Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August - the month of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

In August we celebrate the great Marian feast dedicated to Our Lady, the feast of Assumption. The prayers recommended for August are the prayers to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, the Novena prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and prayer of Consecration.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa - click to visit Sanctuary website

The Polish people often call the Blessed Virgin « Mother of my heart » (serdeczna Matke), but this tender love never becomes an indiscreet familiarity. The Mother of Hearts never ceases for a moment to enjoy in the people’s consciousness the unutterable prerogatives of her divine motherhood. She is “our mother” only because she is first of all the “Mother of God” (Matka Boska).

For a long period of time, in some provinces, this respect kept people from naming their daughters after Mary. By antonomasia they would be named Maria-Anna. While negotiating the marriage of Marie of Gonzague with the Polish King Ladislas IV, the French ambassador, Count of Brégyn, wrote in July 1645: “The royal fiancée will have to change her name during the celebrations of the coronation, because the Polish do not admit any other Queen Mary beside the One whose protecting vision sometimes protects their army from on high beyond the clouds.”

Later, Maria-Josephina of Saxony just refused the title of Queen of Poland in the rite of coronation, saying that “this title belongs only to Mary, the Queen of Heaven.” The attribution of that royalty must have been quite exclusive to force royal princesses and their spokespersons to think twice about claiming it! Indeed, from times immemorial, the Polish people recognize only one “Queen of Poland,” Mary, and they jealously ensure that no one usurps this title. 
The sense of Mary’s royalty was so anchored in the Polish soul that the occupying forces felt offended by it. In the Russian zone it was severely forbidden to invoke her under this title. Angry Prussians recorded some impressive answers coming from very young children in their files of complaints against schools “for refusing to learn the catechism and pray in German.”

“Do you think that Poland will rise again?” an inspector asked the children of Wrzesnia.
“Yes, we believe it.”
“And who will be the king?” he continued, smelling a conspiracy.
“We don’t know who the king will be, but we already have a queen.”
“Who is she?”
“Our Lady.” (In the text: « the Mother of God. »)

Pressured by schism, heresy and Islam, for centuries Poland had to defend her territory in order to defend her faith. Any Tartar or Turkish invasion transformed the churches into mosques and planted the crescent instead of the cross. Any Christian victory brought back Christ to the ravaged regions.

Thus Our Lady had a direct interest in the affairs of her Son, and the people who had elected her Queen didn’t fail to remind her of it. Polish literature is replete with naive and exquisite allusions to the military exploits of the Warrior Virgin.

It is a common theme in popular poetry: “You have arranged your army for battle. You have destroyed the forces of Islam. You have crushed the presumptuous Turks. You have sheltered us under your mantle. Defend your kingdom O mighty Virgin. Do not forget that you are our Queen...”

(Marie Winoska, The Marian Cult in Poland, In Maria – Studies about the Virgin Mary –Volume 4)

The pictures represent the altar with Black Madonna painting in the Chapel at Jasna Gora Basilica and the photo of Pauline Monastery at Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, 100km north of Cracow. Third picture shows the main altar in the Basilica.

credit: after A Moment with Mary

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday, God's own feast-day

...Although big feasts did not often occur, there was one, very dear to me, that each week brought round - Sunday. It was the day of rest, God's own feast-day. The happy day was over all too soon, and so was tinged with melancholy. Until Compline my happiness was complete, but as soon as the evening office had been said, my heart grew sad. i thought of the morrow, when ordinary life would begin again, with work to be done and lessons to be learnt. This world seemed a land of exile and I longed for eternal rest, for the Sunday which would have no sunset in our own true home-land... (St Therese)

Picture represents colonial style painting of Our Lady of Mt Carmel with the Saints - Brooklyn Museum

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Friday, August 20, 2010

"If a man take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him (Matt. 5:40).

