Alphonsus' spirituality is in fact eminently Christological, centered on Christ and his Gospel. Meditation on the mystery of the incarnation and the passion of the Lord were often the object of his preaching: In these events, in fact, redemption is offered "copiously" to all men. And precisely because it is Christological, Alphonsus' piety is also exquisitely Marian. Most devoted to Mary, he illustrated her role in the history of salvation: partner of the Redemption and Mediatrix of grace, Mother, Advocate and Queen. Moreover, St. Alphonsus affirmed that devotion to Mary will be of great comfort at the moment of our death. He was convinced that meditation on our eternal destiny, on our call to participate for ever in God's blessedness, as well as on the tragic possibility of damnation, contributes to live with serenity and commitment, and to face the reality of death always preserving full trust in God's goodness.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Since I long ago took St. Alphonsus for my spiritual father how happy I am to see Pope Benedict speaking of him. To quote:
Here is a quote from an 1898 meditation book (via The Inn at the End of the World):
The result of breaking a fundamental law of society must be the ruin of society. If the due restraint of the spirit and of reason on human activities be withdrawn, there is nothing to prevent men from degenerating to the level of the brute creation. As soon as the laws of Christian marriage are relaxed, a general deterioration of morals follows: family life becomes corrupt, God-like love ceases, animal passion remains, but without the moderation which instinct teaches the irrational animals; the primal unity and stability are destroyed, and civilized society gravitates towards the promiscuity and anarchy of a horde of swine. The reaction on the general life of the community is rapid. Selfish lust becomes dominant, the influx of God's grace is stopped, wisdom is turned into folly, principle begins to waver, physical stamina declines, government becomes unstable, liberty is undermined, population falls off, the nation becomes enslaved to foreign or domestic foes, to financial rings and greedy adventurers. Pure family life based on Christianity is the only safeguard for the spiritual, moral and social welfare. "Oh, how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory: for the memory thereof is immortal: because it is known both with God and with men" (Wisd. iv. 1).
~From Meditations on Christian Dogma, page 331, by the Right Rev James Bellord, D.D., Late Chaplain to H.B.M. Forces, Titual Bishop of Milevis. Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd. London.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Christ at the well. In the words of Our Holy Father the Pope:
The theme of "thirst" emerges in particular in the meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well and it culminates with the cry on the cross: "I thirst" (John 19:28). Of course this thirst, like the weariness, has a physical basis. But Jesus, as Augustine continues, "had thirst of the woman's faith" (In Ioh. Ev. 15, 11), as he has for the faith of all of us. God the Father sent him to quench our thirst for eternal life, giving us his love, but asks our faith for bestowing this gift. Love's omnipotence always respects man's freedom; it knocks at his heart and awaits his answer with patience.
In the meeting with the Samaritan woman the symbol of water is prominent. It clearly alludes to the sacrament of baptism, the source of new life through faith in the grace of God. This Gospel, in fact -- as I pointed out in the catechesis on Ash Wednesday -- is part of the ancient program of preparation of the catechumens for Christian initiation, which took place in the great Vigil on Easter night. "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give," Jesus says, "will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14). This water represents the Holy Spirit, the "gift" par excellence that Jesus has come to bring us from God the Father. Whoever is reborn by the water of the Holy Spirit, that is, baptism, enters into a real relation with God, a filial relation, and can worship "in spirit and truth" (John 4:23, 24), as Jesus discloses to the Samaritan woman. Thanks to the encounter with Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, man's faith comes to its fulfillment, as an answer to God's revelation.
Each one of us can identify ourselves with the Samaritan woman: Jesus awaits us, especially during this season of Lent, to speak to our hearts, to my heart. Let us pause a moment in silence, in our room, or in a church, or in a place apart. Let us listen to the voice that says: "If you knew the gift of God." May the Virgin Mary help us not to miss this opportunity on which our true happiness depends.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Some thoughts from Irenikon:
“Oh Lord and Master of my life, give to me not the spirit of sloth...” In this striking and powerful opening to the prayer above, St. Ephrem does two things:
He surrenders all of himself to Christ by calling on him as Lord and as Master, but not just as Lord and Master at a distance, but as Lord and Master of my life!! A Lord and Master intimately and personally engaged with each of us, from the very beginning of our life.And then he implores of Him, this divine ruler and teacher, author of life, to protect him from all temptations of the spirit of sloth. He begs to be relieved from this one great debilitating weakness, from even the least temptation toward doubt, or lameness of spirit. He begs freedom from spiritual lassitude and apathy that deadens the heart and the intellect equally leaving one open to all the rest of what comes when we convince ourselves we cannot ever become truly holy, when we kill in ourselves all hope and thus all faith, and thereby all our capacity to truly love selflessly.The Greek text here translates as acedia, or sloth prompted by spiritual despondency, which is the self-delusion of the impossibility of ever achieving sanctity. Acedia is the great scourge of the monastic, and of all lay men and women who choose to follow the royal way of contemplative prayer and ascetic living, and even of those who watch from a distance but still try to lead a life influenced by the gospels and by liturgy and liturgical prayer.To pray this prayer aloud and with open heart, it cannot help but plunge us into the depths of humility. St. Ephrem declares emphatically, from the very first moment, that none but Christ is Master of Life, Master of each individual life, whether we offer ourselves to Him or not.
