St. John of the Cross Novena — Day 5

In tribulation, immediately draw near to God with trust, and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.

Sayings of Light and Love, 66

 

SCRIPTURE

Have mercy on me, God, men crush me;
they fight me all day long and oppress me.
My foes crush me all day long,
for many fight proudly against me.

When I fear, I will trust in you,
in God whose word I praise.
In God I trust, I shall not fear:
what can mortal man do to me?

All day long they distort my words,
all their thought is to harm me.
They band together in ambush,
track me down and seek my life.

You have kept an account of my wanderings;
you have kept a record of my tears;
are they not written in your book?
Then my foes will be put to flight
on the day that I call to you.

This I know, that God is on my side.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not fear:
what can mortal man do to me?

I am bound by the vows I have made you.
O God, I will offer you praise
for you rescued my soul from death,
you kept my feet from stumbling
that I may walk in the presence of God
and enjoy the light of the living.

Psalm 56

 

MEDITATION

Oh, blessed tribulation, that sure sign that God is madly in love with you.

Tribulation is a word that is no longer part of our daily vocabulary. It appears in word puzzles and still makes its way into Hollywood film scripts, although it sounds more appropriate coming from the lips of the revered British actor Charles Laughton, whose King Herod once posed the legendary rhetorical question: “Why does the prophet visit me with worse than the tribulations of Job?”

Saint Teresa of Jesus understood what Saint John of the Cross meant when he was writing about tribulation because she had seen her fair share of it in her lifetime. Here’s just one example from Testimony 53 written in Seville, 8 November 1575:

On the octave day of All Saints I spent two or three very troublesome days over the remembrance of my great sins and because of some fears of my being persecuted that had no foundation, except that false testimony was going to be raised [She had been falsely accused before the Inquisition of Seville]. And all the courage I usually have for suffering left me. Although I wanted to encourage myself, and I made acts and reflected that this suffering would be very beneficial to my soul, all these actions helped me little. For the fear didn’t go away, and what I felt was a vexing war. I chanced upon a letter in which my good Father [Jerome Gracián, Discalced Carmelite and Apostolic Visitor] refers to what St. Paul says, that God does not permit us to be tempted beyond what we can suffer (1 Cor 10:13). That comforted me a lot, but it wasn’t enough. Rather, the next day I became sorely afflicted in seeing I was without him, since I had no one to whom I could have recourse in this tribulation. It seemed to me I was living in great loneliness, and this loneliness increased when I saw that there was no one now but him who might give me comfort and that he had to be absent most of the time, which was a great torment to me.

On the next night, while reading in a book a saying of St. Paul which began to console me, I was thinking of how present our Lord had previously been to me, for He had so truly seemed to be the living God. While I was thinking about this, He appeared in an intellectual vision, very deep within me, as though on the side where the heart is, and said: “Here I am, but I want you to see what little you can do without Me.”

I felt reassured right away, and all my fears were gone. While I was at Matins that same night, the Lord, through an intellectual vision so intense it almost seemed to be an imaginative one, placed Himself in my arms as in the painting of the fifth agony. This vision caused me great fear. For it was so clear, and He was so close to me that I wondered if it was an illusion. He told me: “Don’t be surprised by this, for My Father is with your soul in an incomparably greater union.”

This vision has so remained up till now. What I said of our Lord lasted more than a month. Now it is gone.

Now, we may not be falsely accused before the Inquisition, but in our daily lives, we see plenty of tribulation. And Saint Teresa makes it clear that if we are seeking to make love our ambition, to grow in that untiring love of which St. John of the Cross speaks, then we will be blessed with tribulation.

Blessed with tribulation?

“It is clear that since God wants to lead those whom He greatly loves by the path of tribulation—and the more He loves them the greater the tribulation—there is no reason to think that He despises contemplatives, for with His own mouth He praises them and considers them His friends.”  (Way 18:1)

But what if I don’t want to be a contemplative? 

For the faithful, this truly is not an option if we desire to be united with Christ in heaven, where we will be contemplatives for all eternity! St. Paul writes, “and we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

The Catechism reminds us: 

Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory “the beatific vision.”

Citing St. Cyprian, the Catechism continues:

How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends. (CCC 1028)

To be able to contemplate Christ for all eternity, the tribulation is worth it.

