Quote of the day: 10 January

I want to give my little daughter the only picture that is dear to me among all others… Aunt at Le Mans gave it to me, and I am attached to it, for it says much to my heart. But all for the little fiancée of Jesus!

Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart
(Marie Martin)

 

LT-245 (2)
“Blessed is the lily that remains unblemished until the time of harvest; its whiteness will shine eternally in paradise”

 

In our Quote of the Day for 9 January, we shared Sr. Marie’s letter to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus on the eve of her clothing in the holy habit of Carmel. In the custom of Discalced Carmelite nuns, as a gift to Thérèse for the occasion, she re-gifted something that was of great value to her: a holy card that she had received from their Aunt Élise, St. Zélie Guérin’s sister Marie-Louise-Pétronille, who took the religious name Marie-Dosithée in the Visitation Monastery at Le Mans, France. 

Martin Family historian Maureen O’Riordan tells us that on the back of the holy card Marie Martin had written, “Souvenir from Aunt at Le Mans; I shall keep it forever.” We can understand how Marie now says that she is “attached to it” and “it says much to my heart.” 

Maureen O’Riordan notes: her generosity in giving it to Thérèse was all the greater because their aunt had died in 1877. The image shows the Child Jesus in a field of lilies, harvesting them. Across the bottom is printed, ‘Blessed is the lily that remains unblemished until the time of harvest; its whiteness will shine eternally in paradise’.

 

LT-245
Aunt Élise’s holy card, which Marie said she would keep forever, later given to Thérèse for her clothing in January 1889, became Thérèse’s farewell gift to her three sisters in June 1897 (LT-245)

 

In June 1897, Thérèse will re-gift the holy card once more as a precious farewell souvenir to her three sisters, framing it and embellishing it with thoughts from St. Théophane Vénard and St. John of the Cross, such as this quote from the Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 29: For a little of this pure love is more precious to God and the soul and more beneficial to the Church, even though it seems one is doing nothing, than all these other works put together.

You can read an English translation of St. Thérèse’s inscription here and explore Maureen O’Riordan’s blogs devoted to St. Thérèse here, to St. Louis and Zélie here, and to Léonie Martin here. As always, you can explore the English website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux here.

Quote of the day: 9 January

9 January 1889

Jesus +

My dear little daughter, I don’t want the eve of such a beautiful day to pass by without speaking a little word to her from her Jesus. Her Jesus! He has made her a bed of lilies! “My beloved browses among the lilies!” says the spouse in the Canticle. I want to give my little daughter the only picture that is dear to me among all others… Aunt at Le Mans gave it to me, and I am attached to it, for it says much to my heart. But all for the little fiancée of Jesus! What is too beautiful for her? Oh! yes, “…happy the lily that remained without spot until the hour of reaping.”

One day, we shall reap, rejoicing! And this hour will come! And it will be a day without clouds, and the more we shall have suffered the more radiant that day will be. Then! then! Ah! I keep silent… This day will be so beautiful, it will be so sweet, this day which will have no end!! My whole heart to my dear angel, whom I adorned for Jesus on the day of her First Communion and whom I will adorn on the day of her espousals.

Marie of the Sacred Heart

 

JOSE-MARIA MORENO GARCIA
José-María Moreno García captures this image of a Discalced Carmelite habit awaiting the blessing of the priest at the clothing of a new novice. See the complete photo here

 


 

This tender letter from Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart (Marie Martin) to her younger sister and goddaughter, Thérèse of the Child Jesus, includes an interesting detail. Marie pours out her love: “my whole heart to my dear angel, whom I adorned for Jesus on the day of her First Communion and whom I will adorn on the day of her espousals.

St. Thérèse will receive the holy habit of Carmel on 10 January 1889 and her sister Marie will play an important role on this special day. Martin family historian Maureen O’Riordan offers the following insights:

Marie was still living in the novitiate at the time and perhaps that increased her proximity to Thérèse while Thérèse was being dressed in the bridal gown. Someone wrote that Marie fussed so much over Thérèse’s long curls that Thérèse begged “Enough!  enough! One would be pretty safe in assuming that Marie and Pauline helped to dress Thérèse, although perhaps Marie of the Angels, as novice mistress, might also have been present, as well as the prioress.  This would have been a role in the preparation, not in the actual ceremony.

 

Quote of the day: 4 January

September 8, 1890

O Jesus, my divine spouse! May I never lose the sec­ond robe of my Baptism! Take me before I can commit the slightest voluntary fault. May I never seek nor find anything but yourself alone. May creatures be nothing for me and may I be nothing for them, but may you, Jesus, be every­thing!. .. May the things of earth never be able to trouble my soul, and may nothing disturb my peace. Jesus, I ask you for nothing but peace, and also love, infinite love without any limits other than yourself; love that is no longer I but you, my Jesus. Jesus, may I die a martyr for you. Give me martyrdom of heart or of body, or rather give me both

Give me the grace to fulfill my vows in all their perfection, and make me understand what a real spouse of yours should be. Never let me be a burden to the community, let nobody be occupied with me, let me be looked on as one to be trampled underfoot, forgotten like your little grain of sand, Jesus.

May your will be done in me perfectly, and may I ar­rive at the place that you have gone ahead to prepare for me.

Jesus, allow me to save very many souls; let no soul be lost today; let all the souls in purgatory be saved… Jesus, pardon me if I say anything I should not say. I want only to give you joy and to console you.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

Prayer Pri 2


Marie Françoise Thérèse Martin was baptized on 4 January 1873 in Notre‑Dame Church of Alençon, France by Father Dumaine. You can view the birth certificate and baptismal record here. In her manuscripts that together form the autobiography that we know as Story of a Soul,  Thérèse lists the “days of grace” on page 86 that the Lord “granted to his little spouse.” The first day of grace was her birth on 2 January; the second was her baptism on 4 January 1873.

