Sunday, August 9, 2015

Learning from Elijah's Despair

From Catholic Exchange:
In his despair, Elijah takes refuge from the sun in the shade of a broom tree. (Some have suggested that this was the beautiful Retama raetam with white flowers.) Noticeably, in his depressed state, Elijah hides from the light. In fact, another biblical prophet prayed for death in the shade of a plant too (see Jonah 4:8). Shade, of course, is an essential survival tool in a hot desert, but Elijah’s shrinking away from the light might symbolize his shrinking away from God’s calling on his life.
After letting the prophet mope for a bit, the angel of the Lord taps him on the shoulder and commands him to eat. Note how “pro-life” God appears here. He is not willing to let his prophet die through voluntary self-starvation, but actually commands him to eat (1 Kgs 19:5) and provides him with a special meal (19:6). The meal consists of water and a round flat loaf of bread baked on hot coals. This is not an elaborate feast, but a simple affair. Yet this meal miraculously sustains Elijah for a forty-day and forty-night journey.
This meal is truly “bread for the journey,” one of the names for the Eucharist. Indeed, this is why we read this passage in conjunction with John 6, where Jesus describes the new “bread for the journey” which he will provide. Like Elijah’s bread, which took him from black despair to seek out the Lord at Mt. Horeb, the Eucharist can take us from the darkness of sin and empower us for the voyage ahead. If we lose sight of our purpose, get down in the dumps, or find ourselves wallowing in the shade of a broom tree, the Eucharist can bring us back to God’s plan for us. It can sustain us when we feel like giving up. (Read more.)


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Our Holy Mother St. Teresa and Fr. Domingo Bañez

On St. Dominic's day we cannot forget how much his spiritual sons helped Our Holy Mother St. Teresa in her spiritual struggles, in her writings and in her foundations of monasteries. The friar who perhaps helped St. Teresa the most was Fr. Domingo Bañez. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
In another way, Bañez in his prime was rendering memorable service to the Church as director and confessor of St. Teresa (1515-82). Her own words mark him as the spiritual adviser who was most relied upon as a guide and helper, both in her interior life and in her heroic work of the Carmelite reform. "To the Father Master Fra Dominie Bañez, who is now in Valladolid as Rector of the College of St. Gregory, I confessed for six years, and, whenever I had occasion to do so, communicated with him by letter. . . . All that is written and told, she communicated to him, who is the person with whom she has had, and still has, the most frequent communications." (See "Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, by herself", tr. by David Lewis, 3d ed., London, 1904, Relation VII, 448, 450.) Of the first foundation of the reform, St. Joseph's Monastery at Avila, she wrote that Bañez alone saved it from the destruction resolved upon in an assembly of civil and religious authorities (op. cit., ch. xxxvi, 336 sqq.). He did not then know the saint, but "from that time forth he was one of her most faithful friends, strict and even severe, as became a wise director who had a great saint for his penitent." He testifies, in the process of her beatification that he was firm and sharp with her, while she herself was the more desirous of his counsel the more he humbled her, and the less he seemed to esteem her (op. cit., p., xxxvi). He looked for the proof of her love of God in her truthfulness, obedience, mortification, patience, and charity towards her persecutors, while he avowed that no one was more incredulous than himself as to her visions and revelations. In this his mastery of the spiritual life was shown to be as scientific as it was wholesome and practical. "It was easy enough to praise the writings of St. Teresa and to admit her sanctity after her death. Fra Bañez had no external help in the applause of the many, and he had to judge her book as a theologian and the saint as one of his ordinary penitents. When he wrote, he wrote like a man whose whole life was spent, as he himself tells us, in lecturing and disputing" (ibid.).
The Holy Mother had earlier gone through a great deal of persecution and calumnies from certain religious who did not understand her gifts and accused her of being either crazy or possessed by the devil. The sound judgment and discernment of directors such as Fr. Bañez helped her not only to grow in sanctity but probably saved her as a person.

Of the Saint's Autobiography, Fr. Bañez penned the following words:
Of one of her books, namely, the one in which she recorded her life and the manner of prayer whereby God had led her, I can say that she composed it to the end that her confessors might know her the better and instruct her, and also that it might encourage and animate those who learn from it the great mercy God had shown her, a great sinner as she humbly acknowledged herself to be.
Then as now, there is no replacement for a learned and holy priest. Let us pray for those priests who persevere in their vocation to shepherd and guide us.

Friday, August 7, 2015

St. Albert of Trapani


Also known as St. Albert of Sicily. Today in the Carmelite Order water is blessed known as "St Albert's Water." Sr. Mary, the late departed extern sister at the Carmel of Loretto, PA., kept a generous supply of jars filled with St Albert's water in the pantry near the Turn. Sometimes the water would be there for so long that the jars began to look like small aquariums of interesting life forms. But people would take them home anyway, because of the connection to the Carmelite priest who was a man of prayer and a worker of miracles. And the miracles never cease....
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