“Suffering the Absences” — Ven. Conchita Cabrera de Armida

           In one of her last retreats with Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez, Conchita reflects on “Absences”—especially the palpable absence of Jesus in this retreat:  “Lord,” I said to Him with my heart heavy, “why haven’t You let me feel Your presence during this retreat, as in the others? Why does it seem to me that You are veiled and have hidden so as not to let me see You clearly, as on other occasions?”

Conchita uses the plural, “absences” because most of the time in her spiritual life she has enjoyed the delights of His presence as intimacy.  Yet the experience of absence, whenever it occurs, invites her to a deeper level of redemptive suffering for souls and for priests. How appropriate in this retreat which probes the meaning of the mystical carnation, her vocation to be a living host, that she deeply suffers His absence.

Jesus explains to her:  “… if, through My absence, through not letting you experience My sensible presence, other souls and priests give Me glory, then, do you not want it?

            “Is it not true that you willingly and out of pure love for the glory of My Father, do without consolations, caresses, My nearness to your soul, for the sake of priests and especially for the glory of My Father?

“If you only understood what this detachment offered out of pure love is worth in the presence of God!

            “…offer yourself in union with Him, painfully deprived of what you hold most dear: My consolations, apparent absence, veiled presence and the sensible caresses of My pure love.

            “I alone understand the magnitude of this hidden martyrdom; it is the supreme sacrifice of a soul on earth, and what gives My Father the most glory, because it is a loving, motherly sacrifice.

            “How few souls penetrate the secret which I reveal to you today! They see the external, but do not arrive at the very depth of My heroic sacrifice on the Cross. How could I do without the love of My Father, which wrenched a loving groan from My soul full of bitterness, a cry of infinite suffering, because the divinity had hidden itself, in a certain sense, from My sight?”

            Tears came to my eyes and Jesus, so good, gentle and compassionate told me:

            “Weep, weep over this more or less intense apparent separation from what you love most; but even these tears, this very sensitive and holy suffering, unite it to My suffering and offer it exclusively for the glory of My Father. Promise you will do it, won’t you?”

      “For this I brought you here to make you taste this bitterness, to make you know its salvific consequences in all its extension on behalf of so many priests, so that you may sprinkle the Church in her members with your tears” [Under the Gaze of the Father, pp. 85-86].

We read in the New Testament that after the death of Jesus, two of Jesus’ disciples left Jerusalem mourning and confused about the loss of their Lord.  After the Resurrection, He appeared to them on the road to Emmaus, walking and talking with them, finally revealing Himself to them in Emmaus.  As they hurried back to Jerusalem from Emmaus, they said to one another:  “Were our hearts not burning within us?” [Lk 24:32].

The burning of the heart occurs in the conviction of His presence, in the sweetness of intimacy.  The suffering of absence turns this burning into ashes, no longer even warm.  Sometimes it feels as though the intimacy of His presence had never been nor ever will be again. We wonder if we have deluded ourselves, that this burning delight of the heart has been merely a figment of our imagination.

This piercing sorrow of absence has been experienced by many saints, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for example.  This dark night of the soul lasted throughout most of her life.  [See “The Kiss of Jesus”: https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/the-kiss-of-jesus-mther-st-teresa-of-calcutta/

Isn’t this “suffering of absences”  also the essence of the Soledad of our Sorrowful Mother Mary? Father Philipon, the editor of Conchita’s Diary explains soledad in this way:  solitude,” “isolation,” and silent martyrdom in pure faith, in the apparent absence of God…” [Conchita:  A Mother’s Spiritual Diary, p. 172].

He adds further:  “Mary’s solitude is the most perfect association with the redemptive act of Christ. The drama of our salvation is decided at the very moment when Jesus was abandoned mysteriously by His Father, and when He Himself abandoned Himself, in response, with confidence and love, into His hands. It is the consent of a man in supreme agony” [Diary, 177].

            Furthermore, Jesus Himself explains to Conchita:  “You had for long pondered the first solitude of Mary, that is, the exterior solitude, but you had not thought about the cruelest and the bitterest, the interior solitude which tore her to pieces and in which her spirit felt an agony on account of being abandoned.
“The martyrdom of Mary after My Ascension was not caused solely by My material absence. She suffered terrible tests of abandonment like to that I Myself underwent on the Cross. My Father united her to Mine which gained so many graces.
“As co-redemptrix, Mary heard in her soul so wholly pure the echo of all My agonies, humiliations, outrages and tortures, felt the weight of the sins of the world which made My Heart bleed, and the moving sorrow of the abandonment of heaven which obtains graces.
            “You are to be a faithful echo of this Mother of Sorrows. You must experience the pure abandonment, My own abandonment, this desertion which through purification acquires graces.”

            He clarifies for us that this suffering of absence is the abandonment of the “Trinity, which hid itself from her, leaving her in a spiritual and divine abandonment….

             This abandonment of Mary, this vivid and palpitating martyrdom of her solitude, the desolating martyrdom of divine abandonment, which she suffered heroically with loving resignation and sublime surrender to My will, is not honored.

            “Imitate her in your littleness, in your poor capabilities strive with all the strength of your heart: you must do it in order to obtain graces and to purify yourself” [Diary, 177-178].

