Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Good St. Anne

Everybody needs a Jewish grandmother. There is no need too small or insignificant for St. Anne to concern herself with; she is at home among the pots and pans, in the garden, the grocery store, and especially in the labor and delivery room. I can even see her standing in the living room in the middle of a family fight, trying to intervene. She is powerful with God. Her shrine in Quebec is among the most beautiful in the world.

St. Anne, Beauty of Judea, Mother of the Virgin, pray for us!

(Artwork by Leonardo da Vinci)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mater Gratiae

It is the octave day of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. On this day Carmelites have traditionally celebrated the memorial of Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace or "Mater Gratiae." Here is an article about the mysterious and miraculous Austrian painting called "Our Lady of the Bowed Head" which has become associated with this day.
Since the time of St. Luke, thousands of pictures and statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been carved, painted, or fashioned in some way, by all kinds of different people from around the world. Some of these pictures become famous, usually due to some form of miraculous intervention. One such picture is Our Lady of the Bowed Head, from Vienna, Austria. 

A Carmelite Monk, Venerable Dominic of Jesus and Mary, found one in 1610. He was looking over an old broken down house which he wanted to convert into a Carmelite Monastery. Fr. Dominic walked around the outside of the house and passed by a pile of garbage, but paid no attention to it. But as he entered the house and started looking over the rooms, suddenly he felt the urge to go back to the pile of garbage. Lighting his lantern, the good priest took a closer look at the heap of garbage. Suddenly his eyes fell upon an old oil painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary..."Who would throw a beautiful picture of Our Lady in the garbage," he wondered. Then Fr. Dominic apologized to Mary, "I am sorry, dear Mother, that someone has treated thy image in such a terrible manner. I will take it back to the monastery with me and fix it up, and I will give thee the homage which thou so rightly deserve." After returning to the monastery, Dominic cleaned the picture and repainted the damaged parts. Now he could hang the picture up in his cell and give Mary the devotion and attention which she deserved. He prayed to the Madonna with great confidence, asking her for many graces and blessings.

One evening when he had just finished sweeping his cell, Fr. Dominic noticed that the picture of Our Lady had some dust on it. He was crushed, "Oh, I’m terribly sorry my dearest Mother!" He exclaimed. "I humbly beg thy pardon for forgetting to dust thy picture." Then taking out his handkerchief he began to dust the picture saying, "O purest and holiest of Virgins, nothing in the whole world is worthy to touch thy holy face. Dear Mother, I only have this coarse, old handkerchief and I beg of thee to please accept my good will in dusting thy image." Fr. Dominic continued dusting the picture of Mary, when suddenly the face of Our Lady came to life! She smiled at the holy priest and nodded her head as a sign of thanksgiving. Dominic was afraid that what he was seeing was a trick of the devil. But Our Lady cleared up his doubts saying, "Fear not, my son, for your request is granted! (Dominic had earlier requested a favor of her.) Your prayer will be answered and will be part of the reward, which you will receive for the love that you have for my Son Jesus and myself. Now Dominic I want you to ask me with all confidence, what favor you would like me to give you." The holy monk then fell upon his knees. "O my dear Mother, I offer myself entirely to thee and to thy dear Son Jesus, and I desire to do anything that thou and Jesus will ask of me. O my Lady, I know that the soul of a benefactor is suffering in Purgatory. Wouldst thou please be so kind as to deliver this soul from the fires of Purgatory?"

"Dominic, my son," Our Lady encouraged, "I will deliver this soul from Purgatory, if you will make many sacrifices and will have many Masses offered for this soul." Then the apparition of Mary faded away. 

The good monk hurried to do as Our Lady had asked. Some time later, when all had been completed, he again knelt before the miraculous painting of Our Lady. Suddenly Mary appeared to him again, but this time she appeared with the soul of the special benefactor, whom she had delivered from Purgatory. The benefactor was grateful, "Thank you, Fr. Dominic, for helping to release my soul from the fires of Purgatory with your prayers and sacrifices."

"Dominic," Our Lady encouraged, "I would like you to ask me for more favors and blessings. I am the Mother of God and I delight in helping my children to obtain graces for their salvation." Fr. Dominic thought for a moment and then spoke, "Dear Mother, wouldst thou please be so kind as to listen mercifully to the prayers of all those who will honor thy image and ask for thy help." Our Lady replied, "All those who ask for my protection and honor this picture with devotion will obtain an answer to their prayers and will receive many graces. Moreover, I will pay special attention to the prayers which are offered to me, for the relief of the souls in Purgatory."

