Wednesday, April 28, 2010

When we consider the immensity of others' needs, we can, on the one hand, be driven towards an ideology that would aim at doing what God's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolving every problem. Or we can be tempted to give in to inertia, since it would seem that in any event nothing can be accomplished. At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive if we are to keep on the right path, without falling into an arrogant contempt for man, something not only unconstructive but actually destructive, or surrendering to a resignation which would prevent us from being guided by love in the service of others. Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbours, however extreme. In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996, Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: “We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer”(Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est)

Pope Benedict XVI praying at the shrine of Mariazell, Austria

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mary, a woman of faith, hope and charity, excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI encyclical 'Deus Caritas Est' - click for link

Outstanding among the saints is Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. In the Gospel of Luke we find her engaged in a service of charity to her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she remained for "about three months" (Lk 1:56) so as to assist her in the final phase of her pregnancy. "Magnificat anima mea Dominum", she says on the occasion of that visit, "My soul magnifies the Lord" (Lk 1:46). In these words she expresses her whole programme of life: not setting herself at the center, but leaving space for God, who is encountered both in prayer and in service of neighbour - only then does goodness enter the world......Mary's greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself. She is lowly: her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:38, 48). She knows that she will only contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places herself completely at the disposal of God's initiatives. Mary is a woman of hope: only because she believes in God's promises and awaits the salvation of Israel, can the angel visit her and call her to the decisive service of these promises. Mary is a woman of faith: "Blessed are you who believed", Elizabeth says to her (cf. Lk 1:45).

The Magnificat - a portrait...of her soul - is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the Word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the Word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the Word of God; the Word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the Word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the Word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate.

 Finally, Mary is a woman who loves. How could it be otherwise? As a believer who in faith thinks with God's thoughts and wills with God's will, she cannot fail to be a woman who loves. We sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus' public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother's hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus' true hour (cf. Jn 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (cf. Jn 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).

After 'A Moment with Mary' 
Picture: Benedict XVI praying in St Paul's Cathedral in Mdina, Malta

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Saturday, April 17, 2010


Reading this post, please, pray for the reposal of the souls of those who died in horrific air plane crash in Smolensk on 10th of April this month. This accident took lives of almost one hundred people. Those who died were on their way to Katyn to take part in commemoration of a massacre of over twenty thousands of Polish prisoners of war army officers and intelligentsia murdered by Soviet secret services in 1940. May they rest in peace.

Novena prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel, April 17 to April 25, vigil of Feast Day.

(State your petitions)
Holy Virgin, moved by the painful uncertainty we experience in seeking and acquiring the true and the good,  we cast ourselves at thy feet and invoke thee under the sweet title of Mother of Good Counsel.  We beseech thee: come to our aid at this moment in our worldly sojourn when the twin darknesses of error and of evil that plots our ruin by leading minds and hearts astray.

Seat of Wisdom and Star of the Sea, enlighten the victims of doubt and of error so that they may not be seduced by evil masquerading as good; strengthen them against the hostile and corrupting forces of passion and of sin.

Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us from thy Divine Son the love of virtue and the strength to choose, in doubtful and difficult situations, the course agreeable to our salvation.  Supported by thy hand we shall thus journey without harm along the paths taught us by the word and example of Jesus our Savior, following the Sun of Truth and Justice in freedom and safety across the battlefield of life under the guidance of thy maternal Star, until we come at length to the harbor of salvation to enjoy with thee unalloyed and everlasting peace. Amen.

(By Pope Pius XII, 23 January 1953)

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Meditative reading, meditation and conversation with God - excerpts from 'Divine intimacy'

And he was gone forth to meditate in the field, the day being now well spent (Genesis 24:63)
Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season. And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper. Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind driveth from the face of the earth. Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just. For the Lord knoweth the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish. (Ps 1:1-6)
Give ear, O Lord, to my words, understand my cry. (Ps 5:1)
Be still and see that I am God (Psalm 45:11)
Let not the book of this law depart from thy mouth: but thou shalt meditate on it day and night, that thou mayst observe and do all things that are written in it: then shalt thou direct thy way, and understand it. Behold I command thee, take courage, and be strong. Fear not and be not dismayed: because the Lord thy God is with thee in all things whatsoever thou shalt go to. (Josue 1:8,9)
Meditate upon these things, be wholly in these things: that thy profiting may be manifest to all. (1 Tim 4:15)