None of the rest of the prayer can be prayed without this initial surrender and the humble petition for the spiritual freedom, the graced freedom necessary to fulfill the rest of the prayer.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Seek His face. In the words of Fr. Mark:
In the Lesson from the Book of Kings, both the prophet Elias and the widow of Sareptha found themselves in dire need. The prophet was thirsty and hungry; the widow was completely indigent, having not so much as a morsel of bread in her house. At the prophet's word, the widow cast the burden of her cares upon the Lord, and the Lord provided not only for the prophet, but also for her and for her son. From that day on there was still flour in her jar, and still oil in her cruse.
I cast the burden of my cares upon the Lord when I fix the gaze of my soul upon His Face and trust Him to care for me. The Apostle Peter walked upon the waves with the sea beneath his feet so long as his were fixed upon the Face of Jesus; no sooner did he lower his eyes to consider the dark deep beneath his feet than he began to sink beneath the waves.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Getting something done this Lent. Fr. Angelo says:
How is a man to be in the word but not of the world? How is a man to be a soldier, a knight, and a courageous man without the arrogance and pride that are the tools of Satan? How are we to fight Satan without capitulating to his manipulative and dishonorable methods? In a word, how are we to be wise as serpent and simple as doves? (cf. Mt 10:16).
The first step consists in recognizing that the road that Our Lord took is the hardest road. He remained in the fight to the end and at the same time never sought His own glory and good, but glory of His Father and our salvation. This is the humility of which St. Ignatius speaks. Here is Father Hardon’s commentary on the two standards in which he recommends humility, calmness of spirit and the discernment of spirits as the particular means by which we fight under the standard of Christ and overcome the devil.
Our battle is first of all one that must take place within, but for it to be brought to a victory for Christ, it must be extended to the ends of the earth. It is a fight that we must never concede.
Monday, March 21, 2011
In the Courtyard of the Gentiles.
Cardinal Ravasi explained that "at the request of Benedict XVI the Church has decided to embark on a new stage of dialogue, exchange and joint activity among believers and non-believers. This has been entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Culture".
The name "Courtyard of the Gentiles" evokes "the image of the vast area near the Temple of Jerusalem reserved for debates between Jews and non-Jews", the cardinal said. "It complements inter-religious dialogue which has been going on for some decades and represents a long-term commitment of the Church which will interest many people in the world, believers and non-believers alike".
"The aim", Cardinal Ravasi continued, "is to help to ensure that the great questions about human existence, especially the spiritual questions, are borne in mind and discussed in our societies, using our common reason".
The president of the pontifical council went on: "That symbol of apartheid and sacral separation which was the wall of the 'Courtyard of the Gentiles' was cancelled by Christ. He wished to eliminate barriers so as to ensure a harmonious meeting between the two peoples. ... Believers and non-believers stand on different ground, but they must not close themselves in a sacral or secular isolationism, ignoring one another or, worse still, launching taunts or accusations as do fundamentalists on one side and the other. Of course, differences must not be skimmed over, contradictory ideas must not be dismissed, or discordances ignored, ... but thoughts and words, deeds and decisions can be confronted, and even come together", he said.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Here is a beautiful meditation given by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira:
Saint Joseph—prince of the House of David, prince of a royal family that, although dethroned and decadent, was at its apogee because from it was born the Hope of the Nations—knocks at the door and is rejected! But in this rejection is his first glory....He took the first step of his martyrdom: he led Our Lady to a cave suitable only for animals, where the Child Jesus was born.
