disposed. God wills our salvation and sanctification, but He never forces us; He respects our liberty.

2. Today's Gospel (Lk 8, 4-15) mentions four categories of people who receive the seed of the divine word in different ways. It compares them to the hard ground, to the stony soil, the earth choked with thorns, and lastly, to the good fertile field.

The hard ground: souls that are frivolous, dissipated, open to all distractions, rumors, and curiosity; admitting all kinds of creatures and earthly affections. The word of God hardly reaches their heart when the enemy, having free access, carries it off, thus preventing it from taking root.

The stony ground: superficial souls with only a shallow layer of good earth, which will be rapidly blown away, along with the good seed, by winds of passion. These souls easily grow enthusiastic, but do not persevere and "in time of temptation fall away". They are unstable, because they have not the courage to embrace renunciation and to make the sacrifices which are necessary if one wishes to remain faithful to the word of God and to put it into practice in all circumstances. Their fervor is a straw fire which dies down and goes out in the face of the slightest difficulty.

The ground covered with thorns: souls that are preoccupied with the wordly things, pleasures, material interests and affairs. The seed takes root, but the thorns soon choke it by depriving it of air and light. Excessive solicitude for temporal things eventually stifles the rights of the spirit.

Lastly, the good ground is compared by Jesus to those "who, with a good and upright heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience." The good and upright heart is the one which always gives first place to God, which seeks before everything else the Kingdom of God and His justice. The seed of the divine word will bear abundant fruit in proportion to the good dispositions it finds in us: recollection, a serious and profound interior life, detachment, sincere seeking for the things of God above and beyond all earthly things, and finally, perseverance, without which the word of God cannot bear its fruit in us.

O, Jesus, divine Sower, rightly do You complain of the arid, sterile ground of my poor heart! What an abundant sowing of holy inspirations, interior lights, and grace You have cast into my heart! How many times You have invited me to come to You by special appeals, and how many times I stopped, after following You for a short time! O Lord, if only I could understand the fundamental reason for my spiritual sterility, my instability and inconstancy in good! Will Your light fail me? No, for you are continually instructing and admonishing my soul in a thousand ways. Oh! If so many souls living in error and not knowing You have received but a hundredth part of the light which You have given me so profusely, how much fruit would they not have drawn from it!
Will Your grace fail me? Is not Your grace my strength? O Lord, I see that neither Your light nor Your strength will fail me; what I lack is the perseverance which can faithfully withstand temptations, difficulties, and darkness; which can face courageously the sacrifice and austerity of the Christian life. It is easy to make sacrifices and to renounce oneself for a day, but it is hard to keep on doing it always, every day of our life. It is not the reason that You said, O Lord, that the good heart brings forth fruit "in patience"?
O Jesus, who endured with invincible patience Your most sorrowful Passion and death, give me the patience I need to keep up the struggle against my passions and my self-love, patience to embrace with perseverance all the sacrifices required by total detachment, to be able to live without personal satisfactions and pleasures, to do everything that is repugnant to me, that hurts me, that crosses me and is displeasing to my self-love.
O, Lord, You know that I desire total purification because I long for union with You; but You cannot purify me entirely if I cannot accept patiently Your work: the trials, humiliations and detachments that You prepare for me. O Jesus, divine Sufferer, give me Your patience; make me, like Yourself, humble and patient.

Credit, meditation for Sexagesima Sunday, "Divine Seed" comes from the book "Divine Intimacy" by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Octave of the Feast of Purification - days to meditate on the virtue of obedience

Octave of the Feast of Purification and Presentation of Our Lord in the temple gives us precious moments to see the virtue of obedience through the eyes of Carmelite Saints. We may ask ourselves how obedient we are to God in our spiritual and temporal duties, do we seek God's will always, and try to answer these questions honestly.