To let go one's cloak must surely mean to give up all rights, to consider oneself the servant and slave of others. It is easier to walk or run without a cloak, so Jesus adds: Whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two (ibid, 41). It is not enough to give what is asked of me, I must foresee another's meed, show that she does me an honour by asking a service of me; and if anything is taken from me, appear glad to be rid of it.
It is not always possible to obey this passage from the Gospel literally; sometimes I am obliged to refuse. But where charity has taken deep root in a soul, it shows outwardly: a refusal may be so gracious that it gives as much pleasure as a gift. An obliging person is, of course, being made use of continually, but that is no reason for avoiding those whom one might have to refuse, for Our Lord says: From him that would borrow of thee, turn not away (ibid, 42). Nor must I be obliging merely to appear so, or in the hope of getting some little service in return, for Our Lord has said: If you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what thanks are to you? for sinners also lend to sinners, for to receive as much, Do good, and lend, hoping for nothing thereby: and your reward shall be great (Luke 6: 34, 35) (St Therese "Story of the Soul")

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Excerpts from the great encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus

...[T]he scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos (Rev 12:1). Similarly they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,"(Lk 1:28) since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve....

....Among the holy writers who at that time employed statements and various images and analogies of Sacred Scripture to Illustrate and to confirm the doctrine of the Assumption, which was piously believed, the Evangelical Doctor, St. Anthony of Padua, holds a special place. On the feast day of the Assumption, while explaining the prophet's words: "I will glorify the place of my feet"(Is 61:13) he stated it as certain that the divine Redeemer had bedecked with supreme glory his most beloved Mother from whom he had received human flesh. He asserts that "you have here a clear statement that the Blessed Virgin has been assumed in her body, where was the place of the Lord's feet. Hence it is that the holy Psalmist writes: 'Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark which you have sanctified."' And he asserts that, just as Jesus Christ has risen from the death over which he triumphed and has ascended to the right hand of the Father, so likewise the ark of his sanctification "has risen up, since on this day the Virgin Mother has been taken up to her heavenly dwelling."(St Anthony of Padua, Sermons)...

....When, during the Middle Ages, scholastic theology was especially flourishing, St. Albert the Great who, to establish this teaching, had gathered together many proofs from Sacred Scripture, from the statements of older writers, and finally from the liturgy and from what is known as theological reasoning, concluded in this way: "From these proofs and authorities and from many others, it is manifest that the most blessed Mother of God has been assumed above the choirs of angels. And this we believe in every way to be true."(St Albert the Great, Mariale). And, in a sermon which he delivered on the sacred day of the Blessed Virgin Mary's annunciation, explained the words "Hail, full of grace"- words used by the angel who addressed her-the Universal Doctor, comparing the Blessed Virgin with Eve, stated clearly and incisively that she was exempted from the fourfold curse that had been laid upon Eve (St Albert the Great, Sermons)...

....Following the footsteps of his distinguished teacher, the Angelic Doctor, despite the fact that he never dealt directly with this question, nevertheless, whenever he touched upon it, always held together with the Catholic Church, that Mary's body had been assumed into heaven along with her soul (St Thomas Aquinas, Sermons)....

....Along with many others, the Seraphic Doctor held the same views. He considered it as entirely certain that, as God had preserved the most holy Virgin Mary from the violation of her virginal purity and integrity in conceiving and in childbirth, he would never have permitted her body to have been resolved into dust and ashes (St Bonaventure, Sermons). Explaining these words of Sacred Scripture: "Who is this that comes up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved?"(Songs 8:5) and applying them in a kind of accommodated sense to the Blessed Virgin, he reasons thus: "From this we can see that she is there bodily...her blessedness would not have been complete unless she were there as a person. The soul is not a person, but the soul, joined to the body, is a person. It is manifest that she is there in soul and in body. Otherwise she would not possess her complete beatitude"(St Bonaventure, Sermons)...

