Friday, October 29, 2010

Fallen Away


There are many sufferings in life– I mean, many veins of suffering, along which pain wells from the human heart and back to it. But there is one agony distinct from all the rest, which, when felt, gives us a totally new idea of the suffering of the Heart of Christ, our Lord. It is the suffering, the peculiar agonizing void, the torture that makes moaning no relief, nor motion of the body any change, which we feel when we watch a soul we dearly love deliberately exchanging good for evil.

~ from Spiritual Excellence by Alban Goodier

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Loneliness of Soul

There are three schools of suffering, each with its own special blessing to bestow: physical, mental, and the inner school which lies behind them both: loneliness of soul. Physical suffering makes for tenderness of heart and a patient judgment. Mental suffering gives a deepened sympathy, an active influence that, when "lifted up, draws all things to itself."
But loneliness of soul does more than this; it gives independence and strength. Even in the natural plane, it secures liberty of spirit, it develops clearness of judgment, and it enforces power of will. But this is by no means all....Loneliness of soul gives wisdom– that breadth of vision that belongs to him who sees the entire valley from the hilltop. Loneliness of soul gives understanding– that further power of seeing beneath the surfaces of life. Loneliness of soul gives counsel to sustain another, and fortitude to endure its own burden. All the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit come through and are fostered by loneliness of soul.
~ from Spiritual Excellence by Alban Goodier

Monday, October 25, 2010

St. Philip Howard

He is one of my favorites among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
Thereon began his long term of imprisonment, never knowing from day to day which would be his last. Each day he spent several hours in prayer and meditation; he was noted for his patience in suffering and courtesy to unkind keepers. Weakened by malnutrition and not without a suspicion of having been poisoned, he died on 19th October, 1595. He was 39 years old and had spent the last eleven years of his life in the Tower of London.

Written on the step before the Shrine is this inscription: "The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next." This is a translation of the original Latin cut by St. Philip over the fireplace in the Beauchamp Tower, which visitors to the Tower of London can still see:

Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro. Arundell - June 22, 1587.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

False Gods

Of the past and present. Scott Richert reflects on the pope's words, saying:
"The blood of the martyrs": This is, to be honest, not something that we think about often today. But the Church was born in the blood of Christ, and took shape in the blood of the martyrs, and throughout Her history, She has been renewed by that blood. Thus the early Church fathers saw the blood of the martyrs as the lifeblood of the Church, and Pope Benedict does as well.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Advice from Father Pierre de Caussade

One of my favorite spiritual writers, quoted here:
When the reproaches of your conscience, however well merited they may be, throw you into a state of trouble and depression; when they discourage and upset you, it is certain that they come from the devil who only fishes in troubled waters, says St. Francis of Sales.

The rebellion of the passions, and that excessive sensitiveness which causes one to be put out beyond measure on the slightest provocation ought not to disquiet, nor to discourage anyone suffering from them, nor to make him think that his desire of sanctification is not sincere. This mistake and the discouragement it occasions are more harmful than all the other temptations. To get rid of them, or to overcome them we must be well persuaded that these rebellions, and this extreme sensitiveness are sent to us by God to be the ground of our combats and victories; and that these little falls are permitted to help us to practise humility.

Looked upon in this light our falls will be incomparably more useful to us than victories spoilt by vain self-complacency. This is a very certain and a very encouraging truth. We must be convinced, thoroughly convinced that our miseries are the cause of all the weakness we experience, and that God, in His mercy, allows them for our good. Without them we should never be cured of a secret presumption and a proud confidence in ourselves. Never should we be able to rightly understand that all that is bad is ours, and that all that is good is from God alone. To acquire a habit of thinking thus it is necessary to pass through a great number of personal experiences, and there is a greater necessity for this the more deeply rooted these vices are, and the greater the hold they have on the soul.