The simplest way of conversing with God is the vocal prayer, but as the soul progresses in the spiritual life, it is natural for it to feel the need of a more interior prayer and so it spontaneously turns toward mental prayer. For some souls, no difficulty is experienced in recollection in God, however, there are souls that suffer from continual wanderings of the mind, in which "they go here and there, and are always upset, whether the fault is in their own nature, or whether God permits it" (St Teresa "Way of Perfection" 19). These souls are tempted to give up mental prayer, but St Teresa insists that reading devout book "will be a great help to recollection; let them read, therefore, even if only a little, but let them read" (Life, 4). St Therese, who suffered from aridity, often used this method. "In my helplessness," she says, "the Holy Scriptures and the Imitation (of Christ) are of the greatest assistance....It is from the Gospels, however, that I derive most help in the time of prayer; I find in their pages all that my poor soul needs, and I am always discovering there new lights and hidden, mysterious meanings (St Therese, Story of a Soul).

"O Lord, teach me how to seek You! Do not hide from my eyes, for I need to find You, to converse with You, to approach You, O infinite Love, to be inflamed and attracted by You" (St Peter of Alcantara)

St John of the Cross says: "The end of meditation and mental consideration of divine things is to obtain some knowledge and love of God" (Ascend 2:14). The purpose of it is to rest on "loving knowledge" which has its support in thought that is affectionate, permeated with love, and that surges from a loving heart. When we love a person we come to know him intuitively, better and more easily than those who might study him more minutely, but without love. St Teresa of Jesus speaks about prayer that consists "not in thinking much but in loving much" (Interior Castle 4:1), for thought is always subordinated to love. While we do think during meditation, our purpose is not to become more learned, but to increase our ability to love God more. Consequently, the work of the mind will be orientated especially to the realization of God's love for us; and this, by reflection on the various manifestations of infinite love. Mental prayer is an intimate conversation with God and although it is true that God is always present to us, but it is we who are not always present to Him. Therefore it is important we establish contact with Our Lord, and place ourselves near Him, by a conscious realization of His presence. We can do this for example by considering the Most Holy Trinity dwelling in our heart, or by drawing near to Jesus present in the tabernacle, or perhaps by picturing to ourselves interiorly some episode in the life or the Passion of our Saviour. Thus in the presence of God and beneath His gaze, we read the point of the meditation tranquilly, and reflect upon it calmly and gently, not as if reasoning with ourselves, but rather as if speaking to God in whose presence we are. The more the soul becomes accustomed to this way of reflecting, that is, treating and developing the subject of our meditation with God, the more quickly will this method attain its end, which is to enable the soul to converse with the Lord, to speak affectionately with Him as a son or daughter speaks with its father, as a friend with a friend. 
"Teach me, O Lord, how to meditate; teach me to pray, for I can do neither the one nor the other as I should, and You alone can teach me. Give me ears to hear You in the reading and in the meditation; inspire me with Your divine Spirit, so that He may enable me to know the subject on which I should reflect, what I should say and ask, and how I should ask in order to obtain it...Inspire me, O Lord, with a great love for Your divine truth and doctrines, so that when I read of them, I shall understand and relish them. Open my mind and my hearth; make me faithfully believe what You teach and practice what You command" (an ancient author)

Meditation, like meditative reading, is a means to attain to the heart of prayer which, according to St Teresa of Jesus, is 'nothing but friendly intercourse, and frequent solitary converse with Him who we know loves us' (Life, 8). it makes no difference whether we attain this end by means of meditation, or reading, or even by the slow, pious recitation of a vocal prayer. All these ways are good; the best for each one, however, will be that which will lead the soul more quickly to the end, that is to intimate converse with God, which is the heart of prayer. Once reached, we must learn how to persevere in it, in other words, to converse 'in friendly intercourse with the Lord'. Here, likewise, the manner will differ according to one's attraction and personal dispositions, which will often vary with the days and circumstances.
We must not believe that in order to treat intimately with God and to show Him our love, it is always necessary to do so by means of words. On the contrary - and this happens spontaneously with progress in the spiritual life - we will often prefer to be silent in order to fix our gaze calmly on the Lord, to listen to Him, the interior Master, and to return Him love in silence. The manifestation of our love thus becomes less lively and impetuous, but it gains in depth what it loves in emotion and outward appearance. We express our love more tranquilly, but the movement of our will toward God is much firmer  and more serious. Leaving aside reasoning and words, we concentrate all in a loving, intuitive look on God, and this gaze , far more than reasonings and colloquies, allows us to penetrate the depths of the divine mysteries. But let us repeat, this is not a speculative look, but a look of love which keeps the soul in intimate contact with God, in a real friendship with Him. The soul will not always be able to continue long in this contemplative look, this silent colloquy; now and again it will need to come back to reflection, to the verbal experience of its thoughts - it will be well for to do so rather often, in order to avoid vagueness and distractions. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that more is gained in these silent pauses at the feet of Our Lord than in a thousand reasonings and discourses.

