Thursday, January 31, 2008

To remain a child before God means to recognize our nothingness, to expect everything from God. It is not to become discouraged over our failings, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much. St. Therese of Lisieux

credit to Society of the Little Flower - Daily Reflection link in Carmelitana section
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On recollection and necessity of prayer

In all thy ways think of Him, and He will direct thy steps (Prov 3:6)

The thoughts of God, the necessary foundation of the life of Faith.
In order to obtain this life of perfect faith it is not sufficient to renounce sensible sweetnesses; we must also, as far as possible, drive all profane objects and wordly cares from the mind, and nourish the soul assiduously on the mysteries of the faith; or, rather, the soul must feed on God - it must, in fact, inhale God and exhale Him. Respiration is necessary process of the natural life. This marvelous phenomenon, which fails to excite our admiration merely because it is so familiar to us, causes us to find in the atmosphere the salutary element which purifies our blood and sustains our vital heat and our life. If this necessary function is accomplished normally, it is because the body is healthy and the organs sound. If the air that we breathe is pure, dry, and buoyant, our health is maintained, or, if necessary, improved; if it is charged with humidity or putrid exhalations, the health is affected, and death may even ensue. God is the vivifying principle of the faithful soul. It must breathe Him constantly, must seek in Him - in the thought of Him and of His love, that is to say - the perpetual renewal of its spiritual life. And we can only exhale what we have previously inhaled; the air which issues from the lungs is equal in volume to that which has passed into them. So he alone who has drunk deep of the Divine sweetness can exhale God, breathing forth round about him the Divine perfume. And we give it out in the precise measure in which we have acquired it. If we content ourselves with some few daily aspirations, our spiritual life will be feeble and languishing; if we absorb the Divine fragrance at but rare intervals, how can we emit it freely day by day? Their error is great who think to continue in a state of union with God by conformity of the will while they lose sight of Him for considerable periods of time. They withdraw from Him insensibly; the atmosphere of their surroundings penetrates them by degrees; natural preoccupations invade their minds, absorb them, and become predominant; and the desire to serve God, without being destroyed, is thus restrained, and its exercise upon the actions becomes slight and intermittent. And so the spiritual life declines, and a purely natural, or even an entirely mundane, life may take its place. He who arrives at this extremity, he who has ceased to sustain his life in God, who no longer breathes anything but the vitiated air of the world, who in his conversations, thoughts, and sentiments inhales only the poisonous miasma of sin - what can such a one exhale but an impure and nauseating breath? Woe to those that approach him! for they run grave risk of being contaminated by this infection and of contracting his most foul disease.

credits:"On recollection and union with God" fragment of book chapter by Abbe Saudreau, and the accompanying picture is entitled ....."Prayer"
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

“Hence we must say that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act. But he does not need a new light added to his natural light, in order to know the truth in all things, but only in some that surpasses his natural knowledge” (Summa Theologiae, I-II, 109, 1). St Thomas Aquinas

credit: The quote is from American Catholic
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Saint Joseph, how I love him! What does me a lot of good when I think of the Holy Family is to imagine a life that was very ordinary, just like our own. St. Therese of Lisieux

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Mount Carmel, Retreat on Contemplative life, Characterised by Elias, Part 7

Today I post the last part of lecture given by Bl Titus Brandsma O.Carm during his American lecture tour before WW2 on the subject of Carmelite spirituality and contemplative life of prayer as exemplified by St Elijah. The lecture is in practice excellent summary of the history and development of the Order and can profit those interested in Carmel history and spirituality to increase their knowledge and understanding of the spiritual richness of one of the greatest mendicant orders dedicated to Our Lady.

The Deep-Red Rose Clustering Over Carmel Symbolic of Elias In conclusion, we should like to see the great Prophet Elias in Carmel's garden like a red rose, and not only the great Prophet but also those who follow him, climbing (symbol of the exercise of virtue) along the mountain, through the caves and grottos of Carmel, interlacing it with a girdle of fire. These red roses are the symbol of ardent love that burns in Elias and his disciples. It is the most remarkable characteristic of their spiritual life. It is the fire by which, like the Prophet and St. Teresa of Avila, the disciples became seraphim. Yet, we choose that symbol of the rose - the deep-red rambler-rose. I see it spreading over the whole mountain and setting it all aflame. The last flower we shall gather during these lectures in the garden of Carmel will be none other than the rose that bloomed in our own times and which trails around the mountain. That last flower will be the "Little Flower" who, shedding her petals far and wide, has developed to the utmost the symbol of the red rose. May you all be like the red rambler-roses climbing along Carmel, burning in the fire of love like our great exemplar, Elias, scattering the petals of the flowers of your virtue, like the Little Flower, over those who live with you. Elijah was venerated as the daring champion of Gods cause: "I am burnt up with zeal for the Lord God of Hosts". Six pieces of spiritual armor are described in the rule of the Order; the cincture is the symbol of purity, indispensable for one who desires to reach the holy mountain of the vision of God: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God". The corselet which protects the vital parts of the body represents good thoughts: "Holy thoughts will protect you". The breastplate which covers the whole body represents justice, a well regulated life, the observance of the commandments and duties of daily life. The shield is faith; for a living faith is the best safeguard for the spiritual life. The helmet symbolizes hope, confidence in God, which gives us the right to walk with freedom and confidence. Finally, the sword indicates conversation with God which as a double edge blade comes to our aid and defends us in all our difficulties. Bl John Soreth first great reformer of Carmel characterised by love of simplicity, poverty, solitude and prayer. St Mary Magdalen de Pazzi - obtained permission to live according to primitive rule. The relationship between Carthusians and Carmelites was based on the Charterhouse role as spiritual master for Carmel. History tells us how much the Carthusians favored Ruysbroeck's mysticism and the spirituality of the Devotio Moderna in general; because of their love for solitude and the contemplative life, they served as an example and a stimulus for the Carmelites who aspired to a more strict observance. The contact between the Carmelite nuns, their spiritual Fathers and the masters of the Devotio Moderna was not merely occasional; it was a matter more of a common spirit. In a very striking way Father Martin, S. J., has demonstrated that the terminology and images of Ruysbroeck and St. Teresa are closely related and sometimes even identified. Above we established some analogous relationships between Bl. John Soreth and the writers of the Devotio Moderna. This is, it seems, an additional and very significant indication of the middle and conciliatory position which the Carmelite school has taken between the different schools. Thus equilibrium is maintained between the school of acquired contemplation and that of infused contemplation. John is careful to note that perfection does not consist in ecstatic phenomena but in union with God who lives in us. This fire, which burns in us, sets us aflame, and the flame of our love is united to Divine Love which enflames our heart. It is necessary that Carmelites understand this vocation and prepare for it. As a means of arriving at the dispositions required by God, John counsels a form of prayer which the Franciscan Henry Herp especially honored, namely, aspiration. It has four degrees: inhaling God, exhaling God, living in God, living by God. Entirely filled with God, we must hunger and thirst for God without ceasing and open our mouth to breathe God. We should start by offering ourselves and every creature to God. As Bl. John Soreth already showed, contemplation by its nature should elevate us to God. But we must not delay in the admiration of the marvels of nature; this is only a step by which we must mount. In view of God's riches, let us ask him to enrich us, for in the measure that he gives himself to us, he renders us unceasingly more like to himself. We should collaborate in his action by uniting ourselves ever more intimately to him; and we should forever rejoice over this union with God. The kingdom of God which is within us -- the old comparison of the "the soul's spark " -- must be extended without interruption or end by occupying us completely. All Carmelites, Brothers and Sisters of the Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in order to be faithful to their vocation should do their very utmost to go, under the guidance of the saintly hermit and prophet Elijah, across the desert of this life up to the Mt. Horeb of the vision of God, strengthened by the heavenly nourishment which is shown on the altar.
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sexagesima Sunday