 

MsA86r

Quote of the day: 2 January

My little girl was born last night, Thursday [January 2], at eleven-thirty. She’s very strong and in very good health. They tell me she weighs eight pounds. Let’s say six, which is still not bad. She seems very sweet… I barely suffered a half hour. What I felt before was practically nothing. She’ll be baptized tomorrow, Saturday.

Saint Zélie Guérin Martin

Letter CF 84 to her sister-in-law Céline Fournet Guérin
3 January 1873

O Emmanuel

Tú me apareces, Virgen, en lo alto del Calvario,
de pie junto a la Cruz, cual preste ante el altar,
ofreciendo a Jesús, tu Hijo, el Emmanuel,
a fin de la justicia de su Padre aplacar…
Un profeta dijo, ¡oh, Madre desolada ! :
« ¡No hay dolor que se pueda al tuyo comparar ! »
¡Oh, Reina de los mártires !, ¡desterrada prodigas
por nosotros tu sangre, corazón maternal !

Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús

Por qué te amo, María
Pn 54, Estrofa 23

 

saint-therese-of-lisieux43_7jun97 TWsize
1897 | Photo credit: © Office Central de Lisieux / archives-carmel-lisieux.fr

 

Mary, at the top of Calvary standing beside the Cross
To me you seem like a priest at the altar,
Offering your beloved Jesus, the sweet Emmanuel,
To appease the Father’s justice…
A prophet said, O afflicted Mother,
“There is no sorrow like your sorrow!”
O Queen of Martyrs, while remaining in exile
You lavish on us all the blood of your heart!

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

Why I Love You, O Mary!
Pn 54, Stanza 23

O Rex Gentium

Jesús, no puedo ir más allá en mi petición, temería verme aplastada bajo el peso de mis audaces deseos…

La excusa que tengo es que soy una niña, y los niños no piensan en el alcance de sus palabras. Sin embargo sus padres, cuando ocupan un trono y poseen inmensos tesoros, no dudan en satisfacer los deseos de esos pequeñajos a los que aman tanto como a sí mismos; por complacerles, hacen locuras y hasta se vuelven débiles…

Pues bien, yo soy la HIJA de la Iglesia, y la Iglesia es Reina, pues es tu Esposa, oh, divino Rey de reyes…

No son riquezas ni gloria (ni siquiera la gloria del cielo) lo que pide el corazón del niñito… El entiende muy bien que la gloria pertenece a sus hermanos, los ángeles y los santos… La suya será un reflejo de la que irradia de la frente de su madre.

Lo que él pide es el amor… No sabe más que una cosa: amarte, Jesús…

Las obras deslumbrantes le están vedadas: no puede predicar el Evangelio, ni derramar su sangre… Pero ¿qué importa?, sus hermanos trabajan en su lugar, y él, como un niño pequeño, se queda muy cerquita del trono del Rey y de la Reina y ama por sus hermanos que luchan…

¿Pero cómo podrá demostrar él su amor, si es que el amor se demuestra con obras? Pues bien, el niñito arrojará flores, aromará con sus perfumes el trono real, cantará con su voz argentina el cántico del amor…

Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús

 Historia de un alma
Manuscrito B, Folio 4 recto

 

saint-therese-of-lisieux38_July 1896 Blogfeatimage
1896 | Photo credit: © Office Central de Lisieux / archives-carmel-lisieux.fr

 

Jesus, I cannot fathom the depths of my request; I would be afraid to find myself overwhelmed under 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 upon 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 going to the extent of becoming weak for them.

Well, I am the Child of the Church and the Church is a Queen since she is Your Spouse, O divine King of kings.

The heart of a child does not seek riches and glory (even the glory of heaven). She understands that this glory belongs by right to her brothers, the angels and saints. Her own glory will be the reflected glory which shines on her Mother’s forehead.

What this child asks for is Love. She knows only one thing: to love You, O Jesus.

Astounding works are forbidden to her; she cannot preach the Gospel, shed her blood; but what does it matter since her brothers work in her stead and she, a little child, stays very close to the throne of the King and Queen. She loves in her brothers’ place while they do the fighting.

But how will she prove her love since love is proved by works? Well, the little child will strew flowers, she will perfume the royal throne with their sweet scents, and she will sing in her silvery tones the canticle of Love.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

Story of a Soul
Manuscript B, Folio 4 recto

O Clavis David

Mi alma exiliada a la tierra
Aspira a la felicidad eterna
Nada la satisfaría
que ver a su Dios en el cielo.
Pero antes de verlo sin sombra
Quiero luchar por Jesús…
para ganar almas sin número
¡Quiero amarlo más y más!…
Mi vida pasará como un día
Pronto sin vela, sin nube
Veré a Jesús, mi amor
Por allí… En la orilla celestial
¡Me besará para siempre!

Pasaron por ti en los días de la victoria…
Y el honor
Ya tus enemigos quieren ocultar tu gloria
En su furia
Pronto te tomarán, te harán prisionero…
Una mazmorra negra
Se convertirá en tu refugio, te quedarás sin luz…
Pero cada noche
Bajando a ti, Juana, dulce martirio…
Nosotros que te amamos
Para encantarte, al sonido de nuestra lira
Cantaremos.
Pobre niña, no tengas miedo, te consolarás.
En tu desgracia
Te prometemos que te entregaremos…
Por el Señor!….

Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús

Pía Recreación 3: Juana de Arco cumpliendo su misión

 

sainte-Therese-de-Lisieux_13 (2)
Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus, 1895 | Credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

My soul in earthly exile
Aspires to eternal happiness.
Nothing can satisfy it
But to see its God in Heaven.
But before seeing Him clearly,
I want to fight for Jesus…
To win Him countless souls.
I want to love Him more and more! …
My life will pass like a single day
And soon without veil or cloud
I will see Jesus, my love. There….
On that Heavenly shore,
He will embrace me forever!!!

