Friday, July 18, 2014

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)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gertrud von le Fort and the Martyrs of Compiègne

I have long been an admirer of Gertrud von le Fort and her novel Song at the Scaffold, about the Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne. Baroness von le Fort's short but powerful depiction of the sixteen Carmelite nuns guillotined in 1795 during the Reign of Terror was the inspiration for the play by Bernanos and the opera by Poulenc, Dialogues des Carmelites. To Quell the Terror by William Bush is an excellent historical treatise on the martyrdom of the Carmelites. It is not widely known that Queen Marie-Antoinette provided a dowry for a poor, pious girl named Mademoiselle Lidoine, so that she could enter the Carmel of Compiègne. Mademoiselle Lidoine became the Mother Prioress of the heroic Martyrs of Compiègne, who like Marie-Antoinette, died on the guillotine during the French Revolution.

There is more HERE from The Inn At The End of the World.

HERE is the final scene from Poulenc's opera.

Here is a short account of Gertrud von le Fort's life: 
Baroness Gertrude von Lefort (1876–1971) is the author of over 20 books (poems, novels and short stories), honorary Doctor of Theology and «the greatest contemporary transcendent poet». Her works are appreciated for their breath-taking profoundness and virtuosity, beauty and actuality of her ideas, and for the sophisticateGertrud von le Fortd refinement of the form. Hermann Hesse, who evaluated her talent, proposed her as a candidate for the Nobel Prize. 
Von le Fort was born in Westphalia, Germany, and studied at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin. A Protestant of Huguenot descent, von le Fort converted early to Catholicism.Her novel Die Letze am Schafott (The Last or Song at the Scaffold), by far her most famous work, was the basis for Dialogues of the Carmelites. Set during the time........... of the French Revolution, the von le Fort novel tells the story of a troubled, frightened, and strange girl, Blanche de la Force, who has lived in fear from the moment of her birth. To overcome her affliction, she decides to become a nun of Carmel. Little does she know that she is no safer from fear at this convent than in the secular world.
The character of Blanche was von le Fort’s creation, but the other nuns in the story historical figures. Notice the similarity of "von le Fort" to "de la Force." This was no coincidence: much of Gertrud von le Fort’s inspiration for her novel came from her own experiences during World War II and her hatred of Nazism.
She recorded the origin of her 1931 novel: "The point of departure for my creation was not primarily the destiny of the sixteen Carmelites of Compiègne but the figure of the young Blanche. In a historic sense she never lived, but she received the breath of life from my internal spirit, and she cannot be detached from the origin, which is hers. Born in the profound horror of a time darkened by the signs of destiny, this figure arose before me in some way as the embodiment of the mortal agony of an era going totally to its ruin."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our Lady's Scapular