You must never feel surprised at finding that a day of great recollection is followed by one full of dissipation; this is the usual condition in this present life. These changes are necessary, even in spiritual things, to keep us in humility, and a state of dependence on God. The saints themselves have passed through these alternations, and others still more troublesome. Only try not to give rise to them yourself; but should this, unfortunately, happen, then humble yourself peacefully and without vexation, which would be a worse evil than the original one; then endeavour to regain self-control, and to return to God; doing so quietly without over-eagerness, and by means of a total holy abandonment to God’s ways.

Oh! if only this interior abjection were accepted, loved and valued, no one would consent to be without it, because it brings the soul nearer to God. This great God has, in fact, declared that He draws near to those who humble themselves and who love to be humiliated. If it is good for us to be humbled in the sight of others it is no less useful to be annihilated in our own eyes, in our pride and self-love which are put an end to in this way. It is thus, in fact, that they are gradually extinguished in us, and for this purpose does God permit so many different subjects for interior humiliation. It only remains to know how to profit by them, by following the advice of St. Francis of Sales, and practising acts of true humility, gently and peacefully; and this will drive out false humility which is always in a state of vexation and spite.

Vexation and spite under humiliation are so many acts of pride, just as worry and irritation during suffering are so many acts of impatience. Let us not forget this, and let us take good care not to look upon the want of feeling we experience for the things of God as callousness; it is simply dryness, and a trial as inevitable and ordinary as distractions. If it is constant it is a still better sign, because it is in this way that God prepares the soul to proceed by pure faith, the most sure and meritorious way. - Jean Pierre de Caussade, Letter XVII

Friday, October 22, 2010

Guarding the Heart

Here is some indispensable advice on the spiritual life from Fr. Angelo.
I have been reflecting lately on the notion of Dom Chautard concerning that aspect of the interior life that is Englished in his book “custody of the heart.” Perhaps a more militant way of translating this notion in modern English would be “guarding the heart.”

....In Dom Chautard’s teaching’s on custody of the heart he mentions spiritual disciplines like “purity of intention,” the “practice of the presence of God,”devotion to Our Lady,” continual formation in custody of the heart and vigilance at all times. St. Paul says: all prayer, all times, with all instance, for all the saints. The matter is preaching clear: before anything else, to stand fast means to guard our own heart. And for this we must not count the cost, but fight in a manly way for the kingdom of God....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Message for Carmelites

From our Father General:
If we consider with enough honesty the reality of our religious life, if we are ready to admit its voids and incoherences, the loss of hope and love which often characterizes it, a return to St. Teresa and to her teaching becomes an insuppressible demand, because there lies our joy. How could we be happy if our vocation and mission, instead of being a vital force that moves us from within, were to become a heavy and unmotivated yoke to be borne with? Yet this happens sometimes and it is painful to notice that often we look elsewhere for that sense and joy of life which the Lord has placed in the treasure of our charismatic identity. An identity with which we are called everyday to be more unified, challenging the external, but specially the internal, voices that repeat to us that all that is scandal and foolishness.

We know that the point of departure, I would say “enkindling spark”, of the Way of Perfection is exactly this one: a loving dialectics with the world, a desire of fighting for the human beside Jesus Christ against the enemies of humanity. The enemies are sometimes evident and macroscopic, but quite often they are invisible, microscopic, like worms and viruses that lay snare against one’s spiritual health. I like to read the Way of Perfection as a therapeutic book, written for healing the soul. The soul is born for living in its centre, which is Jesus Christ. All that hinders, weakens or obscures relation with Him (which is at the same time relation with oneself) is sickness and deviation, compromising its balance and growth. When Teresa speaks of prayer, she doesn’t speak of it as a simple act or a spiritual exercise. Prayer for her is the expression of a healthy soul, of a body that breathes freely and receives energy from its source of life. It is the normal expression of one who believes. A most committed spiritual life leads, as to its final aim, to recite the Our Father with full adhesion of mind and heart – her comment in the last sixteen chapters of her book bears witness to this.