Christ makes it clear that this abandonment, the suffering of absence, is redemptive:   “It is a great honor for souls when the Father calls them to associate them with Redemption; with the co-redemption uniting them with Me and Mary; with the apostolate of the Cross, that is, with that of innocent suffering, of sorrow full of love and pure, expiatory and salvific sorrow on behalf of the culpable world” (Diary, June 23, 1918) [178-179].           

            Love Crucified pleads with us to “suffer all with Me, no longer two, but one in My sacrifice of love.”  Mary suffers all with Him, including the pinnacle of His passion—the abandonment of the Father—which tears from the humanity and heart of Jesus these words:  “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?” Mt. 27:46]. As we suffer with Jesus and Mary the hidden martyrdom of the suffering of absence, we too participate in redemptive love. In the Diary we read:  “Solitude is participation in the inmost Passion of Christ’s Cross and a consequence of the mystical incarnation” [p. 174].

If we are nailed to the Cross with Love Crucified, if we are living hosts, we must also participate in the grievous sorrow of abandonment by the Trinity, the tangible loss of His presence, the cold ashes of the dark night of the soul.  In her last days Conchita wrote in her Diary:

       “Mother of Sorrows whom I love so much, teach me to suffer as You suffered and to love Jesus as You loved Him in your awful solitude” (Oct. 13, 1936). “I promise Him with all my heart to abandon myself in the God who abandons me” (Oct. 6, 1936) [179].

 

 

“Canticle of the Cross” — Ven. Archbishop Luis Martinez

Today I was stunned by the profound beauty which I found in UNDER THE GAZE OF THE FATHER, a retreat on the mystical incarnation, which Archbishop Luis Martinez gave in 1935 to Venerable Concepción Cabrera de Armida, our beloved Conchita.  On the ninth day of her retreat, Archbishop Luis spoke of sacrifice.

Having referred often to the mystical incarnation, living host, as well as a host of other beautiful teachings, I am humbled by the difficulty of explaining or even showing in the remotest way how all of this is related to our life in the Spirit.  It occurs to me that this gift of our baptism, our new life in the Holy Spirit, could be compared to a splendid jewel with thousands of brilliant facets.  Jesus himself compared the Kingdom to the pearl of great price.  I think what I try to do in each post is to explore one tiny facet of this jewel of our spiritual life, yet all remains deepest mystery which we can only touch upon, but never fathom.

In his meditation on sacrifice, our beloved Archbishop explains that Jesus loves Abba so much that He willingly sacrifices Himself on the Cross, but he also explains why the Cross is the ultimate vehicle for that love.  He says,  “…because divine love is infinite, its expression is infinite, its gift is infinite, and its canticle is infinite.  In heaven, in the bosom of God, the expression of love is the ineffable communication of the Divinity in the inscrutable divine processions.” [Under the Gaze, p. 77]

What he means is that divine love in heaven, in the bosom of God, expresses itself in the interplay of the persons of the Trinity, the Father pouring himself wholly and completely into His Word, the love of the Father and the Son expressing through the Holy Spirit—the entire mystery of the Trinity—the uninterrupted outpouring of infinite, eternal  love.

But on earth, in Jesus, now the God/man, how can this “uninterrupted outpouring of infinite, eternal love” hope to express itself in finite flesh?  As Archbishop Luis exclaims,

            “When this love is transplanted on earth, as it was when Jesus appeared on it, what will its expression, gift and canticle be like? What will Jesus, who bears eternal love in His Heart, do in order to tell His Father that He loves Him, in order to intone the full and just canticle to God’s glory?”

             “On earth, there is no infinity! Here all expressions are narrow and all gifts limited, and all canticles are poor in harmony, faded and ephemeral, since they cannot fill the universe with sonority, nor contain in their poor notes the infinite fullness of harmony!”

            “On earth, heavenly love found its expression and canticle in the Cross….  The suffering and death which are symbolized by the Cross are the infinity of earth, the infinity of poverty and misery, but in the end, infinity.”  [ p. 77]

The Cross is the ultimate canticle of the God/man.  In the Cross lies earth’s infinity of suffering, self-giving, and holocaust of love.  If Christ could have given more, He would have.  The very fact that the Cross was the way He chose to express the completeness, the fullness of outpouring of His love for the Father tells us that there was simply no other way to do it.  The Cross is the ultimate kenosis.  No other way for Him.  No other way for us.

Ven. Luis gives us this:

“On earth, the expression of the divine love is the Cross, which is the self-giving of something finite made in an infinite manner and the canticle of this love is the “Consumatum est” of Calvary. It is the voice of the Spirit which cries out, of the blood which is shed, of the water which flows out of the open side.”  [p. 78]

But the Canticle of the Cross is not for Jesus alone.  He speaks to each of His baptized children:  “If you would come after Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”  [Lk. 9:23]       Archbishop Luis adds:

“… in order to show its love for the Father, in order to find its expression and canticle, the soul seeks the mysterious and unspeakable canticle of the Cross. On the Cross, the soul offers Jesus and nails itself to it with Him.”

             I wrote in an earlier post,  “The Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering.”  Nailed to the cross with Christ, the victim with the Victim outpours to Abba from a finite little heart the infinity of an eternal Canticle of Love. Here is “the self-giving of something finite made in an infinite manner” of which Archbishop Luis speaks.  St. Theresa understood this kind of canticle, doing the little things with great love.  Like St. Theresa, we are crucified, too, in the ordinary tedium of our little lives.

