Wednesday, September 17, 2014

St. Albert of Jerusalem

Albert, by the grace of God, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to his beloved sons, Brocard and the other religious hermits who live under his obedience, near the fountain of Elias, on Mt. Carmel, health in the Lord, and the blessings of the Holy Spirit.
Thus opens the primitive Rule of St. Albert, one of the four great Rules of the Roman Church. Written for the early Carmelites, it is the shortest of all the Rules, because minimal attention is placed on material things and the affairs of the world. The heavenly strivings of the Hermit Brothers of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel are thereby emphasized. St Albert's exhortations on solitude, silence, poverty, obedience, fasting, and manual labor are all well-supported by his thorough knowledge of Sacred Scripture. Although the Rule was written for the hermits, its charism can be lived by any who seek to live a life of contemplation, even amid the cares of this world. The heart of the Rule is that the Carmelite should be "meditating day and night on the Law of the Lord, and watching in prayer." Is not our striving for interior recollection an attempt to mirror this precept?

St. Albert of Vercelli, an Italian by birth, was sent to Palestine by Pope Innocent III because his wisdom and diplomacy were needed in that turbulent region. As the Latin Patriarch, St. Albert gained the respect of the eastern Christians and even of the Moslems. As an Augustinian Canon of the Holy Cross, St. Albert knew the religious life first hand. Between 1206 and 1210 he composed the Rule for the Carmelite hermits. On September 14, 1214, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, St. Albert was stabbed to death by a disgruntled, immoral cleric whom he had deposed. St. Albert's feast on the Carmelite calendar is September 17.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Novena to Our Lady of Mercy

I ask whoever is able to join me in this novena to Our Lady of Mercy, also known as Our Lady of Ransom, for the women and girls who are enslaved by ISIS. The novena begins today and ends on September 23. September 24 is the feast of Our Lady of Ransom, a feast especially dedicated to the deliverance of the enslaved and unjustly imprisoned.
Blessed be Thou, O Mary, the honor and the joy of Thy people! On the day of Thy glorious Assumption, Thou didst take possession of Thy queenly dignity for our sake; and the annals of the human race are a record of Thy merciful interventions. The captives whose chains Thou hast broken, and whom Thou hast set free from the degrading yoke of the Saracens, may be reckoned in the millions. We are still rejoicing in the recollection of Thy dear Birthday; and Thy smile is sufficient to dry our tears and chase away the clouds of grief. And yet, what sorrows there are still upon the earth, where Thou Thyself didst drink such long draughts from the cup of suffering! Thou alone, O Mary, canst break the inextricable chains, in which the cunning prince of darkness entangles the dupes he has deceived by the high-sounding names of equality and liberty. Show thyself a Queen, by coming to the rescue. The whole earth, the entire human race, cries out to Thee, in the words of Mordochai: “Speak to the King for us, and deliver us from death!” (Esther 15: 3)
(State your request here)
Let us Pray. O God, Who through the most glorious Mother of Thy Son wast pleased to give new children to Thy Church for the deliverance of Christ's faithful from the power of the heathen, grant, we pray Thee, that we who affectionately honor her as the Foundress of so great a work, may, by her merits and intercession, be delivered from the slavery of sin and the eternal flames of Hell. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, One God, forever, unto ages of ages. Amen.
(Source)

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Holy Name of Mary

On September 12, the fifth day within the octave of the Nativity of the Virgin, in 1683, the army of the Turkish Sultan, 300,000 strong, was miraculously defeated at the gates of Vienna after an attempt to sweep across Europe. The King of Poland, Jan Sobieski, had come to the aid of the Habsburg Emperor Leopold, and they attributed the victory to the fact that they had put the name of Mary on their banners, thus invoking the aid of the Mother of God. The triumph, won against overwhelming odds, saved Europe from becoming a Moslem colony, and September 12 became the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary.

"Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, as terrible as an army set in array?" Canticle of Canticles 6:9

"And the virgin's name was Mary...." St. Luke 1:27

Monday, September 8, 2014

Nativity of Our Lady


"One is my love, my perfect one...she is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her."
~Canticle of Canticles 6: 8
 The month of September, the month of Our Lady of Sorrows, brings us the sacred day when the daughter of St. Joachim and St. Anne, conceived "full of grace," was born into this earth of sin and sorrow. Her birth was the dawn of salvation for all humanity, longing for the coming of the Redeemer. Few persons were aware that in the Child Mary, free from all stain of original sin, God had begun His work of the new creation.
Truly a better paradise than the first is given us at this hour. Eden, fear no more that man will endeavor to enter thee; thy Cherubim may leave the gates and return to heaven. What are thy beautiful fruits to us, since we cannot touch them without dying? Death is now for those who will not eat of the fruit so soon to appear amid the flowers of the virgin earth to which our God has led us." (Dom Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Vol XIV)
 The child whose birth we celebrate on the eighth of September would one day be crowned Queen of the Universe by the Most Blessed Trinity. The earthly life of our Queen was characterized by poverty, by manual labor, exile, suffering and humiliation. The greatest, most important woman who ever lived spent her days busy with the thousand mundane, dreary tasks of an ordinary housewife in a backwater town, member of a despised people, living in a conquered nation. Although she was of the Davidic line, her royal descent, and that of her spouse St. Joseph, was seemingly forgotten.