What is then the perfection which the way taught by Teresa tend to? It is the one that calls God “Father” not simply with lips, but with the abandonment of a little child that allows itself to be carried by his father’s arms. With a substantial difference though, namely: this father is not only mine – as childish jealousy would wish – but is “our”, and therefore his embrace doesn’t close me in an exclusive relationship with Him, but unites me at the same time with the community of brothers and sisters. Perfection therefore is to be so adult as to be able to pronounce as one’s own the words that Jesus pronounced talking of God: Our Father!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cloister of the Heart

From Serge.

To non-monks, a cloister may seem to be nothing more than a barrier: a wall or a fence that divides the abode of monks from the rest of the world. And certainly, the enclosure is defined by its boundaries. But a more intimate look at monasticism reveals that a cloister is more than its boundaries, just as a nation is more than its borders. The real beauty of the cloister is not is periphery, but its center. The cloister is the place where community happens. It is the anchor of stability, the crucible where penance and humility are forged, the home where lovers of Christ — and of the brothers and the place — reside, hopefully joyfully, usually imperfectly, always with the help of God’s grace.

We must find a “cloister of the heart,” a place within ourselves where we can cultivate stability and silence and simplicity and all the other Cistercian charisms.

This is it: this is the call... of all lay contemplatives. We are called, through silence, through our longing for deep prayer and for the slow transformation that repentance and humility can offer us, to enter into a cloister without walls: a cloister within, a cloister of the heart.

This does not mean that we simply withdraw into some sort of navel-gazing introversion. Far from it. Like the cloister itself, the heart is a center, not a boundary. The heart’s lifelong job is to receive blood, and then send the blood out again. If the blood stops moving through the heart, the heart — and the body it serves — quickly dies. What makes the heart a heart is its very dynamism, the power of its continual pumping, the sheer rhythm by which is serves the fullness of life. For a person who has embraced the cloister of the heart as a lay contemplative, this means we continually draw within ourselves the refreshing silence and solitude of contemplative prayer, only to then give it away, bringing the gifts of a life immersed in the love of God to all those whom we love and whom we meet in the course of our busy lives.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"A Chapel on the Mountain"

The canonization of Blessed André Bessette.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall of the Divinities

From a recent discourse of Pope Benedict XVI:
This process that is achieved along the path of faith of Israel, and which here is summarized in one vision, is the true process of the history of religion: the fall of the gods. And thus the transformation of the world, the knowledge of the true God, the loss of power by the forces that dominate the world, is a process of suffering. In the history of Israel we can see how this liberation from polytheism, this recognition - "Only He is God" - is achieved with great pain, beginning with the path of Abraham, the exile, the Maccabeans, up to Christ. And this process of loss of power continues throughout history, spoken of in Revelation chapter 12; it mentions the fall of the angels, which are not truly angels, they are not divinities on earth. And is achieved truly, right at the time of the rising Church, where we can see how the blood of the martyrs takes the power away from the divinities, starting with the divine emperor, from all these divinities. It is the blood of the martyrs, the suffering, the cry of the Mother Church that makes them fall and thus transforms the world.