To this glory—which was certainly a negative one—were added many others: the glory of being considered a person of no consequence although all public honors were due him; the glory of taking upon himself all the humiliation, all the ignominy and all the weight of the opprobrium that was to fall upon Our Lord. From the very beginning, he had the special bliss of being refused for his love of justice and his grandeur of soul.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Trusting in the Divine Fatherhood of God. To quote Fr. Mark:
The Father cares for you, not merely in a general way by controlling the course of events from afar, but in a profoundly personal way by His presence to you in all the circumstances of daily life.
At no moment is the Father distant from you or unavailable to you. At every moment His providence and His mercy are there for you. Give every care of yours into my Father's hands and go your way in peace of heart, trusting that He will attend to it and cause all things to work together for your ultimate good.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Here is Fáed Fíada, "The Cry of the Deer" or "St. Patrick's Breastplate," a prayer attributed to the great Apostle of Ireland.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.
I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.
I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.
I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.
I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Cheryl Dickow explains her choice of Lenten penance. Everyone uses Facebook in different ways and degrees. I have cut back on Facebook dramatically this Lent because I found that it was taking up too much of my thoughts and my time which need to be given to other things. Facebook is a new medium in human experience; people are still learning how to interact on it in a measured way. In the past year or so there are several persons of long-standing acquaintance with whom I am no longer in communication because of misunderstandings on Facebook. There have also been some family feuds and disagreements which would never have happened except for Facebook. True, Facebook has introduced me to some wonderful new friends and deepened relationships that already existed. It has been more of a blessing than a curse. However, because of some of the sadness and hard feelings that have come out of Facebook, I am cutting back on it this sacred season in order to reflect.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Catholic News Agency relates how the epicenter of the great Japanese earthquake is near the shrine of Our Lady of Akita where a weeping statue of the Virgin has long foretold disaster. To quote:
In 1973, the Virgin Mary was said to have predicted a number of future events – including natural disasters even more serious than Friday's earthquake and tsunami – during three appearances to a Japanese religious sister, Sr. Agnes Sasagawa.
The purported appearances of the Virgin Mary in Japan were reviewed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1988. During his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI, he let stand the local bishop’s judgment that the apparitions and the messages were acceptable for the faithful.
The messages warned of chaos within the Church, and disasters which could afflict the world.
“If men do not repent and better themselves, God the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity,” Mary reportedly told Sr. Agnes. “If will be a punishment greater than the (biblical) flood, such as never seen before.”
“Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful,” she said. “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church, in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops.”
“Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.”
“Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary,” she told Sr. Agnes. “With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.”
Two years after the last message, the statue of the Virgin Mary in the chapel where the apparitions had occurred began to emit tears and drops of blood. The occurrence continued for more than six years.
Reports from Akita following Friday's earthquake indicate that the city received significantly less damage than other parts of northern Japan, despite its proximity to the epicenter. However, residents did report power outages, burst pipes, and fires.More HERE.
Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Niigata, whose territory includes the Akita apparition site, is also the president of Caritas Japan, which will be working to assist victims of the earthquake and tsunami. The relief organization is accepting contributions to its emergency fund at www.caritas.org.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Here is an excerpt from the homily that Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor delivered on Ash Wednesday at St. Mary's Church in Belfast:
One word which marks part of our liturgy today is 'repentance'. For Christians, that means a heart-felt recognition of areas in our lives where we have not loved the Lord our God with our whole heart and soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. Inevitably, we have all got much to repent of in terms of how we could be disciples of the Jesus who asks us to walk with Him as channels of His healing and peace in a hurting world. And the Sacrament of Reconciliation is readily available to assist us with God's grace. As an institution, Church leadership has much to repent of regarding how we were church in the past. There are many people who have walked away from belief in God because they felt terribly hurt by those who claimed to speak of God and in God's name.
But repentance is not just a righteous condemnation of the past. When we look back in anger, there is also a danger. There is a real risk of criticizing the past for its inability to recognize some blatantly obvious truths then - but being much less able to see the faults in the present. The world is not divided into bad past, good present, or bad them and good us. Any simplistic division of time into bad Catholic past and good liberal present is childish illusion and delusion. Leaders in church, politics, business and community have much to repent of in how we are today as well. We do that so we can learn, not just to blame others but to be wiser ourselves. Sin and failings are not located somewhere else, in the foreign country that was the past. Human weakness is an active ingredient in current circumstances as well. Repentance is a call to look at me and at today, not just at somebody else and at their past. Lent asks us to reflect on what the next generation might condemn in how we contented to be today.
