Quote of the day: 19 September

In the Lisieux infirmary

 

Sr. Thérèse of Saint-Augustine: “Tell me, have you had any struggles?”

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus: “Oh! yes, I have had some. I’ve had a nature that wasn’t easy­ going; this wasn’t apparent exteriorly, but I know it well, and I can assure you that I wasn’t a day without suffering, not a single day.”

Sr. Thérèse of Saint-Augustine: “But some think you had none. “

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus: “Ah! the judgments of creatures! Because they don’t see, they don’t believe!”

Sr. Thérèse of Saint-Augustine: “There are some Sisters who believe you will experience the fears of the dying. “

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus: “These haven’t come to me as yet. If they should come, I’ll bear them; but if I should have them, they would not be sufficient to purify me, they would be no more than bleach. What I need is the fire of love.”

 

saint-therese-of-lisieux19_15apr1895 (2)
Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustine
(Julia Leroyer)
5 September 1856 – 22 July 1929
See the complete photo here

 


Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustine was the one nun of whom St. Thérèse wrote, “There is in the Community a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything, in her ways, her words, her character, everything seems very disagreeable to me. And still, she is a holy religious who must be very pleasing to God.” (Ms C 13v)

She played an instrumental role in assisting St. Thérèse through her dark night of faith. In January 1897 Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustine had a prophetic dream of a dark apartment with a heavy black door “under which a very bright ray of light came through.” On the other side of the door, she could hear a voice calling from the light asking for St. Thérèse. When Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustine awoke from her dream, she was convinced that the saint soon would die.

A few days later, Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustine shared her dream with St. Thérèse. The saint’s response gives us a striking indication of the depths of her crisis of faith.

“How beautiful! It’s not a dream, it’s a fantasy and it’s for me that you had it. (…) If you knew what good you do for me; haven’t I spoken to you about the state of my soul? (…) I don’t believe in eternal life, it seems to me after this earthly life, there is nothing more. I can’t describe to you the shadows into which I’ve sunk. What you just told me is exactly the state of my soul. The preparation they are doing with me and especially the black door is really the picture of what is happening in me. You saw nothing but red in that door that is so dark, that is to say, that all has vanished for me and there is nothing left but love. Your dream is my only ray of light, I have no other. I know it by heart down to the smallest details.”

Months later in the infirmary, when Sister Thérèse asks if her dying companion has had any struggles, January’s dream certainly must have been on her mind.

Learn more about Sister Thérèse of Saint-Augustine here.

Read more of her last conversations with St. Thérèse here.

 

Quote of the day: 20 July

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kg 19:4).

The previous verse tells us why Elijah decides to go to the desert and wants to die: “He was afraid; he got up and fled for his life” (1 Kg 19:3).

Elijah was a great prophet, a man of God, and a giant of the faith. Even the great men of God can suffer moments of crisis and fear, as in this case with the prophet Elijah, who flees in fear before the threats and persecution of the powerful Phoenician queen Jezebel.

The prophet’s crisis, however, becomes a moment of grace because God approaches him in the desert and feeds him, giving him new strength to live.

Elijah goes to the desert, lies down and goes to sleep. He’s just waiting to die. “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4). Like so many other believers in the Bible, Elijah complains before God. All that remains is to throw in the towel; everything has been useless.

And further, now Elijah is afraid. Fear leads Elijah not only to run away but also to fall asleep. Falling asleep is to remain unconscious, in a certain way: it’s an escape from reality.

However, when things turn dark; when what’s transpired becomes indecipherable and the future, uncertain: that’s when we have to be wide awake.

 

BAEZ - We must not turn off the light IGsize

 

We must not turn off the light of conscience and discernment, for that is when we must be more clear-headed than ever.

The biblical story tells us that Elijah was awakened and fed by God, because God doesn’t want anyone to be asleep and fearful.

The prophet turns to hear the word of the Lord through an angel, saying two times: “Get up and eat” (1 Kings 19:5).  After eating the first time, Elijah goes back to sleep.

Sometimes the crisis is so great
and the discouragement is so strong
that it is difficult to get up and walk.

But God is not overcome by our weakness; God insists for the second time in feeding Elijah: “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you” (1 Kings 19:7). God doesn’t want us to feel fearful, neither does he want us to sleep.