The word of God is compared, by the Prophet Jeremias, to a hammer which crushes hearts as hard as rocks, and to a fire that dries up the swamps of vice, and consumes inveterate evil habits (Jer.23: 29). The Psalmist compares it to thunder that makes all tremble, a storm-wind that bends and breaks the cedars of Lebanon, that is, proud and obstinate spirits; a light that dispels the darkness of ignorance; and a remedy that cures sin (Ps. 28:3-5, 118:105). St. Paul compares it to a sword that divides the body from the soul, that is, the carnal desires from the spirit (Hebr. 4: 12), the Apostle James to a mirror in which man sees his stains and his wrongs (Jam. 1: 23), the Prophet Isaias to a precious rain that moistens the soil of the soul and fertilizes it (Isaias 55: 10-11) and Jesus Himself compares it to a seed that when it falls on good ground, brings forth fruit a hundredfold (Luke 8: 8). One single grain of this divine seed produced the most marvellous fruits of sanctity in St. Augustine, in St. Anthony the Great, in St. Nicholas of Tolentino, and others; for St. Augustine was converted by the words: "Let us walk honestly as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy" (Rom 13: 13); St. Anthony by the words: "If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Matt 19:21) whereas Nicholas of Tolentino was brought to Christian perfection by the words: "Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world" (1 John 2:15).

How should we prepare ourselves to be benefited by the word of God?
We must be good, well-tilled soil, that is, we must have a heart that loves truth, desires to learn, and humbly and sincerely seeks salvation; we must listen to the word of God with due preparation and attention, keep the divine truths we have heard, in our heart, frequently consider and strive to fulfill them.

What should be done before the sermon?
We should endeavor to purify our conscience, for, as St. Chrysostom demands: "Who would pour precious juice into a vessel that is not clean, without first washing it?" We should, therefore, at least cleanse our hearts by an ardent sorrow for our sins, because the spirit of truth enters not into the sinful soul (Wisdom 1: 4). We should ask the Holy Ghost for the necessary enlightenment, for little or no fruit can be obtained from a sermon if it is not united with prayer; we should listen to the sermon with a good motive; that is, with a view of hearing something edifying and instructive; if we attend only through curiosity, the desire to hear something new, to criticize the preacher, or to see and to be seen, we are like the Pharisees who for such and similar motives went to hear Christ and derived no benefit therefrom: “As a straight sword goes not into a crooked sheath, so the word of God enters not into a heart that is filled with improper motives". We should strive to direct, our minds rightly, that is, to dispel all temporal thoughts, all needless distraction, otherwise the wholesome words would fall but upon the ears, would not penetrate the heart, and the words of Christ be fulfilled: "They have ears, and hear not".

How should we comfort ourselves during the sermon?
We should listen to the sermon with earnest, reverent attention, for God speaks to us through His priests, and Christ says to them: "Who hears you, hears me" (Luke 10:16). We must listen to the priests, therefore, not as to men, but as to God's ambassadors, for every priest can say with St. Paul: "We are ambassadors for Christ, God, as it were, exhorting by us" (2 Cor.5:20). "If," says St. Chrysostom, "when the letter of a king is read, the greatest quiet and attention prevails, that nothing may be lost, how much more should we listen with reverence and perfect silence to the. word of God?" The word of God is, and ever will be, a divine seed, which, when properly received, produces precious fruit, by what priest soever sowed; for in the sowing it matters not what priest sows, but what soil is sowed. Be careful, also, that you do not apply that which is said to others, but take it to yourself, or the sermon will be of no benefit to you. Are you free from those vices which the preacher decries and against which he battles? then, thank God, but do not despise others who are perhaps laboring under them, rather pray that they may be released and you preserved from falling into them. Keep also from sleeping, talking, and other distractions, and remember, that whoever is of God, also willingly hears his word (John 8:47)

What should be done after the sermon?
We should then strive to put into practice the good we have heard, for God justifies not those who hear the law, but those who keep it, (Romans 2:13) and those who hear the word of God and do not conform their lives to it, are like the man who looks into the mirror, and having looked into it goes away, and presently forgets what manner of man he is (Fam. 1: 23-24). To practice that which has been heard, it is above all necessary that it should be kept constantly in mind, and thoughtfully considered. St. Bernard says: "Preserve the word of God as you would meat for your body, for it is a life-giving bread, and the food of your soul. Happy those, says Christ, who keep it. Receive it, therefore, into your soul's interior, and let it reach your morals and your actions."

That food which cannot be digested, or is at once thrown out, is useless; the food should be well masticated, retained, and by the digestive powers worked up into good blood. So not only on the day, but often during the week, that which was heard in the sermon should be thought of and put into practice. Speak of it to others, thus will much idle talk be saved, many souls with the grace of God roused to good, and enlightened in regard to the evil they had not before seen in themselves and in future will avoid. Let us listen to others when they repeat what was said in the sermon. Heads of families should require their children and domestics to relate what they have heard preached. Let us also entreat God to give us grace that we may be enabled to practice the precepts given us.

How much am I shamed, O my God, that the seed of Thy Divine word, which Thou hast sowed so often and so abundantly in my heart, has brought forth so little fruit! Ah! have mercy on me, and so change my heart, that it may become good soil, in which Thy word may take root, grow without hindrance, and finally bring forth fruits of salvation. Amen.

credits: text is taken from the classic "The Church's year" by Fr Goffine. The first drawing originates from the old book by Jacob and John Abbot "Illustrated New Testament" whereas second drawing depicts parable of the Sower in more spiritual and symbolic way and originates from medieval German Missal. The drawing can be interpreted as the manifold fruits of the Word of God such as virtues of virginity, chastity, and conjugality, likening the virgins to the hundredfold fruit, the chaste to the sixtyfold fruit, and the married to the fortyfold fruit, each personified as men and women, often with books, placed in a stylised tree, with Adam and Eve at the base and Christ at the top.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008


Mother dearest, Mother fairest, Maiden purest, Maiden rarest, Hope of earth and joy of heaven, Love and praise to thee be given, Blissful mother, blissful maiden.

An exceeding comely maid, most beautiful virgin, and not known to man.....whom the Lord hath prepared for my Master's Son (Gen 24: 44), therefore no defiled thing cometh unto her (Wisdom 7:25).

1. MARY, you are the Mother Inviolate because your virginal purity was not in the least tainted by the conception of your divine Son, but you remained a pure, inviolate virgin as before. The prophet Isaias foretold this great miracle of God: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son; and they shall call his name Emmanuel (God with us)." You conceived as a virgin. It was your peculiar privilege to possess both the joys of motherhood and the honor of virginity, as the Gospel relates: "Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David, to take to thee Mary thy wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:20)

2. MARY, you preserved your virginity also in the birth of Jesus. As a virgin you conceived, and as a virgin you brought forth the Son of God. As the rays of the sun penetrate glass and yet do not break or injure it in any way, so Jesus, the Son of Justice, was born of you, without violating your virginity.

