Thursday, September 29, 2011


The angels who assist Him know well the attitude of their King, for He delights more in the unpolished manners of the humble shepherd who....would say more if he knew more than he does in the talk of very wise and learned men, however elegant their discourse, if they don't walk in humility. (St Teresa Collected Works 2:123)

Dear Angel, given by God to be
My brother and my friend,
Beneath the shadow of your wings 
May I reach journey's end.
I too shall sing, when breaks the dawn,
-Eternity's bright day-
With angel choirs the song of praise
You taught me in the way.
(St Therese, Poems)

Who is like to God?
St Michael is mentioned three times in Holy Scriptures. In the book of Daniel (chapters 10, 12) he is the protector and liberator of God's people: "Michael, that high lord who is guardian of thy race." Judas Thaddeus repeats the legend of his strife with the devil for the body of Moses. In the Apocalypse we are told that "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon...and flung him down to earth" (Apoc. 12: 7-9); "Who is like to God"? Love gives its direction to the will, enlightened by understanding. The angels, those "flames of fire" as the Psalmist calls them, are burning with love. True, sincere love is the song which we must know if we would join the choir of angels in the kingdom of God. (Ruysbroeck). The Church has special devotion to St. Michael and its origin, doubtless, is in the Bible, but it has much increased in the course of ages; it has been, so to speak, christened. From protector of the Jewish race, he has became protector of the new people of God, the Church. As one of the seven who stands and watches by the Blessed Eucharist, and after leads souls of the faithful up to the throne of God after death. Protector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was considered as the Chief of the Christian armies in the wars against the Mahometans and the Turks in the Vth and XVth centuries. St Louis IX, did all "by my Lord St.Michael", and Joan of Arc was always led by him. He has his place in literature; Roland was taken to heaven by him; Vondel gives Michael's portrait in his "Lucifer". His statue stands in many towns which have chosen him for their patron, and he has inspired the artists of every century. 

What gives him such an attraction?
The Psalmist, speaking of man, says, "thou hast placed him only a little below the angels" Ps 8:6. We know that the angels, those richly endowed and highly privileged beings, are far above us. The angel's knowledge is intuitive; he does not need the medium of reason; he was created with a strong will, and is confirmed in grace. His faculties are all in order and under control, making of him a unit of the highest perfection. That mighty being gave itself freely and once for all to God; his choice was absolute, making him for ever "free for God", and therefore perfectly adapted to his service. None but the Queen of Angels, whose being is yet greater and richer in grace, can surpass their praise and their service. They are a mighty host, strong powers, flames of fire. "Bless the Lord, all you angels of his; angels of sovereign strength, that carry out his commandment....bless the Lord, all you hosts of his, the servants that perform his will." Ps. 102:20. It is not difficult to see why St. Michael is so beloved. No other angel has been allowed to show us his virtues and qualities so clearly. No other has proved to us so often and so distinctly the inexorable nature of his choice, none has defended it more unceasingly. Today's Collect says, "God, who ordained the service of angels and men in a wonderful order, be pleased to grant that our life on earth may be guarded by those who stand always ready to serve thee in heaven." It is really he who called God's wrath down upon the fallen angels? Was he then, in the abyss of time, already God's well-beloved? Is the last day really his day? Is he to have the honour of bringing all souls to the foot of God's throne? Is he the trusted servant, the great general who will bring the last standard, taken from the enemy, to his king? For the Christian folk, he is the ideal of the great military leader. All who love the Church have the protector of God's kingdom here on earth, so penetrated is he by the will of the Lord of the angels. We in our weakness claim his help in our fight with the devil. Michael and his angels, so full of God's own power, are actual and invincible forces, infinitely greater than those of hell. In our day, the Church, more than ever, needs his protection against her enemies.

The Feast of Saint Michael, or Michaelmas Day, is September 29. As it is not certain just what church is commemorated as having been dedicated on this day, the pious belief has gained favor that the entire Catholic Church is here indicated. For by casting the rebel spirits into the abyss, St. Michael dedicated the Church Triumphant in Heaven as the peaceful abode of the Angels; and as he wards off the devil and his colleagues from the Church upon earth, he has dedicated the Church Militant as the secure dwelling place of the faithful upon earth. Finally, as helper and counsoler of the souls in Purgatory, the Church Suffering is place under his care. This feast of St. Michael has ever been one of the outstanding feasts of the Church. However, the liturgy for the feast is not confined to the veneration of St. Michael alone, but includes all the Angels, particularly those who are appointed as guardians of mankind.

