“Ecce, Fiat, Magnificat,” Blessed Virgin Mary

I can’t remember now where I saw these three prayers of Mary illuminated—it may have been Magnificat magazine; but they had to have entered my heart then in such a way that I was not even aware because they have come back to me again and again through many days, at all hours of the day and night inviting me to pray them with Mary.  In Scripture, Mary says so very little.  These few words capture much of Our Lady’s essence, so succinct and sweet are they.

“Ecce,” the Latin for “Behold” as found in Luke 1:38 captures the initial part of Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel.  After he has greeted her, telling her that she has been chosen to bear God’s Son, and she has asked how this can be since she has no relations with any man and Gabriel has answered her, she first says, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”

This is the same word used by Pilate to present the scourged Jesus to the crowds during His passion: “Behold the man.”  [John 19:5].  With “Ecce” Jesus is revealed in all His humiliation, crowned with the mockery of the thorns, torn by the whips, covered—not with His own garments—but with a scarlet cloak thrown by the soldiers over His naked, bloody body in perfect ridicule. He is exposed and opened in His vulnerability to the whole world represented by the crowd.  The crowd responds brutally, with condemnation and rejection.

In her “Ecce” Mary exposes herself, reveals herself as a willing handmaid, ready to serve the Father. She does not shrink nor hide from His gaze or His choice, but lets His gaze and choice fall on her as He wills.  In the suddenness of Gabriel’s appearance, she is given no notice or time to reflect or prepare, yet she is completely and immediately open—detached from all of her own expectations, plans, or desires, completely unencumbered.  It is as if the Father had said, “Show me,” and she simply reveals herself, in complete transparency all of herself,  holding nothing back—in her simplicity concealing nothing, perfectly empty of any reality but the Father Himself, perfectly open to whatever the Father suggests.

The “Ecce” of Jesus and Mary is identical, for they are identical in exposing themselves to whatever befalls them from the Father’s will, whatever touch His hand may bring to them, whether condemnation, suffering, consolation, approval, grief or glory. They stand alike, exposed, vulnerable, nothing in their hands, open to whatever befalls them.

Completing her answer, Mary continues her response to the angel Gabriel: Fiat—“May it be done to me according to your word.” [Luke 1:38] Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez tells us: “…full and loving acceptance of the Father’s will should place you in the state of victimhood, exposed and disposed to everything that the Father may want; and also, in the state of mystical priesthood, offering yourself and all your children to that will, beginning with Jesus.”  [Conchita & Ven. L. Martinez, To Be Jesus Crucified, p 22]

With her “Ecce”, Mary exposes herself without reserve to the Father, holding nothing back, neither hiding nor avoiding this sudden attention.  Now, with “Fiat,” she is fully disposed to embrace His Will in total abandonment.  If her arms were open and waiting before, they are now in a position of embrace, stretched out to Him in acquiescence and anticipation. This embrace is the same embrace with which Jesus greeted the Cross.

Finally, Mary gives us her “Magnificat,” –“My soul magnifies the Lord.” [1:46] Mary spontaneously breaks into this canticle of joy, thanksgiving, and praise in response to Elizabeth’s greeting to her: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” [Luke 1:45] This one word, Magnificat,” contains all the fullness of Mary’s heart and spirit.  This one word contains all the richness of the entire canticle—the canticle which comprises the longest selection of Mary’s words in all of Scripture.  Mary’s entire life, her heart and breath, are a living, uninterrupted Magnificat, in the face of all she experiences, whether confusion and hardship, loss, suffering, consolation, approval, grief or glory.

Let us invite these three powerful prayers of Mary to enter our own hearts and spirits, especially during this Advent.  They are most powerful, evocative ejaculations containing the essence of Mary.  If we want to pray with Mary, to enter her spirit, to live with her as our mother and guide, we will do well to pray Ecce, Fiat, Magnificat.” Let us shape our hearts to their rhythm and truth, conform our spirits to their power and grace.

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“Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” Rom. 8:35

Years ago, I first truly heard St. Paul while I was in the convent.  During these earliest years, like St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, I hungrily ate everything that Paul offered in his epistles. Like most young people, I took everything to heart; but I wonder today how much I actually understood.

Then, in the 70’s in Charismatic prayer meetings I learned the song:  “Who can separate us from the love of God? Can tribulation or distress, or persecution or famine or nakedness, or peril or sword, from the love of our Lord? Who can separate us from the love of God?”

 This week as I determined again to read St. Paul’s epistles, I began with Romans.  When I reached Romans 8, I discovered anew this beautiful hymn which has been repeating itself in my heart for several days.  The melody is haunting and beautiful, of course; but it is the message that is all encompassing.  For years, every time I heard St. Paul’s litany of crises in Romans 8, I would ask myself if any one of these things would be able to separate me from the love of God. I was fearful that I would fail.

 I did fail, for I left the Church for many years.  And how many others have done so as well.  I know that if I have been separated from the love of Christ once, it could very well happen again.  But I am neither fearful nor anxious, because I also know this now—what I did not grasp before—what St. Paul tells us: “the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness.” [Rom. 8:26]

What I did not understand before is my misery, a veritable abyss of utter poverty and inability to stand on my own.  I probably knew it intellectually;  but I did not experience it, so I did not live it. What I must bring to mercy is misery. [Misery & Mercy, St. Faustina]

I took for granted the gift of mercy, the gift of faith.  I expected and presumed when I should have hoped, embracing my actual poverty and misery. I took the Holy Spirit, the Flame of Love, for granted.

In Romans 9:15, St. Paul cites what Yahweh said to Moses:  “I will show mercy to whom I will,  I will take pity on whom I will.”

In every moment we can only hope for mercy, not expect it.  We cannot take mercy for granted, for it is pure gift, pure grace.  Only the poor in spirit can begin to hope for salvation and holiness. [Poverty of spirit and expectations, Simple Path, p 279-280]

As I reflected on Romans 8, on St. Paul’s list, I realized that it is indeed a list of crises, extreme events; and perhaps we are blind-sided by them, for it is not the major crises that so often derail us, but the accumulation of minutia that kills faith and dims fervor, zeal, and love.  Not the crises, but the commonplace, stifles the heart. Inattention and neglect of the other gradually makes us blind.  What we take for granted will betray the one we love. What kills the ordinary marriage may be the sudden unexpected crisis, the deceitful betrayal of infidelity, but the great infidelity is usually preceded by many trivial infidelities.