'O Lord, You say to my soul, 'My kingdom is within you'  It is very comforting to know that You never leave me, and that I cannot exist without you. What more do you want, O my soul , and what do you seek elsewhere, since you possess within yourself your wealth, your love, your peace, your plenitude, and your kingdom, that is, the Beloved whom you desire and for whom you sigh? (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle 1: 7,8)

St Teresa of Jesus recommends to interior souls another kind of prayer, much simpler and more profitable - the prayer of recollection. The foundation of this prayer is the divine presence in our souls: the presence of immensity, by which God is in us as Creator and Preserver in so real and essential manner that "in Him we live, and move, and are" (Acts 17:28), so that if He ceased to be present in us, we should cease to exist; the presence of friendship, by which in a soul in the state of grace, God is present as a Father, as a Friend and as a sweet Guest, who invites that soul to dwell with the three divine Persons: with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the consoling promise of Jesus to the soul who loves Him: "If anyone love Me...My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make our abode with him" (Jn 14:23). Therefore, the prayer of recollection consists in the realization of this great truth: God is in me, my soul is His temple; I recollect myself in the intimacy of this temple to adore Him, love Him, and unite myself to Him. "O soul, most beautiful of all creatures," exclaims St John of the Cross, "that so greatly desireth to know the place where your Beloved is, in order to seek Him and be united with is a matter of great contentment and joy for you to see that He is so near you as to be within you. Rejoice and be glad in your inward recollection with Him, since you have Him so near. There desire Him, there adore Him, and do not go to seek Him outside yourself" (Spiritual Canticle 1:7,8). The soul who has the sense of the presence of God within it, possesses one of the most efficacious means of making prayer. "Do you believe," says St Teresa of Jesus, "that it is of little importance for a soul who is easily distracted, to understand this truth [that God is in it] and to know that, in order to speak with its heavenly Father and to enjoy His company, it does not have to go up to heaven or even to raise its voice? No matter how softly it speaks, He always hears it, because he is so near. It does not need wings to go to contemplate Him in itself." (Way of Perfection, 28). St Teresa also notes, that the prayer of recollection, which is the highest of the active forms of prayer, can be practiced by ourselves depending on our volition, for unlike a passive recollection that can only be produced by divine motion, the prayer of recollection is not a supernatural state, we can enter it by the help of God's grace of our own accord (Way of Perfection, 29).
St Teresa gives us also some practical hints how to practice of this kind of prayer: "The soul collects together [by a resolute act of will] all its faculties [the senses, imagination and intellect, which naturally tend toward exterior things] and enters within itself to be with its God" (Way, 28). The exercise of concentration on the interior things - the little heaven of the soul where the Blessed Trinity dwells - requires from the soul some effort and energy in the beginning. However, the Saint teaches, "let the soul try to cultivate the habit, despite the fatique entailed in recollecting itself and overcoming the body which is trying to reclaim its rights." Step by step, "as a reward for the violence which it has previously done to itself" (Way, 28), recollection will become easy and delightful; the senses will obey promptly, and even if the soul is not entirely free from distractions, it will not be so hard to overcome them. In this way, the soul will be able to concentrate entirely on God present within the soul, and there at His feet will be able to converse with Him to our heart's delight, and certainly, it will not be difficult to spend even the whole time of prayer in acts of faith, love and adoration, admiring and contemplating the great mystery of the indwelling of the Trinity in our poor heart, and offering our humble homage to the three divine Persons. We can also use other practices: "Hidden there within our soul, we can think about the Passion, and picture the Son, and offer Him to the Father, without tiring the mind by going to seek Him on Mount Calvary, or in the Garden, or at the Column"; or else, more simply, we can "speak with Him as with a Father, a Brother, a Lord, and a Spouse - sometimes in one way, sometimes in another...we can tell Him our troubles, beg Him to put them right, and yet realize that we are not worthy to be called His child" (Way, 28). The Saint concludes in these words: "Those who are able to shut themselves up in this way within this little heaven of the soul, where dwells the Maker of heaven and earth...may be sure that they are walking on an excellent road and will come without fail to drink of the water of the fountain" (Way, 28). 