Most beautiful is the way Archbishop Luis ended his meditation.  After reflecting on the Works of the Cross and those points particular to Conchita, he says:

“…the transformed soul… fused with the Heart of Jesus, sings with Him the canticle of suffering and death to the glory of God on earth.”  [p. 79]

The transformed soul is, of course, the soul which has received the gift of mystical incarnation.    For a long time I wondered if this gift was special, only for Conchita, but Archbishop Luis refers on several occasions to “mystical incarnations.” For example on p. 68-69, he tells Conchita,

“How, without being Jesus, could the soul realize the intimate and fine work of the sacrifice and the intimate priesthood of Jesus?”

And on p. 74:

Being Jesus, the soul loves the Father, reflecting Jesus’ love and seeking His glory as Jesus sought it so that the love, suffering, actions and life of the soul aim with perfect unity and intense concentration at one point, just as all the activities of Jesus’ soul converged to the glory of the Father, the center and crowning of Jesus’ life.”           Don’t we have here in the “love, suffering, actions, and life of the soul,” the Canticle of the Cross?  One Victim, one Song.       

The Holy Spirit transforms the soul, if it is faithful; it is in and through the Holy Spirit that the Canticle of the Cross pours forth to the glory of the Father.   I learned from Archbishop Luis long ago, that “wherever the little Dove nests is the Heart of Jesus.”  When the Holy Spirit nested in the Blessed Virgin, she incarnated the Son of God.  So it is with us.  Only through the power of the Holy Spirit and in our complete abandonment to Him can our hearts be fused to the Heart of Christ and we become one spirit.

It is through the Holy Spirit that we are transformed into His living hosts [which is another way of expressing Conchita’s “mystical incarnation”]. We read in A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, in message 49 on the Eucharist:

Your ordinary and hidden life through the Cross becomes united to My Eucharistic life. Your hidden life takes on the same power as My hidden life because we are no longer two but ONE. These are My living hosts. In this union of love, you enter and live in the realm of God. Through Me, with Me and in Me your most ordinary life is the power of God. Your thoughts, words, deeds, but most especially your tears and sorrows of heart, possess the power of God to bless the world. Your hidden life not seen by anyone is seen by God; and through Me, with Me and in Me, He blesses many. Your life as ONE with My Eucharistic life moves beyond time and space.” [A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, P. 162]

             This is the end for which we were created, for which we were baptized.  From the hearts of His living hosts, the Canticle of the Cross rises to the glory of the Father:  “…the transformed soul… fused with the Heart of Jesus, sings with Him the canticle of suffering and death to the glory of God on earth.”

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See also:  “To Be Jesus Crucified,”      “The Cross & the Mystic Mass of the Bride”  and “The Kiss of Jesus.”

“My little tabernacle of ordinary life…” – from Ammie’s testimony on being a LIVING HOST

[For my sister Monica, a living host whose faithful heart and soul are being stretched in union with Love Crucified upon a most bitter cross…]

Ammie’s revealing testimony was so piercing, so clear in its sorrow and meaning.  Among the many things which she said, was this little phrase, “My little tabernacle of ordinary life,” a phrase which pulled so many feelings and ideas together for me.

Exactly five years ago this July, before my husband died, before I joined Love Crucified, I made what seemed at the time a tremendous commitment:  30 minutes of meditation/ contemplation (if the Lord would grant it) a day.  Then I asked Him,  “What do You want me to do for this 30 minutes?  For the answer, I did something I rarely do—open the Scriptures at random—I was driven to tears when I read:

“My lover has come down to His garden,

   to the beds of spice,

To browse in the garden and to gather lilies.

My lover belongs to me and I to Him;

   He browses among the lilies.”

In the last five years, as my commitment grew to one hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and daily Mass, He has driven my naiive heart past the intimacy of the enclosed Garden where He browses among the lilies—the virtues, the lilies which He daily gathers.

Through Ven. Conchita, He has led me to plumb the inner sanctuary of my heart, my “inner cloister of Fiat” in Mother Mary.  It was to Conchita that He first said,  You are to live cloistered in the very inner sanctuary of your soul, for there is where dwells the Holy Spirit. It is in this sanctuary you must live and die. There are your delights, your consolations, your repose. Do not look elsewhere for it, you will never find it. It is for this purpose I have created you specially. From today on, enter into the innermost regions of your soul, into those areas so unknown to so many others but where is found that happiness which I am. Enter into it never to leave it…. The ‘inner cloister’ is essential for the sanctification of the soul wishing to be all Mine. You must never leave this inner sanctuary, even in the midst of your outside obligations.”

The inner cloister is above all hidden, personal—where the presence of the Holy Spirit penetrates through the ordinary, unremarkable days of my life. Often I feel nothing, realize nothing, forget Him, yet He never leaves the inner cloister.—and one turn, one glance, one insignificant act of love in a trite day can draw me back to where He waits.

One of the lovely expressions of Love Crucified Covenant Community is “our domestic monastery”—which, it seems to me, fosters that inner cloister of which He spoke.

In Lourdes’ recent teaching, we visited again one of our central teachings on living hidden lives:  “You will live your hidden lives like me in prayer, sacrifice and suffering. Your hidden lives lived in your domestic monasteries will be a source of grace for the sanctification of priests”[Message 98].