With good reason, I have always feared Christ’s admonitions in St. John’s Revelation—again it is the faithful Spouse speaking to the treachery of the bride:

“…I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first.” [Rev. 2:4]

“I have not found your works complete in the sight of God….” [Rev. 3:2]

“…because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth…”  [Rev. 3:16]

What to do?  St. Paul tells St. Timothy: “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” [2 Tim. 1:6]

What is the gift of God? –the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is the Life of the soul, the sacred Flame of Trinitarian Love.  We must constantly pay attention to the Holy Spirit, “the bond of unity.”  The flame will wither and die without attention, without feeding, without stirring:  reading, prayer from the heart, acts of love in frequent adoration, mindful worship, meditation/contemplation, good works with conscious intentionality.

What marriage can survive without daily loving attention, fanning the flame with tenderness, loving gazes, affection, kind acts, sacrifice?

In The Simple Path to Union, we read:  “Pope Benedict XVI encourages us to live a ‘daily martyrdom in fidelity to the Gospel… we cannot give in to compromise when it comes to our love for Christ, for His Word, for His Truth. The Truth is the Truth; there is no compromise. The Christian life requires, as it were, the ‘martyrdom’ of daily fidelity to the Gospel, the courage, that is, to allow Christ to increase in us and to direct our thoughts and actions. ” [Ch. 3, p. 139]

If we are faithful in little things, we will have nothing to fear when crises come.  The Flame of God  will burn brightly in anyone who lives the daily martyrdom of love in fidelity to Christ and to the Gospel.  Jesus assures us, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” [Mt. 10:19-20]

“The Gaze of Jesus–Logos” — Dr. Peter Kreeft

This week as I reflected on Dr. Peter Kreeft’s beautiful article about the Jesus Prayer, he revealed information about the LOGOS, the Greek word which is usually translated WORDLOGOS is the Eternal Word of EWTN, the Word which appears in John’s Gospel, etc.

Even “Word” itself is powerful when we remember that Jesus is the entire fullness of the Father’s speaking Himself.  I explained in an earlier post: “The Father speaks one Word….Jesus is the Plenitude of the expression of the Father’s essence. There is nothing that the Father is, that is not totally expressed and radiated by Jesus in His divinity.”  [“Jesus is the Radiance of the Father” ]

But Peter gives us another wonderful translation: “One of the meanings of this incredibly rich word [Logos] in ancient Greek, the word given to the eternal, divine, pre-incarnate Christ, is “gathering-into-one”. When we pray this prayer and invoke Jesus the Logos, Jesus the Logos acts and does in fact unify our consciousness. But this is not what we aim at; we aim at him.”

Peter explains earlier: “Our usual consciousness is like an unruly, stormy sea, or like a flock of chattering monkeys, or a cage of butterflies, or a hundred little bouncing balls of mercury spilled from a fever thermometer. We cannot gather it together. Only God can, for God is the Logos.”

It is not merely our consciousness that we cannot gather together.  We cannot gather ANYTHING together.  Paul makes this clear that without Jesus—Logos, everything falls apart.  Romans 11:36 exclaims: “For from Him and through Him and for Him all things are.”

Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross.” The Eternal Word/Logos acts, reconciles, and gathers together EVERYTHING through Jesus—but not merely through Jesus in His Incarnation, but gathering/effecting/bringing about unity “by the blood of His cross.” Truly, we are made whole only through His blood.

This is His mission, the interior martyrdom which even today burns Jesus’ Sacred Heart with fiery thirst, a thirst which the scribes, the Pharisees, the crowds, the disciples, even the apostles did not understand. Neither do we.

In Matthew’s gospel, gazing at the crowd and at his disciples, Jesus denounces at length the scribes and Pharisees, finally exclaiming:  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” [Mt. 23:37]

What is most wrenching in this final exclamation are these words: “…how many times I yearned to gather your children together….” How many times has Jesus gazed on His holy city, on His chosen people, on His Church, on the confused crowds who followed Him everywhere only to reject Him?  How many times has He watched disciples walk off in disbelief, disappointment, apathy, scorn, or follow Him merely for miracles of bread and fish multiplied, for relief and solutions, for easy, free healings, for excited expectations of wondrous works, for hopes of deliverance from oppressive government and taxes?

He has gazed at all of us, while we have not even begun truly to see Him, to gaze at Him.  Yet He longs to gather us as a hen gathers her chicks.  Jesus’ use of this analogy reveals the depth of His distress.  What is more tender than this loving image of the mother hen calling her babies, opening her wings, enfolding and gathering her young beneath her wings, enclosing these weak ones in the warmth of her breast?  How urgent is this refuge for their safety! The lone chick who wanders off is utterly vulnerable.  If the chicks scatter in different directions, they are doomed; they will be killed, injured, or starved; for the mother cannot secure them beneath her wings. Jesus cries, “How often?”  implying that he has gazed at the crowds and disciples, all of them, all of us—often; and just as often, we have run from His sheltering wings.

He says elsewhere in Matthew: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” [Mt. 12:30]

Peter Kreeft explains Logos to us in the process of urging on us the Jesus Prayer.  Here again I found fire and urgency: “Every time we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we are instructed by the liturgy to pray, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” All our energy and effort is not strong enough to heal our own souls, but God’s word of power is. That word is so powerful that by it God made the universe out of nothing, and by it he is doing the even greater deed of making saints out of sinners. That word is Jesus Christ.”

Finally, what electrifies me in the Jesus Prayer is the name of Jesus, central to the prayer.  Alone, this aspect of the prayer is pure grace.  Peter explains:  “The very act of praying “Jesus” effects what it signifies, brings about what the name “Jesus” signifies, which is “Savior,” or “God saves.”  The realization takes our breath away.  Peter explains,  “The Catechism says: “To pray ‘Jesus’ is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies” (CCC 2666)…. God comes to us on his name like a king on his stallion.”

In our sorrow, in our confusion, in our darkness, in our misery, in our consolation and joy, in our ordinary, hidden lives which we feel hold so little consequence, the name of Jesus, “Jesus,” Jesus Himself, is always waiting for us on our next breath, in our pulsing blood, and in our next heartbeat—if we but have the will.