The vision of Our Lady soon disappeared and Fr. Dominic thought about what he should do: "Our Lady made her promises to all who would honor and pray to her, before this miraculous image. Therefore, I can no longer keep this holy picture in my cell, I must have it put in a church, where the people can honor it. "

He then took the picture and had it placed in the Oratory of St. Charles, which was attached to the Church of Santa Maria de la Scale. Many people came to pray before the picture of Our Lady and it became a source of many graces and blessings. The holy image remained at the Oratory until Fr. Dominic’s death, which occurred in Vienna, on February 16, 1630. Some copies of the miraculous picture were painted and soon they were honored in many places. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

St. Elias the Prophet, Leader and Father of Carmelites

"Elias the prophet stood up, as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch....Blessed are they that saw thee, and were honored with thy friendship." (Ecclesiasticus 48: 1, 11)
"Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things." (Matthew 17:11)
The greatest of the Old Testament prophets is Elias (Elijah.) The life of St. Elias can best be described by two phrases which he often used: "As the Lord liveth, in Whose sight I stand" (3 Kings 17:1), and "With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts." (3 Kings 19:10) Whatever his exterior activities, the prophet remained aware of the constant presence of God. He possessed an unflagging desire to serve his Lord, even in moments of darkness and discouragement. (3 Kings 19: 4, 14)

Elias, called "the Thesbite," first manifested himself during the three year drought and famine by which the God of Israel punished His erring people, who had been led into idolatry by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. (3 Kings 17:1) Described as "a hairy man" (4 Kings 1:8), he usually could be found praying in remote desert and mountain retreats. It was in the solitude of Mt. Horeb that he experienced the majesty of God, not in fire or earthquake, but in the serenity of a "whistling of gentle air." (3 Kings 19:12) His usual haunt seems to have been Mt. Carmel, where he had the famous contest with the 450 prophets of Baal. (3 Kings 18:19) He defeated them by calling down fire from Heaven (3 Kings 18:38), setting the precedent for those who wish to follow in his footsteps as "Carmelites," whose role is to pray for the fire of graces, especially in times of crisis for the Church.

It was also on Mt. Carmel that Elias, deep in prayer, sent his servant to scan the horizon for rain. Finally, after looking seven times, the servant reported "a little cloud...like a man's foot arising out of the sea." (3 Kings 18: 43-44) Tradition holds that Elias knew the cloud to be a sign of the coming of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. "Henceforward, Carmel was sacred in the eyes of all who looked beyond this world." (Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol. XIII)

St Elias came to have many disciples called the "sons of the prophets." (4 Kings 2:5) This group was seen as being the origin of the Carmelite order, since for generations to come, holy men and hermits would seek to live a life of solitude and prayer in imitation of Elias and the "sons of the prophets." Elias chose Eliseus (Elisha) to be his successor. (3 Kings 19:19) In a remarkable and moving scene, Elias is mysteriously assumed into heaven, riding in a fiery chariot. Before the dramatic departure, Eliseus begged Elias for a double portion of his spirit (4 Kings 2:9)

As Elias is carried away in the whirlwind, he bequeaths to Eliseus his mantle, along with his "double spirit." (4 Kings 2:13) Eliseus continued the work of fighting idolatry, working many miracles which surpassed those of his master. Can the mantle of Elias be seen as prefiguring the brown scapular, which symbolizes the spirit of prayer and penance, the spirit not only of Elias, but of Mary?

The history of Elias the prophet does not end with his assumption, for he makes an appearance in the New Testament as well. He and Moses converse with Jesus at His Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor (Matthew 17:3), as witnesses of the divinity of the Son of God. Afterwards, the Apostles question Our Lord about Elias. "Why then do the scribes say that Elias must come first?" (Matthew 17:10) They refer to the prophecy of Malachias: "Behold, I will send you Elias the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." (Malachias 4:5) Jesus assures them that Elias has preceded him in person of the John the Baptist (Matthew 17:12), who had the "spirit and power of Elias." (Luke 1:17)

However, Our Lord makes it clear that "Elias indeed shall come and restore all things." (Matthew 17:11) According to the scripture scholar Fr. Herman Kramer: "'John the Baptist did not usher in the great and dreadful day of the Lord,' as was foretold of Elias. That day will be the destruction of Antichrist...." (Fr Herman Kramer, The Book of Destiny, 1975)