Mother Inviolate, teach me to cherish holy purity as the most precious treasure of my heart, as you did. Make me modest and retired. Help me to avoid every indecent thought, word, and action. Let me never forget that the more chastely I live, the more quietly I shall die, and the greater will be my confidence when I appear before my Eternal Judge.

3. MARY, you remained a pure, inviolate virgin after the birth of the Son of God. You would have given up the dignity of divine motherhood, had it been impossible for you to remain a virgin. How chaste was Joseph, who, after you had brought forth the Son of God, lived in perfect continence out of reverence for you and through love for virginal purity.

Mother Inviolate, I cannot practice chastity in my state of life without the aid of God's grace. Help me to pray often, especially in temptation, for God gives His grace to those who ask Him. But, above all, aid me in receiving Holy Communion frequently, which is the most important means I have of preserving holy purity, because there I am united most intimately with your loving Son, who is a Lover of pure souls.

May all our hope of assistance, O Lord, ever rest upon the loving kindness of Your only-begotten Son! May He, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who when born of the Virgin, did not detract from the virginity of His Mother, but made it sacred, cleanse us of our sins on this solemn feast day of her Nativity, and make our prayers pleasing in Your sight. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Credits: Sandro Boticelli "Madonna of the Pomegranate". Text combined from the Loretto Litany, Intermirifica and "My Mother and My Queen".

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Mount Carmel, Retreat on Contemplative Prayer, Characterised by Elias, part 6

Today and through the rest of this week, we will continue reading of the lecture given by Bl Titus Brandsma O.Carm during his American lecture tour before WW2 on the subject of Carmelite spirituality and contemplative life of prayer as exemplified by St Elijah. The lecture is in practice excellent summary of the history and development of the Order and can profit those interested in Carmel history and spirituality to increase their knowledge and understanding of the spiritual richness of one of the greatest mendicant orders dedicated to Our Lady.

Harmony of Intellectual and Affective Prayer - Happy Mean Finally, we must note the providential combination of the two great visions of the Prophet on Carmel and on Horeb. These two visions are intimately connected. The last is the crown of the first and supplies what was not yet given in the first. While we admire Elias as he soars aloft in contemplation on Carmel, we must not forget that he had a human side as well and on this side he is accessible to the very least among us. He had called down fire on Carmel and rain on the parched land, yet Jezabel, unrelenting in her evil, held Achab and his people in her thrall. She was all powerful and eager for revenge. And Elias, overcome with fear and disappointment, poured out all the misery of his soul to God: "It is enough, Lord, I pray You, take away my life." In this connection we can hardly exaggerate the profound importance of God's revelation to Elias on Horeb. We should like to remark that the vision of Elias on Carmel bears the character of an enlightenment of the mind, an intellectual revelation, the disclosing of a mystery, the mystery of the Incarnation. It is true that in this vision on Carmel there is not wanting a certain affection or attraction of the will, for we see the Prophet, under its impulse, borne before Achab to the capital town of Samaria. But this attraction, this affection of will, is of little importance in this vision. Above all, it is the communication of a mystery. In the vision of Horeb, however, the Prophet felt the spirit of God. The first vision was, in the strict sense of the term, intellectual, the second the breathing of the spirit of God. The latter completes the former. After the first, the Prophet, even though his mind was illumined from on high, was still subject to weakness and despondency, and prayed that he might die. In the second, he is strengthened and consoled and at peace. These visions are intimately connected. So in the school of Carmel there is harmony between the intellectual illumination of the mind and the affective love of the heart. While the schools of St. Bernard and St. Francis are schools of love, seraphic love, and the Dominican, intellectual, the school of Carmel achieves a happy mean, a harmony of both. Surely those who dwell in Carmel would have caught from the flame a spark of the love and zeal which burned in the great Prophet. Fire is the most expressive symbol of love. "I am come to cast fire on the earth." It is this fire which enveloped Elias when, according to the witness of Scripture, he was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Wrapped in that seraphic flame he is taken from earth. Carmel must ever feel that glow of its founder's zeal. It is the mark of the true follower of Elias. It burns in all Carmelite saints. Especially do we see it in the soul of seraphic St. Teresa of Avila. The smouldering fires that burned in the soul of "this undaunted daughter of desires" is Carmel's greatest witness to the spirit of Elias. In these great souls have been fulfilled the Prophet's words which encircle the Order's escutcheon "With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts." But the school of Carmel warns us, in its leading figures, even in the Prophet Elias, that we must never forget the great importance of the intellectual foundation of the contemplative life: the enlightenment of the mind, the exercise of all mental faculties. By the imaginative and intellectual meditation and contemplation we have to climb to the affection of love and to be set in fire and flame. Even the Mystical Doctor -- as we shall see later in a following lecture -- recalls the necessity of imaginative and intellectual meditation, because we cannot always soar into the higher regions of mystical life. And St. Teresa, insisting on the affection of love, leads her sisters on the way of imaginative and intellectual vision and meditation. We should like to speak also about the apostolic character of the life of the great prophet, but his position in the Old Testament is clear enough to illustrate the zealous apostolic spirit by which he was led. Following this spirit also Carmelite life has always been apostolic. We will see in the next lecture and especially in the last the apostolic character of Carmelite spirituality. We mention this apostolate here to indicate that also in this life the life of the prophet of Carmel was stimulating and inspiring even to the highest ideal of the apostolate.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mount Carmel, Retreat on Contemplative life, Characterised by Elias, part 5

Today and through the rest of this week, we will continue reading of the lecture given by Bl Titus Brandsma O.Carm during his American lecture tour before WW2 on the subject of Carmelite spirituality and contemplative life of prayer as exemplified by St Elijah. The lecture is in practice excellent summary of the history and development of the Order and can profit those interested in Carmel history and spirituality to increase their knowledge and understanding of the spiritual richness of one of the greatest mendicant orders dedicated to Our Lady.

Growth of Contemplative Life in the Desert by Eucharistic Food
Very characteristic of Carmelite spirituality is its conception of spiritual life as a growing thing; and here the life of the Prophet gives another remarkable lesson. Like the natural, our spiritual life demands food. Holy Scripture tells us how Elias, on the strength of the mystical food ministered to him by the Angel, walked forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb. Here he was allowed to see God. Our spiritual life, and our mystical life desire the holy Food given to us by God in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. In the school of Carmel the mystical contemplative life is the fruit of the Eucharistic life. For the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, the fountain of our life of prayer, the life of Elias provides us with a most striking type. The miraculous bread ministered to him is a perfect image of that Eucharistic food, in the strength of which we walk in life's journey here below. The special cult of the Holy Sacrament has not been confined to Carmel, but we can say that it has always been a constant and important part of our Carmelite tradition. Our Carmelite Convents have in many instances been centres of Eucharistic worship. St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi was attracted to the Carmel of Florence by the fact that the Sisters received Holy Communion every day, a custom not usual in those days. To St. Teresa there was no greater joy than the opening of a new church or chapel as a dwelling for the Lord. It is prescribed by the Rule that all members of a Carmelite Community attend the Holy Sacrifice daily and that the chapel be in the centre of the cloister, easy of access at all times, and that the Canonical Hours be recited in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Being a mendicant Order, its churches and cloisters are plain and simple in their architecture, but in the adornment of their churches and altars poverty is not prescribed. This is a notable departure from the custom of other mendicant Orders -- from that of the Capuchins, for instance, whose rule of poverty extends even to the sanctuary. Such in brief outline is the Eucharistic tradition of Carmel; with Elias we walk in the strength of that divine bread and since we would draw near to the life of God in prayer, we must be ever mindful of the Saviour's command, "Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you cannot have life in you." Just as the communion of Elias in the miraculous bread of the desert led him in his journey to the contemplation of God on Horeb, so too, the Holy Eucharist must lead us to the contemplation of His Holy Face. In the caves of Horeb God spoke to the Prophet by the voice of the gentle, whispering wind. The Lord was not in the storm nor in the earthquake, but in the gentle wind. So after Communion we must contemplate under the Eucharistic species and in the depths of our spirit; for now God passes.