We notice that a great Saint and Doctor of the Church like Our Holy Mother Teresa was not immune from tribulation and anxiety. She was suffering terribly: there were “very troublesome days” and fears of being persecuted. She had lost her courage, and every remedy, every action that normally helped in past situations didn’t help at all. She was stuck in her fears and left with what she calls a guerra desabrida… a rather unsavory war—fruitless, vexing, and pointless. Even reading a letter from the priest who meant more to her than any other friar in the world couldn’t console her; his advice was to read St. Paul, but she admitted that it  “comforted me a lot, but it wasn’t enough.”

Poor St. Teresa, she was really in emotional distress and in a spiritual bind. The next day she became even more upset because Father Gracián wasn’t there to encourage and console her in her anxiety. “I had no one to whom I could have recourse in this tribulation” and for her, the loneliness seemed to be the worst part.

St. John of the Cross says that it’s in times like these that we must “immediately draw near to God with trust” and that is exactly what St. Teresa did. She didn’t give up praying, seeking, and hoping, and she didn’t abandon God. Quite the opposite: she continued to draw near to God, even though He seemed distant or hiding. It seems that she may have had difficulty praying with peace, so she turned to spiritual reading instead.

Now, the Lord made himself known to St. Teresa at that moment through a mystical experience. However, that may not necessarily be the path the Lord chooses for each one of us. What St. John of the Cross explains is that if we draw near to God with trust, then we will receive “strength, enlightenment, and instruction.”

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity gives the following advice to ordinary folks like you and I for how best to draw near to God when troubled or anxious  in those moments that St. John and St. Teresa called “tribulation”:

You must build a little cell within your soul as I do. Remember that God is there and enter it from time to time; when you feel nervous or you’re unhappy, quickly seek refuge there and tell the Master all about it.

Ah, if you got to know Him a little, prayer wouldn’t bore you anymore; to me it seems to be rest, relaxation. We come quite simply to the One we love, stay close to Him like a little child in the arms of its mother, and we let our heart go.  (Letter 123)

 

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.

 

Evasion de saint jean de la croix Carmel de Pontoise 95W00982
The Escape of St John of the Cross
18th c. French
Oil on canvas, 1768
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, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, 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
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.

 

29 November: Blesseds Denis and Redemptus

November 29
BLESSEDS DENIS OF THE NATIVITY, PRIEST,
AND REDEMPTUS OF THE CROSS, RELIGIOUS

Martyrs

Optional Memorial
in the provinces of India: Memorial

Denis of the Nativity, a priest, called in the world Pierre Berthelot, was born in Honfleur in France in 1600. He was a cartographer and naval commander for the kings of Portugal and France before he joined the Discalced Carmelites in Goa in 1635. It was also at Goa that the Portuguese lay brother, Thomas Rodriguez da Cunha, born in 1598, had made his profession in 1615, taking the name Redemptus of the Cross. They were sent to the island of Sumatra (Indonesia), where, in the town of Achen (Aceh), they received the martyr’s crown on November 29, 1638.

From the common of several martyrs

Office of Readings

Second Reading
From The Ascent of Mount Carmel by Saint John of the Cross

(Bk 2, Ch 7:5—ed. Kavanaugh-Rodriguez 1979, pp. 122-24)

True self-denial means carrying Christ’s Cross

If anyone wishes to follow my way, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For he who would save his soul shall lose it, but he who loses it for me shall gain it. Oh, who can make this counsel of Our Savior understandable and practicable and attractive, that spiritual persons might become aware of the difference between the method many of them think is good and that which ought to be used in traveling this road! They are of the opinion that any kind of withdrawal from the world or reformation of life suffices. Some are content with a certain degree of virtue, perseverance in prayer, and mortification, but never achieve the nakedness, poverty, selflessness, or spiritual purity (which are all the same) that the Lord counsels us here. For they still feed and clothe their natural selves with spiritual feelings and consolations rather than divesting and denying themselves of these for God’s sake.

Through this kind of conduct, they became, spiritually speaking, enemies of the cross of Christ. A genuine spirit seeks the distasteful in God rather than the delectable, leans more toward suffering than toward consolation, more toward going without everything for God rather than toward possession. It prefers dryness and affliction to sweet consolation. It knows that this is the significance of following Christ and denying self, that the other method is perhaps a seeking of self in God—something entirely contrary to love.