Most of the early fathers of the Church identify Elias as one of the "two witnesses" in Chapter 11 of the Apocalypse, who do battle with the Antichrist. The two witnesses are martyred by the son of perdition, but their resurrection and ascension into Heaven ushers in the final defeat of "the beast." (see Apocalypse 11) The exact manner in which such cryptic prophecies will be fulfilled remains to be seen. It is interesting, however, that Carmelites have always used red vestments on July 20 in honor of the martyrdom of Elias that is to come.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Novena to St. Anne

Here is a novena to the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary in preparation for the feast of St. Anne on July 26. St. Anne is the patron saint of grandmothers and she intercedes for us as only a grandmother can.
Glorious St. Anne,
filled with compassion for those who invoke you,
with love for those who suffer,
heavily laden with the weight of my troubles,
I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you
to take my present need under your special protection...

(State your intention here.)
Vouchsafe to recommend it to your daughter,
the Blessed Virgin Mary,
and lay it before the throne of Jesus.
Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted.
Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face,
and with you and Mary and all the angels
and saints praising Him through all eternity.

Amen.
(Image Source)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

On Carmel's Height

From Vultus Christi:
We are compelled to ponder today what can only be called a core text of the liturgical and spiritual tradition of Carmel. I refer, of course, to the lesson from the Third Book of Kings. This is a text — no, more than a text, a living word — that has, over the centuries, captured the heart of those called to live on Carmel’s heights.
Elias went up to the top of Carmel, and casting himself down upon the earth put his face between his knees, And he said to his servant: Go up, and look towards the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times. And at the seventh time, behold, a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man’s foot. And he said: Go up and say to Achab: Prepare thy chariot and go down, lest the rain prevent thee. And while he turned himself this way and that way, behold the heavens grew dark, with clouds, and wind, and there fell a great rain. (3 Kings 18:42–45)
Its context is important.  First of all, a terrible drought has come over the land; God withholds his life–giving rain. Over the land ruled by Achab, a weak king, influenced by his wife’s devotion to the great sky–god, Baal, the heavens are closed. Elias determines that this state of affairs must be resolved. The true God, the God of Israel must be glorified in the sight of all. «And Elias coming to all the people, said: How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word» (3 Kings 18:21).
Elias summons the prophets of Baal, favourites of the wicked Queen Jezebel, to a public showdown on Mount Carmel. A holocaust is prepared. By the sign of fire from heaven the true God will make Himself known. The prophets of Baal were the first to begin the dreadful rite. The heavens were not moved by their frantic entreaties; Baal was distant and deaf to their cries, even though they cut themselves with swords and lances, joining blood to their futile ravings. (Read more.)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 9 -- "Queen and Beauty of Carmel"

The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise: the glory of Libanus is given to it: the beauty of Carmel and Saron, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the beauty of our God. ~Isaias 35:1
The essence of the mystery of Carmel is the cultivation of the interior life, to find God in the Heaven of one's soul amid the vicissitudes of this earthly pilgrimage. As Our Lord said, "The Kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21) The twin goals of the Carmelite order, according to medieval authors, were to offer to God a heart free from all stain of actual sin, and to experience, even in this world, the supernal joys of union with God. These goals, of course, are beyond human strength, and completely impossible to obtain on our own. God, therefore, has given us His Mother to be our guide up the mountain of perfection. While all are not called to the contemplative life, all the baptized are called to pray and strive for holiness.

In the words of Fr. Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen in his book Divine Intimacy:
The Blessed Virgin is a Mother who clothes us with grace and takes our supernatural life under her protection, in order to bring it to its full flowering in eternal life....Devotion to Our Lady of Mt Carmel indicates a strong call to the interior life, which, in a very special way, is Mary's life....Only the soul that is wholly detached and in complete control of its passions can, like Mary, be a solitary, silent 'garden' where God will find His delights. This is the grace we ask of Our Lady today when we choose her to be the Queen and mistress of our interior life.
Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. A full, plenary indulgence is granted to all the faithful who visit a Carmelite church or chapel, recite the Apostle's Creed (or some other prayer) and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father. If a Carmelite church is not close by, any Catholic church or chapel will suffice, as long as the usual conditions are fulfilled (reception of Holy Communion, confession eight days before or after, detachment from venial sin - - meaning one is TRYING to overcome all sinfulness.)

