Quote of the day: 28 September

Dear Little Therese,

I was seventeen when I read your autobiography.

It struck me forcibly. You called it ‘The story of a little flower’. To me the will-power, courage, and decisiveness it showed made it seem more like the story of a piece of steel. Once you had chosen the path of complete dedication to God, nothing could stop you: not illness, nor opposition from outside, nor inner confusion and darkness.

I remember the time I was ill and sent to a sanatorium, in the days before penicillin and antibiotics, when death awaited pretty well anyone who was sent to the hospital. I was ashamed of myself for feeling a little afraid.

‘At the age of twenty-three,’ I said to myself, ‘Therese, who until then had been healthy and full of vitality, was filled with joy and hope when she first spat blood. Not only thatbut when her health improved she got permission to end her fast with a diet of dry bread and water. And you’re almost trembling! You’re a priest! Don’t be silly!’

 

John Paul 1 receives cardinals cap
Archbishop Albino Luciani of Venice receives the Cardinal’s cap from St. Paul VI in the Consistory for the Nomination of New Cardinals on Monday, 5 March 1973 | Photo credit: albino-luciani.com

 

Reading it again, on the centenary of your birth (1873 to 1973), what now strikes me most is the way in which you loved God and your neighbor.

St. Augustine wrote: ‘We reach God, not by walking, but through love.’ You also called your road ‘the way of love’. Christ said: ‘No one comes to me unless my Father calls him’.

You were perfectly in tune with these words, feeling ‘like a bird without strength and without wings’, and seeing in God an eagle who came down to carry you off on high, on its wings. You called divine grace ‘the lifter’, which carried you to God swiftly and easily, since you were ‘too small to climb the harsh ladder of perfection’.

I said ’easily’, but let me make it clear: I meant it only in one way.

In anotherwell in the final months of your life your soul felt as if it was going down a kind of dark passage, seeing nothing of what it had once seen clearly. ‘Faith’, you wrote, ‘is no longer a veil but a wall’. Your physical sufferings were so great that you said, ‘If I had not had faith, I would have chosen death’.

In spite of that you kept saying to the Lord you loved, saying with your will alone, ‘I sing of the happiness of Paradise, but without any feeling of joy; I sing simply because I want to believe’. Your last words were: ‘My God, I love You’.

To the merciful love of God you offered yourself as a victim. All this did not prevent you from enjoying what was good and beautiful. Before your final illness you loved painting, and wrote poetry and short plays on religious subjects, taking some of the parts yourself and showing quite a talent for acting.

In the last stage of your illness, when you felt briefly better, you asked for some chocolates. You had no fear of your own imperfections, not even of having sometimes slept during meditation, out of weariness (‘mothers love their children, even when they are asleep’).

Loving your neighbor, you tried to serve others in small, useful ways, but to do so unobserved; and you preferred, if anything, to do this for people who irritated you, those you understood least. Behind their unlikeable faces you sought the beloved face of Christ.

And no one noticed these efforts of yours. ‘How mystical she was in chapel, and at her work’, the prioress wrote of you, ‘At other times she was very amusing, full of fun and making us laugh uproariously at recreation’.

Joy mixed with Christian love appears in the song of the angels at Bethlehem. It is part of the essence of the Gospel which means ‘good news’. It is characteristic of the saints. Joy may become perfect charity if it is shared, as in fact, dear St. Therese, you shared yours at recreation in the convent.

Therese, the love you gave God (and your neighbor for love of God) was really worthy of Him. This is how our love should be: a flame fed by all that’s great and fine in ourselves; a rejection of all that is refractory in us; and a victory that carries us on its wings and takes us as a gift to the feet of God.

These few lines certainly don’t contain the whole of your message to Christians, but they are enough to point out a few things to us.

Archbishop Albino Luciani
Patriarch of Venice

 

John Paul 1 general audience Summer Vining collection
Pope John Paul I (17 October 1912 — 28 September 1978) | SRE Collection (used with permission)

 

This letter to St. Therese of Lisieux is one of the series of Illustrissimi letters that Archbishop Luciani wrote regularly in a column for the Messaggero di San Antonio magazine. They were published in 1976 and are still available from booksellers in Italian and several translations, including English. We thank the whitesmokeahoy blog for publishing this excerpt from the publication.