They have passed for you, the days of victory
And honor.
Already your enemies seek to hide your glory
In their rage.
Soon they will take you and make you a prisoner.
A dark dungeon
Will become your shelter, you will be without light.
But every evening
Descending to you, Joan, sweet martyr,
We who love you
Will sing to the tune of our lyre
To delight you.
Do not fear, poor child, you will be consoled
In your sorrow.
We promise you, you will be delivered
By the Lord!….

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

Pious Recreation 3: Joan of Arc Accomplishing Her Mission

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 8

 The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul. 

Sayings of Light and Love, 100

 

SCRIPTURE

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

John 17:6-19

 

MEDITATION

“What is truth?” (Jn 18:38)

Pontius Pilate’s rhetorical question echoes through the centuries.

St. Edith Stein reminds us that Pilate could have asked a more essential question: Who is truth?

In her meditation, The Hidden Life and Epiphany, Edith touches on this question as she makes use of the Epiphany manger scene to make an analogy for the Church and its development. 

The kings at the manger represent seekers from all lands and peoples. Grace led them before they ever belonged to the external church. There lived in them a pure longing for truth that did not stop at the boundaries of native doctrines and traditions. Because God is truth and because he wants to be found by those who seek him with their whole hearts, sooner or later that star had to appear to show these wise men the way to truth. And so they now stand before the Incarnate Truth, bow down and worship it, and place their crowns at its feet, because all the treasures of the world are but a little dust compared to it. 

“God is truth… he wants to be found… that star had to appear.” Edith, in her matter-of-fact, German way, minces no words. God isn’t hiding after all, he’s in our midst, standing before our eyes, just as Jesus stood before Pilate. Jesus, Incarnate Truth, was standing before the governor who asked him, “what is truth?”

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity seems to be speaking to us when she writes:

I understand that you need an ideal, something that will draw you out of yourself and raise you to greater heights. But, you see, there is only One; it is He, the Only Truth! Ah, if you only knew Him a little as your Sabeth does! He fascinates, He sweeps you away; under His gaze, the horizon becomes so beautiful, so vast, so luminous…. My dear one, do you want to turn with me toward this sublime Ideal? It is no fiction but a reality. (Letter 128)

Are you serious? Where is this horizon? Because in the darkness where we’re hiding, it’s difficult to see. And once again, it is St. John himself who responds:

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart. (Sayings 27)

Hiding in glory… there’s a concept that we don’t see or hear every day. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it seems that God is the one who is doing all the hiding while we’re waiting around for him to show up. Is there anyone who understands what St. John of the Cross means?

St. Thérèse does! The language of “hiding” was one of her favorite concepts, especially in her poetry, and it’s a transferable concept, meaning that it’s not strictly applicable to the cloistered life. For example:

My Sweet Jesus, on your Mother’s breast
You appear to me, glowing with Love.
Love—this is the indescribable mystery
That exiled you from the Heavenly Abode…
Ah! Let me hide under the veil
That hides you from all mortal eyes
And close to you, O Morning Star!
I’ll find a foretaste of Heaven.

(Pn 1)

Here, Thérèse is talking about hiding under the Blessed Virgin’s veil, not necessarily hiding under the veil of a Carmelite nun. Hiding under the veil of the Virgin Mary is an image that is more approachable for us, perhaps. But the Infant is glowing on Mary’s breast, glowing with Love, and is there a hint of glory in that image, too?

Here’s another example from the poetry of St. Thérèse:

The unspeakable gaze of your Son—
Upon my poor soul he deigned to look down;
I looked for his adorable face
And in Him, I want to be hidden.
I’ll have to stay little forever
To deserve the glances from his eyes;
But by virtue of that, I will soon grow up
Under the heat of this heavenly star.

(Pn 11)

Now, we are getting more of a sense of how Thérèse has captured St. John’s profound concept of hiding in glory, yet she has expressed it in the language of littleness, that loving gaze of Jesus, and yet at the same time—while remaining hidden—there is light and heat generated by the Lord, having a direct effect on her spiritual life.

This is all very heady stuff. But it seems that for Thérèse, the key to hiding in glory is to be found in the face of Jesus. The Gospel of John and St. Paul testify to this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (…) And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:1-5,14)

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)

Well if that’s the case, gazing on the face of Christ and hiding in the face of Christ, must be a key to “growing up” as Thérèse said; growing in prayer, growing in faith, growing in hope, and our goal… growing in love. After all, that’s our aim.

We’ll let St. Thérèse have the last word, then, about hiding in the face of Jesus:

Ah! Let me, Lord, hide in your Face.
There I will no longer hear the trivial noise from the world.
Give me your love, preserve me in your grace
Just for today.

(Pn 5)

Ah…. silence.

 

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.

 

Praying John of the Cross 16-17th c Carmel de Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00984
St. John of the Cross in prayer
French, late 16th-17th c.
Oil on canvas, no date
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.

 

 

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 BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

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

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Elizabeth of the Trinity, S 2003, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 2: Letters from Carmel, translated from the French by Nash, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC

 

The English translation of the poetry of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission and proper attribution.

 

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 7

To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but on the greatness of its humility.

Sayings of Light and Love, 103

 

SCRIPTURE

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit,
a humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.

Psalm 51

 

MEDITATION

“O sweetest love of God, so little known, whoever has found this rich mine is at rest!” (Sayings, 16) This is the song of St. John of the Cross, his canticle of love distilled down to its very essence. 

God truly loves us, St. John reminds us through his letters. He tells us that God cannot fit in hearts that are occupied with distractions, that are attached to people, places, or things that mean more to us than God himself. God only fits in hearts that have been emptied to make room for him.

It seems that nada—nothingness within us—isn’t so farfetched after all. Cleansing our souls is like the necessary spiritual housekeeping that must be done prior to any Nativity moment in our spiritual lives; without that soul-cleansing, that housecleaning in our hearts, there will always be a NO VACANCY light shining outside the inn within. How can God find space to squeeze in here?