This fall is not only the knowledge that they are not God; it is the process of transformation of the world, which costs blood, costs the suffering of the witnesses of Christ. And, if we look closely, we can see that this process never ends. It is achieved in various periods of history in ever new ways; even today, at this moment, in which Christ, the only Son of God, must be born for the world with the fall of the gods, with pain, the martyrdom of witnesses. Let us remember all the great powers of today's history, let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man, which is no longer in man's possession, but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power, that threatens the world. And then the power of the terroristic ideologies. Violent acts are apparently made in the name of God, but this is not God: they are false divinities that must be unmasked; they are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a voracious beast, extends its claws to all parts of the world and destroys it: it is a divinity, but it is a false divinity that must fall. Or even the way of living proclaimed by public opinion: today we must do things like this, marriage no longer counts, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.
These ideologies that dominate, that impose themselves forcefully, are divinities. And in the pain of the Saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church which we are a part of, these divinities must fall, what is said in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians must be done: the dominations, the powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ. On this battle we find ourselves in, of this taking power away from God, of this fall of false gods, that fall because they are not deities, but powers that can destroy the world, chapter 12 of the Apocalypse mentions these, even if with a mysterious image, for which, I believe, there are many different and beautiful interpretations. It has been said that the dragon places a large river of water before the fleeing woman to overcome her. And it would seem inevitable that the woman will drown in this river. But the good earth absorbs this river and it cannot be harmful. I think that the river is easily interpreted: these are the currents that dominate all and wish to make faith in the Church disappear, the Church that does not have a place anymore in front of the force of these currents that impose themselves as the only rationality, as the only way to live. And the earth that absorbs these currents is the faith of the simple at heart, that does not allow itself to be overcome by these rivers and saves the Mother and saves the Son. This is why the Psalm says - the first psalm of the Hour - the faith of the simple at heart is the true wisdom (cf Psalm 118:130). This true wisdom of simple faith, that does not allow itself to be swamped by the waters, is the force of the Church. And we have returned to the Marian mystery.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

God Knows Me

And calls me by name....Some words from Blessed John Henry Newman:
I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has;
whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man,
God knows me and calls me by my name.
God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission--I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
Somehow I am necessary for His purposes,
as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his
--if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good, I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end,
which is quite beyond us.
He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it;
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends,
He may throw me among strangers,
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink, hide the future from me
--still He knows what He is about.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jesus: the Facts of the Matter

"And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
~Luke 1"35

 Yesterday, I woke up thinking of how my youth is gone and how many of my dreams will never come true. I thought of what I did not have instead if what I do have, a dangerous thing to do at any time but almost fatal first thing in the morning. I felt sad, as if my heart was breaking. Then I thought of Jesus. He died young. He died a horrible death, a criminal's death. He was hated. He was poor. His life was hard. Yes, He was the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, a sublime reality which nobody appreciated or understood, except  for His Mother, who knew the Scriptures well. "With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength: in the brightness of the saints: from the womb before the day star I begot thee." (Psalm 109:3) All the majesty was hidden, though, to be manifested only on occasion. His Apostles, His friends and companions, thought only of earthly glory, of the restoration of the Israelite Kingdom. They soon found that the real Kingdom was hidden and that the path to it was through the harsh realities of exile and/or death. So when I want my kingdom to be here, when I become greedy for the happiness of this world, I have to remind myself of what it is really all about.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Name of the Rosary

While editing and rewriting sections of my novel about medieval France I have been researching the development of the rosary. I came across a fascinating blog called Paternosters which was a name given to prayer beads in the medieval period. Here is an article about the origins of the the word "rosary" which I found quite interesting. To quote:
To get back to beads, however, traces of the earlier meaning of bid/bede as "a prayer" still remain. For instance, a wealthy patron in the Middle Ages may have supported poor bedesmen, who had promised to pray for the patron, and may have provided a bedehouse for bedesmen or bedeswomen to live in. Likewise, “bidding one’s bedes” in the Middle Ages does not so much mean praying with a literal string of beads, as it means praying for one’s bedes, that is, the people or requests one is obliged to pray for.
The word “rosary” originally meant a garden devoted to the growing of roses (c1440, “This mone is eke rosaries to make, with setes [seats]”)....Probably both the rose-garden concept and the book title contributed to the idea of referring to a collection of written prayers and devotions as a (metaphorical) rosary, such as the 1526 Rosary of Our Savyour Jesu or the 1533 Mystik sweet Rosary of the faytheful soule.

From here it was a short step to applying the term “rosary” to the specific prayer practice we have been discussing, including its string of beads.