If you love, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15)

Jesus answered him, "It is written, One does not live by bread alone (Luke 4:4)

She does not rejoice except in God, nor hope in anything other than God; she fears only God and has no sorrow unless in relation to Him. And likewise all her appetites and care go out only to God. (St John of the Cross)

We shouldn't care at all about not having devotion - as I have said - but we ought to thank the Lord who allows us to be desirous of pleasing Him, even though our works may be weak. This method of keeping Christ present with us is beneficial in all stages and is a very safe means of advancing (St Teresa)

We do not bargain when we love, Jesus teaches me not to refuse Him anything and to be pleased when He gives me an opportunity for proving to Him that I love Him. I do this peacefully, with complete abandonment (St Therese)

I no longer feel the need of denying myself the solace of affection, because my heart is firmly established in God. Now that my whole heart is His, it has become enlarged, and I am able to love those dear to me with a love incomparably greater than if it had sprung from a selfish, sterile affection. (St Therese)

The picture represents drawing by Rembrandt "Presentation of the Lord in the Temple"

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St. Andrew Corsini, Bishop and Confessor of the Carmelite Order

O God! who dost ever renew the examples of virtue in Thy Church; grant that Thy people may so walk in the footsteps of Blessed Andrew, Thy Confessor and Pontiff, whose feast we celebrate today, that they may obtain the same rewards. Through our Lord.

St Andrew Corsini of illustrious Corsini family, was born in Florence in 1302 and died 1373. Wild and dissolute in youth, he was startled one day by the words of his mother about what had happened to her before his birth, and, becoming a Carmelite monk in his native city, began a life of great mortification. He studied at Paris and Avignon, and, on his return, became the Apostle of Florence. He was regarded as a prophet and a thaumaturgus, or wonders maker. Called to the See of Fiesoli, he fled, but was discovered by a child, and compelled to accept the honour. He redoubled his austerities as a bishop, was lavish in his care of the poor, and was sought for everywhere as a peacemaker, notably at Bologna, whither he was sent as papal legate to heal the breach between the nobility and the people. After twelve years in the episcopacy, he died at the age of seventy-one, and miracles were so multiplied at his death that Eugenius IV permitted a public cult immediately; but it was only in 1629 that Urban VIII canonized him. His feast is kept on 4 February.

St Gregory of Nysa tell us in his sermon of the battle with passions St Andrew had to endured to become a holy person.

When the pure and modest church first looked upon the Blessed Andrew, she saw that his countenance was truly made to the likness of God; she saw grace flowing in abundance from his lips; she saw his humility carried to a degree beyond which she could conceive none higher; she saw gentleness and mercy like David's, understanding and prudence like Solomon's, goodness like that of Moses, perfection like Samuel's, continence and modesty equal to Joseph's, wisdom like Daniel's; she saw him endowed with zeal for the faith like unto that of the heavenly John, gifted like Paul, with charity that could not be quenched. She saw wounded with a blessed love, and with a chaste and righteous affection she loved her spouse, lavishing upon him the tokens of love. Yet before she had fulfilled her desire, before she had indulged and satisfied her longing, and while she was still on fire with love, temptations called the athlete to combat, and she was left alone. While he was pouring forth his sweat in the strife upon which he had entered in the cause of holiness, whe waited in chastity, guarding the marriage vow. The bridegroom is not taken away from us; he stands in our midst, although we see him not. Within the shrine, and in the innermost part of the temple, within the veil, where Christ, our forerunner, is entered for us, there is the Priest, who had left behind him the covering of his flesh. No longer doth he serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, but he gazeth upon the very image of the things. No longer seeing through a glass, not through a lattice, in a dark manner, but to face, he intercedeth with God. He intercedeth for us also, and for the sins of his people. He hath laid aside his garment of skins, for they that dwell ion Paradise need not such garments, but he hath the covering which he hath woven out of purity of his life, and with it hath adorned himself. The death of such a man is honorable and precious in the sight of the Lord. Verily, it is not death, but the breaking loose from the hold of the flesh; for he sayeth, "Thou hast broken my bonds." Simon hath been dismissed; he hath been freed from the bonds of the body. The snare is broken and the little bird hath flown away. He hath reached the promised land, and he speaketh wisdom with God upon the Mount. he hath loosed the shoes of the soul, that with the pure feet of the mind he may go up to the holy ground where God is see.
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