As we reflected on the “Altar of the Cross” Lourdes cautioned us:  “To come to the altar of sacrifice in the Mass without having lived my daily sacrifice in the altar of my home or work, is a sterile sacrifice to the Father. The words of the Mass – through Him, with Him and in Him – must be lived out daily in the ordinary and tediousness of my life, in the sacrament of the moment. It is only in this way that my sacrifice is truly pleasing to God and made perfect in Jesus’ sacrifice of perfect love. “

In part 2 of our Eucharistic reflection, Jesus tells us:  “Your ordinary and hidden life through the Cross becomes united to My Eucharistic life. Your hidden life takes on the same power as My hidden life because we are no longer two but ONE. These are My living hosts. In this union of love, you enter and live in the realm of God. Through Me, with Me and in Me your most ordinary life is the power of God.

Your thoughts, words, deeds, but most especially your tears and sorrows of heart, possess the power of God to bless the world. Your hidden life not seen by anyone is seen by God; and through Me, with Me and in Me, He blesses many. Your life as ONE with My Eucharistic life moves beyond time and space[Message 49].

Intimacy with Jesus, with the Holy Trinity grows and takes place at the same time in the sweet intimacy of the enclosed Garden, in the sanctuary of the heart, in the inner cloister of Fiat where dwells the Holy Spirit, in the simple domestic monastery, in the hidden tabernacle of the Eucharist where Union makes us victim with the Hidden Victim of Love, in the daily, ordinary tedium of our lives as living hosts, one Heart, one Mind, one Will with Love Crucified.

How lovely Ammie’s little phrase, “the little tabernacle of my ordinary life” where sorrow and the bitterness of grievous suffering breaks open the heart and stretches the soul as wide as the altar of the personal cross.

In Under the Gaze of the Father, Ven. Luis Martinez tells Conchita:  “…interior suffering is especially for Him. The intimacy of joy or suffering, of light or darkness, is of little importance, since it will always be love and, in any case, it is intimacy with Jesus who is your Lord, Love and All.”

In her reflection, Ven. Conchita acknowledges the sorrow and bitterness of soul which has grown in her heart year after year:  “I must believe that at the bottom of my bitterness there is love, love which grows each year, and that Jesus unites Himself with my soul in ever closer union.”

Intimacy which begins in sweetness and browsing among the lilies grows with the years into an intimacy of suffering—but “it is of little importance, since it will always be love, and in any case, it is intimacy with Jesus….”

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Ammie, a Mother of the Cross in our community was recently diagnosed with lyme disease, six months after the similar diagnosis of her husband, a Missionary of the Cross. You may find part 2 of Lourdes talk on the Eucharist and Ammie’s testimony here:  TESTIMONY.  Part 1, the Eucharist:  LOURDES’ TALK.

RELATED POSTS: 

Hidden Force

The Inner Cloister of Fiat

Altar of the Cross

The Intimacy of SUFFERING WITH

The Kiss of Jesus

The Violence of Sorrow

“THE ALTAR OF THE CROSS “- from a teaching by Lourdes Pinto, Love Crucified Covenant Community

In her recent teaching to us on the Eucharist, I was struck by this phrase:  “the altar of the cross,” which Lourdes used.  What made it meaningful to me was the context of the phrase.  What she said was this:

“Wherever our cross is, there is our altar of sacrifice.  There is where our offering during the consecration of the Mass becomes real, our sacrifice as real flesh, the real pain of our suffering WITH Christ’s.” [Emphasis is mine..]

How often have you heard “Live the Mass”? This is the reality which Lourdes addresses.  I have been taught in Love Crucified to enter my sorrows, my pains, my core wounds—not to minimize them, not to gloss over them, not to ignore them.  We have the tendency to distract ourselves from pain.  And often our greatest sufferings are in our relationships with those closest to us, family, friends, co-workers– our altar of the cross.

Here is what is most critical:  “Wherever our cross is, there is our altar of sacrifice.  There is where our offering during the consecration of the Mass becomes real….”

We need to ponder deeply how the cross manifests itself in our lives.  Whoever we may be, single or married, divorced, widowed, rich or poor, one reality is a constant.  To live Christ, to live the Mass is to live in love in our relationships.  In A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, Christ tells us:  “Ponder every relationship and situation in your lives where you are not loving with Me, through Me and in Me. Ask yourselves, “Why is it so difficult to love this person or to love in these situations?” It is precisely in those situations and with those persons where you need to be purified. It is only in this way that you can become ONE with My Eucharistic life and be transformed into Love”.[#57] For each of us the cross lies in that person in our lives who is most difficult to love.

Even clearer is this explanation:  “To come to the altar of sacrifice in the Mass without having lived my daily sacrifice in the altar of my home or work, is a sterile sacrifice to the Father. The words of the Mass – through Him, with Him and in Him – must be lived out daily in the ordinary and tediousness of my life, in the sacrament of the moment. It is only in this way that my sacrifice is truly pleasing to God and made perfect in Jesus’ sacrifice of perfect love. “

The Mass in my life is my sacrifice of the cross, those difficult relationships “lived out daily in the ordinary and tediousness of my life, in the sacrament of the moment” –this is the Mass which I live in union with my crucified Christ.  If I cannot bring my ordinary life to the cross in this way, my offering of the Mass is not real but insubstantial and shallow.

As our lives change, that difficult person may change, but the cross is a constant.  Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.  As we struggle to confront that person with gentleness, tenderness, kindness, generosity, we live the Mass.  Our offering is a true holocaust, real, substantial, one with the sacrificial love-offering of Jesus, both on the domestic altar of our home and on the consecrated altar of our parish church.