Other European languages also call the rosary by a name referring to roses. In German it is a rosenkranz, in French a rosaire, in Italian and Spanish a rosario, and in Hungarian it is a rózsafüzért (literally a “rose string”). However in Austria it is more commonly a betschnur (“prayer string”) and in France, often a chapelet.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

St. Faustina's Prayer to the Mother of Mercy

Prayer of St. Faustina to Our Lady
O Mary, my Mother and my Lady, I offer you my soul, my body, my life and my death and all that will come after it. I place everything in your hands, O my Mother, cover my soul with your virginal mantle and grant me the grace of purity of heart, soul and body. Defend me with your power against all enemies and especially against those who hide their malice behind the mask of virtue. Fortify my soul that pain may not break it. Mother of grace, teach me to live by God’s power. O Mary, a terrible sword has pierced your holy soul. Except for God, no one knows of your suffering. Your soul does not break, it is brave, because it is with Jesus. Sweet Mother, unite my soul to Jesus, because it is only then that I will be able to endure all trials and tribulations and only in union with Jesus will my little sacrifices be pleasing to God. Sweetest Mother, continue to teach me about the interior life. May the sword of suffering never break me. O pure Virgin, pour courage into my heart and guard it. Amen.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Saint Francis of Assisi

It is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Here is an excerpt from one of his letters:
It was through his archangel, Saint Gabriel, that the Father above made known to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary that the worthy, holy and glorious Word of the Father would come from heaven and take from her womb the real flesh of our human frailty. Though he was wealthy beyond reckoning, he still willingly chose to be poor with his blessed mother. And shortly before his passion he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Then he prayed to his Father saying: Father, if it be possible, let this cup be taken from me.

Nevertheless, he reposed his will in the will of his Father. The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son, whom he gave to us and who was born for us, should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross. This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made, but for our sins. It was intended to leave us an example of how to follow in his footsteps.


And he desires all of us to be saved through him, and to receive him with pure heart and chaste body.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wounded

In the House of them that loved Me. Some insights from Fr.Mark:
Several years ago, in the context of a course I was teaching, I suggested that the erosion of faith in the Most Holy Eucharist was, in fact, fostered by a number of liturgical and disciplinary changes:
-- Minimalistic approach to the fast before Holy Communion.
-- The offering of the Holy Sacrifice by the priest facing the congregation.
-- The removal of the communion rail and obfuscation of the sanctuary as "the holy place."
-- The relegation of the tabernacle to the side of the sanctuary.
-- The reception of Holy Communion standing, and in the hand.
-- The introduction of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
Taken together, these changes sent a chilling message to the Catholic faithful (and even to confused clergy): "Folks, the Blessed Sacrament just isn't all that we thought it was."

The Protestantization of Catholic Worship

Let it be noted, en passant, that while all of these changes are a cause of scandal to Eastern Orthodox Christians, not one of them would be considered offensive to mainstream Protestants. When one begins to worship like a Protestant, one begins to believe like a Protestant.

Ignorance

The cumulative effect of these changes, compounded by a woefully deficient sacramental catechesis and by certain lamentable theological, liturgical, and moral sensibilities in seminaries during the 60s, 70s, and 80s, is the current Eucharistic Crisis. Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) remains, in most dioceses, a document that is virtually unknown. Pope John Paul II's Year of the Eucharist seems to have faded into oblivion; his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003), and his Apostolic Letter, Mane nobiscum, Domine (2004) seem not to have been assimilated at the parish level. Pope Benedict XVI's Sacramentum Caritatis (2007) is, in many places, unknown.

Adoration and Reparation

Adoration in a spirit of reparation is more than ever necessary. Where are the adorers and reparators who will console the Heart of Jesus, wounded by the irreverence, coldness, indifference, and sacrilege that He receives "in the house of them that loved Him," and in the Sacrament of His Love?

As for the much discussed "reform of the reform," might it not be a case of too little too late? Can anything apart from a Divine Intervention, a new sacerdotal Pentecost, obtained through the intercession of the Maternal Heart of Mary, bring about the change of heart that is needed?
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