...In the fifteenth century, during a later period of scholastic theology, St. Bernardine of Siena collected and diligently evaluated all that the medieval theologians had said and taught on this question. He was not content with setting down the principal considerations which these writers of an earlier day had already expressed, but he added others of his own. The likeness between God's Mother and her divine Son, in the way of the nobility and dignity of body and of soul-a likeness that forbids us to think of the heavenly Queen as being separated from the heavenly King- makes it entirely imperative that Mary "should be only where Christ is."(St Bernardine of Siena, Sermons). Moreover, it is reasonable and fitting that not only the soul and body of a man, but also the soul and body of a woman should have obtained heavenly glory. Finally, since the Church has never looked for the bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin nor proposed them for the veneration of the people, we have a proof on the order of a sensible experience (ibid)...

....St. Francis of Sales, after asserting that it is wrong to doubt that Jesus Christ has himself observed, in the most perfect way, the divine commandment by which children are ordered to honor their parents, asks this question: "What son would not bring his mother back to life and would not bring her into paradise after her death if he could?" (St Francis de Sales, Sermons). And St. Alphonsus writes that "Jesus did not wish to have the body of Mary corrupted after death, since it would have redounded to his own dishonor to have her virginal flesh, from which he himself had assumed flesh, reduced to dust."(St Alphonsus Liquori, The Glories of Mary)...

....All these proofs and considerations of the holy Fathers and the theologians are based upon the Sacred Writings as their ultimate foundation. These set the loving Mother of God as it were before our very eyes as most intimately joined to her divine Son and as always sharing his lot. Consequently it seems impossible to think of her, the one who conceived Christ, brought him forth, nursed him with her milk, held him in her arms, and clasped him to her breast, as being apart from him in body, even though not in soul, after this earthly life. Since our Redeemer is the Son of Mary, he could not do otherwise, as the perfect observer of God's law, than to honor, not only his eternal Father, but also his most beloved Mother. And, since it was within his power to grant her this great honor, to preserve her from the corruption of the tomb, we must believe that he really acted in this way....

....It is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother, and that the souls of all those who glory in the Christian name may be moved by the desire of sharing in the unity of Jesus Christ's Mystical Body and of increasing their love for her who shows her motherly heart to all the members of this august body. And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father's will and to bringing good to others. Thus, while the illusory teachings of materialism and the corruption of morals that follows from these teachings threaten to extinguish the light of virtue and to ruin the lives of men by exciting discord among them, in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Finally it is our hope that belief in Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective....

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady

In Christ shall all be brought to life, each one in proper order (1Co 15:22-23)

...Today the Virgin Mary rises gloriously to heaven. She completes the happiness of angels and saints. For it was she whose simple word of greeting made the child in his mother's womb leap for joy (Lk 1:44). What, then, must have been the rejoicing of the angels and saints when they found themselves able to hear her voice, see her face, and rejoice in her blessed presence! And what a great feast her glorious Assumption is for us, beloved brethren, what reason for happiness and cause for joy today! Mary's presence brightens the whole world, so greatly do the heaven shine, lightened up by the brilliance of the most holy Virgin. Therefore it is altogether fitting that the heavens resound with thanksgiving and praise.

Yet isn't it also right that, just as heaven rejoices in Mary's presence, we of the this world should mourn her absence? Not at all. Let us not weep since we have no lasting city here below (Heb 13:14) but seek that to which the Virgin Mary has come today. If even now we are registered among that city's inhabitants then it is fitting that we should call it to mind today..., share its joy, participate in the rejoicing that gladdens God's city today; for today it falls like dew upon our earth. Yes she, our queen, has gone before us and been received with so great a glory that we, her humble servants, may trustfully follow our sovereign, crying [with the Bride of the Song of Songs]: "Draw us! We will run to the sweet scent of your perfumes!" (Sg 1:3-4). Pilgrims on earth, we have sent our advocate before us..., the mother of mercy who will successfully plead our salvation. (St Bernard, Sermon for the Assumption)

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Novena to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary starts today (6th-14th) - click to read

More about the Feast of Assumption HERE

English translation of the Papal Bull, Munificentissimus Deus that defined the dogma of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Fra Bartolomeo's 'Assumption of the Virgin Mary', one of the masterpieces lost during WW2

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St Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr and Knight of the Immaculate Virgin

Amen, amen, I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will give it to you. St. John 16:23

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: These words fell from the lips of the Immaculata herself. Hence, they must tell us, in the most precise and essential manner, who she really is.

