Friday, July 20, 2018

St. Elias the Prophet, Leader and Father of Carmelites

"Elias the prophet stood up, as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch....Blessed are they that saw thee, and were honored with thy friendship." (Ecclesiasticus 48: 1, 11)
"Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things." (Matthew 17:11)
The greatest of the Old Testament prophets is Elias (Elijah.) The life of St. Elias can best be described by two phrases which he often used: "As the Lord liveth, in Whose sight I stand" (3 Kings 17:1), and "With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts." (3 Kings 19:10) Whatever his exterior activities, the prophet remained aware of the constant presence of God. He possessed an unflagging desire to serve his Lord, even in moments of darkness and discouragement. (3 Kings 19: 4, 14)

Elias, called "the Thesbite," first manifested himself during the three year drought and famine by which the God of Israel punished His erring people, who had been led into idolatry by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. (3 Kings 17:1) Described as "a hairy man" (4 Kings 1:8), he usually could be found praying in remote desert and mountain retreats. It was in the solitude of Mt. Horeb that he experienced the majesty of God, not in fire or earthquake, but in the serenity of a "whistling of gentle air." (3 Kings 19:12) His usual haunt seems to have been Mt. Carmel, where he had the famous contest with the 450 prophets of Baal. (3 Kings 18:19) He defeated them by calling down fire from Heaven (3 Kings 18:38), setting the precedent for those who wish to follow in his footsteps as "Carmelites," whose role is to pray for the fire of graces, especially in times of crisis for the Church.

It was also on Mt. Carmel that Elias, deep in prayer, sent his servant to scan the horizon for rain. Finally, after looking seven times, the servant reported "a little cloud...like a man's foot arising out of the sea." (3 Kings 18: 43-44) Tradition holds that Elias knew the cloud to be a sign of the coming of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. "Henceforward, Carmel was sacred in the eyes of all who looked beyond this world." (Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol. XIII)

St Elias came to have many disciples called the "sons of the prophets." (4 Kings 2:5) This group was seen as being the origin of the Carmelite order, since for generations to come, holy men and hermits would seek to live a life of solitude and prayer in imitation of Elias and the "sons of the prophets." Elias chose Eliseus (Elisha) to be his successor. (3 Kings 19:19) In a remarkable and moving scene, Elias is mysteriously assumed into heaven, riding in a fiery chariot. Before the dramatic departure, Eliseus begged Elias for a double portion of his spirit (4 Kings 2:9)

As Elias is carried away in the whirlwind, he bequeaths to Eliseus his mantle, along with his "double spirit." (4 Kings 2:13) Eliseus continued the work of fighting idolatry, working many miracles which surpassed those of his master. Can the mantle of Elias be seen as prefiguring the brown scapular, which symbolizes the spirit of prayer and penance, the spirit not only of Elias, but of Mary?

The history of Elias the prophet does not end with his assumption, for he makes an appearance in the New Testament as well. He and Moses converse with Jesus at His Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor (Matthew 17:3), as witnesses of the divinity of the Son of God. Afterwards, the Apostles question Our Lord about Elias. "Why then do the scribes say that Elias must come first?" (Matthew 17:10) They refer to the prophecy of Malachias: "Behold, I will send you Elias the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." (Malachias 4:5) Jesus assures them that Elias has preceded him in person of the John the Baptist (Matthew 17:12), who had the "spirit and power of Elias." (Luke 1:17)

However, Our Lord makes it clear that "Elias indeed shall come and restore all things." (Matthew 17:11) According to the scripture scholar Fr. Herman Kramer: "'John the Baptist did not usher in the great and dreadful day of the Lord,' as was foretold of Elias. That day will be the destruction of Antichrist...." (Fr Herman Kramer, The Book of Destiny, 1975)

Most of the early fathers of the Church identify Elias as one of the "two witnesses" in Chapter 11 of the Apocalypse, who do battle with the Antichrist. The two witnesses are martyred by the son of perdition, but their resurrection and ascension into Heaven ushers in the final defeat of "the beast." (see Apocalypse 11) The exact manner in which such cryptic prophecies will be fulfilled remains to be seen. It is interesting, however, that Carmelites have always used red vestments on July 20 in honor of the martyrdom of Elias that is to come.