O Glorious Prince of the heavenly hosts and victor over rebellious spirits, be mindful of me who am so weak and sinful and yet so prone to pride and ambition. Lend me, I pray, thy powerful aid in every temptation and difficulty, and above all do not forsake me in my last struggle with the powers of evil. Holy Michael, Archangel, protect us in the day of battle, and so on the day of judgment, that we may be saved from eternal loss!

To read another St Michael post with Novena prayer please follow LINK

The reading of interest for the Feast of St Michael may also be the post on the apparition of St Michael in Gargano, Italy, 492 LINK

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wisdom of the Little Flower

Soon, soon, to heaven that waits for us, my soul shall swiftly fly.
O Thou who can'st to smile on me at dawn of life's beginning!
Come once again to smile on me.... Mother! the night is nigh.
I fear no more thy majesty, so far, so far above me,
For, I have suffered sore with thee; now hear my heart's deep cry!
Oh! let me tell thee face to face, dear Virgin! how I love thee;
And say to thee forevermore:
thy little child am I.

(The Last poem written by St. Therese)

“Sometimes I find my self saying to the Holy Virgin: “Do you know, O cherished Mother, that I think myself more fortunate than you? I have you for Mother and you have not, like me, the blessed Virgin to love … You are, it is true, the Mother of Jesus but you have given Him to me, and He, from the Cross gave you to us as our Mother, so we are richer than you. Of old it was your desire that you might be the little handmaiden of the Mother of God; and I, poor little creature, I am, not your servant, but your child: you are the Mother of Jesus and you are my Mother.” (Thoughts of Saint Therese, 154-5)

For a sermon about Mary to bear fruit, I believe that we need to talk about her real life, such as we can discover in the Gospel and not just what we merely imagine her life was like. It is easy to imagine that her real life, in Nazareth and later, was very ordinary… 'He lived under their authority...' (Lk 2:51). How simple that sounds! We often depict Mary as inaccessible, but wouldn’t it be better to show her as imitable, practising hidden virtue, living from her faith, just like we do? We could give examples of her behavior taken from the Gospel, 'They did not understand what he meant' (Lk 2:50), or, 'The child’s father and mother were wondering at the things that were being said about Him' (Lk 2:33). Their wondering could perhaps imply a certain amount of astonishment, don’t you agree, my Mother? (St Therese, Last Talks)

"A priest, clad in his sacred vestments, is Christ's viceregent to pray to God for himself and for all the people, in a suppliant and humble manner. He has before him and behind him the sign of the Cross of the Lord, that he may always remember the Passion of Christ. He bears the cross before him in his vestment, that he may diligently behold the footsteps of Christ, and fervently endeavor to follow them. He is marked with a cross behind, that he may mildly suffer, for God's sake, whatsoever adversities shall befall him from others. he wears the cross before him, that he may bewail his own sins; and behind him, that through compassion he may lament the sins of others, and know that he placed, as it were, a mediator betwixt God and the sinner. Neither ought he to cease from prayer and the holy oblation, till he be favoured with the grace and mercy which he implores. (Imitation, Bk 4;5)

The harvest-time had not yet come,
But Thou didst yearn to see
The golden grain all garnered safe
In Heaven's granary.
Lord of the harvest, send Thy priests
To reap where Thou didst sow!
To them I dedicated my life,
My sufferings here below.
(St Therese, Poems)

"Temptations are often very profitable to a man, although they be troublesome and grievous; for in them a man is humbled, purified, and instructed. All the saints have passed through many tribulations and have profited by them: and they who could not support temptations have become reprobate, and fell off. There is not any Order so holy, nor place so retired, where there are not temptations and adversities." (Imitation, 1:13)
"On the eve of Profession - which is usually spent in holy joy and peace before the dawn of the great day - I suddenly saw my vocation as a delusion, a dream. The devil - for it was assuredly he - inspired me with the conviction that the life of a Carmelite was quite unsuited for me, and that I was deceiving my Superiors by continuing in it in spite of having no vocation. I was plunged into such darkness That I could only see one thing clearly, which was, that not being called to the religious life, I must go back to the world. My distress was indescribable and I did not know what to do. However, I did the very best thing by revealing this temptation to my novice mistress; I called her out of choir, and feeling much ashamed told her in what state I was. Luckily she saw through the temptation, and laughingly reassured me. My act of humiliation instantly put the devil to flight; he had tried to make me conceal the trial and so fall into the trap, but he himself was caught, for I told all to Mother Prioress as well, and her consoling answer dispelled any lingering doubts." (The Story of a Soul)