St. Edith Stein says that the moment we reach the realization that we need to clean house is the moment when we are on the threshold of making the greatest spiritual progress. Recalling the spiritual sense of dryness, darkness, and emptiness that we mentioned in the meditation for our sixth day of this novena, Edith offers this reflection on the state of the soul in her final masterpiece, The Science of the Cross (SC):

She [the soul] is put into total darkness and emptiness. Absolutely nothing that might give her a hold is left to her anymore except faith. Faith sets Christ before her eyes: the poor, humiliated, crucified one, who is abandoned on the cross even by his heavenly Father. In his poverty and abandonment, she rediscovers herself. Dryness, distaste, and affliction are the “purely spiritual cross” that is handed to her. If she accepts it she experiences that it is an easy yoke and a light burden. It becomes a staff for her that will quickly lead her up the mountain. (SC 10)

Accepting the dryness we experience in prayer, the distaste, the affliction, these are all signs that we actually are clearing out space for God within. 

When she realizes that Christ, in his extreme humiliation and annihilation on the cross, achieved the greatest result, the reconciliation and union of mankind with God, there awakens in her the understanding that for her, also, annihilation, the “living death by crucifixion of all that is sensory as well as spiritual” leads to union with God. (SC 10)

And by the way, there is a little voice in Dijon, France who takes up the refrain: it is St Elizabeth of the Trinity, singing so sweetly in the pages of her Last Retreat (LR):

If my interior city (cf. Rev. 21) is to have some similarity and likeness to that “of the King of eternal ages” (I Tim 1:17) and to receive this great illumination from God, I must extinguish every other light and, as in the holy city, the Lamb must be “its only light.”

Here faith, the beautiful light of faith appears. It alone should light my way as I go to meet the Bridegroom. The psalmist sings the He “hides Himself in darkness” (Ps 17:12), then in another place he seems to contradict himself by saying that “light surrounds Him like a cloak” (Ps 103:2). What stands out for me in this apparent contradiction is that I must immerse myself in “the sacred darkness” by putting all my powers in darkness and emptiness; then I will meet my Master, and “the light that surrounds Him like a cloak” will envelop me also, for He wants His bride to be luminous with His light, His light alone, “which is the glory of God.” (LR 4)

So there it is: the challenge, the call is to accept, welcome, embrace and—so to speak—hide in the dark and empty spaces within us, not running to another distraction, another attachment, another new idol in our lives to fill up that interior void. It is at the point when we feel (and know) the emptiness within, the void that we are creating and/or that God is helping us to create so that we can spend time and focus on him—whether that is accepting a loss of some sort of attachment, or purposefully choosing to give up a distracting activity in order to spend more time going to daily Mass, making time for daily Scripture reading, or praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or the rosary, or going to Eucharistic adoration, or practicing silent mental prayer instead of (name your distraction here).

At this point when we have a hunger and a thirst for God that is so strong and powerful that we are willing to sacrifice and say, “all for you and nothing for me” (Sayings 111), we also find ourselves crying out to God, “but I can’t do this alone, by myself!” When we are ready to give up and have reached the point of abandon, we’ve reached the most crucial moment of all because…

That is the truth.

“I never sought anything but the truth,” St. Thérèse said in the hours before her death (Yellow Notebook, 30 September).

St. Teresa set the benchmark in the Interior Castle: “To be humble is to walk in truth” (IC VI, 10:7)

And how will we know when we’re meeting the benchmark for St. John of the Cross?

The humble are those who hide in their own nothingness and know how to abandon themselves to God. (Sayings 163)

 

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.

 

Bust of John of the Cross 17th c. Carmel of Pontoise Palissy POP 95W00986
Bust of St. John of the Cross
17th c. French
Oil on canvas, no date
Carmel of Pontoise
© Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Diffusion RMN-GP. Used by permission.
Latin inscription upper left: QVID TIBI PRO LABOR
Latin inscription at base: PATI. ET. CONTEMNI. PROTE

 

 

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 BibleSelections from the psalter appear in the Liturgy of the Hours.

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

All of the citations from the Sayings of Light and Love are drawn from The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition (1991), translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

of the Trinity, E 2014, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 1: General Introduction Major Spiritual Writings, translated from the French by Kane, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Quote of the day: 10 December

Loreto really charmed me!

And what shall I say about the Holy House? Ah! how deep was my emotion when I found myself under the same roof as the Holy Family, contemplating the walls upon which Jesus cast His sacred glance, treading the ground bedewed with the sweat of St. Joseph, under this roof where Mary had carried Jesus in her arms, having carried Him in her virginal womb. I beheld the little room in which the angel had appeared to the Blessed Virgin. I placed my rosary in the little bowl of the Child Jesus. What ravishing memories!

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

Manuscript A, folio 59 verso

 

I was delighted to hear that today all three of you are in the little House of the Blessed Virgin [Loreto, 12-13 November 1887)… One must no longer feel outside one’s Homeland there. It’s the Homeland in exile. When shall we be reunited in the other Homeland that we can never leave?

Mother Agnès of Jesus, O.C.D. (Pauline)

Letter to her father, St. Louis Martin
9 November 1887

 

On a hillside, the Santa Casa [of Loreto] is entirely covered with marble, but not on the inside. Statue of the Blessed Virgin in cedarwood [carved] by St Luke. Madonna’s bowl. Altar where St. Peter said his first Mass after the Ascension of Our Lady.

– To reach Loreto by rail we saw Imola at the foot of the hills, Senigallia home of Pius IX. Gastelfidardo a historic memory.

It was on the Gospel side that Thérèse and I received Holy Communion, in the little corner, very close to the altar. In the Basilica, we avoided placing ourselves under the staff of the Grand Penitentiary!

Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face, O.C.D. (Céline)

Notebook from her pilgrimage to Rome

 

Santa Casa di Loreto interior Holly Hayes Flickr 2380270906_ff3bf7a6a3_o
Holly Hayes, sacred_destinations / Flickr

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 4

The soul that walks in love neither tires others nor grows tired

Sayings of Light and Love, 97

 

SCRIPTURE

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

 

MEDITATION

“Love makes _____.”

How would you complete this sentence?

Our answers may give us clues as to how we understand love: God’s love, our love for God, and how love, in all its forms—filial, erotic, and caritative—is at work in our lives. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul is talking about charity, or what some refer to as agape love (αγαπη).

And like a professor standing at a blackboard or whiteboard, Paul defines his term, including both what love is and what it is not. We can feel fairly certain that he is sketching some of the basic parameters of love… as St. John of the Cross might define it in his saying, an untiring love.

Now, nowhere in this passage of his first letter to the Corinthians is St. Paul scolding the Church for possessing a lack of love or a warped concept of love. The context of this chapter is an instruction on worship in the Corinthian church, and how any worship—no matter how glorious it may be—that lacks the spiritual gift of charity, i.e. love, is so much dust in the wind. Hence that famous verse that we so often hear at weddings: “Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away” (1 Cor 13:8)

It was in reading these chapters that St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus found her inspiration one day. “I opened the Epistles of St. Paul to find some kind of answer. Chapters 12 and 13 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians fell under my eyes… the Apostle explains how all the most PERFECT gifts are nothing without LOVE. That Charity is the EXCELLENT WAY that leads most surely to God” (Ms B, 3r-3v). Therefore, St. Paul urges the Corinthians, “make love your aim” (1 Cor 14:1).

St. John Paul II noted this inspired reading of First Corinthians in his 1997 Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia:

She discovered hidden treasures, appropriating words and episodes, sometimes with supernatural boldness, as when, in reading the texts of St Paul (cf. 1 Cor 12-13), she realized her vocation to love (cf. Ms B, 3r-3v). Enlightened by the revealed Word, Thérèse wrote brilliant pages on the unity between love of God and love of neighbor (cf. Ms C, 11v-19r).

St. Thérèse did not develop her mad love for God in a vacuum. Love was her aim from her youth, as she testified time and time again in her autobiographical manuscripts and letters. St. John Paul II explained the nature of her formation when he declared Thérèse to be a Doctor of the Universal Church:

Her doctrine, as was said, conforms to the Church’s teaching. From childhood, she was taught by her family to participate in prayer and liturgical worship. In preparation for her first Confession, first Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation, she gave evidence of an extraordinary love for the truths of the faith, and she learned the Catechism almost word for word (cf. Ms A, 37r-37v).

So what was this untiring love that St. Thérèse learned in her family? What did it look like? Who were her models?

When a Doctor of the Universal Church is born to a pair of Saints, one doesn’t have to look very far because ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’ In fact, one particular letter from her mother, Saint Zélie Guérin Martin to her father, Saint Louis Martin, provides us with an example of the untiring love that was taught by example in the Martin family home. Written during the summer of 1873 after the birth of Thérèse, Zélie takes Pauline and Marie with her to visit her brother and the Guérin family in Lisieux. Can you read untiring, selfless love in these lines?

Lisieux, August 31, 1873

My dear Louis,

We arrived yesterday afternoon at four-thirty. My brother was waiting for us at the station and was delighted to see us. He and his wife are doing everything they can to entertain us. This evening, Sunday, there’s a beautiful reception in their home in our honor. Tomorrow, Monday, we’re going to Trouville. Tuesday there will be a big dinner at the home of Madame Maudelonde and, perhaps, a drive to the country house of Madame Fournet. The children are thrilled and if the weather were good, they’d be ecstatic.

As for me, I’m finding it hard to relax! None of that interests me! I’m absolutely like the fish you pull out of the water. They’re no longer in their element and they have to perish! This would have the same effect on me if I had to stay a lot longer. I feel uncomfortable, I’m out of sorts. This is affecting me physically, and it’s almost making me sick. However, I’m reasoning with myself and trying to gain the upper hand. I’m with you in spirit all day, and I say to myself, “Now he must be doing such and such a thing.”

I’m longing to be near you, my dear Louis. I love you with all my heart, and I feel my affection so much more when you’re not here with me. It would be impossible for me to live apart from you.

This morning I attended three Masses. I went to the one at six o’clock, made my thanksgiving and said my prayers during the seven o’clock Mass, and returned for the high Mass.

My brother is not unhappy with his business. It’s going well enough.

Tell Léonie and Céline that I kiss them tenderly and will bring them a souvenir from Lisieux.

I’ll try to write you tomorrow, if possible, but I don’t know what time we’ll return from Trouville. I’m hurrying because they’re waiting for me to go visiting. We return Wednesday evening at seven-thirty. How long that seems to me!

I kiss you with all my love. The little girls want me to tell you that they’re very happy to have come to Lisieux and they send you big hugs.

Zélie

(Family Correspondence CF 108)

 

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.

 

ancien eglise de Leucate Diocese de Carcasonne-Narbonne Joconde # 11W02069
Saint John of the Cross
17th c. French painting
Saints Pierre et Paul des Etangs (Leucate), Diocese of Carcasonne-Narbonne
Photo credit: Ministère de la Culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, diffusion RMN-GP

 

 

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.

The autobiographical manuscripts and family correspondence are found on the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux. The English version of the website appears here and the complete French version of the website is found here.

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 3

If you desire that devotion be born in your spirit and that the love of God and the desire for divine things increase, cleanse your soul of every desire, attachment, and ambition in such a way that you have no concern about anything. Just as a sick person is immediately aware of good health once the bad humor has been thrown off and a desire to eat is felt, so will you recover your health, in God, if you cure yourself as was said. Without doing this, you will not advance no matter how much you do.