Lent is one of the best seasons of the year for me. I never look forward to it the way I do to Christmas, but once Lent is underway, it is a happy and peaceful time. Facing reality can be both healing and satisfying. Lent is a public acknowledgment that life is a valley of tears, the world is a dangerous place, and we are all going to die. It is like one big AA meeting where, instead of admitting to alcoholism, everyone confesses to being a sinner, a dysfunctional being who has made a mess of his life and the lives of others. But Lent is here; recovery has begun. It is time to clean up the spilled milk, pick up the pieces, and start all over again. Lent is the hour of truth; staring the truth in the face can be disarming but it can also produce the peace and joy that only penitence in Christ can bring.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
From Laudem Gloriae:
St. Francis de Sales tells us: “It is a matter of great importance to make our conversation agreeable. To do so it is necessary to appear humble, patient, respectful, cordial, yielding in all lawful things to all. Above all, we must avoid contradicting the opinion of anyone, unless there is an evident necessity for it. In that case, it should be done with all possible mildness, and with the greatest tact, without in the least outraging the feelings of the other party. In this way we shall avoid contests which produce only bitterness and which ordinarily spring rather from attachment to our own opinion than from love of truth. Believe me, there are no dispositions more inimical to human society than those which are given to contradiction, just as there is no person more commonly loved than he who contradicts no one.”
Friday, March 11, 2011
Catholic Relief Services is responding to the emergency. Let us pray for all the victims. May God have mercy. Our Lady of Akita, pray for us!
Fr. Angelo visits some holy places.
The next day, Claudio drove us to the Carmelite Monastery in Aylesford where St. Simon Stock was given the Brown Scapular. Aylesford is perhaps the oldest Carmelite foundation in Europe, the greater part of the current monastery was built after 1949, when the property was purchased back by the Carmelite Order, after having been lost to the Reformation in 1538.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Many times, the extremists tried to kill me and imprison me, I have been threatened, persecuted and my family has been terrorized. The extremists, a few years ago, even asked my parents, my mother and my father, to dissuade me from continuing my mission to help Christians and those in need, otherwise I would be lost. But my father always encouraged me. I say that, as long as I live, until my last breath, I will continue to serve Jesus and this poor, suffering, mankind, Christians, the needy, and the poor.More HERE. (Via Fr. Blake)
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Shrovetide, as the week immediately before Lent was called, was once a season of making certain one was "shriven" by going to confession in preparation for the discipline and spiritual warfare of Lent. It was also a season for making reparation for the excesses of Carnival, which included the Forty Hours devotion. Here is an excerpt from Our Holy Father's new book, which looks at the mystery of the betrayal of Jesus at the Last Supper:
Jesus' agony, his struggle against death, continues until the end of the world, as Blaise Pascal said on the basis of similar considerations (cf. PenseÅLes VII, 553). We could also put it the other way around: at this hour, Jesus took upon himself the betrayal of all ages, the pain caused by betrayal in every era, and he endured the anguish of history to the bitter end.
John does not offer any psychological interpretation of Judas' conduct. The only clue he gives is a hint that Judas had helped himself to the contents of the disciples' money box, of which he had charge (12:6). In the context of chapter 13, the evangelist merely says laconically: "Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him" (13:27).
For John, what happened to Judas is beyond psychological explanation. He has come under the dominion of another. Anyone who breaks off friendship with Jesus, casting off his "easy yoke", does not attain liberty, does not become free, but succumbs to other powers. To put it
another way, he betrays this friendship because he is in the grip of another power to which he has opened himself.
True, the light shed by Jesus into Judas' soul was not completely extinguished. He does take a step toward conversion: "I have sinned", he says to those who commissioned him. He tries to save Jesus, and he gives the money back (Mt 27:3–5). Everything pure and great that he had received from Jesus remained inscribed on his soul—he could not forget it.
His second tragedy—after the betrayal—is that he can no longer believe in forgiveness. His remorse turns into despair. Now he sees only himself and his darkness; he no longer sees the light of Jesus, which can illumine and overcome the darkness. He shows us the wrong type of
remorse: the type that is unable to hope, that sees only its own darkness, the type that is destructive and in no way authentic. Genuine remorse is marked by the certainty of hope born of faith in the superior power of the light that was made flesh in Jesus.