In the last forty years many of the sacramentals of the Church, such as the scapular, have been either forgotten or misinterpreted. I have seen some very sophisticated Catholics on the internet mock the scapular as being superstitious. It requires a certain child-like piety to understand such things; an understanding of the history of the devotion does not hurt either. Here is an explanation of the origins of the scapular:
This monastic scapular, like the whole monastic habit and indeed the liturgical vestments of the priest, developed from the ordinary clothing of the laity. And, just as the stole is the special sign of the priestly dignity and power, the scapular is now the sign of the monk. In the West, in the case of St. Benedict, the scapular was at first nothing else than a working garment or apron such as was then worn by agricultural labourers. Thus, in the Rule of St. Benedict, it was expressly termed "scapulare propter opera" (c. xxv in P.L. LXXVI, 771). From this developed the special monastic garment, to which a hood could be fastened at the back. In fact, the original scapular of the Dominican Order was so made that it acted also as a covering for the head, and thus as a hood. The scapular of the West corresponded to the analabus of the East.
Since many of the religious orders had a version of the monastic scapular, lay people who were affiliated with those orders wished to a tangible sign of their dedication. In the beginning, tertiaries were permitted to don the habit of the order with which they were affiliated. Later, since a religious habit was not always conducive to the duties of secular life the small scapulars were worn instead, as the following relates:
Like the large scapulars the first and oldest small scapulars originated to a certain extent in the real monastic scapular. Pious lay persons of either sex attached themselves to the Servites for instance; many of those who were in a position to do so attached themselves to the third order with vows, but in the case of many others either this was impossible or the idea of doing so had as yet not occurred to them. In this manner developed, shortly after the foundation of the Servite Order, the Confraternity of the Servi B. Mariae Virginis. Similarly originated the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; that this existed in 1280 is proved by the still extant "Libro degli ordinamenti de la compagnia di Santa Maria del Carmine scritto nel 1280" (edited by Giulio Piccini at Bologna, 1867, in "Scelta di Curiosità letterarie"). The members of these confraternities were called the confratres and consores of the respective orders; they had special rules and participated in the spiritual goods of the order to which then belonged. It is probable also that many of those who could not be promoted to the third order or who were special benefactors of the first order received the habit of the order or a large scapular similar to that of the oblates, which they might wear when dying and in which they might be buried. It was only later and gradually that the idea developed of giving to everyone connected with the order the real scapular of the order in miniature as their badge to be always worn day and night over or under their ordinary clothing.
The scapulars, especially the brown scapular of the Carmelites, became so popular among the Christian people that even those who did belong to a religious order began to wear them. The brown scapular became the most highly indulgenced so that children were enrolled in the scapular confraternity around the time they made their first Holy Communion. Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, discusses the facts surrounding the Carmelite scapular:
If we look for the earliest references to the scapular, we find them in the Carmelite constitutions of 1281 in which it was prescribed that all Carmelite friars should wear their tunics and scapulars to bed under penalty of a serious fault. It was also prescribed that the white mantle be made in such a way that the scapular would not be hidden. But the reason for these prescriptions was not a Marian one. At the time, the scapular was seen as signifying the "yoke of Christ." This yoke of Christ in turn pointed to obedience. And that explains the strictness of the legislation. Taking off the scapular was like taking off the yoke of Christ, or rebelling against authority. Only gradually did the scapular take on a Marian tone and grow until it reached such a point that it became identified with Carmelite piety toward Our Lady. In fact the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel began to be called the scapular feast. Devotion to Mary expressed by wearing the brown scapular seems to be resilient and resists the attempts made in various periods of history to diminish its value. The faithful keep coming back to it. From the official teaching of the Church, we can gather that the scapular of Carmel is one of the most highly recommended Marian devotions. This is true through the centuries, and into our own times with popes Paul VI and John Paul II.
Fr. Kieran goes on to explore how sacramental aspects of the brown scapular developed:
One of the early Carmelites in his enthusiasm went so far as to call the scapular a "sacrament." Actually the category into which the scapular fits is that of a sacramental. Sacramentals are sacred signs. The scapular is not a natural sign in the sense that smoke is the sign of fire. Smoke is intrinsically connected with fire. Where there's smoke there's fire, the saying goes.
The scapular is what is called a conventional sign. In the case of a conventional sign, the meaning is assigned to the object from outside. Thus a wedding ring is a sign or pledge of mutual love and enduring fidelity between two spouses. In this kind of sign, which is a conventional sign, there has to be an intervention from outside that establishes the connection between the object and what it represents. In the case of sacramentals, it is the Church that determines the connection.
Sacramentals also signify effects obtained through the intercession of the Church, especially spiritual graces. The sacramentals -- as holy pictures or icons, statues, medals, holy water, blessed palm and the scapular -- are means that dispose one to receive the chief effect of the sacraments themselves, and this is closer union with Jesus.
St. Teresa of Avila for example speaks in her life about holy water and the power she experienced that this sacramental has against the devil. She mentions as well how this power comes not through the object in itself but through the prayer through the prayer of the Church.
Along with the sacraments, sacramentals sanctify almost every aspect of human life with divine grace. The passion, death, and resurrection of Christ is the source of the power of the sacramentals as it is of the sacraments themselves.
Such everyday things as water and words, oil and anointing, cloth and beeswax, paintings and songs are ingredients of the sacraments and sacramentals. The Son of God became the Son of Mary. What could be more down-to-earth, more human, indeed more unpretentious, plain, and simple?
Pope John Paul II, who was a Carmelite tertiary, wrote profoundly of the brown scapular in March 2001:
Over time this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church. By its simplicity, its anthropological value and its relationship to Mary's role in regard to the Church and humanity, this devotion was so deeply and widely accepted by the People of God that it came to be expressed in the memorial of 16 July on the liturgical calendar of the universal Church....
The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother's loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a "habit". Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church.... Those who wear the Scapular are thus brought into the land of Carmel, so that they may "eat its fruits and its good things" (cf. Jer 2: 7), and experience the loving and motherly presence of Mary in their daily commitment to be clothed in Jesus Christ and to manifest him in their life for the good of the Church and the whole of humanity....
Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life's journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a "habit", that is, a permanent orientation of one's own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the "covenant" and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother.
...A splendid example of this Marian spirituality, which inwardly moulds individuals and conforms them to Christ, the firstborn of many brethren, is the witness to holiness and wisdom given by so many Carmelite saints, all of whom grew up in the shadow and under the protection of their Mother.
I too have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Wholly Flaming Fire