On Carmel's Height

From Vultus Christi:
We are compelled to ponder today what can only be called a core text of the liturgical and spiritual tradition of Carmel. I refer, of course, to the lesson from the Third Book of Kings. This is a text — no, more than a text, a living word — that has, over the centuries, captured the heart of those called to live on Carmel’s heights.
Elias went up to the top of Carmel, and casting himself down upon the earth put his face between his knees, And he said to his servant: Go up, and look towards the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times. And at the seventh time, behold, a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man’s foot. And he said: Go up and say to Achab: Prepare thy chariot and go down, lest the rain prevent thee. And while he turned himself this way and that way, behold the heavens grew dark, with clouds, and wind, and there fell a great rain. (3 Kings 18:42–45)
Its context is important.  First of all, a terrible drought has come over the land; God withholds his life–giving rain. Over the land ruled by Achab, a weak king, influenced by his wife’s devotion to the great sky–god, Baal, the heavens are closed. Elias determines that this state of affairs must be resolved. The true God, the God of Israel must be glorified in the sight of all. «And Elias coming to all the people, said: How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word» (3 Kings 18:21).
Elias summons the prophets of Baal, favourites of the wicked Queen Jezebel, to a public showdown on Mount Carmel. A holocaust is prepared. By the sign of fire from heaven the true God will make Himself known. The prophets of Baal were the first to begin the dreadful rite. The heavens were not moved by their frantic entreaties; Baal was distant and deaf to their cries, even though they cut themselves with swords and lances, joining blood to their futile ravings. (Read more.)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Mantle of Elias



Prophet of fire
Prophet of rain
You depart
In the whirlwind
Of glory.
I clasp
Your mantle
As it falls behind.
With your double-spirit
I am possessed.
May I now perceive
The thunder and
Immensity
Of silence divine;
The promise
Of a wisp of cloud
Rising
Out of the sea.

~a Carmelite tertiary

The Zeal of Saint Elias

From Fr. Mark:
We see the glory of a good zeal in the prophet Saint Elijah: "And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said to him: Arise, eat: for thou hast yet a great way to go. And he arose, and ate, and drank, and walked in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, unto the mount of God, Horeb. And when he was come thither, he abode in a cave: and behold the word of the Lord came unto him, and he said to him: What dost thou here, Elias? [10] And he answered: With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts" (1 Kings 19:7-10). The zeal of Elijah came to him with the mysterious food provided him from heaven, a figure of the Most Holy Eucharist. It disposed him to receive the Word of God, and to hear it. A good zeal never sets a man at odds with the Word of God, nor with the teachings of the Church. It is empowering -- yes-- but the power of a good zeal is deployed in the little, the lowly, and the weak. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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 sophisticated 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."

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)

Monday, July 16, 2018

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!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

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.

Friday, July 13, 2018

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.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 6 -- "The Mystical Rose"

"Hear me, ye divine offspring, and bud forth as the rose planted by the brooks of waters. Give ye a sweet odor as frankincense. Send forth flowers, as the lily...and bring forth leaves in grace, and praise with canticles, and bless the Lord in his works." Ecclesiasticus 39:17-19

Carmel means "garden of God." Mt Carmel in ancient times was covered with flowers, and so became a figure of feminine beauty. "Thy head is like Carmel....How beautiful art thou, and how comely, my dearest, in delights." (Canticle of Canticles 7:5-6.) The rose has become a symbol of the beauty, love, joy, and sacrifice
of the Blessed Virgin, just as the lily is the symbol of her purity. "Mystical Rose" is one of her titles in the Litany of Loreto. The rosary, the favored prayer of Heaven's Queen, comes from the Latin word rosarium or "rose garden." The glory of God's creation is only a shadow of the spiritual realities which we cannot see, but which we can mystically possess even in the present darkness.

Mystical Rose, 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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 5-- "The Morning Star"

"For I make doctrine to shine forth as the morning light, and I will declare it afar off." Ecclesiaticus 24:44

"And he that shall overcome, and keep my works unto the end, I will give him power over the nations....and I will give him the morning star." Apocalypse 26,28

Our Lady has long been hailed as Stella Matutina, "the Morning Star," for she heralded the end to the long darkness of original sin which preceded the coming of the Savior. In our world and in our lives, there is still darkness, there are nights which seem implacable and never-ending, but the length and darkness of the night only makes the Star shine brighter. We are daily confronted with the night of unbelief and the darkness of paganism which exist in the world; no material darkness can equal the spiritual night of faithlessness. Then there is the darkness of sin, the darkness of slavery to sin, which creates such a blindness that reason and logic are rendered futile. The Mother of God never ceases her intercession, and is the Advocate of Sinners.