Vision of the Mother of God Governing Carmel's Life of Prayer
Special attention must be called to the vision of Elias on Carmel. This vision is the foundation of the Marian character of Carmelite spirituality. It was on Carmel's summit that the Prophet after sevenfold prayer saw a little cloud-bearer of the rain which would deliver the parched earth. It is not necessary to give an authentic explanation of this vision. Still I may say that many commentators of the Holy Scriptures have seen in this cloud a prototype of the Holy Virgin, who bore in her womb the Redeemer of the world. It is not the first time that a cloud was used as a symbol. In the wilderness a cloud covering the Ark of the Covenant was the sign of the presence of God. Numerous circumstances in which this type of cloud is mentioned are applied to God's descent on earth and His dwelling among the sons of men. From the circumstances in which the Prophet, after his sevenfold prayer, saw the cloud rise above the sea, we may conclude that to see in it a prototype of the Mother of God - a type of the mystery of the Incarnation - would be in entire agreement with the prototypal character of the Old Testament; the more so, since Holy Scripture expressly mentions this vision in the life of a prophet who would be raised to such a high degree of contemplation. At all events this much is sure-and this settles the question for the definition of the guiding principles of the Carmelite life of prayer that in the Order this vision of Elias has always been seen as a prototype of the Mystery of the Incarnation and a distant veneration of the Mother of God. And it was because of this belief, according to the tradition of Carmel, that the old sanctuary dedicated to the Holy Maid was built on the mountain in the midst of the hermits' caves. In the devotion of the Order, in the school of Carmel, this vision has its own place, and it has been looked upon for ages as the favourite image by which the Order looks to her. We need only read the Canonical Hours of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to see the importance of this vision for the spiritual life of Carmel. In a special lecture we will say more about the Marian character of Carmelite spirituality.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mount Carmel, Retreat of Contemplative life, Characterised in Elias - part 4

Today and through the rest of this week, we will continue reading of the lecture given by Bl Titus Brandsma O.Carm during his American lecture tour before WW2 on the subject of Carmelite spirituality and contemplative life of prayer as exemplified by St Elijah. The lecture is in practice excellent summary of the history and development of the Order and can profit those interested in Carmel history and spirituality to increase their knowledge and understanding of the spiritual richness of one of the greatest mendicant orders dedicated to Our Lady.

Detachment from the World, Including Mortification, Abstinence and Poverty. We may truly say that the life of high contemplation of the Prophet was not only founded on the practice of all virtues, but that this practice and exercise of prayer and virtue - heroic virtue - accompany and follow his visions and mystical graces. These mystical graces are a free gift of God, but God did not grant them without asking great and heroic virtue as a human disposition and preparation.
Combination of Liturgical and Contemplative Prayer
. But after all, prayer is the chief characteristic of the great Prophet. His life is steeped in it. So St. James teaches that he is the great example of continual prayer. And we see in the prayer of Elias a providential union of oral and liturgical prayer with the prayer of meditation and contemplation -- contemplation in its double sense, active and passive.
We may see in him an example of liturgical prayer, for the singing of God's praises was an important item in the school of Prophets. The word, "Prophet," in the ancient law had a wider meaning than we attach to it now. It was used to describe not only one who pro-phesied, one who had been given that special gift of God, but also one who sang the praise of God together with others, usually seven times a day. At an earlier period of Israel's history, we are told, Saul was among the prophets, not in the sense that he had the gift of prophecy, but that he joined in the singing of the praises of God in these distinct groups. Elias was the Prophet in all the meanings of the term. He had a school and disciples not in one place, but in many, and most probably led them in prayer at fixed times. So we may say that liturgical prayer comes to us from a very ancient tradition, even though it is secondary to the deeper prayer of meditation and contemplation. Our Order is not an Order of liturgical prayer, like the old Eastern Order of the Basilians or the Western Order of the Benedictines, but liturgical prayer has a special confirmation in our own Rite and must always hold a high place in our living with God. The Rule calls us together to the choir to say the Office in community, liturgically. St. Teresa, in her love for liturgical prayer, would so impregnate it with holy thoughts, that it, too, in a sense, would become contemplative prayer, prayer of active contemplation. The influence and attraction of simple and devout Carmelite liturgical life has always been great. More than one Carmel on the continent has been founded because of it.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mount Carmel, Retreat of Contemplative life, Characterised in Elias - part 3

Today and through the rest of this week, we will continue reading of the lecture given by Bl Titus Brandsma O.Carm during his American lecture tour before WW2 on the subject of Carmelite spirituality and contemplative life of prayer as exemplified by St Elijah. The lecture is in practice excellent summary of the history and development of the Order and can profit those interested in Carmel history and spirituality to increase their knowledge and understanding of the spiritual richness of one of the greatest mendicant orders dedicated to Our Lady.

Exercise of Living in the Presence of God
To what degree of contemplation Elias was raised on Horeb, is an academic question. There are some who say he saw the Lord face to face as we hope to see Him in Heaven. All spiritual writers number Elias among the most favoured mystic seers. His experience on Horeb was a reflection of what he was to witness on Thabor, when the Saviour was transfigured and Moses and Elias were seen associated in His blinding glory. The Holy Scriptures say of Moses that when he descended from Sinai after his conversation with God, on his face was spread the brightness and glory of divine light, so that the Jews dared not look at his face. The same is not said of Elias, but we see him coming to the Jews, as if from another world, from the courts of Heaven, and declaring at his appearance, Vivit Deus, in culus conspectu sto. This is the foundation of his life of prayer. This living in the presence of God, this placing himself before the face of God, is a characteristic which the children of Carmel have inherited from the great Prophet: Conversatio nostra in coelis est "Our conversation is in heaven." Elias was not taken up to heaven, but here on earth lived in heaven and stood with a pious heart before God's throne: "God lives, I am standing before His face." The words of the Archangel Raphael spoken to Tobias are reminiscent of the words of Elias. After he had accompanied Tobias under the name of Azarias and brought him safely on his journey, he revealed himself as an Angel of God. "One of the seven who stood before God." "I seemed indeed to eat and drink with you, but I use an invisible meat and drink which cannot be seen by men." This realisation of the presence of God is of the very greatest significance in the religious life. We need not say that this practice of the presence of God is not confined entirely to the Order of Carmel. It is at the root of all spiritual life and though methods may differ, all spiritual writers lay it down as an essential element in religious development. But in Carmel it takes a special place. It is significant that one of the most widely known works on the practice of the presence of God was written by a simple lay brother of the Parisian Carmel (Br Lawrence of the Resurrection).The book is a slight work containing four dialogues and sixteen letters of great importance. It was published a year after his death and soon afterwards translated into English. It has since been translated into nearly every language, including Esperanto. In our own times Little Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face is the great example of this exercise of the presence of God, expressing itself in her devotion to the Holy Face. This devotion was also always characteristic of her sister, St. Teresa of Avila. In many of our old churches we may yet see traces of this Carmelite devotion to the Holy Face. The picture is painted on the big keystone of the gable of the sanctuary of our old churches at Mainz and Frankfort-on-the-Main, looking down on the choir and surrounded by appropriate texts, reminding those in prayer that the eyes of God are always upon them and that they must look upwards to the Holy Face.
Love of Solitude
But if Elias is the great type of contemplation, set deep in the heart of the ancient law, he is also a great ascetic. And in this characteristic we find a second foundation of his life of prayer, which is his love of solitude, to which he always returns and to which he is sent by God. But before endowing him so abundantly God required great renunciations. "The great hermit," says St. Jerome, "the lover of solitude, is led into the wilderness by the spirit of God." There he understands the words of the Psalmist, Sedebit solftarius et tacebit et levabit se super se. "The desolate sets himself down there and holds his peace and lifts himself above himself." We may see a third foundation of his life of prayer in his detachment from the world. If he is lifted up to God, it is at the price of sacrifice. "The Lord called him from his birthplace and from his own people." And as Our Lord after him, he tastes the bitterness of the lonely world. God tried His servant in many and difficult ways. He demanded his cooperation, but above all he asked an unquestioning faith, absolute trust in God's Providence.
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Monday, January 21, 2008