God offered Elijah—through his messenger—frugal and simple food: a pilgrim’s meal (“a cake baked on hot stones” and “a jar of water”, 1 Kings 19:6). At that moment you don’t need a succulent feast, but effective nutrition. That kind of effective nutrition to recover strength and hope, only God can provide. Elijah ate and “he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God” (1 Kings 19:8).

Before eating, the prophet’s flight was headed toward death; after being fed in the desert, that miraculous meal takes him to Mount Horeb or Sinai, where Moses met the Lord, where Israel first made a covenant with its God. God began everything on that mountain.

 

Sinai Sunrise Richard White Blogfeatimage
Elijah goes to that mountain—where the whole history of the covenant started—to begin again, renewed by God’s strength, and to be able to continue as a man, as a believer, and as a prophet.

 

Elijah fought against the injustice and arrogance of the powerful, the manipulation of religion, the violent repression, and the use of fear as a form of domination. All of these shady schemes are opposed to God’s plan.

Elijah gave everything. In the end, in self-imposed exile, escaping to protect himself from the death threats of Queen Jezebel, he falls down, tired and hopeless, in the desert. He was tempted not to keep fighting, dreaming, and hoping. It can happen to anyone.

The biblical text, however, gives us the certainty that God’s nourishment allows us to come out of our unconscious state and overcome fear—not letting anyone deprive us of hope. The bread that God gives us in the desert is more powerful than the wiles and threats of the shadowy structures of oppression and death.

Today, too, we need a bread that is mysterious and effective, that allows us to walk with strength and hope.

That bread is Jesus, who today has told us: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51). Jesus offers to nourish us so as to give us strength, light, hope, and the breath of life that come from the same God, the creator of life.

If Jesus nourishes us with his love and kindness, with his light and with his strength, nothing can take away our joy and hope. In our interior, in the depths of our heart, God feeds us with his Son, the Bread come down from heaven.

 

Divine Liturgy Eucharistic Prayer St Petersburg Theological Academy Flickr
In our interior,
in the depths of our heart,
God feeds us with his Son,
the Bread come down from heaven
Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy / Flickr

 

We have heard Jesus say: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” The Father mysteriously draws us to Jesus; he makes Jesus attractive to us. And if Jesus presents himself again to us—attractive, fascinating, familiar in the depths of our being—we are attracted to the good, the beautiful, the noble.

If Jesus makes us attractive, we will be fascinating and attractive, which does good for the human person—which builds a better world.

 

Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.

Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Homily, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (excerpts)
12 August 2018 

 

You can read the full text of the homily on our blog here.

Elijah: Fear and Hope

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Homily of H.E. Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Parish of San Anthony of Mount Tabor, Managua
12th August 2018


Today’s first reading (1 Kings 19:4-8) tells us about the prophet Elijah, who one day is filled with fear and goes to the desert because, disappointed in himself, in religion, and in the society in which he lives, he wants to die: “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kg 19:4).

The previous verse tells us why Elijah decides to go to the desert and wants to die: “He was afraid; he got up and fled for his life” (1 Kg 19:3). He had made a great effort for years to show the people the true face of God; he had committed himself completely so that the people of Israel would keep the faith intact against the religion of the false god Baal and defend the poor against the acts of violence and injustice of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, the royal couple who ruled at that time.

Elijah was a great prophet, a man of God, and a giant of the faith.

After having defeated the false prophets of the queen, unmasking the religious deceptions of the royal couple with which they dominated the people, and having denounced the great acts of injustice they committed, the queen had persecuted him and threatened to kill him. The prophet is afraid and runs away. Nelson Mandela said that “the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Even the great men of God can suffer moments of crisis and fear, as in this case with the prophet Elijah, who flees in fear before the threats and persecution of the powerful Phoenician queen Jezebel who ruled at that time in Israel. A prophet of God was running away from a soulless woman, whose will was supposed to be the law; who was the manipulator of religion; she who was the unjust and violent one. The prophet is afraid and flees to the desert.

 

Leighton, Frederic, 1830-1896; Elijah in the Wilderness
Elijah in the Wilderness
Frederic Leighton (British, 1830–1896)
Oil on canvas, 1877-78
Walker Art Gallery

 

The prophet’s crisis, however, becomes a moment of grace because God approaches him in the desert and feeds him, giving him new strength to live.