John concludes the passage about Judas with these dramatic words: "After receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night" (13:30). Judas goes out—in a deeper sense. He goes into the night; he moves out of light into darkness: the "power of darkness" has taken hold of him (cf. Jn 3:19; Lk 22:53).
Friday, March 4, 2011
The powerful novena to St. Francis Xavier begins today.
Most amiable and most loving Saint Francis Xavier, in union with thee I reverently adore the Divine Majesty. I rejoice exceedingly on account of the marvelous gifts which God bestowed upon thee. I thank God for the special graces He gave thee during thy life on earth and for the great glory that came to thee after thy death. I implore thee to obtain for me, through thy powerful intercession, the greatest of all blessings--that of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beg of thee to secure for me the special favor I ask in this novena.
(Here you may mention the grace, spiritual or temporal, that you wish to obtain.)
In asking this favor, I am fully resigned to the Divine Will. I pray and desire only to obtain that which is most conducive to the greater glory of God and the greater good of my soul.V. Pray for us, Saint Francis Xavier.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
Let Us PrayO God, Who didst vouchsafe, by the preaching and miracles of Saint Francis Xavier, to join unto Thy Church the nations of the Indies, grant, we beseech Thee, that we who reverence his glorious merits may also imitate his example, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.Then Recite:
- Our Father
- Hail Mary - Three times in memory of Saint Francis Xavier's devotion to the Most Holy Trinity
- Glory be to the Father - 10 times in thanksgiving for the graces received during his 10 years of apostleship.
It has been my experience over the years that many people upon entering Carmel expect at some point to partake of the charismatic gifts as did Our Holy Mother St. Teresa and Our Holy Father St. John of the Cross. Although St. Teresa and St. John experienced such phenomena, they warned against seeking out extraordinary experiences and maintained that holiness is not necessarily found in such manifestations but in prayer and good works; in living the virtues of faith, hope and charity. Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. distills the teachings of both saints in regard to the charismatic gifts in his spiritual classic Divine Intimacy, as follows:
The Apostle [St. Paul in I Cor. 12:2-11] mentions charismatic gifts, that is, those special graces, such as the gift of tongues, of knowledge, of miracles, bestowed by the Holy Spirit with great generosity upon the primitive Church. Although they are very precious gifts, they are inferior to sanctifying grace and charity, which alone give supernatural life to the soul. Whereas charismatic gifts may or may not accompany sanctifying grace, they neither increase nor decrease its intensity thereby. St. Thomas notes that while grace and charity sanctify the soul and unite it to God, these miraculous gifts, in the contrary, are ordered for the good of another and can subsist in one who is not in the state of grace....The smallest degree of [grace and charity] is worth more than all the extraordinary gifts which, although they can dispose souls to good, can neither infuse nor increase divine life in us. ~Divine Intimacy, pp.777-778
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Our Holy Father spoke today of St. Francis de Sales.
Born in 1567 to a noble family in the Duchy of Savoy, while still very young Francis, "reflecting on the ideas of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, underwent a profound crisis which led him to question himself about his own eternal salvation and about the destiny God had in store for him, experiencing the principle theological questions of his time as an authentic spiritual drama". The saint "found peace in the radical and liberating truth of God's love: loving Him without asking anything in return and trusting in divine love; this would be the secret of his life".
Francis de Sales, the Holy Father explained, was ordained a priest in 1593 and consecrated as bishop of Geneva in 1602, "in a period in which the city was a stronghold of Calvinism. ... He was an apostle, preacher, writer, man of action and of prayer; committed to realising the ideals of the Council of Trent, and involved in controversies and dialogue with Protestants. Yet, over and above the necessary theological debate, he also experienced the effectiveness of personal relations and of charity".
With St. Jane Frances de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation, characterised "by a complete consecration to God lived in simplicity and humility". St. Francis of Sales died in 1622.
In his book "An Introduction to the Devout Life", the saint "made a call which may have appeared revolutionary at that time: the invitation to belong completely to God while being fully present in the world. ... Thus arose that appeal to the laity, that concern for the consecration of temporal things and for the sanctification of daily life upon which Vatican Council II and the spirituality of our time have laid such emphasis".
Referring then to the saint's fundamental work, his "Treatise on the Love of God", the Pope highlighted how "in a period of intense mysticism" it "was an authentic 'summa' and at the same time a fascinating literary work. ... Following the model of Holy Scripture, St. Francis of Sales speaks of the union between God and man, creating a whole series of images of interpersonal relationships. His God is Father and Lord, Bridegroom and Friend".