Mount Carmel, Retreat of Contemplative life, Characterised in Elias - part 2

Today as through the rest of this week, we will continue reading of the lecture given by Bl Titus Brandsma O.Carm during his American lecture tour before WW2 on the subject of Carmelite spirituality and contemplative life of prayer as exemplified by St Elijah. The lecture is in practice excellent summary of the history and development of the Order and can profit those interested in Carmel history and spirituality to increase their knowledge and understanding of the spiritual richness of one of the greatest mendicant orders dedicated to Our Lady.

Double Spirit The first is the double portion of the inheritance of the Father, the portion of the first-born son, the portion of the privileged children. The Carmelites are the privileged children of the great prophet and ask from him the portion of the primogenitus. But only he who has the intention of maintaining the noble traditions of the house may ask this privileged portion. If we ask his double spirit in this sense, we have to be his first sons and to follow him as well as possible.Another sense is given to this double spirit: namely, the marvelous mixture of contemplative and active life in the great prophet. He was, above all, the great contemplative, but God called him many times from his contemplation to the active life and his place in the history of Israel is as one of its most untiring laborers. Abilt autem inde in montem Carmeli. He always returned to the solitude of the life of con-templation. So the Carmelites must be contemplatives, who from their active life always return to the contemplative as to the higher and better part of their vocation. However, the double spirit of the prophet is spoken of in a third sense as the harmonious union of the human exercise of virtue and the divine infusion of mystical life; the union of the via purgativa and illuminativa with the via unitiva. It is in this third sense that the old institution of the Order has taken the double spirit of Elias and this double spirit we must ask of Heaven. Our institution must reflect his double spirit; the life of the exercise of virtue in individual or social activity, founded on a life of prayer, and the life of continual practise of meditation, crowned by active contemplation or prayer of simplicity and that other spirit unspeakably more exalted: the mystical, real experience of God, even in this life. It must be the union of active and passive contemplation, the union of human endeavour and the infusion of the mystical life by God. Our sufferings and sacrifices, our labours and exercises in prayer and virtue will be rewarded by God with the beatifying vision of His love and greatness. So we may truly say that "the life of Elias is the shortest summary of the Order's life." But we immediately have to ask: What are the characteristics of this prophetical life?

Three-fold Basis of Elias' Life of Prayer When Elias was being taken away from the earth in a fiery chariot, Eliseus, his faithful disciple, begged of him the inheritance of his double spirit. In the mantle which he received and with which he covered his shoulders, Eliseus received the inheritance he had asked for. The Prophet's mantle was to him a symbol of an assurance, and through the miracles worked by this mantle his disciples understood that the spirit of Elias had descended on Eliseus. And just as Eliseus walked in the spirit and strength of Elias, so his disciples followed him. It is the same spirit the Order has ever striven to continue in its members. It ever sets before them the ideal of the double spirit and gives the promise of a double crown.
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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Septuagesima Sunday

Why is this Sunday called "Septuagesima"?
Because in accordance with the words of the First Council of Orleans, some pious Christian congregations in the earliest ages of the Church, especially the clergy, began to fast seventy days before Easter, on this Sunday, which was therefore called Septuagesima" - the seventieth day. The same is the case with the Sundays following, which are called Sexagesima, Quinquagesima , Quadragesima, because some Christians commenced to fast sixty days, others fifty, others forty days before Easter, until finally, to make it properly uniform, Popes Gregory and Gelasius arranged that all Christians should fast forty days before Easter, commencing with Ash-Wednesday.

Why, from this day until Easter, does the Church omit in her service all joyful canticles, alleluia’s, and the Gloria in excelsis etc?
Gradually to prepare the minds of the faithful for the serious time of penance and sorrow; to remind the sinner of the grievousness of his errors, and to exhort him to penance. So the priest appears at the altar in violet, the color of penance, and the front of the altar is covered with a violet curtain. To arouse our sorrow for our sins, and show the need of repentance, the Church in the name of all mankind at the Introit cries with David: The groans of death surrounded me, the sorrows of hell encompassed me: and in my affliction I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice from his holy temple. (Ps. 17:5-7.) I will love thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my firmament, and my refuge, and my deliverer. (Ps. 17: 2-3) Glory be to the Father, etc.

GOSPEL (Matt 20: 1-16)
At that time, Jesus spoke to his disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven is like to a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And having agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour, he saw others Standing in the market place idle, and he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just. And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner. But about the eleventh hour, he went out, and found others standing; and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle? They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go you also into my vineyard. And when evening was come, the Lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the laborers, and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first. When therefore they were come that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny, But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more; and they also received every man a penny. And receiving it, they murmured against the master of the house, saying: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hart made them equal to us that have borne the burden of the day and the heats. But he answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take what is thine, and go thy way; I will also give to this last even as to thee. Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is thy eye evil, because I am good? So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.

In this parable, what is to be understood by the householder, the vineyard, laborers, and the penny?
The householder represents God, who in different ages of the world, in the days of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and finally, in the days of Christ and the apostles, has sought to call men as workmen into His vineyard, the true Church, that they might labor there industriously, and receive the penny of eternal glory.

How and when does God call people?
By inward inspiration, by preachers, confessors, spiritual books, and conversations, etc., in flourishing youth and in advanced age, which periods of life may be understood by the different hours of the day.

What is meant by working in the vineyard?
It means laboring, fighting, suffering for God and His honor, for our own and the salvation of others. As in a vineyard we spade, dig, root out weeds, cut off all that is useless and noxious, manure, plant, and bind up, so in the spiritual vineyard of our soul we must, by frequent meditation on death and hell, by examination of conscience dig up the evil inclinations by their roots, and by true repentance eradicate the weeds of vice, and by mortification, especially by prayer and fasting cut away concupiscence; by the recollection of our sins we must humble ourselves, and amend our life; in place of the bad habits we must plant the opposite virtues and bind our unsteady will to the trellis of the fear of God and of His judgment, that we may continue firm.