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DEVOTIONS

I thought I’d transfer most of the devotional links which I have on the DEVOTIONS page for my church:  Mass Readings, Daily  Mass, Adoration, Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, etc. for your convenience here.

DAILY MASS READINGS

DAILY MASS

LIVE ADORATION  (find the page on this link)

DIVINE OFFICE 1    

     DIVINE OFFICE, text only

     COMPLINE FOR SUNDAY NIGHTS 

DIVINE MERCY CHAPLET:

        Text

        Video

ROSARY:

       Video, all mysteries

Video, Scriptural:

                  JOYFUL

                   LUMINOUS

                  SORROWFUL

                  GLORIOUS

SEVEN SORROWS ROSARY

 

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What My Soul Can Bear

Tonight I realized that Jesus does not give me what He needs or wants to give me in a moment of grace, but ONLY WHAT MY SOUL CAN BEAR.  This thought came to me as I began rereading part of UNDER THE GAZE OF THE FATHER, p. xxvi.  The author is explaining one such moment in the life of Ven. Conchita:

“That day she heard again:  The Father is here looking at you…the Son, offering you His Blood…and the Holy Spirit beating His wings to come to  your soul.  The Three Divine Persons desire to enter your heart, and to form in it their throne…their cross…their nest…This I heard, and I remained confused…overwhelmed… inflamed before such condescension.  He made me see His greatness…power… immensity… Wisdom…and Love…and I (…) placed my forehead on the ground, and I opened the doors of my soul to that most Blessed Trinity, which is real…imprisoned… locked…in a host.’

Just Friday I wrote my post,“HIDDEN FORCE,” which begins with my little question to Jesus in the tabernacle, “What are you doing in there?” and His response, “I am knitting together the broken universe.” I am dumbfounded by the comparison of my little conversation with the Lord, then Conchita’s situation—same Lord, same host—but what a profound difference!  Conchita seems to me , in her being overwhelmed, confused, inflamed, to be a perfect example of a soul receiving only what it can bear.  No matter how holy, humble, pure the soul, it is bound to be overwhelmed, confused, inflamed by the presence of the Gift  which ever threatens to annihilate our miserable incapacity.  Tears, prostration, abandonment—what other response can there be? Especially since the overwhelming Gift is “real…imprisoned…locked…in a host.”

This is, for me, a vision of Adoration: the adorer—naïve,  unsuspecting, assuming an ordinary posture and understanding, expecting the simplest gift—and the Adored, Holy, Majestic, Pure and Loving beyond all thought and imagination, containing Himself and all the Desires of His manhood and Divinity in a little white host so as not to overwhelm the little one. I have not even begun to process “the most Blessed Trinity, which is real…imprisoned…locked…in a host.”

 

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‘Hidden Force” — The Simple Path to Union

       Unable to sleep early this morning, it was the Hidden Force that played on my mind.  As I lay half asleep, half awake, the Holy Spirit wrote an entire post for me drawing on memories, buried scriptures, and recent meditations on passages from The Simple Path to Union.

When I first began daily Adoration, I used to sit and gaze at the tabernacle.  I would ask the Lord,  “Jesus, what are you doing in there?”  Unexpectedly, one day He answered me,  “I am knitting together the broken universe”—an answer that drove me to tears.  You know the way a bone heals?  It knits together, drawn by the life-force, the powerful urge to healing.  This is the kind of knitting which Jesus does in His hidden life in the tabernacle, His Eucharistic life. [Post:  Jesus, What are You doing in there?]

The Holy Spirit drew me to the vision of the valley of dry bones of Ezechiel.  The famous prophecy of chapter 37 which depicted for Ezechiel how Yahweh could, from dry bones, separated and broken, bring to life a dead people.  I thought of another image from Simple Path, an interior vision similar to that of Ezechiel:

 134 – My Victim Souls Have the Power to Bring Back to Life Dead Hearts, Diary of a MOC — Feast of the Sacred Heart Jesus.

             This morning in Mass I saw Jesus interiorly in my heart in radiant Light holding His Heart in his left hand. His entire being was Light, not just His Heart. A Light moving out, expanding, penetrating…. A Light that also drew you into Himself.

             Then tonight I began to see Jesus again in the same way; but there was no light coming forth from Him, and the heart I was now seeing in His hand was small, shriveled and black. It seemed like a dead heart to me. I could not understand what the Lord was revealing to me. After the Mass, before the Blessed Sacrament, our Lord explained:

             “The Light of God will not shine forth for a time. It is you (meaning plural) that must keep My Light shining in the world. This heart dead in sin, which I reveal to you tonight, (this one dead heart represented many), will come back to life through the blood of My martyrs of love. Receive tonight on the Feast of My Sacred Heart these hearts….Water these hearts with your tears of sorrow, pray for them through the prayer of your pure suffering, bless them with your kiss of love and anoint them with the graces of My Eucharist. It is the life of My victim souls that has the power to bring back to life the dead. My daughter, raise up many victims of love, for many will be lost during the time of great darkness”. (6/15/12) [The Path, p. 354]