[See also A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, 2-D “The Gaze of Jesus,” p. 50]

“The Prayer of Peter”

Before we had St. Peter, we had Simon son of John, a married, knowledgeable fisherman whose friends and partners were other fishermen, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, the Sons of Thunder.  In Simon’s house lived his wife, family, his mother-in-law. He also had a brother, Andrew.  All of these people would be drawn to an intinerant preacher of the Word of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

What draws me to Peter is the simple exchange which happened between him and Christ after the Resurrection, and Peter’s words to Jesus: “Lord, you know everything; You know that I love you.”

These beautiful, humble words of our first Pope I pray often, as I relish the life of the great fisherman, who lived through astonishment, surviving his own big mouth, his brashness and exaggerations, his doubt, mistrust and fear, periodic serious lapses of faith coupled with sincere and intense declarations of love and faith, his cursing, repeated denials of the Lord with whom he lived so intimately for three years, to his final, humble protests of love which would lead ultimately  to his own crucifixion upside-down because he felt unworthy to suffer and die in the same way that his Master had died.

We cannot begin to appreciate this, Peter’s prayer, unless we have the backstory on Peter.   What is the everything to which St. Peter refers?

The Lord, Christ Messiah and Savior, knows EVERYTHING of Simon, son of John, who from the beginning Jesus calls Cephas, Rock, despite Peter’s over-confidence and eventual denial.

In John 1: 40-42 , we read:  “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

This seems to be the initial encounter.  Jesus clearly already sees what Peter’s role will be, though Peter himself has no idea what is coming. Jesus’ popularity grows as hundreds of hungry Israelites are drawn to his fresh approach to justice, mercy, to Yahweh. Crowds have already begun to press in on this young carpenter to hear what He has to say.

At the same time, or maybe shortly thereafter, Luke explains in his Gospel 1:5-8: “While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” 9 For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, 10 and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”

The signs performed by Jesus are so great that these fishermen abandon their livelihoods, committing themselves to follow him. How powerful must be their experience that they toss aside their need to care for their families, their homes, their boats, the emotional entanglements which each of them surely has, to follow this man Jesus.  None of them has any idea what His mission is at this point, but they must be convinced that He is being led by God.  They have no idea yet that He is the Word of God in very flesh.

They see repeatedly that Jesus has a personal touch. His spirituality is not remote, but immediate, warm, and personal. He comes into their homes, eats with them.  In Matthew 8:14-15  Jesus enters the house of Peter; and seeing Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever, He touches her hand, the fever leaves her, and she rises and waits on Him.

Though personal and warm, Jesus constantly gives evidence that He is so much more than the average man, teacher, or rabbi.   Matthew 14: 25-31 provides this witness: “During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. 27 At once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Showing himself at once brash and over confident, and wishing to show Christ his faith and trust, Peter is caught in this account between his relationship with a Rabbi whom he likes,  admires, and respects, and a developing relationship with the Lord of all creation, a Savior and Deliverer, with the Son of Man who he would come to believe is the Son of the Living God.

Not only Peter, but others are hearing and seeing more from Jesus and of Jesus.  Many are wondering, “What manner of man is this?”  Jesus checks his apostles’ understanding at this time in Matthew 16: 13-19: “When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Peter has crossed a threshold here, from human faith in a man in whom he has come to believe and love, to the Anointed one, the Messiah, the Chosen one of God, the Father’s only begotten Son—Son of the Living God. To back down now, to retract this level of faith would be apostasy.  There is no going back.  At the same time, Jesus begins more and more to give privileged access of Himself to Peter, as well as to James and John.

For example, in Luke 8: 51 when Jesus enters a home to raise from the dead a little girl, He permits only Peter, James and John to enter the house.

Though Peter, James, and John clearly realize by now that Jesus is divine, that all things are possible to Him, they still do not realize that in His role as Messiah, He will be also the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:

“3 He was spurned and avoided by men,/  a man of suffering, knowing pain, /Like one from whom you turn your face,/spurned, and we held him in no esteem./4 Yet it was our pain that he bore,/ our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken,/ struck down by God and afflicted, / 5 But he was pierced for our sins,/ crushed for our iniquity./ He bore the punishment that makes us whole,/  by his wounds we were healed. /  6 We had all gone astray like sheep,/ all following our own way;/ But the LORD laid upon him/ the guilt of us all. / 7 Though harshly treated, he submitted/ and did not open his mouth;/ Like a lamb led to slaughter/ or a sheep silent before shearers,/ he did not open his mouth. / 8 Seized and condemned, he was taken away./ Who would have thought any more of his destiny?/ For he was cut off from the land of the living,/ struck for the sins of his people./ 9 He was given a grave among the wicked,/ a burial place with evildoers,/ Though he had done no wrong,/ nor was deceit found in his mouth. / 10 But it was the LORD’s will to crush him with pain./ By making his life as a reparation offering,/ he shall see his offspring, shall lengthen his days,/ and the LORD’s will shall be accomplished through him.”

Consequently, Jesus begins to prepare the twelve for the truth of His mission.  In Matthew 16: 21-23, we read:  “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. 22 Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” 23 He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Peter is hearing Christ, but not listening. He doesn’t want to hear this, so, as he has done before, he puts his foot in his big mouth.  Like the others who are arguing on the way to Jerusalem about which of them will be greatest in the Kingdom of God [Luke 9:46], like the mother of James and John who asks that her two sons sit on either side of Jesus when He enters into His kingdom [Mark 10:35-45], they all think that Jesus’ role will be one of victory, honor, and glory—perhaps supplanting the power of the Romans who rule them, and whom they despise.  None of the twelve are thinking the way God thinks, but as men think.  The Passion of the Christ is inconceivable to Peter; ever extreme, he declares, “Never can this happen to You!”

Because Jesus knows their hard hearts, because He recognizes the scandal that His passion will present to these men, He gives his inner circle, Peter, James, and John, the experience of the Transfiguration. The vision of His glory, the voice of His Father once again witnessing to His true identity, are meant to increase their faith, to strengthen and sustain them in the awful test of their faith in the coming trial that will test their souls.

Matthew 17: 1-6 –”After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. [About His coming passion and the events of the three days before His resurrection.]4 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.”