Elijah goes to the desert, lies down and goes to sleep. He’s just waiting to die. The fact that Elijah lies down and wishes for death shows the drama of the moment he is experiencing: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4).

Like so many other believers in the Bible, Elijah complains before God and goes on about the weariness of his life, the fatigue of the struggle, the temptation to make the final withdrawal. All that remains is to throw in the towel; everything has been useless. He has probably experienced that his prophetic ministry and his efforts to fight against Baalism and against the injustice of the system in Israel have proved to be of little value.

In reality, nothing has changed and now his life is threatened.

And further, now Elijah is afraid. The powerful queen has intimidated him and threatened to take his life. To dominate others, fear is the most effective instrument. It is the preferred weapon of oppressors. Fear leads Elijah not only to run away but also to fall asleep. Falling asleep is to remain unconscious, in a certain way: it’s an escape from reality.

However, when things turn dark; when what’s transpired becomes indecipherable and the future, uncertain: that’s when we have to be wide awake. We must not turn off the light of conscience and discernment, for that is when we must be more clear-headed than ever. Poor Elijah. Defeated. Full of fear, running away from Queen Jezebel, running away from reality, and running away from himself.

 

BAEZ - We must not turn off the light IGsize

 

The biblical story tells us that Elijah was awakened and fed by God, because God doesn’t want anyone to be asleep and fearful. Precisely at the moment of the greatest darkness and fatigue is when the prophet turns to hear the word of the Lord through an angel, saying two times: “Get up and eat” (1 Kings 19:5).  After eating the first time, Elijah goes back to sleep. Sometimes the crisis is so great and the discouragement is so strong that it is difficult to get up and walk.

God is not overcome by our weakness

God insists for the second time in feeding him: “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you” (1 Kings 19:7). God doesn’t want us to feel fearful, neither does he want us to sleep. That is why he feeds the prophet, as he feeds all of us when we feel fallen, frustrated, and hopeless. God makes the boundary seem like it becomes a new horizon; what is experienced as death is transformed into the beginning of a new life.

 

Leighton, Frederic, 1830-1896; Elijah in the Wilderness
That kind of effective nutrition to recover strength and hope, only God can provide.

 

God offered Elijah—through his messenger—frugal and simple food: a pilgrim’s meal (“a cake baked on hot stones” and “a jar of water”, 1 Kings 19:6). At that moment you don’t need a succulent feast, but effective nutrition. That kind of effective nutrition to recover strength and hope, only God can provide. Elijah ate and “he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God” (1 Kings 19:8).

Before eating, the prophet’s flight was headed toward death; after being fed in the desert, that miraculous meal takes him to Mount Horeb or Sinai, where Moses met the Lord, where Israel first made a covenant with its God. God began everything on that mountain. Elijah goes to that mountainwhere the whole history of the covenant startedto begin again, renewed by God’s strength, and to be able to continue as a man, as a believer, and as a prophet.

 

 

SONY DSC
God began everything on that mountain. | Phillip Marsh / Flickr

 

We who are living in the current drama of our society know about the injustice and arrogance of the powerful, the manipulation of religion, violent repression, and the use of fear as a form of domination. All of these shady schemes are opposed to God’s plan.

Elijah fought against all of this. He gave everything. In the end, in self-imposed exile, escaping to protect himself from the death threats of Queen Jezebel, he falls down, tired and hopeless, in the desert. He was tempted not to keep fighting, dreaming, and hoping. It can happen to anyone.

 

BAEZ - Elijah was tempted not to keep fighting TWsize

 

The biblical text, however, gives us the certainty that God’s nourishment allows us to come out of our unconscious state and overcome fearnot letting anyone deprive us of hopeto keep moving forward to build a freer and more democratic country. The bread that God gives us in the desert is more powerful than the wiles and threats of the shadowy structures of oppression and death.

We have the right to dream of a Nicaragua without rulers who oppress the people, where the dignity and rights of every person are respected, where we put off particular interests to share our goods and concerns in peace and justice, and where dissent from power is not a crime.

 

BAEZ - I dream of a Nicararagua

 

Today, too, we need a bread that is mysterious and effective, that allows us to walk with strength and hope.