"O my God, You are in me and I am in You. I have found my heaven on earth, since heaven is You, O Lord, and You are in my soul. I can find You there always; even when I do not feel Your presence, You are there nevertheless, and I like to seek You there. Oh! if only I could never leave You alone!" (St Elizabeth of the Trinity 'Letters')
"O Lord, You say to my soul, "My kingdom is within you." It is very comforting to know that You never leave me, and that I cannot exist without You. What more do you want, O my soul, and what do you seek elsewhere, since you possess within yourself your wealth, your love, your peace, your plenitude, and your kingdom, that is, the Beloved whom you desire and for whom you sigh?" (St John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 1:7,8)

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Speak to Souls About this Great Mercy

"On March 25th, in the morning, during meditation, God's presence enveloped me in a special way, as I saw the immeasurable greatness of God and, at the same time, His condescension to His creatures. Then I saw the Mother of God, who said to me, 'Oh, how pleasing to God is the soul that follows faithfully the inspirations of His grace!'

'I gave the Savior to the world; as for you, you must speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the second coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just judge. Oh, how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it.'

'Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for (granting) mercy. If you keep silent now, you will be answering for a great number of souls on that terrible day. Fear nothing. Be faithful to the end. I sympathize with you.'" (From "Divine Mercy in My Soul, The Diary of Sister Fastyna Kowalska)

After 'A Moment with Mary'

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Saturday, April 10, 2010


Risen Christ, whose glory no mortal creature has yet contemplated, traveled through space, and in a moment he came to meet his Blessed Mother. He is the Son of God, he is victorious over death; but he is also the son of Mary. The Holy Gospel doesn't say anything about the apparition of Christ to his Mother, whereas it dwells on all the others; the reason is easy to grasp. The other apparitions were to promulgate the fact of the resurrection; this one was demanded by a son's heart and a son who was no other than Jesus himself. Both nature and grace required the first meeting, whose touching mystery is the delight of Christian souls. It didn't have to be recorded in the sacred Books; the tradition of the Fathers, starting with Saint Ambrose, was enough to transmit it to us, supposing that our hearts hadn't sensed it on their own; and when we come to ask why the Savior, who was to come out of the tomb on a Sunday, willed to do it in the first hours of that day, even before the sun had time to brighten the world, we easily adhere to the opinion of pious and learned authors who have attributed this haste of the Son of God to the hurry he felt in his heart to put an end to the dolorous expectation of the most tender and afflicted of mothers. (Dom Prosper Gueranger "The Liturgical Year- Easter Season - Easter")

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The living water - God invites all souls