Sayings of Light and Love, 78

 

SCRIPTURE

This is what we have heard from him, and the message that we are announcing to you: God is light; there is no darkness in him at all. If we say that we are in union with God while we are living in darkness, we are lying because we are not living the truth. But if we live our lives in the light, as he is in the light, we are in union with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth; but if we acknowledge our sins, then God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and purify us from everything that is wrong. To say that we have never sinned is to call God a liar and to show that his word is not in us.

I am writing this, my children, to stop you sinning; but if anyone should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is just; he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away, and not only ours, but the whole world’s. We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, “I know him,” and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth. But when anyone does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him. We can be sure that we are in God only when the one who claims to be living in him is living the same kind of life as Christ lived.

1 John 1:5-2:6

 

MEDITATION

“Cleanse your soul,” writes Our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross. This is the medicine, the remedy he prescribes to those who are sin-sick and desire health and wholeness in Christ. Cleansing the soul of all that is not God enables us to grow in devotion, the desire for the things of God, and to grow in the love of God.

What are we cleansing? Desire. Attachment. Ambition. St. John of the Cross leads us on an examination of conscience with these three points.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) provides a veritable smorgasbord of theological and catechetical delights upon which we may feast in its article on the Tenth Commandment. (CCC 2534-2557) “The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the heart,” and that goes precisely to the heart of the teaching of St. John of the Cross. Although the teaching of the Catechism rightly focuses on “coveting the goods of another” (CCC 2534), St. John would caution us to examine our disordered desires for another’s spiritual goods, not simply temporal goods. Who among us has not desired or envied someone else’s contemplative spirit, prayerful attitude, or Christlike zeal?

The Catechism says that “the sensitive appetite leads us to desire pleasant things we do not have” (CCC 2535). But Our Holy Father John of the Cross explains how his teaching encompasses more than just the senses: “God gathers together all the strength, faculties, and appetites of the soul, spiritual and sensory alike, so the energy and power of this whole harmonious composite may be employed in this love” (Dark Night II, 11:4).

Love: that must be our true ambition. First, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; then, to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lk 10:27). St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus went one step further, praying: “You know, Lord, that my only ambition is to make you known and loved” (Pri 8). If we are willing to do some regular housekeeping, we will progress—step by step— toward the desired state of having “no concern about anything”, just like an infant in its mother’s arms (cf. Ps 131:2).

Saint Raphael Kalinowski, a Discalced Carmelite friar from Poland who learned about the Carmelite order by reading the lives of the saints during years of forced labor in the salt mines of Usole, Siberia, has some housekeeping suggestions for us. May the beauty and depth of his words bring us a message of hope and encouragement as we read and understand the teaching of Our Holy Father St. John of the Cross.

As the raging sea seems to feel displeasure at all that pollutes it, and desires to expel from itself anything foreign, so that the beauty of the mysteries it holds might appear to view in all clarity, so the soul does not tolerate anything within itself unless it is of God or leads to God; approaching confession from the abyss of her misery, she casts off everything, desiring to preserve in herself only the image of God according to which she was created, to look only at him and to rejoice only in him. In her love-filled tears she receives a shower of graces that descend from the wounds of her Savior. The misery of sin makes way for grace, the thorns become roses, and even the very poison of sin changes into an antidote for the soul. Here are the fruits of a good confession: it purifies, heals, fortifies, and beautifies the soul.

All that we have treated so far leads us back to what we discussed at the beginning: imitating our Holy Father by using the means the Savior left us to purify our soul, to preserve the heart ever pure in order to be able to transform it into an altar of the living God, and to become enamored of him in suffering and being despised: Altare Dei, cor nostrum! Humilis corde, cor Christi est [The altar of God is our heart; the humble heart is like the heart of Christ].

In the sketch of the Ascent of Mount Carmel drawn by Our Holy Father John of the Cross, we read: “Here there is no longer any way because for the just . . . there is no law.” This means that if all the prescriptions of the law have as their object the love of God, when this is fully attained, the prescriptions cease of themselves. True repentance, in crushing the heart of man, crushes everything opposed to the love of God and destroys all that does not lead to him…

And all this through Mary.

(Excerpts from On a Good Confession, 24 November 1902)

 

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.

 

jan_od_krzyza_Carmel of Usole PL
Icon of St. John of the Cross venerated by the Discalced Carmelite friars of the Krakow Province at Holy Trinity House of Prayer in Piotrkowice | 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.

Praskiewicz OCD, S 1998, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, Translated from the Italian by Coonan, T, Griffin OCD, M and Sullivan OCD, L, ICS Publications, Washington, D.C.

St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 2

All for me and nothing for you.

All for you and nothing for me.

Sayings of Light and Love, 110-111

 

SCRIPTURE

I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upward to receive in Christ Jesus. We who are called “perfect” must all think in this way. If there is some point on which you see things differently, God will make it clear to you; meanwhile, let us go forward on the road that has brought us to where we are.

Philippians 3:8-16

 

MEDITATION

“Nothing for me.” The nada—that absolute, naked, utter nothing—of Saint John of the Cross can seem so stark, even off-putting to a novice reader of the Church’s Mystical Doctor. Nothing for me? How can this be?

In order to unpack these absolutes, it helps to have a reference point. Saint Paul can help us to understand the purpose of striving for such nakedness, such emptiness, the possession of nothing to the point of being nothing.

In the verses preceding our Scripture reading, St. Paul lists all the reasons that he had to boast of his “Hebrew-ness”. He even calls himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” That’s a rather bold statement. Yet despite all of his reasons to boast of his Hebrew and Pharisee pedigree, he says that nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus.” (Ph 3:8) There’s that absolute qualifier again: nothing.

But Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes further: “For Him, I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish.” St. Paul is getting out his virtual work gloves, his virtual broom, dustpan, trash bags, and taking inventory of his life as one would assess their home and property with an insurance adjuster after a fire or natural disaster, understanding that all one possessed is a total loss, ready to be hauled away with the garbage.