Quote of the day: 8 September

From the Yellow Notebook of Mother Agnès of Jesus
September 8

A little robin came and landed on her bed.

Léonie sent her the little music box we have preserved, and the tunes were so sweet, even though they were popular music, that she listened to them with pleasure.

Finally, someone brought her a bouquet of wildflowers for the an­niversary of her Profession. Seeing herself so loaded with gifts, she wept with gratitude and said:

“It’s all God’s tenderness towards me: exteriorly, I’m loaded with gifts; interiorly, I’m always in my trial (of faith) . . . but also in peace.”

 

European Robin 8291616@N08 Flickr 6406283467_c6bfe20050_o
Robin Redbreast lives in Lancaster, England | carol / Flickr

Quote of the day: 3 June

Pocock, Nicholas, 1740-1821; The Frigate 'Triton'
The Frigate ‘Triton’
Nicholas Pocock (British, 1740–1821)
Oil on canvas, 1797
National Maritime Museum, London
Photo credit: National Maritime Museum / ArtUK

 

we had the happiness of going to com[muni]on, the Same hour as before. mr neale receiv’d it from mr P. after having given it to us. the weather fine wind fair, some part of the day was almost a calm. I was dressed in a fine Silk petticoat and a chince jacket th[a]t had been given me in alms w[hi]ch was So becoming & made me look So Extraordinarily fine th[a]t all my companions were jealous of me.

Mother Clare Joseph of the Sacred Heart, O.C.D.
(Frances Dickinson, 1755-1830)
Journal of a Trip to America, 3rd June 1790

 

Mother-Frances-Dickinson_Port-Tobacco
Mother Clare Joseph of the Sacred Heart, O.C.D.
(Frances Dickinson, 1755-1830)

 

Mother Clare Joseph of the Sacred Heart, O.C.D. was one of four foundresses of the Teresian Carmel in the United States of America in the summer of 1790. To her fell the task of keeping a daily journal of their ocean voyage aboard the three-masted, square-sailed, merchant frigate Brothers from Texel, Netherlands — departing 25 April — to New York, where they arrived on “friday Morning the 2d of July”. Although she makes no mention of it in her diary entry on the third of June, Mother Clare Joseph was quietly celebrating the anniversary of her profession in the Carmel of Antwerp on 3 June 1773. As for the mention of the petticoat and jacket: the nuns traveled in civilian attire.

 

The Carmelite Adventure: Clare Joseph Dickinson's Journal of a Trip to America and Other Documents 
Edited by Constance FitzGerald, O.C.D.
© 1990 Constance FitzGerald and the Carmelite Sisters of Baltimore

Marie du jour: 17 May

Oh! but, the Blessed Virgin was the strong woman, the Virgin pure; Jesus filled her heart completely, which overflowed with fire and flames, she had Heaven within her… But this is the strong woman par excellence, and she hid all this in her heart, and nothing showed on the outside. Me, I am weak…

Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified (Mariam Baouardy)
Cahiers Réservés, Cahier 5

Holy_Land_2016_P0613_Bethlehem_Carmel_st._Joseph_chapel_side_altar (2)
Reine du Carmel, Side altar in St. Joseph Chapel at Bethlehem Carmel (detail) | fallaner / Wikimedia Commons

Saint Mariam was canonized by Pope  Francis on 17 May 2015 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. A native Palestinian from Galilee, she was a foundress of the Discalced Carmelite monasteries of Nazareth and Bethlehem in the 19th century. Learn more about the Saint of the Bethlehem Carmel here

TERESA AVILA - Once while I was praying near the Bl Sacr
Once while I was praying near the Blessed Sacrament, a saint appeared to me whose order was somewhat fallen. He held in his hands a great book. He opened it and told me to read some large and very legible letters. This is what they said. “In the time to come this order will flourish; it will have many martyrs.” (The Book of Her Life, Chap. 40)

Quote of the day: 12 March

We will reach that city of Jerusalem, where all that has been suffered will be little, or nothing, in comparison with what is enjoyed.

Things pertaining to prayer and perfection are, because of our own sins, so discredited in the world that it’s necessary for me to explain myself the way I do. If even without seeing danger people fear to walk this path of prayer, what would happen if we mentioned some of the danger?

Although, truthfully, there is danger in everything, and, while we live, we have to proceed with fear and ask the Lord to teach us and not abandon us. But, as I believe I once said, if some danger can be lacking, there is much less of it for those who turn their thoughts more to God and strive for perfection in their lives.