How is a vice or bad habit to be rooted up?
A great hatred of sin must be aroused; a fervent desire of destroying sin must be produced in our hearts; the grace of God must be implored without which nothing can be accomplished. It is useful also to read some spiritual book which speaks against the vice. The Sacraments of Penance and of holy Communion should often be received, and some saint who in life had committed the same sin, and afterwards by the grace of God conquered it, should be honored, as Mary Magdalen and St. Augustine who each had the habit of impurity, but with the help of God resisted and destroyed it in themselves; there should be fasting, alms-deeds, or other good works, performed for the same object, and it is of great importance, even necessary, that the conscience should be carefully examined in this regard.

Who are standing idle in the market place?
In the market-place, that is the world, they are standing idle who, however much business they attend to, do not work for God and for their own salvation; for the only necessary employment is the service of God and the working out of our salvation. There are three ways of being idle: doing nothing whatever; doing evil; doing other things than the duties of our position in life and its office require, or if this work is done without a good intention, or not from the love of God. This threefold idleness deprives us of our salvation, as the servant loses his wages if he works not at all, or not according to the will of his master. We are all servants of God, and none of us can say with the laborers in the Vineyard that no man has employed us; for God, when He created us, hired us at great wages, and we must serve Him always as He cares for us at all times; and if, in the gospel, the householder reproaches the workmen, whom no man had hired, for their idleness, what will God one day say to those Christians whom He has placed to work in His Vineyard, the Church, if they have remained idle?

Why do the last comers receive as much as those who worked all day ?
Because God rewards not the time or length of the work, but the industry and diligence with which it has been performed. It may indeed happen, that many a one who has served God but for a short time, excels in merits another who has lived long but has not labored as diligently. (Wisdom 4: 8-13)

What is signified by the murmers of the first workmen when the wages were paid?
As the Jews were the first who were called by God, Christ intended to show that the Gentiles, who were called last, should one day receive the heavenly reward, and that the Jews have no reason to murmur because God acted not unjustly in fulfilling His promises "to them, and at the same time calling others to the eternal reward". In heaven envy, malevolence and murmuring will find no place. On the contrary, the saints who have long served God wonder at His goodness in converting sinners and those who have served Him but a short time, for these also there will be the same penny, that is, the vision, the enjoyment, and possession of God and His kingdom. Only in the heavenly glory there will be a difference because the divine lips have assured us that each one shall be rewarded according to his works. The murmurs of the workmen and the answer of the householder serve to teach us, that we should not murmur against the merciful proceedings of God towards our neighbor, nor envy him; for envy and jealousy are abominable, devilish vices, hated by God. By the envy of the devil, death came into the world. (Wisd. 2: 24) The envious therefore, imitate Lucifer, but they hurt only themselves, because they are consumed by their envy. "Envy," says St. Basil "is an institution of the serpent, an invention of the devils, an obstacle to piety, a road to hell, the depriver of the heavenly kingdom.”

What is meant by: The first shall be last, and the last shall be first?
This again is properly to be understood of the Jews; for they were the first called, but will be the last in order, as in time, because they responded not to Christ's invitation, received not His doctrine, and will enter the Church only at the end of the world; while, on the contrary, the Gentiles who where not called until after the Jews, will be the first in number as in merit, because the greater part responded and are still responding to the call. Christ, indeed, called all the Jews, but few of them answered, therefore few were chosen. Would that this might not. also come true with regard to Christians whom God has also called, and whom He wishes to save. (1 Tim 2: 4) Alas! very few live in accordance with their vocation of working in the vineyard of the Lord, and, consequently, do not receive the penny of eternal bliss.


O most benign God, who, out of pure grace, without any merit of ours, hast called us, Thy unworthy servants, to the true faith, into the vineyard of the holy Catholic Church, and dost require us to work in it for the sanctification of our souls, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may never be idle but be found always faithful workmen, and that that which in past years we have failed to do, we may make up for in future by greater zeal and persevering industry, and, the work being done, may receive the promised reward in heaven, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son our, Lord. Amen.

credits: text from Fr Goffine "The Church's Year", painting is Rembrand's "Vineyard'
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Saturday, January 19, 2008


Hope of earth and joy of Heaven,
Love and praise to thee be given!

Behold, thou art fair, My beloved and comely.
(Cant. 1:15)

Thou art the glory of Jerusalem....for thou hast done manfully, and thy heart has been strengthened because thou hast loved chastity....Therefore also the hand of the Lord hath strengthened thee, and therefore thou shalt be blessed for ever
(Judith 15:10,11).
Oh, how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory, for the memory thereof is immortal: because it is known both with God and with man! When it is present they imitate it: and they desire it when it hath withdrawn itself, and it triumpheth crowned for ever, winning the reward of undefiled conflicts (Wisd 4:1,2).

"How beautiful art Thou, My love; how beautiful art thou! Thy eyes are doves' eyes, besides what is hid within" (Cant. 4). "How beautiful is the chaste generation with glory!" (Wisd 4). "Thou art fair, O my love, thou art fair" (Cant). We can imagine the divine Infant Jesus addressing His holy Mother in such words as the above, as He lay on her lap, and she ministered to Him as her Child. Or if He did not think well to break His self-imposed silence, similar thoughts would be in His heart as He contemplated the work of His hands, and saw that it was good. How it would console Him, too, to think of the "chaste generation" that would follow the example given them by Mary! True, His spotless one was but one; there would never be her equal; still, He knew the virtue of chastity would henceforth be on a very different footing from what it had hitherto been. "Thou art the glory of Jerusalem" would he think as He watched her humbly setting about her household duties. "Thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honour of our people, for thou hast done manfully, and thy heart hast been strengthened because thou hast loved chastity."
There was nothing soft or weak about Mary's virtue. She was the valiant woman, par excellence, who defeated and set at naught the machinations of Satan and his crew. She was strong of heart in consequence, and so able later to bear heavier sufferings than have ever yet, or ever will, fall to the lot of mortal. We read of Judith that she wore hair-cloth and fasted almost daily; and it is recorded of our Lady that she, too, though the perfection of innocence, practised great bodily austerities (Husenbeth's Life of the B. Virgin). What must we think of our own cowardice in this respect? But humility, far more than austerity, was the support of Mary's virtue. Her simply, unaffected lowliness baffled all the wiles of the devil. Her childlike rejoicing in the gifts God bestowed on her, as being all His and showing forth His generosity and goodness, her self-forgetfulness (for humility is the effacement of self), her love of poverty and the hidden life - all these kept spotless the glittering whitness of her soul. "Therefore also the hand of God hath strengthened thee", "He hath given His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways". How lovingly must these blessed spirits have watched over and guarded the Virgin Mother of God from her conception to her assumption! With what admiration they must have regarded this chief d'oeuvre of their Creator whom He had made expressly for Himself! As St Bernard so beautifully puts it: "It became God to be born of none but of a virgin. It became a virgin mother to be the Mother of God. It became the Creator of mankind to choose unto Himself such a mother as He knew beseemed Him, and would please Him. He was pleased, therefore, that she should be a virgin, of whom, being herself stainless, He should be born stainless, to purge away all stains. He was pleased that she should be lowly, out of whom He should come forth, who is meek and lowly of heart, to set an example unto all, in Himself, of needful and helpful graces. He granted her the power of motherhood while yet a maiden, having already Himself breathed into her the love of virginity, and granted unto her the reward of her lowliness. And that she, who was to bear and conceive the Holy of Holies, might be holy in body, she received the gift of virginity and of lowliness. "O Virgin most wonderful and most worshipful, O woman worthy of a worship all thine own, thou that renewest them that were before thee, quickenest them that come after thee. 'The Angel was sent unto a Virgin' - a virgin in body, a virgin in mind, a virgin by profession, a virgin such as the apostle would have her be: 'Holy, both in body and in spirit," - a virgin not newly found, nor by hazard, but elect from everlasting, foreknown by the Most High, and made ready by Him, foreshadowed by Patriarchs, and foretold by Prophets."