From Vultus Christi on the feast of St. Bonaventure:
Pope Benedict XVI explained the mystical teaching of Saint Bonaventure in his General Audience on 10 March 2010; these are the words of a Doctor explaining a Doctor, of a mystic explaining a mystic, of a theologian of love explaining a theologian of love:
The six wings of the Seraph thus became the symbol of the six stages that lead man progressively from the knowledge of God, through the observation of the world and creatures and through the exploration of the soul itself with its faculties, to the satisfying union with the Trinity through Christ, in imitation of St Francis of Assisi. The last words of St Bonaventure’s Itinerarium, which respond to the question of how it is possible to reach this mystical communion with God, should be made to sink to the depths of the heart:  “If you should wish to know how these things come about, (the mystical communion with God) question grace, not instruction; desire, not intellect; the cry of prayer, not pursuit of study; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity; not light, but the fire that inflames all and transports to God with fullest unction and burning affection…. Let us then… pass over into darkness; let us impose silence on cares, concupiscence, and phantasms; let us pass over with the Crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that when the Father is shown to us we may say with Philip, “It is enough for me‘” (cf. ibid., VII 6).
Dear friends, let us accept the invitation addressed to us by St Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, and learn at the school of the divine Teacher:  let us listen to his word of life and truth that resonates in the depths of our soul. Let us purify our thoughts and actions so that he may dwell within us and that we may understand his divine voice which draws us towards true happiness.
(Read more.)

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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

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.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 7 -- Fatima

"And a great sign appeared in the heavens, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." Apocalypse 12:1

During her final apparition at Fatima in October 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary was dressed as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, holding the brown scapular; she was obviously encouraging everyone to wear the garment of grace, just as she urged everyone to pray the rosary on a daily basis. 750 years before, Our Lady had given the scapular to St Simon Stock, telling him: "Whosoever shall die wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

On July 13, 1917, Our Lady at Fatima showed the three little children the Vision of Hell; it was the first part of the controversial "Secret of Fatima," and in some ways, the most terrible aspect of it, for hell is a place where anyone can go if they break God's law and do not repent. The children were so frightened by the vision that afterwards all earthly sufferings seemed like nothing. I think someone once said that Our Lord in the Gospels warns His disciples about hell "where the worm dieth not, and the flame is not extinguished" (Mark 9 :44) more often than He promises them Heaven, "for straight is the way and narrow is the gate that leads to life, and few there are that find it." (Matthew 7:14)

Along with the scapular and rosary, Our Lady asked that we perform the duties of our state in life; she knew that in future times how difficult it would become to fulfill one's most basic obligations to God and to other people, and yet the fulfillment of those duties often is the difference between heaven and hell. Yet, as the saints testify, many have been saved because they clung to some small token of devotion to Our Lady in spite of everything, and the Mother of Mercy interceded for them. As the angel at Fatima instructed the three children to pray:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of thy mercy!

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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