February - The Month of Purification

What do you teach me O Lord, offering Yourself thus in the Temple? You show me respect for the law by Your  willingness to observe it. You teach me adoration,  for You offered Yourself to the Father, not as His equal, which You really were, but as man. Here You have given me a model of the respect which I owe to Your law, not only to the Ten Commandments, but also to my Holy Rule and Constitutions. This law is all sweetness and delight for me, but I make it bitter when I do not renounce myself, for then, instead of my bearing it sweetly, the law is obliged to bear me (St Mary Magdalene dei Pazzi)

The Forty Days of Mary's Purification are now completed, and she must go up to the Temple, there to offer to God her Child Jesus. Before following the Son and his Mother in this mysterious journey, let us spent our last few moments at Bethlehem, in lovingly pondering over the mysteries at which we are going to assist. The Law commanded that a woman who had given birth to a son should not approach the Tabernacle for the term of forty days; after which time she was to offer a sacrifice for her purification...By another ordinance of the Law, every first-born son was to be considered as belonging to God, and was to be redeemed by five sicles, each sicle weighing, according to the standard of the Temple, twenty obols. Mary was a Daughter of Israel - she had given birth to Jesus - he was her First-born Son. Could such a Mother and such a Son be included in the laws we have just quoted? Was it becoming that Mary should observe them?
If she considered the spirit of these legal enactments, and why God required the ceremony of Purification, it was evident that she was not bound to them. They for whom these laws had been made were espoused to men; Mary was the chaste Spouse of the Holy Ghost, a Virgin in conceiving and a Virgin in giving birth to her Son; her purity had ever been spotless as that of the Angels; but it received an incalculable increase by her carrying the God of all sanctity in her womb, and bringing him into this world. Moreover, when she reflected upon her Child being the Creator and Sovereign Lord of all things, how could she suppose that he was to be submitted to the humiliation of being ransomed as a slave, whose life and person are not his own?
And yet the Holy Spirit revealed to Mary that she must comply with both these law. She, the holy Mother of God, must go to the Temple like other Hebrew mothers, as though she had lost something which needed restoring by a legal sacrifice. He that is the Son of God and Son of Man must be treated in all things as though he were the poor Jewish boy. Mary adores the will of God, and embraces it with her whole heart.... The Divine Will was dear to Mary in this as in every circumstances of her life. The Holy Virgin knew that by seeking this external rite of Purification, she was in no wise risking the honour of her Child, or failing in the respect due to her own Virginity. She was in the Temple of Jerusalem what she was in the house of Nazareth, when she received the Archangel's visit; she was the Handmaid of the Lord. She obeyed the Law because she seemed to come under the Law. Her God and her Son submitted to the ransom as humbly as the poorest Hebrew would have to do; he had already obeyed the edict of the emperor Augustus in the general census; he was to be obedient even unto death, even to the death of the Cross. The Mother and the Child both humbled themselves in the Purification, and man's pride received, on that day, one of the greatest lessons ever given it.... At length the Holy family enter Jerusalem. The name of this holy City signifies Vision of Peace; and Jesus comes to bring her Peace. Let us consider the names of the three places in which Redeemer began, continued and ended his life on earth. He is conceived at Nazareth, which signifies a Flower; and Jesus is, as he tells us in the Canticle, the Flower of the Field and the Lily of the Valley (Cant. 2:1), by whose fragrance we are refreshed. He is born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread; for he is the nourishment of our souls. He dies on the Cross in Jerusalem, and, by His Blood, he restores peace between heaven and earth, peace between men, peace within our own souls; and, on this day of his Mother's Purification, we shall find him giving us the pledge of this peace..... The Emmanuel has left Bethlehem; he has come among the people; he is about to take possession of his Temple, and the