As for those who have been freed from the bonds of mortal sin through repentance and confession, the struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil continues to rage, often creating a sort of darkness. This can be part of the "dark night" of which St John of the Cross wrote so eloquently, which is the purification of those souls who have given themselves to God, who are striving to love and serve Him. The night can include the abandonment and betrayal by friends and family, the loss of loved ones, the continuation of impossible and annoying situations, the sense of being forsaken even by God, the feeling that one's prayers are not being answered, dryness and lack of devotion when one does pray. All one can do is keep praying and persevering in the practice of the Catholic faith, looking to Our Lady who tells us that the night will not last forever.

St John of the Cross insists that it is only in such darkness that we truly become united with God. In The Ascent of Mount Carmel, the saint writes:

O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
The Lover with His beloved,
Transforming the beloved in her Lover.

Star of the Morning, 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.


(Picture courtesy of Vultus Christi)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 4-- "Mother of Fair Love"

"I am the Mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue." Ecclesiasticus 24: 24-25

In the Roman rite there are many beautiful votive Masses in honor of Our Lady. One of them is "Mother of Fairest Love." I once heard it celebrated around the feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, and in the homily the priest quoted St. John of the Cross saying that if one wants to have a great love, all one must do is desire a great love, in order to possess it. When our hearts feel cold and dry, and it seems we have no love of God within us, much less love of neighbor, then we can love with the Heart of Mary. Her love can supply for what we lack, and this can happen just by willing it, since love is not a feeling, but an act of the will, a decision.

In the words of St. Louis Grignion de Montfort in True Devotion: "Mary is the sanctuary and repose of the Holy Trinity, where God dwells more magnificently and more divinely than any other place in the universe, not excepting his dwelling between the Cherubim and Seraphim." Before receiving the Eucharist, the saint counsels: "You must implore that good Mother to lend you her heart, that you may receive her Son there with the same dispositions as her own....You will ask her for her heart by these tender words: 'I take thee for my all. Give me thy heart, O Mary.'"

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 9, 2018

Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 3-- "Star of the Sea"

"I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never faileth...I compassed the circuit of heaven...and have walked in the waves of the sea." Ecclesiasticus 24:6,8

"And seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." St Matthew 2:10

During his first crusade to free captive Jerusalem, St Louis IX the King of France was sailing with his retinue when a fierce storm overwhelmed the vessel. They were not far from the shores of Palestine when through the tempest the bells from the chapel of the hermits on Mt. Carmel could be heard. The holy king fell to his knees, imploring the Blessed Virgin to spare his family and his companions from drowning. The ship did not founder; the storm ceased. King Louis, with a heart full of gratitude, decided to visit the "Brothers of Our Lady" on Mt. Carmel, where they lived in prayer and penance in imitation of the Prophet Elias. So impressed was he with their austerity and devotion, that he arranged for some of them to go to France, thus bringing the Carmelite order to that country where it flourished for centuries. The fact that many of the Brothers went to Europe preserved the Carmelite Order from extinction, since those hermits living on Mt. Carmel were eventually massacred by the Moslems.

Our Lady is the star whose light pierces the darkest clouds to guide the ship of the Church, as well as the ship of the soul, through the most tumultuous storms. The ancient icons of the Virgin often show her adorned with a star; the title "Star
of the Sea" is very old, a symbol of royalty and power, of help and mediation. The hymn Ave Maris Stella ("Hail, Star of the Sea") has often been sung in times of crisis, as mentioned in the lives of many saints; we know that on the path to Heaven even the holiest souls feel overwhelmed and discouraged in times of darkness and persecution.

In the words of the Franciscan Wonder-Worker St Anthony of Padua: "We are far from God, tossed at every moment by storms. We lie at the very jaws of spiritual death, and so we cry out, 'Hail Mary!' ''

Star of the Sea, 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 8, 2018

Mount Carmel Novena, Day 2: "The Immaculate Conception"

"Go up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of an abundance of rain." 3 Kings 18:41

The Carmelite Order always defended the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. It is an ancient tradition that the holy prophet Elias, leader and father of Carmelites, saw from Mt Carmel with his mystic sight a vision of the Immaculate Virgin in the small cloud that rose out of the sea, heralding the end of the long drought which had afflicted Israel. (3 Kings 18:44) As physical life was renewed, so through the mediation of Our Lady with her Son, the life of the spirit, the life of grace is given fruition. When the Virgin gave birth to the Son of God, the new creation, which will be fully revealed at the end of time, had already begun. In the words of St Anselm:

Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night ---everything that is subject to the power or use of man--- rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace....Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself. ( Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
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.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel

It begins today. There will be little meditations offered here for everyday of the novena. The Carmelite Scapular was given to the world as a symbol of the protection and help of the Holy Mother of God when no earthly help is available, particularly at the hour of death. As Our Lady stood at the foot of the Cross, she stands with the Church in the present ordeals; she stands with each of us. Let us pray for all the children of the world, especially those who are in danger. Let us pray for the freedom of the Church, that Our Lady Immaculate may deliver us. And please pray for some special intentions of mine.
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.

Friday, July 6, 2018

In the Cleft of the Rock

It is the First Friday of the month, when we honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The open side of Jesus Crucified has long inspired the great mystics. To quote:
Look at this remarkable painting of Jesus Crucified. The focus of the composition is the wound in His Sacred Side. An angel holding a chalice is hovering just beneath it to receive the outpouring of His Blood. There are also angels stationed beneath His wounded hands. A fourth angel stricken with astonishment and grief looks on. (Read more.)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Let Us Test and Examine Our Ways

On receiving the Eucharist. Fr. Mark says:
Both Orthodox and Eastern Catholic rites have, for centuries, practiced a form of Holy Communion by intinction? Latin Rite Catholics have something to learn from this centuries-old experience.

Have our Bishops given thought to the grave scandal given to the Orthodox Churches by the current Roman Catholic practices of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, often in casual street attire, distributing the Most Precious Blood directly from the the chalice without so much as a cloth held beneath the chin of the communicant?
Why are Protestants not offended by the same practice? Why are they indifferent to it? The answer is, I think, obvious. Has Holy Communion under both forms been used as a justification for the multiplication of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion? In the choice of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, why are the principles and the order for selection of fit persons indicated in Immensae Caritatis (29 January 1973) not followed? Alas, there are even parishes where an open appeal for volunteers is made from the pulpit! With regard to the first, we read that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion may be employed:
a. whenever no priest, deacon, or acolyte is available;
Why are acolytes (now, effectively equivalent to subdeacons in the reformed Latin Rite) not employed?
Why have Ordinaries not instituted a course of preparation for acolytes, similar to that in place for deacons?
Why are men preparing for the permanent diaconate, who have already been instituted as acolytes, not preferred to Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion?
b. whenever the same ministers are impeded from administering communion because of another pastoral ministry, ill-health, or old age;
Should not the Ordinary be consulted before determining that such is, in fact, the case?
c. whenever the number of faithful wishing to receive communion is so great that the celebration of Mass or the giving of communion outside Mass would take too long.
This is frightfully vague and subject to misinterpretation.
What is too great a number of faithful? 20? 50? 100? 300? 500?
Who decides this?
What is "too long"? Who decides this?
Further, we read in the same Instruction Immensae Caritatis:
IV. The fit person referred to in nos. I and II will be designated according to the order of this listing (which may be changed at the prudent discretion of the local Ordinary): reader, major seminarian, man religious, woman religious, catechist, one of the faithful--a man or a woman.
There is an order here.
Why, in practice, do instituted readers (lectors) fall below the radar screen?
Are not deacon candidates (at least those in the final years of formation) "major seminarians"? (Read entire post.)

(Image via Dr. Taylor Marshall.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

God Save America


3 And I set my face to the Lord my God, to pray and make supplication with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and I made my confession, and said: I beseech thee, O Lord God, great and terrible, who keepest the covenant, and mercy to them that love thee, and keep thy commandments. 5 We have sinned, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly, and have revolted: and we have gone aside from thy commandments, and thy judgments. (Daniel 9: 3-5)
(Artwork courtesy of Holy Cards for your Inspiration)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