Here is the Sub Tuum Praesidium, one of the most ancient prayers to Our Lady, found scribbled in the catacombs during some lost moment of terror:

We fly to thy protection. O Holy Mother of God. Despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin.

Queen, Beauty of Carmel, pray for us!

Laus Deo Virginique Matris!

Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel:

O most beautiful Flower of Mt Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart, to succor me in this my necessity, there are none that can withstand your power.

O show me herein you are my Mother.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us that have recourse to thee. (3 times)

Sweet Mother, I place this cause in your hands. (3 times) AMEN.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 8 -- "Mother of Mercy"


"Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid." Hebrews 4:16
"I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord." Ecclesiasticus 24: 45
In the Carmelite church in Vilnius in Lithuania is a magnificent and miraculous painting of Our Lady hailed as Mater Misericordiae, or "Mother of Mercy." The church is built into the wall near the old eastern gate of the city; therefore the image is also known as Our Lady of "Ostrabrama," of "the Dawn Gate." She is covered with votive offerings left by grateful clients over the centuries, for to her both the Slavic and Baltic peoples have turned in times of war, sickness, oppression, and indeed, every and any calamity. Many saints have knelt before her, including the Carmelite St Raphael Kalinowski, and St Faustina of the Divine Mercy revelations. Through the means of sacred art, Our Mother has manifested herself to her needy children of all times and places.

According to legend, in the early 14th century, Pope John XXII published the Sabbatine Bull, based upon an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary which he had allegedly received in 1316, before his elevation to the papacy. As the story goes, the pope quoted the words of Our Lady to her children who die wearing the brown scapular of Mt Carmel and go to Purgatory: "I, their Mother, will graciously go down to them on the Saturday after their death, and all whom I find in Purgatory I will deliver and will bring to the mountain of life eternal." While the original documentation is lost and disputed, the Sabbatine privilege was confirmed by later pontiffs. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

We reproduce here the whole passage dealing with the Sabbatine privilege, as it appears in the summary approved by the Congregation of Indulgences on 4 July, 1908. It is noteworthy that the Bull of John XXII, which was still mentioned in the previous summary approved on 1 December, 1866, is no longer referred to (cf. "Rescript. authent. S.C. Indulg.", Ratisbon, 1885, p. 475). Among the privileges, which are mentioned after the indulgences, the following occurs in the first place: "The privilege of Pope John XXII, commonly [vulgo] known as the Sabbatine, which was approved and confirmed by Clement VII ("Ex clementi", 12 August 1530), St. Pius V ("Superna dispositione", 18 Feb., 1566), Gregory XIII ("Ut laudes", 18 Sept., 1577), and others, and also by the Holy Roman General Inquisition under Paul V on 20 January, 1613, in a Decree to the following effect:
It is permitted to the Carmelite Fathers to preach that the Christian people may piously believe in the help which the souls of brothers and members, who have departed this life in charity, have worn in life the scapular, have ever observed chastity, have recited the Little Hours [of the Blessed Virgin], or, if they cannot read, have observed the fast days of the Church, and have abstained from flesh meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (except when Christmas falls on such days), may derive after death -- especially on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin -- through the unceasing intercession of Mary, her pious petitions, her merits, and her special protection.
With this explanation and interpretation, the Sabbatine privilege no longer presents any difficulties, and Benedict XIV adds his desire that the faithful should rely on it (Opera omnia, IX, Venice, 1767, pp. 197 sqq.). Even apart from the Bull and the tradition or legend concerning the apparition and promise of the Mother of God the interpretation of the Decree cannot be contested.
What a consolation that Our Lady's help and mediation extends to us beyond the grave, especially when we wear the badge which St Simon Stock in the 13th century is said to have called a privilegium. By wearing the scapular, we mark ourselves as "vassals" of Our Queen, and she binds herself to protect us always.

From the ancient Carmelite hymn, Salve, Mater Misericordiae: "Hail, happy Mother...He Who sits at the right hand of the Father, and rules Heaven and earth forever, came in thy womb to dwell."

Mother of Mercy, pray for us!

Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel:

O most beautiful Flower of Mt Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart, to succor me in this my necessity, there are none that can withstand your power.

O show me herein you are my Mother.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us that have recourse to thee. (3 times)

Sweet Mother, I place this cause in your hands. (3 times) AMEN.

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