St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 1

Those who trust in themselves are worse than the devil.

Sayings of Light and Love, 166

 

SCRIPTURE

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

 

MEDITATION

“Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous,” the Gospel tells us. And let’s notice that the conclusion of the parable is a mirror image of the song that Jesus’ own Mother sang in the home of her cousin Elizabeth: Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles (“He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate,” Lk 1:52).

Another interesting item to note in the parable is the conscience of the tax collector, who was painfully aware of his sinfulness. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that a “well-formed conscience is upright and truthful”, thus the “education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.” (CCC 1783) This education is “a lifelong task.” (CCC 1784)

So how is the conscience formed?

In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church. (CCC 1785)

If self-trust is worse than the devil, i.e. “Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God…. the one who ‘throws himself across’ God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ” (CCC 2851) then the virtue to conquer that vice would be to trust in God.

When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent. Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us? (CCC 2086)

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, one of St. John of the Cross’ foremost disciples responds to these rhetorical questions in these, her last written words:

It is not in the first place, but in the last place that I start out; instead of getting ahead with the Pharisee, I repeat, full of trust, the humble prayer of the tax collector; but especially I imitate Magdalene’s attitude, her amazing or rather her daring love that charms the Heart of Jesus, captivates my very own heart. Yes, I feel it, even if I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, heartbroken with repentance, and throw myself into Jesus’ arms, because I know just how much He cherishes the prodigal child who has returned to Him. It is not because God, in His gracious, prevenient mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I stand up and go to Him in trust and love… (Ms C 36v-37r)

 

NOVENA PRAYER

O St. John of the Cross
You were endowed by our Lord with the spirit of self-denial
and a love of the cross.
Obtain for us the grace to follow your example
that we may come to the eternal vision of the glory of God.

O Saint of Christ’s redeeming cross
the road of life is dark and long.
Teach us always to be resigned to God’s holy will
in all the circumstances of our lives
and grant us the special favor
which we now ask of you:

mention your request.

Above all, obtain for us the grace of final perseverance,
a holy and happy death and everlasting life with you
and all the saints in heaven.
Amen.

 

Jean-de-la-croix_peinture-de-celine-martin
Image of St. John of the Cross painted by Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face, OCD (Céline Martin) | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

 

All Scripture references in this novena are found on the Bible Gateway website, with the exception of texts drawn from the 1968 Reader’s Edition of the Jerusalem Bible.

The novena prayer was composed from approved sources by Professor Michael Ogunu, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Nigeria.

Venerable Anne of Jesus: It’s official!

The Bulletin from the Holy See Press Office shared the happy news on 29 November:

“On 28 November 2019, the Holy Father Francis received in audience His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience, the Supreme Pontiff authorized the Congregation to promulgate the Decrees regarding…”

Anne of Jesus

For many years Carmelites have lovingly ascribed the title of venerable to Mother Anne of Jesus, as you see in the featured image above and the detail below. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux—who was not much of a devotée of the foundress of Carmel in France—nevertheless referred to Mother Anne as “the venerable Mother Anne of Jesus” in her second manuscript (Ms B 2r) of Story of a Soul.

Without the least hesitation, I recognized the venerable Mother Anne of Jesus, Foundress of Carmel in France.

 

Venerable Mere Anne de Jesus Ms B 2r

 

Now, let there be no doubt that the heroicity of her virtues has been recognized and that she rightly merits the title of Venerable.

Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints!

 

Ana-de-Jesus
Venerable Anne of Jesus pictured in Stella Maris Church, Haifa

 

Quote of the day: 1 October

Les Sacristines au jardin (5)
Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart, November 1896 | Photo credit: © Office Central de Lisieux / archives-carmel-lisieux.fr

 

Cause of Beatification

Ordinary Process, Diocese of Lisieux
Deposition, Witness 3 (excerpts)

Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart (Marie Martin)

 

I asked Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus to write down what I called “her little way of trust and love,” which she did during her last retreat in September 1896, after having asked our Mother for permission. This letter is now a part of the printed manuscript  (Manuscript B).