Rather than understanding Jesus’ intent in revealing His glory, Peter, spokesman for the three apostles, once again misinterprets, misunderstands, what this is all about.  So dazzled is he by the transcendent light and the unexpected vision of Moses and Elijah, that he simply wants to stay there. He misses the boat once again.

Once down from the mountain, Peter sees the rich young man turn away from Christ because of his material possessions.  We read in Matthew 19:23-28 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Once again, Peter shows his desire to be rewarded for his having left all to follow Jesus, asking: “What are we going to get out of this?”  But be assured that he would again misunderstand Jesus’ response about “you who have followed me, in the new age….” They expect this glorious age NOW.

Jesus continues to prepare his apostles for His imminent passion, for the test of their faith. In Matthew 26: 31-35, we read, “Then Jesus said to them, “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed’;32 but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter said to him in reply, “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And all the disciples spoke likewise.”

Peter casts off Jesus’ warning.  Ever the brash and over-confident leader, he believes that he is incapable of betrayal even though everyone else betrays Christ, even should he face death.

Jesus’ teachings intensify.  When he promises His very flesh for food, and His own blood for drink, many of His followers abruptly leave Him. In John 6: 66-69 we read, “… many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Peter’s love and faith are strong, but he truly lacks self-knowledge.  He does not know of what he is capable.  He never doubts his sincere love and loyalty; he has no concept of his own weakness  and self-serving interests.  As Jesus would tell him later, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak [Mt. 26:41].

Our beloved Peter is truly a man of extremes.  Have you noticed that? He says, “Even though everybody else denies you, I never will!  Even though I have to die, I will never deny you.” As the beloved three, Peter, James, and John are seated close to Jesus at the Last Supper, he proceeds yet again to proclaim himself the extreme devotee of Christ in John 13:5-9 . “Then he [Jesus]poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”

It is only when Jesus tells him, “Unless I wash your feet, you will have no part of Me.”  Then—still the extremist, he declares, “Then wash ALL of me!”

Seeking the comfort of His inner circle, in Matthew 26: 36-40 Jesus takes Peter, James and John with Him into the Garden of Gethsemane to watch and pray, and ultimately to witness His agony; but when He leaves them a short distance away, all three of them go to sleep. Never has He asked a favor of His beloved friends, but to watch an hour with Him—and they fail Him. Peter, along with the rest, fails him.

            We find our brash leader acting out once again in John 18:10-11 as Peter cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest.  Thinking as man thinks, not as God thinks, completely oblivious to Isaiah 53, Peter’s idea of loyalty is to strike with the sword, so Jesus tells him, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”

Despite his view of himself as the loyal follower of Jesus, not only does he deny Him, but he does so vehemently, with oaths and cursing.  He is too afraid to come close to where Jesus is being held and interrogated, so he follows at a safe distance.  We read in Matthew 26:69-75 of Peter’s last denial:  “As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.” 72 Again he [Peter] denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man!” 73 A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away.” 74 At that he began to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately a cock crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly.”

As extreme as were his mistaken loyalties and denials, so too his extreme grief and sorrow over what he has done—acts of betrayal of which he could never admit he might be capable. Luke 22:61 tells us that when the cock crows, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” Peter remembers all that the Lord told him, how He warned him, and grief and penitence clutch his heart as his tears sweep over him in a storm of sorrow. Even his sorrow is extreme, larger than life, but utterly sincere. Peter’s great fall was inevitable because he lacked self-knowledge.  The grace of this immense storm in Peter’s life was to lead him to self-knowledge, a knowledge he would probably never have reached had he not denied his Lord.

Just as Peter denies Christ three times, Jesus gives Peter three opportunities to affirm his love. After Jesus’ resurrection, the twelve go out fishing at night.  Coming in weary and hungry early in the morning, John recognizes Jesus on the beach, “It is the Lord.”  True to form, brash and eager, Peter leaps from the boat and swims to shore where Jesus has cooked fish for them.

In John 21:15-17, we read:   “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Peter is distressed that Jesus has to ask him three times if he loves Him, so on the third time, he adds: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

            Everything is all that has come before:  all the ups and downs, the misinterpretations, the misunderstandings, the rebuke, the failures of trust, the fears, the denials, the brashness, the eagerness and over-confidence.  If the Lord knows all of this, He also knows the sincere intensity of Peter’s love which remains after all of the failings.

We can all identify with our beloved Peter, our Rock, and how Christ uses flawed, often blind and mistaken, broken men in His Church, to be his inner circle, to be His beloved friends and victim souls.  Let us often pray with St. Peter: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love You.”

In The Simple Path to Union, we often meditate on self-knowledge: “We lack self-knowledge because we are afraid to see the truth, what requires a change in us. Instead of facing our wounds, fears and wrong-doing, we try to make deals with God, offering Him good works to appease our consciences. At the same time, we use many masks to hide our sins. We should not be satisfied having some superficial self-knowledge; we should seek to live wrapped in the gift of self-knowledge by humbly acknowledging our sins, our nothingness and our inability to do anything without the grace of God. St. Peter tells us: “Wrap yourselves in humility” (1 Pet 5:5). Jesus will then give us self-knowledge in surprising ways through people, situations, and Scripture [Simple Path, pp. 37-38] .

How appropriate that it is our beloved father, St. Peter himself, who admonishes us: “Wrap yourselves in humility.” God sometimes permits a mighty fall if only to give us the grace of humility, for it is only in humility, in being broken, that we can come to self-knowledge.

 

“The Grace of the Storm,” Lourdes Pinto, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

Several weeks ago, our spiritual mother, Lourdes, of Love Crucified Community, gave us a teaching, “Faith:  Do I Believe?” which we revisited this week in light of the storm raging in the Church at this time.  As I prayed over the reflection this morning, it became clear to me that I must share her profound insights which give us so much clarity and consolation.

Lourdes began with Isaiah 7:2, the shaking of Israel: “…the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” (Is 7:2) God permits this storm to enter into the lives of His nation, Israel, SO THAT their faith can be strengthened. By the way they acted, the condition of their hearts is revealed, so God tells Isaiah to tell His people to “Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint.” (Is 7:4)

The storm means profound suffering for Israel, and Lourdes explains that all suffering can be of two types, either a storm or a thorn.  A storm is intense, but rages a relatively short time, while the thorn is a chronic suffering, as was St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” provoked by Satan which Paul begs three times for the Lord to remove.  Instead the Lord tells him, “My strength is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” [ 2 Cor. 12:9]

Why the suffering at all?  It is in suffering that the condition of our hearts is revealed.  How we act in the storm, in suffering, reveals the condition of our souls, of our hearts.  Do we become confused, anxious, fearful, angry, resentful, distrusting? The storm is a BLESSING because it gives us a specific grace, “the grace of the storm” revealing any darkness in the heart, any weakness, any flaw in faith, hope, and love.