St. Gregory of Nyssa’s Amazing Explanation for the Eucharist

From Catholic Exchange:
Gregory begins by reframing this as a question of how: How can the bread and wine be Christ? Gregory of Nyssa responds by saying that the bread is a kind of prototypical food, just as wine was, in the ancient world, a fundamental source of fluids for all men. And, because of this characteristic bread and wine are a type of the human body. As he puts it:
Some animals feed on roots which they dig up. Of others grass is the food, of others different kinds of flesh, but for man above all things bread; and, in order to continue and preserve the moisture of his body, drink, not simply water, but water frequently sweetened with wine, to join forces with our internal heat. He, therefore, who thinks of these things, thinks by implication of the particular bulk of our body. For those things by being within me became my blood and flesh, the corresponding nutriment by its power of adaptation being changed into the form of my body (Great Catechism, 37).
Actually, all Gregory has done here is address how the Eucharistic bread and wine can represent the body and blood of Christ. This is a helpful answer in so far as it is a necessary step towards understanding how the bread and wine could be God Incarnate. Now he turns to this second question:
[W]hen He came in a body such as ours did not innovate on man’s physical constitution so as to make it other than it was, but secured continuance for His own body by the customary and proper means, and controlled its subsistence by meat and drink (Great Catechism, 37).
Put simply, the Eucharist can be the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ because that’s similar to what happened on a daily basis during Christ’s life on earth: all the food and drink He consumed became part of His Sacred body, just as food and drink does for us. To build on Gregory’s point, this process is intensified in the Eucharist, in which bread and wine are not only transformed into the body and blood of Christ, but also into His soul and divinity. Gregory concludes,
For that Body was once, by implication, bread, but has been consecrated by the inhabitation of the Word that tabernacled in the flesh. Therefore, from the same cause as that by which the bread that was transformed in that Body was changed to a Divine potency, a similar result takes place now. For as in that case, too, the grace of the Word used to make holy the Body, the substance of which came of the bread, and in a manner was itself bread, so also in this case the bread (Great Catechism, 37).
In effect, Gregory is saying that Christ is transforming the Eucharist into Himself in much the same way that He absorbed food and drink into His body during His earthly life. (Read more.)

Eucharistic Adoration can save the Church. From The Catholic Herald:
There has been in recent times a discernible increase in those drawn to Eucharistic adoration in parishes and communities, and particularly among young people. Adoration stands as an antidote to the noise and busyness of our world.

As we hear from the account of Elijah at Horeb, the Lord was not in the mighty wind, fire or earthquakes but in “the gentle breeze” (1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-16). After encountering that “gentle breeze”, Elijah covered his face with his cloak and stood at the entrance of the cave. “The gentle breeze” might be the Lord calling us from the Blessed Sacrament, and the cloak the call to humble and prostrate ourselves in Adoration. (Read more.)

The Holy Prophet Elias

Monday, July 2, 2018

Time to Decide – A Reflection on a Question from Elijah

The Holy Prophet Elias calling down fire from Heaven in the contest with the prophets of Baal
From Monsignor Charles Pope:
At Mass for Wednesday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time, we read a crucial question from Elijah. It came at a time of widespread apostasy among the Jewish people. Elijah summoned a multitude to Mt. Carmel in the far north of Israel:

Elijah appealed to all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” The people, however, did not answer him (1 Kings 18:21).

The Baals were the gods of the Canaanites. It had become expedient and popular to worship them because the ruling political leaders, the apostate King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, had set forth the worship of the Baals by erecting altars and sacred columns. All who wished their life to go well and to have access to the levers of prosperity were surely “encouraged” to comply. Jezebel funded hundreds of prophets of Baal and the goddess Asherah. She had many of the prophets of Israel killed and forced others into hiding. Through a policy of favoritism and fear, the true faith was suppressed, and false ideologies were promoted.

At this critical moment, Elijah asked his question. In effect he told them that they needed to decide whether to serve the Lord God out of courageous fidelity or the Baals out of cowardly fear. We, too, must decide. In our times, the true faith has been undermined in the hearts of many by plausible liars, cultural war, and political correctness. Those who strive to hold to the true faith are called hateful, bigoted, and intolerant. A legal framework is growing that seeks to force compliance to the moral revolution and abandonment of the biblical worldview. Social pressures are at work as well, seeking to compel compliance through political correctness, through suppression of speech and ideas, and through the influence of music, cinema, and art.

The same question must be asked of us: How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him at any cost. If Baal is your god, follow him! If you prefer what is popular, politically correct, and safe, go for it; but understand that if you do so, your decision is increasingly for Baal, not the Lord. In a culture that insists you celebrate fornication, homosexual acts, transgenderism, abortion, euthanasia, and all sorts of intemperance, realize that your decision to comply amounts to a choice for Baal.

Some claim that they are not really making a fundamental choice against God and for the modern Baals. Rather, they prefer to think that they are being “tolerant,” that they are pleasant moderates seeking to “build bridges” and keep the faith “mainstream.” (Read more.)
Elias ascends in the fiery chariot
Ascension of Elias


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