Ah, but there’s a reason for rejoicingclearing away the rubbish creates total and absolute room for Christ: “if only I can have Christ and be given a place in Him.”

This contrast of self-emptying to be filled with something greater in St. John of the Cross and St. Paul the Apostle reminds us of the self-emptying in the life of Christ:

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. (Ph 2:6-9)

And as we look at St. Paul’s words, it is interesting to look further at his all-or-nothing contrasts. We know what he considers to be nothing, a pile of rubbish. With what does he seek to replace it? Let’s search his text for the simple word, all. “All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death… All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come” (Ph 3:10,13). Yes, nothing for me leaves all for you. That is, essentially, what St. John of the Cross said, in the stark all-and-nothing contrast of his saying, todo para ti y nada para mí.

If the nada of St. John of the Cross and the rubbish-heap imagery of St. Paul still leave us wondering how to attain such noble, holy aspirations, it is St. Paul’s great disciple, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity who can show us the way. In her retreat Heaven in Faith (First Day, second prayer) she writes:

We must not, so to speak, stop at the surface, but enter ever deeper into the divine Being through recollection. “I am still running,” exclaimed St. Paul (Ph 3:12); so must we descend daily this pathway of the Abyss which is God; let us slide down this slope in wholly loving trust. “Deep calls to deep” (Ps 42:8). It is there in the very depths that the divine impact takes place, where the abyss of our nothingness encounters the Abyss of mercy, the immensity of the all of God. There we will find the strength to die to ourselves and, losing all vestige of self, we will be changed into love…. “Blessed are those who die in the Lord” (Rev 14:13)!

 

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.

 

StJohn_Orleans-France
Orléans, France

 

 

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.

of the Trinity, E 2014, The Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity volume 1: General Introduction Major Spiritual Writings, translated from the French by Kane, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC

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: 20 November

November 23, 1887
Wednesday

My dear little sisters,

Rejoice! it is when all seemed lost that all is gained… We went to Naples and Pompeii yesterday and the day before with Mme. Bénard. During this time, Papa went to see the superior of the Brothers, to shake his hand and to thank him for the recep­tion he had given him two years ago with M. l’abbé Marie. The Brother was charmed. Papa spoke to him frankly; he recounted the audience we had on Sunday, Thérèse’s desires, her request, all the ups and downs, the sadness she experienced. The superior knew that Marie, Papa’s oldest daughter, had entered Carmel. He had never seen such a thing and he was very much enthused about our family. He understood this very well, and he him­self—if he had not entered the Brothers when young—believes that he would not have gone, and he thanked God every day for having called him when young (he is fifty years a Brother). He was noting down what Papa was saying about Thérèse, and he offered to speak about her to M. Révérony. But listen to the very end:

Papa stood up to leave and whom did he see enter but M. Révé­rony!… You may judge his surprise and that of the brother. M. Révérony was very much charmed by Papa; he seemed to be re­pentant. He reminded Papa that the Sovereign Pontiff had spo­ken to him particularly, because [M. Révérony] had introduced him by telling the pope that two of his daughters were Carmelites. Papa asked him if he had heard anything regarding the bishop’s decision, and he added: “You know very well that you had prom­ised to help me.” What a good Father! Then he recounted Thé­rèse’s grief at the audience and especially when he had replied that the matter was being examined by the superiors, etc. M. Révérony was touched, I believe, and he is beginning to believe that Thérèse’s vocation is extraordinary. He even said: “Well! I will assist at the ceremony; I’m inviting myself.” Papa told him he would be happy to have him and all sorts of amiable things were exchanged between them. That is what Papa told us this morning—I could not keep this in and I am writing to you immediately. To show you the promptitude with which I am writing this, I hardly waited for Papa to finish and in the office of the hotel I seized a piece of paper and a pen and here I am!….

Are you happy, dear little sisters? Perhaps even before this let­ter, you have some rays of hope, perhaps you even know more good news than we do. I believe we have won M. Révérony’s sym­pathy. Thérèse was so pretty at the feet of the Holy Father. She was kneeling at his feet, her hands joined on the pope’s knees, and her eyes were so pleading! It was beautiful to see her this way, and then I followed, in tears, asking for a blessing for the Carmel. This scene was touching, I assure you.

It could have influenced M. Révérony. So all goes well, what joy! I believe the trials are quite close to being over. . . .

Au revoir my darlings. We must go to dinner.

Your little Céline

Pisa, Hôtel de la Minerve Nice, Beau Rivage Marseille, Grand Hôtel de Marseille, you know the dates.

Letter from Céline to Agnes of Jesus and Marie of the Sacred Heart

 

Céline1903-TH-et-LeonXIII_fusain
Thérèse kneels at the feet of Pope Leo XIII, charcoal drawing by Céline Martin | Image credit: Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux

Quote of the day: 16 November

Dear little Aunt, since she has been on the mountain of Carmel, your little Thérèse feels still more deeply, if that be possible, the af­fection she has for you; the more she learns to love Jesus, the greater, too, becomes her tenderness for her dear relatives.

The little gift which our good Mother was happy to have made for your feast will tell you better than I, dear Aunt, what I am powerless to tell you. My heart is filled with emotion when seeing this poor hair which undoubtedly has no other value but the delicate workmanship and the gracefulness of its arrangement, but which nevertheless was loved by him whom God took away from us.

Dear little Aunt, do you understand? I am happy when seeing it is to her—who is dearest to me in this life, after my Father—this hair is offered, which he would have received with so much pleasure.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Letter 133 to Mme. Guérin (excerpt)
16 November 1891

 

hair Buissonets
The beautiful, long hair of Saint Thérèse hangs over her bed in the family home, Les Buissonets, in Lisieux | Marc_Dan / Flickr, as published in “Les cheveux de sainte Thérèse, ou le sacré comme dispositif” by Marie Caillat, Les Cahiers de l’École du Louvre, 2/2013

 

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Online Retreat 2019 — Advent

Online Retreat 2019

Advent

With François de Sainte-Marie

Communing in the life of grace with Mary


Dear friends, here we are once again to invite you to live this Advent in a spirit of communion through an online retreat prepared especially for you by the Discalced Carmelite friars. 