Our lives are filled with storms, the storm in the Church, an argument with a spouse, a family crisis, a bout of unemployment or severe illness, etc.

Lourdes explains:  “During the storm our hearts can feel wounded, as if pierced, and at that moment, when we are feeling wounded, hurt, vulnerable, scared, confused, angry, frustrated, discouraged or resentful, when we’ve been “shaken” like the Israelites, is available to us the blessing of the grace of that particular storm—the grace of the KNOWLEDGE of the condition of our hearts.”

In Matthew 8:18-34, as Jesus is sleeping in the boat, and when the storm arises, the apostles are terrified of sinking.  Their lack of faith is clearly revealed to them, as Jesus tells them: “You of little faith; why are you so afraid?” In the storm which we experience, it seems to us that Jesus is sleeping—does He even care that we are perishing?  But through the storm, He helps us to recognize that we, too, are of little faith.

Whatever the storm, God is not asleep, but permits it for our own good.  Jesus tells us: “Trust, for there isn’t a suffering I permit that will not bring you into the union of love I desire.” [The Simple Path to Union, #93, p. 266]

The wisdom of the saints gives us good direction here:

     “St. Ignatius also teaches that while we are under a storm we are being purified by fire and the Lord does not speak. [He seems to be sleeping.] Instead He gives us the grace to remain faithful to what He had told us previously. Therefore, during the storm do not make changes in your life. Hold firm until calm returns.” [The Simple Path to Union, p. 68]

St. Ignatius is telling us to be patient, to stand firm under fire, to do nothing hasty, not to go off half-cocked! We cannot outrun the storm or leave the boat, but must endure the fearful rocking with our eyes and hearts on our Lord and God till He quells the winds and waves, even while we are smarting from our lack of faith, our lack of trust.  We must be resolved to

To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
—as the old song goes.

The storm leads us to deeper self-knowledge and repentance.  As we live through this crisis in our beloved Church, let us not meditate on how this or that prelate must repent, do penance, or be thrown from the barque of Peter, but look to our own hearts, to our own lack of faith and trust in God’s will.

In conclusion, let me repeat the beautiful words of The Simple Path to Union through which Jesus tells us:  Believe in the power of My Cross and the power of My Precious Blood, for it is only through the Triumph of My Cross that all darkness will be conquered. Live, love and suffer as ONE with Me; and you will become the sword that will pierce this darkness.”  [#25, p.78]

“The Passion of the Church”

As we reflect on what is happening in our beloved Church today, I cannot help but think of this section  from the Catholic Catechism:  The Church’s ultimate trial

675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.”

Of course, the Catechism is referring to the great Apostasy and the pseudo-messianism of the false prophet and Antichrist, a secular “great hope” which will promise to solve the global problems of mankind only if he will forsake his faith in Christ for faith in the Antichrist.  Yet it seems to me that our current crisis is itself a kind of final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. If not the final trial, it is the beginning of the end. Legitimate Catholic prophecy helps us to interpret and understand our own times so that we may live the faith.  We will look at a couple of these prophecies.

We can recognize our current crisis in an excerpt from the words of Our Lady which came to us in 1973 from Akita, Japan:

The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

“The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness…” [A Simple Path to Union, p. 396-397]

In his book, Faith and the Future, in 1969, long before he became our supreme pontiff, Pope Benedict spoke words to us which today seem quite prophetic:

The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, she will lose many of her social privileges. … As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. …

“It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. … The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain… But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

“Consequently, it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.” [A Simple Path to Union, pp. 383-384]

During Adoration this morning, my heart was drawn to Jesus and His apostles, and to this thought:  Jesus chose Judas. He knew that Judas would eventually betray Him, yet he called him, chose him and lived intimately with him during the three years of His public ministry.  Judas sat at table during the last supper, quite close to Christ.  Here is the scripture:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”  The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.  There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.  So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.”  He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.”  So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

After the morsel, Satan then entered into him.  Therefore, Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” [https://www.gty.org/library/articles/P26/unmasking-the-betrayer]

Obviously, the apostles had no idea that one of them would betray their Lord, so Jesus revealed it to them.  Yet they did nothing. And the act which revealed the betrayer?  Jesus dipped bread and handed it to Judas, a gesture, which in Jewish culture of the time, was a mark of special favor. Later he would betray Jesus with a kiss, so ironic—a mark not only of special favor, but of love and devotion. Ten of the apostles would flee the entire Passion, the first pope would deny him three times, and only John remain on Calvary with Our Blessed Mother. Nevertheless, of the 12 apostles [including Matthias who replaced Judas], eleven of them would  die for Christ, all faithful to the end, all martyrs, with the exception of St. John.

I’m trying to see how all of this affects our understanding of the betrayal in the Church today.  As Jesus called Judas, even knowing he would betray Him, so He called these priests, bishops, and cardinals who, known mostly to one another, have engaged in corruption and sin for decades, even covering for one another.  Jesus knew what they would do and be, yet he called them.  Just as Judas had a choice and was spared no teaching or love or support from His Lord, so these mutinous priests.  Just as Judas betrayed Him with a kiss, these priests celebrate their sacrilegious masses, embracing His body and blood with lips that lie and betray. Just as the other 11 apostles had no idea of the perfidy* that was going on around them, so our faithful priests today.  Though they may have had inklings of the corruption, I doubt any of them realized the full extent.  And even if they did have an idea, what in the world could any one of them have done about it? When “Satan entered into him[Judas]” no one, not even Jesus, would block Judas’ free choice, free will.  Regardless of the pain and the powerful blow to the early Church, all was in the inscrutable plan and will of God, because it was Jesus’ destiny and choice to suffer his passion.  We read this in Matthew 23-25:

23 He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” 25 Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”

Judas knew that Jesus was aware of his perfidy.  He knew that Jesus felt “It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”  Yet he still betrayed him.  With a kiss. For the perfidious priests who today betray Christ, if they do not repent from the heart and return to His mercy, they will face the woe of Judas, the Judgment of a just God.

