Sunday, May 31, 2009
"For our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:29
The fiftieth day after the Pasch is Pentecost. In the old dispensation Pentecost commemorated the fiery theophany on Mt. Sinai when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, establishing the Law for the Chosen People. (Exodus 19, 20) For Christians, the solemnity celebrates the birth of the New Israel, the Church, on the day when the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, accompanied by tongues of flame, upon the Apostles. The frightened, ordinary men were given the fortitude and courage to preach the Gospel in unknown tongues and to endure suffering and death for the name of Jesus. (Acts 2) "The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of fire because He consumes the dross of our sins, drives the darkness of ignorance out of our souls, melts the icy coldness of our hearts, and inflames us with the love of God and love of our neighbor...." (Fr. Spirago The Catechism Explained, p.220) The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity has never ceased to be poured out upon the Church; He is the soul of the Church, guiding her throughout the ages.
The Holy Spirit comes to each of us at our baptism and later at our Confirmation, which is our own personal Pentecost. There is much discussion today of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, of prophecy, of discernment of spirits, of visions, etc. but they are extraordinary gifts given in special circumstances to benefit the Church and souls. The "ordinary" gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to each of us through the sacraments and it is for us to use and develop them. The seven gifts are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord; it is these gifts which will make us into saints. They increase in proportion to the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. In the words of St. John of the Cross: "For the purer and the more refined in faith is the soul, the more it has of the infused charity of God; and the more charity it has, the more it is illumined and the more gifts of the Holy Spirit are communicated to it, for charity is the cause and means whereby they are communicated to it." (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Book II, Ch. 29)
It is through prayer, the sacraments, and good works that we nourish the precious gifts of the Holy Spirit, invoking the Divine Paraclete Himself to inflame us with the fire of perfect charity. "If we do not become saints, it is not because the Holy Spirit does not will it-- He was sent to us and comes to us for this very purpose-- but it is because we do not give full liberty to His action." ( Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, p.563) The Holy Spirit will Himself remove all obstacles to His work from our souls if we ask Him with perseverance and confidence. "Thus you, O Holy Spirit, when You come down from Heaven with the fiery dart of your divine love, You do not repose in proud hearts or in arrogant spirits, but You make Your abode in souls that are humble...in their own eyes." (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi, quoted in Divine Intimacy, p.559)
O Lux beatissima Reple cordis intima! "O Most Blessed Light, fill the inmost hearts of Thy faithful!" (The Golden Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus)
Reverend Mother, I am a tiny brush whom Jesus has chosen to paint His likeness in the souls you have entrusted to me. An artist has several brushes. He must have at least two. The first and most useful puts in the ground tints and very quickly covers the whole canvas; the other is much smaller and fills in the details. To me, Mother, you are the valuable brush held lovingly in the hand of Jesus when He wishes to accomplish some great work in the souls of poor children; I am the very tiny brush He uses afterwards for the unimportant details.
-- St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus in The Story of a Soul
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus had great devotion to St. Jeanne d'Arc. Here are the verses which she wrote and dramatized in honor of the Maid of Lorraine, with herself dressed as Jeanne. St.Thérèse wrote:
Thy Church, O conquering God! through all the earth,
Begs Thee to crown with the saint's royal crown,
A virgin, martyr, warrior, whose true worth
In heaven's high courts e'en now hath won renown.
Our tumults calm;
Her cause advance!
The halo and the palm
Give unto Jeanne of France!
Friday, May 29, 2009
Fortitude is a basis for cheerfulness. Fortitude induces you to face the inevitable sorrows of life and, above all, death itself, in the service of God with courage and patience. You will look to the sufferings of Christ for inspiration. You will look to the happiness of heaven with a heart full of hope, and you will count even the greatest sufferings as a small price to pay for that reward. Therefore, try to overcome cowardice, self-pity, and lack of confidence in the goodness of God -- faults that prevent you from being cheerful. As a result of these faults, you may find yourself constantly grumbling against God and everybody around you because of the sufferings you have to endure.
Do not take yourself too seriously. You have to learn not to be dismayed at making mistakes. No human can avoid failures. The important thing is not to let your mistakes and failures gnaw away at you. Regret is an appalling waste of energy. You cannot build on it. (pp41-42)
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Mortification may be defined a the struggle against our evil inclinations in order to subject them to the will and to the will of God. It is not so much a virtue as an ensemble of virtues - the first degree of all the virtues - which consists in overcoming the obstacles that stand in the way so as to restore our faculties their lost balance and reestablish among them their right order. Thus it is easily seen that mortification is not an end in itself but a means to an end... the end of mortification is union with God..There is a kind of mortification which is necessary for salvation in this sense, that if we fail to practice it, we run the risk of falling into mortal sin..The threefold concupiscence that remains with us, spurred on by the world and the devil, often inclines us to evil and endangers our salvation, unless we take heed to mortify it. - Tanquerey, Spiritual Life: Part II, Chapter III, 754 - 755.These are not simply pious thoughts, indeed, "If we desire true happiness on earth there is no better way than to cultivate piety (godliness) which as St. Paul says, 'is profitable to all things, having promise of life that now is and of that which is to come.' ( Tim. IV: 8) Peace of soul, the joy of a good conscience, the happiness of union with God, of growing in his love, of effecting a closer intimacy with Christ, such are a few of the rewards which, along with the comforting hope of life eternal, God dispenses even now to his faithful servants in the midst of their trials. - Spiritual Life: Part I, Chapter IV, 364
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The world sells cruises, a vast swimming pool and spa afloat; we see Francis Xavier on the shore of Japan, fumbling his way to preach the gospel, stuttering out Japanese in a heavy Basque accent. The world sells sex, as cheap as dirt and, finally, not much more interesting, and we see the blessed Mother, appearing in royal womanhood to the peasant Juan Diego.