"Thou must be content to be made a fool for Christ, if thou wilt lead a religious life" (Imitation of Christ, 1:27)
 "I am very glad, Celine, that you do not feel any natural attraction for Carmel now that you are about to enter; this is a delicate attention on the part of Our Lord who is enabling you to make Him a gift. He knows that it is more blessed to give than to receive. How blessed also to suffer reproach for the sake of Him who loves us, and to pass for fools in the eyes of the world! The foolish world, judging us by its own standard, calls us by this name, but let us take comfort in the thought that we are not the first. The only crime of which Herod accused Our Lord was madness...and in a sense he was right. It was indeed madness for the King of Glory, seated above the Cherubim, to seek out poor human hearts in which to set up His throne. Was He not infinitely happy with the Father and the Spirit of Love? Why come down on earth to make sinners His intimate friends?
We could never go to such lengths of folly to repay our Bridegroom; compared with His, our actions are quite reasonable. Let the world then leave us in peace, for it is the world which is foolish, knowing nothing of all Jesus has done and suffered to save it from perdition. (Letters)

"A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher" (Luke 6:40)
A soul isn't holy just because God uses it as an instrument. It is like an artist who uses this brush or that one. Why choose this one, or leave the other aside? It isn't any less a brush, and it could even be better than the other one. Anyway, to be used for the Master's work doesn't make one better. (...) Let's not take credit for anything, let's not make judgments. It is all to God (Advice and Memories)

"None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions" (Luke 14:33)
"I did not expect to come to Carmel to receive praise; also after the parlor visit [the interview], I never stopped telling God that it was for him alone that I wanted to be a Carmelite". (The Story of the Soul)

"They are all one through the bond of love; they have the same sentiments, the same will, and all mutually love one another" (The Imitation of Christ, Bk 3;58)
"Take, O Lord, from our hearts all jealousy, indignation, wrath, and contention, and whatsoever may hurt charity, and lessen brotherly love" (ibidem Bk 4;9)

"She spoke of the Communion of Saints, and explained that what one possessed would be shared by all: "Just as a mother is proud of her children, so we shall be proud of one another without the least trace of jealousy." (St Therese, Novissima Verba)

"It is true I am not always faithful, but I do not give way to discouragement; I just place myself in Our Lord's arms, and He teaches me to draw profit from both the good and the bad in me. He shows me how to gamble on the bank of love, or rather, He makes all the investments without consulting me. It is not my concern to know how much I am winning; what I have to do is to give myself entirely to Him. After all, I am no prodigal, there is no need for Him to prepare a feast for me, because I am always with Him (Luke 15:31).  (Letters)

Remember, Lord, that Thou didst yearn
To set man's heart aflame
With that consuming fire of love
Which from Thine own Heart came!
If from a little spark can spring
A mighty fire, Oh! then
May heart's love run through the world
And fire the hearts of men!

There are no obstacles for children; they get through everywhere. The big souls can overcome things, toss aside the difficulties, and reach a way to rise above it all by reasoning or virtue. But we who are so small must not try that. (...) To give in to things is to not look at them too closely, not to reason them out (Advice and Memories).

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary - click to read more

"Who is this that comes forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as resplendent as the sun?"(Sg 6,10)

On the feast of the Nativity of our Lady, I feel special joy. When this day comes I think it's good to renew my vows. And once while I was about to do so, the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady, appeared to me through an illuminative vision; and it seems to me I renewed them in her hands and that they were pleasing to her. This vision remained with me for some days, as though she were next to me at my left. (St Teresa of Avila, Spiritual Testimonies, Collected Works)

citation after 'Mary's Vitamin'
'Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary' by Ghirlandaio

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