It is not for us to say what Pope Francis should say or do. Only he can choose what his fidelity to the Church requires.  It is not for us to say how Satan’s infiltration of the Church can be remedied.  No more than it was the apostles’ choice of what should or could be done about Judas.  Because of Judas’ actions, the destiny of Christ fell into the hands of the Jewish rulers and the Romans.  Because of the perfidy of our corrupt clergy, the destiny of the Church will probably fall into the hands of the civil authorities.  What is for us to do is to pray, to fast, and to remain in Christ.

I read during Rosary last night as my community prayed the sorrowful mysteries:

“Remain in Me and I in you so that the power of God will flow as living water to My Church. Do not be afraid or discouraged for being rejected and not accepted. Do you not see that this is the way of love, the way of the Cross? It is precisely on this path of rejection and humiliations that you will purchase for the world many graces.”  [A Simple Path to Union, # 42, 3-C-2, p. 145]

Our beloved Church enters her passion.  For decades our Sorrowful Mother has wept and prayed for us, many statues and images weeping tears, weeping blood.  Jesus has wept.  Our head, Jesus suffered His passion, and so must His body.  He tells us:

“My passion was consummated on Calvary, but those who form My Church must continue the passion in themselves, offering themselves in reparation for themselves and for others to the Trinity in union with Me, victims with the Victim, and having the same qualities of victims.”  [Conchita:  A Mother’s Spiritual Diary, p. 142]

__________________

*per·fi·dy

  1. deceitfulness; untrustworthiness, treachery, duplicity, deceit, deceitfulness, disloyalty, infidelity, faithlessness, unfaithfulness, betrayal, treason, double-dealing, untrustworthiness, breach of trust

 

“Enter into My sea of pain,” from a personal prophecy

For the last few weeks I have been contemplating deeply the primary motto of my community:  “Suffer all with Me, no longer two but one in my sacrifice of love.”  For this reason in my last post I reflected on these advisements: “Embrace your sorrows,” St. Bernard’s “whatever must be borne,” Lourdes’ words to us:  this union of sorrow, must move your heart to love all,” as we suffer a “perfect storm of pain,” and our community’s reverence for the “interior martyrdom of the heart” which Christ suffered throughout His life, taking His pain and sorrow well beyond that of Calvary. This interior martyrdom of the heart we enter each time we suffer with Christ His profound sorrow, especially over the brokenness of our brothers and sisters, the brokenness of His Church.

This morning I meditated on “exile of heart,” which I first came upon in Thomas a Kempis in Feb. 2015 and wrote about in former posts, “The Loneliness of Love,” and “For love of God, willingly bear exile of heart,”—this exile of heart central to the interior martyrdom of Christ:  “Christ also knew from the beginning of His human existence, exile of heart, the unbearable ache, the torturing thirst, the loneliness of being alone in the fullness of His love and longing for the Father and for us, His bride.”

For wasn’t this the greatest sorrow of His heart, in his manhood to be in exile from the Father, struggling to reconcile such a broken humanity with God surrounded by a people who neither truly understood nor cared?  His Mother, yes, but even she could not enter the fathomless abyss of pain in that great Heart: “How intense the loneliness in the heart of Jesus in His constant stretch to bridge the chasm between Himself as man—between us and the Father.” Not only then, 2000 years ago, but even today—especially today.

50 years ago when I was a young professed sister, I had a dream, a vision, which to this day is vividly real in my mind.  Here is the excerpt from my autobiography, Warrior for Justice: The George Eames Story:

“When I was 22 years old, I had an intense dream—one that felt more like a vision. This was two years before I left the convent, while I was still at the Motherhouse completing my music degree.

The image is still sharp in my mind. I found myself ascending into heaven, bright with light and clarity. Then, looking down, I saw roiling, dark waters, confusion, melee—and I felt myself slowly stop in mid-air, then begin descending. Frightened, I knew that I would be entering those dark waters feet first, fully able to see, experience, and know where I was. I knew also that it would mean total immersion into the whole mess of humanity, the morass of confusion, dark and ignorant minds, sinfulness, brokenness.

I thought, ‘This is going to be my life.’ I didn’t know how because at that time I had no intention of leaving the convent. But I reassured myself, no matter what happens, I know Christ is the answer. I will cling to Him and everything will be all right.” [Ch. 22, p. 221]

I thought I knew then, at least partially, what it meant.  I didn’t like what I saw.  I had no idea that I would leave the convent.  Yet it was clear: my religious life, my spiritual life, would not be the gradual ascent into the light that I, a young, inexperienced, and naïve woman, expected.  Who would not be frightened at the dark prospect that lay ahead—according to the vision?  But my one ray of hope lay in Christ, nevertheless: “In Him lies my hope.”

Then at Easter in 1982, about 15 years after I had left the convent, a word of prophecy came to me at a charismatic prayer service:

“Come into my Heart.  Enter into my sea of pain.  Pray, for now is the time for the shaking of the foundations of the world.”

I did not entirely understand this prophecy either.  Not the way I now grasp it.  Even then in our charismatic communities, we reflected and agreed that it seemed we were in the “End times.”  Consequently, the prophecy seemed to confirm that truth. But I did not associate this “sea of pain” with the dark, troubled waters of my earlier vision, those waters filled with the broken—people, trees, houses, creatures, rotten, filthy waters—truly a hellish vision. And I did not fathom fully Christ’s request to “enter into My sea of pain”—to enter the suffering and sorrow of His Heart, to suffer with Him.

Today, I know that those dark and troubled waters are the sea of pain in the sorrowing Heart of Christ—and it is this sea which He calls for me to enter.  He tells me to “embrace my sorrows,” because the sorrows and pains of His heart are one with my sorrows. If we are in a “perfect storm of pain,” floundering in that sea of pain, it is where we are destined to be, to suffer all with Him.  Because these are our times, this is our vocation, our call, the deep desire of His Heart, because Christ Himself bears that sea of pain in every horrendous detail in His suffering Heart.