That bread is Jesus, who today has told us: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51). Jesus offers to nourish us so as to give us strength, light, hope, and the breath of life that come from the same God, the creator of life.

If Jesus nourishes us with his love and kindness, with his light and with his strength, nothing can take away our joy and hope. In our interior, in the depths of our heart, God feeds us with his Son, the Bread come down from heaven.

 

Divine Liturgy Eucharistic Prayer St Petersburg Theological Academy Flickr
In our interior,
in the depths of our heart,
God feeds us with his Son,
the Bread come down from heaven
Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy / Flickr

 

We have heard Jesus today who told us: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” The Father mysteriously draws us to Jesus; he makes Jesus attractive to us. And if Jesus presents himself again to us—attractive, fascinating, familiar in the depths of our being—we are attracted to the good, the beautiful, the noble; we will prefer honesty instead of corruption, truth instead of lies, peace rather than violence.

If Jesus makes us attractive, we will be fascinating and attractive, which does good for the human person—which builds a better world.

 


Ocupa INSS protest 20jun13
† Silvio José Baez, O.C.D. is the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua; when he speaks of the “current drama of our society” he refers to the regime of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The Organization of American States commissioned a Group of Independent Experts to study the violence that occurred during the first six weeks of protests in 2018 after the government announced cutbacks to Social Security pensions. The official report was clear-cut: the Ortega-Murillo police and paramilitary forces committed crimes against humanity. However, the grievances of the people are not recent; in this photo, the youth turned out to support older adults when Social Security pension cutbacks were first announced in June 2013. The sign says, “in Ortega and Murillo’s government, senior citizens have no rights.” Learn more about the 2013 protests here. Learn more about the 2018 unrest and the challenges for the Catholic Church in Nicaragua here. Listen to Bishop Báez deliver this homily in Spanish at San Antonio en Monte Tabor parish here.| Jorge Mejía Peralta / Flickr

 

This English translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.

LAFISE’S Roberto Zamora Says Dialogue Starts Soon — Dr. Minúscula

Special Meeting of the Permanent Council, November 20, 2013
Special Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council, November 20, 2013 | Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS

Roberto Zamora, president of the Lafise financial group, is in Madrid on business. He granted an interview to EFE press agency, in which he spoke about the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua, its economic and financial ramifications, and the need for a dialogue. Zamora is one of the five Nicaraguan businessmen who met with OrMu over the weekend. The Catholic Church, represented by Cardinal Brenes and Apostolic Nuncio Somertag, was also present.

Zamora told EFE that the “dialogue starts tomorrow…”

via LAFISE’S Roberto Zamora Says Dialogue Starts Soon — Dr. Minúscula

A Carmelite response to the sexual abuse crisis

Some have asked if Carmelites have a particular message or word of advice and counsel to offer to the Catholic Church as she passes through a profound crisis concerning sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and the abuse of conscience. Of course, the answer is a resounding, “yes”. Let us turn to the teaching of our Doctors of the Church, and in particular, let us learn from their feminine genius, to be attentive to the wisdom that emanates from Carmel.

Teresa-de-Jesus_Juan-de-la-Misericordia-original
One of three portraits claimed to be the original painted by Fray Juan de la Miseria in 1570

When she was a young nun, Saint Teresa was attached to a priest with fallen morals in Becedas, and she talks about this relationship in Chapter 5 of her autobiography, The Book of Her Life.

“I was so fascinated with God at that time what pleased me most was to speak of the things of God. And since I was so young, it threw him into confusion to observe this; and by reason of the strong love he had for me, he began to explain to me about his bad moral state. This was no small matter, because for about seven years he had been living in a dangerous state on account of his affection and dealings with a woman in that same place; and, despite this, he was saying Mass. The association was so public that he had lost his honor and reputation, and no one dared to admonish him about this. To me, it was a great pity for I loved him deeply. I was so frivolous and blind that it seemed to me a virtue to be grateful and loyal to anyone who loved me. Damned be such loyalty that goes against the law of God! This is the kind of nonsense that goes on in the world, which makes no sense to me: that we consider it a virtue not to break with a friendship, even if the latter go against God, whereas we are indebted to God for all the good that is done to us. Oh, blindness of the world! You would have been served, Lord, if I had been most ungrateful to all that world and not the least bit ungrateful to You! But it has been just the reverse because of my sins.”