mere fact of his entering it will at once give it a glory, which is far above that of its predecessor. He will often visit it during his mortal life, but his coming to it today, carried as he is in Mary's arms, is enough for the accomplishment of the promise, and all the shadows and figures of the Temple at once pale before the rays of the Sun of the Truth and Justice. But this great event could not be accomplished without a prodigy being wrought by the Eternal God as a welcome to His Son.... this time it is the Holy Ghost himself who sends a witness to the Infant, now in the great Temple. There was then living in Jerusalem an old man whose life was wellnigh spent. He was a Man of desires (Dan 10: 11) and his name was Simeon; his heart had longed unceasingly for the Messaias, and at last his hope was recompensed. The Holy Ghost has revealed to Him that he should not see death without first seeing the rising of the Divine Light. As Mary and Joseph were ascending the steps of the Temple, to take Jesus to the altar, Simeon felt within himself the strong impulse of the Spirit of God: he leaves his house, and walks toward the Temple; the ardour of his desires makes him forget the feebleness of age. He reaches the porch of God's House, and there, amids the many mothers who had come to present their children, his inspired gaze recognizes the Virgin of whom he had so often read in Isaias, and he presses through the crowd to the Child she is holding in her arms. Mary, guided by the same Divine Spirit, welcomes the saintly old man, and puts into his trembling arms the dear object of her love, the salvation of the world. Happy Simeon! figure of the ancient world, grown old in its expectation, and near its end.....He cannot keep silence; he must sing a Canticle; he must do as Shepherds and Magi had done, he must give testimony: Now, says he, now, O Lord, thou dost dismiss thy servant in Peace, because my eyes have seen thy Salvation, which thou has prepared - a Light that is to enlighten the Gentiles, and give glory to thy people Israel.
Immediately there comes, attracted to the spot by the same Holy Spirit, the holy Anna, Phanuel's daughter, noted for her piety, and venerated by the people on account of her great age. Simeon and Anna, the representatives of the Old Testament, unite their voices, and celebrate the happy coming of the Child who is to renew the face of the earth; they give praise to the mercy of Jehovah, who in this place , in this second Temple, gives peace to the world, as the prophet Aggeus had foretold. This was the Peace so long looked forward to by Simeon, and now in this Peace will he sleep...Anna has some years still to pass on earth; as the Evangelist tells us, she has to go and announce the fulfilment of the promises to such of the Jews as were spiritually minded, and looked for the Redemption of Israel (St Luke II,38). The divine seed is sown; the Shepherds and the Magi, Simeon and Anna, have all been its sowers; it will spring up in due time; and when our Jesus has spent his thirty years of hidden life in Nazareth, and shall come for the harvest-time, he will say to his Disciples: Lift up your eyes, and see the countries, for they are white already for the harvest: pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that he send labourers into the harvest (St Luke 10: 2). Simeon gives back to Mary the Child she is going to offer to the Lord. The two doves are presented to the priest, who sacrifices the on the Altar; the price for the ransom is paid; the whole law is satisfied; and after having paid her homage to her creator in this sacred place, where she spent her early years, Mary, with Jesus pressed to her bossom, and her faithful Joseph by her side, leaves the Temple. Such is the mystery of this fortieth day, which closes, by this admirable feast of the Purification, the holy season of Christmas. Several learned writers, among whom we may mention Henschenius and Pope Benedict XIV, are of opinion that this Solemnity was instituted by the Apostles themselves. This much is certain, that it was a long-established feast even in the fifth century....The honour paid thus by the Church to the Mother tends in reality to the greater glory of her Divine Son, for He is the Author and the End of all those prerogatives which we revere and honour in Mary.

Fragments from the chapter on the Feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin taken from Dom Gueranger "Liturgical Year".

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