Since, my Lord, we see that You often free us from the dangers in which we place ourselves, even in opposition to You, how can one believe that You will fail to free us when we aim after nothing more than to please You and delight in You? Never can I believe this! It could be that because of other secret judgments God might permit some things that must happen anyway. But good never brought about evil.

Thus, may what I have said help us strive to walk better along the road so as to please our Spouse more and find Him sooner, but not make us abandon it; and encourage us to walk with fortitude along a road that has such rugged mountain passes, as does that of this life, but not intimidate us from walking through them. For, in the final analysis, by proceeding with humility, through the mercy of God, we will reach that city of Jerusalem, where all that has been suffered will be little, or nothing, in comparison with what is enjoyed.

Saint Teresa of Avila
The Book of Her Foundations, Chapter 4

Teresa-StPetersBasilica
On 12 March 1622, Saint Teresa is canonized by Pope Gregory XV along with Saints Isidore, Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, and Philip Neri

 

The Book of Her Foundations: Chapter 4; The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila 
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (unless otherwise noted)
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC 
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

Adieu Céline

The 24th of February is the anniversary of the profession of Céline Martin, Sr. Geneviève of the Holy Face, in 1896 and the vigil of her death in 1959. We have translated for our readers an extract from Céline’s biography on the website of the Carmel of Lisieux’s archives.

Céline Martin
Sr. Geneviève of the Holy Face, OCD

The Chaplain brought her Holy Communion. Since he had sent his best wishes for the occasion to her in a letter, she thanked him with a smile. She did not stop admiring two beautiful wreaths of flowers providentially offered to the monastery’s portresses on the day before.

In the morning, a choking crisis ensued, accompanied by a disturbing decline in blood pressure. In the doctor’s judgment, the danger was imminent. Despite her weakness and collapse, the dying nun completely retained her lucidity.

Later that afternoon, she asked the Sister who was treating her to come to over so that she could tell her: “I truly believe that this time, it’s the real thing. Oh ! What happiness!” As they were about to give her an injection, she said softly, “Why don’t you let the lamp go out slowly, since I’m not suffering and everything is peaceful?”

With her Sisters continually and prayerfully keeping watch by her bedside, she had a peaceful night, happy with the deliverance drawing nigh. At dawn, she was a bit restless, but without any suffering.

“It really is today,” said the Mother Prioress.

“Today!” she repeated, as if she was savoring her joy.

“Yes, you fight, it’s a hard fight! But you will have the victory because Jesus is with you.”

In a tone of triumph, a blurry look in her eyes, but extremely lucid, Sister Genevieve continued: “Jesus!”

That was her last word. She expressed the tenderness of her entire life.

Today! — Jesus!

There were light beads of perspiration on her forehead. Her face, however, remained peaceful, almost radiant. Around 9:00 a.m., the community recited the Act of Offering to Merciful Love. Communicating through signs, the patient showed that she was united to them in the prayer. As the doctor arrived, all the nuns withdrew.

It was then that, stopping suddenly, Sister Geneviève straightened up on her pillows, her eyes wide open and filled with light, staring up above in an attitude of sweet joy. The doctor, impressed, knelt down, then faded into the background, realizing that it was the end. The Community returned immediately and was able to contemplate this spectacle which lasted from eight to ten minutes.

There was in the dying nun a sort of majesty, a sovereign tranquility, where one could read in her face the certainty of the tender welcome that her Father would give her. The support remained firm, the head remained upright, even in death. Only the breath that went out imperceptibly, and a slight contraction of the throat, marked her passing.

It was Wednesday, the 25th of February 1959, at 9:25 a.m. Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face was eighty-nine years and ten months old.

Excerpted and translated from the French. To read the complete biography, click here


Discover more from Flaviane Montenegro on Instagram at @flavimontenegro

sabeth - the sunday of epiphany igsize
On January 11, 1903, the feast of the Epiphany, after 13 months of novitiate, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, unanimously accepted by her community, was consecrated to God for eternity through her religious profession as a Discalced Carmelite nun in the Carmel of Dijon, France.
MERTON - There is no member of the Church - Carmel IN forest FBcover (2)
Thomas Merton, monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani (in religion, Father Louis, O.C.S.O.), born January 31, 1915; died December 10, 1968

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