Suffering is never an accident, is never incidental, but purposeful, whatever the cause.  At the same time, to suffer with Him is redemptive.  I have come to understand the times in which we live.  I did not perceive for a long time that the suffering He meant for me to bear is not just my personal suffering, difficulties, the brokenness of my family and dear ones, but the entire sea of pain:  the pollution of toxins, pesticides, and radiation afflicting our earth, greed of corporations, disenfranchisement of people considered second-class citizens, the homeless, the emigrants, the destruction of countries, on and on in a perfect litany.  Yet whenever I hear or see of disorders, brokenness of any sort, a heaviness of heart afflicts me, sorrow engulfs me, and this too He means for me to bear in our exile of heart. It is not enough to “embrace my sorrows.”  It is not enough for me to bear the brokenness of my brothers and sisters in our union of sorrow.  He wants me to be His companion of love, suffering exile of heart, suffering all with Him, suffering His perfect sea of pain as life collapses around us. And remaining in such pain will not be fruitless, for He has already overcome the world.  He has already overthrown death. In Him lies our hope.

“In You lies all my hope,” Ps. 39:8

Today on St. Bernard’s feast day, I reflected on a long quotation by him: “…you, O Lord, are my hope. Whatever must be done, whatever must be refused, whatever must be borne, whatever must be chosen, you, Lord, are my hope. Because of you I have incurred the loss of everything and counted it as dung, for you, O Lord, are my hope….”[Magnificat magazine, p. 300, August 2018]

I was reminded of a post from May 2015:  “And now, Lord, what is there to wait for?  For in You lies all my hope.”  [Ps. 39:8]

You must know the backstory of these reflections—not that of St. Bernard, but my own backstory.  I have been reflecting on the chapter on prophecy in THE SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, observing, as everyone surely is by now, world events pressing upon us:  fire & flood, political & economic upheaval in many countries, hunger, desperate emigrations, earthquakes, the global pollution of our food, soil, air, &  water, escalating abortions & crime, disease, toxicity, global warming & destructive weather events, failing healthcare, the groaning of all creation and of souls, world-wide dissipation of faith, corruption in the heart of the Church herself manifest in our cardinals, bishops, priests, seminarians.  We all have the sense of apocalypse falling upon us and of waiting for the next blow.

Where can we turn?  Nowhere and nothing can save us, except for Christ.  Has the time of mercy passed?  Are we now facing God’s justice?

In Christ alone is the radiance and tenderness of the Father.  Count all else dung. In Him lies all our hope—or there is no hope.

St. Bernard says: “…whatever must be borne,” and our worst fears tell us that death is probably the least of our fears.  What we most fear is suffering, our own, that of loved ones. How can we bear to see the world literally falling to pieces around us—not merely falling to pieces—torn to pieces? To see ourselves and our children being pulled apart by the tremendous forces that are now in play all around us…. Not only the earth, but souls all around us, especially those closest to us, are broken.  Broken people inflict pain on others, on us, on those around us. We are living in a perfect storm of pain.

Do not think that by some miracle we will be spared this suffering.   Was Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, spared the Nazi’s gas chamber?  For her the gas chamber, the seventh chamber, was not only the gas chamber as she entered, carrying her family and suffering people with her in her heart, but it was also the bridal chamber.  To be a Catholic, a Christian, is to be crucified with Christ, nailed to His Cross, to enter His pain, to enter His pierced Heart, to suffer all with Him, to suffer these souls with Him. He knows our every pain, our every agony; and when we remain in this pain and go through it into His pain, into His pierced Heart, we are one with Him.  Our suffering, whatever it may be, is redemptive and powerful to overcome the darkness which is spreading so viciously over the earth.

Our spiritual mother, Lourdes, recently spoke to us about this in “FAITH, Do I Believe?”

“When we enter the pure pain of our deepest sorrows and embrace that pure pain, we are embracing the crucified Body of Christ because He is fully present in that pain. …this union of sorrow, must move your heart to love all, by suffering with silence, peace, and abandonment for all your brothers and sisters.”

“The Lord tells us, ‘I need you.’ Why does the Lord need us? Because in our hearts we carry the wound and the sin of these broken souls. Therefore, we have the power to bring, through the pain, their wound that is in us to Christ, and unite in the EMBRACE of suffering with Christ supplicating, ‘Father, save, deliver and heal them!’”

This is the life of a victim of love.  If we abandon ourselves to Him, we need to abandon every other hope, every other expectation and count all else as dung.  Then we will be found in Him, in Love Crucified.  All our hope lies in Him, and without Him, we have no hope.

Let me conclude with one more quotation by Lourdes:

“’Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you desire.’ (Mathew 15:28)  We must BELIEVE with perfect faith that our hidden lives of living in the silence of God’s embrace, suffering with Christ the brokenness of souls in our lives, WILL bring to new life the dead souls….”

As we have always known, redemption now and always lies in faith, hope, and love.

+++

[See Mark Mallett’s new post:  WORMWOOD & LOYALTY

Also Pope Francis’ letter RE the scandals in  the church

See also this article on SPIRIT DAILY:  “The Coming Persecution”]

THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE ESCALATES!

MY SOULFOOD JOURNAL

A couple of days ago, I began a rather lengthy task:  compiling all my posts into one word doc.  Let me explain.  Several years ago I purchased a medium sized tablet on which I downloaded several spiritual books in pdf or word format and my posts here.  I wanted to be able to use them at adoration where I did not have access to the internet.  Besides, as I read, reflect, and pray, I wanted to be able to highlight passages, make some sentences bold, even add a personal note here and there.

I did not intend ever to use this tablet online because I wanted to keep it as clean and virus-free as possible.  I have a great virus protector on my laptop from which I transferred all materials.

The posts document I have titled MY SOULFOOD JOURNAL, and I will make it available to anyone who would like a copy.  Just email me: andrelivingchrist@gmail.com and I will send you a personal copy of the journal through email.  I have thought of creating an ebook, but I cite so many long passages in my posts that I would probably have copyright problems in publishing.

HERE IS THE INTRODUCTORY PAGE:

MY SOULFOOD JOURNAL – A compilation of the posts of SOULFOOD MINISTRIES

What you find in the pages of this rather lengthy doc is actually most of my spiritual journal for the years indicated—made public.  Of course, as I wrote the posts I was aware that they would be published, but they reflect the very heart of my reflections and personal journey during these times.