On several occasion Jesus stated He was the fountain of living water for all who believe in Him and He invited souls to draw near this spring because, as He said to the Samaritan woman, "He that shall drink of the water that I will give his, shall not thirst forever" (Jn 4:13). The most solemn invitation to drink from this fountain, however, was given by Jesus, during the last year of His ministry to the crowd which thronged the Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles. Standing in the midst of the crowd, He said in a loud voice: "if any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He that believeth in Me...within him shall flow rivers of living water" (Jn 7:37-38). The thirst of which Jesus was speaking is the thirst for truth, the justice, the thirst for peace and true happiness, and above all the thirst for God, the keen, ardent desire for Him. The soul that has tried to drink at the spring of earthly delights has found that they do not serve to quench its thirst; instead, if they have given the soul a tiny drop of truth, justice, peace and joy, they have left it more thirsty than before. Only then does the soul understand that God alone is the fountain which can quench its thirst. What therefore is this water of which Jesus declares that He is the source and which he promises to all? It is the life-giving water of grace, the only water capable of quenching our thirst for the infinite, because, by making us sharers in the divine nature, it permits us to enter into intimate relations with God; it permits us to live with the Trinity dwelling in our soul; in a word, it opens the door to divine intimacy. The power of grace is so great that it can cast the soul into God and bring it to divine intimacy and union, first in this life, by faith and love, and then in heaven, by the Beatific Vision.
Commenting on the invitation of Jesus: "if any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink" (Jn 7:37), St Teresa says, "Consider that the Lord calls everyone. Now, He is Truth itself, we cannot doubt His word. If His invitation were not addressed to all, He would not call all of us....But, as He puts no restriction on it....I am certain that all who do not stop on the way will drink this living water" (Way, 19). Contemplation is a great means of introducing us into divine intimacy, it is appropriate and logical for a soul to aspire to contemplation, since the Lord offers it to everyone. "God does not force anyone," says St Teresa, "but to those who follow Him, He gives them to drink in many ways, so that none may lack comfort or die of thirst!" (Way, 20). St Teresa compares contemplation to "an abundant fountain from which spring many streams, some small, others large, and there are also little pools" (Way, 20). The Lord invites everyone and gives water to all, but He does not reveal to us from what of stream we are called to drink. He does not tells us at what moment of our life we shall drink, and much less is He obliged to make us drink from a big stream rather than from a little one. There have been saints like Teresa of Jesus, who drank abundantly; there have been others, like Therese of Lisieux, who have partaken only a tiny rivulet, and yet both types have attained sanctity. Despite the varying degrees, it is essentially the same life-giving water which plunges the soul into God, makes it penetrate the divine mystery, and makes it understand the All of God and the nothingness of the creature; it is the same life-giving water which opens the way to divine intimacy and conducts the soul to sanctity. God gives 'to whom He wishes, when He wishes' - this statement gives as a glimpse of the form and degree of contemplation as well as time when it will be granted. St Teresa assures us however that God never refuses this life-giving water to anyone who 'seeks it in the right way'. We can see from this, it depends on us too, and our part consists in disposing ourselves in such a way that God will not find us unworthy of His gifts. Let us listen to what St Teresa says:

"O compassionate and tender Sovereign of my soul! You also say: 'If anyone thirst, let him come to Me, and I will give him to drink.' Oh! how our soul need this water! I know, O my God, that out of Your bounty You will give it to us. You Yourself have promised it, and Your words cannot fail. Knowing our weakness, You, in Your mercy, have increased Your help. O Lord, You told Samaritan woman that he who drinks of this water will not thirst forever. Oh! How true are these words spoken by You, Truth itself! The soul who drinks this water never thirsts for the things of this life, but it does thirst more for eternal things.
O Lord, give me to drink of this water, and I shall never thirst again! O my Lord! O You who have promised it to us, give us the grace to seek is as we should" (excerpts from Exclamations of the Soul to God and Way of Perfections)

credit: text based on 'Divine Intimacy', drawing of Jesus and Samaritan woman by Gustave Dore

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Monday, April 05, 2010


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"If a soul seeks for God, her Beloved seeks for her even more. (St John of the Cross, "Living Flame of Love, 3:28)

Mary sought with much love, and lo! the Lord Himself seeks her, and seeks her calling, "Mary!" Although He has risen gloriously, Jesus is always the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep individually; and He "calleth His own ship by name....and the sheep follow Him because they know his voice" (Jn 10:3,4). When Mary hears her name, she recognizes the Lord and cries: "Raboni! Master!"

Once again, Mary is at the feet of Jesus, her favourite place. She wanted to clasp those sacred feet again and remain there in loving contemplation, but Jesus said to her gently: "Do not touch Me!" Without doubt the Lord reveals Himself to the soul that seeks Him, but at the same time he always remains God, the Most High, and Inaccessible. Although admitted to divine intimacy, the soul should not lose the sense of the transcendence of God, and of the infinite distance that lies between the creature and the Creator, between the one who is not and the One who is. 
"Whom seekest thou?" It is to each one of us, as to Mary Magdalene, that Jesus addresses this question today. Can we reply that we are seeking Him alone? Jesus appeared to Mary who "loved Him much" before appearing to the other holy women. If we wish to find the Lord quickly, we must love Him much and seek Him with great love.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010


Ecce Homo, by Antonio Ciseri

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