“Damned be such loyalty that goes against the law of God!”

Brother_Lawrence_in_the_kitchen
An artist’s rendering of Frère Laurent in the cuisine of the Couvent des Carmes

The wisdom of our Carmelite doctors teaches that practicing the presence of Christ is essential in the Christian life to weather every trial. “Keeping Christ present is what we of ourselves can do,” wrote Saint Teresa (The Book of Her Life, 12:4).

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection agrees: “The holiest, most ordinary, and most necessary practice of the spiritual life is that of the presence of God. It is to take delight in and become accustomed to his divine company, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with him all the time, at every moment, without rule or measure, especially in times of temptation, suffering, aridity, weariness, even infidelity and sin.” (Maxims, 2:6)

“Keeping Christ present is what we of ourselves can do”

Untitled Design (1)
USAG-Humphreys, South Korea, Full-Scale Exercise, 2012: Hostage Scenario

Saint Teresa teaches us the necessity of avoiding sin at all costs. In her Spiritual Testimonies, No. 20, Saint Teresa describes her 1571 vision of “how a soul in sin is without any power but is like a person completely bound, tied, and blindfolded; for although wanting to see, such a person cannot, and cannot walk or hear, and remains in great darkness. Souls in this condition make me feel such compassion that any burden seems light to me if I can free one of them.”

In the Interior Castle (First Dwelling, Chapter 2) she described the torment to a greater extent: “there’s no darker darkness nor anything more obscure and black… Nothing helps such a soul; and as a result, all the good works it might do while in mortal sin are fruitless for the attainment of glory… Since, after all, the intention of anyone who commits a mortal sin is to please the devil, who is darkness itself, not God, the poor soul becomes darkness itself.”

But, it was her vision of hell in 1560 that compelled her first and foremost to serve God with the greatest fervor, to avoid sin at all costs, and to “give a thousand lives to save one soul” (Way of Perfection, Chapter 1). She explained the horror of the vision in The Book of Her Life, Chapter 32:

[W]hile I was in prayer one day, I suddenly found that, without knowing how, I had seemingly been put in hell. I understood that the Lord wanted me to see the place the devils had prepared there for me and which I merited because of my sins. This experience took place within the shortest space of time, but even were I to live for many years I think it would be impossible for me to forget it…

What I felt, it seems to me, cannot even begin to be exaggerated; nor can it be understood. I experienced a fire in the soul that I don’t know how I could describe… This, however, was nothing next to the soul’s agonizing: a constriction, a suffocation, an affliction so keenly felt and with such a despairing and tormenting unhappiness that I don’t know how to word it strongly enough. To say the experience is as though the soul were continually being wrested from the body would be insufficient, for it would make you think somebody else is taking away the life, whereas here it is the soul itself that tears itself in pieces. The fact is that I don’t know how to give a sufficiently powerful description of that interior fire and that despair

I was left terrified, and still am now in writing about this almost six years later, and it seems to me that on account of the fear my natural heat fails me right here and now. Thus I recall no time of trial or suffering in which it doesn’t seem to me that everything that can be suffered here on earth is nothing; so I think in a way we complain without reason… 

Consequently, it is hardly surprising that Saint Teresa shrugged off so many hardships with her “grande y muy determinada determinación“; that is to say, her “great and very determined determination,” a typical Teresian turn of phrase that gives us a glimpse into her unflinching character. Not only was her heart aflame with divine love, but her soul bore the traces of this unquenchable fire and disconsolate despair.

“Souls in this condition make me feel such compassion that any burden seems light to me if I can free one of them”

adolfo-lozano-sidro-99
Santa Teresa de Jesús, Adolfo Lozano Sidro, oil on canvas, ca. 1897

Saint Teresa responded to the Church’s most profound crisis in centuries by practicing prayer, silence, and striving for evangelical perfection. She continues her account of the 1560 vision of hell with these remarkable words: “from this experience [the vision of hell] also flow the great impulses to help souls and the extraordinary pain that it caused me by the many that are condemned (especially the Lutherans, for they were through baptism members of the Church). It seems certain to me that in order to free one alone from such appalling torments I would suffer many deaths very willingly.” (The Book of Her Life, Chapter 32)

When the professor of moral theology at Wittenburg University sent his Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum in a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz on 31 October 1517,  few could have foreseen that the 95 theses in Professor Luther’s Disputatio would wound the Church so deeply, or that the wound would grow so infected that it would spread even to Spain.