Since human words are incapable of expressing Divine realities, it follows that these words, "Immaculate" and "Conception", must be understood in a much more profound, much more beautiful and sublime meaning than usual: a meaning beyond that which human reason at its most penetrating commonly gives to them.

Who then are you, O Immaculate Conception?

Not God, of course, because He has no beginning. Not an angel, created directly out of nothing. Not Adam, formed out of the dust of the earth. Not Eve, molded from Adam's rib. Not the Incarnate Word, Who exists before all ages, and of Whom we should use the word "conceived" rather than "conception."

Humans do not exist before their conception, so we might call them created "conceptions." But you, O Mary, are different from all other children of Eve. They are conceptions stained by Original Sin; whereas you are the unique, Immaculate, Conception.

Everything which exists, outside of God Himself, since it is from God and depends on Him in every way, bears within itself some semblance to its Creator; there is nothing in any creature which does not betray this resemblance, because every created thing is an effect of the Primal Cause.


Who is the Father? What is His personal life like? It consists in begetting, eternally, because He begets His Son from the beginning and forever.

Who is the Son? He is the Begotten-One, because from the beginning, and for all eternity, He is begotten by the Father.

And Who is the Holy Spirit? The flowering of the love of the Father and the Son. If the fruit of created is a created conception, then the fruit of Divine love, that prototype of all created love, is necessarily a Divine "conception." The Holy Spirit is, therefore, the "uncreated, eternal conception," the prototype of all the conceptions that multiply life throughout the whole universe.

The Father begets; the Son is begotten; the Spirit is the "conception" that springs from their love; there we have the intimate life of the Three Persons by which They can be distinguished from one another. But They are united in the Oneness of Their Nature, of Their Divine existence. The Spirit is, then, this thrice holy "conception," this infinitely holy Immaculate Conception.


The creature most completely filled with this love, filled with God Himself, was the Immaculata, who never contacted the slightest stain of sin, who never departed in the least from God's will. United to the Holy Spirit as His spouse, she is one with God in an incomparably more perfect way than can be predicated of any other creature.

What sort of Union is this? It is above all an interior union, a union of her essence with the "essence" of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in her; lives in her. This was true from the first instance of her existence. It was always true and it will always be true.

And in what does this life of the Spirit in Mary consist? He Himself is uncreated Love in her; the Love of the Father and of the Son, the Love by which God loves Himself, the very love of the Most Holy Trinity. She is a fruitful Love, a "Conception." Among creatures made in God's image, the union brought about by married love is the most intimate of all. In a much more precise, more interior, more essential manner, the Holy Spirit lives in the soul of the Immaculata, in the depths of her very being. He makes her fruitful, from the very first instance of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity.

This eternal "Immaculate Conception" [the Holy Spirit] produces in an immaculate manner Divine life itself in the womb or depths of Mary's soul, making her the Immaculate Conception, the human Immaculate Conception. And the virginal womb of Mary's body is kept sacred for Him; there He conceives in time the human life of the Man-God.

... she, the Immaculata, grafted into the Love of the Blessed Trinity, becomes, from the first moment of her existence and forever afterwards, the "complement of the Blessed Trinity." In the Holy Spirit's union with Mary we observe more than the love of two beings... .

So it is that, in this union, Heaven and Earth are joined; all of Heaven with the Earth, the totality of eternal love with the totality of created love. It is truly the summit of love. (St Maximilian Kolbe: Meditation on the Immaculate Conception)

credit: Rorate caeli blog

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Prayer to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Pope Pius X

O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and Mother of Humanity, we believe with all the fervour of our faith in your triumphal Assumption both in body and in soul into heaven where you are acclaimed as Queen by all the choirs of angels and all the legions of saints; we unite with them to praise and bless the Lord who has exalted you above all other pure creatures and to offer you the tribute of our devotion and our love.