             How often we look around us at the broken world and feel so helpless.  The need is so great, and we are so small and helpless.  But we are not helpless.  Years ago, Jesus revealed to Conchita that from the moment of His conception, His heart suffered an interior martyrdom of agony for souls, an interior passion that would actually be assuaged in His physical passion.  Yet what the world continues to see is that exterior passion.  He told her:  “Through the external Cross, which all can see, I was a victim acceptable to the Father by shedding My blood, but it was above all through the interior cross that redemption was accomplished.”  Then later:  “I want, more than external martyrdom, interior martyrdom of the heart. That is why I want them to unite themselves to My Heart which is broken more than any other. “ [Conchita: A Mother’s Spiritual Diary, p. 317]

            Another passage from The Simple Path to Union:

  39 Martyrdom of the Heart, Diary of a MOC

            The martyrdom of the heart is the martyrdom of suffering with Love and for Love. My daughter, if you could only understand the fruit of the martyrdom of suffering, you would desire nothing else on earth. The hidden life of suffering with Love and for Love is of far greater worth than great and small works tainted with human recognition. Believe in the hidden force contained in the martyrdom of the heart. This is the purest fragrance of love that has the power to conquer the enemies of God. (11/9/12) [The Path, p. 139]

We see that it is in union with Christ in the Eucharist that we participate in martyrdom of the heart—it is this hidden martyrdom that generates the hidden force which brings to life dead hearts, that knits together the dry bones, the broken universe.  Jesus also tells Conchita:

            “I am the Head of the Church, and all who are Mine are the members of this same Body and must continue in union with Me, expiation and sacrifice till the end of time. 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, p. 327]

Such a life seems impossible to us, but the Path teaches us in Chapter 3 that our ordinary life is a hidden force:

            “In our daily hidden lives we are given the opportunity to live the hidden martyrdom of love. We make every one of our acts, including our daily chores, into acts of love. We become the “hidden force” that has the power to transform hearts and nations and to pierce all darkness. Jesus promised us this power to love through His words to St. Faustina, “And great will be your power for whomever you intercede.” [The Path, p. 152]

             St. Faustina tells us:  “My sacrifice is nothing in itself, but when I join it to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it becomes all-powerful and has the power to appease divine wrath” (Diary 482)

In The Simple Path I find Pope Francis speaking about “martyrs of everyday life”:

            There is also the daily martyrdom, which does not result in death but is also a “loss of life” for Christ, people doing their duty with love, according to the logic of Jesus. These people are the fathers and mothers who every day put into practice their faith by devoting their lives for the good of the family. [The Path, p. 153]

The Holy Spirit brought to my mind all the hidden souls who live and suffer in union with the Eucharistic Christ, the many monks and nuns—not just those names whom we associate with sanctity, the St. Teresa’s, Padre Pio’s, St. Faustina’s—but of their unknown, innumerable companions, the little souls hidden away.  What is it that they did that was remarkable?  Their lives were simple and ordinary, even in the monasteries and convents:  intense daily prayer of course, but also cooking, baking bread, cleaning, washing dishes, tending gardens or fields, sewing church vestments, petting the monastic cat, etc.  All ordinary actions such as we do every day, but charged with the hidden power of martyrdom of the heart, the daily grind that chews us up and transforms us into God’s bread, the hidden force that knits together the broken universe.

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The Intimacy of SUFFERING WITH

          In our Love Crucified Community, Jesus tells us,  “Suffer all with Me, no longer two, but one, in My sacrifice of Love.”  In an earlier post, “The Kiss of Jesus,” I commented,  “The Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering.” I continue to come back to that reflection, that it is in suffering WITH Christ that we enter intimacy.

It is not enough that we “offer it up”—this offering I learned as a child from my mother.  No, to suffer with is intimate.  To offer up is to stand outside, independent, separate.  Love Crucified teaches us:

“…unless we touch His wounds, love remains an idea in our minds with no power to heal our hearts. By touching His wounds, we touch His love, the love by which He laid down His life for us. We touch Christ’s wounds by uniting our sufferings with His.

                        “This condition exists because only through our own sufferings are we able to come personally to touch the sufferings of Christ.…Because when we touch Jesus’ sufferings, we touch Love itself.

            “For example, if we never suffer the pain of rejection, we can never come to know and experience the rejection that Jesus suffered.

            “This is the necessary process to union with God. St. Paul tells us there is a condition for us to be “children of God” and “fellow heirs with Christ”: “provided we suffer with Him”  (Rom 8:12-17) (The Simple Path, p. 86-87).

            How long has it taken me to learn this:  only through my own sufferings can I experience the sufferings of Christ. If I dodge, distract myself, or complain, I dodge, distract myself from Christ who is Love Crucified. Or another way of putting it:  Through my wounds I enter the wounds of Christ.

This week I watched THE SEVENTH CHAMBER, the life of Edith Stein, canonized by Pope John Paul in 1998.  She has been on my heart all week.  The brilliant child of a Jewish family in Germany, she became a professor of philosophy, a skeptic of religion.  But when she read St. Teresa of Avila’s INTERIOR MANSIONS, her conclusion was, “This is the truth.”  St. Teresa led her to conversion, to the Catholic Church.  After persecutions began under the Nazis, she entered Carmel to become Sister Teresa Benedetta of the Cross—not to dodge persecution, but because she wanted an intimate relationship with Christ.

Her sufferings were great, as she endured  betrayal of professional friends and the agonized refusal of her family, especially her mother, to accept her conversion to Catholicism or her vocation to the Carmelites.  Even the order itself wondered if she had chosen Carmel as a refuge from persecution.  But Edith had realized finally that religion was not a set of moral directives but a Person.  Her joy in her suffering was in this extraordinary relationship as she learned intimacy through what she suffered.