Teresian scholars Rodriguez and Kavanaugh describe the context of the times for Saint Teresa: only a few short years after the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the Inquisition in Spain promulgated a decree (1525) against the “heresies of Luther”.  The restrictions of the Inquisition in those days were so oppressive that even Saint Ignatius of Loyola was forbidden to preach for three years.

In the months following her harrowing vision of hell, Saint Teresa continued to hear distressing reports concerning the spread of the Lutheran sect, as she called it. While she prayerfully, carefully laid the plans to gather a “few good friends” to found a Carmelite monastery of strict observance, the damnation of Lutherans – made more urgent by the terrifying vision of hell – was her constant concern. As she puts it, she had “some good motives”; we’ll let her explain:

When I began to take the first steps toward founding this monastery…  it was not my intention that there be so much external austerity or that the house have no income; on the contrary, I would have desired the possibility that nothing be lacking. In sum, my intention was the intention of the weak and wretched person that I am — although I did have some good motives besides those involving my own comfort. 

At that time news reached me of the harm being done in France and of the havoc the Lutherans had caused and how much this miserable sect was growing. The news distressed me greatly, and, as though I could do something or were something, I cried to the Lord and begged Him that I might remedy so much evil. It seemed to me that I would have given a thousand lives to save one soul out of the many that were being lost there.

I realized I was a woman and wretched and incapable of doing any of the useful things I desired to do in the service of the Lord. All my longing was and still is that since He has so many enemies and so few friends that these few friends be good ones. As a result, I resolved to do the little that was in my power; that is, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could and strive that these few persons who live here do the same. [The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the evangelical counsels in Nos. 1973 and 1974; a further explanation of the counsels in relation to the Ten Commandments is found at No. 2053.] 

Saint Teresa’s motives, methods, and goals are clear: she hears the distressing news, comprehends the gravity of the situation, and her immediate recourse is to “arise, cry out in the night,” and, clinging to her Spouse, to pour out her heart “like water before the presence of the Lord.” (Lamentations 2:19)

Much in the same way that Elijah stands on God’s holy mountain, speaking to Him when he hears the gentle breeze, rendering an account for his presence and actions saying, “with zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts,” (Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum, the motto of the Carmelites), even so Saint Teresa is driven with zealous zeal at this moment. She who desired in her reform to lift up the holy founders of the order as models and exemplars, the “holy fathers of the past, those hermits whose lives we aim to imitate,” (Way of Perfection, Chapter 11) Saint Teresa is following their path into the Wadi ‘Ain Es-Siah to pursue prayer and silence. For Teresa, a rugged hike along the way of perfection is the best remedy to the Church’s greatest crisis of the second millennium.

“I resolved to do the little that was in my power; that is, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could”

Pri06r
Saint Thérèse’s Offering to Merciful Love (recto)

In her infinite wisdom, the Virgin of Carmel, who is our sister and teacher, impresses upon us the necessity of prayer for priests.  During her summer vacation in July 1890, Celine Martin writes to her sisters in the Carmelite monastery back home in Lisieux, “Oh! how necessary it is to pray for priests!” (Letter, 7/22/1890)

Nearly five years later, Saint Thérèse took her sister’s urgent request to heart as she penned the first draft of her act of Offering of Myself as a Victim of Holocaust to the Merciful Love of the Good God. The opening lines of her first draft state: “O My God! Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to love you and make you loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. Finally, my God, I want to make myself worthy of my vocation by helping your apostles to conquer for you all hearts.”

Thérèse eloquently expressed that desire in the final months of her life to the one apostle to whom she confided her deepest dreams and celestial aspirations: the Missionaries of Africa seminarian, Maurice Bellière. In an extraordinary letter dated 24 February 1897, Saint Thérèse plainly states her life’s mission: “If the Lord takes me soon with Him, I ask you to continue each day the same prayer, for I shall desire in heaven the same thing as I do on earth: To love Jesus and to make him loved.” 