Nevertheless, by reason of her Immaculate Conception, in the least action of the Blessed Virgin Mary there was an unfathomable glory, a treasury of merit which all the collective merits of all the angels and saints could not begin to equal. How contrary to the ways of the world, that such sublimity was veiled from the eyes of men.

In the words of Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD:
Our Lady's origin is wrapped in silence, as was her whole life. Thus, her birth speaks to us of humility. The more we desire to grow in God's eyes, the more we should hide ourselves from the eyes of creatures. The more we wish to do great things for God, the more we should labor in silence and obscurity. (Divine Intimacy, 1964)
 "And the virgin's name was Mary." (Luke 1: 27) Let the holy name of Mary, along with that of her divine Son, be an antidote to the poison of vainglory, a light for the darkness of sin and the moral ambiguities which so obstruct the paths of those striving for Christian perfection. May the humility and littleness of the Child Mary be the mark of her children. "O Mary my Mother, teach me to live hidden with you in the shadow of God." (Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen's Divine Intimacy)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Pierced Heart

Today on the Carmelite calendar it is the feast of the Transverberation of the Heart of St. Teresa of Avila. Although the Holy Mother claimed the experience was purely mystical, it was found after her death that her heart had indeed been physically pierced. A priest once told me that such a phenomenon was a stigmata, although not the same stigmata that saints like St. Pio and St Francis of Assisi experienced. Those saints bore the five wounds of Christ; St Teresa bore a single wound in her heart. In this she resembled the Sorrowful Mother, transpierced at the foot of the Cross. St. Teresa, and those her wish to follow her in the Carmelite way, are to model the Blessed Virgin Mary, faithful in the greatest moment of darkness which was the crucifixion. It was also the moment of redemption, in which Mary became the Mother of the Church. Through our own sufferings and heartaches, we can participate in the redemption of the world.

Monday, August 25, 2014

God, France, and Marguerite


Saint Louis IX, King of France, whose feast we celebrate today, is the epitome of the Christian knight, king and crusader. He is the patron saint of Franciscan tertiaries. In addition to his administrative duties as king, he prayed the daily Mass and Divine Office. His strong interior life aided him in being a competent ruler and a father to his people.

While still a teenager, St. Louis married a beautiful princess from the south of France, Marguerite de Provence. She was also pious, although not as devout as Louis. Inside his wedding ring, he had three words inscribed: "God, France, and Marguerite." They had eleven children. King Louis had a secret staircase built from his study to his wife's parlor above so that he could visit her during the day without his mother knowing it. Louis' mother, Queen Blanche, thought that Louis should concentrate solely upon his work. She also may have feared that Marguerite might gain too much political influence over Louis, and so tried to keep the young lovers/spouses apart as much as possible.

Blanche went to extremes by making young Louis leave Marguerite when she was suffering after a particularly difficult childbirth and wanted her husband to hold her hand. Blanche told Louis that it was not his place to be in the birthing room and Louis obeyed his mother. Marguerite was quite distressed although she forgave Louis.

Louis and Marguerite lost children to sickness and had their share of domestic misunderstandings. At one point, Louis thought Marguerite focused too much on her clothes, and later on Marguerite complained that Louis would not look at her. To his friend Jean de Joinville, Louis confided, "A man should not behold that which he can never fully possess." I assume it was soon before he left on his second crusade on which he would die; perhaps he was trying to detach himself from everything he loved in this world, especially his beloved wife.

Marguerite shared her husband's sorrows and joys. When his mother died, she wept copiously. Joinville asked her in amazement how she could weep over someone who had caused her so much suffering. Marguerite replied that it was because her husband was so deeply grieved and she shared his grief.

Greatly devoted to Our Lady, St. Louis was responsible for bringing the Carmelite Order to France. While on a crusade in the Holy Land, King Louis’ ship ran into a violent storm within view of Mt. Carmel. The sound of the bells from the chapel of Our Lady on Mt. Carmel pierced the roar of the wind and the waves. The king, kneeling in prayer, begged Our Lady to save his ship, promising in return a pilgrimage to Carmel. The ship was saved. King Louis climbed the slopes of Carmel to visit the holy hermits who lived near the chapel. Greatly edified by their life of prayer and solitude, he asked several of them to come to France, where he established a monastery for them. This was a great help to the Carmelites, who were finding life in Palestine very difficult due to the hostility of the Moslems.

St. Louis of France had a busy schedule and a multitude of duties. Through the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and devotion to Our Lady, he attained a life of union with God. Power and riches had no hold on his heart. Let us seek his intercession in this often disorienting time we live in.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mary Our Queen

Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth....Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men...for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God. And all the people said: So be it, so be it.~ Judith 13:23-26
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