We know that your gaze, which on earth watched over the humble and suffering humanity of Jesus, in heaven is filled with the vision of that humanity glorified and with the vision of uncreated Wisdom, and that the joy of your soul in the direct contemplation of the adorable Trinity causes your heart to throb with overwhelming tenderness; and we, poor sinners whose body weights down the flight of the soul, beg you to purify our hearts so that, while we remain below, we may learn to see God and God alone in the beauties of his creatures.

We trust that your merciful eyes may deign to gaze down upon our miseries and anguish, upon our struggles and our weaknesses; that your countenance may smile upon our joys and our victories; that you may hear the voice of Jesus saying to you of each one of us, as He once said to you of His Beloved Disciple:

"Behold you son," and we who call upon you as our Mother, we, like John, take you as the guide, strength and consolation of our mortal life.

We are inspired by the certainty that your eyes, which wept over the earth crimsoned by the blood of Jesus, are yet turned toward this world racked by wars and persecutions, the oppression of the just and the weak. From the shadows of this vale of tears, we seek in your heavenly assistance, tender mercy, comfort for our aching hearts, and help in the trials of Church and country.

We believe finally that in the glory where you reign, clothed with the sun and crowned with stars, you are, after Jesus, the joy and gladness of all the angels and the saints, and from this earth, over which we tread as pilgrims, comforted by our faith in the future resurrection, we look to you our life, our sweetness, our hope; draw us onward with the sweetness of your voice, so that one day, after our exile, you may show us Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb.

O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.


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Feast of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world - Matthew 25:34

He showed me [His Mother's] ascend to heaven, the happiness and solemnity with which she was received, and the place where she is...The glory my spirit experienced in seeing so much glory was magnificent. The effects of this favour were great. (St Teresa of Avila, 'Collected Works' 1:353)

That life from above,
That is true life...
Death, be not aloof,
In dying first, may life be,
I die because I do not die
(St Teresa of Avila "Collected Works" 3: 376)

According to apocryphal writings, after the Ascension, or after dispersal of the Apostles, Mary lived between fifteen and twenty-two years in her house in Jerusalem. Three days before her death an angel announces her approaching end. It happened when Mary was coming down the Mount of Olives, when she was met by the Archangel Gabriel, who gace her a palm in token of her triumphal entry into heaven. This was three days before her death. The place is still known as 'et Tamir', the palm Tree, and the ruins of a church were still visible there until 1882. On the third day, when Apostles forewarned, have arrived, a Sunday, Mary dies: Jesus receives her soul which He consigns to Michael. Jesus ordered the burial of Mary in Gethsemane. The Apostles carried the bier, but are attacked by the Jews who wish to snatch the corpse, and who were struck blind (up to this day the site is marked on Mt Sion). Having placed the body in Gethsemane, it was transported to paradise by angels, where it was reunited with the soul. According to some the Assumption took place after three days, and some relate that the reunion of the soul would take place only at the final resurrection. This in short is the early tradition of the Church, as shown in the apocryphal writings which show remarkable harmony in their various versions. It is possible to quote the early Fathers of the Church, but they reflect in great part the early tradition of Jerusalem.

After crossing the Brook of Cedron we have at the foot of the Mount of Olives the Church of the Assumption erected on the tomb that received the mortal remains of the Blessed Virgin. From this tomb she was taken into heaven, for not being subject to the yoke of sin, she bore not the consequences of sin, which are the corruption of flesh. Therefore,
she only went through the tomb but did not delay there; her tomb became the shrine of her glorious Assumption into Heaven. That Mary, at the end of her earthly existence was assumed into heaven was defined as an article of faith on November 1, 1950. Jerusalem Catholics celebrated the definition by a great procession...A first Church was erected by the patriarch Modestus but it was again destroyed, except the little edicule over the Tomb, before the arrival of the Crusaders, who rebuilt it, keeping the form of a lower and upper Church.