The eminent Carmelite authority on the theology of the saints, François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D. expounded upon Saint Thérèse’s deepest desires as the preacher of the 2011 Lenten Exercises for Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia. In the seventh meditation, which focuses on the Christocentrism of  Thérèse, he explains, “the light of Christ, which we contemplate with Thérèse in this meditation, is the total Truth of God and Man that shines forth in Love. Inseparable from scientia fidei, the scientia amoris of Thérèse makes him shine; and, by making him loved, she gives him easier access to our hearts.” (La lumière du Christ dans le coeur de l’Eglise, p. 101, blogger’s translation)

This “total truth of God and Man”, which Thérèse loved so passionately that she desperately hoped to die of love, is the same incarnate truth whom she sought so passionately throughout her life. Let’s join her sister, Pauline and the prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague at her bedside after Vespers just before the community gathers to pray as she draws her final, labored breath:

After Vespers, Mother Prioress placed a picture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on her knees. She looked at it for a moment and said, when Mother Prioress assured her she’d be soon caressing the Blessed Virgin and the Child Jesus:

“O Mother, present me quickly to the Blessed Virgin; I’m a baby who can’t stand anymore! . . . Prepare me for death.”

Mother Prioress told her that since she had always understood humility, her preparation was already made. She reflected a moment and spoke these words humbly:

“Yes, it seems to me I never sought anything but the truth; yes, I have understood humility of heart. . . . It seems to me I’m humble.”

Saints Thérèse and Teresa, these two great Doctors of the Church teach us the immediacy and power of these words: Dios es suma Verdad, y la humildad es andar en verdad (God is supreme Truth; and, to be humble is to walk in truth).

Thérèse embodied the eminent teaching of her Holy Mother Teresa.

“Yes, it seems to me I never sought anything but the truth…”

Père-Jacques_headshot
Père Jacques de Jésus (1900-1945)

The holy Martin family’s pressing call to pray for priests was echoed nearly fifty years later by a spiritual brother of Saint Thérèse, the Discalced Carmelite friar Père Jacques of Jesus. A friar from the same province as Brother Lawrence, Père Jacques was the headmaster of the Discalced Carmelite friars’ boarding school in Avon. In September 1943 he preached the annual retreat for the community of Discalced Carmelite nuns in Pontoise, France. In his opening conference of the retreat, he wasted no time in addressing the Carmelite’s call to intercession for priests, in particular for priests in dire need of prayer:

Carmel is a community of human beings who reveal God to other human beings. There should be a Carmel in every city, and then there would be no need of works. One would see God through these human beings who live for him and him alone.

In reading the history of the Church or the history of our own order, like all the other orders, except for the Carthusians, we find periods of decline and need of reform in the wake of intervals of laxity and even scandal. Even among priests and religious, we find cases of spiritual death. We learn that a particular priest grew spiritually cold and left the priesthood, only to embark upon a life of degradation. You need to be aware of such cases and, in turn, to pray for priests. As you can see, it is not enough to experience a period of surpassing spiritual fervor. Gradually, one can abandon retreat instead of intensifying it. Gradually, one can return to the world left behind by readopting its norms instead of embracing God’s standards ever more fully.

Ultimately, it is through embracing the teaching of the Carmelite Doctors of the Church that one finds peace in troubled moments; calm for our fears; reminders of God’s immutable nature and the unsurpassed value of patience; and, the most timely counsel of all: “whoever possesses God lacks nothing. God alone is enough.”

Solo dios basta
God alone is enough

 

Citations from 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.
Excerpt from Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Writings and Conversations on the Practice of the Presence of God 
Edited by Conrad De Meester, OCD, Translated by Salvatore Sciurba, OCD 
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC
Copyright © 1994, 2015 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.
Excerpt from Listen to the Silence: A Retreat With Père Jacques
Translated and Edited by Francis J. Murphy 
Copyright © 2005 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC

 

On 24th August 1562, Saint Teresa of Avila founded the first monastery of her Discalced Carmelite reform in Avila, Spain under the patronage of Saint Joseph.

Do you know why?

Because there was a crisis in the Church!

“I cried to the Lord and begged Him that I might remedy so much evil.”

adolfo-lozano-sidro-99
Santa Teresa de Jesús, Adolfo Lozano Sidro, oil on canvas, ca. 1897

 

 

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