Counseled to leave the country, she finally went to Carmel in Holland, where the Nazis intruded to extricate her and her sister, Rosa, to Auschwitz.  As her superior wept, Sister Teresa Benedetta  comforted her with these words—not to be concerned because,  “I have finally accepted my destiny.”

            One of the greatest sufferings endured by St. Teresa Benedetta was the crushing oppression of her people by Hitler whom she viewed as a satan.  What she meant by “I have finally accepted my destiny” is that she would embrace all suffering, one with her people, one with her Christ.

This word destiny recalled to me a reflection which I wrote on Romano Guardini’s article “Acceptance”:

“Destiny is not an accident.  It possesses a logical consistency which is determined externally by the connection of events but also internally by the nature and character of the person involved [29].”  Finally, acceptance of self means that I consent simply to be.  Here is the rub:  “I did not confront the possibility of my own existence and decide that I wished to be, but I was cast into being.  I came forth from the lives of my parents, of my ancestors, out of the condition of the age.

This “age” I remarked, “ is filled with the effects of unredeemed original sin…complicated by repeated, serious, unrepented personal sin.”

            How is destiny fair?  It is not, nor can it be; not for us, not for Edith Stein. But Romano Guardini reminds us:

“Through the Incarnation, He stepped into the space which forms a single chain of destiny for him who lives in it.  God stepped into history.  When the eternal Son became man, He did so in reality, without protection or exception, vulnerable by word and act; woven, like us, into the stifling web of effects that proceed from the confused hearts of men….He does this prepared for all that would happen to Him, without reservation, without evasion, without resorting to resistance or craft.  Men, who have really no power over Him to whom is given ‘all power in Heaven and on earth,’ inflict a bitter destiny upon Him.  But this is the form of His Father’s will for Him.  This will is His own will; to accomplish it is the ‘food’ of His life.”

Sister Teresa Benedetta of the Cross told her superior,  “I have finally accepted my destiny.”  THIS is the destiny which she accepted, cast as she was into her unique place in history, among her people, in her family—the sweet destiny of suffering with Christ.  For her, the Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering.

Before she is sent to Auschwitz, she is explaining the seven chambers of St. Teresa of Avila’s INTERIOR MANSIONS to another sister.  After revealing the meaning of the first six chambers, the sister asks her, “and what of the seventh?”  The saint replies, “I have not yet entered the seventh chamber.”

Full union with Love Crucified would come with the saint’s embrace of all the sufferings that went with the gas chamber of Auschwitz, for her—the seventh chamber of Union. This suffering consisted not only of her personal physical distress and that of her sister Rosa, but also included her sufferings for the people around her, the Jewish men, women, and children who were also ravaged by Nazi oppression.

As I reflected on this precious saint, I realized once again that my unique sufferings are the key to the unique intimacy, Union, holiness, which God has chosen for me personally. To enter holiness is not to enter a state of being so much as to accept my destiny, God’s Will, the Cross.  Holiness is to embrace a Person, Christ, Love Crucified, through the intimacy of suffering.

 

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Examen of Consciousness– Father Michael Gaitley

For a couple of years now, I’ve been looking for a better examination of conscience than many of the traditional ones that I’ve used.  I came upon this material, taken and adapted from the book Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, M.I.C.; and I was elated.  As we approach the Holy Days, we may find it useful.

The examination of conscience …is basically a mental review of the previous 16 hours or so of consciousness—thus, some people prefer to call the examination of conscience an examination of consciousness. Some people find it helpful to write in a notebook or on note cards because (1) writing helps jog the mind and (2) it provides a record of one’s spiritual life, which can then easily be reviewed before going to confession or spiritual direction.

               First, we should put ourselves in the presence of God. In other words, we should begin with the attitude that the examen is a time of prayer, not just a mental exercise. Devoutly making the sign of the Cross may be enough to do this. Next we just have to remember one word,

B-A-K-E-R.

Point #1: B stands for “blessings.” According to St. Ignatius, this is the most important of the five points.

There are different ways to go about this. One helpful way is to begin by thanking the Lord for some of the “bigger” blessings favors we have received over the course of our lives: life itself, faith in Him, faith in His resurrection, the gift of our vocation, family, etc. These are blessings for which we can never thank God enough.

Then we should spend a few moments recalling how the Lord has blessed us in specific ways throughout the day being reviewed. We may review the day chronologically or spontaneously focus on a particular blessing that comes to mind. This is an opportunity to thank the Lord for His presence in our lives in His Word, the Sacraments, our prayer, our loved ones, creation itself.  We then thank and praise God for these signs of His love for us. These are what St. Ignatius calls “consolations.” The daily practice of personally giving thanks to the Lord will deepen our awareness of just how truly blest we are and thus, we’ll develop a continual attitude of gratitude.

Point #2:  A stands for “Ask.” Although we already placed ourselves in the presence of God when we began the examen, here we need to ask for a special grace from the Holy Spirit. The review/examine should focus on our relationships, our relationship with the Lord and with others. In addition to our thoughts, words and actions, we should also consider our emotions. Our emotions indicate whether we have a proper disposition about what we are asked to do. The Examination of Conscience is an exercise in understanding how God is leading us and our response.  Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we’ll remain blind to our sinfulness.