If a man resolutely submits to the carrying of this cross, if he decidedly wants to find and endure trial in all things for God, he will discover in all of them great relief and sweetness. A man makes progress only through imitation of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one goes to the Father but through him. This way is nothing other than a death to our natural selves.

Responsory

If anyone wishes to follow my way,
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
They have persecuted me, and they will persecute you.
Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Morning Prayer

Canticle of Zechariah

Ant. Blessed are you when you are persecuted on my account: rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

Prayer

Father,
we celebrate the memory of Blesseds Denis and Redemptus
who died for their faithful witnessing to Christ.
Give us the strength to follow their example,
loyal and faithful to the end.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

Evening Prayer

Canticle of Mary

Ant. They loved Christ in their lives and imitated Him in their death: and so they reign with Him forever.

 

 

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Photos from the convent of the Discalced Carmelite Friars in Banda Aceh, Indonesia courtesy of the Discalced Carmelite General Curia (used by permission) 

Quote of the day: 7 September

Here, at last, comes Sabeth to sit down by her dearest Framboise and visitwith her pencil! I say pencil, for the heart-to-heart communion was established long ago, and we are now as one.

How I love our evening rendezvous; it is like the prelude of that communion from Heaven to earth that will be established between our souls. It seems to me that I am like a mother bending attentively over her favorite child: I raise my eyes and look at God, and then I lower them on you, exposing you to the rays of His Love.

Framboise, I do not use words when I speak to Him of you but He understands me even better for He prefers my silence. My dearest child, I wish I were a saint so I could help you here below while waiting to do it from Heaven. What I would not endure to obtain for you the graces of strength that you need!

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity
Letter 310 to Françoise de Sourdon 

 

golden gate bridge sunset thomas hawk flickr 102270031_eb1423eba4_o
My Love She Speaks Like Silence | Thomas Hawk / Flickr

 

Catez, E 2014, Letters From Carmel, translated from the French by Nash, A, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 30 May

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 — 1 Kings 19:4-8

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.


Commentary

The biblical story tells us that Elijah was awakened and fed by God because God does not want anyone to be afraid and remain asleep. Precisely at the time of greater darkness and weariness is when the prophet listens once again to the word of the Lord — two different times — speaking through an angel, saying: “Get up and eat.”

After eating the first time, Elijah goes back to sleep.

 

Sometimes crisis in our lives is so great and there is so much discouragement, that it is difficult to get up and walk; but God is not overcome by our weakness.

 

God insists for the second time in feeding Elijah: “Get up and eat, because the road before you is very long, it is greater than your strength”.

God does not want us to feel fearful; neither does he want us to sleep. That is why he feeds the prophet, just like he feeds all of us when we feel deflated, frustrated, and hopeless.

 

God takes what seems like the end of the road and turns it into a new horizon;  what we experience as death is transformed into the beginning of a new life.

 

Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Homily, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (excerpt)
Mount Tabor Parish, Managua — 12 August 2018

 

PalmSunday2019_Esquipulas_CARLOSHERRERA-04
Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D. | Carlos Herrera / Confidencial (Used by permission)

 

Silvio José Báez, O.C.D. is one of eighteen living bishops who are affiliated with the Discalced Carmelite order; he is the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua. He began his Discalced Carmelite formation in the General Delegation of Central America in 1979 and was ordained a priest 15 January 1985. He pursued advanced studies in Sacred Scripture and biblical geography and archeology in Rome and Jerusalem. In 1999 he defended his doctoral thesis in biblical theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on the subject, Tiempo de callar y tiempo de hablar: el silencio en la Biblia Hebrea (A time to keep silence, and a time to speak: silence in the Hebrew Bible). Serving as a seminary professor, he authored numerous articles and books, speaking at conferences and retreats, and served on the council of the general delegation. In 2006 he was appointed Vice-President of the Pontifical Faculty of Theology Teresianum in Rome, where he was Professor of Sacred Scripture and Biblical Theology and Spirituality; in addition, he was the editor of the theology journal Teresianum. On 9 April 2009 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Managua and Titular Bishop of Zica.

On 30 May 2009 Silvio José Báez, O.C.D, was ordained bishop in the Cathedral of Managua. The principal consecrator was Archbishop Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Archbishop of Managua; the principal co-consecrators were Archbishop Henryk Józef Nowacki, Titular Archbishop of Blera and Bishop César Bosco Vivas Robelo, Bishop of León en Nicaragua.