credits: first picture is a beautiful Madonna painted by Sandro Boticelli whereas the second picture is an example of 18th century engraving by the renowned Augsburg artist, Josef Sebastian Klauber. The picture is baroque illustration of Mary depicted as exalted Mother, Virgin, and Queen. The illustration is very rich spiritually and the artist highlights Our Lady's chastity, by surrounding her image with two biblical symbols of virginity, hortus conclusus (enclosed garden) and fons signatus (sealed fountain). Both symbols came from the Song of Songs, "You are. . .my sister, my bride, an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed" (Canticle 4, 12). That is why we can see here a typical half-image of Mother and child that form the crown of a tree which bears simultaneously, flowers and fruit. They are symbols of Mary's role as virgin (flower) and mother (fruit)- "What a beautiful and chaste creature" (Wisdom 4) (info and picture credit to: Litany of Loreto).
To pay homage due to Our Lady's virtue of chastity this beautiful meditation (taken form "My Mother and My Queen book) was posted today accompanied by two pictures combining exceptional beauty of Boticelli's painting and spiritually rich symbolism of popular religious art that can be found nowadays only in old religious books.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Nothing is sweeter than to think well of others. St. Therese of Lisieux

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Mount Carmel, Retreat of Contemplative Life, Characterised in Elias

Today, we can read the first part of lecture given on the subject of Carmelite Spirituality by Bl Titus Brandsma O.Carm during the lecture tour in America before WW2.

As in daily life, so also in spiritual life, it is of the greatest importance to have a model of inspiration, an exemplar for imitation. Carmelite spirituality has such a model. The Carmelite Order derives its name from the holy mountain of its beginning. In that eastern land where every mountain has its own great memories Mount Carmel has some of the most holy. Carmel is a name which is familiar in every part of the Catholic world; it is intimately known as no other, and its natural beauty seems to be exactly in keeping with its gracious associations. Its quiet outline may be seen rising above the waters of the Mediterranean and from its summit one may see the great plain of Esdraelon stretching away into the distance, where the contemplative soul looks down on the mystery of Nazareth.

Carmel is the natural retreat of the contemplative, and it is not unfitting that on its slopes should stand the Cloister of Carmel, the cradle of the Order. It stands above the turmoil of life, above the world's stormy sea; its solitude is beyond the reach of "life's fitful fever"; it is wrapped in the peace of God. Such a peace we naturally associate with Carmel, but it has other associations more stirring and more turbulent. The memory of the great spiritual warfare of Elias still clings to it. It was here he gathered together all Israel and flung reproach at their heads. "How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow Him." Here Israel heard his challenge in words of flame, as a burning torch. But here he was more than the Prophet of the sword, here he was also the first of a long line of those who would worship God in spirit and in truth. In his lifetime disciples gathered round him and learned from him the deep secrets of his prayer and communion with God. His double spirit passed to Eliseus, and from him to the school of Prophets, and so down through the ages, the life of Elias has been continued in these hermits who ever sought inspiration in their great exemplar.

When Europe was full of the battle cry of the Crusaders, "God wills it," and the Crusaders set out to recapture the holy places, Carmel was one of the first places to be won back. There they found the ruins of the old sanctuaries, and we are told some of them remained to restore the old life. From the narrative of John Phocas, a Greek monk, 1177, we know that one of the Crusaders of the West, St. Berthold, was instructed by the holy Prophet to collect together on Mount Carmel, those who were living the eremitical life there, and to unite them in community life; the year may be 1155. So the Prophet stands at the Order's beginning. For proof of this we rely not so much on historical research, as on the fact that his memory and life has left their stamp upon the Order's life. He has ever been the Order's great exemplar. Indeed, so permanent has been his influence that St. Jerome calls him "the father of all the hermits and monks." In his epistle to Paulinus (Ep. 58: Ed. Migne, P.L. t. 22, p.583), he makes reference to Elias, Noster princeps Elias, nostri duces, filii Prophetarum . Likewise, Cassian in his conferences points to him as the great example of all monks. Similarly the testimony of Phocas, already mentioned, is completed by that of James de Vitry who was Bishop of Jean d'Acre, and well known to the hermits. It was written in 1221. He tells us that many Crusaders remained in the Holy Land for the sake of their devotion, to sacrifice their lives to God in places sanctified by His life. Some of those, he says, after the example of the Prophet Elias, dwelt in the caves of Carmel near the fountain of the Prophet and the sanctuary of Saint Margarita. Is it not providential that the first monks of the Order of Carmel, symbolising the imitation of Elias, drank the water from the fountain that bears his name?

Also we may mention here an old manuscript, the lnstitutio Primorum Monachorum, which contains the oldest traditions of the Order. It was probably written late in the 13th or at the beginning of the 14th century after the dispersion of the monks to the West, but was formerly ascribed to a much earlier date. It is a record of traditions much older than itself, and was meant to be a definite and permanent guide for the monks. In it we read that the guidance which the Holy Ghost gave to Elias and the promises made to him, must be the guiding principles in the life of the hermits on Carmel. The monastic life must follow the lines indicated by his life and experience. It must reflect his double spirit, the life of activity and the exercise of virtue in individual or social activity. This double spirit has a three-fold sense.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bl Titus Brandsma words on solitude

I already feel completely at home in this little cell. I haven’t been bored at all, in fact just the opposite. I am here alone, but never was our Lord so close to me. I could shout for joy that He has again let himself be found by me without me being able to be among people or people with me. He is now my only refuge and I feel safe and happy. I would like to stay here always, If He wills that. I have seldom been so happy and so content.” (Carmelnet)

Bl Titus Brandsma was Dutch Carmelite of Ancient Observance who was martyred in Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, Germany, during WW2. The portrait of him posted today is kept in Carmelite Friary in Kinsale Co Cork, Ireland, and was painted to commemorte his visit there that took place just before he commenced the lecture tour in America. His words on solitude were written during his imprisonment in Dachau years later. He was aware of his uncertain future and coming end but his optimism and love for God brightens his mind and heart and makes him, as he says, more happy and aware of Jesus presence than ever before in his life. Excellent words to meditate on our dependency on God in particular in moments of desolation and aloneness.
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I present today several pictures of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating the Mass in Sistine Chapel in traditional way, ad orientem, facing crucifix and Our Lord and leading the flock towards Redeemer. Let us enjoy these beautiful pictures (thanks to Ken from Hallowedground blog, link on the sidebar in Blogroll section) and this truly historical moment. The Mass was Ad Deum NO Mass for Baptism of several children by the Pope.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008


They found Him in the temple (Luke 2:46).