Point #3: K stands for “Kill.” Why “kill”? Because it was our sins that killed and crucified Jesus. There are also certain feelings and ways of thinking that can take away the joy Jesus wants us to have. They are literally are “kill-joys”.

During this third point, we look at our thoughts, words and actions.  So, again, we gaze across the conscious hours of our day. This time, however, we look not for peaks but valleys, what Ignatius calls “desolation.” In other words, we pay attention to those times during our day when our hearts dropped.

Why might they have dropped?  Perhaps because of some sinful thought, word or action we committed. Or maybe because of someone else’s sin.  Or perhaps we lost our joy because we felt overwhelmed by problems due to our lack of trust in the Lord. We didn’t accept the challenge of these problems as a share in the Cross. We should have been more peaceful about it and offered it up as a prayer for others.

            [Another item we can examine here is whether or not we have entered into the “violence of sorrow” of our wounds—This fall Lourdes, Mother of the Cross and our spiritual mother, spoke to us about the “violence of sorrow.”  She entreated us to “enter into the violence of your sorrows.”  We cannot suffer with Christ or one another, if we do not enter the sorrow.  In our human weakness, we try to dodge pain, turn away, avoid by varied means.  These are three reasons we do not enter our “violence of sorrows”:

1) We minimize them. Do not constantly tell yourself,  “I have no sufferings to speak of.”  You suffer exactly the crosses which Christ gives you—however little or great, you suffer them—and in entering your sorrows you live the Mass.

2) We distract ourselves from them.  You know how that works:  busy, busy, television, telephone, and insufficient quiet time to reflect on your life with Christ.

3) We complain. The smallest complaints neutralize the sacrifice of love.  We comfort ourselves in these insipid ways and refuse to enter the pain of our sorrow.

Point #4: E stands for “Embrace.”  Having identified areas in which we have failed to follow the Lord, or failed to walk in the faith He calls us to, we express remorse for those attitudes or acts in which we thwarted His love. We then allow Jesus to embrace us, sinners that we are, with the rays of his merciful love. While praying over this point, it may be helpful to think of the image of Divine Mercy. Imagine the rays of this image embracing you with His forgiveness.

Point #5:   R is for “Resolution.” As a result of our examination we make specific resolutions to improve or response to the Lord’s call. The choice must be concrete, tangible, attainable.  Since Ignatian spirituality is about decisive action, it is indispensable to make a “do-able” resolution and then to hold yourself accountable. This is where keeping notes can be very helpful.  So for example if during step #3 you recognize that you were uncharitable to someone your resolution will be to apologize or be especially kind to them the next time you see them.

 

 

“Consume me incessantly!” St. Theresa of Lisieux

            One of my regular spiritual practices is frequent spiritual communions.  Through the last two years, I have often reflected on the practice, constantly struggling to enter more deeply, to keep my prayer spontaneous and fresh.  Then today, I revisited New & Divine, St. Theresa’s “To live in One Single Act of Perfect Love”—as I pray with each chime of my clock all through the day, it seems that this truly is what I seek.

Hugh Owens explains on p. 83:  “…the love of God is not a series of acts but a single successionless act in which a soul can actually abide through perfect abandonment.

“Thus on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, 1895, St. Therese performed the most important act of her life, her ‘great offering.’  She wrote:

‘In order to live in one single act of perfect love, I offer myself as a victim or holocaust to your merciful love, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God.’”

            What a tender, extraordinary prayer of the heart!  Yet what most struck me is the central short phrase:  Consume me incessantly.”  This should be the constant prayer of our hearts—this act of spiritual communion.

            In Sept. 2015 I read in The Simple Path to Union with God:  “Advice from St. Cajetan:    ‘Do not receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament to use Him as you judge best, but give yourself to Him and let Him receive you in this Sacrament, so that He Himself, God your Savior, may do to you and through you whatever He wills.’”

            Recognizing something new in this phrase “let Him receive you,”  I realized that Communion works both ways: I consume Jesus and Jesus consumes me. I am communion, bread for Jesus.  Together, we are communion, bread for the Father.

            I was reminded of a letter to the Romans by St. Ignatius of Antioch; so rich is this word of one of the earliest bishops and martyrs of the church that I repeat it in its entirety here:

A letter to the Romans  by St. Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-108 A.D.):

            “I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of wild animals. I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.

“The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.

“The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you – still – my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

“I am no longer willing to live a merely human life, and you can bring about my wish if you will. Please, then, do me this favour, so that you in turn may meet with equal kindness. Put briefly, this is my request: believe what I am saying to you. Jesus Christ himself will make it clear to you that I am saying the truth. Only truth can come from that mouth by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God. If I am condemned to suffer, I will take it that you wish me well. If my case is postponed, I can only think that you wish me harm.”

                                    ***

Who or what are the lions in our simple, ordinary lives?  Let us realize that we, too, are ground by the teeth of the beasts in our humble way, to be the bread of God.

How humbled and privileged should we be to long for this communion, to be consumed and to consume. I remember the words of Jesus.  When He said, “Eat my body,” he used the Aramaic word for chew.  We should pray: “As I receive you, my Jesus, receive me into Your Body, Your Sacred Heart.   Chew me up, swallow me entirely, consume me completely, Your little victim of love.  My love has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.”

            Like St. Theresa, may I live as the perfect living holocaust, live in love, not through a series of acts but in a single successionless act, abiding in holy abandonment, crying, “Consume me incessantly!”

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