You may view his episcopal lineage / apostolic succession here.

 

#BAEZ BLAZON
The coat of arms of Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D. reflects his background as a native of Nicaragua — seen in the image of the volcano and the lake on the left — and as a Discalced Carmelite friar, exemplified by the emblem of the Order on the right. At the base of the shield is the scripture with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega (Rev. 22:13). The bishop’s motto is, “For Your Word.” | SajoR / Wikimedia Commons

 

Scripture commentary translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission

.

BAEZ - The joy of the Lord
Excerpt from a homily for the Third Sunday in Advent by Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D. of the Archdiocese of Managua, Nicaragua

Advent 1: Alert

The reason for this dryness is that God transfers his goods and strength from sense to spirit … But through this nourishment the spirit grows stronger and more alert.

Saint John of the Cross

gary-bendig-169660-unsplash
Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Porque la causa de esta sequedad es porque muda Dios los bienes y fuerza del sentido al espíritu … mas el espíritu que va recibiendo el manjar, anda fuerte y más alerto.

San Juan de la Cruz

The Dark Night: Book One, Chapter 9
The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross, Revised Edition
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.
With Revisions and Introductions by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D.
ICS Publications
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

 

29 November: Blessed Denis and Redemptus

November 29
BLESSED DENIS AND REDEMPTUS
Martyrs

Memorial

Denis of the Nativity, a priest, called in the world Pierre Berthelot, was born in Honfleur in France in 1600. He was a cartographer and naval commander for the kings of Portugal and France before he joined the Discalced Carmelites in Goa in 1635. It was also at Goa that the Portuguese lay brother, Thomas Rodriguez da Cunha, born in 1598, had made his profession in 1615, taking the name Redemptus of the Cross. They were sent to the island of Sumatra (Indonesia), where, in the town of Achen (Aceh), they received the martyr’s crown on November 29, 1638.

From the common of several martyrs

Office of Readings

SECOND READING
From The Ascent of Mount Carmel by Saint John of the Cross

(Bk 2, Ch 7:5—ed. Kavanaugh-Rodriguez 1979, pp. 122-24)

True self-denial means carrying Christ’s Cross

If anyone wishes to follow my way, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For he who would save his soul shall lose it, but he who loses it for me shall gain it. Oh, who can make this counsel of Our Savior understandable and practicable and attractive, that spiritual persons might become aware of the difference between the method many of them think is good and that which ought to be used in traveling this road! They are of the opinion that any kind of withdrawal from the world or reformation of life suffices. Some are content with a certain degree of virtue, perseverance in prayer, and mortification, but never achieve the nakedness, poverty, selflessness, or spiritual purity (which are all the same) that the Lord counsels us here. For they still feed and clothe their natural selves with spiritual feelings and consolations rather than divesting and denying themselves of these for God’s sake.

Through this kind of conduct, they became, spiritually speaking, enemies of the cross of Christ. A genuine spirit seeks the distasteful in God rather than the delectable, leans more toward suffering than toward consolation, more toward going without everything for God rather than toward possession. It prefers dryness and affliction to sweet consolation. It knows that this is the significance of following Christ and denying self, that the other method is perhaps a seeking of self in God—something entirely contrary to love.

If a man resolutely submits to the carrying of this cross, if he decidedly wants to find and endure trial in all things for God, he will discover in all of them great relief and sweetness. A man makes progress only through imitation of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one goes to the Father but through him. This way is nothing other than a death to our natural selves.

RESPONSORY

If anyone wishes to follow my way,
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
They have persecuted me, and they will persecute you.
Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Morning Prayer

CANTICLE OF ZECHARIAH

Ant. Blessed are you when you are persecuted on my account: rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

PRAYER

Father,
we celebrate the memory of Blesseds Denis and Redemptus
who died for their faithful witnessing to Christ.
Give us the strength to follow their example,
loyal and faithful to the end.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

Evening Prayer

CANTICLE OF MARY

Ant. They loved Christ in their lives and imitated Him in their death: and so they reign with Him forever.

Denis-Redemptus

BAEZ - Anyone who dares to love BLOGsize
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5)
BAEZ - Today too we need a mysterious, efficacious bread
Elijah got up, ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to walk forty days to Sinai, the holy mountain. (1 Kings 19:8)

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