The table of contents and the order are the same as those on the blog—by order of date written.  I think this best expresses the growth (I hope!) which is revealed in the entire work.  As I post new entries, you can feel free to add them at the top of the posts.

I determined to create a useful doc that can be loaded to tablets, which is easy on the eyes (narrow page margins which can be enlarged considerably and no top or bottom margin to facilitate flow), with the user’s ability to search, make his own marks in BOLD print or highlights, and save.

Because these posts are truly my own spiritual journal (or much of it, anyway), I have these loaded to my tablet, but as I reflect on them at adoration, often I have tried to find something and could not remember where it was! I needed to put all of the posts into one searchable document–and here it is!   Feel free to use it and share it.

“Spiritual Mothers, Spiritual Fathers–Living Chalices,” — Ven. Archbishop Luis Martinez

My last post reflected on Under the Gaze of the Father by Ven. Archbishop Luis Martinez, the retreat which he gave to Ven. Conchita [Conception Cabrera de Armida] in Mexico in 1935.  As I reread and reflected on the 23rd day, “The Third Love—Souls,” the Holy Spirit revealed a most beautiful insight and grace through our Ven. Archbishop’s teachings—that the souls who give themselves completely to mystical incarnation as living hosts, other Christs, are not only spiritual mothers and fathers to other souls, but must also be living chalices.  But what does he mean?

In our covenant consecration in Love Crucified, we pray:  “Transform my heart into Your living chalice so that I become Your companion of love.”

How can my heart be transformed into a living chalice?  I may feel unworthy of this grace.  After all, the chalice at Mass holds the Precious Blood, the entirety of God’s outpouring mercy and tenderness.  It is precisely because of my unworthiness, the depth of my personal misery and inadequacy, the depth of my poverty, that I can be filled.  Our Ven. Archbishop explains:  “…[we] lack… knowledge of the infinite mercy and goodness of God, who pours out His love, caresses and gifts on whom He pleases, no matter how miserable he or she may be. On looking at itself and impressed by its wretchedness, the soul considers its misery incompatible with God’s graces and gifts.” [p. 132]

True humility, however, knows self and knows God:  “The soul that does not think of itself and knows that God can raise up children to Abraham from the stones, admits God’s gift without shyness or boasting… most naturally and simply out of profound humility, which is the clearest light and full truth.” [p. 133]

What do we do to receive and live this grace?   We live in humility, in the truth of our personal poverty and misery, in the truth of the Father’s ocean of mercy and tenderness which He longs to pour into the chalice of the willing heart, the abandoned heart, the heart which lives in Fiat in the sacrament of the moment.  Jesus Himself is the ultimate model of the spiritual father/mother, His pierced divine Heart the perfect chalice pouring tenderness, love, and mercy on all of us.

[Perhaps you remember the medieval symbol for Christ of the Pelican, “self-wounding on the Rood”–a line from the famous hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas, ‘Adorote devote”–the pelican was believed to pierce her own breast to feed her young–an apt symbol for the spiritual mother.  “The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life.Fr. William P. Saunders in a column from the Arlington Catholic Herald (2003).]

Our Ven. Archbishop continues:  “…the soul that has received the mystical incarnation lets motherly [or fatherly] love invade it and totally fill it. It allows its innermost being to be permeated with the gentle and divine fire which the Father pours into it with His marvelous fruitfulness so that, like a flower filled with exquisite scent, it may open its chalice to perfume souls with the heavenly fragrance of its tenderness.”

To be filled with the “gentle and divine fire which the Father pours into it with His marvelous fruitfulness is to be a spiritual mother or father pouring out from that living chalice of the heart, the “heavenly fragrance of its tenderness” on souls.

Ven. Martinez is clear, “This motherly [or fatherly]  love is the superabundance of the divine love which, after filling one’s heart, [the living chalice], overflows into souls….Through our motherly heart, the Father loves His Jesus, who dwells in souls given to us as spiritual children.” [p. 134]

Furthermore,  The Father, makes use of the heart of this soul that loves with the Holy Spirit, so that He continues to love Jesus, whom He fashioned in this heart and in other hearts in which Jesus dwells.” [ p. 134]

 This grace enables the faithful soul, through union with the Blessed Trinity, to enter into Trinitarian love, to love with the Holy Spirit—the grace having nothing to do with our worthiness:  “… The spiritual fatherhood or motherhood of creatures does not originate from the depth of their misery, but comes from the Father.”

The grace to be a living chalice, spiritual mother or father rather depends on our total misery, an abyss of abandonment and poverty before Him, but an abyss always eager and willing to receive from the Father: “…the current of the divine love that flows in the bosom of the adorable Trinity passes, in a certain sense, through our heart and into the souls we love with motherly love.”

Who are these souls whom we are privileged to love with motherly or fatherly love, and what are our obligations to them? 

Ven. Martinez explains:  The soul that received the gift of spiritual motherhood from God has close relations with souls which it influences supernaturally. [Those in our territory of souls, our spouse, children, co-workers, those entrusted to us in our vocation, etc.]   As a result, motherly love, with its own traits and holy efficacy, wells up from these relations, [requiring from us] motherly care, self-denial and tenderness.” As in the natural world of fathers and mothers who deny themselves and  sacrifice themselves for their children, so in the spirit.  The motherly or fatherly heart is one of tenderness, self-sacrifice, giving, concern—a heart that listens and responds, that practices tough love when the occasion requires it.

 Our Ven. Archbishop explains:  “…the Lord gives these holy affections, which are simply the mysterious radiations of His love, to souls that give up everything for Him and attain to the fullness of His love through the heart’s perfect self-emptying.”

 Ultimately, this marvelous grace enables us to love souls not just as we love ourselves, but as we love Jesus, Himself.  “…the whole Jesus, so to speak, encloses and encompasses the souls that are one with Him in a mystical, but deeply real way.” [p. 128] Earlier, he explains:  This motherly tenderness is not for Jesus alone, but must be extended to other souls, because they are Jesus and you are their mother.”

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See also A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, chapter 7, “Spiritual Motherhood for Priests”

Also in Simple Path:  Chapter 3, “Passage through the Pierced Side of Jesus,” part C-7:  “Living Chalices”

“Transform My Heart into Your Living Chalice”

A video from LOVE CRUCIFIED on “Spiritual Motherhood for Priests.”  

“Spiritual Motherhood & Prayer in the Eternal Mode”