If you are already registered and have received the meditations from one of the previous retreats, you do not need to register again and it is not too late to register even though Advent has begun.

However, don’t hesitate to extend an invitation to your friends and acquaintances so that they can register using the form on the website www.retreat-online.karmel.at

We suggest that you download the A4 poster and distribute it to your Christian community, parish, ecclesial movement, association, or prayer group. You also can promote this initiative through social media.

Inviting others to pray through the retreat is an excellent way to evangelize and witness to your faith.

This Advent we will be guided by the writings of Father François de Sainte-Marie, a Discalced Carmelite friar from the Paris province who consecrated his brief life (1910-1961) to pass on the treasures of the Carmelite heritage. His best-known project was the publication of the autograph manuscripts of Thérèse of Lisieux, under the title Autobiographical Manuscripts, which today is published under the title Story of a Soul. It brings to light his knowledge of the doctrine of little Thérèse, his scientific mind, and at the same time a great human sensitivity.

At the end of November, you will receive the first introductory text of this Advent retreat. Then you will receive the meditations for each of the 4 weeks of Advent, with the following themes:

– 1st Sunday: Return to the Gospel

– 2nd Sunday: Outstanding educator

– 3rd Sunday: Delight of the little ones

– 4th Sunday: Abyss of grace

Christmas: “True Marian devotion”

The content will be available so that you may organize your moments of meditation during the week. The texts were prepared by Discalced Carmelite friars from Avon, France, and the translation into English was prepared by Secular Carmelites from North America.

The online retreat is free of charge. You can register or unsubscribe at any time.  

If you have any difficulty in receiving the meditations, please send an email to: webretiro@karmel.at

With this invitation to the online retreat, we extend our sincere wishes for a blessed Advent!

Carmelite Quotes on behalf of

fr. Roberto Maria OCD
and the Discalced Carmelites in Austria

Quote of the day: 29 October

Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
of the Holy Father John Paul II

VITA CONSECRATA

On the consecrated life and its mission in the Church and in the world


The prophetic character of the consecrated life

 

84. The prophetic character of the consecrated life was strongly emphasized by the Synod Fathers. It takes the shape of a special form of sharing in Christ’s prophetic office, which the Holy Spirit communicates to the whole People of God. There is a prophetic dimension which belongs to the consecrated life as such, resulting from the radical nature of the following of Christ and of the subsequent dedication to the mission characteristic of the consecrated life.

The sign value, which the Second Vatican Council acknowledges in the consecrated life, is expressed in prophetic witness to the primacy which God and the truths of the Gospel have in the Christian life. Because of this pre-eminence, nothing can come before personal love of Christ and of the poor in whom he lives.

The Patristic tradition has seen a model of monastic religious life in Elijah, courageous prophet and friend of God. He lived in God’s presence and contemplated his passing by in silence; he interceded for the people and boldly announced God’s will; he defended God’s sovereignty and came to the defense of the poor against the powerful of the world (cf. 1 Kg 18-19).

In the history of the Church, alongside other Christians, there have been men and women consecrated to God who, through a special gift of the Holy Spirit, have carried out a genuinely prophetic ministry, speaking in the name of God to all, even to the Pastors of the Church.

True prophecy is born of God, from friendship with him, from attentive listening to his word in the different circumstances of history. Prophets feel in their hearts a burning desire for the holiness of God and, having heard his word in the dialogue of prayer, they proclaim that word with their lives, with their lips and with their actions, becoming people who speak for God against evil and sin.

Prophetic witness requires the constant and passionate search for God’s will, for self-giving, for unfailing communion in the Church, for the practice of spiritual discernment and love of the truth. It is also expressed through the denunciation of all that is contrary to the divine will and through the exploration of new ways to apply the Gospel in history, in expectation of the coming of God’s Kingdom.

 

Extraordinary Definitory India February 2015
Discalced Carmelite Friars from Spain, Lebanon, and India gather at the Extraordinary Definitory Meeting in India, February 2019 | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelite General Curia (Used by permission)

 


Father Jesús Castellano Cervera, O.C.D. was one of the group of religious who served as experts and auditors at the 1994 Ninth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that convened in Rome from 2 – 29 October 1994. The topic of discussion among the synod members was “The Consecrated Life and Its Role in the Church and in the World”.

In 1995 at the international Encuentro for the Familia Teresiana of Saint Enrique de Ossó, Father Jesús Castellano shared a few of his impressions of the 1994 Synod from the Carmelite perspective. We are grateful to Father Iván de Jesús Mora Pernía, O.C.D. for transcribing Father Castellano’s remarks so that we might share them with our readers. The Spanish translation is our own.

We were able to note from within the Synod the presence of Carmel in the Church through the resonance of our figures who frequently were called exemplary witnesses and models of consecrated life in history. Thérèse of Lisieux was in first place among our most remembered saints. There were those who officially requested in the synod hall that she should be declared a Doctor of the Church. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross and other saints of ours were named very frequently. From the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches came a word of thanks for the history of Carmel in their Churches and for the patient presence that is still alive in the regions of the Middle East such as Iraq, Lebanon,  and Egypt. The Secretary-General of the Synod at the end had a very special memory for St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, “that woman who has been an excellent witness of consecrated life in the mission of the Church” and made her famous texts resonate in the Synod hall: “In the heart of the Church I will be love”. John Paul II in the final homily of the Synod wanted to remember how our three best-known saints are present in the history of the holiness of the Church written by the religious: Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross at the time of the Protestant Reformation, and Thérèse of Lisieux, closest to us.

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