Monday, May 25, 2009
The Catholic Writers Conference Live!, taking place August 5-7, 2009, in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Trade Show and sponsored by the Catholic Writers Guild, provides a unique opportunity for Catholic writers of non-fiction and fiction to learn about improving their craft, sharing their faith in their writing and marketing their work. Panel discussions and presentations covering many topics essential for the professional (or professional-to-be!) writer will be offered along with opportunities to ask questions of major Catholic publishers.
Some of our featured presenters are:
Regina Doman, author/Sophia Press submissions editor (Angel in the Waters)
Sister Maria Grace, Editor, Pauline Books and Media
Mark Brumley , CEO of Ignatius Press (How Not to Share Your Faith),
Susan Brinkmann, Editor, Canticle Magazine
Lisa Wheeler, Executive Vice President of the Maximus Group (PR and marketing firm for The Passion of the Christ)
Matthew Pinto, author/Ascension Press publisher (Do Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons?)
Claudia Volkman, General Manager, Circle Press Publishing
Tom Hoopes, executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine
John Desjarlais, mystery author, (Relics, Bleeder)
Arthur Powers , and award-winning short story author.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The son of a noble family, St. Simon Stock was born in England in 1165. At the age of twelve, he became a hermit in one of the vast forests for which England was then famous. He lived in the hollow trunk of an ancient tree, whence he derived the surname "Stock." Herbs, roots, berries, and an occasional crust of bread were his sustenance. He would leave his woodland retreat to visit different shrines of Our Lady, which in those days could be found throughout the kingdom. His devotion to Mary was so great that he would carve her holy name on the trees of the forest.
The Mother of God often appeared to St. Simon. During one apparition, she told him that the holy hermits of Mount Carmel, her special sons, would come to England and he was to join their order. Years passed by, and as prophesied, the "Brothers of Our Lady" came to Aylesford in Kent. They accepted St. Simon into their ranks. After his ordination, he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he stayed with the hermits on Mount Carmel in silence and contemplation like Elias of old. He returned to Europe to help establish the Order in the West. In 1245, the first General Chapter of the Carmelite Order in the West was held at Aylesford. St. Simon was elected Father General of the Order.
It was a formidable task. Because of the rise of Islam in Palestine, it was of vital importance that the Order become firmly established in Europe. This meant advocating a "mixed life" of prayer and active ministry, similar to the Franciscans, rather than a purely eremetical, contemplative life. St. Simon sent the young hermits to the universities to recieve the training necessary to be preachers. His decision was strongly criticized by some of the hermits who thought their charism was being destroyed. Many prelates were trying to have the Carmelites completely suppressed. The very existence of the Order was threatened.
St. Simon composed a prayer to Our Lady which begins: "Flower of Carmel, blossoming vine, splendor of Heaven, Mother Divine, none like to thee." He begged Our Lady to grant his order a privilegium or pledge of protection in exchange for total loyalty and service, such as a king or queen would grant a knight or a vassal in feudal society. On the night of July 15-16, 1251, the Queen of Heaven appeared to St. Simon, the Infant Jesus on her arm, surrounded by a multitude of angels. She gave him a large brown scapular. A scapular was a monastic apron worn by monks during their manual labor to protect their habits. Our Lady said: "Receive, my beloved son, this habit of thy Order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this scapular shall never suffer eternal fire." What had been an apron now became a symbol of consecration to the Virgin Mary, a sign of her constant protection.
From that night on, the fortunes of the Carmelite Order improved. They received the protection of the Pope. The brown scapular became the main part of their habit, while small scapulars were distributed among the faithful. The brown scapular has become one of the most highly indulgenced sacramentals of the Church. In the fourteenth century, after a vision of Our Lady, Pope John XXII published the"Sabbatine Bull," promising delivery from purgatory on the Saturday following one's death to all who worthily wear the brown scapular, fulfilling the prescribed conditions.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The Pentecost novena begins today, even for those who did not get to celebrate the Ascension yesterday. Scott Richert provides the prayers here. The Golden Sequence makes a superb novena prayer as well. (Please pray for a young girl who has just been diagnosed with cancer.)
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Come, Holy Spirit,
et emitte caelitus send forth the heavenly
lucis tuae radium. radiance of your light.
Veni, pater pauperum, Come, father of the poor,
veni, dator munerum come giver of gifts,
veni, lumen cordium. come, light of the heart.
Consolator optime, Greatest comforter,
dulcis hospes animae, sweet guest of the soul,
dulce refrigerium. sweet consolation.
In labore requies, In labor, rest,
in aestu temperies in heat, temperance,
in fletu solatium. in tears, solace.
O lux beatissima, O most blessed light,
reple cordis intima fill the inmost heart
tuorum fidelium. of your faithful.
Sine tuo numine, Without your divine will,
nihil est in homine, there is nothing in man,
nihil est innoxium. nothing is harmless.
Lava quod est sordidum, Wash that which is unclean,
riga quod est aridum, water that which is dry,
sana quod est saucium. heal that which is wounded.
Flecte quod est rigidum, Bend that which is inflexible,
fove quod est frigidum, warm that which is chilled,
rege quod est devium. make right that which is wrong.
Da tuis fidelibus, Give to your faithful,
in te confidentibus, who rely on you,
sacrum septenarium. the sevenfold gifts.
Da virtutis meritum, Give reward to virtue,
da salutis exitum, give salvation at our passing on,
da perenne gaudium, give eternal joy.
Amen, Alleluia. Amen, Alleluia.