The Church was committed to the care of the Benedictines of Cluny, and besides it stood the well-known abbey of the Valley of Josaphat. When Saladin took the city in 1187, he ordered the destruction of the monastery and the upper church, but allowed the lower to remain out of respect for the Mother of Jesus, whom the Moslems hold in veneration. Probably at this time the Moslems excavated in the Byzantine wall of the crypt, to the right of the Tomb, a praying niche (a mihrab). Although few of them formally pray there nowadays, many of them brings offerings candles, oil and incense in fulfillment of vows.

The ruin of the sacred monument would nevertheless have been inevitable, had not the Franciscans entered into possession of the Church in the second half of the 14th century and carried out important restorations. For two centuries the Franciscans had the exclusive and peaceful possession of the Tomb, while the Armenians, the Greeks, the Abyssinians and the Syrians carried out their liturgy on altars within the crypt. With the coming of the Turks, in 1517, began the intrigues of the Greeks and finally in 1757 the Franciscans lost the place completely. This usurpation has never been made good, and today the Church is shared by the Greeks and the Armenians, while the Syrians and the Copts are allowed to celebrate the liturgy within the shrine.
The building today is very badly kept, but beneath all the filth one can recognize its one time beauty in the Crusader and Byzantine structures. The church was completely flooded in 1948 and 1955, and it unexpectedly helped to clean it.

We stand beside the death-bed of Mary: no physical pain torments her, simply the longing to be with her Divine Son is consuming her earthly tenements of flesh. Mary dies without pain as gently as ripe fruit falls from the tree. With St John Damascene we can say: "The Blessed Virgin Mary did not on this day return to dust. For no sinful propensity ever inclined her towards the earth. No, the sentiments of her heart were ever directed upwards towards heaven. Why should she have to taste death from whom was born the true life of all? Still she submits to the general law of death, since it was promulgated by her son. As a daughter of Eve she submits to the ancient decree, as indeed her Son, who is Life Itself, submitted to it. But, inasmuch as she is the Mother of the Living God, she was worthy to be taken up to Him. Eve harkened to the voice of the serpent. the pains of motherhood and of death are therefore her punishment and in the gloomy dungeons of Limbo she is appointed a dwelling. But the Blessed Mother of Christ harkened to the Word of God and then the efficacious might of the Holy Ghost descended upon her.
How could she became the prey of the ravages of death. How could decomposition claim possession of the body in which the life of Our lord was conceived" (Second Seromn of Assumption)."

Excerpts from "Marian Shrines of the Holy Land" by Fr Hoade, 1958 edition

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Monday, August 09, 2010

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross - Carmelite Nun.

"Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone....I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is great comfort." (Edith Stein on Carmelite vocation, 1938). After being transferred to Dutch Carmelite convent from Cologne because of severe persecusion of Jews in Nazi Germany, she wrote in her will these words "Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death ... so that the Lord will be accepted by His people and that His Kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world.""

A brilliant philosopher who stopped believing in God when she was 14, Edith Stein was so captivated by reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila that she began a spiritual journey that led to her Baptism in 1922. Twelve years later she imitated Teresa by becoming a Carmelite, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Born into a prominent Jewish family in Wroclaw (Poland), Edith abandoned Judaism in her teens. As a student at the University of Göttingen, she became fascinated by phenomenology, an approach to philosophy. Excelling as a protégé of Edmund Husserl, one of the leading phenomenologists, Edith earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1916. She continued as a university teacher until 1922 when she moved to a Dominican school in Speyer; her appointment as lecturer at the Educational Institute of Munich ended under pressure from the Nazis.

After living in the Cologne Carmel (1934-38), she was moved to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands. 
In Echt, Edith Stein completed her study of "The Church's Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942." In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order: "One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, Crux, Spes unica' (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope)." Her study on St. John of the Cross is entitled: "Kreuzeswissenschaft" (The Science of the Cross). 
In retaliation for being denounced by the Dutch bishops, the Nazis arrested all Dutch Jews who had become Christians. Teresa Benedicta was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was praying in the convent's chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt Convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people."
Together with many other Jewish Christians, the two women were taken to a transit camp in Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. This was an act of retaliation against the letter of protest written by the Dutch Roman Catholic Bishops against the pogroms and deportations of Jews. Edith commented, "I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this. ... I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress." Prof. Jan Nota, who was greatly attached to her, wrote later: "She is a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent."