Many people deceive themselves in regard to true piety, because their imagination represents it to them according to the effect produced by their passions or disposition of mind. He who fasts often and willingly believes that he is pious, though in his heart he nourishes a secret hatred, and while he fears to wet the tip of his tongue with wine, even with water, lest he should not live temperately enough, finds pleasure in detraction and slander, that unquenchable thirst for the blood of his neighbor. Another, because he is accustomed daily to recite a long string of prayers, esteems himself pious, though he gives vent afterwards to haughty, bitter, offensive language, hurting people at home and abroad. Another keeps his purse open for the poor, but keeps his heart ever closed to the love of his enemy, whom he will not forgive; another forgives his enemy with all his heart, but will not pay his creditors, until forced by law. All these think themselves pious, and are perhaps so regarded by the world, but in truth they are far from being pious. In what then does true piety consist? In the perfect love of God. This love is called the beautiful love, because it is the ornament of the soul, and attracts to itself with complacency the eyes of the Divine Majesty. When it strengthens us to do good, it is called the strong love; when it causes us to do that good quickly, carefully, and repeatedly, it is called piety. The ostrich has wings, it is true, but never uses them to fly; the chickens fly heavily and not high; but the eagles, the doves, and the swallows, fly high and swiftly, and do not easily tire. The sinners are but earthly people, they creep upon the ground; the just, who are still imperfect, rise, it is true, towards heaven but seldom, and then but slowly and heavily. But there are some, true, pious souls, who like the doves and the eagles soar high on strong, swift wings to God. In a word, piety is nothing else than a certain active, swift energy of the spirit, with which the strong love in us, or we with it, performs, as far as it is possible to us, all good. As the strong love urges us to keep God's commandments, the perfect love, that is, piety, urges us to keep them carefully and with all possible zeal.

No one is just or pious who does not keep all God's commandments without exception; for, to be just we must possess the strong love, and to be pious we must possess besides, a certain eagerness to profit by all the occasions of doing good, that present themselves. Thus St. Francis de Sales writes in his Philothea, from which it is seen that true piety consists not in special devotions, or the practice of special good works, but in the zealous, earnest, continuous obedi­ence to the commandments and performance of duty for the love of God.

credits: drawing from Gustave Dore Biblical Illustrations, text after Fr Goffine "The Church year"
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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Feast of the Holy Family

For meditation on the Feast of the Holy Family I propose to read the wonderful sermon of St Bernard of Clairvaix and ponder upon the virtue of humility so dear to Our Lord who becoming man humbled Himself so profoundly for our salvation. Let us also look at the humility of the Virgin chosen by God to become His mother and try to follow her illustrious example. Let us not forget humility of St Joseph who was chosen by God to be the guardian of the Holy family. May the quiet, humble but happy life of the Holy Family be example of holiness for all of us to follow.

In Mary we praise that which places her above all others, that is, fruitfulness of offspring together with virginity. For never has it been known in this world that anyone was at the same time mother and virgin. And see of Whom she is mother. Where does your astonishment at this so wondrous dignity lead you? Is it not to this, that you may gaze in wonder yet never sufficiently revere? Is she not in your veneration, nay, in the esteem of Truth itself, raised above choirs of angels? Does not Mary address the Lord and God of all the angels as Son, saying: Son, why hast thou done so to us?

Who among the angels may thus presume? It is enough for them, and for them their greatest honour, that while they are spirits by nature they have become and are called angels, as David testifies: Who makest thy angels spirits. Mary, knowing herself mother, with confidence calls that Majesty Son Whom the angels in reverence serve. Nor does God disdain to be called that which He disdained not to be. For the Evangelist adds a little later: He was subject to them. Who was subject to whom? A God to men. God, I repeat, to Whom the angels are subject: Whom principalities and powers obey: was subject to Mary; and not alone to Mary, but to Joseph also, because of Mary. Admire and revere both the one and the other, and choose which you admire the more: the most sweet condescension of the Son, or the sublime dignity of the Mother. For either am I at a loss for words: for both are wondrous. For that God should obey a woman is humility without compare; and that a woman should have rule over God dignity without equal. In praise of virgins is it joyfully proclaimed: that they follow the lamb withersoever he goeth. Of what praise shall you esteem her worthy who also goeth before Him?

Learn, O Man, to obey. Learn, O Earth, to be subject. Learn, O Dust, to submit. The Evangelist in speaking of thy Maker says: He was subject to them; that is, without doubt, to Mary and to Joseph. Be you ashamed, vain ashes that you are. God humbles Himself, and do you exalt yourself? God becomes subject to men, and will you, eager to lord it over men, place yourself above your Maker? O would that God might deign to make me, thinking such thoughts at times in my own mind, such answer as He made, reproving him, to His apostle: : Go behind Me, Satan, because thou savorest not the things that are of God.
For as often as I desire to be foremost among men, so often do I seek to take precedence of God; and so do I not truly savour the things that are of God. For of Him was it said: And he was subject to them. If you disdain, O Man, to follow the example of a Man, at least it will not lower thee to imitate thy Maker.

If perhaps you cannot follow Him wheresoever He goeth, at least follow in that wherein He has come down to you. If you are unable to follow Him on the sublime way of virginity, then follow God by that most sure way of humility; from whose straitness should some even from among the virgins go aside, then must I say what is true, that neither do they follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth. He that is humble, even though he be stained, he follows the Lamb; so too does the proud virgin; but neither of the two whithersoever He goeth: because the one cannot ascend to the purity of the Lamb that is without stain, nor will the other deign to come down to the meekness of the Lamb, Who stood silent, not merely before the shearer, but before the one that put Him to death. Yet the sinner who makes after Him in humility, has chosen a wholesomer part than the one that is proud in his virtue; since the humble repentance of the one washes away uncleanness, but the pride of the other contaminates his own virtue.

Truly blessed was Mary who possessed both humility and virginity. And truly wondrous the virginity whose fruitfulness stained not, but adorned her; and truly singular the humility, which this fruitful virginity has not troubled, but rather exalted; and wholly incomparable the fruitfulness which goes hand in hand with her humility and her virginity. Which of these things is not wondrous? Which is not beyond all comparison? Which that is not wholly singular? It would be strange if you did not hesitate to decide which you regard as most worthy of praise: whether the wonder of fruitfulness of offspring in virginity, or of virginal integrity in a mother: sublimity of Offspring, or humility joined to such dignity: unless it be that we place both together above each one singly: and it is truly beyond any doubt more excellent and more joyful to have beheld these perfections united in her, than to see but one part of them.

And can we wonder that God, of Whom it is written that He is wonderful in his saints, shows Himself in His own Mother yet more wondrous still. Venerate then, Ye spouses, this integrity of flesh in our corruptible flesh. Revere likewise, Ye virgins, fruitfulness in virginity. Let all men imitate the humility of God's Mother. Honour, Ye angels, the Mother of your King, you who adore the Offspring of our Virgin; Who is your King and our King, the Healer of our race, the Restorer of our fatherland: Who among you is so sublime, yet among us was so lowly: to Whose Majesty as well from you as from us let there be adoration and reverence: to whose Perfection be there honour and glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer to the Holy Family
Lord Jesus Christ, Who, being made subject to Mary and Joseph, didst consecrate domestic life by Thine ineffable virtues; grant that we, with the assistance of both, may be taught by the example of Thy Holy Family and may attain to its everlasting fellowship. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.

credits: "Holy Family" beautiful painiting by Pompeo Battoni. Text follows the sermon of St Bernard of Clairvaux "The Feast of the Holy Family" - after Fisheaters - Customs of Liturgical Year where we can find reasons explained why the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated in Traditional Liturgy days after Child Jesus was born rather than closer to Christmas Day.
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