After having read these impassioned pages, I told her it was impossible for me to reach such heights.

It was then that she wrote me the letter dated 17th September 1896 (Letter LT 197), in which, amongst other things, she said:

“How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love Him?. . . My desires of martyrdom are nothing; I really feel that it is not this at all that pleases God in my little soul; what pleases Him is seeing me loving my littleness and my poverty, and the blind hope that I have in His mercy . . . .That is my only treasure”.

One day when she had prayed to obtain the twofold love of angels and saints, as Elisha had asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, (cf. 2 Kgs 2:9), she added,

“Jesus, I cannot fathom my request, I would be afraid of being overwhelmed by the weight of my bold desires. My excuse is that I am a child, and children do not reflect on the meaning of their words. However, their parents, once they are placed on a throne and possess immense treasures, do not hesitate to satisfy the desires of the little ones whom they love as much as they love themselves. To please them, they do foolish things, even to the extent of becoming weak for them. Well, I am the Child of the Church and the Church is Queen since she is Your Spouse, O divine King of kings. . . . O Jesus! Why can’t I tell all little souls how unspeakable Your condescension is? I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would take pleasure in granting it still greater favors, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to your infinite Mercy”.

Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus loved God ardently and thought about Him constantly. One day, I said to her, “How do you manage to always think of God?”

“It’s not difficult,” she replied, “we naturally think of someone we love.”

“So, don’t you ever forget His presence?”

“Oh, no! I don’t think I’ve ever been three minutes without thinking of Him” (Conseils et Souvenirs, search for Oh ! non, je crois bien).

A few weeks before she died, she confided:

“If God were to say to me, ‘If you die right now, you will have very great glory. If you die at eighty, your glory will not be as great, but it will please Me much more,’ then I wouldn’t hesitate to answer, ‘My God, I want to die at eighty, for I’m not seeking my own glory but simply Your pleasure’” (Last Conversations, 16 July).

Recalling her memories of when she was five or six years old, she said:

“I loved God more and more as I grew older. . . I strove to please Jesus in everything I did, and I was very careful never to offend Him” (Ms A, 15v).

In the aforesaid letter written during her last retreat, this passage is also of note:

“Above all, O my beloved Savior, I would shed my blood for You, even to the very last drop. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth and this dream has grown with me within the Carmel’s cloisters. But here again, I feel that my dream is a folly, for I cannot limit myself to desiring one kind of martyrdom. To satisfy me, I would need all of them” etc.

 

THERESE - Marie Therese sacristines

 


Note from the blogger . . .

Whereas the English translation of Sister Marie’s testimony provides written, in-text citations to her many references, we offer our readers the actual links to find the texts on the Archives website itself for the Carmel of Lisieux. Were Sister Marie to submit any portion of her deposition today in electronic format, she might include links to the various resources, also.

It is regrettable that Céline’s wonderful collection of words of advice and counsel that she gathered from her memories of novitiate, and which she later recorded in a volume called Conseils et Souvenirs, has not yet been translated into English. We will make an effort to share tidbits from her recollections in the month of October as time permits.

Quote of the day: 29 September

Edith Stein 1942 Echt
Echt, 1942 | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

Since September 29 we’ve had a new Mother who would like me to write something again.

Echt, 5 November 1940

 

Just now I am gathering material for a new work since our Reverend Mother wishes me to do some scholarly work again, as far as this will be possible in our living situation and under the present circumstances. I am very grateful to be allowed once more to do something before my brain rusts completely.

Echt, 17 November 1940

 

I am going about my new task like a little child making its first attempts at walking.

Echt, 16 May 1941

 

Please, will Your Reverence also pray a little to the Holy Spirit and to our Holy Father John for what I am now planning to write. It is to be something for our Holy Father’s 400th birthday (24 June 1942)

Echt, 8 October 1941

 

Because of the work I am doing I live almost constantly immersed in thoughts about our Holy Father John. That is a great grace. May I ask Your Reverence once more for prayers that I can produce something appropriate for his Jubilee?