The treatise contains "a profound meditation on human will and a description of how it flows, passes and dies, in order to live in complete abandonment, not only to the will of God, but to what pleases Him, ... to His pleasure. At the apex of the union with God, beyond the rapture of contemplative ecstasy, lies that well of concrete charity which is attentive to all the needs of others".
Benedict XVI concluded his catechesis by noting that "in a time such as our own, which seeks freedom, ... we must not lose sight of the relevance of this great master of spirituality and peace who gave his disciples the 'spirit of freedom', true freedom, at the summit of which is a fascinating and comprehensive lesson about the truth of love. St. Francis of Sales is an exemplary witness of Christian humanism. With his familiar style, with his parables which sometimes contain a touch of poetry, he reminds us that inscribed in the depths of man is nostalgia for God, and that only in Him can we find true joy and complete fulfillment".
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Pope Benedict recently offered a beautiful meditation on Our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross.
John is considered one of the most important lyric poets of Spanish literature. His most important works are four: "Ascent of Mount Carmel," "Dark Night of the Soul," "Spiritual Canticle," "Living Flame of Love."
In the "Spiritual Canticle," St. John presents the path of purification of the soul, that is, the progressive joyful possession of God until the soul feels that it loves God with the same love that it is loved by him.
The "Living Flame of Love" continues in this perspective, describing in greater detail the transforming union with God. The example used by John is always that of fire: as the fire burns and consumes the wood, it becomes incandescent flame, so also the Holy Spirit, who during the dark night purifies and "cleanses" the soul, then in time illumines and warms it as if it were a flame. The life of the soul is a continuous celebration of the Holy Spirit, that enables one to perceive the glory of the union with God in eternity.
The "Ascent of Mount Carmel" presents the spiritual itinerary from the point of view of the progressive purification of the soul, necessary to ascend to the summit of Christian perfection, symbolized by the summit of Mount Carmel. This purification is proposed as a journey that man undertakes, collaborating with divine action to free the soul from all attachment or affection contrary to the will of God. The purification, which to arrive at union of love with God must be total, begins with the way of the senses and continues with the one obtained through the three theological virtues -- faith, hope and charity -- the purification of intention, memory and will.
The "Dark Night" describes the "passive" aspect, that is, God's intervention in the process of "purification" of the soul. On its own, in fact, human effort is incapable of getting to the profound roots of the person's bad inclinations and habits: It can restrain them, but not uproot them totally. To do so, the special action of God is necessary, which purifies the spirit radically and disposes it to the union of love with him. St. John describes this purification as "passive" precisely because, though accepted by the soul, it is realized by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit who, as a flame of fire, consumes every impurity. In this state, the soul is subjected to all types of trials, as if it were in a dark night.
These indications on the saint's principal works help us to approach the outstanding points of his vast and profound mystical doctrine, whose objective is to describe a sure way to arrive at sanctity, the state of perfection to which God calls us all. According to John of the Cross, everything that exists, created by God, is good. Through creatures, we can come to the discovery of the One who has left his imprint on them. Faith, however, is the only source given to man to know God exactly as he is in himself, as God One and Triune. All that God willed to communicate to man he said in Jesus Christ, his Word made flesh. He, Jesus Christ, is the only and definitive way to the Father (cf. John 14:6). Anything created is nothing compared with God, and nothing is true outside of him. Consequently, to come to perfect love of God, every other love must be conformed in Christ to divine love.
This is where John of the Cross derives his insistence on the need for purification and interior emptying in order to be transformed in God, which is the sole end of perfection. This "purification" does not consist in the simple physical lack of things or of their use. What the pure and free soul does, instead, is to eliminate every disordered dependence on things. Everything must be placed in God as center and end of life. The long and difficult process of purification exacts personal effort, but the true protagonist is God: all that man can do is to "dispose" himself, to be open to the divine action and not place obstacles in its way.
Living the theological virtues, man is elevated and gives value to his own effort. The rhythm of growth of faith, hope and charity goes in step with the work of purification and with progressive union with God until one is transformed in him. When one arrives at this end, the soul is submerged in the very Trinitarian life, such that St. John affirms that the soul is able to love God with the same love with which he loves it, because he loves it in the Holy Spirit. This is why the Mystical Doctor holds that there is no true union of love with God if it does not culminate in the Trinitarian union. In this supreme state the holy soul knows everything in God and no longer has to go through creatures to come to him. The soul now feels inundated by divine love and is completely joyful in it.