On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, her sister and many other of her people were gassed.

When Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne on 1 May 1987, the Church honoured "a daughter of Israel", as Pope John Paul II put it, who, as a Catholic during Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness."

To read the writings of St Teresa Benedicta on the history and spirit of Carmel, please follow LINK1

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Transfiguration of Our Lord

With three chosen disciples Jesus went up the mountain. Then he was transfigured by a wonderful light that made even his clothes seem to shine. Moses and Elijah stood by him and spoke with him of how he was going to complete his task on earth by dying in Jerusalem. In other words, they spoke of the mystery of his incarnation, and of his saving passion upon the cross. For the law of Moses and the teaching of the holy prophets clearly foreshadowed the mystery of Christ... The presence of Moses and Elijah, and their speaking together, was meant to show unmistakably that the law and the prophets were the attendants of our Lord Jesus Christ... They did not simply appear in silence; they spoke of how Jesus was to complete his task by dying in Jerusalem, they spoke of his passion and cross, and of the resurrection that would follow.

Thinking no doubt that the time for the kingdom of God had already come, Peter would gladly have remained on the mountain. He suggested putting up three tents, hardly knowing what he was saying. But it was not yet time for the end of the world; nor was it in this present time that the hopes of the saints would be fulfilled - those hopes founded on Paul's promise that Christ «would transform our lowly bodies into the likeness of his heavenly body» (Phil 3,21).

Only the initial stage of the divine plan had as yet been accomplished. Until its completion was it likely that Christ, who came on earth for love of the world, would give up his wish to die for it? For his submitting to death was the world's salvation, and his resurrection was death's destruction. (Saint Cyril of Alexandria (380-444), Bishop, Doctor of the Church, Homilies on the Transfiguration, 9)

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Feast of St John Vianney

The Marian Childhood of John Mary Vianney (I)
When John went out to the fields to herd his father’s sheep, he enjoyed kneading the clay-like soil into small statues of the Blessed Virgin and the saints as best he could. His sister told me that John had once made a fairly good statue of the Blessed Virgin. So they had it baked in a kiln and kept it in their home a long time.
Later, someone gave John a statuette of the Blessed Virgin as a gift and this made him very happy. He kept it close to him both day and night. (Catherine Lassagne 'The Virgin Mary and the Curé of Ars')

credit: A Moment with Mary
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Feast of St Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, click to read more

Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us." He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But the woman came and did him homage, saying, "Lord, help me." He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed from that hour.   (Matthew 15:21-28)

"Have pity on me, Lord, son of David!" This is a cry for help of immense force..., a groan emerging as if from fathomless depths. It greatly surpasses our nature for it is the Holy Spirit himself who puts forth this groaning within us (Rom 8:26)... But Jesus says to her: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." ... And what did she do, thus dismissed as she was?... She descended even more deeply into the abyss. Stooping down and humbling herself she continued to trust and said: "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."

       Ah! If only you, too, could manage to penetrate the depths of truth so truly, not through learned treatises, grandiose words or even with the senses, but within your own real depths. Neither God nor any creature would be able to tread you under foot or crush you if only you would remain in the truth, in trustful humility. People might affront, despise or rebuff you but you would stand firm in your perseverance, pushing down even deeper still, filled with complete confidence, and would increase in persistence even more. Everything depends on this and whoever reaches this point will succeed. These paths, and these alone, are what truly lead to God without any stopping places in between. Yet there are few who remain in this great humility in this way, with the perseverance and whole and entire confidence like this woman.
(From the Sermon of John Tauler OP, Dominican at Strasbourg, c1300-1361)
credit: DGO

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