Echt, 18 November 1941

 

Dear Mother,

… I am satisfied with everything. scientia crucis [science of the cross] can be gained only when one comes to feel the Cross radically. I have been convinced of that from the first moment and have said, from my heart: Ave, Crux, spes unica!

Echt, December 1941

 

Dear Sister Maria,

… while working on this task it often happened when I was greatly exhausted that I had the feeling I could not penetrate to what I wished to say and to grasp. I already thought that it would always remain so. But now I feel I have renewed vigor for creative effort. Holy Father John gave me renewed impetus for some remarks concerning symbols. When I finish this manuscript I would like to send a German copy to Father Heribert [Discalced Carmelite provincial in Germany] to have it duplicated for the monasteries.

The only reason I write so little is that I need all the time for Father John.

Echt, 9 April 1942

 

My dear ones,

A [Red Cross] nurse from [Amsterdam] intends to speak today with the Consul. Here, every petition [on behalf] of fully Jewish Catholics has been forbidden since yesterday. Outside [the camp] an attempt can still be made, but with extremely little prospect. According to plans, a transport will leave on Friday. Could you possibly write to Mère Claire in Venlo, Kaldenkerkeweg 185 [the Ursuline Convent] to ask for [my] manuscript if they have not already sent it. We count on your prayers. There are so many persons here who need some consolation and they expect it from the Sisters.

In Corde Jesu, your grateful

B.

Westerbork transit camp, 5 August 1942

 

Preface to Science of the Cross
Saint Edith Stein’s opening sentence of the foreword to The Science of the Cross.

 


Mother Antonia Ambrosia Engelmann, O.C.D. was elected prioress of the Carmel of Echt on 29 September 1940.  It is to her that we owe a debt of gratitude for Saint Edith Stein’s ultimate volume, The Science of the Cross. Gelber and Leuven (1993) note that although it was her final work, the manuscript was published as Vol. I in Edith Steins Werke. When Edith and Rosa were arrested in August of 1942, the completed portions of her manuscript had already been sent to a typist. Unaware of the fate that awaited her, Edith asks to retrieve that manuscript as if to continue working on it while in prison.

 

Kreuzeswissenschaft.pdf_page1-750px
Stein E 1954, Kreuzeswissenschaft, E. Nauwelaerts, Louvain. | Wikimedia Commons

 

Gelber L, Leuven R, and Stein E 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters 1916-1942, translated from German by J Koeppel, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Quote of the day: 22 July

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

The last words of Manuscript C

Manuscript C, folios 36 verso and 37 recto


My dear Mother, now I would like to tell you what I understand by the fragrance of the perfumes of the Beloved.

Since Jesus has re-ascended to Heaven, I can only follow him through the footprints that he left, but how illuminated are these footprints, how aromatic they are! I only have to cast my eyes on the holy gospel; all of a sudden I’m breathing in the perfumes of the life of Jesus and I know on which side to run…

It’s not the first place, but the last place that I aim for; rather than moving forward with the pharisee, I repeat, full of trust, the humble prayer of the tax-collector;

but above all I imitate the conduct of Magdalene: her astonishing—or rather her loving audacity—that charms the Heart of Jesus, seduces mine.

Yes, I feel it, even if I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go—my heart, broken in repentance—throw myself in the arms of Jesus because I know how much he cherishes the prodigal child who comes back to Him.

It’s not because the good God, in his prevenient mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I raise myself to Him through trust and love…

 

MsC36v j'imite la Madeleine (crop)
But above all I imitate the conduct of Magdalene: her astonishing—or rather her loving audacity—that charms the Heart of Jesus, seduces mine. | Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux (used by permission)

 


Renowned Discalced Carmelite scholar Father François-Marie Léthel concluded Meditation 8 of the 2011 Lenten Exercises for the Roman Curia by citing this final paragraph from Manuscript C. He also notes that, at the same moment, Thérèse writes to her spiritual brother Bellière:

You love St. Augustine, St. Magdalene; these souls to whom “many sins were forgiven because they loved much”. Me too, I love them; I love their repentance, and especially… their loving audacity! When I see Magdalene come forward in the midst of the numerous guests, showering the feet of her adorable Master with her tears, that she’s touching for the first time, I sense that her heart has understood the abysses of love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus and that, total sinner that she is, this Heart of love is not only disposed to pardon her but still more to lavish upon her the benefits of his divine intimacy, to lift her up to the highest summits of contemplation. Ah! my dear little Brother, since it was given to me also to understand the love of the Heart of Jesus, I admit to you that has chased away all fear from my heart. The memory of my faults humiliates me, it brings me to never learn on my strength, which is only a weakness, but even more this memory speaks to me of mercy and love. How—when you throw your faults with total, filial trust in the burning all-consuming brazier of love—how wouldn’t they be consumed without coming back?”

Read Father John Clarke’s translation of Letter 247 from Saint Thérèse to Abbé Maurice Bellière (21 June 1897) here.

 


Nota Bene: We have elected to be as faithful to the original text as possible in our translation, avoiding a re-cast into contemporary idioms. There is the age-old question among translators of French: does avoir confiance mean to be confident, to have confidence, or does it mean to trust? As an example, again and again today, theological translators agree: the best and truest translation of Jésus, j’ai confiance en toi is, Jesus, I trust in you.

 

Lethel, François-Marie. (2011) La Lumière du Christ dans le Coeur de l'Église: Jean-Paul II et la théologie des saints. 
© 2011, Librairie Éditrice Vaticane. Pour la langue française: © Éditions Parole et Silence, 2011.
Translations from the French are the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.

 

 

St. Thérèse, son entrée au Carmel le 9 avril 1888

 

Comme la veille toute la famille se trouva réunie pour entendre la Ste Messe et y communier. Aussitôt que Jésus fut descendu dans le coeur de mes parents chéris, je n’entendis autour de moi que des sanglots, il n’y eut que moi qui ne versai pas de larmes, mais je sentis mon coeur battre avec une telle violence qu’il me sembla impossible d’avancer lorsqu’on vint nous faire signe de venir à la porte conventuelle ; j’avançai cependant tout en me demandant si je n’allais pas mourir par la force des battements de mon coeur… Ah ! quel moment que celui-là ! Il faut y avoir passé pour savoir ce qu’il est…

Mon émotion ne se traduisit pas au dehors : après avoir embrassé tous les membres de ma famille chérie, je me mis à genoux devant mon incomparable Père, lui demandant sa bénédiction ; pour me la donner il se mit lui-même à genoux et me bénit en pleurant… C’était un spectacle qui devait faire sourire les anges que celui de ce vieillard présentant au Seigneur son enfant encore au printemps de la vie !…Quelques instants après, les portes de l’arche sainte se fermaient sur moi et là je recevais les embrassements des soeurs chéries qui m’avaient servi de mères et que j’allais désormais prendre pour modèles de mes actions… Enfin mes désirs étaient accomplis, mon âme ressentait une paix si douce et si profonde qu’il me serait impossible de l’exprimer et depuis 7 ans et demi cette paix intime est restée mon partage, elle ne m’a pas abandonnée au milieu des plus grandes épreuves.

Extraits du Manuscript A, folio 69 recto et verso
Archives du Carmel de Lisieux

 

Quote of the day: 24 March

I arrived here safely on the vigil of our Lady. Señora Doña Luisa was overjoyed. We spent a lot of time talking about you, which is a pleasure for me, for since she loves you so much she doesn’t tire of this.

Saint Teresa of Avila

Letter 19 to María de Mendoza, Valladolid (excerpt)
Toledo, End of March 1569

Doña Luis de la Cerda 

“Yo llegué aquí buena la víspera de nuestra Señora. Hase holgado en extremo la señora doña Luisa.”

Cerda, Luisa de la (d. 1596). Daughter of the second Duke of Medinaceli, Luisa de la Cerda in 1537 married Antonio Arias Pardo de Saavedra, nephew of Cardinal Pardo de Tavera and one of the wealthiest and most titled men in Castile. Of his seven children, four were still alive when he died in 1561. His death left his wife so afflicted that the family began to fear for her. Finally, after many other failed attempts to comfort her, the family asked the provincial of the Carmelites to allow Teresa to stay with her in her palace in Toledo. Teresa remained with her for about six months and was able to help free her from the bonds of her affliction, frequent the sacraments, and practice good works. While living in the palace, Teresa was able to observe that nobility and wealth did not free one from the slavery of many human passions. In 1567 Luisa offered to fund a foundation in Malagón if the nuns would pray for her deceased husband. The house that the nuns rented there was poor and inadequate for their needs. Finally, on her return from Seville, Teresa insisted that Luisa build them a new monastery, which she had promised to do. The new monastery, the only one of Teresa’s houses that was not an adaptation of some already existing house, was built according to Teresa’s own specifications and still exists as a Carmel today, as do all of Teresa’s foundations. When the foundation of nuns in Toledo was made, Luisa gave them hospitality in her home while they tried to find a house for themselves. They were very poor and met with serious difficulties, but it doesn’t seem that Luisa did anything to help them. Teresa wrote in her Foundations, “It will seem impossible that though we had stayed in the house of that lady who loved me so much, we had to enter the new foundation in so much poverty (Foundations 15.13). Nonetheless Teresa continued on good terms with Doña Luisa, sending her little gifts, but also feeling free to ask her for favors when she needed help for herself or someone else. Among these favors was the task Doña Luisa undertook to deliver the precious secret manuscript of Teresa’s Life to St. John of Avila.

Letter 19 excerpt and Biography of Doña Luisa de la Cerda
The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.
ICS Publications Copyright © 2001, 1985 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.
EDITH - You reign on the Almighty's throne transfigured
Excerpt from I Will Remain With You . . . an undated poem by St. Edith Stein; the original manuscript is preserved in the archives of the Carmel of Cologne. It is assumed that the origin of the poem was Edith’s departure from the Cologne Carmel for the Carmel of Echt, Holland, 31 December 1938. [Source: Dr. Lucy Gelber, The Hidden Life: Hagiographic Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, p. 146]

Quote of the day: 8 March

When the Lord wants a soul for Himself, creatures have little strength to prevent this.

Saint Teresa of Avila
The Book of Her Foundations, Chapter 10, No. 8

TERESA Way of Perfection autograph manuscript Valladolid
As she writes the account of the founding of the Discalced monastery of the Conception of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Valladolid, Saint Teresa mentions Antonio Manrique de Padilla, the son of the governor of Castile and his widow, Doña María de Acuña. At an early age Don Antonio perceived his call to the priesthood and religious life; his mother prayed faithfully for his vocation. Despite pressure from the rest of the family and “after having been delayed for three years and strongly urged to change his mind, he entered the Society of Jesus.” Don Antonio entered the Jesuits March 8, 1572, and was a novice under the direction of Baltasar Alvarez, the former confessor of Saint Teresa. [Source: Kavanaugh and Rodriguez] | Photo: Original autograph manuscript of the Way of Perfection preserved in the Discalced Carmelite monastery of Valladolid. The photographer has focused on this sentence from Chapter 21: “They must have a great and very resolute determination to persevere until reaching the end, come what may, happen what may, whatever work is involved, whatever criticism arises, whether they arrive or whether they die on the road, or even if they don’t have courage for the trials that are met, or if the whole world collapses.” | Ángel Cantero / Iglesia en Valladolid

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